Birth Plans (Part 6)

This is another post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (View the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

“Have you had any bleeding?” the sonographer asked.
This doesn’t sound good, I thought. It was my 20-week ultrasound, and my husband, sister Heidi and I had just learned I was carrying a girl. My first daughter!
“No,” I said. “Why?”
“Well . . . it looks like you have a placenta previa.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s when your placenta covers part of your cervix.” (The placenta is the organ that grows inside the womb. It’s sends all the nutrient and oxygen-rich blood through the umbilical cord to the baby. The cervix is the baby’s exit door. Placenta previa is when the baby’s lifeline covers their exit door.)
“What does it mean?” I asked.
“Well . . .” she hesitated. “It means you might need a C-section. The doctor will explain more.”
“Okay,” I said. That didn’t sound so bad. I didn’t really want a C-section, but I didn’t really want to go through labor again either!

The ultrasound concluded and we waited to meet with the OB doctor. She spoke very calmly and kindly: “Often, this resolves. As the uterus grows during the pregnancy, the placenta often migrates up and away from the cervix. Sometimes a previa is partial, where the cervix is partially covered. Those are more likely to resolve. Yours is a complete previa, so your cervix is fully covered. The risk here is excessive bleeding from the placenta. Babies can asphyxiate in the womb due to excessive blood loss. This also increases your risk for blood transfusions. Sometimes we deliver the baby early if there is a lot of bleeding, but it depends on how far along you are. Most babies who make it to 34 weeks won’t suffer neurological damage . . . but again, this often resolves. We’ll do another ultrasound at 30 weeks to see where this is at. If you have any bleeding, let us know.”

I could tell she didn’t want to upset me, and I held it together for awhile. But when we arrived back at my mom’s house to pick up our son, I sat in the car and cried. “It almost feels like I shouldn’t get attached to her,” I cried. “But it’s too late! I already am!”

David and I talked and prayed together, and then we went inside and showed our son a picture of his baby sister. I wanted to focus on the happy news of carrying a daughter, but was struggling. I didn’t care about labor or C-sections now that “asphyxiate in the womb,” “blood transfusions” and “neurological damage” were stuck in my head. I just wanted my baby to be okay.

To be continued . . . 

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Birth Plans (Part 5)

This is another post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (View the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

It was 4:00 AM and the doctor-on-call yawned as I pushed out the baby. David and I had decided to wait to find out the gender (which meant we had lots of rubber-ducky baby clothes), and after a short time the doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” It was a relief to hear those words and know the labor and delivery were finally over and I could hold my prize. As I reached to take my son for the first time, he started peeing all over me . . . but I didn’t care.

I held and nursed him awhile, then my nurse helped me to the bathroom so I could get cleaned up, and I finally saw what others had been seeing . . . my hair looked awful. It was matted up and stuck to the back of my head in a really hideous way. Laboring in the tub had made it wet, and then tossing my head during contractions had matted it up (in the picture, it looks like it’s sticking up because I’m leaning against the bed, but it was sticking up like that all by itself). When my mom saw me, she left and came back with a de-tangling spray and carefully combed it out.

David and I hadn’t landed on a name for our baby prior to his birth, but we had narrowed it down to our favorites. We decided he looked more like a “Brayden” than an “Ethan,” and announced it to our family and friends.

I was a little embarrassed to admit to others that my plans for an all-natural childbirth had fallen through. I didn’t know why my labor was dysfunctional, so it seemed I must’ve labored “wrong”. But I was holding my healthy baby, and those feelings faded into the background.

We took Brayden home and got to know each other. I nursed him constantly, felt chronically sleep-deprived, endured many headaches, and felt all the while like I was doing what I was born to do. Once, at one of his well-child checks, I asked the doctor why Brayden kept waking me up at night. “You could try giving him rice cereal to keep him full longer,” said the doctor.
“Are you talking about Rice Krispies?” I asked.
“No! Don’t give that kid Rice Krispies!” he said. “Rice cereal. It’s in the baby aisle.”

