Olivia’s birth was the strangest birth process I have yet been through or witnessed. It was a true adventure, and we saw the GLORY of God in so many ways, that we just had to proclaim that in her very name!
When I was 34 weeks along in the pregnancy, we made our trek from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. Prior to that, we had had a solid month of pure stress and busyness as we readied everything in Brazil to be able to leave, packing up our whole house in order to prepare for another couple to stay there, and preparing what we needed for our trip. It was rather intense. Especially since it was at the height of summer and was so extremely hot and humid. And no, we don’t have air conditioning. 🙂
So, we arrived in the US, exhausted, and I had also picked up a nasty cold that week. But it was OH so good to be home! In the process of fighting off colds (I shared mine with the family), we also were trying to do a million things to settle into life here, including hauling a bunch of our stuff out of the crawl space at the church house where we had stored it, into the home we would be staying in, in Crete, IL. Then we had to sort all that stuff, settle into our new temporary home, and get ready for Fabio’s sister’s wedding.
All that to say, the end of my pregnancy was accompanied by more stress and physical exertion than usual, and it all came into play when birthing time came around. I began having contractions that were rather strong at about 35 weeks, and these continued to become more frequent and stronger as the weeks went by. I was so very uncomfortable and felt so much PRESSURE that I had not experienced with my other babies.
By 38 weeks, I felt like my body was really gearing up for birthing, even though all four of my other babies were born at 41 weeks. The way I was feeling at that point, I could not imagine making it to 41 weeks! And sure enough, I didn’t. From 38 weeks on, I lingered on the verge of active labor. It was so exhausting! Over and over I thought it was “it”, but it wasn’t. 🙁 It was a rough week.
Finally on Tuesday, the contractions seemed to even out into a regular pattern and not stop. By evening, they were every five minutes, but not terribly strong. By 11pm, they were every 2-4 minutes, and getting stronger, but I was still able to snooze a bit until they woke me up about 1am. They were still 2-4 minutes apart, but stronger than before. I waited and timed them for a while, then called my midwife about 2:30 and she said she would head over. I wasn’t going to call my other birth helpers yet, but after the midwife call, I got up to go to the bathroom and WHAM! – things really kicked into high gear! I couldn’t believe how fast things changed, so I told Fabio to hurry up and call the others to come on over! From then on, things were intense. Everyone trickled in, and I was having contractions one on top of the other. Then, I started shaking! I had not experienced that with my other births either, and I did not like it one bit. I was shaking uncontrollably, teeth chattering, etc… even though I didn’t feel cold at all. I was shaking and had just yelled that I felt like throwing up, when the midwife came in. By my appearance, she thought I was in transition, and said so. I just wanted to get in the pool! They started filling it for me, and I was working through contractions. About 4am, I got to get in the pool, which felt wonderful….. but then….. everything came to a screeching halt!!! I could not believe it! I went from one second looking and feeling like I was in transition, to the next minute not looking or feeling like I was in labor at all! My only thought was, “You have got to be kidding me!” We waited about an hour to see if things would pick back up, but they did not. The midwife checked me at that point, and I was very disappointed after all that to find out I was only at about 2cm!!!
I got out of the pool and went to bed, and everyone else did too, camping out on the living room floor. When morning rolled around, nothing had changed. Bummer.
That morning before leaving, the midwife checked me again and discovered that the baby’s head was “stuck” on my pubic bone, which is likely why she did not come down, which would have caused her head to put better pressure on the cervix, and would likely have led to birth! The midwife was able to dislodge her head from that position somewhat, then she wrapped my belly up tight with a long piece of cloth to hopefully prevent baby from slipping back into the same position. She recommended we take a long walk, and even do some gentle bouncing on the rebounder to encourage baby’s head to come down. I did everything she suggested during the day, resting in between. The birth team went home. That night we went to bed without event.
The next morning (Thursday, March 29) I woke up with contractions again. Afraid of a repeat of the previous day, I waited to call everyone. I labored through the contractions while leaning over the kitchen counter or bedroom dresser, and they were rather strong! I finally called everyone and they all came between 10:30-11:00, I think – my mom, my sister-in-law Amanda, my sister-in-law Luciana, and the midwife. The midwife checked me around 11am and I was only at 4cm, and baby’s head was still very high up. The strangest thing of this labor, though, was that sometimes it would get so intense and my legs would get so tired that I would try laying down on my side for a while… and when I did, the contractions would stop! So, the midwife had Fabio and I go for a walk (in circles around the house!), and when a contraction would come, I would squat, using him for support, to try to encourage baby’s head to come down.
By early afternoon, things were getting very intense, and contractions were coming very frequently, and I was getting very tired. I wanted to get in the pool, and I did around 2pm. This time things did not stop, but kept up rather strong and frequent…. for about an hour. Then, they slowed way down again! This was not too unusual, though, to get a little “rest period” before the pushing phase, so I tried to rest, and figured I would be pushing a baby out soon. My other labors had followed a pattern like this at the very end. But this time…. the resting period seemed to be lasting too long! Instead of picking back up again, it seemed things were stopping again! After about an hour of “rest period”, the midwife decided I needed to get out of the pool. I went back to the bedroom and she checked baby’s heart, then checked me. She calmly said, “You need to get to a hospital now. Baby’s heart rate is accelerating, you have a fever, and baby’s head is not coming down.” She didn’t tell me at that time, but later that evening, that I had not changed one tiny bit since she had checked me at 11am – I was still at 4cm, and baby’s head was still very high.
