Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Genevieve's Birth Story

I'm starting this post by saying that there are parts that are scary and maybe triggery for anyone who has lost a baby late in pregnancy. One of the biggest struggles was keeping my mind off of the stories I know of babies in situations not unlike Genevieve's. Anyway, here it goes... it'a long, but I can promise you a happy ending.

I had a regular non-stress scheduled for Friday, May 3, along with a growth ultrasound. I'd had a monitoring appointment on Monday, saw my OB on Thursday, and had this appointment on Friday, so I was feeling relatively calm. I'd just finished up the last week of classes and had finished writing my final exams. I was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant. My biggest concern was that my ankles and feet were swelling--not necessarily a big deal, but something I associate with my pregnancy with Eliza. Basically, I just kept asking every health care professional I saw last week to reassure me that it was fine (and they all did).

I'd mentioned to David that this would probably be my last big ultrasound, so if he had time, he should try to be there. He was swamped with meetings and end of year stuff at school, so I was shocked when I saw him walk into the waiting room. He gave me a quick kiss and then explained that he wasn't actually there to see me--he'd had to bring a student to the hospital. That was unfortunate, but then he did get to be there to see the ultrasound after all.

Baby looked perfect on the ultrasound. She practiced breathing, her weight was estimated around 6 pounds, they printed some pictures for us. D hung out with me as we started the NST and everything was going just fine. He decided he needed to get back to work and I told him that I'd stop by Trader Joe's on the way home.

Maybe ten minutes later, I was feeling a lot of movement and watching the monitor. I noticed that the baby's heartrate was going down instead of up as she moved, which I knew was problematic. I remember thinking that I want to ask the nurses about that. Then my phone dinged that I had a text and I looked down at it. I don't even remember who that text was from or what it said, because the next thing I knew, there were three nurses in the room with me. They leaned my chair all the way back and had me roll onto my side. I immediately started crying and shaking even though I wasn't sure what was going on. Later, I would learn that baby was having a serious deceleration--the downward trend I'd noticed kept going and ended up lasting three and a half minutes.

The nurse asked where my husband had gone and told me to call him and tell him to come back. Tell him that we were going to have the baby. The maternal fetal medicine doctor had made the call to admit me. I was still crying when they put me on a gurney and rushed me upstairs. They got me on monitors upstairs right away and I calmed down when baby looked absolutely fine and I knew that lots of eyes were watching her heart rate.

The nurse who checked me in was wonderful. She told me that the deceleration alone wasn't necessarily that "exciting," but combined with my history, they wanted to be extremely cautious. I remember asking her to call my OB and her explaining that he wasn't on call but she'd talk to his partner who was and I tried to explain that he is always on call for me! She knew my doctor (and all the nurses love him because he's awesome and because he brings them candy) so she said she would tell his partner to just give him a call. She told me that in this situation it was likely that they'd ask me what I wanted to do--be monitored for 24 hours or be induced. I told her that I wanted my doctor to make that decision (which he ended up doing).

At some point, David showed up and we were moved to another room. I texted my doula to let her know what was happening and she happened to be driving past the hospital on her way home from downtown, so she went ahead and came up to see us. Around that time, we learned that my doctor had given the orders to go ahead and induce. But instead of our usual game plan of cervidil, as I'd done successfully with both Zuzu and Coco, he wanted a pitocin drip instead. Pitocin can be shut off quickly, should the baby should appear to be in distress and they needed to do an emergency c-section. But once cervidil starts, it gets absorbed so you can't exactly turn it off.

This wasn't great news because of the terrible Bradley method class I took when I was pregnant with Eliza, which convinced me that pitocin was the devil and would always result in a "cascade of interventions." I was still hoping to deliver naturally without an epidural, but I also was more than ready to have a c-section to get this baby out alive, so I was definitely willing to follow my doctor's advice even though I'd never had pitocin before and it made me nervous.

We started the pitocin drip around 9pm and they upped the dosage every hour overnight. I had mild contractions--nothing I couldn't talk through--but I felt like we were making progress and it didn't seem to be the horror drug that the Bradley method woman had insisted it was.

