Let me start off by saying… I am a planner. Any one of my friends or family members will tell you so. Special event in three months? Already have an outfit. Dinner reservations next month? Already looked at the menu and have an appetizer, dinner and drinks figured out for myself. Also was the one to make the reservations. However, I knew that when I got pregnant I could not PLAN anything else. I knew that having a detailed “birth plan” was not an option for me, because chances are it would not go in order of the bullet points and I just did not want that kind of disappointment and pressure. So I didn’t make one.
Due to a 20 week ultrasound finding of a MCI (or Marginal Cord Insertion), my OB found it best to induce me at 39 weeks to avoid any complications for a deteriorating placenta. You would think to yourself “well, she’s a planner, right? She must have loved having a set time and an induction.” Wrong… but also right. I was saddened at the fact that I wouldn’t be sending my husband the “OMG MY WATER JUST BROKE” text… until I learned that not everyone’s water breaks and I figured, eh at least I’ll get right to a room and will skip the stressful drive in.
At my 39 week appointment, I was told that I’d most likely be induced the following day, but that she couldn’t be 100% positive because it would all depend on the hospital’s availability, but to expect a call some time the next day. Noon came and went, no call. I called the number on the Women and Infants website (because duh, I’m a planner) and was told that there were a couple of people in front of me and to figure around 8pm I would be coming in. Fast forward to 2:45pm and W&I called me asking if I could come in for 4:30. I remember asking my husband to which he said “ummm yeah Bianca, you can’t just say no”. Touché. I dilly-dallied for the next hour or so, to the point where my husband noticed I was immediately stalling and told me we had to leave.
Why was I stalling? Because I knew once we left, my life (OUR life) was about to change. I was beyond ready to be a mom, but also terrified of the process. I knew it would be painful— that part isn’t a surprise. Due to the severe nature of my health anxiety and extensive Dr. Google degree, I was keenly aware of every possible scenario and outcome. I tried to ignore my fears and intrusive thoughts and figured as long as we are both healthy in the end, let’s do this any way it comes.
When we arrived at the hospital at precisely 4:20pm, I was overcome by excitement. The anxiety seemed to subside and I could not wait to get the process going. We checked in and were taken to our induction room. They did all of the “normal” stuff like COVID testing on me, hooking me up to the monitor, etc. and then I truly got comfortable. By “comfortable”, I mean climbing into bed and tearing open a bag of snacks I had packed off of my bullet point hospital bag checklist (that was packed like three months in advance). Before that though, I remember filming an “MTV Cribs” style Instagram story because I was amazed at how nice the room was. Around 8:25ish, we got the induction ball (or balloon) rolling. At this point, I was only 1cm dilated when I received the foley balloon. When hearing I was only 1cm, I thought there was a good chance this may take a while. At 9pm, I received the Misoprostol pill.
Around 9:30pm, I had already started to feel contractions. I remember saying to my husband “I can’t tell if this is a contraction but it’s painful”. I tossed and turned thinking it was all in my head. Plot twist: it wasn’t. My body luckily reacted to the balloon and one dose of the miso pill. From about 10:00 onward, I had intense contraction pain. I no longer had to wonder IF they were contractions, because they sure were. I “gave in” around 1:30 in the morning to morphine so I could try and get some rest for my long day ahead. At the advice of my husband (who knows me best!), I told myself to stop being prideful and to just accept whatever choices I made without second-guessing… and if that meant pain management, so be it.
I didn’t sleep a wink. I tossed and turned, received another dose of morphine and pretty much dreamt of the French toast I ordered for breakfast. Around 6am I was dilated enough to have them tug the balloon out. It felt like such a relief. I was told to walk around the halls a bit to try to get things going so that I could head down to labor and delivery later that morning. At this point I was 3-4cm. My husband and I walked the halls, pausing every 5 minutes or so for a contraction. It just felt like a rollercoaster… an upwards motion on the pain scale, followed by the tippity top of the rollercoaster where the pain was quite heavy, then the downward decline to the bottom where I felt normal again. When we got back to the room, I was dilated enough to go down to L&D. I thought sweet, let’s try no epidural.
