Child birth – however which way it goes for you – is a momentous occasion. Whether it be a peaceful natural birth at home, in a hospital with an epidural surrounded by family, an emergency c-section, or something else – it is an incredible feat. Child birth should be celebrated and every woman commended on her accomplishment and ability to survive it! If you’ve had a child a different way, you should be commended too but that’s a story for another day.
My story below is more a story about what came after the birth.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, it can take a village to bring one into the world, too.
After an intended natural child birth (8 weeks studying the Bradley Method!) that lead to an induction at 41 weeks, two hours of pushing, and finally an emergency c-section, we had our baby boy!
It was 7:10pm. He was beautiful, healthy, screaming, and wonderful in every way possible.
For about two hours time stood still. We snuggled our precious baby. What work to bring him into the world! The love, the smiles, we couldn’t believe he was ours. We held him close and did skin-to-skin. Worked on latching. Introduced him to his grandparents, aunties, and uncles. While all this was happening, our doc continued to pop-in and check on my recovery. It seemed the postpartum bleeding wasn’t slowing down. My husband had a close watch on me and noticed my lips turning blue and my face going pale. We both noticed the profuse shaking that I couldn’t control.
Dizziness was setting in. I was beginning to feel disconnected. I vaguely remember the doc coming in and saying (or maybe this is my husband’s memory that I’ve taken as my own), “Your bleeding hasn’t stopped. I’m going to say ‘code H’ into my speaker here and lots of people are going to come running to help.” I was having a postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).
We had never heard of PPH. The doc explained that it is excessive bleeding after child birth. Once the baby is delivered, the uterus contracts and expels the placenta (or is removed after a c-section). After the placenta is delivered/removed, these contractions help stop the bleeding. If the uterus doesn’t contract enough, these blood vessels continue to bleed, leading to a hemorrhage. (https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/postpartum-hemorrhage.aspx) It is very rare and there are many reasons why it may happen. For me, I became preeclamptic when I was induced. The hemorrhage could have been from that or the two hours of pushing that put too much pressure on my uterus and interfered with contracting once the baby was out.
The ensuing events may have been harder for my husband who was awake and with-it, watching as I was rushed away and his sweet, new baby too. Whereas I was still numb from the epidural and losing blood so quickly I was rather out of it. This is where the village comes in. While I am hurriedly getting pushed back into the OR, a lactation nurse is holding the baby on to help him latch one final time before we are separated. A team of over 10 physicians and nurses appear to give me a blood transfusion, spinal tap, and to ultimately insert a balloon into my uterus to stop the bleeding.
I recall laying flat on the operating table. Blurry fluorescent lights. Profuse shaking and chills. Feeling confused and so so so concerned that I wasn’t with my baby. Fortunately, there was a calm in the room. The doctors and nurses spoke peacefully and kindly to me. They worked methodically and rather quietly. While the rush in felt like an episode of “ER” – time slowed down in the OR.
By midnight, I was back in recovery with my exhausted husband by my side. Our baby was returned. We were a family.
Recovery was challenging, but I had nothing to compare it to, so in the midst of it I didn’t realize just how rough it was. My hospital stay was 5 days. For three of them, I had a catheter and couldn’t get out of bed. When the balloon was removed, I was finally able to stand up and walk, with aid from a nurse, to the bathroom for a shower. This was in part from the c-section but also the delay in being able to get up and move around. I also had preeclampsia. When we were discharged from the hospital, I was prescribed a visiting nurse three times a week for four weeks to continue tracking my recovery. And day-by-day, I improved.
I am so grateful for the “village” that cared for me and my family. My baby’s birth may have been more dramatic than the peaceful, natural birth we had hoped for, but no more momentous than any other child birth anywhere in the world!