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Comments OffApril 14, 2014

Erin’s Story: My HBC

This is hard to write. It is not the story I thought I would be telling. I thought I would be writing about how wonderful it was to be the first one to hold my baby, to have him snuggled up on my chest within seconds of his birth, to be at home, surrounded by familiar things, able to curl up in our own bed and not have nurses, doctors and all manner of personnel interrupting our rest and bonding time. About how all the work we did and the support we had made all the difference in achieving the birth we wanted.

But that is not the story that Levi had to tell.

After 5-6 weeks of off and on contractions and feeling like the watched pot that never boils I was SO ready to have this baby! On Friday, the day I was officially 42 weeks pregnant, we had some tests done to check on Levi’s health. Everything checked out well, the ultrasound showed he was in a good position to be born, and during the heart monitoring portion I was contracting every 6 minutes, though not painfully. We went walking afterward for an hour and the contractions promptly stopped. Ha!

We had planned with our wonderful midwife Jenn to try a castor oil induction on Saturday to encourage Levi to come on out and meet us. I took the doses as planned, started taking some labor-inducing homeopathics every hour and following the rest of the protocol which included lots of walking and movement interspersed with naps and rest, a bath, certain foods, etc. By the time dinner rolled around I was a mess. I was SO discouraged, exhausted from the long day of following the protocol and focusing so much on labor with what felt like no results. I disappeared to the bedroom and sobbed for about 45 minutes.

After that I felt better, so I got up and ate some delicious chicken curry soup that a friend had graciously dropped off. It was time for Clara to go to bed so, as usual, I snuggled up in bed with her as she was falling asleep. She put her arm around my neck and said, “I love you Mama. You are so brave.” I don’t know what made her say that, but I clung to those words the rest of the night. Within a few seconds of her eyes drifting closed, a strong contraction hit me. I thought, “well that was different!” and lay still in her bed to see if more would come. Sure enough, about 3 minutes later another one hit. After that one was over I got up and walked into the kitchen. The contractions continued coming every 3-4 minutes and they were getting more intense. I couldn’t sit through them and soon I couldn’t walk either, I had to lean on something and slowly circle my hips to get through. I told Luke, “You’d better set up the pool!” I had been messaging with my midwife and a bit later I heard Luke call, “Jenn just said she is heading over soon!” I also told my doula that it would be great if she could come as soon as possible.

I was having a lot of pain in my hips, so Luke would press them together for me during contractions. I kept telling him, “HARDER!” He was so sweet, trying to get everything ready. My doula arrived and kept reminding me to breath slowly. She also put cool wash cloths on my neck and forehead, which felt wonderful. I was both hot and cold and shaking a lot at this point. I was on the bed, alternating between lying down and getting on hands and knees during contractions so Luke could squeeze my hips better. At some point I heard, “Jenn is here” and I immediately felt relieved. My whole birth team was together, my contractions were strong and hard and soon, we would meet our precious baby boy! I kept asking them if the tub was ready and finally, it was. I’m not sure how I walked from the bedroom to the living room, where the tub was, I know Luke and Bree helped me. As I got to the tub I felt another contraction starting and practically threw my hugely pregnant body into the water! Luke and Bree were by my head, encouraging me, holding my hands, putting cool compresses on me. The warm water felt SO good. I had started pushing with some of my contractions in the bedroom and things quickly got more intense again in the tub. Some contractions I could just breath through and I kept thinking about opening wide and just breathing the baby down and out. Other contractions I absolutely HAD to push with and I would pretty much roar my way through them. When we talked afterward, all of us said how surprised we felt at the time that Clara slept through everything! We didn’t hear one peep from her, even though, as my midwife said, “You weren’t holding back!” I felt so grateful to my birth team for trusting my body, not urging me to keep pushing or do anything that didn’t feel right but just to continue doing what my body wanted to do.

At one point early on in the tub I reached down to see if I could feel the baby’s head, and I could, but it was still fairly high (at least it felt so to me). I continued to breath and/or push with my contractions, whatever felt right. I had had some pain in my abdomen and it seemed to be getting worse. It was right around my scar and I told everyone, “It HURTS!” Jenn asked where it hurt, if it was a sharp, stabbing pain, I said no, it was a burning pain. After awhile in the tub I felt for the baby again and it didn’t feel like his head had moved at all. That was when I started to get discouraged. I began saying things like, “What if he doesn’t come out?” (because it felt like he wouldn’t) “It doesn’t feel like he is moving at all” and “What if my body is broken?” Everyone was so encouraging but I continued to have a bad feeling about the birth and knew I wasn’t handling things like I had wanted to. It hurt so much more than I remembered with Clara, even though I pushed for 4 hours with her. Jenn suggested changing positions and since I had been in a couple of positions in the tub, we decided to move to the bathroom where I could sit on the toilet. That trip was horrible. Out of the water I was freezing cold, even though everyone was trying to wrap me up in warm towels. I’m not sure how long I stayed on the toilet but it wasn’t much better and I felt like I couldn’t hold myself up anymore. Jenn checked the baby’s heartbeat several times during this whole period and it was always good. She saw I was getting pretty tired and suggested that maybe I move to the bed, where I could really rest in between contractions.

