Cora Lillian – A Birth Story

Cora Lillian Fields was born Tuesday, November 7, 2017 

She was born at 8:25am, 6lbs 8oz, 20.5″ long via RCS/failed VBAC

Monday 11/6, 3:45am- I woke up from my dead sleep to the discernible click of Ellie opening her bedroom door. “Mommy? Daddy?”

I roll out of bed, find her waiting in the hallway, and pick her up. She lays down on my shoulder and I carry her back into her room. I stand in the dark swaying slightly and rubbing her back until she quietly says “Ellie bed.” I lay her back down in her bed. “Sit, mommy?” “Yes baby, I’ll sit with you for a few minutes.”

I wrap her in her blankets as she picks which  of her many stuffed friends she wants to cuddle. I kiss her on the head and sit next to her bed for a few minutes until she’s settled. I stand, kiss her on the head, tell her to have sweet dreams and that I love her. She replies with a sweet, sleepy whisper “yeah.”

I get back into bed, get as comfortable as possible being 38+ weeks pregnant, and I lay quietly for a minute. As I’m about to close my eyes I hear a soft thump, a noise reminiscent of knocking your elbow into something. I feel the thump. It’s soft, subtle, deep in my belly. I glance at the clock; 4:04am. Then I feel liquid.

Bolt out of bed, doubled over and squeezing as I attempt to get myself into the bathroom. Fluid. Lots of it. I’m officially two for two on containing my waters breaking to over a toilet. Self high five.

Once the flow slows enough I grab the meager box of regular pads out from under the sink, hold one to myself, and poke my head out the bathroom door, saying my husband’s name a few times until he wakes. “My water just broke.” “Ok.” The exact same five word conversation we had two years ago.

We take our time getting ready. We both call out of jobs, alert our parents, I text our doula and alert her that we’re up and I’ve ruptured. I quietly breath through minor but consistent contractions as Rob gets everything, including himself, ready to go. And just shy of 6am we head out for the hospital.

Triage- Blood work, sooooooooo many questions about my medical history, sign alllllllllllllll the forms. Check the fluids still leaking from me. Yup, definitely amniotic fluid. Get checked; roughly 1cm, 50% effaced, and that little stinker is so high at -3 station.

Labor- Rob, Cristina and I get moved to an L&D room. They want to monitor me for a bit and while they do that they scrounge up a walking monitor for me. As an anticipated VBAC I’m required to be monitored the whole time, but with the ambulatory monitors I’m allowed to roam freely. Cristina kindly walks about a gazillion laps around the same 1/3 of the L&D ward with me for about 45 minutes. My contractions that were so consistent at home had fizzled down to barely noticeable while in triage, so I’m hopefully walking will help. It does some, but I’m not in active labor by any means. I spend a couple of hours without interventions; walking, bouncing on the yoga ball, whatever I can to hopefully go into labor on my own. But it doesn’t come.

Around noon my assigned resident lets me know she’s spoken with Dr. Cicerlli and they’re planning to go sans pharmaceuticals on me to get me progressing. She comes bringing the gift of a foley catheter, balloon, whatever you want to call it. It takes some work, but the resident and my fantastic nurse Bobbi get the balloon in, one part inside my uterus pressing against my cervix, the other side in the vaginal canal pressing on the opposite side of the cervix. They’ll plan to check me in 12 hours unless it comes out on it’s own.

My contractions start almost immediately. The pressure on my cervix is intense and my uterus responds angrily. I go from not really having any contractions to suddenly having them every 2-3 minutes, lasting a minute plus, and I’m suffering through them. I haven’t had contractions this painful or intense since I was 8cm in unmedicated labor with Ellie. I have no idea how long I stood beside the bed, trying to breath through them with Rob and Cristina trying to talk my through them. I tried to hold out as long as I could. I did. But since the balloon would fall out naturally between 3 and 4cm and it wasn’t budging, I knew it was going to be a long haul. I tried to maintain a clear mind and hold out, but I eventually tapped out.

My resident and Bobbi came in to discuss pain meds with me. They deflate the vaginal balloon so they can check me. I’ve only progressed to 2cm and 70% effacement, still -3 station. I’m not allowed an epidural yet. My options are now narcotic meds.

