Where You Came From, Lorelei and Mommy's Journey

12 days old, 2/15/11
I decided that since it's so vivid in my memory today for whatever reason, it was time to share or just document for myself my pregnancy and birth story. When I was pregnant, and when Lorelei was born, I didn't have any internet, or motivation to write it all out. I also had a hard time thinking about it because it's a sensitive, and loaded subject for me. But here it is now. Disclaimer, some of the details may not appeal to all audiences. My pregnancy and birth stories are long, and as much as I try to live in the now and move past the emotions of hurt and defilement, I cannot. 

A few months before I became pregnant with my first I had an ultrasound done on my uterus fearing fibroids or endometriosis because I was experiencing pain really frequently. The u/s revealed that I had a birth defect, a septum in my uterus, meaning the two tubes that form the uterus during fetal development never fully retracted to form one compartment. I was told that it would be very difficult for me to get pregnant and that I would probably suffer many miscarriages. That was in December '09, I was only 19. Fast forward to May'10 when my husband and I were married, and not even thinking about it or trying we got pregnant. Our initial reaction was not excitement but fear, fear  even though we both wanted it, because we knew that our chance of actually carrying out the pregnancy was not good. After a week or two we let ourselves get excited, we already had names picked out and were daydreaming about our sweet baby, that we both felt was a girl. When I was 7 weeks along, before ever being seen by a doctor, I started cramping and spotting and I put myself on bedrest after speaking with my doctor's nurse who told me if I was miscarrying there was nothing I could do. It was on a Friday night so I had to wait til Monday to be seen. I had never been more fearful in my life. I prayed and pleaded and promised God that if he would just let me have this baby, I would come back to Him (I have always believed, just went through phases of no church, and of questioning my faith). Saturday and Sunday I was a mess, crying, angry, wanting to be anything but. On Sunday while my husband was at work I was sitting at the computer and got up to use the bathroom. When I stood up there was a gush and I ran up the stairs (we lived in his parent's basement) to the bathroom knowing what I was going to see and not wanting to deal with it. The sight and smell of blood makes me hot, lightheaded, and absolutely sick as it is, but this was agonizing. I sat on the toilet crying harder than ever, shaking, and feeling so alone. I texted my husband and my mom because I couldn't get words out talking if I tried. I couldn't flush the toilet because it felt like if I did, then the baby was really gone. I sat on the bathroom floor for half an hour waiting for my mom to come and get me to take me "home". I was in so much physical and emotional pain and shock, that I couldn't act human. I couldn't just sit on the couch and watch movies like my family does together. I was mourning and I felt like no one understood what I was going through. My husband found someone to cover the rest of his shift and came to be with me, as much as he could, which was just holding me. 

Monday morning I went to the clinic to have my blood drawn to check my HCG levels and make sure they were decreasing because my doctor was sure I had miscarried. Then Wednesday again. And on Friday I saw the doctor. He came into the room asking about the bleeding and pain and how it had carried out. He hadn't even looked at my chart yet and when he did he excused himself and left the room before coming back in to say that my HCG levels were still rising. More hurt and confusion for David and I. The doctor looked as confused as we did. He did an ultrasound then, located the bleeding on the left "half" of my uterus, and the yolk sac on the right side. He said that since they couldn't find a heartbeat, the bleeding was on the opposite side, and the yolk sac seemed to be resting on the cervix against the septum that it was still likely I was going to lose the baby, or that it was just a molar pregnancy to begin with. He sent us to a specialist a week later who did another ultrasound to see that the baby had grown, now resembling a gummy bear. The specialist told us everything he could about my uterus defect (which I already knew from hours of personal research) and was optimistic that though I could deliver preterm or need a c-section, there was a good chance the rest of my pregnancy would be very healthy and normal. And it was. 

