I sat down to write Eaden’s birth story, in honor of his first birthday, and it hit me that I had never shared Piper’s full birth story, and there’s honestly no way to write his without sharing hers. The two stories are so closely intertwined, and his is so dependent on hers that suddenly this had turned into a two part story in order to share his birth and do the story justice.
Throughout Eaden’s entire pregnancy I knew I needed things to be different. I knew that there was an extreme fear of going back to the hospital and being put on the same medicines again, of not being able to make it through labor. But it wasn’t until six weeks before he was born and a close friend had a baby that I began to actually understand what I was scared of most. I was scared of looking at him and falling in love instantly, and being reminded of everything I felt Piper had missed out on. And yet despite everything a silent part of me was hoping for everything to be exactly the same as before so that I didn’t have to feel guilty, I could just feel pain.
There’s an emotional disconnect that happens when a labor is induced and your body isn’t ready for it. Your body fights it, you fight it mentally and eventually you feel like your baby was removed from you before you were ready. Suddenly you’re holding this tiny precious baby and don’t know what to do. You shouldn’t be in this moment yet, this shouldn’t have happened yet, and you have no idea how you got there.
I was monitored closely all throughout my pregnancy with Piper for potential complications due to family history and some abnormal test results, but everything went fine until I showed up for a 39 week sonogram that I had almost cancelled the day before, but had forgotten to within the cancellation time window. They checked things, and checked things again, and called another doctor in to check things, and then told me that my amniotic fluid was getting rather low and they needed to keep an eye on things. I had a doctor’s appointment the next day and when I went in, things went downhill fast. They checked my blood pressure in three different rooms thinking the machines were broken, then said I needed to go to the hospital immediately, they would be inducing me due to severe and sudden onset preeclampsia, and the fact that the placenta had stopped producing any nutrients and there was almost no amniotic fluid left.
I hadn’t started to dilate at all, and my cervix hadn’t even begun to soften yet, so there was nothing that was ready to go into labor. They told me I had twenty-four hours to deliver her, and then it would be an emergency c-section because they couldn’t let my blood pressure stay this high for that long, and the only way to begin to make it go down was to deliver the baby. This sounds feasible right?! It gets better… I would be on Pitocin to start labor and keep it going, along with a balloon induction, but I would also be on Magnesium to help control my blood pressure and keep me from seizing. The side effects of Magnesium are blurred vision, semi-loopiness, loss of hunger, and stopping labor. Yes, stopping labor!! (Magnesium can be used as a medication to halt labor for someone who goes into early labor before the baby is ready.,,) In order to induce labor, and keep both Piper and I alive and safe they had to use two opposing medicines at the same time and try to find the balance that would lead to a healthy delivery. My blood pressure was checked every ten minutes for the next twenty-four hours, plus the two days following while I recovered, and for two weeks after delivery I was on a medicine to keep my blood pressure under control because it still wouldn’t go down, and I had to buy an at home BP cuff to keep checking it.
Her birth was a complete miracle, she was born 24 hours and 30 minutes from when I was induced. I pushed for three and a half hours, and with each push they would tell me they could see her hair and the next one would be the last, but it never was. The Magnesium had taken away the ability to push hard enough and finish the delivery, so she was delivered with forceps (think large salad tongs that the doctors insert, find your babies chin and grip, then pull). Suddenly she was placed on my chest and my memory is spotty after that. I remember seeing double, and it wasn’t something my glasses could fix. I remember looking at her and thinking oh, this is interesting, there’s a baby here, but making no move to hold her tight and cuddle, or any connection to the fact that she was mine, and after nine months of waiting she was finally here. Guillaume sat there tearing up and looking at her saying, “don’t you love her, she’s just so beautiful”, and I was lying there feeling guilty for feeling nothing, and thinking why is this such a big deal? I remember feeling nothing.
Her lungs had to be suctioned immediately because there had been such a drop in the fluid around her that she was covered in meconium, and had filled her lungs with it. I had always wanted to have a homebirth, but it wasn’t feasible in the area we lived in at that time. She wouldn’t have survived a home birth, and neither would I have with everything that happened.
