July is birth story month at the Motherhood Collective. Reading the good, the bad, the ugly and the BEAUTIFUL experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you. Today's post is written by Kerissa Scott, a regular attendee at the Motherhood Cafe. Knowing her birth story, we asked her to share it and she graciously agreed.
Before I start I want to give a huge disclaimer/warning: For those of you who worry about every possible thing that may go wrong, this may not be a post you want to read. Also, I will try to remain as neutral and factual in relaying everything that happened, but just know that we did not have the best experience, and so I may go on some rants. Given all of that, I still think Levi’s story is amazing and beautiful, and has the power to touch lots of mamas, especially those who have been through similar situations. I believe so strongly that we as mothers have the power to affect our own and our babies’ healthcare. We have a mother’s intuition and a right to know everything and be active in every decision, and as you will read, that is exactly what I learned through this entire process.
I was sitting on the toilet the night of June 10th, going to the bathroom (perhaps trying a little too hard)... and out of nowhere, I heard a pop. The gush didn’t happen until I stood up, and then, of course, came the massive panic. I was only 30 weeks. My baby was not ready to come, and yet my water had broken. At the time I was in college, single, and living in an apartment with two other girls. Thankfully one of them was home, so I screamed for her help (like she could really do anything... I just made her freak out more than I was). I was a nursing student and had been through OB class/clinicals, and I have always had a passion for newborns and birth - so I was pretty educated in the area. After a few minutes of panicking, I was able to calm myself and go into nurse mode of what I needed to do. My roommate got me a glass of water which I just kept chugging (your body is constantly making more amniotic fluid, so I knew if I drank, it would make more, hopefully replacing as much lost as possible). I lay down on the floor with a towel between my legs and started making phone calls. My roommate didn’t have a car at the time, so she couldn’t take me to the hospital. I couldn’t get in touch with my parents. (I swear I called them both 10+ times.) Finally I got in touch with my sister. I called the hospital to let them know what was going on and that we were on our way. Of course, because it’s the hospital, they doubted my water broke. I was obviously ignorant and had just peed... enough to soak three bath towels...totally possible right? Ha.
When we got to the hospital, a lady from our church was already there waiting for us (my entire family has always been close with her). By now I had gotten in touch with my parents and they arrived very shortly after we did. I am still amazed at the response I got when we arrived at the Birth Center. I called telling them what happened, they knew I was only 30 weeks, I was leaking water by the gallon, and yet I stood at the little desk for 10 minutes before they took me back. I remember I just kept saying (I don’t know if it was out loud or to myself), “Why aren’t they doing anything”. They still did not believe that my water has broken.
When I finally got into a room, they had to run the litmus test to check for amniotic fluid. By now I had started having mild contractions, so as soon as they had scientific proof that my water did indeed break, they hooked me up to the monitors and started going to town with IVs. They gave me a steroid shot which is supposed to help the baby’s lungs develop faster - the lungs are one of the last things to fully develop, and yet very essential to life outside of the womb. They gave me meds to stop my contractions, and told me that their goal was to keep him in for at least 48 hours, but the best case scenario would be for him to stay in for 3 to 4 weeks.
Now, as I said before, I had been through nursing school and read all sorts of books, but I had NEVER heard of a baby staying in a mama whose water had broken for 3 to 4 weeks. I had always heard (as I’m sure most of you have) that you have to have the baby within 48 hours of your water breaking (due to risk of infection)... and they were talking 3-4 weeks?
Once they hooked me up to all the IVs and taken all the precautions, things quieted down a bit. My contractions had stopped (thankfully) and it was time to rest. They kept trying to get me to take a sleeping pill, which I refused (daily), if I was going to go into labor I certainly did not want a sleeping pill in my bloodstream. I talked with the Neonatal doctor whose purpose was to “prepare” me for whenever the baby did come. I was also knowledgeable about preemies though. I had done an internship in the NICU in high school and had clinicals for nursing school in there as well. My main concerns were that I still be able to have him vaginally (as long as no further complications arose), and I wanted to know if I would be able to hold him after he was born. The doctor assured me that the goal was to have him vaginally, but he could not promise me I would be able to hold him. That was when I finally broke down. This whole time in the hospital I was in nurse mode: wanting to know everything they were giving me, all the details, possible side effects, everything. But once I was told I may not be able to hold my baby, it all became so much more real.
