(My Birth Story)
An experience told by BriAnkh-Ka
They say when a pregnant woman starts nesting, then the baby is soon to come. A week ago, I sorted all of my clothes in my closet by color. I had a strong urge to organize things although my baby wasn’t due for another month and a half, July 25th was right around the corner. Wednesday; June 12, 2019, my stomach started to cramp and hurt to the point where I couldn’t stand up straight. Knowing that I had a doctor’s appointment coming up in two days, I figured that I would try to “thug it out “. Besides, the doctor’s office was 2.5 hours away anyway. My intuition told me to pack my baby bag, my hospital bag, put the car seat in the car and finish my belly casting project because delivery would be here very soon although my due date was a little over 6 weeks away. After urinating and seeing what appeared to be bloody discharge, I went with my gut feeling.
Friday; June 14
Had I lost my mucus plug? That’s one question I definitely wanted to ask at my appointment. I had two appointments scheduled for that day. One at 10:30am and one at 1:20pm. The 10:30am one was with the radiologist to check the size of the baby due to the fact that the baby was measuring slightly small at the past two prenatal appointments. The 1:20pm appointment was my bi-weekly prenatal follow up appointment. The radiologist noticed on the ultra sound that my baby wasn’t “practicing breaths” as he should. She also noticed that I had very low amniotic fluid and that he was measuring slightly small and underweight. Keeping in mind that I had been complaining about leaking fluid for the past 3-4 months but was assured by the ER, several OB/GYN’s and nurses that everything was “normal”. Now it was to the point that I had to sleep on towels at night because my undies were getting soaked and so were my sheets. I was told that what I was experiencing was from pregnancy hormones.
“The doctor wants to meet with you in the conference room”, the radiologist whispered. My mom and I looked at each other and shook our heads. One of the maternal fetal medicine doctors walked into the conference room and asked had I been experiencing any pain. I told her yes and that in fact I had been hurting and spotting since Wednesday and now my baby bump seemed to be shrinking. 34 weeks and 1 day pregnant, I noticed how my baby bump was no longer round and in fact, I could now see the baby’s body imprint bulging from under my skin. My mom had a deep concern about how lumpy my belly appeared. The doctor explained how my baby didn’t meet 6/8 of the expected requirements to consider this pregnancy to not be of high risk. She also showed me in the ultrasound screening how he was in a breeched position called frank breech with his head under my ribs and feet over his eyes. Nowhere near being head down. Immediately, she sent me across the street to the hospital labor and delivery department and said that more than likely, I would be delivering my baby today and that she highly doubts if I would leave the hospital pregnant.
Day 1 hospital
I contacted all of my close friends to let them know what was happening and to find a sense of peace so that I wouldn’t panic. After calming down, I arrived at the hospital with my mom and checked into the labor and delivery department. Now I won’t mention the hospitals name for privacy reasons but when I arrived to the hospital, they took me to triage and strapped me up to a baby monitor to monitor my contractions and baby’s heart rate. As I’m sitting there attached to IV fluids I started researching ways to increase my amniotic fluid because I wanted the baby to turn in to the correct position so that I would be able to have a vaginal delivery. This particular hospital wasn’t comfortable or experienced in delivering breeched babies. Several doctors, nurses and students came in and out of the triage room asking “what happened”. I had to explain to them the entire story over and over. The doctor ended up checking my cervix twice which was really painful and this caused more bleeding. Having someone with really short fingers shove their hand in your lady parts has to be the most uncomfortable feeling ever. I was only a fingertip dilated, which barely means anything at all. She also tested the leakage to see if it was indeed amniotic fluid. In terms of the accuracy of the amniotic fluid test, I strongly believe that you have to be leaking amniotic fluid at that very moment or else it becomes hard to decipher whether or not it is really and truly amniotic fluid. How is that I am and have been leaking fluid for months on and off and it not be amniotic fluid? The amniotic fluid test showed negative for amniotic fluid but my fluid around the baby is low? Make it make sense.
