Before I begin, I have to preface that this was my hardest pregnancy out of my four. I had morning sickness until I was 20 weeks pregnant and I started having braxton-hicks contractions at 16 weeks. By 24 weeks, the contractions were very frequent and sometimes strong. They would usually be random throughout the day, but around dinner time became as frequent as every 10-15 minutes. Some nights I would time them and they would be consistent for about an hour and then jump all over the place from 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 13 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. It was also my craziest pregnancy taking care of three other children while pregnant. I knew it was likely to be my last pregnancy and I constantly tried to savor it. I adored being pregnant…just not the uncomfortable bits that never let up.
I had never gone into labor on my own and I knew this was my last chance. I wanted to so badly! However, toward the end of pregnancy, my doctor asked me every week if I’d like to set an induction date. We finally settled on my due date of September 19th, primarily because of the size of the baby. The baby had increased in weight during my weight check ultrasounds significantly. We knew the baby would be anywhere from 9-11lbs if it kept up that weight gaining momentum. Eep!
On the final doctor’s appointment, just before I turned 39 weeks, she asked again if I’d like to move it up any. We decided to move it up a week. There were many reasons why. Some of which were:
- She wasn’t the doctor on call on my due date and I trusted her the most to deliver my babies.
- I had been practically immobile for weeks and my three children were suffering because of it. We no longer went on adventures or even played much outside or in. I was in pain any time I stood up. It just wasn’t fair to them any more. I wasn’t being the best mother I could be to them because of this.
- We went ahead talked with our family who would be helping with the other three while we were in the hospital and went ahead and scheduled the induction for September 12th.
Induction day came and that was that. The labor and delivery portion of this pregnancy was the easiest I had had. Since I had had a natural birth that was also induced with Blaire, Logan insisted (and I agreed) that I would get an epidural if I was induced again. So, that was probably a big factor of why this was such an easy delivery. It was a little disappointing that I wouldn’t go into labor on my own nor have a natural childbirth, but, the end goal is always healthy baby and mama and that’s all that matters.
September 12th, 2019 – Induction Day!
6:30am – We checked into the hospital for the induction.
6:40am – Arrived in the delivery room. I was nervous and had 5 hours of broken sleep the night before.
6:45am – The first nurse arrived for introductions and instructions.
7:00am – The fetal monitor was hooked up and the IV was placed (the hardest part!).
7:15am – The OB came in to check the progress and I measured 1-2cm, 70%, -2
7:55am – The nurses started administering the pitocin.
8:25am – The epidural was administered.
9:00am – The catheter was installed. At this point the IV fluids were exhausted so the pitocin started to kick in.
9:20am – The nurses helped me rotate using a peanut ball to my left side. Contractions were around 3 minutes apart.
9:41am – I measured 3cm, 80%, -1, “bloody show”, rotated to right.
9:50am – I began leaking fluid.
10:00am – Contractions around 2 min, rotated to left.
10:55am – I felt more intense pressure.
11:00am – I sat up in the bed to get more comfortable.
11:15am – I measured 4cm, 80%, -1. Increased the pitocin to 18 ml/hr.
11:30am – Got an extra dose of epidural, increased pitocin to 20 ml/hr. Had a popsicle because I was feeling nauseous.
12:13pm – The pressure was up and ready to deliver. The baby’s head was ready. We had to wait for the doctor to arrive.
12:21pm – Baby delivered. It took two contractions to push the baby out.
Easiest delivery yet. It’s a boy!
Hugh Mathison Edwards
As soon as Hugh was born, I noticed something was wrong with his breathing. I kept asking the nurses if it was okay or if it was normal that he was grunting like he was. I also tried to nurse him and he had absolutely no interest. The other three children I had had did not behave this way. They instantly wanted to nurse and nursed for an hour or so. Something was wrong. Call it motherly instinct. I couldn’t focus on anything else but something with his behavior and noises were not right. I tried not to be a pest to the nurses with my questions, but it felt like they were writing it off that there was nothing wrong.
Finally, Hugh’s nurse suggested that giving him his HepB and Vitamin K injections would wake him up. They took him to the warming bed, administered the injections with just one tiny peep of a cry. Then, nothing. It just wasn’t right.
A second nurse was called in and they started noticing labored breathing, flaring nostrils and retracted chest. Lungs sounded clear, but checked his O2 level and it started dropping quickly. They instantly moved him to the nursery down the hall.