But I couldn’t rest. The pain across my scar got progressively worse the more I pushed and it didn’t go away between contractions. I don’t think many contractions went by on the bed before my midwives went out to the kitchen for a minute. Jenn came back in and said she thought it was time to head to the hospital. Those words brought both huge relief and huge disappointment. I knew something was wrong and I needed help. But I had also worked so hard for this beautiful home birth that I saw crumbling before my eyes. Jenn said I had been pushing for awhile and baby hadn’t moved down much, the pain across my scar was concerning, and I was developing  a “bubble” across my lower abdomen, right above my scar, which neither she nor the other midwife had ever seen before. At that point I was so, so thankful for the trusting relationship we had been able to build in a very short time. I knew that she understood how much this birth meant to me and would not take me in prematurely. I also knew I could completely trust her to do what was necessary and best for me and the baby.

So, while someone called the hospital to let them know we were coming, Luke started the truck, called a friend to come stay at the house (where Clara was STILL asleep!!) and Bree helped me get some clothes on. I’m not sure how we managed it. I was in so much pain and the contractions were still hard, strong and very close together. She told me later that I had 3 contractions just while we were putting my pants on. Somehow I got dressed and out to the truck where Luke almost threw me in and then drove 50 miles per hour on back roads all the way to the hospital. It took about 10 minutes and there are no words I can appropriately use to describe how horrendous that trip was! Several of the roads were full of potholes and I was NOT a happy camper!

When we arrived at the hospital I practically fell out of the truck into Luke’s arms and somehow, with him holding me up from behind and Jenn holding my hand, we made it into the lobby where I collapsed into a wheelchair. Up we went to the women’s and children’s unit. This part is a little blurry. I was rushed straight to a room, had an IV put in, the OB came and looked at me, I remember looking at Jenn and then nodding my head yes for some drugs. They put a monitor on me to check baby’s heart rate, which was still good. Jenn was trying to explain about the “bubble” and at one point I had a catheter in to see if that bubble was my distended bladder. It wasn’t. Then the OB checked me during a contraction and concurred that Levi was in a funny position. There was some conversation about resting and pushing him out but, yet again, even with the meds I was in a lot of pain and wasn’t able to rest at all, even between contractions. I learned later this whole time was about 15 minutes but it felt like an eternity and I just wanted to scream, “Something is wrong, get me into the OR!” But everyone else seemed so calm. Funny how your perception can be so off during labor, Jenn told me later she was incredibly frustrated at the seemingly laid-back attitude in the room as well, since she also knew something was not right. Then, the baby’s heart rate went high and flat. There was no variation except for some decelerations during contractions, which were not a good sign. Instantly, and finally, the room came alive. The OB was in my face asking for permission to do a c-section. I glanced around the room, filled with my supportive birth team. I looked at Luke, then at Jenn. Their eyes all said, “yes” and confirmed what I had known since the time we left home: no VBAC for this mama and baby. I said “yes” to the OB as fast as I could and he started putting things in motion. They had to call in the anesthesiologist and even as I was in the OR getting my spinal put in, they were still calling for the second surgeon. I was SO cold this whole time and shaking, thankfully the nurses kept bringing more warm blankets to put over me.

Once I was numb and lying back down, they brought Luke in. I had asked everyone I could if Jenn could come in as well, but they all told me, “Only one person.” I was also telling everyone I could to please wait as long as possible to clamp his cord, please give him to me as soon as possible, I want my baby as soon as possible, don’t take him away. During both of my c-sections, it has been amazing to me how fast they cut me open and got the baby out. It seemed only seconds from the anesthesiologist asking me, “Can you feel that?” and me saying, “I feel pressure but it doesn’t hurt, but I can feel it” and him replying, “Well, they already have you cut, so you’re good” and then Levi was out and we could hear his strong, healthy cry. He was born at 2:01 am on Sunday, January 12th.

