Jun 14 2016

samuel henry – a birth story

Samuel Henry

May 12th, 8:04AM

8lbs 13oz, 22”

Like his sister, Samuel came into the world in a dramatic way; unlike his sister, he took his sweet time doing it.

My pregnancy with Samuel was fairly routine despite being closely monitored for possible repeat complications.  It was to be a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian) and I had been approved by an OB to be a good candidate.  Even though it was very routine, I and my midwife (and everyone else for that matter) was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it to 40 weeks.  I had a lot of braxton hicks contractions from about 25 weeks on, and when I got to about 36 weeks they were a regular part of my day.  At 38 weeks I started experiencing painful (but still tolerable) contractions that would come 5-8 minutes apart and last for a few hours each day.  Every day we waited for them to get closer together but every day they just stayed the same.

At 40 weeks, my midwife tried doing a cervical check (and possible sweep) but Samuel was so low that she could barely reach around his head to do anything.  It was definitely frustrating.  We made all the appointments for the coming week to have NST’s (non stress tests) and an ultrasound to make sure fluid levels were good. Our plan was that if by 41 weeks and 3 days (10 days overdue) nothing had happened, we would start a slow induction (with a foley catheter and possibly oxytocin)

I had my first NST on Monday the 9th at 41 weeks and 1 day.  Sam was happy and moving and showing no signs of trouble.  The nurse performing the NST mentioned to me that the fact that baby was so low, he was not actually sitting on my cervix, and that might have something to do with why I wasn’t progressing with labor. She mentioned going on all fours and sticking my bum up in the air to get him repositioned and it would surely get things going.  That afternoon I went home and did that as much as I could handle.  I did end up getting stronger contractions that night and was woken up every 30 minutes or so by a strong one.

The next morning I still wasn’t convinced that anything was going to happen and went on throughout my day feeling sure that I was going to end up getting induced (and/or having a c-section).  Contractions kept getting stronger, more painful and closer that evening but still nothing that would send me to the hospital.

That night (Tuesday) I was up the whole night with 10 minute very painful contractions.  Again, not close enough that I could go to the hospital, despite the pain.  By Wednesday morning (the 11th) they were 5 minutes apart when resting and 2 minutes apart when walking.  I called my midwife and she came to my house right away to do an assessment.  She didn’t want to send me to the hospital only for me to get sent home disappointed.  When she checked me I was about 3-4cm dilated, but baby had an unusually high heart rate which concerned her.  We went straight to the hospital to get an NST done and make sure everything was fine.  It turned out he was just being very happy and active when she had been checking him–but at the end of it all (since I was already overdue) she and the OB on call recommended breaking my water to get the party started. I gladly agreed.

Once my waters were broken, contractions got a lot more intense and more painful…but still never more than 3 minutes apart.  My plan was to use laughing gas to cope, but I was hoping to avoid anything else.  But by Wednesday evening, I had basically been laboring since Monday with only slow progression.  I was very tired.  My midwife did a cervical check and found that I had dilated to maybe 5 or 6cm but was starting to swell which was causing things to slow.  That, and the fact that I hadn’t slept for the previous 2 nights brought her to recommend getting an epidural so that I could get some rest.  She said my body was probably just too tired to progress any more without some proper rest.

I never thought I would agree to an epidural but at the moment I came to a realization and said to myself “when he’s a grown man, no one will care that his mom had an epidural. Even when he is 1 day old, no one will care.”  So I agreed.

The epidural went very smoothly.  I was able to sleep on and off for a few hours (maybe 2 or 3 in total?) but by 2AM still was not having contractions any closer than 3 minutes apart.  I was SO frustrated.  We started oxytocin to pick things up which made my contractions more intense…but still never closer together.

By 4AM my midwife did another check.  I was not convinced that anything had changed, but lo and behold, (and much to EVERYONE’s surprise) I was actually fully dilated and ready to push if I felt like I could!  Because of the epidural though it was hard to tell at first when I could.  We upped the oxytocin again though and I just sort of went for it.  My midwife was great at coaching me and making sure I didn’t expel all my energy in the wrong way.  At about 6:30AM though, progress had still been slow.  I was exhausted and not sure how much more pushing I could do.  We tried numerous different positions at that point but still nothing seemed to be helping.  I could feel him moving down with each push and as soon as I would stop I’d feel him move back up.

We were using at rope with a handle at each end for me to pull on (and Dave pulled the other end) while I tried pushing.  It was working a bit, but I could only just start his head crowning before he’d go back in.  By about 7:30AM my midwife consulted the on call OB to see when our next steps would be.  We knew the baby was happy because I was on continual monitoring (because of it being a VBAC) but couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t get him out.  He felt around and realized that baby was actually posterior in the birth canal (facing up instead of down–babies should be facing down to come out easily).  Not only that, but his head seemed to be angled in such a way that he was just getting stuck.  The OB said my options were to have a c-section (which would be tricky because he was already so far down the birth canal) or to attempt a vacuum.  We decided to do the vacuum first and c-section later if that didn’t work.

While they were fiddling with setting up the vacuum though, I started getting some crazy contractions one on top of each other.  I was trying to get everyone’s attention and to get Dave or my midwife to grab the other end of the rope but they seemed to be preoccupied with the new plan.  So I grabbed my knees and went crazy pushing and within a few minutes had his head out.  A few more pushes and he was all out!  

I found out later that the reason he was so difficult to push out was because he was coming out brow first (not just sunny side up) and didn’t turn like a lot of posterior babies do.  That, and the fact that he was almost 9lbs (8lbs 13oz) meant I had my share of tearing (3rd degree).  He ended up with a lot of bruises on his head, as well as a black eye from when the OB was trying to determine his presentation earlier and jabbed his finger in the poor boys eye socket.

We are so thankful that he is out and safe and sound.  I only realized later how crazy the whole situation was when my midwife pointed out all the variables that made this birth epic (a VBAC brow presentation birth of an almost 9lb baby!)  We joked that if I ever had a third child (which is a definite NO) that it would have to have an equally crazy story to match its siblings.

//Photo Credits//
(in order of appearance)
Courteney Rodda Photography (newborn shot)
Amy Joy Photography
Cradled Creations Photography


Nov 2 2013

introducing: lucy ann.

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…

I exploded.

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.