Being pregnant and giving birth is a beautiful experience. No matter how it gets accomplished. Every woman has a different process and experience, but all are the same in that in the end we get to become mommies.
Something every pregnant woman is told to do is create their birth plan. Well, birth plans never go how you want them to. I know that, and that’s why I didn’t have a set birth plan. Instead, I spent my whole pregnancy becoming as educated as I could on every situation that could possibly happen. I’m not that person who gets frightened by birth horror stories. On the other hand, I wanted to hear all of them so that I felt more knowledgeable. I spent countless hours watching birth videos on the internet and Instagram, and reading about the birth process as well as learning about the drugs and interventions that are used during labor. We even took a labor/birth class together. My goal was to be informed and most of all, able to be okay and accepting of any birth experience that I may get, regardless of the one I initially wanted. It’s so easy to get hung up on what we want and forget to become educated about the other routes, and end up confused and scared in a situation we know nothing about.
Since I knew I couldn’t control how the birth would go, I focused instead on the things I could control. I chose my doctor based on referrals and reviews on his practices that mostly closely matched what I wanted, and I liked the fact that he had several midwives in his office who would be the ones to deliver if he were to be unavailable. I chose the hospital based on their c-section rates and policies. And I chose the imaging center based on the fact they they specialized in high-risk pregnancies. Our pregnancy wasn’t initially considered “high-risk” but we qualified as high-risk due to our history, and wanted to have extra monitoring throughout the pregnancy since we had tried for so long to get pregnant and were worried about things that could go wrong.
The fact that I chose an imaging center specializing in high-risk pregnancies turned out to be a great decision because at one of our first appointments early in the pregnancy, they diagnosed a marginal cord insertion which required extra monitoring during the pregnancy and especially during the third trimester. A marginal cord insertion is when the umbilical cord attaches to the outer edge of the placenta rather than directly in the center. What this means is that the baby may not be getting sufficient nutrients and oxygen which can hinder growth and development. (This condition is random and not caused by anything in particular, but I have read that it is thought to be more common in pregnancies achieved by IVF, although this has not been proven.) This can be further complicated and rather dangerous depending on the location of the placenta. Luckily, my placenta was in a safe spot so we didn’t have to worry about that, but they started doing twice a week fetal monitoring and a couple extra growth scans during my third trimester to make sure the baby was continuing to get sufficient nutrients and oxygen.
When this was first diagnosed, I was concerned how it could affect labor and delivery. Of course when they first told us about it, I broke my own rule of not googling stuff and ended up reading a bunch of stuff that frightened and worried me. I clarified all my worries with my doctor and it was at this point that I focused on being more open minded about all potential birth experiences. I knew that I didn’t want a planned c-section so decided to go ahead with trying for an unmedicated/least intervention route. I refrain from calling it a “natural birth” because I don’t agree with this terminology; I believe all birth is “natural” and is not more or less so whether it’s medicated, unmedicated, or achieved through surgery. Initially, I had considered a planned c-section because it was easy to plan the day and I had some anxiety about the marginal cord insertion, but decided against it. I wanted to try for a vaginal birth and after researching, was more okay with an emergency c-section than a planned one because although recovery could be harder for me, there were more benefits for the baby when having gone through some labor.
When we were doing our IVF cycles to get pregnant, the last thing we were thinking about was the due date. We just wanted to get pregnant so bad that it didn’t matter when the due date was going to be. Well, of course the due date ended up falling in April… which is the worst month of the entire year for our family. My husband travels a lot for work and for his company, and he was going to be gone about 80% of the month of April, including the week of my due date. In addition to him being gone, his brother and his wife who we live 5 minutes from, would also be gone for a couple weeks during the last four weeks of my pregnancy. In an attempt to remedy this, since my due date was the last week of April, my husband canceled his work trip scheduled for that week and planned to be here for the birth. After all, first pregnancies are always late right…?
