Today I read a poignant story about a woman who lost her baby to stillbirth just days before the baby’s due date. These kinds of stories are always heartbreaking, but this one touched me more than usual in that her baby’s due date was exactly the same as my Baby J’s due date. Yup. Exactly the same. Almost one year ago.
There are more similarities between our stories. She noticed a lack of fetal movement in the days leading up to her due date. I noticed that with Baby J, too, and it scared the daylights out of me.
Her baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. So was my Baby J’s. In fact, hers was wrapped around her neck AND her body (called a double nuchal cord). While 1 out of 3 babies are born with their cord around their neck to some degree, once in a while it causes problems. Obviously, the more wrapped up in the cord the baby is, the greater the potential for problems.
The good news ending to this woman’s story is that a few days ago, she had a healthy baby boy. I am so happy for her! She and her family are extra-grateful tonight for the miracle of their baby’s safe birth.
Stories like this make me realize how amazingly precious life is. There’s nothing anyone can do about cord accidents. And it also begs the unanswerable question: Why was my baby spared and her baby stillborn? And, God forbid, what if that had been MY baby?
From a practical perspective, Baby J’s birth makes me grateful for my knowledge and belief in the importance of natural childbirth and in letting birth begin on its own. You see, I was extremely dilated in the weeks leading up to J’s birth; I was at 6cm for four days before going into labor. So my OB offered to break my water to get my labor started, and while I was miserable and uncomfortable and tired of being pregnant, I declined his offer and opted to wait for labor to begin on its own. I also chose to take no medications or drugs of any kind during my labor (although, to be fair, there wasn’t time to take anything anyway).
Why did these choices turn out to be not just mere choices, but life-or-death choices?
With Baby J’s double nuchal cord (the cord wrapped around her neck and body), her cord was seriously compressed during labor. This compression caused her to be oxygen-deprived and her heart rate to plummet every time I had a contraction. (It was a good thing my labor went so fast. While babies can handle some cord compression during labor, compressions that are too hard for too long can cause problems for a baby, usually necessitating an emergency C-section.) If I had chosen to take my OB up on his offer to have my water broken to jump-start my labor, her cord would have lost the protective cushion of water around it, thereby compressing her cord much more intensely. This … might have caused Big Problems. As it turned out, my water did not break until literally the VERY end of my labor, which meant that during my whole labor, her cord had that cushion of water protecting it. When my water finally broke, her head came out in literally the next push. The cord was wrapped around her neck so tightly that my OB had no choice but to cut the cord with just her head sticking out of me so that she could actually be born the rest of the way. J was gray, floppy, and not breathing when she came out, and it was at least half a minute until we heard her first cry. Her first minute of life was rather scary! I remember hearing JJ ask at one point if he should baptize the baby. As it turned out, she started breathing and gained color nicely, and we learned later that for a baby in her situation, she actually recovered very well.
Another thing to keep in mind was that, considering the situation J was in in utero, if I had taken any drugs with the cord as compressed as it was, those drugs would have gotten into J’s system and given her body even more things to deal with. As painful as the labor was (and it hurt much worse than my labor with Lyd did!), the fact that it was all natural probably prevented more problems.
So, when I think of how her birth went, and how close we came to losing her, and when I hear of babies in similar situations who didn’t make it, it makes me appreciate all the more what a gift my daughter is. I am so thankful for my baby tonight. I don’t care what her faults are, or how much she doesn’t do what I wish she would do (like sleep through the night!). I know I came far too close to losing her, and I’ll take her however she comes.