On December 10th, 2014, my world changed forever. Our baby girl, Vienna, was born at 5:44am, weighing 6 pounds, 3 ounces and measuring 19 inches long. I will never forget hearing her tiny voice for the first time and seeing her little face staring with eyes wide open, as well as feeling her soft warmth against my face.
She was originally due on the 18th, but she made an appearance a little earlier at 39 weeks.
After my regular doctor’s appointment earlier that day, where I had had a non-stress test that showed regular contractions every 10 minutes, I came home to an odd fever and chills. I called the doctor’s office about it, and the on-call OBGYN told me that I should get checked out at the hospital. I left my hospital bag in the car, thinking I’d probably just be sent home. As the hours progressed, the on-call doctor recommended that I stay at the hospital, since I was already full-term and having regular contractions. My contractions were closer to 5 minutes by then, and if I remember correctly, the painful ones started closer to midnight that Tuesday night. My water broke during one of those contractions, and the pain went up considerably, at which point I begged for an epidural.
At our first meeting, I had let my OB/GYN know that a vaginal birth was very important to me, and I even asked her what her C-section rate was and what I could do to increase my chances of delivering what I considered “naturally.” Throughout high school and college, I had volunteered at two local hospitals (including the one I delivered at) and had seen countless vaginal and C-section births — I definitely knew which I preferred. I thought I was on track for my ideal vaginal birth, since my labor started naturally and my water consequently broke on its own.
Unfortunately, since I was running a fever (which meant there was a possibility of some kind of infection), my water broke with meconium in it (meaning possibly fetal distress), and I was not dilated enough in relation to what they saw on the fetal heart rate monitor (another signal that baby might be in distress), the doctors and nurses decided that it was imperative that I have an emergency C-section. My entire pregnancy had been normal and healthy, so hearing the word “C-section” as a possibility was incredibly upsetting.
It wasn’t the scar that scared me (that’s what the nurses seemed to think I was worried about when I didn’t want to sign the consent forms). I didn’t want major abdominal surgery; I didn’t want to be cut into. I had prepared for a vaginal delivery mentally and emotionally; for weeks now I had been going through the motions in my head and giving myself pep talks about how well baby and I would do. I wanted to continue laboring in that room instead of being wheeled into a surgical theater.
However, doctors and nurses kept coming into my room and repeating how important it was to start the surgery now as well as urging me to sign the consent forms as they frantically prepped for C-section. When my own OB/GYN arrived around 5 am, she also told me that a C-section was the right choice given the circumstances; I felt I had no choice but to oblige, especially since my doctor who’d seen me from 7 weeks’ gestation was on board too. I was frustrated, because mother’s intuition told me that I was doing fine, since my contractions started on their own and my water broke naturally too, yet I also realized something could have been really wrong with my precious baby. I completely realize that the staff was doing their job and just following hospital protocol, but I really wish the tests that were run could have somehow come back within hours instead of days later to show whether or not I actually had the infection that worried everyone.
I sadly and slowly signed the consent form and held onto the clipboard a few seconds longer before giving it back to my nurse. It felt like my life and my baby’s life were now completely in the hands of mostly strangers. I remember my husband telling me through teary eyes that everything would be okay and that we had to do this for the baby.
Since there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, the NICU staff was huddled and ready around the incubator/bassinet; I think there were about 30 people in the operating room because of the extra staff. Although I couldn’t see much because of the blue backdrop that’s usually put up with C-sections to create a sterile environment, I had seen this procedure enough times that I basically knew what everyone was doing. I just couldn’t believe I was the one on the table; it was my first time being the patient in a hospital.
Soon after, I heard her little voice make the sweetest sound and couldn’t believe she was here and all ours. I couldn’t see her for some time as she was being cleaned up and checked out by the NICU staff (my husband was with her, though), but I listened intently for any clues about her health and what she looked like and the moment I’d finally see her. Finally, a nurse brought her to my face and I got to see my sweet little swaddled bundle with wide open eyes; I kissed her and cried as we touched face to face for about a minute before she was whisked away to the NICU floor.
Don’t get me wrong, the hospital staff did an excellent job, and I am forever grateful for their skills and professionalism in taking care of me and my baby, but as a first time mom, I felt robbed of so many special moments in my delivery because of hospital protocol. My mystery fever caused me to miss out on the “golden hour” of getting to know my new baby skin-to-skin and learning how to breastfeed. I naively never, ever thought that could even be a possibility for me. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to see her, apart from a few minutes when she was held up against my face as I was being sewn back up, until about 28 hours after delivery. She had to stay upstairs in the NICU for 48 hours total as a precaution, and I had to stay in my recovery room for 24 hours after my fever subdued for the same reason.
It was incredibly unfair to be separated from my baby, and I’m balling my eyes out, barely able to read this screen, as I go back over and remember what happened. Family and friends were able to visit her almost anytime, and I watched them go upstairs to see her over and over. Sat in my room, still attached to all the monitors and machines, I stared at the clock, counting down until the moment I could go up there to hold her for the first time ever. She was my baby, and I was torn away from her. I couldn’t feel her sweet little kicks in my tummy anymore, yet I also couldn’t hold her in my arms. It was surreal and unnatural.
About 28 hours passed since delivery, and the time finally came to go upstairs and hold my little Vienna for the first time. My husband took me up to NICU floor, where I put her delicate 6 pound-something body against my own after what seemed like the longest wait ever. She was so warm and lovely, and her skin was velvety soft. Every little sound she made was precious, and I wanted to protect even the tiniest hair on her head. I spent hours there until I really needed my pain meds for the incision, feeling like I had to make up for lost time. I would go up there and feed her every couple hours until she was discharged to go back downstairs to me.
First time holding my little girl
In the NICU
Donning the Christmas hospital hat
Finally back in my recovery room
Sure enough, the 48 hours passed, baby’s tests came back looking great, and she came back down to my recovery room with me.
Both the NICU nurses and the postpartum team were so helpful in our recoveries; I couldn’t have asked for a nicer or more helpful staff.
It’s rather unfortunate that my birth story didn’t go anywhere near how I wanted (that birth plan in my diaper bag was never even touched), but on the flip side, it’s incredibly fortunate that there never was any infection and that both Vienna and I are healthy and doing well. I’m also grateful for persevering and becoming a breastfeeding champ against all odds, which was important to me. Even more so, I’m thankful for having a job that allows me to stay at home with Vienna — and that’s thanks to you supporting me and reading my blog.
Here she is, all safe at home…
On Baby Vienna: