Monday, March 8, 2010

Phoebe's Birth Story

Note: I wrote this when Phoebe was 10 days old. As time has passed and I have recovered physically from my c section, I am finding that in many ways I am still working through the emotional recovery of her birth. Hers was a birth that I planned for and worked hard for and to have it all change so quickly was difficult to say the least. I am so glad that she is here and she is healthy and I know that the only option that day was to have a c section, but there is still a feeling of disconnect at times when I think of her birth. I am grateful for a loving support system of family and friends who got me through the first few painful and difficult weeks.

Hard to believe she has been here in our arms for 10 days already. The story of her arrival is as far away from what we expected as possible, but we are just glad that she is safe and healthy.

I had been in labor for about 2 weeks leading up to Phoebe's birthday and was very tired on every level. I had a check up on Thursday, the 29th and when my midwife checked me we found that my cervix was still 5 cm and hadn't really changed from the weekend before when we were there thinking that this was it. I was very discouraged and frustrated and starting to wonder if my body was going to be able to do this without the help of pitocin. My midwife told me that she was head down but her head was a little to the left and she wanted me to go home and work on getting her into a better position. We also decided to strip my membranes to help things move along. The plan was for me to work on moving Phoebe into a good position and we would come back in the morning. If her head was in a good position we were going to break my water and get her out.

We left the birth center and stopped at Babies R Us where Matt proceeded to pick out several little pink things for his baby girl. It was pretty cute to see him so excited and loaded down with tiny little clothes picked out especially for his baby girl. I spent the afternoon on the birth ball and doing different stretches to help Phoebe move down. I had contractions off and on throughout the day but there was nothing new about that. I went out for a wonderful dinner with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law at the Cheesecake Factory. I indulged in a slice of banana cheesecake and hoped it would have the same effect on me as it had on my best was the last thing she ate before her water broke!

That night I decided to take a tylenol PM to block out any inefficient contractions per my midwife's advice. I fell asleep around midnight and woke up a few times to use the bathroom and had a few contractions but was able to fall back to sleep easily. Around 6:30 I woke up in a lot of pain and Matt woke up with me and helped me get into the shower to help ease the pain. The pain was less contractions and more baby movement and pressure. We were excited and hoped that this was a good sign that Phoebe was more head down and that we just might meet our baby girl that day! Matt got up with the kids and got them ready for school. Piper's school is within walking distance and Matt has enjoyed walking her to school in the morning and decided to walk her that morning as well. I was a little hesitant but figured he would be back before too long. Dax stayed home with me and laid down in the bed next to me to watch cartoons until Matt got home and took him to preschool. While Matt was gone I had a pick up in contractions and they were very strong. Dax at one point told me I should probably call Daddy. HA! When Matt got home it was 20 minutes until we could drop Dax off at school and I knew we needed to go straight to the birth center after dropping him off. We got all the last minute things packed into the van and dropped Dax off at school.

The birth center is 45 minutes from our house and a majority of that drive is on the interstate. As soon as we got on the interstate we were backed up in major traffic. My contractions were about 6-8 minutes apart and very strong. Matt was worried and wondering if he should just drive up the emergency lane. I convinced him to just wait for the traffic to clear and before too long were past the bubble. By the time we got to the birth center I was contracting closer and feeling pretty optimistic that we were going to be celebrating a new baby before too long. My midwife had me lay down and she checked baby's position before doing an internal exam. As soon as she started the internal her eyes got really big and she said, "Oh wow! Your water is right there and bulging. I can hardly feel your cervix." I was so happy to hear this and figured we could now break my water and we would have a baby in no time. However, when Andrea (midwife) finished the exam she told me that Phoebe was transverse (sideways) with her head on my left side. I started to cry and panic a bit knowing that there was no way to deliver her other than by c section. Andrea tried to reassure me and told me that we could do a few things to help change her position, but she was also honest with me and told me that time was not on our side. I started taking pulsatilla (a homeopathic to help move the baby) and sat on the birth ball and rocked around. I also hung off the couch with my feet above my head. Matt asked if we could get my contractions to stop if that would buy us more time. We got a half answer but there was not a lot of hope in that idea. We would soon find out why.

