It was a Wednesday afternoon, and instead of spending my evening at home with my daughters, I found myself at the doctor’s office for an impromptu visit at 37 weeks pregnant. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin and had a dull headache for a couple weeks, and something didn’t feel right. I felt extra strange that day. The nurse came in to check my blood pressure and it was too high for their comfort and I was immediately sent to the hospital for monitoring.
Fast forward 5 hours and dozens of high readings later. I was moved to a Labor and Delivery room and put on pitocin to induce labor for my own and baby’s safety. I worked through many of those contractions while trying to get some sleep for the night. My goal was to have my third and final birth as a natural birth because I had experienced it with an epidural for my first child and didn’t feel fully present for the birth. I listened to Hypnobabies tracks for hours and weeks leading up to the birth to prepare myself. As the pitocin wore in, I decided I wanted to enjoy this last birth and have a calm and relaxing birth without pain so I opted for an epidural. Little did I know, the anesthesiologist would have the epidural at too high of a level for me and I ended up so numb I felt paralyzed from my chest down. I felt so drugged up that I couldn’t even feel my emotions except panic because of being so numb. Instead of enjoying that last birth pain free, I was having a panic attack and was so out of it I couldn’t even process the birth.
I pushed for only 20 minutes and our beautiful boy was out. He looked good, but I noticed he was barely crying. I asked many times if he was okay because he was being so quiet and they said he scored a 9 and 9 for the Apgar so I was assured he was fine. I held him for awhile and then gave him to the nurses to be checked. Little did I know after I gave him to them, I wouldn’t be able to hold him for another 24 hours and even after then only for short periods every 3 hours. They noticed he couldn’t keep his temperature, his blood sugars were low, and he was grunting. It was periodic for the first part of the day but got worse as the day went on. I then heard the words I was hoping to avoid – he had to go to the NICU. Grunting is a sign that a baby is having difficulty breathing and is working hard to keep their lungs from collapsing. His x-ray showed he had barely any lung that was expanding, and a belly full of air. He needed to go on CPAP, be under a warmer constantly, and have his heels pricked for blood sugar every few hours. After a day on CPAP, he was able to move onto a cannula and eventually off of the cannula the next day. The next goal was to get him to eat properly so he could be weaned off the IV which took another day. I was going from my room to the NICU every 3 hours, attempting to feed him for about 45 minutes, holding him for 15, going back to my room to pump after feedings for 30 minutes, cleaning my pump accessories, then attempting to sleep. I was sleeping for maybe 30 minutes at a time and I was exhausted. The loneliness of being in my room alone and without my baby began to wear on me. Nothing can prepare you for leaving your baby in the NICU and being separated after birth, and being limited on how much you can hold your newborn baby.
After a few days, he was able to breathe normally, maintain his temperature and maintain his blood sugar and I was able to take him home. Once I got home, I was so overjoyed to be with my other 3 children and my husband and just to be able to hold my baby boy. It’s also then that I began to think about the whole experience, and how I regretted not having a natural birth. I began to wonder if the epidural was why he had wet lung and so many problems, because my first born had issues with feeding and lethargy to the point of having failure to thrive and she was an epidural baby. My other two who came naturally had no problems. I began to blame his problems on myself. I thought, “Maybe if I had an unmedicated birth, he wouldn’t have spent time in the NICU.” “Maybe if I had eaten healthier, I wouldn’t have gotten high blood pressure.” Ridiculous thoughts that I knew weren’t true. He had the issues he did because I was induced and he was early. And high blood pressure in pregnancy isn’t related to eating healthy or exercising. It’s from hormones and sometimes an issue with the placenta.
Birth tends to be where the infamous Mom Guilt begins for many. We are SO hard on ourselves and have high expectations of ourselves. We let the world’s expectations of us play over and over again in our heads until we feel inadequate. Not good enough. Like a failure. The truth is, birth isn’t always a beautiful, empowering and positive experience. It can be raw and downright terrifying. That’s something we need to start acknowledging instead of feeling guilty when things don’t go as planned or we don’t feel like we wanted to after birth. Sometimes we don’t even want to relive those memories because the guilt is too painful.
Whether you had a C-section, unmedicated birth, epidural… no matter how you give birth, it’s beautiful. It’s a miracle. You should be nothing but proud of yourself. You grew a human being inside of your body. Think about that. You nourished and grew a PERSON inside of you. All the morning sickness, the aches and pains, the complications…you went through so much to grow your beautiful baby. It does not matter how the baby comes earthside. No one should feel lesser or better than anyone else for giving birth a certain way. So, Mama, take a deep breath and be proud of yourself for giving your baby the gift of life, no matter how it happened. What matters most is that you love that child from the depth of your heart and you are going to do everything in your power to make sure they know that once they are outside of the womb.