If you haven’t had a chance please read part one here.
Caution: The following includes details of my daughter’s unexpectedly scary entrance into this world which includes mention of infant loss.
We loaded the car up with our bags and headed off to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital a bit before six and we were taken back to labor and delivery triage and hooked up to monitors.
We were the only ones there and overall the night seemed pretty quiet. The atmosphere was light and the nurse was super friendly and I tried to focus on the thoughts that everything would be okay and that we would be hearing a heartbeat soon and be on our way to labor as we wished at home.
Within seconds of placing the monitors, we did, in fact, hear a heartbeat that was sticking around 145 bpm and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Soon after hearing it, I was ready to get unhooked and head back home but the nurse informed me that they would like to monitor her a bit more to make sure her heart rate accelerated as it should. She explained that a steady heart rate only tells part of the story and they look for the heart rate to increase by 10-15 beats a minute and remain elevated for 30 seconds. This rise indicates good oxygen transfer to baby and tells them (and us) that baby is doing good. So we waited. We tried to entertain Asher with toys, our phones, and even the TV. He sat with me on the bed or would walk with Jacob to look out the window.
We waited hooked to the monitors for about 15 minutes before the nurse returned with some orange juice and crackers. Since baby girl’s heart rate hadn’t accelerated like they wanted it was time to try something sweet. We waited 20 minutes after I finished the snacks and baby girl still wasn’t cooperating. Over the next 5-6 hours the nurse tried all the tricks to get baby girl to move: putting the end of an electric razor (to create a vibration) on my belly, giving me oxygen, internally scratching baby’s head through my cervix (talk about a weird sensation), externally moving baby, and finally hooking me to an IV of fluids.
After all of this baby girl still hadn’t moved and her heart rate had only increased to 150 for a few seconds. At this time I could tell things were growing more serious because the vibe of the room changed.
I continued to labor and my contractions were becoming more and more painful but remaining 5 minutes apart. I knew from my labor with Asher that we were still in the early stages. I started to get scared during this time. I wanted so badly to go home and have the beautiful labor with my little family that I had dreamed of but instead, I was going between laying the bed and walking around/bouncing on a ball in my little triage room all while staring at the heart rate on the monitor silently willing it to move.
During this time Jacob had taken Asher to get dinner and then home to be with my mom because we weren’t certain how long we’d be at the hospital or if we’d even be going home. Saying goodbye to Asher for the last time before Ellery was born was nothing liked I had hoped. I had pictured laboring at home, walking around the neighborhood, and when labor had progressed far enough to go in, I would give him a big loving hug and kiss and head to the hospital while he stayed home with my mom.
Instead, I gave him a hug and kiss while hooked up to an IV and oxygen mask. He wasn’t a fan of seeing me hooked up to everything but he did say I looked like a scuba diver so that was some comedic relief. I hated seeing him go like that and I hated, even more, the horrible feeling of loneliness that came when I watched my boys walk out the door.
After getting something to each Jacob went home to help get Asher settled into bed. This would be the first time Asher had ever been away from me overnight and after the scary events of the evening, we wanted to make sure he was settled and felt secure before Jacob came back to the hospital.
While Jacob was gone the nurse advised that the doctor would like for me to have a Biophysical profile (BPP) completed to give us a better look at what was going on in there. For those that don’t know, this is an ultrasound that looks at the baby doing certain tasks and then grades them. I had two of these at the end of my pregnancy with Asher because I went past 40 weeks and my fluid levels kept dropping. With Asher, he passed both within 5 minutes so I sort of knew what to expect. The ultrasound tech looks at fluid levels and watches to see if the baby makes practice breaths and certain types of movements.
Now I learned later that at this point much of the entire labor and delivery staff were concerned about the well-being of baby Ellery. Apparently, another baby had passed earlier that month after a mom came in reporting signs and symptoms similar to mine.
