Not Just Another Birth Story
I knew she was going to be a quick birth. My contractions were so intense I felt like my body was going to split wide open. The urge to push was overwhelming. Two quick pushes and she slid out. The nurse whisked her away to weigh her, and clean her up. Calm should have descended on me then, the hard part was over, but then I felt a gush of blood. My anxiety heightened as they laid my baby girl on my chest.
She was beautiful, perfect in every way. After having my second child rushed away to the NICU after a placental abruption, I was relieved to see how good she looked. But another gush of blood alerted me to the fact that nothing was okay.
“What’s going on?” I asked my doctor, who ignored me as he tried to stem the flow of blood.
“We’re going to the OR,” he barked at a nurse. “Get the rapid transfuser.”
I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew that it wasn’t good. I turned to my husband as the nurse took my baby girl. “I love you,” I said. “Make sure the boys know that I love them. Make sure she does too.”
On the way to the operating room, I continued to lose blood. Things started to get hazy, but I used every ounce of focus I had to pray to God that He would see me through, let me come back to my family. They started my sedation the second we got to the OR. I threw up once, and then everything went black.
I woke up hours later, confused, with a tube down my throat. Before I could panic, my husband and a nurse started talking to me. I was okay, but barely. I had lost all of my blood. What I had now had been rapidly transfused, plasma, blood, and platelets. I would still need at least one more transfusion. A hysterectomy had been the only way to stop the bleeding. Just like that, it hit me. No more babies. We would have to stop at three.
I had had a placenta accreta, something I had never heard of before. Basically, the placenta buries itself in the uterine wall, and after you give birth and you are ready to deliver the placenta, your whole uterus gets pulled out along with it. (Later my doctor told me not to look it up because the statistics would terrify me. Maternal and fetal mortality is high with accretas, but they are a lot more common than people think.)
While I waited to get the breathing tube removed, I clutched the sides of the hospital bed as a host of emotions raced through me. Unable to speak, the nurse continually told me how lucky I was to be alive, and at least I had three kids. And boys and a girl to boot. Wasn’t I lucky? (Those sentiments would become a refrain over the next few years, and I grew to hate them.) At that moment, all I wanted to do was grieve the loss of my fertility and see my baby girl.
Eventually the breathing tube was removed, and I was able to speak in a quiet, raspy voice. My vision was doubled from my eyes being half open during the surgery. I was bloated from so much fluid being retained. Nothing felt right. I tried to push all of those feelings aside, and simply be grateful to be alive. Which I was! And so much more. But the feelings I had were more complicated than that.
When they finally brought my baby girl to me, I never wanted to let her go. The second I saw her again, my memory of the moment after her birth, thinking how perfect she was, resurfaced. I latched on to that thought, and she is what pulled me through the other stuff. She was the sweetest baby in the history of the world. She was the kind of baby that made me want to have a dozen more. I savored every moment of her babyhood, knowing that each first for her was also a last for me. A last first smile. A last first time rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking. Each milestone so bittersweet.
People liked to mention that we could always adopt, and that has always been something we wanted to do. But I know that we aren’t called to adopt a baby, so she was indeed our last for a lot of stages. And even though it has taken me a long time, in most ways I’m okay with that.
The craziest part is, that even knowing all of the risks, the horror, the deep ache that might never go away, I would do it all over again just to have her in my life. She turned five yesterday, and she’s still the sweetest, feistiest, most perfect girl in the world. We’re blessed that God gave her to us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.