Theodore's Birthday

by Boon and Boys

Theodore's birth story is different than I ever imagined.  Everything about it is different than I envisioned, but the outcome was perfect--a beautiful baby boy who I adore with all my being and wish I could stare at and hold all day, a baby who I fear will grow too quickly, a baby that I needed and was always meant to know.

So, here is story begins.  Unlike with my first son, the night before Theodore's birthday, I went to bed knowing his birth story would begin the next day.  I had been given an induction date and had processed so many different feelings about that.  Funny, those feelings feel like a lifetime ago with all that has transpired in between.  After many tears, I finally came to a place of acceptance and peace, and in spite of my fears, was feeling optimistic and ready to go.

Before leaving on Sunday morning, we took pictures of our family and the last pictures of my bump.  We arrived at the hospital around 8:20am, parked, and walked into the hospital carrying my yoga ball (I was envisioning an epidural free labor that would differ from the hospital experience I had with my first) and hospital bag.  They got me checked in and in my gown super quickly.  "We were ready for you," my incredible nurse said.

Immediately they hooked me up to an IV and started me on fluids.  The nurse said she could tell I was dehydrated from my blood draw. When they checked me, they basically said that I was no further progressed than I have been, discussed the options for getting things moving, and said I was a long way from delivery. Around here things start to get progressively fuzzier in my memory; until the moment they wheeled me back for the c-section--that part is perfectly clear.

At approximately 9:30am, I had an extended contraction like the ones that I was used to having at home (they always frustrated me because they seemed to last forever, had been going on for quite a while, but still weren't making me progress towards labor seemingly any faster). The nurse said she needed to get the monitor to stop tracking my heart rate. I started to get nervous as I saw the panic of her moving the tracker around frantically. She pressed a button on her pager, called the doctor in, and then at least eight people came running in, flipping me from side to side, placing an additional IV, and checking me to make sure they couldn't feel a cord caught. Basically, his heart rate had gotten really low as a result of my contraction. They had me continue to lay on my side so they could monitor me and allow him at least thirty minutes recovery time before doing anything else. I even had to use a bed pan in order to pee because they didn't want me getting up. I was so scared, and little did I know this was the first of more experiences like this to come.

While waiting for the Theodore to finish his recovery period they got a drug to administer to me in the case of another long contraction. It was designed to stop the contraction and therefore prevent his distress. I still can't help but wonder if every time I had these contractions at home he was going into distress. I pray not because they happened for weeks and I can't think about the potential damage they may have caused. I will say, at least, that they continued to say the fact that he always returned to such a healthy level (what they call a category 1 baby) after his periods of distress was a good sign.

Around 11:15am (I think) was the first time they did any induction specific interventions. They started with the least invasive, which was inserting a foley balloon, or bulb as some of them called it. After its insertion, the doctor left and the nurse and I were talking. Derek was downstairs getting food at this point. The nurse had me stand up because she said gravity would help the foley balloon begin to work its magic. We were talking about positions I could stand in and joking about yoga poses when suddenly his heart rate dipped again and she had me jump back in bed and started flipping me. At this point the anesthesiologist came in and talked about how she wanted to put an epidural in me because it was looking like I may have to have a c-section. It's funny, I didn't like her at this point, but ended up really loving her (she was such a helpful and calming presence during the c-section). What they were telling me at this point was that some babies don't like labor. Basically he kept getting really distressed by anything that made me have labor. But they also were always reassured, and confused, by the fact that he was perfect whenever I was lying down.

After his thirty minute recovery period subsided, we decided to have the epidural placed just in case. If I didn't get one placed and I needed a c-section suddenly I would have to be knocked out and would miss his delivery (which ultimately would have been the case in my situation) so we decided it was the best route. I was really hesitant for many reasons, but am so glad we did this (I actually give my husband the most credit here for saying I would want to be awake during a c-section. I think I was really scared about that idea and wasn't sure what I truly wanted. Both he and the nurse were exceptional advocates for me throughout the entire time).

By 1:20pm my epidural was in, after three tries. First, the anesthesiologist tried to place it while I was laying down to prevent my sitting up potentially affecting Theodore. When that didn't work, I had to sit. It was very different than the placement of my epidural with Henry. With Henry I remember having painful contractions throughout and the anesthesiologist trying to chat with me during when I just wanted to breathe so I could stay still. This time it took much longer, and I've had some pain in the site since, but the nurse and Derek helped me while the anesthesiologist did her job without incessantly talking. They didn't start administering the drug, other than the test dose that they use to make sure it is in the right spot. That's when I learned that I am very sensitive to general anesthesia. I was feeling numbness in my legs and also started to feel really lightheaded and lethargic. They gave me Effedrin to bring me back.

At 1:40pm they started me on a super low dose of pitocin (0.5 when they normally start at 2-3 ). The nurse said that she wanted to go slowly because I had been super sensitive to everything they had given me.

After starting pitocin, my husband and I tried to start watching Gotham, which he had gotten set up for us on his tablet. While we were watching, I started having low cramping contractions and then I heard what sounded like Theodore's heart rate drop again. I asked Derek if Theodore was okay and he looked at the numbers on the heart rate monitor said they were low and all over the place so he called the nurse. She came in, immediately noticed the problem, and said she was glad we recognized it.

