Here is my very honest birth story. It is not all rainbows and butterflies, but it did bring me the greatest joy in my life. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to write Noah’s birth story. Some of it was because I was minimally functional the past 7 months trying to deal with a bad case of postpartum depression, and the other part is that Noah’s birth was not the pie-in-the-sky experience I was hoping to have.
This Isn’t Meant to Scare Anyone
I am still trying to process it all, and if you are reading this as an expecting mom, please don’t be disheartened. You will more than likely have an amazing birth experience. I think what I want any mom to take away from my story is to speak up, be prepared with questions, and don’t wait until 40 weeks to have everything in place, because your baby might not wait until then to bless you with their arrival. So anyway, here it goes, my birth story.
The Birth Story – How it All Began
Everything started on Halloween night. Sounds spooky, right? There was a special full moon in the sky, an ominous breeze blowing the leaves around in the alleyway, and the sound of no children laughing and ringing the doorbell to say, “trick or treat”. We were in the middle of a global pandemic and I was 8 months pregnant (34 weeks). I was on the couch with my husband watching the Charlie Brown Halloween show, eating the chocolate candy I bought to leave outside for the kids that never came.
Autumn is my favorite season, so the weeks leading up to this were filled with apple picking, baking Fall treats, watching several spooky movies, including Hocus Pocus, and writing a smattering of Fall-themed blog posts. Even the weekend before this, we had just gone to the 3D Ultrasound place by our house so that Mark could finally see the baby, since he wasn’t allowed at any of my appointments during the entire pregnancy. I was dressed up in my favorite Fall outfit, and after seeing Noah’s face for the first time, I told Mark that I can’t wait to have Noah in my arms. I spoke too soon.
Is it Braxton-Hicks?
Around 11pm on Halloween night, I started to have Braxton-Hicks. This wasn’t so surprising to me because I would get them occasionally, starting at the end of my second trimester. They never lasted long, and they were never painful. During those episodes, it was just my uterus tightening and relaxing, which felt weird, but I was never worried about them. After a couple of hours, these contractions were not letting up. I was a little concerned around 1am, and shared with my husband that it was odd that these Braxton-Hicks cramps were not going away. I drank lots of water and tried to relax, but I couldn’t go to sleep.
Going to the Hospital
These cramps became painful, and I decided to call the after-hours nurse hotline to determine whether or not I should come to the hospital. The nurse told me she would let the doctor know and have them call me back in 15 minutes, but no one ever called back. Mark and I decided to be safe and get our hospital bag together, which at that point was an empty duffel bag with a nightshirt stuffed inside. I was frantically trying to find everything I might need, pacing from room to room while taking a break every so often to sit down and breathe through my contractions. At this point I had been having contractions every 5 minutes.
At the Hospital
We finally got ourselves together about an hour later and headed to the hospital around 2am with the infant car seat in the trunk, because we didn’t have time to install it yet. We parked the van and walked to the Emergency Room. I let them know that I was having regular, painful contractions and they sent me up to the OB ER. Mark had to stay behind because of pandemic restrictions. I was by myself in this little room with the heart rate monitor strapped around my belly. The nurse left me in there and closed the door. I had my cell phone with me and was texting updates to my husband as he sat and waited in the parking garage. About an hour later, a doctor finally showed up, and decided that I wasn’t going into labor, I was just having Braxton-Hicks and gave me IV fluids.
The plan was to send me home when the contractions subsided. They never did. I was 1cm dilated but my water hadn’t broken yet. As the IV was running, I was writhing in pain, unable to change my position because of everything that was attached to me. There also wasn’t anything to grab onto to help me to sit up, stand up and walk around, and the nurse call button was nowhere to be found. No one could hear me yell for help, even if I wanted to yell. But I didn’t. I had to pee really bad from all of the fluids, and I know that having a full bladder can irritate the uterus and cause more contractions. I was convinced that I just needed to use the bathroom and feel better.
Not Going Home
The nurse finally came in to check on me. Before I could ask her to help me to the bathroom, the doctor also came in. She did another cervical exam, nothing changed. I knew the baby was breech, but she told me, “I can feel the head!”, which was confusing. She told me, “Oh the contractions seem to be getting better. After the ultrasound you can go home.”
I was hopeful that I would be able to go home. I wanted Noah to develop more and get stronger before I really needed to give birth. They then sent me to the ultrasound room to make sure everything was okay with the baby. On the ultrasound room exam table, I started to leak liquid. When I told the ultrasound tech, she asked me, “Are you sure it isn’t urine?”
My Water Broke
I never had any problems before this with not being able to hold my urine. Something was wrong, but I had been holding it for a long time. I went to the bathroom afterward, but I still kept leaking, and I told the doctor when I went back to the room. She was about to send me home, but they checked to see if I was leaking amniotic fluid. I was. The doctor brought a male medical student into the exam room and asked me if he could see the fluid pooling . The student was already there, and I didn’t want to be rude, so I said “okay”. He awkwardly looked in between my legs, and agreed with the doctor that he saw the fluid. Then I was told that I was unable to go home.
