March 12th 2021:
Two words that if I am being honest are going to bug me for a really long time. If you have been following along you know just how much of a miracle this pregnancy has been. Then when the pregnancy that wasn’t supposed to even be able happen became such a dream….I think I knew deep down it was too good to be true. Nevertheless I brushed aside the lingering anxiety of waiting for the other shoe to drop. The first and second trimesters were such a breeze and honestly up until 36 weeks of pregnancy I wanted to be pregnant forever…I had never felt so comfortable in my body, so healthy and so in love.
Each day seemed to just be getting better than the day before. Until it wasn’t.
At my third trimester lab work my midwife noticed that my platelet counts were a little low but didn’t seem too concerned and just wanted to monitor it…I was comfortable with this because she didn’t seem worried and I couldn’t trust anyone more than I do her with my care. I need to mention here that my OB said if I hadn’t been under care with my midwife they would have missed my diagnosis because I didn’t raise any red flags via their standards but because my midwife knew me and knew what my normals were and so when they changed they raised her red flags she prevented what could have been an even scarier situation if we went all the way to full term (40-42 weeks vs pre term term at 38 weeks). We planned to monitor every other week just make sure the numbers were stabilizing. If you know me you know blood draws are not my jam and so I was a little bummed by needing more draws after thinking I was done…BUT was just thankful it wasn’t bad news. We continued with this new plan of action and I honestly put the thought out of my mind that anything could be wrong…I mean I was doing everything right. I was eating basically perfect (choking down foods I hated because it was what baby needed), working out and going for walks twice a day, drinking a gallon of water and following every guideline to a. T…heck I even gave up my biggest vice of caffeine AND chose to do blood sugar monitoring over the glucose drink. Call it cocky, call it confident, I knew I was doing everything possible to give this baby the best start at life. So in my head I didn’t even think twice that something could be going “south” so to speak. So imagine my panic when around 32 weeks my numbers plummeted. No symptoms, no heads up, no signs that anything was wrong. My midwife quickly reassessed and we started a new regimen of supplements and would redraw my labs weekly now…I had also developed anemia out of no where so that raised more cause for concern because my blood cells were destroying themselves faster than they were replenishing. She wanted to also do a 24 hour urine panel to rule out something called HELLP (not going to lie this is where I started to get freaked out because a diagnosis of HELLP meant inducing labor needed to happen and the safest course of action for Levi and I would be delivery. I remember crying to Austin saying it was too early, we needed to make sure to just get to term. I wasn’t having any other signs of HELLP, my blood pressure was normal and I had no swelling so I was trying to stay hopeful that my urine results would come back in the clear. (I was so frustrated at this point because I didn’t feel any different, so other than the lab draws there were no other ways to know how things were going.) They came back, out of range but not diagnostic so we planned to rerun my urine at 36 weeks and I would add in some more protein in my diet to hopefully counteract the protein output in my urine. At this point the nerves had subsided for the most part because my blood panel from that week showed that my platelets had also increased so we assumed the supplements were helping. Everyone took a deep breath and the anxiety that had been lingering for the past weeks seemed to go away, we celebrated and thought we were in the clear. Fast forward to 35 weeks and my blood results came back way worse than they had before…at this point, this close to term my midwife felt it was time to consult with my backup OB and get some more eyes on everything going on. She also had me go ahead and do my 24 hour urine panel ASAP to be able to have as much info as possible to give over to the OB and MFM (maternal fetal medicine) team. Waiting for those results were some of the longest days of my life. The OB wanted to see me in ASAP for an in depth ultrasound and more lab work to make sure Levi was still growing accordingly and he wasn’t being effected by what was going on with my blood. I had that appointment at 36 weeks and he was still snuggled and smushed in there measuring at 39-40 weeks and way ahead of schedule so the OB and MFM felt comfortable with his growth given everything going on. I sat in that office, nervous and such a stark contrast to the comfy couch and calm demeanor of the birth center I was used to. The OB came in and said we would rerun labs and induce by 37 weeks at the latest…I was panicked. We waited for results to come back and when my blood count was stable from the previous week the OB and MFM team felt comfortable pushing the induction date to my 38 week marker. I went from thinking I would be having a baby in another month or so… to okay we are having a baby within the next two weeks or so.
