When I saw those two pink lines in October of 2014 I knew three things. I knew I’d have a ten pound baby, that I’d be full term when I gave birth and that I would have a c-section. I wasn’t wrong about any of it.
On June 13th I was 2 days away from my due date. My husbands parents came to visit, hoping that I would go into labor soon and they’d get to be there. When his mother, Maryvonne, saw me she immediately frowned and commented on how high the baby still was. She said she was hopeful that maybe baby would come that night and I laughed it off thinking, yeah right! We went for Mexican food, conversed and had a great evening. When we got home my husband had to study so I got ready for bed and prepared to say my prayers. I had read something on the internet about praying for your child to come, telling them how the process should go and giving them a little pep talk to get on their way. So I did just that. I prayed and cried, telling our little one that it was safe for him to come out now. I told our son that he would feel some squeezes and my body ‘hugging’ him and then it would get bright but they’d put him in my arms and everything would be just fine. It was our last conversation, just the two of us. Because in that moment he actually listened to mommy and began his long journey to meet us.
Twelve o’clock am came and went. I couldn’t fall asleep because my hips and back hurt so much. Not enough pain to need to move around, but so much so that I couldn’t sleep through it. Eventually my husband came to bed and I didn’t want to bother him so I labored silently, all the while not understanding what was going on. My body began to clean itself out and I had my show. At this point I was catching on! A few more hours went by and the contractions got much worse. I downloaded a contraction counter app & Ian woke and began to coach me through it. We started the usual, getting the bag packed & calling family to let them know something was up. By 6am my contractions were 2-4 minutes apart and had been for 2 hours. I couldn’t talk through them, I could just walk quickly and wave my hands back and forth. I’m not sure what my husband was thinking, seeing me jumping off the bed and almost running and waving my arms every time another one hit! I decided it was time to leave because I did not want to be sitting in the car when another contraction came. So we hurried off to the hospital, thinking we’d be in active labor and things would move quickly. Oh boy were we wrong.
His mother met us at the hospital and walked in with us. A corpsman offered me a wheelchair and I quickly let him know momma was perfectly capable of walking! When we got up to the room and on the monitors my heart sank when they told me I was at a measly 2 centimeters. I all but jumped off the bed and said “I’m going home! I know how this works. You can’t keep me here. I’m gonna go home and labor alone!” I knew I wanted a natural labor, I knew I did not want to be strapped to a bed. But I wasn’t prepared for those little words that pierced my heart. “Ma’am, you need to let us monitor you. Your baby is in distress”. In that moment I lost all power. I submitted to them in every way possible. I had prepared myself for a lot of things, but I knew nothing about fetal distress and knew I couldn’t walk out of that hospital with a clear conscience. So for the next 27 hours I became a statistic. I was on constant monitoring, I wasn’t allowed up, I couldn’t move. I vomited so many times because I wasn’t allowed to eat. I ended up with Pitocin, my waters being broken, and two epidurals. Believe me, I struggled with that last one. I knew I wanted it natural, but laying on my back for so long because of the monitoring (I tried to deny it but they said they needed to keep an eye on him) the back labor became unbearable. After 16 hours I caved and got my first epidural. It truly was the worst pain of my life. That needle caused a fire hot sensation to run down my left leg and involuntarily I flung my foot and kicked my husband in his unmentionables. I would say it was a laughing matter but I was in so much pain, it took everything I had to get through that moment. The epidural caused extreme itching and required me to lie flat for awhile but the pain lessened and it was great. Until it stopped working. No one believed me, that I could feel everything and I wasn’t numb anymore. They offered to give me a second epidural but I was so nervous that I would feel the same pain that I almost denied it. But the pain became too much and I opted for another epidural. I didn’t experience the same pain while getting it but the epidural once again wore off, and once again no one understood how much pain I was in. So they offered me a third epidural by a different doctor, but eventually the pain lessened for a bit and I was able to get some sleep. I don’t remember sleeping but my husband said I dozed off here and there and every time I fell asleep someone would come in to check on me. He tells me that at one point he yelled at them to get out and come back later.
Around 6am I had dilated to an eight. It took me 24 hours to go six centimeters. Our photographer had come and gone since I wasn’t progressing much. Maryvonne was at her hotel trying to get some sleep. It was just Ian and I, trying to navigate our way alone. It truly was the calm before the storm because at 8-something am all hell broke loose. I was barely sleeping when about 7+ people came bursting into the room. They started yelling at me to flip over, that the baby had fallen off the monitors. I found myself butt up, naked, with oxygen being shoved on my face. I was crying and screaming for Ian but I couldn’t see him because everyone was crowded around me so close. Ian finally made his way to me but we both didn’t know what was going on. I heard a nurse say “momma, we’re taking you for a c-section now”. I knew it. I had known it for 9 months. I even asked the doctors to explain what happens during a c-section because I knew deep down that I would need that info. They told me they weren’t “quick to cut” and that we didn’t need to talk about that. They were wrong.
