A Birth Story
I sit here at home with my baby belly popping out so much it hurts, and with my due date looming just over five weeks away, it finally feels like the right time to share my birth story from my first-born, nearly two years later.
I was overdue by about three days and was hoping and praying labor would begin. Finally, on June 26th, 2019 I was woken up at 2 AM after having a dream my water had broken. In my waddle trip to the bathroom, it felt like maybe it was more than a dream. I knew if it was my water I would have a long day ahead, so I opted to go back to sleep. I woke up around 7 and called my midwife to ask what I should do. The wonderful nurse who plays a big role later in this story, Joy, said it was best to come in to be tested to see if my water truly did break. After some testing at the office, it sure had, so they sent me to the hospital. Game time!
Or so I thought…I jetted off to the hospital, only to find my contractions were slow going, along with my dilation. I walked the halls, but despite regular contractions as well as all-natural options to get things going, I just wasn’t dilating as expected. By this time it had been many hours, and was around 4 PM. My mom was there supporting me along with my doula and husband. I was lucky to have such a team, and let me tell you, I definitely wore them all into the ground by the end of the night.
Once 4 PM hit, my midwife suggested to start me on Pitocin. It can jump-start labor, and also can greatly increase the pain associated with contractions. The Pitocin definitely got my labor going, and also kicked me in the teeth in the process. Despite trying to stay in a relaxed state, laboring in the bath, and being fully supported, things got incredibly intense, beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I had a fear of getting an epidural, but my goodness would have loved the pain relief. Intense, spasm-like back labor and the contractions combined made for a very long, crazy period, where I’m positive I turned into a complete and total three-eyed monster.
I distinctly remember getting to a point where I really believed I wasn’t going to be able to do it anymore. I told everyone in the room I couldn’t do it, and shortly after I spoke those words, there I was meeting my new beautiful daughter. Astelle Jean Allen was born at 11:43 PM, crying and perfect as can be. I was so relieved, and felt a happiness and elation I will never forget. I was also exhausted, and so happy I would have my night to rest with my baby by my side.
A Life-Saving After-Birth Story
The first two hours after delivery were wonderful. I held Astelle close for the first hour, and even started nursing her. I didn’t even care that she wasn’t cleaned up, just didn’t want to let her go, except to eat a cheeseburger of course. Around 1 AM, I sent my mom home, and my husband, Drake as well so he could get a change of clothes and come back. I thought it would be a quiet night. It was anything but quiet.
As soon as Drake left I remember trying to fall asleep, but being unable to. The two nurses on shift that night, Claire and Joy kept returning every 15 minutes to check on me, and they noticed my bleeding wasn’t slowing as expected. It was hard for me not to notice as well. Every time they did an assessment, my uterus was firm as it should be, yet my bleeding just kept getting worse. I felt rush after rush of blood escaping me, and with each rush came more concern from my nurses. Something was wrong – I was hemorrhaging.
Joy and Claire ran down the list of interventions to stop the bleeding: first more Pitocin. Didn’t work. Then Cytotec, and when that didn’t work they tried a Methergine IM injection. Didn’t work. Hemmobate IM injection and TXA infusion. Didn’t work. With every new intervention they introduced, I felt my body getting more weary. They weighed the blood in what looked like small buckets as it escaped my body, and I just kept seeing the numbers climb on the white board. 500 ml of blood loss is considered a hemorrhage in a natural delivery, and the white board numbers were already above 2,000. They let me know the midwife and doctor were on their way and they began a blood transfusion. All the while, they were so caring and compassionate with me. I knew I was in good hands, despite the way things were falling to the ground so quickly. I knew I needed to call my mom and husband, as I could feel myself losing consciousness. My moms phone was off. She was dead tired, and I knew it. Hearing this news wouldn’t be good for her, so a part of me was relieved I couldn’t reach her. My vitals began to change as I experienced a rapid heartbeat and extremely low blood pressure. I remember looking around the room at everyone shuffling quickly around me whether it was giving fluids, an injection, pressing on my belly. Things began moving slowly and I could feel myself fading. The number on the white board kept being added to, and I knew it was anything but good. I needed things to be good – a daughter needs her mom, and our time together had been too brief. I had so much more love I needed to give her. I needed the white board to stop being added to. The numbers needed to stop climbing so I could just hold my baby.
Drake arrived in time only to be given a piece of paper to sign off on emergency surgery. From there, they rolled me out of the room for a DNC and bakri balloon, all in a renewed attempt to stop the bleeding. I so badly wanted to be asleep and distinctly remember asking the doctor if he would put me to sleep for this part because I didn’t think I could handle anything more. He did just that. After the surgery, three more blood transfusions and over 2,800 ml of total blood loss, the hemorrhaging finally stopped. The white board stopped being added to. I had lost over half my blood volume, but I was going to be okay.
As the next couple of days passed, I felt as though I was in a haze. I wanted to be solely focused on my new beautiful baby. I wanted to bond with her and love on her. I wanted to talk about the labor and delivery with my friends and send photos to everyone of my new little girl. I wanted all of these things, but I stayed in a foggy cloud, wondering what went wrong and how I was still even alive. Claire, who had been one of the nurses who helped save my life that night returned for another shift a day or two after the event. She sat down my husband, my mom and I, and explained to us all what happened that dark night. She went over every detail, how serious it was, and exuded the same amount of compassion and care as she did the night I was in crisis with her. A post-partum hemorrhage is anything more than 500 ml of blood loss after a natural delivery. She had seen that before. I lost 2,800+ ml. She had never seen this amount in all her time on the OB floor. I was lucky.
Except I wasn’t just lucky. I was taken care of by an amazing team who watched me closely, even when the two hour “watch” window had ended. If it weren’t for Joy and Claire being as amazing and careful as they were, my ending could have been so drastically different. They followed all the signs, and alerted the midwife and doctor just in time. To say I’m grateful is a gross understatement.
When I think about the birth of my daughter, I no longer feel dread and trauma, like I did initially after the birth. I feel comfort, gratitude and love, knowing that even when things go wrong things can be made right with the right amount of compassion, care and love. I feel so much of this, I’m about to go for round two with my second baby. I am at risk for all of this happening all over again, but let’s just see what the world wants to throw at me. I’ll be ready. The beautiful thing in all of this is I was able to go home with a beautiful little girl, who turned Drake and I into a family. If we can add some more love and expand the family a little more with this new little boy, anything it takes to get there will be worth it. I’ll be in good hands, and knowing that not only makes me grateful, but it makes me confident in the uncertain future ahead.