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Teddys Birth

I’ll be honest, I’ve seen people post about writing a birth story in the past and it has always felt a little strange to me. They’re usually long and detailed and sometimes graphic. I always read them, obviously, because I’m incredibly nosey but I didn’t really understand the need to document all the details.

However Teddy’s birth was both the most terrifying moment in my life thus far, while moments later being the most joyful. Processing the whiplash of emotions from that night post-partum was extremely challenging. Writing has always been an outlet for me and it’s usually in hopes to help others walking through something similar.

However this, this one was just for me. If it helps you – wonderful. But the weight of that night needed a landing page for all that happened. It’s not my typical writing style - there aren’t many lighthearted quips to counteract the heaviness of his birth. It’s long and it’s detailed and 0% graphic, but I needed to get the words somewhere outside of my mind and heart. 



On Christmas Eve, I vividly remember feeling Teddy kick around 3:30pm. I had just treated myself to a hot chocolate and made a comment about how he loved sweets.


That was the last time I felt him move while he was inside me.


As the day went on, we played a game as a family, ate dinner and started to watch a movie. I noticed it was odd during the game I didn’t feel him while I was moving back and forth in my chair. He also usually moved after meals, but I didn't feel him then either. Ever since I started to feel Teddy at about 20 weeks, he never stopped moving. So, it was odd for my belly to feel so still.


I knew from previous google spirals that hot showers, drinking something sweet and lying on your side were ways that could help kickstart movement. I excused myself from “It’s A Wonderful Life” and went upstairs to attempt all those things. But there was no movement in the shower, or after the glass of OJ, or after laying down. In tears I texted Josh to come upstairs. I told him how I hadn't really felt him move in several hours. Josh held my stomach for a few minutes as well. We still felt nothing. We texted our doulas, who quickly responded that it was probably worth a trip to the ER to be on the safe side.


We told my parents (who were downstairs) what was happening and that we were going to the ER. Josh drove 90mph with his hazards all the way there, and I had my hands all over my stomach, praying for him to move.


A very kind ER staff member helped me to a wheelchair, got me checked in, and quickly got me up to L&D while Josh parked the car. Then two nurses got me into a room and immediately hooked me up to a find a heartbeat. And within seconds, we heard the sound we so desperately wanted to hear. A heartbeat. Relief swept over both of us as she showed us on the monitor the up and down movements of his heart beating. Josh and I naively thought that was it. He was fine! He had a heartbeat, and everything was okay. They did give me a clicker to press whenever I felt him move while they left the room. I remember telling Josh I still really couldn't feel him, but I was unaware that was an issue since we felt like everything was ok. The nurse came in and told us that they scheduled us to get an ultrasound while we were here. I still wasn’t worried and was excited to see him on the screen because it had been a few weeks since our last one.


What we didn’t know at the time was that we were not going into a regular “see the baby and be done in a few minutes” check. The ultrasound was Biophysical Profile to determine fetal movement. After the ultrasound tech shared this with us several minutes in, Josh started noticing the numbers she was typing in on the pictures “ 1, 2, 0,” and he started googling. While neither of us knew anything about what this test was, he was aware sooner than I was that these numbers were not good. After the test they told us that we would have to wait for patient transport to take us back up to L&D, but they quickly pivoted and had another ultrasound tech take us back upstairs. It didn’t register to me until I’ve started to unpack that night that they were acutely aware of how dire the situation was and knew I didn't have 20 minutes to wait for transport.


We got back in the room around 12:10am. I know because I, still unaware anything was wrong, said “Merry Christmas!” and took a picture of Josh. Within minutes of us being back in the L&D room, one of the nurses frantically came in and said she was going to start an IV. She also said that they received the scores from the ultrasound, and we would likely be having our baby tonight.


Scores? What Scores? I thought.