Not to make it about me, but the moment they took Hugh from my room, Logan and I agreed he would go with Hugh and I was left all alone in this giant delivery room where something unknown was wrong with my baby just after delivery. It was terrible. I cried the hardest I had ever cried before. It was incredibly scary, emotional and I didn’t know what to do. I literally couldn’t move from my bed because the epidural was still well in tact. About 30 minutes later of being utterly alone, a lactation nurse came in to get me set up with a pump. I was still crying with no tissues to speak of and felt embarrassed when she walked in. I felt so bad she had to see me upset, but she was a good distraction of this unknown turf. She brought me a box of tissues and the breast pump. She taught me how to use it and I gave it a go. This would be my new normal for some time…just me and the pump.
Once she had left, I called my mom, who was watching all three kids at home. I couldn’t stop crying as I told her what had happened. As any mother would do for her daughter who was upset, she called everyone we knew and finally got someone to watch the kids while she came to the hospital. My mom stayed with me until late that night. We didn’t time this all out too well since both of Hugh’s grandfathers were traveling for work, leaving just his grandmothers and one of his aunts to help with everything back at home.
Back to Hugh: Once he was in the nursery, they hooked him up to a CPAP at 25-28% O2. They called the on-call pediatrician into the hospital (which took an hour for her to arrive). At this point, Hugh had been in the nursery for over an hour. My labor/delivery nurse came in to check on me, rolling into my empty room with a wheeled chair. She asked me if I’d like to go to the nursery to see my baby. YES, yes, of course! She rolled me into the nursery and I couldn’t help but to continue my tears. I could only see his feet from my low wheeled chair, so I touched them softly while my quiet tears rolled down my cheek. I don’t know how Logan kept so strong, but I don’t know what I would do without his strength. He was my rock, standing behind me in front of Hugh’s warming bed.
My mom arrived at the hospital and came into the nursery to greet us. I was so relieved she was there. Luckily, she was friends with the on-call pediatrician and they had happy conversations in the room while we all awaited the arrival of the neonatal doctor (which took a couple hours to arrive). Both doctors looked at a chest x-ray they took. Minutes passed and the neonatal doctor come up to us and told us very delicately that he wanted to transfer Hugh to a hospital with a Level 2 or 3 Nursery. My heart sank. The hospital where I’ve delivered Hayden, Blaire and now Hugh, was only a Level 1 nursery. MUSC’s Level 3 Nursery was our first choice, but their nursery was full with 71 babies. The next option was East Cooper Medical Center, which had a Level 2 Nursery. We were told that if Hugh had to be intubated at East Cooper that no matter how full MUSC was, they would then transfer him there.
At this point it had been hours since delivery and I knew I probably needed some medical attention of my own. The nurses had already transferred my belongings to a postpartum room while we were in the nursery. So, at this point, I went with my mom to the postpartum room to use the restroom for the first time (wowzers) and get settled into the bed, knowing that a medical transfer team was on their way. Logan also joined me in the room a little later to discuss a plan. We agreed he would follow them in a car to get Hugh registered at the new hospital and stay with him until I could be discharged and meet them there.
So around 6pm, a medical team arrived in my postpartum room with Hugh hooked up to all sorts of machines in a giant enclosed warming bed. He looked so helpless and I felt so helpless looking at him. There was absolutely nothing I could do to help him. It was out of my control, this type-A mother who insists on doing almost everything by herself, could do nothing. I stayed strong and listened to the medical team’s plan of action to get Hugh transferred to East Cooper Medical Center. The team rolled Hugh out of the room and I lost it. With Logan and my mom in the room, I cried the ugliest cry. I seriously don’t know how they didn’t lose it watching me. I was a mess. I cried for what seemed like 30 minutes, but finally calmed down enough to send Logan on his way to accompany Hugh. But, before he left, we decided that he would pick me up first thing in the morning from the hospital.
Meanwhile, my mom stayed with me as we figured out a plan moving forward and just reflected on what had happened that day. Logan checked into East Cooper around 9pm and checked on Hugh. He met the neonatologist (Dr. Giep) for the first time at that point, too. The doctor had increased Hugh’s O2 to 40%. Hugh was on similar equipment at East Cooper as he was at Roper, but in a better-suited and dedicated space.
Soon after Logan met with Dr. Giep, he called me with an update. It was decided that I would work with my nurses to get as many discharge tasks completed through the night as possible so I could leave first thing in the morning. Dr. Giep and his nurses in the NICU do rounds every morning at 10am and we both needed to be there at Hugh’s introduction.
Around 8pm, I finally got some food in my stomach, as resistant as I was to eat. You just don’t feel like eating when something like this happens. But, the nurses and my mom kept insisting I do, since my only job now was to pump as much “liquid gold” as I could for Hugh. My mom also ran out to get a couple of snacks for my solo night stay at the hospital before heading back to take care of our other children at home.
