It was almost a year ago, on the day after Elliott was born, that I said I would post Elliott’s birth story “very soon”…does 52 weeks later count as “very soon”?
Today my baby boy turned one. Unbelievable. And in honor of my sweet baby Elliott’s first birthday, I polished up his birth story to post it for those of you who like to read very long, very detailed, very dramatic stories. Basically, if you can’t make it through one of my voicemails, don’t even try to make it through this blog post :). I’m not sure anyone will make it through this *incredibly* long story, but if nothing else, you should at least look at the pictures… 🙂
So here goes nothing…
Elliott Brian Moberg’s Birth Story!
When the doctor’s office assessed my due date, they said it was March 12. Now, I happened to know the exact date that I had ovulated the previous month (call me crazy) and so I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my due date was actually March 10. When we had our 8 week ultrasound, the tech said to us, “Oh, you’re actually 2 days ahead of where we thought you were…” And we just smiled at each other because she confirmed what we already knew. However, they didn’t change the due date on our chart because 2 days isn’t a significant enough change. We continued to tell people that our due date was March 12 because I figured if I was a couple days late that would make me feel better. I write this because it’s an important piece for later on in the story.
On Saturday night, March 12, I began to have contractions averaging every 5 minutes. Now keep in mind that we’re going for the 4-1-1 here…4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour. The 4-1-1 is the ticket to get into the hospital. Each contraction was about 1.5-2 minutes long. And they lasted all night long. That first night they weren’t too painful…I had to “breathe” through them, but for the most part they were a piece of cake. As soon as the sun came up Sunday morning, they slowed and then stopped completely. I slept most of the day Sunday to make up for not sleeping all night.
Now, take that pattern, intensify the contractions, and repeat it for the next 7 nights. And that is the beginning of my labor story. I had some pretty terrible back labor. There are really no words to describe how horrific back labor is, and unless you’ve experienced it there’s no way of understanding. Back labor makes each contraction feel like you’re living through 5 years of Hell (at least how I imagine Hell to be…). So starting about Monday night, I needed Brian’s help to get through every contraction. He would push as hard as he could on my tail bone during each contraction and it was the only way I could make it through each one. My 12 pound heating pad (glory of God in a heating pad) and our bath tub were two other ways I pressed through, but man…I was in an incredible amount of pain, and it intensifed each night and stopped each morning. I stopped being able to get any sort of real sleep during the days either because every time I layed down, the contractions picked up again. We were both exhausted…
At my 41 week appt on Thursday, Christy the midwife checked me and I was at a 3, about 50% effaced. All my laboring had done SOMETHING at least! They did a “non-stress” test on Elliott and he was doing just fine in the womb–his heart rate looked great, they said.
That night, my contractions intensified to an entire new level. They were so painful that I really wondered if I could make it through this process. It was awful. Well, then suddenly we hit the 4-1-1! Hallelujah!! We prepared to go into the hospital and called the midwife on duty to let her know we were coming in. Well, during the conversation we were having I got a contraction and had to breathe through it while on the phone with her. At that point she told me that I “really just need to calm down and pull it together.” Excuse me?! It was like she hd never seen or heard someone have a contraction before! I held it together while on the phone with her, but as soon as I hung up I burst into tears. I felt like I had done a pretty good job of pressing through the last 6 days without complaining/whining, etc….but the last thing I needed to hear was someone telling me I just need to pull it together and be tougher. She had no idea what I had been through… I was crying so hard that I started throwing up, over and over… After a few minutes of hurling, my contractions literally just…STOPPED. What the heck.
Brian encouraged me to take a shower and try to relax, and we both tried to get some sleep. We propped me up with pillows because, like I said, every time I layed down the contractions intensified. Since the contractions had slowed to about every 15 minutes at that point, I kind of “rested” inbetween each one for about an hour. Then, suddenly, they picked back up again, and before we knew it I was back at the 4-1-1. It was around 6 am, and after talking through things with Julie, our doula, we decided to wait until 8 am to go to the hospital because a new midwife would be on for the next 24 hours starting at 8. Sure enough, Christy (the midwife who had checked me the day before, and the midwife who had walked closely with me through the hardest parts of the pregnancy) was on. Love Christy. Praise God for Christy. She had been at the hospital with us just two weeks earlier when I had the stomach flu and needed fluids via IV. If anyone was ready for me to have this baby, it was Christy.
