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Harrison's Birth Story

Posted Mar 30 2013 12:43pm
The morning of March 25 began on a pretty dramatic kick. Marija had been fighting a fever for two days prior and she woke up puking that morning. Her fever was gone, but she had a belly ache. We spent most of the day stripping beds, doing laundry, disinfecting, cuddling. Both kids had been really attached to me all that week, but especially Marija. She rarely left my side. I had my 39 week appointment that afternoon and was thankful that Ryan was leaving work a little bit early to go with me. After getting very little sleep the previous nights, I was happy I wouldn't have to take the kids out by myself.

My midwife listened to Harrison's heartbeat, felt around my belly and said he was definitely still head-down and she estimated he'd be right around 8 lbs. She asked if I wanted to have my membranes swept and Ry and I immediately said "YES!" She said she'd check me, strip me and if my body was ready then it would hopefully get the ball rolling. I was 3.5 cms dilated, 90% effaced, cervix was completely thinned out, and bag of waters very bulgy. She told me that baby was really low and that if I went past my due date, she'd just break my water to start a more natural induction process. The membrane sweep didn't hurt at all, it was just lots of pressure. I had stronger BH contractions afterwards as well as some light spotting.

We headed straight for home after my appointment to do some last minute laundry and to rest, just in case I went into labor that night. Once we were home I did a few things in our room and then tried to lay down for a minute, but started getting stronger contractions and decided I wanted to walk them out instead. Around 5:30 they got pretty strong, where I was having to lean my arms onto my bed and rock my hips side to side and breathe through them.

Ry came up to check on me and asked if I thought it was time to go into L+D. I wasn't sure at first because my water hadn't broken and I didn't want to go in just to be sent back home. After another hour or so and with the contractions getting stronger, we decided to go in. Even though my water hadn't broken, I was just nervous that once it did, I'd deliver quickly. My labor with Franky had started out just like this, with the contractions getting stronger and stronger before my water broke (they broke my water at the hospital).

We packed the kids up and were out the door but decided last minute to leave them at home with my mil. I cried like a baby the whole drive there because I was disappointed they wouldn't be with us. I was mad that the plans were changed at the last minute and that I didn't get to give the kids hugs or kisses good-bye before we left. I continued to labor and breathe through contractions in the car and by the time we got into the parking lot, they were strong enough that I knew this was it. I was super emotional and started crying because I was relieved and happy that we'd be meeting our baby boy soon.

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We got to Labor and Delivery around 6:30 pm and I was laboring intensely enough that they took me back right away and got us into a room almost immediately. The triage nurse listened to Harrison's heartbeat, checked me, said was 5 cms dilated but could easily be stretched to 6 and put the heplock in after one try. She asked when I'd last seen my midwife and I told her that day, with my primary and that I'd been stripped. She smiled knowingly and said my midwife was notorious for having the magic touch with membrane sweeps.

I labored on the birthing ball right away, leaning on Ryan for support. I was offered the tub but didn't want to labor in the tub this time around. Something about the jets and hot water seemed somehow distracting. I just wanted to sway on the ball, wanted the room dark and wanted it to be really quiet. Every noise was a distraction, so while I was still sad the kids weren't there, I was happy Ryan made the decision to leave them behind because I craved complete silence.

The contractions were super intense and with each one I remembered thinking I just wanted it to be over  and have Harrison in my arms already. I dreaded every wave of contractions because of how intense they were. They were very different from the contractions I had with Marija, these were just like the ones I'd had when I was in labor with Franky. Marija's were slower to start and more drawn-out while these came on quick, were crazy intense and then tapered off just as quickly.

My labor this time was so intense that every time Ryan went to grab the camera I begged him not to leave my side. I needed him near me every second and I only wanted him. I leaned all my weight into him with each contraction as he talked me through them, rubbing my back and telling me to focus on breathing, to not tense up and to relax my body. I was surprisingly very quiet during labor this time around. I made very little noise and just breathed deeply through each one. It really helped me to focus on Ryan's voice with each contraction and along with coaching and pressure point massage from my midwife, they helped me focus on breathing and relaxing more than focusing on the pain. Ryan was amazing. He was an unbelievable coach and really helped me to stay focused and relaxed. He kept offering me water and it was heavenly because I was so thirsty. A nurse checked my blood sugar to make sure it wasn't too low, but it was at 104, so I was good.

I had back and belly labor this time. The contractions started in my back and then radiated all the way around to the front of my belly. Initially, the nurses did intermittent monitoring and Harrison had great heart tones, but as labor progressed his tones got a bit unsteady. My midwife decided to do continuous monitoring at that point. Some contractions he did well, others his heartbeat went up and down. His heartbeat would go from the 160’s down to the 80’s then back up again.

An ultrasound machine was brought in just to check his position and it was confirmed that he was head-down and low. They then had me empty my bladder and I labored on the toilet for a while, which really helped me breathe into the contractions and visualize Harrison coming down because of the way I was sitting. It was actually more comfortable to labor on the toilet than on the ball because I kind of had to give into gravity that way.

