Just over three weeks ago, our baby boy was born. The first two times I went into labor with this pregnancy were very scary since our baby was not yet full term then. His actual delivery was also scary, but for a whole new set of reasons. I had very meticulously written out my birth plan, almost all of which got completely thrown out once the time came. Luckily, all went well in the end, and we were blessed with a healthy, happy and beautifully perfect 9 pound 1 ounce baby boy who we named Edison.
My pregnancy journey was an unusual one (read the earlier post here). Around 32 weeks into the pregnancy, I started developing some bad bed sores on my legs, hips and arms from having spent so much time on strict bed rest. Some women say they are prescribed bed rest for their pregnancy, and may or may not actually be spending the majority of their day in bed. I took my bed rest prescription very seriously. I spent nearly all of my time lying on my left side as recommended. I got up only to quickly use the restroom or make a brief trip to the kitchen. Our dogs got used to only being let out when I got up to use the restroom myself. I needed to stay lying down as much as possible in order to fight gravity, and do everything I could to keep the baby in for as long as possible. All of that lying down unfortunately really affected my circulation, leading to the bed sores.
Once I noticed that the bed sores were starting to take over my skin, I started trying to reposition my arms and legs a little more frequently while still lying in bed on my left side. This unfortunately led to some awkward and uncomfortable positions. One particular day, while I was lying with my legs bent and somewhat apart, I noticed a severe pain in my upper inner thigh/pelvic bone area. From what I can gather, it must have been at this point where I started developing problems with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. From that point on, it became extremely difficult for me to stand up or walk. My husband had to get me a cane so I would be able to get myself out of bed and walk the few feet to the bathroom.
Once I was past 37 weeks and the baby was considered full term, I was allowed to get off bed rest and start to try to regain my strength. It was difficult since the larger the baby grew, the worse my pelvic bone pain felt. We expected that once I was taken off bed rest and off my medication to prevent preterm labor, that the baby would come right away. There were quite a few nights where contractions would start at regular intervals, and get more intense and closer together. On a few occasions, this even went on for over 12 hours before the contractions suddenly started slowing down and getting further apart. The progression of the contractions never made it to the point again where they were close enough together to warrant going into the hospital. I started to get worried that something was wrong and that the baby had gotten stuck.
Our baby’s head had been measuring very large for quite a while. Since I had so many problems with preterm labor, my uterine abnormality, an incompetent cervix, early leak of amniotic fluid, etc., I had quite a number of ultrasounds throughout my pregnancy. From around 30 weeks and on, his head kept measuring in around the 99th percentile and was rapidly growing. I measure in at a very petite 5 foot tall, and my pre-pregnancy weight was barely over 100 pounds. I was concerned for a while that my small pelvis size and his large head may be a problem.
I tried to ignore the pelvic bone pain as much as possible, and take advantage of the time I had to finally get the rest of our house unpacked and organized. I went on a massive decluttering and organizing spree, which felt amazing and kept my mind off the pain. I got pregnant just shortly after we bought this house, and since I had to spend most of my pregnancy on one form of bed rest or another, there were many rooms that were still filled with boxes waiting to be unpacked.
I figured that all of the cleaning and moving boxes would get the baby back on track to come out. My due date came and went, and still no baby. My doctor noticed that the baby actually seemed to be moving back up, after months of being low and in position. My cervix was actually progressing backwards as well, and was getting longer and thicker, after months of being almost completely effaced. The whole thing was so strange, but again made me worry that something was wrong and he just was not able to fit his head anymore into the birth canal.
Just before I was going to hit 41 weeks, my husband and I were working on finishing painting our living room. I started getting some really strong contractions, which I could feel were pushing the baby down lower. The pelvic bone pain got to be way more than I could handle. I went to go lie down in bed for a while, hoping to relieve some of the pressure on my pelvic bones. Once I was in bed, I felt and heard a huge pop in between my pelvic bones, in the front and center. The pain was unlike anything I have ever felt in my life. At that point, I could not even get myself out of bed at all anymore.
The bone pop happened on a Friday night, and I hoped that resting in bed all weekend would help lessen the pain a little. Nothing changed at all over the weekend. By Monday morning, I called my doctor’s office to see if they could reschedule my appointment and have the doctor see me as soon as possible. When I told them what had happened, they recommended that I go into the labor & delivery ward at the hospital right away.
Once I was admitted into the hospital, they connected me to all the monitors. Apparently, I was having very regular and strong contractions at that point and could not feel them at all. My contractions were measuring through the roof on the chart, and the nurses were in shock that I could not feel the contractions at all. The theory that your brain can only process one major pain at a time is definitely true…I was in such excruciating pain from the pelvic bone problem that I could not even feel the contractions at all.
