A story of how an emergency c-section led to a new career and better sleep. Kenna’s birth story helped me become a parent who is more flexible and understanding- but also an advocate for my family.
Our son, Jesse, was born on 1/1/2020. A special birthday for our special boy, who even has a very special birth story. His birth was one that went (almost) exactly as hoped for- a redemptive VBAC after a fairly easy pregnancy.
Jesse’s story wouldn’t have been so surprising and awesome if you didn’t know the back story of how his older sister, Kenna, was born, so in this first part, I need to share Kenna’s birth story first.
I was pregnant with Kenna for what seemed like FOREVER. Fortunately, I had an easy pregnancy, and it seemed like everything was going perfectly. No health issues, no major pains, except for the normal fatigue and waddling that comes with the end of the third trimester. I was even working on our little organic farm up until the day before heading to the hospital, because it was right in the middle of our growing season and the weather was beautiful.
Even the timing was perfect, because Kenna was due at the end of April, and as a teacher, my maternity leave would carry me through the end of the school year and I would get to be home with her all summer.
(Photo Credit: Miranda Hutchins Photography)
But then, she just didn’t want to be born, it seemed. I was pregnant for 40 weeks… then 41… then 42… and finally, my OB practice told me they wanted to induce me because ‘it wasn’t safe’ to carry a baby past that point, due to the potential for the baby to be stillborn. I didn’t question it, they were the experts, and having a stillborn baby was super scary. So at 42 + 1, I arrived at the hospital, and was induced.
They used Cervidal to induce me at 6pm, and around 6:30am the next morning, my water broke. I didn’t realize that when they induced me, they would also start Pitocin when I went into labor. Even though they started the dose on the lowest possible setting, they ramped it up pretty quickly, and contractions were pretty close together and painful right from the start. I had to be hooked up to the electronic fetal monitoring equipment so they could monitor baby for any distress from the Pitocin, which meant that I basically could move from the bed, to the yoga ball right next to it, and that was it.
My idea of birth, which included lots of movement to manage pain, and having a totally unmedicated, natural birth, totally went out the window.
Brett, my husband, was SO supportive throughout it, and held my hands as I bounced on the yoga ball through every contraction.
But, the Pitocin contractions, coupled with the limited movement, finally got to me, and I couldn’t handle the pain anymore.
So at 8cm, I asked for an epidural. The anaesthesiologist came in, placed the epidural, and I waited for relief. But the relief didn’t come! It turns out that the first epidural didn’t work (like WTF, I didn’t even know that was a thing!) I was in so much pain by this point. The head anaesthesiologist then came in, and placed a SECOND epidural, which thankfully worked.
I don’t remember much past this point, but I was able to relax a bit, until it was time to push. Brett held one of my legs, and my oldest friend in the world, Katie, who happened to be the baby nurse who assesses the baby once born and who was working that night, held the other leg. And I pushed… and pushed and pushed.
For almost three hours.
Kenna did not progress very much during this whole time. Brett said he could see her head, and that she had a lot of hair.
In hospital language, I learned that she made to maybe +1. It turned out that she was occiput posterior, which meant that she was upside down, and that made it hard for her to navigate through the birth canal, and she basically got stuck. On the monitor, they kept seeing late decels, which also worried them, because that meant she was under a lot of stress (probably from all of the Pitocin and big contractions).
The OB told me they were nearing the end of the window that they would let me push, so she suggested that they try the vacuum. So we did. Because if it didn’t work, then I would have to have an emergency caesarean. They did three rounds of the vacuum, but each time it popped off, and she still didn’t progress.
On the very last round, I pushed with everything I had. The vacuum popped off…
And the power went out.
The room went completely dark, and there was a mini panic attack among the hospital staff for about 30 seconds. Maybe longer, I don’t know. Then the OB instructs everyone to take their cell phones out and turn their flashlights on. I didn’t mention this yet, but we were in the middle of a huge thunderstorm.
I started laughing. Hysterically laughing. I think this probably was more of a panic attack on my end, but I couldn’t stop.
At this point, the OB had already mobilized the staff, and about 30 people it seemed rushed in, and started to move me into the operating room, because we had reached the point where nothing was working, and Kenna was in distress, and it was time for the emergency c-section.
This part is pretty vague, but I do remember them wheeling me into the OR, through dark hallways, because the power was still out and only the emergency lights were on from the generator. But the OR was fully powered by the generator, so there were pretty bright lights in there. I was still numb from the epidural, so they didn’t have to really make any adjustments, and before I knew it, I was on the operating table.
Brett was by my side the whole time, and I am so thankful he was there. After a long, painful labor, and so much pushing, and of course not eating or drinking anything, I was exhausted. My whole body was shaking, so much so that they had to strap my arms down. I looked like Jesus on the cross. And I was cold, and my arms just wouldn’t stop shaking.
This is exactly what I DID NOT want to happen for my birth, and yet here I was, getting a serious surgery.
In a matter of minutes, Kenna was born, and pretty much immediately, I heard her crying. I didn’t get to see her right away, but Brett did. Katie was the first person after the doctor to hold my baby girl, which again I’m so thankful about. She checked her vitals and then Brett got to hold her and he brought her next to me.
