Hi, I’m Rachel, the owner of A Life With A Little. I blog about parenting, living with postpartum depression and anxiety, faith, and being frugal. To really understand my blog, you need to understand my birth story. It’s a huge part of why I started this blog and what I want to share with other moms.
My son, Emmeric, came into the world on June 2, 2016. He weighed 6 lbs 13 ozs and was 19.5” long. He came crying into the world with fluffy hair and big eyes and immediately altered my world.
However, my labor and delivery started at 38 weeks due to preeclampsia. For months leading up to labor, I struggled with intense ankle swelling, high blood pressure, and even some protein in my urine. All these signs of preeclampsia concerned my doctor and gave my husband, Daniel, and I pause as we created a birth plan. To be fair, Daniel didn’t care one way or the other about what our birth plan consisted of. He just wanted a healthy baby, and I did, too.
My birth plan looked a lot like this:
- No pain medication until I decide it’s necessary.
- Vaginal delivery only, please.
- Let me walk around the labor and delivery floor while I do this active labor thing.
- Give me other options for pain management until I need an epidural.
- Don’t tie me to an IV.
- Let me breastfeed my son as soon as he’s out.
- Have Daniel cut the umbilical cord.
Simple things, right?
I had no grand plans of a water birth or all-natural home birth or anything like that. I just wanted a safe delivery, and after going through a childbirth class at the hospital, I realized my biggest concerns were a healthy baby and being able to breastfeed. I’d give up everything else on my list if Emmeric was healthy and we could breastfeed.
At my 38 week checkup, my doctor decided the high blood pressure was too concerning to allow me to wait out the next two weeks. If I remember right, my blood pressure was somewhere around 150/100, and the 100 in the bottom made it necessary to induce.
Cue a whirlwind of activity. I went to that visit alone but left on the phone with my husband and mother, planning to put together a quick labor bag and head back to the hospital that afternoon. I ran home for a shower, a quick lunch, and the basic things I would need for labor and delivery, which I hadn’t even started preparing yet. We didn’t even have a pediatrician picked out, which will be important later in my story.
At the hospital, my parents met us, and we walked into the L&D floor together. They had prepared a room for me already, so we were ushered right in and I received a hospital gown. I changed and found out I’d be hooked up to an IV immediately. So much for that plan!
Before I’d been there an hour, I had an IV going with magnesium dripping through my veins. Why magnesium? Because they use it to prevent seizures, a common side effect of eclampsia (the next stage of preeclampsia). I also needed cervadil, a medication used to soften the cervix for labor. At the time, I was roughly 2 centimeters dilated, so it would be a while before I could go into active labor.
I went to the hospital on Wednesday, June 1st, and I found out I would be hooked up to an IV and on cervadil for 12 hours before they could induce me. Because of the magnesium, I also enjoyed having a catheter placed as well. Add in the lack of any food or water, and I was famished by the time the first night was over.
I barely slept in the hospital that first night. It was too strange to be hooked up to so many machines and unable to really get comfortable. Daniel stayed with me, but nothing exciting happened that night. Things got more exciting the next day.
On Thursday morning, the doctor removed the cervadil and broke my waters to really get labor going. That happened around 10 am. We found out Emmeric wasn’t facing the right direction (though he was head down, thankfully) and would come out sideways.
A few hours after the induction started, they turned off the Pitocin in my drip and went to assist another woman who was further along. I strongly suspect I could have delivered then, but they needed to get this other woman taken care of. When they came back, it was go time.
A flurry of doctors, nurses, aids, and students entered my room along with my husband and mom. My epidural barely staved off the pain of back labor, only really working on my left side. My right side still experienced the horrible tightness and pain every single contraction.
It seemed to take forever but really only lasted about 30 minutes at the most, maybe less. I pushed through 5 contractions, and Emmeric popped out into the world. I thankfully couldn’t feel any of that aside from the contractions. Because of his position, Emmeric tore me up. I had second degree tears that took my doctor over an hour to repair based on where they were, and I lost double the amount of blood in a normal vaginal delivery.
But Emmeric was there in my arms, and that was good.
I stayed in L&D another 24 hours because the magnesium had to stay on for at least 24 hours to make sure I didn’t have a seizure. The lack of mobility really frustrated me since those hospital beds are not made for comfort. But I stayed and tried to nurse my tiny, sleepy baby. I wondered over his tiny limbs and hands and feet. Emmeric was perfect.
