Time again for another birth story; my seventh. Simon was born on September 27th, fourteen minutes “late” as I was in labour on my due date the day before but he came after midnight instead. His birth was a mix of fast and slow, peaceful and chaotic. It was not as I expected and will take me time to process but he is a beautiful, healthy boy and we are both alive.
I believe that I started early labour or at least pre-labour on the 25th. I had contractions enough through the night to make a solid sleep quite difficult. Nothing too intense or painful but steady. They tapered off by morning but I also became aware that baby’s head did not feel as though it was down anymore. Like my other boys, this one had moved in and out of head-down position many times during the end of pregnancy. I messaged a friend who is a maternity nurse (the one who was with me during Sam and Oliver’s births) and asked her for her advice on what we should do. She suggested calling the obstetrician’s office to see what he wanted me to do as he would be the one to turn the baby if it wasn’t head down. I called and waited less than an hour before hearing back from him that he wanted us to go get things checked out and that the staff in the birthing centre would call him if they needed him.
Lacey came over with her kids for a visit in the late morning but by then we knew things were happening so she came prepared to stay with them if we had to go in. Once we knew what the OB wanted, we gathered our things, ate some lunch and left the boys with her to go to the hospital with Jenny. Once were in a room, a nurse confirmed that the baby was not head down but she did not check for dilation because my contractions were so infrequent. The staff called the OB to let him know about baby’s position and he said he would come back at five. It was just after one o’clock at that point so the thought of waiting so long was a bit disheartening since it seemed I wasn’t anywhere near active labour yet. He also wanted us to wait at the hospital rather than going back home, just in case my water broke or things changed and an emergency response was needed.
We walked the hospital, walked around the outside of the hospital and rested in the exam room as much as possible before he came back. He was late – he finally got to us just before six, confirmed that baby was transverse and with the help of an ultrasound, moved him into a head down position in the exam room. It was very gentle and quick which didn’t surprise me considering how it was with Oliver and how much room I seemed to have. We were moved to a regular delivery room and my water was broken. Very quickly it was clear that this wouldn’t be a hands-off birth as there was heavy meconium in the fluid. I was put on monitors and tried to find good positions to labour in to get things moving. I started having regular contractions right away but they weren’t very strong.
Over the course of the evening, I moved from the bed to standing to rocking and in certain positions, Simon’s heart rate would drop a bit. The nurses figured that he probably had his cord tucked under his arm or something. So we’d move into a better position and give that some time. I was calm and things seemed mild at that point. Dad brought Mike and Jenny some supper around seven and I had a few crackers and hummus but otherwise just focused on labour. After a few hours, the doctor ordered pitocin which I had no argument with since it was used with Oliver and helped things move really fast. The nurses figured they would barely give me any and I’d be delivering. However, a few hours of pitocin gradually being turned up and I still had made very little progress. I felt like I was willing him to move down, willing myself to feel an urge to push but the last time they checked me, sometime after eleven, I was only six centimetres dilated. Through this whole time, certain positions were not just making his heart rate drop but plummet. I went from using the gas to get me through a contraction to hearing his heart rate slow way down and then being given oxygen and having nurses wiggling my hips to get the baby off of his cord. His regular heart rate was steady around 145 but during these drops would get down to the 50s. Trying to focus on my breathing while hearing that in the background was so hard. It was clear that the staff was becoming concerned as well.
The OB came back around 11:30 and immediately expressed concern over my slow progress and the monitor strip showing these drops in the baby’s heart rate. I agreed that the slow progress seemed strange. Oliver started out as an almost identical situation – not head down, needed to be moved externally, water broken once he was head down and then pitocin administered to get his head to move down with stronger contractions. And in his case, I was lying down with a spinal the entire time so gravity wasn’t there to help. It had taken about an hour and a half after my water was broken with Oliver and we were going on six hours at this point. The doctor quickly said, “We need to get your baby delivered.” I knew what this meant and rather than focusing on how upsetting it could be to consider a second c-section, I understood quite deeply that this baby was genuinely in danger. Something was not right and I think I knew it for awhile.
Just like my experience with Sam, that was the point that everything started moving quickly. The bright lights came on so to speak, extra tubes were put here and there, I signed consent forms and extra nurses came rushing in. It was a blur but in the middle of it, Jenny was visibly upset and I knew it was important to address it. I was incredibly calm and I will forever be thankful that with God’s help, I was able to keep my peace through the entire experience. Jenny was tired and confused and scared but I told her that I would be okay, that the baby would be okay, that all of this had to happen to make sure our baby was safe. I told her to pray and sleep if she could while she waited for us and then they whisked us away. Various nurses checked on her throughout the surgery until Mike was able to go back to the room with Simon. Thankfully she doesn’t seem affected by it now and she told me that she was able to identify a fear of losing one of us as what was most upsetting to her.
For the third time, I had a spinal administered while in labour. I didn’t have a comforting and familiar nurse with me this time and felt a little out of sorts through the process. I wanted Mike to be with me so badly the whole time I was being prepped. Finally I was lying down and numb, the curtain was up and there he was, capped and gowned and by my side. I was amazed at that point how quickly things moved. We had been warned numerous times that our baby might not cry when he was born because of the meconium in the fluid and then the decelerations in his heart rate made this seem even more likely. We experienced what felt like a miracle when we heard him cry immediately after he was pulled out. He was taken to the side to be looked over and it was a minute before someone said, “Time of birth?” and then, “Baby..?” and we heard, “Boy!” as a response. I laughed again, just like I did with Oliver. If you can have three or four boys in a row, you can certainly have five or six of them in a row.