Two years later we decided to grow our family by another, and I was facing — now with dread instead of confidence — another labor experience. But at my 20-week ultrasound I received some unexpected news . . .

To be continued . . .

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Birth Plans (Part 4)

This is the fourth post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (View the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

David said he could see it on my face — that I looked hopeless. The last several hours of strong labor had produced no progress, and my cervix (baby’s exit door) was thickening back up. For the first time, I started considering pain relief. I was doing my best to cope and it wasn’t enough.

Since I am the nerd who carefully reads all the material from my doctor’s office and does additional reading and research, I knew there were two primary types of pain relief in labor: IV pain relief to take the edge off, and epidurals (tube of medication placed in the epidural space below the spinal cord) to cause numbness in the lower half. I also knew there were some possible side-effects to both, so I opted for the IV pain relief first. The results were quick, and while contractions still hurt, I was falling asleep in between. The nurse came back as the medication started to wear off, and told me I was at nine centimeters . . . not quite far enough to deliver the baby. I had tasted the wonders of medication and did NOT want to go back to hard labor and zero progress. I decided to get the epidural.

“Epidurals are wonderful things, Julie,” said my nurse. “I’ve had epidurals for my two deliveries, and everything went fine.” The anesthesiologist arrived, and stared at me for a moment (I found out later why).
“Do you consent to the epidural?” he asked. “Rare complications include seizure, spinal headache, and paralysis.”
I sat on the edge of the bed, shivering from the labor. “Yes, okay,” I said.

The epidural was placed and I laid back down. Soon I noticed my right side going numb, but could still feel lots of pain on my left side. “I’m not going paralyzed, am I?” I asked my nurse, half joking, half unsure what going paralyzed would feel like (or not feel like).
“No, you’re not,” she said. “Lay on your left side to try and drain the medication over.” Laying on my side didn’t fix the problem, so the anesthesiologist came back in to straighten the tube . . . and the beautiful peace of numbness was mine. I fell asleep, totally exhausted, and woke up two hours later to the doctor-on-call setting up for delivery.

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Birth Plans (Part 3)

This is the third post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (Read the previous post here, or start at the beginning here.)

“You’re stalling out on us, Julie,” the OB doctor-on-call said when she arrived. “Why don’t you labor in the tub a bit more? Maybe things will pick up.” I labored in the tub awhile, but didn’t enjoy it any more than the first time, and eventually laid back down.

A shift-change occurred, and I was assigned a new labor nurse. She told David to help me breathe, since I was hyperventilating and gritting my teeth during contractions. He encouraged me to breathe properly, and I encouraged him to shut up . . . (not really — he was very sweet).

Meanwhile, my parents, younger sister, brother-in-law and baby nephew arrived and waited in the waiting room. My sister had delivered her firstborn one month prior, and had not used pain-relief. My Mom had done the same with her deliveries. It was my time to prove I was one of the girls (any pressure I felt was self-inflicted — they are too modest to brag). David went out to greet everyone and update them on my progress (or lack of it). “Great news!” He said when he came back. “Your sister says when she made it to six centimeters everything went really quickly!”
“Everybody’s different,” I said.

Two hours later, the Doctor came back and told me I was still at six centimeters, and needed to choose between Pitocin (synthetic Oxytocin via an IV, to strengthen labor), or having my water broken (also meant to strengthen labor). I had been at the hospital ten hours with two centimeters of progress. I was still committed to completing my labor medication-free, so I opted to have my water broken. Labor became stronger, and I started noticing pain in my lower back.

My nurse suggested different labor positions in an attempt to relieve the back pain, but they only seemed to make the pain worse. Finally, an hour after my water was broken, I received good news: “You’re at eight centimeters,” my nurse said. “You’ll probably start to feel like pushing soon, so call me when you notice anything.”