What was frustrating for me was the fact that the doctors kept saying “Oh! Maybe you’re dehydrated, that’s why you’re contracting” and I had to keep telling them over and over that I drink over a gallon of water a day and that I didn’t get sent here because of contractions. My doctor sent me to labor and delivery because of the low levels of amniotic fluid. How many times do I really have to repeat myself!? Besides, it was all written down on the referral paper that I had given the receptionist when I initially checked in. It’s like they weren’t even listening or comprehending what I was saying. My mom, a registered nurse, chimed in letting them know that I was not dehydrated and that the doctor from the high-risk clinic was the one who sent me there. Being that my home is 2.5 hours away, my mom told then that she didn’t feel comfortable with them just sending me home, especially in the amount of pain I was in. They asked if my contractions were getting better, I told them “no” and that I was still hurting the same and one doctor says “well it looks like you feel better”, insisting that the two bottles of water I had consumed and the IV fluids I had received within the three hours of being in triage had solved the problem. After my mom basically told them that we were not leaving, they agreed to monitor me overnight, repeat the same test and come up with a “plan” in the morning.
With the baby being in a frank breech position, the anesthesiologists and a surgeon came in to talk to me about emergency and secondary delivery plans and to ensure that I would be okay with the procedure. They expressed how it would be best to sign the papers now rather than trying to go through them in an emergency situation. I signed all the paper work for the anesthesiologists letting them know that I am really against C-sections but only in a life or death situation would I want to have an immediate surgery to save my life, the baby’s life or both. They also asked if I would be okay receiving a steroid shot to strengthen the baby’s lungs in the event that he had to come early. The shot would increase his chances of being able to breathe on his own. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a naturalist, a vegan and holistic health advocate. I wanted this pregnancy to be as natural as possible, even with being in a hospital setting, I still had my lotus birth plans intact. A lotus birth is when you leave the placenta attached to the baby and cover it with herbs, allowing it to detach on its own so that the baby receives all of the nutrients from the placenta. Another reason why they wanted to keep me overnight is because the steroid shot is a 2-series shot, which is administered 24 hours apart and they told me I would get the second shot at 5pm on the next day. Surprisingly, I agreed to getting the shot.
Day 2 Hospital
After gulping down insane amounts of water over night, the doctors came in for another ultrasound to look for fluid pockets around the baby to see if there was enough fluid to turn him into the correct position to deliver vaginally. They searched and searched for healthy volumes of amniotic fluid which is a 2 by 2 ml pocket but could only find volumes under 0.8mL or less. So that means I had lost more fluid someway, somehow. Of course, they wanted to keep me for another night to monitor AGAIN and then check back in the morning with an official plan, just as they had ensured before. They told me that the baby’s heart rate looked good but they’re looking to see the up-rise and fall of the baby’s diaphragm and he wasn’t showing that on the monitor. I began to worry because I could not understand how my baby was receiving oxygen. I had googled so many things the previous day and everything had led to potentially birthing a still born baby or a baby with birth defects. I was expecting to be discharged from the hospital by 5pm after receiving the second steroid shot but a nurse came in around 3:30pm to let me know that I wasn’t going home because of the low fluid levels and how they wanted to monitor me AGAIN overnight and repeat the ultrasound in the morning.
Now, I am a doula myself and I am against too many ultrasounds due to high amounts of radiation but I needed to know sooo bad what was going on inside and this was the only way. This is when my birthing plan had begun to be compromised which I felt terribly about but didn’t want to be ignorant when it came to saving my baby’s life. I knew that he couldn’t maintain much longer in a “dry” womb. At this point I could feel his bones puncturing my pelvis when he made simple movements. I literally had no fluid which acts as a cushion allowing the baby to move freely in the womb. I couldn’t help but wonder how uncomfortable it was for him.
