Somehow this feels like I’m cheating, but since my old blog is too big for me to easily import the posts, I thought I’d move certain posts over to serve as back story and context. The story of Sadie’s birth, and my journey of coping with it is very important to me, so I think it deserves a place here. I’ve compiled three posts into this one. It’s very long. (I’m just now adding the photos; they did not accompany the previous posts.)
Written April 5, 2009:
First, a big thank you to everyone for holding tight and being patient with us. I realize we sort of dropped off the face of the planet, just as the news was getting interesting. And a HUGE thank you to those of you who have been with us, giving us a hand and lots of moral support along this CRAZY journey. Also, an apology to those we probably should have called by now, but have not been able to. To say the least, things have gone quite differently than originally planned. So, here’s the story of Sadie Diane Edwards:
At about 1:15 am on Thursday, April 2, I woke up with a fairly strong contraction. Nothing too intense, just strong enough for me to know that it was definitely a contraction. At about 1:45, I woke back up and had a couple more. I gently nudged Trevor at about 2:00, telling him that the baby was coming “today.” We went out to the living room, got me set up on the couch, and went about the business of timing the contractions. At 5:00, we called our midwife, Kim, and she came to the house a little after 6:00.
For a LONG time, the contractions were super managable. I was even sleeping in between them, leaving Kim to eat and Trevor to play on the laptop. Then, at some point in the afternoon, they got quite a bit more intense. I could no longer chill on the couch, and I was hard-pressed to find any location or position that was comfortable. At that point, Kim and one of the other midwives started setting up the birthing pool. For a good bit, the pool was exactly perfect for handing contractions. I’d been trying to keep hydrated and fed, but this was surprisingly more difficult than I imagined. I could take small bites of things (banana, pb & honey sandwich, goldfish crackers), but I was really pretty queasy eating more than a tiny bit at a time. Also, trips to the bathroom were pretty unpleasant. This part of labor lasted a really long time (oh, and I didn’t let myself watch the clock too much, so you’ll have to ask Trevor or Kim the real timeline of things), and I was starting to get kind of frustrated–feeling like I wasn’t doing things or handling things “right,” feeling like I was being overly dramatic with my contractions and feeling like perhaps I couldn’t go on (in hindsight, I believe I was doing pretty well, actually).
Then came the pushing. Pretty much exactly like we learned in our homebirth class, just as I was starting to feel like maybe I wouldn’t have made it, and began asking what “soon” meant when the midwives told me I’d be pushing soon, I was pushing! Even though I was super excited to be pushing, it was so hard. I had Trevor join me in the birthing pool, hoping that he could help me leverage the pushing. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. We got out of the pool and moved to the birthing stool, where I pushed some more. The midwives could tell I was getting tired, so they moved me to my bed, hoping that we could let me rest, but trying not to push when your body is making you is pretty much impossible (well, at least it was for me). So, we started pushing on the bed. The midwives were doing their best to help make each pushing contraction as productive as possible, but we just didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. I couldn’t get Sadie’s head over my pubic bone, and I was wearing down fast. We began talking about transferring to a hospital, which really saddened me, because I really loved our homebirth plan. But, we ultimately decided it was better to get me to a hospital before I was 100 percent wiped out.
And that’s when things got to moving quickly. I was continuing to have contractions, but I began just trying to survive them than to make the most of them, hoping to keep my energy up at least a little. Trevor was running around packing up stuff that we would need, calls were being made to help us decide which of our local hospitals to go to. We headed to St. Vincent Infirmary. Worst car ride EVER! I had sort of hoped that the move to the car for transport would make the contractions chill. Not a bit. I contracted the whole way there, the whole time during check in; they just wouldn’t stop. Our plan for transport was to request an epidural, possibly some pitocin, in the hopes that I could get better situated and could still have the vaginal birth we’d been working so hard for. No dice. The on-call doctor (ask me about her later, if you want…there’s just not enough room on this blog for her) requested that I wait until she got there to push (remember what I said about impossibility?…exactly), and then we set to pushing so she could assess me and the baby. LONG story short (again, I just don’t have the energy to type up some parts of the story), we were given the choice of having a C-section there or checking out AMA and heading to another hospital, because her assessment was that the baby’s position was posterior (not easy) and I wasn’t going to be able to push her out in time I just couldn’t handle the thought of the latter choice, especially with the knowledge that, after getting in the car again and going to another hospital (having wicked contractions the whole time), we very well could be given the exact same option. SO, we opted for the C-section. Let me tell you, C-sections are WEIRD. Especially the epidural. Again, a whole post of itself.
