My due date came and went, and I was still pregnant. It was amazing to make it to term with Caroline, who had Trisomy 13 and many health concerns, but I was as ready as I’d ever be for her arrival. I kept going in to work, and every day would leave saying, “Maybe see you tomorrow!” Two days later, I was lounging on the couch after dinner, watching television, and had the urge to go to the bathroom. I did, but found that a few minutes later I felt the same urge. I went upstairs to my bedroom and found that my water had broken. I yelled at my husband to come upstairs – I needed someone to confirm what I knew to be true.
My OB was leaving on vacation the next day. We figured he was probably already off the clock, as it was 7:30 at night. We paged him and thought that if we didn’t hear from him in a few minutes, we’d just call the hospital. Just as we were about to do so, he called me back. He told us that we could get going to the hospital if we wanted and he would come in. We decided to do so because I wanted confirmation that my water had broken – my parents would be driving through the night to join us and I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a false alarm. I was not yet having any contractions.
We grabbed our bags (that had been packed for months) and a few last-minute items and left for the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital I was able to walk right in – I was still not having contractions. We were brought to our delivery room and the nurse did a test that confirmed that my water had broken. After signing some paperwork, we settled in. My doula arrived shortly after we did, and I shared my birth plan with the nurses. We were hoping for a med-free, vaginal delivery, but I was open to an epidural if I really thought I needed one – this was my first child and I had no idea how I would handle the pain. However, I wanted to avoid the epidural because of Caroline’s heart defect – I did not know how her heart would handle the drop in blood pressure associated with an epidural. We chose not to have Caroline’s heart monitored – with her condition, there was a very real chance of stillbirth, and I did not want to know during labor if her heart had stopped beating. I don’t know how I could have continued. We were hoping and praying for a miracle – that our baby would be born alive and that we’d get some time with her before she became an angel.
My contractions started around 9 pm. My doula helped to get labor going by walking with us down the halls and getting me a birthing ball to bounce on. My OB arrived around 11:30 pm and checked me – I was at 4 cm. I had been 3 cm the day before at my doctor’s appointment. He wanted to start me on pitocin, and I talked him out of it – I felt that my labor was progressing and I wanted to give it a few more hours before we talked pitocin. He reluctantly agreed. Looking back on it, I think that he was just trying to move things along so that he could be there for delivery. He knew what we were up against and probably did not want a stranger to deliver Caroline.
We continued walking the halls and my contractions started coming closer together. In fact, sometimes I had double contractions, one right after the other. From what I remembered, I thought that could be transition. Sure enough, when my OB checked me a few hours after the first check, I was at 8 cm. Pitocin was now off the table (yay!). At this point, I asked to use the birthing tub. It took some time for the nurses to set it up, but it was worth it – the warm water felt amazing. About a half hour later, I started feeling pressure. I had to come out of the water (which I did NOT want to do) to be checked again, and I was fully dilated! The end was in sight.
I soon reached the pushing stage, which I found the most difficult part of labor. I pushed for about two and a half hours. At one point, I thought I felt Caroline move, but I didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up so I kept it to myself. When Caroline was born, I felt immediate relief. I remember my husband saying, “She made it! She’s alive!” My OB held her up and I saw her beautiful eyes looking back at me. We heard Caroline cry, which was incredible, and she did not need any resuscitation. My husband cut the cord and Caroline was evaluated by the NICU team. Then my husband brought Caroline over to me, and holding her was incredible. She was so perfect and I remember thinking that this time with her was worth every second of heartache over her condition. I told her that we love her so much, and if she needed to go, she could and her parents would be okay. My priest and Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer had been waiting in the lobby for hours, and at this point were invited in, along with my husband’s parents. Caroline was baptized and we were blessed as parents. Everyone said the Our Father together, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room.
We soon learned that Caroline had been born at 5:48 am on March 26, 2014, weighing 5 lbs 2 oz, and was 18 1/4 inches long. The NICU team heard her heart murmur, but there were no surprises that were not seen on ultrasound. The photographer took lots of pictures that we now cherish. I remember my OB crying with tears streaming down his face, and as he was about to leave I asked if he wanted to hold her. He very quickly agreed. Caroline was a true miracle, and I look back on Caroline’s birth with nothing but happiness. I entered the hospital thinking okay, here comes the worst week of your life, and left the hospital a few days later with tears of happiness as our beautiful baby girl came home with us.