Let me just say… I did not want an epidural. I’m not sure if it was my pride, my severe health anxiety, or a combo of both. All of these scenarios went through my head… however, once the Pitocin kicked in, I gave into an epidural and I honestly couldn’t be happier with my decision. My husband said my mood instantly changed — I was able to laugh, talk, smile, update my friends and family via text… post to Instagram stories. I felt GREAT. You truly would not have known I was in labor. I did not feel a single thing after this point. I did, however, end up with the “epidural itch” and needed multiple doses of Benadryl. That was the weirdest feeling ever.
Unfortunately, our baby was not responding well to the Pitocin and it was kicked off at some point in the process due to decels in her heart rate. I tried not to pay too much attention to the medical terms at this time, because sadly I knew quite a lot from my Dr. Google degree (insert laughing emoji here) and I did not want to spiral into a panic attack and further stress her out in there. At about 5:50pm, the OB broke my water. Again, I didn’t feel a thing. I laid there thinking “wow this is it… pretty soon it’ll be go time.” The nurse told me to rest. REST?! Yeah right. Just when I would doze off, someone would come in and have to reposition me because our baby’s heart rate would dip. I remember at one point being so mentally and physically exhausted and having to sit upright in the bed in “criss cross apple sauce” so my daughter’s heart rate would stay in a normal range. “Clearly I will never rest again”, I thought.
Around 9:10pm, I was 7cm dilated and 100% effaced. I knew the time was coming. I heard some medical terms being thrown about and I’m not going to lie, I googled every single one in the moment. I gave into the temptation… and also, I’m a planner, remember? I wanted to know every single scenario in real-time. I remember being so damn hot. From nerves, the epidural, nerves mixed WITH the epidural, who knows. At 11:30pm, I received my last cervical check. The OB said I was 10cm and was ready to push. “NOW?!” I asked? The doctor said “yes now! This is it!” and laughed. My husband had just dozed off and woken up in a daze. I said “IT’S HAPPENING”. As I was being checked, I heard the nurse say “partial placental abruption”. Immediately my ears perked up. I said “what?! Isn’t that bad?!” (Who am I kidding… I knew it wasn’t good because I googled possible complications months ago.) She said “it would be one thing if this was the beginning of your labor, but you are 10cm”. I didn’t ask any more questions because I was reassured by that. Her voice was very calming and I trusted her. I knew that I would do my best to literally push this baby girl out of me in the fastest way possible.
She instructed my husband what to do and told me we would try some practice pushes in the meantime. She held my left leg, and my husband held my right. She mimicked what I was supposed to do, and then I did it. One practice push… two practice pushes… three practice pushes…. “OK RELAX BIANCA… her head is right there!” I said “what?!???!” I pushed so hard with my eyes closed so tight, I felt like my head may explode. My husband said “BIANCA! OH MY GOD! Her head is right there!!!” I hear the nurse say something about getting the doctor in ASAP because the baby’s head was there. The OB that came in and checked me last was in the middle of another delivery, obviously thinking my pushing could take hours, so I heard them call for a resident.
Not too long after, a smiley, giddy and very peppy resident walked in and said “ARE YOU READY TO HAVE A BABY?!” My husband and I both said “YES!!!” I remember him asking me if I wanted to feel her head. At first I said no. I think I was too nervous. And then a second later, I was like WAIT YES I DO. I reached down and felt the top of her little slippery head. (What a weird thing to say on the internet.)
One set of three pushes…. the next set…. The last push in that set… she was here!!!! I remember being in shock that I was just told minutes ago that it was time to “practice” push. Now she is here!!! As he was guiding her out of me, I finally opened my eyes and saw him waving her body in and out of the umbilical cord trying to safely unravel it from her neck and torso. It was 11:46pm. And here is when time stood still…
Our baby was out. The nurse went to put her on my chest… but she was silent. I didn’t hear a cry. I remember my husband, so sweet and so naive said “awww a quiet baby!” I said something like “that is not what we want!!!!” In one full swoop, as the nurse went to place her on my chest, she took her back and quickly asked if Dad was going to cut the cord. I remember thinking “OMG, we need a picture!” but everything was so rushed… and she still wasn’t crying. I had this empty feeling inside my heart. Nick still hadn’t realized the severity of the situation and cut the cord. The nurse then said “Bianca I need you to not freak out… but there is going to be about 10 nurses coming in from all directions and we are going to have to take the baby.” All of a sudden, codes come over the intercom, nurses rush in from all entries.
