Sophia’s difficult journey

This is my third attempt to put into writing Sophia Grace’s journey into this world. It’s been difficult, for several reasons. One being that I’m not a writer. I rarely feel compelled to put my thoughts into writing. Secondly, every time I tried to write her birth story, it just didn’t feel right. Something was missing. I would account in detail the events as they took place, but I realize now that her birth was so much more than a series of beautiful and scary events. It was our journey. A journey that changed me in ways that I never would have imagined. In ways that I didn’t realize until today when I felt a strong urge to sit and type. Lastly, I think for a long time, I was upset about her birth. I remember telling people “I’m over it” and “I’ve processed it and have come to terms with it” among other thoughts. No I hadn’t. I had alot more to learn from it and I know that I’m there now. This was a beautiful journey in so many ways and Sophia Grace’s birth really taught me some big lessons about life and being a mom.

Eleven months before I had become pregnant with Sophia I had suffered a missed miscarriage. I remember wearing a bright floral dress to the 16 week checkup. The image of how I felt inside. The entire family accompanied me, as Nicholas and Claire had been involved from the very beginning. I remember thinking four more weeks until we can find out the sex! As I laid on the table, the nurse was moving the heart moniter around on my belly and she said “let me get the doctor, since I’m having trouble finding the heartbeat and he can look on the machine” or something to that affect. Nicholas asked, “what does she mean there isn’t a heartbeat?”. I don’t remember how or who took the kids out of the room. I didn’t even flinch. This baby was special. Due right around Christmastime. I never thought for a second that anything would happen to this baby. I figured, let’s get a doctor in here that knows what he’s doing. The scary thoughts never crossed my mind. Then comes the moment that I’ll never forget as long as I live. The doctor looked at the ultrasound and a grave stone cold look crosses his face. I remember thinking “he would have said something by now and he’s not saying anything.” He says “I’m sorry”. The world was crashing in. I was screaming. I remember saying “No, this baby was special. This baby was meant to be.” The doctor said. “Yes, it was meant to be.” I didn’t understand that comment then, but I do now, and I will never forget it.

After eleven long hard months of self blame, sadness, healing, and trying to be a mom amid all of these emotions, we finally got up the courage to let down our guards and not “not try” anymore. We got pregnant immediately and I knew it the next day. I could feel it. This time I couldn’t tell the kids right away. I always try to be completely honest with my kids and I want them to experience life in all it’s perplexity. But this could not happen to them twice. That’s what drove every anxious thought until the minute I laid eyes on her. As I went back to the same doctor’s office for the nine week checkup to listen to the heartbeat, I wasn’t prepared for the myriad of feelings that came rushing in as I walked back to that examining room. The nurse gave me a hug, which was very special. Sometimes we don’t realize the power of a hug. I was completely tense and crying while he tried to find the baby with the ultrasound doppler. There she was! What a relief. Little Sophia Grace was alive and well! Every appointment thereafter was a little easier. I never took it for granted that she would make it however, and it was always a relief when I’d hear the heartbeat and always a tear jerker if they couldn’t find it right away, especially when I’d see Nicholas and Claire looking at me expectantly.

As I went through the beautiful nine months of pregnancy, I was surrounded by wonderfully supportive people. Many of which had such amazing birth stories to tell. As they told their stories, I was drawn to the common feelings of empowerment, confidence, the natural “high” they had felt afterwards. The fact that they had stories that they wanted to tell at all. It all seemed so amazing to me. With my previous pregnancies, I had wanted to do natural childbirth, but it seemed like an unrealistic endeavor and I didn’t know many people who had done it and found it to be a positive experience. So this time, I wanted to learn all I could about it and spent many hours reading up on it in the tub.  I was fascinated by all that I didn’t know and was amazed by the process. I felt confident, as I had learned many techniques to cope with contractions. I was trying to do all the “right” things, such as eating well, exercising, and not interfering with the natural process. There was no way that I would get an epidural this time. I switched to the birthing center at 33 weeks, where I would have the help of supportive midwives who viewed childbirth the way that I now did. Surely, it would work out according to plan, since I was putting in all this effort.

I was also very drawn to the water during this pregnancy. I would take long baths daily and I’d sit for hours on end in the pool. I felt a strong urge to try to birth this baby in the water or just to be able to birth her in any position that I desired. I was so excited to have the large tubs at the birthing center to labor and birth in if I chose to. For once, I was not afraid of birth, but excited to experience it. I was committed to letting Sophia come when she was ready and as we approached 14 days postdates, she finally decided to arrive.

