Leila's Birth Story
It’s been just over a month since our precious baby girl was born. And my, oh my, how life has changed! For instance, I’m currently at my kitchen table, topless, with a breast pump attached to both boobs, collecting what I’ve learned to be pure liquid gold (fellow mamas will totally relate). Speaking of breast milk, that seems to be all I’m good for lately. And uncontrollable tears. But I’ll save all that for another post.
I had every intention of putting Leila’s birth story into words, but I debated on sharing it publicly. Mostly because it was so traumatic for me (and I’m not joking or being overly dramatic). I was COMPLETELY naive when it came to knowing exactly what my body would go through during labor and delivery. I did absolutely no research, attended zero birthing classes, refused to watch any videos, etc. So, I can’t blame anyone but myself. Here’s why though...I didn’t want to read horror stories and freak myself out, stress over it for weeks, and ultimately fear going into labor. I also didn’t want to have certain expectations and things take a different turn and then be disappointed. They say hindsight is 20/20, and I can confidently say I should have at least familiarized myself with the basics.
For those of you who have followed me through my pregnancy, you know it wasn’t a walk in the park. So I had fingers and toes crossed that I’d have a smooth, easy (as easy as it could be), and quick labor. Well………….that didn’t happen.
Since we finally got my gestational diabetes under control, the risks for Leila reduced dramatically and induction prior to 40 weeks was no longer necessary. However, my OB felt strongly about not going over 40 weeks, so if Leila didn’t arrive by my due date (September 25th), we would proceed with an induction that week. We were scheduled for that Wednesday morning at 1am, September 28th. We were warned that just because we would start the process on Wednesday, didn’t mean I’d actually deliver Wednesday; some women spend days in the hospital being induced. With my pregnancy track record, that’s what I was mentally preparing for. What I wasn’t preparing for: catching a cold (again, just my luck) the day before the scheduled induction. So, most of Tuesday was spent resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating soup. Another bump in the road: Tuesday night around 10pm, the head L&D nurse called to say they didn’t have any open rooms, and they’d call me whenever a room opened (I could obviously come in if I naturally went into labor though). I guess everyone had sex the same time Dennis and I did, and now all of the babies were popping out. What we thought would just be a few hours of waiting turned into 16 hours. We finally got the call around 4pm Wednesday that a room was ready and my name was on it. Dennis and I said goodbye to my parents and BK, swung by In-n-Out for a “last supper” and arrived at the hospital around 6pm. While being admitted and getting hooked up to everything, the nurse noticed I was naturally having contractions already. I had no idea…guess I was too focused on the thick, nasty mucus sliding down my throat (vomit) to notice.
We started the induction process around 8pm with Cervidil to help soften and open my cervix because I was only 2cm dilated and about 60% effaced when admitted. Three hours later, I was in quite a bit of pain and having strong contractions that lasted two minutes with little relief. Just as I was about to press the red panic button to call the nurse, one burst into my room to find me hunched over the side of the bed, gripping the railing and tapping my feet on the floor. (Side note: Am I the only one who tries to focus on other movements as a distraction from pain?) She immediately yanked the Cervidil out and called the OB on call for the night. They decided my body wasn’t responding well, so they’d just start me on Pitocin in the morning. Great…just getting started and already having problems. I was getting an idea pretty quickly what direction this labor was going. The nurse kept coming in every 2 hours or so to check my sugars and temp, so I didn’t get any rest. I should also mention that my nurse for the night was quite the character and so fucking obnoxious…after almost 12 hours of dealing with her, my patience was extremely thin.
