I wasn't going to give birth in a hospital.
I cannot tell you how many times I said this, not only internally to myself, but out loud to anyone who would ask. Not that I have some crazy vendetta against hospitals, I just longed for a natural birth; especially for my first child. It was going to be magical. Baby would be born under the star lit ceiling of the birth center suite, I'd have the close support of my amazing husband and team of midwives. It would be captured by one of my fellow photographers for us to look back on the memories for years to come. We'd spend the first hours of baby's arrival with an abundance of skin to skin contact and life would be perfect.
Little did I realize that this plan of mine was not. even. close.
My pregnancy was easy. Sure, the first trimester had some serious bouts of nausea but I was lucky enough to never get to the puking stage. Second trimester was amazing and I fell into a great fitness routine which provided a welcomed boost of energy.
Then the third trimester hit and around 32 weeks I started to get more uncomfortable, as most women do, so there was no cause for alarm. The only difference between myself and "most women" was the fact that we were now 2 weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, scrambling to postpone weddings (21 to be exact), juggle a giant home/business construction project that was now a month underway, scrambling to budget our company's finances for 4+ months of no income, oh and trying to get the nursery, which had also recently been renovated, finished for baby. Needless to say, my stress levels were a tad higher than usual.
Baby had been breech from the get-go and had nestled into the same position in my belly with very little day-to-day adjustments. Butt was down, head was up in my ribs and those soccer star feet were kicking away all along the right side of my belly. Since we needed to get baby to change positions in order to deliver at the birth center, a week earlier we had started implementing some natural tricks into my daily routine to encourage baby to flip on their own.
It was Monday at midnight as I hit 36 weeks when I woke up with some intense nausea. My stomach was sore and I found myself pacing around the bedroom for hours just to try to keep from puking. It felt like baby had shifted but not flipped and it was causing some serious discomfort. Finally after puking around 7am, we called the midwife and scheduled an appointment for later that morning. By this time my body was pretty swollen and the nausea hadn't let up so we sat in her office breathing in peppermint oils, practicing calming breathing techniques and gentle massages all over my belly to determine where baby was and if we could encourage them to shift back. It seemed to be working since my blood pressure was through the roof when we arrived and after 20 minutes it had dropped down to a more manageable 135 range. Sadly the nausea hadn't subsided so the new plan was to schedule an External Cephalic Version (ECV) within the next day or so to get baby in the correct position.
Finally, around 11:30pm that evening, almost 24 hours later, the nausea suddenly subsided and I was able to get some rest. Tuesday I slept. Wednesday I was back to normal and put in a full day of work; Facebook live wedding planning sessions and all! But then Wednesday morning around 3am I woke up and ran to the bathroom. The nausea was back 10x worse and I was puking immediately. "Great", I thought, "not this again"....
I survived until 8am when I gave my husband an ultimatum; emergency room or we convince my midwife to find me an OB to take me that day for an ECV. My amazing midwife contacted what turned out to be my new OB for this journey, and I just needed to make it until noon to find some relief with an ECV.
She started by poking around my belly to see where baby was but there was some confusion as to baby's position. Baby was still breech but we just weren't sure where the head was. There was a large round bulge on the upper right side of my belly that could be the head but it didn't make sense with the rest of the positioning. They decided to do two things. First we hooked baby up to monitor heart rate and hooked me to watch for contractions; something I swore up and down I wasn't having. Sure, my belly was sore but I assumed it was still from Monday's 24 hour episode and I wasn't feeling bursts of discomfort at regular intervals. Baby's heart rate was all over the map, jumping into the 150's and then dipping into the 90's. Not cool baby. Next, I needed to not be ungodly nauseous. So I popped in a dissoluble anti-nausea pill and about 2 minutes later the nausea was gone. Amazing! But a new sensation seemed to have taken its place. My OB looked at me with a goofy smile on her face and stated, "Yeah, that's a contraction." A what?! No way. You mean to tell me I'm in labor? Apparently, my nausea was so strong I had no idea that soreness in my belly were actually contractions.
