How do you uncover the JOY of your BIRTH when everything that played out near term is still completely surreal? When you have a free moment to ponder... but, I had an uneventful pregnancy, how did everything go wrong so quickly and my birth plans loss in the process? This is the story of John and Rebecca Hopkins of Greensboro, Georgia.
In one of their childbirth classes Dr. Emily Parham shared how she received news of her baby having heart defect requiring surgery and was also faced last minute with medical induction... hard news to swallow, but when John and Rebecca and classmate Jennie heard her story none of them had any idea the stumbling blocks they themselves would face during their own labors. This is why we prepare couple for a little bit of everything and teach how to receive and give informed consent, understanding how medical interventions can help and benefit them, etc. I call it #SymbioticBirth for short. The best of normality, coupled with medically necessary interventions to keep mom & baby safe.
Some think the best plan of action is do whatever their medical team suggests, avoid childbirth education, save your money, even skip labor altogether and just plan surgical removal of your baby, but they don't quite understand what they are signing up for. It may be that you are in agreement with what the medical team is suggesting, it may be you would like to be made aware of your other options. Here is the problem in allowing others to make those decisions for you, there is no turning back ~ no re do's in labor and birth. Therefore, we must be confident in our decision making and accept both the risks and benefits of medical intervention. There are so many things that could potentially play out the last few weeks of pregnancy, during labor, birth and during postpartum. If you do not possess a basis of understanding of such, you could very quickly find yourself overwhelmed, totally stressed out and feeling completely helpless during what is commonly known as the domino effect: one routine intervention, that leads to others to medical intervention, then another and then another.
BREATHE... that you have control over. Deep breath in and deep breath out and repeat. Stay in order no skipping bases when we are faced with medical induction, because there is no going backward. If we skip ahead we may loss an option that is no longer available to us. We must press toward progress when trying to get a baby into this world. Sometimes that progress comes naturally and sometimes that progress is man made for example, an amniotomy (artificial rupture of membranes). John and Rebecca had their share of challenging decision making.
Text From Rebecca:
This is the first time I’ve checked my phone since coming to the hospital. It’s been a whirlwind and the scariest 2 days of my life. Long story short- had super large hemorrhoid that they lanced on Monday then scheduled induction at 8pm. I was having contractions on my own when I got here. Did cervidil for about 10 hours. Lidocaine jelly to the rectum. Two doses of stadol through the night. Epidural at 0630 then pitocin. Labored a while. Baby tanked with heart rate in 40's for what seemed to be 10-15 min after I moved positions. They brought in the Calvary. Baby recovered. We tried pushing a bit then labored down for an hour. At 530 I pushed for two hours with no change. Baby's head was cocked to the side and he wouldn't descend. They tried a lot of manual repositioning. I had temp spike of 101. Group B strep positive. Sent over to OR at that point. Emergency c-sec. baby is in NICU for meconium aspiration. I still haven’t held him yet. John has been up to see him several times. I went up around midnight. He was born at 8:10pm last night. 6lbs 15oz 20.5 in long! And yes ITS A BOY!!!!!!
Mom shared postpartum blood loss / other concerns:
Just pumped for the first time. Trying to help contract the uterus. I lost 300ml blood standing up from the wheelchair last night. It was a bit worrisome.
Warrior mom Rebecca endures unexpected surgery, coupled with borderline hemorrhage, combined with a hemorrhoid requiring surgery to repair and it didn’t stop there... she later learned the baby had a skull divet from excessive pushing which would also require surgical repair. Below is her personal motherhood journey from surprise conception to mommy guilt. Her story is full of raw emotion, is extremely transparent and written by Rebecca in her own words. If you are a struggling new mom, YOU are NOT ALONE! Read on and be encouraged...
My Birth Story:
The months before...
So let's back up to when the pregnancy test came out positive and I almost had a panic attack. My husband, John, and I had decided to 'try to have a baby' just one month before. I thought we would have AT LEAST a couple months of fun before this happened but God thought otherwise. I was with my sister in law when I took the second test, you know the expensive one that says PREGNANT in really big bold letters, and I nearly choked when she said those words out loud. The only thing I could think of was 'If I could turn back time' by Cher. I then get a text from John that states "ummmm is this a positive pregnancy test?". Turns out I left the cheap one on the bathroom counter when I left the house like a mad woman. So I came home and that was that. I gave him the chocolate bar that was labeled 'best dad ever' we received the previous Father's day at church and we sat on the couch in silence and disbelief. And so the adventure began.