When the doctor on call came in, he basically brushed off my entire situation. He said that in his experience, Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction only becomes an issue AFTER labor, and never before. He said that I must be just having normal round ligament pain. After the contractions eventually died down again, I was finally discharged and went to go see my regular doctor.
I explained to my doctor that I have a really high pain threshold, and this pain was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. After growing up doing years of dance and martial arts, I had danced with a broken foot, sparred with a fractured elbow, and a million other crazy things. Even recalling the pain of traumatic cheerleading head injuries didn’t compare to the pain I was in currently. I previously thought that my HSG had been the most painful experience of my life – a horrible experience where the radiologist repeatedly put a large metal clamp with teeth onto my cervix to hold it in place for a catheter, with no anesthesia or pain medication (this was procedure was done so I could know exactly what was wrong with my uterus). None of those things came anywhere close to the amount of pain I was in at this point. The pelvic bone pain was so severe that I literally could not stop shaking and sweating. We were concerned at this point that my pelvic bones may have completely separated or one may have even fractured.
My original birth plan laid out all of the details of how I envisioned my labor and delivery to progress. I wanted everything completely natural, with no labor induction, no epidural, etc. I spent months researching all of the various options, and explaining all of my choices to my husband and my mom. When I was growing up, my grandfather was a doctor and very influential in the way that we all viewed health and wellness. He had his M.D., but started out as a D.O. He took a very holistic approach to medicine for someone with an M.D. We were always taught that your body works best without trying to mask symptoms with medication. For instance, if we had a cold, he would give us homemade soup instead of cold medicine. He said that unnecessary medications keep you sick longer and do more damage by preventing the body from naturally doing its job. Following her father’s advice I always felt my mom was one of the original “crunchy moms,” being a strong advocate for natural childbirth, exclusive breastfeeding, etc. This greatly influenced my plan to have a natural unmedicated childbirth.
I was also concerned about having any kind of medical intervention in my delivery due to the increased risks of uterine rupture and other complications with my uterine abnormality. After I found out from the HSG that I had a t-shaped uterus, I read as much as I could to find out what that meant. From what I read and what my doctor told me, my particular type of uterus is not as elastic or stretchy as a regular uterus. I also read that if you are having problems with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) an epidural is not at all recommended because you could end up making your condition worse during labor if you are unable to feel the effects of your bone/ligament pain. Below is a picture of my uterus from my HSG, prior to this pregnancy.
So here I was, previously dead set on having a natural childbirth, and starting to have a feeling that it would not be possible. My doctor told me I had two options at this point: c-section or keep walking around in the hopes that labor would start again on its own and some progression would actually be made this time. He told me that I was not a candidate for labor induction so that was not an option. He also mentioned that there was a good chance of my pelvic bone problems getting worse if I decided to try to wait for a natural delivery. During all the months of research and planning, I told my husband that no matter what, I wanted to do anything I could to avoid a c-section. I was not afraid of the pain of labor, but I was afraid of having a c-section. I hate the idea of surgery, and have had some really scary reactions to anesthesia in the past. I wanted to do anything we could to avoid all the extra risks of having a c-section, and the extended recovery time.
Over the course of the weekend prior, I had spent a lot of time in prayer, hoping that the pain would lessen. I prayed for God to have his hand on me and my baby. I prayed for us and my doctors to have the discernment to make the right decisions for what would be best for both me and our baby. While I was lying in bed resting, I came across an article in an online newspaper about a woman who had a severe case of SPD, and decided not to have a c-section. The decision to have a natural birth ended up leaving her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Her viewpoint on the situation was positive, but I knew I absolutely did not want to end up in that situation myself. I came to the conclusion at that point that I would trust that if my doctor felt that a c-section was the right decision, I would not fight throwing out my birth plan.
My husband and I took a few minutes alone together at the doctor’s office before making the final decision. I explained to him why I had completely changed my mind, and how I felt this was the right option to choose at this point. I think he was scared since I had spent months telling him all the risks of a c-section, and how much I hate any type of anesthesia. He knew that the pain must have definitely crossed into the unbearable threshold for me to completely change my mind so drastically. I told my doctor my decision, and my c-section was scheduled for the following morning.
