Dave and I found out we were pregnant on April 18, 2014. One year ago today. In honor of that very special day and because April is Cesarean Awareness month, I decided to post Elias' birth story. I warn you- it's very long! Enjoy.
Dave and I agreed to start trying for a baby after a year of marriage. We desperately wanted babies and didn't want to wait very long to have them. Well, that first year of marriage went by quick, but trying to get pregnant felt like forever. The months of trying and coming up with negative pregnancy tests was emotionally draining. I have a special place in my heart for women who struggle indefinitely with infertility. I know the few times I felt that pain is no where near the amount of pain those women feel on a daily basis. If a woman wants a baby, she should be able to have one.
On the day we found out, I just KNEW I was pregnant. I had been experiencing early signs of pregnancy all day at work and couldn't wait to get home to take a test- all I had on my brain at work that day was, BABY! I got home before Dave and went ahead and took the test. Within seconds the test turned positive. I remember just staring at it with tears in my eyes thinking, "Oh my gosh. I'm pregnant. There's a baby in my belly." I gotta admit, when you find out you're pregnant, it's pretty terrifying at first. You're happy, scared, excited, nervous, overwhelmed. I laid back against the wall, closed my eyes and prayed. What I had always wanted was happening, this was real and I was going to be a mom. Oh the joy I felt. I couldn't wait for Dave to get home.
When he came through the door, I didn't say anything, I just stayed in the bathroom. I remember hearing him come through the door and walking to find me. When he got to the bathroom door, I tried to hide my smile, but it was super hard. I showed him the test and let him see it for himself. It was fun to watch his face figure out what was happening. He covered his mouth, tears immediately welled in his eyes and he hugged me for the longest time. I'll never forget it. Our hearts were bursting.
Being pregnant and doing all of the baby things was so fun. We filmed all of our friends and families reactions to the news, as well as little clips of my growing belly every week. We had the intent on making a video of my entire pregnancy buuuut then the baby came, and we've had, like, 0 time to do that. Hah. I'm glad we have all the videos though- I know I'll treasure them forever. Anyway, we spent the summer preparing for our little one, we picked out names and even went early to find out if we were having a boy or girl, because we just couldn't stand the wait. Once we knew our sweet baby was an Elias Jude, we went shopping, documented my growing belly, decorated his room, planned a baby shower, registered- all the fun stuff.
As time went on, I felt it was important for us to get informed on labor and delivery and to decide as a team on a birth plan. Before getting pregnant, I began researching all about labor and delivery. I had several friends who had midwives, natural births and even knew a girl who had two home births. All of that really fascinated me. I continued reading anything and everything I could that involved labor and delivery. I wanted to know all the risks, options and what each intervention did to me and my baby, if I chose them. The more I read, the more I wanted to know, so we signed ourselves up for a local birth class called, "Empowered Birth".
The class was very educational and quickly became my favorite part of the week. The 9 week course met every Sunday evening and was taught by a doula. She taught us about all of our options and rights as women and wanted us to feel "empowered" about the decisions we made in regards to giving birth. She encouraged us to make a birth plan, but to also understand that our plan may not go accordingly. I remember her telling us, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket".
We learned about all the benefits and risks that each intervention (piticion, epidural, breaking of water, etc.) can have and learned that the more interventions you choose to have, the more likely a C Section could occur. One of my biggest fears, besides dying while giving birth (I think that thought crosses every moms mind at some point), was a C Section. I dreamed of delivery day, of the intense labor, of pushing out my baby, my reward for the pain and suffering. I dreamed of seeing his gooey skin, watching Dave cut the umbilical cord, of them placing him in my arms fresh from the womb. I would look up birth photography and tear up. The mother's faces as soon as they saw their baby- exhausted, sweaty, but full of love. All their hard work, worth it. I couldn't wait for that to be me. To not experience that would absolutely crush me. So an all natural birth with 0 interventions is exactly what I wanted. It's exactly what we planned for.
"We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9
When I reached my 3rd trimester, I started getting VERY uncomfortable, VERY fast. My feet, ankles, legs and face swelled really bad. I could only fit one pair of shoes and teaching was absolutely miserable. Elias would make the craziest lumps in my stomach, I swear it felt like I had an alien living inside me. I remember trying to tell my doctor how uncomfortable I was, but I had never been pregnant before, I just thought, "Well, I guess this is normal" so I tried not to complain and just deal. I knew that in the end, all the swelling and pain would be worth it once I held my sweet boy, but I couldn't help but feel like something wasn't right. I guess it was that motherly instinct already kicking in.
