A Blood Clot, Zika, and High Risk Natural Hospital Birth

Three years ago I was traumatized during my son’s birth and it took me a long time to be ready for another baby. When we found out we were pregnant again we were excited and ready to give natural birth another shot. When I was 21 weeks pregnant we moved to Tonga (in the South Pacific) to serve as missionaries for two years. We met with a local midwife who barely spoke English and she agreed to do our home birth. But when we were offered a different ministry job when I was 29 weeks pregnant we decided to come home to Washington. As we were driving to the airport my leg began to swell and I knew that I had developed a blood clot. Over the course of our twenty-four hour trip home my husband began to feel sick and we knew that he had contracted Zika. When we finally arrived home and were able to go to the ER, they confirmed that both were true – I had a large DVT from my iliac vein to my knee and Charlie’s test came back positive for Zika. Our dream of a home birth went out the window, and it took me nearly two more months to find an OB who would take my high risk case so late in my pregnancy. I was put on a blood thinner and the doctors let us know that if my labor was quick (meaning I had taken my blood thinner within the previous twelve hours) that an epidural would not be an option.

It was Saturday morning and I was 38 weeks and 6 days into my pregnancy. It was a beautiful day and after discovering the loss of my mucus plug that morning I knew labor was going to be happening sometime that weekend. I didn’t have any signs of labor all day other than just feeling very “ready”. She had been getting lower and lower for weeks, and the previous Tuesday my doctor had confirmed that I was dilated 4cm. I was very discouraged by the time I went to bed that night around 10:30pm, I thought for sure that I would have started having at least some cramping by then.

Around 2am I woke up to some loud banging upstairs and checked to make sure everything was okay, which it was. I went back to bed but shortly after laying down felt my first real contraction. It felt like a Braxton Hicks contraction, but lower in my uterus and painful. I started having them every few minutes, they were about ten breaths long. I knew it was finally time and I was so excited! After about half an hour I got in the shower and by the time I got out I knew it was time to wake up Charlie and start packing our stuff. The contractions were short but very intense, I could not talk or move through them. Charlie was excited and giddy as he got ready, and he seemed to miss how fast things were progressing until I finally looked him in the eyes and told him we NEED to leave soon. I was struggling to walk around and finish getting ready and packing and was frustrated that I couldn’t brush my hair because I just wanted to leave! We were finally ready and left for the hospital around 4am.

Once we got in the car I began timing contractions and they were about 3-4 minutes apart and 1-2 minutes long the entire 40 minute drive. At one point we had to pull over so I could throw up on the side of the highway. I was feeling very scared about what lay ahead of us and I was regretting my choice to have a natural birth. I knew that if these contractions were already this painful that transition and delivery were going to be hell. I kept telling Charlie how I didn’t want to do this.

Emma, our doula, greeted us in the parking lot and was very helpful in confirming for me that “Yah, this part sucks balls.” Which made me feel better. We somehow managed to get the worst nurse in the entire hospital who asked me during a contraction, “So, what brings you in?” When she checked my cervix I was 6cm, 90% effaced and my bag of waters was “bulging”. I wanted an epidural so bad at this point but she confirmed for me that they couldn’t, because I had taken my blood thinner seven hours earlier. I was so pissed and did not want to be labouring naturally anymore. They transferred us to a delivery room and during my next contraction I must have muttered the word “pressure” because she checked me again and I was 9cm. Apparently I went through transition in the wheel chair 😉

I was really happy to hear that my doctor was on call that night. I had a crazy time trying to find an OB in my last trimester and was so relieved when I started seeing him, but I knew that my odds of getting him for delivery were slim. He brought some familiarity and comfort to the situation. He let me know that everything was ready to go and I could either continue to labor and wait for my water to break, or he could break it right now and she would most likely be born immediately. I didn’t know what to do and was frustrated that no one would tell me what the better choice was. On the one hand my contractions were incredibly painful, but they were actually spaced out pretty far apart. But on the other hand I was terrified of pushing her out and couldn’t bring myself to jump into that next phase. So I continued to lay on my side in the bed for about another hour as my contractions got more painful and I could feel her moving lower and lower.

Emma and Charlie suggested I roll to my right side so I did, and during my next contraction I felt my body do a huge involuntary push and my bag of waters exploded all over the bed. “Breaking” is not the correct term for what happened, it was honestly the biggest gush and it terrified the crap out of me (I don’t know why). I immediately began panicking and screaming and soon my doctor and nurses had returned to the room. This part is more of a blur than the rest because it happened so fast and I was completely freaking out the whole time. I grabbed Charlie and wrapped my arms around his neck and began pushing her out. This was very different than I imagined it because it wasn’t controlled pushing during contractions punctuated with breaks, but more like one long push with pauses, while I screamed bloody murder. I remember feeling her crown briefly and then they told me her head was out. I don’t think Ive ever been so happy in my life! I gave another hard push and the rest of her was born. I was so glad it was over and couldn’t believe it all happened so quickly. After a few minutes Charlie cut the cord and I was able to lay her on my chest. She was born at 7:08am, about five hours after my first contraction.

hospital birth, zika, blood clot

hospital birth, zika, blood clot

hospital birth, labor, zika, blood clot

It was such a beautiful celebration and the atmosphere in the room alone made all the pain worth it. It was amazing just being able to take unlimited time together as a family without anyone stressing over us. Eventually we moved into our recovery room and ordered breakfast and called our families. Everyone was able to meet her within a few hours!

hospital birth, zika, blood clot

hospital birth, zika, blood clot

hospital birth, zika, blood clot

hospital birth, zika, blood clot

Submitted by Sara Montes. 

Photographs by Have Heart Photography

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