We decided to go 'all natural' and take a 12 week Bradley Method course with a doula and everything. I didn't realize how little I knew about pregnancy, labor and birth until we started those classes in January of 2019. We met up near Athens every other week for a couple months at Pam's (our doula) house and got our learn on. John and I practiced labor techniques, meditation, meal plans and so on as we prepared for our little one's grand entrance to this world. I learned to do kegels like a BOSS. We didn't know the gender, which drove most people insane, but we absolutely loved the anticipation and surprise factor. I had our bags packed and several playlists ready at week 36. Got a stomach bug from work at week 37 and thought I was going into labor but nope. I worked my last shift in the ER at week 39 and then came home to rest and nest. Week 40 came and went without any signs of labor. I floated in the pool, drank olive oil, tried weird food and walked until I could walk no more. Then Don came...
Rewind to about week 26 when I had, what I thought, was the biggest hemorrhoid of all time. We even named it Don just because. Work was stressful and I have had hemorrhoid flare-ups since nursing school when I get super stressed/nervous. THEY ALWAYS GO BACK WHERE THEY CAME. This time was a bit different. We tried every preparation H product available, witch hazel, epsom salt baths, sitting on the donut and even sugar. That's right. John LITERALLY poured sugar on it without much change. Husband of the year award (while Def Leppard plays in the background). After many prayers and tears, The Good Lord took Don and put him back...or so I thought.
Fast forward to 40 weeks and 6 days. DON RETURNED WITH A VENGEANCE. Not only was this thing the size of a plum, I was super pregnant and the pressure was out of this world. I cried for 3 days. Sat on ice packs, used essential oils on top of my usual methods as mentioned above and prayed my heart out. Don was here to stay. How could I possibly push out a baby if I couldn't even walk? I called the OBGYN and scheduled an appointment at 41 weeks. The nurse asked if I had tried witch hazel and I could've come through the phone in frustration. I get it. Hemorrhoids. How bad can they be? Slap some witch hazel on it and float on, right? NOPE. So we went to the office and I waddled in slowly with my husband in tow. The midwife took a look and said "I'll be back shortly. Gonna consult with the senior midwife on call real quick". She came back and sent us to the colorectal surgeon's office to have this thing lanced. You don't want to know the details of that visit...trust me. Once again, John received the husband of the year award. Long story short, they lanced Don and told me to soak in a warm tub asap and that the lidocaine would only last 45 minutes. We about ran to the van, got a hotel room and put my bum in the tub. Those 45 minutes of numbification were sweet, sweet bliss. Then the real fun started.
We were told to check in to the hospital at 8pm for my induction, since things went south.. literally! When that lidocaine wore off, I was in complete MISERY. I called the hospital and they said we could go ahead and come in at that time, which was about 7:15pm. John helped me wobble to the van and to the hospital we went. I wasn't able to sit in the wheelchair, as sitting caused extreme pain, so I shuffled myself to L&D and stood there waiting for my room to open up. The nurse was clearly not expecting me until 8pm and I was totally throwing a kink in her chain. I get it. As a nurse myself, I have given the looks and been frustrated when things get a bit off kilter. We walked to the very last room at the end of the hallway and I attempted to get into a gown and stretcher without completely losing my mind. Turns out I was already having contractions and didn't know it. The midwife came in, took a peek then proceeded to tell me that the midwife I saw at the office called her and said "it's the biggest hemorrhoid I've ever seen and I don't know what to do". If that's not some perspective on what we were dealing with, I don't know what is.