Another long story short, Sadie Edwards came into the world via my abdomen at 3:59 am, Friday, April 3rd, 2009. She weighed a WHOPPING 8 pounds, 14 ounces and was 20 inches long. It turned out that she was, indeed posterior, and it was the combination of her size, my size, and the difficulty of her position that I was unable to push her out. We did have some complications, but they have been relatively minor. Mine were that my uterus didn’t want to clamp down, so I had to have some medicine to help that happen after the surgery so I didn’t lose too much blood; and part of my cervix had become inverted and had to be repaired. Sadie’s respiratory rate was higher than it should have been, and she had passed meconium at some point during my labor, which happens sometimes when babies are stressed during labor, and which can lead to infection. They let Trevor carry her back to our L&D room, and he got to hold her for 20 minutes or so, but then they took her to the nursery to keep an eye on her breathing. After the surgery was over, they took me back to L&D to let the epidural wear off, and then they took us to the mother and baby unit on another floor. We were hoping to have Sadie join us in our room, but they still wanted to make sure that her breathing was going to normalize. After several hours or so, however, it hadn’t, and they transferred her to the NICU.
At some point in the afternoon, my sister, Erica (who is a NICU doctor at Children’s Hospital), came to see Sadie and me. She wasn’t quite satisfied with how things were going for Sadie there, and she helped us make the decision to have her transferred, and we also decided to have me transferred so we could be together at UAMS. Sadie was transferred first, at about 4 in the afternoon. My transfer was kind of complicated (to say the least), so I didn’t make it to UAMS until about midnight. But Aunt Margie and Erica pretty much followed Sadie over to UAMS and updated me that, within 30 minutes of arriving there, Sadie had already had the chest x-ray she needed and was getting the full care that was required. Unfortunately, her x-ray showed that she had aspirated on some of the meconium. Because of that, she has had to stay in the NICU the entire time, which is one floor under mine.
Recovering from the C-section has been interesting, but not as difficult as I expected. As of yesterday, I didn’t think there was any way I’d be feeling mobile enough to go home today (it’s now Sunday…I started writing this up Saturday, but the meds I’m on make me drowsy, not to mention the crazy feeding schedule). Sadie has done really really well. We’ve been working on breastfeeding since 10:30 or so Saturday morning, and things have started to come around. Our biggest obstacle has been that she is one sleepy girl! When Trevor holds her, she’s mostly alert, looking at him and around the room. When I get ahold of her to feed, she gets nice and comfortable and just dozes. But starting with our 4am feed this morning, she’s been eating more vigirously. I’ve been pumping some to make sure I don’t lose my supply, and because we’ve been using some of the colostrum in a syringe to entice her to latch on and eat. In just a few hours, she’ll have been on the antibiotic for 48 hours, and they’ll do one last blood culture to make sure she doesn’t have an infection (so far, nothing has indicated that she does). If she doesn’t, and if they’re convinced she’s eating enough when she’s nursing, we get to take her home today!!!
It truly has been one heck of a roller coaster, and there are parts I’ve even left out–some for brevity, some for privacy, and some because I just can’t plain keep it all in order. Sure, we didn’t end up having Sadie at home as we had been planning for and dreaming about, but we have the sweetest baby girl on the planet, and she is so healthy and happy and fat (as of last night, she was already 9 pounds, 2 ounces).
I think my plan for pictures is to post them on a separate page. So take a peek there, and hopefully I’ll be up for and able to do some updating along the way. We haven’t taken any today, but I suspect we will for the “going home” event.
We really do appreciate all the love, support, and patience. And we also hope that you’ll continue to be understanding that, due to the intensity of this already intense experience, we may still take a while to contact even those of you who are extremely important to us.
Written November 14, 2009:
Sadie and I made a trip to Target today, and we saw one of the midwives from our, well, home labor. I can’t call it a home birth, even though that’s what she called it. Sadie wasn’t born at home. I labored and labored and labored at home, but Sadie was cut out of my abdomen. Remembering back to right after it all happened, there were some people who would tell me it’s like I did both–had a home birth AND a hospital birth. But I didn’t. And it sort of makes me mad when people say that, and I’m just now admitting it, I think. A home birth is where you push your baby out of your body in the comfort of your own home. That is the opposite of how Sadie was born. If I had wanted only to labor at home, I would have hired a doula and planned a hospital birth. In hindsight, maybe that’s what I should have done…maybe somebody would have noticed Sadie’s poor position early enough to move her. There are just so many what-ifs. What if somebody had noticed? What if I could have spent early labor on my hands and knees, trying to get her in a better position? Would I have been able to deliver her vaginally? I know there’s no use in asking those questions, but they still linger, even after seven months.