Flash forward a month and some change…April 21st 2021:
Levi is here now. Earthside and healthy, Measuring in at a whopping 11 pounds and 3 ounces. Growing perfectly and in our eyes totally perfect from head to toe. We are easing into our new routines and beginning to process the last few weeks. Healing. Mentally, physically and emotionally. I didn’t think I would be in counseling currently to process the events of everything, but we are doing it. I am dealing with some postpartum anxiety and so it took me a while to sit down and add to this blog post because that meant sitting down and recounting the events in detail but in the end I know getting this out there will help more than hurt.
Originally we kept everything that was going on to ourselves, there was so much back and forth that we didn’t know how everything in regards to Levi’s birth was going to unfold so we didn’t want to go ahead and worry anyone. I always knew I was going to share our birth story with the world because I have spent so many years helping others share theirs. What I didn’t anticipate was having what everyone keeps referring to as a “traumatic birth”. If you ask me, I don’t consider it traumatic. Hard? Yes. Scary? At times. Traumatic? not until immediately postpartum (I’ll get into this a little and then write out our NICU stuff in another post).
Let’s dive in… shall we?
It’s the morning of Monday March 15th and we woke up knowing we would be checking into the hospital later that evening for our induction…after much back and forth everyone agreed 38 weeks (and making it to term so to speak) would be a good call. I spent the weekend doing all of the things to help kickstart dilation and hopefully make the induction process smoother because as per my last appointment I hadn’t been showing any signs of labor and was only a finger tip dilated and a little bit effaced…and when I tell you I was doing ALL of the things I mean it, I’m nothing if not stubborn and committed LOL. I spent the weekend bouncing on my birth ball and consuming a diet of only dates and pineapples (gross.. so gross…literally the first thing I did post labor was chuck my can of dates into the trash HA). So come Monday morning I was feeling pretty confident I had at least some what progressed naturally and this induction would have a good start. We spent the morning taking my nanny babes on one last pre Levi hurrah and dropping the pups off for their boarding stay… then left to get our bags and grab some dinner. We had a therapy session scheduled for 7 and then we were headed into the hospital to meet our boy. I figured logically since I was early and my body wasn’t showing signs of labor on its own we wouldn’t be meeting Levi until sometime Tuesday. I knew they wanted to start me on cervix softening drugs Monday night and I figured by Tuesday afternoon or so he would be here. I was optimistic but also realistic that we were in for a long process and so when we got checked in and settled in I turned on One Tree Hill and tried to get some rest. The nurse came in and inserted the first round and I felt optimistic…I still wasn’t dilated but I was a little bit more effaced so hopefully that meant my weekend of activities had made some progress and this medicine would speed things along….I was wrong. SO SO wrong. They came back in to check me after the first round and there was no change…so we had to wait and do another round…I was still chill at this point because I knew 1-2 rounds was pretty standard…however when I got checked after the second round and there was still no change I started to get a little nervous. We decided on one more round and then we would re check in the morning. At this point I was starting to get a little nervous because I know they usually don’t do an additional round because of the toll it can take so I was just fingers crossed praying this round did the trick. I was having contractions every now and then too so I was SO HOPEFUL. When I woke up Tuesday morning and got checked…we were met with the news of being told I still hadn’t progressed BUT my cervix seemed a little softer so we were going to go ahead and start the pitocin. I was pumped at this point because I was like WOOHOO BABY DAY. With the pitocin started, things started to pickup…contracton wise…not dilation wise…so my body was like HUH…my OB came to break my water on her lunch and my midwife was in route because surely with the contractions I was having and then having my water broken… we would make all the progress and Levi would fly out…HA JUST KIDDING. That seemed to become the theme of our third trimester and Levi’s first week earthside…JUST KIDDING…we were trying to roll with it but at this point I was getting antsy. Once my water was broken, I started bouncing and walking and moving around trying to get this show on the road…then it happened….I started having contractions every like 30 seconds and they were getting INTENSE…I was so excited…based on the contractions and the intensity…we all thought it was baby time…until they checked me….and I hadn’t even dilated more. When I tell you I SOBBED. I was so discouraged at this point. I got asked if I wanted the epidural to give my uterus and myself a break and I was so against it…everything had gone to crap in my head in terms of how going into labor was happening that I wanted to have an unmedicated birth….I wanted to feel