Birthing Baby Sage (Part 2)

Holding newborn baby

Part 2 of our birth story. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can find it here:

The Blurry Moments
I know I held her because I remember the midwife passing her up through my legs after giving birth. Mike says it was probably about five minutes but no longer than 10 that we got to hold her. In contrast, when my son was born I held him from the very beginning and carried him from the living room to the bedroom still connected to the placenta and we all got into bed where we snuggled for quite a while before he had any of his newborn checks. So for me, these 5 to 10 minutes felt so brief and like I was cheated out of something with my daughter.

newborn health check Ohio State Midwives

I remember waiting a few minutes to cut her cord and laying her on my chest expecting her to root and start breast-feeding. She didn’t. I remember thinking her energy seemed low although she had let out a good wailing cry at birth. My son was like a ninja warrior climbing up my body to my chest to eat immediately. Sister showed no interest in eating. I didn’t have much time to think about it, though, because immediately the twenty-some pediatric doctors had rushed into the room and right away a number of them needed my attention.

I thought I would freak out over having so many people in the room when I was naked with my rear in the air pushing out a child, especially since our first birth was so intimate and in the comfort of our own home. Turns out, I didn’t care. They were only in there for the last couple of minutes, thankfully. Like I shared in my first post, our birth progressed pretty quickly and I didn’t spend much time laboring. I do remember hearing the nurse call for the pediatric team and indicating that I was a level 3 pediatric need. I didn’t know at the time what a level 3 meant, but now I know it means that she needed immediate attention and the pediatric team would be rushing into our room for evaluation.

Stuck placenta after delivery

Simultaneous Stressors
As I was holding my daughter for those few minutes, two things happened seemingly simultaneously. First – as I knew, the placenta still needed to be delivered. (Seriously, why isn’t this talked about more? For those of you who haven’t given birth, after you get the baby out, you then also have to deliver a large organ your body made during pregnancy. Crazy. Cool, but crazy.) As I was trying to push out the placenta, it seem like we were getting nowhere. Quickly the midwife told me that it was going to require some further intervention and she let me know that it would probably be more painful than giving birth and offered me some medication. I had no medication in either of my births. But for this part, I went with it because I trusted her advice. (In the moments before the medicine kicked in, it was already more painful than birth.) Pushing was not getting anything done and so a nurse came and suited up and they told me to let them know when the medicine kicked in. According to Mike, it didn’t take long before I gleefully told them I wasn’t sure if it had kicked in or not and that confirmed to them that it had. This nurse then went elbow deep inside of me to try to locate and remove my placenta. The problem was that my cervix was closing (as they do after you deliver) and we were working against the clock.

Now like I said, there were two things happening simultaneously. There was this – the placenta ordeal, and then there was the flooding of medical questions and directives. I had taken medication for the first time at this point and I had just given birth and someone was elbow deep trying to pull my placenta outside of my body. Over walks a doctor who is telling me that she needs to take a baby right away into the NICU. She cited a prenatal recommendation from a doctor that we have never heard of. In contrast, our last prenatal appointment with the cardiologist indicated that they did not believe we would need to spend time in the NICU for her heart. Everything looked strong enough for them to do all of her evaluations in the room with me and discharge at normal time. I actually remember walking into labor and delivery before giving birth and giving a sigh of relief that we weren’t going to be spending time in the NICU. So when this small but strong-willed woman was standing at my bedside (as someone else was ripping my placenta out of my body), she had a lot to say about what needed to happen with our baby. Her language was so strong that she made me believe my child might die right before my eyes in that room if we didn’t transfer her right away. Perhaps she wasn’t that dramatic, but at the time that is exactly how it felt. The thing is, Sage would have a eventually ended up in the NICU, but because of another high risk, not because of her heart. I’m still a little bitter at that doctor if we’re honest. Yes- She was doing her job and I respect that, but our interaction was anything but positive. I felt so defeated and like everything was stripped out of my hands.

In the long run, Sage would have gone to the NICU for her low blood sugar and then for the high bilirubin levels in her blood. That is what she was actually treated for in the NICU. Nothing about her heart was unsteady and requiring intervention or monitoring during our stay. From the very start her oxygen levels were strong, her heart rate was where it needed to be, and her echo sonogram came back just as we had expected it to from our meetings prior to her delivery. I may never know why that doctor believed that I had all of my information wrong, but I guess it doesn’t really matter in the long run.

biliruben treatment in NICU

The Postpartum Dream
When I envisioned the days after my birth, I saw us snuggled on our couch or in our bed. I envisioned us going home in the wheelchair that has a place on the back for the carseat. I had prepared the house in a way that I wouldn’t need to go up or downstairs for a couple of weeks so I could give my body rest and recovery. I’m all about postpartum care for women. I think it’s so important for women to have space to slow down and let their bodies recover after birth. A lot of people say and it’s so true that when you’re pregnant you get doted on and cared for- people open doors and do things for you and then it seems like in an instant after you have your baby, the attention fully shifts. They dote on the baby. It’s like you’re supposed to just go straight back to normal after birthing a child out of your body.

Ohio State Medical Center

Maybe people don’t stop to think about the tears and the pains and the mental, emotional, and physical processing and restoration that needs to happen. Our culture specifically has a long way to go when it comes to appropriate postpartum care. There’s a lot we could learn from other cultures. This time, I was so prepared to advocate for myself and make the postpartum recovery a priority. However, when your baby is on a different floor and down the hall in the hospital and you have to decide between being with her or staying alone in your room, you throw out the ideals.

I remember going into my room and I definitely took some time to clean up and relax and pump for the first time to get the little bit of colostrum out. It wasn’t long at all, though, before I was wanting to rush into the NICU to be by her side. The first few times Mike and I went together and I went in the wheelchair but the NICU at OSU was very small and navigating a wheelchair through there was very difficult. I would end up getting up to walk at some point anyways and so by probably the second day I gave up on the wheelchair. Sometimes the walk felt so long because my body was still cramping and recovering and I felt exhausted, but I was determined to get to that room and spend as much possible time is I could by her bedside. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have tears or any other injuries to recover from aside from the general process of giving birth.

Remembering that walk down those halls takes me to a different chapter. One that I’m not ready to ride out and re-visit quite yet. One that will take revisiting notes jotted down from a sleepless and blurry mind and pictures that seem like distant memories. But that is for another post and another day. For now I share my gratitude that even though the second chapter of bringing our baby girl into the world did not feel as empowering as the first, I would do it all again to snuggle her in my arms on this lazy rainy Sunday and from that postpartum bed I committed to being a champion for her and her health and her growth and I am committed to that forever.

NICU baby cradle
Dad and newborn in NICU