I was 35 weeks pregnant when my mom began to pester me nearly every time she called. Why haven’t they done an ultrasound recently? Don’t they need to know how big she is? How do they know she’ll fit?
She had a nagging feeling that because I’m so tall, I could be hiding a big baby inside me and no one would know it. I tried to convince her that wasn’t the case, telling her I’d been measuring exactly on time by my fundal height.
But nothing could bring her peace, so I caved and at my next appointment, I expressed her concerns to the doctor. My measurement happened to be off that day, so they sent me for an ultrasound.
Not sixty seconds into the exam, the technician said, “Uh…we’ve got a problem.”
“What?” I asked.
“She’s breech,” she said.
“But she’s measuring perfectly on time!”
Back in the exam room, the doctor threw out the term “C-section” but didn’t talk about scheduling anything since I still had some time. I left the appointment on a mission to get Baby Girl to turn head down.
Prepared for an unmedicated birth
I had spent the entire pregnancy preparing for labor and delivery. I’d known for years that I wanted to give birth without pain medication. I wanted to feel it. I wanted the intense experience that would force me to lean on God. I wanted to witness for myself every part of this incredible process that brings forth a child.
I’d spent months getting in shape so my body was strong and ready to endure childbirth, months researching the process and techniques for coping with labor, months visualizing birth scenarios and preparing myself emotionally.
I was ready.
And with one single ultrasound, I watched everything I’d worked for slip away.
“A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2 (NIV)
I didn’t realize I’d been growing focused on controlling everything—quite the opposite of having to lean on the Lord. I’m not suggesting that healthy preparation is a bad thing; however, I was starting to go overboard trying to control any and all situations I might encounter.
For the next week, I bounced on a ball to open up my hips, put an ice pack on my belly where Baby Girl’s head was, and contorted myself into crazy positions, all to no avail. At my next checkup, she was still breech.
I cried into my husband’s chest in the parking lot that day. All my dreams seemed to be vanishing. I was facing a C-section for my first child, probably meaning I’d always have C-sections and would never get to experience birth the way I wanted to.
My doctor was talking about scheduling a surgery, which we didn’t like; we wanted Baby Girl to be born on her own time. Every aspect of the situation was morphing into something we weren’t happy about at all.
I kept hoping that she would turn and everything would go back to normal, but it seemed like that possibility was growing more and more faint with each passing day.
Reluctantly, I began learning about and preparing for a C-section, while still trying to turn the baby, who seemed stubbornly stuck.
Until I realized something.
God was nudging me to give up control.
Little did I know that through this, He was preparing me for something I never saw coming.
Letting go of how I wanted to give birth for so long was incredibly difficult. For years I had carried this dream with me, and now with reality set in, I had to choose to be okay with however I gave birth to my daughter, or I’d spend the rest of my pregnancy restless and slowly going insane trying to force her to turn. I’d have a C-section and be filled with bitterness about it, spending time after the birth mad at God and regretful of all I’d missed out on instead of soaked in the joy of my new child.
I had to let go.
So I did. All day on February 6th, 2019, I went about my day praying and making an active decision to let go and hand over the situation to God, because I trust Him. If He meant for me to have a C-section, then it was the best thing, for my good, and He would come to use it later on. Every other difficult thing in my life had been used for good. He would do the same here.
Late in the afternoon, after many hours of introspection, I sat on the bed with warm, golden sunlight streaming in the windows. It was a pleasant day for February. The glow seemed to seep into my consciousness with the realization that I was free—in that moment, I knew I’d finally made my peace with my birth story, whatever happened.
I sat in the quiet for a while feeling Baby Girl wiggle in my belly. There was a beautiful stillness around me where before, all I’d felt was chaos. I basked in that feeling for a while.
I got up to get back to work when suddenly an idea hit me with astonishing force: an external cephalic version, or ECV.
An ECV is when a doctor tries to manually turn your baby from the outside by pressing and turning on your belly.
My doctor had offered this intervention, saying we’d induce labor right away if it worked so Baby Girl didn’t have time to revert back to breech. At the time, we’d declined it because we wanted her to turn on her own. But now, suddenly, I was overcome with an intense desire to look into this procedure.
I couldn’t have been more confused.
I’d made my peace with the birth, given up control, and now wanted to do one of the most controlling things available. What troubled me so much was that I knew deep down I wasn’t trying to control the outcome anymore. So why would I want to do this?
I lacked the answer, but something was seriously pushing me to look into an ECV, and I decided not to question it.
I called my husband and we talked it over and agreed to investigate, so I contacted my doctor’s office and set up a consultation at Maternal Fetal Medicine for the following morning.
It wasn’t a surefire guarantee I’d even be a good candidate to try the ECV. They had to do an ultrasound to check if conditions were favorable first.
I went to bed that night unsure whether I wanted to be a good candidate. After investing so much into letting go, I didn’t want to go back to the place I was in before. I continued questioning why this felt like the right thing to do, but moved forward in the assurance that it was.
The next morning, February 7th, I got out of bed and was halted by what I thought was a contraction.
