I was just reading some birth stories on various blogs and it got me to thinking...I have never written down Deklan's birth story! Maybe because it was not the birth that I had wanted for him or me, or maybe because I wasn't so much "into" birth back then as I am now. But in any event, he is my firstborn, my son, and he deserves to have his story told. So, as well as I can remember, here it is:
First, a little background. I was being seen in an OB/GYN office by the midwives who practiced there. The plan was to transfer care to a midwife about 1.5 hours away further along in my pregnancy, and to ultimately give birth at the freestanding birthing home there. Well, this was not to be. We had a routine ultrasound at around 30 weeks. During the ultrasound, the tech was having a very difficult time measuring something about his heart. When she got up to get the doctor, whom we had never met, we were worried. The doctor came and explained that the tech had been unable to find the 4th chamber of his heart. After some searching, she was able to find it, but it was so thick and so small that it was hard to see. We had to set up an appointment with a specialist at a hospital 3.5 hours away. Two weeks later we had our appointment. Four hours later, the specialist announced that it seemed that our son had a trisomy-type defect, and that he was calling in the genetic counselor. We were devastated. We prayed and waited, and while we waited we decided that we would not have an amnio (which they wanted to do that day), and that we would have the baby and love him as long as he lived. After talking with the counselor, the doctor came to meet us again, and discussed the problem. As he was talking, I noticed that he referenced a date, saying that it was his due date, but it was not. I told him that the due date he was using was wrong. He looked really happy, and said "Well, in that case...hold on..." After re-calculating measurements, he announced that our son did NOT have a trisomy defect after all, but simply a loose tricuspid valve that was causing one of his ventricles to be very thick and muscular, as it was trying to compensate for the valve. We were elated and infuriated at the same time. How could a specialist make such a horrible mistake??? We ended up being seen by the specialist for the remainder of my pregnancy, every two weeks. They also found that his pulmonary valve was too tight, in addition to the loose tricuspid valve. They took a wait-and-see approach, waiting to see how his little body would compensate after his birth. I was told that I had to deliver at the hospital 3.5 hours away from us, and that I would have the Dr. on call deliver my son. We were just scared and wanted his birth to be as safe and him to be as healthy as possible. Now, on to the story.
At my 40-week appointment, I was told that I would be induced if I hadn't gone into labor in the next two days. I didn't want to be induced, I had heard horror stories of Pitocin contractions. So, I went home and chugged castor oil...two 4-oz. bottles of it. Well, the aftermath was terrible and I got a foretaste of the "ring of fire", to put it nicely. However, I started in a contraction pattern that felt so different from the Braxton-Hicks that I had been having for days and days. My mom and family had driven down from Michigan to be with me, and they were nearing the end of their visit. I was so hoping that he'd be born while they were here with me! At about midnight, I decided that I was in labor, and that we'd better start the 3.5 hour drive to the hospital. We got there and I went to triage and was hooked up and examined. I was at 4 cm, and had bloody show! So, they kept me. I went to my room and went to sleep, as it was about 7 am by then and I hadn't slept a wink all night.
When I woke up at 9:30am, my contractions had all but gone. My nurse came in and said that they were going to start Pitocin to get my contractions started back up again. I wasn't happy about this, but I agreed and let her start and IV and get the Pitocin running. My contractions gradually started coming back as they increased the Pitocin, although they were comfortable enough to talk through. At around one o'clock in the afternoon, they broke my water. It was a river of clear fluid. It soaked the chux, and I could hear it dripping onto the floor. I asked if someone could please change the pads under me, and my nurse said "No, because they'll just get soaked again." The nurse in me wanted to just scream at her. So I sat in a puddle for the rest of my labor. Shortly after my water was broken, the people I'd invited to my birth (my mom, my friend Melanie, and my friend Miss Chris) returned from lunch. They were so good, trying to help me relax and breathe through my contractions, but all I could smell was the lunch on their breath. I remember yelling at them and telling them to get out of my face or brush their teeth or something!! I apologized after that contraction was over for yelling at them, and they all laughed. From that point till they told me to push was just a blur of pain. Contractions came on so suddenly and painfully that I began to dry-heave. They gave me something for nausea. I contracted and writhed in pain, fighting the pain by tensing up my body and moaning, and putting some claw-marks in my husbands hand. About 3 hours of hard labor later, I was pronounced complete and told to push. We did the classic guided pushing, of curling up with my chin to my chest and pushing for the count of ten, quick breath, then repeat for a total of three per contraction. At first I was motivated...I finally got to push!! And pushing, to me, helped relieve the pain. But then exhaustion began to set in, and only my first of three sets of pushes was even doing anything. The doctor (I later found out that he was an intern, and was asking the nurses what to do next!) told me that I had to have an episiotomy, because I wasn't going to be able to push this baby out. I tried a few more pushes, then in my weariness agreed to the cut. I didn't feel him cut me. A few more pushes later, and I could feel that his head was out! Then, one mighty roar and hard push later, at 4:55 pm on July 27th, 2004, Deklan was born into this world!
