The Birth Story of Katherine Jean

It’s been seven months since Katherine Jean joined our family, and I’ve had plenty of time to reflect upon my pregnancy and her birth. I can honestly say that Katie’s birth was the best, the perfect final act in the story of my children’s births.

Pregnancy After Loss

With multiple miscarriages, a preterm birth, a full-term stillbirth, and multiple c-sections under my belt, this pregnancy was obviously considered high risk. I was seen at my doctor’s office once a month until 24 weeks, and then every two weeks until 32 weeks, and then twice a week from then on — once for an ultrasound and once for a non-stress test.

It was a very different experience for me, because I haven’t seen a doctor for an entire pregnancy since my first baby in 2001, and after my previous experiences, I have not been the biggest fan of the medical profession. That, coupled with the extreme anxiety of being pregnant after Clara’s stillbirth, gave me a lot to work through, and I was fortunate to have David to lean on for every appointment.

NST Anxiety During Pregnancy After Loss

We were told pretty early on that I would need to deliver by c-section at 36 weeks. The high-risk doctors did not feel comfortable allowing me to progress past that point, and I had already promised myself that I would do what I was told, for a change. As the scheduled date drew closer, I became more and more nervous. I was just sure that our baby would die too, like Clara. I was certain that in the 2-3 days between ultrasound and NST each week, something terrible would happen. The feeling was so unwavering that I refused to sign the final paperwork for the tubal ligation I wanted, until I knew for sure that the baby has been delivered safely.

We arrived at the hospital at 6:30 in the morning on April 2, 2014. I was both excited and terrified. I’d never done this before, walked into a hospital with the intention of undergoing a cesarean section, but surprisingly, as much as I fought the very idea of having a c-section with my three other girls, I was not anxious at all about the surgery. I had made peace with needing a repeat cesarean, and I felt like I knew what to expect from the surgery and recovery, which took away that fear almost completely.

No, my fear and anxiety were all for the health of our baby. I was admitted and taken to a pre-op room, where I changed into my gown and socks. My vital signs were taken, I met all of the nurses and my anesthesiologist, and an IV was started. A nurse came in to put a heart monitor and contraction belt on me, and she had trouble picking up the baby’s heartbeat for just a minute… and I could feel my mouth go dry and my blood pressure going up. The nurses knew our history, so they were very reassuring, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

We were bumped four times for emergency c-sections, which amounted to an extra two hour wait in the pre-op room, and I held tight to David’s hand throughout that time. I kept saying, “but the baby’s fine right now, we need to get her out now, while we know she’s okay”. Nothing could convince me to calm down. I was obsessing with whether I felt her moving, whether the monitor’s beep was a good one or a bad one, and I watched the minutes tick by so slowly.

David, on the other hand, was a little nervous, but mostly he was so excited. He couldn’t wait to meet our baby and he felt confident that she would be fine. He was infinitely patient with me, petting my hair, rubbing my feet, and talking to my belly, telling our baby how excited we were to finally meet her.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

My dad brought Addah up to the hospital around 9:45 in the morning, and she came back to the pre-op room for a hug and kiss. Having her there calmed me down too, and very shortly after she came in to visit, the nurses came to get us. It was baby time!

David changed into his surgical clothes, while I was wheeled into the OR and prepped for spinal anesthesia. The room was full of doctors, nurses, the anesthesia team, and the NICU team (just in case, since I was only 36 weeks along). I asked for my husband, right as a nurse was bringing him in. He held my hand so tightly, and the surgery began.

The surgery took much longer than the three previous, because it was my first non-emergent cesarean. There was a lot of scar tissue to get through, and she was in a breech presentation, so the doctor had said they wanted to take their time. Finally, after what felt like a million years, the doctor said “here we go”. David stood up to look over the curtain that fell across my chest, and I felt the pressure of our baby being pulled from my body.

I didn’t hear her cry at first, and I asked if she was okay over and over. David said, “she’s moving, they’re just suctioning her a little”. Finally I heard her tiny cries, and all at once I could breathe again. The nurse called David over and handed our baby girl, Katherine Jean, to him. He brought her to me, and all I could think to say was, “I have been waiting so long for you, sweet girl”.

Katie was the most beautiful baby in the entire world, as all of my babies have been. I kissed her chubby little hands and whispered “I love you” over and over, to her and to David. Breathing, healthy, alive… everything I had hoped for. She was 6 lbs 7 oz, 20 inches long, born at 10:55 in the morning on April 2, 2014.