My regular OB hardly acknowledged that our baby was in fact a viable human until I was past 28 weeks along. The whole time I was pregnant, every office visit, I felt like this doctor was not doing a good job. It was all very impersonal, and I always left feeling worse (even after getting to hear that fluttery little heartbeat, or see the little skeletal face that I thought looked so much like daddy) about the experience. I should have found a different doctor, I wish I had followed my instinct and David's and bee-lined out of that practice, but I didn't. I felt it would be difficult to find another doctor. By this time I was living in the country (Marsing, Idaho) with my grandparent's, parent's, and two sisters at least 25 miles from a clinic or hospital, and 40 miles from a good hospital. And David was in Basic training in South Carolina, where he went when I was 16 and a half weeks pregnant. He shipped out the day I found out, alone, that we were in fact having a girl. 

Not only was I going through this pregnancy with a doctor I didn't like, but without my husband, and knowing that I was going to deliver the baby without my husband as well. Knowing that I had no advocate. Not that I was alone when Lorelei was born, I was joined by my mom, dad, paternal grandma, sisters, and an aunt through most of my labor, but none of them understood how important it was to me to deliver this baby peacefully, with no medication, and with as little interference as possible. Least of all my mom, who though she had 3 very difficult, long, all natural labors, is a nurse and people in the health care profession seem to forget that people are not just physically fragile, but that they have feelings and deserve to be treated as humans, not just patients or cases. 

It was hard enough for me that I had to be induced because my doctor didn't believe that I knew my actual due date, because I knew the exact conception date. I was induced 9 days after what my doctor decided was my due date, when in fact it was only 5 days past and I could have safely carried the baby longer and possibly went into labor naturally. Induction is a great start to a traumatic delivery. The nurse who started my IV fluid and Pitocin at 8:15am on February 3, 2011 couldn't get the needle in, and had to stick me 3 or 4 times. That was more painful than anything else I experienced. It took a good 7 hours before the Pitocin they were pumping into me started any contractions that seemed to make any progress. Before those 7 hours, I had not dilated at all. After 7 hours I was less than a centimeter. Then the contractions started getting really strong, it was painful, but welcome. I was so glad that my body was doing anything. The nurses were worried because Lorelei's heartbeat was not coming back up rapidly enough after a contraction. I knew it was because I was stuck laying in the damn hospital bed all day, and that I couldn't even move in the bed because the fetal heartbeat monitor was only picking her up if I laid in one position. The fetal heartbeat monitor that didn't even strap on well enough to stay in one place if I held completely still. The fetal heartbeat monitor, while so useful in situations where there is worry and severe risk, was the bane of my labor and delivery. Lorelei didn't like me laying down, she was stressed by the weight and compression of my body and the awful bed. And then there was the fact that I was having a hard time getting enough oxygen, compressed, in that wretched bed. When I used the oxygen mask Lorelei was fine.  I finally dilated a little over a centimeter by 5:15pm and my doctor was able to break my water and get a monitor on Lorelei's scalp. The contractions continued and I was starting to feel like progress was being made, but the doctor wanted to go home for dinner, and he didn't want to let me labor on my body's own time. I got up to use the restroom sometime around 6:00pm and the nurse checked the urine which had a brownish flaky material in it (with the amniotic fluid). The nurse was worried it was meconium, if the baby is in distress and, well, poops in the placenta it can aspirate the material and be fatal. I had this gut feeling that is was old blood from the subchorionic hematoma in the left half of my uterus when we thought I miscarried. But the chance that it might be meconium gave the doctor his chance to push the c-section so he could go home. He got the nurses on board, and my mother(!), and they cajoled a devastated, broken, defenseless and crying me into the surgery. I felt dehumanized and defiled, like no one would listen to me when I knew I could do it (I have a very keen and reasonable instinct), and like they took away my right and natural womanly ability birth my child. 

With chagrin I signed paper after paper, drank some horrible elixer meant to dry up liquid and food in your stomach so you don't aspirate during surgery, and put on a paper hat and booties. I had given up on myself and everything, and I just wanted it to be done. I hated these people and wanted the nightmare to be over. I wasn't prepared for any of it. I never read up on c-sections, or healing after one because I was so sure that God wasn't going to let it happen. They wheeled my bed into the surgery room, sat me up, gave me a spinal block, moved me onto the table, set up the tent, made sure I couldn't feel anything, and started cutting. It all happened so fast I hardly felt present even though I was completely aware. The nurse anesthetist was my favorite person, not because I liked the absence of pain, but because he treated me the most humanely. He smiled, he was reassuring, he asked me how I was doing, he held my head in the right direction towards my mom with the puke basin as I heaved into it over the gross sensation of cutting and pulling going on below the blue sheet in my face. 

