Welcoming Heidi Rose Pt. 2 (Our Breech C- Section)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The morning of our planned c-section was really calm. We were told to arrive at the hospital by 6:30AM, so around 4:30, we woke up, started getting ourselves ready. We had time to each shower, pack any last minute things, and get ourselves to the hospital. Spenser was able to  get himself breakfast and coffee (I wasn't allowed to eat pre-surgery). We had the most beautiful sunrise on the way to the hospital and had the most surreal feeling knowing we were going to meet our daughter within hours. At first we didn't know how we felt about having a planned birth, but it ended up feeling like Christmas day! We were so full of excitement (and a few nerves), and felt so ready to meet our girl. 


When we arrived at the hospital, they got us into a pre-op room, took some blood work, and started doing team introductions. We met the anesthesiologist, the nurses, the OB (who we had chosen ahead of time from our practice) and each one of them walked us through what their role would be during our surgery. The nurses were 10/10 at Wake Med Cary. Every single one of them checked with me to see how I was feeling, if there was anything they could do for us, and if there was anything important to me about our birth. I told them that the only thing I REALLY wanted (aside from a healthy/happy baby!) was audio recording of her first cry. I had been working on a video project my entire pregnancy and really wanted to be able to hear her first cry to finish it off.

Right around our surgery time, they put me in a wheel chair and walked us back to the operating room. Spenser scrubbed into his surgical outfit, and I got my surgical cap on. They took me back alone to administer the spinal block. Honestly, I didn't have any discomfort with the anesthesia at all! I felt a small amount of pressure, and then my legs felt warm. Pretty quickly after it was administered they had me climb up on the bed and as I was doing it I started feeling my lower half go numb. Within 5 minutes, I couldn't feel anything -- a weird sensation in itself! They hung the surgical drape and Spenser came in to sit by my head. He turned on his audio recording at that point and listening back, I must have been nervous because I wouldn't stop talking! I was so chatty with the nurses and kept asking questions/cracking jokes. I don't remember doing it but I was feeling a lot of adrenaline so I'm not surprised! 

Right before surgery started I realized I hadn't "said goodbye" to my belly. I had been rubbing Heidi's head under my ribs for weeks, so I reached down to give her one last "pat" goodbye before meeting earthside.... didn't even realize I was breaking the sterile field. Oops. They had to re-scrub me and re-sterilize. My bad! 

Once the surgery started, they allowed us to play some music. Spenser put on my favorite Maggie Rogers station so we couldn't hear the surgery starting and I just started singing along. It was really calm! The anesthesiologist by my head was walking me through what was happening (in not gory details) and at one point she said "Okay honey, they're at the uterus! Babies are usually born about one minute after this, so get ready!" I made sure Spenser had his audio on for the 100th time :) 

A second later I heard our OB say "Oh Margaret, she is really wedged in here! She is complete breech!" I learned later that she was sitting cross -legged in my pelvis, and was wedged so deep that I required an extra wide incision for them to be able to get her out. Our OB reaffirmed our decision not to have the ECV procedure.. there was no way it would have worked! Heidi was stuck and couldn't have turned around even if she wanted to! 

It's funny now seeing her on the outside... her back is always arched in the exact position she was laying in my womb, and she loves to have her legs crossed when she's relaxed! She was happy as she was. 

Because Heidi was so wedged in, she took about 3 minutes to be born and I felt a ton of rocking back and forth. It felt like my whole lower body was going side to side, but I didn't feel much beyond that. I could tell I was being touched, but had no pain. 