Once I was alone, it was about 10pm and my legs finally felt alive enough to hold my weight. I took a shower and it was just what my body needed. Through the night, I pumped every 2 hours, supplying vials of colostrum to the nurses to store away for me to bring to Hugh the next day. With the pumping sessions in combination with taking my vitals throughout the night, it was a quick night (luckily) before Logan was heading over at 7am to bring breakfast and break me out of the hospital.
After waiting around for what seemed like forever, as discharges do take forever, I was discharged from Roper at 9am. It was the most sad feeling to be leaving the hospital after giving birth, being rolled in a wheelchair down to the car, without a baby. At the same time, I felt incredibly grateful that my baby was still alive just on the other side of town. I’ve known too many people who gave birth and left without their child. I can’t even fathom it. So, as hard as this journey had been so far, I was grateful and excited to be heading to see Hugh. It felt like a lifetime without him.
Logan and I arrived at East Cooper Medical Center just in time for the 10am doctor’s rounds. We left everything in the car and went straight to the NICU and as soon as I walked in to see Hugh, the doctors and nurses were ready at Hugh’s bedside to catch us up on everything. The official diagnosis of what had happened was that we had a precipitous delivery…aka very fast. Hugh didn’t have enough time to get all of the amniotic fluid squeezed out of his lungs, therefore there was still fluid built up in there, making it hard for him to breathe. The doctor said that all we could do was wait it out, keeping him as happy as possible until his body absorbed the fluid away. He had had another x-ray that morning that showed great improvement over the previous day of the fluid build up in the lungs.
We spent the day bouncing around from Hugh’s bedside where I would pump every two hours, to our “Rest Easy” room on the next floor up in the hospital where we’d nap at night, wash all of my pumping parts every two hours, to either the cafeteria/restaurants close by/Uber eats deliveries in the lobby. The hospital’s cafeteria had very short hours, I’m talking one hour time frames for every meal time, which often never fell on my pumping schedule. Having just given birth the day before, it was quite a lot of walking between all of these things. Needless to say, I got my steps in quite quickly!
Hugh remained stable more or less throughout the day, but later evening (around 5-6pm), Hugh required more O2 (50%). However, through the night, his oxygen was reduced over the night until next morning. It is likely the stress of shift changeover may have stressed him out.
The goal for Hugh was to keep him as calm as possible. As Dr. Giep said, “Our goal is to not piss him off.” So, with that we had to speak very quietly around his bedside, keep the lights dim and no touching him. That was the hardest part. It took all of me staring at him with my hands behind my back to resist the urge to touch my sweet baby.
Another day of bouncing around, from bedside to rest easy room. We finally got permission to use the Labor & Delivery kitchen which was just outside of the NICU. It was so nice to be able to use their microwave (to sanitize pump parts and reheat take out) and refrigerator. Often times, the timing of food delivery wouldn’t line up with what Hugh needed so I had to put food away to eat later.
Throughout the day, Hugh had his O2 reduced to 40% and the pressure of his CPAP to 6. There was no big change from previous day’s x-ray. That night, the night nurse let me briefly hold Hugh. It was magic and I felt like we were breaking every rule. It felt so good. It was the first time I had smiled in a few days.
Today Hugh was moved to pressure of 5 on his CPAP. The nurses tried putting him on 35% O2 briefly, but he did not tolerate. Back to 40% for the time being. However, I finally got to hold Hugh skin to skin. I felt like I could hold him forever. I held really really still, though, because I felt like he was this fragile little baby, especially with all of the wires and pipes that he was hooked up to. I didn’t want to be responsible for him not getting the O2 he needed or not capturing the rates on the screens that they needed to be tracking. Thankfully, Hugh’s respiratory rate was not a concern anymore. His lungs weren’t retracting much anymore. His jaundice was high today, but not a worry yet.
Hugh had good, steady progress today. Over night, the night nurse decreased his O2 to 28%. And around 8:30am his CPAP was removed in favor of the air cannula at around 30% O2. Yay! What a difference that made!
Over night (2am feeding) Logan finally got to hold Hugh for the first time! I hated that he had to wait so long to hold his baby boy. He was always so selfless and the two times we got a chance to hold him, he let me. We both knew being near my breast was going to do good for both Hugh and my milk, but still, I know it was hard for him to wait this many days!