Our daughter is taken away from me. “WHAT IS GOING ON?! WHY ISN’T SHE CRYING?!” It was slow motion. I saw them whisk our daughter off to a back room. My husband stood there in shock. I remember the resident saying “Bianca I need you to focus. You still have to deliver your placenta.”
“Her heart rate is very high,” said the nurse. “Bianca you need to calm down. Your heart rate is very high.” At that point, I didn’t care about my heart rate.
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY BABY?!
The doctor tried his best to guide me into delivering my placenta. All I could see was a movie trailer thought process in my head… how I came THIS far… an “easy“ induction, minimal pushing… and now what?! I would never survive a stillborn baby. How am I going to break the news to my parents?! How will I ever survive without my baby?! Why is this happening?! GIVE ME MY BABY!!!! My eyes darted all around the room, trying to find some solace in ANY possible
positive expression in the medical staff. Please God, give me something!!! I swear if I wasn’t numb from the waist down and in the middle of delivering the placenta, I’d have ran right into that back room myself.
“3 minutes and 35 seconds…. 3 minutes and 45 seconds….”
UNTIL WHAT?! FROM WHAT?! HAS SHE BEEN WITHOUT OXYGEN THAT LONG?! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?? WHAT IS GOING ON?! My mind ran rampant. I couldn’t speak. I mustered up enough energy to say “NICK THIS ISN’T GOOD!!!” This is not how it is supposed to be. I’m supposed to be doing skin to skin right now. My poor husband had no idea. He’d obviously never been a dad before, isn’t the type to Google and truly wasn’t sure what to expect. Six months later and I could bet you one thousand dollars he could still describe the look of terror on my face. I remember pleading with God in my mind “please let her be okay! Please God, I will do anything!!! I will never let her out of my sight ever. Please!!!”
I cannot begin to accurately explain how time continued to stand still. A team of medical staff had my baby, the door was shut, I was completely incapable of getting off the bed to get to her. “WHAT IS GOING ON?!” The doctor was amazing at keeping me calm. “Let’s just focus on finishing delivering here and I’ll let you know if you need to worry”. Obviously, I worried. What seemed like an eternity later, “Dad can go see the baby!” was the next thing I heard. I looked over to Nick and said “Go!!! Go be with her. I’m fine!” In my head I was yelling “GO! GO! MAKE SURE SHE IS OK! BRING HER BACK TO ME!!!”
Nick walked towards the room across from my bed. Within seconds, nurses started to file out. In my head I thought “things must be okay if they are leaving”. I then hear “She is pink!” Tears filled my eyes. I honestly think I then blacked out in my mind because I don’t even remember them walking her over to me. I just remember them congratulating me, telling me she was beautiful and her being placed on my chest. I was told at 11:30pm it was time to push, she was born at 11:46pm and the time stamp on our first photo together is 12:07am. If you had asked me at that moment, I felt like it was HOURS until I got to hold her. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted, but my baby girl was in my arms. She was breathing, her skin was pink and plump and I was able to finally have that ONE moment I planned for, out of all the moments I knew I couldn’t plan.
Looking back, the best way I can describe my thought process is… I spent my whole pregnancy “making it”. We made it to 12 weeks… the “safety zone”. We made it to 20 weeks for her anatomy scan. We made it to the age of viability. We made it full term. We made it to the induction time so that only means holding my newborn baby at the end of this was a sure thing. Believe me, I had plenty of fears over the 39 weeks, but it honestly never crossed my mind that I could leave the hospital without a baby ONCE I got in those doors. I just blindly assumed that I would leave with her and my husband. In writing that, I feel so naive. This isn’t to scare anyone, but merely to emphasize that every single moment means something.
And I am forever changed by those last few moments. At 11:46pm on October 22nd, 2021, I became a mother. For the first time. But a part of me I left in the labor and delivery room and replaced it with someone stronger. Someone who is working hard every day to heal. Someone who hopes to have another child someday and not immediately fear the minutes after childbirth. Someone who hopes to shed more light on birth trauma and its impact on BOTH parents.
Please remember that you ARE allowed to experience trauma and STILL bring home a healthy baby. “Trauma” doesn’t just mean NICU time, a c-section, a longer hospital stay, a diagnosis, etc. Trauma is truly your own personal reaction to your experience. How you perceive your birth experience and how you heal is yours. No one can take that away from you.