Dear Bluebonnet Babies readers,
This month Bluebonnet Babies is accepting guest birth story submissions. Sharing your birth story with others is incredibly valuable to both you and the audience. It’s a cathartic and powerful personal process to write and it’s beneficial for pregnant families and parents to read. Submit your birth story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org subject: birth story. Please keep submissions to 1000 words or less and include a photo, if you have one, thank you. I hope that our readers are fortified and educated by reading these incredible stories. Stay tuned for more birth stories throughout the month. I’ll also be posting an article soon with tips on writing your birth story.
Molly England, Founder
Perfect and OK – The story of Maxwell’s birth by Jennie Ziverk Carr
“But I don’t want to have a C-section,” I said in response to my doctor’s suggestion to deal with my son’s above average measurements at his thirty-one-week ultrasound. I knew I didn’t want a C-section mostly because I knew what I did want. I wanted a natural birth. I wanted a beautiful experience. I wanted the thrill of telling my husband “it’s time” and the rush to the hospital that would follow. I wanted to struggle with my flesh to bring my son into the world. I wanted to be able to hold up how many hours of labor I endured as a testament to my grit and strength as a woman. I wanted to provide my child with a clean drug free entrance into the world. I wanted to hold my child in my arms while my husband cut the umbilical tie between us. I wanted to participate in the shared experience of childbearing that has unified women since our genesis. I did not want a C-section, but with one sentence my doctor put all of my wants in check. She said, “No, what you really don’t want is a child who can’t raise his hand in class because he has shoulder dysplasia from nerve damage caused by getting stuck in the birthing canal.” In that moment I realized what I really wanted was a safe delivery and a healthy child. That is all I really wanted, and I’d do and give up anything to achieve that goal.
When we left the exam room the doctor, my husband, and myself all got out our cell phones and chose a date around thirty-nine weeks gestation that would work for all of us to bring my son safely into the world. Not a Tuesday because the doctor would be on call then and not a Thursday or a Friday because they’re such busy days at the hospital. Wednesday, would work. Wednesday, March 28, 2012. It seems absurd, but in that moment I remember wondering how this would affect my son’s numerology and whether or not the astrological powers that be would take exception to me choosing his birthday like I was choosing a date for my annual check-up. I entered “Maxwell’s Birthday” into my phone for the first time and let out a huge sigh of resignation as my husband and I walked out of the office.
It wasn’t just terrible indigestion from our fancy-final-date-night dinner that kept me up all night on March 27. Knowing that in less than twenty-four hours I would be holding my son was more than my mind could bear and around five in the morning I gave up on sleep. I had a long leisurely shower and took care to blow dry my hair, put on tinted moisturizer, color stay lipstick, and consciously chose not to wear mascara because I didn’t want it to run when I inevitably cried. All of this so I would look nice to meet my son and take baby pictures later in the day. Ritual complete, I opened my journal and committed to the name Maxwell Jefferson Carr and waxed poetic about the enormity of the journey on which my husband and I were about to embark. Then I woke up my husband, rechecked my hospital bag, checked my camera batteries-again, and took one last pre-baby selfie. As we drove to the hospital, I ruefully noted that the drive was true to the eight-minute measurement we had established when we still thought we would be rushing there in the night with me in full labor. Instead we reviewed the plan for the day, shared our excitement, and held hands.
Checked in, changed into a hospital gown, equipped with an IV, and strapped to a baby heart rate monitor, I anxiously awaited the arrival of the doctor and preparation of the operating room while I listened to my son’s heart beating safely inside of my alarmingly large stomach. My husband and I were a rare mixture of terrified and giddy with joy. We talked about profoundly important things like the magnitude of parenthood, and we teased each other about little things like how old we sounded when we called each other Mother and Father. By the time my husband was driven to talking about the poor quality of the coffee provided to expecting parents they came to take me back to the freezing cold operating room. I gave him a kiss and did not see him again until my epidural was in place and I was laying strapped to the table. I couldn’t feel anything below the privacy tent they’d erected over my abdomen. I assume they put up this divide as much for hygiene purposes as to block the doctors and their bloody work from my morbidly curious eyes. My husband was on my side of the barrier, and I think both of our hands shook as I felt the tugs and pushes that indicated that my son was being pulled into the world.
After feeling one final violent tug from my womb I heard my son cry out for the first time. Before I could see him or decide if his wails sounded more triumphant or indignant, the doctor interrupted by saying, “OK, your son has a cleft, but the important thing is that it can be fixed.” My mind went blank. My husband left my side of the barrier and I was alone to process these impossible and alien words. Minutes later my cleaned and Apgar tested baby was placed in my shaking arms with the help of my husband’s slightly steadier ones. I looked into the most beautiful face I’d ever seen. I didn’t understand what the hole connecting my sons nose and mouth meant, but he was and is perfect-just perfect. People were telling me not to worry, that we’d see a specialist soon, but that Maxwell had inhaled amniotic fluid when he was delivered and would need to go to the neonatal intensive care unit for several hours of observation. I was very concerned that he’d be alone, but they assured me that my husband could stay with him the whole time. I watched them wheel him away in his little clear plastic bassinet with my husband by his side, and I was transferred to a recovery room. No one seemed concerned that I was alone.
In the recovery room, there were around a dozen beds each divided with fabric privacy partitions. The room was relatively empty as I could only hear two or three other families happily enjoying their first moments with their healthy babies. I was alone to hear them laughing, making their awkward first attempts at nursing, and welcoming excited family members to meet their little bundle of joy. I cried and shook from the shock of the surgery, the cold of the room, and the fear for my baby boy who I could not hold. I spun the word “cleft” around and around in my mind trying to make sense of it and the fear of what it could mean for his future preyed on my mind. I hadn’t even eaten deli meats when I was pregnant. How could this happen? How did all of the ultrasounds not catch this? How could we not know? Occasionally, a kindly nurse would interrupt my purgatory of unanswered questions to bring me ice chips or check my vital signs, but mostly I was left to my fear. It was the worst hour of my entire life.
Then my husband came back to me like a life-raft, but before I could cling to him for support and assault him with questions he smiled and said, “He has blue eyes.” I began to weep uncontrollably while he showed me the pictures and videos he’d taken in the NICU of Maxwell drinking like a fish from a little bottle and holding my husband’s finger with the strength of a prize fighter. My instinct when I’d first held him was right, he was perfect, and after all of my questions had been answered I knew he’d also be OK.
More from Jennie Ziverk Carr at EduPark