We checked into triage and the nurse who checked me said I was still at a 3, which was just about the most disappointing news that I had ever heard. How could I have labored that hard and not made any progress?? The hospital won’t check you in if you’re not showing progress. So since I was a 3 the day before, the nurse was ready to send us home. She said, if we wanted, we could walk the halls for an hour to see if I would dilate anymore. So Julie (Julie Benedetti, our amazing doula) and Brian and I walked up and down the hallways, lunging, doing squats, and praying. I knew I would lose it if they sent me home.
Christy arrived shortly after an hour (around 11am) and checked me and…I was at a 4! 100% effaced! Progress!! The words had no sooner come out of her mouth than I just burst into tears. “I get to stay?” I sobbed. And Christy looked at me and said, “You get to stay. You’re not leaving here without your baby!” And I just unashamedly cried and cried…could this really finally be the beginning of the end? The end of this pregnancy, the end of this week-long labor, the end of this horrific back labor…we were finally here.
Within a few minutes, I was all smiles again–so excited to finish strong. They checked us into the best (in our opinion) room…amazing view of downtown Tacoma and a nice, big tub. I was interested in having a water birth so we got to be in the “cool” room :). My back labor was so intense that I chose to get into the tub right away. I got some food into me, which was helpful, and labored in the tub for a while.
Meanwhile, my contractions started to slow down… Not again!! They checked me around 3 pm and there had been absolutely no change to my cervix. At this point, I started to get pretty discouraged. How can I be laboring so hard and have made NO change? It had been a week of laboring to get to this. I really began to think that my labor would NEVER end. And the contractions slowing down again weren’t helping anything.
I had gone into this labor hoping to do everything as naturally as possible. If my body would allow me to do it, and if I could handle the pain, I wanted to be all drug free. However, although that was my desire, my utmost desire was for the baby to be safe and for me to, well, survive :). I was prepared to get drugs if they were necessary.
It was about this point in the story that I began to be so discouraged and exhausted that I was ready to pull out the big guns. It was seeming like my body was going to labor like this until the end of time, and I was ready to get things moving. Christy came in and we talked through options since I wasn’t progressing. So here’s where the irony comes in: I was 6 1/2 days overdue according to the record and my “official” due date. But we all knew that I was actually 8 1/2 days overdue according to the real due date. St. Joe’s Hospital has a policy that they will not induce you until you are 7 days overdue.
So they wouldn’t induce me.
Christy was irate, and I was pretty discouraged. But you know when you’re so exhausted that you can’t even muster up the energy to be discouraged? I remember hearing the news and just staring blanking at her, while inside my body was throwing a major tantrum. We finally settled on a plan: pump me full of morphine with hopes that I would be able to SLEEP (it had been days and days…) and also to give my uterus a rest. Hopefully contractions would pick back up after the morphine wore off, and if not…we would induce labor once the clock struck midnight and I was “7” days overdue….
At 4:30pm they gave me the morphine, and Brian and I both tried to get some sleep. It definitely didn’t take away any of the contraction pain, but I was so relaxed inbetween them that I actually slept every few minutes or so. At that point, I was so sleep deprived that anything was helpful.
At 10:30pm, Christy came in and, with a very distraught look on her face relayed the newest news: “I was just informed that there’s not enough hospital staff here tonight to induce you at midnight. We need to send you home.”
And so we went home. Well after midnight. When I was, according to their records, 7 days over due after laboring for a week. They gave me another round of morphine before I left so that I could hopefully sleep that night. Christy was pretty upset with the hospital staff and filed a complaint. She made them promise her that they would call in enough staff for the next morning to induce me. The plan was, we would call around 6am and see what time they could get us in. As discouraged as I was, at least there was an end in sight…I could make it through one more night, with my new best friend morphine, if I knew that they would induce me the next morning.
