Here’s a non food related post if you’re up for it. I enjoyed sharing Hugo’s Birth Story and Fiona’s Birth Story, so check those out too if you’d like. This is a long post so bear with me as I share this story. Thanks for reading!
I found out I was pregnant on 8/28/19- Hugo’s first day of kindergarten. I was already a ball of emotions that day, and when I came home to an empty house decided to take a test on a whim. The emotions compiled, but overall Andy and I were both really excited about a 3rd baby to complete our family.
If you are familiar with Hugo & Fiona’s births, you know I had wonderful home birth experiences with them in New York. I searched for a couple weeks here and found a great midwife Sarah. I was really excited for another home birth, this time in a house vs. an apartment and this time with my big kids there to see the birth and be a part of it.
The first and second trimesters of my pregnancy were pretty standard, bad nausea and fatigue in the 1st followed by a pretty normal and breezy 2nd trimester. I found out we were having another boy, and at 20 weeks got the anatomy scan (a standard ultrasound that shows all the baby’s organs and development.) It came back with no issues right before Christmas and I was feeling great and excited.
Sometime in January I visited our family doctor for some blood work. I’d experienced low thyroid levels this pregnancy and had been having her monitor it for me and order most of my pregnancy labs. At this visit (I was around 24 weeks at the time,) she mentioned that everything was totally fine at my anatomy scan but the tech couldn’t get a good picture of the baby’s profile, nose or mouth. Really the only reason for this is to rule out a cleft palate, which isn’t a huge deal and easily corrected. I knew I didn’t really need a follow up scan, but for some reason just really wanted to get it. I figured IF somehow he had a cleft palate I’d like to know ahead of time and do some research. Normally I wouldn’t have gotten any other ultrasounds unless something out of the ordinary came up, but I just wanted to get this one.
So at 26.5 weeks I went in and got the scan. We could see baby’s face clearly and he was just fine so that was that!
Two days later I was about to leave to pick the kids up from school when I got a message in my patient portal from my doctor. She said that the results of the ultrasound came back and while the face was clear and totally fine, I had a complete placenta previa and should contact an OB as soon as possible. (Complete placenta previa means the placenta is covering the cervix totally, blocking the baby’s exit and potentially causing a horrible hemorrhage or risk to baby. Normally it’s detected by bleeding but I hadn’t had any all pregnancy.)
In that moment I was just hit with a wave of emotion. When I tell you I stared ugly crying it was an understatement. How could this be? The original anatomy scan report specifically said there was no detection of placenta previa. What the heck? I quickly called my midwife Sarah, my doctor, and with a tear stained face threw some sunglasses on and went to get the kids.
We were all a bit confused. Was there a mistake with this report? A placenta doesn’t start out in a good position at 20 weeks and then 6 weeks later merge to a complete previa. I knew that this diagnosis would 100% risk me out of a homebirth and require a C-Section so I was really devastated. My midwife Sarah made me feel better letting me know some previous clients had success with acupuncture to help lift the placenta position and I was of course open to anything so I made an appointment for a few days later. We also decided the best thing would be to make an appointment with a Maternal Fetal Medicine Center to make sure the results were accurate. I made one for 4 weeks later at 30.5 weeks.
In that time in between I went to acupuncture 3 times, tried to stay optimistic that my placenta would move, and came down with some sort of horrible virus at 29 weeks. (I still wonder if it was Covid-19, as I had a week of high fever, horrible painful cough, difficulty breathing and piercing headaches. Ultimately I had a breathing treatment and antibiotics for a resulting sinus infection and was better in about 10 days. Who knows what that was though…)
Anyway- at 30.5 weeks on March 4th I went to a nice hospital with a really fancy ultrasound machine for another scan. So many people were crossing their fingers for me that day, hopeful I’d get good news. Unfortunately though I didn’t…. I was told my placenta was still super low but considered a partial previa. I was really encouraged by this because it meant maybe it had moved a little and I still had so much time! Partial previa could easily keep moving and I was hopeful about my homebirth. I made another appointment for 3 weeks later.
