My ideal birth was that of an Ina May story. All natural, in a comfortable setting (I initially wanted a home birth, something my husband ended up vetoing for our first) and laboring in water.
But instead, I got the most opposite of opposite experiences one could imagine.
In the last 3 weeks of being pregnant I got huge. I went from fitting tight in maternity clothes to having about two or three stretchy things that still barely fit. I was so uncomfortable and could barely move around properly. I attributed this to me just being a wimp and soldiered on. I also was experiencing braxton hicks a LOT. My midwife said that some women just get them more and unless the got more frequent and stronger it wasn’t too concerning, so I tried to take it easy as much as I could handle (although in retrospect, I was a total busy body and didn’t take it easy at all).
On September 13th, when I was 34 weeks pregnant I noticed that I was having (what I thought was) braxton hicks fairly regularly. I normally wouldn’t have been concerned about them, but these seemed a bit more intense than normal. I spent the day laying on the couch, drinking water and timing them. They were about 4-5 minutes apart but never got more intense or closer together. Because I was only 34 weeks and stubborn I kept telling myself that it was fine and I just needed to suck it up.
On September 15th, I was beyond uncomfortable. I had no idea how it would be possible for me to make it another 6 weeks. At church that morning I told a friend that I would have my baby the next day. We laughed and she teased me that first time moms usually go late. The thought of being pregnant for up to 8 more weeks was overwhelming.
That evening we were having a family get together with my family. One of my brothers and his family were moving to Montreal later that week so this was the last shindig with everyone before Christmastime. He had noticed that my belly felt especially hard that night and noted to his wife that he thought something was off with me. When they left, I joked that I’d have the baby quickly before they moved so he could see her. As we were wrapping up the evening, my husband got a phone call from his mom who said that his sister had just had her baby, and we could come down to the hospital to visit that night. I told him I was really tired and just wanted a quick visit because I needed to get some rest. One of my other sisters-in-law told me (as we walked out the door) that I might as well have the baby while I was there.
If only we knew what was about to happen.
When we arrived in the hospital room of my husbands sister I made a point of staying out of the way and keeping to myself. I had been so uncomfortable and whiny but this was my sister-in-law’s time and I didn’t want to make a scene. Her boyfriend obviously noticed that I looked uncomfortable and got me a glass of water.
A few minutes after that…
Thankfully there was a nurse in the room when it happened. Everyone was shouting “Her water! Her water!” The nurse, realizing right away what was happening, grabbed me and pulled me into the washroom, stripped me down, put a gown on me and brought me to triage. The entire way down the hall I was like a faucet on full blast. The nurses later said they had never seen so much water come out of a person before (I apologized profusely to the nurses as I was being dragged down the hall, slipping in the amniotic fluid).
Needless to say, I was completely and totally shell shocked. I kept saying “This wasn’t in the plan. This wasn’t supposed to happen today.”
They hooked me up to a monitor to make sure that Lucy was still ok, and she was. My midwife was called, and the on call OB was brought in to assess the situation. I told the OB right away that I thought the baby was breech. My midwife felt around, and the OB felt around and the both said that I was wrong and that baby was head down. I felt such a relief. I could still have the birth that I wanted. The OB said she wanted to do a quick ultrasound though to confirm position. Unfortunately, I was right in my intuition. What they thought was Lucy’s head was her bum. A c-section was imminent, and my midwife unfortunately agreed. I tried to fight it and asked if they could move her, but with all the amniotic fluid gone it was not only virtually impossible, but excruciatingly painful. At this time, I should point out, I was also in hard labor and experiencing contractions every 2-3 minutes. I thankfully had the wherewithal to get my husband to contact my birth photographer (Jaydene of Cradled Creations Birth Photography) who came down right away, so that we could at least get a few shots of the process.
At just after midnight, I was wheeled down to the OR, still in denial that I was about to have a baby. They asked me questions about family history and spinals, to which I honestly couldn’t remember if there was problems in my family with being put out. I later remembered as they were about to do the incision that there had been issues with my dad and one of my brothers waking up while in surgery. I immediately panicked and told my husband “Don’t let them cut me open!! I don’t know what’s going to happen!!” and then seconds later I heard Lucy’s cries. I had no idea they were even doing anything.
Lucy was wrapped up and brought to me a couple minutes later. They kept saying how much she looked like me, but all I could see was the teeniest bit of her face since her little hat was way too big on her.
Lucy was placed in the NICU immediately for a heightened heart rate and temperature and put on antibiotics, since the doctors thought she may have had an infection. Thankfully, all her tests came back clean of infection. But that was just the beginning of Lucy’s story…
When she was just two days old, one of the nurses noticed that her stomach looked distended and checked to see how much was in it. Unfortunately she discovered that everything we had fed Lucy in the last two days had just stayed in her stomach and hadn’t been digested. The pediatrician was called and did another check and agreed that there was some sort of blockage. He also noticed an irregularity with her heartbeat. They were not set up to deal with these kinds of issues in our local hospital, so she was sent straight to the BC Childrens Hospital in Vancouver an hour away from where we live. We were set up to stay at some government funded housing that is 4 blocks away from the hospital.
Test after test, diagnosis after diagnosis and eventually what the doctors have come up with is this: 1, Lucy has a heart murmur; (a VSD, or ventricular septal defect). This will likely require heart surgery when she is 3-6 months old depending on her size and how it’s affecting her.
2, Lucy’s stomach and intestines did not connect properly when forming (called duodenal atresia) When she was being scanned, the technician asked if I had excess fluid when she was born (ha! Try, an entire ocean-full!) She explained that when there is a block in the intestines, the levels of amniotic fluid just keep getting higher and higher, eventually leading to premature rupture of membranes. She had surgery to correct it when she was 6 days old. It took her 12 days before she was able to start eating food again, and even then it was only by tube. By the time Lucy started eating orally she was almost a month old! Learning that skill has been slow going and quite difficult. Because the doctors didn’t want to push her with her heart condition we were only allowed a small amount of time to work on oral feeds initially. At 5 1/2 weeks we were finally approved for a transfer back to the Abbotsford hospital where we would spend the next week working on getting Lucy to feed 100% orally. After what felt like forever and a day, Lucy was finally approved for discharge at 6 1/2 weeks old.
Feeding is still a challenge. Not only is Lucy not fabulous at it (she spurts everywhere, even with a slow nipple), but the doctors want her to be getting a certain number of calories a day (in order for her to be of an adequate size for her surgery). This means that strictly breastfeeding is out of the question because everything (or mostly everything) that Lucy takes in has to be fortified with extra calories. Which means pumping up to 8 times a day, then mixing that with a powder, then feeding Lucy. To make things slightly more simple, we have decided to give some feeds formula (which smells gross and I wish we didn’t have to).
We are happy (understatement?) to be home with our little one. The only way we managed through the last 6 weeks was with the prayers and support of so many people. We can’t thank you all enough for everything.
So because Lucy is so freaking cute, our way of showing our utter gratitude to everyone is an overload of pictures of her.