Memory tree

Memory tree
Holding the blossom on our Memory tree, a Pink Dogwood, to always remember the tiny life we lost.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My first birth story

I've been asked to write the story of my VBAC for Amy of Amy's Finer Things and her "Why didn't anyone tell me?" series. In order to tell you about my VBAC, I feel I must first write the story of my Cesarean.

I was 21 when I found out we were having a baby, we had tried once and were very excited! The first trimester came and went fairly normal. I had the typical exhaustion and nausea, enough I took a few naps at work! After my first Tri was over, I had 2 weeks where I just felt great. Life was awesome, we were having a baby! I was reading every bit of info I could get my hands on, skipping all of the "what if" sections because, after all, I wasn't going to need them. I was having a perfectly perfect and normal pregnancy.

In comes sciatica, and very frequent visits to the chiropractor. By 20 weeks I was having trouble walking from the sciatic pain, my hands were too swollen to wear my wedding ring, and I was having headaches. I voiced concern to my OBGYN, and he shrugged it all off as normal, and told me Tylenol would help. I made it through the 2nd trimester ok. Tired, but okay.
Third trimester, I was beyond exhausted. Still having headaches, but I didn't think any more of them. I was seeing my Chiropractor 3x a week at this point in order to keep walking. The sciatica never let up.

At 29 weeks I got sick. Sick enough I went to the urgent care clinic with a severely upset stomach. He checked me out, my blood pressure was ok, but I remember the nurse telling me it was quiet. It checked out, but it was very quiet. That still seems strange to me. After visiting, the Doctor thought it was constipation and sent me home. At home I threw up. I called my OBGYN the next day, he agreed with the constipation theory and said to call if it didn't get better. But again, constipation is normal.

I was ok for a day or so, and then kept getting nauseated again. The headaches were worse. I did keep in touch with my OB, but he said everything was normal. The nausea was becoming worse; More like attacks, horrible attacks where I became pale and lethargic. I would get a horrible pain in my right side, around my shoulder. I wondered why this only seemed to happen when the nausea struck, but as this only ever seemed to happen after office hours I was told when I called to take a Tylenol and go to sleep. Even the night when the Tylenol wouldn't stay down, the doctor told me to lay on a heating pad for the pain in my shoulder, he actually told me to sleep on it. "Take lots of hot baths" he said, "This is normal."

This went on for almost 3 weeks. I finally voiced my concern that this wasn't just a bug to the nurse, whom I'd spoken with almost daily over the previous 3 weeks. I asked if she had any explanation for it, or if I should go see my regular doctor. She checked with the doctor and he told me to go see my GP if I wasn't better. I called my GP about 30 minutes later to make an appointment. They got me in right after lunch.

At the doctors office, every person that spoke to me about my symptoms was very puzzled I was there instead of seeing my OBGYN. I told them my OB told me to come see them because he didn't know what was going on. He NEVER ran lab work, or asked me to come in. He only ever spoke to me on the phone to assure me things were "normal." As soon as the nurse took my blood pressure she made me lay down on my left side and turned off the lights. At that point I believe my BP was about 155/95. The doctor came in, again puzzled as to why I was in his office instead of my OBGYNs, he immediately wanted lab work. As I finished filling the clear little cup in the bathroom, I saw brown. I knew something was up, this can't be right. It turns out I had massive amounts of protein in my urine, and with my BP as high as it was I was immediately sent to my OB's office after my family DR called him and told him the numbers.

I was in tears on the way to the office, my husband met me there. The blood work still hadn't come back, but the other signs were enough for a diagnosis of Pre-Eclampsia. I was put on bed rest and told to come back on Monday, this was Thursday. I very pointedly asked if this explained my nausea and right shoulder pain, and was told no. They didn't know what that was about.

That night was miserable. I had been told to drink lots and lots of water, so I complied but it only made me have to get up and pee every 20 minutes, my feet looked like balloons and I was so sick at my stomach I was throwing up. I couldn't get comfortable no matter what position I tried. Sleep couldn't come. I was throwing up what I believed to be stomach acid. Yet another call to the doctor to ask about something called H.E.L.L.P. syndrome my mom had read about. I was assured they were looking into everything and would let me know as soon as my lab-work came back, but this surely wasn't H.E.L.L.P. syndrome, my mom was just paranoid.