My surgery was not yet over, because I had opted for a tubal ligation, so a nurse guided David and baby Katie out of the OR and into a quiet room with a rocking chair so they could bond and wait for me. The rest of the surgery took far too long for my liking; I couldn’t wait to hold my tiny sweet baby. When I was stitched up and put back together, I was taken to my hospital room, where I was finally (finally!) able to hold Katie. I’m not even sure if I can describe the wild range of emotions I was feeling — elation and wonder at this perfect little one, mixed with grief and sadness, remembering the last time I held a tiny baby in a hospital bed.

Katie's Birth Story

Mostly I felt peace. My previous birth stories had always started off with the end goal of natural birth and ended with the disappointment of a c-section. I tried, every way I could think of, to bend birth to my will and make a natural birth part of my story, but as it turned out, my most peaceful birth was a planned c-section. I would change nothing about my last birth story. I realized, after Clara died, that the end goal of any birth story should be “healthy baby” — it’s not how the baby gets here that matters, but that they get here safely.

The rest… really doesn’t matter, in the end.

Katie's Birth Story

Katherine-Jean-Birth

David-Jean-Katie

Three-Beautiful-Daughters

David-Heather-Katie

The Vantage Point of Hindsight

The Vantage Point of Hindsight - A Realistic Look at our Popular Birth Culture

I chose to attempt natural childbirth with all three of my daughters, yet all three were delivered by cesarean section. With my second daughter, emergency surgery saved both of our lives. With my third daughter, I chose a cesarean because, in my shock and disbelief at hearing that our obstetrician could find no heartbeat, I believed it could possibly save her life. Unfortunately it didn’t, though it did end up saving mine, yet again.

I did not intentionally put my daughter’s life in danger by going two weeks overdue. I would never have chosen to attempt a natural labor and childbirth if I had known that my daughter was going to die. From the vantage point of hindsight, I wish I could turn back time and consent to the bi-monthly ultrasounds, the amniocentesis at 36 weeks and the cesarean section at 38 weeks. If I had done so, my daughter would be here today. I was scared of hospitals, a fear that began with my second birth and which developed into full-blown terror over the intervening decade.

I allowed my fear, and my absolute belief that I could have a natural childbirth like so many other mothers do, to color my decisions. I assessed risks, but unwittingly I was only looking at one side of the coin. I worried, questioned myself, asked questions and looked for reassurance on natural childbirth message boards. I was told about women who had gone many weeks postdates, women whose babies had no ill effects from passing meconium, women who had breech babies at home with only their husbands in attendance. I believed, completely and absolutely, that I was doing the right thing by avoiding induction and staying home until I was ready to give birth. I allowed popular birth culture to color my decisions.

I cannot turn back time. I cannot make different decisions for that pregnancy, that birth. I wish I could, more than I could ever express to anyone. All I can do is learn from the mistakes that I made, and hope that other mothers will find my story in the course of their own research and learn from my mistakes, so that they can make better choices for their own pregnancies and births.

The natural childbirth community is full of wonderful people, who mean to empower women into trusting their bodies and allowing their babies to be born into the world peacefully. They don’t mean any harm by advocating these beliefs, but unfortunately, it is all too easy for a pregnant and hormonal mother to become hypnotized by the adrenaline high of other women’s experiences. Too often, the risks are skimmed over, with much focus given to staying positive and avoiding negativity.

Conversely, I have read articles and comments on websites that convey the belief that natural childbirth is inherently dangerous and that home birth should be outlawed. I have seen grieving mothers who have lost their babies told that they deserved what they got, or that they should have known better. I have seen real, true information that will never be received by the intended audience because of the aggressive wording and nature of the writer.

What I have come to believe, in the 12 weeks since my daughter died and was born, is that taking an extreme stance on either side of the birthing communities is very dangerous. There is no one course of action that is best for all birthing mamas. Doctors and midwives are not always right, but they are not always wrong, either. Not all obstetricians and hospitals and mothers are created equal.

The risks of meconium aspiration, postmaturity, uterine rupture, maternal mortality and stillbirth are real, and need to be discussed as openly as the benefits and risks of episiotomy, amniotomy and epidurals are. The feeling that pregnant mamas shouldn’t worry themselves that their babies could die, because it stresses them out unnecessarily, is misplaced. Mothers need to know that it can happen to them, because it does happen to mothers just like them every day, so that they can make informed decisions regarding their health care providers, their birthing facilities and their births.

My daughter should not have died. I take responsibility for my part in her death, and I torment myself with how I should have done things differently, every day. I probably always will. It is my hope that by sharing my story… Clara’s story… other mothers will not have to experience the horrific sadness that is losing their babies.

Be smart, mamas. Don’t believe everything that you are told, by either your doctors, your midwives or your friends. Every article on the internet is not fact. Do your research, read both sides (good and bad) and decide the parameters of your comfort zone for yourself. Neither natural childbirth nor cesarean sections are the right answer for every woman. Find a compatible and educated health care provider who can guide you through the medical end of the journey.

