I was due April 10, 2012. We conceived our precious baby 1 year ago this month and I can remember so vividly the days and weeks of excitement that followed.
I had a very healthy maternal pregnancy, and remained very active physically until my 39th week. My husband was born with a congenital heart defect, a narrowed aorta (called a coarctation) and a bicuspid valve to be more specific (he had 2 operations as a baby and is now perfectly healthy). When we presented this information to our doctors during prenatal care, they advised we should have an additional ultrasound around 22 weeks to double check that our baby would not carry Dad?s heart problems. Even though the reality was that my baby could have a severe heart problem, I still didn?t think it could possibly happen to us. Our 20 week anatomy scan was perfect?fast forward to several follow up ultrasounds on baby?s heart and finally at 34 weeks the doctors decided that baby MIGHT have a narrowed aorta. This meant switching my delivery hospital to Yale (where they have a fantastic team of Pediatric Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons), in the event baby needed surgery immediately after birth. I switched to a completely new OB MFM practice at 35 weeks and quickly met with swarms of pediatric cardiologists, surgeons, and NICU teams. We remained optimistic that this was all precautionary, and that our baby would be just fine. The tricky part with diagnosing heart problems prenatally is obviously obtaining a clear enough picture, but also that the baby?s heart won?t reach it?s ?final? structure until a few days after birth when a duct that actually remains open after birth, closes.
Labor and Delivery
On Thursday, April 5t I had my 39th week check up, which I was hoping would be my last. The doctor asked if I wanted an internal exam since I had been having pretty strong Braxton Hicks contractions which were being picked up weekly by my NSTs. Sure, let?s see if this baby is coming anytime soon? nope! I was completely closed, so much so that the doctor couldn?t strip my membranes. My husband and I left the office disappointed as we were hoping to deliver before the Easter weekend and were told we would very likely be back again next week. Since I was already on maternity leave and my husband was off from work for the day, we ran errands and enjoyed our day together, which ended with a nice early dinner at a restaurant down the road from our home. Little did we know it would be our last dinner out for a VERY long time. That evening, I was exhausted and was in and out of sleep on the couch starting at 8 pm. Finally around 10:30pm we went up to bed, and I was feeling pretty crappy but nothing other than the normal pregnancy discomforts of week 39. Also, I had been having time-able Braxton Hicks for quite a few days so I didn?t think much of the continued tightening in my uterus. Around midnight I was more uncomfortable than usual, but not in pain. I was tossing and turning and my husband decided to leave our bed and sleep downstairs. It figures this would be the night he wasn't in bed with me. Around 2 am I woke up with cramping, but fell back asleep until 5 am when I felt a trickle in my pajama pants. I got up to check what it was and sure enough the moment I stood up, water gushed down my legs and as I ran to the bathroom I screamed for my husband. I used the bathroom and noticed that the water pouring out of me contained brownish/black/green tinges. I knew that wasn?t good and when I called the hospital they advised it was likely mecomium, which meant (on top of the special circumstances of baby?s heart) to come to the hospital right away. Ugh! My intent was to labor for at least a little while at home. So, at 5:30am we left my house and arrived at Yale by 6:15am. I leaked the entire way to the hospital but didn?t feel any pain. When the triage nurse checked me she didn?t even have to do an internal swab to confirm I was leaking amniotic fluid since it was pouring out so vigorously. The on call doctor then confirmed I was not at all dilated and my cervix was nowhere near ready to start labor. Cue panic. They advised I would need a Foley catheter bulb to try and open/ripen my cervix and then likely pitocin. Cue insane panic. Turns out, the Foley was really the worst part of labor for me. Hurt like hell going in. Once the Foley was placed around 7am, I still wasn?t feeling much. Fast forward through the morning and the nurse asked a doctor to check my Foley, since she suspected it was lodged between my cervix and the baby?s head. She was correct. God love the L&D nurses. So, they removed the catheter and I continued to progress. By noon, I was full on in labor and the doctors decided I didn?t need pictocin. Phew! I labored