Friday morning dawned. I was so sick I couldn't lay down, I couldn't sit up. My head was throbbing and the pain in my side was un-bearable. Mom brought lunch, vegetable soup from Schlotskys. I got it down but it didn't stay. She also brought her BP cuff and checked me. 190/95. Lunch came back up. It tasted sour, like rancid lemons. I will never forget that taste. I called the nurse yet again, and since the doctor was out for the day she told me to go to Labor and Delivery to get checked out.

We got to the hospital at about 1 o'clock if my memory is correct. It was an excruciating car ride, I was in horrible pain, physically and emotionally. It had been raining so hard the streets were flooded. This was Friday, August 12th. I was 31 weeks that day. I was determined everything was fine, and wouldn't even pack a bag for the hospital. They were going to check me out, give me some fluids and send me home because everything was normal. I kept telling myself that, and foolishly believed it.

We got to L&D, explained what was happening, and my mom told the nurse what she thought was going on. She was told politely that she didn't know what she was talking about, and that they would take care of it. After waiting in the waiting room for a room (they didn't bother with triage) mom had to ask for a bucket for me to throw up in. Then the nurse started paying attention, she cleared the waiting room and killed the lights to try and keep my blood pressure down. After I was in a room, I had lab work drawn by about 2 o'clock. They kept a blanket over my head to keep my BP from spiking. It was 199/110 and climbing, even on my left side with a blanket over my head to block the light. I was scared. I was hooked up to monitors, and started noticing contractions. 5 or 6 nurses were in and out of my room, checking my reflexes, pushing on my sides. I was miserable. Miserable and scared. The contractions were not painful, but noticeable. At about 4 my doctor came in to tell me the "news" You have severe Pre-Eclampsia and something called H.E.L.L.P syndrome (he said it like we'd never heard of it, I found out later my mom had called his office the night before because she KNEW that was what was wrong with me) and that they would be taking the baby today. I hit a wall. I absolutely fell apart. Even feeling those contractions, the excruciating pain I was in, throwing up bile (the sour taste) I NEVER thought they would take my baby that day. I thought they could stop it. I was wrong. The head nurse even apologized to my mom for thinking she was paranoid.

H.E.L.L.P. syndrome in a nut shell is where your blood implodes on itself, your liver fails and your platelet count plummets. That explained ALL of the nausea, the excruciating pain. Every time I got sick my liver was going into spasm. The headaches that had been shrugged off as normal were from restricted blood flow. I was 31 weeks, 9 away from my due date and my baby was measuring small. The doctor sent out for more blood work to make sure I could survive surgery, and I was told they would do their best to let me stay awake. After the first bleeding time test, my BP was still rising. They couldn't wait any longer for the second test. They had platelets in the OR waiting for me just in case. I had already been prepped for surgery, and was being wheeled to the OR with a sheet over my head. I remember putting my hand out and waving it around so people wouldn't think I was dead. Any lights made my BP go even higher, and it was far past the danger zone. My sweet husband was dressed in those trademark green surgical scrubbs with blue booties over his shoes. I knew he was worried, but he was being strong for me. The next thing I remember is the mask going over my face and counting backwards, 100...99...98...97.... my eyes opened.

I still had a sheet over my head. I asked if it was over, and they said it was. "Is the baby ok?" They had him in the NICU. I was sent to recovery where they pressed around on my belly and even with the pain meds it hurt. When I got to my room I asked how my boy was. His weight was just 2 pounds 11 ounces. He was breathing on his own. I slept. I was on morphine for the pain, magnesium sulfate for my blood pressure and to keep me from seizing, and potassium. I was hot, and groggy but I slept. The next day when I woke I remember my dad bringing me a picture of my baby. I was so drugged up the room was swimming and I couldn't even see it. To this day, 5 years later it makes me cry. My boy was doing better than I was, I was getting worse. My liver function was over 700, normal is about 30. BP was 190/55 even on the meds. My platelets were about 30,000. They should have been 300,000. My blood count was equally horrid. I do not remember much of Saturday or Sunday other than drug induced hallucinations and people telling me congratulations. I didn't want to be congratulated, I was going through the worst pain and trauma I'd ever imagined. I wanted "I'm sorry's"
Sunday I could see my baby's picture, I had it taped to my IV stand. This one;

Sunday night a specialist was called in to try and regulate my body. I was continuing to get worse, but my momma knew that was normal for this illness. The cure for my condition was delivering the baby, and that was done. After 5 days and 3 blood transfusions I was well enough to meet my son for the first time.

