Emilia’s Birth Story

As promised, here is the novel that is my baby girl’s birth story. :)

Where ever to begin? The first week of our little one’s life was easily the hardest week of our lives. The moment she was born was perfect and magical, but it wasn’t long before she was taken away from us and we were absolutely terrified like we had never been before. But let’s start from the beginning. :)

As I neared the end of my pregnancy I consistently measured small. At around 37 weeks we were scheduled for a growth ultrasound to make sure baby girl was growing normally. The ultrasound measured her at 6 pounds 9 ounces – she was growing right on track. The ultrasound also showed that I had borderline low amniotic fluid – 5.9 centimeters. (They don’t like it to be below 5.) After talking with my midwife, I was told that we would have another ultrasound in a week to make sure the fluid amount didn’t drop. Her exact words to me were, if it drops below 5, you are done being pregnant. (Insert wide-eyed, flushed emoji here.) Basically, I would have to be induced early. They hooked me up to a non-stress test which baby passed with flying colors. I was told to drink a TON of water in the next week which could increase my fluid levels. I left the appointment so nervous and hating the fact that I would have to wait a week to know if everything was okay or not. I spent that week drinking loads of water. (Seriously, I was miserable! I already had felt like I drank plenty of water – it was all I would drink throughout the day and I really made a point to keep myself hydrated in my pregnancy. So, drinking even more made me feel so full of water all the time and I was peeing constantly – which was pretty much the case already.) I also tried to get as much done as possible just in case – final nursery updates, a day full of making freezer meals, packing the hospital bags, and bonding with my baby bump.

When Monday finally rolled around I was so nervous. What if I was under 5 centimeters? Would we have to go to the hospital right away? We took our hospital bags and car seat just in case. Our ultrasound started and right away my stomach dropped and I had to fight back tears when I could see the numbers on the screen hovering around 3. I’m not sure how they figure it out, but I ended up being measured at 4.5 centimeters of amniotic fluid. It had dropped, despite all my excess water-drinking.

The ultrasound tech was super sweet and waited patiently for baby girl to move, just to make sure everything looked okay with her. She checked the placenta as well which looked good and told us that baby girl got a score of 8 out of 8 – my borderline low fluid was the only thing amiss. She let us know she would call my midwife right away, so we headed to Pybus market to wait for a call to tell us what to do.

When my midwife called she let us know that we would need to be induced that week, but it didn’t need to be rushed because baby girl’s stats looked so good. She scheduled me to come in that afternoon to do another non-stress test to make sure baby girl was still okay, and as long as that went well, we would schedule the induction for later that week. We went and got lunch and wondered when our daughter’s birthday would be and what it would be like to meet her.

Our non-stress test went well – they called her a happy baby. While this meant we didn’t have to rush to the hospital, we still had to schedule the induction for that week to make sure my fluid levels didn’t drop more and stress baby girl out. Our midwife called and scheduled us to get to the hospital for the induction at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, October 18th. She also checked my cervix (I was dilated 1.5 centimeters), and she stripped my membrane to try and help labor in starting naturally. It was super uncomfortable, and I was pretty crampy afterward.

The next day, Tuesday (our induction eve), was spent to trying to get as much ready as possible, and also trying not to be nervous about what was to come. I tried to relax and spend extra time talking to my belly and enjoying her kicks and hiccups from the inside. It’s so strange knowing that your time with your baby on the inside is rapidly coming to an end. I wanted to go into labor naturally so bad, but baby girl was cozy and stayed put.

I, of course, woke up at 3:30 the morning of the induction and couldn’t fall back asleep. I had coffee and a good breakfast of eggs, sausage, and whole grain toast. We loaded up the car a little early and headed to Glaze bakery to pick up a dozen donuts to give the nurses. (They were super appreciative!) We got to the hospital, checked in, and headed to the room that we would have our baby in.

Now, from this point forward things kind of get blurry for me because it was such a long day which turned into a long night which turned into (over) a long week. I will say that the nurses I dealt with (which was quite a few of them) were all amazing! A special shout-out to my first nurse, Brenna. I loved her! I knew when she greeted me with a big hug that I had gotten a great nurse! :) She was informative, empathetic, and so, so sweet! I remember tearing up when I realized that she wouldn’t be my nurse during delivery, as my labor would go well past her shift. But really, I was blessed with all the nurses during my stay. I hope they all know how amazing they are and how much I (and hopefully all of their patients) appreciate the work they do.