until about 4-5 centimeters walking the halls and rocking in a chair, holding on to my husband for dear life. The contractions were very painful and the time in between was a reprieve, but the warm dull aching after effects of each contraction never went away. I tried IV meds to take the edge off and I regret doing so because all they did was make me sleepy. Finally I asked for the epidural. It was placed and slowly took effect, although one window around where my right ovary would be did not take. The anesthesiologists repeatedly came in to up the meds and even tried sliding the needle out a hair, but did not work. I did not want them to remove it and replace (since it took them two tries to place it originally). The pain from the actual needle was not that bad?just a strange pressing sensation in the spine. The nurses were predicting I?d deliver by dinnertime, but by 7:00pm I was still only about 6-7 centimeters. The evening hours are a blur; I spent most of the time with my eyes closed breathing through contractions in a haze. It is truly amazing how your body knows what to do. I was shaking violently during the last phase of labor but my body really did take me to a place of extreme pain tolerance and determination?almost out of body. By 11:30pm I was at 10 centimeters and ready for practice pushes. My husband held one leg while my labor nurse held the other and we started. Nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming dichotomy between sheer panic and calm determination. I was terrified I would not be able to push the baby out and constantly asked the doctors where the head was; convinced it wasn?t going to make it through my pelvis. Did I forget to mention they predicted my baby to be HUGE? This was it; there was no turning back. If I didn?t suck it up and push then one or both of us may not survive. Dramatic much? That is the reality that can cause fleeting moments of panic but also the strength to push with all of your might and do everything bodily possible to get your baby into the world. Once the doctors determined I was progressing enough for my final pushes, I was wheeled into the OR which is where I would deliver Everett (this was a precaution due to his potential heart condition). After 45 minutes of pushing (having feeling in my right side really did help with this), Everett came into the world screaming at 12:42am on April 7, weighing 7lbs 13 oz and 21.5 inches. The final push to get him out was absolutely surreal. I could feel what was happening, but it was almost as if my mind wouldn?t let me believe that I was actually delivering my son into the world. It did hurt, and it was the only time I screamed throughout the entire labor?but not from intense pain? from sheer amazement. For the next few seconds I couldn?t focus on anything but my son?s cries and the fact that I had a BOY?so much so that I asked the doctor when he was going to deliver my placenta?to which he replied that it was already out! I didn?t even feel it and I was so scared for that part! The doctor held up Everett for us to see before he was quickly whisked away. The nurse brought him back about 5 minutes later bundled up and ready to be taken to the NICU. My husband and I both got to hold him quickly, since his APGAR score was 9. I just couldn?t wrap my mind around the fact that I had a baby boy in my arms and he was MINE. My husband was a bit more in the moment, since he cried so beautifully when he got to hold his son. Then he was taken away again, as the pediatric cardiologists were waiting for him in the NICU to do an ultrasound on his heart, which is where he stayed for the first night?.
In the meantime, my recovery continued with stitches due to second-degree tears, which truthfully was not very painful since they give you a shot of Novocain prior to sewing. The feeling after delivery for me was euphoric. I just couldn?t believe it was over and both the baby and myself made it through exactly as we were supposed to. It was heart wrenching not to spend time with Everett immediately after birth, but we had 5 weeks to prepare for that reality, which I think helped us the first few days. The next few weeks that followed were very emotional and uncertain due to Everett?s heart condition and of course, post partum hormones (he ultimately had heart surgery at 4 weeks old). If anyone is interested, I can post that experience as a part 2, but since I?ve already basically written a book?. I?ll leave you with this?
For all the FTMs who are nervous about delivery?trust your body and your instincts. No matter how your delivery ends up, you will do the absolute best you can because you are a woman and we are designed physically and mentally to bring our children into this world. Be confident in that.