I don’t consider myself to be a very dramatic person. But my pregnancies seem to be filled with more drama than a Real Housewives reunion. My pregnancy with Daniel was high-risk. I was thrown into that category due to a heart condition that proved to not be an issue at all. However, I did go into preterm labor around 32 weeks and develop gestational diabetes. Despite giving myself insulin shots five times a day, the diabetes could not be controlled and sweet Daniel kept getting bigger. After weeks of preterm labor, 42 hours of active labor and six grueling hours of pushing, he was born at 36 weeks, weighing a whopping 8 lbs. 3 oz. Not bad for a baby who was technically premature.
Being pregnant after a previous complicated pregnancy is just… scary. In the beginning, everything was really going fine. I was a bit sick, but certainly not very bad. But I felt like I was walking on egg shells, constantly waiting for the complications to arise. I wanted so badly to deliver a healthy baby and I feared my body was destined to screw something up.
Due to my previous preterm labor and delivery, my OBGYN arranged for a nurse to come to my home every week. The sweet nurse would check my vitals, check the baby’s heartbeat, talk about any issues and then administer a progesterone injection to prevent preterm labor.
One day when I was 29 weeks along, I couldn’t feel my normally active baby move. After a glass of orange juice and my first cup of caffeinated coffee, I still didn’t feel any movement. So I went straight to the hospital. After being checked in, wheeled up to the labor and delivery floor and finally laying on the hospital bed, the nurse began to ask me about the symptoms. As she wrapped the fetal monitor around my belly—boom. I felt her. A very swift, definite kick. After a wave of relief came over me, I suddenly felt a bit embarrassed and explained that I definitely felt my little baby bean kicking around in there. But the nurse hooked me up to the monitors anyway (you know, since I was already there) and told me I was having regular contractions. Then I found out I was also slightly dilated. I was in preterm labor. Again. I remember sitting in that hospital bed feeling so worried. I cursed my toxic uterus for not being able to keep my babies healthy inside until term. What’s the point of having a stranger (albeit a very nice one) coming into my house every week and giving me a shot in my ass if it wasn’t preventing this very thing?
Thanks to a brief hospital stay and a magnesium drip, the contractions eventually slowed down and I was released. But soon I felt those telltale pangs again. I went back to the hospital and because I wasn’t dilated any further, I was sent home. The contractions were real and regular, but luckily not causing any real change so the baby was not coming yet. This was my introduction to a hell I didn’t know existed—prodomal labor.
For almost two months, I had contractions every five minutes. Each time the pain was as intense as my first labor. So, naturally, I feared the baby was coming at any minute. Oh I’m going to be one of those women who give birth on the toilet. I’m going to have a poop baby, I thought. The constant contractions left me in constant pain. If I wasn’t currently having a contraction, I was just sore from contractions. Sometimes the contractions would get more intense. The intensity (plus my fear of having a poop baby) caused me to call my OBGYN’s office, who would then tell me to go to the hospital. Over and over again. I don’t know how many times I went to the hospital. Many a dozen times? Fifteen times? It was enough that the Google app on my phone recognized it as my workplace and offered to direct me there, using the fastest route. The nurses on the labor and delivery floor knew who I was and asked me which room I preferred this time.
At 36 weeks, I had developed preeclampsia. I went to the OBGYN on a Friday afternoon. They did their routine weekly fetal non-stress tests and checks. Then they suggested I just go on to labor and delivery for observation. Although I wasn’t quite planning a hospital stay, I knew it was a risk as always and already had a bag packed in my car.
Everything was pretty much the usual routine. I was contracting every five minutes, which I had been, but suddenly things felt very different. After a few hours, the pain intensified and the contractions came closer together. I told the OBGYN on call I believed I was in labor. Real, actual labor this time. She said if I was, she wouldn’t stop it
because I was such a pain in the ass and she couldn’t wait to be rid of me because I had developed preeclampsia and that would kind of solve the problem without induction. Sure enough, she confirmed I was dilating and in true, active labor! I was so ready to meet my baby. She quickly rained on my parade and reminded me that the baby is coming, but she’s coming early and she’s definitely at risk of a NICU stay and potential problems.
