It’s time I write out the story of Mac’s birth so that I don’t forget the series of surprising events. Many of the events I would like to forget, but somewhere in the whole mess of this early delivery there are some really beautiful moments too.
When I learned that I had a blood disorder one third of the way through my pregnancy my doctors began preparing me for a challenging delivery. My OB told me to not expect to get an epidural because the medications I was taking could further complicate things. So that left me with what? Natural childbirth!? Okay, totally NOT in my plan when I got pregnant. This news sent me straight to TLC where I would religiously watch “The Baby Story” trying to find some hope and inspiration from the women who had gone before me.
I watched all kinds of birth stories – each and every one different but beautiful in its own way. I did become drawn to the ones where women birthed their babies with no medication. There was some sense of empowerment these women seemed to radiate during, but especially after, the delivery. I had come to want that feeling of strength, but still very scared due to my high risk, completely unpredictable pregnancy. I emphasize I was still VERY unsure of my ability to pull it off.
Then I took prenatal yoga class and began to develop, maybe not more confidence, but more appreciation in what my body was created to do. I remember Alice saying every week, “You ARE a birthing goddess.” It seemed funny and untrue to me when she first said that but what I think she was emphasizing each week is that only we could own our birthing experience and whatever our births looked like would be beautiful and empowering in their own way. It was up to us to believe that. Boy, did I need to hold onto that in the events that unfolded.
Monday October 19th (34 weeks) – Ironically we were watching a TV show about paramedics when we had to call the paramedics. (Side note: The show is called “Trauma,” which really isn’t that good if you want my opinion. my husband and I have been trying to replace ER with a new medical drama but nothing compares. Maybe my own medical drama could make a good storyline now!) Anyway, I felt this gush and got up to realize I was bleeding pretty heavily. I was scared but calm through the whole excitement of both an ambulance and fire truck arriving at my house. (Okay why send a fire truck? It’s not like the baby is going to come out on fire!) My husband got into, shall we say a disagreement with one of the paramedics. I think some expletives were used but hey that’s a story for him to tell. At least we made it safely to the hospital and I felt somewhat reassured that the baby was still moving.
I was admitted into labor and delivery where the hospitalist on call told me I would be there “for the duration.” My super organized self was having a really hard time being at the hospital “for the duration” without a thing packed and a dog home alone for the night. Thankfully, my husband took care of those things as they started me on pitocin in hopes that contractions would start and I would deliver the baby vaginally. Well contractions did start and they started again and again about every minute. I did this all night long until early morning when I asked for the stadol. While this did allow me to get some sleep, I do regret taking it because it made Mac very dopey when he came out.
Tuesday October 20th – My poor OB had been up all night and just out of surgery when things started to get worse with me. We had already determined that I had a partial abruption and pre-ecclampsia but was also developing HELLP syndrome which is when your encapsulated organs start to shut down on you. Hence, more meds! As my husband and I were praying between staying the course of delivering vaginally and having a c-section, I had some more heavy bleeding. So it was decided that I would immediately go in for the c-section. It was a good thing as we later learned that I had a full abruption.
Now, here’s where it gets really good because remember how I told you I couldn’t have the epidural? Well, I remember one of the nurses saying there was a possibility I could get a spinal for the c-section because it had been 12 hours since I had taken my blood thinner medication. Way NOT cool to get my hopes up cause the next thing I remember was the anaesthesiologist leaning over me, seeing only her eyes and hearing her say, “I can’t give you anything. I have to put you under general anesthesia.” Off I went to the OR.
I vaguely remember waking up in recovery and yelling at the nurses to stop pushing on my stomach cause it hurt so much. Then, I remember them giving me a nice little hand held device that had a button. Every time I needed pain medication I was supposed to push the button. I swear I pushed that damn button all night long and still woke up the next morning a wreck.
Wednesday October 21st – The nurse at shift change came into my room and I burst into tears. “I haven’t even seen my baby! It’s been 24 hours!” I think I really threw her because she went into lecture mode about how you’re a mom now and the best thing you can do for your baby is to get some sleep. Now that’s a nice idea in theory but what mom can sleep who hasn’t even seen her child?