As I knew they would, they handed him off to the pediatrician behind the curtain where I couldn’t see him, only hear his crying. He cried and cried and it seemed like they took forever to check him over and clean him up. I kept calling to him and talking to him, telling him, “Baby boy, Mama’s right here! It’s okay baby, Mama’s here. I’m right here sweet boy, it’s okay…” he would pause briefly each time and then start screaming again. I was also pleading with anyone who would listen, “PLEASE bring me my baby! Please bring him to me as SOON as you can!!! Please give me my baby!!!” This is absolutely the hardest part of the birth for me to think about. It tore my heart apart to have to beg for my own baby, to hear him screaming and not be able to do anything about it. I have made peace with a lot of what happened but this, this is what brings me to tears every time.

FINALLY they brought him over, all cleaned up and wrapped in a hospital blanket, just like his big sister. Since my arms had monitors and tubes everywhere, Luke took him first and cradled him for awhile. Even though I hate the fact that I have been separated from my babies at birth with every fiber of my being, seeing Luke cradle each of them for the first time has been a precious moment.

It felt like it was taking forever for them to stitch me up and I think I even asked the anesthesiologist what was taking so long. He didn’t really answer me but a bit later offered to move some of the monitors around so I could semi-hold Levi for awhile. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I had been bleeding a lot and it was at this point that they finally got the bleeding stopped and knew I was stable and they wouldn’t have to knock me out or take other, more drastic measures. It wasn’t the immediate skin-to-skin I had dreamed of, but it was so sweet to finally hold Levi and see his precious, scrunchy little face next to mine. He had such a deep crease across the bridge of his nose and looked so wise already, an old soul.

At last they were done stitching me up. Luke took Levi while they transferred me to an actual bed and then I got Levi back for the ride to our room. Jenn, Kalei and Bree were all still there waiting for us and Jenn helped me get Levi latched on and nursing, which was wonderful since my arms were still attached to IVs and monitors and I had cords everywhere that made it hard to maneuver. After we had some time to nurse and settle in Levi was finally weighed and measured and no one could believe his stats: 10 lbs 5 oz and 21 1/2 inches long! We had a little debriefing with the OB and our midwife before everyone headed home and it was just the three of us. Luke stayed with us until 7 am, when he went home to get some things together and bring Clara to meet her precious baby brother. Seeing the two of them meet face to face for the first time was one of the sweetest moments ever. Clara adores her baby brother every bit as much as she did while he was in utero and is a super big sister, so helpful and attentive.

Through discussion with the OB, our midwife and reading the surgical report we learned that the pain across my scar was, indeed, a partial uterine rupture. The “bubble” was my uterus actually gathering itself around the scar and trying to stabilize the area as best it could. Aren’t our bodies amazing?! I ruptured both along the scar line and from the left side downward, which is why it took them so long to stitch me up. I lost a lot of blood and both my hemoglobin and blood pressure were very, very low for about 36 hours afterward, when my blood pressure finally started going back up again. Although my physical healing is taking much longer after this birth, my mental and emotional healing has gone considerably better than with my daughter’s birth, due mainly, I believe, to the support and care of our midwife, Jenn, who has been an absolute godsend to us ever since we moved back to NY. Despite the transfer, the disappointment of not having a VBAC and the traumatic, life-threatening nature of our complications, Levi’s birth was still a healing event for me. During my daughter’s birth I did not have any support and, although I thought I had educated and prepared myself well, I felt like a victim of the system, trying to fight for the birth I wanted against my own exhaustion and the protocols and environment of the hospital. Although Levi’s birth was nothing like I had hoped, I still feel like I was the one directing the birth. I was able to make decisions, with support from my amazing birth team. I knew the possibilities going in, I did everything possible to set us up for success, and throughout the birth I followed my instincts about what my body and my baby needed. When a change of plans became necessary, I made the choice to protect my baby. Immediately after his birth I felt defeated – like a failure – for not achieving the VBAC I had worked so hard toward. But now, after doing a lot of processing with Jenn and taking time to look back and reflect, I am able to begin to see the strength and power with which I brought Levi into the world. I still have trauma and emotions to work through, but I am working on them. I am not making excuses. I am moving forward. I am beginning to truly believe that I did not fail myself or my son. I gave him a safe passage, just as I had promised him I would.

Someone shared this quote with me a few days after he was born and it seemed to fit so well. I am passing it on in hopes that it may help someone else as well.

You were not born in the way that I had intended.
We did not meet in the way that I had hoped.
You cried with confusion and hunger.
I cried with confusion and pain.
We returned to our cocoon together.
When we emerged – transformed.
Beautiful and with delight.
For we had fallen in love in the way I had dreamed.

Much love to all my HBC sisters. May you find healing in the love you share with your precious babes.

Bio: Erin lives in upstate NY with her husband, 4 year old daughter and 2 month old son. She is a stay at home mom who loves cooking, snuggling babies, playing with her kiddos and riding horses with her husband.