Nora’s Birth Story (Part one of who knows how many)

This has been written and revised so many times under so many states of mind that I can’t even begin to know how to introduce it. I began in tears, the week after she was born, knowing I had to regurgitate as much of what I felt as possible. I have gone back many, many times and added more actual detail. This isn’t even half the story, but it’s a start.

We first saw Nora in breech presentation in a 32 week ultrasound. She stayed in that position for the rest of my pregnancy.

I guess her birth story begins at my 37 week appointment. The doctor had been sure the bulge I felt by my belly button was her bottom. I knew it was her head. It had been there as long as she was big enough for us to be able to tell. A quick internal exam and an ultrasound confirmed what I feared: breech.

I was presented with three options: vaginal birth, version, or cesarean. Vaginal birth and version seemed out immediately. In my mind there were too many risks for baby, and cesarean seemed the safest way to go. My doctor had very little experience with either vaginal breech delivery or version. So, we scheduled a cesarean for August 28, just a week before my due date, giving us 2 weeks to get this baby to flip on her own.

I had spent my entire pregnancy preparing for a drug-free vaginal birth and I felt like my world was crumbling on top of me. We tried lying on an ironing board, getting me and a semi-headstand position, even moxibustion. I cried and prayed a lot, and Errol and I decided we would ask the doctor again about trying version. At my 38 week appointment, we made a new plan with the doctor. August 28 we would report for a version. If successful, we would induce labor, if not then we would have a c-section.

After a week of more trying all the home tricks to turn a breech that we could, and more crying and praying, I decided that version was just not the right answer. I had a really bad feeling about it, and was feeling more and more positive about going in for a planned cesarean. So, at my doctor appointment on August 27, we changed the plan. Cesarean it would be. We immediately went to get pre-admitted and have blood drawn for the next day.

Errol and I went out for a nice dinner at Boure, and I had a glass of wine hoping it would relax me and help me sleep. I had a stuffed pork chop and Errol had ribs. It was still a very restless night. We both had a hard time finally going to bed. Think “Christmas when you’re 5” times a thousand.

We reported to the Emergency entrance at 5:30 a.m. for our 7:30 surgery. My mom met us there. They processed me, tacked on my ID bracelet, and then we walked up to labor and delivery. Errol, my mom and I made the walk to the elevator with my bags and when we got to the floor they had me press the call button and go back into labor and delivery on my own. It was all such a relaxed and surreal experience. I had expected to arrive here in pain, breathing heavily and in a wheelchair. As I sat on a chair at the desk and signed more paperwork, I couldn’t help but think about how I would never labor and deliver a baby in any of these rooms around me.

They took me to a triage room, with three beds divided by curtains, where I went into a bathroom, changed into a gown, and collected a urine sample. Then, I got into a bed. They drew more blood, then they inserted the IV. (Bane of my existence for the next few days because they put it in my right forearm. I wish I had thought to ask why they didn’t put it in the back of my hand. That IV got bumped so many times while I was holding the baby. Very painful.) They also put socks on my feet and some boots that inflate and deflate to prevent blood clots. Next came the monitors for baby and for contractions, then they shaved me. It was a very painful dry shave with an electric buzzer. Ow.

After that, they brought Errol in. I thought I would be able to have him and one other person with me in the triage area, but they said no. One nurse, though, started allowing folks back to see me. We got to visit with our doula, my mom, and our pastor.

Errol got changed into scrubs. We waited for a while. There was a surgery meeting, so our surgery time got pushed back about an hour. The longer we waited, the more I just wanted to hurry up and get it over with. When I look back, though, I wish I had just savored those last moments of pregnancy. I wish I had taken more time to enjoy my whole last day of pregnancy. I wasted a lot of energy on anxiety.

While we were in triage, I was assigned a room out on the maternity floor and my mom was able to get all of our personal belongings settled and have a private place to wait for us.

My doctor (along with what seemed like a dozen nurses, but maybe it was 3 or 4) came in and took another look at the baby’s position with an ultrasound, and talked to us a little more about what to expect. We also got a check in from the pediatrician who is a friend of ours. Then, the nurse anesthetist came in to explain what would happen with the spinal anesthesia and answer any questions we had. He was awesome. This is the person who will be there by your head the whole time, so it’s very important to have someone supportive. He even held my hand while they stitched me up after Errol had left with the baby.

They wheeled me down the hall to the surgery room, and had Errol wait outside while I got prepped. The spinal didn’t hurt at all getting administered. They used a local anesthesia for the site, so all I felt was a lot of pressure. The hardest part was holding still with my back arched, sitting on the edge of the table. I was shaking so bad from the cold room, from the overwhelming emotions, just everything. Thank goodness for Tina, the sweet, sweet nurse who let me lean on her and grip her arms for dear life. They laid me back down and I started feeling a tingle almost immediately. After that, everything seemed to happen all at once. The drape went up blocking my view. It was a lot closer to my face than I expected. Then, they confirmed I was numb and surgery began. The doctors had already gotten a start when they brought Errol in to sit with me.

What happened next is all a blur. I can’t even begin to describe the pressure I felt as they pulled Nora out. It was way more intense than I expected. What seemed like forever tugging and pushing, she emerged at 8:30 a.m. and was taken by the pediatrician to get suctioned and checked out. This station was within my view, so I was able to see her in all her freshly born glory. I immediately noticed her full head of dark hair. She seemed so big to me. When they got her cleared out and I heard her first cries… I can’t describe the emotion. I must have been holding my breath, because I felt sobs just explode out of me when I finally heard her cry. I was overwhelmed with this feeling: she sounds like me, she’s mine. The pediatrician brought her over so I could touch her face and see her up close, then Errol left with her and the pediatrician to go to the nursery and get her weighed and checked out.

I said I had a bad feeling about version, and I know now that my gut instinct was right on. When the doctor extracted my uterus to stitch it back up, he remarked that there were 4 or 5 golf-ball sized fibroids attached to the exterior. There were probably more in the muscle that he could not see. So, I feel like this was our answer. Perhaps their placement was in such a spot where she would have been unable to turn in any other position than the one she was in. (When I had my 2-week check in with him, he confirmed this was, indeed, the most likely explanation for why she was breech, and it’s probable that future pregnancies will result in breech presentation.)

Coming (sometime before her first birthday, maybe): I get moved to recovery, my first time to hold her, the sweet honeymoon days in the hospital, and our harrowing first two weeks at home. Stay tuned!