Even though the staff was scared no one made me feel uneasy or worried EXCEPT the ultrasound tech coming to do the BPP. As someone in the medical field there are certain faces you put on so as not to worry a patient, this tech apparently didn’t get that memo and this was when I started to get really concerned.
As I mentioned, Asher passed the BPPs with no problem within five 5 minutes each time, so when 10, 15, and finally 30 minutes passed I knew something wasn’t right. I asked the tech what baby wasn’t doing that she should and she said: “well everything, she isn’t moving or practicing breathing”. I texted Jacob and told him I wanted to him with me now!
It wasn’t long after the ultrasound had concluded that Jacob arrived. Not long after that the nurse came in and told us she had spoken to the doctor on call (not my doctor) and that she was on her way in and was advised we move forward with a c-section. I immediately broke down. My mind was running a million miles an hour and the tears were pouring. I kept thinking “WHAT? why! She HAS a heartbeat, I am in early labor. Why can’t we move forward with laboring naturally??”
I was so set on having my beautiful, uninhibited natural birth that I couldn’t handle it all crashing down right before me. I kept thinking “this isn’t how this is supposed to go! We read all the books, we have been studying Hypnobirthing! We are supposed to be laboring along at home!” I couldn’t help but see all my beautiful plans falling before me.
I felt as though the staff, while kind and helpful, weren’t doing a great job at explaining why the need for a c-section was so urgent so I begged to be allowed to move forward with laboring. They spoke with the doctor who reluctantly allowed me to go ahead with the lowest dose of Pitocin to hopefully kick my contractions up BUT baby had to be monitored 100% of the time and I had to remain on oxygen and IV fluids. I was on the Pitocin drip for less than an hour before the doctor came in and very bluntly told me she needed to get Ellery out and she needed to do it now!
For the first time since we had arrived the veil of “kindness to prevent scarring” came down and the doctor told me that Ellery scored a 2/10 on the BBP and her heart rate was indicating only enough oxygen present to keep her alive. She stated that at any moment her heart could just stop and at that point, it would be a minimum of six minutes to get me into the OR and to get her out. She explained there could be unknown brain damage if she went six minutes without oxygen and even worse, but still possible, she could pass away. At the time I hated this doctor.
I have never been more scared and angry than in that moment. I was mad at this doctor I had never met for busting in saying she needed to cut me open and on the other hand I was terrified that she was telling the truth and that I could lose my baby. I had a feeling from the beginning that something wasn’t right with baby Ellery and now I was finally hearing what I had feared all night. It was so much information to process that I just lost it.
I began sobbing. I feared for my baby but I longed for my natural birth. I didn’t want to be one of those people who looked back and felt bullied or forced into an unnecessary procedure but I also wanted to insure my baby was safe. In all the hustle and bustle the nurses were so kind and they kept saying that they just wanted to see a healthy baby. It all became too much and I asked for a second alone with Jacob. They reluctantly agreed to this and I am so thankful because I needed it. I needed to get advice from someone who loved me and loved our baby. I needed to feel supported and heard. I needed clarity.
He immediately told me he knew I wanted to have a natural birth but that this was serious and we needed to get our baby girl out safe. And for the first time that night I had a feeling of calmness, I knew in my heart she needed to come out now, and so I agreed to the c-section. Within minutes I was changed into a gown, had a new IV placed, was signing papers, and was getting my surgical bonnet put on my one of the nurses. I asked the doctor if we could please try to make it as gentle a cesarean as possible. I requested skin to skin and not to be strapped down. I asked for delayed cord clamping. I didn’t want to be left alone and I didn’t want baby leaving without me or Jacob. She agreed to do all she could but that baby’s health came first and if she didn’t come out breathing she would be taken by the team immediately.
