Babywoods’ birth turned out to be rather surprising and unexpected–and not just because it was my first time having a baby. Remember that one time when I overshared about our challenges with getting pregnant? Well, get ready for another overshare of a similar variety.
There are a number of topics that people shy away from discussing: money, infertility, greyhounds who fart, difficult births… you know, the usual slate of taboo subjects. Since I already write about the first three, I figured I’d go ahead and divulge on the last one as well.
Most birth stories I’ve read wax poetic about the glowing, magical experience of bringing a human into this world. While the actual arrival of Babywoods was certainly glowing and magical, the process wasn’t exactly what we’d anticipated. But what in life ever is? I believe in planning for as much as you can in this world and then simply rolling with the punches, because that’s pretty much the only way to enjoy life and not drive yourself crazy.
Labor Begins! We’re Excited (and terrified)!
At 5am on November 30th, a paltry five days after my due date, I started having contractions. I was thrilled, apprehensive, and also not really sure if they were contractions. Everyone told me that I’d definitively know I was in labor, but I wasn’t entirely certain. I woke Mr. Frugalwoods up at 6am and we decided to call the doctor and start our morning routine (Frugal Hound was pleased since it meant she got to go on a walk). I hopped in the shower and realized that my contractions (I was now pretty convinced they were in fact the real deal) were coming rather close together–to the tune of 3 minutes apart.
I called the doctor again and she asked how far away we were from the hospital (10 minutes) and told us to come in immediately. It was only 7am and I’d imagined being at home for the supposedly many hours of early labor. I’d had these fantastical visions of serenely doing yoga at home through contractions…. HAH! I can tell you how that worked out: not at all.
But, we happily followed orders and piled into Frugalwoods-mobile. The entire, admittedly brief, drive to the hospital was populated by me asking Mr. FW how far away we were (a fact I knew perfectly well but was nevertheless compelled to repeatedly ask).
Paying For Parking = I Knew I Was In Labor
We’d originally intended to park for free on a city street near the hospital (since we have a resident parking permit) in order to avoid the hospital’s $7 parking garage fee, but made the game time decision that proximity to the entrance was worth spending seven bucks. I was now certain labor was advancing rapidly since I was willing to forgo free parking. Mr. FW pulled into a spot and I leapt out of the car–I was seriously ready to be inside that hospital.
I was immediately admitted and our fabulous labor and delivery nurse started the process of monitoring my contractions and dilation. I was still fairly chipper and the pain of labor wasn’t terribly overwhelming yet.
I walked around a bit and Mr. FW and I admired the gorgeous view of the Charles River from my room. Long about 10am, the pain of contractions ramped up to what I’d characterize as an 11 and I no longer felt so hot. My desire to walk around vanished and I cried in a heap on the bed.
Bring On The Epidural
With this turn of events, I decided it was time for the epidural. I know there are many different (and bizarrely contentious) opinions about epidurals and I firmly believe everyone should do what works best for them. Let me tell you what, an epidural worked best for me. I’m a huge fan of modern medicine and the epidural is an marvelous invention. I am forever grateful to the kind souls who administered it to me–as is Mr. FW’s left hand, from which I inadvertently drew blood by squeezing it so hard before the medication took effect.
My decision to have an epidural stems from the fact that I had nothing to prove with my labor. I’m human, I don’t like pain. Props to those who do it without medication and props to those who do it with. Either way, labor is profound and it really doesn’t matter what you decide. We all have our own unique childbirth experience and imposing our personal viewpoints on how another decides to handle it is entirely preposterous.
Post-epidural, Mr. FW, the nurse, the doctor and I chatted about all manner of things as we waited for Babywoods to labor on down. Mr. FW regained feeling in his left hand and I regained the ability to see straight and think clearly without mammoth pain clouding my brain. My labor was progressing quickly and without incident.
The nurse and doctor repeatedly commented on how easy and fast my labor would be and praised me for staying so healthy throughout pregnancy (hooray for yoga, which I practiced up until the day before Babywoods was born). All was good and I perused the hospital lunch menu in anticipation of needing some post-birth refreshment (also, free food you guys!).
From Simple To Crisis In 30 Seconds
Long about 11:30am (a mere 6.5 hours after my first contraction), our nurse checked my dilation to prepare me to push. I was elated and overjoyed that Babywoods would be with us soon. And that’s when my incredibly simple, straightforward labor became a rare statistic.
As the nurse evaluated my dilation, she suddenly went from smiling, encouraging, and chatty to pale and frantic. She told Mr. FW to pull the emergency call button, which he did and… nothing happened. Our call button was broken and so she directed him to “run into the hall and yell for the doctor.” Being a man of action who is impeccably tranquil during adversity, he did just that and returned with a phalanx of 15 people.
Apparently he was so convincing of our need for additional personnel that they left a wake of abandoned clipboards, stethoscopes, and coffee flying into computers. I was now flat on my back with our nurse on top of the bed and a frenzy of doctors buzzing around me. Needless to say, I commenced panicking. I thought to myself–well, if there was ever a time to panic, this is it.