Throughout the night, Hugh’s O2 was around 28%, ¾L/min. The nurses also gave us more responsibility. We are now changing diapers and helping record temperature at every feeding. Between his 5am and 8am feeding, we were ecstatic to walk in at 8am and find that Hugh had “graduated” to the healthier side of the nursery. He was now at the opposite end of the room, out of direct view of the nurse station since he was now at a lower risk. They put him by one of the only windows in the NICU (such a good mood booster to be able to see the sunshine!). I had mixed feelings about him moving to this spot in the room, though. Up until now, the nurses had a constant eye on my baby. They were within steps of him. Now, being on the other side of the room, blocked by other baby’s curtains, I felt like I was abandoning him every time I left. I felt like I needed to take extra care to communicate with the already very busy nurses to let them know when I was leaving and when I would return. The monitors were his only trusty babysitter at that point, which was very strange to me. I couldn’t stay beside him all day, either, which was hard, because there was no eating in the nursery. Mama’s gotta eat to stay fueled up for pumping so frequently!
Around 10am, our pediatrician came in to perform his circumcision.
By 6pm, Hugh was down to 21% O2 and the flow rate was at a minimum. Because we breathe 20% O2 and the pressure was so low, his nasal cannula was removed!
Hugh was improving with feeding, although still very sleepy during feedings. At this point the pattern was that I would breastfeed him for 30-45 minutes and then pump while Logan may supplement with a bottle. However, that morning, after one of his breastfeeding sessions, he was being fed a supplementary bottle and his heart rate dropped. This was just after being told we would room-in with him this evening to go home the next day. We were a bit bummed, but knew we had to do what was best for him, in case this happened again. In the meantime, Logan and I did everything we could to expedite discharge, like watching CPR videos and getting Hugh’s hearing and cardiac tests completed.
Hugh had a very minor heart rate dip after another one of his feedings in the early morning hours, but it was not enough to concern the doctor. We moved into a labor room to room-in with Hugh over night. This provides a nice transition before home. This gave us the chance to listen to his sounds without loud alarms blaring throughout the nursery with the nurses just steps away to help us, if needed. Hugh is improving with breastfeeding (longer stretches without immediately falling asleep) and is better pacing himself with a bottle. It was amazing how much time we got to rest when Hugh was right next to me instead of me hoping on an elevator and walking through multiple locked doors to feed Hugh.
Discharge day! We got booted from the labor room around 8am since the room was needed for a labor, so we were back in the NICU until we left around noon. It was bittersweet leaving! We absolutely loved our nurses. Being there just one week, we got to know many of them quite well.
We were very excited to get on our own schedule instead of following the very data driven NICU schedule. It only took two days to wean Hugh off of the supplementing bottles and begin completely feeding him on demand.
Being a type-A person, I had everything planned. Every time I get pregnant, I’ve always tried to prepare myself for things not going according to my plan. It’s the advice everyone seems to give. However, after three pregnancies and deliveries going almost exactly according to plan, I didn’t think of anything differently with the fourth one. Boy, was I wrong.
I’ve had a lot of sadness since having Hugh. It was planned that this would be my last pregnancy and delivery. It was planned in my brain exactly how it would go and how I would savor every last experience. When it didn’t go anything like how I had planned, it didn’t really give me a chance to savor or say goodbye. I’ve cried many hours since Hugh’s been born over the sadness that is saying goodbye to this phase of my life. I don’t want to move forward. It hurts too bad to think about never surprising everyone with the exciting news of a new baby, feeling the tiny baby hiccups inside of you, knowing you having the awesome superpower that is creating and growing life, rubbing your belly knowing there’s this amazing life inside, seeing this little human on the ultrasound machine, hearing it’s fast heart beat and finally getting to meet the little baby that you’d known for 9 months.
From what I’ve heard and read, saying goodbye to pregnancy is a lot like mourning a loved one. You have to have a funeral for this phase of your life. Like my doctor told me, every woman has to say goodbye to this phase at one point or another. It’s just when we have to or choose to, that is the question.
If I thought with my heart, I would continue to have babies until my body gives in. But, I’m forced to step back and think logically. It feels so wrong to think logically about it, though. Logically, there’s barely enough time in the day to give my four kids, husband and myself enough of my time. Adding more people to our family would spread me even further. Not to mention, it also costs money and is physically draining to have another child. I’m not getting any younger. I have to think logically and say goodbye. It’s so hard. I wish I could be like some mothers who know that they are done and never look back. It’s even harder when the first question when anyone (stranger or familiar) asks me is, “So, are you going to have a fifth baby?” I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over it. I miss it every day and sometimes it’s hard to look forward.
Fast forwarding a couple of months since writing out Hugh’s birth story and thoughts (Hugh is now 3 months old), I think time will help to heal this hole in my heart for more babies. Adoption has crossed my mind several times. For now, though, I’ve tried to become more focused on the here and now and becoming grateful for four healthy children who bring me such joy every day.