**This blog post is a bit different than others, which are typically jam-packed with delicious recipes and simple action steps you can take to balance your hormones and feel your best. Instead it’s a very personal account of Amelia’s birth story, which I chose to share in the case ANY mamas out there might resonate with it or find it supportive in some small way.
Compared to my first pregnancy with Eloise (which included multiple health scares and a shocking diagnosis of gestational diabetes, despite my healthy habits), the second time around with Amelia felt like a breeze.
Minus the typical first trimester fatigue, nausea and food aversions (literally could not stomach a single vegetable) I felt really good throughout this pregnancy. My energy returned in the second trimester and extended all the way up to (and past!) my due date. Every single doctor’s checkup and test came back completely healthy, and this time around I tested negative for gestational diabetes. I even somehow felt more comfortable, with the baby sitting lower so there was more space in my ribs.
I was also feeling more optimistic about labor, after learning it’s typically a much shorter process with your second baby due to muscle memory, and that second babies are usually born before their due date.
But as I surpassed 40 weeks and was doing ALL the things to bring this baby into the world naturally (drinking red raspberry leaf tea, taking three mile walks, consuming dates and spicy food, different positions on a birthing ball, even sex :)) I began to worry.
My doctor didn’t want me going past 41 weeks due to health complications that could arise, especially with my age (36) and history of gestational diabetes (which can deteriorate the placenta, baby’s nutrition source).
I wanted to avoid an induction at all costs (I was induced using Pitocin with Eloise and it resulted in a long and painful 28 hour labor) and wait until my body was ready, but I also obviously didn’t want to compromise the health of my baby. After much conferring back and forth with my husband and doula, we decided to move forward with an induction at 41 weeks if baby hadn’t arrived. Although I was nervous, it felt like the right decision.
So on the morning of the summer solstice and one of the hottest days of the year (June 21, 2021) my husband and I headed into the hospital for a scheduled induction, leaving Eloise at home with my dad (her papa).
Once I was checked in and set up in my room, the nurses hooked me up to an IV and started me on a low dose of Pitocin to get contractions going. For those who don’t know (not like you should, I didn’t before labor!) Pitocin is a synthetic version of the hormone Oxytocin, which stimulates contractions to help your cervix dilate and soften in order for you to have a vaginal birth (your cervix needs to be dilated to 10 cm and completely softened or effaced in order for the baby to fit through the canal and you to begin pushing).
After a couple hours of Pitocin, the doctor checked my cervix (still at around 4 cm, which is where I started) and decided to break my water, which works to lower baby’s head further on your cervix, progressing contractions and labor. My doula arrived at that point, and I’m so glad, because the contractions really ramped up after that and I went into active labor, which was incredibly intense.
I alternated between the bath and different positions on the bed and birthing ball, with my doula pushing down on my hips and back during contractions to help relieve a bit of the pressure, but the pain became all encompassing, and soon my whole body was shaking. By the time I was 7 cm I knew getting an epidural was the right call, as every contraction felt unbearable.
When the epidural was finally administered I was in tears to my husband, filled with a sense of fear and doubt that I couldn’t go through with it anymore. My doula assured me these were totally normal thoughts during what’s known as the “transition” point in labor, when you’re almost complete with “active labor” and to the pushing phase. Luckily the epidural began to work it’s magic, and shortly after I was at 10 cm and ready to begin pushing.
As soon as I started pushing, the energy in the room shifted and I could tell something wasn’t right. My doctor and doula began encouraging me to push quickly and intensely, and I gave every single push my absolute all until I was out of breath. The doctor began shouting out orders and soon there was an entire team in the room, including the NICU unit. I could tell everyone was trying to keep me calm but I knew something very serious was going on and was filled with terror and panic.
“Is everything okay?” I kept asking. My doctor told me the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and they were working to get her out as quickly as possible so she could get oxygen, and both her and my doula coached me to push to expedite the process. My heart pounding, I pushed with every fiber in my being, while the doctor used a vacuum to help suction and position the baby’s head in order to get her out.
In minutes, the baby was out, but she was blue and wasn’t breathing or crying. Whenever I think about that moment a pit forms in my stomach, as it was truly one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. The thought that I could spend all this time growing and nurturing a baby in my belly and not even get to meet her or watch her grow had never entered my mind before, and once it did it felt like it would be the most devastating thing that could ever happen. While it didn’t even register to me at the time, my doula told me after the fact that despite it being scary, it was beautiful and moving to watch me dig deep within and do whatever I needed to do to get her out safely.
