our birth story, part III.

This is the last installment of our birth story.  [Read Part Ihere, and Part IIhere.]

After I was moved from L+D to the maternity ward, Greg accompanied the nurses as they took Dhara to get bathed.  When she came back to me after her bath, she came placed in a scarlet red Christmas stocking, clad in a white kimono top, with only her head and shoulders peeping out of the stocking.  There was also a knitted red ribbed cap on her head.  It was quite the most merry + adorable Christmas present EVER.  She was fast asleep, my little one.  Her poor little body had been through alot in the hours prior to this.

Little did we know that she would be taken not even an hour afterwards to be put under the lights.  You see, within the same day of her birth, tests confirmed that Dhara had high bilirubin levels.  In other words, my baby had a case of jaundice — which is common in many babies, but she ended up having higher levels which the specialists said could lead to her having a blood transfusion.  Yikes!

Her jaundice was caused by blood incompatibility.  “It happens when the baby’s major blood groups differ from the mother’s.  The most common group incompatibility is when the baby’s blood type is “A”, “B”, or “AB” and the mother’s blood type is “O”.  The mother can create antibodies to the baby’s blood group. Damage to the baby’s blood results in high levels of bilirubin in the blood.  Bilirubin is harmless in low levels, but if the levels are very high, injury to the nervous system and brain occur.”

Up until this point, and for the next 5 days, I didn’t get to hold my baby girl for an extended period of time.  Forget the bonding and getting-to-know-you time that is so important after birth — nope, it wasn’t happening.  I can’t even begin to describe the feeling correctly.  It was just sadness.  You carry a baby for 10 months, go through an insane delivery, and then you can’t even hold her.  Tears rolled down my face many a time during that hospital stay.

One HUGE blessing was that the hospital let her stay in our room while she was under the lights.  Even when my allotted time as a patient was up at the hospital, they moved Dhara and I up to Pediatrics and gave us a room that all three of us could stay in — this was unheard of in the hospital — at least the nurses had never seen it done before.  Usually hospitals will keep babies in the nursery and send parents home to come back the next day and visit with their child.  If they made me do that I probably would have sobbed the whole time she was away.  [My fear of nurseries is that the nurses let babies cry and cry. It makes me shudder to think of that.]  So I thank God with a full heart for the blessing of having her near Greg and I, and us being able to stay with her.  [And especially being there to scoop her up if she wanted to be held close.]  Although, it was sad to see her eyes covered by the goggles which were needed to protect her eyes.  Sometimes when she was awake, we could see her trying to peek from under her goggles.

Every night a nurse would come into our room to take Dhara to the nursery for 15 minutes to get a blood sample to test her bilirubin levels.  Dhara would come back to the room with needle pricks on her heels.  Every night Greg and I were always on the lookout because Dhara had a tendency to pull her goggles over her nose. We were afraid that she wouldn’t be able to breath if that happened when we weren’t watching, so we BARELY got any sleep in the hospital.  That Dhara made sure to keep us on our toes.  We were oh so tired.  I should also mention here that due to my 3rd degree tear, recovery was slow and painful.  No one ever talks about the recovery period for mom.  But it’s icky, and uncomfortable, and painful. Showers and toilet sessions were the worst.

We were under strict orders to only take Dhara out from under the lights for feedings and diaper changes — once those were done, she had to go back.  Those days really felt like the hospital owned her — like I just didn’t give birth to her!  I remember one night of Dhara just crying and crying — poor gal — I told Greg to give her to me.  She slept in my bed for part of the night — sweet bliss! — the next morning, the nurse came in and reprimanded me for having the baby out from under the lights.  I guess she had every right to reprimand me, but I just wanted some cuddle time with the babers.  Infants really are just the sweetest things in bed, they just cozy up right next to you.  Dhara’s test results fluctuated.  This was kinda depressing.  Whenever we thought she was doing better, her levels would go back up again.  Her highest bilirubin level was 18.

A couple of my fondest memories:

— Greg singing a made-up song to Dhara about “that mean Mr. Bilirubin”.  He’s so good at coming up with songs that make me laugh.  Especially during this time when I was kinda down in my spirits.  We had fun singing and coming up with verses for his made-up song.

