My birth story started on Mother’s Day. I woke around 3 a.m. with a headache that lasted all day and was not relieved by sleeping, eating or taking medicine. I called the midwife that afternoon to see if maybe something was wrong. I felt like something was because when I would move, eat, bend or be in the sunlight, the pain in my head increased by 100 fold. The midwife told me to try some medicine one more time and if I didn’t feel any relief, she wanted me to come to labor and delivery to check my blood pressure. Within that hour, my father-in-law happened to be in town and stopped by, so I asked my husband if we could go to the hospital while his dad was there and he could watch our other two children. My husband was surprised I wanted to go, but he trusted that I knew I needed to, especially since the medicine had no effect on my symptoms. As I was closing the door to leave our home, I remember thinking, “I am not coming back tonight” and even though I had this thought, I left home like I was coming back in an hour or so.
When we got to labor and delivery, they put me in a room to monitor my blood pressure, had me give a urine sample and took blood. Before long my doctor was in to see how I was doing. I explained all of my symptoms and he told me that my blood work showed that my kidney enzymes were elevated and this was a sign of preeclampsia. What was interesting to me was that the entire day I kept thinking, “People are probably thinking, ‘what is wrong with you complaining about a headache? You’re pregnant. It’s a part of the territory.’” I felt like I would be taken as a complainer, but the main reason my doctor came in to see me instead of just sending the midwife is because I rated my pain an eight out of ten and he said that because I am not one to complain, he knew the headache I was talking about was not just something simple.
Now let me give you some details of what we were dealing with: 1) I was two days shy of 39 weeks, so I was considered full-term, 2) I had a baby that was breech, but I was still planning on having a vaginal birth, and 3) I was pregnant with twins. So, I made a choice I never thought I’d make. But, considering how far I had made it with twins, the babies were doing well and I was just showing signs of complications with this pregnancy, it was a choice I had to make. It went something like this:
Dr.: Well, Mrs. Allen, I really don’t feel comfortable sending you home and having you walking around with the symptoms you’re having.
Me: So what does this mean?
Dr.: Would it be okay with you if we did a c-section?
What is the significance of this statement? The doctor asked me if it was okay to do a procedure that doctors normally tell their patients they will be doing. Throughout this pregnancy, it was me and my husband, my midwife, and my doctor working together. In the area I live, most doctors will not deliver a breech baby, let alone a twin breech baby, so I had come to a place where I felt my team was working with me, heard me, and understood our requests and what was important to us. When this decision arrived, I felt that my medical team had a true sense of potential urgency in the situation, and my husband and I decided that this was probably the best solution for our situation.
Now that the decision had been made, the clock was ticking and I couldn’t sleep. My husband had left to relieve my father-in-law (who had a three-hour drive home) and wait on my mother-in-law to come down (she had an hour-and-a-half drive) to watch the kids for us. I was left alone to make additional phone calls and to try to mentally prepare for what was to happen next.
The surgery was scheduled for early Monday morning, the day after Mother’s Day, and this is where it all begins. I was taken back to the operating room, while my husband and doula (Did I mention I am a doula and I had a doula for my previous birth and this one?) waited for me to be prepped. I was seemingly okay until they opened the doors to the O.R. and I saw ALL of the surgical tools laid out on the table. This is where it became real to me. I believe I started to panic. I wanted to turn around and walk right out of that room and not come back. I truly wanted to change my mind and go back home. Yet, I kept walking and got up on the operating table. The anesthesiologist gave me the spinal, which I cried through. I remember the nurse saying, “You’re being such a good mom.” and me replying through tears, “No, I am not.” After the anesthesia was given, they laid me down on the table and my head felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife. I was pleading for them to wait and kept saying over and over, “My head. My head.” I remember the curtain being put up. The anesthesiologist asked if I could feel his touch. I could and that freaked me out because then I kept thinking, “I am going to feel them cutting me open.” I kept worrying about that. Then not too long after they laid me down, I threw up from the medicine they gave me.
The doctor came in after that and began the procedure. Then I freak out because my husband wasn’t in there with me, but as I was thinking this thought, he and my doula walked in. As the surgery was happening I started having problems breathing and was given oxygen to help. My doula later explained that sometimes anesthesia can travel father up when you are laying down and make it harder for the lungs to expand. Because they couldn’t sit me up to make the medicine travel back down, they used the oxygen to help.
After the oxygen mask was placed on my face, Baby A was born and about three minutes later, Baby B was born. The plan was to have immediate skin-to-skin contact, but both babies were somewhat unresponsive when they were taken out. They were taken over to the warmers and given massages. Both babies pretty much started crying at the same time. It was only a matter of minutes before both babies were brought over to me, so I could see them. After I saw them, I began to realize that I couldn’t stay awake any longer and closed my eyes. When I opened my eyes back up, I was in the mother-baby room where I would stay for the next four days.
Now this is where I don’t have ANY memory of what happened and the following information is based on the accounts of my husband, my doula, and video and pictures my husband took. You remember I said I closed my eyes and then when I opened them, I was in my room where I would stay. Well, before opening my eyes the following happened:
I was taken to the recovery room where my husband held both babies skin-to-skin. My doula and husband helped me to nurse both babies who weren’t so ready to nurse at first. The doctor came in to tell me that we had some things to talk about once I was not under the influence of the anesthesia (I had a full conversation with the doctor and I don’t even remember it, but I have proof from my husband’s video he took). I also saw footage of me being wheeled to my mother-baby room and I was talking with the staff that was taking me. At some point, my mother, sisters, nieces and a couple of family friends showed up, and this is the part of the story where I began to wake up.
My doctor came in a few hours after surgery to tell me that there must have been divine intervention going on because my lab work that I took before surgery, was seen after surgery and showed that I was showing signs of my liver enzymes increasing, which meant my liver was becoming inflamed and the end result of an inflamed liver is it bursting. Women have died from similar incidents. I ultimately had what is called HELLP syndrome—a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia. Both conditions usually occur during the later stages of pregnancy or sometimes after childbirth. (Check this link for more details: http://www.preeclampsia.org/health-information/hellp-syndrome.)
As my doctor so nicely put it, I didn’t have any streamline symptoms. I had blurred vision twice on two separate and far apart occasions that lasted a few minutes, but no other symptoms at the time. Then a couple of weeks before having the babies, my feet swelled, but there was no protein in my urine and no elevated blood pressure. If it were not for the headache, my birth story could have turned out tragically different, but I am thankful for a medical team (doctor and midwives) that listened and worked with me throughout the entire pregnancy.
I am even more thankful for two healthy and happy now 3-and-a-half-month-old babies. Baby A was 6 pounds 2 ounces and 18 inches long, and Baby B (my biggest baby out of all 4 of my children) was 6 pounds 14 ounces and 21 inches long. They are great nursing twins who did not have to stay in the hospital without me. That was my ultimate prayer for this pregnancy, that God would keep me and my babies and that they would be born full term and not need to stay in the hospital without me.
I have had three totally different labors and I hope that somewhere in the future my stories are able to help another mom out there, even if it’s just so she knows she is not alone. Already, my own stories have helped me as a doula.
If you would like to share your birth story with our readers, simply visit the submission page for details.
Deborah A. Allen is a mother or four (ages 14, 2 and 3-month-old twins), a doula and a wife of 15 years. Deborah is currently breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby wearing her twins, as she did with her previous two children. She has worked at a not-for-profit pregnancy help center, started a local birth networking group and mentored other doulas throughout her career. Her ultimate goal is to attend medical school to work as an obstetrics and gynecological medical doctor.