I’ve always liked school, mostly because there are a bunch of right answers, and if you learn them you get rewarded with good grades. Sometimes you even get a plaque or shout out in class or something. It is a fairly controllable system. Go to class, learn the information, study, take a test and all is well. Being the achiever that I am, I quickly got busy learning and approached Aziza’s birth a bit like a university course.
After reading several convincing blogs, watching a documentary or two, and reading a book, I was fairly convinced I had “the right answers”. In all my wisdom gleaned from my studies, I decided that natural was the only way to go. Why on earth would I want to sabotage what is natural, after all? I typed out a highly official looking birth plan that I gave to my doctor. I had done my studying, learned the material. But, birth is not a science exam, as I would soon discover.
On December 29th, I woke up feeling a little funny. Tired, headache, nausea. I had read the books, so I knew that some of these things are normal experiences for the start of labor. Sure enough, by afternoon I started having contractions. That day, I had gone with my family to see Red Fort in Delhi, so we were in a crazy, old, congested part of the city. In the beginning, contractions were pretty easy, although the nausea was heating up. When contractions set in about 20 minutes apart, we decided we’d better catch the subway back to south Delhi so that we’d be closer to the hospital. By the time we hit the subway station, I was feeling intensely nauseated, but some 500 people (this is not a joke) were in line for tickets, so I found a little open space by the stairs and started praying that I wouldn’t throw up while I waited for Dustin to return with our ticket home. It didn’t work, and I ended up projectile vomiting down two flights of stairs. I’ve never seen a mob of people form a single file line so fast, all the while staring at the hugely pregnant foreigner. It was pretty amazing.
(My mom and I on a rickshaw when the contractions were becoming more steady)
At this point, my brother pointed out to my mother that I had, without a doubt, lost my mucous plug. He said he saw it on the stairs. Ha ha. Anyhow, on the way home I called my doctor who told me to come to the hospital ASAP for a checkup. So, around 7 pm I ended up at the hospital. They gave me a little gown and put some clean sheets on the hospital bed. Not five minutes after getting all settled in for a checkup, I began vomiting again. The little metal kidney bean bowl they gave me wasn’t quite big enough, so some new covers and a gown were required. Then, the fever and chills set in. Turns out I had the stomach flu. Awesome.
After the check up, we discovered that while I was having reasonably strong contractions I was only 1 cm dilated and 0% effaced BUT I couldn’t go home because I was vomiting uncontrollably and had to be monitored. Well, to make a rather long story shorter, 27 hours later, I was still vomiting (and having some issues at the other end), having INTENSE back labor and contractions roughly every 3 to 4 minutes, and had only progressed to 3 cms and was 50% effaced. What the heck? At this point, they decided to use Pitocin to help my body along. That made my back labor astronomically more intense. I was loosing steam, and was starting to worry that I’d be too tired to push when it came time. At this point, any normal person might start to think an epidural was a good idea… ahhh, but remember, I had a birth plan!
(Me feeling more than a little exhausted)
My well informed, but now potentially unrealistic, self-expectations for labor were hitting me like a freight train. The countless blogs and books were running through my head reminding me of the million and ten ways in which natural was best, how I could be putting my baby at risk by doing anything “unnatural,” how natural was “normal” and basically anything else was wrong. I seriously almost had a meltdown, so my sweet husband and awesome mom prayed with me and read me scripture. In that moment, I was struck by the realization that the conversation surrounding natural child birth had really painted the picture that those who choose an epidural or any kind of medical intervention are less womanly, not natural, careless with their children, anything but brave/strong and terribly uninformed. Those voices were drowning out the reality that having an epidural while battling the stomach flu might very well be the best choice for my baby and me. After we prayed, I felt free to release my self-expectations, trust Jesus, and deliver Aziza with a little help. So, 28 hours into labor, I got the epidural. And I am so, so glad I did.
(Me in post-epidural heaven, ha ha)
Aziza was born 8 hours after getting the epidural. I pushed for the entire last hour. The effects of the epidural were much weaker at this point, and I was actually able to push really well for someone who had an epidural. But, her head would just crown and then pull back up. The doctor realized something wasn’t right and called in a few other doctors. I could hear them whispering about a potential emergency cesarean. About that time, Aziza’s heart rate was dropping, and we lost power and were unable to get her heart rate back. This is when my mom says that everyone in the room turned into “little labor and delivery ninjas”. The power was cutting on and off while my doctor did an episiotomy and two others jumped up on the table and pushed hard on my stomach as I pushed through a contraction. It was by far the most painful thing I have ever experienced… and that was with an epidural! As it turns out Aziza’s umbilical chord was short (something the ultrasound technician missed), about half the length of what it should have been. Her chord was holding her back. At some point, possibly while they were pushing on my stomach, Aziza lost her oxygen supply.
She came out. Blue. Limp. Silent. Doctors and nurses were everywhere. There was a little huddle around Aziza, and they seemed to be buzzing like bees. I kept asking if she was okay, and everyone would say, “Everything is fine.” But she wasn’t crying, people looked tense and doctors were giving terse orders. My husband’s face was white as a sheet. Never before had life seemed so delicate, so fragile to me. After what felt like an eternity, I heard Aziza sputter out a little cough. My mom held my hand and I just bawled. She was alive! Pretty soon after she coughed, they set her on my chest for about 30 seconds before whisking her away to the NICU. At this point, I just passed out. I think it was God’s grace for me. My heart couldn’t handle any more.
(My first time to hold her!)
Dustin went with Aziza to the NICU but they wouldn’t let him stay, so he paced outside of the door until he heard her cry nearly an hour after she was born. It is a cultural thing, but patients are given very little information here. So, no one told us anything. We just had to wait. Three hours after she was born, they brought her to us. She was pink everywhere except her hands and feet. We just held onto her and to each other. The whole experience was the scariest, most beautiful, overwhelming, tender, sacred time in my life. So many emotions surfaced during her birth that I couldn’t even tell the story without bawling until recently (she’s three months old now). I am utterly overcome with how much I love her.
(Sweet Aziza on her second day of life)
When we got home from the hospital, I opened my email inbox to discover that people around the globe felt led to pray for us at the exact time things were becoming a little dicey in the delivery room. It was amazing. As I read email after email, I wept. I was just overwhelmed at how God preserved Aziza’s life. This wasn’t a science exam. I didn’t have the answers, or the power to achieve a perfect birth. But that didn’t matter, because the One who has the answers and the power was there with me, with Aziza.