If in doubt, get to a hospital and make sure that your baby is fine. Don’t hesitate. Above all else, be safe.

No soapbox or belief is worth the life of your baby. Believe me, I know.

(Please, share this post with anyone you know who is pregnant or trying to conceive. Help get the word out to mamas to be aware of the benefits and the risks of the choices that they make regarding their pregnancies and births. If we can help just one mama to make choices that prevent the death of a baby, than we have made all the difference in the world.)

 

She Was Still Born

I have been trying to find the mental fortitude to write our youngest daughter’s birth story for five weeks. I want the details down before I forget them. I feel sure I may have already forgotten some things, but those are just the little things, nuances and comments made in that first endless week.

I have learned very quickly that after that first week or two after a child is born still, people don’t really want to hear about it anymore. It is such a sad and nonsensical thing, that a baby would die for no clear reason, and most people would rather not think about such unpleasantness. I am no longer asked how I am doing by most of the people I know. I have heard, “but it’s been a month, don’t you feel any better?” by a well-meaning friend. I do not feel better, and I do not want to forget a moment of this wonderful child’s existence.

The story is not short. It is not happy or uplifting.

Our daughter was stillborn at 42 weeks 3 days. She never opened her blue eyes. She never cried. She never nursed at my breast or grabbed her daddy’s finger with her chubby hand, but she was still born, and she deserves to be remembered forever.

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I had been having contractions on and off for several weeks. Sometimes they were only slightly painful, coming every 10-15 minutes and lasting 20-30 seconds. At other times they were intense enough to need to breathe through, coming every 5 minutes and lasting a minute or so. Each time I was sure “this is it” and each time the contractions would slow down and then stop completely while I slept, only to start again the next afternoon. I made sure to drink a lot of water and orange juice, thinking that the contractions could be a sign of dehydration and wanting to be sure that wasn’t the case.

I reached the 40 week mark on June 14th. I was thrilled to have made it to my due date, feeling a little arrogant about how the doctors had said I would “never carry a baby to full term”, but also feeling ready for our baby girl to make her appearance. We had read all of the research that shows that 40 weeks is just the average length of a normal pregnancy — anything from 38 to 42 weeks is considered in the normal range, and I know of several women who have had their babies at 43 and 44 weeks. We weren’t worried.

Our baby was moving a lot throughout the day and night, kicking my rib cage with enthusiasm and wedging her little head so far down into my pelvis that I felt like I was going to squish her when I sat down. At 40 weeks, I was dilated to 4cm and 100% effaced. The contractions continued daily, and we felt like any minute they would evolve into full blown labor.

At 41 weeks, I was still 4cm and baby girl was at 0 station. We discussed induction but decided against it. I wanted a vaginal birth after cesarean very badly, and pitocin is generally contraindicated in a VBAC, particularly when the mom has a “special scar” like I have (an inverted T incision from Addah’s birth, which basically means that my uterus was cut both low transverse and vertically). It’s been 9.5 years since she was born, but I still didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks with uterine rupture.

By this point I was very uncomfortable and ready to not be pregnant. I cried one night that I just wanted to go have a c-section, just so I wouldn’t be pregnant anymore. I didn’t really want that, not then and not looking back, but when your hips and back are aching with every movement, you start to feel a little irrational. David and I had a long soul-searching conversation over the course of a couple days and decided that, since baby girl was still fine, with a great heart rate and passing every kick count, we’d give it until 42 weeks and then reconsider the hospital induction. We felt very good about this decision, having weighed all of our options.

On the afternoon of Thursday, June 28th, the day that I hit 42 weeks, we made the decision that if I was not in “real labor” by the next night, when the girls were supposed to go to their dad’s house, we would go into the hospital for a medical induction. We didn’t make this decision based on any worry about the baby’s health, as she was still kicking quite exuberantly in her very tight living quarters. We made the decision because I was uncomfortable and oh-so-ready to meet our baby.

I woke up on Friday morning to contractions, but this time they felt different. They were more painful, radiating from back to front and sometimes down into my thighs. I told David that I was pretty sure these weren’t going to stop. They felt more real than any of the other times. I was able to manage them fairly easily at this point. David went to work and I went through the motions of my day, stopping to breathe through contractions when necessary.

At one point that morning, I remember telling Addah that her baby sister has hiccups, and remarking to David that it feels very strange having hiccups in one’s vagina.

The contractions slowed down that night but never stopped completely. The next day was much like the one before, painful contractions but nothing I couldn’t handle. I was very excited, getting the last of the baby things in order, picking out her first outfit and debating about which blankets matched which outfit the best.

