Four weeks ago, my life changed, in so many ways. Like most pregnant mothers-to-be, I had a birth plan. I worked with my midwife throughout my pregnancy and I hired a doula to help me through the labour process. I wanted a natural birth. I wanted to “deliver” my baby and fully experience child birth while being present and free of any drugs or medical assistance. Early on, I was aware that this plan MIGHT not be possible, but I didn’t really entertain any other idea. I stayed positive that this is the route we would go.
The one road block we faced on the way to a natural birth was the fact that our little girl was breeched and stuck in an extremely small space. I have misshaped uterus, called a bicornate uterus, shaped like a heart. It was extremely divided into 2 halves and Zoey was stuck only on one side. Even with this, we stayed positive and hopeful that she would do an athletic somersault and get herself head down. I hired a Naturopathic medical doctor to help, went to a chiropractor every other day and worked with an acupuncturist. My husband even used the moxibustion sticks on my feet every single night, because according to traditional Chinese medicine, these points have been scientifically proven to help the baby turn around. My next step was attempting an ECV, a manual process that a doctor uses to turn the baby. It is apparently uncomfortable and has the possibility to put the baby into distress, so I was not sure this was something I wanted to try, but I did seek a consult with the doctor about it anyways.
On Wednesday October 23rd, at 36 weeks, I went for a routine ultrasound, to see if baby had turned yet. After the ultrasound, I was told that I couldn’t leave the hospital and they were trying to contact my midwife because the baby got smaller then the previous ultrasound. The baby SHRUNK? That’s basically what the ultrasound technician told me, then they left Bruno and I alone in the waiting room. I couldn’t figure out how a baby shrinks. It didn’t seem possible. Finally, my midwife was contacted and she came to meet with Bruno and I. In the end, the baby hadn’t SHRUNK. But baby was no longer following the proper growth curve and was now in the 3rd percentile, while my placenta markers were low. The doctor on call basically told me that my placenta was running out of steam and we needed to get the baby out with a C-section right away.
In the end, after doing endless testing at the hospital, and the doctor confirming with me that an ECV would not be possible with how small the baby is and the shape of my uterus, it was decided that we would book a C-section for Friday. In 2 days. Surgery. This was NOT my plan. This was like, plan K. I had so many other things that I would have tried to do before we ended up in the OR having a C-section. I really struggled to wrap my brain around this. I wanted to deliver my baby. I didn’t want someone just “taking the baby out of me”. I felt a bit like I failed. I considered having a C-section a lesser form of birth. And there was the fact that this was a surgery. I had never really had any medical procedure done before other then stitches. And other then flying, my second greatest fear ever is needles. And getting a huge needle into my spine seemed like my second worst nightmare. I almost felt myself spinning into a depression for 2 days before my C-section. What was I doing? This isn’t what was supposed to happen. I wasn’t prepared for this. I was confused, lost and scared. Childbirth is supposed to be this magical and beautiful experience, but mine was beginning to terrify me.
When I walked into the hospital to check in for my surgery, the nurse was so friendly and excited to congratulate me. I felt like a terrible mother-to-be when I responded with a flat, emotionless thank you. Congratulate me? On what? I wasn’t even delivering my own baby.
I went through my pre-op process, I screamed and cried when the nurse tried to put the IV in me, and then it fell out because I couldn’t sit still. As we attempted the IV a second time, the nurse assured me that this was the worst pain I would feel, the freezing needle and spinal tap would be nothing compared to this. And to be honest, the IV needle wasn’t even that painful, I am just that terrified of needles that I worked myself up into a frenzy. I proceeded to walk into the OR. And I was left to stand on the cold floor, while doctors, nurses, an anesthesiologist and pediatricians prepared themselves. I stood there, shaking and crying for my midwife or for Bruno to be allowed in the room. Anyone that I knew, anyone that wasn’t a stranger. After being given my spinal tap (which I did not feel AT ALL despite all my fear), Bruno and my midwife were allowed into the room and I felt calmer. It literally took less then 8 minutes for the surgeon to get my baby girl out of me. It was SO fast. She came out screaming and crying and the surgeon held her up over the blue curtain and demanded Bruno take a photo or video.
One of the things I expected to happen after seeing my baby for the first time, was being able to hold her. But at this time, the pediatrician and my midwife took the baby right away to check if everything was okay. She weighed only 4 pounds 2 ounces and had low blood sugar, so she needed to be taken immediately to the NICU (called the special care nursery at the Oakville hospital). I was so confused as I was in the recovery room. They let me hold the baby for 5 minutes then she was taken away. Bruno and my family went to see the baby in the special care nursery, and I, her mother, still hadn’t spent time with her.
Eventually, I was taken to see my baby girl, who we named Zoey, as she was in the incubator and hooked up to an IV and heart rate monitors. Not the sight you want to see your newborn in. I was still a patient for 48 hours, so I had to stay in a different section of the hospital, away from Zoey. At first, I would use a wheelchair to go and visit her and feed her, then after about 20 hours, I forced myself to walk to see her. Getting out of bed and standing up was extremely painful. I didn’t realize how painful the recovery process of a C-section would be, but nurses kept reminding me that I had a major surgery and I should not push myself. But I had tons of swelling in my legs and feet and I didn’t want to take the anti-inflammatory medication and I knew walking (very slowly) would be helpful in bringing down inflammation.
We stayed in the hospital for 2 weeks. Bruno and I lived in a family room that the hospital provided us (Thank you Canada for free health-care!!), while Zoey stayed in the NICU. Because Zoey was still admitted in the hospital, her care was with the nurses, doctors and pediatricians, and not with the midwife. This created a lot of confusion because the midwife was still my primary care provider after birth. Everyone seemed to have different opinions and suggestions on what to do with Zoey to help her gain weight so that we could go home. One nurse told me she can’t spend more then 25 minutes feeding because she wastes too much energy. Another told us not to hold her too much, because that wasted to much of Zoey’s energy. We were told to stop breastfeeding and try bottle feeding 100%, we were told we might need a feeding tube or formula (Which in the end, we never needed either one). We were told by one pediatrician that Zoey could go home in 48 hours, and then 5 days later, the new pediatrician on call told us it would be another 5 days. The experience felt like it would never end. Once Zoey stringed together 5 days in a row of weight gain, we knew this was the end of our stay. We did have a bunch of incredible nurses helping us and educating us, for this we are very thankful. But we are so relieved that after 2 weeks of living at the hospital, that we could finally take Zoey home.
Since coming home, Zoey has thrived. She may be tiny but she is happy and strong and fills our hearts with love. Our birth experience and time in the NICU will one day feel like a small dot on the path that will be Zoey’s incredible life.