When I found out I was expecting our first child, I was filled with various emotions. From excitement to fear, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I would love that baby with my whole heart. To make a long story short, our joy about expecting ended fast when my husband received orders to deploy. From there, though, I made sure that I was going to make that pregnancy wonderful and learn everything I could to be prepared for it. If he couldn’t take classes with me, I would do them myself and educate him!
I took on a natural approach when it came to birthing my baby. My mom had given birth to all of us naturally, so why couldn’t I do it? I just told myself that it would be fine and that I could do it because I was MADE to do it. I took classes with a local childbirth educator and learned the best pain coping techniques, positions, positive affirmations and pushing positions as well as interventions to avoid and the rate of c-section because of interventions. I figured that if I taught myself all this good stuff, I would be able to push this kid out with no issues! I told my husband the things he needed to know and gave him some reading material, too. He was supposed to be home and he was going to help me out!
As my due date approached, I started to prepare for our baby girl. I set up the pack and play, washed her clothes, and made her space ready. She was due January 15, 2011 and she was supposed to be born around then. I mean, come on, they tell every mom to expect to go longer because it’s your first! Mentally, I was not fully ready for her arrival. I was expecting her to cook until my husband was home. The ONE person I needed was going to be there and I had it in my head that he would.
Just after one in the morning on Christmas, 2010 at EXACTLY 37 weeks, I woke up to go to the bathroom and my waters broke and bloody show ensued. She was coming whether I liked it or not. I instantly hoped I was wrong and that this was false. She couldn’t come yet! My husband wasn’t home and I could not do it without him! I woke up my mom (I was living with my parents while he was gone), had my siblings help me get everything ready and we left for the hospital around two. We arrived there at two thirty and my contractions were already a few minutes apart and lasted about a minute long. They were strong and it took everything in me to walk to the elevators and take that short ride up to the third floor of St. Francis.
When I got into triage, they checked me, declared I was officially in labor at six centimeters and on to have a baby I went. I was still in denial. I didn’t want her to come yet. I wanted her dad to be there. The one person I wanted and he wasn’t there. This was so troubling for me. I remember feeling so defeated because this birth was already not going how I wanted. I just remember crying and crying.
My midwife arrived to the hospital at around 3:30 that morning and I had already dilated to seven. St. Francis’s rule about their labor tub was that you had to be less than seven to use it. One of my main coping techniques was to use the tub...more defeat. So I sat in that bed, laboring in a way I didn’t want to without my main support person. I had my mom and my mother-in-law, but no hubby. And now there was no bathtub to help.
I remember everybody suggesting I move around, but I was not in the mood to move. Every time I did the pain was excruciating and it felt like a thousand pounds of weight was crushing my hips and spine. Come to find out later, my daughter’s hand was by her head and causing me said pain. I bet if I had moved it would have helped, but I just couldn’t do it. Between the disappointment and pain, I just couldn’t.
Around 4:30 that morning my midwife suggested that I get a check to see where I was at because my contractions were really close, really strong and I was managing to doze off in between each one. I said yes and it was discovered that I was sitting strong at nine. It was almost a relief knowing I was almost there, but at the same time, only nine?! I was so tired of hurting. She offered to break my water (the bag had shifted around her again) to see if that would move everything alone. I declined remembering that this was something that my childbirth educator suggested we didn’t do. So back to sitting up and laboring on through I went. At five-ish, she checked again and I was still at nine. So, in defeat yet again, I consented to my waters being broken. The pain that ensued was so much different; it was painful yes, but in a good way. I could FINALLY feel my daughter making her way down!
I was given the “okay” to push when I felt ready. Oddly enough I never quite had that urge, just pressure in my lower half. I could feel her coming into the birth canal, but no urge. So I pushed a little to see what it would do and before I knew it, everybody could see her head and her little bit of hair. I knew I had to get her out. I knew that even though this birth wasn’t what I had anticipated, I had to meet her. I needed my little bit of my other half in my arms if he couldn’t be there to help me with this!
