Friday, April 11, 2014

High Risk, Higher Faith: Labor & Delivery of a First Time Mom

The past ten months I have gone to the doctor's office more than I have gone in my entire lifetime. According to society, in addition to having a history of miscarriage, hypertension, obesity, and advanced age meant the odds were against me to have a healthy and natural pregnancy. So, this meant in addition to routine appointments with my Obstetrician I had to see a Fetal Monitoring specialist. The specialist conducted a non-stress test (NST), sonogram, and charted the baby's growth to make sure she was developing on target.

From the moment KL and I announced we were having a baby I lost count how many times I was asked if I would elect for a C-section and if I planned to have an epidural. I still wonder who makes those decisions from the first few months of pregnancy. There were definitely things I was adamant about. I did not want a C-section unless it was absolutely necessary and I had enough knowledge to know when it was necessary. I did not want testing for Down's Syndrome. KL and I had gone long enough waiting for this blessing. I was not going to have it overshadowed with apprehension if something was "wrong" with the baby. Lastly, I did not want an epidural. I actually had a debate with colleagues of whether I would take an epidural or not. "You say that now" was what I heard whenever people heard my response to the epidural question.

After three bouts of pre-term contractions, the first one beginning on Thanksgiving Day, my Obstetrician anticipated that I would not have a full-term pregnancy. As a matter of fact, on the third occasion which was during my thirty-fifth week, an exam showed my cervix had began to dilate. To our surprise though our anticipated due date came and went without the slightest signs labor would ensue.  

On March 15, two days after our due date I went into my Obstetrician's office for my weekly appointment. My cervix had not changed from the last exam. The Nurse Practitioner was concerned about the swelling in my feet because she knew the potential for high blood pressure although it was well under control during the entire pregnancy. She wanted to conduct an NST in the office before sending me home. After being monitored for almost an hour the Nurse Practitioner checked the machine and stated, "You need to go to the hospital and be induced today. I don't like how the baby is responding." She didn't have to tell me why. I knew during that time the baby had only moved once or twice when I should have felt several movements. She was also engaged in my pelvis which meant she could have been in distress and her heart rate showed it. The Nurse Practitioner shared the results with my doctor and she agreed that I needed to go to the hospital. I walked out of the office and got into the car where KL was waiting. He asked was everything okay and I told him what the NP said. We were on our way to have our baby.  

Upon arriving to the hospital I grabbed my overnight bag which had already been on the back seat for the past few weeks. I headed to Labor and Delivery while KL went to look for parking. Surprisingly, I was not nervous and I prayed that I would stay just as calm through the whole process. As I was checking in a familiar face came through the door. A friend I had in Middle School. Dr. Fran was now an Obstetrician in the hospital where I was going to deliver. Frannie, which I affectionately called her, and I were in an accelerated program in school. She was always very smart and one of the nicest and sincerest people I have ever met. We recognized each other immediately and hugged. I honestly felt at that moment God was trying to make me feel as reassured as possible everything would be okay. I told her I was being admitted and she said she would come look for me.

Once in L&D I was hooked up to a machine that monitors the baby's heart rate and another machine that monitors contractions. I had gone through this process many times during the pregnancy, but toward the end it became torture because too often it required me to lay on my side which caused incredible pain in my hips, pelvis and lower back. Two hours of listening to the baby's heart rate, with Nurses and Doctors checking periodically, then I was told they would begin inducing that evening.

A couple of hours later we were taken to an antepartum room where we were told I would be given the first medication of a two-part process which would begin to soften my cervix. The second medication would cause contractions and began dilation. We were told multiple times to anticipate, with this being my first pregnancy, that I would not deliver for possibly one or two days as the first medication took twelve hours to begin to work. They wanted me to be patient because they had seen so many cases where women couldn't understand why the process took so long. I have to admit after hearing friends talk about being in labor one or two days and even up to a week I was mentally prepared. I just wasn't sure how I would endure physically.