“Is everything ok?” I asked. She quickly said that the midwife would be in soon and they were trying to find the doctor to come talk to me. I knew from previous conversations with people who had delivered at my practice that a doctor meant a C-section. And with the urgent nature of everyone around us, I knew something was very very wrong. A flood of people started to enter the room. Nurses who were putting in IVs in my hands and arms. Staff giving Josh the operating room outfit to put on. It was the most frantic few minutes of nurses, the midwife and finally the doctor crowding themselves into our tiny room. From there we signed a several papers, one of them being that I was aware this was an emergency C-section and they would not have time to do their normal preparation and sterilization, etc. From the time we got back to the room to the time I was in the OR for delivery was 20 minutes.


But mostly I remember this: The doctor came in and introduced himself. He told us that our baby had scored a 2 out of 10 on the Biophysical profile and we needed to get him out immediately. And then he said words that are forever seared into my mind. In the mist of the chaos, he put his hand on my shoe and said:


“I need you both to know that’s a really low score, and I don’t know what we are going to find”. My stomach was somewhere on the floor and my heart was sinking into the lowest place it’s ever known. I was past the point of tears. I was past the point of emotion. I was past the point of panic. I was in a complete state of shock. 


When I tell this part of the story, I’m usually met with “I can’t believe he told you that!”. But I believed then ( and know now after several follow up appointments), he did not believe the outcome was going to be good, and was prepping us for what he thought could be a really heartbreaking Christmas reality.


There are two parts of Teddy’s birth story that I still get emotional talking about. The first was that my parents were still at our house when Josh texted them that I was going to have a C-section ( we didn’t explain to them the dire state we were in). They planned to leave to come to the hospital and because we left in such haste, my mom asked Josh what she needed to bring for us. At home, I had our blue suitcase packed with all our clothes, snacks for labor, toiletries, etc. And next to our suitcase was Teddy’s new diaper bag, filled with several of his outfits and blankets. And for a moment, I let myself think the worst. I cannot have my mom bring a bag with clothes for a baby that doesn't make it. “Just have her bring the blue suitcase” I said.

The lights were off in the hallway to the operating room. I don't know if that was normal or if it was because it was Christmas. Before going into the OR, I have the saddest image in my mind of Josh sitting in the chair where they told him to wait, just staring at the floor as they wheeled me in.


The anesthesiologist introduced himself and walked me through what I was about to feel. Before he started, the doctor asked me, “Does the baby have a name?”


“Yes, his name is Theodore but we are calling him Teddy”, my voice broke. Que the other part of the story that still makes me cry. "It took us a really long time to get him here”, I cried. “Please, Please save my baby.”


I don’t remember much after that other than my sweet nurse telling me I did the right thing by coming, and they would do everything they could. Then the spinal tap began. There was a clock on the wall I was looking at while I waited for the spinal tap to set in. As I laid, I remember thinking:


“It is well, It is well with my soul”


I don’t know if it’s because I’ve sung it so much over my summers at camp, or if something spurred it to the surface before, but it’s the only thing I remember thinking that night. And I also want to be really honest. I don’t know if that would have been my disposition had things gone differently. I didn't think those lyrics because I had a peace with either outcome. I really don't know why those lyrics popped into my mind. But I didn’t have long to dwell on them before the doctor said they were ready to go.


I also heard him say “Are we going to get the husband?”. Poor Josh. In the rush of everything they almost left him sitting in that lonely hallway.


Josh came and sat next to me and held my head. He repeated how proud he was of me that we came. But mostly I remember two terrified people just waiting to know the outcome of their long- awaited baby.


The anesthesiologist again was very kind and walked us through each part of what I should be feeling. “You’ll feel movement and tugging, etc”. The moment came where you feel the giant pressure on your chest and then the release. “Baby’s out” I heard the doctor say.


And then it was silent.


I knew enough to know that most babies don’t come out crying. They let me know before we started there would be a team of pediatric doctors and nurses ready to take the baby after delivery. I couldn’t see him, but I kept looking at Josh, whose eyes kept darting over to the baby station.