— My favorite happened during the wee hours of December 29th.  I was partly awakened by the sounds of the pediatric nurse coming into our room.  She came in and shut off the lights above Dhara’s cart.  She then rolled Dhara’s cart next to my bed, and then quietly left the room.  Even though I was half asleep, my heart new it was all over — my baby was going to be alright.  Later that morning, once we awoke, we learned that we would be taking her home that day.  Oh for joy!  I get to finally keep her, was the feeling I felt.  And it was such a good, good feeling.

[End of Part III.]

[The End.]

our birth story, part II.

Read Part I, here.

8 PM, Christmas Eve. I received the epidural — a needle in my back — and was finally able to lay down comfortably as the drugs dulled down my pain wracked body.  The nurse checked all the IV wires now attached to me, made sure I was in a comfortable position, covered me with a super warm and cozy blanket just out of the dryer, gave me the infamous hand held epidural control to increase the amount of pain meds if I began to feel pain, and quietly walked out after turning out the lights.  Greg laid on a cot next to my bed and we both caught up on some much needed sleep.

10:30 PM, Christmas Eve. I began to feel uncomfortable — the need to turn on my side was almost OCDish, so I called for the nurse.  She helped me turn.  It was thirty minutes later that I began to feel that back jabbing pain again.  I pressed the button on the epidural control for more drugs.  Greg was worried that I was pressing that button too often.  Whether I was pressing it too much or not, it didn’t matter, because it wasn’t working.  The pain was intensifying and that button seemed to not be doing its job!  I called for my midwife, Bayla.  She checked my progression — I was 9 cm dilated and she could feel the baby’s head, which by the way, had lots of hair!  Bayla upped the Pitocin to make the inducing go faster.  I needed to do something because of the pain, so she used some of her midwifery techniques and got me to try different positions to get the baby’s head down lower. The one position I remember was getting on my hands and knees.  Prior to this point, I remember feeling timid about my body being uncovered, but at that point I didn’t care!  Uncovered, I was!  I was in so much pain that I would do anything for it to subside, even a little.

1 AM, Christmas Morning. It was this point in time I began telling Bayla and Greg that I couldn’t do it.  It was too much.  I began begging for a c-section.  Bayla told me to press the epidural button for more drugs.  I was pressing the button, but it wasn’t helping!  She called the nurses in.  I remember a few coming in to provide me with some physical and emotional support.  The head nurse took Bayla’s place and began urging me to push.  She told me that she could feel the baby’s head, even see it, and that I just needed to push — all I could do was somewhat push, cry and say I couldn’t.  I remember constantly looking at Greg with such anguish and begging him to let me get a c-section.  ”Cut me up,” I was thinking, just let this pain end.  The pain was so unbearable — I can’t even begin to describe it.  The nurses, after seeing all the pain I was in, decided to call the anesthesiologist to check my epidural.  Once he came, they had me sit up.  My body was being wracked with such forceful contractions that I was literally shaking.  The head nurse took me in her arms and held me while the anesthesiologist checked the needle in my back.  He was outraged — the needle had come out of my back at some point!  [Put aside all the pain I was in, the very fact that the epidural needle came out of my back was reason for suing the hospital because such incidents could lead to paralysis, etc.]  I personally think it must have come out when the midwife had me try various positions to get the baby’s head down lower.  The anesthesiologist redid my needle and taped it all up.  All the while, I felt the baby’s head lower while I sat getting the needle reinserted.  It felt like I was literally sitting on the baby’s head inside me.

2 AM, Christmas Morning. After the epidural was replaced and the drugs now flowing freely through my body once again, the pain began to slowly subside.  I laid back as I sucked on ice chips and began joking with the nurses, “I was just kidding about all the c-section stuff.”  Everyone laughed.

It was then that I slept between contractions.  The nurses would wake me up when it was time to push.  It was heavenly sleep — those few minutes here and there. Heavenly.  The pushing seemed futile to me because I couldn’t feel anything.  It seemed to be futile to the nurses too because the baby’s head wasn’t budging.  It was still stuck and couldn’t get past my tail bone.  Greg watched and listened as the nurses shook their heads and quietly spoke about me needing surgery since the baby wasn’t budging.  He left the room to call my parents.  He asked for prayer — specifically that I would not have to get a c-section.  They ended up calling my grandparents, and others in the church to pray for us.  [My dad says that within a couple hours they stopped praying because they knew, by faith, their prayers had been answered.]