Several hours had passed and I still hadn't been given the first medication, but I wasn't in a rush. I kept myself busy posting updates on Facebook and responding to friends sending well wishes. KL was watching TV while also sending texts to a list of contacts I gave him earlier in the week. My best friend Suzette Banzo came by and we talked for hours and took pictures to show the baby when she gets older. It really helped pass the time. The Nurses checked me periodically. One looked at the monitor and asked had I felt any contractions. I said no. She told me according to the sheet I had four since I was hooked up. I found that interesting because after experiencing them since my second trimester I definitely knew what they felt like.

Finally, at 9:00pm, the Doctor administered the first part of the medication. Suzette went home and then it was just KL and I playing the waiting game. We talked and watched television. Some time during the night I promised him I would not scream or curse at him. "Okay, you say that now" was his response, "We'll see in twelve hours." 

I'm not sure what time I fell asleep, but I do remember contractions waking me up at about 4:30am. They weren't painful. It reminded me of menstrual cramps. The Nurse could see the contractions were coming more frequently and asked if I wanted anything for the pain and I told her know. I told her they were uncomfortable, but bearable. About an hour later the frequency and the pain intensified. I began to use a relaxation and breathing technique that I had taught myself. Moaning through each one, I called out, "Oooo Father". I didn't think anything of how fast the contractions came and actually thought it was par for the course until the Nurse asked, "You're having another contraction so fast?" I said, "Yup" By this time I had only dilated to two centimeters. I was asked again if I wanted pain medication. "Nope." I thought to myself, "Tiffany, are you crazy? Are you really going to endure this type of pain for two days?" There was no rest in between contractions which is something I read when induced labor is compared to natural labor. The Nurse was concerned because the contractions were coming so fast and technically the first medication was not supposed to start them. 

My Obstetrician was called to be notified regarding my current status because she was not at the hospital. The staff had to inquire what steps she wanted them to take next. The idea was to remove the first part of the medication and start the second part. However, when they were preparing me to receive it realized I had dilated to four centimeters. So it was back to calling my Obstetrician. The plan was changed because obviously I did not need anything to help me contract and dilate. 

Now, from this point, I lost track of time. I was in active labor anywhere from four to five hours, but I think there is something in your brain that gives you some form of time lapse when you're in that type of pain. It didn't seem that long at all and I can't recall everything that happened. I remember the pain becoming so bad that I started to cry. I remember asking KL to massage my back. I also remember tearing off the blood pressure cuff because it was making me hot and continuously taking the oxygen mask off because I was able to breath easier without it when the contractions came although KL felt I should keep both on. I remember being so hot I even wanted to take off the hospital gown.

I just want to say during this pregnancy I did a lot of reading; maybe more than I should have. I wanted to be as prepared as possible with what I should and shouldn't expect. Something began to happen that I was not prepared for nor did I come across in any of my reading. While laying in the bed waiting to be taken to the delivery room my body had what I can only describe as some type of convulsion and then I relieved myself. Now, I did read where women have had bowel movements during delivery, but this didn't happen. Funny thing is it actually made me feel better. So, I was not embarrassed when I matter-of-factly told KL I had just urinated on myself. His loving response, "It's okay. It happens. They'll clean you up." Then it happened again and again.

The Nurse came in during an occasion where it happened. She said, "Oh my God, are you pushing?" I responded, in between panting, "I'm not trying to." She said, "Mommy, you can't push. Don't push. You are going to rupture your cervix." Then it happened again. The Nurse immediately got on her mobile communicator and yelled to someone "We have to hurry up and get her to the delivery room because she is having involuntary pushing." Then I heard her say something about sending the anesthesiologist and epidural to the room. Next thing I know there was a team of people to transport me from the antepartum room. They had to rush me to the delivery room to give me an epidural so I would not feel the contractions because I was not able to control my body and each contraction was causing me to push involuntarily. This could have been life-threatening.

