Told by: Sarah
I had a very traumatic birth experience. It was everything opposite of what I had imagined and planned.
I planned a natural, drug-free, intervention-free, low lights, calming music, water birth at my midwives birth center. But that’s not what I got. To this day, I still regret all of my decisions that led to the event of Brecken’s birth and I am filled with even more “What if’s?”
Sunday, January 6th, 2013, my husband and I were on our way to Sam’s Club to stock up on supplies in advance before our son was born. Several days prior to this, I had developed a terrible cough.
While in the car I had coughed a few times, and each time I felt a gush as if I were peeing my pants.
After the third gush I knew something was not right. We make it to Sam’s club and I instantly had to waddle my way to the bathroom. Sure enough, it looked as if I peed my pants, but I knew that it was not my lack of bladder control. I called my midwife to tell her I think my water was breaking.
She had us come in right away to check. Sure enough, she said I was leaking amniotic fluid and to expect to be welcoming our baby boy in the next day or two. My husband and I looked at each other in excitement. We couldn’t believe we were going to have our baby finally. Especially nearly a week early!
My midwife said that if labor didn’t start by 5am on January 7th, 2013 then to take some castor oil. It usually helps get things going. 5am rolled around and no contractions, so I took the castor oil. Four hours later it kicked in and I started having my first contractions.
They weren’t so bad at first. I kept telling myself ”I can totally do this. Natural labor is totally doable” By 4pm my water broke all the way.
Once my contractions became more frequent we started recording how long and far apart they were. When they reached 4 minutes apart at a minute+ longer we packed ourselves up and made our way back to the birth center. This was around 6pm.
My midwife had the place all set up, the water running in the huge birth tub, candles lit, scented oil burning. It was everything I imagined it would be. I was so excited. Once settled in, my midwife checked to see how dialated I was. To my disappointment, I was only 1.5cm. She said I’d have to go back home to labor more and that I was looking at possibly a whole other day of laboring.
My husband and I get home and the contractions were just so unbearable for me. I had the worst lower back contraction pain imaginable. There was no way I could continue in this kind of pain for a whole other day. Against my own wishes, I broke down and told him to take me to the hospital so that I could get an epidural.
We arrive at the hospital at around 9pm or later. I was put into a sterile, typical, unfriendly delivery room. I remember I just kept looking around at how awful the room was in comparison to my midwives birth center. I couldn’t stop being down on myself for the decision I had made. I cried.
I cried so much at how I was going against everything I had talked about. Going against everything I wanted.
It wasn’t until 3 hours later when I finally was administered the epidural. I had to wait until I was at least 3cm dilated and on top of that the anesthesiologist was running late in another surgery. When she came in to do it, I sat there and cried the whole time. She probably thought I was crying because I was in pain from the needle or that I was uncomfortable. She kept reassuring me that I was doing great and everything was going smoothly. That wasn’t the reason at all. The reason was because I was so disappointed in myself.
So, so disappointed. I could not let up on myself. I could not stop putting myself down for being weak. I was a hypocrite.
Several more hours go by and then there’s talk about administering pitocin because I wasn’t progressing very much.
I refused it. I did NOT want that in my body. So the doctor said that we could set a timeline. If I hadn’t progressed by 11am on January 8th, then he’d like to finally administer it. I reluctantly agreed. 11am rolls around and sure enough I had not progressed. They administered pitocin. I cried. Again. There was another thing I could scratch off my list of things I didn’t want to have done during my labor and delivery. I just kept feeling like a failure one decision after another. I was living my worst nightmare…or so I thought at the time.
We had no idea our worst nightmare was soon to come.
I finally was making progress while on pitocin. By 6:20pm on January 8th, I started pushing. For the first time since entering that hospital I was actually happy and excited. I was at the finish line of meeting my baby boy. He was going to be here soon and the nightmare of the decisions I made would melt away once he was in my arms.
I pushed for 1.5 hours.
It was around at this time that Brecken’s heart rate dropped to 70-80 bpm. The OB wanted to use the vacuum to get him out. I was reluctant for it’s use because of how often babies get injured from them. So she had me try a different position to see if that would make his heart rate go back up. It didn’t.
She again said she wanted to use the vacuum. I sadly agreed. I wanted him out. She used it once, but it popped off. So she gave me an episiotomy (without telling me) and tried the vacuum again. This time he came out.
