July 22, 2015
I was 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant with Silas and it was our last scheduled OB appointment. At the time, we were living in a sleepy little town just northeast of Atlanta and finding a midwife was just about an impossibility, a home birth even more so, and a good doula very hard to come by. But, despite a pregnancy with many letdowns, we’d made it this far! We walked into that last appointment somewhat intuitively aware that this would be the last.
The week prior, I received a call from the receptionist at my OBs office confirming my induction for July 19th. WHAT?! This was the first I’d heard any talk about induction. I was infuriated fuming mad, as much as a third trimester hormonal pregnant mama could be, especially considering that the 19th would have been around 38 weeks gestation. I had by almost all means an unremarkable pregnancy. All ultrasounds and growth were healthy and spot on, heart beat always right on up until that point, I was 29, and there was really no medical necessity for induction whatsoever. Of course I was in hysterics on the phone with the receptionist and I asked that the OB call me back immediately. The OB actually called me back within a reasonable time frame but honestly, I don’t think anything she told me could have made the situation any better. What came out of her mouth were a series of backpedals and apologies. She explained that this (the call) was never supposed to happen and that once a month the staff gets together to discuss who might be “good candidates” for induction and that my name came up because of how uncomfortable I was. That was the bones of the explanation. What I took from this was, “we have monthly staff meetings to schedule everyone’s births out if possible.” Hell, of course I was uncomfortable. I am 5’2”, a petite tiny thing that gained 45 pounds during my pregnancy. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t sleep, had a very hard time walking with my cankles from the southern summer humidity. Have you ever heard the ‘barefoot and pregnant’ idiom? I suppose it can have several meanings but to me it was this. Being pregnant in the south, in the summer, with ankles no more and swollen feet! Of course I was uncomfortable, but weren’t so many other pregnant mamas? All of this was like clips from movies like The Business of Being Born coming to life right in front of me but somehow I was still in shock.
Anyway, back to July 22nd, my last OB appointment. We went in but left our hospital bags at home because even though we somehow intuitively knew it would be the last OB appointment, I think we tried to hold on to some sort of control.
The first thing they did was hook me up to the NST (nonstress test) but I was glad for this because something just didn’t feel right with Silas. He was moving differently and I was concerned. Rightly so, Silas was responding very poorly to the test and I was watching his heart rate plummet then slowly start to climb back up, but not where it should be. I was freaked out and crying, wondering why the nurse was still in there rather than the doctor. The doctor finally came in and looked at the strip, then looked back up at me and said “well, Miss Ashley, I don’t see any reason to continue your pregnancy at this point. I’d like to send you to L&D for induction.” Again, and in panic, I couldn’t understand this assessment. Everything I’d read and heard about induction said that Pitocin could cause fetal stress or make contractions more extreme than with a natural birth so it didn’t seem logical to me that this would even be considered being that Silas was in distress. In an instant, and still to my shock, I said “no.” “Please give me a quick rundown of a C-Section, I don’t believe induction is the best course of action here.”
She gave me a quick rundown and asked if I’d eaten anything that day. I told her that the only thing I could stomach that day was half a granola bar (it was a little after noon at this point.) She informed us that our hospital L&D had a strict no food for 8 hours policy so that I’d have to go straight there and wait until about 11pm to have the C-Section. Again, I’m not a doctor but this seemed ludicrous to me. She said we had time to go home to get our bags but to go straight to L&D right after that and that her staff would be calling the hospital to let them know we were on our way.
We scrambled home in a daze and panic, and also excitement, trying to make the calls we needed to make to let people know that we were on our way to L&D to have a C-Section and to meet our son. It was baby time! Despite the panic and freak out over the NST, I was so very excited to know that I’d be holding our son at some point that day.
When we finally got to the hospital, we expected them to be prepped for us, but they were not. I wasn’t surprised but I was still mad because this was par for the course my entire pregnancy. Nobody doing what they said they were going to do and a lot of deception also. So, we waited while they prepped for us.
We finally got back to our room where I sat in my robe in the bed and they hooked me up to all the monitoring devices. We were going through a series of intake questions (which I’d previously answered and they should have had in their system from an earlier false alarm trip to L&D.) Anyway, during intake, the questions started getting asked and entered faster and faster, culminating to a panicked “wait, what’s happening?” question uttered out of my mouth as people swarmed around me and placed an oxygen mask over my face and started to shave me. NOBODY ANSWERED ME! I looked at my husband with total fear in my eyes and heart and mouthed for him to help me. I could see that he was stunned also. He finally spoke up to be my advocate and asked what was going on. One of the nurses then rudely said “don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.” We were pretty much shattered at this point but we knew we had to persevere. They flipped me on my side and were able to get Silas’s heart rate back to normal. Then we waited out the 8 hours trying to think of anything to pass the time. We had no music with us, nothing really but ourselves. My in-laws showed up at some point before it was time for the procedure and I was so thankful for their presence. I was mortified and it was a nice distraction.