So at this point I was 1-2 cm dilated and my entire body was shaking from being so tense and in pain. I GOT THE DRUGS. Stadol was my very best friend for a couple of hours. Did it take the pain away? Not even a little. But I was able to relax some and lay somewhat still while in a strange Stadol trippy fog. Cervidil was then started and yes, it does in fact, feel like sandpaper in the vagina. They don't tell you these things before you decide to get knocked up. John helped me to the bathroom several times where I straddled the toilet to pee and then globbed on the lidocaine jelly to ole Don. It was as terrible as it sounds. At 5:30 am, I was at about 4cm. Time for the epidural. I was absolutely freaked about this part. So many horror stories of going numb forever and being paralyzed from the epidural going wrong. This was the sole reason I wanted a natural birth. Too bad my rectum had other plans. So I received my epidural around 6:30am, and after 2 attempts, I couldn't feel from my waist down. HALLELUJAH and PRAISE THE LORD for this relief. Amp up the Pitocin and let's get this show on the road! They started my antibiotics because I was Group B Strep positive and I took a little nap to gear up for the big event. So, every time I changed positions, baby's heart rate would drop significantly for a couple minutes and then come back up. We played that game the entire time I was in labor.
My parent's were there for a visit and I suddenly felt really weird. Chest pains and nausea. Something wasn't right. I told John, my parents stepped out and we called the nurse. I decided to try a different position, but this time, baby did not recover in a timely fashion. The next thing I remember is the nurse calling for help, dropping the stretcher down so I'm on my head, holding my own oxygen mask to my face and everyone getting flustered. "Call the doctor! Get the midwife!" I thought to myself, we've made it this far little one. You can't go out on me now. John's face was white as snow. They turned me and mashed on my belly over and over. The doctor came in and checked on things, then baby's heart rate came back up. Thank the Lord. The midwife made it to the room shortly after this and decided to break my water and possibly start pushing. I was about 9-10cm and it was around 4:30pm when this happened. So she broke my water and it was filled with meconium. Of course it was. I was not the LEAST bit surprised.
We pushed for about 15-20 minutes without any progress so we decided to labor down for about an hour and see what baby wanted to do.
5:30pm. Let's push this baby out. The plan was to only push a short amount of time due to the hemorrhoid and pressure. Nobody wanted that thing to rupture and bleed. Well, we ended up pushing over 2 hours and nothing happened. Contractions were every 1.5-3 minutes now and baby wasn't descending down the birth canal at all. They tried several times to manually turn his head to help with the descent, since I wasn't able to move and change positions on my own. I felt like this lasted an eternity and pushed with everything I had at each contraction.
Then I vomited and spiked a temp of 101 which was concerning given my Group B strep status. Then these words came from my doctor's mouth..."We need to get the baby out by c-section". The words I did NOT want to hear. I burst into tears, my midwife hugged me and said, "Baby needs to come out. He can't do this for much longer and isn't moving at all. I know you don't want this, but we have to get him out now". My husband and I said okay, let's have this baby. John prayed over me and they rushed us over to the operating room. At 8:08pm, our little baby was born. I couldn't help but weep tears of relief and joy when I first heard him cry. John went over to assess the situation and came back to me whispering "It's John Amos. We have a son!"
The NICU team began bedside working on little man for what seemed like forever. I saw our precious boy for a couple seconds and they whisked him off to NICU for breathing issues after taking in some meconium. They stitched me up and we went back to the room. I couldn't stop shaking, which was very annoying and also common after a spinal. I actually asked (with tone and feeling) the nurse for a muscle relaxer or something and she kindly replied no. My sister in law and I laugh at that request now. I was pretty much done emotionally, physically and spiritually at that point.
After our visitors left for the evening, it was my turn to go up to the NICU. I mustered up every ounce of strength that I had left to get up and see that precious gift from God. What a strange visit...I felt like I had been hit by a bus or something. I did not feel like a mother. I did not feel a bond. I forced myself to look at him and pretend but it felt like a dream. I wanted to see him so that I felt like a mom but that's not what happened. I honestly didn't feel like I had a baby...just some weird and terrible surgery. We went back down to the room and I stood up out of the wheelchair to get in bed. Blood poured down my legs and the nurse acted fast. We worked together and got me lying flat and started massaging my uterus to stop the bleeding. She called for help and they all came running. In the end, we got it taken care of and I didn't dare move for the next 12 hours.
