Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Should I Be Scared? - A Birth Story

"Should I be scared?" It's a phrase that has been uttered at 2 of the most terrifying moments of my life. I said those words on that dark and drizzly October night. We were desperately watching the nurses search forcefully, quietly, and grim faced for Caroline's heartbeat. They didn't say anything for what felt like an eternity, then finally, "Yes, sweetheart. You should be." It may sound cold to you reading this, but I was just glad someone was being honest with me, telling me something true. Instead of sugar coating some of the worst news I've ever had to accept.

I had to ask that same question just a few weeks ago, lying in the same hospital with a big pregnant belly and a world of hope in my heart. Since we have a history of stillbirth, we're watched more closely in pregnancy, especially the last part. My doctor is an amazing man who really tries his hardest to take care of me and my neurosis. Abigail had changed her position to transverse just a week prior, and I had felt a very significant decrease in movement. That wasn't something I handled very well. Decreased movement is grounds for constant monitoring in my mind. They assured me that the third little girl in my womb was healthy and thriving after the biophysical profile and cord doppler were done. I told the doctor that my nerves had pretty well had all they could take. I was at the end of pregnancy, and it was to the point where she would do well outside. I saw no point in leaving her inside and having something terrible happen. So in my 36th week, I was to come in for an ultrasound on Monday, January 28th and be sent to the hospital for induction. I only had to survive from my appointment on Thursday to Monday, easy peasy, right? Ugh. Well I did pretty well, and so did Abigail, until around 5:00 Monday morning. I couldn't get her to move. I mean; nothing. I had an anterior placenta (again), and knew that could be affecting what I was feeling. But I was really feeling nothing. So I panicked, grabbed my doppler, and went downstairs to search for her heartbeat. I didn't want to worry Arthur until I knew something for sure (sad to think that way, but maybe that's some PTSD). I sprawled out on the couch and covered my belly with cold ultrasound gel. I took the probe in my shaking hand, praying to find a heartbeat, and heard faint sounds, but nothing like normal. I felt sick. I was terrified. I searched frantically, and felt what I thought could've been a little kick, but I couldn't allow myself to be too hopeful. Then there it was, her little heart beating, the sound was music to my ears. I felt my entire body of clenched muscles begin to relax, we were okay. She was still alive in there. So with that, I went back to bed. I didn't sleep, but lay there in the quietness and felt her move. Surely and steadily. And I counted the hours.

Later that morning we all got up and got ready for our appointment. I made sure my bags were packed and I had left outfits and detailed instructions for Addalee's routines for her grandparents to take care of her during our hospital stay. It was hard to believe we had made it and were going to meet our third daughter that day.  Addalee was going to have a (living) sibling!

The ultrasound and appointment went well.  Abigail still looked good and healthy.  The ultrasound tech did another cord Doppler, and I asked questions about the location of the cord.  The understanding that my doctor and our sweet ultrasound tech have is that they won’t tell me when our babies have their cord wrapped around their necks.  It’s a way to keep me from being unnecessarily terrified.  I mean, the statistic is that 1/4 of all live births have their cords wrapped around their necks.  It only VERY rarely causes real issues, and even then, more rarely death.  But with our history, no one wants to leave anything too much to chance.  I was dilated to 2 already! So, with some information left out of my version of the story (thankfully), I was sent to the hospital to begin the induction process.

From there, things moved pretty quickly.  I got checked in, changed into the super stylish hospital gown and hopped in the bed.  My IV was started, and anesthesia was called to start my epidural so I could have my water broken.  They strapped the monitor to my belly, and the sweet and steady heartbeat of the tiny girl in my belly filled the room.  All was well.  I got my epidural (which was actually painful this time around), and my doctor was in the room shortly to break my water.  The epidural hadn’t really had time to fully take effect, but he told me it was time to get started.  So with that, he got to work…ouch.  With all the moving around, the monitor lost Abigail’s heartbeat.  I wasn’t worried because I know the external monitors aren’t terribly effective when mom is writhing around and moving the sensors.  But then I noticed the quiet efficiency with which the nurses and doctor were working.  I saw their stoic faces.  Obviously the light and cheerful mood in the room only a few minutes earlier had changed drastically.  One nurse was helping the doctor; the other was pushing the sensor into my belly, frantically trying to hear the baby’s heartbeat.  They were talking to each other, but I couldn’t understand the words through my panic. Nothing.  Silence.  That’s all I was hearing.  The deafening silence of the absence of a heartbeat.  How could this be happening?!  "Should I be scared?" I asked the nurse.  She said, "Not yet."  Finally, my doctor told me that he had to put in an internal monitor.  It was going to be quite painful, but he needed to get it on the baby.  I didn’t care, I just wanted him to fix it.  He was right, it did hurt. A lot.  But then there was her heartbeat.  But it was so so so slow.  At its lowest, it was 48bpm.  It hovered around 60bpm for a few minutes.  Those were some of the longest minutes of my life.  During this time, my blood pressure was dropping, so I was being turned to my side in an effort to bring it back up.  As I turned, I could see Arthur, praying. And I lost it.  I just had to cry.  They gave me oxygen and turned me over onto my other side and finally, her heartbeat came back up to normal, and everyone (except me) breathed easier.  I was still reeling, and having a hard time getting calmed back down.  I was finally able to when my doctor assured me that if there were any more issues, we’d have us a baby in about 5 minutes.  I was only just down the hall from the O.R. and he’d make sure this baby made it here safely.

