Our Birth Story

Meet the newest member of our family – Ella! We are so smitten with her and can’t imagine our home without her.

Before we start this story, I want to offer a big trigger warning. This post will contain discussion of a traumatic birth, post-partum depression, and talk of suicide.

Normally such personal and heavy content would not be something I am comfortable sharing. My husband and I have talked extensively about our experiences and whether to share our story. We have chosen to write it out because there are others who have had such experiences. There is also an important takeaway that we have made from everything we went through:

No matter how much you trust your health care providers, knowing your “rights”/policies, and trusting your own intuition is also important.

For clarity, we have a ten-year old son who was born before I was injured and became a paraplegic. Our six-year old daughter was born after I was disabled. And this article discusses the birth of our third child, born 2,5 weeks ago at the time of writing this.

The birth plan

Because I am a paraplegic, all of my pregnancy related care was handled in our local hospital by the team of gynecologists and midwives there rather than the local midwifery center that handles all low-risk pregnancies. After much research and conversations between my gynecologist and my spinal cord injury doctor, we all agreed that an induction and vaginal delivery would be the safest and easiest in terms of recovery.

We all felt most comfortable with an induction in case I were to go into labour spontaneously. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to realise labour was starting or baby could be in distress or just that something would be missed due to my disability. If my waters were to break and I would mistake it for my bladder leaking, that could be really dangerous, of course.

If I were to need a caesarean, I would not be able to have an epidural because of where my injury is. In this case, I would need to have complete anesthesia and would not be awake during the birth.

With our now six-year old, we followed this plan and had a beautiful birth in the same hospital.

We went into this last pregnancy expecting/hoping for a similar experience to our previous pregnancy. There was no indication to expect something different – the pregnancy was largely uneventful except for frequent braxton hicks and low blood pressure being pesky on occasion.

Arriving at the hospital

On Wednesday, July 26, my husband (Klaas-willem) and I brought our older children at our in-laws. We ate dinner all together and headed to the hospital for our scheduled induction.

It felt like a holiday. We were relaxed, holding hands, and enjoying the last moments before meeting our new baby girl. I packed face masks for after the birth and we had plenty of snacks. It felt like a stay in a hotel.

Wednesday evening, the gynecologist inserted a balloon to help with dilation. My husband and I cuddled up and watched a movie while going through our snack stash together. We felt this air of excitement and I couldn’t really sleep thinking about holding our little one so soon.

The Birth

The next day started questionably. Initially, they weren’t sure if we would still be able to induce or if we would need to wait another 24 hours because they were busier than expected. After a few hours, we were taken for the induction after all.

In hind sight, I have spent a lot of time thinking about whether what follows would have been different had we waited longer. Whether had we accepted to wait until the next day, perhaps the balloon would have worked better and everything would have been better.

But we can’t change that now and focusing on what ifs is only maddening.

Next, I received IV medications to start contractions and things seemed to kick off fairly quickly.

Soon, we realised that baby girl was not happy. Her heart was frequently distressed and after a little bit, we had to completely stop all IV medications. They gave me something else to stop contractions while made me ill.

Eventually, baby girl was happy again and the gynecologist on call came in to discuss what we should do next.

This is another point where I spent so much time dwelling and thinking we made the wrong choice again. Our doctor asked if we wanted to give the IV medications to start contractions another go or if we preferred to go directly to c-section.

She made it clear that if baby girl does not respond well to the medicine again, we will not stop again and the only option will be a c-section.

I wasn’t sure at this point and told her that I didn’t want to risk anything happening to the baby if we give a vaginal delivery one more shot. She said she wouldn’t offer it if she wasn’t comfortable with it being safe. So that’s what we did.

Shortly after the contractions started again, the team came into our room. I knew.

Everything both slowed down and sped up in that moment. They said – we will check if you can deliver now, otherwise we will have a c-section. I told them that it wasn’t time to deliver. Again, I knew what was coming.

After this, everything happened so quickly. It didn’t really register with me in that moment that there was a chance that something was actually wrong with the baby. Does that make sense? It was just feeling like we had to do this to get her out but there was no possibility of a serious problem. I was still a bit out of it from all the medications and everything was going on very quickly (and professionally).

I was wheeled to the operation room with my husband running beside me. Within a few minutes, we were preparing for a serious surgery with anesthesia and I would miss the birth of our final baby. No skin to skin. No first rush of love as the babe is put on your chest after hours of hard work. I would miss it all.

It was so fast that I didn’t really have time to process everything. Maybe also for the best because I would have been pretty terrified.

I remember right before we went into the operation room, I looked at my husband through all the staff, and told him “Just in case it doesn’t go well, tell the kids I love them and I love you.”

He told me he loved me, and we were taken to the final space for surgery.

I’m really grateful for how well the hospital handled all of this. They let my husband go into the operation room while I was put to sleep and for the duration of surgery. He sat in a corner behind me while I was given more IV medication to put me to sleep.

It burned and I vaguely remember screaming and then trying to see my husband and then waking up alone later. No baby, no husband. Just a nurse.

Caesarean

My husband told me about the birth.

I am so grateful that he was able to be in the operation room with me. Immediately after I was under anesthesia, the doctors wanted to move my legs and secure them to the operation table. Because I am paralysed, basically it would have left me with two broken legs. I’m so beyond grateful that Klaas-willem was in the room to intervene and tell them to stop.

He told me after the baby was removed, she was given oxygen and was pretty unresponsive. Partially to be expected due to the anesthesia, but also concerning due to her distress earlier. I can’t imagine what he felt seeing me unconscious and watching our baby get oxygen, too.

After Ella was breathing well, she was placed on my chest for a few moments. The staff made photos of this, which I saw once. I don’t know when I’ll be able to look at them properly. I still don’t really comprehend how she could have been born – I wasn’t there.

Afterwards, baby girl was taken to the NICU for observation. The doctors weren’t sure why she was in distress during delivery. They told Klaas-willem that they were scared she had the umbilical cord around her neck and that’s why they rushed to do the c-section so quickly. This was not the case and they wanted to keep her for observation to make sure she was doing well.

Klaas-willem stayed with Ella. He was able to do skin to skin with her while they waited for me to come out of surgery and wake-up from anesthesia.

Waking-up

Up to here, we felt that the hospital staff acted professionally and quickly to get the safest outcome for everyone. This wasn’t the birth we wanted or had dreamed of and it was emotionally painful to accept.

However, we felt included in the decision making and that the communication with staff was excellent. The situation was terrifying and the doctors/midwives/nurses really did their best to keep us calm and reassured us while simultaneously acting with urgency to keep our baby safe.

The rest of this story – the aftercare in the hospital will be in part 2.

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