Once in the delivery room the last thing I expected to hear is "Don't push!" The Nurse had to talk me through every contraction. "Tiffany, you have to breathe through it so you don't push. You wont be able to push and breathe at the same time. So, breathe." I tried to obey her instructions as best that I could because I was scared. If I rupture my cervix I could bleed to death.  The anesthesiologist arrived, but my body started convulsing again and he said if I couldn't be still he couldn't put the epidural in and he would leave. The Nurse said, "Tiffany, I don't want him to leave. So, I need you to breathe". I responded, "I don't want him to leave either." I started praying. I was able to stay still enough through two contractions until he could get the epidural in. I felt a third one coming and I wasn't sure if I would be able to continue. I asked was he done and he was. I said good because I feel another contraction coming. The last thing anyone expects the anesthesiologist to say is, "You shouldn't feel any contractions right now. Give it another minutes." I've heard enough horror stories about the epidural not working or having to reinsert it. All I thought was, "ARE YOU %&^(*@$# KIDDING ME?!?!?  Thankfully, about a minute later, my feet and legs started to feel numb.

I laid down on the bed and was able to relax. I closed my eyes, anticipating it would be several more hours before I was ready to deliver. Then one of the Nurses told me my Obstetrician was on her way to the room. Dr. Williams greeted me and wanted to measure my cervix. Less than ten minutes after receiving the epidural she says, "Okay, you're ready to deliver I can see the head." My response, "Are you serious?"  

I was completely numb from the waist down. I couldn't feel the contractions so Dr. Williams had to tell me when to push. I was exhausted and every pushing session depleted the little energy I had. Dr. Williams instructed KL to help me by holding my upper body. At 9:16am Kayelle Christina Belvin was born. I remember looking at the clock the moment Dr. Williams said she was out. Then I closed my eyes.

I kept them closed for some time and then I opened them and stared straight ahead. Dr. Williams and the rest of the nursing staff were to the left of me and I could hear them tending to Kayelle. KL was to the right of me and I could hear him sniffling and wiping away his tears. What I didn't hear was the wailing of a newborn baby's cries. So, I closed my eyes and I waited. As KL held my hand I could tell he was watching everything that was happening in the room. Time passed so slowly. Why isn't Kayelle crying? Then, finally, I heard a little tiny wail.

Dr. Williams came over to us and explained Kayelle had inhaled meconium while in the womb and the medical staff was clearing it from her nose and mouth. Thankfully she had not gotten any in her lungs. Her cries became bigger and stronger. I finally turned to look at her lying there as they suctioned her mouth and then gave her oxygen. It felt like so much time had passed. Someone from the medical staff informed us they would need to take Kayelle to the NICU to monitor her. They assured us that once she was stable and did not need further treatment they would bring her to the nursery in the postpartum unit where we would be. So, they allowed us to hold her for a few minutes and then whisked her away.

After delivery, seemed like the longest seven hours of my life. Periodically, someone from the staff would come to the room to let us know Kayelle was doing well and she was breathing on her own and didn't need any further treatment. Regardless of what they told me I was still anxious to hold her in my arms again, to kiss her cheeks, her hands, and her feet. Nothing else mattered at that moment. It was as if a weight was lifted when at about 3:00pm they rolled her into the room.

I picked up our little girl and held her as tight as I could. The previous ten months flashed through my mind like a silent movie. Overcome with emotion, I began to recall those moments when God let me know He was there and He heard my prayers.  I realize I was tested over and over again; before the pregnancy, during the pregnancy, and after delivery. Nevertheless, I would not my faith waiver. Instead, I stood strong on it. As she slept peacefully, I whispered The Lord's Prayer in Kayelle's ear and then I thanked God for His wonderful gift.  


Tiffany Braxton
Mrs. American Beauties Plus Ambassador 2013
Creative Director, Bravin Publishing
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