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My first birthing experience

This is the experience that inspired me to be part of the change in women's maternity care.

I felt like a statistic: neglected, gaslit, lied to, and intentionally misinformed.

Never again.

I want to begin my story by stating I had an extremely smooth and pleasant pregnancy. I had maybe two or three days during the whole pregnancy where I suffered from nausea. I was slightly anemic, but that was only because the baby was taking up all of my iron. I had only experienced Braxton Hicks once and that was somewhere in week 20-something.

 

My baby was due on the 17th of June, a Wednesday. The Monday before, my husband and I decided to have a “last date” and went out for dinner. We walked to the restaurant which might have been a 15-minute walk. That night, I binged watched Orange is the New Black until about 2 am - when I had extreme cramping. They weren't contractions, but more like menstruation cramps (that just sit on the uterus). I was excited. Finally, some action! I couldn’t sleep because the cramps were so intense. 

 

Tuesday - At 4:30 am, I got up to use the bathroom and realized I was having a bloody show. FTM, so I screamed a little. It was almost like clockwork. As soon as I realized what was happening, the contractions began. They were 30 seconds long, every three minutes. I waited at least an hour before calling the Midwife on Call number (remember 511?). I was told that if I can talk through the contractions, then I can labor at home for a little longer. I was also told that since this was my first baby, I should wait and see how the contractions progress.
 

Around noon, I called the number again. My contractions were so strong I started crying through them. Of course, when I was on the phone with the Midwife I tried to breathe through them and not cry. I told the Midwife I was going to come in because I was hurting so much, and she advised against it. Somehow, by the Grace of God, I managed to nap and woke up an hour later to the contractions. This time they were 4 minutes apart lasting about 40 seconds. According to my “contractions tracker app”, this lasted until 9:30 at night. 

 

Because I had trouble sleeping, it was suggested by a Midwife (I had spoken to three different women throughout the day) to take Unisom at night. I did. Instead of sleeping, I began hallucinating. The contractions were so strong, every time I had one, I had to jump out of bed and move my hips or bounce on my ball. I barely got any sleep that night too. 

 

Wednesday - That morning, my contractions were five minutes apart lasting around 50 seconds. I called my mother crying, asking for help. She recommended I get acupuncture to speed up labor. Being in the car while in labor was horrible. I sat down on the physician's table while she stuck needles into my body. I had three major contractions and cried through them. She looked at me and said, “these are hospital-grade contractions”. We decided to go to the hospital right after to check how far along I was. When we got there, Claire greeted us and check me. I was only a two or a three. I was devastated. As soon as I hopped off the examination table, I felt a sharp pain in my waist and I had the shakes.

 

I was told that it was the baby’s foot. The shakes, nobody could understand. They even brought the babies' blankets out of the warmer to help warm me.  We were sent back home to labor it out. 

 

At night, my contractions continued at six minutes apart lasting about a minute. I was exhausted and remember shaking in bed. My husband collected as many blankets as he could and held me as I continued to shake. I got hot. Then I got cold. Then I was hot again. It was horrible, especially while experiencing contractions every 6 minutes.
 

During this whole ordeal, I had difficulty urinating. I just assumed the baby had descended and was not pressing against my bladder or something. Everybody talks about how shitty labor is, so I just figured it was all part of the process. By midnight, my husband noticed I had a fever of 104. He called the hospital and we were told to come in. I was so tired, I didn’t want to move. I just wanted to die on the bed. 

 

We came in at around 1:30 am, I was tested for COVID through my nose and didn’t even flinch. I was over everything by then. They took me upstairs and my dream of having a natural, drug-free, spa-like, spiritual birth was over. I was hooked up to an IV for antibiotics and we sat in the room for a few hours.

Thursday - At about 4:30 am, I thought my water had broke. I remember reading that the water smells sweet and tried to smell it. It wasn't a lot by any means, but enough to catch my attention and make me think it really broke. I was feeling better by then and my test for COVID came back negative. I was moved down (I don't know where anything is at this point) and I had monitors hooked up to my belly. At about 8:30sh, Maria came to visit and check my dilation. 

 

I wanted to clean up “down there” because I had taken a few “number twos”. I asked my husband to help wipe me up. All the wires, monitors, and hospital gown made it a little harder to get back there. While he was wiping me down, I heard Maria shout that the baby’s heart rate had dropped and she needed me on the bed right away. I believe it went from 140 to 50 (please correct me if I’m wrong). Maria stuck her hand in, in hopes to move the baby around. When she did, my water finally broke. I couldn’t see anything because my head was down in the pillows, but my husband told me it was brown and green. My baby had pooped in the water. Maria let me know that more people were about to come in and they did. The room felt like it was filled with nurses and doctors. Someone whispered in my ear “if your baby’s heart rate doesn't pick back up by the time we get to the operating room, we will have to conduct an emergency C-section.” The next thing I knew, I was being rolled down to the OR. 