it (I would eat these words later but in that moment it was my biggest goal, second to getting him out safely). But kindly and gently…Austin had texted my midwife (Jaime) and gotten in touch with the OB and I think he knew I would only listen to Jaime so when she got there we talked options because when they told me I wasn’t progressing I started considering pain management because I was basically having end of labor contractions barely 1cm dilated. Jaime got there and agreed the epidural would be best and if we were all being honest I prolly wouldn’t be having this baby anytime soon. They got the anesthesiologist called and while we waited for him to show up I prayed I would dilate….do you know how many times I prayed to Jesus about my cervix? I’m sure He got a good chuckle LOL but nevertheless I did. The doctor showed up and Jaime held me as he did his thing. At this point they inserted a catheter into my urethra as well and come to find out this would be the start of the issues I would deal with postpartum HA! I kept complaining about how I could feel it…and the nurses assured me this was normal and I was like DUDE I CAN FEEL IT but left it alone because I felt silly complaining about the thing that was supposed to be the least uncomfortable part of the day… but Jaime even noticed that with how many bags of fluid they were pumping into me my bag was not emptying a ton…so they pushed more fluids thinking it was something else going on, so now I am swelling too LOL. Anyways, I digress. We are nearing Tuesday night and still no Levi. At this point I knew that if there was no Levi by Wednesday morning we would need a c-section because the risk of infection would be too high since my water was broken already. So the mindset shifted from “I want to feel this birth” to “I will do anything and everything to avoid a c-section”. Sure enough, that was tested. My OB called and said “Hey if you wake up tomorrow morning without progression still, we need to get you into a c-section” I was like “Okay. I understand…what do I need to do to make sure we don’t end up there?’
Her: ‘Be rotated and moved every ten minutes…all night”
So that’s what we did Tuesday night. My sweet midwife headed home to get a few hours of sleep and was ready to dash back because everyone was feeling optimistic that with the constant movement, Levi would show up sooner rather than later.
I spent Tuesday night being rotated and moved and AWAKE, but I was determined…the nurses called me stubborn but thats neither here nor there. Still. No baby. We were approaching day 3 in the hospital and I was annoyed. frankly. I was stupid annoyed. At one point we took a break from the pitocin during the night because Levi’s heart rate was dipping and they didn’t want to risk anything. That was scary but quickly resolved so I was thankful. I think I said about a hundred times that night “whatever it takes. I will do”
Well… Wednesday morning when I got checked, I was up to 4 cm. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot but it was PROGRESSION. Everyone was pumped again. My midwife was worried something was wrong because neither of us called her in the middle of the night to say it was baby time…but rest assured she was headed back to us (she is an angel and I really wouldn’t have been able to get through this without her and Austin). We restarted pitocin and contractions were picking up again…it was for sure BABY DAY…one way or another this baby had to come out by lunchtime because we were approaching the day mark of my water being broken. My OB came and took over for the nurse who had been manually stretching me (it was about as fun as it sounds) to get me to 9cm….at this point Austin was on the phone with Jaime like HEY SHE IS GOING TO HAVE THIS BABY NOW…or so we thought….JUST KIDDING. Jaime makes it back to the hospital and still no Levi. My OB was like “Ok I can stretch you to a 9 and a half….we are going to push…this was at like 1:00pm….I was like okay cool I AM READY, and yay for me….the bolus epidural they had given me was worn off so I was going to get to feel this birth. I was really excited…however I could no longer feel the start and end of contractions…they were just a constant so I kept asking when I was supposed to push because my body just felt like continuously pushing and I was confused because it was as if I could feel him coming out and then being sucked back in….but surely I wasn’t pulling him back in. This is where things got dicey and I honestly just remember yelling at a nurse saying I was pushing, and to shut up…Austin holding one hand and Jaime the other. My OB was cheering and I really thought I was close man, she sounded so excited and was like I CAN SEE HIM…then he would disappear. She asked me if she could cut me…I was like OMG SHE ASKED ME….most don’t. My midwife said this was the first time she ever heard an OB ask for consent first. Which leads me to my your birth team matters, I made such a stink about the birth that I wanted, that even when everything went “wrong” so to speak, each person in that room made sure my wishes were honored as much as they could have been. I digressed. Anyways….she was like “ok on the next contraction I am going to cut you….breathe through it” Might I mind you I can feel E V E R Y T H I N G at this point and I was like OK WOW YOU CUT ME….but next thing I knew Levi was on my chest. 