The next thing I remember is being wheeled down the hallway, everyone yelling “clear the hallway” and me crying, still. We get to the OR and it feels like a movie. I walked onto the operating table and laid there with the lights above me while everyone kept talking and introducing themselves again but I didn’t know who they were because they were all wearing masks. It was horrifying. I’m repeatedly telling the anesthesiologist that I’m not numb and asking how are they going to get him out? He assures me that I’ve had an epidural so I must be numb. No. I walked onto that table, I felt everything…the pain and fear in my heart and the pain in my body. I scream to my doctor “don’t knife me, I can feel that!” He explains that sensations are normal. I urge him to listen to me. I’M NOT NUMB! Again, he pushes back and tells me to shake my left foot, his test to see if I am numb or not. I lifted both legs off the bed and shook both of them for him. The doctor says “uhh she just lifted both of her legs.” Finally they get it. But the kindness has run out. I am then told that if I am indeed not numb that their only other option is to put me under. Suddenly the surgeon asks for everyone to be quiet. She begins to listen for his heartbeat. She can’t find it. That was the scariest moment of my life. Tears are running down my face and I scream out “just get him out of me!” Then it happens. The anesthesiologist says I’m going to feel like I’m drowning. He wasn’t lying. I begin to cough because I can’t breathe…and then I’m out. During this time my husband is kept in the dark. He asked repeatedly if he could be there for the birth, and they said yes but quickly changed their mind when they realize the gravity of the situation. They sent in the hospital chaplain and Ian is unsure of what is happening. While I am living my worst nightmare, he’s living his. He’s crying, I’m crying. In two different rooms, for two different reasons. I know the chaplain is meant to console my husband, but instead it only increases his fears.
The next memory I have is of me waking up in recovery and looking down at my stomach. It was so much smaller. I realized I wasn’t pregnant anymore but couldn’t figure out where my baby was. The nurse tells me I have to wake up a bit first and then I’ll get pain meds. That wasn’t even on my radar. Where is my baby? What is going on? Where am I? They finally begin to wheel me back to my room and I feel the need to vomit. I start to lean over to puke and finally realize why I need pain meds. The pain in my stomach is unreal. I literally had to swallow it back down because I could not stand the idea of vomiting because it hurt so much. When I get back in the room I realize that everyone is there. Ian. Maryvonne. Natasha (photographer). Baby. Whoa. I have a baby. I don’t remember a lot from this time but luckily Maryvonne took videos of me meeting our son. I couldn’t believe it. I kept asking if he was mine. I had a very vague idea of where he came from, but it really wasn’t making sense to me. It felt like those scenes in the movies when amnesia patients wake up and can’t remember anything. Everyone looked so happy and settled in, but my brain was so foggy I couldn’t grasp it. I studied his little face, trying to make a connection. I don’t recognize him. He’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen but he doesn’t feel real to me. I couldn’t stop asking everyone “is he mine?” Sure enough I realized he was mine a little later when I saw his ears. We have the same ears, sounds weird but thats the moment I knew without a doubt that he was my baby. I was a mommy.
Sylor Gideon Banta. Born on June 15th, 2015 at 9:10am. He weighed 10lbs 9oz and was 22 inches long.
Why did I just tell you all of this? Well, two reasons. First, because I’m a birth photographer and this is a blog for birth stories. But more importantly I’m telling you this because I am thankful. I’m thankful I had a birth photographer because she met my son before I did. She took the first pictures of him. She witnessed my husband do his first skin to skin with our new baby. She photographed his first daddy diaper change. She saw the awe, the tears, the joy. She saw what I’ll never see with my own eyes. She met him first. Had it not been for Natasha, I wouldn’t have those images displayed in my home. I wouldn’t be able to look back and piece it all together with photographs. I would only be able to imagine what it looked like when my son was being held by his father for the first time. I am so thankful for her and what she provided for our family that day. She captured what I couldn’t see and will never get back again. Thats what a birth photographer does. Thats what she did and thats what I do. Every birth is different and beautiful and by having a photographer there you are giving yourself the gift of reliving those memories long after the moment has passed. Lastly, I am thankful that I can provide this experience for so many families. However your birth story plays out, I am there to document what you can and can’t see.
Copyright: Memories by Tasha. Natasha Ratchford.