My doula came back Saturday morning around 9am and I was hoping that we'd follow the same kind of timeline as we had with Zuzu and Coco--start induction overnight, deliver the baby in early afternoon, recover from all of that Saturday evening, have the girls come visit on Sunday, and spend Sunday evening with baby on breast watching Game of Thrones.

Despite the contractions being mild, I found it difficult to sleep Friday night. The bed felt to me like it was stuffed with gravel. Every point of contact was painfully sore. Then on Saturday morning, I started feeling cold, hot, and generally feverish. I wondered if these body aches were a side effect of the pitocin. I kept trying to articulate the discomfort I was feeling, but no one really expects to feel comfortable during natural labor. It wasn't long though, before I was sitting on an exercise ball and realized I felt light-headed. I lay down on the bed and then realized that I was going to throw up.

Now, I'm no stranger to puking during labor. I did this a LOT when I was delivering Zuzu--sometimes the contractions are just so strong that you've gotta barf. But this was different. Yes, I was having contractions. But they weren't connected to the waves of nausea that I was experiencing. The contractions were mild compared to the uncontrollable barfing that started happening.

Seriously, I could not stop puking. Even when there was nothing left in me, I was lying in the hospital bed on my left side, my hip and shoulder aching where they met the mattress, my stomach enormous and filled with moving baby and an intermittently contracting uterus, just dry-heaving my guts out. I puked so hard I wet the bed. And I felt so freaking sick that I didn't even care at all.

It was at the moment of bed-wetting that I realized this was unsustainable. I could not do this. The nurses were also realizing that what was going on with my fever and barfing had nothing to do with the induction. David--who by this point was also feeling nauseous and looking pale and gray--mentioned that Zuzu came home from school on Wednesday with a stomach virus and it wasn't long before it was determined that the same stomach bug had struck me--just at the very moment I was being induced.

They turned off the pitocin to focus on getting me through the worst of it. My pitocin drip was replaced with anti-nausea medicine and fluids to replenish everything I'd barfed (and peed) out. I still had occasional mild contractions, but the worst of it was the body aches, which just hurt all over and made lying in bed painful. Plus I started swelling from the fluids, so my legs and feet were unrecognizable.

Through all of this, baby is on the monitor looking 100% absolutely fine.

By Saturday night, my poor doula had already been with us for something like 10 hours and I was no where near having a baby. She had rubbed my sore muscles and put cold rags on my neck while I vomited, but that was just treating a stomach virus--it actually had nothing to do with pregnancy, labor, or delivery! As it turned out, I suppose having that stomach bug strike at the hospital was fortunate in that I had excellent care and IV meds that probably pulled me through much faster than I would have recovered at home--plus someone else to clean up all the vomit and urine. It was still pretty nightmareish, though. I'd never  even thought about being sick and being in labor at the same time!

Saturday night I was drained and exhausted, but I still felt much better, and we decided to restart the pitocin slowly around midnight. Baby still had to be born! My doula (bless her heart) agreed to come back the next day around 9:30am. I was still hopeful that things would go smoothly and I'd have the baby in time to watch Game of Thrones.

(Spoiler: I didn't get to see Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones.)

As it turned out, the fearsome pitocin, devil drug of pregnancy, was ineffective. My doctor shrugged and said, "Some uteruses are unresponsive to pitocin." And I apparently have one of them. They started cranking it up every half hour because I was never getting anything but mild and inconsistent contractions and around 4:30pm on Sunday, the pitocin was giving me 20 mUnit/min and we weren't really making any progress.

I mean really WTF.

Baby still looked perfect on the monitors, but I had been on IV fluids for more than 48 hours and was like a swollen tick. I asked David if he could believe how big my face was and he said he didn't think it looked that bad and I was like, "YOU THINK I ALWAYS LOOK LIKE THIS?"

It was time to take next steps. The nurse kept talking about when they'd break my waters, but I wanted to let my waters break on their own. My labor and delivery with Coco was so amazing and I think letting the waters break on their own was a big part of that. Plus I was like 1 1/2 cm dilated and maybe 70% effaced? My doctor suggested a Foley bulb.

I had just heard of this device from a friend of mine--and heard that it was a horror show. I was initially resistant based on her experience, but when it was that or break my waters, it seemed like the lesser of the two evils. Plus, I was sort of on a timeline since I'd been on the IV for so long and had been induced due to the baby being in distress (although she never showed further signs of distress once I got up to labor and delivery).

