To read Part 1 of Malachi’s birth story, click here.
While I was okay with being at the hospital because I was relieved to be monitoring the baby and reassured he would be okay, the mourning for the birth I had dreamed of for nine months quietly began.
Somewhere in my heart, I knew it. And now, having had weeks to look back and reflect, I had somehow known it all along, the whole pregnancy, strange as it may sound. And with every cord wrapped around me, every blown vein after repeated needle sticks, every beeping sound on every monitor strapped across my over-done belly seemed to drive it all home. Plans disrupted. Out of my control.
But I held onto hope.
Since I was somehow dehydrated (probably from fever) when I arrived at the ER, I held onto hope that the IV fluids would correct it all. That my fever would just chill – literally. That mine and the baby’s heart rate would bounce back to normal. That I would feel better physically (and not in the labor sense). But the infection had already been detected via bloodwork and I knew I wasn’t going home anyway. Since the doctor had already mentioned the word c-section, I decided I wanted an epidural in place as soon as possible so that I could be awake for the baby’s birth in the event we had to rush into surgery.
Contractions were typical at that point. Maybe sporadic, but real. They hurt, but they were manageable, and I noticed the nurses watching me breathe through them quietly. I secretly wondered if they questioned the intensity since I remained calm, eyes often closed at the peak of each one. I didn’t wonder long, since they remarked later at how strong the contractions looked on the monitor. (It’s just a machine, yes. But they could see them.) I cautioned the nurses that I labor fast, that the tiniest whiff of pitocin brings me to delivering a baby in about an hour or two, and that I needed to get ready. That was still before they even moved me to L&D.
I figured by the time they got me settled into my room, I would dilate quickly. Dax and I tried to take a deep breath and embrace our new birth environment. The doctor came in and checked my cervix. We were surprised that there was no change. GBS positive, the antibiotics flowed fast and cold into my vein. And with my history of MRSA/Toxic Shock, they gave me extra.
An epidural followed. Game time, I thought to myself. I was relieved because I knew we would be holding our sweet baby soon, and that even though this hadn’t been our plan, we were almost there and it all would be worth it. And out of pain for the first time in hours, I went into a deep sleep for a good hour. I began waking to see my husband and nurse staring intently at the baby’s heart monitor. They flipped me.
My blood pressure dipped. I wasn’t dilating. They flipped me again.
Then a sonogram was ordered for the baby’s biophysical profile. The baby was okay, but definitely showed some stress. He wasn’t making the normal movements they like to see in a full term baby.
The doctor came in and broke my water. The fluid was clear, and I messaged my sister that I was thankful for that! And maybe now we would finally get to pushing the baby out!
I wasn’t dilating at all any more, and they started pitocin to try and speed up and intensify the contractions.
In the meantime, the baby’s head was transverse, and we suspected the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck and that there was cord compression. They tried to remedy this and started an amnioinfusion.
I went back to sleep. At least I thought I was sleeping. Looking back, I was probably doing more than just that. I awoke at one point with the doctor himself staring at my face, watching my breathing, then looking at the monitor. My blood pressure had dipped to 80/40, and I was given medicine in my sleep to correct it. It was clearly the epidural causing the drop in my blood pressure. Which led to further problems.
The baby’s heart rate became scary. His decels would not stop. We began praying each time a contraction came and we heard his heart rate slow, slow, slow some more, then stop….for a dreadful few seconds. We tried turning off the pitocin. He would do a little better, so we would try to turn it back on- because we were getting desperate for me to dilate to complete so I could push him out. He simply was not tolerating the contractions at all. Malachi needed to be born – and fast.
The nurse and I had a discussion and she basically told me what was coming. That the doctor had given me longer than he normally would and that we were getting closer to a c-section birth. But he came in, looked at a few things, and said I had 30 minutes. Thirty minutes to dilate from a six to complete. I knew that was entirely possible since I have done it in the past, so I prayed! It wasn’t 30 minutes, though, when he returned. It was three contractions later, and we all knew why he had reappeared. We had all heard it. It was time to rescue our baby.
Tears flow as I type the words, but I was prepped for surgery very quickly. In a moment of anticipation, I stopped my husband to pose for pre-surgery picture and thought we’d all be back together soon. Then I was wheeled back to the OR. Part of me was relieved to know we were getting him out, and part of me was a little scared. The pain in my neck and back and shoulders was intense, and only grew worse when I laid flat on my back and was moved to the surgery table.
Lights. Drapes. Shaking shoulders and arms. Anesthesiologist for a friend.
Dax came back in once I was ready for surgery. He chose to stay close to my head and heart, and to hold my hand.
I had asked if I could hold my baby immediately when he was delivered. I had been told they would “show him to me”, have the nurses check him, and then I could have him once he was given an all-clear. I think the doctor knew.
The surgery itself went very fast. After tugging and pulling, our baby was delivered, and as promised, he was shown to me over the drape. I saw the green meconium drip from his mouth onto the drape. He didn’t cry as they took him over to check him out.
I looked at Dax. I could see the fear in his eyes. Is he okay? What’s wrong? Why isn’t he crying? Then he cried a little. I cried too, in relief and thankfulness. Ah, there he is, I thought. He’s here! But no. Give him a little spank, the doc said.
NICU alerts went out. Teams came rushing in. I was knocked out.
I later learned that my husband sat there alone. Afraid. And began to cry for his wife and child. He was sent back to our room to wait for my return and told they would be back to let him know about the baby once they stabilized him. My heart hurts at the thought of no one being able to comfort him.
But he prayed.
Malachi couldn’t hold his oxygen numbers above the 60s. They tried to avoid it, but he was intubated and stabilized in the NICU.
I awoke in my room and saw my midwife sitting with my husband. It was bittersweet to see her. I didn’t have time to process it all then, but to see her was a reminder of the birth plan we abandoned. The birth plan we abandoned – a decision that possibly saved our baby’s life. The baby, they said, was doing okay, but had given us all a huge scare. The practitioner came in shortly and told us the story. She didn’t know why yet, but the baby had just been really sick when born. But she was already aggressively weaning the nine pound ten ounce baby off the ventilator.
I asked if I could hold and nurse him. Of course not, they said. He had an IV in his umbilical cord, and I could cause a bleed if I accidentally disturbed that line. But once I could walk around, I could go see him, they said.
I was up as soon as possible and wheeled to my precious boy.
I could hardly bear seeing all the tubes and wires in him, but I was grateful he was okay. I snapped a few pictures with my phone and was wheeled back to my room.
I hadn’t held him. Or nursed him. I mourned already that I hadn’t pushed him out, pulled him up to my chest and snuggled him.
I saw him again in the middle of the night, and then again around 5 AM. There was good news! Malachi had removed the ventilator! Yes, our not-so-tiny baby had pulled out the tube and was now needing much less help holding his oxygen. But they still wouldn’t let me hold him.
Back at my room, away from him, I realized I was becoming angry. I wanted my baby. I knew he needed skin-to-skin and that that was the most healing thing besides nursing him that I could personally give, and so I pleaded with a nurse to arrange it for me. Thankfully, she was also a lactation consultant and she made the arrangements for me.
I cannot explain the wonderful bliss I felt as I held him for the first time and brought that baby to my heart and nursed him. His numbers immediately improved, no surprise to me.
We were both alright. Though my fever remained, and he was in the NICU we were both going to be alright.
Stay tuned for Malachi’s NICU story.