By Saturday evening, the contractions were coming much closer and more intense. I told David that “we’re going to have a baby tonight”. I wanted to sleep while I still could, to conserve energy for the birth to come. I would wake up to breathe through a contraction and then fall right back asleep. I slept this way all night, fitfully but still getting some much needed rest.

I woke up on Sunday in real pain. It didn’t feel like the labor I’d been having, and it didn’t feel like the way countless books and birth stories and friends have described labor. It was pain and it was harsh. I couldn’t sit, couldn’t stand, couldn’t lay down, couldn’t make it to the bathroom without help and I felt like “if this is what labor really feels like, I give up”. I told David that something felt wrong, that it hurt too much and I needed to go to the hospital NOW.

He grabbed my purse and the diaper bag. Lee’s husband Benjamin helped me into their minivan and we sped toward the hospital. Each bump on the (under construction) interstate felt like I was going to split in two, and the 10-minute drive felt like it took hours. David parked in front of the entrance for Labor & Delivery, grabbed a wheelchair and helped me into it. We went upstairs and were asked to wait “just a moment” in the waiting room, while they made sure they had a room available for us. Those five minutes sitting in the wheelchair in the waiting room were awful… I was crying… I just wanted the pain to stop. They didn’t even feel like contractions that stop and start anymore… just pain that wouldn’t end.

We were taken to a room and the nurse hooked up the heartbeat and contraction monitors while the billing lady took my insurance cards and information. I was asked if I wanted to attempt a VBAC and I said “yes, I wanted to go natural but I think I need something for the pain… not an epidural but something because I can’t handle this”. The nurse said “sounds good, we’ll get you something as soon as we get the monitors up and running”. A different nurse came in to check my dilation and said I was “5cm, 100% effaced, baby is at +1 station”. I felt amazed… they were going to “let” me have a vaginal birth without arguing that a cesarean would be a better option!

David was sitting by my head, holding my hand, both of us as excited as children at Christmas. We were about to have a baby! The nurses were using a handheld doppler to find the heartbeat, and it seemed odd that it was taking so long. They said that “maybe it’s because she’s so far down in your pelvis” and brought in an ultrasound machine and tech. A couple minutes went by and the tech said (very cheerfully), “we’re going to have the doctor come take a look”. I was still in pain, trying to focus on the baby and on David, not paying a lot of attention to what the nurses were doing.

The doctor came in and began the ultrasound. After a couple more minutes, David and I looked at each other and the realization that there was a problem began to dawn. I said, “can you not find her heartbeat?” and the doctor said “no, here is her rib cage and there is no heartbeat there”.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl. I felt cold, lost in some surreal nightmare. David ran to the bathroom and collapsed to the floor, sobbing. The nurses and tech disappeared from our room. The doctor said “I’m so sorry”. David asked if he could possibly be wrong, that maybe he made a mistake. The doctor said that there are no guarantees in life and that there was a chance he was wrong. I asked “how quickly can you get her out?” and he answered “with a cesarean, we can get her out right now”. I said, “then do it, get her out now”.

All thoughts of my much coveted vaginal birth after cesarean were gone from my mind. If a cesarean can save my daughter, do it and do it immediately. Cut me from stem to stern if that’s what it takes for my baby to be okay. But of course, I realized later that the doctor must have known he wasn’t wrong, that our baby was already gone.

Over the next 15 minutes, I signed a consent form, was shaved and prepped for surgery, and had my blood typed. David changed quickly into blue paper scrubs and we were whisked down a hall full of the sounds of babies crying. Once in the operating room, a spinal was administered and before David was even in the room by my side, the surgery was in progress. I was crying, but still believed absolutely that they were wrong. I would hear her cries any minute. She might need some help, maybe she’d need to go to the NICU, but she would be fine.

The smell of infection filled the room when our doctor opened my uterus. David stood and watched as the doctor pulled our daughter from my body. He looked down and said, “she’s pink, they’re working on her” and again I thought that she would be okay, they would fix her. The operating room was silent, but for the radio playing on a far shelf — the line “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” from Semisonic’s “Closing Time” was playing as my husband looked down at me and shook his head slowly.

I began to sob in earnest and the anesthesiologist, with tears running down his own face, gave me “something for anxiety”. The nurse called David over and handed him our beautiful daughter, Clara Edith. He brought her to me and I touched her cheek, still warm from my body. I wanted to hold her so badly, and I was assured that they would take pictures of her right then and bring her to me as soon as I got out of surgery. David handed her back to a nurse and she was carried from the operating room.

It took almost an hour and a half after Clara was born before the doctors were done cleaning out all of the infection in my uterus. I was told that my bladder had to be peeled off of my uterus and that I had “a whole lot of adhesions that needed to be removed”. I was taken back down the hall of crying and healthy babies to a room at the end, where my husband and I waited for our lifeless daughter to be brought to us.