Finally, our OB said "She's got hair! She's here!" and we heard this loud little cry and a watery choke. She had taken a big gulp of amniotic fluid on her way out (common with startled c-section babies) and choked a bit. We had elected to have a clear drape so we could see her when she was first born, but because she inhaled water, I didn't get to see her right away. The pediatric team took her and immediately started suctioning her lungs. I can only imagine what Heidi was feeling -- she went from being pregnant to not pregnant in seconds! It must have been so shocking. Spenser was able to go over and take pictures of her and see her, which was so special for him. Finally we got some sustained cries from her, and within 5 minutes of being born they brought her to my chest to have skin to skin. The nurses laid her on my chest and snuggled in the OR for about 20 minutes while they stitched me up. We were able to get her to latch to the breast while we were in the OR, as well! I was overwhelmed with happiness and love, but I'll never forget looking down at her face and saying "oh my gosh, you're real!" She had such a distinct look... her own little face. It was honestly a little hard for me to process! I don't know what I expected, but she didn't look like what I had pictured in my head. It was the strangest feeling meeting a stranger I had known my whole life. I just tried to embrace it and take it all in, take her all in, and open my heart to motherhood! 


Once I was stitched up, the nurses swaddled Heidi and she and Spenser went to wait for me in the recovery room. They ended up having about 25 minutes of together time, just them, which is so, so special. Once I was transferred back to recovery, the three of us cuddled while the nurses monitored my blood pressure and bleeding for about 2 hours. Heidi latched to the breast again, and we began our (really positive) breastfeeding journey. We called family and let them know she was here, and shared her name for the first time! 

We had chosen Heidi's name pretty early on (around January) but hadn't *committed* because we wanted to meet her. Spenser said the name Heidi once going through a list of names and when he said "Heidi Rubin" we both stopped in our tracks. It felt like we knew that person! We kept it to ourselves and had a lot of fun with family guessing her name throughout our pregnancy. Thankfully, as soon as we saw her in the delivery room, we both knew, it was Heidi! Her middle name, Rose, was not what we had expected to name her. I was adamant about using a family name, and even had something monogrammed with it. But when we said it over her, it didn't feel right! Heidi's cousin Ruby had been saying from the beginning of our pregnancy that if it was a girl her name should be Rosie -- when we said Heidi Rose, it just clicked. That's who this sweet little girl is! She had been telling us all along. 

The first four days of Heidi's life we spent in the hospital. You get extra time with a c-section because C-section recovery is no joke. I was told to try and get up and move around as much as possible, as soon as possible, but for me, moving around was walking 5 steps to the bathroom and back. Managing my pain became the entire goal of our hospital stay. Our nursing journey with Heidi was going well, and my milk came in before we left the hospital. The lactation consultants and nurses who came through were all so encouraging and positive about how well we were doing with breastfeeding -- thankfully that hasn't been an issue for us. But, we had the hardest time getting my pain under control. 


It came to a head on the third day when the adrenaline of the birth finally wore off. I woke up with a hot, searing, pain like I was being cut in half. It was so overwhelming I could barely breathe. I was trying to yell for Spenser across the room (he was asleep) but all I could get out was a whisper. I was desperate for pain relief, and we struggled to get the nurse on duty to sympathize. I told her I was at a 12/10 and needed relief immediately. She was insistent on me waiting the 15 minutes until I was "allowed" to have my next dose of pain meds. After that experience, I was more adamant about getting stronger pain meds with each tylenol dosage, but it took a few days to get my pain back under control from that experience. 


During our hospital stay, Spenser truly had to be my hands and feet. I couldn't pick up the baby by myself, I couldn't walk by myself, I couldn't even feed myself. He had to hand me water, feed me, help me go to the bathroom, AND do all of the infant care like diaper and clothing changes because I couldn't. We had hoped to leave the hospital and have a few days home alone as a family of three, and thought that would be doable based on my conversations with other CSection moms, but for us that was impossible. We called my mom on Sunday morning (the day of our discharge) and said "SOS - we need your help, can you come today?" Thankfully, she was in the car within hours and met us at home an hour after we got back. We desperately needed her extra hands so Spenser could focus on taking care of Heidi and my mom could help take care of me. 


I was shocked at how hard it was for me to walk and do basic things after my c-section. I don't know if it's because my incision was so large, or because we let my pain get mismanaged, or if I just had a tough recovery, but my experience didn't sound anything like most of the other women I'd spoken to... Maybe they were sugar coating it when they talked to me haha. They had told me about how they were up and moving around within 3 days, and they would have another c-section again in a heartbeat... All I have to say is, DAMN, you are bad-asses. You couldn't pay me enough money to choose to have another c-section. I will do everything in my power to avoid ever having to go through that recovery again. It's been three weeks and I still can't walk more than 100 yards, lift a laundry basket, unload the dishwasher, or wear normal clothes. I have a lot of incision pain/nerve pain, and fabric touching the skin around my incision is really uncomfortable. I realize no woman gets out of birth unscathed, and vaginal births can be really tough too, but I really would not choose to endure this again. 