During the next 4 days we moved rooms twice, made a hundred trips to the NICU, cried while trying to pump and run the colostrum up to the baby, cried while taking care of Don and cried because I felt like a complete failure. On the last day, he was circumcised and sent home with 2 people he had barely spent any time with. Talk about a rough night. Over the next 3 weeks, I continued to struggle emotionally. I guess it was a combo of PTSD and depression/anxiety. I stopped breast-feeding after a month of agony and sleep deprivation. This decision to stop was a HUGE battle between myself and my husband. He wanted me to keep it up and I wanted to stop and go full formula. At some point, I realized I was losing myself and needed to give something up to breathe again. I felt like a slave to the pump and that I couldn't catch up. John Amos was already used to a certain amount of formula from being in the NICU. Someone would be feeding him and I just sat and pumped for the next round staring out the window wishing I was someone else, somewhere else. I did not feel a bond with JA. I wanted to abandon ship and walk away from my family. I had some seriously dark thoughts during these couple weeks that I didn't know were possible. This baby was prayed over a thousand times before and after conception. I read and printed out bible verses and encouraging quotes weeks before he came. I DRENCHED myself in songs of worship and praise the entire time I was pregnant. Why did this happen? Why can't I bond? Why am I not happy or joyful? When I decided to strictly feed with formula, I felt a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders. It was like a breath of fresh air. I was also starting to move around a little better and heal quickly from the c-section. By the way, c-sections are no joke. They are major surgery and should not be taken lightly.
When JA was born he had a depressed skull fracture, meconium aspiration and a fever. He was pumped with IV antibiotics, given an oxygen tent, had an MRI of his brain and an xray of his chest. This kid had gone through a lot by the end of his first week on this Earth. We were referred to a neurosurgeon at Scottish Rite in Atlanta and were scheduled to have his skull repaired before he was a month old. My last time pumping was in the hospital on the night of his surgery. Talk about a roller coaster. Seeing your baby come out of anesthesia is quite scary. As weird as it sounds, I think I finally felt like a mother when he had his craniotomy. The bond was beginning to form and it has continued to grow since. He was 10 weeks old at the time I journaled our birth story and is doing so well. Buutttt...getting used to the extra weight, stretch marks and scar tissue is an ongoing battle. My abs still burn most of the time and Don is still hanging around...literally...but I hope to wipe on a smooth surface by the end of the year!
Moral of the story...
Women ROCK. I longed to have a natural vaginal birth. My birth plan was super crunchy granola and I was so proud of the prep we did prior to that day. BUT things don't ever go as planned. Do I regret taking Bradley classes and preparing with our Pam? Not even a little. We used all that knowledge to make educated decisions during labor and never once hesitated. I have learned so much about empathy through these past 10 weeks and I know it will help me as a nurse. Working in the ER for 10 years can make you pretty jaded and harsh at times. I have looked at my patients the way that nurse looked at me when we checked in because I didn't believe them. I get it; we've all been burned. But sometimes it's real, and empathy can change the way I care for people and treat them throughout their stay. I have so much more respect for women, mothers, depression and anxiety. I judged pretty hard before experiencing birth and I'm glad the Lord opened my eyes. 'Maternity Leave' should really be called 'Maternity Grieve'. It's a time of intense change and a lot of grieving, depending on the trauma of labor and the postpartum experience. We have to grieve to heal. Being a mom is HARD.
I saw a post on facebook that was a game changer for me when dealing with "mom guilt". I felt guilty for using drugs during labor, having an epidural, having a c-section, not solely breastfeeding, giving up breast feeding completely, having thoughts of abandonment and not bonding with my son. For a while, it was like I was babysitting and he wasn't even mine. The post basically said, "If you have grown a baby in your body, you are a rock star!" PERIOD. Seeing this changed my mindset and I started to not only accept my birth story, but become proud of it. After reading that quote, I began a new kind of healing and thinking. Instead of 'breast is best', I started saying 'fed is best'. I decided to no longer beat myself up and begin focusing on my sweet son who I hadn't really seen amidst the anxiety and stress after labor. The nurse practitioner reminded me and John that all a baby really needs is food and love. It's easy to get lost in how your baby arrives and how to care for him or her. I was more than glad and thankful for the reminder. Things did NOT go like I thought or planned. But God is GOOD and His love never fails. So I'm gonna wrap this up by saying, Tits up. Women rock and mothers are super heroes. Feed your kid. Love your kid. The End.