I know that birth stories aren’t typically written when baby is 4 months old.
Alongside the birth of a new babe comes sleepless nights, busy but relaxed days, and less time than before. To be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to write this right after Emmie was born. To be MORE honest, I know I’ll cry just typing it all these months later. Emmie’s birth was wonderful and terrifying all at once and I’m still processing her story. I am a person who loved hearing people’s birth stories, reading about them, and watching YouTube videos of the entire journey of women going into labor. In the months leading up to Emmie’s birth, Tony and I always asked, “Will she come early?” “Will she be late?” “Do you think she’ll come at night or during the day?” and all the questions surrounding the day we anxiously awaited.
My due date was January 28th and although we had expected our little bundle-to-be by then, she hadn’t come. I decided to keep working until I was 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant to keep me busy. Although I was running out of room, I felt fairly comfortable, and the cute little voices and hugs from students kept my mind off of my anxious feelings of wanting to meet our little girl! It was honestly so much harder to wait than I had ever imagined it would be. Fast forward a few days filled with Braxton hicks (a lot of them), the doctor wanted to induce me Tuesday, February 4th in the evening. I was very anxious about getting induced as I had feared the pain possibly associated with the meds used in inductions and wanted to go without pain medication for as long as I could.
Much to my surprise, I woke up at 3:30am on Tuesday, February 4th with what I felt as REAL contractions. I felt the contractions while laying in bed for about two hours. I started timing them and they were about 8-12 minutes apart and were consistently coming. I was so excited and was hoping that this was a sign that labor was really coming, but eventually fell back asleep. I woke back up at 6:30am to contractions every 6 minutes. I laid in bed for about an hour timing my contractions and breathing through them before I woke up Tony to tell him the good news! I was FINALLY (at 41 weeks pregnant) in labor and I was pretty sure they weren’t going away.
For the next few hours, we straightened up the house, got our last minute things together, took a shower, and after a few hours called our parents to let them know that baby was on her way. Tony went into MAJOR nesting mode and literally vacuumed and scrubbed every inch of the house while I slowly moved around getting ready. He was so sweet with me during a contraction, holding my hand or sitting quietly with me and then would run off once it was done to keep cleaning. After a few hours, the contractions started to get more intense so I decided to get into the tub. Warm baths were my daily ritual during pregnancy and being in the warm bath, with calm music playing, diffuser going, and Pepper (our cat) sitting on the floor next to me allowed me to get into the most zen mood. The heat helped with the pain and the calming environment was everything I wanted for my labor.
Around 12:30pm, we called the hospital because my contractions were coming every 4 minutes, lasting for a minute, and my pain was increasing. Although being at home was very relaxing, I was ready to get to the doctors to make sure everything was progressing correctly. We called and they said to come right over. The bumps and contractions in the car were just as bad as everyone says. Thankfully, the drive to the hospital was only 15 minutes from our house. I remember driving through downtown Iowa City past all the college students walking to class thinking how strange it was that it was a normal day for them, but for me, the biggest day of my whole life that was about to unfold.
Because my contractions were 4 minutes apart and I was already scheduled for an induction that night, they took me into a room right away. Tony and I got our stuff situated and waited for the nurse and doctor to get us all checked in. The first thing they wanted to do was to get an IV line hooked up which took them some time. I have small veins and unfortunately it took a few nurses to finally get the line in after they already blew one in my left hand. My contractions were starting to get more intense, started coming closer to every 3 minutes, and I started uncontrollably shaking. This made everyone in the room nervous of course because shaking can be an indicator of the last stage of labor. Thankfully, that was not happening yet and the nurse was able to get my IV in. They checked me and I was 4 cm dilated and 90% effaced. I was thrilled I was able to labor at home all that time and get to 4 cm on my own.
For the next few hours, I labored in the room bouncing on a peanut ball and walking around. I found comfort in standing, and leaning against the bed when the contractions would build. Tony would push on my low back to create counter-pressure which really helped distract me from the pain. We had the lights down low, diffuser going, and calming music was playing. I honestly loved every minute of it. After anxiously awaiting labor for so long, I viewed each contraction as one step closer to meeting our baby. The entire process was empowering and although it was painful, I loved the challenge.
At 6:30pm, I decided to get an epidural. I was open to the idea of having an epidural before and knew that eventually I would want one. Contractions were increasing to every 2 minutes and since they lasted a minute each, I wasn’t getting much of a break. I couldn’t relax my body enough between contractions. I honestly felt okay and continued to move and breathe through my contractions but feared that if I waited too much longer, I wouldn’t be able to stay still for them to safely put the epidural in. I was SO nervous to get the epidural. I was more nervous about it feeling it go in, and staying still during it but I honestly didn’t feel a thing! Tony sat in front of me the whole time keeping me calm and my nurse was amazing and talked me through it when I got a contraction and couldn’t move. Once the epidural was in, they checked me again and unfortunately I was still at 4cm but was 100% effaced. After this, they decided to break my water.
Although it felt nice to not feel the contractions anymore, I felt so uncomfortable from the epidural. I was unable to move or stand, felt SO cold from the medicine running through my body, and wasn’t a big fan of how I couldn’t move but was thankful I could finally rest. I was so tired since I woke up early and had been laboring all day. Tony and I fell asleep soon after, knowing that we would have an exciting early morning! They woke us at 11pm to check me and I had progressed to 6cm.
