My friend Al wrote a post reflecting on her birth story, 20 months later. Then my friend SRB wrote a similar one, in preparation for the birth of her second child in the next few weeks. They have inspired me.
You have your “birth story”, where you might speak briefly of nervousness and incredible pain, but in the end it’s all relief and unadulterated joy that baby arrived. As SRB pointed out, that’s baby’s story. Mom has a story too, which likely gets buried under her need to appear totally grateful and happy. Oh, and the very immediate need to, you know, take care of a BRAND NEW TINY PERSON.
So here’s my story of having Alexander, now that I have eight months of perspective.
I should start by saying I always had a gut instinct that I’d have a c-section. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe it was because infertility wrecked my confidence in my body. But the truth is, my mom labored for hours with me and ended up having a c-section, and my husband was breech but born vaginally in a very dangerous delivery. So yeah, I figured there was a good chance a c-section was in store for me.
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that I was very anxious the whole pregnancy and had a hard time believing I was going to end up with a healthy baby at the end.
Alex was almost always breech, from the get go. I may have had one appointment where he was head-down. Everyone was all “don’t worry!” “he’ll flip!” and well, I just knew he wasn’t going to. That baby felt comfortable in there.
Around 30 weeks, my fundal height started measuring small. No big deal, but something to watch. Around 34 weeks, I had a growth ultrasound and baby was measuring small. I started having a bad feeling, but still, no one was worried. “Some babies are small!” “He’s breech, it’s hard to get a good measurement!”
At 36.5 weeks he went from “small baby” to “whoa, seriously you guys, the baby stopped growing,” and I was diagnosed with IUGR.
My EDD was June 5. On Friday, May 11 I met with my doctor and she explained we’d be delivering on Tuesday, May 15, at 37 weeks. It was the safest thing for the baby. And normally, I’d be induced, but since Alex was in the 5% who are still breech at full-term, I’d be having a c-section.
I have since agonized about this conversation. I asked my OB if I should get a steroid shot (no point, since he’s full-term), if we should do any testing to see if his lungs are mature enough (doesn’t matter, he needs to come out ASAP), if it was likely he’d have to go to the NICU (probably not, but perhaps).
I didn’t ask if we could try to flip him. I didn’t argue that I’d like to carry him as long as I can, with frequent monitoring. She wanted that baby OUT and since I trusted her completely, I did too.
I knew that we were talking about a stillbirth here. Get the baby out, before he runs out of room. And even if every day past 37 weeks only increased the risk of a stillbirth by 0.00001%, that was enough for me.
This is why it’s so important to work with an OB or midwife you trust. I trusted her. I would trust her with my life today. When shit hit the fan, I knew she was doing the right thing.
I didn’t argue even though it meant I didn’t get to experience labor. Even though it meant I had to walk into the hospital knowing I was going to be cut open and endure major abdominal surgery. Because a loud animal was banging around in my head, screaming BABYOUTNOW. GETITOUTNOW.
I have never seen my husband’s face look the way it did when we got the news we’d be meeting our son in four days instead of four weeks. Time to get our carseat bases installed, FOR REAL, honey!
So on Monday night, May 14, Andy and I went out for a nice, expensive dinner just the two of us. I had chicken parmesan. We went to bed that night, setting the alarm for the buttcrack of dawn. We talked about what the baby’s face might look like. I actually slept.
I put on makeup the next morning, which I was not supposed to do. On the way to the hospital, my husband stopped at McDonald’s to use the restroom. He was nervous, and it was the only place open. I made him tell me about Alexander the Great and the Alexandria library. We knew the name but we hadn’t shared it with a soul.
We checked into the hospital. They were out of wheelchairs so I got to walk to L&D. I got hooked up to the monitor. I remember hearing his heartbeat on the machine and thinking the next time I wanted to listen to it, I’d be able to put my ear up to his tiny chest.
The nurse couldn’t get my IV in. She tried three times and I still have scars on my arm from those pricks. At one point I looked over and blood was streaming all over my arm and bed. My parents and sister as well as my in-laws were there. Someone commented on me being brave about the IV. “It’s about to get a lot worse than an IV,” I remember saying. They had to clip my pubic hair, which was embarrassing.
They tried to hang my second bag of fluid and the top of it ripped. They rigged it up on the IV stand with some tape. I thought that was fitting, in a “what a clusterfuck” type of way. I was feeling pretty Zen. My OB came by and we talked about what she had for breakfast (a granola bar) and she put me even more at ease.
They wheeled me down the hall. I kept wondering what he was going to look like, trying to picture his face. The operating room was freezing and they made Andy wait in the hall while they gave me the spinal. That’s when I started getting scared. I held a nurses hand and basically buried my face in her chest. They asked how I was doing and I said “I want my husband.” I couldn’t stop shivering because it was so cold.
My legs started going numb and one kept sliding off the side of the table. My blood pressure cuff was pressing uncomfortably on the crook of my elbow. The anesthesiologist was on my left side, my husband on my right.
I could tell when she started cutting. I was scared, I didn’t feel very good, and the whole thing was uncomfortable. I was nervous that the baby would not be able to breathe and would have to go to the NICU. I heard my OB say “oh, he has some meat on his bones!” and I breathed a sigh of relief that at least he was probably a decent size.
The anesthesiologist lowered my screen to show me a tiny hand reaching up. It was covered in baby goop and cheese. My son’s hand. I think it was the left one. Reaching up out of my body while he was not a fetus anymore but not quite a person yet either. Somewhere between 37 weeks gestation and one minute old, on the cusp of his birthday.
They pulled him out. The pediatrician says “I bet he’s six and a half pounds!” (He was 6lb 3oz). They let me hold him briefly. The anesthesiologist asked me his name and I said “Alexander” for the first time. He got a little oxygen but scored an 8 and then a 9 on his APGARs. He was perfect.
The pediatrician examined him while I was being stitched. Then the three of us all rolled into recovery together and I got to try my hand (nipple) at nursing.
Maybe you think I should have fought harder to carry him longer, hung upside down from a curtain rod or taken herbs to try to flip him. But that’s the story of the days and moments leading up to meeting my son. It could have gone a thousand different ways. It went this way. I have no regrets.