Day 3 Hospital
As far as the medical team, I felt like everyone was on different page. The nurses were giving me hope that everything was going well and that I would be discharged later today. All of a sudden, the doctor walks in to do another ultrasound and says that if the amniotic fluid hadn’t increased we would discuss delivery options and by tomorrow we will have a definite plan. Same things over and over. My mom and I started to become impatient at the thought of not knowing what was really going on and she asked, “well if she’s fine and if everything is good, then why is she still being monitored, what are you monitoring at this point.” The doctor says “oh he had a dip in his heart rate last night”. “A dip in his heart rate!???”, my mom and I blurted out in unison. Now I’m feeling lied to. No one ever mentioned that at any point in time. Mind you, I have a different team of doctors and nurses every day, so I never see the same person. Fast forward, she does the ultrasound and still struggles to find a fluid pocket. She comes back to let me know that we will have a definite plan in the morning. I’m like okay, this is the last time for real because I was one, tired and two, I was sick of drowning my insides with water that tasted like metal and was obviously not spring water and three, I was on my last limb when it came to patience.
Monday June 17 (the anticipation)
At about 7:30am, I consumed a light breakfast and 30 minutes later, two doctors came in my room, accompanied by a medical student, a nurse practitioner and a nurse. I knew that they had come bearing some sort of NEWS. The doctor had the same last name as me and I am such of ‘that’s a sign “person, my heart rate started to speed up. “Miss Brianca”, she said. “How are you feeling?”. I’m like “I’m okay”, with my voice shaking. She says, “we are going to deliver your baby today”. My mouth literally dropped. I mean I knew it was coming. I was just like “dannnnnggg son, it’s about to get real”. She says, “you ready?”, I’m like “uhhh, I guess”. “Well you have about 2 surgeries in front of you, nurse such and such is gonna get you all set up and prepped, don’t eat or drink anything else and I’ll give you a second to process everything and I will see you in the OR for your C-section”. As soon as they left out, I ran in the bathroom and called my suns dad and bawled my eyes out. I was so overwhelmed more than anything and I knew that I didn’t want an epidural but I also didn’t want them to “knock me out” with gas because I would be totally hypnotized, sleep and unconscious. The other option would be a spinal block that paralyzes you from the rib cage down. My mom notified my family letting them know that the baby would come today. My god sister, my dad, my stepdad and my stepdads brother were the first people to arrive at the hospital before they prepped me for anesthesia. I had a chance to calm down and process everything before the prep.
At about 3:00pm the anesthesiologists came in to take me to the OR. I have to be honest. Their energy was so warming and comforting but I was shaking from the nervousness plus it was super cold in there. They asked me questions to help me relax like “what type of music do you like” and they put on a nice meditation playlist and joked about how Zen the room was. They even dimmed the lights for me. Give thankhs for that.
The anesthesiologist told me to sit on the side of the operating table and curve my back like the cat yoga pose. Everything including their terminology became yoga related to lighten the mood once they found out what type of lifestyle and things I typically incorporate into my daily practices. So, I curved my back praying that I wouldn’t jump because my biggest fear was getting a needle on my spine and being paralyzed from moving. Another assistant of the OR team stood in front of me and I asked her could I just hug her for support. She said yes and I leaned over and grabbed her neck as the lead anesthesiologist guided me into a deep breathing session and the needle with the numbing medication slowly entered my slightly crooked spine. He warned me that I would feel a slight burn and that after he would enter medication that would indeed paralyze me until the procedure was well over with. I remember him saying “your legs will tingle and your bottom is gonna feel warm.” A couple of seconds later, that’s exactly what happened and my entire bottom felt lifeless. I thought it was funny and immediately felt calm. A couple of team members twisted my body around so that I laid vertically on the OR table and flat on my back with my arms stretched out to each side of me. The anesthesiologist asked me to cough and I attempted to do so but out came a very faint “aha-aha” sound. He started to laugh and explained to me how that was a result of my body being temporarily paralyzed by the medication. A team member then took a push pin needle and started from my feet and told me to let them know when I felt the prick. I didn’t feel a thing all the way up to my breast. They waited a few minutes to start to let the medication settle in and pulled up a curtain so that I couldn’t see what was going on on the other side. I felt hands, light movements, but no pain. I quickly asked “where is my mom?”. They replied “she’s on the way”.
