I remember sitting there and thinking, What have I gotten myself into? I can’t do this! I know that women do it every day, but I’m not them! I sat there clutching my best friend Melissa’s hand who, as I glanced over, was clearly just as mortified as I was. She was pale white with her mouth hanging open—horror written all over her face as her eyes continued to watch the birthing video.
My mother had always told me to wait, wait, wait for the right guy! So I did, and I had finally—at the age of 40—met the right guy. Now, we were engaged, I was pregnant, and it was supposed to be the happiest time of our lives. However, he had an undiagnosed heart condition and came home from work and collapsed. At five months pregnant, I was alone and watching this horrid video of this woman moaning while the doctor shoved this tube up her hoo-ha to monitor the baby’s heartbeat. I swear, I just needed to be able to get through the epidural procedure first before I could think about all this other stuff! The epidural was my worst nightmare come true.
You might think that I’m crazy, but I listened to my sister scream from two hallways and a waiting room away. You would have thought that she was having her bones broken one by one. It haunts me to this day. I can deal with death, labor and anything else that came my way, but that epidural kept me up at night.
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Luckily, I had an amazing doctor. With Jay’s death, I had lost our insurance. I could have paid for COBRA, but the rates were ridiculous. I used to work for the county hospital, so I took my butt down and applied for medical through them. There are many misconceptions about county medical; one example is the belief that it’s just for the low income or the homeless. When I worked for them, I chose to have them as my medical. Not only are the doctors wonderful, but they also come from a place of genuineness—trying to make a difference in the world. I used to take monthly meeting minutes for the internal medicine department—going over every fatality and if anything could have been done differently. Their vacations consisted of sabbaticals to foreign countries to build homes or help with cancer or AIDS treatments. I’ve never run across more dedicated people in my life. They may be overworked and definitely over crowded, but they are excellent doctors. Dr. Judith Bliss, my OB/GYN, happened to be their chief of staff.
Dr. Bliss had set me up for all of these orientations, and I swear I had no idea about anything I was about to go through. I started with Healthy Start who had me see a nutritionist. Then they were worried about my emotional stability because of Jay’s death, so I went to a therapist. They got me started on WIC (Women, Infant and Children), an amazing program that offers breastfeeding and parenting classes, which I thoroughly recommend. These programs also made it a point to check in with me almost every week. I then started Lamaze classes and was offered a doula; I even had my own personal lactation consultant at the hospital when I gave birth. I was so impressed with the ends to which the county went to ensure an amazing delivery, even though it meant I had to sit here and watch this birthing video, which was scaring the hell out of Melissa and me.
I was 41 years old by this point, a high risk factor. I had four previous miscarriages, high blood pressure to begin with, excess weight (yes, I’m a big girl), and my numbers weren’t looking good. Dr. Bliss called me at 8 p.m. on Sunday night, and I knew it wasn’t good. My blood work had come back and said that I had a 1 in 11 chance of my child having Down Syndrome. She scheduled me for an amniocenteses right away. I called a girlfriend, cried a lot and called Dr. Bliss back and told her that my faith in God was strong and that He would not do that to me after losing Jay. I would take the test, but only because I wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl … the rest didn’t matter. I had waited long enough and would love him or her no matter what, and nothing would deter that love. One in 11 were good enough odds for me.
Two of the longest weeks later, I found out that I was having a girl, and she was perfectly healthy! I had already known that, though.
I loved every minute of being pregnant. I was eating right and had actually lost some weight due to my change in eating. I was the healthiest I had ever been in my life. I rarely had morning sickness. When I did, my mommy fixed me some ginger tea, and I was all better. She had come to stay with me after Jay’s passing. I miss him terribly and still have moments of sorrow just knowing that our daughter will never know the man that loved her with his entire being. But, I’m on double duty now, and my sadness has been overcome by sheer happiness at being her mommy. … That, and the fact that I believe in his afterlife. He guards over us like a wolf protecting his pack, and those thoughts are what helps me sleep at night.
After nine months and three weeks, Dr. Bliss wanted me to deliver. I had high blood pressure, and even though it was very good, she didn’t want to chance it nose diving. She induced me. You know what the worst thing about being induced was? They don’t feed you. I was begging for food! They were terrified that I was going to need an emergency C-Section, so they refused me food as a precaution to the surgery. So, always eat before going to the hospital! After 30 hours of labor, I was not dilated or effaced at all. My water wasn’t broken, and my daughter had turned breech and crammed herself as far up into my rib cage as she could. The medications were working, but my body wasn’t responding like it should, so I was in agonizing pain with nothing to show for it. Dr. Bliss came in and said, “I’m torturing you … literally. Your blood pressure through all of this has stayed stable, so you can either have a C-Section or go home and wait for it to be natural.” My response: “Mom, get my clothes! We are going to In & Out Burger! See you when she’s ready to come out, Doc.” There was no way in hell I was going to have a C-Section. I had waited 41 years to have a baby—she was coming out naturally, dammit!
Two weeks later, Dr. Bliss told me that we couldn’t wait any longer. She gave me one more week to get my daughter turned around before she was going in to get her. And when I say turned around, I literally mean turned around. My mom and I took turns trying to maneuver my breech daughter around in my stomach. We always had to go clockwise as to not disrupt the umbilical cord, and we started going into the hospital every morning to monitor her heart rate and breathing. On Tuesday, the nurses told me to bring my overnight bag the next morning. It was time.
On Wednesday morning, my room was waiting for me, and we got started with the induction again. This time, the doctor turned my daughter in my belly, and now we took turns holding her in position while I went through labor pains. After 18 hours of holding her in position and into labor, my water broke. It was time for my epidural. I immediately started to hyperventilate! My mom held my hand as the anesthesiologist walked in and began prepping. He looked at me, and I began to pass out. My worst nightmare ended up being a pin prick. I’m an idiot.
Dr. Bliss walked in 12 hours later and said, “Your water broke, and because you’ve been in labor too long already, you are jeopardizing the baby because you aren’t dilating. You’re headed for surgery.” And just like that, within 15 minutes, I was hearing my baby’s first cry. I was too weak to even hold her and was vomiting from the medication. I went to recovery, and she went to the nursery.
When I finally saw my angel’s face, I knew her name was perfect: Halo.
I stayed in the hospital until Monday. During that time, my lactation consultants stayed by my side, which was a Godsend because my milk wasn’t coming in and had I not had them to help me, I would have given up. We had to supplement with formula for a few days, and I had to use a breastfeeding supplement tube along with nipple shields to get my breast milk flowing. But after almost two weeks of that, my milk finally came in and with a vengeance! I thank God for the entire team, the hospital, my family and my friends who were all there to support me through the most difficult and single greatest moment of my life.
I always get asked if I feel like I’m too old to have kids. My response is, “Why were you so young when you had yours?” Plus, if God had wanted me to stop having kids early, I think He would have made it that way. Happiness is for anyone at any age, and now at 43 years of age with a terrible 2-year-old, I’m ready to do it again! I can’t imagine a life without more children!
Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!