We waited quite some time, during which I groggily asked over and over where my baby was, until finally a nurse walked over with him and handed him to Mike. I asked for my oxygen mask to be removed and Mike to move Simon closer to me so I could kiss his head. His eyes were wide open and he was moving his tongue around. I remember him catching fuzz from the blanket on his tongue and that I wanted to take it off but my arms were strapped down. My face started itching at some point during that time and while I can’t remember if it was before Simon was brought over or not, I remember asking Mike to scratch my face and it was never good enough. I also felt sick to my stomach a few times and had to throw up, once while Mike was there and once after he and Simon left. It was the strangest thing to feel like vomiting but be unable to use any stomach muscles to bring it up. I don’t remember feeling any of that in surgery with Sam so it was frustrating and made me feel very unsettled.
After Mike left with Simon, I waited for surgery to be done. This part felt so long and I had no idea why. When the actual surgery was over, the OB said that he had used dissolvable stitches, told me that the baby’s cord had been wrapped around his neck and whole body and I heard someone say that I had a lot of blood loss but everything else was quite blurry. I started shaking badly once I was closed up and just wanted to go to sleep. They didn’t move me to a recovery room but left me in the OR to recover, listening to the sounds of instruments being counted and cleaned up and people leaving one by one. I have no idea how long I was there before a few familiar nurses came and moved me off of the table onto a stretcher. They took me back to my room where Mike and Jenny waited with Simon. It was close to two in the morning at this point and everyone was exhausted. Jenny was bubbly with excitement still but I knew they needed to get home to bed soon.
Simon weighed 7lb 10oz and was 21 inches long – kind of a skinny little thing. I expected a big baby because of how quickly I expanded and how much weight I gained but in the end he feels so tiny. He’s right in the middle of all the other birth weights – three brothers were smaller than him at birth and the other two and Jenny were bigger. He nursed well right away and thankfully my milk came in at a reasonable time before he had time to get impatient. We came home from the hospital a bit earlier than we should have but I couldn’t stand the thought of more time in those beds. Because of the blood loss, I was very weak and on Tuesday was falling asleep in the middle of conversations or texting strange things to people because my fingers would fall on the screen in the middle of writing. I didn’t need a transfusion but will need extra iron for awhile and I am very limited in what I can do at home. Mike will be off for awhile, probably the whole month. Very unexpected but totally needed for me to be able to recover well from both the blood loss and the c-section.
This birth experience was so drastically different than any of the others. I knew very quickly that this was one of those c-sections that no one could ever say was unnecessary. I have acknowledged that Sam’s probably was as I had given birth to four babies before him and so a breech presentation shouldn’t have meant an immediate c-section. But this time, I knew my baby wouldn’t have been born safely without surgery. The day I left the hospital, I also found out that the cause of my blood loss – placenta accreta – would have made a vaginal birth end very differently as well. The placenta did not detach when the OB went to remove it and instead opened up blood vessels underneath it and caused a great deal of blood loss. Because it happened in surgery, it was able to be immediately dealt with. Had I given birth vaginally, I would have likely hemorrhaged and then been sent for emergency surgery anyway. I was also told that my uterus was paper thin at the bottom so I was fortunate to have not ruptured – another blessing of never making it into really active or intense labour.
I have been on a roller coaster of emotions this week. A second c-section first felt like a loss of future VBACs, even though I had been told a week before that there was no reason to consider myself a VBAC after this birth. Then I started thinking that I could find someone to let me have a VBA2C. When the OB did his discharge exam, mixed into the “your incision looks great,” was the news about the accreta and the thin uterus. I asked him what that meant for future pregnancies and he said, “I would tell you not to have anymore but I can’t make you do that.” As someone who imagined having babies right up until menopause, this was like a dagger. He didn’t tell me that it would kill me but I know that I just moved into a much higher risk category.
We have prayed and talked and I have cried an awful lot. I don’t feel the same despair as I did but I have come to the conclusion that it is highly likely that if we have another baby, we will have to expect the high possibility of a hysterectomy after a planned c-section. It feels like a better option than being done suddenly without any warning and a hysterectomy would actually be easier for me to be okay with than any form of birth control or sterilization because of our personal convictions on the subject. In the meantime, we will pray hard for full restoration of my body, for thickening of my uterus where it has thinned out, for a full miracle of a new uterus if that is what is required. My heart longs to birth more babies but I also know that I don’t need to have all the answers right now. The last thing I want to do is to get so lost in this grief that I miss Simon’s infancy. He is so precious and beautiful and I don’t want to let this time go by in a fog.
Our other kids are in love with their little brother. Elias has easily shown more interest than everyone else (possibly combined) and practically begs to hold him every day. Jenny hasn’t expressed any disappointment in another brother and neither has anyone else. When I was still in surgery waiting to see Simon, I turned to Mike and said, “Six sons, what a legacy,” and I keep thinking it. It really does feel incredible.