The Waiting Game
At this point, we just had to wait. Wait for the medicine to help his lungs. Wait and hope I don’t have any more contractions. Just be calm and wait.
They did an ultrasound to estimate how big he was and measure how much fluid was left. They estimated 4 pounds - which is pretty big for a 30 week old. I was happy to hear that, but knew that the estimations aren’t very accurate, and being big didn’t necessarily mean he would be healthy.
I was still on magnesium sulfate, the medicine they give you to stop contractions, which at that point I thought was the worst medication ever created. It made me feel like total crap (understatement). You are only supposed to be on it for 48 hours total, and they almost tried to give me it for 72 hours. This was the first mistake I caught and was adamant they double (and triple) check, as it can cause complications and damage if you take it longer. I ended up being right (doesn’t that feel so good?) and they started weaning me off it. There is always a risk going off it that your body will go back into labor, so they were watching me carefully. If I went into labor at any point, they would not stop it again, as it had been 48 hours. But alas, Levi behaved, and agreed to stay inside a little longer.
As I’m writing this I am looking back on my daily updates for friends and family, and after one day on bed rest, I was complaining about how much my butt hurt.
“I am able to get up and use the bathroom (Thank God! Hate bed pans and catheters!), but other than that, I'm pretty much stuck in bed. My butt is already starting to hurt! Hard to imagine the possibility of being in here for weeks, but easier when I think of baby rather than myself. Mom has been a very good patient advocate - trying to see if I can get a shower at the moment. They have to ask the doctor.”
I have to say, my mom was AMAZING through this whole thing. She stayed with me in the hospital camping out on the pathetic pull out beds. She helped me learn what questions to ask, what to be pushy about and what wasn’t a big deal. More than anything, she was there for me, at a very lonely and scary time.
And she apparently was a very convincing advocate - because after three days in the hospital, I was able to shower! Hallelujah! It was definitely one of the best showers of my life. Afterwards, my mom, sister, and I all worked for over an hour to get all the tangles out of my matted hair. We made the floor slippery from using so much leave-in conditioner. I learned that it was best to braid my hair after that endeavor. That way, if it was a few days before I could shower again, at least it wouldn’t be a huge nest.
After taking me off the IVs, ensuring I was not going to go into labor, and finally letting me shower, they moved me to the mother-baby unit to wait. It was so nice to not be hooked to monitors 24/7 and be able to go to the bathroom by myself. I had to have assistance over in the Birthing Center...it’s hard to go when you have someone over your shoulder. I finally felt I could relax. Before I was just constantly being checked on and really didn’t have any privacy at all.
While in waiting, I would be monitored once a day for half an hour and have an ultrasound once a week. The monitoring was called a non-stress test. They just watched the baby’s heart rate and any contractions. The ultrasound was different than the others. It was called a biophysical profile. It was essentially a test for the baby. He had to do a list of things in 30 minutes, wiggle his fingers, practice breathing, etc. It is so much harder to tell what you are looking at when there is little amniotic fluid - in a regular ultrasound, the fluid creates the nice dark contrasting background. Another downside to low amniotic fluid - there was no cushion for his kicking. I felt every little movement, and there were times I thought he was going to break my ribs!
Because I was leaking amniotic fluid constantly, I had to wear pads, which the nurse had to check every time I changed them for signs of infection. This was awkward for me - leaving a used pad lying out so someone could “check it out”. Sometimes the nurse would call in another nurse to look at it with her, just to be sure - so weird. If the discharge became greenish that was a sign of infection and they would need to induce me.
After a few days I started getting horrible nose bleeds because the air in the hospital is SO dry. I rejoiced when they brought me a humidifier. I was in online classes at the time so most of my day was spent reading and doing school work. One day my sister came and helped me make invitations for my baby shower (which now would happen after I had him).
I was on contact precautions because I had MRSA about 2 years earlier. Apparently after you have a positive MRSA test, you have to go back to the doctor and get 3 nasal swabs that come back negative. No one ever told me this and they couldn’t do the nasal swabs until I was off antibiotics. So this caused extra headache. I got in trouble for leaving my room. A lot of the nurses wouldn’t take my water jug out to refill it. They would just bring in little styrofoam cups. I was drinking crazy amounts of water at this point so the little cups were not enough!