After 26 minutes of pushing at 5:26 am, feeling that ring of fire, a third degree tear and a labor that hadn’t gone as planned, my seven pound, twenty inch little joy came into the world. I originally didn’t want her on me, but in the heat of the moment I requested her on my chest! I finally got to meet this little bundle of hard work! I do remember declaring that I could do that again, no issues because I had played it up to be so much worse in my head. It really wasn’t as hard as I had anticipated!
And yet, that’s when things went really wrong.
I had my Lillien on my chest for maybe a few minutes when the baby nurse snatched her away. I remember seeing her talk to my midwife and all of a sudden a rush to cut the cord came up. Who would do it since dad wasn’t there? Let’s go, rush, rush, and rush some more! I hadn’t even had a real look at her yet and this nurse was taking her away! Because I didn’t really have the energy to say otherwise and my support people didn’t know my true wishes, away she went. My mom stayed with her the whole time and my mother-in-law was so good about checking on her and me and being the back and forth person. So while she was snatched from me, at least her grandmothers were there to love her.
As far as my health went, it went downhill rather fast. I remember my midwife stitching up my tear and the nurse rubbing my fundus. I remember being in an achy pain. I closed my eyes to just relax and when I opened them, my midwife was full-fledged tugging on my cord to get my placenta to release. At the same time, the nurse was hooking me up to pitocin. I felt completely out of control. I was shaking so hard from the hormones and I was freezing. I couldn’t even ask what was going on. It didn’t take long for my placenta to come after that, but even once it was out, my midwife had a very concerned look on her face. I just closed my eyes are prayed. My mother-in-law said the color just drained from my face. I remember my midwife telling me that she couldn’t figure out why I was still bleeding so much, but everything was okay. I didn’t say anything, just gave a nod and then listened to her and the nurse going over a checklist of reasons why I would still be bleeding. Then my nurse said something to the tune of membranes and placenta and before I knew it, my midwife’s arm was in my uterus scraping out placenta membranes that were left behind. Two big golf ball sized membranes are what was left. That was by far, the most excruciating pain I had ever felt in my life. I don’t wish it on anybody.
After all of that, I finally got to hold my beautiful girl in my arms. She was a spitting image of her daddy. So much so that I kind of wondered what I had actually contributed to her in the last nine months! I was finally happy to hold my baby. The hard work was worth its’ weight in gold to hold this beauty!
That was until the baby nurse declared that she was going to have to spend some time in the nursery and we would have twenty minutes to engage in whatever we wanted to do. So I rushed to nurse her, rushed to snuggle her, rushed everything. I felt so cheated!! I knew it was Christmas, but I felt like the standard of care I was getting was so sub par!
Not to drag this story out too terribly much, but my lovely, little one spent time in the NICU for oxygen issues and she was sent home with oxygen, too. She spent four days under bili lights and I had the pleasure of dealing with all of it by myself while trying to breastfeed under immense pressure to bottle feed from her pediatrician who belittled me every chance she got. Needless to say, I feel like that first week with her was hell. I still cry at the thought of how it all went wrong. I still want to kick myself for not standing up for what I felt was wrong and what I knew I shouldn’t have let the medical world do to myself or to my baby. I hate feeling like I was helpless in that moment with minimal support (although I do take my hat off to our moms!) and I wish things had gone so differently!
If I could go back to that day, I would change quite a bit. I would not let that nurse take my baby away from me, for starters. I would have questioned why my midwife was tugging on my cord, I would have asked why I couldn’t have tried nursing to get my placenta to detach. I feel like my daughter’s rough start was because of the rush and because she was taken away so quickly. If I had known then what I know now, I would have stood up for myself and demanded answers! I would have questioned the medical professionals more and made them answer me!!! There’s so much I wish I could have done, but I can’t. What I can do is make sure other momma’s DO NOT have to deal with these issues!!
After such a hard start, though, my little fighter is now 3 ½, bossy, sweet, funny, matter-of-fact, strong headed and hard willed and a typical healthy toddler. Life may not have started out easy for her or for me, but she’s the reason why I decided to become a childbirth educator and why I decided to support all pregnant women. We all deserve to have the births we want and the interventions we say yay or nay to!! She’s worth every minute of everything. She is why I want to be a better person!