We left my doctor’s office nervous, scared, and yet also hopeful, relieved and happy at the same time. I was scared out of my mind about the surgery, but I was so relieved that there would hopefully be some relief to the pain coming soon, and that we would finally be able to meet our baby boy! It felt like he was long overdue since we were expecting to meet him around 37 weeks, and I was almost 41 weeks now! Before we went home for the night, we stopped by our church to try to find our priest and update him on the situation. We were able to find him, and he performed the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick for me. We felt some peace as we left, knowing that we had put the situation in the Lord’s hands.
I don’t think either one of us slept the night before my surgery. I had not gotten any sleep since Friday because of the pain anyway. Prior to the delivery day, we had spent a lot of time trying to determine the fastest routes to the hospital, at varying times of the day, accounting for traffic, construction, etc. Most days, it would take us approximately 30 minutes or more to drive the 6 miles to the hospital. The morning of my surgery, it took us less than 10 minutes.
Early in my pregnancy, I had gone to a class at our hospital that went over their NICU features and had one of their anesthesiologists review the pain management options for labor. I went to the class because we were assuming I would be having a preemie that would most likely end up in the NICU. I was adamant that I would not be having an epidural, but just in case of emergency, I asked the anesthesiologist where specifically the epidural and spinals were placed in the spine. I had some fractures in my L4 & L5 area of my spine after a bad fall down some stairs in college, and was told years later after a car accident that those fractures had left some bad bone spurs in that area. When I explained my history to the anesthesiologist and asked how that would affect me if I needed an epidural or a spinal, he brushed off my question. He told me that I must be mistaken on the location, and that if that were really the case, I would have had to have had back surgery at some point, and it was unlikely that I would be walking around. I later recounted the story with my regular doctor, who recommended that I try to track down the old x-rays in case of emergency.
The morning of my c-section, I was so glad that I listened to my doctor’s advice and got those x-rays. It took me months of phone calls to the radiology department at a different hospital, but I was finally able to get them, just days before my c-section. When I showed the prints of the x-rays to the anesthesiologist, he was very glad that I had those on hand to show them. He said from those x-rays, he would be able to find a different area of my spine where he could insert the spinal that wouldn’t cause problems with my bone spurs and arthritis. The most ironic part of the pregnancy: when I was admitted into the hospital for the surgery, I was still getting contractions that I could not notice because of my pelvic bone pain. At this point, they were actually two minutes apart, strong, and coming at regular intervals. However, the baby was still not making any progress down. I knew we had made the right decision with the help of my doctor.
When they wheeled me into the O.R. (they had to wheel me on a bed since I couldn’t walk that far), the anesthesiologist had me sit up and curl up into a ball so he could insert the spinal. The whole process was really difficult since leaning forward put more pressure on my pelvic bones. I couldn’t stop shaking, which unfortunately made things more difficult for the anesthesiologist. Everything started to go numb, and luckily they brought my husband in which helped me calm down a little.
At one point during the surgery, I started to feel very dizzy and nauseous. I could barely talk, but I whispered something to my husband who told the anesthesiologist. I was so glad my husband understood whatever gibberish I whispered to him because it barely even made sense to me. The anesthesiologist was able to give me something right away to help with those symptoms.
Before too long, I saw them take our big baby boy up and away from my body, and over to another area of the room. I was shocked when I saw him…we had expected he would have either red or blonde curly or wavy hair when he was born, like both of us. Surprisingly, our baby boy Edison was born with straight dark hair! That was the first thing I noticed. I then quickly noticed from across the room that he had a huge bump on the side of his head. I was immediately upset and freaked out. All of my worries and concerns over my own issues suddenly seemed so miniscule when I started worrying that something may be wrong with our baby.
Below: Edison being delivered, photographed by my husband.
Below: his strong little legs, after months of pushing against my small uterus.
Below: the doctors examining the large bump on his head.
Below: His big noggin, measuring in at just under 15 inches around.
They weighed and measured him, and announced that he was a healthy 9 pounds 1 ounce. Quite a bit different from the tiny NICU preemie baby that we were expecting I would have! Apparently, my very deformed uterus was able to handle quite a bit more than we had expected. I have a few theories about what made that possible, which I will blog about later. They brought him over to meet me, and when I talked to him, he looked at me with this look like, “So that’s what you look like, Mommy!”. I was happy beyond words.
Then they brought him to the nursery, and I was brought to the recovery room. My baby and my husband were gone in the nursery for what felt like forever. I found out after that it was actually about 3 hours, but it felt a lot longer. When they finally came back, I was dying to know what they said about the huge bump on his head. We didn’t get a clear answer about the bump at this point, but were assured that he was healthy and it was likely nothing to be concerned about. They would give us more answers after his pediatrician examined it later.
Part 2 of our birth story will be coming soon, including my postpartum recovery story.