After the first five days, things started to get better. I was moving around a bit more, but Heidi had started cluster feeding to bring in my milk and it was exhausting my body. We had a really scary night where my blood pressure spiked to 165/110 and we thought I may have been preeclamptic. After a sleepless night, we gathered up our 6 day old baby and went to the ER at 2AM. When we got there, they told me Heidi could not stay - It wasn't safe because of Covid-19. I lost my mind! We were exclusively breastfeeding, and if they weren't going to send us back to the postpartum floor, I realized I was about to be admitted to the hospital and separated from my daughter -- potentially for days. I was so scared about how she would eat - we had not brought a pump nor did we have formula. I was texting Spenser that he may need to go find a 24 hour grocery store to buy formula, or get home and thaw some donor milk we had, because Heidi would need to eat imminently. Somehow, this angel baby went 3.5 hours without food, and slept the entire time. She was completely fine, but I was terrified. While we were at the ER, my blood pressure eventually came down. It was still high for me, but no longer at dangerous levels, so I decided (with the guidance of my OB) to self discharge and visit my doctor first thing in the morning. By the next morning, my BP was 118/75... we think my body may have just had a stress response to cluster feeding but thank God I was not preeclamptic! 

For both Spenser and I, that was the worst day of our postpartum journey. It was SO scary thinking that something was wrong with me, that we may be separated, that he may have to care for Heidi alone (for days!?) if I was admitted, and just going to the hospital emergency room during a viral pandemic was alarming in itself. We had spent months avoiding people and places to protect our baby, and here she was in the waiting room of an ER at 6 days old. It was not fun. Thankfully, we are all ok and we were able to regroup and things got better from there. 

Heidi has been an amazing feeder and sleeper. She nursed at the breast without issue from Day 1, and continues to be a champ nurser. Not only that, but she's an awesome sleeper. I knock on wood saying that, but we've been getting 2.5-3.5 hour stretches of sleep from her since the beginning and it's made the newborn days a lot easier for us all. 

I have done my best to separate our postpartum recovery from the surgical recovery when I think about Heidi's birth. Postpartum wise, things have been so much better than I expected. Nursing hasn't been a challenge, sleep deprivation hasn't been that bad, and my mood was SO much more stable than I had expected it to be! The surgical recovery sucked, though. I would never choose to walk that path again if I didn't have to. The pain was really challenging and the limited mobility I still have is very frustrating. I realize that three weeks is not a lot of time, and I'm giving myself grace, but for me, it feels like a big shift. I mean, I painted my kitchen cabinets at 38 weeks pregnant... what do you expect!? I don't know how to sit still! 

While I'm having to flex extra patience about my recovery, we are truly loving being a family of three. Heidi is changing every single day, and becoming more and more alert. I definitely see what people mean when they say "babies don't keep." I miss my squishy little newborn from the hospital, but I love seeing her eyes lock with mine and watch her tracking things around the room. Mothering her is truly a dream come true for me, and I'm doing really well at focusing on the things I love about motherhood. There are days it's stressful (I don't love being screamed at by my tiny 8lb boss) but for the most part, I can barely remember life without her and pray to God I never have to know it. 

Next week will be one month with our Heidi-girl and I cannot believe how fast it's gone! I am so excited for all of my sweet friends who will be having their babies in the coming months... you're going on amazing journey. 

That is Heidi's birth story in a nut shell! If you ever want to talk about  c-section or breech babies, I'd love to talk with you and share my experience/hear yours. Since the pandemic has taken away my physical "village" I have been finding so much comfort and companionship from other moms online. You truly can't walk this journey alone, so I hope that sharing our story with Heidi's birth will connect with you if you are a mom on a similar path! 