My midwife kept telling me how good I was doing and what a good team Ry and I were. She was amazing at keeping me calm. Around this time is when they started to get concerned about Harrison's variable heart tones because his decelerations weren't corresponding with my contractions. His heart rate was dropping in between contractions and barely changing when I was contracting intensely. They asked to check me and I was at 7 cms and Harrison was at a -1 station.
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My high risk OB came in, assessed Harrison and I through a contraction, suggested breaking my water and inserting a monitor to get better tones. She was hoping that by breaking my water, it would get Harrison's heartbeat more steady or move labor along. A moment later she broke my water and inserted a monitor. The variables stayed the same and there was no change other than my contractions getting stronger.

Suddenly, Harrison's heartbeat dropped to below 80 bpm and stayed there. For over 7 minutes it stayed low and kept dropping without coming back up. They gave me oxygen and asked me to roll from my back to my left side to try and get his heart rate back up. After the next contraction, they had me roll to my right side hoping for a change. At this point my OB and midwife calmly explained that they were very concerned about the baby, that they had initially suspected a cord compression issue but were then thinking it could be a uterine rupture causing the problems.

I overheard nurses in the background saying something about in-utero resusitation and to call a fetal resusitation team. The room went from 2 people to 20 with nurses shuffling around preparing for everything. I told my OB to do whatever she needed to do to save him, even if it meant a c-section. As they were prepping for me to have a c-section and the OR was being prepped, I suddenly felt an intense urge to push, even though I had only been 7 cms less than 90 seconds prior. The urge was so intense that I couldn't have physically stopped it even if I'd tried. My body pushed with all its might despite my attempts to stop it.

They put my feet in stirrups and told me to push with everything I had because we had to get him out NOW. Ryan, my OB and my midwife just looked at me kept telling me to push as hard as I could. I gave one huge push and felt him moving down and coming out. I didn't realize until later, but this is when they did an episiotomy last minute to help him deliver faster. As I pushed the next time, they pulled on him to deliver him quickly. I pushed really strongly with every ounce of strength I had in my body for a few minutes straight the first time and then again for another few minutes until he was out. Even though I'm sure it didn't really help, I screamed while I pushed. It was almost involuntary, I couldn't help it, I just screamed. His head came out with the first strong push and his body with the second. The pushing wasn’t painful, I just felt lots of pressure. He was out in less than 10 minutes.
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He gave a cry, they called Ry over to cut the cord quickly and then they rushed him over to be checked out. They kept him for a really long time, rubbing his back and suctioning him, trying to get him to be more responsive. Finally after what felt like an eternity, he started crying again. While they were working on him I kept asking if he was okay and the nurses, OB, midwife and Ry kept telling me that they were taking care of him and that I needed to focus on pushing the placenta out and stopping the bleeding because I was losing a lot of blood. Ryan said it looked like a massacre because there was so much blood everywhere and I just kept gushing. He said the reason no one would give me a direct answer about how Harrison was doing was because they didn't know. Ry and my midwife said that moment was really scary because Harrison and I were basically both teetering between life and death.

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I pushed the placenta out with the next urge and the OB saw right away that there was an area of calcification in the placenta and a tear there as well. I got a shot of pitocin in my thigh right away to help my uterus start contracting and when that didn’t work they attached a bag of pit to my heplock and that along with lots of external uterine massage got my uterus contracting enough that I wasn’t losing so much blood. I ended up needing another full bag of pit to get my uterus to do what it needed to.

My OB and midwife both agreed that the placental abruption was what caused Harrison’s scary low heartbeat and that it was good I delivered him as quickly as I did because it could have been a lot worse for the both of us. Everyone kept saying how lucky we were and I found out we were the talk of L&D that night with how crazy my delivery was. I am really thankful for a super experienced midwife who stayed calm and kept me and Ry calm and thankful for and OB who said afterwards that I pushed him out quicker than she could have cut him out and that probably saved him and me. And I'm especially thankful for Ry who didn't let me know how dangerous and scary everything was and instead just kept me focused on getting Harrison out.

Because he delivered so fast and there was so much bleeding, they had to check for rectal tears and tears to my cervix, which had to be done manually (holy hell that was worse than unmedicated childbirth itself). I also had to have my uterine scar manually checked and it was thin but in tact. My midwife said it was expected to have been thin because it naturally would have stretched with the pregnancy. I did need stitches, but only for the episiotomy.
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I am glad that while everything was happening I didn’t realize how scary it got because I probably would have panicked. Ryan said at one point I looked over at him with a look he never wants to see ever again. He said I was terrified and the look I gave him showed it. He said he prayed like crazy the whole time everything was happening and all he could do was be there for me and Harrison and beg God not to take either of us. He said at one point I said I didn’t care about myself, that I just wanted to know that Harrison was okay and Ry looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I need you. He's going to be okay.”