An hour after the surgery, a nurse brought in a cart with a white basket draped in a hospital blanket. She asked if I wanted to hold her and I said that I did. She laid my baby girl in my arms and told us to take as long as we needed.

Our Clara looked just like David, but also just like Lakin and Addah. Her hair was dark, like her oldest sister’s had been at birth. We had expected a blond baby, like David, Addah and I had been. Her dark hair made it worse somehow, because she reminded me so much of Lakin, my first baby. Her fingers were longer even than her sisters’ had been and I remarked that “she has artist’s hands”. I lifted an eyelid to see that her eyes were bright blue, like her mama and daddy. I placed my hand on her chest and begged her to breathe. David held her little hand and we clung to one another, trying to figure out how we fell into this terrible nightmare and hoping beyond hope that we would wake up and our sweet girl would be alive.

We held her and told her how much we loved her for a long time. Our families did not know that we had gone to the hospital, so for a short time, it was just the three of us and we did not have to share her. The horror of sharing the news with our families would come later but for now, we tried to memorize every detail of this beautiful and wonderful child that we had waited and wished for.

Finally, we handed her back to the nurse. I felt lost, utterly lost. What does one do in this situation? What the hell happened? David and I were devastated. We alternated holding one another and and staring at one another in stunned silence, still trying to begin to process the previous three hours.

I didn’t think at that time that I would want to hold her again after that first time, but David’s mom wanted to see her late that night, and when the nurse brought her back to our room, I had an overwhelming need to have her in my arms. I broke down completely at that point. I sobbed, feeling my heart break into pieces all over again. I am very grateful that Lee was there by then to hold and comfort the two of us.

The next week was a haze of physical and emotional pain, visitors and phone calls from people who don’t know the right things to say (because there is no right thing to say), repeating this story over and over, and long sleepless tearful nights with nurses who I used like personal therapists. My blood pressure was dangerously low and I had a raging infection that threatened to take my uterus before it finally came under control. I came home on Friday, July 6th. I left the hospital clutching a soft pink bunny, the one that my Papa gave us at our baby shower, instead of our baby girl.

I sleep with that little pink bunny still, 5 weeks later. I don’t sleep as much as I used to. The tiniest things can trigger a major meltdown. David and I feel very alone in our grief and sadness, though we know now that 1 in 115 pregnancies end in stillbirth. I am consumed with guilt and “what if” scenarios that play on constant repeat in my brain.

What if we had decided to medically induce at 40 weeks? What if we had decided 41 weeks was our limit? What if we had gone on to the hospital as soon as those contractions started on the Friday before she was born?

The doctor said she had been gone between 1 and 3 days. I know she had hiccups on Friday morning. After that, I was having contractions and I could have sworn she was still moving and kicking on Saturday night, but I couldn’t swear to it. I was in labor and thought that any slowing in movement was because I was in labor. She died sometime between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. The doctor’s theory is that my amniotic fluid level dropped drastically and she passed and ingested meconium, which poisoned her and ended her life. Her decomposition was already advanced enough that it had to be at least 24 hours, so I was told. Her death caused the uterine infection that made my labor go from normal labor pain to excruciating pain overnight. I was told that if I had waited another day to come in, I would have lost my uterus and possibly, my life. We were told that it was nothing we had done, that it was nothing we could have predicted, not to feel guilty. Still, those feelings persist.

The only thing that brings David and I any comfort is knowing that Clara always knew how much we loved her and how much we wanted her. We talked to her throughout each day, and she would kick and punch at our touch on my belly. We sang to her. David would rub my belly every night and she would always get so active when she’d hear her Daddy’s voice.

She was loved, truly. The time she had with us was beautiful and we will never forget a moment of it.

I only wish that it could have lasted for longer. She lives, now and always, in our hearts.

Clara Edith Webb
Born still on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 3:45pm
7 pounds 9 ounces | 20.5 inches
 
Clara, our stillborn baby girl 7/1/12
Memorial Ticker for Clara

Thank You

I realized that I have updated various groups and individuals about “how I am doing”, but haven’t updated here on my own blog. Physically, I am doing better. I’m in a fair amount of pain from my third c-section and the uterine/bladder infection, and I developed thrush from the high dosages of antibiotics, but my arsenal of medications helps with all three issues.

Emotionally, I am… okay. I have Lakin, Addah, David & Lee to keep me from getting too close to the edge of the (very attractive) cliff. I cry a lot. I miss my baby more than words could ever say. I try to stay busy during the day but the nights are harder.

I am pumping breastmilk, hoping to establish a milk supply that I can donate to Wake Forest’s Milk Bank. I loved nursing my older girls so very much that I could not bear to let my milk go to waste. I may not be able to feed my Clara, but I can feed someone else’s Clara. It’s hard… much harder than breastfeeding ever was, but it’s something I feel like I have to do.

