By Brittney Stefanic
When did you write the birth story of your first child? I hope you shared it a few days post-delivery for your Facebook friends and family to see. Or maybe you even got it printed in a baby book with lots of first photos, sacred moments and happy memories.
Can you believe that it has taken me two years to get my son’s full birth story out of my head and onto a page?
Here’s the part that’s pretty surprising… I’m not a “put it off” kind of gal. I like my to do lists crossed out early in the day, I do laundry multiple times a week to prevent any sort of pile build up, and the kitchen is clean before going to bed each night. Overall, I’m what many would call a “Type A Do-er”.
At the same time, I’m also E.M.O.T.I.O.N.A.L.
And in this case, my emotions totally trumped my ability to “do” when it came to writing the story, acknowledging the facts behind the day and sharing it with the world. Can you feel me on this, mama? Has there ever been something that you WANT to do but you feel you are holding yourself back from?
It is my hope that at least one reader can identify with me on the struggles behind our own expectations about the start of motherhood, especially when plans go out the window. If even one of you read this and realize that you aren’t the only one trying to carefully wade through the “expect the unexpected” waters of motherhood, then sharing this will be well worth it.
So without any further ado, let’s rip off the Band-Aid and do this.
*** Warning: The contents of the following post are RAW, TRAUMATIC, and HONEST. This content may be a trigger for families who have dealt with unexpected birth plan outcomes. Please do not continue reading if you have anxiety about your own (past or upcoming) labor and delivery. ***
When you were admitted to the hospital, were you with your partner?
I wasn’t…in fact, he was about 4 hours away and had no intention of driving to the hospital that morning because there was NO WAY this was the “real deal”. This was my first go at childbirth and I read plenty of blogs and birth stories to know that it was going to take some serious time. Right?
I wasn’t due for another week, and our son would be born that day, so we were in the clear. Completely.
But then, things changed…
Within about an hour of being admitted to Labor and Delivery for a non-stress test and monitoring, it was clear that baby was not happy with the way things were progressing, as his heartbeat would drop with every contraction and the recovery time between contractions was taking longer and longer.
Despite the creativity of the midwife and nursing staff, baby was still under stress and the talk of a cesarean section began. This was not our birth plan.
The way it was “supposed” to be
I should probably back up and tell you about some of the “pre baby” prep that we engaged in. We completed the entire Hypnobabies course from the comfort of our home. We attended multiple birthing classes at the hospital. I went to a lactation class just the night before. I had signed the paperwork for a water birth through the midwife team. I was READY for our birth plan.
I attended EVERY single prenatal appointment, with a 3.5 hour commute, each way. We had an eight week ultrasound, the 20 week anatomy scan, a follow up scan at 32 weeks to check for excess kidney fluid (pyelectasis) after a slight red flag at the anatomy scan, and a growth scan at 34 weeks to confirm that all was well despite the “small-ish” size of my baby bump.
We were READY for an unmedicated, all natural birth. We would delay the clamping of baby’s umbilical cord. We would do immediate skin-to-skin. We would let baby latch before giving him a bath. We would donate cord blood. We would breastfeed for a year, at least. We would be THE BEST PARENTS this baby could possibly have. But, wait.
Things took a turn from bad to worse.
It didn’t take long after the decels in baby’s heart rate and his lack of response to the new positions for the care of both baby and myself to be transferred from the midwives to the OB team. There goes the water birth. Gone.
Within the next few hours, we had decided to prepare for surgery, medicate to stop the contractions, order an epidural to allow for a spinal block when the time came, and pray that baby would stay stable enough to wait for dad’s arrival. There goes the unmedicated birth. Gone.
When “your” birth plan would be better up burned than saved.
I didn’t get to experience the full-ness of labor. I didn’t get to dilate past 5 cm. I didn’t get to breathe through the contractions. I didn’t get to hold my husband’s hands as I screamed in pain. I didn’t get to send myself to my happy place and use my positive energy to get through a birth.
There goes the Hypnobabies course. Gone.
Instead, I was taken to the white, cold, lifeless room where a baby would be welcomed into the world. Thankfully, my husband arrived as I was being prepped for the move to the OR, so with him on one side and my midwife on the other, we made the move.