3:22pm. Almost three hours of pushing later. Turns out he was stuck on a piece of cervical tissue so that was why I was having so much trouble dilating and why she had to cut him out of me. I was so excited. So happy and the pain of what was going on in my vagina was irrelevant, BUT then things got scary… Levi still wasn’t crying. I started whacking his back…. and then my OB said ” I know you wanted delayed cord clamping BUT if you still want to cut the cord Austin you need to do it NOW” and so he did…and then Levi started looking a little purple and they snatched him away from me. Then they were like HE’S NOT BREATHING… Austin left my side to go stay with him and Jaime stayed with me. However now that there was no longer a cute little (funny looking because bubby had the worst shaped head in the beginning I can’t even lie) I was all too aware of what was happening. My OB has begun stitching me and I could feel…. ALL OF IT. I finally was like OK I CAN FEEL THIS TOO AND I DO NOT WANT TO. They got me drugs. 12/10 do not recommend a lidocaine shot to the vagina but the after effects were nice HA! Then things got scarier….they whisked Levi away and Austin turned around and I started to hemorrhage and Austin puked. Jaime left me to go talk him through the fact that, Levi was on oxygen and he would be ok…and that I was indeed NOT dying and this was why we needed to induce…the bleeding was expected and there were plans in place….I would be OK. Once I was stitched up and the crime scene of a room was cleaned up…we still had no baby in the room with us. This made the initial postpartum period….REALLY miserable…here I am…in the worst pain….but with no newborn to distract from it, not to mention the mental strain of not knowing if he was okay because no one would tell us anything. Also…remember that pesky catheter? Turns out it was in wrong and I needed two additional single catheters to empty my now distended bladder…which in turn gave me a fun little thing called urethra trauma to add to the 30 stitches in my vagina. Basically I cried going to the bathroom every time during the first two weeks and that was after needing both Jaime and Austin to help me go to the bathroom for the first time.. and Austin helping me everytime after that. (Real classy.. I know)
Finally a few hours later, a nurse came in and said he was stable and in the NICU and we could go down and see him during his “touch time” as to not over stimulate him. Austin wheeled me to the NICU and we saw him in his little box and it was emotional…they were in the process of molding his head so that was reassuring to know he wouldn’t be stuck with the trauma of that forever. We got to touch him through the holes in the side and then his monitors started all going off and we were ushered out with a login to a camera to be able to watch him from our room. So thats how we spent our first night postpartum….staring at him through a screen. Finally the next morning I got to hold him to latch for the first time and (I will have to do a whole other blog post about how breast-feeding journey because its just too much for this one) he didn’t really eat much because he was on an IV of fluids, antibiotics and sugars so sweet boy just really didn’t have an interest because he was already full. BUT he was in my arms and it was perfect.
The days that followed in his first week of life would be a whirlwind of NICU stays, naps on plastic chairs, breast pumps, milk driving (boob dash as Austin called it) and an ER trip at 3am for a severe infection (thanks catheters) but those are stories for another post.
Our sweet boy finally got to come home (for good) a week later and he’s growing perfectly as he should now. His head is rounder, his belly is rounder and he’s breathing SO YAY for all of that. I am healing, physically, mentally and emotionally and we are getting back into the swing of things and just grateful we survived our first two weeks postpartum…the weeks following. those two have been blissful.
To recap, the birth was nothing like what I thought it would be but somehow just what it needed to be…could have done without how the immediate postpartum time went BUT the birth itself was such a testament to the miracle this sweet boy has been from the beginning. Against all odds we did it. Against all odds our sweet Levi Michael Rodrigues entered this world at 3:22pm on March 17th 2021 weighing 8 pounds 13 ounces born via MY VAGINA. Proud. In love. So grateful.
Photos at home by Soul Dreamer Photo
I wish I could share all of the photos from this session but storage space on the post ismaxxed… so ill save some for the NICU and breastfeeding ones.
One of the things I was mourning most about our birth changing was the fact that Jen would no longer be able to capture our birth story and so she offered to come capture our first days at home….who knew we wouldn’t be home as a family until a week later BUT these photos are going to be some that I treasure forever. We didn’t get ready, we didn’t shower and we just kept it real and honest and raw and beautiful. The best reminder of the sweetness gift we were given…in the midst of the hardest week of our lives. Forever grateful.
Eventually I will write out our NICU journey and some of our postpartum journey but until then…thank you for following along and loving our sweet boy. We would do it all over again for him.