To kick of my induction, my cervix was checked and I was given Cervadil which softens the cervix before Pitocin is administered. (I was still at 1.5 centimeters.) I was instantly defeated when I found out that the Cervadil takes a long time to work usually (12 hours) and my midwife would be back to check me at 8 p.m. (!!!!) I was told that it was likely I wouldn’t have her until the next morning or even the next night. Yikes. My day was spent pretty uncomfortably. The Cervadil made me constantly crampy and gave me contractions that steadily got more painful as the day went on. I absolutely hated not knowing if I was progressing or not all day. I was able to order food around 11 and an early dinner around 4:30 – I knew I was going to need the energy. I wasn’t able to sleep at all thanks to the consistent cramps and contractions. I walked around my room and used a medicine ball. (I did NOT want to walk the halls in the hospital gown – even with my robe I brought.) As the evening rolled around, my energy was wearing thin. Marty was telling me to squeeze his hand through the contractions, but I literally did not have the energy to. I ended up doing a dose of Fetinol to try and get some sleep and it worked for about 45 minutes where I dozed in and out.

At 8 p.m. when my midwife came to check me I was in some pretty good pain. She told me I was dilated between 2.5 and 3 centimeters – just barely enough to start the Pitocin. Not going to lie, I was also way defeated that I had been in pain ALL day and only dilated another 1.5 centimeters.

The Pitocin contractions were much worse than the earlier contractions. I got one more dose of Fetinol and had another 45 minutes of dozing in and out of sleep. The contractions got stronger and stronger. I tried walking around and using the medicine ball some more. The medicine ball actually helped the most.

I did some standing movements by the bed, swaying my hips side to side. (Marty did the movements with me – we joked that we were dancing together. I love him.) It was a little after 1 o’clock in the morning at this point, and I got back into bed. My water broke shortly after. I was laying down and felt leaking. I called the nurse in who went to get some strips that would confirm that it was actually my water breaking. It took forever to get them, and I eventually had to go to the bathroom. The second I stood up, a giant puddle formed at my feet. YUCK!! I was terrified and disgusted and waddled to the bathroom wanting nothing more than a shower. (Which I wouldn’t get until like 6 p.m. on Thursday.)

After my water broke (which I was happy it did on its own and they didn’t have to break it for me) my contractions got MUCH more painful. My entire body was shaking uncontrollably which I hated but was told it was completely normal. By this point, even with no energy, I was squeezing Marty’s hand SO tight. I was debating an epidural for hours. I was scared of the needle in the back, but also scared I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain for an unknown amount of time. I was so exhausted, I couldn’t think for myself, I couldn’t make decisions. I felt like I was letting everyone down. I just wanted sleep.

Finally, when the pain got so bad I couldn’t stand it, I made the decision to have my cervix checked. If I was close to pushing, I would power through the pain. If I was not, I was getting an epidural. I could not handle the pain for more than a couple hours. (Seriously, not knowing my progression throughout such a long day and night was awful. I felt like I was laboring with no end in sight.) I ended up being dilated to 3 still. After being at it for at least 15 hours. I said yes to the epidural.

The anesthesiologist came quick after my decision was made, thank goodness. I was still having really bad contractions and I was still shaking uncontrollably which made me even more nervous for the epidural. My midwife told me it was okay – they were used to doing this on laboring women, even with the shaking. (Which blows my mind.) It went pretty quickly and didn’t hurt very much, just some slight stinging. They had me lay flat on my back so it could distribute evenly and it worked on one side better than the other, so he re-positioned the catheter in my back and it started to work on the other side as well. My legs got super tingly until eventually I couldn’t move them anymore. I couldn’t feel the contractions anymore – hallelujah. I fell asleep from 3:30 to 5 a.m. One and a half hours of glorious sleep.