One part of this story that still bring such joy to me is that my midwife stayed by my side the entire time. She did not have to stick around, since I was now under the care of the OBGYN team, but she did.
Surgery prep started. They transferred me from the wheeled bed to the operating table. They checked to make sure I was numb. They warned me that I would feel tugging and pulling. My husband squeezed my hand. I was numb. Physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Our baby boy was born at 1:32 pm.
But I didn’t hear him cry.
He needed immediate assistance with breathing as a result of having swallowed meconium at some point during the stressful morning. The stress he was experiencing (and exhibiting on the fetal monitor) was a result of the cord being wrapped tightly around his neck, twice.
In the OR, the pediatric and resuscitation teams performed very prompt and incredible interventions to get baby supported and breathing.
There goes the skin-to-skin. Gone.
To make matters more challenging for the little man, he did not have adequate amniotic fluid levels. This was a result of some leaking that had been going on, that I didn’t even know was happening.
At some point in the days, leading up to delivery, my water broke. How did I not know this happened? Without the fluid, he was unable to “swim” around to get things sorted out. Remember that I read #allthethings. Yup, turns out I didn’t read about that.
How bad was it?
When babies are born, they are given an APGAR score to gauge their overall health. There are 5 categories, which can earn 2 points each. This means the total scores range from 0-10 with 10 being a completely healthy baby. The data is collected at 1 minute, 5 minutes and 10 minutes after delivery.
Our baby had scores of 0, 1 and 7.
At birth, he had no heart rate (0/2), no respiratory effort (0/2), limp muscle tone (0/2), no response to stimulation (0/2), and was blue in coloration (0/2).
And even after 5 minutes of resuscitation, he was only up to 1 total point.
Thank God I didn’t know that at the time. But I did know I didn’t hear my baby cry. And I didn’t get to hold him.
I was scared and emotional, yet numb and lifeless. And then the midwife says, “They are taking him through the window”. Whatever the heck that means.
There goes my baby.
I later learned that “through the window” meant that baby was sent from the OR straight into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). There is a window between the two areas, so babies can be quickly and easily transferred from point A to point B.
I know I kept asking “Where is my baby, why can’t I hear him cry. Someone tell me he is okay.”
My husband was pale but continued squeezing my hand. And my midwife kept telling me that he was receiving the best care possible which was exactly what he needed. I didn’t know he was blue, I didn’t know he had an absent heart rate. I didn’t know how bad it was.
There were 13 doctors, nurses and resuscitation team members waiting for our baby to arrive via emergency surgery. They were prepared for the worst. We were not. The baby was here, but this was not our birth plan.
Either way, he needs a name.
As we waited behind the blue surgical curtain unsure of what was happening with baby, we knew that we needed to pick a name. Either way, no matter the outcome, our baby needed a name. We had said all along that we picking his name would be a game time decision, and now this game time. In fact, overtime had started.
We had 4 names on the table, and standing in the OR room with hands clenched and tears flowing, JJ narrowed it down to 3, I selected my favorite 2 of those and then my husband named our baby boy, sight unseen. This was not our birth plan.
I know now that his name fits him perfectly, and we are certain that he was waiting to respond to the resuscitation interventions until he had named. Fair enough sweet boy, we get it, you like to plan ahead, too! I wonder which of us you get that from?!
While we were busy picking his name, they were busy saving his life.
Without the assistance of the skilled medical team, we would have lost our baby, right then and there.
I don’t have to tell you how thankful we are for their assistance, as I’m sure you can only imagine.
I don’t have to try to put into words how lucky we were that I was near a university hospital with full resuscitation capabilities and incredible care. If I would have delivered in our small, regional hospital, our son would have been transported in a flight-for-life helicopter, without me, and who knows what the outcome would have been.
I did not expect for his birth day to go this way, but within a few hours of officially becoming a mom, I was jolted to realized that it would be best for me to toss my expectations out the window and learn to embrace the crazy and unexpected world of motherhood.
Brittney Stefanic is a certified pediatric sleep consultant. She gets that when you don't sleep, you don't function no matter how your birth plan played out. You can find out more about what she does to support clients at brittneystefanicsleep.com, follow her business Facebook page, @bstefanicsleep,for sleep tips and tricks, and see photos of her sweet toddler on Instagram, @brittneystefanicsleep.