Birth Story

It was a Tuesday, and I had three scheduled appointments: a non stress test, a checkup with the OB, and my final growth scan before delivery. 

The non stress test went as usual, which means it didn’t go too well at all; my baby didn’t pass within the time period and so I continued to sit on the monitor. Her heart rate was strong and I could feel her movement, but her heart rate variability just wasn’t quite hitting the benchmark. This had been the case in all but two of the past eight NSTs, though. Since I had an appointment with my OB anyway, the testing center let me go.

The OB appointment went great and was just about finalizing birth plans. My c-section was scheduled for three weeks later, so I left the doctor’s office with a cheerful, see you at the delivery!

But oh, the ultrasound. The tech was very stoic, but she was also new to me and I told myself it could just be her personality. She offered us no “vanity” photos, though, and I could see with each body part she measured that the results were showing as <1%. She went to get the doctor as is the norm, but it seemed to take longer than usual.

When the doctor takes this long, either something is wrong with you or something is wrong with the person who was seen before you.

Finally, the doctor came in.

E hadn’t grown since her 32-week scan.

Well, six grams in three weeks.

I remember sixth grade science.

Six paperclips of weight gain.

Still less than four pounds. IUGR.

“Placenta could be shutting down,” I heard the doctor say.

We’ll admit you. Give you a steroid shot to grow her lungs.

Give you another one 24 hours later.

Give you your daughter 24 hours after that.

And that’s pretty much exactly what happened.

The monitors were strapped to my belly and the shots were spaced 24 hours apart. I met with anesthesiologists several times. Truth be told, I worried about the epidural making me lose the sensation of being able to breathe, which I had been warned about. The doctors agreed to giving the epidural very slowly and stopping when requested.

(Who knew they’d actually make good on that promise. There is no describing the intensity of feeling.)

No one was quite sure whether this would be like having a 32-weeker or a 35-weeker.

I walked into the OR at 3:00. At 3:23 E came screaming into the world, 3 pounds 15.5 ounces, 100% healthy, and breathing on her own. I was wheeled to recovery, where I immediately put all my focus on waking up my lower body. About an hour later, I walked to the intensive care nursery and held my daughter for the very first time.

I didn’t realize the opportunity to hold her would soon be taken away from me, but that’s part of the postpartum story for another day.