April rolled around and I took my husband to LAX for his last April trip on the 7th. He rubbed my belly and told Enzo to wait for him until he came back. He would return on the 15th. My sister-in-law (sister) returned from her trip during that same week. I was planning on spending the week that he was gone getting the house and nursery completed and ready for the baby’s arrival. I still had things to do and was running out of time to get them done, so I hurried around and worked on completing my tasks.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I woke up super early for some reason. The morning of the 10th, I woke up around 4:30am and felt something wet on my leg. I fell back asleep because I was tired, and then woke up again at 5am feeling wet again. My initial thought was that I was peeing on myself but hadn’t had any issues with that the whole pregnancy so I jumped up wide awake and ran to the bathroom. Upon initial inspection, everything seemed fine, but after about 5 minutes of walking around I knew something wasn’t right. I think deep down I knew my water had broke but I was in huge denial because my husband was gone for five more days.
I literally ignored the leaking water and ran around the house desperately trying to finish everything… putting all the clothes back in the nursery and organizing the drawers, pulling the painting tape off the ceiling and trim, vacuuming the entire upstairs, finishing cooking some prep food I had started… I was able to ignore the leaking water until a couple hours later when the mucous plug started to come out. I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I called my OB around 2pm and he said I should come in. I had an appointment with him the next morning anyways, so I asked if I could just wait and come then. He said since I wasn’t having contractions yet, that was fine.
I spent the rest of the day cleaning and organizing everything at the house and made sure my hospital bag was ready to go. I also debated all day long whether or not to tell my husband what was going on. Normally I would have just told him, but this trip was especially important because it was the first year he was promoting one of the biggest shows of the year. The event started the next day and he was having meetings and setting up everything with his business partners who were all there as well. As much as I wanted him to be with me, I knew there was no option for him to leave the event and come back. I also knew that if I told him, he would have been extremely anxious and not focused on his meetings and the event, so I decided not to say anything until I knew for sure what was going on.
I went to bed that night around 10pm… then woke up around 11:30pm having contractions. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle, but when I started timing them they were 12 minutes apart lasting about 1 minute. I debated what to do. My doctors appointment was in the morning, but it was an hour away with no traffic (and 2 hours away with morning traffic). The last thing I wanted was to go back to bed and wake up in full-blown labor unable to make it to my planned hospital. Now I started to panic a little. Should I just drive there now and be guaranteed to arrive in time? Or wait until the morning as planned? I tried calling my sister several times, but of course I hadn’t said anything to her during the day so she wasn’t expecting to be “on call.”
I waited for a couple hours and the contractions were still persistent but not necessarily getting stronger. Around 1:30am I decided to drive to my doctor’s office. I threw my hospital bag and baby car seat (which I hadn’t even installed yet) in the car and started driving. I arrived about an hour later and sat in the dark parking lot trying to relax. I had brought a pillow and was attempting to rest. A couple hours later I was hungry so I went to the Starbucks that opened at 5am. Then I waited in the Gelson’s parking lot until it opened at 7am because I needed to pick up a styrofoam cooler for my placenta to be encapsulated. As I was checking out the clerk asked me what I had planned for the day and I almost said “having a baby.” My sister called me after seeing all the missed calls when she woke up. She made tentative plans to come meet me if my doctor said I needed to go to the hospital. (Yes, I was still in denial. Haha.)
I showed up to my OB’s office right as they opened at 8:30am. He confirmed via a ph strip test and ultrasound that my water had broke. He told me to go to the hospital and that I would need to be induced. Being induced was the one thing I really didn’t want. To me, pitocin was the intervention that would start the snowball of the rest of the interventions that I was trying to avoid. I asked him if I could wait and see if the labor processed on its own. He said it was up to me, but it had already been at least 30 hours since my water broke and at this point he was concerned about the baby getting an infection. Of course that was the last thing I wanted. I started crying. It wasn’t bad enough that my husband was not going to be there, now I had to be induced too? This was the complete opposite of everything I wanted. My doctor felt bad and said he knew this wasn’t what I wanted but I was going to get to meet my baby soon. As happy as I was about that, it just seemed all wrong.
I left the office feeling sort of heartbroken and started driving to the hospital. I stopped to eat breakfast at a diner next to the hospital because to be honest, I needed a little time to accept what was happening and get myself in the right state of mind before going to the hospital. I finally got there mentally when I realized that I had been preparing myself for this exact, unpredictable situation during the past months… my birth plan had been to be accepting of any birth experience I may get, and I realized that now was the time to start being okay with the fact that it was going to be far from what I had wanted. By the time I left the diner to go to the hospital I had set my mind straight and was ready. I let my sister know that I was going in and she rushed out to come be with me.