The good news is, I slept. Very well. I guess 2 rounds of morphine and two types of anti-nausea meds are the ticket to life and godliness. We got home around 2 am and I slept solid until 7. My contractions were super far apart again.
So Brian called the hospital that morning and–they told us we couldn’t come in because they still didn’t have enough staff to induce me.
It’s just laughable at this point, isn’t it?
Brian had a long conversation with Sylvia, the midwife who was on call that 24 hours. Love Sylvia. She explained that although we were–obviously–eager to get things moving, it would be pretty shocking to my body to go from 0-60 since my contractions had slowed so much again. She encouraged me to keep sleeping as long as I could, and told us to call as soon as the contractions picked up again. She said we didn’t even need to wait for the 4-1-1, but that she would induce us as soon as they were regular and painful enough for us that we wanted to come in. We thought that was great advice, and I went back to sleep.
That evening before dinner, Brian and I went on a nice, long, fast-paced walk on Ruston Way. It was beautiful out. I was totally “that pregnant woman”…I must have looked like a circus act; I was so huge, pumping my arms and waddling along the sidewalk, stopping every few minutes to breathe through contractions. But, it must’ve worked because around 9 pm my contractions really picked up again. By 11pm they were at the 4-1-1.
Now for some reason, in this little stretch of contractions, I didn’t have any back labor. Who knows why…? But they were SO BEARABLE. I didn’t need Brian to help me through them and I could do all kinds of other things inbetween. I knew Sylvia would check us into the hospital so I decided to do my hair, eat some food, spend a little time on the computer… If that is what normal contractions are SUPPOSED to be like, then my back labor was surely a piece of hell.
That little window must have just been a little gift, because the back labor picked up again within a few hours. By 3 am we were checked back into the hospital. I was between 4-5cm dilated. And although I was in a massive amount of pain, I was NOT about to step back into the tub. So Brian and I got special permission to leave the maternity ward and go climb stairs. Yes, you heard me right: climb the stairs. It was awful, but I know it helped. There we were in a cement stairwell…Brian would tell me how many reps to do it and I would just do it…climbing those stairs two at a time before I could let my brain stop me. My contractions were incredible painful by then, but we just got ‘er done.
At 6:45am I was at a solid 5 cm. Sylvia promised me the tub wouldn’t slow me down so I tried that for a little bit. Oh, I was in so much pain… I continued pressing through each contraction, literally wondering through every one if I was going to make it. My body was exhausted, and I knew that the pain in my could only get worse.
Sylvia left at 8am, and Kim was the next midwife on call. Love Kim. She checked me at 9am, and I was at 7cm. Everyone in the room was so encouraged by that number and I just remember thinking, “Are you kidding? I feel like I should be dilated to 50cm at this point!! I’m working sooo hard!!!” It felt like it would be years to press through those final 3cm.
At that point, Kim said to me, “We’re looking at a 2 or 3 pm baby based on the way you’re progressing. Do you think you can make it without drugs?”
I knew my answer instantly, but everyone left us for a moment so Brian and I could talk through the decision. By 10:30am, my epidural was in, and I could finally r-e-l-a-x….
I bet you can’t believe that we’re not to the end of the story yet. But here’s where “the end” starts to happen real quickly…
They woke me up around 1:45 to check me, and I had made absolutely no change. Uh-oh, here we go again. We decided to break my water to see if that would help. After doing so, I only dilated .5 cm more. I was at 7.5.
So at 3pm we decided to go ahead and try pitocin to get things moving. It was at this point that everything about that day became one huge blur of emotions…I look back and just see the world spinning.