With Ellie I had begged for an epidural that I never got. They gave my three shots of morphine, one every time I asked for an epi. Each shot made me sick to my stomach. After much back and forth I agree to a dose on the pretense that they give me zofran first to try and combat the nausea. So they run some zofran through my IV, let it settle for a minute before chasing it with the morphine. I get almost instant relief from the contractions. They’re persisting, but they suddenly become tolerable. I can talk again, I can move around again, I can pee without getting stuck on the toilet mid painful contraction.

Things get a little fuzzy for me here. I’m tired and mostly laboring in bed. I’m able to doze in between contractions that have spaced out a bit. And the three of us wait while I labor and hopefully progress. Finally, around 11pm I get up to use the use the bathroom. As badly as I need to pee it’s not coming out. I try to push a little and the balloon drops out. Nice!

I buzz for the nurse and resident. They come to check me. My cervix is still somewhat posterior, about 3.5cm, back to only being 50% effaced, and that damn kid is still sitting at -3 station. They hook me up a pitocin drip and I get into the bed. Every 30 minutes they increase the doseage. Every increase brings with it an increase in contractions. I’m not sure how many times they turned it up, I’m tired at this point. They’re happy with everything they’re seeing for a few hours, but at some point in the 2am hour on Tuesday 11/7 they decide they want to place a scalp monitor on the baby. The belly monitor isn’t cutting it. They check me and I’m 5cm, back to 70% effacement. They take some time and work to get the scalp sensor in and on Cora’s head. They think it’s placed and I ask if I can get up and labor out of bed again. Sure thing.

I get up and they lose the monitor. Don’t worry, this happens sometimes. Get back in bed so they can replace it. Except the resident placing it suddenly gets quiet. She’s feeling around, causing me some pretty good discomfort. She asks for an ultrasound. Someone disappears for a few minutes then comes back wheeling one in. They all crowd the machine and talk quietly as they point at the screen. I ask them what they’re looking at.

A hand.

Cora had, as it seems, swiped the monitor off her head then decided to leave her arm up over her head. Her hand is now in my cervical opening. The resident decides to try and manually move her hand. A good amount of painful digging around and she comes up unsuccessful, letting us know that Cora even went as far as to squeeze her fingers.

Babies can, and are, delivered with hands against their faces. It happens and while it makes the pushing process more difficult, it’s doable. Except Cora doesn’t have her hand against her face, she has her entire arm wrapped across the top of her head the pressing down into my cervix.

Dr. Cicerelli comes in because the residents begin talking c-section and I lose it. I immediately begin sobbing. She comes in to talk to me about my options. Rob and Cristina ask well thought out questions, I try to see reason in every direction but my heart was so set on a VBAC. No one can answer me one way or another. We can proceed with the VBAC plan and hope she moves, try a few things to encourage her to move, or we can opt for the c-section. I ask everyone to leave the room until it’s just Rob and I. I continue to cry. It feels so unfair. I don’t understand how other women can just have babies. I’m trying so hard, doing everything right, and it’s not working, again.

It’s now 4am on Tuesday 11/7, 24 hours post membrane rupture, and I concede. 

I agree to the c-section through tears. I’m frustrated, hurt, and feeling betrayed by my body. I know it’s nothing I did, nothing Cora did, nothing anyone did. It just is. They tentatively schedule me for a 7:30am c-section. In the time between I’m told they’ll turn off my pit drip, have me labor naturally in a few different positions to encourage her to move, and they’ll check me at 7am. If she’s moved her arm we’ll proceed with my VBAC plans. If not I’ll go in for surgery.

The three of us settle back in. Rob and Cristina sleep while I labor in bed, alone, as quietly as I can so I don’t wake them. For two hours I labor alone in one position. It’s killing my hip but I ignore it. A nurse comes in and helps me switch positions, hoping it’ll encourage Cora to move. My new position is even more uncomfortable, but I continue to keep my laboring noises low and to myself.

At 7am the shift change happens and instead of Dr. Cicerelli coming in, Dr. Nemani comes in. We chat for a couple of minutes then she goes to check me. I don’t ask my cervical stats. They no longer matter. She lets me know Cora’s arm is still over her head and that her hand has moved lower into the birth canal. It’s no longer safe for me to deliver vaginally.