The nurse came in to adjust me (they would move me from side to side to keep the epidural distributed evenly) and to empty my bladder. (Gross, I know, but you can’t feel a thing so – it wasn’t a big deal.) She also decided to check my cervix since it had been awhile. I was dilated to 6! Yay! After that, my epidural started to wear off on the right side only. So, I could feel no pain on the left side, but I could feel sharp contractions on the right. I tried to get readjusted and up the dosage, but it just never really took again on the right side. Which means I got no more sleep. Thankfully the contractions were still dulled some by the epidural – they were nothing like they had been. But still painful.

I breathed through the half contractions for the rest of the time, and I really started to feel a lot of pressure with each one. Like, tremendous pressure. I was told that women with epidurals typically feel this pressure and up the dosage, but pushing the dosage button wasn’t really working for me anymore. I had a feeling that the crazy pressure meant pushing time was near, but I was still waiting to be checked to know for sure.

At around 8:30 a.m. the nurse (now on my third and final nurse, thank goodness) checked me and found that I was ready to go – she could feel baby girl’s head!

At around 8:45 a.m. I started pushing. Since my epidural had worn off some, I could feel the contractions and when to push. Pushing was by far the easiest part of the whole thing. (Surprisingly.) I’m sure I had the epidural which wasn’t completely worn off to thank for the pain being manageable, although I did still feel pain. It was just great to finally know the part I’d been waiting for was here and I just needed to work really hard and baby girl would be here. I finally had some control over things.

I pushed for a little over an hour. I honestly think I could’ve pushed her out much quicker, but there were points when I had to wait for the next contraction. They were upping my Pitocin to try and get the contractions to occur more frequently, but there were still lulls where I had the energy to push but had to wait to save that energy for a contraction.

At 9:55 a.m. on Wednesday, October 19th, our baby girl was born! Right away they set her on my chest and Marty cut the cord. They were wiping her off and rustling her around as she was on my chest, trying to get her to cry. She never did really let out much of a cry at all, just a couple little cry-squeaks. I absolutely adored having her on my chest – the best part of the whole day. Just being able to rest my cheek on her little head with Marty by my side was perfect. I was so surprised at all the hair she had – I was certain she’d be mostly bald like I was! I couldn’t believe that she was finally with us on the outside. Such a magical moment.

It wasn’t until after my skin to skin time that they took her away to be bathed, weighed, etc. She was 6 pounds 9 ounces (the same weight the growth ultrasound had estimated her at a week and a half earlier!) and she measured 19 3/4 inches long. This was about when things turned completely upside down for us.

The pediatrician came in to look at her because the nurses were concerned about her rapid breathing and the fact that she hadn’t really cried yet. The doctor was also really concerned about her breathing and they whisked my baby girl away to the special care nursery.

This day was such a blur. Really the whole week was. But I remember sitting in the bed eating as Marty was over with the nurse getting baby girl weighed and cleaned and everything. He never left her side. When they took her out of the room, it was Marty who came over to tell me what was going on. He was fighting back tears and I had never seen fear in his eyes like that before. It was heartbreaking. I didn’t really feel scared or anything at that point though. I honestly just thought they would do some precautionary tests on her and we would get her back after. It just didn’t seem possible that my perfect baby girl would be anything other than perfectly healthy. I tried to comfort him by telling him that everything would be okay, and I held his hands and prayed with him.

The more time that went on the less confident I felt in my certainty that things would be just fine. My baby girl still wasn’t back with us and we hadn’t heard anything. Eventually it was time for them to move me from labor and delivery. If I though labor was hard, it was absolutely nothing compared to moving to a postpartum room with an empty belly and no baby girl.

When we finally did get to see her again in the NICU, she was hooked up to so many wires and tubes. A supplementary oxygen tube, a tube to keep her stomach from inflating (because of the supplementary oxygen), an IV for antibiotics, and lots of wires to monitor her heart rate, oxygen, breathing rate, etc. If I had any hope of her being just fine and coming back to us that day, they flew out the window the second I saw her. It was absolutely devastating for me to see my tiny baby girl that way. They had X-rayed her lungs and found some fluid and were throwing the word pneumonia around. I had a friend who died from pneumonia, and I was TERRIFIED. This was not how my baby’s birth day was supposed to go.

