I am Jennie Isaacs, a former preschool teacher, turned stay at home mom. I am 36 and have four children: three beautiful girls and one adorable boy. I am married to an amazing, supportive man named Justin, and he is perfect for me. We live in Waterdown Ontario, which is a nice small town, but unfortunately, is away from our family and friends.
Last year I became pregnant with my fourth child; we were thrilled to find out it was a boy. During my pregnancy, I dealt with hypertension issues and was frequently in the hospital as a result. I was lucky to be in the care of great doctors who decided to put me on blood pressure medication near my third trimester. Considering all of the complications, my doctor recommended that I deliver the baby early; scans showed he was healthy, and the doctor felt it was better that I be induced, than to push it with my rising blood pressure. My husband and I agreed, so I went in for an induction; it was my first induction in all four pregnancies. Everything was planned ahead of time, and the kids were taken care of thanks to my kind and helpful mother.
I handled my labour like I usually do; I got into a quiet meditative state to manage the pain. At one point during labour, I started to worry about feeling the pain of being ripped open by a huge baby. I was convinced that he was enormous and asked for an epidural. During the epidural, I felt a pinch followed by pain in my head, and told the anaesthesiologist right away. I also told him that I felt everything he was doing. Unfortunately the epidural didn’t take; I felt everything and came down with a spinal migraine.
So, here I am in labour with a migraine. Luckily, my husband was right there with cold cloths, and I had a supportive nurse that knew exactly how to handle the situation. When it came time to push, they had me stay on my side, as it would help with the migraine. Gibson came out so perfect and cute. I held him in my arms for the longest time and it was amazing.
While I was holding him, the doctor let me know that my placenta was coming out in chunks, and that I was bleeding too much. The nurse pushed on my stomach and both her and the doctor decided that I needed to be rushed to the OR. My baby was removed from me, and at that moment, my older children and mom walked into the room. They froze in the doorway, which puzzled me: I didn’t realize that my room was covered in blood. My husband ushered them over to see their baby brother while the medical team explained to the adults what was happening. I was rushed off to the OR.
I remember them taking out my epidural and the migraine leaving. I remember them waking me up saying that they can’t stop the bleeding and that they needed consent to give me a hysterectomy. I remember waking up to my husband crying at my bedside, then waking up again to the doctor explaining that she wanted to try a 24 hour procedure on me before giving me the hysterectomy. They put a balloon filled with saline beside my uterus, and I was pumped full of medication to make my uterus contract. I had four blood transfusions, and had an IV going in each arm with bags and wires everywhere. After the procedure, they returned me to a room and brought my husband and baby to me.
While I was in the OR, my husband was in the nursery taking care of our baby. After the procedure, I was too weak and sore to hold or breastfeed him. I didn’t get the chance to care for him for over 24 hours. My heart hurt every time I looked at him or heard him cry. I felt so weak and sad.
I couldn’t eat for a couple of days; they only allowed me to have ice chips in case I needed to be rushed to surgery. My older children were able to visit again. They were worried, but happy to see me cleaned up, sitting and talking. It was tough trying to explain to them what was going on as it was so raw and still ongoing. After 24 hours, the doctor came in and explained that he would remove the balloon. If I didn’t bleed, then I could eventually get up, eat, and start moving around. If I did start to bleed, I would have to go into surgery right away. Thankfully my body cooperated, and removing the balloon went well.
We remained at the hospital and the nurses explained that Gibson had a low temperature, low blood sugar, jaundice, and was going through withdrawal. The nurse explained that the withdrawal was a side effect of me taking blood pressure medication while pregnant. I felt awful, devastated, and betrayed. No one told me that would happen; I wanted to turn back time and take it all back. Maybe if I napped, sat down more, tried to relax during the pregnancy, I wouldn’t have needed to take the medication? It was heartbreaking to watch him twitch, and see him cry when they took blood from him to check his levels. My husband and I did a lot of skin to skin with Gibson to sooth him. The skin contact and mixture of formula and breastmilk helped keep his levels up. After a couple of days recovering in the hospital, we were able to go home; we were released with the understanding that we had to come back to get Gibson’s levels checked.
While we were at home, I started to get horrible headaches. After a few days, I noticed that they were only while I was sitting up. I mentioned this to a home visit nurse and she told me to go back to the hospital. I went and was sent to Day Surgery. Apparently, the epidural caused a spinal leak; fluid was dripping from my spine and not flowing to my head. I had a procedure called a blood patch; it was far from enjoyable and I hope to never have it again. After the procedure, I had to lay in recovery for two hours. When the nurses instructed me to stand, I broke down crying: the headache was finally gone! Relief washed over me. The spot on my spine was extremely tender and sore, and I was told to take it easy and let it heal. Several months later, that spot is still sore.
As I am writing this, it’s been seven months. We are all healthy. My son is thriving. My system is healed and back to normal. We have made the decision not to have anymore children. My husband’s experience was also a challenging one: he watched them take me to the OR, and had to sign papers in case I died. It was a lot for us all to go through. I tried to put on a brave face for everyone, while inside I was scared. I honestly randomly broke down crying for a few weeks. What was supposed to be a joyous time, turned into a scary stressful time. From being all smiles and holding him after birth, to being rushed to surgery, to recovery, to surgery again: I feel ripped off. My strong woman body betrayed me: it did wrong the one thing that it was supposed to do right, and has done beautifully in the past. And to top it off, my doctor warned me that if I have more kids, this will likely happen again. Yes I have four now, but it’s still hard to hear. I feel like I failed. Like we didn’t have that perfect birth to remember. I know that I should be thankful that we are here, healthy and well, but sometimes, I am not sure how to overcome these feelings.
If you have also experienced a tragic birth – a birth that went the opposite of what you expected, you are not alone, and your feelings are warranted. Talk those feelings out, and let the people in your life that love you, help you heal physically, emotionally, and mentally. Cry in their arms, let them cook some meals, do the laundry…etc. It’s important to let family and friends assist and show you their love and support. It really helps take some of the stress and burden off your shoulders when you let people support you.
Take the help that medical teams offer: home nurses, breastfeeding clinics, mom groups… etc. You will meet others that understand your situation, can knowledgeably answer your questions, and provide support while you are recovering.
Take a deep breath, and look at your baby. You did it mama. You fought, and you survived. Be proud of your strength. Embrace the mom instinct and keep pushing forward. It is so worth it and rewarding. That little one is looking at you already and wow, the strength and perseverance you are teaching him. You are inspiring.
Through this experience, I am reminded that each birth story is different. That we as women are incredible and push our bodies to the max; we keep going regardless of what happens. Sometimes we feel like giving up, but then we look at our families, and the deep love we have for them keeps us going. I am reminded that we all have a unique experience, and it is very important to listen to one another not to judge, but to help lift each other up. It is critical that we share our stories and let people know that they are not alone in their struggles; there is someone out there that understands, someone with a listening ear, and/or a positive kind word. So a major thank you to the people who care and are kind; it means a lot.