On Wednesday, October 17, I woke up around 6:30 with a back ache. Since I still wasn’t “due” for another couple days and I historically have my babies after 40 weeks, I figured I had slept awkwardly. I got up and started getting the boys ready for school, taking passive notice of a few contractions. They were nothing out of the realm of the practice contractions I was feeling before, but I did note that they were semi-regular. As the morning drew on, I started timing them. It was only when they were 10 minutes apart no matter what position I was in that I thought maybe I was in labor. Of course, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I’ve been through false labor before and it’s a very disappointing experience. Even though I was sure this wasn’t the real thing, I called Jamie anyway. Then I laid on the bed and timed my contractions some more so I could call my midwife with the most up-to-date info.
I spent most of the morning in a state of disbelief even though I let my family and friends know that I was “most likely” in labor. My contractions were 3-4 minutes apart but I was still smiling, laughing, and talking through them. My midwife Chris and her assistants were setting things up: unpacking the birth kit, setting up the tub, and preparing the bed. Despite all of this, I really was sure things would peter out and everyone would have to go home before the end of the day.
Jamie and I took a walk late in the morning after calling my mom to tell her to come on over. While we walked, Jamie timed my contractions. They were coming faster and I had to stop walking while I breathed through them. Even still, I was sure this wasn’t it! As we rounded the corner of the road into our driveway, things took an odd turn. I felt dizzy and disoriented. The contractions HURT. Jamie had to help me get back to the house because I could barely walk unassisted.
I felt a gush as I was making my way back to the bedroom. It was then that I got a little excited because I was hoping my water had broken, though I was nervous that I was bleeding (my M.O. with Timothy and Aiden). Unfortunately, my hope was in vain–I was bleeding…a lot. The baby’s heart rate was dropping and I was only 2-3 cm. so we needed to get to the hospital.
I was scared. What would happen at the hospital? Would I have to go through a long, arduous check-in process? Would I be hooked up to all the monitors and have to answer questions while trying to relax through my contractions? The whole process was unfamiliar and daunting.
We got in the van and things got worse. I felt so dizzy and sick that I started throwing up. Jamie pulled over and called 911. Chris told me then that the hospital will most likely do a section. My heart broke. I already felt defeated because I missed out on my home birth, but now I was going to miss out on my vaginal birth, too. It was so sad.
The ambulance ride was awful. Even though I was able to lay mostly on my side, I was still laying on a hard stretcher, feeling every bump in the road like a knife in my belly, and lonely. The paramedic wanted me to tell him every time I had a contraction (when it started and stopped), which was really the last thing I wanted to do. I prefer laboring quietly, especially when things are getting intense. Asking me to do anything but relax and breathe makes me feel panicky. Add to that some sirens and a medic’s crotch in my face as I’m trying to focus my contractions and it’s pretty much a recipe for disaster.
The hospital was a blur. I remember a swarm of nurses and a lot of pain. Needles, tears, and helplessness. One nurse was putting in a second IV, another was shaving me, and several more were doing other stuff as I cried with each contraction. I never felt more alone.
“If we’re going to save the baby…”
The last thing I told Jamie was, “I’m so scared.”
Climbing onto the operating table and lying flat on my back, all I could do was give in to the wash of pain. With each contraction I was wishing they would go ahead and put me under already. While one nurse painted me with iodine, more were draping me and strapping me to the table.
I woke up with the worst case of the chills I’ve ever had after general anesthesia. Everything hurt and I begged for relief.
“You have a baby girl,” said one of the nurses.
“Really?” I think I asked that about three times before it was real. And then I asked to see her. Someone told me that she had trouble breathing on her own and she was in the Special Care Unit, that I could see her on my way to my own room.
We named her Willow Einin, a name we had picked out even though we were so sure we’d have a boy. She sure did surprise us!
I wasn’t aware that things were quite as serious as they were until I was able to see my baby girl. She was so beautiful even with all the tubes coming out of her. The pediatrician came in after a minute to explain what was going on. All I remember is that I wasn’t going to get to hold her and that she was going to be taken to another hospital for a treatment not offered where we were.
Over the next few days, I spent a lot of time enduring the pain of my cesarean and the pain of being without my newborn baby. I pumped milk for her, called the NICU at the other hospital for updates, and greeted visitors the best I could. What I wanted most was to be with my Willow. It didn’t feel real that I had a baby. I listened in the middle of the night to other newborn babies next door to me and longed for my own.
Even after I was discharged I couldn’t be with her. She remained at the other hospital where all I could do was hold her and watch her sleep. I nursed her a little. But I still had to go home without her. Coming home without a baby was surreal. I woke myself up every few hours to pump milk for Willow but obviously it wasn’t the same as being able to hold her in my arms.
I got to spend one night in the hospital with Willow when she was discharged from the NICU and moved to the main pediatric floor. Despite my intense pain and lack of adequate rest, I was so happy to finally be with her. She had improved by leaps and bounds: from barely breathing on her own she recovered to the point where it was like nothing had ever happened. We got to bring her home after almost five days of hospitalization. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
Willow will be two weeks old tomorrow. Even though the memories of her dramatic entry into this world are fuzzy to me, one thing is clear: we’re both survivors.
Placental abruption accounts for 12% of perinatal deaths and 6% of maternal deaths. I had a 75% separation. Even if we had planned a hospital birth, our chances of making it on time were very small. Our survival window was only open for a short time.
But we made it.
We made it.