I’d had false alarms before, so I wasn’t confident, but they kept happening, and I could feel them while I was standing up and walking around; I could only ever feel Braxton Hicks when I was sitting down.
Could this be real?
I went to the bathroom and had a bloody show. Oh my goodness! I’m dilating!
At that point, I knew I was having real contractions, but I still doubted myself. I wished I could sit down, drink a bunch of water, and wait to see if the they went away, but my appointment was at 8:45 A.M. I just didn’t have time. I couldn’t call my doctor’s office, either, because they didn’t open until 9:00 A.M., and if I called L&D, they’d tell me to come in, especially with the baby being breech. If I did, and it was a false alarm, I would have missed what could be my only chance to try the ECV.
Unsure what to do, we finished packing the hospital bags and my husband loaded them into my car. We decided I’d go to the appointment and the half hour drive there would give me time to calm down and see if the contractions let up.
At the high-risk office, they checked me in, asking if I’d been having contractions that week and getting me settled in for the ultrasound. I admitted that I thought I might be in early labor, and they were nice about it, but I don’t think anyone took me seriously. I was totally calm and collected, partly because I didn’t want to feel like an idiot if I was wrong.
Having had a bloody show that morning was a blessing; because of it, the doctor ordered me onto the monitors after the ultrasound.
Amazed, I watched the line on the computer screen rise as I felt my belly contract, and fall as I felt it relax. Over and over again.
I’m not crazy.
After about 15-20 minutes, the doctor came in and told me I was regularly contracting 3-4 minutes apart. I couldn’t believe I was actually in labor, and the unbelievable timing of it! I asked if it was possible to try an ECV between contractions. She evaluated me, but ultimately decided I was too far gone into labor to risk it.
The nurse checked me—I was 3cm dilated—and they all told me they were amazed at how calm I was, saying they would never have suspected I was in labor. And then that was it; they sent me off to the hospital to go have a baby! (The hospital was a quarter mile away from the office.)
In retrospect, we realized that having this consultation probably ensured my and Baby Girl’s safety because it confirmed I was truly in labor. We lived at least 35 minutes from the hospital, and my husband worked 40 minutes from home—from the time I would have called him to when we’d have made it to the hospital would have been at least an hour and a half.
If I hadn’t already been in a doctor’s office where they could confirm labor, I probably would have spent the day in denial about it happening, refusing to call my husband. It could have resulted in Baby Girl getting too far down the birth canal, where things may have turned into an emergency situation. Because of the consultation, I was already within the safety of medical care. The ECV appointment was one of the best things that could have happened to us.
I called my husband and told him we were having a baby today! I decided to wait for him before going to L&D, so I made all the relevant phone calls to our parents (boy, will I never forget those).
We went to L&D and got checked in, and were told we would need to wait at least 8 hours from when I’d eaten breakfast that morning before we could have the C-section, or until I’d progressed to the point where I couldn’t wait any longer, whichever came first.
We got settled into the triage room we’d be in all afternoon. They checked me again and I was now 4 cm dilated, and they did another ultrasound to verify one last time that Baby Girl was still breech.
They estimated her weight to be around 7lbs, similar to the estimate I was given a couple hours earlier at Maternal Fetal Medicine.
Then, we were mostly left alone to wait for surgery. I labored for a while on a ball, listening to music, trying to convince my husband I was actually in labor—he kept thinking it would peter out and stop, like it had before. We joked around and none of it felt real, like we were actually going to have a baby that day.
When I grew too weak from lack of food and water, I got back in bed and draped myself over the ball, where I stayed until we were ready for the C-section.
So, it turned out that I got to labor after all, just like I’d wanted to! I got to have the experience of feeling what my body was doing, contemplating the immensity of what was happening, and feeling the rush of knowing we were about to meet our daughter and finally give her a name.
Through all the shattering of nearly every plan I’d made, I felt the power of truly needing to lean on God. I laugh now because this was only the beginning of having no control and having to trust Him.
As the day went on, contractions picked up in intensity and I was really in the throes of labor, and then suddenly, it was go time!
They came in with surgical garb for us, and once we dressed, they led my husband back to wait in the recovery room while the nurse walked with me to the OR in between a set of contractions. Everything from this point on became overwhelming, because all the waiting was over and we were minutes away from meeting our child.
I couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t think straight, and couldn’t cooperate very well with instructions because everything I was asked to do took a while to make sense in my head. I couldn’t figure out how to sit the way they wanted me to for the spinal, and it all seemed to be going too fast. I wish I’d have had the presence of mind to ask them to just wait a moment so I could compose myself.
Before long, the numbing shot was going into my back, and it did hurt like a bee sting as they said it would, but it lasted several seconds longer than I expected it to. I couldn’t help but squirm, thinking I was going to damage myself because I couldn’t hold still.
As soon as the spinal was in, they wanted me to lie down quickly because I was about to lose feeling in my lower half. I couldn’t have done it without their help, with words still taking a while to click in my mind.
There I lay, trying not to hyperventilate, while people were going around the room prepping things, and the relaxed atmosphere was a stark contrast to my internal panic. After a few minutes, someone said to me, “You can’t feel contractions anymore, can you?” Comically, this realization was like a lightbulb—oh yeah, you’re right!—and was just the thing I needed to start to get a grip on myself.