Started the Pitocin around 8am (with a new nurse, hallelujah) and had a pretty decent morning. I wasn’t in any significant pain and the contractions were mild, yet consistent. However, I wasn’t really making much progress as far as my cervix dilating. Around 11:45am my nurse came in and asked if I wanted to go ahead and start the epidural, because the anesthesiologist was going to be in back-to-back c-sections from 12pm-3pm. Otherwise, I’d have to wait until he was in between the c-sections. I declined. I wasn’t (and hadn’t been) in any real pain and typically c-sections last 45 minutes, so I felt certain once my pain increased, I could deal with it for 45 minutes. I promised my nurse I wouldn’t wait until I was in unbearable pain to raise the “I want the epidural flag”. Also, I won’t lie, I was terrified of getting the epidural. Have you seen that needle?!? So she left to go assist with the first c-section. Y’all, I can’t make this shit up…as soon as she left my room, I got up to pee, came back to the bed and was plugging my IV machine back into the wall when I felt something like a balloon in my pelvis pop. That’s honestly what it felt like. Along with that sensation, I felt a wave of pain that just got more and more intense. I buzzed the nurse’s station. I was pretty sure I knew what happened, and yep, I was right, my water had broken. It was everywhere. I’m so thankful it didn’t happen in a public place. How embarrassing would that have been?! “Excuse me, I seem to have leaked a gallon of amniotic fluid on your floor…you may want to clean that up.”
I can’t even begin to describe how awful the pain was. It came so sudden and out of nowhere! I was completely fine a minute before! I looked at the clock and it was exactly 12 noon (face palm). Shit, too late to get the epidural. I’d have to deal with this horrible pain for at least 45 minutes. Then the shaking started. Actually, it was more like a mild tremble, as if I were shivering from cold, and the nurse said that was totally normal. I powered through for about an hour and then it was epidural time. The anesthesiologist walked me through every step he was doing and the nurse cradled me into her chest to hold me still as I felt a strong sting in my back. It wasn’t that bad…phew! Ten minutes later I felt relief…oh, sweet relief. Time for a nap. I awoke suddenly a couple of hours later to the same pain pre-epidural and suddenly, the shaking came back...but not the “burr it’s chilly” trembling, they were full convulsions like I was having a seizure. I buzzed the nurse with tears leaping from my eyes. She came in to help soothe me until the anesthesiologist could come back. She and Dennis tried massaging my arms and back and shoulders and guided me through deep breaths to try to help me relax. Didn’t work…I just kept convulsing. I tried so hard to stay still and focus on long, deep breaths, but the movements were completely involuntary. I had no control over my body. I was starting to get really scared. The nurse still wasn’t worried though; she said it was my body’s reaction to pain. The anesthesiologist finally came back after completing another c-section to give me a “second dose,” which he said some women need, but most don’t. I remember thinking “ok…you’re getting a stronger epidural, you’ll be fine”. After it takes effect, I pass out for another couple of hours.
I think it was around 4pm when the nurse came back to check my cervix and see if any progress had been made. I was 7cm. She had me lay on my side and she moved my top leg to rest on top of some oddly shaped yoga-like prop to help “open me up”. I fell back asleep. More time passes and the nurse comes back to have me switch sides. After repositioning I felt nauseous, and there was no way I could keep it down. By the way, I hate vomiting. I couldn’t even keep water or ice down. Dennis held bag after bag at my face, and I was filling them up like it was my job. Of course to make matters worse, the pain came back…and the shaking. It had been a couple of hours since my cervix was last checked, so the nurse repositioned me and then said “oh, I don’t have to check you…I can see your baby’s hair sticking out.” Excuse me…what? She even called Dennis over to take a look.
So…I need to stop and mention something…here’s the thing...I was very adamant about Dennis not seeing anything in my nether regions during the delivery. I didn’t want to traumatize him. Hell, I didn’t even want to see it myself…why would he? So when the nurse called him over, I shot him a look of “fucking stay put”, but of course he didn’t catch this look and you know what they say…curiosity killed the cat. Even if he did catch that look, he would've totally ignored it. At the end of it all, he saw A LOT more than I had wanted…truthfully, he saw everything. Bless his heart. Yet, he promises me it hasn’t phased him. I honestly think he now has a greater respect and appreciation for me (and women in general) for what we go through to bring life into this world.
