Allow me to introduce to you, our new baby girl, Ada.
Ada came into this world on a snowy night less than three weeks ago and she made quite an entrance.
Here is the story of her birth:
A couple Mondays ago, I was thirty-nine weeks pregnant. I was supposed to go to my regular weekly appointment with my midwives. But we were in the middle of another huge northeastern blizzard that was expected to dump over a foot of snow, so my husband and I decided that it was more dangerous to try to drive to the appointment than to skip it.
It would have been treacherous to drive anywhere but we live on a dirt road in the middle of pretty much nowhere in Vermont, so for us, sometimes going to town can end up being a bit of an adventure. I was so happy when I saw the plow truck come down our road and then later when the man we hire to plow our driveway came and did a sweep. I was hoping to stay in our cozy house but at least now if we needed to, we could get in the car and go somewhere.
That night, I fell asleep at 10pm. But I woke up only an hour later to a whoosh of something warm.
My water had broken!
But I wasn’t having any contractions or anything. Still, I sprang into action, waking up my husband and calling the birth center. The midwife called me back. She asked me a bunch of questions including if I was sure that at my last appointment that the baby was head down.
Several weeks before, Ada’s head had been off to the side. But for the last couple of weeks, she had been in a good position and we even had an ultrasound to confirm it. The midwife said, “Try to go back to sleep, you could be in labor another fifteen hours or more.” With my son, I had labored two days and my water had never broken – the midwife attending his birth had finally had to do it for me.
All throughout this second pregnancy, I had tried to prepare myself mentally and physically for another long, difficult labor.
As I went around my house packing last minute things, I kept reminding myself that I was strong enough to do this once and now I could and would do it all over again.
In addition to the packing, I wrote notes to the awesome friends that were going to be staying at our house taking care of our boy. And I called my mom and said we might come down during the night or in the morning. My contractions had started now but they weren’t strong. My husband was outside, brushing off the car, shoveling the pathways, bringing in loads of wood for our stove. He and I had the best intentions of going back to the sleep but we were both completely wired.
At one point, our three year old son, Wolfy, woke up. It had been only a half hour since my water broke. I laid in our big bed with him in the quiet darkness and told him that his baby sister was coming soon. He put his hand on my belly trying to feel her move.
It was such a beautiful, calm moment. Then two big contractions came.
I called to my husband and said we’d better go to my mom’s so that Wolfy could get situated there and so we would be in town and closer to the hospital.
We all bundled up and got into the car and slowly drove down our snowy mountain to my mom’s house. Wolfy was in the best mood. He kept making this joke about eating quesadillas that neither my husband nor I understood, but Wolfy thought it was hilarious. He sang songs and insisted we sing along and clap at the end.
My contractions were intensifying to the point where I couldn’t talk much less sing the alphabet.
By the time we made it the six miles to my mom’s house, I told my husband I wasn’t going to go inside. He would bring Wolfy inside by himself and come right back, no getting sucked into talking to my mother. We were heading to the hospital. My water had only broken a little over an hour before.
The ride to the hospital was surreal. We were pretty much the only car on the highway and only one lane had been plowed. The moon reflected off the new snow so it didn’t really seem like dark or daylight but a different world entirely. My contractions were getting stronger and I remember being surprised that I already needed to use techniques like focusing and breathing to get through them. We parked in the snowy parking lot of our tiny hospital and I could barely walk into the birth center. I had to keep stopping to have big contractions.
As we opened the doors of the birth center, we were greeted with moans; another woman was in the process of giving birth – loudly. Our midwife met us in our room (the same room Wolfy was born in!) and hooked me to the monitor for half an hour. It was about 2am when she came back and felt inside me to see how far my cervix had dilated.
I will never forget the midwife’s reaction: it was shock and a little bit of panic.
She said, “I’m either feeling a hand or some feet or something here. Your baby is grasping my hand right now. Also, you’re fully dilated. We need to get her out now. You’re going to have a cesarean.” My baby was trying to jump into the world and she was ready to come right now!
Luckily, the woman in labor across the hall was being attended by an OBGYN. Our hospital is so small that doctors and midwives are on call and have to come into the hospital when they are needed. The doctor and the midwife switched patients and the doctor gave me a quick ultrasound and confirmed that two tiny feet were sticking into my birth canal. She said it was called a double footling breach. I didn’t care what it was called. I just wanted my baby to come out and come out safely.
I was so scared. I asked my husband call my mother. I just wanted her to be nearby.
There were nurses rushing everywhere. They injected me with something to stop my contractions but it wasn’t working.
The doctor said trying to stop my labor at this point was like stopping a moving train – impossible.
My body was shaking all over. They said it was because I was a hormonal response because I was so close to giving birth. I think it was my fear as well. I wasn’t scared for myself. The only time I thought about myself was the brief moment when they were having me sign papers and telling me everything that could go wrong and I realized, “Wow, this is for real.” I was just scared for my baby. I wanted her to be okay. I was ready to do whatever they asked to make sure that she got into the world safely.
The nurses wheeled me up to the operating room. In the elevator on the way up, my husband turned to the doctor and asked, “Did you ski here?”
“Yes,” she replied, “I only live a few blocks from the hospital so it was easier than walking or driving.” Sure enough, there was my doctor, about to perform my surgery while wearing ski boots and a fleece body suit. Only in rural Vermont!
The rest of the surgery was just a routine c-section. Just before they took the baby out, I looked over at my husband. He was pale and had a strange vacant expression on his face. I asked if he was okay and he said, “No, I think I might throw up.” Someone ushered him quickly out of the room, but he managed to come back right as they were taking the baby out. I thought the weirdest part of the whole surgery was how my whole body rocked back and forth while they pushed and pulled and pried my baby from me.
I didn’t get to hold her until five minutes after she was born. “It’s not fair!” I thought when my husband brought her to me because he was able to see and hold her before me.
This was so different from my son’s birth in which my husband was even able to catch him and I got to hold him right away and keep holding him for the first two hours of his life. My husband tried to put our baby girl on my chest, but my arms were still asleep from the medication. I tried to hold her anyway but she just cried and cried. I asked my husband to take her back.
For the next hour, he got to hold her skin-to-skin and under warm blankets while they stitched me closed and brought me to the recovery room. I was so disappointed to miss this special bonding time with my baby. But when they brought her to me again, it all faded away. I didn’t have to worry about bonding with her at all; the love I felt for her was overwhelming and instantaneous. And she took to nursing right away!
It’s crazy to think of all that could have gone wrong with Ada’s birth. We are so lucky that she is here, healthy and strong.
But it scares me how fast she tried to come into this world. I had thought I was still in early labor and I was already ready to have my baby! I keep thinking about what if I had stayed home longer, or the driveway hadn’t been plowed, or… There are just so many things could have gone wrong but they didn’t.
Ada came into the world with one arm thrown over her head. While it’s possible to deliver a double footling breach like her, her head could have gotten stuck like a cork inside of me, especially with her arm up like that. I feel so lucky that I am in a place where I have access to something like a cesarean when I needed one. And also, I feel so lucky that her cord didn’t come out when her feet did. That’s what everyone was so afraid of when they were rushing around like crazy trying to get me ready for surgery.
We have been home for a little over two weeks now with Ada. I’m healing well from the surgery, thanks to some great pain killers and a super supportive husband. Wolfy is adjusting to his role of a big brother in ways that are challenging, funny, and charming.