When I went back on 3/25 it was right in the middle of the early Covid-related quarantine, I was nervous to be in a hospital but everyone was very mindful and I really wanted to know what was up. I was 33 weeks and at this point figured I should come up with a backup plan if things didn’t go my way. It was determined that things looked pretty much the same as the last appointment and the doctor predicted a 50/50 chance the placenta would move. I was hoping for better news, cried more tears on the drive home, but came to terms with this and moved forward. I was told it would be a good idea to prepare myself for a C-section and so I figured I may as well get a backup plan just in case I needed one.
I spent the next couple of days researching OBs, something I had never done before. I honestly didn’t even know where to start and felt really sad and overwhelmed. I was so disappointed in my body for this road block. I had two really straight forward births before- this 3rd baby should have been a breeze. But again I eventually accepted it and figured I’d rather be prepared than not. I knew that some doctors and hospitals allowed “gentle C-sections” so I tried to look for that, someone who would take a late transfer if needed, and also would be respectful of my previous home birth plans.
I saw Sarah for a routine prenatal appointment at 34 weeks and she mentioned an OB she had worked with before that was about an hour from me if I was willing to make that drive. He’s the only OB in the area who does vaginal breech births in addition to VBA2C so I had a gut feeling he’d be a good match regardless of my outcome. I made an appointment with him at 35.5 weeks and didn’t really try anyone else- I just hoped he would work for me!
So at 35.5 weeks I went to go see Dr. Dan. I was again hopeful and optimistic I may hear some good news and things had magically resolved. This time they did a vaginal scan in addition to the regular belly one. (I’m not sure why no one did a vaginal scan before because it’s really the only way to accurately view the cervix/placenta.) The tech told me right away it was for sure a complete previa.
I was crushed. I knew at this point it probably wouldn’t move and chances are it hadn’t actually budged since 26 weeks. The doctor had gotten called to a birth at the hospital next door so I went and waited in the car until he came back. I was so sad. I felt an immense grief for the birth I thought I was going to have and the experience I knew and loved so much. I was still in denial about all of it.
I went back to meet him and he was very nice, explained I indeed had a complete placenta previa and that I’d need to schedule a C-Section for 37 weeks. I seriously couldn’t believe it. I was sure I’d be able to go longer since I hadn’t had any bleeding. 37 WEEKS!? That was 10 days away! I wasn’t ready to have my baby yet, that was just so early. But he insisted baby had to be born as soon as possible and 37 weeks is when babies are full term and with full lung development. I asked if we could push it closer to 38 weeks and he said no….So I scheduled it with him for April 20th, and went home.
(I have to note that when I left it office it was pouring rain, I got on the phone with a friend to talk about all of it and part way through our convo the most perfect rainbow appeared in view. I am not one for “signs” but this made me cry a bit harder than I already was. It just felt like someone telling me it would be Ok.)
I spent the next few days in all the stages of grief- I had some really emotional moments followed by some calm as I tried to prepare and figure out everything I possibly could about what a C-Section would be like. I had a handful of good friends who have had them and they were really helpful in answering all my questions. Also my Mom was a Labor & Delivery nurse for many years and had tons of info on the process. This is how I prepared- TONS of info, lots of nesting projects, and just letting myself mourn the birth I thought I’d have. I was scared to give birth in a hospital, especially now when there were so many restrictions. My kids were supposed to be right there! Fiona had been with me for every single prenatal appointment and Hugo was going to cut the cord! Now they wouldn’t even be able to meet their brother for 2-4 days after he was born. It just felt like a huge loss and I really let myself feel everything during that time. Sad, scared, regretful, thankful etc.
Luckily even with Covid-19, Andy would be able to be with me the whole time I was at the hospital, and my Mom could even come for the day of the birth in the recovery room. All of this helped my nerves.
The big kids made a countdown and every morning Hugo would announce how many days until baby. They were super excited to get to meet him a little early.
I felt torn about it. Would be he too small? Have a hard time nursing? Need breathing support? 37 weeks just felt so darn early….as I researched complete previa though, it didn’t seem like there were any other options- the standard was a scheduled C-Section as early as 36 weeks…so I figured I should be grateful I didn’t have any bleeding and baby would at least be full term.