When looking back at her birth, it was so far from my plan and what the “ideal birth” was in my mind. Certainly transferring to the hospital after 12 hours of labor, accelerated heartbeats for over 20 min with a flat-lined recover heartbeat, oxygen masks, IV’s, fetal scalp moniters, and decelerated heartbeat where not on the birthing plan. And certainly not ending it after 19 hours with pitocin and an epidural. At some points it was like a wild rollercoaster ride. I remember at one point when her heartbeat went into the 50’s where I said “I’m going to lose my baby.” Teams of doctors rushing in several times to roll me off to the emergency room for c-section. At one point, towards the end, they were waiting outside my door. Afterwards, as you can imagine, there certainly wasn’t a rush of awesome post-birthing hormones. I looked like a train had run me over and my legs felt like they had. I couldn’t move them. I was so mad that I got that damn epidural after laboring for 19 hours with contractions 3-4 min apart the entire time. And of course the epidural wasn’t straight forward, the resident doctor had to poke me a few times to get it in the right spot. Lovely. I felt like a failure. Like I had quit before the finish line. Not only that, when Sophia came out, Allison my midwife went to cut the cord. I reached down and told her “No, I need the baby first. I don’t want the cord cut right away.” She responds, “I have to. She’s not breathing.” So in my opinion, she wasn’t breathing because I was so weak that I had to get the epidural. It must have affected her. What was all of it for? Why had I tried so hard to have a great birth experience? This was what I was left with, feeling physically awful and like a failure. I almost dropped my baby off the bed after delivery, because I was so physically exhausted and was dosing off with her in my arms.

After recounting this story to numerous friends, I got bombarded with condolenses from well meaning friends. “I’m sorry you didn’t get the birth you wanted, but at least you go the prize!” I couldn’t make sense of it. I was trying to figure out what went wrong.  Did the midwives handle it the best way? Did I handle it well? Was I strong enough? Did I do what was right for my baby? Will the pain in my back go away? Will the epidural effect her? Could I have done it without the epidural? It was hard for a few weeks.

Looking back at it, this birth was beautiful in so many ways. This was our experience and I felt all 19 hours of it. Looking back, I wouldn’t shorten it or change it if I could. We experienced it together, the pain and the beautiful moments. Isn’t that what life is all about? Is life pain-free? Don’t we all have a breaking point? Does life alway go according to plan? We can read all the books we want about our children and parenting, but will things always play out that way? Will we feel regret as parents? Will we question ourselves and our decisions? In the end, acceptance is more important to me than expectations. Expectations can be counterproductive. I’ve learned to expect what we are and hope and try for the best. We can choose to focus on the positive and learn from the difficulties. I’m thankful for the beautiful moments and the difficulties.  I’m glad that I gave it my all.

There was so much beauty in Sophia’s birth. The 12 hours in the tub laboring with my supportive husband and midwife. Working through the pain together with Celine Dion playing in the background and soft candlelight. Losing track of time. Completely trusting that she was okay. I remember not worrying a bit about her heartbeat, which I was not expecting. The calm advice that one of the nurses would give me as the contractions got hard and she’d tell me to fall into them to go with them and not fight them. The tears that one of the nurses shed as I was crying when I found out I had to be transferred and how she wholeheartedly tried to convince me that I wouldn’t need a c-section upon transferring. The hug and obvious sadness on the face of another midwife that was assisting when she told me that I would of been her last birth at the birth center, as she was moving soon. The complete calmness of Allison, my midwife, as she told me during the heartrate acceleration to around 200 that I shoudn’t worry because it wasn’t only about this moment, it was about the 10 months that I spent growing this healthy baby and that the baby was handling it well because of it. The way she pushed the baby back of the cord and the heart rate stabilized. The head OBGYN that gave Sophia another 20 min for her heartrate to show reactivity before advising c-section.  The nurse that gave me wonderful support and advice at the hospital and didn’t react when I screamed at her to turn to the pitossin off when the heartrate crashed to 50’s. She helped flip me over on my side to bring the heartrate back to normal. She came back 1/2 hour after her shift ended to see the outcome, as she didn’t know if I’d end up with a c-section or not.  I’ll never forget the big smile. She really cared.  The way Allison announced in all certainty as I began pushing that she was not going ot cut me and I was not going to tear and lived up to that promise as she calmly guided me through the pushing. The scared looks that Ramin and I shared with each other that said “we are in this together”. Sophia’s face. I’ll never forget it. Beautiful little turned up nose. The fact that I never asked if she was a boy or girl. It didn’t matter. I listened to her cry and couldn’t believe that she was here. Ramin was crying and he kissed me and thanked me.

I looked at Sophia and she had a peaceful look. I talked to her and apologized for the very unpeaceful birth. I told her none of it mattered anymore. She gave me a little half smile. You can believe that or not. It’s between her and me. That was our journey and it’s ours and it’s part of the love we share now.

We spent many days bathing in the water together thereafter. She still loves it. She’s my little water baby. If you hear me call her Sophia Grace, Gracie, or Angel baby, now you know why.