Several hours passed and I didn’t have the urge to push. Around midnight, she checked my progress again. “You’re still at eight centimeters and your cervix is thickening back up,” she said. “You need to relax.”

Several thoughts ran through my mind at that point, including, “I didn’t know it was possible to reverse progress . . .” and, “I really don’t want to be in labor for the rest of my life . . .” and, “I wonder if she’s ever had a baby . . .”

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Birth Plans (Part 2)


This is the second post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage. (Read the first post here.)

Before heading to the hospital, I took some time to put on my make-up and fix my hair. I had remembered seeing pictures of my beautiful mother after her first childbirth, and I didn’t want to look as awful as she had (sorry Mom!) for my hospital pictures . . .

We followed the 5-1-1 rule we had been taught in our childbirth class (contractions coming five minutes apart, lasting a minute each, for one hour) as our sign it was time to leave for the hospital, and arrived around 10AM on a Monday morning.

“I think I’m in labor,” I told the lady behind the desk at the maternity ward. We were led to a triage unit where I was assigned a labor nurse who told me I was four centimeters dilated. That was encouraging, but my nurse wasn’t convinced.
“Why don’t you either go home until labor picks up a bit more, or walk the halls for awhile?” she suggested. I opted to walk. After two hours, contractions had picked up. I was doubling over, groaning and grabbing those convenient hand-rails lining the halls. My labor nurse seemed quite pleased, and told my husband “We’ll be admitting her.”

She led me to my labor/delivery room and offered to run some bath water so I could labor in the tub awhile. The tub wasn’t as great as I had imagined . . . neither was the rocking chair or the birthing ball. The nurse came around 2 o’clock and told me my four hours at the hospital of walking/tub/birthing ball/rocking chair had produced another entire centimeter, “Maybe even a centimeter and a half,” she said (I’m pretty sure the “half” was meant as a morale-booster).

I spent the next four hours walking/rocking/resting, and squeezing David’s hand really tightly. By 6 o’clock my progress had seemed to stop around 6 centimeters, so the OB doctor on call came to see me.

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Birth Plans (Part 1)

This is the first post in a series on how God has changed me through the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth, and miscarriage.

This week my first-born celebrated his sixth birthday. I love being his mom. He’s grown in many ways, but he still has a really great belly-laugh that he’s had from early on, and it makes me laugh just listening. I’m a different person in many ways too, since that awful/beautiful day six years ago . . .

Heading into my first childbirth experience, I felt completely confident. I had experienced many painful periods (don’t laugh), and was prepared to endure the pain as long as necessary. I estimated labor would last 24 hours since that’s how long my Mom’s first labor had lasted. I had prepared as best I knew how, reading the Your Pregnancy & Childbirth book I received from my OB’s office, and attending the childbirth classes at the hospital.

One night after class, I approached the childbirth educator. “What’s the best way to avoid a C-section?” I asked (I had read the U.S. C-section rates were around 30% and that made me a little nervous).
“Put off the epidural as long as possible,” she answered.
“I’m not planning to have one . . . unless I really need it,” I said. The “unless I really need it” part was just me being polite. Since I knew I was tough and God didn’t invent epidurals, I was totally confident I wouldn’t need one to have a baby . . .

A week before my due-date my OB said I had dilated two centimeters. “That’s great!” he said. “That usually means a shorter labor, since you’re already dilated this far as a first-time mom.” That was encouraging, but I was still mentally preparing for a 24-hour marathon, just in case.

I hadn’t been sleeping well because it was getting hard to be comfortable at night, so I started sleeping in our blue recliner. Around 6AM on a Monday morning (due date was Friday), I woke up with my first painful contraction. I walked around the house a bit to see if the contractions would keep coming, while hubby got out the stop-watch and started timing them. They weren’t all that powerful or close together, but they kept coming, so we ate breakfast and got ready for the hospital.

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