Enzo entered the world in such a way I could never have imagined, never mind in such a way I would not recall. With Enzo already two months old, I wanted to write out our birth story before I forgot any more details. It's hard enough remembering much of what happened as it is.
Jeff and I found out we were expecting on December 24th, 2014. I think it will always be the most surprising, yet best Christmas gift ever. We started to spread the news to our families Christmas Day.
We decided to keep our bebe's gender a surprise and prepared ourselves with selecting both a boy and girl name. They would be Enzo or Olivia. Most guessed we would have a boy, myself and Jeff included. For one, when I slept and dreamed of our baby, it was always a boy. Secondly, I chose to compete in almost a full season of autocross this year (up until week 37!) and was gaining time on Jeff from previous years. I believed it was because I now literally had the balls to go faster.
Other than an 8cm ovarian cyst that had grown, burst, and bled into my abdomen at 8 weeks and caused what had so far been the worst pain I had experienced, it had been an incredibly smooth pregnancy for us. I only experienced the typical bittersweet physical discomforts expected in pregnancy. I finished work at week 36 and spent the next couple weeks keeping busy around the house and preparing for our little's arrival.
At 38 weeks I woke up at 4am with the same pain I had felt at 8 weeks. It was constant and unbearable, but we were certain it wasn't labour. After an hour of pacing, rolling on the floor, and trying every position in an attempt to sooth my pains, I asked Jeff to take me to the hospital. I was admitted and we spent the day there with the nurses and doctors trying to diagnose the issue. They administered me morphine and I went on a little trip until the pain subsided and I was well enough to go home for the evening. I spent the next few days bound to the couch.
Four days later I quickly swelled up in the feet and face, had a throbbing headache, and was seeing stars. I assumed it to be typical pregnancy symptoms, but I was a little concerned because it all happened so suddenly. Luckily I had a prenatal appointment already scheduled the next morning.
That morning, Wednesday, August 26th, the doctor diagnosed me with preeclampsia - a serious condition that could lead to fatal complications for myself and the baby. Scientists haven't yet been able to pinpoint exactly what causes it, there is no way to prevent it, and there is no treatment for it. For the 5% of women that develop preeclampsia, sometimes premature delivery is necessary. Fortunately, the severe preeclampsia developed at the end of my pregnancy with a full term baby. Our doctor sent us straight to the hospital. I was most likely going to be induced and we would have a baby the next day.
I was terrified. This was not how it was supposed to happen. A few weeks prior Jeff and I read that we should have a birth plan ready to share with the nurses and doctors. I was reluctant to do this because I hate when plans fall through. I felt births were unpredictable and uncontrollable. Why plan for it? Nonetheless, I caved and we came up with a plan:
- BIRTH PLAN - EMILY JANZEN
- No pain medication
- No IV
- No intervention unless medically necessary
- We prefer spontaneous bearing down followed by self-directed pushing. Only if necessary will we try directed pushing.
- Episiotomy should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
- Umbilical cord - prefer to wait until it stops pulsating before cutting.
- Jeff may want to cut the cord; he will decide when the time comes.
- Jeff will be staying in the hospital with Emily and Baby until they can all go home.
- Emily will be breastfeeding. Avoid formula.
- We wish to be fully informed of the factors leading to the decision, and any other options.
- If absolutely necessary to have caesarean birth, Jeff will be present.
- Emily would like to avoid sedatives/medications after surgery so she can hold the baby and begin nursing as soon as possible.
- We wish to be fully informed on the situation and be involved in the decision process wherever possible.
- If baby cannot nurse, Emily will express the colostrum and milk. Avoid formula.
- We would like a chance to hold it, say goodbye and take a photo.
- We would like an opportunity to discuss what lead to baby’s death with a doctor/nurse.
- We would like an autopsy if cause of death is undetermined.
Present for the birth:
Jeff Janzen, husband
Susanne Bashford, Emily’s mother
We wish that all nonessential persons request permission to be present for the birth. Emily will decide whether students/observers are welcome in the room.
We are prepared to have as natural a birth process as possible:
If caesarean or other intervention may be necessary:
If baby is sick/requires care after birth:
If stillbirth/death of baby:
I had imagined being at home at the onset of labour. Contractions would slowly progress and Jeff and I would be confused as to when we should go to the hospital for the final stage of labour and delivery. Once at the hospital, Jeff and I would walk the halls, pausing with each contraction and Jeff would coach me through it all until my Mom showed up to help (with a fruit tray - this was my odd request). I wanted to feel everything. I wanted to experience it all and let my body do what it was built to do.
But for whatever reason my body was not built to delivery a baby this pregnancy. If not for modern day medical care, I or Enzo may not be alive today and Jeff may be a single dad.