And in the events and the blur of what happened next, this is what I remember:
I remember the OB looking down at him and sighing “Oh”. She clamped his cord and instantly handed him off to the incubator. That was the only glimpse I got of my son. Watching his lifeless, blue body being handed over to another team of doctors. I remember so many people being in that room. So many doctors surrounded Brecken that I couldn’t see him or see what was going on. I instantly cried out “What’s wrong with him?!!” No one answered me. At some point, someone did tell us, either that or we figured it out on our own that our son wasn’t breathing. They were working to get him to breathe.
Brecken’s Daddy and I were crying uncontrollably begging for him to breathe over and over. My cries were ravaged with pain and fear.
I remember the nurse midwife who originally was with me when I first started pushing, was holding my right hand. I remember squeezing it with all my might. I remember looking up at her for answers, for words of hope. She just locked eyes with me and I saw the tears streaming down her face.
I knew after seeing her like that, that things weren’t good. Amidst the chaos, I remember one of the NICU doctors who was working on Brecken call out to another doctor for some sort of instrument. She then said
”If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to call it. It’s been over 10 minutes.” I had never been so scared in my life.
Why was this happening to me? Why my baby? Everything was so perfect. Why wasn’t he breathing?
Why could they not get him to breathe?
Shortly after, they were able to get him to breathe, but not without the help of the ventilator. Brecken was instantly whisked away to the NICU. There, in the delivery room, my husband and I sat and waited for word.
We were told that prior to Brecken coming out, the hospital had already contacted a special Children’s Hospital and that they were already making their way over to come get him. A couple hours later we were told we would be able to see him before he would be taken there. Before they gathered us, someone down in the NICU took a couple pictures of Brecken, printed them and sent them up to us so we could finally see him as we waited to see him in person.
I was cleaned up, stitched up and put into a hospital gown and eased into a wheelchair.
The moment we entered the NICU I could see a whole slew of doctors and parts of the crew who would be taking him by helicopter. I had to sign a few papers before proceeding to see my son. Finally, they wheeled me over to him. The moment we turned the corner and I saw him I started to cry. My baby boy was hooked up to a ventilator, and had so many wires and monitors attached to him. I was heartbroken for him. His eyes were shut, but he was breathing. His skin color was finally fleshed and pink. I remember asking permission to touch him. We were given free range minus the fact that we couldn’t hold him. I traced my hand along every inch of his body I could. Soaking in my son through touch. We had several pictures taken of him and of us holding his hands. This is also when we finally officially named him: Brecken Theodore.
Next thing I remember was feeling extremely nauseous. It was starting to get so severe I remember asking someone for a bucket or anything to throw up in. Someone handed me a small trash can. By time it was in my hands I remember the room starting to spin uncontrollably and I got incredibly dizzy. Next thing I remember, I was waking up on the postpartum bed. I had apparently passed out in the NICU. This was the first time in my life I had ever done this.
After being settled in the postpartum room, the helicopter team wheeled Brecken into our room so we could see him one last time before his take off. It was incredibly hard to watch him leave me. To see him hooked up to all sorts of equipment. I was still in shock that this was really happening to my baby.
I was not authorized to leave the hospital that night due to my fainting. During our stay in there, we noticed our room was the room located RIGHT next to the nursery/NICU entrance. Each time that door was opened while our door was open we heard a baby crying. It made me cry every time because I never got to hear my own baby cry.
I finally was discharged from the hospital on January 10th, 2013.
We packed everything up and my husband ran everything down to the car ahead of me. The nurse was supposed to be getting me a wheelchair to go down in. I was too impatient to wait so I started to walk out into the hall thinking there was somewhere to sit and wait out there. There wasn’t. Another nurse saw my walking struggles and asked if I wanted a wheelchair and I shook my head “yes”. I sat in the wheelchair in the hallway in stone silence. Then I heard a baby cry from another postpartum room and I started to cry.
My husband finally came up and wheeled me to our car. I began to cry because I was leaving the hospital without my baby boy. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I was supposed to be holding him while being wheeled out because that’s what new parents do.
You go to hospital pregnant and you leave hospital happy with baby in tow. That wasn’t my case and that wasn’t my norm.
I didn’t know joy, or cried tears of happiness.
I didn’t know the smiles or the laughter.
I didn’t know the coos or the admiration.
I only knew of pain, of tears, of sadness, of silence, of uncertainty.
We drove away from the hospital that morning not knowing what our future would now hold or the road that laid ahead. We had no idea what we were in for.
Sarah’s words were copied with her permission to be shared here. You can learn more about her motherhood journey, including the transport to NICU in a different hospital, including finally taking her precious boy home, and ultimately, to her saying goodbye and her journey toward healing after his death. She has added her blog, “To find joy in life again” to the stillbirthday bereavement blogroll.