With the pitocin, my uterus started contracting every minute. This is way too fast, as the baby doesn’t have time to recover inbetween contractions. Very suddenly, my baby–whose heart rate had been so great the whole day that, literally, every single nurse who was in and out commented on it–had a huge dip in his heart rate. Though Kim was extremely calm, I could sense the urgency in her voice: ‘Susanne, we’re going to flip you over. The baby’s heart rate just dipped really low. We’re also going to need to put a scalp electrode on his head so we can more accurately monitor his heart rate.” I jumped up as quickly as I could to turn over and put my bumble in the air (which was quite the task, considering I could barely feel my legs, and my right leg weighed about 1,000 lbs thanks to the epidural) and the next thing I knew there was an oxygen mask on my face. I was instructed to breathe as deeply as I could. “This feels scary,” I thought. And everyone kept telling me how great I was doing (it’s not exactly easy to be on your hands and knees with your buttox in the air at 41 weeks pregnant when you can’t feel the lower half of your body) and how impressed they were that I could move my body like I did and I just remember thinking, “Don’t tell me I’m doing a good job…tell me what I need to do to keep my baby safe!” Something kicked into my spirit in that moment, and suddenly there was just nothing that was too great of a cost for our baby boy. I would endure any amount of pain–anything–to make sure he was safe.
His heart rate picked back up again, and they told me I could flip back onto my back. I tried to refuse, saying I would stay there as long as I needed to if it would keep him strong, but they had me turn back over. It was at that point that Kim looked at me and said, “That was a pretty low dip in his heart rate. Just so you know, if that happens again, we might have to do a cesarean.”
Wait, WHAT?!? A CESAREAN?!? Is it really that bad?? Wait, how did this happen?
I was definitely caught somewhere between fairytale land and denial at that point. This was nowhere in the plan, let alone in my dreams. This couldn’t be happening to my baby and me.
At 4pm, they checked me again and I had progressed to a 9. Things were looking good when all of a sudden his heart rate dipped really low again. They flipped me over instantly and I remember Kim saying she was going to call Dr. Sanford (midwives can’t perform C-sections, and Dr. Sanford is the doctor who backs up the midwives in case of surgery). Everyone panicked in a calm sort of way…it’s the weirdest feeling when everyone around you knows something you don’t, and despite the fact that you know that, they still tryto act like everything’s okay…when you know very well by their whispers and forced smiles that it’s not. To be fair, I realize this is their job…to be calm when the expectant mother they’re with is likely about to be rushed into surgery and doesn’t know it yet…
It was like someone hit the fast forward button in that moment because it feels like the next thing I knew I looked over and Brian was in scrubs and I was being rushed down the hallway into a sterile room…
But I think it was somewhere around this part of the timeline that I moved out of denial and into faith. She was actually calling the doctor. I realized we needed a miracle. FAST.
I remember being on all fours again, looking over at Brian, and my strong, steadfast, calm rock of a husband was beginning to lose it. The tears were brimming over his eyelids.We both know that Brian struggles the most in situations that feel urgent yet there’s nothing he can do to help. This was exactly one of those times. Yet I was filled with peace. I called him over to me and just smiled (through my oxygen mask) and held his hand and repeated to him the phrase that he had said to me probably hundreds of times over the previous 9 months when I was exhausted, defeated, sick… “My love, He’s got us in the palm of his hand…” and I believed it. I was trusting God for a miracle.
I was sure our families were out there praying for us in the lobby (praise God), and I asked him to text our friends and ask them to pray as well. And I knew the other thing that was needed… “Will you call Linda? Will you ask Linda to pray?” Linda is a praying woman, who has walked with me through some rough, rough waters in this last season. She is a woman of faith, and I knew I needed her prayers in that moment.
Over the past several months, my “theme song” has been, “Oh, Lord, You’re Beautiful.” I would sing the chorus over and over and over again, imagining the moment that I got to push Elliott out into this world. I would–literally–cry every time I sang it and pictured this moment. I couldn’t wait. “And when your eyes are on this child, your grace abounds in me…” Realizing I was skewing the meaning of the words a bit, I would just picture the Lord’s eyes on my child–my baby–and his grace abounding in me. It brought me to tears every time. I had such a deep-rooted confidence that His eyes were on my child, and that His grace would be with me…the only two things that mattered in that moment. I needed to sing my song…I needed it to fill the room.
