Dub’s Birth Story

This is our sweet boy’s birth story. It’s a story that I never want to forget because it’s a story of God’s faithfulness. There are other things that I don’t want to forget. There parts where I was really brave and stronger than I ever thought I could be. There were little moments The Professor and I shared that will be forever memories. We were loved so well by family and friends. There are some scary parts and some unexpected surprises, too. 

Before

I had an awesome pregnancy. Amazing. After years of hormone problems, I really never felt better. Sure, I was tired and my hips hurt and even the mention of Thai food made me want to hurl, but I loved it.

We really wanted to have an unmedicated childbirth. {{BTW – I don’t think unmedicated is the only way to go. Have a baby however you want.}} The Professor and I decided on this for several reasons. First, I have really bad reaction to any anesthesia medicine. And frankly, childbirth sounded better than going through that again. We wanted only the interventions we needed because we saw that in some cases, an epidural was the start of an intervention snowball that resulted in a lot of problems that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. I’ve also heard of people who didn’t prepare for labor and then couldn’t have an epidural or it didn’t take, and they were unprepared.

Being the child of two nurses, however, we wanted to be in a hospital and were so thankful to get in with the midwife program associated with the top women’s and children’s research hospital in the state. Total best of both worlds. We would labor at the hospital with our midwife on the regular L&D floor with all the docs and nurses and medical equipment. In preparation for Dub’s birth, we took Bradley Method Classes and had a doula, my cousin Shelley.

Throughout the pregnancy, Dubs was posterior, aka sunny-side up. He never moved. I know this because I could feel the flutterings of fingertips in my lower abdomen, right where his shoulders should have been. This was a great concern to me. I guess because I’ve heard of a lot of women having unnecessary c-sections because of posterior babies. Unnecessary because most posterior babies turn at some point in labor and even if they don’t, many babies are born sunny side up without any problems. His head was big and wide and flat inside of me. For about the last month of my pregnancy, my hips basically stopped working.

As the weeks drew near, I did everything I could to get him to turn. I did accupressure with a chiropractor, a turning and labor inducing massage, researched foods to eat, exercises, positions to lay in. Basically, if it is on the internets, we tried it. Then something happened in the last week. Call it a premonition or the Holy Spirit, but suddenly I stopped it all. For some reason, I knew I shouldn’t try to make him turn.

It Begins

At my 40 weeks, three day appointment, we confirmed he was still posterior. We also learned that I developed really high blood pressure out of no where. It was still high the next day, so my midwife decided to induce while we still had options. She explained that the high BP would only get worse. 

On Friday evening, we got admitted and started Cervidil, a medicine to thin your cervix to help with the coming induction. As soon as I got checked in to my room and the Cirvidil started, my BP was perfect. Our midwife said it was a weird anomaly that happens sometimes, but it was too late to turn back. Also the high BP could return at any moment and I was already passed my due date. 

The next morning, I got induced and my body responded perfectly. I started with a foley bulb, a little balloon that helps you dilate. They expected it to take a few hours, but in just 30 minutes I’d dilated to four centimeters! Everyone was elated. My midwife holds the gold standard for best practices of induction at the hospital. She worked to make sure the Pitocin mimicked labor.

The labor part was really cool. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, but if I ever wonder if I’m strong, I will always go back to those moments and remember. Yup. I’m strong.

I labored in bed, on peanut balls, in the tub, walking around. I was so thankful for the freedom of movement the hospital allowed, even while being induced. They had a portable fetal heart monitor I used while in the tub. The Professor was his usual amazing self. He sat on the little bench behind the tub and rubbed my back during contractions. He coached me through relaxation exercises. Our Bradley classes taught Kevin how to help me relax, and I knew I could trust him. That knowledge helped me relax as much as anything. During contractions, any voice besides his was grating. But his words calmed me and soothed me. Shelley told me it looked like we were having our fifth baby together.

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Shelley jumped in whenever Kevin left. She encouraged me and helped us make medical decisions. When I kicked everyone out of the room to sob, I felt her soft hand on my arm, and I listened to her and The Professor encourage me.