I lose track of the timeline of our hospital stay after that day. It was a week of the worst roller coaster ever. Good news was often followed by bad news and our emotions were up and down. The first few days of her in the NICU were really hard because any time she would be moved around, her oxygen levels would go down. I remember going down to see her the morning after she was born and the nurse offered me skin to skin time with her. I was so shocked – I was certain we wouldn’t be able to hold her while she was hooked up to everything. I almost started to cry right there as I said yes, yes I would love skin to skin time with her. I held our little love close and never wanted to let her go. Her breathing was great while I was holding her, but moving her in and out of her little NICU bed made her levels drop. Later that afternoon, Marty also got to hold her for the first time, which was really special. Those moments needed to hold us over, because the following couple days we didn’t hold her in order to keep her levels stable. It was hard to get to day four of her life and know I had only held my baby daughter twice.

Those first few NICU days were full of me trying to heal, visiting baby girl in the NICU and getting scared when her monitor alarms would go off, hearing lots of “we don’t know why this is happening to her”, and crying every single time I looked down at my empty belly. I always thought I would never be one of those women who missed being pregnant because I’d be so happy to have my baby girl on the outside, but instead I broke down every time I would look at or touch my belly. I missed having her in there where I could feel her move and keep her safe. I missed her SO MUCH. I hadn’t been apart from her for nine months so the separation was unbearable.

Our days in the hospital were very structured. (We thankfully were able to stay in the room we were in so we got to be at the hospital with our baby. Even though staying at the hospital sucks, we would not have been able to leave without her.) We would basically pump every three hours, take whatever I could get down to the nursery for baby girl, and try and eat, sleep, and take care of ourselves in between.

On Saturday morning I believe, we went to see her, only to find an ultrasound technician doing an echo which is a heart ultrasound. The pediatrician told us they were going to send the images to Children’s Hospital in Seattle to get their opinion on care. Just hearing Children’s Hospital was enough to start instant tears. That was where the really sick kids would go when our hospital couldn’t provide adequate care. My mind raced. Was she going to need to be flown to Seattle? I didn’t think I could handle that. We would later hear that Children’s didn’t see anything that would call for more care than our hospital was providing. They basically said, you’re doing exactly what we would do. Thank you Jesus!

 We had another not-so-fun surprise when we went to visit her and were told by the nurses it wasn’t a good time. (Nothing like hearing those words to make you feel like you have no control over what happens to your baby. I felt in the dark and helpless a lot of the time.) It turns our they had to redo her IV and they were struggling to get it in her tiny baby veins. Multiple nurses tried for TWO whole hours. She ended up with pokes and bruises on both hands and both feet from the attempts. They ended up putting it in her SCALP. This was a hard thing for me to accept, although it’s apparently a good place for them to put IVs in infants because it’s more out of the way. One of the nurses made the comment, “We didn’t have to shave any of her hair!” This totally shocked me – the thought that my baby’s first haircut could’ve been a shave for a stupid IV that they weren’t even sure she needed in the first place. (The antibiotics were a precautionary thing that they put her on – and they didn’t even know if it was helping her or not.) I added to my prayers that the new IV would not go bad so they would not have to struggle to put in a new one. I know it’s superficial, but I felt like so many firsts were being robbed from me and I was NOT ready to have first haircut be one of them. Thankfully, the scalp IV lasted for the remainder of her antibiotics.

One of the days she spent underneath the bilirubin lights as she had a touch of jaundice. I broke down seeing her under the lights with the little eye cover over her eyes for some reason. It turns out, I’m pretty sure she loved being under the lights. They kept the room super warm since she was in just a diaper, and she loves warm! (Just like her mama.)

After about four days with supplemented oxygen, the tube was able to come off. She was breathing great, and once the tube came off, she was done with it for good. That felt like a HUGE relief because her breathing was the reason we were in there in the first place. Unfortunately, since they had put her on a 7 day antibiotic, we were stuck there at least until that finished. Once she was done with the supplementary oxygen, we started a feeding schedule with her. I would pump and we would take the milk down to feed her every three hours. As exhausting as it was, this was a great turning point for us because it meant we got to snuggle her LOTS throughout the day as we fed her. We were also changing her diapers, which we hadn’t even done up until that point.