Thankfully once the baby was out (less than 10 minutes after I began pushing) the NICU unit was there and they began tapping and gently pumping on the baby to get her to breathe, and soon I heard her cry and was filled with relief. They placed her on my chest and I was overcome with emotion, both my husband and I were crying. I kept asking “Is she okay? Is she okay?” and my doula assured me if she wasn’t they wouldn’t have placed her on my chest.
Throughout my pregnancy, I wondered how I’d be able to love another human the way I unconditionally loved my firstborn, Eloise, but for me the connection was instant. I felt a rush of emotions all at once, relief, gratitude, love, nerves, exhaustion. I let her nurse and sleep on my chest for the next hour while I soaked it all in.
Unfortunately, even though the baby was now out safely, a myriad of health complications arose. Because she was small for her size (6 lbs 2 oz 20 inches at 41 weeks) her blood sugar was low, and a few hours after her delivery they whisked her away to the NICU to hook her up to an IV with sugar to stabilize it. My husband went with her to the NICU while I stayed in the hospital bed, once again filled with a sense of dread. She stayed there the next two nights, while I walked over from my hospital room every three hours to nurse her, then bottle feed to ensure she was getting enough milk, then pump to produce more milk to top her off the next round. Then I’d go back to my room for an hour or so to attempt to rest before I did it all over again.
Luckily I was producing A LOT of milk, and she was taking it all down well, which worked naturally to stabilize her blood sugar. By the middle of the second night they took her off the IV and sent her back to my hospital room where I could continue nursing her. By mid-morning the next day, the hospital discharged us both and I called my husband (who was home with our toddler) to come pick us up.
We were all packed and ready to go, filling out the final paperwork with the nurse when my phone started ringing with a call from Amelia’s pediatric physician. I answered, thinking it’d be a confirmation for her follow up appointment, but to my total dismay it was a call advising me to keep Amelia in the hospital for further monitoring. Apparently when she was hooked up to the IV in the NICU her heart rate would periodically drop lower than normal, what’s known as a prolonged heart rate. Because of the dip, the infant cardiologist recommended her staying another night while running an EKG to make sure her heart was functioning normally.
I of course wanted to do everything to keep her safe and healthy, but during that moment I was incredibly upset. All I wanted was to bring my (healthy) baby home to meet her big sister, Eloise, and rest and spend time together as a family. Instead my husband headed back home while I ended up staying another two nights in the hospital with Amelia, this time sleeping in a bed in her room in the NICU unit.
The waiting for the results the next two days was brutal. While I consider myself a very spiritual person and believe in the power of energy and manifestation, I don’t often pray, but this time I sat in my hospital bed praying for strength and that no matter what the outcome we’d get through it. During this difficult time, another health complication popped up with jaundice, as Amelia’s billy rubin levels were high, meaning her liver was having a difficult time breaking down red blood cells. The hospital put her on photo light therapy on her to help, and even though I knew it was a good thing, it was hard to watch her hooked up to a bunch of IV’s under the blue light, with a mask covering her eyes. She looked so fragile and helpless. But I continued to nurse her every three hours, stay by her side and pray.
Finally, that Friday morning, we got the word back that the concern with her heart appeared to be transient, meaning it would resolve itself within the next couple of weeks. I had to schedule a follow up with a cardiologist (update as of 7.21.21 everything came back healthy and normal in the follow up visit), but in the meantime Amelia was finally considered healthy enough to go home. I was elated, it felt like the world’s greatest gift.
As I write this now, exactly two weeks later, it all still feels incredibly vivid, painful and real, however I feel a profound sense of gratitude. This experience was one of growth for me, and if anything it only magnified what truly matters most in this world, the health and happiness of your loved ones and yourself. Everything else is just a bonus. Sometimes I tend to get caught up in such trivial things, and Amelia’s birth reinforced what is really important, and just how lucky I am, and we are as a family. My husband and I have two beautiful, healthy girls, and in their short time on earth they’ve already taught me so much. I’m the same person, yet entirely different. I’m a mother. I’m their mother.
I’m honored to support you on your journey to optimal hormone health + happiness. Thanks for being here babe.