About that time, the contractions picked WAY up and became suddenly unbearable! I turned onto by side, trying to deal with the, and started bawling, from the pain, from frustration and disappointment and exhaustion. I could not believe how things were going – so very different than what I had pictured for a fifth birth! And I was suddenly having a VERY hard time dealing with the contractions.
Everyone scurried around to pack my bag and get things ready for us to leave. With great difficulty, they hauled me off the bed, but I could not, even with assistence, stay on my feet to the car. I crawled on my hands and knees, crying, screaming, stopping with contractions that were just out of this world. I thought I would never make it to the car, and I did not know HOW on earth I would survive the car ride to the hospital at that point.
They had removed one of the middle benches from the van so I could crawl (literally) to the back seat, while mom sat on the remaining middle bench, and Fabio drove. Everyone else stayed back to pack up the pool and clean up.
By the time the car took off, the sensation of the contractions felt like someone was taking an axe, or maybe a chain saw, to my entire torso, and they weren’t giving me any break inbetween. Every bump made me bellow and my awkward position in the van gave me no relief. I just stared at Fabio in the rear view mirrow and yelled like a mountian lion!
We weren’t five minutes down the road when I yelled out, “I’M HAVING THE BABY IN THE CAR!!!!” And I tried to kneel on the floor over the blankets and towels we had brought along, while mom tried to get my pants out of the way. She turned around to look for more towels when she heard me say, “SHE’S HERE!” I was vomiting and catching my baby and trying to keep it all on the blanket… and I heard Fabio say, “Should I stop the car??” YEAH!!! So all of that happened in a still-moving vehicle. (Don’t worry, John Leitzel, we were prepared with towels, blankets and chux pads, and Fabio scrubbed the van as well – as SOON as we got home! It is impeccable! He said he was not sure at the moment which he was more worried about – the baby and me, or the car!)
So… mom called back to the house, and the midwife and Amanda came quickly to where we were. All was well and we quickly went back to the house. The midwife could not get over the fact that I had gone from 4cm to having a baby in my arms in TEN MINUTES!!!
Another funny thing was that a jogger had called an ambulance for us, without our knowledge. Amanda drove our van back to the house, and was not used to a lighter accelerator, so she fairly peeled out around the corner, just as “our” ambulance was arriving. It looked like we were fleeing from the ambulance!
Once back home, baby and I checked out just fine…. except that I still had a low-grade fever. I have a history of developing a low grade fever when I get overly exhausted, so we figured that was the cause, and that we needed some rest. But in the middle of the night, I got another bout of uncontrollable shaking, followed by profuse sweating like I had never experienced before! So, we thought it might be an infection rather than exhaustion, and called our family doctor the next morning. He asked me a battery of questions, and then called in an antibiotic for me. I really had no other symptoms! Fabio picked it up and I began taking it right away. That was Friday after lunch.
That afternoon, I had another bout with shaking, then sweating, during which the fever would spike, but then it would go back to around 100, or lower. By Saturday morning, the fever had broken. I woke up to a 98.0 temperature! But then… it went back up to around 99-100 during the day and stayed there. I figured it was just going to take longer than 24 hours on the anti-biotic to get rid of the infection, and that I needed to just hang in there. It was rather miserable, though, as I was not able to sleep much at all, and felt very, very weak. I could not even walk the few steps to the bathroom without assistance.
Saturday night is when things got scary. My temp started to go up, up, up until it reached 104.1. I don’t think I had ever had that high of a temp before, and I literally felt like I was dying. We rushed to the emergency room and they started doing a bunch of tests right away, and then admitted me to the hospital. This was the first time in my entire life I had been admitted to a hospital – I was not even in a hospital to be born! (I sure wouldn’t mind if it was the last time, too!)
I spent Saturday and Sunday nights there, while they doctored me up and ran a zillion tests. Every test came back negative, except for blood tests showing my white blood cell count to be soaring, indicating infection somewhere, but they never discovered where. By Monday afternoon, I was strong enough to be discharged with oral antibiotics, and I could not WAIT to get back to my baby and family.Throughout the week, after being discharged, I had some other bizarre symptoms, like feeling like my chest was caving in when I would lay down, and I could not breathe without a lot of pain. But it was not constant, so I tried to work through it. I didn’t want to be a hypochondriac about every little thing! Then on Thursday, my legs started to swell pretty badly, and I started to have excruciating pains shooting up my neck into my head. I called the pharmacy to see if any of these things could be side effects of the meds, and the nurse there said NO, and to not ignore it but get checked out right away. I called the doc, and they told me to get to the ER, as it sounded symptomatic of a blood clot or pulmonary embolism. So, Thursday we spent the better part of the day at the hospital again. They did all kinds of tests, like an EKG, x-rays, blood tests, and a CT scan. Now I know what that is like! Anyway, every test came back normal, again. They sent me home with pain medication for my symptoms, which the doc thought may be a virus….
So, here we are. It is April 10th, and Olivia is eleven days old now. I am feeling so very much better and getting stronger with each day that passes. I still have a few days left of oral anti-biotics, but all my symptoms are gone, and I even stopped taking the pain meds today and feel fine! Olivia has been just fine ever since her birth – a little angel in my arms, sleeping here peacefully as I type.
We are SO thankful for SO many things all along this journey. We have been surrounded by the prayers of God’s people, and your notes of facebook and texts, etc have been SO encouraging. So many have helped in practical ways as well, helping to care for our children, bringing in food, etc, etc. My mom, Amanda, and Luciana deserve an extra special THANK YOU for going above and beyond in helping us in every way possible. I can’t say how much I appreciate you ladies! And to my most wonderful husband Fabio, who has served his family tirelessly all throughout this time – I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! God’s favor was on our lives, even in a rough process. We have so much to be thankful for. “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”