My mom was there and my sister, too. It was neat to be surrounded by the women in my life as I did this hard thing. My dad was somewhere in the hospital. He came in, saw me in pain, and promptly left. 

I labored for 15 hrs with no epidural, and spent the last three hrs in the second part of first stage/transition, as far as emotional signposts go. For those three hours, the contractions were 45 seconds apart, 2 minutes long. Towards the end, I was starting to hyperventilate through them. Even though it was hard, I kept telling myself this is transition! The end is near! Then they checked me. In the 15 hours of labor, I had dilated 1 cm to be at a whopping 5 and was still at a -2 station, which basically means that he was still high up in me.

My midwife and I talked. He was still posterior. Despite doing our awesome relaxation exercises, and his position was so bad in my pelvis that I physically couldn’t relax enough for him to descend. She recommended that I do the epidural because it was the only way he would come out, purely because of his position. Sobbing, I said yes. I was ready.

I requested that an attending to the epidural. Everyone said that was overkill, but I didn’t want a young resident poking my spine. Soon the anesthesiologist came. He warned us that the epidural could cause a temporary drop in my BP because of a vasovagal response, and they know how to deal with it if it happens. Right after the epidural started to take effect, my water broke on its own. There was a little muconium staining. About that time, I became completely relaxed and happy. The room was quiet, just the anesthesiologist, his resident, the midwife, a nurse or two, and the Professor. I remember looking at the clock on the wall and getting very, very sleepy.

Everything Changes

From that moment, everything is a blur. I remember only things in flashes, not in any full, coherent memory.

I heard someone loudly saying my name. I opened my eyes to my midwife and a nurse over my face. She explained I had passed out. I looked around to a room of total chaos. The quiet, peaceful room was now full of about 15 doctors and nurses. People were turning me on all fours to get my blood pressure back up. I had no concept of time. I assumed I’d been out for a while, but The Professor said it was only a minute.

By getting me on all fours and giving me some medicine, my blood pressure was quickly back to normal. As I became more cognizant, I looked around the room and realized that less than half of the medical people in the room were working on me. The rest were crowded around the display of the fetal monitor having a hurried, concerned conversation.  I saw a med student plastered against the wall in shock and realized that whatever was happening wasn’t good.

The doctor turned to me, still on all fours, and said, “Sarah, your baby’s heart rate is falling. We got it back to 90, but fell again to 60. We have to do a c-section. Now.” 

Before, everything had been presented in options. You can do A or B. Now it was a statement. No options.

I turned to the other side of the bed and looked at Kevin. I needed him so badly. He nodded at me that this was the right decision and I nodded back. It was a moment that didn’t need words. 

Suddenly a nurse was asking if she could cut off my dress. Someone else was adjusting some IVs. A few others grabbed the bed. And then everyone ran. I remember being on the bed, still on all fours, trying to process what was happening. There was one nurse whose entire job was to run ahead of my moving hospital bed and scream at people to get out of the hall so we could pass.

The anesthesiologist was behind me. He told me they were redoing the epidural for a c-section because there was no time for anything else. “I know what a spinal is,” I said.

“No. There’s no time!” Those are scary words. “We’re turned your epidural into c-section anesthesia.” He did it while running down the hall.

Soon we were in the OR and was transferred to a new bed and finally on my back. Unlike the comfortable labor room, this was stark and white and cold. All business. The nurses and doctors did a quick verbal check to confirm what they were doing. They asked me if I could feel things. I still could. The epidural was cranked up more. Then we began. I could feel pressure and pulling, which scared me because I was worried it meant the epidural didn’t work, but the doctor assured me it was okay.

As the surgery started, I heard the anesthesiologist explain to his resident what he’d done. I took a moment in the chaos to feel totally vindicated for asking for an attending. If he hadn’t been there, I probably would have been intubated and put totally under because the resident had never seen this before.

My midwife was at one shoulder explaining what was happening and The Professor was at the other. The epidural kept spreading up. By the time the c-section was over, I was numb to my neck. It was a scary and an odd sensation.

Then my midwife said our boy was here. From the time I passed out until this moment, only five minutes or so had passed.