At 36 weeks pregnant, on Dave's birthday, we had a doctors appointment and our last ultrasound. My doctor checked my progress and told me I was already 2 cms dilated and 80% effaced. I couldn't believe the progress I had already made. I was beyond ready to have him so it made me hopeful for an early entrance. But then my doctor said, "But I didn't feel his head." I kept my composure but inside I started to panic. She sent me straight to my ultrasound where they quickly confirmed that Elias was breech. And not only was he breech, but he was footling breech, meaning he had one leg curled up to his stomach and the other was dangling. His head was lodged up near my ribs and was seemingly stuck. I couldn't help but feel so bad for my sweet boy. He was in my belly all wrong. No wonder why I had been feeling so uncomfortable and why my stomach was so abnormally lumpy. It could have also explained my extreme swelling.
We returned to the room to talk with our doctor. She told us we still had time for him to turn on his own and that we could also try to turn him externally. She went on to explain that since he was footling breech, she feared a prolapsed cord if my water broke before he turned. A prolapsed cord is where the cord comes down before the baby and gets tangled against the baby's body. When that happens, oxygen and blood flow is cut off to the baby. Now, I knew from our birth class that a prolapsed cord was unlikely to happen in a normal, vaginal birth, but I wasn't quite sure the odds of it happening in my case. I also knew that it WAS possible to deliver a breech baby (my mom did it) but I also knew that footling breech vaginal deliveries were tricky and could be dangerous. And even if I wanted to try to deliver Elias vaginally, the hospital wouldn't allow it due to the risks. So I was stuck. If my water broke before he turned, then an emergency C section would have to take place. My heart broke. I cried uncontrollably right in front of my doctor. I remember her telling me, with tears in her own eyes, that she understood how I felt, having 2 C sections herself. I wanted to find comfort in that, I really did, but in the moment, I just couldn't. This was the exact opposite of how I envisioned the birth of my baby. I couldn't help but feel so cheated.
Dave and I went home and began looking up ways to turn Elias. We visited a chiropractor, I laid upside down, got on all fours, laid in a tub full of water, prayed, played music, we did everything we could think of. Nothing worked. The next week, we were given the option to externally turn him. My doctor felt confident that she could get him to turn but couldn't guarantee it would work. I was desperate and still holding on to my birth plan, so I decided to give it a shot.
Externally turning him was NOT what I expected. First of all, they had to admit me into the hospital and prepare me as if I was having a C section, just in case something went wrong and they needed to get him out. I won't go into details, but just know that the process of actually turning him hurt really bad. The pain was excruciating and nothing that I had ever felt before. Dave told me afterwards that he had a hard time watching and that at one point he got really scared. My doctor got him about 2/3 of the way turned before deciding to stop. She feared putting him in stress and/or accidentally breaking my water. I remember her telling me that we gave it our best shot and that it was, "In God's hands now" and she was right. When she left the room, I collapsed in Dave's arms and we both cried.
I spent the next several days trying to come to terms with our new birth plan. I'm not gonna lie, it was really tough. I cried. A lot. I had spent the last 36 weeks preparing for one type of birth and now I had just a couple weeks to prepare for another. Everything we had planned for didn't matter anymore. I remember getting angry with myself and feeling selfish for being so determined to hold on to MY birth plan. And then my mind wandered to those women who desperately want a baby, and for whatever reason, can't have one. Here I was with a perfectly healthy baby and I was upset over not delivering him the way I wanted. But I knew that I had every right to feel upset, so I allowed myself to grieve and to feel that loss. If I didn't, then I knew I risked feeling it later and possibly struggling with post partum depression.
After I took time to come to terms with everything, I gathered my thoughts and remembered the birth class we took. Dave and I had time to prepare ourselves for a possible C Section, so we did just that. I thought back to the class that was devoted to just C Sections. At the time, I thought, "I don't need to know this stuff, that won't be me" but now it was me and boy was I glad I paid attention. Our instructor told us that if we knew a C Section would take place that we had time to request for certain things to happen at the time of baby's birth. The one thing I wanted to request more than anything was for my baby to be placed in my arms right after delivery. Normally after a C Section, the baby is whisked away from the mom and it's hours before baby and mom are reunited again. That just didn't settle well with me. If I wasn't getting my "ideal delivery experience", then I at least wanted to have my baby placed in my arms as soon as possible. So I made sure to talk with my doctor about it, who promised me that I would get that moment. That alone not only made that 9 week birth class worth it, but it made knowing I may deliver my baby via C Section so much easier to handle. I would get my baby right away. Thank God.
On December 9, the night before my weekly doctor's appointment, I started having contractions, they weren't bad, just uncomfortable. So I spent the evening relaxing on the couch with Dave. He rubbed my feet, we watched Christmas movies and talked about meeting our boy. I told Dave that night to pack the car because I just had this feeling that Elias would be coming soon. I swear sometimes I really feel like I'm psychic.
