If you follow BWF chances are you’ve read my story about preterm labor with my son Jaydon, the little one pound nine ounce miracle that changed my whole world. After the ordeal that nearly cost mine and my son’s life, I ultimately decided I never wanted to chance fate again. I got more than lucky and had a beautiful child to show for my troubles. I wanted to be sterilized. Tried as I might I could not get the procedure done for several reasons; I could not have a diagnosis of an “incompetent cervix” based off of a single pregnancy disaster, and I also did not meet the requirement of age and/or number of live births for my insurance to cover the costs of the operation. If I wanted to be sterilized it would have to be paid for by me and who has that kind of money these days. So I did the next best thing and made sure to stay on birth control and be very careful.
Jaydon was almost 2 1/2 when I discovered I was pregnant again. Being more in tune with my body after Jaydon helped me to discover my pregnancy early – I had a feeling and confirmed my fears with a “before a missed cycle” home pregnancy test. My heart sunk and once again the “jump up and down with joy” feeling had eluded me.
I immediately called a high risk OB and set up an appointment and once again they confirmed I was pregnant. This OB seemed as nervous as I was and her “doom and despair” attitude did not help me to find the courage to tell my family the news.
I decided to hide my pregnancy for as long as I could, which I thought would be easy since I was not stricken with the consistent nausea that I had with Jaydon. But it was not easy living everyday knowing that I had a life on the line inside me; I was tearing apart inside. Not many people know why I finally decided to share my pregnancy, or why it came out with the enthusiasm that it did (partly because I felt guilty that the first person I told was a complete stranger and perhaps I’m only sharing it now because it is easier to write about it then to talk about it).
One night while grocery shopping I stopped in the baby aisle to get Jaydon some diapers and I found myself running my hands across infant items and staring at the pictures of cheeky newborns on the packaging. I was hit by a wave of uncontrollable pain and quietly made my way to the bathroom to have a moment to cry it out. My “moment” turned into 30 minutes of sobbing and cursing at myself and the rest of world. Only a few women came in and out of the bathroom and when I thought I was alone again I wiped my eyes, left the stall I had sheltered myself in, and headed towards the sink to clean myself up. There was an elderly lady washing her hands and I tried to shoot her a smile when our eyes met. She asked me if I was alright and I said that I was fine. She laughed and said “I have five daughters and a number of granddaughters; you can’t fool an old bat like me”. I was totally busted and for whatever reason, I still don’t know, I spilled my guts to this stranger. I cried, I laughed, and I cried some more while she patiently listened, kind faced the entire time.
When I finally finished my rant she took me by surprise by telling me that I was being selfish. What?! She asked me to ask myself if it was fair to throw this on my husband and family if my pregnancy went wayward, if they loved me and they do, then they deserved to be there for me and share this experience with me regardless of the outcome. Then she told me to ask myself if it was fair to me to allow myself to succumb to misery? Then she told me a heart breaking story of her sixth child, a boy, already having five children she didn’t allow herself to relish in her pregnancy, instead this woman struggled with the financial aspect of another child. Her son died at 7 months in the womb and she had to deliver still born. She told me that even in her old age she regrets not enjoying the time she had while her son was with her. I started crying again this time angry at myself for being so selfish that I didn’t even realized the hurt I could have caused my family. She told me not to fret, that I was young and bound to make mistakes but if I was truly sorry then I would make sure to make the best of my pregnancy! I thanked her over and over, hugging her and crying. I raced out of the bathroom a new person and started planning my big reveal! “A girl” I said, it’s going to be a girl.
I told my husband first by asking him if he could massage my stomach because I had “cramps” and he was thrilled when he saw “We’re pregnant!” scrawled across my belly in pregnant-friendly body paint. My husband is older than me by 20 years and a previous marriage blessed him with three boys, I had also given him a boy so when I told him I believed the baby was a girl he was skeptical. He wanted a girl very badly.
The weeks and months started to pass without incident. I had days when I’d lose hope and days when I would find it again, but each change in mood was always accompanied with love and support from my family. I took advantage of each day trying to experience the pregnancy wonders I had missed with Jaydon. Even at the early stages I would lay on my back, breathing as gently as I could trying to feel any bit of movement. When it came time to find out what the baby was going to be I managed to get an ultrasound scheduled on December 23rd, two days before Christmas. By this time I was no longer seeing my “doom and despair” OB and had a new much kinder OB named DC. Slack and I absolutely loved him. And he was ok with working the day before Christmas Eve so I could reveal the baby’s gender on Christmas. The whole way to the office I worked on my poker face. I didn’t want to give anything away. The ultrasound went great and my mom, husband, and son got to see the baby’s face but when it was time to see what it was I told them to “am scram” to the waiting room.
The baby was a girl and I let out my tears of joy to my DC and ultrasound tech. I didn’t think I could contain my joy but it wasn’t hard to do when we realized something was wrong. I was dilating. I couldn’t believe this was happening, not today, a day that started so joyously and wonderfully. Finally I was going to give my husband a girl, that’s if I could hold on, but I was only 19 weeks. Viability had changed from 26 weeks to 24 weeks since Jaydon’s birth but that was still 5 weeks away. I had only made it 5 days with Jaydon how would I make it to a minimum of 5 weeks!? But my wonderful OB stepped into say not all was lost, I was not even 1cm and my bag was not bulging, my pregnancy had a chance if they put in a cerclage. I remember walking to the waiting room, crying. I figured my family would think it was a boy because I was crying but they knew instantly that my pregnancy was in jeopardy. I wanted to ease the blow so I came right out and said “it’s a girl and I am going to do everything in my power to get her here, alive.”