Here's the video I put together of sweet Heidi's pregnancy and birthday! 

Welcoming Heidi Rose Pt. 1 (Pregnancy)

Friday, July 24, 2020

On Thursday July 2nd, 2020, we welcomed our beautiful rainbow baby, Heidi Rose Rubin to the world. Now that Heidi is three weeks old, I wanted to take a minute to write down her birth story, so I would never forget the special details of her birthday, and what our experience was like through her pregnancy and early newborn days. 

Finding out & First Trimester

I found out I was pregnant with Heidi on the morning of our due date with the baby that we miscarried last spring. Based off my calculations, it should have been too early for me to even get a positive pregnancy test, but our sweet angel Lennon and our rainbow Heidi had other plans and wanted us to have something to celebrate that day. Spenser and I had planned to get out of town that weekend and celebrate Lennon's life in Asheville, NC. It was so special to be able to celebrate this little life that weekend, as well! 


**A quick note -- After our miscarriage, I was told by 2 other OBs that they would not run any tests on me or my hormones until I had had 3 or more miscarriages. I was sure that something hormonal was going on with me and had documented my cycles for months, sharing this information with each OB I visited. I couldn't believe they expected me to just accept the pain of the miscarriage and live through 2 more before I could even get a blood panel drawn. If you ever face something like this, do not accept it! I pushed and pushed and went to different practices until finally I found an OB who agreed that I likely had a hormone imbalance and wanted to run tests on me. Turns out, my intuition was right, and I had chronically low progesterone. All I needed was some supplemental progesterone through the first trimester. Without the supplemental progesterone, any pregnancy I had would almost certainly have ended in tragedy. I am so glad I advocated for myself and my babies and didn't let up until I received the care I deserved. Miscarriage is common, but no woman should be expected to live through multiple tragedies before receiving basic care to try and rule out hormonal causes!**

My pregnancy with Heidi was truly a dream. I was nauseas and tired in the beginning, but I was so thankful to be pregnant I found the symptoms reassuring that this baby was growing and healthy, and my progesterone was balanced. I held my breath throughout the first trimester, and was so thankful to my amazing providers at Reply OB/GYN who patiently let me come in for extra blood tests and ultrasounds to make sure this tiny baby was growing safely.  I'll never forget how cared for I felt by the nurses and doctors who validated my anxiety and celebrated with me each time we saw the baby growing safely on the ultrasound. 

Because of our miscarriage experience, we elected to do genetic testing to identify any potential chromosomal issues with the baby. We were terrified of losing another baby and just felt like the more information we had, the more we could relax. We got our genetic results back on Christmas Eve, and sent them to my sister in law so she could tell us if we were having a boy or a girl! She wrote us the most perfect "letter from Santa" that we opened on Christmas day and learned... we were having A GIRL!  We had both dreamed of having a baby girl, and it was such a dream come true to see those words. A girl! Our daughter! She was healthy and she was coming! Knowing we were having a sweet baby girl so early in pregnancy (only 12 weeks) was such a gift to me. It really allowed me to connect with my baby in a way I had not allowed myself to do, and never got the chance to do with Lennon. My girl. She was coming! 

Second Trimester & the Pandemic 

The second trimester was a dream -- I truly loved being pregnant and had such a blast tracking my growing belly. Every week I documented pictures of it. Looking back, I barely looked pregnant, but to me, I could see my baby growing and it made me so happy to see it change week after week. I had so much energy, no food aversions, was working out, and just enjoying every moment. I had such peace that this baby was healthy and safe and we were going to meet, Earthside. Anxiety still came for me, but I would use those moments to pray for her safety and center myself knowing that what I was feeling, she was feeling. And I wanted her to only feel my love, not my fear! 

When the Coronavirus Pandemic started in March, I was just over half way through our pregnancy. Things felt like they were changing so rapidly; it was overwhelming. We didn't know anything about how COVID affected pregnancy or infants, so we immediately went into lockdown - much earlier than most of the people we know! I was terrified that this pandemic would worsen and Spenser wouldn't be allowed to be with me during the birth of our daughter. He ended up not being allowed to attend any more of my OB appointments, but he was able to be at our birth. While I missed him being able to see our ultrasounds in person, it was a fair trade for me.  The hardest part for me about being pregnant in the pandemic ended up living our pregnancy in isolation from family and friends. But, knowing we were doing what we could to protect our family was worth the sacrifice. 