The C-Section was scheduled for April 20th and I spent those days frantically preparing. A couple days before I had my usual feelings of denial and doubt, and told my Mom I really still had a hard time believing it all. I mean I felt so good- I was having a great pregnancy, I wasn’t uncomfortable, I hadn’t been bleeding, it just didn’t make sense. So I decided I wanted just one more scan to confirm that by some miracle the placenta hadn’t moved in the previous week. I knew it was silly, but I just needed that closure. So we scheduled a scan for 9:30 AM on the 20th and the C-Section was scheduled for 12:30- I just needed one last check and I knew that if I saw it on the screen I would truly be able to accept it and know it was the best and only option.
The morning of April 20th came. My parents arrived to watch the kids, Andy and I were all packed, I was nervous but also felt a sense of calm about the whole thing. I knew that the scan was most likely going to show what I’d been hearing for months, and in a way I was hoping it did- so I really and truly knew I was doing the right thing.
We arrived at the hospital and right away were given masks and a quick screening, checking our temperatures and answering a few questions. We were then escorted upstairs to Labor & Delivery.
We met our nurse who would be with me all morning and were taken to our room. I changed into a robe and Kellie my nurse and I chatted about what to expect that day and a few special requests I had for the birth and right after. Luckily this hospital honored all of them and I didn’t have to fight anything. (Something I worried about after my home births where I was able to call the shots on everything.)
Soon the ultrasound tech came and did the scan. There was no question that my placenta was a full and total previa. It almost looked like the baby’s head was nestled into the placenta like a pillow, and it was pretty clear there would be no other way than the C-Section as planned. I actually felt a small bit of relief at this news and felt ready to move forward.
I was changed into a robe and around 11:30 Kellie gave me an IV and left Andy and me for the next hour while I got some fluids. He tried to keep the mood light, making jokes and taking a couple videos of our last few minutes before baby would be born.
I had a playlist I’d made for the delivery and was all set with my earbuds. The anesthesiologist and my OB, Dr. Dan came into check on me and talk me through a few of the coming procedures. I felt nervous but honestly it all was moving so quickly I didn’t have much time to ruminate.
Before long it was 12:30 and Kellie was back to escort me to the OR. Andy was given his sterile clothes to change into and he’d meet me back there after I was prepped. I felt a little sad saying goodbye to him, I wish they allowed a support person in for the prep part, but Kellie promised me I could squeeze her hand if I needed to. And I had my music in my ear which helped a ton.
The sterile OR was a bit jarring and again, things moved very quickly. I was given a heart rate monitor, blood pressure cuff and compression cuffs on my legs that would intermittently fill with air and then deflate. The anesthesiologist had me sit on the table, pull my gown back and bend over a pillow so I could get the spinal block. I didn’t know until I had been asking for all the details that what I would be getting was different than an epidural, it was just one injection of numbing that would keep my bottom half totally numb for a couple hours. I was nervous about this part but in the end it wasn’t so bad. I felt a pinch from the numbing med they gave at first and then didn’t feel anything beyond that. They swung me onto the bed and I started feeling the pins and needles as the meds started working. I remember crying during this part, something about feeling so isolated in this cold and bright room, and just all the emotions of the last few weeks seems to release as I sat on that table. (I immediately regretted bothering with mascara that morning.)
I was given a catheter which was super weird since my legs were numb and heavy. Soon after I started feeling immensely nauseous which I was told was common. They gave me some Zofran in my IV and soon after I felt much better. I was so thankful for my playlist in my ear. It really helped me just zone out and find some inner strength when things felt a little dicey.
At this point I was pretty numb and Dr. Dan started checking for numbness by poking my belly here and there. I said I could feel it a little and they waited a few more minutes. Then I felt some weird sensations and pressures and asked what they were doing now and was told they had begun the C-Section. WHAT? Andy wasn’t here! I suddenly got really emotional and said I needed him. He walked in a couple minutes later but I still don’t understand why they started without him as I was told he’d be the last thing to happen before they started.
As soon as I saw him I locked into his presence and held his hand tight. In my ear was a song I love so much- “Waiting For My Real Life to Begin” by Colin Hay. The playlist was random but it was truly the perfect song for that moment. As Andy sat down these lyrics were playing:
“Any minute now, my ship is coming in
I’ll keep checking the horizon
And I’ll check my machine, there’s sure to be that call
It’s gonna happen soon, soon, oh so very soon
It’s just that times are lean
And you say, be still my love
Open up your heart, let the light shine
Don’t you understand
I already have a plan
I’m waiting for my real life to begin”
Even now, just seeing those lyrics make me cry. It was just too perfect. (If you don’t know the song I really suggest you go listen to it because it’s just so beautiful.) By the end of the verse, I felt some weird pressure in my abdomen and was told my baby would be born very soon. He was born at 1:03 pm, I got to see him lifted behind the clear drape, and he was crying loudly right away.
