Colleen's Birth Story
I’m 34 weeks pregnant with my first baby, relaxed and confident as I head into another prenatal check-up. To date, everything with my pregnancy has been great. My doctor measures my belly and decides to send me for a follow-up ultrasound because my belly doesn’t seem to be expanding at the same rate it had been (though I still felt huge). Five days later, I’m waiting for the tech to finish up the extra ultrasound, hoping all would be fine as it had been from the beginning, but then the tech was suddenly quiet. She said, “I’ll be right back.” I tried not to think too much of it since we had already heard baby’s heartbeat which was strong and normal. She was simply taking growth measurements.
She came back and let me know that baby was measuring a bit small. She and my doctor agreed that they wanted to send me for more detailed ultrasounds with a neonatologist. An anxious week later, my husband and I found ourselves at the hospital’s neonatology department. Thankfully, we were reassured that, yes, baby was measuring a bit on the small side but nothing to worry about and oh, by the way, did you know your baby is breech?
Good news – baby still looks healthy, if not just a little small. Annoying news – breech baby.
We still had a few options to try to get baby to turn, and we did them all including “version” (aka external cephalic version “EVC”). Version is when the doctor manipulates your belly to try to turn baby into the right position – which didn’t work. So as time was dwindling (I was now 36 weeks) all signs were pointing to c-section, unless baby decided to turn on their own.
So c-section it was. Scheduled. No need for labor unless I happened to go into it early. Definitely not what I was hoping for but relieved it was an option.
One week later it was delivery day! We arrived at the hospital in the dark, pre-dawn hours, as instructed. We waited in pre-op. I had an IV inserted and baby’s heart rate was monitored among other preparation steps.
And then it was time. A nurse walked with me into the OR. That surprised me the most. I thought I’d be wheeled in on a bed, but I was able to walk into the OR which gave me a strong feeling of dignity, walking toward my future as a mother. I was able to sit myself on the operating table while a nurse hugged me as I leaned on her shoulder for the anesthesiologist to give me the spinal block. It was so calm and I was comforted, but also so nervous. Then I was laying down on the operating table, my arms strapped into place, having a catheter inserted, the doctor pinching my ankle to see if the spinal block was fully working, the curtain being draped and finally, my husband being walked in so he could support me.
The easy part of a c-section is being “opened up” to get to baby. That part was mostly fine and felt like it took 10 minutes or less. And my amazing anesthesiologist, who was stationed by my head, could see over the drape and narrated the procedure which was so helpful. Eventually our doctor said, “and now baby’s going to be born,” at which point I did my best to breathe and remain calm while I waited. I stared at the silvery metal ceiling, endured the tugging and pulling sensations, and waited to hear my baby cry. It was suddenly quiet and calm and I hear, “baby’s born!” a small pause and then I heard the first squeaky, screechy cries of our baby. “It’s a boy!”
Baby was here! He was healthy! All was right with the world.
As the doctor and team were delivering the afterbirth and inspecting my insides he said, “oh, so that’s why your baby was breech.” And soon after, “you have a unicornuate* uterus.” In my slightly drugged and just-had-my-baby euphoria, I joked about being a magical unicorn, and tucked that information away for later, not really absorbing what my doctor said it meant. It wasn’t anything of concern for the immediate here-and-now, so I returned my focus to my baby and breathing through the very uncomfortable closing procedures while my husband bounced between holding my hand and checking on our baby.
I had my son at 8:27 in the morning. The spinal block wore off and I had feeling back in my legs by the evening. The nurses had me up and walking by 10:00 that night. I had to learn to push myself up to sitting with my arms since my stomach muscles were out of commission. I was hunched over but I was walking. We made it through the first night as most newly minted parents do with the first meconium filled diaper (and subsequent first bath) plus lots of feeding and sleep attempts. We woke up tired but happy.
As all families do, we had other minor new-baby challenges to navigate along the way, but all were resolved with one very important thing: modern science. While a c-section isn’t something I would choose, I found myself feeling so thankful that I live in the 21st century where a procedure like this is even possible, not to mention a team of amazing doctors, nurses and lactation consultants to see us both safely through.
*A unicornuate uterus is a rare reproductive anomaly where only one half of a woman’s uterus forms making it smaller than a typical uterus and only has one fallopian tube. It’s often called a “single-horned uterus” hence the name unicornuate uterus.