We were both crying, so grateful that ultimately Kenna was healthy and both of us were safe. Our baby was born at 1:55am on May 14, 2018.
It took longer for them to stitch me back up, but about 30 minutes later, I was in the recovery room, breastfeeding Kenna. It was eerily quiet, after all of the rush and commotion of the OR, and it was just Brett, Katie, Kenna, and I in this room for a bit. Brett had called my mom to let her know what happened, and so she arrived shortly afterward, not really to see the baby but mostly just to make sure I was alright.
A couple hours later, we were in our new room in the Mother & Baby wing, and settling down for the night.
We stayed in the hospital for four days, plus the additional night when I was induced. I wasn’t just recovering from a c-section, but from labor too. My vagina was swollen, pretty much as if I had had a vaginal birth, because I basically did, except for the part where she actually came out.
It took quite a bit of effort to get out of bed for the first time, and to make it to the toilet. I remember showering, which was the most amazing feeling in the world. I used about half a bottle of conditioner to try to get the rat’s nest out of my hair, because I had stupidly forgotten a hairbrush.
My c-section scarred burned, even through the pain meds, and it was tough to have the willpower to move out of bed. But as soon as I was cleared, I did start walking a little bit, as much as I could handle.
Along with my tough recovery, Kenna also had some complications. Because of the vacuum, she had some serious bruising and fluid on her head, which led to jaundice as the bruise healed and the blood cells broke down. Luckily, it was fairly low on the jaundice scale, so she just had to get a bili-blanket instead of having to go to the NICU. We called her a glow-worm because she was all wrapped up in it. Because of the jaundice, she was pretty sleepy, and that was probably a good thing, because we all needed some rest.
After leaving the hospital, I continued to recover slowly. Brett went back to work after a few days, and his mom, Sue, stayed with me for awhile to help out. It was hard to even go up the steps to take a shower, and of course, I was breastfeeding Kenna around the clock, plus pumping to supplement so the jaundice would work through quickly. I didn’t have any complications from surgery, but was just so tired.
We fell into our groove, as we learned more about parenting. We got more comfortable with diapering, and how to bathe Kenna, and that we could hold her without her breaking.
As I continued to recover and started feeling better, we got out of the house more, which really helped improve my mood and sanity. Plus, it was then summer, which meant that Brett was also off work now and we could spend the summer together as a family.
Physically, I was better. I was cleared to resume physical activity at my 6-week appointment, and Kenna passed all of her exams with flying colors, gaining weight well and having no complications.
But I was still exhausted, and so was Brett. We were switching shifts every few hours at night, because Kenna was still getting up every 2-3 hours to eat. During the day, she was pretty fussy. She cried a lot, and we couldn’t figure out why.
It turns out, she wasn’t hungry. Or gassy. Or colicky. She was simply tired! (Just like Brett and I.) We were so new to parenting, we accidentally overparented her, to the detriment of her learning how to become a good sleeper.
At 3 months old, we just couldn’t do it anymore, and we ended up hiring a sleep consultant. Y’all, it changed our lives. Not only did Kenna start sleeping 12 hours through the night by 15 weeks old, she was no longer fussy during the day. To read my blog post about how and why we sleep trained Kenna at 3 months, click here.
She ended up becoming the happiest baby, which by the way is still true to this day! Everyone at her daycare always comments that she is the happiest kid, always smiling and happy.
And this experience even became a new career for me, because I then became trained as a sleep consultant and started this business.
Brett and I were also able to get our sleep back. And once Kenna slept through the night, I felt like I finally had recovered. I was able to heal mentally, and move on from Kenna’s traumatic birth.
If you had asked me before getting pregnant (or while pregnant), how my birth was going to go, I definitely wouldn’t have expected to have an emergency c-section. In my mind, because my pregnancy was so easy, I thought my birth would be too. I didn’t really prepare myself for any other possibility other than having an unmedicated, natural birth.
And two years later, I’m still processing it.
Wondering what would have happened if I had advocated for myself more. Asked more questions. Refused to be induced at 42 weeks, because it wasn’t medically necessary for MY pregnancy, other than some statistics that suggested there COULD have been a risk.
Waited until my body and Kenna were ready.
Maybe she would have turned into a more optimal position. Maybe I could have moved more during labor if I didn’t have to be hooked up to the monitors, and maybe that would have made my labor shorter. And maybe I could have had the all-natural birth I was hoping for, and a much easier recovery.
But that’s not how it happened, and while writing this, I am coming to terms with that.
I do feel so lucky and blessed that Kenna was born very healthy, and continues to be the light of our life to this day. She is curious, and happy, and always smiling, and we love her so much (even though she also sometimes has big tantrums, and is loud, and is addicted to Baby Shark and Frozen).
She’s also an awesome big sister to her brother, Jesse, and enjoys kissing him on the head and telling him that she loves him if he’s crying.
With my second pregnancy, I wanted to ensure that this birth would be different. And, it was. Jesse’s story is very different, and warrants it’s own post. Read more here.