Here’s the worst of it: I am insanely, unfairly, cruelly jealous of my friends who have had vaginal births. So much so that I have to block it out so I can still love them and their babies. Because sometimes I want to hate them, and that is horrible and hurtful and not what I am all about. Right now I have this pit in my stomach and this tightness in my chest, and I know it’s from today’s chance encounter. Earlier this morning, a friend asked me if I had healed well from my c-section. I told her yes, because the scar is not so scary anymore, and I only occasionally have a tiny twinge of pain or some itchiness. But, emotionally, I have not. Not all the way. I went through this period after Sadie was born where I felt like I wasn’t finished. Like I was somehow still pregnant, and I still had a baby to push out. Sometimes I still feel that way. Excuse the crude analogy, but it’s kind of like having sex but not climaxing. You just don’t feel finished.
Well, that helped. A tiny bit.
Written November 16: 2009
As for what my c-section was…it was, indeed, an ugly thing that I had to suffer through. After over 24 hours of unmedicated labor–four hours of which was spent pushing at home, I arrived at the hospital. The doctor would not allow my midwives stay in the room with me while she assessed me, and she threatened not to allow my husband to stay. After determining that Sadie was posterior, she said that I had five minutes to decide if I was going to have the c-section there, or if I wanted to leave AMA and try another hospital. I was bullied into my c-section by a doctor who disrespected me the entire way. She would not even let Trevor and me be alone–forcing a nurse to stay in the room with us–while we figured out what to do. Some people would like to tell me that Sadie and I were in imminent danger. But we signed the consent forms for the c-section at 1:25 in the morning, and Sadie was not born until 3:59. That’s over two and a half hours between decision and delivery, and not the definition of emergent. The doctor never even told me when she was beginning surgery. I did not even know she’d started until the anesthesiologist told me they were pulling Sadie out. After Trevor left the room with Sadie–who had, by the way, Apgar scores of 8 and 10, the doctor, the anesthesiologist, and one of the nurses began to verbally abuse me about my decision to have a home birth. As in, using words like “stupid.” While I was still being operated on. And I’m not exaggerating here. One of the other nurses present informed someone on the Executive Committee about my treatment, and I was paid a visit by someone to assess, I’m assuming, the liability of the situation.
I never once expected to have a perfect delivery. In fact, I worked hard to keep my expectations vague. But they were realistic expectations. I had an impeccably healthy pregnancy. I had prepared for the home birth in so many ways–physically, emotionally, logistically. It was realistic of me to expect my body to deliver my baby in the safety and comfort of my home. Not easily, not perfectly, but realistically. My expectations matter, because they make me human. I think that, had I lucked into a better doctor who respects people as individuals, I would feel differently about the experience. Sure, I would be sad that I didn’t have the home birth I’d planned. But I wouldn’t have come home feeling shell-shocked. I wouldn’t have had such anguish over how Sadie came into the world.
And that brings me to another point–I think some people think it’s selfish to put so much value on having a home birth, or even a natural childbirth. Like it’s just some sort of goal I had so I could feel awesome about myself. And that’s a lot of crap. Yes, I was so looking forward to the visceral experience of pushing my baby out of my body. But so much of it also had to do with giving Sadie the birth she deserved. I wanted a nurturing, gentle birth for her. Instead, she had a violent one. Instead of being placed into her mother’s warm arms and allowed to breastfeed, she was suctioned and suctioned and suctioned by nurses. She had passed meconium, which I do realize is a sign that she was distressed during my labor, but had she been able to be pushed through the birth canal, I believe she might not have aspirated it, and she would not have had early breathing issues (which are common for c-section babies). She did not get to be held by her mother until she was six hours old. She did not get to breastfeed until she was more than 24 hours old. She spent her first few nights alive in an incubator having her breathing monitored and being watched for an infection she didn’t get. Am I thankful for medical technology? Yes. Do I sometimes worry that, had certain things gone differently during my labor, all of this could have been avoided? Yes. Is there any way of knowing for sure? No. Do I let myself dwell endlessly on these thoughts? No.