After I arrived and got all checked in at the hospital, I finally called my husband. I told him, “I know this isn’t what we wanted, but I wanted to let you know that Enzo will be here within the next 24 hours.” He thought I was joking. I said that I was at the hospital at that very moment and told him that my water had broke the day prior. I could tell he was sad, but when my voice cracked he remained strong and told me everything was going to be okay and that we were finally getting to meet our baby.
About an hour later, my sister arrived. My contractions had been increasing in frequency and intensity on their own prior to the pitocin but still not fast enough, so a couple hours later they began the pitocin drip. Prior to the pitocin, I wasn’t feeling every contraction that showed on the monitor, but the ones I did feel were lasting 2-4 minutes. Once the pitocin kicked in, I still felt the contractions lasting 2-4 minutes and they were getting much more intense. Pitocin contractions are not the same as natural contractions. They are much more intense because they are stimulated by the medication. I knew this and asked the midwife about it; she said it just depends on the person so I had opted not to get the epidural yet because I wanted to try without it.
Some time past and finally, I had an extremely painful contraction that lasted 4 minutes and it was at this point that I started having nerve pain shoot down the front of my left leg. I remembered the nurse telling me that if I thought I wanted the epidural, to ask for it and not to wait because the anesthesiologist might be unavailable and I’d have to wait. The nerve pain was excruciating and I couldn’t imagine how much worse it was going to get so I called my nurse and told her I wanted the epidural.
The anesthesiologist came in a couple contractions later and I was glad I called her when I did. I couldn’t handle the nerve pain anymore. The epidural was a little nerve-wracking because they install the catheter via a needle into the spinal cord in between contractions and they tell you not to move, with an emphasis on it being “very important not to move.” Despite the pain of the contractions and nerve pain, I managed to sit still probably only because I kept repeating “I’m going to be crippled” over and over again in my head.
Almost immediately after she finished the epidural I felt the pain of the contractions subside, but the nerve pain in my left leg change and increase. I curled up in pain on the bed and held onto the bed handles. It felt as though all the pain was taken from the contractions and poured into the front of my left leg and now my glute was also on fire. The nurse and anesthesiologist started turning my body from left to right to distribute the epidural but nothing was helping. It continued at this intensity for about 5 minutes and finally subsided completely after about 15 minutes. After that, I felt amazing.
My sister was the best company I could have asked for and we just relaxed and waited. It was about 9pm when the nurse came in and wanted me to change positions because the baby’s heart rate was dropping. I flipped over and his heart rate came back up. This happened a couple more times over the next hour and a half. I was now 8cm dilated.
At around 10:50pm, we were almost sleeping when 5 or so nurses came rushing in the room and said I needed to move now. I looked at the monitor and saw the baby’s heart rate dropping lower than it had before. The room became very tense as the head nurse gave instructions to the other nurses. They started flipping me from one side to the other and even tilted the bed almost upside down to try to alleviate pressure on the baby, but his heart rate was continuing to drop at an alarming rate. I knew I was going to have to have an emergency c-section.
The head nurse told me what I already knew. They gave me an oral shot of some kind of medication to get ready for anesthesia, as well as an adrenaline shot of some sort that she said was to resuscitate the baby. They wheeled me into the operating room and took my sister to change so she could come in with me. My doctor showed up 7 minutes after they called him and reassured me he was going to get the baby out safely. Throughout the entire event, I just focused on taking deep breaths in the oxygen mask because I didn’t want to add any additional stress on the baby by panicking. I trusted my doctor and knew the best thing I could do was to remain calm.
I was shaking uncontrollably from the adrenaline shot they gave me and I could still feel my lower body. The epidural had been done to the point that I could still move both my legs so I still had some sensation there. I told the anesthesiologist because I was worried about feeling the surgery, so she pinch tested my leg and I couldn’t feel it.
My doctor began the surgery and a couple minutes later he said that he had my baby out. Those couple minutes seemed like forever… waiting to hear his cry. Finally I heard his little cry and I was overcome with relief that he was safe. They held him up over the curtain so I could see him and I couldn’t wait to hold him. They took him to do the newborn tests and brought him to lay on my chest a couple minutes later. His little eyes were open already and he was looking around. He was perfect.
Our son, Enzo El Guindy was born on April 11, 2019 at 11:06pm weighing 6lbs 7oz and 18.5in.