bustysinclare: Brooklyn's Birth Story
Thursday, April 21, 2011 12:39 AM
"Expecting the unexpected however, did not prepare us for my near death experience."
Having a baby feels like it must be the most universal and individual experience in the world. Lots of things are the same, but others are oh-so different. Getting pregnant was incredibly easy. I went off the pill and all of a sudden, I was expecting. I was thrilled about it. My husband and were freshly married and although we could planned a bit better -there is something cliché about a honeymoon baby, after all. Either way, we were terribly excited. We knew it would be hard and there would be big changes in our lives. We liked to sleep late, we went out to eat way too often, and neither of us had ever changed a diaper in our life. Expecting the unexpected however, did not prepare us for my near death experience.
Pregnancy started pretty calmly for me and continued that way for quite some time. I considered myself lucky not to have any morning sickness. Sure, a smell grossed me out here or there, but nothing ever came back up. My husband even came with me to most of my doctor appointments. He joked with the nurses, telling them I was having a "Heidi Klum pregnancy" that everything had been easy, I was glowing, and had not turned into a preg-zilla. We went on vacation in July to visit friends when I was seven and a half months pregnant. In Arkansas, I not only strolled did plenty of sightseeing in 110 degree heat, I embarked on a cavern hike that included greater than 800 steps down into and out of the caves. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good.
Mid-September, I strolled into my appointment with the nurse mid-wife completely unconcerned. My biggest worry was my swollen feet and how I felt they looked ugly in a sundress. That's superficial, I know, but during the hottest summer on record, pants felt like a death sentence. The nurse who weighed me and took my vitals informed me that my blood pressure was higher than normal. I thought nothing of it. I had never had a BP reading higher than normal. Besides, I felt great. I was still exercising, running all my errands, everything else was normal. The doctors were concerned though, blood pressure is a big deal for pregnant ladies. And so, I received the first of many needle pokes for blood work, accompanied by an orange plastic jug that I was informed was to collect my urine for a 24 hours.
We were testing for preeclampsia, or toxemia, which while rare is serious. The main symptoms are high blood pressure and protein in the urine, but also headaches, upper abdomen pain, and blurred vision. The only cure is to have the baby, so I was told if my symptoms progressed, I would be induced. I knew that preeclampsia was scary, but I never felt any differently than normal. Plus, right up until I gave birth, the only symptom I had was high blood pressures. My last month of pregnancy, late September and early October was a barrage of doctors appointments. The nurses and doctors assured me things looked fine, they were just taking precautions. I was poked and prodded for blood and collect my urine about once a week. I was also told to do a complete 180 on my activity. I was to rest, rest, rest; anything to keep my BP low. I was concerned but not scared, because my tests were always negative, whenever I was lying down my blood pressure was fine, and most importantly; I never felt sick.
Change of plans
One week before my due date, my urine tested with higher than a manageable level of protein. I was scheduled to be induced the next day. I wasn't thrilled. Mostly because my mother, who is a nurse and lactation consultant, had been keeping her fingers crossed against it. She said that the medication induced contractions are very intense, very quickly. Indeed, when I had my first pitocin stimulated contractions with the foley catheder inserted to dilate my cervix, things were not pleasant! As I crunched the bones in Matt's hand I gasped, "If this is how contractions begin, I'm not going to make it!" However, once the foley catheder was removed, contractions were a breeze, at least for a while.
I was induced around 9:30 pm on October 20, 2010. I received an IV of pitocin and a foley catheder was used to dialate my cervix. At the time, I felt like the catheder, a ballon style device that is insert and inflated, then tugged on to open your cervix; was the most uncomfortable part. When removed, it was inflated to the size of a ping pong ball or so, and was hard plastic. I think I was so relived to have it out, the other uncomfortable parts were not so bad. I got an epidural sometime early morning and when it wore off, another. I didn't love the epidural. The tingly, disorientated feeling it gave me made me a little nervous. Or so I thought at the time. I was becoming more and more short of breathe. When the midwife and the nurse asked me to push around 3pm, I was pretty uncomfortable. My second epidural had wore off, but Carol, our doctor's midwife advised that if I pushed now, my daughter could be born in less time that it would take for the next epidural. I was convinced, as I was dying to meet my daughter.
I started to freak out a bit at the idea of pushing without pain medication and it became increasingly hard to breathe. A nurse asked if I have ever had a panic attack, and I assured her this was not what was happening. After that, I felt like none of the medical staff listened to me at all. I was pushing as hard as I could but I couldn't breathe. A nurse an oxygen mask on my face, but moved back near my knees. I would push the mask off, because I was getting some air without it, but none with it. One of the nurses scolded me for removing it, and also for hollering a bit at the end of some pushes. She advised me that proper breathing was better for pain and although it did help, I could at least get some air if I tried to shout. Her reprimand was the last thing I remember before everything went dark.
