A Long Difficult Road that Leads to a Happy Ending
This is the story of Cristy's journey to motherhood.
Nothing worth having ever comes easy – or so they say – and this definitely was the case for us. One year ago this month, we were going through fertility treatments in hopes to fulfill our dream of having a family.
In September, we discovered that our tiny human was on his way to join us. It felt like winning the lottery! We decided against finding out the sex of our little one until his birthday. I’m so glad we did because on the day he arrived, it was the one thing left that offered a joyous surprise.
Being a homebirth midwifery student and birth doula, I spent my pregnancy supporting families as they welcomed their babes into the world. Most of these were beautiful homebirths and water births, with the rare hospital transfer resulting in a necessary cesarean section – because birth is unpredictable. Fortunately, due to my background, I’d been in the operating room for a handful of cesarean surgeries and was familiar with the process from start to finish.
I was super healthy during my pregnancy with no complications, despite my “advanced maternal age” (ugh!) and an IVF conception. I felt great! I was swimming and hiking with our dog regularly, eating really well, and generally just enjoyed the experience. On the day we hit week 39, after a week or so of elevated blood pressure readings (but normal lab results), my BP spiked to dangerous levels. The collective decision was made with our midwife to go to the hospital.
Very shortly after arriving, I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and learned I was at risk of having a stroke or seizure. The quick version of my birth story is that after 36 hours of failed induction, increasing preeclampsia symptoms and BP levels, and a babe that decided to turn breech during that time, we were off to the OR for surgery.
Getting our little guy into the world was difficult.
In the end, the doctor had to make a rare classical T incision on my uterus to remove him. The result is that my future children must be born by cesarean. The way the uterus contracts during labor makes laboring with this incision very dangerous. It increases the risk of uterine rupture exponentially.
So, ironically, no homebirth is in the future for this midwife.
When our gorgeous baby boy, Koa, was placed on my chest and I laughed and cried in a way I had never experienced! I will remember that feeling for the rest of my life.
Our postpartum period commenced with three more days in the hospital during which I was so inflated with fluids from the preeclampsia and surgery that I was nearly unrecognizable. It was crazy.
Most of the time with preeclampsia, symptoms resolve once the baby is born, but not in my case. We had spent three nights at home and were just finding our groove when we landed back in the hospital for two nights. The blood pressure medication I was on wasn’t working and I was still at risk for stroke or seizure. I was put on a magnesium drip for 24 hours. This had also been the case just before Koa was born, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was this time around. Imagine feelings of a terrible flu combined with the worst hangover you’ve ever had and voilà!, that’s magnesium.
Needless to say, that stint in the hospital was rotten. Thankfully, my husband and Koa were able to stay with me throughout it. After I was discharged, it took another week and a half, and tweaking of medication, until my blood pressure finally stabilized. Physically, this time was filled with strange headache-type pains, some wonky vision, profuse sweating and major deflation, not to mention all that accompanies recovering from major abdominal surgery. It was not exactly the start to motherhood that I had envisioned.
Mentally, I was struggling with trying to understand how I could feel so healthy at the end of my pregnancy yet actually be so ill. That is part of what makes preeclampsia so dangerous. I was anxious each time my BP was taken and worried about my health and what my family would do if something happened to me. I was also dealing with letting go of what I had hoped my birth would’ve been, and what surgery meant for my recovery.
Perhaps the thing that got to me most, though, was the fact that I would never be able to have the birth I’d envisioned…not in this lifetime, anyways.
I am still coming to terms with not only that, but how I will move forward as a midwife supporting homebirths knowing that I’ll never have one of my own. I know there are lessons to be learned from this experience and I look forward to exploring them.
There is a very large part of me that tells myself, after everything, Koa and I are lucky to be alive and healthy – and that we’re blessed to have him and that IVF was a successful (YAY science!).
I am so incredibly grateful, yet I know despite this I’ll be dealing with my feelings around homebirth for a while. Now that my health is back on track, we’ve been able to dive into what we anticipated the postpartum period would really being like.
Thankfully, from the start Koa has been a champion breastfeeder. I feel like after everything, the universe was like, “Ok, you can have this.” I know breastfeeding can be super challenging, and I’m elated that we have been able to do this together, and do it well. It feels like a big victory during this time!
Koa is thriving, but this is only due to a great amount of teamwork. My husband takes care of me so I can take care of Koa. Before leaving for work each day, he makes me the most amazing breakfast. He puts fruit, PB and J toast, yogurt, hardboiled eggs, juice, water, oatmeal with chia seeds in a thermos, and my vitamins on a tray next to the bed so I can nibble throughout the morning. This has been a lifesaver! I highly recommend it.
A few things about postpartum life have popped up that I wasn’t quite expecting. The first is how much time I would actually spend breastfeeding – this kiddo has nearly doubled his birth weight at eight weeks old.
The second is how quickly those little fingernails grow and how hard they are to file! And the last thing is how challenging it can be to figure out the timing of things – showers, leaving the house, taking the dog out, doing schoolwork…
On the days when I have all my ducks in a row and Koa is onboard too, it feels amazing. I waited longer than the average gal to become a mama. Being pregnant, giving birth, and stepping into motherhood were dreams that finally came to fruition and for this I couldn’t be more grateful. Each have written incredible chapters in the story of my life and offered opportunities for growth and reflection. Writing the next chapter is something I look forward to immensely. When I look down at Koa, our brave little warrior, everything feels right – like it has all played out exactly how it was supposed to – and I can’t wait to live my life as his mama.