About three minutes later, my mom comes around the corner and says “Hey Bri”. She’s all geared up in her PPE (personal protective equipment). One of the OR team members passes me my phone and I start playing a game on my phone to sort of distract me from hearing what’s going on behind this curtain where my lower body which included everything below my breast laid. I hear the surgeons say “dang girl you’re strong, your muscles are so tough and tight” and from then I assume that they were cutting me open. They’re like “you’re gonna feel slight tugging and pulling” and that’s when it got real. I heard them struggling and grunting and I literally felt them inside of my body, moving organs to the point I was making gurgling noises as if I was in a horror film like SAW 3, getting brutally mutilated. It was just my body’s response to what was going on. “Uuuurrrrgggghhhh”, I yelled out uncontrollably and my mom reassured me that I would be okay. “Uuuurrrrgggghhhh”, I bawled out again. Even though my brain and nervous system signals were shut off, my muscles were responding to the cutting, tugging and pulling. I felt like I was in a race car pit getting my tires changed as my body rocked right to left from the many hands that were performing the surgery on me. I heard, “there’s an arm! careful it’s a leg! There’s the placenta “, and then boom! I zoned out for like two second and tears rolled down my face. I really didn’t understand why I was shedding tears. Perhaps I thought I was dead. It was too unreal. No way could I be surviving something so gruesome and so traumatic as this right now. All I kept hearing in my head was SURRENDER. SURRENDER. SURRENDER because that was the word that was used over and over again to describe the birthing experience by one of my friends who had just given birth to her little one a year prior to this.
When I gained back my consciousness, I heard a very faint cry which sounded like a cat meowing and one of the doctors flashed a baby to the clear shield and said “look here’s your baby, happy birthday! “. I would call this the purification stage. I began to release. Tears poured down my face. Did I just have a baby? I really just had a baby but he was snatched away so fast, I couldn’t believe it. Although I couldn’t have my lotus birth, I had requested to at least have delayed cord clamping which I’m pretty sure didn’t happen. I’m pretty sure he was already detached from the placenta once they showed me his face. The doctors and nurses asked my mom to come around to see and take pics of the baby as they were sewing me up. The process of them taking the baby out was less than 2 minutes but as far as stitching me up, it felt like forever. I swear it felt like they were zipping and lacing up my chest like a shoe. With all of the tugging and pulling, I started that horrific gurgling noise again. My mom came around to show me the pictures of my baby and wanted to comfort me to make sure I was okay. She was trying to distract me by showing me pictures of him but I was definitely zoned out. I just wanted them to hurry up. One of the surgeons said “we’re almost done, just have to close up your skin”. That made my soul cringe and I begin to experience the lacing. I knew they were sewing just below the bikini line but I could feel them tugging and pulling my skin as if I was a corset. “Okay all done”, someone said, after what felt like an hour. Then someone just came and grabbed my whole abdomen and twisted it like a wet wash cloth and I heard blood gush from my vaginal area. “Don’t touch your stomach”, the surgeon said. “People have the tendency to want to feel their abdomen after surgery”. That’s one thing no one had to worry about. I was afraid to even look down. The OR team got me cleaned up and rolled me down to the recovery room.