Several times I started having consistent contractions and they would move me over to the Birth Center, only for the contractions to stop. They would keep me there overnight to carefully monitor me, but come morning I would always end up back in my room. Whenever I was in the Birth Center I got very little sleep. They monitor you more frequently, and the beds are not as comfortable. I hated all the chaos of moving back and forth.
So Sunday night, June 20th, 10 days into my hospital stay, I decided not to tell anyone I was having contractions. I knew that even if this was the real thing, it would be a while before active labor, and I wanted some sleep! After a few hours, I was pretty sure I was in labor for real this time. The contractions would wake me up every now and then, but I just tried to rest as much as I could before being taken to the Birth Center. Around 6 a.m. I finally told the nurse that I had been having contractions all night. She hooked me up to the monitors and agreed that I was in labor, but doubted that it had been all night. My discharge had also started having a greenish tint, so they took me straight to the Birth Center.
The Big Event
It just so happened that the day I was in labor, a neonatal birthing specialist (I can’t remember her real title) was visiting from North Carolina. Because they didn’t believe I had been having contractions all night and they didn’t want them to stop again, the specialist recommended they put me on Pitocin, as I was showing signs of infection. I wish I had known enough to refuse this, or at least request they monitor me for another hour before making that decision, but at the time I was convinced that was what was best for my baby. I was having moderate contractions, but at noon, when they hooked up the Pitocin, everything changed.
Being induced (usually by Pitocin) always causes stronger, longer contractions. Add that onto me already being in labor. I wanted a natural labor, without pain interventions. I knew I could do it, everyone in Africa does it. (That’s what I kept telling myself!) My birth classes were supposed to be the next week so I hadn’t officially been through them. I had sat in on several through nursing classes, but was not able to take them as planned with my mom, so we didn’t really know how to work together. I remember being in total disbelief at how long it took to get a nurse, and how little they were willing to help. They let me get in the shower for a little bit which was absolutely amazing, but other than that I had to pretty much stay in the bed because they were worried about umbilical cord prolapse. I got to the point where I needed to do breathing exercises to get through the contractions, but in the moment I couldn’t. I needed my mom to tell me when to breathe, and she ended up making me hyperventilate because she was so caught up in the moment. We couldn’t even get a nurse to come help me breathe.
I don’t really remember how dilated I was in the morning - I’m thinking a 3 or 4. By 2:30, I was having a really hard time dealing with the pain and getting control. They checked me and I was a 7. I knew if it wasn’t going to get a ton worse, and would be over soon, I could do it. But the nurses told me it was going to get a lot worse and be several more hours (liars). So I gave in and they put in the order for the epidural. The anesthesiologist did not show up until 3, and no one thought to check my dilation THEN, because they had just checked it 30 minutes ago. Well, little did I know, I was in transition. As the anesthesiologist was putting a needle in my back, and I was being ordered to stay still, I was screaming, “The baby is coming. He is coming NOW!”. Once again, they didn’t believe me. But low and behold, as soon as the epidural was secure and I flopped on my back, they could see his head. I was told not to push, the neonatal team had to be called and prepare everything for my premature baby. After what seemed like forever, it was time to push. I don’t remember much as I was in that “zone”, but (per my orders) my mom secretly videotaped the delivery. I do remember the doctor telling me to reach down and feel the top of his head and I freaked out thinking he was TINY and that I was feeling the full circumference of his head (not just the crowning, overlapping skull bones). At one point, he was having bad decels so they gave me an episiotomy (which I specifically told them not to beforehand). They did so without even telling me they were doing it, or why. I wouldn’t have known this without the video, but the cord was wrapped around his neck. Everything happened so fast. The epidural was officially in at 3:15 and Levi was born at 3:33.
I didn’t really get to see him. My sister had walked in as they cut the cord and I kept asking her what he looked like, how he was doing, was he alive, etc. Everyone had left me and was paying attention to the baby. Finally, my mom was my amazing advocate again, and convinced the doctors to let me hold him. It was only for about 10 seconds, and then he started turning blue, but I got to hold him and kiss him and tell him everything was going to be ok.
I don’t remember delivering the placenta, but I do remember being sown back up. Even with the epidural (which had been turned off basically as soon as it was put in), I could feel all the tugging and thought to myself, I’m glad I got the epidural if it was only for this. Before I knew it, they were wheeling my baby out to the NICU, away from me.
Kerrisa's story continues here as she tells us about Levi's time in the NICU.
If you have a birth story you'd like to share with our readers, please submit it here.