As with every other birth story in the world, Malachi’s story began a couple weeks before his birthday finally came.
I hadn’t felt super great the entire pregnancy, and the last few weeks were no exception. I had an episode where I thought I was coming down with the flu about a week before my due date. I had the shakes, the body aches, the neck pain, and just generally felt awful. At the same time, contractions were getting intense. I thought, “oh no! How terrible would it be to have to labor AND have the flu at the same time!?” I visited my midwife that evening and we thought I was just fighting something off. Since I wasn’t dilating (that much), we decided rest and hydration were the best remedy, and by the next day, the contractions had stopped and I felt better.
A week passed.
The scenario repeated. Contractions, flu-like symptoms, and I felt awful. I was better again the next day, but troubled by the puzzling symptoms. I just figured I was tired, and well, I already have eight kids. I told myself to relax and not worry about being sick during labor, that I was just fighting off whatever one of the boys had passed to me.
I told my husband and sister, though, that having felt that awful twice while experiencing very REAL contractions, that I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of laboring when that sick, and that it made me feel uneasy. If it happened again, I told myself, we would need to investigate. Something didn’t seem right.
It happened a third time, this time a week past my due date. I had been fine that Saturday morning. We had gone about our usual weekend family errands, chiropractic appointments, and fun, and then stopped for lunch. I suddenly felt “the symptoms” reappear. Terrible neck and shoulder pain, and the awful flu-like feeling. And then the contractions, this time stronger than ever. I barely made it through lunch, and my husband dropped me off at home for a nap. (I never take naps.) I hoped that when I got up, it would all be fine again, but it continued. Some of the boys went with their dad that evening to do some indoor sky diving while I continued to rest. I thought I was feeling better, and contractions had almost stopped, and I went to bed.
They started again in my sleep. Strong, good contractions. But I wasn’t focused on them. I couldn’t even confidently call them labor contractions since this was the third episode of experiencing them with the flu-like feeling, and they always went away when I felt better. But I wasn’t feeling better. It was 3:30 in the morning, and I couldn’t sleep through this. I got up and moved around as best I could. Sometimes I couldn’t stand up straight as the constant pain in my lower abdomen was so intense. I knew from experience that this wasn’t normal pain for a typical labor, especially early active labor. Again, I couldn’t even be sure if this was labor because the pain was so different and accompanied by such a sick feeling. It was confusing, even for a mom who had had eight labors before.
I tried a hot bath, which did help some while sitting in it, but the moment I would stand up, the pain was intense again, and I shook so horribly I felt I was almost convulsing. I finally woke my husband and told him something wasn’t right. He was as puzzled as I was. “Is it just labor?” he asked.
I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be JUST labor, so badly, but I was miserable and not because of labor at all. I was concerned, too. A bit frightened. Disappointed. I had wanted our home birth to go so smoothly. We had blown up the birth pool that night just in case, and yes, while it looked like I was probably in labor, it was looking less and less like I was going to get to use it.
I wrapped up in a blanket to stop the shivering and sat in the rocking chair in the baby’s room next to that big, blue inflated birth pool. Hurting and concerned, I didn’t know what to do. Something just didn’t seem right, the baby’s movements had slowed considerably, and in my heart, I knew I needed to check on both the baby and myself. I needed reassurance, and I desperately wanted to feel better.
I asked my husband if we could take a moment and pray and ask God for wisdom. We prayed, and then I called the midwife to let her know I needed to be checked right then, and we headed out the door. On the phone with her, we decided that with my symptoms and concerns, a hospital would be our best option. If all was well, I could go back home and birth the baby as planned, we said.
With no bag packed, and just my purse and water bottle, we made our way to the ER, where I was immediately brought back. I didn’t want to be there, but was a bit relieved to know someone could keep an eye on the baby and me. The nurses got to work placing monitors on me and taking my temperature and vitals. It wasn’t good. My heart rate, which is usually healthy low, was high. I had a fever. Worse, the baby’s heart rate was in the 180s and was flat (meaning it didn’t have the healthy variables they like to see). The doctor came in and said neither of us looked good. My bloodwork showed I had infection. They started my IV and antibiotics and said the baby was okay for now, but he would need to get out sooner than later. The word c-section was mentioned. I bawled as I looked at my husband and said, “I’m glad we came”. I would never want to HAVE to go to the hospital for a birth, but I wanted our baby to be okay. I wanted him safe.
And so we were there. At the hospital at 5 in the morning. Monitors, cords, medicines, all of it. And I was moved to Labor and Delivery. I would not be birthing at home.
Stay tuned for the rest of the birth story in Part 2.