The evening of July 1st, Matt and I sat out on our patio watching a thunderstorm roll trough north of us, since Clancy was away at Camp PapaAndGramma, so we didn’t need to worry about dog-storm-anxiety. With the lightning animating the skyline, we reflected on the traumatic experience of the External Cephalic Version (ECV); breech vaginal birth; the very strong opinions voiced by some people around us, letting us know what we should be doing and how we were failing; and our faith that however Baby Girl entered the world, God would work it for good.
In our virtual* birth class, our doula had us do an exercise with 20-some cards with different choices to create our ideal birth experience, putting the card with the most important feature on top and sorting in descending order of importance. Some choices were easy and some were harder. We wanted to deliver with our midwife instead of an OB/GYN; we were striving to avoid interventions and the potential side effects; but those cards and all the others fell below our top two: Healthy Baby/Healthy Mama and Active Participant in Decision Making. As challenges arose and started to chip away at our birth plan, we frequently reminded ourselves we just needed our Top Two Cards.
*Side note: having our birth class go virtual was a little silver-lining gift from Covid–we didn’t have to drive to Lincoln every week for seven weeks, and practicing the relaxation techniques and such is less intimidating in your own living room where you can turn the computer camera away from you if you want.
Sitting outside, listening to the thunder roll, Matt said, “I think Baby Girl is going to be late and Dr. Hall will be back from his vacation,” and something about all the stress of those previous two weeks being false pressure.
Just after 4:00pm the next day, my water broke.
No early labor.
I called the doula.
I called the midwife.
Because very little happens the way it does in the movies and sitcoms, I needed some confirmation of what was happening.
“Matt needs to come home from work now, and you need to come to the hospital.”
**We live two hours away from our care team and hospital.**
I called Matt.
I loaded the car.
Our midwife called to tell me that Dr. Hall had left town an hour earlier.
No breech vaginal birth.
Cesarean section it would be.
Matt got home, took a very fast shower to wash off the construction site, and as soon as we were in the car, started timing contractions.
They were around five minutes apart at this point, and as they got closer and the pain increased, my memory gets a little more spotty.
I texted my friend/neighbor to tell her we were leaving, so please keep an eye on the house.
I texted another friend and asked for prayers.
I called my parents.
Every time a rush would come, I’d say “Go” and Matt would start timing.
When we got north of Hastings, I called the midwife and told her contractions were 4 1/2 – 5 minutes apart: WILL WE MAKE IT TO LINCOLN? (Had she said no, we’d have rerouted to Grand Island, but we really wanted to be with our care team if possible.”
The next time you take a road trip, may I suggest measuring it in four-minute increments?
For bonus fun, put your hand in a bucket of ice for every fourth minute.
A vehicle flew past us on the interstate.
I turned to Matt and said, “Her contractions must be closer together than mine.”
We both laughed, and then a new wave of pain took over.
I was using the breathing and moaning techniques we’d practiced during birth class.
I took personal offense at every pot hole and bump in the road.
At some point, Matt said he really had to pee, and I told him to stop if he needed to while breathing through a contraction.
We didn’t stop.
With new gushes of fluid, I commented that I was going to be “so uncomfortable” by the time we got there.
Once we exited the interstate, we hit Every Red Light as we crossed Lincoln. Each time we got caught by a light, we were both punching car doors in pain (me-labor; Matt-bursting bladder) and frustration.
We pulled up to the main entrance, Matt grabbed a wheel chair from inside the sliding doors, and helped me out of the car and into the chair.
The person at the door said to leave the car where it was.
Matt ran for the bathroom, while I told the person at the entrance Matt was desperate to pee and we don’t have Covid.
She wheeled me to the elevator, which is by the bathroom.
Matt came and took me to the elevator.
I did not like when the chair was being pulled backward, and I couldn’t see where I was going.
The wait outside the labor wing was very irritating. (It was likely less than a minute in reality.)
I was suddenly in a room and had to go to the bathroom. The nurse(?) told me to take off my clothes and underwear and put on the robe while I was in there.
As Matt helped me to the toilet, and we pulled off my soaking wet clothes, someone said, “Yeah, she’s definitely ruptured.”
I wanted to stay in the bathroom, but our midwife said, “If you’re feeling a lot of pressure, we need to get you into the bed.”
I said something to the midwife and doula, worried about the car.
“It’ll be okay.”
“The car is running. They said to leave it!”
“uhhh….I’ll go take care of it.” Our doula went off to solve that problem.
Somehow the bed got to the operating room. There were a lot of bumps.
They had an inflated air mattress-thing under me that they lifted from the bed to the operating table, and I was impressed with how smooth that went, and thought they should have invented that earlier.
Someone failed at inserting the IV and I said, “That guy hurt my arm.”
And Matt said, “Want me to beat him up?”
And people laughed uncomfortably.
I definitely had my eyes closed through most of this and had a large optical migraine blind spot.
I said “I have a blind spot,” and a doctor (?) asked if she was in my blind spot, then Matt explained about the migraines. (I got A LOT of these blind spots throughout pregnancy. A LOT.)
I leaned on Matt while they gave me a spinal injection.
It hurt a lot.
A nurse(?) said she was going to shave me and it wouldn’t hurt.
My body jerked away from her because she was wrong. (On a normal day, perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt. On THIS day, EV-ER-Y-THING hurt.)
Someone held out a form on a clipboard and gave me a pen and told me I had to sign the form.
Holding the pen, I stared at the paper and said, “I don’t know how to sign my name.”
“That’s okay. Just scribble it.” (I’d like to see that form now.)
Our doula tried to help me, suggesting I turn to my side, and we started to try that, but every move amplified the pain.
“Please make it stop.”
Talking made the labor pain much worse.
At some point the spinal kicked in.
I have no idea how long the actual surgery took.
I was definitely still uncomfortable even when I couldn’t feel the actual pain.
I couldn’t move my left arm. I didn’t know if they had pinned it down for some reason or if it was just dead from the meds.
Matt was right in my ear telling me how great I was doing and playing Ray Lamontagne songs on his phone.
There was a baby on my chest!
The surgery was still happening on the other side of the sheet, but I couldn’t feel the bottom half of my body, so it could have been in a different world.
So entirely surreal.
I couldn’t process the reality of the moment.
I still couldn’t move my left arm.
At some point the sheet was removed and I said, “There are a lot of people here.”
Larkin Rome Zona Lukasiewicz entered this world at 9:08pm on July 2nd, about an hour and twenty minutes after we arrived at the hospital, and right at five hours after labor began.
She is so beautiful, it’s hard to remember why anything else matters.
Photo Credit: Mandi Campbell, doula extraordinaire
7 thoughts on “Birth & Body Works”
Summer, You are such a gifted writer. I am so sorry you didn’t get the birth experience you had envisioned and so very sorry you had so much pain. Every update on your healthy, beautiful baby girl brings me joy, and the look on your face and Matt’s say it all. I am so happy for you! ❤
Beautiful, crying, holding my breath as I read. Thank you strong woman for sharing.
Such a sweet, difficult, amazing birth story!
Great writing Summer. Larkin is a gift from God.
A “Miracle” story about your gift from God!