Wow. They say each birth is different but I think we got quite the example of that. It took me several days to piece together what happened, as I emerged from somewhat of a twilight zone, recovering from surgery, but holding a healthy beautiful girl. It's been taking time to emotionally process too since in many ways we are very lucky everything turned out alright - perfect baby, and although mama is scarred up, I should heal completely - but it was a rather scary experience.
Let me recount. First, with Tesla, I started labor at night, and was home for 12 hours before heading to the hospital. After arriving, it took another 3 hours or so before I opted for pain relief. In the end, I had a c-section because her heartbeat kept dropping. Both Dav and I were involved in the decision with the doctors and we felt comfortable. Overall, it was a 30 hour ordeal, but somewhat manageable. Birth is difficult no matter what, and we were happy with our healthy baby and a relatively easy recovery.
For this birth I had a doula, lovely Sasha, scheduled to work with me while at home, and to help me make informed decisions as needed. That was the one additional thing I felt I needed compared to last time. Other than that, my only goal was a healthy baby, and to be as present as possible in the birth process. Except we got quite the curve ball.
This time, I woke up on 5/20 to a small puddle on the bed. My water never broke with Tesla and it took me a while to figure out that the minor trickling was very likely my water. Knowing this meant things would start but could take a long time, Dav, T, and I went to get breakfast at a coffee shop. Dav was going to work, and I planned to drive T to pre-school. But by the time I finished my coffee, I already lost my appetite which was a sign to me. By the time we left the coffee shop, I told Dav he needed to take me home because I was actually feeling slight contractions. I still pushed Dav to go to work, thinking I would labor this initial stage alone just fine.
Toni came over to drop off a yoga ball I wanted to use for labor, and she got me an iPhone app that timed contractions. They were already somewhat painful. At 2.5 minutes apart, 30 seconds long, I thought it was still early since contractions should be a minute long. I sent Toni home, imagining hours more to come. Lizzie then came to keep me company, and I warned her it'd be pretty boring, yet within 30 minutes, my memory already starts to get blurry with pain (Lizzie says I was swearing). At this point, it must have been 90 minutes since my very first inkling of a contraction. Soon I was having Lizzie time the contractions, help me into the shower to ease pain, and finally call Dav home as I was getting concerned. The in-between time never got longer than 2.5 minutes so labor was quite demanding. I called Sasha who couldn't show up for another hour, and my back-up doula was 45 minutes away. The shower didn't really help with the pain, so once Dav was back, he helped me out, and all I remember was shortly after, I felt another surge, and just knew I needed to get to the hospital doula or not.
The car ride? Hell.
Dav parked in front of the hospital and there was a nurse waiting with a discharged patient. She ran up, and I recall hanging on to her and Dav to help me into the hospital. I couldn't walk on my own. The stupid wheel chair wasn't comfortable but helped me not walk so I sat on the edge as they wheeled me in. Dav had to leave the car as is. We didn't have time to call the hospital so basically we showed up unannounced in active labor. They were full so said they'd prepare the operating room for me (not to operate but to use for labor). One funny thing I remember is as they prepared the room, they put Dav and me in the general waiting room with other families, with me whimpering or moaning as I faced the wall. I didn't really care, but thought it must have been a bit of a scene for those families!
I do remember getting onto the bed to get checked, and hearing I was 5 cm. This was probably a bit over 2 hours at this point. The pain I was feeling was way more than anything I felt with Tesla, and after talking to Dav and nurses later on, I suspect my memory is blank in a lot of areas as I was in deep labor mode. I labored I guess for another 30 minutes or so. There was conversation about pain medication, and apparently that was the one lucid moment when I came out and said I wanted to start slow until my doula arrived (not wanting a full epidural from the get-go). I also remember asking clearly, "is the baby's heartbeat ok?" while being checked, since that was a major concern for me.
Our baby (still no name..) was fine initially. But at some moment, apparently her heartbeat dropped suddenly and stayed there. When Sasha had arrived, she walked past the various monitors, and saw mine that was flashing emergency with a clear downward graph. By then, I was already under general anesthesia, and the baby was being pulled out via c-section.