About 20 minutes after we got there the other midwife in the practice showed up and tried to help with the positioning of Phoebe. She also checked me and had the same reaction when she felt my water and also told us that I was completely dilated! Andrea knew that but had decided not to tell so that I wouldn't freak out even more. Hearing that I was fully dilated was bittersweet since I was so close and yet so far from the delivery we had hoped for. At this point the two midwives started working together to turn Phoebe with each contraction. It worked--she went from transverse with her head on the left to breech and then finally ended with her head on the right side. It soon became apparent that Phoebe was not going to turn head down and that I had no choice but to be transferred to the hospital and have a c section. I was terrified both at the thought of a c section and also at the urgency of the situation.

Within a few minutes the ambulance and fire truck showed up and I was loaded onto the stretcher and put in the back of the ambulance. I tried to convince the EMT's that I could walk to the ambulance but the concern was too great that my water would break. Fortunately Matt was able to ride up front in the ambulance and we were lucky to have a good friend with us that showed up planning on helping us through our natural water birth at the birth center. She followed us in her car and about 10 minutes later we were pulling into the hospital. I was wheeled into the pre-op room and about 15 people were suddenly in there asking tons of questions and telling me to do this and that. I was terrified and the fear seemed to increase with each passing moment. I had hope that we would show up at the hospital and an ultrasound would show that Phoebe was finally head down and I would be able to have a vaginal delivery---that was not in the cards that day. Instead a doctor I had never met before started telling me all of the risks associated with a c section and papers were put in front of me to sign all the while we are being told that we have no time and that they need to get the baby out ASAP. When the anesthesiologist came in to explain the spinal the OB told him that he had one chance to get the spinal in and if it didn't work she was going to have to put me to sleep. At the mention of being put to sleep I panicked. I did not want to be knocked out and started praying with all my might that the spinal would take and that Matt would be in the room with me when our daughter was born.

I was being wheeled into the OR and hoping that Matt would be joining me soon and that I would be awake to hear my baby's first cry. Luckily the spinal took and I was able to be awake for the surgery. Matt was brought in and they announced that they were starting the incision. I remember thinking... please don't let me feel it, please!! From the time of the first incision until Phoebe was out was only 8 minutes. I heard the doctor announce that the cord was wrapped around her neck twice. They held her up for half a second and we heard one cry and then nothing. I told Matt to go to her and later learned that they had put a tube down her throat in order to suction her lungs out. Before too long she started to cry and didn't stop the rest of the time we were in the OR. What a sweet, sweet sound it is to hear your baby's newborn cry.

As they were stitching me up I started to feel very nauseated and a bit out of sorts. I guess I said that a few times because Matt said they put something in my IV and I drifted off to sleep. I don't remember much after that until I was back in the recovery room. It all went so fast and was so scary. In the end I know that we were watched over that day and kept safe. I try not to dwell on the could have beens...if she had been head down it is very likely that I would have delivered her at home. Maybe even while Matt was walking Piper to school and I was home alone with Dax. Or maybe she would have decided to come while we were stuck in traffic on I-75. The scariest of scenarios would have been my water breaking with her in the transverse or breech position and have cord prolapse. Like I said, I try not to dwell on the could have beens and instead focus on the healthy baby we have home with us now.

I am still emotionally recovering from the shock of an emergency c section. Talk about as far from my planned birth as I could have gotten. We planned to deliver in the birthing tub surrounded by our midwife and with Piper there to witness the birth of her baby sister. I am so glad that we decided to send Piper to school that day and that she wasn't there to see everything unravel..including me. We always knew that Phoebe was going to be my last baby and that decision was solidified with the c section. My doctor told me that she stitched my uterus so that I could try for a VBAC in the future, but I don't think I will be needing that option.

In the end we had a healthy baby girl weighing 7 pounds and measuring 20 1/2 inches long. She was born with a head full of blonde hair and is identical to baby pictures of her big sister. She entered a family that waited a long time for her and that loves her totally and completely. When all that is true it doesn't really matter how she got here...only that she is here with us now. Safe and sound in our arms.


Sandy said...

Lovely story -

Barbie and Craig said...

A beautiful and scary story...thanks for sharing it. I, too, understand the pain and disappointment of having a c-section. It turns out I will never be able to have a vaginal delivery, and I CRIED for a LONG TIME about it. Thankfully, I did know ahead of time and did not have to endure an emergency surgery, but the disappointment of not being able to give birth the way a woman is 'supposed' to still lingers. Definitely not the way I had it planned, but it does fade with time.

Hang in does help to keep reminding yourself that she is here and healthy and that's what matters, but I still understand the hurt.