All I want to know is, “where is my baby?” “Oh! We’re getting him straightened out and you should be able to see him in a couple of hours”. A COUPLE OF HOURS!!?? I’m just stuck in this closet sized room staring as nurses come in and out to check my vital signs and waiting for me to be able to move my legs and also checking me for bleeding. I was so afraid to look under my hospital gown because I felt the puffiness of the bandages from where I had been cut. Different nurses came to see if I was hurting and to administer narcotics. I told them that I didn’t want to take any because I was going to breastfeed and didn’t want it to affect the baby. They assured me that less than 10% of the medication affects the baby, but I stood strong on my “NO”. Besides, I don’t even take medication as is. After monitoring me for two hours, I was taken to an assigned room where my family and one of my closest friends waited for me. “I really just had a baby”, I thought. My family started to roll in one by one bombarding me with questions like, “how do you feel?”, “are you in pain?”, “you okay?” and so forth. I was stuck, stuck in a trance, dazed out into la-la land. The anesthesia started to wear off slightly and I began to itch. My whole body itched especially my head. It was an itch that I just couldn’t scratch. Then the sweating and shivering began. I wasn’t cold but I was as wet as a dog. A nurse came in and injected some medication into my IV and then proceeded to check my legs for swelling, pain and blood-clots. “Can you wiggle your toes?”, she asked. “NOPE!”, I said proudly. It’s like my brain and my limbs were disconnected. Surprisingly, I was able to move my toes a little. There were about seven of my family members and one of my friends in my hospital room just carrying casual conversation and discussing the baby. This was an exciting time for them. As for myself, I was about to explode. My ears became super sensitive and everything made me cringe. I was overwhelmed and started to experience sensory overload. The nurse then let me know that she was here to take my catheter out and I was now able to go see my baby. CATHETER!? When the heck did anyone put a catheter in my vagina without me knowing. I looked down and surely enough there was a bag of urine attached to a cord that was inside of my vagina. My family members left out to go to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) waiting room and the nurse proceeded to remove the urine bag. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel the removal either. The nurse and my mom assisted me in sitting up and I shuffled my feet to get it the wheel chair. I could not stand at all on my own. This was pathetic to me being the overly independent individual that I am. I wheeled down to the NICU, heart racing anxious to see my youth. I was glad to know that my baby had no oxygen tube or feeding tube supporting him and he was indeed breathing on his own. Doctors were discussing removing his IV fluids on the next day and a plan for him to go home at the same time that I will be discharged from the hospital.
Surrender – to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand.
As I mentioned previously, throughout my pregnancy, one of my friends talked to me over and over about the importance of surrendering and how there was basically no other word to describe the child birthing experience. As a doula, I knew what to expect from literary and a comprehensive stand point but nothing compares to the actual physical experience. You can read all the “mommy to be” books and all of the “what to expect” articles and guides as your brain will allow, but the actual experience overrides almost all of the text.
During the surgery, I thought I was surrendering as my arms stretched out to each side of me, I envisioned myself being crucified. That was my definition of surrendering at the time. I resisted, then I stop. I chanted RELAX, RELAX, RELAX in my head as I made the gruesome gurgling noise over and over. I yelled under my breath and I tried relaxing again. Not resisting didn’t make the feeling any better but it was nothing I could do at this point. To feel people inside your body, deep under your skin, pulling and tugging on your organs, I felt lifeless. I had given up my power. I was not in control and plus my body was gutted wide open.
Surrendering for me actually started after the operation. I had to surrender to the process. The fact that I wasn’t anywhere near my baby, the fact that I had to get better in order to care for him and the one thing that I hated the most, the medication. I avoided narcotics and pain medicine for as long as I could but my body began to sweat, shake and shiver because my pain was intolerable and way out of control. I was determined not to take any pain medicine because I planned to breastfeed and I didn’t want my baby to be affected by the medicine. Several doctors and nurses came in to sort of counsel me about how it would not be humanly possible to go through a major abdominal surgery like I did and not have any relief afterwards. They reminded me over and over how I would not be able to produce quality breastmilk in those levels of pain which means that I wouldn’t be able to take care of my sun. I still said “NO”! It took me to experience high blood pressure levels and what most people would call open-eye “hallucinations”, (I have a different perspective of this phenomenon), to say “Okay, I surrender” and acknowledge that I must do somethings differently. Having a mom as a register nurse had to be the most vital and helpful aspect of this procedure. She made sure that I was fed, bathed, clothed and as comfortable as possible because I was helpless for 12 days straight. I couldn’t help myself at all. In my mind, I was thinking I could recover very quickly. But a doctor came in letting me know that being that my abs were sooo tight, toned and firm from being physically fit prior to pregnancy, it may take me longer than most to recover because my muscles were tough to cut through.