Third Trimester & Our Stubborn Breechling 

Around 28 weeks, we learned (I had already been suspicious) that Heidi was breech. I had felt a really hard lump under my ribs/in my side for a few weeks by this point, and I was concerned it wasn't her butt. Sure enough, my instincts were correct and she was breech! Our doctors reassured us that she would likely turn on her own but gave us a list of things to try to encourage her to turn. We just needed her to get head down by 37 weeks -- it seemed like plenty of time! We tried all the things. I was doing inversions multiple times a day off the couch, handstands in the pool, ice packs on her head, music at the bottom of my belly, acupuncture, chiropractic care... nothing worked. At every appointment we had she was still breech, and the reality was setting in that as she got bigger the less likely she would be to turn on her own. 

Being the Type A prepare-er that I am, I started researching breech babies to educate myself of what our birth options would be. Heidi was in a position for about 8 weeks called Frank Breech. She was folded completely in half with her feet up by her head. At our 36 week ultrasound, she was sucking on her toes! Babies that stay in this position *can* be born vaginally if the provider is able to perform a breech vaginal birth, but after doing some research, I felt the risks for a first time mom were a bit too high for my comfort level. We looked into a doing a procedure called an External Cephalic Version, but ultimately decided / Heidi decided it wasn't for us. An ECV is a procedure done in the OR at the hospital (in case there is an emergency delivery needed) where the doctors give the mother an epidural (if you're lucky), and then manually try to turn the baby with their hands. I spoke to a few people who had done this, and it sounded excruciatingly painful. For first time moms, the success rate is really low (<25%) and can cause fetal distress to the baby. My instincts were telling me that Heidi was not going to turn on her own, but I felt a lot of guilt/self inflicted pressure to try everything we could to get her to have a vaginal birth. 


Thankfully, she made the call for us and said "No thanks!" to the ECV. At our 37 week appointment, we learned that Heidi had already engaged in my birth canal -- she was LOW at -1 station. Our chances of an ECV being successful at that point pretty much went out the window and our provider said she really didn't think it was worth the stress to me or the baby to even try. Heidi had also gotten her legs free and had moved into a position called Complete Breech -- her feet were cross-legged in my pelvis. Vaginal birth was also no longer a safe option for us. 

Because of Heidi's foot-first positioning, and the risk of what could happen to either of us if I went into labor naturally, we decided to schedule a c-section at 39 weeks. I spent the next two weeks talking to every mom I knew who'd had a c-section and tried to prepare and educate myself for my risks, recovery, and return home. I had taken 3 or 4 birth classes during the pandemic to prepare myself for a pain-med free, vaginal birth... c-section wasn't even on my radar. Let alone a planned one! But in my mother-gut, I knew this was our path and the safest way for Heidi to be born and just embraced it. She was in her breech position for a reason, and wasn't turning, so I needed to embrace Plan Z and get ready. 

Planning for her Birthday 

A week before Heidi's birthday, we got the call that we had a scheduled date with the hospital. We decided to keep the exact day a secret from family and friends because we wanted it to be a special day just for us. We wanted to be able to surprise our family with her arrival, instead of everyone waiting / texting us all day for updates. It was the perfect choice for us and added an extra element of fun and suspense that drove our families crazy leading up to it! 

We spent the next week really enjoying our kid-free life, making plans for her arrival (scheduling a house cleaner during our hospital stay was #1 best choice we made!!), and wrapping up work projects. It was actually so nice to know when she was coming and really removed a lot of stress! The night before her birthday, we cooked a big steak dinner, watched a movie, and talked about our hopes and dreams for her life. We went to bed early (knowing we had to wake up at 4am to get to the hospital), and had a lovely, full night's sleep... our last for a while :) 

Early the next morning, the alarm went off.... it was BABY DAY!  (Pt. 2... coming soon!) 

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