At this point things for my surgery begin to proceed. Anesthesia comes in and goes over things with me, sign all the forms, blahblahblah.  A nurse tries to flush my IV and manages to back up the saline into my hand, so thy had to remove it. I’m so full of pumped in fluids that it takes four OR nurses 30 minutes to replace a new IV, including blowing out a vein in one of my hands. Insult to injury.

I thank Cristina for everything but send her off. At this point I just need my husband. We’ve been here before.

For my section with Ellie it was emergent. They prepped an OR and a delivery table simultaneously but when they made the decision, no one talk it over with me for hours. There was no choice and everything happened so fast and furiously. I’m very blurry on those details. This is not the case now. I calmly brought to the OR, they take their time getting my spinal in place, meticulously setting everything they need up, talking and moving slowly through their motions. Dr. Nemani asks what kind of music, if any, I’d like on. I decline. They let Rob in and get started.

When I agreed to this c-section it came with some non-negotaible concessions on my part. I was to be allowed to hold her once she’s out and do skin to skin there in the OR. I was calling the shots in recovery. No one was allowed in until I say so, no one piles shots of morphine and fentynal into my IV line this time without asking, I was to be given time and space for skin to skin and breast feeding. I make the decisions. And they agreed.

And I did have a very different experience. Last time I was scared, loopy as all get out on narcotics. Everything felt like it happened so fast and I barely got to see Ellie before Rob disappeared out of the OR with her.

This time I realized I could see my surgery reflected in the giant round light above me. I watched them cut me open, move my insides around as needed, and pop a small, blue little person from my midsection. They held her up over the drape for us to see, something we did not get last time.

Rob got up to go see her, talk with the OR team as they cleaned her up, weighed and measured her, then her brought her over. He held her a while, then a nurse undid her swaddle, unbuttoned my robe, and gently placed her on my chest. And I held my sweet baby for the first time.

Postpartum- I’m doing all right at this point. We head home today to begin our new life as a family of four. I very much look forward to it. Cora is a calm, sweet baby who just wants to be held and snuggled. Breastfeeding is actually working this time which makes me feel good. That’s another experience I struggled with and never accomplished with Ellie.

I’m still sad about having had a second c-section. I wasn’t what I wanted. I feel like to some degree I’ve been cheated out of ever getting to experience what it’s like to birth my own baby, to have that fresh little one plopped right onto my chest as they take that first breath. There is only one OB practice in Syracuse that offers VBAC after multiple sections and my doctors have offered me their info, but I don’t want it. If we have a third I will schedule a c-section. I just can’t put myself through this again. It’s too hard physically but more so emotionally. I definitely don’t have the emotional where with all to do this again. I’m grappling with feelings of bodily betrayal even though in my heart I know it’s not true. I know I didn’t fail, but it’s hard not to think that. I do feel cheated to some degree. It’s hard not to feel as so, even if it’s not true.

I was given the option to proceed with my VBAC attempt and decided against it because no matter how I feel, it’s not about me. Not entirely. Not anymore. It is about me to some degree, but it’s also about Rob, and Ellie, and Cora. It’s about doing what was healthiest and safest for our family. That’s what everything boiled down to. My feelings will heal and fade, along with the eight inch scar across my tummy. But like that scar, they’ll always be there. Not as noticeable, healed and fine, but still a little visible. And it’s okay.

Both my births have now started and ended the same; water breaks without me going into labor on my own and ends with my babies being born via cesarean section.  What transpired in between is very different, but both have happy endings; a beautiful new baby and a growing family full of love.

Now I rest, I recover, and I love my family unconditionally with my whole heart. No matter the way our family was built, it is beautiful, it is perfect, and I couldn’t be more in love.

3 Replies to “Cora Lillian – A Birth Story”

  1. Beautifully written story. Thanks so much for sharing your honest thoughts and feelings. Completely natural and acceptable to feel that way. No matter how she got into the world, Cora is a lucky girl with a sweet sister, a loving dad and a beautiful, smart mother. ❤️

  2. Congratulations Courtney! She is just beautiful!! I don’t blame you one bit, labor and delivery is so incredibly emotional and trying sometimes, but I agree… at the end of the day, you are so blessed with a beautiful healthy family! Best wishes for a smooth, quick recovery!

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