Not long after the baby started breathing on her own, the well-swaddled baby was placed into my arms. Still focused more on my own anxious feelings than on my new daughter, I held her for a little bit, but gave her back pretty quickly to someone else, because I felt too weak to hold her. Apparently I was pretty white. I didn’t pass out, but I remember lying back in bed for quite a while. I guess I was bleeding pretty heavily, because I remember Treesa, my doula, leaning over me, telling me that my OB wanted me to get a shot of Pitocin, and she recommended that I get it. I agreed.
It was around this point where I had a severe anxiety attack. I said, “I can’t handle two children! I can’t do it!” That had been my fear from the very moment I discovered I was pregnant, and I had done my best to ignore that fear throughout my pregnancy. But the moment of Mother to Two Children had finally come. I firmly believe that it was that fear that caused my labor to be so incredibly painful. Despite the fact that my body knew what to do and was doing it, there was another part of me that was fighting against it, forcing my body to work harder and making its progress that much more painful.
I don’t remember what Treesa said to me to calm my fears. I don’t remember what my husband said to me either. But somehow, as I got through those first minutes of being a mother of two, it occured to me that maybe I could do it. Maybe it was the Pitocin kicking in, but I realized that I was (sort of) already handling being a mother of two. And I only had to take it one day at a time. It was a good hour before I was finally calmed down, but I did eventually start to ease into the idea of being a mother of two.
One thing that helped my anxiety calm down was to actually start bonding with the baby. During this post-birth time, my husband held the baby most of the time, and as I laid on the bed battling my anxiety, I asked him, “How is it doing?” I guess I must have asked him that more than once, always using the pronoun “it,” because finally Treesa said, “She needs to hold her baby!” and passed the baby to me. It was then that I finally got a good look at her and started to bond with her a little bit. I unwrapped her to look at her body, and I think we even tried nursing for the first time.
Since my laboring time at the hospital had been just around half an hour, Treesa, my doula, wasn’t able to help me much during the birth. Everything happened so fast, and unfortunately I was pretty much emotionally and physically beyond help during labor. But Treesa was wonderful after the birth, staying for almost three hours afterwards, helping me process the experience, talk through my anxiety, start up breastfeeding, take a trip to the bathroom, eat a little something, and process the experience some more. She was such a help for me – and for my husband – and I can never thank her enough for all she did to get me and my baby off to a good start, despite our rough beginning.
Treesa told me afterwards that the reason the nurse had to hold the monitor against my belly so hard was because the baby was in distress. Her heart rate was dramatically decelerating with each contraction. The nurses correctly figured that the baby was going to need some help “getting started” once she was born, so they called in some NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) nurses to be on hand. My husband said that there were at least six nurses in our room. My doctor didn’t arrive until literally the last minute; one of the nurses was gloving up to deliver the baby when he raced in the door. When the baby’s head came out on the second push, the cord was wrapped very tightly around her neck, so my doctor had cut the cord with just her head sticking out of me. When her body came out afterwards, he discovered that the cord was also wrapped around her body – a double nuchal cord. It was kind of amazing that she managed to be a vaginal birth at all; God had his angels watching over her. She was also blessed with one of the longest cords that the nurses and my doula had ever seen, and that long cord saved her from being strangled in utero.
The other big blessing was that my HUGE bag of water – apparently the nurses and my doula said they had rarely seen so much water coming out of a woman! – my bag of water did not break until the VERY end. This was also a major blessing, because that unbroken bag of water provided a much-needed cushion that protected that tightly tangled cord from being compressed even more than it already was. Had I started my labor earlier by having my water bag broken (as my OB had recommended), who knows what might have happened. I reflected about this miracle in an earlier blog post.
My baby’s one minute Apgar score was only a 4 on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best. But, her five minute Apgar score was a 9, which is practically perfect. Apparently, for insurance purposes, hospitals rarely give a baby a score of 10. Furthermore, the five minute Apgar is a more important number than the one minute Apgar. So, while my baby took a little bit to get started, she perked up quickly.
She did spit up meconium for the next 24 hours, but she did not have to go to the nursery for special care or anything like that. I was able to keep her in my room with me. I even slept with her snuggled next to me in my hospital bed, and the nurses didn’t fuss about it. Having her snuggled next to me helped me continue to bond with her, and once we returned home as a family of four, as time went on I realized that I could, indeed, be a mother to two children and love them both. Little Baby J was a good teacher to me.
J’s birth was much more difficult than that of her big sister, but it was absolutely worth it. I had no idea how much I would love having two daughters. If I HAD known, I strongly suspect that my labor would have been a lot less painful. One’s emotional state is a powerful factor in labor, and I certainly learned that with my daughter’s birth! Regardless, I can see now how God was watching over and protecting my baby and I through labor, despite my emotional state. I am so thankful to have my little girl!