I can’t thank everyone enough for the outpouring of love and support that everyone has shown our family. I’m sure I have missed some phone calls, text messages and emails/messages… it was not intentional. I love you all.


Clara Edith Webb

Our beautiful baby girl, Clara Edith Webb, was born still on July 1, 2012 at 3:45pm, by repeat c-section at 42 weeks 3 days gestation. She was 7 pounds 9 ounces and 20.5 inches long, my biggest baby by nearly 2 pounds and 2 inches. The doctor estimates she had been gone for anywhere from 1-3 days. I have a horrible uterine infection that you could smell as soon as he opened my abdomen. They dont know if I got the infection from her passing or if my infection caused her death.

She is beautiful. It’s just not fair & we can’t process this at all yet. My blood pressure is very low, temperature is high, urine output is low, uterus is boggy. The doctor is talking about a hysterectomy if we don’t see marked improvement by Wednesday.

Thank you all for supporting us these many months. I wish I had anything but this news to share. Our Clara was so very loved and so badly wanted. Nothing will ever replace her.



The Birth Story of Addah Shannon

Our beautiful youngest daughter was born on December 9, 2002!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Addah Shannon!
Addah weighed 4 lbs 5.8 oz and was 17 inches long @ 33½ weeks gestation!
My second daughter in the NICU - Addah's Birth Story

 

The Beginning:

I guess I should start off with the birth story of my first daughter Lakin, since it is through her birth that I decided on the path to Addah’s birth. I was induced at 37 weeks with Lakin because though I was not in active labor, I was dilated to 2cm and the doctor thought we might as well. I didn’t know any better and went along with it. After 12 hours of Pitocin and a nasty dose of Stadol, I had only dilated to 5cm. I was declared “failure to progress” and a c-section was performed. Lakin Leigh was 5 lbs 14 oz and 18 3/4 inches long. Although at the time I was thrilled to finally have my baby, in the weeks afterward I realized just how wrong my birth went. I never intended to have a c-section, I didn’t and don’t feel it was necessary. My body did not fail to progress, my doctor failed to be patient and wait for my body to labor and progress on its own timetable. I resolved to never have an experience like that again and planned for a home vaginal birth after cesarean for our next baby.

We never used birth control after Lakin was born. It had taken us 15 months to get pregnant with her and since we wanted our children to be close in age, and since I was breastfeeding, we didn’t want to add any more elements to keep us from conceiving as soon as possible. We were never clear on our actual conception date because I was nursing our older daughter Lakin and had not yet gotten my menstrual cycles back. I do know that the date we took our first positive pregnancy test was March 23, 2002, putting our due date at approximately late December/early January 2003.

My pregnancy was very normal, seemingly as textbook as my pregnancy with Lakin. I felt fine, gained very little weight (10 lbs, which is normal for me). My blood pressure never went over 120/80, fundal height consistent with a late Dec./early Jan. due date; baby’s heartbeat remained between 140 and 162 every time we checked with our rented Doppler and from late August on, baby’s movements were very active. We chose not to have any ultrasounds since all signs pointed to a normal pregnancy and baby, and since we had no desire to know baby’s sex. We planned a home vaginal birth after cesarean: read everything we could get our hands on, gathered our supplies, and got ourselves as ready as we could.

On October 22, I woke up having mildly uncomfortable contractions. I took a hot bath, drank several glasses of water and went back to bed. After several hours the contractions slowed and then stopped. Contractions continued to come and go throughout November, some so hard that I just “knew” I was in labor but they always slowed and stopped after a while.

On December 4, 2002, our county was hit with a hard electrical storm and we lost our power. After a long night of contractions by candlelight, it was getting cold enough in the house that we decided to head to my mom’s house. It was the first time in over a month that I thought, “please don’t let me go into active labor right now”. All I wanted was to get back into my home with my privacy before labor started.

Off to the Hospital:

On December 7, 2002 at 4:00 am, Drew, Lakin and I were relaxing on my brother’s bed when I felt a “pop” and a gush of fluid. I told Drew that I thought my water had broken, but when I put my hand down to check for fluid, there was bright red blood instead. I rushed to the toilet and sat for a few minutes, thinking that the bleeding would slow or stop, that maybe it was nothing. In hindsight, I wasn’t really thinking clearly at all, I was panicking and my head was pounding. I started crying and told Drew I was scared to go to the hospital. Visions of a repeat cesarean were already rushing through my head but when I stood up and the blood gushed out again onto the floor, I knew I didn’t have much choice.