They poked all up and down my body asking for feedback, to make sure I wouldn’t be able to feel the surgery. Then they brought my husband in, and that was the last piece I needed to truly calm down. I focused much of my mental energy on taking normal breaths, because they’d told me I might feel like I couldn’t breathe deeply.
I don’t even know when they officially started the C-section. Before I knew it, they were telling me I’d feel a ton of pressure—if I did, I don’t remember it—and told me she was out!
Then this greenish-blue alien popped over the drape right above my face for me to see.
My baby had just been born!
She was visible for the world to see, and never again to shove her head up under my ribs or kick my cervix.
I should have felt an immediate set of warm fuzzy feelings for her, but I didn’t. Truly, I was both startled and disturbed by what she looked like. I didn’t instantly recognize her like I’d anticipated; instead, she looked like a stranger to me, and so unsettling in her appearance that I was a little frightened.
All of these thoughts passed through me in microseconds, followed by an intense fear that I wasn’t going to bond with her because I felt so much the opposite by my first glimpse.
So I faked some comments of amazement when in reality, all I could think was, “That’s not a human; that’s an alien.”
They took her to the side of the room to be weighed, measured, and cleaned, and my husband followed. I like to say he was forever changed the moment he walked across that room; he was absolutely enthralled with her.
I was relieved to see that Baby Girl looked like a human when my husband carried her back over, swaddled and wearing the little hospital hat. The moments I’d spent worrying melted away as I got to soak in being so close to this new little life.
We tried to have me hold her, but it just wasn’t workable with the surgery, so my husband held her by my face and we basked in our daughter.
“So what’s her name?” they asked.
The whole pregnancy, my husband said he couldn’t agree to a name until he saw our daughter face-to-face. We’d settled on four possibilities, thinking we’d see which one “fit” her when she was born.
Truth be told, none of them did. She didn’t look like anything!
We whispered back and forth about it as the people in the room asked again, and eventually my husband announced, “Her name is Lydia!”
So there she was—Lydia Olivia-Blake. Our daughter.
Lydia was born on February 7th, 2019 at 5:16 P.M. She weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces, and was 19.5 inches long.
The first few hours
Before long, they had to take Lydia to the recovery room, where I’d join them shortly. My husband took Lydia away, and I lay there being stitched up and moved onto a hospital bed. Then I was wheeled backwards into the recovery room, which made me terribly motion sick.
I was informed that Lydia was “dusky,” meaning her skin was ashen like the color of dusk, and she needed to have her oxygen addressed. The nurse couldn’t find a portable O2 monitor, so she had to stay across the room for a while, meaning that I still couldn’t hold her.
They were talking about putting her on oxygen, when I called over and asked if skin-to-skin would help. They agreed, so Lydia did some skin-to-skin with her dad, greatly improving her breathing. Meanwhile, I was given a dose of something in my IV that made the room spin. My eyes wouldn’t focus on anything, and I started shaking uncontrollably. It was probably better that I wasn’t holding the baby just then anyway.
After what felt like hours, she was deemed okay, and brought over to me to hold!
We spent a while in the recovery room testing out breastfeeding for the first time and filling out paperwork to try to donate the cord blood. Eventually, I was recovered enough to be moved to our postpartum room, we got settled in, and my parents got to meet Lydia.
It was such a joy revealing her name. We’d settled on the middle name a while earlier, but we’d kept it a secret. Blake was my late brother’s name, and it was special to honor his legacy by including his name in our daughter’s.
Trouble on the horizon
There are many details I could share now about those first few hours in our room, but this story is growing long enough already. What’s important from here is where Lydia’s health took a turn.
My mom had been right all along; Lydia was big. She really had been hiding a bunch of extra girth inside me, which none of my ultrasounds, including the two I’d had the day she was born, had caught.
Already weighing 8 and a half pounds at 38 weeks’ gestation, Lydia was considered “big for gestational age,” earning her regular blood sugar checks to make sure she could maintain her glucose levels on her own.
In the middle of her first night, it became clear that this was turning into a problem. She’d stopped trying to feed, and her blood sugar checks began to show a decline. The nurse pushed the contents of a sugar-water syringe into her mouth and checked on us a little while later, but it didn’t help. She refused to eat another one, and she started shaking.
They whisked her off to the nursery to be evaluated by the pediatrician, her daddy following, and I was left alone in our room, waiting.
She was admitted that night to the NICU, where our life was no longer filled with the normal, tired joy of taking care of a new baby, healing, and receiving visitors, but with feeding schedules, blood sugar checks, monitors, tears, and challenges we never anticipated. Where we quickly learned we had almost no control at all over what happened to our child.
In a matter of hours, everything I’d learned about being a new parent was turned upside down. I went from being a new mom to a NICU mom.
This is what God had been preparing me for. This was the real trial, not labor and delivery.
He’d known this was coming and had lovingly broken me of my desire to control everything because I would have never made it through those long four days without it.
To continue reading my story, please click here to read The NICU: Part 1.
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