After the constant contractions and pain of prodomal labor, I was just DONE being in pain. I wanted an epidural. My husband seemed relieved. As soon as active labor was confirmed, I told pretty much every nurse that came in the room I wanted an epidural. I kept saying, “I would like my wish for an epidural to be known.” If someone from the janitorial department came in to take out the trash, I would tell them I wanted an epidural. I did not want to miss my chance of having an epidural.
When that kind anesthesiologist entered my room, I almost hugged him. I signed the consent forms with such glee. Then that sweet, magical pain relieving nectar entered my body and it was on. Soon my water naturally broke. The OBGYN suggested Pitocin and I asked her if we could hold off, which she agreed to. I kept naturally progressing. I slept (!!!) For the first time in two months, I felt the most relief. I rested and prepared to deliver my baby. By the time I woke up, it was time to push.
In typical stubborn fashion, the baby was posterior or “sunny side up”, so the pushing stage was a bit of a challenge. After a couple of hours and dialing the epidural down, she finally was born. My sweet, beautiful baby girl—Penelope. Tears immediately ran down my cheeks as if they’d been building up for nine months. I was elated to meet her and so grateful she made it safe into my arms. She was immediately placed onto my chest and immediately rooted to nurse! I was completely shocked. Within less than a minute of entering this world, she was latched and happily nursing. I had hemorrhaged a bit and the OBGYN had given me Cytotec to help cease the bleeding. Penelope was perfectly healthy! Required absolutely no NICU stay.
Immediately after birth was one of the most raw moments of my life. I looked haggard. Everyone saw my vagina. And as soon the nursed placed that sweet baby on my chest, I didn’t care about any of it. I felt like crying, so I cried. Hard. Big crocodile tears flew out of my eyes. I felt the warmth of her pink skin against my chest and examined every inch of her– fuzzy dark hair, bright blue eyes, moon face, chunky thighs, wiggly little toes– she was perfect. Perfect and finally here. I was so happy to have her with me earth side.
After about an hour of meeting my baby, nursing, finding out she weighed 8 lbs. 10 oz., (Whaaaaat?!) it was time for the patient family members to meet her too. The grandmas came in and ooo-ed and ahhh-ed as I held her in the crook of my arm. Then suddenly I didn’t feel so well and tried to tell them, but it was so hard to form the words. Then everything faded to black.
The next thing I saw was the OBGYN, frantic. She kept saying, “I’m sorry” and “I just don’t know what happened” and then finally the words you never quite expect to hear from a trained physician… “I’m going to Google it.” I laid in the bed, shivering, and could see my worried husband holding the baby in the corner of the room. I learned from the Googling that I apparently had a very rare, (rare enough that the OBGYN had never experienced it in 20 years of practice and didn’t know what the hell was happening) reaction to the Cytotec and my blood pressure and heart rate crashed to a very dangerous level. The nurses flushed the IVs and eventually my blood pressure and heart rate climbed back up. So I didn’t die. (Yay!) But having fairly severe anemia during the pregnancy, the trauma of blood loss and crash sent my iron levels far too low. So I needed a blood transfusion. (Boo)
Thanks to donor blood, my levels climbed back up to a normal postpartum level. If you have given blood, THANK YOU. Truly. If you have not given blood and are a healthy person, please consider giving in the future. It was such a blessing to have donor blood ready and accessible when I needed it.
Due to the blood transfusion and complications, we needed to spend a little more time in the hospital. It was hard being away from Daniel, but we knew he was in great care with my mother-in-law, being spoiled and eating too much sugar. Daniel finally came to meet Penelope and he was SO excited. It was very clear he was thrilled and up to the new big brother challenge. He pronounces her name “el-oh-pee” and gave her lots of little hugs and kisses. She still greets her every morning and says, “Hi, sweet girl!” It melts my heart.
Penelope feels like the missing piece to our family. She’s definitely my spirited child, my Velcro baby. Despite her dramatic entry into the world, she’s been healthy, thriving and of course has been surrounded by love. She loves playing with her daddy, laughing at her big brother and all the bonding and nursing snuggles with me. She’s enriched our lives so much already and while it’s been a little sad seeing her grow as she’s our last baby, it’s exciting too because I just know we’re going to have so much fun. Can’t wait to share our adventures with you all!