Mr. FW for his part (again, the most zen-like man on earth) calmly stood back and said comforting things in the direction of my prone head. In my fog of panic, I didn’t understand what was amiss, but it was blatantly clear that something was very, very wrong. In 30 seconds, I was wheeled across the hall into the operating room. The doctor informed me they’d be performing an emergency caesarean section and I said “ok, do whatever you have to do!” Ever the optimist, Mr. FW started shouting “I love you and you’ll be fine.” I wasn’t so sure.
Once in the operating room, I heard the doctor continuously yell “faster, faster, faster!” to the team of what now appeared to be 30 people. I, for my part, was having a rather convoluted conversation with a nurse who had been assigned to keep me apprised of the surgery. I was, oddly, quite calm at this point because I felt confident in our doctors and was tremendously thankful to be in a world-class hospital. I was also on a lot of pain killers.
As I eventually learned, Babywoods’ umbilical cord was prolapsed–in other words, protruding ahead of her–which cuts off baby’s oxygen supply. Turns out, this is a rather rare situation that occurs in fewer than 1% of pregnancies. It’s not something that can be predicted, prevented, or planned for. It can simply happen in the course of labor and usually the only way to resolve it is through a c-section. The statistics for infant mortality in environments where an immediate c-section is not available are quite grim. But, with the intervention of a rapid c-section, the outcomes are quite good. Here again we give thanks for the miracles of modern medicine.
Seven minutes after our nurse discovered the cord prolapse, Babywoods was born. Mr. FW yanked on scrubs and ran into the operating room as Babywoods came out and thus was able to see and hold her immediately. Thankfully, since I’d had an epidural, the anesthesiologist didn’t have to put me completely under, so I was (relatively) lucid and able to see Babywoods as Mr. FW held her.
However, father and daughter were quickly whisked out as Babywoods was deemed perfectly healthy after an APGAR of 9, but I was still in need of monitoring. After finishing my surgery, I was taken back to my room where Mr. FW and Babywoods were hanging out together enjoying their first cuddle. Mr. FW brought Babywoods over to me and held her as she breastfed like a champ. I was initially concerned that having a c-section would stymie our breastfeeding progress but fortunately, that hasn’t been the case at all and we’ve been successfully breastfeeding since birth.
Assuming The Worst Is Over
Having come through this emergency c-section unscathed, we certainly believed that the worst was over and that we’d now be able to recover and bond as a family. And that’s just what we did for a day or so.
Then, when Babywoods was in the hospital nursery for her routine baby tests and shots, she suffered a loss of oxygen for a few moments, which raised an alarm. Apparently, Babywoods was experiencing bouts of oxygen desaturation, which essentially means her lungs weren’t sending commands appropriately to breath. This condition is unrelated to the cord prolapse, but related to the fact that she was born via c-section.
Babywoods was then admitted to the Level 2 nursery at the hospital, which is essentially one step down from a neonatal intensive care unit. She continued to endure desaturations in her oxygen levels and thus was kept under observation for six days. Fortunately, the hospital was extremely encouraging and accommodating of my desire to exclusively breastfeed Babywoods and I was able to do so in the nursery around the clock.
The major upside to being in a hospital for so long is that Mr. FW and I feel like we received a master’s class in infant care. We asked Babywoods’ nurses endless questions and watched as they cared for babies around the nursery.
We learned all about breastfeeding by making friends with the lactation consultants and just generally being open to advice. Anytime someone asked if we wanted to observe or learn something, we said yes! We might’ve been stuck in the hospital, but we certainly took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. The pediatrician deemed Babywoods healthy following her six day observation period and we headed home in the trusty Frugalwoods-mobile.
Prepare For The Worst, Enjoy The Best
The prevailing sentiment Mr. FW and I have following the unforeseen conditions surrounding our daughter’s birth is gratitude. We are deeply and profoundly grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved Babywoods’ life and ensured my safety in surgery. The care we received was excellent and everyone we interacted with at the hospital was helpful, kind, knowledgable, and proficient in their field.
After an exceedingly easy and uncomplicated pregnancy, we were certainly surprised by how her birth transpired, but we weren’t entirely unprepared. Mr. FW and I tend to live according to the ethos of planning for worst-case scenarios. Far from being a defeatist or negative attitude, this approach enables us to realize success even in less than optimal circumstances. For example, rather than have an ironclad birth plan we stridently wanted to adhere to, our goal was to have a healthy baby and a healthy mom. Other than that, we weren’t wedded to a particular course of events.
People have asked if I’m disappointed about Babywoods’ birth process and the answer is I’m not because I have a healthy baby. By remaining focused on our true end goal (healthy baby, healthy mom), we set ourselves up to experience gratitude.
This approach allows us to be at peace with the anomalies of life and to even enjoy them. While I never imagined we’d be in the hospital for a week, I also never imagined how much stellar infant knowledge we’d garner by being in a hospital for a week. There’s nearly always an upside to unanticipated situations because they pull us out of our comfort zones and cause us to gain new insights.
I know that raising Babywoods will be rife with deviations from “the ideal” and I hope that I can keep this attitude of flexibility always at the fore. Mr. FW and I control the variables we can and surrender the rest.
I firmly believe you can put yourself in the best possible position to undergo crises by having an attitude of open acceptance. Things will happen in life. We can’t always predict them. The key is how we’ve prepared ourselves–emotionally, physically, financially, and logistically–to manage them.