During this time it felt like everything in me had slowed down yet everything around me was moving super fast. I just remember sitting on the bed while papers were pushed in front of me, socks were placed on my feet, and an IV was placed. I have no idea how much time passed between giving the go ahead and walking into the OR but I know it wasn’t long. I wasn’t sad or upset, I wasn’t scared or nervous, I felt sort of blank. Perhaps it was the emotional roller coaster I had been on that led to this sort of blank feeling prior to the c-section, I don’t know, but whatever it was, looking back I am thankful to God for that sudden calmness. I am an anxious person by nature and that mixed with the stress of the night could have led to me needing to be put under but instead, I was able to be awake and present for her birth.
Entering into the OR I was surprised at how not scary it was. Perhaps it was my familiarity with a surgical setting but it wasn’t the evil atmosphere portrayed by some. Sure it was bright and sterile but calm and everyone was so kind. The nurse anesthetist was so patient and he even allowed me to work through the continuing contractions while he placed the spinal. The surgical staff made sure to tell me everything as they were doing it. I remember being surprised to learn they were already cutting because I still had the “my feet are asleep” sensation so I was sure I was still able to feel but obviously I was wrong.
Not long after the team began Jacob arrived, in his bunny suit to be at my side. The staff warned me that I might feel nauseous or lightheaded but I felt none of that. I did, however, shake…so much shaking! Jacob at one point asked if I was cold. I wasn’t, I just couldn’t stop shaking. The nurse anesthetist explained it was common and not to fight it. Sure easier said than done. I remember trying really hard to keep my hands on the table. Shaking aside, all I could do was focus on hearing her cry. I have never yearned for a cry so much in my whole life. After what felt like no time I was told they were at my uterus and next I should feel some heavy tugging and pressure. And then at 1:14 am on 5/14/2016 I heard her cry! She let out the most beautiful cry and I started (yet again) crying! But this time it was the happiest of cries! And it followed by laughs and jeers about her “plumbing working” (she had peed and poo’d as she came out and before we later learned) and about all of her dark hair. Everyone in the room was relieved to see a healthy baby.
Because there was meconium present in my uterus (indicative of fetal stress) she was taken to a little table to have her lungs drained. They did a quick weight, head circumference, and length check. She was a tiny thing at 6 lbs 7.5 ounces, 20 inches long, and a 13 in head. She passed both APGAR tests with flying colors. After a few minutes, they brought her over and placed her on my chest/neck. Because I am so short there wasn’t a ton of space to have her on me but out of the sterile field so she was placed on my neck/upper chest. It wasn’t the picture perfect skin to skin but it was perfect for us! I remember the nurse saying “It’s modified skin to skin mama” as she placed Ellery on my chest/neck and I smiled and said “it’s okay, I’ll take it.”
Because after the whirlwind that had been the last 8 hours, it was the most wonderful thing to have my baby in my arms. She laid ever so calmly on my chest. She didn’t cry or fuss. She just laid there peacefully, quietly. They covered her with a blanket and for I am not sure how long, her and I were connected again and I patted her little bottom and enjoyed these precious moments with my little lady.
In life, there are moments that you remember with the greatest of detail. You have no control over what moments/things imprint in your memory forever. But big, life-changing moments, are always there in vivid detail. For instance, with Asher I have a distinct memory of the feeling of his warm, slimy bottom in my hand when they handed him to me and as he laid on my chest. I remember feeling relief and nervousness as I held him. With Ellery it was such a whirlwind but I can still feel her weight as they placed her on my chest/neck.
I can recall her warmth and her smell. I remember saying “hello baby girl” and kissing her and bringing my left hand up to hold her there and rubbing her tiny back with my thumb. I was nervous she would fall but the nurse and Jacob made sure she was secure. She was so tiny and had a full head of black hair and we were so thankful to have her with us safe and sound!
After they had closed it was time to move me to the recovery bed so they wrapped baby girl up and handed her to Jacob. After a few first family pics, I was placed on the recovery bed and Ellery was handed back to me and we were wheeled into our room. I wish I could say from that point on we got to follow our hospital plan but sadly that wasn’t the case.