Wednesday, May 02, 2012
A Brush With Death and The Joy of New Life
I think I'm ready to share Jacob's birth story. I figure even if I'm not I better write it down before the details become fuzzy and I decide not to record the events. I can't imagine ever forgetting how things happened but you never know given how time likes to rob us of things we hold dear.
During my pregnancy I was adamant that I wanted to have a vaginal birth even though I had a previous c-section under my belt and most doctors don't like to do one after you've gone through a c-section. I had delivered both Caroline and Madison via vbac (vaginal birth after cesearan) so I knew I could do it. All of my children have laid breech and that has always been another issue for me. Still, we've done external versions and turned them to be head down so that I could birth them vaginally. It worked for everyone except Ben so I had high hopes that we could do this as well with our newest baby.
Throughout my pregnancy the baby would be breech until the very end where he turned head down... well, at least according to the ultrasounds I was having every week. I would have an ultrasound, they would say he was head down but then later at my regular OB appointment they would question if he was. Still, we trusted the ultrasound and hoped he would stay put. Because of my gestational diabetes and the fact I had once had a previous c-section, the doctors would not let me go past my 40 week due date. They said they would induce if I had not had the baby before March 17th, my due date. As we entered the 39th week of pregnancy we would schedule to induce to have our baby on March 16th. I was disappointed that I wouldn't be going into labor on my own and also disappointed not to have a baby on St. Patrick's day but also relieved that I wouldn't have to worry about getting to the hospital on time and delivering a baby either at home or in the car on the way to the hospital. After our delivery with William I was terrified of something going very wrong during delivery. I just wanted our baby to be safe.
Friday, March 16th came and we checked into the hospital. We took Kaylie and Emma with us to witness the birth and to help out. The day started so good. We had a wonderful nurse named Heather. We kept her laughing and she whispered to me that she wished all her patients could be like us. She would ask me many times what the baby's name was going to be and I would tell her that we weren't telling until he was born. She would smile and try again. She was a wonderful nurse. When we checked in we found that I was 4 cm dilated and already contracting on my own. It looked like we were meant to have a baby on that very day anyhow. The doctor and midwife came in to check me and we discussed our plan of action. We would start pitocin to increase contractions, when I felt it necessary, if at all, I would ask for the epidural, and we would watch how things progressed. After we hit a certain point we would break my water and deliver the baby. We were happy and it was exactly what I had been hoping for.
As the day passed on we upped the pitocin and contractions got stronger. I didn't need the epidural quite yet so we decided to break my water to help things progress. The baby's head was sitting high and we hoped that by breaking my water his head would drop down and put pressure on my cervix to speed things along (this is what we did with all the other children too). Because I carried so much extra fluid we decided to try to nick the bag so that there was a slow trickle of fluid instead of a huge gush. It worked until the first contraction. With that contraction I once again flooded the bed and the floor beneath. The midwife and the nurse were shocked at the amount of fluid but we just laughed and told them that we warned them! Breaking my water brought on stronger contractions and I decided that I needed the epidural.
The anesthesiologist came and as he worked on putting my epidural in he and Mike talked about the Marine Corps. It seemed the doctor's son was going into the Corps and Mike was telling him all about it. Unfortunately, as nice as the doctor was he couldn't seem to get the medicine in my back the correct way. He would have to redo it three times and each time it never quite took. It did work for a little bit but within about 30 minutes I could fully move my legs and body. Still, it did help lessen some of the pain of the contractions so I just let it go. I was tired of being poked.
Shortly thereafter I felt like I needed to push and had the midwife check my cervix. I was fully dilated and ready to push. Both she and the OB came in to deliver. As I was pushing I felt like something might be wrong. I told the nurse that I was in a lot of pain, a different kind of pain. I told her that I felt it along my abdomen. She made mention to the OB that I had a "window of pain" and he got a very panicked look on his face. He said to not call it that as for doctors that meant I had a uterine rupture. She assured him that she only meant I had an area of pain where the epidural was not working. I told her that the epidural wasn't working anywhere... that I felt everything and could move everything. Still, I kept trying to push and deliver the baby.
As labor continued on I was becoming increasingly distressed by the fact that I knew I was not moving the baby down like I should be. After birthing 8 other babies vaginally I knew what to do and knew I was not doing it. I asked them about this. As they checked me the midwife said, "Well, this baby is breech! I can see his butt and his testicles!" The OB looked as well and said, "I told you he was breech. I knew it. You said you felt his head but I didn't think he was head down." To which the midwife replied, "You just wanted to deliver one last breech baby before you retire in July!" As they joked and looked I began to feel even more upset. If they even thought he was breech why didn't they do an ultrasound to check and to tell me what my options were? I told the nurse that I didn't think I could birth him. She told me to keep pushing and that if after a few more pushes I couldn't do it then we'd try something different.
I was in so much pain. I have delivered babies all natural before and this was different. It was worse, far worse. I knew something was terribly wrong. This baby was not going to come out of me. I was so tired and I knew that my pushing was ineffective. I told Mike that something was wrong. I told him I couldn't do it. He said something to the doctor. They stopped talking and asked me what I wanted to do. I began to cry that they needed to take the baby by c-section and they needed to do it soon as something was very, very wrong. It would take another 15 minutes of preparing before they took me to get the c-section done. As they were wheeling me back the anesthesiologist talked to me about getting a spinal. I told him that there wasn't enough time and that they just needed to put me under and take the baby. I was so scared and beginning to really cry. I knew there was something wrong and they weren't acting fast enough. I pleaded over and over again with him to please just put me under and take the baby. I was almost frantic about it. After asking me again about the spinal and me insisting they put me out they finally agreed.
