What more fitting day to share the story of June’s birth than my first Mother’s Day? I am so grateful for the little muffin who made me a mama, so grateful for this story, and so grateful for the One who wrote it. Thank you for allowing me to share!
Throughout my pregnancy, I never really knew what to say when friends asked how things were going. Aches and pains? Not really. Cravings? Nope. Complications? Nothing to report! Thankfully, the whole process was blissfully “boring,” and for that I am grateful. However, we did get our dose of excitement at the very end, starting at my 38-week appointment on January 4…
Two weeks earlier, at my 36-week appointment, my doctor reported that June was head down and that I was not dilated. I opted not to get checked at 37 weeks, and so was curious to see what we’d find at 38. After a quick check, he relayed that I still wasn’t dilated. He also said I was measuring small, and so decided to do an ultrasound. Thankfully, the ultrasound showed that June looked great and that the amniotic fluid was adequate. Unfortunately, it also showed that she was in a breech position.
To be safe, he had me take a non-stress test (which I passed with flying colors – yay!). (For those who aren’t familiar with a non-stress test, in my case, it involved sitting in a comfy armchair and getting hooked up to a fetal heartbeat monitor for 20 minutes. Despite the stressful circumstances, it was quite peaceful sitting there and listening to her!) My doctor also scheduled me for another check a few days later, on January 7… and scheduled a c-section for the following week, a few days before my due date. (I was NOT pleased about this for many reasons, but he didn’t want me to go full term because of the risk of cord prolapse if my water were to break on its own.)
My emotions were a little strange at this point. I still believed there was a chance June could flip (after all, she apparently had flipped between 36 and 38 weeks!), and my doctor had said that if she flipped at any point before the c-section, we would call it off and let things proceed naturally. So in between working harder than ever to wrap up things at work and keeping John, our families, and our doula up to date, I drank TONS of water (I knew low amniotic fluid would be a reason for an immediate c-section, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to stay extra hydrated), and tried some of the moves to encourage flipping on this site. Without a definite “yes, you ARE having a c-section,” I couldn’t or wouldn’t wrap my head around that possibility and wanted to remain hopeful that I would have the birth we’d been imagining and for which we’d been planning. On the positive side, this meant I remained quite calm; on the negative, it meant I was pretty much in denial.
Thursday rolled around, and I was pretty sure June had not changed position – she felt the same as she always had, and they had warned me that if she did flip it would probably be fairly painful. My appointment was at 9am, and this time, John came with me.
It all happened pretty quickly — my doctor took a look at the ultrasound, confirmed she was still breech, and then told us that my amniotic fluid was too low and that we had to head to the hospital, because she was going to be delivered by c-section that day.
And then I started to cry. I felt very powerless at that moment — I wasn’t a doctor, so it wasn’t like I could look at the ultrasound and argue that no, it actually would be okay to wait a few more days. I knew if she was breech she would have to be delivered by c-section, but I did not feel at all prepared for it to happen that day. I wanted a few more days to wrap things up at home and at work, and to wrap my mind around what was happening. As I sobbed in the car outside the doctor’s office to John, I just kept saying, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready.” I also was very concerned that June would be small and unhealthy, which I think stemmed from my doctor saying she was measuring small and also that she would be delivered before 39 weeks. (I had actually said to John the day before, “What if she’s only four pounds when she’s born??” Not terribly likely, but that was where my head was at.)
That half hour was my most intense mourning period for the birth that might have been. I had thought I was going into labor with open hands, but it had never occurred to me that I might have a c-section. I had done a lot to mentally and physically prepare myself for labor, and I was looking forward to experiencing it with John by my side. I wanted this ultimate and uniquely womanly experience, painful though it might be. And besides, everything I had read about c-sections (which admittedly was not much) made them seem bad, painful, and almost shameful — plus with a terrible recovery to boot.
Eventually I regained my composure just a bit, and John called our doula to let her know what was going on. She encouraged us to go home before heading to the hospital, which we did. We had brought some of our hospital supplies with us to the appointment, but only halfheartedly, as again, we didn’t really think we’d be admitted that day. We spent about an hour at home, finishing packing and getting the cats prepared for a few days without us. I also took a shower and re-did my makeup, telling myself I was going to flip the switch on a positive attitude and put the kibosh on crying. We took this photo right outside the hospital:
Of course, tears again sprang to my eyes as we checked in (“this is not how I thought it would be!”), and then again when the nurse showed us to our room on the delivery floor. After she shut the door behind us to let us get settled, I asked John to pray over all three of us, which he did. When our poor nurse returned and started going through the intake procedures, I again started to cry. She was confused at first, but so kind and encouraging after we told her a bit about our circumstances. Thankfully, those were my final sad tears of the day :) Two things she said that began to help turn my outlook around: you can always have a VBAC next time, and you’re going to meet your daughter today! We also texted our families to let them know what was going on, and their love and enthusiasm helped us get more excited and lifted the emotional weight a bit.
The next two hours passed fairly quickly as I had blood drawn, got hooked up to the fetal heartbeat monitor, received two bags of fluid through an IV, was briefed by the anesthesiologist, and had to drink a nasty liquid to avoid reflux during surgery, among other preparations. We got to listen to our girl’s heartbeat the whole time, which was the best soundtrack we could ask for. Then, after a last check via ultrasound to make sure she was still breech, John and I walked back to the operating room hand in hand.
We parted ways at the door, as husbands have to wait outside and get suited up in full sterile gear while the final preparations take place. I took my seat on the operating table under the bright lights and realized I felt very calm. This, I believe, was a supernatural peace, one that I was so grateful to receive… I don’t believe it was a coincidence I had declared “peace” my word for 2016 just a few days earlier.
So there I sat in my bubble of peace as all sorts of people bustled around me – there must have been ten different ladies and gents in there, from the surgical assistants to the nurse anesthetist to the baby nurse. One gave me two heated blankets to keep warm since it was so cold, and then our anesthesiologist put in the spinal block, which wasn’t painful. They lowered me back onto the table, put up the surgical drape, and before I knew it, they got started and John showed up next to my head, squeezing my hand.
The first sensation I remember feeling was what felt like someone roughly kneading my stomach. This was not pleasant. After just a few minutes, though, we heard a little gurgly cry!!! June was immediately brought to the warmer, and John left my side to go to hers. He reappeared a minute later, assuring me that she was “so cute!!” Another wave of relief washed over me, as I figured if he was talking about her level of cuteness, she probably had two arms, two legs, and weighed more than four pounds :)
We had asked for as prompt and as much skin to skin time as possible, and thankfully our hospital was receptive to this. June was placed on my chest just a few minutes after she was born, while they were still delivering the placenta (I think? Couldn’t see, so I’m not really sure what was happening down there that whole time!). Unfortunately, a few minutes later, I started to gag (a side effect of the anesthesia), so they took June back over to the warmer briefly. They used the time to clean her up a bit more and take some measurements, then brought her back to me once I had stabilized. We stayed that way for maybe half an hour more, admiring our sweet girl and marveling at what had just happened. She was here! She was beautiful! She was healthy!!
As I think back on June’s birthday, I find so much beauty in it all, but especially in this: that morning, I was so desperate to delay her arrival by just a few more days. As soon as we met her, though, I wouldn’t have wanted to delay her arrival by even a minute. Perfect timing, indeed.
Happy Mother’s Day to the mamas, the moms-to-be, and the mothers at heart.