The Urgent C-Section
Because my baby was breech and my water broke, my family doctor signed off. My care was transferred to the OB-GYN team. So now I was at the mercy of doctors that I didn’t know and who didn’t know me. I was in labor, by myself, and needed an urgent C-section.
Before I could finish texting a sentence to my husband so much happened over the course of five minutes. The anesthesiologist came in. Then a male OB resident who showed no real concern or empathy was asking me to consent to “major surgery”. The NICU doctor paraded in last. He told me the team would be in the OR ready to take care of the baby when he arrived. I had a COVID test swab shoved up my nostrils. A nurse came in and tried to put an IV in my arm. She messed that one up, and put the IV in another location. I was bruised in that place on my arm for weeks after I delivered.
On My Way to the OR
Once I was prepped, I wasn’t even wheeled to the OR. I waddled to the OR alone in socks while holding a pad between my legs with one hand and holding my gown closed with the other. At this point it was around 10:30 in the morning. I looked crazy, hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, and I felt like I lost all my dignity. I sat myself on the OR bed while the anesthesiologist stuck the huge needle in my spine to give me the anesthesia, and I breathed through my contractions while all of this was happening. Although I was scared, I was trying to be brave since there was nothing I could do about the situation.
They called my husband up from downstairs so that he could get dressed up in blue disposable scrubs and come to the OR. I was so glad to see a familiar face.
Hi, I’m a Medical Student
The anesthesiologists (there were two at the time) were sticking me with a pin to see how the anesthesia was progressing. The male anesthesiologist asked if I could feel it.
I said, “Yes, I can feel it.”
He clarified, “But does it feel sharp?”
I said, “No, but I feel it.”
“Well only tell me if it feels sharp.” He sounded frustrated and impatient.
What he didn’t know is that I was having a hard time being able to distinguish sharp from dull. Maybe it was because of the anesthesia, but I feel like he didn’t understand what a patient actually feels while they are in the OR. It was confusing, everything was moving so fast, I was scared and I was exhausted. I told him I was a medical student. He asked me what year I was, and I told him I was in my third year. I completed most of my clerkships with the exception of Surgery and Internal Medicine, and I was interested in going into Family Medicine residency after graduation.
Dealing with Fear
I had done extremely well on my OB clerkship, but on that clerkship I had seen something pretty horrific. A woman of color went in for an external cephalic version. They do these in the OR just in case they lose the baby’s heartbeat so they can do an emergency delivery. That is exactly what happened to this patient. I don’t know if she had been given the correct dose of anesthesia, or if they didn’t wait long enough for it to start working, but she was screaming during her entire C-Section. It seemed like she felt every cut, felt all of the pulling. Her legs were moving and she could not stay still. No one said anything in that OR. I didn’t feel empowered to ask any questions because I didn’t have all of the information.
I don’t care how frustrated I made the anesthesiologist feel, I knew that I was not going to let that happen to me. My anesthesia worked fine. I couldn’t feel or move anything from my ribs down. I was thankful that at least something went right. The OB attending, a Black woman, personally came up to me before we got started and assured me that she was going to take excellent care of me. I felt so thankful in that moment that someone else, besides myself, was looking out for me. That’s why I went into medicine in the first place, so I could be that source of comfort for my patients.
I’ve Been Here Before – The Actual Birth Story
They started the C-section. I had scrubbed in on several of these on my OB rotation, so I knew all of the tools and incisions they were using for my case. I heard the Bovie buzzing (it’s like a cauterizing scalpel) and recognized that distinct smell of burning flesh. In the meantime, I was extremely nauseous from the anesthesia. I felt the tugging and pulling as they were getting ready to reach inside my uterus and get the baby.
It sounded like they had trouble at first because he seemed really lodged in there with his head at my left rib cage, but they got him out without having to use the vacuum. There were a few long seconds of silence, and then I heard him cry! I was so glad he was okay. Noah was born on November 1st at 11:17am. My husband was able to go over to the incubator table, meet him, and take some pictures.
Unmet Expectations – The Birth Story
I had for sure thought that I would be able to see the baby up close. I thought either that they would hold him up over the curtain for me to see or bring him to me after he was all cleaned up. Unfortunately, none of that happened. A couple minutes after my husband was able to see the baby, the NICU staff put the baby in the incubator and rolled him away. They stopped briefly about 10 feet away from where I was so that I could “see” him. Then he was gone.
I didn’t get a good look. The first time I saw my baby was on my husband’s iPhone after I was in the recovery room. I honestly didn’t even process what happened. I was shivering uncontrollably (which is normal after giving birth). Above all, I just wanted something to drink and I wanted to sleep with every ounce of my being.
The Recovery Room – The Birth Story
I don’t remember much after I went up to my room. All I remember is getting several wound checks and being given an all-liquid diet tray when all I wanted was a plate full of pancakes or a hamburger. I was starving. Mark, who was able to be with me, was calling all of our family members to tell them about the good news.