We arrived at the hospital at 4:30 am and were taken immediately to Labor and Delivery Outpatient for monitoring. Blood was still gushing out and I had soaked three towels by this point. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor, which showed that baby was doing wonderfully. I was swabbed for several tests and an ultrasound machine was brought in to verify that baby was okay. At this point, baby was head down and my placenta was low-lying but not over my cervix. 2½ hours later another ultrasound was performed and our baby had flipped to a back up, transverse lie and was being blocked from flipping back down by my placenta. An hour after that we had a 3rd ultrasound and baby was still transverse.

Three different doctors came in to tell me how dangerous and negligent we were being by having planned a vaginal birth after cesarean and one told Drew he would never “allow” his wife to make such a decision. We were feeling pretty antagonistic towards the staff by this point and just wanted an answer as to what was going on so we could know what would happen next. I was still very much planning on having a vaginal birth and since the ultrasound showed the baby to be pretty small, I wasn’t concerned with the transverse lie. After all, baby had just turned from head down to transverse so baby could still turn back, right?

Tests all came back normal. I was moved to a regular Labor and Delivery room and shortly after 9:30 am, the bleeding slowed and then stopped.

At 12 pm the bleeding was still stopped and I felt much better. The doctor wanted me to stay for another few hours for monitoring but Drew and I decided to go on home. We left the hospital at 1 pm, I ate a sandwich and went to bed.

At 11:30 pm I woke up, went to the bathroom and ate some dinner. We were lying in bed watching TV when I felt a gush. I said, “I think I’m bleeding again” and then I felt something coming out of me. I reached down in time to feel a very large (2-3″) blood clot slide out of me. I didn’t know what it was or what to think and was freaking out. Drew called 911 and I called my mother to come pick up Lakin.

The ambulance arrived very fast and at 12:30 am I was re-admitted to Labor and Delivery. My blood pressure had spiked to 160/100 in the ambulance but it stabilized and went down quickly. Fetal monitors still showed baby doing great and another ultrasound showed that baby was still transverse, with feet dangling by my cervix. Measurements showed our baby to be 33 weeks and 2 days, completely inconsistent with our test date, and seemingly impossible since we had a non-existent sex life because I had such awful morning sickness until mid-May.

Doctors began considering that our baby had intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) and the preliminary diagnosis given was a sub-clinical placental abruption, a fissure too small to be seen by ultrasound and too small to hurt the baby, but large enough to cause frank vaginal bleeding and large enough to have caused IUGR in our baby. I had fallen over a baby gate in our house back in August… the abruption could have happened then and just not been big enough to cause bleeding until now.

Bleeding slowed again at around 10 pm on December 7, 2002 but at this point neither Drew nor I even considered leaving. It had become apparent that this was quite serious and that it was not going to go away. I was quickly seeing my VBAC dreams go out the window and Drew and I spent much time talking and crying, trying to make peace with the huge possibility that I would have a repeat cesarean.

At 1 am on December 8, 2002 I was moved to the High-Risk wing on the Labor and Delivery floor and I was given a steroid shot to hasten lung maturity. The next morning I was taken across the hospital complex for a level 2 ultrasound. Measurements still showed baby at 33 weeks 2 days. The only abnormality found was a 2-vessel umbilical cord instead of a 3-vessel cord. We were told that while not common, this is not exactly uncommon either and probably was not a big deal.

The heads of High-Risk OB and Maternal/Fetal Medicine asked us to consider an amniocentesis so that if an emergency occurred and delivery became necessary, we would have some idea of baby’s lung maturity. We decided to do the amnio at 11:45am. It was not as painful as I’d feared it would be, but certainly very uncomfortable and more than a little scary. Amnio results came back that baby’s lungs are not mature, only rating a 24 when 50 is considered mature.

I went back to my room in high-risk L&D. I had some cramping, which I was told was normal with an amniocentesis. Three doctors came in and all mentioned discharging me within 24 hours and scheduling me to come back in for another ultrasound and amniocentesis in a couple of weeks. With baby lying transverse and my placenta partially abrupted, I was told I had no choice but to have a c-section. In my head I was still defiant — I thought I could go home, no more bleeding, baby would flip head-down and I could still have a VBAC. I made arrangements for Lakin to come up to the hospital to be with us and was feeling much better all around. It was a wonderful relief to know that baby was doing so well on the monitors and that I could go home soon.

Drew left to go run errands and my mom was on her way to bring Lakin at 5pm. I called Drew at home to remind him to bring Lakin’s pajamas and we hung up when my nurse came in to take my vitals. She commented that the baby and I were doing very well, said she was planning to take the monitors off in a while so I could get some real sleep and asked if I felt okay. I said yes, that the bleeding had almost stopped completely again. She left and had been gone no more than 90 seconds when I felt a big gush of fluid again. I hit the nurse call button and she came back in; I told her I thought I had started bleeding again. She pulled back the covers and freaked out! I had passed another large blood clot and I thought this nurse might just faint. She ran for the doctor, who ran in the room…. Everything started happening so quickly. The doctor thought my water might have broken too and decided to do a litmus test to check. Drew walked in the door while I was being tested and a moment later, my sister Hilary and Lakin appeared at the door. I had been waiting all day to see Lakin and I had to tell them to leave, that we would call.