Wednesday was both the worst day and the best day for me. The worst because I seemed to be getting sicker with the preeclamsia and HELLPs. I literally grew so big with water retention that the bracelet my husband got me as a push present didn’t even fit around my wrist. It was also the best day cause I got to see Mac for the very first time.
I got wheeled over to the NICU accompanied by my nurse. As I turned the corner to see my son, I was so overwhelmed to the point of tears. I really could have lost it right then but crying is not very easy to do when you’ve just had your stomach split open. I also wanted to hold him, which we were not permitted to do since he was so little. Apparently you can’t even stroke preemies because it is over stimulating to them. So, trying to be the very best mom I could be I gently set my index finger on his tiny head. That was the extent of my first visit.
As minimal as it may seem, I will never forget that first meeting for the rest of my life. That is the point at which my whole birth experience felt empowering. I felt like I was strong simply because I was a mom. Mac needed me. I learned in the days that followed that he cold recognize my smell and he responded to my voice. Even though we were starting off in an artificial environment, we had met and we could start bonding.
Thursday October 22nd – I finally got moved over to postpartum, but not postpartum for normal people. My unit was called antepartum. Still don’t know what that means but I interrupted it as, “Honey, you ain’t going home anytime soon!” I stayed in antepartum for the next four days. It felt like everyday was four steps forward, two steps back. One moment it would be my blood pressure was way too high. Another I was anemic or way too short of breath for someone just lying in bed. All along I had to wear those stupid compression boots on my legs so that I didn’t throw another clot. It was so hard to sleep with those stupid things pumping air around my calves all night.
I kept making trips to the NICU though and gradually gained more and more strength. When I didn’t have the energy to make the trip, literally just down the hall, my husband would go and take pictures and videos of little Mac for me. I would look at them over and over and over again.
Monday October 26th – I got to go home. This was bittersweet. I was glad to get out of that squishy hospital bed but so sad to leave my son at the hospital. It just didn’t feel right.
Next Two Weeks – In the days that followed I would see mothers strolling their kids along and thinking, “Hey, that should be me. I have one of those now.” However, the 24/7 care he received also gave me peace of mind that he would be monitored carefully and come home when he was good and ready. I needed time to heal too and, feeling a little guilty saying this, was grateful for those first couple of weeks of sleep.
The trips back and forth to the hospital were tiring. Every day my mom and I carted all of my frozen milk, pumping supplies and pillows up to the NICU and sat with him. I thought the feeding was going very well. I say this just based on instinct but the nurses and doctors didn’t agree. One night I got a phone call that Mac’s oral feeds were being cut down from four a day to two a day because he just wasn’t maturing well enough. The next day, he accidentally got fed formula which made me very stressed because providing my baby milk felt like the only thing I could actually give him. Not long after that one of the nurses read the chart wrong and he was getting ALL of his food orally. Poor kid was all over the place with his feeds in a matter of a couple days. Up until this point I had complied with the “whatever you think is best doctor” but lost it after a couple of mistakes happened. Papa Bear my husband went into the NICU that night and talked to the doctor on call. Papa Bear knows his stuff when it comes to all the medical terminology and he is much less emotional than I am when upset. Two days later little Mac got to come home.
Sunday November 8th – Mac gets to go home! We spent the night in the hospital with him. All of the monitors were taken off. We just had nurses checking on him all night long. He passed all of his tests. No more apnea. No more bradycardia. No more feeding issues!
It’s been about five days since he’s been home now and he seems to be gaining weight just fine. I guess I am a better mom at growing him outside the womb than inside. I am okay with that. I am celebrating the fact that I am no longer pregnant and at much lower risk for another blood clot. I have a precious little boy who squeaks and coos when I hold him. I rock him, pray over him and wonder who he is going to grow up to be. That, I get the priveldge to watch over my lifetime.
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