Just before that, from my perspective, I had been laboring with the help of nurses, groaning very deeply which seemed to help. Apparently Dav was massaging my back too. Then suddenly, I saw a huge team of masked doctors descend upon me, and I heard "we have to get the baby out now," and the anesthesiologist came to me with a gas mask. He said he had to put me under for an emergency c-section, and when I said I wanted to be conscious, he replied, "sorry, we don't have the time." I took 2 breaths, and that was it. She was born at 12:50, 4 hours since everything began.
Normally, I should have awoken after the baby was born. But when I awoke, it was 7pm (I think I saw a clock; not sure how I knew it was 7), and I was in the PACU post anesthesia recovery room separate from the delivery department. A nurse came by and briefly said I'd had bladder surgery, and when I asked if my baby was ok, she said "I think so but I don't know." I was heavily drugged which was good since I was stuck there for 30 minutes or so before they wheeled me back to the delivery area, the whole time not knowing if my baby was ok or not.
As I waited for Dav to come to me, I started wondering if he would walk in with red eyes having to deliver devastating news to me. I had no idea what had all happened since I went under. I can't describe the relief, joy, and deep love I felt when he walked in holding our new baby girl. And she was perfect, and so beautiful. It still makes me cry to think of that thin line I experienced that could have been the before and after of horrible news.
What happened to me, was in the rush of the emergency c-section, my bladder was cut. And I think I recall even hearing that the team had to pull the baby partially through it or something complicated. Getting the baby out safely was priority for sure, and the fact that I should have full recovery makes it not that bad. I do have to have a pee bag stuck to my leg for a few weeks as my bladder heals though. Tesla thinks it's funny, and apparently told all her friends during school circle time!
In addition, however, and more scary, is the doctors discovered I actually had velamentous cord insertion, which means the umbilical cord connected in an unusual way, making some veins less protected than normal. We will never know what caused little baby's heart rate to suddenly drop and stay low, but there is a possibility this VCI condition was part of it (the exposed veins were being cut off as labor intensified so the baby was not getting the blood she needed). Either way, the baby was in danger, and we feel very lucky to have been in the hospital when this happened. I like to think that somehow my body knew something was not normal, and thus went into labor 4 days early at what seems like rapid acceleration to get her out quickly. I could barely keep up with the labor, and almost went off the deep end. I am so thankful to the Kaiser staff who quickly took us in, and in that crucial moment, produced a competent emergency team in a split second. The nurses who helped me heal the following days were incredible, and I had 4 different doctors come talk to me about all that happened. So very grateful that in the end, we have our healthy cute baby, and I should be as good as new relatively soon.
As always, big kudos to my husband. He was just as bewildered about everything but hung in there. While I was under, he stayed with our daughter, fed her, bathed her, changed her first diaper - exactly what I would have wanted. I have that wash of renewed love for him for being my partner in all this. And I should add that Tesla has been awesome. She spent 3 days with Jeremy and Fia while Dav and I were away, never complaining. And when she came to visit me, she was clearly surprised at how small her sister is, having never seen a newborn, but quickly got over that and loves holding her and helping me. She's done diapers, will fetch things I need when I am stuck feeding, and has even started a load of laundry for me!
Thank you to JR who totally stepped up to take care of T, bringing her to Kaiser, and taking amazing photos of the first moments together. Elida for visiting, and helping with my first "shower" (body wipe) with the nurse. Now I have nothing to hide from her! Mike and Lizzie who brought to the hospital a spread of gourmet food so I could survive hospital grub after I mentioned I wanted "a pastry." To Rachel and Michelle who keep checking in, sending and bringing gifts. The many flower deliveries : ) Lorene who came over with bags of groceries and cooked up several meals worth of food for us. And everyone who gave support digitally. This time around, I really needed to lean on friends who helped me stay put vs. attempting to move around too much.
Dav and I now have 2 daughters, and it's pretty awesome. I love the newborn stage and am so thankful she is here safe and sound. I am looking forward to discovering who she is.