After some evaluation, the doctors and nurses at the hospital recommended I be induced to deliver the baby as soon as possible. We knew induced deliveries were more painful than natural deliveries because it happens faster and the brain does not have time to release the chemicals that hide the pain. We also knew an induced labour would have a higher chance of being followed with further interventions of which we wanted to avoid. We asked as many questions as we could think of to make the best decision for us. It was a difficult decision to go forward with the induction, but we now know it was the right decision. Scrap the birth plan.
The first stage of induction began that afternoon. It was a matter of monitoring my blood pressure, controlling the pain, and waiting for signs that my body was ready for labour. We were told I would have to spend the night without Jeff, as no private rooms were available. This added to the stress. I couldn't do it alone.
Fortunately they found another room for me where my roommate would not mind Jeff spending the night. On the bright side, we would stick together for our last night as just the two of us. On the downside, we spent a long night together sharing a tiny single bed, as Jeff was not allowed to sleep on the floor and a sleeper chair would not be provided. Between the discomforts of the bed and my pregnant body, the headache, and the need to go to the bathroom every couple hours, I was exhausted the next morning. Knowing I would be going into labour this exhausted frightened me.
That morning we were informed things had not progressed enough to start the second stage of labour yet so Jeff went home to shower and collect a few things for our hospital stay. I was confused when only a couple hours later I was suddenly told I was going to receive the second stage of induction. Labour would start within the hour! I felt so helpless and uninformed. Jeff rushed back to the hospital and we asked more questions to learn more about what was going to happen next. I had half an hour to take a hot shower and go for one last walk with Jeff as just the two of us.
That peaceful walk around the St. Boniface entrance loop with Jeff is one of the most special moments I have with him, and the last thing I clearly remember from the day Enzo was born. It was a warm, sunny day and the leaves were starting to show signs of my favourite season of all: fall. I needed that moment. It was a moment I felt relaxed and in control. I dreaded going back, as I knew I would soon be confined to the hospital bed for the duration of labour with an IV.
When we arrived back to my labour and delivery room, I was introduced to the nurse who would guide me through the labour. I found relief in knowing I would have her help, as she was so kind. I was also excited to see a friend (Jenn!) starting her shift just then and that I would also be under her care. I don't remember Jenn's jokes, but I remember her making me laugh and her bright red lipstick. My Mom, my other coach, arrived too.
Labour was coming. I watched it drip slowly down through the IV into my arm. That, and an episode of Modern Family. But when labour hit, it hit hard. What little energy I had drained very quickly with each contraction. I moved from the bed to an exercise ball so I could move around a bit to cope with the pain. I remember Jeff rubbing my back and one contraction in particular when I said I couldn't do it anymore. I locked eyes with my Mom kneeling in front of me. She asked me to follow her breathing. So I did, and I made it through the contraction. And the next one. And the next one. In those moments I felt so connected with my Mom. Then I think I closed my eyes for the rest of labour. That or my visual memories are mostly erased beginning then.
When my water broke I was terrified. A big gush of water ran over the exercise ball and down my legs. It felt like I was having a nightmare and I wet the bed. I moved back to the bed for comfort. I then felt as though all my energy was gone and that I could no longer cope with the pain of the contractions. It felt like there was never a moment of rest between them. Embarrassed and disappointed with myself, I asked for morphine to take the "edge" off. But the pain kept up and it only worked momentarily. I then, even more disappointed in myself, proceeded to ask for an epidural. They told me I needed blood work first and that I may be too close to the end to get started on it.
Then I got the urge to push. It was now definitely too late for an epidural, but it was also too early to start pushing. Now instead of focusing on the pain with each contraction, I concentrated on not pushing. I hated myself each time my body pushed even though I was telling it not to. I felt weak. Wasn't I strong enough to overcome my body with my mind and stop it from pushing? For concern this was causing stress on the baby, we were moved to the operating room where there were the tools necessary for helping the baby out should they be needed. I could bring only one person with me, so Jeff came and my mom stayed behind.
Once we got to the room we received good news. The doctor confirmed I was now ready to push! Things had progressed so fast in those few minutes. The room cheered.
The doctor and nurse directed me on pushing. I would push for the count of 10, wait for the count of 30, repeat. Everyone cheered me on!
Then I woke in a strange room with Jeff standing beside me. I couldn't talk because there was a tube down my throat. Jeff held his phone up for me to slowly peck at a message for him:
Translation: I first told Jeff I loved him, then how much I was hurting. Jeff told me I had a seizure and I asked why. Everything was such a blur. Jeff told me we had a son and showed me a picture of him. He looked like Mr. Magoo, I thought.
I asked Jeff to wipe the drool dripping down my chin from trying to talk. I asked why I had a seizure (again).
I excitedly yelled "Enzo!" in my mind, but it didn't feel like I had a son, especially with him no where in sight...
I'll post Part 2 of Enzo's Birth Story on the blog as soon as we can. It's a look at how Enzo came into the world from Jeff's point of view, and fills in on the areas I dearly wish I had experienced.