Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Woman in her Thirties Surrenders

Last night I sat down to write an email to S, my yoga instructor, about baby Aaron's birth story.  In doing so, I realized that I was a woman in her thirties in the beginning phases of trying to process everything that has happened in the last six days.  So here it is, with a few photos taken the week before by the wonderful Kim P at Mimsydotes.


I was diagnosed with Vasa Previa at nine weeks.  The blood vessel covering my cervix was 'huge' according to my OB, and one afternoon spent on Google me realize that it was serious.  I was put on strict restrictions— no bathing my daughter, no heavy lifting, no sex, no exercise.  I was told to expect bed-rest, likely in the hospital, at 28 weeks (earlier, if I showed any signs of bleeding), and a C-Section at 32 weeks (36, if I was lucky). The main thing with Vasa Previa is that the mother cannot go into labor.  If the blood vessel bursts, which would happen as the cervix dilates, it means almost certain death for the baby and a life-threatening situation for the Mom.  



For seven months I was monitored closely by both my Perinatologist and my OB, and as time went on and my belly grew, my ultrasounds seemed to show that the blood vessel was moving out of the way of my cervix.  Both doctors argued about what to do with me (my OB being the much more conservative of the two), but at 32 weeks I was still on my feet and an MRI showed that we'd been granted some kind of miracle.  In the end, they finally agreed that I was out of imminent danger, and they allowed me not only to go full term but also have a vaginal birth.  We were beyond relieved and resumed 'normal' life.



Last Wednesday, after a perfectly normal day, I went to bed feeling exhausted.  I was 38 weeks by then, and had dilated 1 cm as of Monday.  L came to bed after me and had been laying down for less than a couple of minutes when I felt what I thought was my water breaking.  I smiled (my first instinct!) knowing that this meant that labor was on the way.  But when I reached down to my legs and pulled my hand back, all I could see was blood.  It was covering my whole hand and continued to flow steadily beneath me.  'Oh God' I said.  'I'm bleeding.'  It was the worst-case scenario we'd thought we would avoid.

L leapt out of bed and was on the phone with 911 in seconds.  I continued to lay on the bed, wide eyed, as the pool of blood beneath me grew darker and redder.  I was dreaming, wasn't I?  This couldn't actually be happening.  Within minutes, the police were there, and right behind them the EMT.  They wheeled me out of the house, and I barely spoke, barely moved.  All I could do in the back of the ambulance was think about the baby inside of me.  Was he dying right then, or was he already gone?  The shock and sadness of it numbed me completely.  

I was hooked up to some kind of small ultrasound machine that showed us the baby— his heart was still beating and he was still moving.  I lay back on the stretcher and allowed myself to cry tears of relief as I was being prepped for surgery.  He was okay, and that was all that mattered.  But then it hit me as we barreled down France Avenue— if this wasn't the baby's blood supply, that meant it was mine.  'Is this how it's going to end for me?' I wondered as I felt the blood continue to flow out of me.  I think we all wonder how we will react in a situation like that, and for me it wasn't with fear or sadness or anger.  I was really quite peaceful, actually.  I found myself scanning a picture album of my mind of all the people in my life I'd loved, and how much they had made me who I was.  Would they ever know how much I loved them?  I asked myself.  Would they ever understand how safe I had felt, knowing they were there with me no matter where my journey in life had taken me?



A row of doctors and nurses waited for me at the entrance of the emergency room, and another group were at attention in labor and delivery.  'Have you had any complications with this pregnancy?' they kept asking me, and I didn't know where to begin.  It was then that I saw my OB, who had rushed to the hospital when she'd been paged.  Her face was ghostly white, and she was already prepped for surgery.  'How can this be happening?' I managed to ask her amid all the commotion.  'I don't know,' she said, because it was the truest thing she could say.