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The nurses did his apgars (they were 8 and 9) and after a good 10 minutes they brought him to me and he immediately searched for the boob and latched perfectly. He was nursing while I was being stitched up. It was incredible and really kept my mind off of what was going on at the foot of the bed. With the exception of a numbing shot before getting stitched up, we did it 100% pain medication free. I'm not going to lie, I feel like a freakin' warrior. I still can't believe what my body did on its own and without any meds.

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My placenta was sent to the lab for inspection to determine the cause of the abruption. The unofficial diagnosis is "suspected placental abruption at calcification site" (which has me thinking it was related to baby b and the placenta tearing where he/she had been reabsorbed into the placenta). It was sent out in formalin and is being released in alcohol so we couldn’t have encapsulated it even if we wanted to and can’t bury it because it's now a biohazard, but we can put it in a potted plant or leave it in the container and bury it like that.
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As far as how we're all doing now, five days later, my episiotomy is healing nicely but I'm very sore in my perineum and between that and a ‘rhoid that came back, I'm more than a little tender. And since I'm not one to ever shy away from TMI, I was really nervous about the first post-partum, ummm, bathroom visit, but it was fine. I've heard that it can be a nightmare with the 'rhoid and the episiotomy, but it didn't hurt at all, thankfully. 

My blood pressure and hemoglobin levels are really low (normal hemoglobin for women is anywhere from 12-16, mine is 8.9), so I’m on an iron supplement, vitamin D, vitamin C to help with iron absorption, colace (to counteract the unpleasant side effects of the iron) and was given ibuprophen to take home. I was told the ibuprophen would help with the swelling and tenderness in my perineum while I’m healing, so I’ve taken it a few times in the last few days. My postpartum uterine contractions are strong, almost like Braxton Hicks, but my midwife said that with each pregnancy it takes more work and the body works harder to get the uterus to contract down to its pre-pregnancy size and tone. And even moreso when the pregnancies are close together, as mine have been.

The bleeding was heavy the first day, which is normal with the fundal massage they do to get the initial clots out, but the second day was much lighter and by the third day it was really light. My belly swelling is also going down nicely and I’m less swollen each morning.I was really scared to look, ahem, downstairs because the delivery was so quick and so intense and then with the episiotomy, I thought it would surely look terrible. But upon quick inspection, it doesn’t look bad at all and actually looks a lot better than I thought it would. Truthfully, if I didn't know I'd just had a baby I wouldn't have known the difference otherwise. I see my midwife in 6 weeks to make sure I’ve healed well. Ry and I decided a long time ago we're just going to follow Natural Family Planning this time around because it has worked the best for us over hormone birth control methods.

My milk started coming in after 24 hours and by day five, it is officially in. Holy cow are the ladies ever big. I'm not gonna lie, being small-chested my whole life, I'm not complaining about having huge knockers for a while, haha. I feel like I'm sweating more, which I'm told is normal after delivering and I feel like I'm always thirsty and always hungry.Mostly I want really juicy fruits, like oranges and grapes. I guess I could be craving much worse, but for now I just want fruit and apple juice.

Harrison passed his newborn screening and hearing test before we got discharged, his circumcision is healing beautifully, he's nursing like a champ, and other than some nipple tenderness when he first latches, my boobs are only a little sore and with him eating as often as he is, I've had no engorgement. He basically eats, sleeps and poops around-the-clock. He is similar to his big brother in that he doesn't sleep at night unless he's next to me. I'm thankful for the co-sleeper and the Snuza because if not for those, I'm not sure I'd be getting any sleep at all. I can't say I mind his constant need to be close to me. :)

My discharge instructions are to not lift or carry anything heavier than Harrison for a minimum of two weeks, no driving, cleaning, vacuuming, housework, cooking, etc for two weeks. This has been hard for me because I'm a get-up-and-go type of person, so having no choice but to take it easy so I don't hurt myself or interfere with my healing has been both frustrating and a blessing, because I probably would just jump back into normal life otherwise. Ryan has been ahhhmazing about keeping up with Franky and Marija, taking over their baths, bedtime routines, meals, everything so I can mostly just relax and tend to our newborn baby boy.

I know I've said it before, but I really could not have done it without Ryan by my side the whole time. He never left me, not even for one minute. Even when I was telling him to be with our boy, he stayed by me to make sure I had a strong hand to hold while I was being examined and stitched. He only left my side when he knew I was going to be okay. I've never felt more grateful for his presence in my life or more overwhelmingly in love with him than I do now.

After Harrison was born, while I was being worked on and before they brought him to me, I looked at Ryan and said, “We’re SO done having babies. Never again.” I couldn’t possibly imagine going through another pregnancy or unmedicated delivery again. Now, just days later, as I look down at my nursing newborn son, I can’t imagine not doing it again. If we ever were to do it again, it wouldn’t be for many years down the road, I’d hire a doula to help with things like pressure point massage and other natural birthing techniques and I’d be sure that my midwives and OBs were on top of my care to keep an eye on any complications. I feel like we got really lucky that the placental abruption happened during labor and not before because we could have lost Harrison. At the moment, I’m soaking in every single beautiful moment with my baby boy because he’s likely our last, but even if he isn’t, I’m soaking it all in anyway. 
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