When I came to, things were chaotic. I knew this wasn't typical childbirth. There were doctors and nurse everywhere, and everyone was busy. No one was congratulating me or stroking my hair and there was no baby crying. Also, I was moving, there were people in lab coats pushing the bed. The doctor closest to me told someone briefly I was being moved to a different room. I vaguely recall asking for my sister or my husband, from where I was I saw no one I recognized. My husband approached the bed in the hallway and told me "Our daughter is beautiful." I felt a rush of relief, but at the same time I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. What was happening to me? I felt like I was screaming that question, but I found out later, I hadn't been asking it out loud.
It turns out, what was happening to me was pretty unbelievable. In the previous weeks when while my blood pressure was going up, my feet and ankles were getting more and more swollen. The nurses and midwives advised me that it was pretty common, and part of the preclemptic symptoms that prompted me to be induced. No one realized; me, the doctors, the midwives; that the fluid was getting stuck in other places; namely, my lungs. When labor is induced, and an epidural is given, you have an IV. Lots and lots of fluid is given with an epidural to get the patient hydrated. Apparently, I was already full of fluid and there had even been fluid in my lungs before I got to the hospital. It's why I was out of breathe more and more often. The doctors later told me that there had been no way to know that my lungs were full of fluid without a chest xray. And who xrays a pregnant lady unless absolutely necessary?
My husband tells me that I was pushing strongly one minute, I remember being told the baby was almost there. He tells me I locked eyes with him, and then my eyes rolled back and I slumped to the bed. I was not breathing, and my hands and lips were blue. Since I was no longer pushing, the baby and I were both in crisis; she was stuck in the birth canal without oxygen. I really was almost there, my daughter was crowning, but her little face was not out. The doctors cut me, used forceps to free her, and called a code blue. I was coding. Yes, like on tv. On ER or Grey's Anatomy when they call a code blue it's very dramatic. There is a crash cart, chest compressions, lots of yelling, and frantic doctors and family. I had all of that. I was very lucky I had pushed the baby as far as I did. I was told afterwards that if the doctors had tried and emergency c-section ( a strong possibility) that my weak lungs couldn't have handled the fluid and I would have died.
I was lucky in many ways. The best part is that I did wake up. Of course, I did, I'm telling my story right? The scariest part is that I woke up 6 DAYS?! later. My lungs had been full of fluid and I could not breathe, which is what caused me to pass out. The only way to remove the fluid was to put me on a ventilator which breathed for me while the liquid was drained. This was scariest for my husband and family, who said they knew next to nothing. My husband tells me he lived in 6 to 12 hours segments which was how often he would get new info from the doctors. The doctors were not very clear on how quickly or if I would recover. I was told later that people who get put on a ventilator sometimes have considerable trouble coming off it to breathe on their own. I surprised everyone by being able to breathe on my own immediately after being taken off support.
When I awoke in ICU, everything was a blur of questions. Where was I? What happened? and perhaps most importantly;Where was my baby? Brooklyn Paige Consalvo was at home, being cared for by her grandmother and perfectly healthy. I am thankful everyday, that if something had to go wrong, I am glad it was me and not my baby. Brooklyn was born 6.8lbs and 17.5 inches long and was the picture of health. She was beautiful and happy, even if she might have been missing her mom a bit. It turns out, I was a whirlwind or things that very rarely happen with childbirth. The fluid, the preclempsia, and finally, after Brooklyn was born, my uterus didn't clamp down to stop bleeding. I had received several blood transfusions in addition to my other crisis. I was finally released from the hospital ten days later, on October 30.
Welcome, Brooklyn (thankfully)
Recovering in the hospital turned out to be the easy part. Brooklyn and I faced a whole new set of challenges upon my return home. Luckily though, we are both fighters and Brooklyn is a healthy, happy, and chubby baby today. We even managed to keep her exclusively breastfed after her week of donor milk. My hospital stay was not all bad news. Perhaps the most beneficial, being unconscious for 6 days meant extra healing time. I was not in the extreme pain some moms are right after childbirth. The nurses were very kind and took wonderful care of my baby and family. The rarity of my situation prompted my husband and myself to share my story to educate others. Something like this is extremely unlikely but can happen to anyone. My friends and family were partly so shell shocked because I was ( and am now) so healthy. In fact, that's one reason I bounced back so quickly. One week after my hospital release, my blood pressure was back to a normal, healthy range. The only cure to my condition really was to simply have the baby. And what a baby! Brooklyn is the sweetest, happiest, healthiest little girl you ever saw.
> Want to share your birth story? Email it now to Bump Eileen at email@example.com.