I kept asking for my husband as they did the final preparations for the C-Section, and finally he was allowed inside when the curtain was up and we were ready to go.  Seeing his eyes underneath the surgery scrubs sent me into despair.  'This isn't how it was supposed to be,' I moaned.  'I didn't get to say goodbye to Anna.'


'It's okay,' he kept saying.  'Everything is going to be okay.'  And I wondered if he knew that of all the people who had cast their supportive arms around me in my life, that his had been the most important.  No matter what happened, my children would be safe because he was their Dad.  



'You're going to feel us push on you for a second,' the anesthesiologist said.  I did, and then I felt my baby being born. 'He's perfect', I heard my OB say to all of us in the room, but I didn't relax until I heard his beautiful cry.  I was stitched up and wheeled off to recovery, and it was over.

Aaron Richard was born 5 lbs, 8oz, 19 inches, and is my miracle child.  He is perfect in every way.  


In yoga, my instructor always talks about the importance 'surrendering'.  Not just in a difficult pose, but in birth. I've thought about that a lot over the last few days in the hospital.  No, this was not the birth I'd planned for.  It is certainly not the birth story that most women would be excited to share.  My OB's best guess is that the blood vessel that had been responsible for the Vasa Previa had one or more tributaries that had ruptured as my cervix dilated, causing the hemorrhage.   No one could have foreseen what happened, no machine could have predicted it.  


Surrendering was, after all, the only thing I could do.  I know now that, in the end, I was still wrapped up in... someone's(?) loving arms.  I had no choice but to let go, and yet I still received.  I am truly, profoundly blessed.

16 comments:

  1. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing your birth story. Whether it was the one you wanted or not, it's still now part of your family's history and a great read for us folks in blog land. So glad you are still with us to tell us all about it! Congratulations on your perfect little man!

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  2. Ugh, trying not to cry over here! I am so glad everyone is okay. Aaron is beautiful!

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  3. Oh.My.Gosh....what an incredible birth story. I had tears in my eyes. So glad both of you are healthy! Congrats on Aaron's arrival, he is adorable! Thanks for sharing your story with us!

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  4. Love this! You had me in tears. I'm so glad you shared the pictures AND the story. Love! Welcome Baby Aaron! We LOVE you!!!

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  5. Crying.......glad everything is okay with you and the baby. I've read your blog for about 2 years and I feel as if I know you. Snuggle him for as long as you can, because as you know, it goes fast!

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  6. I am so happy you and Aaron are home safe. I have never read something so intense. You are an amazing writer. I wish for you 8 solid hours of sleep someday very soon.

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  7. He is perfect!! I am so glad that you are okay. You have do much to be thankful for. Congratulations.

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  8. Oh wow. I too had tears streaming down my cheeks reading your post, so powerful. I have been thinking about your family so much these last few days. What a sweet face.

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  9. Geez! A little warning before a post like this! I can't even control the tears. You are such an amazing writer, your experience is so beautifully conveyed. So thankful for you and Aaron (and Anna and Larry!) Love you so much!

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  10. I cried when L told me what happened, and this post made me cry again! I can't even begin to imagine how terrifying that must have been. SO thrilled and relieved that perfect baby Aaron and you are both safe and healthy!

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  11. Such a terrifying night... so thankful all turned out well in the end. Love you all!!!

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  12. I am wondering when I am going to stop crying when I think of what happened. I am so so thankful that you two are alright and that you are still here to tell the story. He is an angel!

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  13. I didn't read this until just now--- and I'm crying again. Not an I-80 cry... More of a slow trickle of gratitude for you and for life. This is such a heart-wrenching story... I'm so thankful that you are all well and happy. Love you.

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  14. I haven't been blogging, so I just caught this! Congratulations on AR's arrival! I'm sorry that you had so many unexpected trials on the way to him getting here though... but you are right, he's a miracle, no matter.

    Hugs and happiness~

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  15. I just re-read this. Yeah, vasa previa is MUCH more serious than placenta previa!

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