I heard a cry and saw a nurse walk Dubs quickly over to the awaiting NICU team. After just a few minutes, he was given an all-clear by the NICU team. The Professor wheeled him back to our room where my family was waiting. They loved on him while I couldn’t.

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Shelley and my sister, Jackie.

 

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Brand new grandmommy.

My mom knew how important immediate skin-to-skin time was to us, so she made sure that Dubs and The Professor had some special time together.

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After Dubs was out, the room was much calmer. There was no longer an emergency. They sewed me up in layers so I’m a candidate for a VBAC. I’m told my suture looks amazing.

We learned later that Dubs had been posterior the whole pregnancy because his umbilical cord was wrapped around him so many times, it was holding him in place. Once the epidural helped me to relax, he finally descended some more. Once he descended, my waters broke. Once my waters broke, he was no longer in a floating environment. That’s when the cord started to hurt him. Also, in the process of all the contractions, he’d managed to turn a bit sideways. Basically, there was no circumstance in which he would have ever been born vaginally.

After

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This is a horrible picture of me post-surgery, but I love it because it shows the care I had from my amazing midwife.

The next 24 hours are a blur. I remember not caring about Dubs. It was a combination of drugs and shock. It’s hard on me that I don’t remember meeting him for the first time or nursing him for the first time.

We were moved to a postpartum room and I started vomiting (the very reason I didn’t want an epidural). My reaction to the epidural was so bad that I couldn’t keep up with the vomit bags and eventually had to just start puking over the side of the bed. After a few attempts at a milder medicine, they had to give me the strongest nausea medicine that has the side effect of drowsiness. After that, I slept off and on for about 24 hours. I have a funny memory of teaching The Professor to change his first diaper. I couldn’t help because I couldn’t get up and my arms were still a bit numb from the massive epidural.

God has been faithful though to give us our own special memories. I remember some special time with just my dad, Dubs and I had in the room while The Professor called his parents. 

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There were several times I awoke the next day in a drowsy stupor to see my mom and Shelley there. My mom was holding Dubs to me and Shelley was holding my breast, so they could get Dubs nurse when I couldn’t help him. It was a moment I’ll always remember.

Shelley spent the second night in the hospital so she could teach me how to nurse. She awoke every few hours and coached me through things. The next morning, my sister Jackie stayed with me. The Professor had been sent home to get a good sleep. My parents were there, too. They got the house ready for our homecoming. 

Thinking Back

A few weeks later, I had a follow-up appointment with my midwife. I told her that the experience was scary for me, but maybe it was just normal for them. She said, “No. That was more exciting than we would have liked.” She said there was an unseen hand guiding our delivery and that if things would have happened in a different order, everything could have turned out differently.

I am sometimes tempted to ask “what if.” But not, “What if it was better?” No. “What if it was worse.” Those moments lead me back to remembering all the ways God protected us.

If my water had broken at home, there’s a chance we could have lost him. He would have been in distress and we wouldn’t have known. Thankfully, my midwife explained that he probably could have never descended enough to break the waters because of his position and being held in place by the cord. That made me feel better. And then I remember again that we weren’t at home. We were at the hospital because I had sudden and mysterious high blood pressure. High blood pressure that disappeared as soon as I was checked in and it was too late to go home. I firmly believe that was the hand of God.

If I hadn’t asked for an attending to do the epidural, I would have probably ended up intubated.

I listened to my intuition about not turning him, and I asked for an attending anesthesiologist. I stuck to my guns while also being flexible. The Professor and I always said we just wanted to avoid unnecessary interventions. We did. It’s just I needed all the interventions. 

After Dub’s birth, I was diagnosed with PTSD and Postpartum Anxiety/OCD, both common with a traumatic birth. I sought counseling and joined a traumatic birth support group. There still are moments that are hard, but those are getting less and less. I’ve learned how to cling to the good moments and work through the difficult ones. I’ve told my story many times and each time, I process it more and it becomes less scary.

Dub’s name means “resolute protector.” He’s named after both my grandfathers. We thought it would be a name that would also honor the other men in his family who protected and led their families. Never did it cross my mind that it would be a banner over him – God has resolutely protected our sweet boy. Like I said, this is a story of God’s faithfulness, and there is so much to be thankful for.

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