Birth & Parenting Series (4): How First-Time Parents Braved a Placental Abruption
This is part 4 of our Birth & Parenting Series. Part 1 (Thoughts From a Mother of Four) is here, part 2 (Mother of Seven Shares Her Empowering Birth Stories) is here, and part 3 (First-Time Mother of Twins) is here.
This brave first time mama shares about how she and her husband met their son in a surprise emergency C-section after plans for an unmedicated vaginal birth. She suffered a placental abruption, but miraculously she and her son survived, thrived, and are already at 7.5 months into parenthood. As her story unfolds here, her faith in God and love she shares with her husband is particularly poignant.
1. Tell me a little bit about your beautiful son.
Micah was born in June and is 7-and-a-half months old. He has big, bright eyes, and a sweet, curious personality. These days, he cracks himself up by spitting and razzing while we’re feeding him. I cannot get enough of this . . . even if it means I find bits of baby food in my hair afterwards.
2. When you first started to think about labor & delivery for your son, how did you envision it going?
My husband and I had high hopes for a natural delivery. I would imagine myself being strong through the labor pains and just embracing the experience, no matter how difficult. We (naively) pictured ourselves having time to crack jokes and becoming buddies with the nurses, etc. I even included my hair dryer on my packing list! Apparently, I thought I’d have time to look good while in the hospital.
3. What were the biggest fears you had about labor?
Oddly, I wasn’t too concerned about the potential pain. I did a pretty good job of letting that go. But I worked myself up about plenty of things. I was nervous that I would be disappointed in myself if I asked for an epidural. I was fearful that I would be short with Jason out of exhaustion or fear.
I was more scared of the fall-out from the labor and delivery than I was of the actual labor and delivery: Will I ever want to have sex again? Will I ever run again? Will I ever poop again!?
4. Did people tell you horror stories or share their experiences when you wished they wouldn’t?
Oh yes . . . but now that I have my own birth story, I can appreciate people wanting to share. There is something special and cathartic about sharing the experience. That being said, I find that I try to really know my audience when I share. For instance, an expecting mother might not find the details of my experience that comforting, so I focus on the happy ending instead.
5. Did people offer helpful suggestions for coping with labor pain? Did they give their unsolicited opinion on the option you had chosen?
The needless “oh you have no idea how bad it will hurt” was never helpful. I didn’t mind the challenging stories when they came with a lesson: “I tried walking through contractions which helped,” “I found a hot bath calmed me down,” etc.
I’ve learned that from the moment you even hint that you want a child, you are bombarded with unsolicited opinions. I am trying my hardest not to do that to others.
6. How did your care provider prep you for your delivery options?
Our doctor recommended the birth classes through our hospital. Between our doctor and the birth classes, we were made familiar with our options and with the hospital’s protocol. I approached these classes like I did any class . . . I read all of the materials, took notes, and tried to be a good participant in class. (You would have thought I was getting a grade for this.) Absorbing information is part of how I deal with nervousness, so these classes fit the bill for my personality.
7. What did you plan on ahead of time for delivery, i.e., caesarian, vaginal delivery, epidural, unmedicated.
We planned for an unmedicated, vaginal delivery. We requested on our birth plan that no one ask me if I wanted medicine. We thought I would be less likely to rely on medicine if it wasn’t offered repeatedly.
8. What ended up happening during labor? Can you describe it for us?
Micah was born 8 days after his due date. The day before he was born, I had a 41 week ultrasound just to make sure everything was fine. We left that appointment knowing that our little one was healthy and just not ready. I was eager and impatient (and fairly irrational—will I be pregnant forever!?) Physically, mama and baby were fine!
I slept poorly that night, and at about 2:30 a.m., started experiencing intense pain. I thought the pain might be a contraction, but it wasn’t coming and going. After about 40 minutes of the pain, I called the hospital. They suggested a bath, which helped a tiny bit, but as soon as I got out, the pain was back.
I managed to fall asleep for about 15 minutes, and woke around 4:45 to my water breaking. I was excited. Thrilled. He was coming! When I got to the bathroom, I saw blood. My husband called the hospital. After trying to answer impossible questions about the quantity of blood, we made the decision to get to the hospital fast because I was in a lot of pain.
