As I mentioned in Monday’s post our birth began way off plan, but we were making the best of it. When we left off I had just gotten an epidural and was waiting for it to kick in, hoping to get a much needed rest.
I was amazed by how quickly the epidural worked – after my next contraction I told the anesthesiologist and OB GYN that my pain went from a level of 10 to 6 (side bar – I felt like I spent half of my time in labour describing my pain level on a scale from 1-10😂). Feeling the relief wash over me, I was just about to relax when my room quickly filled with people and time seemed to speed right up.
Eli’s heart rate had decelerated in the moments right after my contraction and then had two “skipping rope” decelerations in a row (described to us as such because they dipped so low and looked like skipping ropes on his chart). Paul had to fill me in on this days later, but apparently those two were so significant that a code was automatically called from the nursing station. When the nurses came to the room, the new OB GYN was already there, having just checked me before my epidural after a shift change and transfer from the previous resident, and told them to call the code off. She then came to my bedside and explained that what had just happened. They expect heart rate decelerations to happen during a contraction but when they happen afterwards, and so significantly, it’s a sign that the baby is in serious distress.
It wasn’t until she told me about the heart rate decelerations that I really noticed the crew of people flanking her in the room and I immediately understood where things were going before she continued on. My stomach still sinks thinking about that moment. She explained to us that looking at the picture of the day – the presence of thick meconium, the fact that despite spending seven hours on Pitocin my body had made no progress in labour (I was still only 1cm dilated) and the significance of the heart rate decelerations she didn’t see any other option than an emergency c-section. The entire medical team had been hinting around this possibility throughout the day, always talking about how they would continue to see how things progressed but they were keeping the entire picture in mind (i.e. the meconium and heart rate decelerations), but I tried to put that thought to the back of my mind. Surely, I wouldn’t need a c-section – I had done so much to prepare for a vaginal birth.
Thankfully, Paul and I had discussed how we would handle this situation (just in case!) and he asked the OB GYN if we could take five minutes to process the events and this change in our journey. She agreed and the team left to prep the paperwork and the OR. Because Paul, our doula and I had all seen this coming, we used this time to process the day and the onslaught of new information both intellectually and emotionally. We reminded ourselves that the most important thing was to bring our baby into the world in the safest and healthiest way possible and, when looking at the overall picture of the day we knew this was the best (and only) option to do just that. Being able to take those five minutes helped us to shape our emotional space during what was a frenetic time.
What felt like seconds later I was signing paperwork and Paul was being handed scrubs. In an instant I was being wheeled out of the room and down the hall. Because the operating room is a sterile environment they made Paul wait while they set it up (he also had to call our back-up midwife and let her know what was happening so she could rush to the hospital). He later told me after he changed into his scrubs he chugged the rest of my ginger ale to get his blood sugar up in the hopes that it would help keep him from passing out during my surgery. He then texted a friend of his whose wife had also had a c-section to tell him what was happening; his friend’s advice was to go to the vending machine and get a sugary drink – and in that moment Paul experienced the incredible ways that fatherhood can bring a totally new level of bonding and understanding.
It took me four months to write about what happened in the OR. This experience was so incredibly surreal and undeniably not what I had imagined for my birth. I mean, I did CrossFit throughout my pregnancy, I prepared, heck I committed to having a medication free birth, and here I was unable to move in my bed as I was being wheeled down a hospital hallway. I was brought into a room with machines whirring and bright lights glaring overhead, while a team of hands reached around and hoisted me from my hospital bed onto a small cross shaped table. A blue plastic sheet went up in front of my chest, an oxygen tube was draped around my face and my arms were placed on each side of the table, all while someone poked around my body asking if I could feel the instrument they were using (to make sure the epidural had really kicked in). Interestingly enough, this chaotic blur was the one part of birth that felt exactly as it’s portrayed in movies.
When Paul came into the room things got moving, but he looked at me with an overwhelming look of emotion that stopped time for a moment. I could see every moment and feeling from the day replaying on his face as he was doing everything he could to be strong for me. He told me a month later that when he grabbed my hand I reassured him that everything would be okay (I have no recollection of this).
The anesthesiologist who administered my epidural did an amazing job of checking in and letting me know what was happening. I started to shake from the epidural and at one point he told me not to fight it – just let the shakes happen. So I laid there, my splayed out arms wide like I was ready to receive a hug, bouncing on the table while my teeth chattered, unsure if I was waiting for surgery to begin or in the middle of my child being born – it was one of the strangest sensations of my life. Suddenly I felt tugging and pulling (strangely, this was the one thing I had read about that scared me the most about c-sections) and then everything seemed to pause for a moment – just as the silence was cresting the room filled with that distinct first sound of new life. Our son had arrived.
They quickly whisked him away from the operating table and our midwife (who arrived sometime during surgery) assessed him, weighed him and wiped him down while Paul watched over, staring in amazement and flooded with a million more emotions. When she was done she handed him to Paul and forever altered the course of our lives. He came over to me and when I spoke this little person – this little person who I’d spent 39 weeks and four days imagining, talking to and growing with – turned his head towards me. It was overwhelming, surreal and so incredibly beautiful. In that moment, our cheeks almost touching as we observed each other for the first time, we became a family.
Elijah James Bien was born on January 18th, 2019 at 6:57PM during a super blood wolf moon. He clocked in at a whopping 9lbs 1oz and has brightened up our world every single day since that snowy, grey, cold day.
How did your birth go? According to plan? Any crazy stories to tell? Let me know in the comments below!