We went to bed, but contractions woke me up at 4 am, making it tough to fall back asleep. Our doctor's appointment was at 8, so I tried my best to sleep until I needed to get up. When we got to the doctor, she asked if baby had turned, to which I replied with a "no". So she checked my progress. To our surprise I was 4 cms dilated and 100% effaced! I was in early labor. Holy crap. She looked at me and said, "Well, how would you like to have your baby today?" I looked at Dave and started crying. I couldn't believe it. I was in labor. Elias was coming. I was so overwhelmed. I knew that if he wasn't breech, I would have politely declined and gone home to labor as long as I could in the comfort of my home, but things were different now. She went on to explain that she feared me walking out of the office, my water breaking and then being rushed back to the hospital to prevent any complications, like the prolapsed cord she talked about.
So Dave and I decided, together, that our boy would be delivered that day, via C section. I couldn't control my tears. I knew that we had run out of time and a C Section was now our reality, but I also knew that our boy needed us, as parents, to make a decision that would keep him safe and healthy. I was grateful for the time I had to prepare mentally for this moment, for the class we took that informed us of our options. I felt ready, I felt informed and I felt empowered. Suddenly my heart went out to the mamas who didn't have the time to prepare. The ones who weren't given a few weeks to get ready, process their emotions, make requests. Those strong, brave mamas.
In that moment, I knew there was nothing left to be done and that I had done every thing I could to turn him. I had endured the most pain I've ever experienced, unmedicated, a week prior to get him to move. I didn't just throw in the towel and say, "Oh well". I tried. I tried really freakin' hard. And now the day had come and I was just hours away from meeting my sweet baby who had been keeping me company for the last 38 weeks.
We were sent down to Labor and Delivery immediately following my appointment. They checked me in, hooked me up and then we waited. The contractions started coming closer together and got a lot more intense. I know this may sound crazy to some of you ladies, but I was so happy that I got to experience those early labor pains. Elias was coming early regardless of whether I had a C section or not and the labor pains proved it.
The waiting was awful. My anxiety was out of control and the anticipation was killing me. I would get really excited and then get so scared that I would cry. My emotions were everywhere. Finally, around 2:45 or so, the nurse came in and said, "Let's have this baby!" Tears. Again. At that point, I started freaking out. I was about to have surgery, my stomach was literally about to be sliced open, my baby was about to be here. Oh. My. Gosh.
Dave was taken from me to get ready and I was escorted in to the operating room. Alone. I tried not to look around. I didn't want to see any of the tools that would be used, I didn't want to look at the doctors faces, I was trying my absolute best to stay calm, to not completely lose it. I was trying so hard to be strong for my baby. Once I got myself up on the operating table, I just closed my eyes and tried to control my breathing. I could hear people all around me, talking about their dinner plans, laughing and making jokes. It was so casual to them, yet it was everything to me. I put my hands on my pregnant belly one last time. This is it. They gave me the spinal block and laid me down. My entire body from the chest down went numb. I felt my last labor pain fade away. It was the weirdest, scariest, most bittersweet feeling.
I kept my eyes closed until I heard my doctors voice. Someone I know. I looked up and saw her smiling down at me. I knew her entrance in the room meant they were ready. Suddenly, I heard Dave's voice in my ear. It was so shaky. "Hey momma. You're so tough. I love you." I suddenly felt the need to keep him calm. I couldn't imagine how he was feeling. His wife was laying on an operating table about to be sliced open and he was about to meet his son for the first time. We tend to focus so much on the mom that we forget about dads and their feelings. I took a second to appreciate his strength and support during my entire pregnancy, especially the last few weeks. He seriously is my rock. I kept talking with him to keep us both calm while we waited.
My doctor called out that she was ready and was about to begin. My heart was pounding. I remember feeling a strong pull on my belly. I don't even want to know what was going on when I felt that. It was the weirdest feeling (C Section mamas know exactly what I'm talking about). Dave continued to talk to me in my ear, he kept telling me he loved me and that I was so brave, I kept telling him that I couldn't believe we were about to meet our boy. "You're doing great, I'm almost finished" My doctor called out. Dave kept talking. I don't remember everything we talked about, I just know that it helped distract me from what was happening and calmed my nerves. I'm so thankful for my sweet husband and for knowing exactly what to do all the time. "I see feet!" She yelled. Oh my gosh, she sees my baby. A couple seconds later, "I see a little butt!" I couldn't believe this was happening. I knew that he was almost out. We were about to meet our boy. "Here he is!!" And that's when I heard him. I swear it was like time stood still. I'm crying now as I recall that moment. The moment when I didn't care about my birth plan anymore, I didn't care that I couldn't quite see him yet because just hearing that cry was enough. He was alive, he was healthy and he was mine.