By about 10pm, my doctor arrived in my hospital room to check in with me and to let me know we were going to start getting ready. Elliott had to leave as I received my spinal block and returned in his astronaut suit ready to have baby. I was wheeled to the OR where they hoisted me up on the surgical table and shined the brightest lights I could have ever imagined on me. It felt like a scene from the X-Files. It was strange. I was shaking so much from the drugs I could barely speak without my teeth chattering but I think I was trying to talk to Elliott. Things were kind of hazy at this point but I remembered him coming by my side and taking my hand as everyone in the OR was talking about their lunch and golf, and things totally inappropriate for OUR BIRTH! It was just another “day in the office” to them, but to us, it was our birth. This was supposed to be our time, not theirs. Anyway, Elliott stood by me, holding my hand and running his fingers through my hair. At the point where they told me I would start to feel strong tugging sensations, he could sense my fear and I asked him to sing with me. We sang together, we looked at each other, into each other’s souls, and I was lost within him and I was finally at peace. I will never forget that moment as long as I live. I’m tearing up now as I recount these memories so vividly. At some point shortly thereafter, it was known that Silas had been born, yes born (I used to think of it as more of an extraction but he was still born.) He was born but nobody said anything really and I didn’t hear him cry. I kept asking if he was ok over and over. Finally I heard him cry and it was the single most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard in my lifetime. They hurried to clean off his vernix which I wasn’t thrilled about and to do all the tests while they were stitching me up. His APGAR was a 9 they hollered from behind a curtain and somehow I felt validated that I did a good job. But still, I needed my son. I needed to see him, hold him, what on EARTH could you possibly be waiting for? Finally I yelled through chattered teeth that I’d like to hold my son. Finally I got to lay eyes on the little boy I’d been waiting to meet my whole life. It was magical. I loved him before he was born but I loved him even more now, instantly. I wish I could say my birth story ended here all happy and fine. But it doesn’t.
After being told by my OB team earlier on in my pregnancy that they didn’t really care much for birth plans, the ONE thing I maintained I wished and needed to be honored through all of it was that under no circumstance would they ever give me any kind of narcotic without my permission or without asking me first. I guess you can tell where I’m going from here…
In recovery, we watched Silas get his first bath and commented that he had a cute birthmark on his tummy. The nurse that was bathing him said “don’t worry, it’ll probably come off.” WTF?! Really? Couldn’t we just enjoy our son? Then a nurse came by and put an IV in my arm and I heard a beep. I asked what that was, what was she doing? “It’s a Fentanyl drip.” she replied. I’m pretty naïve about opiates but I knew it was one. I told her no, I didn’t want that and that I’d requested no narcotics from the beginning and “they” said it was ok. She told me it was protocol. Elliott became my protector at this point and interjected, trying to reason with the nurse while trying to maintain his cool because he was more aware of the dangers of this drug than I. And there was a problem looming. A scary one. I’d gotten nauseated immediately and I starting getting this shooting headache, a headache I’ll never forget. I told the nurse I was really scared because something didn’t feel right.
She then nonchalantly informed me that I was “dangerously close” to having a stroke and that medication needed to be administered right away to bring my blood pressure down. As if her telling me this didn’t make my blood pressure higher. I was terrified and crying. The nurse bathing Silas then pulled my robe down to my belly and placed him on my chest for some skin-to-skin time. I believe this was absolutely necessary in helping to bring my blood pressure down.
You see, there were no on call doctors at this L&D hospital so the nurse had to wait until she got a hold of my OB on the phone to administer the meds to lower my blood pressure. We were in recovery for so long that I cannot even begin to remember how long. Both of our families were panicked because they hadn’t heard from us. Does this seem weird to you that they couldn’t administer meds to lower blood pressure without getting a hold of my doctor by phone? Especially if I was so close to having a stroke?
Well, after all of this, we made it up to our room where we’d be staying the next three days and I was so sick I couldn’t eat or anything. Recovery was a long process for me. I think most C-Sections are but none of this was a good experience.
Maybe I’ll go into my recovery and postpartum journey in another post because that’s another beast in itself and I didn’t realize how long this would all be written down. Thank you if you took the time to read this in its entirety. I hope to keep discussions among women in America about these issues open and more frequent. This shouldn’t be taboo. We should all know about these issues and talk freely so we don’t feel so isolated!
Silas had a nuchal cord that was causing his poor reactions. I read that this is relatively common and not always cause for alarm but all I can say is follow your intuition always!
Silas Crawford York was born at 11:37pm on July 22, 2015 weighing 7 lbs on the nose and was 19.5 inches long. He was loved since conception but he is loved more and more madly each day!