After being reassured that everything was okay, I was left to progress.  Unfortunately, any time I sat up at all, my blood pressure dropped, so I had to stay laying down for most of the labor.  I made it to 5 cm after about 8:00pm.  It seemed like it was going to be all night before we got to meet our girl!  But by about 8:45, I was checked again, and it was almost time!  I could feel a lot of pressure, and knew that it was almost time to push. My doctor and the team were preparing the room for our girl’s arrival, and I was secretly wondering if they were going to have it ready in time!  Once they (finally) were ready, it was time to push.  4 pushes and she was mostly out.  My doctor handed the scissors to Arthur to cut the cord, but he’s a bit squeamish, so he deferred to my mom.  There was some delay getting the scissors handed to my mom since she was standing back a little, and my doctor said, “We’ve gotta go, now.”  He had to go ahead and cut her cord, it was around her neck, and it was tight.  So, he cut it and suctioned her.  It seemed like ages before we heard any sound from her.  But then she let out a small cry, just one small cry, and the room erupted.  Just a second later, she was out all the way and placed on my chest.  The medical team mentioned that there was some meconium there at the end, which is super scary, but that she hadn’t ingested any, so she was okay.  After her tests and exams were completed, we were informed that we had a healthy baby girl.  Whew!

Congratulations, if you’ve read this far!  Sorry it’s so long, but there are a lot of these details that I wanted to make sure I had recorded.  It’s a miracle that I can remember any of them, as I had to be readmitted to the hospital less than a week after being discharged with Abigail, and was on some heavy duty meds.  That story is coming up next.

To all who thought of us and prayed for us during the pregnancy and delivery, THANK YOU! 


  1. Oh wow girl! That is just craziness! That God that you had a doctor that let you deliver early and was so supportive of you and your decision making! (ugh, so many doctors and hospitals are not these days). Thank you for sharing your story. Maybe it will one day help another mother listen to her intuition.

    Lots of love to you all!


  2. Oh my goodness. My heart was about to beat out of my chest, reading this.

    I know exactly what you mean when you wrote about staying awake, counting her movements, and just counting down the hours. I did that so many times with Davey, and it's an exhausting and terrifying place to be.

    So glad Abigail is with you.

  3. Oh my word. I was definitely nervous, even though I know she is here and safe. That cord cutting bit and the very low heartbeat had me about to lose it.

    So thankful she is here and safe. So, so thankful.

    p.s. Is your name Leah and we've all been calling you Nicole?

  4. OMG, that is terrifying! And I lost it when I read Arthur was praying- so scary!

    And I love that your OB said he would have that baby in your arms in 5 minutes. There's just nothing like having your OB on your side for all of this. Knowing that it's a relationship built on trust and knowing you need this baby to make it... Knowing your breaking point (I had the same thing) and just how far your doctor can push you.

    So glad she's here. SO glad!

  5. Although I know she is safe and sound, my heart just raced from anxiety from reading this.
    I suffered from neurosis my whole pregnancy with SB and her delivery was not fun. I knew way too much and after I got into the OR they had to give me drugs because I was uncontrollably crying hyesterically. Its not fun to suffer from those kind of fears:((( The whole situation with the low HB and I cannot imagine how horrible it was!
    Shes beautiful, Nicole and I am so thankful shes perfect and healthy! Big HUGS!!

  6. Your OB sounds so wonderful. I'm so glad that gorgeous little one is here safe and sound.