He was taken quickly, his cord cut, and moved to the bassinet where the NICU team was waiting for him. My husband asked if he could leave me to go see him, and I said yes. I could hear his strong cries from across the room, which was music to my ears. Again, we weren't sure if he would need heart surgery shortly after being born, or if he would compensate for his defects. He sure sounded good to me! We found that he was a whopping 8 lbs, 6.6 oz! A far cry from the 6.5 lbs they had guestimated only a few days earlier!
Apparently I was bleeding quite a bit, so my nurse started massaging my uterus (which hurt like heck!), and the intern started pulling on the cord to "help" the placenta out. He tore it out in shreds, and my husband and friends said that he just looked at it, then at the nurses with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Little did I know, I had retained fragments of the placenta, which ended up inhibiting my milk from coming in, then 9 days postpartum landed me back in the hospital on IV antibiotics. They pumped me full of more Pitocin to help stop the bleeding. Then I was told that I had torn past the episiotomy to a 3rd degree tear, which went into but not through my anal sphincter. The intern set to stitching me up, without even a local anesthetic. When I placed an ill-aimed kick to his shoulder (I wish I had gotten his head) he asked what was wrong. I asked him why he was sticking a needle into my hoo-ha without even having pain medication! He said "Oh, I thought you had an epidural!" *sigh* Even on my son's records that he brought to his pediatrician, it says that he was born vaginally with epidural pain relief. I purposefully didn't have pain meds because I didn't want to compromise his already compromised heart. Anyway, after some local and IV pain relief, he set to stitching me up. While he was doing that, I heard the NICU team leaving with my son. I yelled to anyone who would listen to please stop them, I hadn't seen my son yet! My nurse ran over, grabbed Deklan, brought him over to me for about two minutes so I could see him and we could take a couple of pictures, then they whisked him away to the NICU for testing.
My heart was aching, but I knew it was necessary. So I just dozed off as the pain medication kicked in, until they moved me to another room. I got up and peed, which burned like nothing I'd ever felt. Then I got into bed and slept for a while. My mom and family had to leave that afternoon, so they came to say their goodbyes. After I woke up, it was NICU visiting hours, so I got to go see Deklan. He was so big compared to all of the other babies in the Level 3 NICU!! They actually nicknamed him "The Moose"! The NICU nurse was great, and got a privacy screen and a Boppy so I could nurse him for the first time. They had already given him bottles of formula, against my direct instructions. He was a hungry little guy though, and latched on pretty well. My visits with Deklan were sporadic for the next day and a half, as the NICU closed down a few times for emergency surgeries on the babies in there. Finally, we were told that we'd get to bring him home with us! Our little guy was being released! We got him dressed and ready to go, and the NICU nurses sent us home with a blanket, a hat, a diaper bag, and formula. After a 3.5 hour drive home on a 3rd degree torn bottom, we got home and were met by a group of family. After pictures and shooing them away, we finally got to relax and settle in. I had a difficult time with breastfeeding, as he preferred the bottle. But I was determined. It turned out that he was also getting frustrated because my milk wasn't coming in because of the retained fragment of placenta. I was exhausted, wasn't eating much or drinking much because I felt terrible. After a couple of days in the hospital on antibiotics, I passed the fragments and felt much better. They didn't have to do a D&C, for which I was grateful. I went home and my milk came in. We settled into a routine, and lived happily ever after!
As you can probably imagine, I learned a lot from Deklan's birth. It's what started me on the path that I'm on now. It wasn't the gentle birth that I had wanted for him, but he's here, he's ours, and he's healthy. And now I know better.