I found out later that my placenta was actually blocking the incision area so it was a bloody situation and they had to move quickly. I was told that they would place baby up on my belly while they waited for the cord to stop pulsing and then I’d get him for skin to skin up on my chest. But they quickly whisked him away to the warmer instead. Andy asked if I wanted him with me or with baby I told him to go be with him. That 10 minutes or so was really hard for me. I heard my baby crying and I couldn’t hold him and I felt very alone. They told me that it’s common with 37 week babies to need to be monitored and given a little oxygen, but no one really prepared me for this and I was really upset by it at the time. Feeling so vulnerable in those moments was probably the low point of my delivery.
Once I had the baby I felt much better. There was still a lot of weird feelings and pressure as they finished the surgery, but before I knew it I was all done and being wheeled to recovery. Shortly after we got there my Mom arrived and man was I happy to see her. We announced that baby’s name was August and truly, that 2-3 hour window in the recovery room was a bit of a blur.
My Mom told me it was full of many moving parts. My nurse was checking on my bleeding, my incision, my blood pressure, etc. They had me chewing gum right away which I guess helps keep the digestive system moving which normally shuts down with the spinal. August latched beautifully right away and I enjoyed that precious skin to skin time with him. In fact I was so focused on that and his sweet teeny little self that I really don’t remember what else went on in that time.
Around 4:30 pm I was ready to go to our postpartum room where we’d be for the next couple days. I said bye to my Mom and we settled in. The hospital experience postpartum was obviously much different from what I was used to, but I had lovely nurses and felt well taken care of.
Dr. Dan uses something called an OnQ pump which was a little ball of numbing medicine that was pumping right into my incision area, reducing my need for narcotics and supposedly making recovery much easier. Truthfully I hated all the tubes and monitors, but I do think having this has helped me recover more quickly.
In a way I’m a bit nostalgic for the 2 days in the hospital with just Andy and August. Yes there were lots of interruptions and people coming in and out, yes the food wasn’t amazing, but I realized we never got a baby moon or a last date away from the big kids before August was born and this may have been the closest thing! Just took major surgery to get there!
Anyway we were released from the hospital on Wednesday, just 2 days after August was born, and it felt really great to go home. Once the kids arrived back with my parents though it was pretty much a constant effort to keep them from smothering their baby brother with kisses. They love him SO much, but it can definitely be overwhelming at times.
Now, 8 days postpartum I am feeling pretty great. I’m still taking ibuprofen regularly, but I haven’t needed the stronger drugs regularly and all things considered recovery hasn’t been as bad as I expected.
Looking back I feel really proud of myself. Proud that I had some strange intuition to get that extra ultrasound, preventing what could have been an emergent situation with me bleeding at home and being rushed to a hospital without being well-prepared. I’m also proud that I did something that I was really scared of. All my births were hard and all required me to dig deep for some strength I didn’t know I had. And they were all beautiful, in their own way.
I’m once again really grateful for a skilled OB who knew just how August needed to come into the world. This sweet baby has taught me so much already and something about all of the circumstances surrounding his birth really shows me what a special little guy he will grow up to be. He knew what he needed you know?
I will forever love homebirth and I’m sure as time goes by I’ll feel those sad twinges that I didn’t get to experience it a 3rd time. But homebirth only works when you’re low risk and a good candidate for it, and part of the reason I love it is for how normal and safe it can be. But it wouldn’t have been this way for me this time around and there was nothing I could do about that. I’m grateful to have gotten to experience giving birth in such different ways.
It also was really interesting to have 2 births with everything I wanted and thought I desperately needed for my baby’s well being and then a birth where many of those things just weren’t an option. They couldn’t delay cord clamping, I couldn’t get immediate skin to skin, but August latched beautiful and has been my easiest nursling so far. So comparing all my births together, I don’t see this baby thriving any less than the others.
Anyway- I realize this story was extremely long and I appreciate you following. Feel free to ask any questions on my Instagram and I’ll share the answers there!