The pain became so unbearable and I felt an overwhelming urge to push. I was crying and moaning in pain. I pride myself on my pain thresh hold…strange, right? I thought I could manage this. WRONG! The nurse thought that maybe pushing would help ease the pain. So, at 6:45pm, we started pushing. She was holding my left leg, Dennis was holding my right. Somewhere in between 6:45pm and 7pm, the nurse noticed Leila’s heart rate increased, and that I had a fever. I simply blamed the fever on my cold and didn’t think anything of it, but I quickly learned it was serious. I got a new set of nurses at 7pm (shift change) and overheard them being caught up-to-speed. They immediately contacted the OB on-call and when he came by to assess the situation, he ordered antibiotics to be given to me immediately and for the neonatology team to be called in. What? Why? Why did the neonatology team need to come in? I had no idea what was going on. I think the nurses were trying to keep me calm and focused, and they said it was just precautionary due to the fever and they wanted to make sure the neonatal team were with us just in case. So, we kept pushing, and the pain kept increasing. Not just pressure, but pain. I can tell the difference between the two. Why wasn’t this fucking epidural working?!?!
Pushing took every ounce of energy I had. The nurses told me that usually first-timers push for about three hours. No fucking way…I wasn’t pushing for three hours. Not with this kind of pain. Plus, I don’t think my body would’ve held out that long anyway. I was exhausted, and we didn’t seem to be making much progress. After each round of pushing, Leila would just sink back into the birth canal. She was refusing to come out! The more time that passed, the larger the audience in my room grew. There were at least 10 people present during Leila’s birth. Modesty went completely out the window with total strangers coming and going while my legs were up in the air spread wide, red-faced, and pushing with all of my might. We finally got far enough that the OB came in and took over.
It was at this point my memory is vivid. I remember feeling everything…and I do mean everything. In the middle of it all, I was thinking, “I can’t do this…I don’t want to do this anymore…find another way…I can’t do this.” And I remember I desperately wanted my mom. I wanted her comfort, her reassurance. Don’t get me wrong, Dennis was amazing and so supportive through the entire delivery, but he was just as clueless as I was and didn’t know how to help. He wasn’t even expecting to be as involved as he was. He held my right leg up the entire time, coaching me, encouraging me, counting for me. I remember feeling the tearing, seeing the doctor grab the scissors and feeling the cut. I remember screaming out in pain. I remember pushing with everything I had and feeling her leave my body. She was finally out. I only got a quick glimpse of her because the cord was wrapped around her neck. She disappeared below my line of sight for a few seconds, and then the OB turned to the neonatal team and asked “can I give her to mom?” They replied “yes” and he threw her up on my bare torso.
I immediately began sobbing. This with it…the moment I had been waiting for, anticipating, dreaming of…it was finally here. I was officially a mother. Here was this little creature that grew inside me for 40 weeks; someone I was so excited and anxious to meet. She was the most precious thing I’d ever seen, and she was staring back at me at what I assume was pure shock…one of those “what the fuck just happened?” looks. We only had a brief moment together before the nurses took her for measurements and to allow Dennis to cut the cord. They quickly returned her to me, and I pressed her bare skin into mine. I was so lucky that she immediately latched for breastfeeding (what a relief…that was something else I was super anxious about). My audience dwindled quickly and it was just Dennis and I for an hour to spend with Leila. We FaceTimed our parents, took pictures of her, and just stared at her and cherished that hour we could spend alone with her. We were told she needed to go to NICU for antibiotics and for observation. We were initially advised that she would stay in NICU for 48 hours. My heart broke. I wanted her with me. You have no idea what that feeling is like: to have just gone through all of that and not have your baby with you afterwards. I’m struggling to find the words…but I'm drawing a total blank. I don't really think there are words...
At 9pm a NICU nurse and Dennis wheeled Leila out of our room…and I was left totally alone. It was a bizarre feeling; I felt so empty. The transition from being pregnant to having your child physically outside of your body is already a weird experience, but then add total isolation on top…wow. Dennis took my phone, so I didn't even have that. I wasn’t alone for too long, thankfully. A different nurse came in and cleaned me up, took me to the bathroom, put those mesh undies on me with an ice pack in the crotch (again, sweet relief), and made sure I could at least move a bit on my jiggly legs so I could get up to NICU as soon as possible and be with my baby girl. Bless that nurse, because I was an emotional mess and she literally cleaned me like I was a child.