From the beginning we struggled with breastfeeding. Emmeric stayed sleepy because of the magnesium in his body, and we couldn’t get a good latch when he did nurse. I had lactation consultants in and out of my room offering advice and help.
When they moved me to the recovery wing, I was thrilled to lose the catheter, IV, and other accouterments. I got my first shower and enjoyed more food. We still struggled with nursing throughout the rest of our stay, which was extended by a day because my blood pressure wasn’t decreasing fast enough.
By the time we left the hospital on Sunday, I had made an appointment with a hospital recommended pediatrician and heard that even though Emmeric had lost weight, it was all okay. We just needed to stick to a good schedule of nursing and get his weight back up.
It seems surreal to say we were only home until Wednesday.
But that’s what happened. We continued nursing a sleepy, lethargic baby and trying to pacify him when he cried. I was exhausted. Daniel was exhausted. My mom came to help out during the day when Daniel went back to work, and we gave Emmeric his first bath.
Then we went to his first pediatrician visit with a doctor I knew nothing about. My mom was planning to leave our apartment that afternoon after staying there all day to help me out. Daniel took us to the pediatrician, and we walked in with our tiny bundle of joy, excited to see how things were progressing.
They weighed Emmeric. That was my first clue something was off. He weighed 5 lbs 12 ozs, a full pound less than his birth weight. I felt concerned but decided to take my cue from the doctor.
He came into the room and began his examination, asking us pointed questions about the delivery and Emmeric’s stats without requesting the folder of information the hospital supplied us. He grew concerned quickly and asked me to try nursing our now screaming child so he could observe if there was a problem.
I tried. Heaven knows, I wanted to make it work, but I was tense and stressed. I couldn’t relax enough to nurse, and Emmeric was screaming from the examination. The doctor tutted and wrote a few notes before delivering the worst words I heard as a new mom.
“You’re not feeding your baby. You have no milk. You’re not feeding your baby.”
He said this several times over the course of the next few minutes, and I felt it like a jab. He sent us to the children’s hospital ER because Emmeric was severely dehydrated and underweight.
What followed was five days of watching my son be poked and prodded all over his tiny body. I cried more than I ever imagined being able to cry. I worked with more lactation consultants and tried everything to get him to latch properly. We discovered his sodium levels were so high he was in danger of having seizures. I felt like an utter failure and sunk into depression faster than you can blink.
Somewhere around the third night of our stay, my uncle visited. He noticed I wasn’t drinking a lot of water despite the cups littered around the room. I was in pain from other things as well, but he advised me to drink like a fish. I know others told me this, too, but it sunk in with him. That night I drank water every time I woke up to pump and feed the baby. I went to the bathroom almost every time I woke up, too.
The next morning, I looked at myself in the mirror and realized something. The swelling from preeclampsia had impacted my breasts in a way I didn’t notice. It was like I’d lost two or three bra cup sizes overnight. I flushed so much water out of my breasts, and it made a huge difference in my ability to actually pump breastmilk. Suddenly my milk ducts weren’t being constricted by the swelling.
This alone gave me a surge of confidence, but I still suffered a lot of pain. That same day I wound up going with my mom to the ER for my own problems. I hated leaving Emmeric in the hospital, even knowing Daniel was staying with him. But I hated being in so much pain, too. My stay in the ER lasted a matter of hours before I came out feeling like a new person, the pain was mostly gone.
We stayed in Children’s Hospital a total of 5 days while Emmeric was rehydrated with Pedialyte and slowly restored to his birth weight. I learned more about my capacity for love in that time than I ever have before.
Between a traumatic birth and the first pediatrician visit, I had the makings of postpartum depression and anxiety. I fell into both those things easily and made no attempt to pull myself out for several weeks as we wrestled with Emmeric’s health issues, visited doctors and breastfeeding groups and struggled to get this nursing thing down.
I will never regret my labor experience because it gave me my son. But I have learned so much from it that I want to share with others because I hate the idea of someone else going through what I did.
I adore my son. I have a passion for sharing hope and encouragement to other mothers who go through similar situations. I hope you’ll find encouragement for the journey here.