By this time we should have known the path we were heading down but I was still in such a state of shock, we just weren't thinking clearly. My OB decided she wanted us to head over to the hospital for "additional monitoring" keeping me calm by saying it would likely just be for overnight observation. Again, we were still so oblivious as to how serious my situation was, my OB's comment about how she was going to clear her calendar for the day and meet us there didn't register that we'd be meeting our child soon...
A hospital. Great. We walked in to get our forehead's temperature scanned, answered the barrage of COVID-19 symptom questions to the lady covered from head to toe in PPE that all you could see were the slivers of her eyes. Her muffled "second floor to the right" directions got us to the maternity ward. Now the fun really began. Right away it was strip down and hook you up. It took 4 failed attempts with 3 collapsed veins for them to finally bring in an anesthesiologist to actually hit a vein for an IV. Not the best way to begin my stay. My husband's face was a unique mixture of fuming and horror at this point. Now the staff started getting more honest about the path we were on and began mentally prepping me for a C-Section. I wasn't on board until my new OB arrived all scrubbed up looking like she was ready for the delivery room that I realized I had 1 option and it was time to meet our child.
I knew very little about a C-Section. Heck, we didn't even have a girls name picked out at this point! The nursery wasn't finished, we didn't have diapers...we barely had anything off our registry since our shower was COVID cancelled. We were not ready for this. But that's how life goes right? If there's anything my husband and I have gotten good at over the years it's been getting thrown into the thick of it just to start navigating our way out together. Apparently having a baby would be no different.
Thankfully, they allowed my husband to scrub in and be with me for the surgery. Between the shock of what was happening and the drugs, I was pretty out of it, so I really needed him by my side. A few minutes later she was out! My husband whispered to me, "It's a girl!" and they whisked her away to the other side of the room for examination. Her little breech legs were up at her ears and all I remember was the entire staff commenting on how "folded" in half she was. Sorry kid. Then, after what felt like hours, she let out a very welcomed cry. She was perfect and perfectly healthy. My heart filled with joy! Elaina Mae arrived on April 30th 2020 at 6:08pm.
Soon after, they kicked my husband out to the recovery room and finished stitching me up. My OB asked if I wanted to see the placenta and actually, I did. It was pretty amazing seeing the home our little girl had for the past 8 months. But it was a good thing we arrived at the hospital when we did because my preeclampsia had started to do some serious damage. There were little pea sized calcium deposits all throughout the placenta and she began pointing out tears across it was well. Another day of me toughing it out and it would have ruptured. And remember that lump in the upper right-hand side that we thought might be her head? Turns out it was my liver, growing in size, with labs coming in at 4x the normal levels. Glad we kept poking it to see if we could get it to move...
The next 2 days are kind of a blur. Between the medications and lack of sleep, it's all a bit fuzzy but come Saturday night things began to come into focus. I had a daughter. A beautiful 7lb 6oz little girl who looked just like her daddy and, oddly enough, her grandfather! The jury is still out if she'll start to look like her mommy anytime soon...
Today is her due date (May 25th 2020) and she's already 3 weeks and 4 days old. I'm doing amazing with a clean bill of health, normal blood pressure and no more swelling. Little baby Elaina Mae is also doing amazing as she's already grown to 8lbs! She's been rocking a body brace for the last 2.5 weeks to correct the hip dyspepsia from her super breech positioning. She'll be in it for another 4 weeks but hopefully we get the green light after that to remove it. It doesn't bother her any, just me, as it makes out skin on skin time harder and completely prevents her from being dressed in cute clothing. I guess I'll just have to make up for not getting to play with all those adorable newborn outfits with some equally fashionable 3 month styles.
It hasn't been easy being a COVID mom but I have a pretty amazing support system that's helped me navigate so much unknown. We keep finding silver linings in the lock down, like the extra time we get to spend as a new family without the worry of hosting weddings at the same time. This year's season kicks off July 3rd which gives me a wonderful stretch of maternity leave.
So that's our story! I know you've all been asking and I can only keep apologizing for my delayed replies or not reaching out to say "hello". We're working hard to find a rhythm and routine to make reconnecting with friends and family that much easier once the COVID crazy-ness subsides.
Photographer: Katie & Whitney