I surrendered to the pain medicine. At this point, I would do anything to hold my youth. I’m not sure if I was emotional from being away from my baby or whether I was experiencing horrific side effects from the medications but I was overly emotional and that’s really not my style. Once you indulge in western medicine, you must continue the protocol. Especially undergoing surgery. This is when integrative medicine takes lead.
The 4th Trimester
After having my hopes up that we would both be discharged three days post-operation, I learned that neither of us were going to be able to leave. The baby’s blood sugar and temperature had dropped and there was talk about him having to stay in the NICU for at least another month. “I’m not leaving my baby here!”, I expressed as tears rolled down my face. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I don’t even live in this city and I am determined not to leave this city without him.
I call this the beginning of the 4th trimester. He was transferred from the NICU to the Special Care Nursery because he was no longer in an intensive or critical state. He just needed to grow. I felt like I was being told too many different things from too many different people and the nurses or doctors weren’t communicating properly or at least they weren’t communicating with ME properly. One person was saying by the end of the week he could go home, a next person would say he’s not eating enough and it would take at least a month. I was on an emotional rollercoaster. It was becoming way too much to hold in. I broke down again and again. I guess the nurses communicated well enough to send stress management to my room because they were concerned about my emotional and mental health. It was nothing they could tell me that I didn’t already know. “Live in the present moment”, “be in the now.” Yeah, yeah! It sounded good but what I was concerned about was getting my baby home. He probably felt my energy because the next morning when I visited him, I couldn’t get him to eat for me and I broke down again.
The hospitals social worker made a referral so that my mom and I could stay at The Ronald McDonald House until the baby was released. The RMH was a huge building with 55 studio apartments and housing inside for families who had children in the hospital and lived quite a distance away. They provided transportation to and from the hospital, meals and snacks throughout the day. I was so thankful for this because I couldn’t imagine spending $100 per night at a hotel. It was super clean, included toiletries and the hospitality was outstanding. All you had to do was bring yourself. This made the waiting for my baby to bake, process easier.
The tricky thing with preemies is that they really look done on the outside, but developmentally, they need more time to grow and learn basic coordination skills so that they can do things such as eat without getting super tired. Preemies expel a lot of energy and burn calories doing things. I had to learn technique. Feeding him every three hours, letting him get adequate rest all impacts the next feeding which in turn impacts his weight, blood glucose levels and so forth.
There’s a science to timing out the perfect schedule for premature babies and a science to feeding them. Sit them up on your lap, wake them up fully, un-swaddle them, tilt the bottle, sit the bottle up in A-line position, stimulate their heads, pause, let them breath, burp them, resume feeding. Caring for a newborn is totally different than that of a preemie.
Premature babies love instant satisfaction. Breastfeeding for them would be too tiring to their little jaws. They are simply too impatient to pull the milk down so pumping breastmilk and then bottle feeding them is vital to their development and growth.
There’s this theory called the fourth trimester. Gestation is broken down into 3 trimesters which consist of three- 90-day intervals per trimester. The tricky thing with calculating your due date would be the fact that your delivery date is usually the 40th week but 40 weeks is technically 10 months. A baby is considered fully developed at 37 weeks, one week after the 9thmonth has started. My little one arrived earth side on week 34. All this means is that he would need an additional 3-6 weeks to be considered a full termed baby. The fourth trimester is the baby’s first three months of life outside of the womb.
Despite the traumatic and unexpected occurrences of events that took place in order to bring my youth earth side, I am ever grateful for the people who took on a major responsibility by ensuring that I had a safe delivery and a healthy baby. Even at 6 weeks early, I birthed a powerful being with an ancient soul. I am a firm believer that everything happens in divine timing. June 17th, 2019, I was initiated. This was my rites of passage. Motherhood, the ultimate guide and caregiver of this earth plane. Born 4 pounds 7 ounces, I give infinite thanks to the Creator of all things for the return of another ancestor, my first born, I-Yahdan Nazir.