I have zero recollection of time during the surgery or really most of the night. Things I thought were quick I learned later took an hour. So, I don’t know when, but I heard Josh say “Did you hear that?” “No, what?” I said. “He’s crying”.


He’s crying! I thought. That means he’s alive. After that I heard someone say he has a lot more color than they thought he would. And not long after that they asked Josh to come and see him. He took a picture and brought it over to show me. A 7lb 12 oz baby boy. Teddy.

“They said he’s doing good! They cleared out his lungs and he's breathing great” From there it was good news after good news. They didn’t need to take him to the NICU. In fact, he never left our side again. After a few moments they wrapped him up and brought him over to me. He was here and he was beautiful and he was okay.


Once in PACU the doctor came to visit us to explain further what happened. He showed Josh in the OR, but Teddy had the cord around his neck, and had swallowed meconium. However, the critical issue was that I had a “true knot” in the umbilical cord, which was so tight Teddy was starting to lose blood flow and oxygen. I wasn’t dilated at all, and the doctor said with that tight of knot in the cord, Teddy would not have made it through labor and likely would not have made it through the night. He told us what many of the nurses and staff had already said. That we saved Teddy’s life by coming that night.


Words can’t describe that joy and relief we felt knowing he was here as we moved into the hospital room for the rest of our stay. However, the wake of the last few hours had really taken a toll on us. Josh experienced a lot of the emotions in the hospital, while most of mine came once we were home. Emotions that come during postpartum in general coupled with processing such an intense birth, made for a lot really hard moments once we left the hospital. What should have given me confidence that I knew something was wrong and acted on it, actually amplified smaller situations at home. I couldn't sleep without watching him breathe because I felt terrified I was going to miss something. Between recovering from surgery and not getting any sleep, it physically wrecked me. Anytime I was able to try to sleep, the first place my mind went to when I would close my eyes was back in the hospital room and the doctor’s words would replay over and over. Strange noises that all newborns make, would send me into a spiral. I cried big alligator tears for weeks and experienced the most intense anxiety I have ever known. Some of this comes with the hormones going on anyway, but we both had some PTSD from almost losing him that it made for a challenging first few weeks home. Since sharing our experience the past few months, we’ve heard several stories of similar births where the outcome was not the same as ours. We are acutely aware of how close we were to having a different story.


I loved my practice before giving birth and they were amazing at helping me get this far. I had already spent countless hours there getting labs and ultrasounds in preparation for IVF. As we've processed our story over the past few months, I've grown more and more thankful for the staff that night. We learned a lot more about his birth during our hospital stay and at follow up appointments. Since it was Christmas, they had to piece together the OR team, from the nurses to the anesthesiologist, they were all from different departments but were called in to help since it was so urgent. Our doctor on call that night made the decision to risk the extra minutes doing a spinal tap instead of putting the baby in even more distress with general anesthesia. He told us later he was really torn, but felt like Teddy had a stronger chance this way. I am so grateful for their wisdom and action in our baby here as quickly as possible.

I know there can be a lot of negativity that comes with doctors, hospitals and specifically cesarean births. Of course I had hoped my birth would be less traumatic than it was. Of course I had prepared breathing techniques and created a playlist and bought lots of snacks (!!) to use for an uncomplicated labor. But in our case, this was our only option. I am very thankful we went to hospital, but I also know that things could have been very different if the decisions of our doctors had been dismissive or lax, especially with it being Christmas. I am so grateful for the staff we interacted with that night. 

We brought Teddy with us to my 2 week follow up appointment. When the doctor came in Josh said “Look Teddy, that’s the doctor who saved you!” He quickly responded, “No, we know who saved him that night” and pointed to one of several crosses on the wall. More than anything we did or the doctors did, we know the Lord was in every part of that night.


Thank you, Jesus, for hearing our prayers leading up to his birth for guidance and direction and prompting me to know something wasn’t right. Thank you, Jesus, for being near to us in OR and sitting with us as dealt with the emotions after his birth.


Thank you, Jesus for the gift of Teddy.

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