I had to stay on the Magnesium IV drip for the next twenty-four hours and wasn’t allowed to move around or eat. I laid there in the hospital that night holding her, still not connecting to what had happened and flipping channels on the tv; I came across an old episode of House and started watching. It’s the one where a baby is born in the hospital, and then disappears, and the whole hospital is on lockdown trying to find this missing newborn. It should have scared me a little right? It should have made me hold Piper a little tighter, grateful that she was in my arms and I didn’t have to call up to the nursery to make sure she was ok and still there. The only thought that went through my head was, oh, I hope that doesn’t happen to me one day when I have a baby. Wait, what?!! I had just had a baby, but there was no recognition or attachment, or connection to what had just happened.
My heart cries for moms who are required to be under heavy medication during labor. I’m grateful for all the medical intervention we had, it literally kept both of us alive, but oh man did it change things for those first few months after she was born.
Those first hours after delivery are crucial for attachment, and we lost out on that completely. It took so long for the medicine to work its way out of my system that emotionally I lived at the beginning like nothing had changed. There was a baby with me 24/7, but it didn’t feel like she was mine, she was just there. We went through the motions, but nothing seemed real. Eventually things got better, life adjusted back to normal, my body re-regulated itself and we were fine, things adjusted to how they should have been all along. I was pregnant again, and scared to death about going back to the same hospital and being put back through everything again. I wasn’t showing any symptoms for developing preeclampsia again, or any of the other issues that went wrong but I couldn’t get it out of my head that everything would go downhill again at the hospital.
I didn’t fully start to process what had happened emotionally at the beginning with Piper until six weeks before Eaden was born when a close friend had a baby. I saw a picture of her at the hospital holding her newborn, looking completely in love and happy, albeit exhausted. She texted the picture to me and I broke down sobbing. She looked completely opposite from anything I had felt; she was holding her son, looking completely in love, and most of all she knew it was her son, and things looked normal. I had felt none of that; I don’t remember feeling that overwhelming feeling of love for Piper until she was at least four or five months old. I spent the weekend crying, and processing, and finally started the process to heal and be ready to welcome another baby into our family. She and I had used the same doctor, and she scheduled her post-partum apt at the same time as one of my standard appointments, so we drove together, and on the way back I remember telling her, “I wish there was a way that I could just skip the hospital this time around, and then once the baby is born, drive to our doctors to be checked out and start the recovery.” I loved our doctors; I just couldn’t deal with the hospital experience. That white room held too many memories and too many fears. The post-partum depression and emotional disconnect only lasted for the first few months after she was born, but the trauma of the experience and a bit of PTSD still lingered. Honestly, it’s still there. I have a hard time breathing normal and thinking clearly when I think of going back to the hospital where she was born. For me, it marks everything that went wrong with the delivery and the emotional process after… And I still struggle with choosing to hold a baby; to reach out and take them and not let their dad carry them. It was so natural for me at the beginning with Piper to not hold her, I didn’t have the urge to. It was easier to just let things be and I made myself feel like that was normal. I have to remember to physically remind myself to reach out and carry them sometimes, even now when things are completely normal and fine.
I can’t get back the time that I lost with Piper, but when Eaden was born, we did all of our post partum snuggling all three of us together, and it was the most amazing feeling of healing that I could have imagined.
As the icing on the cake to her birth, Hurricane Sandy hit the day after we made it home from the hospital, and we lost power in our apartment for a week, so after three days of living without hot water and learning to nurse and change diapers in the pitch black (we ran out of matches for our candles!!), we packed everything up and had enough gas in the car to make it far enough down the interstate towards Virginia and my family and a hot shower!
Part two will be coming next Monday, I promise!
p.s. Here’s a link to a post I wrote shortly before Eaden was born, when I shared a bit about Piper’s birth story and the struggle I had emotionally. My prayer for you if you’re going through anything like this is that you reach out and ask for help, don’t go through it alone!
Images by Richmond Photographics