Miss Zella Celeste wasn’t due to be born until 2015, but when I headed in to my doctor’s office on the morning of December 22nd for my 37 week check up, we found that she would be making her arrival sooner rather than later. Without being graphic, essentially the doctor found that I was at risk of her falling out of me (perhaps that *is* graphic…I tried.) Because of my “spontaneous-water-breaking-prior-to-contractions” history, the doctor was slightly concerned about the possibility of cord prolapse. This had never been a real fear with the other kids, but the fourth kid’s positioning was different and thus it made us stop and consider all possibilities and outcomes.
Our amazing doctor gave me her cell and told me to talk it over with Jake. If we wanted to we could head to the hospital after dinner that evening, as she would be on call, or we could wait it out at home (estimating I wouldn’t last much longer than 24-48 hours or so based on progress). On the drive home I called Jake, explained the situation, and he agreed that the safest, least emergent decision was to head to the hospital that evening. I then called mom in Greensboro and she began her trek up to Nashville to watch the kids.
Knowing I was heading to the hospital for an induction in a few hours was surreal. And crazy. But the OB was correct in her estimation and I started having sustained contractions prior to arriving that evening. We checked in and waited for a bed to open in L&D…for 2 hours. And the best part? We had the pleasure of sitting with the world’s loudest teenagers who were ticked that they had to wait on their friend’s new arrival. I was also mad
at them for them.
Finally someone decided to deliver (and no, sadly it was not the teenagers’ friend) and thus a bed opened for me. They hooked me up to a monitor and IV, gave me an epidural, and we waited for the next step. This was when things began to change…
Initially Zella’s heart rate was difficult to detect and keep steady on the external monitor. Similar to the other kids, she enjoyed moving all around and dodging it at all costs. We chased her around for an hour or so and then the OB came in to update us. She didn’t like that the heart rate was elusive and also felt like there might be a slight arrhythmia. We opted for an internal monitor, which I thought would certainly “fix” the problem.
Internal monitors are awesome…not really. They screw it into your kid’s head. Cool, right? Yeah. So understandably Zella did a big “WTH?!” when they did this and managed to shake the monitor loose. Our OB was unfazed and put another one on her, and this time it stuck. But instead of solving our monitoring issue, we began to see the underlying problem. Zella had a heart arrhythmia that was becoming progressively worse as I labored on. She was experiencing extra beats thrown into her normal rhythm, thus causing her heart rate to shoot into the 300s for short periods of time. There were also other periods where the heart rate seemed to disappear entirely. Without the ability to blame it on her dodging the external monitor, we became worried that she might be in distress.
Our OB allowed me to labor longer, but she warned me that if this didn’t settle down, she would have to come in to talk about other “options.” I knew this was a euphemism for a Cesarean section, and at this point I still refused to believe that it would come to that. After all, a) this was my FOURTH kid, b) I have a history of precipitous labors, and c) I was already 75% of the way there. Surely I could get this truck in gear and have the kid in the next 20 minutes. No need for an incision, thanks.
Fast forward a few minutes longer (no concept of time – could have been 5 minutes or an hour). Our doctor came in one last time and was looking worried, to say the least. “I really can’t guarantee anything from this point forward given what we are seeing on the monitor.” She went on to explain that the neonatologists had also been watching at the nurse’s station and agreed that a Cesarean was the only rational option.
I wish I could say I was strong, but I was completely silent as they prepped me for the OR, tears streaming down the sides of my face. My OB kept apologizing over and over, but I told her it was certainly not her fault, this was just how it would have to be.
The Cesarean was everything I thought it would be. Not good. My left side is never fully able to be numbed, and so there was quite a bit of breakthrough pain as they sliced through layer after layer. My doctor was great, however, and stopped multiple times so they could push more and more meds. By the end of it I was just trying not to fall asleep. Zella came out screaming (more like gurgling as she was pretending to drown, oh the drama). Our doctor allowed us to announce the gender once we saw she was a girl. I was completely out of it and remembered thinking “Wow, it is so awesome that I’m not crazy nauseous and throwing up right now.” Typical emetophobic.
Zella had great Apgar scores and weighed in at a hefty 7.5lbs, fairly huge for a 37 weeker. She nursed immediately and had her posterior and anterior tongue ties clipped within 12 hours of birth by an amazing Vandy ENT doc to whom I am forever indebted. Her arrhythmia persisted for all of about 3 months, and then she was cleared by the cardiologist/electrophysiologist for regular newborn well checks and no more trips to see him. We still have no idea what caused the arrhythmia or when it began in utero, and I suppose we will never know.
Through the ordeal, we could see God’s hand moving. And now as we look back on her birth, we know He was using the experience to begin to prepare us for the wild ride that will be parenting this very special little girl.