I was sent once again to Denver. After some shots, an amniocentesis (the second one in my life), the cerclage was put in. My clearest memory of the whole procedure was the anaesthesiologist, his name was Greg and he had obviously dealt with many antepartum moms like me. He told me the medicine he was putting in my IV was a special “Uncle Greg margarita” to help me relax thru surgery. I giggled thru the entire thing and eventually fell asleep.
I spent Christmas Eve in the hospital and was able to go home Christmas Day but I was now on strict bed rest. The surgery went well but my cervix was so small that the stitches were already strained and pulling. There was not much hope of making it very far, but before I knew it I was at 24 weeks. I had made far enough to give my daughter a chance. A few more weeks passed and I made it to 26 weeks which was when I had Jaydon. I was thrilled and by this time I could feel her moving. My hope was gaining momentum.
Overall I didn’t spend much time hospitalized, about 3 weeks all together and every week that passed I was astounded. I was proud of myself, proud of my doctors, and proud of my daughter. I finally reached 34 weeks which was a big deal because now I could have my daughter closer to home and not have to travel to a hospital specially equipped to handle preemies beyond 6 weeks early.
We were getting down to the wire and my doc asked me about my birth plan. I hadn’t thought about it, I just figured I was doomed to a C section. I hadn’t counted on being pregnant this long. He asked me if I would like to see if I qualified for VBAC. I had never heard of this before but was ecstatic when he explained that my cerclage was not a permanent stitch and depending on how my last C section was preformed I could possibly have my baby vaginally. “Let’s do it” I told him and within a week I learned I could have a VBAC, so long as I didn’t go into labor before my stitches were removed.
At 37 weeks my stitches were taken out, we discovered that 3 of the 4 stitches had torn thru my cervix and my pregnancy had literally held on by a thread. I dilated to 4cm within hours of the stitches being removed, and a peppy nurse said I could expect to have a baby within a few short days. Well those few short days became a week and now I was 6cm. My doc stripped my membranes and the peppy nurse chimed in again about a quick turnaround. I wanted to slap her when another week later nothing was happening. I was 39 weeks now and ready for this ordeal to be over. I was in and out with false labor and at this point very ungraceful about still being pregnant.
Finally on the evening of May 14th I was getting irregular but strong contractions. At the hospital we learned that I was 8cm and they were not comfortable letting me go home so far dilated. I had planned on having no medication during my birth simply because I had endured so many needles that at first I couldn’t fathom yet another IV and something in my back. But after the contractions started really kicking in I was singing a whole different tune. A tune that resembled a bear caught in a trap. My water was broken for me a few hours later and the contractions ceased. Unfortunately hospitals have a strict 24 hour rule with broken water and time was ticking to get my labor back into full swing. When my 24 hours were up I was having contractions again but they were far apart and I was only at 9cm. My beloved OB was out of town and I got stuck with a strict, stick by the books kind of doctor who was now telling me my chance to VBAC was gone. I was going to be given a C section. I was devastated. I had made it so far and was in finally in control of my own pregnancy but her words hung in the air “we needed to do what was best for the baby” who was now showing signs of fetal distress. I was still trying to come to terms with the C section when the doctor came back in to inform me that I was scheduled for my C Section directly after another scheduled C section which the doc was heading off to do. She said she would be back in an hour to take me to the OR.
Ms. Peppy nurse herself came in a few minutes later to help me reposition to a more comfortable position, not that a comfortable position actually existed. But the minute she turned me over I was slammed with contraction after contraction. Hard and painful despite the epidural. I grab my husband arm and frantically asked what was happening. I didn’t even realize the nurse was checking me again until she started jumping up and down, clapping her hands, and cheering that I was 10cm! “It’s time Amber, it’s time, you can still do it” she shrieked. She dashed out of the room to find a doctor while another nurse helped to get “into the position”. All the doctors were in delivery and I was greeted by a soft spoken midwife who confirmed it was time to push. “That’s it, everybody out” I yelled. My mom left but my husband was stopped by Ms. Peppy. She made him stay citing that this was a beautiful moment that needed to be shared between us. I agreed but didn’t pause to pass a death threat to my husband if he “looked down there”.
I pushed for what seemed to be an eternity when the midwife realized that the baby had turned and her shoulders were stuck. I panicked thinking that any moment the doctor would return and whisk me off to be gutted like a fish. But the midwife was calm and gently turned the baby the right way and with one final push my daughter entered the world. Morgan Shea, 05/16/11, 5 pounds 9oz.
I will never forget the moment I heard her cry. Every ounce of ungracefulness and agitation melted away and I was finally beaming with the “glow”. They put my daughter on my chest and to this day I can’t recreate the sense of accomplishment I felt in that moment. In those first few moments it was only me and her, my sweet little Morgan, the little girl who at first I couldn’t keep in and then couldn’t get her out. I said to her “you sure have caused a lot of trouble you know, but you are worth every bit my gorgeous little trouble maker”. My husband cut her cord and proceeded to hog her all to himself. He couldn’t bring himself to believe she was a girl until she was finally in his arms.
I had done it, I beat the odds stacked against me and brought my daughter into this world on my terms. I had my VBAC even after being told my chance was gone. I thought about the elderly woman in the grocery store bathroom and sent a special prayer for her, that kind hearted soul who helped a stranger.
I finally had the diagnosis I needed and, following some surgeries to alleviate the pain of my destroyed cervix, I was sterilized. I was not meant to have children, my body was intolerant to them, but yet here they are. Perfect, happy, healthy children, I really couldn’t ask for more.
I have told my stories to Birth without fear in the hopes that it reaches at least one antepartum mom and help her to get to the place I couldn’t, a place this blog and the people who contribute to it so lovingly represent every day, a place where she can experience “Birth Without Fear”.