My precious boy. He spent 43 long days in the NICU. He fought an infection, but did remarkably well. He was 4lbs 3 oz when we brought him home on Sept 24th, his daddy's birthday.

The trauma of my first borns birth is something that haunted me for years. 3 years. I was terrified of getting pregnant again. In fact I decided not to. I was robbed of my perfect pregnancy. I was robbed of being present at my sons birth. He was ripped out of me. My sweet husband was only allowed to stand by the door while the doctors worked to save our lives. Neither of us heard our sons first cry.

I can quite honestly tell you that I am grateful for my emergency c-section. It saved my life, and the life of my son. I have been back and forth over the last 5 years as to whether or not a different OB might have listened to my cries for help sooner and what might have happened differently. Those are the "what if's" that should never be visited.

This is MY story.

There is another story deeply seeded in mine, and that is what God did. Early in my pregnancy He warned my mother through a dream. She prayed.
While I was incoherently hallucinating in my drugged induced slumber there were 20 and sometimes 30 people in the waiting room in Labor and Delivery. They prayed. They stayed, for days. They could not come in my room as any stimulation caused my blood pressure to spike. But they were there. They were praying. My family, physical and spiritual family. They gathered, and they prayed. They were what real church is supposed to be. I can never truly express to them how much it still means to me that they were there.

My baby wasn't really torn from me, I allowed that lie to almost destroy me.

No, that day was not the worst day of my life. That day, August 12th 2005 is the day I became a mother and is therefore beautiful. My baby was born in love and bathed prayer from across the country. He is a miracle.


  1. Wow. I never knew all that. I'm bawling my eyes out over here. These are the things that worst nightmares are made of. Nobody wants to believe that doctor's DON'T know everything. Whatever they say goes, and sometimes they are WRONG. Its not fair. I'm glad that your little buddy is happy & healthy today & that you seem to have come to peace with his delivery.

  2. Thank-you for sharing this.

    Next, please, tell us the story of how all this effected you and the birth of your second child.

  3. The next birth story is a continuation of this one, and will be posted soon.

    Steph, the road to healing has been long and hard. I have found peace in God's healing embrace. I can look back now and smile rather than feel the old wounds still bleeding.

  4. Came here from Amy's Finer, you did have a true emergency situation...when I had my emerg c-section for HELLP it had just started a few days prior (on Friday and I had her on Tuesday) - or at least I had just started having pain a few days prior - and I was only a week from my due date so my baby was of normal weight and my lab values went right back to normal as soon as she was out. It was still a tad crazy though because until I started vomiting bile in L&D Triage the nurses and doctors treated me like I was just a big baby having some gas pain. I kept telling them something was really wrong and it was not gas but all they seemed to care about was the fact that I was "not in labor" was very frustrating. Looking back my BP had been elevated (FOR ME) - I was just slightly higher than normal the last few weeks visiting the OB so they said it was fine but mine always runs low so really FOR ME, it was high and they just ignored that.

  5. Oh, Jamie. I've heard of HELLP, but didn't REALLY know what it was until now. You poor thing! So, so thankful you and your babies are well now!

  6. I'm so sorry this was your pregnancy experience. My son was born at 29 weeks due to preeclampsia. I felt robbed and angry and jealous of everyone else's perfectly normal pregnancies and births. I don't really feel any of those things anymore. But your story really makes me appreciate how fantastically lucky I was to have amazing doctors that did not allow me to get your dramatic stage. My second baby was also c section. My OB agreed to VBAC if I went into labor on my own before the scheduled day. We were able to keep my BP essentially in check with meds. Things didn't go crazy until after he was born when kidney stones sent my BP over the moon. I can't wait to read your next story. I'm hoping it's a much better experience.

  7. Heather, I am now at peace with my experience. I am grateful to have a place to share my stories and find more women out there that have shared similar circumstances. I felt so ashamed to feel what I did about my birth. So much so that I wouldn't really share the depth of the pain with anyone out of my immediate family. I'd smile at healthy mamas with healthy babies, and ooo and aww over bellies, but inside I wanted to crawl in a hole and mourn. I am so thankful to God that He's brought me to peace about it, and is even now bringing beauty from the ashes.

  8. A lot of the things I read in this story could have been my own story, my own experience with HELLP syndrome. It brought tears to my eyes remembering my own day where I didn't know whether I was going to live or die, and whether my son was either. Praise God we all made it through. I can only hope upon hope when I become pregnant again I can get the healthy, full pregnancy and VBAC that you did.