So my doctor inserted this balloon up above my cervix, promising that if I hated it or wanted it out, they'd remove it.

It felt disgusting. It felt gross and heavy and kind of like having a speculum inserted for a pap smear. Unpleasant and unnatural. But it was supposed to get me to dilate and I was so, so ready to get this baby out. So I hung out with it, first just resting, then taped to my thigh to put more pressure on the cervix. When it fell out, my doula was sort of astonished. She told me I was her first client to actually use the Foley bulb successfully rather than insist on having it removed. David said he was going to start calling me "Nails" because I was so tough. I was just VERY motivated, folks. I'd already been in the hospital for two days!

So I was four centimeters dilated, having more contractions, but still things weren't moving along super fast. We totally missed Game of Thrones and by 9:30pm I was SO ready to get this baby out of me.

A nurse had told me earlier that due to my low platelet count, anesthesiology wasn't sure I was a candidate for an epidural. I said that was fine; I didn't want one anyway, but she explained that it meant that in the case of an emergency c-section I'd have to go totally under general anesthesia. I was starting to get concerned that if I didn't deliver relatively soon that I'd end up needing a c-section, and I think if I'd had a different doctor, we probably would have gone in that direction. I'm so fortunate that baby's heart rate remained perfect on the monitor, no matter how much puking I did. But at this point, having a c-section on top of a stomach bug was really unappealing. I was ready to give it a go at pushing the baby out.

Once they broke my waters (around 9:30pm), I got in the big tub in the room to labor there. I was so uncomfortable because my legs were so swollen I couldn't sit on my knees and rest my butt on my heels. I ended up sitting sideways like a cheerleader in the tub. But finally the contractions started FOR REAL.

All the intensity and frequency that had been missing from my "surges" (in doula speak) showed up and I labored in the tub, trying to yoga breathe. I was not as cool, calm, and collected as I had been during Coco's birth. I was tired. I was still achy. I was swollen. I was scared.

(Baby still looked great on the monitor.)

I couldn't have told you how long I was in there, but labor progressed pretty rapidly. The nurse asked if she could check me and I told her no (in what could only be called an unfriendly tone). I also horked up the soup and bread bowl I'd eaten for dinner. Poor David thought that was going to make him puke, but instead he let me breathe barf breath all over him while he held the bucket and I squeezed his hand. This was vomiting directly related to contractions, although I still felt a bit nauseous the next morning (the bug also lingered a bit longer for David since he didn't get any IV meds for nausea and just had to soldier through it).

My doula told me to let her know when I had to push, and the way she whispered it to me, I thought it would be like a secret and I wouldn't have to get out of the tub. But no. When I said that I wanted to push, she went and told the nurse, and they had me get out of the tub and move over to the bed. Things got super painful and I had a flashback to Zuzu's birth when I thought she was broken into sharp pieces inside me. I remember yelling (screaming?) that something was wrong but everyone kept assuring me that everything was great and I was doing everything right. David said he was kind of worried when I started freaking out, but he kept watching my doctor's face and the doctor was so calm that he knew everything was fine. In fact, the doctor apparently got called to another birth WHILE I was pushing the baby out and he answered his cell phone with one hand and said calmly, "Okay, I'll be there as soon as I finish up here," before putting his phone away, pulling on a new glove and catching the baby.

And then finally, FINALLY she was out of me and I was so relieved and my doctor had to tell me to reach down and grab the baby, and I did and she was perfect. Tiny, but perfect.

6 pounds, 9 ounces. 20 inches long. Born at 36 weeks and 6 days after an entire weekend of being in labor or barfing or both. A perfect little punkin, and we are so grateful that she's ours.


  1. Congratulations Brooke, she looks so precious :) And her name is just gorgeous, looking forward to the story behind it! Eliza, Caroline, Colette & Genevieve look so beautiful together, can't believe you've had 4 little girls. All the best for these first few weeks!

  2. longtime anonymous reader who has been thinking of you a lot and checked back anxiously for an update on your fourth beautiful daughter. Welcome Genevieve. What a story. So glad she is here safely.

