Forgive me for this post taking so long, for it being all over the place, for leaving things out, and for being too graphic, but I want to document the story, our Cohen’s birth story…
On Sunday, June 26th in the late morning, I started having contractions. By noon we decided to time them. For about two hours they were 3 to 5 minutes apart, and although they weren’t painful, we decided to call the doctor. She suggested we head to the hospital to see if I was making any progress. So I finished packing my bag, and we headed out. As we drove toward the hospital, Addy informed us that we were going to the park and that it was “gonna be great!” (she was right about it being great and we were actually on the road we would normally take to go the park…).We arrived at the hospital around 3 pm. We walked the halls with a restless Addy (who was very upset to be walking into a place that reminded her of her doctor’s office). My nurse commented that she didn’t think it was time because I was “just too smiley”. When she checked me at 5 pm, I had dilated another centimeter (to a whopping 3 cm), so they decided to admit me. I changed into the “hospital gown” I purchased online for Addy’s birth (the idea that they could put me in a gown that some person had died in the day before is enough to send me over the edge). My step-dad, Dan, came to take the soon-to-be big sister for the night. My mom, Jason’s mom, her fiancé, and my best friends, Molly and Lauren, arrived and the excitement started to really build. This was the day that he was really going to join us.
An hour or so later, the doctor came to check me. As she was telling me that I was dilated to 4 cm and that my “bag of water was bulging”, my water broke! Eeek! This is when things got serious with Addy…they broke my water at 5 pm, and I had her at 6:30 pm. I was expecting to see him soon because I had heard over and over that the second birth is usually more quick. The contractions were instantly stronger, longer, and more close together. I sat on a birthing ball at the edge of my bed and drifted in and out of the cheerful conversation in the room. I realized he definitely wasn’t going to make an arrival quite like Addy did. I got in the shower for a bit as the contractions got to the point that I couldn’t simply breathe through them. After the shower, around 9 pm, the doctor checked me and gave me a 5 or a 6. I remember thinking, are you freaking kidding me…shouldn’t I have had him by now?! I started to fear that things weren’t going exactly as they should when the nurse had me get in different positions, like on all fours, while shaking my hips back and forth (I know now that he wasn’t descending into my pelvis…I told them he was big!). I can’t really describe the pain I was feeling at this point…the kind of pain that makes you want to claw out of your own skin but that you know is working to give you something you want so badly...the kind of pain that makes you question the natural childbirth you thought you wanted. The nurse I had for both births was exceptional (yes, I was lucky enough to get the same nurse 2 years later). She helped me moan through contractions. She talked me through the ones I thought I couldn’t handle. She told me to envision him at my breast, which I did and was comforted. My epidural = a nurse named Janel.
Sometime after 10:30, I let them know that I was feeling a lot of pressure. This time the nurse checked me, gave me a 7, and said the doctor was wrong before when she gave me a 5 or a 6. I was infuriated. This is when I “turned off” the rest of the room. I vaguely remember hearing someone say “it’s just a number” or at least that’s what I think I heard. I started telling myself over and over, “it’s just a number…you know your body.” So even though they didn’t think I was ready to push because I wasn’t a 10, I started pushing. I didn’t push enough to actually deliver him, just enough to not fight what my body was telling me. When the doctor came to check on me 2 contractions later, she took one look and turned to the nurse, shocked and said, “You said she was a 7! That’s his head!” Chaos ensued, lights came down from the ceiling, nurses ran around, the doctor threw on her blue paper suit. The first real push, with my feet in the stirrups, got the top half of his head out. This is when I realized yet again, things weren’t going as planned. They started telling me I had to get him out (Jason says it looked like the nurse was ready to jump on top of me and push him out herself). They made me take a few breaths through an oxygen mask. I was so scared. They didn’t do that with Addy. Why was this different than Addy? He was out in one more contraction (2 pushes), but instead of putting him on my chest like they did with her, they took him straight to the warmer. He cried and seemed fine to everyone else, but I knew different. As everyone crowded in around him to take pictures, I asked the doctor, “Is something wrong?” “Babies just don’t like to come out that fast, honey. His heart rate dropped a bit as you were pushing, but he’s beautiful. His face is going to be very bruised and we want to clear his airways as much as possible.” That was all I needed to hear. He was beautiful.
The doctor delivered the placenta and the fear started again. As her face changed, she asked, “Did you have any problems with this pregnancy?” “No, I don’t think so, why?” She explained that I had a double placenta. She showed me them, connected by a blood vessel. The nurses all wanted to see it. I felt like I was some sort of medical oddity. Jason jokes that they took it in a jar to the Putnam Museum. Anyway, she was concerned that the ultrasounds hadn’t uncovered it and surprised that I had had no complications. I didn’t realize how big of a deal the double placenta was until later, when the doctor explained it in greater detail. Either the pregnancy started with twins and one didn’t survive, or the placenta inexplicably developed two lobes. It’s probably best that I’ll never know which the case was. Apparently c-sections are usually required when there are two placentas as the connecting blood vessel or one of the placentas often is too close to the cervix. This is called Vasa Previa. When the cervix dilates or the water breaks, the vessel can tear, causing rapid blood loss to the baby. The pressure of the descending baby can also put pressure on the placenta, cutting off the blood flow to the baby. I made the mistake of doing some additional research later and sobbed as I read that this occurs once in every 2,000 to 3,000 births, and the fetal mortality rate is 95%. Even typing that makes me feel as though I’m going to be ill. To think that the pregnancy may have started out with two beautiful babies is difficult, but the idea that Cohen might not be sleeping soundly next to me today is absolutely unbearable. I have to bring myself back to reality...The reality is, we’re so extremely blessed to have two beautiful, perfect children. Moving on before the emotions overcome me again…The double placenta could also explain some of his large size. He was most likely getting extra nutrients. At 38 and a half weeks, he was born weighing 8 lbs, 12.6 oz, measuring 20 inches long. I remember feeling alone and empty while they delivered the placenta and stitched me up. I was jealous that everyone was getting to see him. I remember thinking, if they let someone else hold him before I get to; they’re going to see me flip out. They didn’t. They handed him to me, a piece of my soul that I didn’t know I was missing until it was back in my arms. As he lay on my chest, I drank him in. I nursed him and memorized his face. It didn’t look bruised to me then, it looked…breath-taking. Honestly, it didn’t look bruised to me until I looked back at photos.
We spent the night alone with him and then anxiously awaited Addy’s arrival the next day. When she came walking shyly into the room, carrying a gift for her new baby brother, I felt like my heart would burst. I was completely overcome looking at her and Cohen and a proud Jason. Could I be any more lucky? She tried to feed Cohen her Fritos. She told us that her baby brother is “soo cuuute.” She sang him Happy Birthday.
Jason took her home that night, and I stayed at the hospital with Cohen by myself. It felt so odd to be apart from them. I spent a lot of the night watching him sleep, crying tears of joy over this little guy, completing our family.
Let the fun begin…