The Birth of a Baby Girl: A Story of Hope and Miracles
My first pregnancy and birth experience was idyllic…no vomiting, normal growth, supportive midwives at the Austin Area Birthing Center, and a 3.5-hour labor which provided me with a beautiful, healthy nine-pound daughter.
Five years later after moving across the country, I decided to conceive again, expecting nothing short of a perfect experience like my last one. And everything did go well for the first trimester. But one day in my 13th week, I woke up to blood pouring down my legs. I was heartbroken because I thought surely my baby had passed away. But when I connected with my midwife, to my great surprise, she found a strong heartbeat.
I felt so empowered being at home on my own turf, being in the water, practicing hypnosis, and birthing my baby myself with my midwife in the hall if I needed her. So many parts of me healed in that birth; so much self-doubt vanished and has never returned.
I continued to bleed. The midwife scheduled me for an ultrasound with a doctor she worked with, but I couldn’t see him for another week, and I continued to lose blood. Finally I had the ultrasound and the results were in: my baby was fine. I had a subchorionic hematoma, an accumulation of blood between the placenta and the uterus, which is actually somewhat common. I bled until I was 20 weeks pregnant and then it stopped.
But something still was off. I had only gained a few pounds, and my belly was not measuring as it should. I was watched closely but the ultrasounds showed my baby doing fine other than being pretty small. I continued to stay in bed a lot and hoped that things would get better. I gained 50 pounds with my first daughter, but clearly this pregnancy was entirely different.
At exactly 41 weeks, contractions started. I had the most beautiful water birth at home. As much as I had considered my first birth to be “perfect,” this one topped it. I felt so empowered being at home on my own turf, being in the water, practicing hypnosis, and birthing my baby myself with my midwife in the hall if I needed her. So many parts of me healed in that birth; so much self-doubt vanished and has never returned. I know now how powerful I am, how powerful all women are, and what our bodies are capable of.
As I watched the midwife resuscitate my child, I realized that I was holding on to the placenta, subconsciously, and that I had to let go.
I’d love to say that it ended there…a perfect, happy ending, but that wasn’t my path. As I held my tiny five-pound baby, I noticed she looked unique. Her fingers were different and her face was very thin, almost alien-like. She was covered in thick vernix even though she was a week past her due date. Her cord was very short, and her placenta stayed attached to me, so it was very hard for me even to hold her. I wanted to do a Lotus Birth, where the baby stays attached to the placenta until the cord naturally dries up and falls off, but the cord was flimsy and ended up breaking off. I was able to hold my little daughter more comfortably, but she was not interested in nursing at all, and she just cried a lot. And then after three hours, as the midwife’s assistant was starting to pack up so she could go home, my baby stopped breathing and turned blue. It was a mother’s worst nightmare right in front of my eyes, and here I was with this placenta still stuck and the cord hanging out of me. As I watched the midwife resuscitate my child, I realized that I was holding on to the placenta, subconsciously, and that I had to let go. I had to have all of this be about my daughter now and not about me with this placenta clinging on. While three people focused on my baby, I squatted down and birthed the placenta on my own. And then my baby started breathing again.
But two more times she stopped breathing, and we jumped into the car and sped to the hospital in the dark night.
We held her hands through the holes in the incubator until the lights made our skin tingle and burn.
My daughter, it turned out, could not be given any liquids because a few minutes later the liquid would cause her to stop breathing. She was kept alive on IV fluids alone for nine days. The first day in the hospital the doctor told me that based on her hand shape she most likely had Trisomy 18, a chromosome disorder in which most babies die in the first week of life. We were heartbroken and we slept very little. My five-year-old was bounced around by friends who stepped up to help and cook us meals; I didn’t have any family in the area and my husband’s parents were too old to do much more than pray for us. The doctor said the x-rays showed that my daughter would need surgery on her intestines.
She was rushed one night by ambulance to a hospital over an hour away and she was not even allowed to have a toy with our scent on it. We were not allowed in the ambulance and once she arrived at the new hospital she was under phototherapy lights for jaundice and we were not allowed to hold her at all. She dropped weight. She was only touched when the nurses took her blood, put tubes down her nose, or changed her diaper. We held her hands through the holes in the incubator until the lights made our skin tingle and burn. This hospital did not believe in Kangaroo Care, and I was told by the head doctor that babies cannot feel any pain. Having the person in control of your child make such an ignorant statement is absolutely terrifying. I have never felt so helpless as I did in those days. I just wanted her to come home so she could die peacefully without the lights and the hospital sterility. To die in her mother’s arms.
Having the person in control of your child make such an ignorant statement is absolutely terrifying. I have never felt so helpless as I did in those days.
We weren’t very religious people at that time, but we prayed hard for our daughter, and we asked others to do the same. People were praying for her all over the country. And miracle upon miracle happened. The newest x-rays showed that her intestines were just fine; she would not need surgery after all. The chromosome disorder she was found to have was not Trisomy 18, but was another one; one so rare that no one else has ever been found to have it before, but this meant she may not die so soon! And then, after nine days, she could take breastmilk through a doll-sized bottle, without it causing any breathing issues. After three more days they told us we could take her home. We could hardly believe it. By this time she had dropped down to four pounds and three ounces, and she was a tiny thing in her car seat on the long drive home.
When we were told she’d probably die in the first week, I started drinking parsley green smoothies to dry up my milk supply, so when they told us she would probably live I found myself pumping every few hours to get my supply going again. I was fortunate enough to have a large milk supply (don’t ever let anyone tell you small breasts won’t produce enough milk…I’m double A and both my children had adequate amounts with no supplementation necessary!). I pumped for 14 months for my little girl. She never could latch on to nurse, but I didn’t let that stop me.
My daughter just celebrated her 7th birthday. As I write this, my eyes fill with tears. It has been a journey for sure, but here we are, and I am eternally grateful. There are so many life lessons I can pull out of all of this; the biggest is that every moment we have is important. I honestly don’t know how long my daughter will live; but then again, mothers can never predict the future for any of our children. We must be present in each moment because this moment is what we have. In a world full of distractions, we can choose to be distracted or we can choose to put down our phones, turn off our televisions, and give our presence and love to our families.
Leah Love teaches holistic pelvic floor strengthening for mamas who suffer from incontinence, lower back pain, low libido, hormone imbalance, and more. To learn more about Leah, check out:
Leah Love, Holistic Pelvic Floor Health Coach
Awaken Empower Heal
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