Childbirth is nothing short of a miracle. I am reminded of this each time I have the honor of witnessing it, whether from the mother’s side, as I encourage her to push one last time, or from the infant warmer where I am preparing a blanket to warm the sweet babe after delivery. No matter how many births I’ve seen, the miracle never loses its luster.
A year ago, I went into labor around 4:30 on a Tuesday morning, June 20th. My contractions woke me, but I ignored them for about an hour and a half, until I decided to get out of bed and take a warm bath. For most of my third trimester, Nate and I had prepared ourselves for a Cesarean Section, as our baby girl had been breech or transverse until 39 weeks. I had said from the beginning of my pregnancy that I was looking forward to labor just to see how it differed from my labor with Strong (Nate says I’m crazy, but I can’t help it), so going into labor was my dream come true!
Several hours later, I was 4cm in the office and baby girl was still head down upon Ultrasound confirmation (all the praise hands)!! The only concern was that her head was high and floating; this didn’t come as a surprise to me as she had only been head down for about a week. However, my midwife recommended that I try to remain upright as much as possible during labor in order to assist her in moving further into my pelvis.
Nate and I walked around the parking lot outside the office for about 30 minutes and then headed into the hospital to be admitted. The nurses (who are also my coworkers) were almost more excited to see me than I was to see them! I was admitted by 11am, and Nate and I started walking the small, quiet hallway outside our room.
It was 12:30pm, and my contractions had progressed. My midwife had informed me from the beginning that she was going to keep a close eye on me since baby girl’s head was still so high. My cervix had dilated to 6cm and her head had come down a bit (although it was still floating when she tried to push it away). My quick progression spurred us to text both of our moms and my friend Carman to head in as soon as possible. I could tell my body was transitioning, and I didn’t want them to miss it!
By 1:30pm, it was all I could do to stay upright during my contractions. Nate was a continual support, but I was experiencing so much pressure, that my nurse finally called my midwife; when my midwife arrived, she said I was 8cm. We discussed the possibility of breaking my water in order to speed things up, but she was hesitant to do so, because the baby’s head was still not settled in my pelvis. She thought it would be best at this point if I continued to labor, hoping that my water would break on its own.
An hour went by, and I finally asked my nurse for advice on positions to help the baby move. I spent almost an hour and a half in various positions in an attempt to move our baby girl’s head further into my pelvis.
Around 4:30pm, my midwife came back into our room to see if the baby had moved at all. Unfortunately, nothing had changed. After a bit more discussion, she agreed to break my water in an attempt to move baby girl’s head down further. She decided to use an instrument called an amnitone, which essentially leaves a pin-prick in the placenta rather than a large tear; the thought behind this was that my water would leak more slowly, allowing the baby to move down.
My water was broken at 4:48pm; however, because of the vast amount of fluid that was present, the pinhole enlarged as the water poured out past my feet and onto my midwife. During the entire procedure, I had my eyes glued to her face, and I could see a slight change after my water broke. She quietly said to me and the nurse that she had “lost the presenting part,” which meant she could no longer feel the baby. She immediately asked for the ultrasound machine to be brought in to verify the baby’s position. At her admission, I burst into tears, knowing the situation had drastically changed.
The next few minutes were hurried, as the nurses rushed to get the ultrasound machine while also applying the monitor to assess our baby girl’s heart rate. I looked at Nate, gripped his hand, and asked him if he was praying; he said yes. During the bedside ultrasound, my midwife stated she felt the umbilical cord in front of the baby’s head, which is an emergent situation in which the baby must be delivered by Cesarean Section immediately. She quietly told the nurses to call my doctor.
The next sixteen minutes are a blur; it was all hands on deck as the nurses prepared me for surgery. They put the head of my bed down and elevated my legs in order to relieve pressure from the umbilical cord. I was given a medication to stop my contractions. Fluid was running wide open through my IV to give the baby a boost in case she needed it to maintain a steady heart rate. My belly was washed with a surgical prep. Compression sleeves were applied to my legs. I was given medication to prevent nausea during surgery. I had my mom remove my earrings. I signed a consent form for the C-section. A surgical cap was placed on my head and Nate was given surgical scrubs. Nurses were setting up the OR, as the surgical team had already gone home for the day. The staff dressed my midwife in a bunny suit while she continued to hold the baby’s head off of the umbilical cord to ensure blood flow to our sweet girl. Finally, as they prepared to wheel me out of the room, I realized Nate wouldn’t be able to go back with me, because there was no way they would be able to do a spinal (meaning they’d have to put me under general anesthesia). And so, I looked at him, told him I loved him and to keep praying. We kissed, and I was gone.
Back in the OR, I tried to relax as much as possible as they moved me from my hospital bed to the surgical table. I was placed in a far right tilt with my head down once more. My midwife continued to reassure me that my sweet girl’s heart rate was “nice and strong” at 140 beats per minute. They put my catheter in and scrubbed my belly again in preparation for surgery. Oxygen was placed in my nose. I was given an antibiotic before the surgery began. At last, my doctor walked into the room, looked at me while shaking his head and said, “You nurses.” (It’s an ongoing joke that OB nurses always have to be difficult during labor.) I told him to make everything look pretty, and with that, they covered my body with a sterile drape. One of the surgical nurses walked in at the last minute, stood right next to my ear, and explained everything that was happening. She was a calm voice in a sea of noise. I heard my doctor say he was ready; the anesthesiologist told me to relax and take a few deep breaths, as warmth flooded my arm. The last thing I remember is my midwife, once again, telling me that my baby’s heart rate was strong. And then, I counted to three and was out.
Our sweet Éowyn was born at 5:29pm, and she was perfect. They tell me she cried almost immediately and was wide-eyed when they took her to our room. My midwife rushed out of the OR to tell Nate that our baby girl had arrived; he was able to hear her crying from the hallway.
After they brought her to the room, Nate was able to do skin-to-skin with her for almost an hour while I remained in surgery. Our mothers had stayed with him in the room while I was gone, and my friend, Carman, documented Nate’s first moments with our Wynnie girl, which I will forever treasure.
I don’t remember much of the first hour or two of my recovery. Since the surgery was performed using general anesthesia, they were unable to give me the pain medication they give most C-Section moms. Because of that, I woke up in an immense amount of pain. I do remember my throat feeling thick and asking Nate for more ice chips about every 30 seconds to wet my mouth. And I remember crying.
Although our birth wasn’t what we expected, there are so many things to be thankful for.
I’m thankful that I was able to labor freely.
I’m thankful that my water was broken in a controlled way. Any other scenario is a “what if,” but the reality is we could have left without a baby had it happened differently.
I’m thankful for the response time and teamwork of everyone that was involved in our sweet girl’s delivery.
I’m thankful that Nate was able to create a beautiful memory with our Wynnie in her first hour of life.
And, most of all, I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit. Because, for the last 8 weeks of my pregnancy, the only prayer I could utter when thinking of our sweet girl was that she would stay “healthy and strong.” And, guess what? During those minutes between my water breaking and my surgery, the staff kept reassuring me by saying, “Kayla, her heart rate is staying strong.”
The words I had prayed for 8 weeks. I know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit urged me to pray those words for that exact moment. And for that, my heart is so thankful.
So, here’s to life and turning one. HBD, Éowyn Mercy!!