I lie here in my hospital bed, several hours from being discharged, with the hard knowledge I will be leaving here having gone through labor but will not be bringing home a baby.
I wonder what the next 24 hours, or for that matter all my days here on out, will bring.
I started out the year 2013 pregnant, miscarried early on with my first, and after a D&E and one cycle, I got pregnant with my second. This was my second pregnancy and it had been almost flawless. I kept working, teaching, and training until less than a week before my due date. I stayed strong and relieved stress by practicing yoga each day, strength training many days a week, and going on daily run/walks to keep my endurance up. Although I went past my due date, I felt strong up until the very end. Unfortunately the end looked very different from what I had imagined.
On New Year’s Eve, I was 40 weeks and two days pregnant and my husband and I celebrated the day by running some last-minute errands for the nursery and making last-minute preparations. My husband made my favorite half spinach pesto half spinach sauce and cheese pizza with a whole wheat crust (our newly nicknamed “Christmas Pizza”) and the baby went wild for it inside my belly as I ate. We joked about her Herculean strength and about how the pizza would surely induce labor later that evening.
The next morning started out like any other, I took my dog out for a run/walk. After breakfast we all cuddled on the couch for the Rose Bowl parade and I noticed the baby seemed quiet. I prodded my belly for a bit and did feel slight movement. I thought she might be engaging her head in the birth canal and ready to come out since at our last appointment the nurse assured us movement would slow with time.
A few hours later I was still concerned so my husband encouraged me to call the emergency OBGYN number to get in touch with a doctor. I did and the doctor recommended lying still and drinking something with glucose. If we felt any movement within that hour we could relax. I did this and felt a few small kicks. Though still less than usual movement was movement and we could wait and see if things picked up. I took a warm bath and did some prenatal yoga to calm myself down hoping this would relax me enough to go into labor and meet my baby girl that night.
After no movement during dinner, we tried the rest and glucose test again and felt nothing. At this point, I called the doctor again and he told me to come to the hospital to get hooked up to a fetal monitor.
Shaking, I anxiously got in the car and my husband drove me over. We were taken to a triage room and they checked the baby for a heartbeat. For the first time since that fateful day during our first pregnancy the nurse couldn’t pick one up. Different nurses came with different devices but none worked. The doctor was called in to make the final and terminal announcement: there was no longer a heartbeat to be found, our baby was dead.
I was totally in shock as we discussed what needed to be done. For some reason I had assumed there was a way to quickly and surgically remove the baby. This is typically not the case, it became clear that to avoid unsafe complications I needed to go into labor soon and birth my daughter vaginally.
I began the medical induction process late that night and was hooked up to an IV. I spent that night awake, even though the nurses worked on easing pain and inducing sleep with morphine.
Family from both sides arrived the next day as the labor process continued. The forced labor advanced and contractions became more intense. Food was out of the question during the process as I vomited out whatever was put in me. A saving grace to get me through these harder contractions were yoga poses. The handful I tried with the help of my husband allowed me to get some release and I was thankful that daily practice made them possible even when my body was not working optimally. The breathing I had been practicing certainly came in handy for handling the pain throughout.
Over the next night, the real contractions began and I could tell labor was progressing faster. Again, yoga poses and breath got me through the toughest part and even helped me to hold still when receiving the epidural.
As labor further progressed, there was the slow realization that as the induction medication was being increased the pain relief medication was not working. My husband helped me through many painful hours of constant contracting with barely a break. It was at this time I became most grateful for the strength in my upper body. With the epidural numbing me in some areas, but not the ones that saved me from feeling the intense medically induced contractions, my arms were essential in changing positions which helped get me through this difficult period of labor. Thankfully, it was agreed the epidural needed to be reset and afterwards things got much more bearable and labor progressed as it should have.
The final stage made me so grateful that I had kept up with my strength, endurance, and flexibility training. All three were needed for the final pushing phase. Though my body was tired from days of medically forced labor, no sleep, a fever of 103, and no food save for many cups of ice with water and Gatorade, I was able to gather all my strength to finish what needed to be done.
It took 30 minutes or so of pushing to get my 8lb 8oz 23 inch long little girl into the world.
The mental toughness from my endurance training allowed me to push knowing that there would be no happy ending on the other side, the breathing and relaxation techniques I learned in yoga helped me to work efficiently within the moment, and the strength I had in my abdominals and legs made each push more productive and the whole process faster. I attribute flexibility for not needing a single stitch postpartum, even after Eve’s shoulders got stuck.
My daughter Eve looked healthy, strong, and beautiful in her “sleeping” state. As I held her sobbing, I wished more than anything that my actions during pregnancy could have had more control over a favorable outcome. The doctors have assured me that there was nothing more I could have done to prevent this senseless tragedy. Like any mother in my situation, I am finding it extremely hard to not blame myself for what happened. The most I can hope for is that little Eve enjoyed her time inside me, the bonding we did each evening doing prenatal yoga in the nursery, the long walks and jogs where she got to react to the sounds of Dee our family dog, the classes I taught where she danced to the music along with me, and the quiet times we meditated together imagining what her life would be like once she was here.
Never did I imagine what happened, but what mother could?
I’ve learned the hard truth that a fit pregnancy does not guarantee a perfect outcome in the end. It can however, keep you strong to deal with whatever changes come your way, both the good and the bad. I thought I’d need strength to have the ability to bounce back physically in order to take the best care of my baby and get back to my job. As it turns out I will need more strength than I ever thought possible when I am released today and in the days ahead and though I am heartbroken down to my core I am grateful for having the coping mechanisms I do to deal with things in a healthy way.
I hope Eve knew how much her mommy loved her and tried her best to keep her happy, healthy, and safe during the short time she was here. She’ll be in my heart forever and always, a humbling reminder that even though a healthy lifestyle will not make us invincible or immune to life’s tragedies, it is helpful for giving us the strength to get through them, however long that road may be.
Photo credit: adapted from Jinx! | Flickr