As I lay on the operating table I cried. I was in so much pain and I was so scared. I knew there was something wrong but just didn't know what. The pain I was feeling was a pain I never knew before. Heather, my nurse, was right there by my side talking to me. I told her I was scared. She said things would be ok. I held her hand and looked up at her. Through my tears I whispered, "His name is Jacob." She smiled at me and told me it was a beautiful name. I didn't tell her that I told her because I wanted to say his name out loud at least once while he was alive. I was certain he was not going to make it to my arms. Right after that they put a mask on me and I was asleep.
When I awoke Mike was beside me holding my hand. I whispered, "Is the baby ok? Is Jacob ok?" He smiled and told me he was perfect. I cried a little and was so relieved. Before I knew it though my OB was standing over me saying, "You must never get pregnant again. Do you understand?" I looked at him confused and just whispered, "Yes." I would later find out that the pain I was feeling so intensely was my uterus rupturing. As the doctor began the c-section he discovered that not only did my uterus rupture but it came apart into pieces. He said putting it together again was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. On top of this my bladder also ruptured. He and two other doctors would spend 3 1/2 hours putting both my bladder and my uterus back together.
Mike told me that he was able to be in the operating room during the delivery and the other surgeries. The anesthesologist told him that since he was a Marine he thought he could handle being in the room with us. He said at one point he was really scared as my nurse Heather and another nurse hugged and started to cry while the doctor was doing surgery on me. They were sure I was not going to make it through. I would lose a tremendous amount of blood and I almost required a transfusion. The OB said that because I had been on the table for so long they just wanted to get me closed back up and out of anesthesia. Because I had lost so much blood, was under for so long, and had already almost died they decided not to do a hysterectomy at that point. The doctor would tell me later that he was worried that I would not make it through another surgery.
Recovery has been hard. I would go home from the hospital with a catheter for 2 weeks and I have fought my iron levels tooth and nail trying to get them to go up. I truly thought I was dying during those first two weeks. The pain was terrible and it seemed like everything was shutting down on me. My legs swelled and I had a hard time walking, my left kidney also began to swell and caused me so much pain, and I couldn't eat and could hardly swallow because of the tube that had been put down my throat. My throat was scratched and swollen. At one point the doctor was considering putting me back in the hospital for a blood transfusion because my iron was so low. The pain from my incision has not been so bad but I have a lot of pain inside. I know that it's my bladder and uterus trying to heal.
At my 6 week post partum appointment the midwife would tell me how amazed she was at how my body is healing. She said that my cervix and vagina, both which had tears and damage, were completely healed. The OB that delivered me requested that I see him when I came in for my appointment even though I had scheduled with the midwife. He came to the room I was in and hugged me tightly and in his thick accent said, "Oh, I'm so happy to see you! I was so scared the day you delivered. That was one of the scariest deliveries I have ever done. It looked like a bomb went off inside of your body! I just can't believe you made it through and are doing so good today!" I smiled and thanked him for saving my life and for saving Jacob's life. He grinned again and patted my shoulder and said, "I just can't believe it!"
So today, I sit here, so very thankful that I have little Jake in my arms but so very sad that I've been advised not to have more children. My heart breaks at the thought. I know that it would be dangerous to do so and of course my living children have to come first. Still, it doesn't take away the feeling that I want more children and feel like there are more out there for our family. Perhaps they will come a different way though. I don't know. I just know that in my joy there has been so much sorrow too. I often wonder why we have had to go through so much. I have always said though that God will open my womb and God will close it. Living according to His will is hard. It has been hard to be open to life no matter the cost. Before the cost has been adding children when we are financially struggling, losing babies both early on and later in pregnancy, and enduring the ridicule by others about our family size and faith. Now the cost is losing my fertility.
I realize that I can still have children but I know that it is better not to. For me it's worse to know that I physically can get pregnant but I shouldn't because it could kill me. I wish they had been able to take out my uterus at the birth so I wouldn't have to think about it and wouldn't have to worry each month about the possiblity. Still, I am trusting in God to keep me safe and I will be doing all that's in my power and within my faith and beliefs to keep myself safe as well. I don't ever intend to get pregnant again and that hurts my heart so much.
I thought having Jake would heal my heart of all the pain we've been through. He has healed some of that pain but in other areas his birth has created more. Still, I look at him and know that he is worth it. I have always said that I would give my life for any one of my children, both born or unborn. I almost had to give my life for Jake. I would do it again any day. I love him so much and am so glad he is here. I look at him and know that God's plan are always the best and I am glad that I have faith. If I didn't I don't know how I would have gotten through all that we have had to go through.
I'm still dealing with all of this and still struggle daily with it. Still, I am holding fast to my love for my children and my love for God. Any sacrifice I have to make for either is one I make with all my heart and soul. I know that I have been so blessed to have 10 beautiful children to hold in my arms. I grieve those we've lost and now I grieve the loss of the children we could have had. It makes me sad that I don't hold all my children in my arms but I know they wait for me and one day I will hold them again. As for grieving my fertility, I know one day things will not seem so bad and I'm looking forward to that day, but for now, I will cry over this loss and trust in God's will for our family. I am thankful to be alive and so thankful that Jacob made it here so perfectly.