At this point they decided to put a heart rate tracker on Theodore's head to make sure we were very closely and accurately tracking his heart rate. They were moving really quickly at this point so everything leading up to the next step is a blur in my memory. Inserting the tracker on Theodore's head broke my water, but no water came out. My husband shared this event with me later, which I remember hearing: the nurse was hovering her hand over the "OR Emergency" button and said the doctor's name questioning whether or not to press it. The doctor hesitated and the nurse hollered her name at her and then made the decision and slammed the button down. Later she told us that Theodore's heart rate dipped to 50bpm at that point and she knew that was not something they could wait on.

Writing this next part makes me feel really emotional. Obviously knowing the end result, I can be calm and assured, but I can still feel the emotion that I felt knowing my baby was in danger. I looked at clock as they were carting me out to the OR, telling us we were headed in for an emergency c-section. It read 2:15pm. I remember them saying something about how they had done all they could do to give me a natural birth, but that Theodore needed to be safe. I was obviously willing to do anything and would have done a c-section the second his heart rate dropped the first time if that would protect my baby. That was all that mattered to me. The birth I envisioned and wanted was one that gave me a healthy baby boy. I remember telling Derek, "I'll be okay." as they wheeled me out of the room, rushing me to the OR. I was so worried about him while he had to remain waiting in our labor and delivery room before they brought him in to the operating room.

As I mentioned earlier, at the moment they pressed the OR emergency button, his heart rate was at 50bpm, by the time we reached the OR it had risen to 90bpm, and eventually reached the 140s. At this point the head doctor was yelling at everyone to slow down some because it was now an "urgent" not "emergency" procedure. She kept wanting them to acknowledge her and was repeating that they needed to act quickly, but not make any mistakes by going too fast. The whole time I just kept my eyes closed and breathed. I knew that I needed to use my breath to help Theodore get back to a safe place.

The anesthesiologist was by my head as they worked to get my epidural going. She kept asking if I could feel sharpness or pressure. I kept feeling sharpness. I remember being tempted just to lie to get Theodore out, but I was comforted when they kept saying his heart rate was maintaining. I just wanted them to know that they could knock me out or do anything necessary to get him out safely. At once point they inverted the table to get the epidural to reach my belly. Once that was set, my husband came in. I remember wanting him to just keep talking to me. His hands touching me and his voice talking to me was so reassuring. I would go back to that moment with all the fear to share it with him, especially once Theodore was coming out. Gosh, I could cry again thinking about it. Hearing them say, "his head is out, now a shoulder," and then hearing him cry, and my husband saying "you did it, he's here." It was incredible. It hurt more than I thought a c-section could. It is no different than laboring, but the labor is happening from your stomach--all the pushing, albeit from them not me, and the fact that the baby doesn't come out all in one fell swoop.

I was so desperate to hold Theodore once he was out. Both my husband and I were crying. He went over with Theodore while they were weighing him and doing all they needed and I just kept asking when I would get to hold him. I remember someone saying to my husband, "she really wants to hold him." I think his response was, "oh yeah!" because he knows me. They also asked him if I would want to nurse Theodore to which he told them I definitely did. I got to nurse him while they finished stitching me back up. Everyone was so supportive and amazing it was as good an experience as something that scary and unexpected could be.

After his birth we learned that the reason he kept going into distress was that the cord was wrapped around his neck and then spiraled around his body. We also discovered that he was a big boy. So large that they considered him "LGA" which means large for gestational age. This meant that he had to get pricked on the foot to measure his blood sugar every time before a feeding. He also had to pass three consecutive ones. He didn't pass them right away, but eventually he passed which was just another success for my resilient baby.

During all of this my mom was watching Henry. Around the same time I was delivering Theodore my mom said that she noticed a single tear falling down Henry's face. When she asked him what was causing it, he replied that he didn't know, but just felt upset. She said that in that instant she knew something must be happening with me and that Henry's and my connection is so strong that he felt it.

Overall it was a pretty incredible experience, and, as utterly different than my plans it was, I'm grateful that I got to experience it and, of course, am most grateful for his health. One thing people keep saying to me is that they're sorry my birth didn't go how I wanted, assuring me that it isn't a failure nor something to be disappointed in. I, of course, appreciate the intention behind these remarks, however that thought never occurred to me and it makes me sad that people feel the need to reassure me that a cesarean birth is still something I can be proud of. I am damn proud of this birth. I loved my birth. It was scary as heck, recovery has been a nightmare, and sure, all of it was far from the birth story I envisioned, but it is mine and Theodore's and our family's. It was incredibly special and moving (I will never forget the moment he was born and hearing my husband cheer me on and watching his eyes swell with tears). And it gave me a new experience, one I am grateful for.

Recovery has been more challenging than I could have imagined. The pain has been unbearable at times. I'm exhausted, hormonal, and I want to just spend all my time soaking up my newborn, but with a toddler I can't. At times, my first born aches for me and longs for the relationship we had before I was taken away from him and then made incapable of doing everything that I've always done with and for him. He adores his baby brother and is a fantastic big brother, but has also been forced to adapt to a mom that isn't available in the same ways that he has always known. It makes me hurt for him and, during my first few days at home, I even cried with him feeling my own pain that his heart hurt so much and my own sadness that I am so physically limited.

Yet, I know I will recover. Every day is a little better. There will be ups and downs along the way. We all have to adjust, but this is our story and I'm grateful for it. I know these days will pass all too quickly, so I will embrace even the messy, chaotic, painful, and challenging.

And last, I find it funny because I always thought that because I didn't have stretch marks I didn't have a permanent mark to remember bearing my children. Now I will have one and I'm honestly thrilled about that. Once the pain heals, I can move again freely, and my wound is no longer so fresh, I am excited to have a scar that marks the triumph of that day and commemorates the birth of my second baby boy, my "God's gift."