I remember his cry was so loud, but so soft at the same time. I, of course, was bawling my eyes out. All I could think was, that's my baby crying. I remember someone saying, "Dad, look!", so Dave stood up and looked over the curtain. I wish I knew what exactly he saw and how he felt in that moment. I'm so happy they told him to look. I remember saying, "You see him? Let me see!" That's when my doctor came around to me. I looked to my right and there he was. My baby. My Elias Jude. Covered in that gooey stuff that I dreamed of seeing, screaming his head off. He looked HUGE. I kept saying over and over, "This isn't real! That's my baby??" I said it probably a dozen times. The doctors probably thought I was nuts.
My doctor then took him to be measured and weighed, Dave got to watch that which made me happy for him. After they were done, they gave him to Dave who then carried him to me. This was the moment I had been waiting for, the moment I'd been dreaming of. Dave came over and flopped him right on my chest. Heaven. Elias' face was right on mine, his mouth was open wide like he was kissing me. I cried and held him as close as I could. His skin was so soft, so fresh. I took in his smell. I closed my eyes and thanked God for his grace, for our miracle, for our son.
I couldn't believe it. I did it. I gave birth. And on December 10, 2014 at 3:15 pm, I became a mom.
I used to look at C Sections in such a negative light and I always felt sorry for moms who experienced them. I always thought, "That will never be me, I'll make sure of it." Well, it ended up being me and you know what? I'm glad. I've never felt so strong, so brave or so courageous before in all my life. There's an article I came across on Facebook titled, "Three Truths About C Section Mamas" and it's perfectly written. If you have time, I recommend you read it and take time to remember how strong, brave and beautiful these women really are.
It takes a lot to let go of your birth plan, to walk yourself into a cold operating room alone, to have your body sliced open and to spend the next several months recovering while still taking care of your sweet baby. My plan may not have gone the way I originally wanted it to, but my birth was just that, MINE. And it was special and meaningful and so incredibly beautiful.
More on Skin to Skin following a C Section and Birth Plans
Skin to skin in the operating room is slowly becoming more common, but it still isn't standard practice. Most moms are unaware that it can be requested, but it's up to the doctors and hospital to allow it. Unfortunately, a lot of doctors won't or there isn't a nurse available (especially if it's an emergency C section). You see, in order to even give mom and baby skin to skin in the OR, there has to be an extra nurse available to keep their hand on baby the entire time. The anesthesia makes you pretty loopy. I remember them putting my arms around Elias for me because I couldn't lift them myself. So having that nurse ensures the safety of the baby and if a nurse isn't available then skin to skin can't happen.
At one point after Elias was born, my nurse was needed somewhere else momentarily, so my doctor is the one who came around and put her hand on Elias until my nurse returned. A doctor doing that is seriously unheard of. The fact that she did that for me so Elias wouldn't have to be taken away means everything. I'm forever grateful for her listening to me, for caring and for making Elias' delivery so meaningful and special. I remembered when she told me with tears in her eyes that she understood my disappointment of having a C section, having 2 herself. At the moment, it didn't make me feel any better, because my brain was fogged with my own disappointment. But having a doctor who understood, who had been there herself, was the best thing to ever happen to me.
I realize that I'm fortunate to have had time to process our change of plans and prepare for a new one. That isn't something that happens often. Most C Sections are done in an emergency status, with very little time to prepare. My heart goes out to the women who didn't have that opportunity, that labored for hours and for whatever reason, couldn't deliver naturally. Now going through what I went through, I have a new found respect for those mommas. Just know that you are brave, strong and oh so beautiful.
Given my situation, I can't help but encourage taking a birth class and creating a birth plan with your partner. Obviously, my first plan didn't work out, but that doesn't mean I regret making it. If we hadn't of taken that class, we wouldn't have known what to expect during the C section or that we could make special requests. And I wouldn't have understood the importance of allowing myself to be upset over our sudden change in plans. Giving birth is such a beautiful, empowering event. It's easily the best day of a woman's life, so it shouldn't be taken lightly. No matter how you give birth, I feel it's important to know your options and rights as a woman. You and your partner should be able to make decisions that YOU feel is best for you and your baby. Have an idea of how you want to deliver your baby, get informed on your choices but also know that there should be a Plan B. Just in case. :)
I still hope to deliver a baby naturally one day. My doctor already told me that I could try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) next time around because yes, it IS possible to deliver naturally after having a C Section. But I obviously realize that things don't always go as you plan and that's okay. The most important thing with any birth (all natural, medicated, C section, VBAC) is that mom and baby are healthy. And if there's anything I learned through the birth of my son, it's just that.