I struggled so hard with accepting that this was how she would spend her first week of life. I struggled with letting go of all the plans I had envisioned for that precious time of my baby girl’s life. All the outfits I had ready for her, all the family and friends I wanted to meet and hold her, and all the pictures I wanted to take of her during that first week. I hated that she was brand new to the world and had already experienced more pokes than some people experience in a lifetime. I teared up every time I would see a car seat in the hospital, ready to take a baby home.

Another really hard thing for us was having to deal with a different pediatrician every single day. (This is a new hospital policy.) Every day a new pediatrician would have to get up to speed on baby girl and then make decisions on her care for that day. Each pediatrician had a different approach, and we were often told one thing by one doctor, only to hear something different the next day by the new doctor.

Once she was done with the supplemented oxygen and we were on our feeding schedule of every three hours, I remember the nurses offering for us to skip a feeding if we wanted – that they would feed her so we could get some extra sleep. I know how important it was for us to take care of ourselves while we were there, but there was no way we were going to miss a feeding, no matter how tired we were. Our trips down to her nursery to feed her every three hours were the BEST parts of our days! That’s when we got to feed her, snuggle her, hug her, kiss her, and know that she was okay. We even ended up moving the pump and all the parts down to her nursery which is where I would pump after her feedings, or while Marty fed her. This means we got even more time in her nursery with her. (My mom actually suggested I do this earlier in our hospital stay, but I felt like it would be too noisy and obtrusive in her nursery. Once we did do it, I was a lot happier and didn’t mind pumping as much. I should’ve listened to my mama sooner!)

For baby girl’s feedings, the hospital gave us a “goal” of feeding that we needed to reach before we would be able to go home. This was SO frustrating for us. We legitimately felt like hostages. Looking back on it now, I know it was so important for us to make sure she would be able to eat well at home, but we were expected to get her eating a lot in a short period of time. We would usually have to wake her up for feedings and she would fall asleep halfway into the feeding. They wanted her feeding amount upped every other feeding, with the goal of 55 ML. We wouldn’t be able to go home until she could eat 55 ML at every feeding for 24 hours straight. Each time she fell asleep before reaching the amount they wanted her to eat, we would try to wake her and force her to finish the bottle. It felt like we were torturing her and it was really hard on us. I couldn’t believe the hospital was trying to get us to feed her more than she wanted to eat. Shouldn’t we be listening to her? Shouldn’t she be telling us when she was full? She would literally purse her lips during the feedings as if to say, “I’m done mom and dad. No more.” The pediatrician of the day ended up talking to us about putting a feeding tube back in which brought more tears from me. It felt like such a big step backward when I really thought we were so close to going home. Ultimately we ended up agreeing to put it back in, just so she could get all the food she was expected to eat in a feeding which would hopefully give her the strength and energy to eventually start taking the feedings entirely on her own.

She ended up only needing the feeding tube for a couple of feedings. We had to do some tricks to get her to take her whole bottle (cool wash cloths to wake her up when she’d fall asleep totally worked), but eventually she was taking the full feedings in no time at all! She was getting stronger and hungrier, and we could NOT have been more proud of her. By Friday afternoon she had completed her 24 hours of taking 55 ML on her own. YAY BABY GIRL!!!

Also on Friday, Children’s Hospital had recommended a follow-up Echo (heart ultrasound), so we had to wait for that to get done. Our hospital stay felt so close to being over, so I was terrified the ultrasound would show something that would keep us there longer. I could not take any more bad news. The results came back clear for us to go home!!! The nurse wrapped up everything pretty quickly from that point and we packed up our stuff and got ready to leave. We put clothes on baby girl for the first time in her little life and loaded her up in her car seat. Driving home with her was absolutely surreal. What a blessing to finally get to take our sweet baby girl home.

And there you have it! Our baby girl sure knows how to make an entrance ;) We could not be happier to have her here – life with her is a dream! She is doing so well – perfectly healthy! One thing’s for sure, that much time in the hospital sure makes you appreciate the simple life at home with a newborn! I really can’t complain about a thing. I just love her so.

XO,
Kayla

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