By Charity Hubbard
From the time I learned I was pregnant, I knew exactly what I wanted my birth to be like; a natural water birth at a birthing center, surrounded by my loved ones. However, at four months pregnant, I was told this wasn’t a possibility for me as my placenta was weak from the beginning of my pregnancy. It wasn't providing enough nutrients to my baby and she wasn't growing as much as she should have been. On top of that, at 20 weeks I had an amniocentesis, which diagnosed my baby with cystic fibrosis.
I had ultrasounds done every week to monitor my daughter's growth and ultimately decide when she would be better off growing in an incubator than in my own body. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. I felt like my body had failed my baby. At 29 weeks along, my doctor told me I would have a C-section within four weeks because my daughter's growth had slowed to a near stop. Three days later, I awoke to bleeding - and a lot of it. My stomach was tight and I was having a constant contraction.
My mother rushed me to the emergency room, but by the time we got into the OB emergency room, there was no heartbeat coming from my womb. I was losing so much blood that I was disconnected from what was happening. I was in a dream-like state - not unconscious, but not fully there. I told my mom I had to get to the bathroom. She brought me a trashcan and insisted I would have to use that there since I was unable to get up. When I released what I thought was the contents of my bladder, a huge gush of blood appeared. My mother screamed for the doctor to come see. He almost immediately started running me down the hall to the OR.
All of this happened within about 10 minutes of arriving to the hospital. The last thing I remember was the gas mask being placed on my face and counting down from 10. After my baby was born, it took two more hours for the surgeon to stop my internal bleeding. When I finally woke up, four hours had gone by. I nervously asked my mother if my daughter was okay with so much doubt in my heart. When she said "yes," it was the biggest relief I've ever experienced. I wanted to go to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit right then and hold my baby girl, but I couldn't. It took an hour after I woke up to finish my second blood transfusion. I was wheeled to the NICU five hours after my baby’s birth.
It was then, that I saw her: my precious little girl. She was under a c-pap machine so I couldn't see her face. She had five wires attached to her chest and belly, and an IV in her tiny hand. I had no idea what she looked like aside from her incredibly small size. She was born 2 pounds, 5 ounces, 11 inches long. At that point I wasn't allowed to hold her. In fact, I only had a few minutes to look at her because I needed to receive another transfusion. I put my hand on her little body and wept. She was alive and it was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. I was instantly in love and desperately devoted.
When my brief visit ended, I went to my room down the hall to get blood and morphine. At one in the morning, 11 hours after giving birth, I held my baby for the first time. A nurse placed her on my waiting chest, and it was the most magical moment of my life. From that point we spent 61 devastating, miraculous, sad, exciting, grueling and love-filled days in the NICU.
I have no words to fully explain the journey we took. I was constantly feeling a whirlwind of conflicting emotions, but the one that always prevailed was LOVE. I realized my body had not failed me. It grew a mighty warrior who fought through prematurity and will fight cystic fibrosis for the rest of her life. My birth was the opposite of what I had hoped for, but it was perfect in its own way. The experience taught me how to be strong and positive in even the hardest of times.