3:30 AM Christmas Morning. The surgeon was called in.  A nice fatherly looking man.  He felt for the baby’s head and the exact position of the baby.  He talked to Greg and I and asked permission to try a technique he had tried once before.  If that didn’t work, he would take me into surgery.  Greg and I gave him permission to try the technique.  The technique — during a contraction, he gripped the baby’s head and shoulders with one of his hands and began to turn the baby.  It was such a forceful, yet concentrated maneuver, that the surgeon had to slowly turn his whole body around while turning the baby.  Greg watched in horror thinking that his baby’s neck would snap at any moment.  Instead, in a matter of a few minutes, our precious baby girl was born.

4:13 AM, Christmas Morning. Weighing in at 9 pounds, 1.6 ounces, and 21.75 inches long was, Dhara Avonlea Smith.  Otherwise known as, Dhara Dear.  As she came out, Greg’s eyes got real wide and he said, “Whoa, she’s a big baby!”  Here’s a short video of her seconds after being delivered.

Below are two photographs taken of my sweet cupcake within a couple hours of her birth — her first photo.  She literally looks like a cupcake.  : )  Thanks to Zuma Aunty and her camera phone.

early morning rays and a sleepy newborn

All that being said, Dhara was delivered just fine, except for the minor cone head. Even though she was stuck in the birth canal for an extended period of time, her heartbeat always remained constant, as did mine.  I did have a 3rd degree tear. But, so grateful to the Lord for our protection.  I’m also grateful for a group of prayer warriors who prayed at 2 AM for a vaginal and safe delivery.  I was literally 5 minutes away from being taken to the operating room for a cesarean section.  I think it was their prayers that moved our mountain.  Soooo happy now that I don’t have those scars on my tummy to show for it.  Instead, God’s hand lead us all the way.  It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure!

Most moms that I’ve seen look great after giving birth.  I looked like I had just been in a train wreck.  I felt like the whole experience could have added a couple of years to me. It’s a good thing that I’ve lost all sense of the pain I felt that day because all this being said, I still want to try birthing naturally next time around, especially if the baby is in the correct position.  Call me crazy, but it’s still a deep desire of mine. Both Greg and I are interested in trying a birthing center next time around.  We wouldn’t mind birthing at home, but I think both sets of parents would think we’re loony. But who knows, maybe we will one day.  Greg personally thinks that we shouldn’t have had to induce with Dhara.  He thinks the midwife could have done more to turn the baby during the early laboring phase, such as putting me in various positions, or using a rebozo to “sift” the baby.

For those of you who are wondering about the doula I initially hired, we ended up not having one because of the hospital switch I made later on in my pregnancy. The cost of the new midwives was not fully covered under our insurance, so we decided to forgo the doula.  However, in hindsight, we both wish we had a doula with us.  She would have helped in going to the hospital at the right time — we ended up going too early.  She probably would have also helped in turning the baby to the right position with various “baby turning” techniques.

Also as a side note, the epidural ended up having a negative side effect on me.  For about two months my right foot was numb.  In other words, it was like I had a lead foot.  I was worried that I would be stuck with it, but thank God it wore off in a couple months.

So there you have it!  Our birth story.  I’m going to go ahead and write up a brief Part III because I don’t want to forget what it felt like to have Dhara under the lights due to her jaundice.  Part III coming up.

[End of Part II.]

our birth story, part I.

It’s finally done, 12 months later that is!  I took the time to finish it today.  The last time I edited this was in July!  Trust me, there was many a time I decided that I wouldn’t write this story, but I knew in the end I wanted my experience documented for my sake, and for Dhara’s.  Finishing this story a couple days before her birth day makes it even more real.  I can relive the whole experience again just by closing my eyes and thinking back to this exact time last year.  So here it is — our birth story.


When I think about my birthing experience, I have to take a deep, deep breath.

