It’s been two weeks since I received the greatest gift of my life, my beautiful daughter, Lennon, and I think I’m finally ready to talk about how it all went down.
As many of you know, our baby was due on May 9th, 2017, but that day came and went. So did the day after that and the day after that. With each day that passed, I got a little more anxious and worried. My doctors were talking about inducing me, but I was very reluctant. From what I had read, induced labors are much more intense and painful than natural labor. More importantly, I wanted to trust my body and I wanted to have a natural childbirth, though I always planned on doing it at the hospital, just in case something went wrong, I wanted to be in the safety net, but I was hoping it would all just happen the way it was supposed to, without interventions.
So, I waited and waited for her to come on her own. My doctors told me that I could wait until Monday, May 22nd, as long as I got non-stress tests twice a week. After that, they strongly recommended I stop waiting and get induced.
The waiting was very hard for me. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, aware as I was that the risk of having a still-born baby goes up after week 41, and that an induction would bring risks as well. I just wanted a healthy baby. That’s all I cared about. I simply didn’t know the best way to get her.
On Tuesday, May 16th, I started having some mild cramping in the evening, and by Wednesday, May 17th, the cramping started to feel more like contractions. I started timing the contractions around lunchtime on the 17th and by late that night they were so intense that I was doubling over to get through each one. I had been told to go to the hospital when the contractions were 2-to-4 minutes apart, but when they were around 5 minutes apart, I felt a strong urge to head to the hospital. I talked Matt into going a little bit early and we headed to Sutter Amador.
When we arrived, I told the nurse that I might be a little early. I also told her that I knew they might send us home, but this was my first time and I felt safer at the hospital. Both of the nurses on duty that night were very nice and agreed to let me stay there to progress through my labor. They checked my cervix, looked over my birth plan, and agreed to do everything in the most natural way possible. At this point, it was about 1 a.m. We were just going to wait through the night and see how much I had progressed by about 6 a.m.
Around 3 a.m., during a fairly strong contraction, the heart monitors they had on the baby and me started going crazy and I felt the baby moving around a lot — I’m talking more movement than I had ever felt before — frantic movement. The nurse came running in the room and asked me to move into a few different positions as she moved the baby’s heart monitor around on my belly. She seemed scared, so I started to get scared. She pushed a button that was attached to her shirt and said “Code C.” An alarm started sounding. She told me to get on all fours, put on an oxygen mask and try to stay calm — that the baby’s heart rate had dropped significantly and she was trying to find it again. At this point, a bunch of other people, doctors and nurses, started coming into the room asking what they could do. I heard my nurse say that we needed to get my doctor there asap and prep for surgery. I heard her telling the team that if my doctor didn’t get there fast enough, we needed to have the ER doctor perform an emergency C-section, because something was wrong and we needed to get the baby out.
As I propped myself up on the hospital bed on all fours, ass in the open air for whoever to see, face in an oxygen mask, I thought about what would happen to me if I lost this baby. It was one of the darkest moments I’ve ever been in. I thought about how far we’d come together, me and my baby Lentil, and how badly I wanted her to be OK. I thought about how if she didn’t make it, I didn’t want to make it, either. I thought to myself over and over, “Please let her be OK. Please let her be OK. I want nothing more than for her to be OK, I’ve never wanted anything more than for her to be OK.”
The nurse came over to me and said, “Ginger, something is wrong. We won’t know what it is until we get you into surgery, but if you continue with this labor, we think it will end in the demise of your baby.”
Can we talk about the word “demise” for a moment? That word carries so much doom and gloom for me. When I heard that word is when I knew I would do anything the doctors told me to do, because baby demise was the last thing I wanted. Baby demise was my worst nightmare. Baby demise would ruin me.
When my doctor arrived, he looked as if we had awoken him from a deep sleep. He performed an ultrasound on me while I was on all fours. He said he’d never done an ultrasound upside-down before, but he found the baby’s heart beating on the screen and saw that she had switched positions in the womb, another sign of distress, seeing as she had been engaged and head-down for months before this.
Within minutes, they were wheeling me down to surgery. Matt was there by my side the whole time, telling me that everything would be OK. I don’t know how he stayed so calm, but I needed his kind, patient energy so badly and he gave it to me lovingly. As the surgery began, I just kept thinking, again, “Please let her be OK.” Then I heard her cry. It was the most beautiful sound, like nothing I’d ever heard before, a cry that was unique to her and let me know she was alive, even though I couldn’t yet see her.
As I lay on the operating table completely numb and in a very odd headspace, I heard the doctors talking about how things looked on the other side of the sheet. They were talking about my body, my insides. They were saying things looked “different” than usual.
Matt got to see the baby first. He came over to me with the biggest smile on his face, with a look I’ll never forget, a look of relief mixed with love mixed with hope. Luckily, baby Lentil passed all of her tests and they were able to let me hold her pretty quickly. She was perfect.
After surgery, the doctors and nurses explained to us that the umbilical cord was abnormally short. When the baby attempted to descend through my birthing canal, her oxygen supply was reduced and her heart rate dropped. The average umbilical cord is 50 to 60 cm long, but the cord connecting me and Lennon was only 17 cm. The doctors and nurses said she wouldn’t have survived labor. They also said she wouldn’t have survived an induction. One of the nurses even told me when I saw her a week later that it was one of the scariest days she’d ever worked.
The fact that my baby is here with me today makes me feel so fortunate. It also breaks my heart to know that if one tiny part of this story were different, like let’s say I didn’t go to the hospital when I did, or let’s say a different nurse was working and didn’t hear the heart monitor, then my baby wouldn’t be here with me today. It’s so scary to know that I could’ve easily lost my baby. And my heart goes out to all the women whose birthing stories ended differently. I wish I could hug them and tell them how brave and strong they are.
These past two weeks have been tough, because recovering from a C-section is no joke and being a new mom is no joke, but doing both simultaneously while also trying (and kind of failing) to breastfeed is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. And when my baby is sleeping on my chest or looking into my eyes or making a bunch of silly faces, I know that I’m exactly where I need to be. I didn’t get here the way I had hoped, but at least I’m here. More importantly, at least Lennon is here. Someone or something was looking out for us that day and we are all so lucky.