First sight.
Before they pulled my baby out of my sliced and diced body I could hear them speculating her weight by the size of her head. They had to suction her head to get her out of the incision. They were saying 9.5-10 pounds. Then I saw her and I cried, happy and sad tears, and all I could muster was "she has hair". They quickly cleaned, suctioned and swaddled that 8 pound 6 ounce, perfect baby and brought her to see me. Then they took her away just as quickly so they could close me up. As they did the doctor happily informed me of what I already knew about the amniotic fluid, the substance in it was old blood, not meconium, and it was separate from the amniotic sac and placenta. He also told me that it looked like the septum had moved or disappeared to accomodate the pregnancy. The doctor and a nurse joked about my rock hard abs under my flesh and how they don't see many pregnant women's abs. I tried to see it as humorous, but even after seeing my healthy, beautiful baby I resented these people. These people who make decisions for you like they themselves are God, like they really know what's best. A little less than an hour after delivery I was in recovery nursing and talking to my husband on the phone, who felt as angry and defiled as me that I had to get the c-section, and that he couldn't do anything about it. 

Mommy and Lei Lei, that blue bow was so fitting!
My experience in the hospital after delivery was not completely awful, aside from one really asinine nurse. Who, after Lorelei had one drop in blood sugar in the nursery, insisted on torturing both of us by poking and squeezing (incorrectly nonetheless) Lorelei to check her blood sugar again even though she was doing very well. The same nurse, a few hours after I was able to get out of the bed the first time, insisted I do it again after I told her that what I really needed right then was to take a nap because I hadn't slept more than an hour and a half in a 36 hour period and that I would get up (really, it wasn't like I couldn't or that it was too painful) after I rested, so the idiot let me nap 20 minutes while my mom and pediatrician were in the nursery with the baby, and then WOKE ME UP, to make me get out of the bed. A while later she came in to take out my catheter, and when I was about to stand up from the bed my mom had to come running across the room to grab the catheter bag that dummy was holding above my hip level (a big no-no) as I stood, and tell her that she would help me instead. The same nurse insisted on giving Lorelei sugar water to prevent another blood sugar drop, which hijacked the good breastfeeding progress we were making for a few hours (don't you think just having the baby get enough colostrum would prevent the blood sugar drop?!). But the recovery from the c-section itself, physically, wasn't bad. I never had any pain meds other than ibuprofen while I was in the hospital or at home. Mostly I only took the ibuprofen for the inflammation. 

At my post-partum check up the doctor said that I should think about having more imagery tests done to see about the septum. But then he said maybe it didn't matter because I went full term, had a healthy baby, and would HAVE to have a c-section if I had more kids anyways...Excuse me?

Only trying to eat my face off. She was a piglet. :)

Baby Mine
The emotional healing has taken a long time. For a year and a half I would cry every time I thought about the experience. Even writing about it now, almost two years later makes me a little bit sick, and very angry. I loathe the scar, the reminder of my insufficiency to stick up for myself and baby, and inability to fulfill my womanhood, my motherhood. Sometimes I have felt that giving birth naturally would have made me a stronger mother, and that maybe I'd have a better bond with my child. Not that we weren't bonded from the moment I found out I would be her mother, but sometimes I feel a little incomplete in it, because we didn't bring her into the world together. And then there is the fact that because of my experience we decided we wouldn't have any more kids. That was in the raw, early steps of my grieving over it, and my husband likes to remind me that we decided that, as saying it then makes it concrete, every time I voice wanting another. 

First time meeting, Lorelei was 17 days old.
So, pregnancy to motherhood, it wasn't easy on me. Was it worth it? Absolutely, yes! Does that mean I should not be upset about what I can't change anymore? Maybe, but part of me will always feel like I failed here. That part of me wants to try it again, so maybe it turns out different. That part of me worries that it would make the hurt deeper if I had to go through it again. But another part of me, would do it all again for the result. :)

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