I began to sing it through my oxygen mask, face planted in the pillow in front of me, and I knew I was too weak to sing on my own. Julie. Julie, our doula could sing with me. I asked her if she would and there we huddled, singing the chorus over and over again… I cried, thinking of all the times I had sung this to the Lord in the previous months, trusting Him for this very moment. I was believing God for a miracle.
At 4:35pm, Dr. Sanford arrived. She couldn’t have been there more than 60 seconds before she explained that, based on the facts, a c-section was necessary. No…God’s going to come through with a miracle…we just need to give Him time. So I asked her if there was any possibility of pushing if I had dilated all the way. She very graciously said she would check me and we could talk about it if I were at a 10. But after checking me, and seeing that I was still at a 9, she very gently but firmly told me that we didn’t have a choice…the baby was not looking good, and we needed to get him out right away.
“Okay,” I resigned.
And it felt like the world crumbled to pieces all around me. No, no, no…this just can’t be happening.
I hadn’t realized how tense my body was until my mom came in. As soon as she took my hand and started to sing and pray over me, I felt my entire body relax. She sang–a song that she has sung over me since I was a little girl–and peace rushed over me like warm waters. After she prayed for me, I asked her to put her hands on my stomach and sing again…I believed with everything in me that the Lord was working…I was still believing Him for a miracle.
Suddenly Linda was by my side–what an unexpected gift! When Brian called her to pray I had no expectation that she would actually COME to the hospital to pray for us! She took my hand and though I wish I could remember every detail of what she prayed for me, the only things I can recall are her smiling face, filled with such joy and the words she spoke: “This little boy has a call on his life, and he’s opposed. But he’s going to make it! He has a huge call on his life!” I’m not sure if she repeated that over and over, but I remember them echoing in my mind. That was exactly the truth I needed to be reminded of…that was exactly what we were fighting for.
And that’s when I looked over and my dear husband was dressed from head to toe in blue scrubs, a little cap and a face mask. No….no, no….
At 5pm they wheeled me out of the room and into the surgery room. I entered the sterile room and there was some pop song playing loudly on the radio and I thought, “Why are they playing such happy music? We’re not at the beach…I’m about to have emergency surgery because my baby’s struggling!” I immediately asked them to turn it off, and they did so. I was on a table that felt like it was half of my width, arms out by my head in “T,” strapped down so that I couldn’t reach through the curtain and interfere with the surgery. They pumped more medication into me and I began to throw up. Not one of the more pleasant moments of life… At that point I was numb from the chest down. You try throwing up while lying flat on your back when you can’t feel anything from the chest down and you haven’t eaten anything all day. When you’re 10 days overdue, with no stomach muscles left.
At last, at 5:20pm, Brian was by my side again (I found out later that no one had gone to get him to come to the room, so he finally just found it on his own…).
And 5 minutes later, I heard our baby cry.
I obviously couldn’t see or feel anything. But the thing that I remember the most is Brian. As Elliott was being pulled out, he just kept laughing this joyous laugh and saying, “Oh, my love!! Here he is!! Here he is!! I see him!!” It was one of the most precious moments of the entire day.
The following minutes were both the sweetest and the hardest ever. In the previous weeks when discussing various delivery options, I would always say, “The primary reason I would be so disappointed if I had to have a c-section is that I wouldn’t get to hold our baby right away…I think I would bawl my face off.”
And that is still the hardest part for me to look back on. My sweet, sweet baby Elliott was on a table, some 7 or 8 feet away, crying. And I couldn’t do anything about it. I had waited for him for 9 long, hard months…and all I wanted to do was hold him. But there he was, being poked and prodded by blue-gloved, strange hands while lying on a hard, sterile table. I was instantly enamored with him, and heart-broken that I couldn’t snuggle him close.