The next 48 hours were a complete blur because I was so overwhelmed with everything that was going on and from pure lack of sleep. Dennis would wheel me up to NICU every 3 hours to nurse Leila, and each time we came back to our room to try to sleep, my own nurses would arrive for blood work, sugar levels, antibiotics, this or that. We got absolutely no rest at all. Plus, I was still trying to wrap my head around what exactly went wrong and why my daughter was in NICU. The neonatologists and NICU nurses would throw out terminology and test results, but none of it was sinking into my brain. And with good reason…I wasn’t sleeping, barely eating…one NICU nurse (one of my favorites) looked at me late one night and asked “how much water have you drank today?” I sat and thought. “None,” I replied. I had gone all day without drinking anything. She brought me a cup of water as I nursed Leila. She has no idea how much that meant to me.
Saturday arrived and it was the day I was being released, but Leila coming home with us was dependent on one blood test’s result: a CRP. What I came to finally understand was they were checking her daily for sepsis. Holy shit. That’s serious. Saturday morning they drew blood and the CRP results came back elevated, which meant she would have to stay for a full seven days to receive a complete round of antibiotics (best-case scenario). I was devastated. Other than this one blood number, she was fine…she had no fever, had a healthy appetite, was gaining weight, and breathing on her own. But they still needed to keep her because an elevated CRP meant there was inflammation somewhere in her little body and it could possibly be sepsis. I felt guilty…how did this happen? What did I do wrong? How could I have prevented this? The neonatal team stressed over and over to me that it was absolutely nothing I did. We all have bacteria living everywhere on and in our bodies, and once my water broke, some of that bacteria got into my uterus and put her in jeopardy. It happens…they said quite often…one neonatologist said he has the same conversation at least seven times a week. If it were so common, then why hadn’t I heard of it? I knew of Strep B and tested negative for it...how did I not know about this? Again, just an abundant amount of information to absorb and process. We left that night without our precious baby girl, and it was the worst feeling ever.
For the next five days, I would wake up, get ready, head to the hospital with my parents and stay in NICU until Dennis was finished with work. My parents and I would then head home, have dinner, and then Dennis and I would go back to the NICU and spend most of the night with Leila. Leaving each time was the worst part of our day. I still wasn’t getting much sleep. I’d wake up every 2-3 hours to pump and bring breast milk to NICU for them to feed her when I wasn’t there. I started calling her “my little piggy” because she had an insatiable appetite. I couldn’t keep up with her. They had to supplement with formula once they ran out of my breast milk. That put extra stress on me. My body wasn’t producing enough milk to feed my baby, and with hormones raging, I would cry over the smallest, insignificant things. I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t feel in control. I was all over the place. I was the definition of “hot mess.”
Thursday finally came, and Leila’s blood results would be available at 8am. If the CRP was good, she would be released and we could finally bring her home. If it wasn’t, she would have to stay in NICU an additional seven days for another round of antibiotics. I remember not really sleeping Wednesday night, anxiously awaiting 8:00, praying her results would come back fine. Dennis and I called NICU for the results. My other favorite NICU nurse was Leila’s nurse for the day, and she got on the phone to give us the great news that her results came back negative and she’d be discharged that afternoon. I sobbed. When did I become such a crier? But at least these were happy tears. Leila Rose was coming home! My parents were flying out the next day, so they only had 24 hours to spend with her in the comfort of our own home. They had been here for two weeks, and they just got that one full day. I felt terrible for them, but at least they were able to take turns and sit with me in NICU.
Having now put pen to paper (so to speak), and reliving the experience, I am truly amazed at the journey and the capabilities of our bodies. Life truly is a miracle. I also now fully understand why women are under disability after giving birth. Your body just went through hell and back…it needs plenty of time to recover. It hurt to move, sit, do anything. Oh, and something else that surprised me…fluid retention. I only had edema during my pregnancy when I was visiting Mississippi in July, so to look down at my legs and feet and see that they were the size of tree trunks was quite shocking. And it lasted a whole week after giving birth. My cankles would be so badly swollen that my skin was folding over itself and I could barely walk. It was ugly. But now all is said and done…and it was worth every second for my precious girl. Although, I've already said out loud I'm a "one and done" mama (Dennis is bummed), never say never...right?
I have to admit that it has taken me over a week to put this post together. My baby girl is quite demanding and "free time" just doesn't exist anymore. The funny part though, this post was all composed over numerous ocassions of being topless at my kitchen table, pumping liquid gold ;)