My Birth Story: A Christmas Baby

My Birth StoryEditor’s Note: We are starting to include the birth stories of bloggers here as a way to show a variety of birth experiences. These stories may be graphic in description.

The holiday season will always have heightened meaning for me as a mom of an end-of-year first baby. Granted, any time of year for any mother of any baby will likely have heightened meaning. Still, the season of anticipation, joy, and reception of a gift holds new meaning for me as soon as we heard the due date of 12/25. Christmas music and the twinkle of tree lights in the dark of midnight grace my memory as I sat up nursing in a daze that first month.

We opted to stay home for Thanksgiving instead of driving across state to our traditional family meal. Aside from the discomfort of traveling long distance, I’m most happy to have skipped out because of the quiet, lazy Thanksgiving we had together as a family of two. December ushered in what I termed the “Christmas waddle” and we also experienced due day, Christmas day, as a family of two.

I’d been a patient lady up until that point. I’m not one to fall for gimmicks, but I never ate so much spicy food or went for such long drives on bumpy roads, among other things. At 41 weeks my blood pressure continued to cause concern. In addition to the protein found in my urine at my checkup, this was enough to be admitted for observation.

I had the birth plan, the anticipation of natural childbirth. Several hours later, in lengthy consultation with my doctor, we heard that the small but present protein, continued high blood pressure, and my full term status all made her comfortable with induction. I’d read thoroughly about induction and preeclampsia. When she returned once more, we made the decision for induction while I was eating dinner. She quickly encouraged me to limit my intake of food, to which I gingerly popped a few more grapes into my mouth with a smirk.

My husband went home to get some sleep, as we weren’t going to start Pitocin until 6 am. Just before midnight they applied cervidil to encourage the softening of my cervix. Almost immediately, and for the next six hours, I had intense muscle cramping in my abdomen, hips, and thighs. Contractions caused some of this pain, but the intense throbbing of my hips and thighs proved by far more excruciating and distracting than anything I anticipated. I have some sense and ability to tolerate pain. I’ve practiced yoga for years and trained for a marathon—I know a thing or two about breathing, pain, and endurance. Six hours into those “labor” pains, I asked for an epidural. Due to extenuating circumstances, it did not come for another two hours. Ouch.

I put quotation marks around labor because I never reached active labor throughout the entire 19-hour process that ended in our baby’s birth. With the epidural I found some relief and rest. My epidural caused continued frustration as one side of my body regained sensation. What an odd feeling to have no feeling on one side of your body and only slightly-numb pain on the other side. It was uncomfortable but manageable.

Throughout the day we were playing the waiting game. As the baby had not dropped at all, my cervix barely responded to any of the induction, and my blood pressure remained cautiously high, so at 12 hours my doctor introduced the idea of a C-section. She offered the option gently and without force. I appreciated her offer but wanted to wait it out. About 15 hours in, the anesthesiologist adjusted my epidural and the doctor again checked in. My temperature was rising just a bit, and I was otherwise still the same. I opted to continue forward and wait to see if my body would respond. She obliged and offered support.

Three hours later I developed a fever and fetal movements remained present but slowing. I knew it was time to lean into immediate action. We swiftly moved into the operating room where nurses—a flurry of nurses—draped and prepared me for surgery. Within minutes, just shy of 19 hours after the first labor pain, our baby boy was born. I was able to share a few moments with him but, due to the fever, they scurried him off to the NICU. My husband stayed with him along the way. Though he remained in the NICU for the first day for antibiotics, he was able to come to my room for milk and cuddles numerous times.

The C-section, on the one hand, was not ideal in that I wanted a natural childbirth. Later, I wondered if my choice to induce sealed the fate of a C-section. I don’t know, but given my preeclampsia, I’m willing to say my C-section was ideal and possibly inevitable—possibly a life saver. I made thoughtful, informed decisions along the way for my medical care. I birthed a beautiful baby with the aid of a support system around me that I trusted. That is what matters.

Happy New Year to us, indeed.

Lyn, mommy of two and counting…

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