After this, things went very fast and felt fuzzy. At 2am, I told my nurse that I was starting to feel a little pressure and thought I was getting closer to 10cm so they decided to check me. Much to my surprise and the entire delivery staff, I was at 10cm and a +2 station! Baby girl was there and ready to go. I had never been so excited in my entire life. I was ready to meet our baby girl and was surrounded by a fantastic and supportive group of female medical staff who coached me through pushing. Tony beamed from ear to ear and stood by my side through every push.
To be honest, I loved it. I loved being able to do something that would bring our baby girl into the world. I loved having Tony at my side, supporting me and thrilled to meet his daughter. I loved the actual pushing and the positive vibes in the room. The nurses told me I was a pro at pushing and that we’d meet our daughter in no time. A few different times, the nurses and doctors started talking with one another and it made Tony and I nervous. It first started with them asking me to put on an oxygen mask so that baby could get more oxygen. Then they mentioned that when they broke my water, there was meconium in my water and that because of this, it was protocol to have the NICU stay in the room during delivery to check out baby once she was born. They assured us everything was okay and that we should only worry if we saw a swarm of people come into the room.
After about an hour of pushing, baby girl was getting very close and the environment was encouraging and positive. Until it wasn’t.
Suddenly, the doctors wanted to try another monitor on Emmie’s head because the heartbeat monitor wasn’t picking it up correctly (which we found out later wasn’t completely true). Once they placed the new monitor on her head, their faces changed and so did the entire mood in the room. Suddenly, a team rushed in like they had warned before. Although they assured us everything was okay, I could hear it in their voices and knew something was wrong. Phrases such as “Mama you’re doing great – keep pushing mama” turned into “You NEED to get her out NOW” and “You need to push HARDER than you ever have”. Doctors stood around as I closed my eyes and pushed harder than I thought possible. I remember feeling like my head was going to explode. I heard the head doctor say, “Do it. It’s time” to the other doctors and suddenly Emmie was born at 3:35am.
When Emmie was pulled out, she was white and colorless. She didn’t cry. She didn’t move and her body was lifeless in the doctors arms. When I looked at her, my heart sank. I could feel the panic in the room. Looking at my sweet baby, I thought she was dead.
I cannot explain this feeling. The feeling I had looked forward to my entire life had suddenly turned into the most horrifying and dark moment I have ever felt. My body was going through shock and exhaustion and I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
They pulled Emmie away immediately as the nurses tried to console me. Tony stood by my side as a team took Emmie away to assess her. About a minute later (what felt like a lifetime) they said “she’s breathing! she’s okay!” and over the hustle and bustle of all the people in the room, I could hear the most faint little cry. But where was my baby? Was she okay? How long wasn’t she breathing? What happened? Would she think I abandoned her? Did she know I was there? I longed to hold her to keep her safe.
I’m not sure how much later, as doctors tended to me, they brought Emmie over for a second so I could see her face. Unfortunately, they came with bad news that they had to take her to transition to run tests, assess her health, and get an IV line in. Over the next 3.5 hours I was separated from my daughter. Tony followed Emmie (and the team taking care of her) out of the room and tried to hop back and forth between us. I was thankful that they took and printed photos of her so I could look at them as I laid there alone. As time went on, doctors came in to explain what had happened during delivery.
Unknown to Tony and I, in addition to having meconium in the waters, I had developed an infection from either cervical checks or while they broke my water which caused a fever, which meant Emmie also needed antibiotics. As Emmie descended down, her oxygen levels dropped, CO2 levels were high, and her heart rate had kept dipping. Eventually her heart rate dropped and never went back up. This is when the doctors urged me to get her out and caused medical intervention to assist me. Later, they had learned that the umbilical cord was like a seatbelt around her chest so as I pushed, Emmie was under stress and her vitals were dropping. In their explanations with medical lingo, I tried to grasp what had happened while continuing to be sewn up, sleep deprived and heartbroken. They continued for hours to get Emmie stabilized and to get an IV line in. Tony kept coming back to check on me but there wasn’t much news on her condition.
After I was transferred to the mother baby unit (without my baby) about 3.5 hours after giving birth, they finally brought my daughter to me. I can’t describe to you the feeling. I was a mess. Emmie was brought to me at 7am with conditions that they would need to take her back to attempt the IV again since they were unsuccessful. I didn’t care though. I was so overjoyed to have her in my arms and to know she was okay. I finally REALLY got to see my daughter.
My birth plan didn’t quite go the way I wanted but I didn’t care. I knew I had to be flexible and that things could change. However, I couldn’t have prepared myself for what our experience was. I missed holding her on my chest as she was born. I missed the golden hour and breastfeeding right away. I missed the exciting announcement of her height and weight. I missed the happiness that should be felt that was instead replaced with fear. To mamas who have had babies in the NICU, who didn’t get to hold them when they were born, or were separated from them, my heart goes out to you. I know we were lucky that Emmie was healthy and that it was only a few hours we were apart. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced and unless it happens to you, you can’t imagine how horrible it feels. After that experience, I can only confirm that mamas are the strongest people on the planet.
I look back at our birth story and I feel a mix of emotions. Honestly, it has taken me months to feel positive about the experience. For months afterwards, I almost felt PTSD from the experience. When people asked me our story, it was like therapy for me to go back through the experience, cry, and tell people what happened. Now I look back and am able to hug and kiss my little girl and thank God that she is healthy and in my arms. My heart could not be any more full having her in my life.
To those waiting for their babies, hoping to get pregnant, to those currently pregnant, or current mamas, you are strong and can do anything. XO
You can read more of Meagan's stories and check out her lifestyle and motherhood blog, A Dash of Bruck, here!