    1. Same here! Congratulations, Welcome Genevieve, and thrilled for the update.

  3. Congratulations, you’re a trooper!

  4. Yay! I just opened my Feedly nearing the end of a workday and thinking to myself how nice it would be to see/hear more about Baby Genevieve. And look what present I got! I thinking knowing there was a happy ending makes it infinitely easier to read through the scary part, at least just for me. I am so happy she is here and cannot wait to meet her! thank you for sharing her story.

  5. Congratulations! So good to hear that she's arrived! Genevieve is so cute, and she looks so much like your other daughters--something about the shape of the eyes and the upturned nose. I'm glad you could look on the bright side about having a stomach bug in the hospital, and I'm so glad the baby did fine and you didn't need a C-section after all that!

  6. Congratulations! A scary beginning, a torturous middle, but a perfect ending. She really is The Closer!

  7. Congratulations, Brooke! I've been reading your blog (lurking mostly) since shortly after Eliza died; I have delighted in your joys and borne witness to your grief. I am so happy for you--what a lovely addition to your family! Genevieve is beautiful. Wishing you so much love and happiness.

  8. Congratulations again! We're all very happy for you and yours!

  9. Wow, Brooke!! That is one hell of a birth story!!! Very scary start for sure but I was relieved to hear that Genevieve's heart rate was stable after that - though bummer you didn't get to watch Game of Thrones as planned, haha (priorities!). And I so empathize with you being so sick. :-( My daughter's induction was started a couple days early last June when I came down with a violent stomach bug and she wasn't tolerating it well on the NSTs - I was so weak I made them hold off on starting the pitocin for 24 hrs bc I didn't think there was any way I could do it. And I think you were in worse shape than I was (I did not pee the bed at least, lol) so you definitely earned your new moniker! So glad you and the newest Baby Duck are doing well. Congrats!! And hope you're all caught up now on GoT. ;-)

  10. Congratulations. She is just beautiful ❤️ . I hate that you had such a miserable time

  11. Shit. I held my breath the whole time I was reading this. I need a moment. Ahem. Welcome to the world sweet Genevieve. I’m sorry you had to go through more trauma Brooke. But I’m glad the ending was as it should be.

  12. Congratulations! I’m so glad to read both of you are fine. I’ve been checking in, always hoping to read that all was well. Genevieve is gorgeous. You’ve chosen a beautiful name, too. In fact, all four of your girls have wonderful names.
    Wishing you all the best, Cordula 💚

  13. I've been reading your blog silently for years and I just want to tell you how happy I am for you! So happy that she's arrived safely and you all got through the terribly timed bug. I love all your girls names so much: Gorgeous girls with gorgeous names.

  14. She's here! Congratulations. Sounds like quite a weekend, but I'm very happy to hear everyone came through unscathed.

  15. I am so pleased that she's here and safe and you're safe, and OMG isn't it good that her heart decelerated when you are already at the hospital and could get immediate care and attention? It sounds like a rough weekend, but -- I'll admit -- parts of your story I snickered at, and in years to come you probably will too. Stomach virus AND induction the same weekend? Poor you!

    I've been reading your blog since Eliza's death, and it's so wonderful and lovely to follow your story, and to see your other girls growing up. So, is Genevieve going to be Gigi to go with Zuzu and Coco? :)

  16. Congratulations! What a beautiful name for a beautiful baby girl! I have been checking back regularly awaiting news of her safe arrival and I was so happy to see this post. Wishing the six of you lots of love, happiness and wonderful memories xo

  17. Welcome sweet Genevieve. The youngest of four perfect girls.
    I had my first VBAC and the Foley bulb worked for me lol. But I was also “4 days over” so I think she was just ready to come out!
    I am so thankful she is here and I like to think Eliza was watching over her, helping her get here safely.


  18. Congratulations! So glad to hear of Genevieve’s safe arrival and that you are both doing well. What a way to make an entrance!

  19. She's absolutely beautiful!! Congratulations! I'm sorry things got so scary and miserable, but what an amazing reward in Genevieve! I love her name!

  20. So glad you were being monitored, so glad she is here safe and sound!

  21. So very glad she got here safely, even if it was a bit early! Congratulations!

  22. Oh my goodness, congratulations! I haven't been checking in on blogs lately so I had no idea you were pregnant!!! Gah! What a beautiful little girl. So incredibly happy for you, and hoping all is well with you!