 

The c-section was very hard on me. Emotionally, more than physically. I felt secluded and isolated from the birth of my child. The curtain went up and I realized I wouldn't be able to see his entry into the world. I heard him cry, which reassured me that he was fine. He was then swept away by the NICU team to the left side of the room as they suctioned all the septic water out of him. All I could see was this ball of hair. All these people were taking care of my baby as I just lay there. Unable to move. My husband was enjoying fatherhood already. Smiling as he looked down at his new son. And I just laid there, watching it all happen, but couldn’t be a part of it. 

 

No Golden Hour, no skin-to-skin, no holding, no touching. The nurses brought my son over to me and I didn’t know what to do. I remember just being able to caress his cheek before they took him away again. He and my husband went to the NICU and I was taken to a small room for two hours while the spinal tap wore off. I think that was also hard for me. All of the sudden, I was alone in a quiet room. Like none of the above had just happened. It was surreal, to say the least. My first two hours of motherhood were spent alone in a room the size of a closet. 

 

Toward the end of my stay in the “closet”, I asked to see my placenta. I spent 9 months looking forward to seeing this organ as much as I did my new human. I asked the nurse to see it and she showed me this amazing organ that gave my son life all these months. It was much larger than I had anticipated. I wasn’t allowed to touch it or really investigate it myself. It was to be sent off to “culture” to see what went wrong with the delivery.

 

At my six-week postpartum visit, I asked the doctor if the results of my placenta came back. She checked the file and confirmed. It said that the placenta was found to be infected. I was shocked. I asked the doctor how a placenta can be infected and she responded “it just happens”.

Later on, in my Birth Trauma workshop (by Sara Baker), I discovered that if a placenta were to be infected during pregnancy, it would happen much early on rather than during delivery. The instructor told me that something else may have caused the infection to make its way into the placenta, but that the placenta itself was not the culprit of the infection. I felt slightly betrayed by the doctor for not taking the time to explain this to me and to make it sound like my body was to blame. 

 

My two-hour stay in the closet was now over. Emad had checked in on me a few times but we were very mindful of making sure he spent most of his time with our new baby. I was carted off in the bed into the NICU the way a magic carpet would fly across the stage at a theatre. I was sitting up, excited and smiling ear to ear as I anticipated meeting my baby. The entrance to his door had a garland with his name on it <3

 

My happiness quickly became confusion as I rolled into the room. The nurses situated my bed to be beside Kamal’s incubator. I looked at him through the glass as my baby was covered in wires, monitors were beeping in the background, and his heel had been pricked so many times that there were already scabs forming. 

 

His eyes had the antibiotic gel on them, something I specifically declined over and over again. I had volunteered for STD testing late in pregnancy just to confirm my negative status. The eye ointment is routinely administered to every baby regardless of the mother's status. If the mother has Ghonnorea, that bacteria can be transferred to the baby’s eyes through the vaginal canal and could potentially cause blindness. Well, I was negative for STDs and my son was born through cesarean and I still found him with ointment despite doing my due diligence. He would have a clogged tear duct for the next several weeks of his life from this unnecessary procedure ( a mild side effect that we were told could last for 6 months and had no treatment).

 

As I was admiring my child, unsure of how to touch him with so many medical interventions in the way, the NICU nurse approached me with paperwork. She had been a great comfort to Emad while he stayed with Kamal, but I found her intrusion into my moment with my son irritating.

 

She asked me to sign a waiver for the Hep B vaccine. Not ready to take such serious action, I asked her what exactly she meant. Looking back, I believe there was some confusion. I couldn’t understand if the paper work I would be signing would give them permission to inject my child, or if it would prevent them from doing so. I didn’t want to sign any paper work at that moment, as I didn’t think the time was appropriate. She insisted that I sign and started to become angry with me. I remember Emad stayed quite as the two of us went back and forth. He was telling me how wonderful this nurse had been while I was gone, and here I am arguing with her. I ended up telling the nurse we could potentially vaccinate our son at a later date and that I didn’t want to sign any paper work that would deny or allow such a procedure at that very moment. 

 

Around Kam’s four month appointment, I would find myself cornered in the “vaccine-friendly” pediatricians office and forced to sign that same document. The document states that I understand my child is threat to society, and can potentially kill others. It’s an incriminating document. I cried all the way home. 

 

I also discovered that my son was being given sugar water, a pacifier and had already been fed formula despite my request to decline all but breastmilk. I was wheeled off shortly after meeting him and taken to my room. I was not allowed to walk, or get out of bed and was offered to visit my son once more that day. We did skin to skin as a family and we were able to capture that beautiful moment. 

 

Around midnight, the nightnurse came to check on me and I asked her about pumping. I had been told the lactation counselor would come and visit, but nobody helped me breastfeed him that day. Turns out, the hospital pump was sitting in the corner of our room this whole time and she taught me how to use it. I don’t remember it being successful and when I asked for donor milk, I was told that it was reserved for babies who needed it. I found out later that ALL babies in the NICU deserve donor milk. They’re in the NICU for a reason. 

 

The rest of our stay was uneventful. We saw the lactation consultant on our very last day, and she decided he had a good latch and walked away. Kamal passed his carseat test, which Emad and I were both very proud of. We spent our very first night together as a family three days after he was born. I remember the bassinet being so high up that I had trouble getting him out to feed and change.

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