The drive to the hospital wasn’t what we imagined at all. I wasn’t calling family to tell them we were on our way. We actually spoke very little. Most of the conversation was me dropping a few curse words in reference to the pain . . . not exactly grace under fire, here!
Once in L&D, things got intense. Two nurses quickly saw how much blood I was losing and called for a doctor. A lot of tense looks were exchanged among medical professionals. The next thing I knew, I was on all fours, bare butt in the air, with IVs being poked into each arm. A monitor was strapped around my stomach, and people were saying Code White over and over again. Then a surgeon who I had never met came to my side and pointed to a number on a machine. She calmly said, “That’s your baby’s heartbeat. He is fine. We want to get him out now. We don’t have time for an epidural, so you will be under general anesthesia (asleep). (To my husband, Jason) You won’t be able to be in the room.” Jason and I nodded in agreement and I said, “Let’s go.”
I was quickly transferred to the operating table and was prepped for surgery. My OBGYN, who is also Micah’s pediatrician, had arrived by then. She knew Jason wouldn’t be with me, so she held my hand and said, “I don’t have anywhere to be until the baby gets here.” That meant so much to me. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in recovery. I had a placental abruption. Micah was delivered 31 minutes after we arrived at the hospital.
Meanwhile, poor Jason was left in the hallway alone. Micah was not breathing when he was born. He didn’t cry for quite a while. He had inhaled blood and meconium. The doctor couldn’t suck that stuff out and wound up having to push it back into his lungs to get him breathing. Jason was left to manage this alone.
Jason and our doctor decided that Micah should be transferred up to a NICU in the city. They transferred him a few hours after I woke up. They wheeled him into my room so that I could touch his arm before he left. I knew he was in good hands, but it was awful not being able to hold him. I had to stay at the local hospital for the next 36 hours. I had lost too much blood and wasn’t stable enough to be transported to where Micah was.
By the time Micah got to the NICU, he was screaming and breathing strong. They said that the ambulance ride was very therapeutic. He was 8 lbs. 8 oz. A giant by NICU standards.
Not quite the unmedicated, vaginal delivery I hoped for, but Micah has exceeded all of my hopes and dreams.
9. You had a particularly difficult beginning, but still attached quickly and nursed well right away with your son. Any advice for moms who also face a really hard beginning insofar as bonding with their child or nursing?
If you want to nurse, give it your best shot. Snuggle your baby skin-to-skin, give yourself and your little one a chance to learn, ask for help from professionals and friends, and be patient with yourself and your new baby. Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you need to supplement with formula because of a late start, go for it. If nursing doesn’t work for you and your baby, then you can still have an amazing bond with your child. Nursing is a beautiful thing, but there are so many ways to show your child love. Sometimes you need to be creative to face a situation you weren’t preparing for. Consider it an early change to flex those creative parenting muscles.
10. How did you and your husband feel once everyone was stable?
We were delirious and exhausted and elated. It was wonderful coming home. I still remember the first time laying in my bed . . . wow did it feel good.
Mostly we felt grateful. I had prayed during pregnancy about the delivery. One thing I prayed for regularly was that God would put the right doctors and nurses with us and help us trust in their guidance. I had no idea how important that was going to be. I still thank God for those professionals every day.
11. When you held your son for the first time, how did you feel?
Once my body started cooperating, I got to hold my sweet boy for the first time. They put him on my chest and he scooted his way to dinner. Nursing him for the first time was one of the most miraculous things I have ever experienced. I felt as if I was the first woman who had ever fed her own child!
12. How will you approach your next labor & delivery, if you choose to have more children? What factor does fear play and how will you address that?
One in four women who have a placental abruption have another one during their next pregnancy. Placental abruptions can happen anytime after 20 weeks. We were incredibly lucky to have the happy ending that we’ve had. Given the risk to me and a future baby, we are not planning to have more children. Fear is certainly a driving force behind that decision. If we wind up surprised with a new life, then we will take every measure we can to have another happy ending.