Brian and I were talking to him and calling his name and he literally turned his head towards us and stopped crying for a moment. What a gift. He knew our voices. Some angel of a nurse asked Brian if he wanted her to take some photos because she could stand right next to him, so we have so many precious photos of his first moments that we just treasure.
A few minutes later, they handed Elliott over to Brian and he brought him down by my face. Such a gift. We got to have what felt like a minute of time together (the three of us) until they had Brian leave so they could finish my surgery. At that point, I started throwing up again so they shoved one of those sucky tubes (like at the dentist) in my mouth. Lovely.
A while later I was brought back to the hospital room where I got to hold him and nurse him for the first time…and I have never wanted to let go since.
Though I didn’t hear all of these details until long after he was born, they discovered fairly quickly upon surgery that the cesarean was absolutely necessary. Elliott was in the correct position, however, he had a prolapsed cord between my pelvis and his head, as well as the cord was wrapped once around his neck.
Specifically, that is an occult cord, and here is the definition:
“Umbilical cord prolapse is a rare obstetrical emergency that occurs when the umbilical cord descends alongside or beyond the fetal presenting part. It is life-threatening to the fetus since blood flow through the umbilical vessels is usually compromised from compression of the cord between the fetus and the uterus, cervix, or pelvic inlet. There are two types of cord prolapse: overt & occult.
“Occult prolapse occurs when the cord descends alongside, but not past, the presenting part. It can occur with intact or ruptured membranes. The diagnosis should be considered in the differential diagnosis of a sudden, prolonged fetal heart rate deceleration. An occult prolapse often cannot be diagnosed with certainty, but is suggested by clinical features (eg, fetal bradycardia) and findings at cesarean delivery. Cord prolapse occurs in 0.14 to 0.62 percent of deliveries.”
Leave it to me to have the issue that occurs in less than 1% of all births.
I’ve heard that a lot of women who end up having to have an emergency c-section say that feel like failures when it’s all said and done. That never crossed my mind. In fact, it was the opposite. I knew that I had done everything that I was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually capable of doing. My wrestle came with the Lord…why did He allow this to happen?
For months before my due date, I had been absolutely fascinated with the umbilical cord related to giving birth. I would ask every doctor/nurse/midwife that I came across questions about how it interferes with labor and why they didn’t do an ultrasound before labor to see where it was located. And that was one of the primary things I had been praying for leading up to the birth. That his umbilical cord would be in the correct position so as not to hinder labor.
So as you may or may not be able to imagine, I wrestled with God…big time…over the circumstances surrounding the labor and delivery. Any time I thought about the birth or the circumstances surrounding it, I would just melt into a puddle of tears. (Those hormones probably weren’t helping me, either–ha!) I can’t tell you how many times I would just weep when I’d see pictures of me strapped to the table or of Elliott right when he was born, all alone. Or when I would just simply think about what had happened and would remember details.
Then one night, I had crawled into bed before Brian and started thinking about how confident I was that God was going to do a miracle that day and keep us from having to have a C-section. Through my tears, I just wept over and over, “But I trusted Him for a miracle…”
And after holding me for several minutes and wiping away each stream of tears, Brian finally spoke… So gently and humbly, he said to me, “My Love, He gave us one.”
And I finally got it. He was so right. Although it wasn’t the way I wanted the miracle to look, he was right. The truth of that statement didn’t fully sink in until I found out how serious the umbilical cord issue was. It was a real emergency, and Elliott’s life was saved because of the C-section. If this were 100 years ago, one or both of us would have likely died. God kept Elliott perfectly strong and healthy in my womb, and then saved him through Dr. Sanford, who performed a perfect surgery and delivered my son–healthy and strong.
So weeks after Elliott was born, I was finally able to understand that Elliott, in and of himself, was a complete miracle. I was asking God for a miracle, and in my mind that looked like not having to have a c-section. But Elliott IS a miracle! God did give us a miracle that day! He DID answer our prayers…He delivered our Elliott into our arms…and for him, we are eternally grateful.
Happy birthday, our sweet Elliott Brian Moberg!!!!!