The Birth:

The litmus test was positive for amniotic fluid, the head doctor of high-risk OB was called and it was decided that our baby needed to be born. A quick ultrasound was done and baby was still transverse and very high. Of course this means we had no option but to have a repeat cesarean.

Everything seemed to be happening at the same time all around us and we were more than a little scared. We were rushed back to the Operating Room Recovery Room, where it was discovered that my IV line was no longer running. It was taken out and 3 different people starting trying to get another IV, plus 1 nurse trying to draw blood. I had 2 people on each arm, poking and prodding and then starting over since they couldn’t find any veins. I ended up with cotton balls and tape on the inside of both wrists, on top of both hands and in each elbow. The IV ended up being placed on the inside of my left wrist, a really painful spot. I was in tears and in horrible pain from all of the needles.

At this point the doctor came in and explained that since no abruption was showing on ultrasound, that there was also the possibility that I had the opposite problem, a placenta acreta, where the placenta fuses to the uterine wall. To remove it forcefully can cause massive blood loss and maternal death, so he said that if he encountered that problem, that he would perform a hysterectomy. I was losing it by now. I was so tired, having contractions, lying in a pool of gushing blood, needles in both arms, facing an eminent repeat c-section and being told that I might have to have a hysterectomy. I think I started to shut down at this point, I remember feeling dizzy and then I drifted in and out of sleep for what felt like hours but was really only 5 minutes.

We were waiting for 4 units of blood to be sent up from the lab in case I needed a transfusion. Since the baby was still doing well on the monitor, it was decided that I had time for an epidural rather than the spinal I had asked for or the general anesthesia that we had feared as a possibility. The epidural was just as awful as I remembered from Lakin. My lower back is the most sensitive spot on my body and I could not hold myself still to save my life. I finally had what felt like an out-of-body experience; I focused on the spots on the chair in front of me and disconnected my brain while the epidural was inserted. A test dose was given and within 3 minutes I couldn’t feel my bottom or hips.

The blood was brought up, Drew changed into his scrubs and I was whisked into the OR. The nurse-anesthesiologist tested to make sure I couldn’t feel anything and the drape was put up. I asked for Drew “before they start” and the anesthesiologist said that they had already started, that my belly was opened already. I remembered the intense pulling and pressure from when Lakin was born but it seemed to be taking so much longer this time. I later found out that the doctor initially opened my belly and uterus on my previous cesarean scars, both of which were low transverse incisions, but that the baby was so high that my uterus had to also be cut vertically and diagonally, leaving me with a K-shaped incision on my uterus.

I heard a suctioning sound and then a loud cry, followed by “It’s a little girl!” and I started crying. Addah Shannon was born at exactly 8:00pm on December 9, 2002. She was crying so loudly and sounded wonderful. The NICU team checked her over and gave her the Apgar scores of 6 and 9, wonderful for such a tiny little early baby. She was brought around for us to see briefly and then Drew left to follow her to the NICU. I was closed up and taken back to the Recovery Room, where my mom and aunt were waiting for me. My vitals were checked again and at about 10pm I was taken to the NICU to see Addah and then moved to a regular Mother/Baby room.

My first impression was of how tiny she was, my fingertip filled her little hand and her head was no bigger than an orange. She weighed 4 lbs 5.8 oz at birth and was 17 inches long.

The Story Continues:

She was put on a forced oxygen breather at 25% oxygen, which we were told was very good since we only breathe 21% and this wasn’t much different. By 6am she had been taken off of the oxygen and was breathing regular room air.

A breast pump was brought to me this morning at about 8am and I started pumping. I was so proud of the 1 oz. of colostrum I was able to pump! As far as I was concerned, breastfeeding was the last thing that I had any control over of with this birth and I would not allow it to be messed with in any way. I started pumping every 1½-2 hours and got a pretty good amount to send down to the NICU.

My catheter was removed at 3pm today and I got up to move around some. I remembered having to relearn how to pee and walk from when Lakin was born, but this was much more excruciating that I remembered, I guess because I had the extra vertical incision this time around. By 6pm I felt good enough to take a wheelchair ride to the NICU to see Addah. She had been moved to a heated isolette and was doing very well. I got to hold her for a few minutes. She was so beautiful, so perfectly formed, like a little china doll.

Visiting my daughter in the NICU - Addah's Birth Story