My due date was Christmas Eve.  And it was the day before Christmas Eve when it all began.  I was 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant.  The contractions began that morning, I’d say around 6:30 AM.  I didn’t know what to expect — gradual menstrual cramps leading up to contractions or was it going to be an all out pain fest?  I had no idea.  But that morning, I felt slight cramps come and go every 30 to 40 minutes.  Nothing big or painful – just crampy.

I called my midwife, and she said that this kind of contraction could possibly go on for a couple days.  She said to call her when they became 5 minutes apart.  That day was filled with excitement because I knew I’d be heading to the hospital in the next day or so to have our baby — so weird.  That day I folded clothes, talked to my own personal midwife/doula/cousin, Ohio Becky, packed the baby’s bag of little things and the rest of my suitcase which was fully equipped with Bradley food like honey sticks, apple juice, granola, fage greek yogurt, orange juice for after the birth, etc.

It just so happened that my contractions got heavier and closer together that very night.  By 3 AM, I was gripping the bathroom counter top in order to get through a contraction.  I didn’t go to sleep at all that night.  I walked back and forth from the bed, to pelvic rocking, to the bathroom, and back.

We called the midwife, Bayla, at 4 AM, Christmas Eve morning.  She said to slowly make our way to the hospital, and lastly added, “you want a water birth, correct?”  I responded with, “yes, that’s what we would like.”  So with my suitcase, which was mostly packed a week before, birth plan in hand, car seat installed, and my weepy-eyed parents saying goodbye to us, Greg and I got into our Suburu Outback and made our way to downtown Baltimore.  As we pulled away from my parent’s home, it felt so weird to think I’d be coming home a different gal in a huge way.

The drive to the hospital was painful.  I just wanted to get there.  I remember falling in and out of sleep.  Thank God the roads were pretty much empty.  I remember seeing snow flurries make their way down from the sky during our quiet drive.  We got to the hospital at 6 AM just as the sun was barely peaking out over the horizon.  Because we were with the midwives, we could bypass triage, and totally be in the care of the midwives, which was nice.  So Bayla checked us in, and took us to our spacious and quiet room, fully equipped with a birthing tub.  The room was tucked away in the corner of the L+D floor, and it had a great view of downtown Baltimore before us.

I got into my hospital gown, and Bayla checked my vitals.  At around 7 AM I was 5 cm dilated (good sign) and the baby was in posterior position (not so good sign). Bayla said to give it time and the baby should turn.  So for the next nine hours I paced, got numerous back rubs from Greg, used my rice sock to loosen the muscles in my back and shoulders, listened to some Misty Edwards, drank lots of ice water, peed (alot), got my bag of waters broken by midwife extraordinaire, the Kathy Sloane, and then paced some more.  The contractions got stronger and stronger and the minutes between got closer and closer.  After almost twelve hours of all this, I was in ALOT of pain, the baby was still posterior, and I was still only 5 cm dilated.  Sad, but true.  I was told that the intense pain I was having was “back labor” — this is when the posterior position of the baby pushes the baby’s head directly onto the mom’s tailbone, causing intense pressure and pain.

6:30 PM, Christmas Eve. The midwife then suggested that we induce.  After she left the room, I began to cry on Greg’s shoulder.  You see, I needed a minute or two to get used to the idea of not having the natural birth I so wanted.  Of giving up everything I had been taught.  I was ultra prepared with all the Bradley class knowledge buzzing around in my head that it was hard for me to give it up and just get induced.  I realized then that this was not about what I wanted, but rather what was best for the baby, and plus, I don’t know if I could have handled hours and hours or days of such pain.  What came to mind was a beautiful healthy baby girl.  I had to remind myself that at the end of all this I get a baby — a real life baby.  It wasn’t a race to see if I could pull off birthing naturally — even though this was preferable and more safe than being induced.

So I pulled myself together and prepared for the anesthesiologist to come in.  And let me tell you, once I accepted the idea of getting induced and receiving an epidural, the anesthesiologist couldn’t come fast enough!  It was a constant pain that gave no breaks — these back to back contractions felt like I was forcefully being jabbed in the back and in the same spot over and over again.

The anesthesiologist, once he finally arrived, told me I would love him for what he was about to do.  And let me tell you something else, once I got that shot, the pain subsided so calmly that I could lay down and finally get some rest after almost two days of this all starting.

But that’s not where the story ends.  It had only just begun.

[End of Part I.]