The nurse came in, showed me how to use the breast pump machine, and told me to pump every two hours. I felt like I was wasting my time. For the first day, you are supposed to pump or feed even if not much comes out. I did this about three times and got tired of it, especially since I just wanted to know if my baby was okay. On top of that, I still had a catheter in place, so I was not allowed to leave my room until the next day. I still hadn’t seen the baby.
Processing the Day
That first night in the hospital, I remember hearing a baby crying in the room next door, and all I thought about was how my hospital room bassinet was empty and there was no baby. For all I knew, maybe I hallucinated that I gave birth, and my child didn’t really exist. I just wanted to hold my baby, look into his eyes, and tell Mark, “hey, he looks like you.”
I broke down in tears and sobbed uncontrollably for like half an hour. The nurse came in and asked if I was okay and asked if I wanted to see the chaplain. I declined. I wish that it was okay to have gone through what I did and just cry without it seeming like I needed a psych consult. Isn’t that a normal reaction?
Holding Baby Noah – The Birth Story
The next day after my catheter was removed, someone was able to wheel me to the NICU. Only one parent was allowed at a time, and only during a three-hour window of time, once per day. When I got to the room that he was supposed to be in, I was overwhelmed. I saw rows of babies in incubators needing different levels of care. Unsure, I went up to one baby thinking that it could have been mine, but I wasn’t confident because the parents’ names weren’t displayed.
When I finally gave up and asked the nurse where Baby Boy Davis was, she took me to him. He had a feeding tube in his nose. His hand was braced with an IV attached to it, and he had several monitors attached to his feet. He was inside a covered incubator because he was unable to regulate his body temperature.
The nurse brought him out of the incubator and I held him for the first time. He was so tiny and frail-looking and a little jaundiced. His eyes were not yet opening. When my time was up, we put him back in the incubator and I said my tearful good-byes. I was glad that he seemed okay. But, I wish that he could be in my arms and not stuck in the NICU incubator all by himself.
Not a Fan of the NICU – The Birth Story
The NICU was what it was. I hated being in there, hearing all of the babies crying and the monitors and alarms going off. I hated that I couldn’t take him home, and I hated myself for not being able to keep him in my uterus until at least 38 weeks. Additionally, I hated myself for not being able to make him turn head down before he was born. In fact, the exercise ball I ordered to bounce on to help him turn arrived the day after he was born.
Funny how life works, right? Mark and I alternated coming into the NICU while the baby was there. At night, we were able to do a 10 minute video chat with the baby, which was not enough time. At least he heard our voice and knew that we loved him.
Back in the Hospital, Still Visiting the NICU
When we ended back up in the hospital because I developed postpartum preeclampsia (which is a thing, by the way). I had my little routine of sauntering over there in my hospital gown and socks when no other mom had scheduled time to see their child. On the seventh day, he passed his car seat test. This is when they put the baby in your car seat with the monitors on to see if he has any issues while he is strapped in. When babies pass that test, they are usually ready to go home. We took him home on the day I was allowed to be discharged, which was on NICU day 10. Then we got to be with him together, and hold him and love on him as a family. This was a whole ten days after he was born.
The Aftermath – The Birth Story
My C-section recovery was okay, and I was sent home on blood pressure medication. Dealing with C-section recovery and worrying about my blood pressure was stressful. But, the hardest part of this whole ordeal was missing most of the first ten days of my son’s life. Every time I see moms on social media being able to come home with their baby after a wonderful birth experience, I get overwhelmed. I am happy for them, really. I just wish that I had been able to have that with my son and husband.
The psychological weirdness of having a C-section is also something I didn’t expect. It feels weird to say that I gave birth. I feel like I didn’t even get to do the work of bringing a baby into the world. I was merely a passenger along for the ride as the doctors brought the baby into the world. These thoughts were and are so damaging. I think we need to be careful how we discuss birthing among our friends or on social media. You are no less a mom because you elected to get an epidural. Or, because you gave birth by C-section as opposed to having an unmedicated “natural” birth.
The Takeaway – The Birth Story
If you are like me and have had a traumatic birth experience, give yourself time to process. Give yourself space from triggers. Get off social media, and don’t wait too long to talk to a therapist about it. I think this experience definitely contributed to me developing postpartum depression. But talking about it over and over, and writing about it has been so helpful for me to properly process what happened to me.
Share your birth story. I thought none of my friends would understand what I went through. Most of them don’t have kids, and I don’t want to burden them with a sad story that they wouldn’t understand. But if you’re here, thank you for listening to/reading my story. It’s nice to get it off my heart and on the page. I have been carrying this with me for so long, I think it is time to move on and heal.
Put Your Wellness First
It’s okay to not be okay, but talk about it, process it and get help. Don’t bury it or be ashamed because you feel like your feelings are invalid or don’t matter. They do. Remember to take care of yourself and check in on your friends. They might be going through really hard things, too. Check out my first, second and third trimester updates for a fun look at my pandemic pregnancy journey. They are a bit more lighthearted than this birth story. Spoiler alert, there was a lot of heartburn involved.