Rhode's Birth Story

11:33 PM

On Thursday night (January 31st) contractions started. We went to the hospital (an hour away) at 2am because they got 2.5 mins apart and pretty intense and I found out much to my dismay I was only .5cm dilated... which made NO sense for how things felt in my body and this not being my first labour experience. Back home we went... and I laboured at home another full day and then drove back the next night around 9pm still having regular 3-7min apart contractions that had picked up a lot in discomfort to find out I was 1.5cm dilated. By that point I was in tons of pain and felt like I was entering into the “transition” stage of labour yet nothing was actually happening dilation wise. Again made no sense. I was given a shot of gravol and pain relief to try and at least get me some sleep and was sent home again. It made me exhausted enough between contractions but didn’t even touch the pain, causing me to still wake every 10 minutes all night as by then the contractions had started to space apart a bit more.

Finally on Saturday morning I was beginning to really question what was happening and I was not enjoying any of it by that point.  I had now endured days of contractions without cervical progress and I was so exhausted. I suddenly started feeling so OFF like something was wrong. I felt dizzy, sick, and extremely worried - just this sense of feeling like something is wrong in your body. In my past experiences, when I have felt like this my blood pressure has been off so because of that I had purchased my own home blood pressure arm band thing off Amazon in my first trimester when my blood pressure was low just to keep an eye on it. I explained to Scott I wasn’t jumping to conclusions but I felt off and wanted to take my blood pressure so he brought me the machine to the bedroom where I was working through contractions. I took my BP and it was 150/92. I explained to Scott that number was too high - something was wrong. We took it again to be sure and it was 143/94. We paged our midwife and explained to her that we were coming back again because we were worried about my blood pressure and I wasn’t feeling well and she agreed a check was in order. We packed up once more and drove the hour once again to the hospital and I said in the car “I don’t care if I’m 2cm, I am requesting to be induced. This baby needs out. Something feels really off.” When we got to the hospital and I got checked, I surprised my midwife who wasn’t expecting much progress and was already 6-7 cms dilated and my cervix had even more give than that so she said it was go time. I burst into tears because I was just SO relieved to finally be getting on with this delivery and be admitted and not have to worry about advocating for starting labour up with drugs. I was so happy my body was working hard and that my cervix was finally co-operating. So my midwife explained she would like to break my water as it was bulging and that step would help things along even faster as my contractions were intense but still spaced apart quite oddly every 7-10 minutes. 

Much to my severe dismay, when she broke my water, there was meconium present pretty badly in colour which signals that the baby is in distress. This happened with Isla too but as I was overdue with her, we didn’t immediately know it meant distress for her. Since I was 39+5, it wasn’t as likely to be from a result of an overdue baby’s bowels moving and more likely pointed to a distressed baby…my heart sunk to the floor. I was suddenly so upset as flashbacks to Isla’s delivery came pouring into my mind. "Not again...no...not again..." I thought to myself.

Once on the monitor, the baby’s heart rate wasn’t coming back up strong after contractions - again what happened for Isla. My anxiety was awful and I was shaking in disbelief that this was happening. It honestly felt like a complete nightmare. Every contraction sent me into panic as the monitor dipped and beeped at me that baby was in danger. I had no pain meds but it’s interesting that when I had something so much bigger than pain distracting me, I hardly felt the contractions - all I was doing was worrying about the baby. The room began to fill with more help. They kept flipping me in my contractions to see if any position helped the heart rate come back up strong but nothing was working and it was getting bad. I was given oxygen via a mask but no one explained if it was for me or the baby, they just kept saying to keep it on and that it was going to help keep us safe. I honestly had to wonder in that moment if I was also going downhill. The on-call OB was suddenly present and she explained to me this might be going to csection… which of course was hard news to hear. Thirty minutes prior I thought I was about to have a quick and drug free vaginal delivery without interventions and here I was finding out so quickly that the dream I had of that kind of delivery was very quickly slipping out of my grasp. However, given the situation, I also felt an odd sense of relief - I just wanted this baby out. She was super kind and calm and wanted to keep me informed. She explained baby was likely in a bad position and may possibly be having cord issues. She was going to watch a few more contractions and get me prepped for a spinal c-section… as the baby was not descended enough into the birth canal to attempt to use a vacuum for a vaginal delivery. It was also much too late in the game to try to use pitocin to get baby to move down fast - she clearly explained the baby wouldn’t survive any stronger contractions. So I just nodded with tears rolling down my face and said I understood. She let me know if things changed and there wasn't another 20 minutes in our favour to get me the spinal, that I would have to be put under. I was informed, knew I had no other options and I said I was ready. I signed a consent form for surgery while in the middle of a contraction. 

Then suddenly, it really turned for the worst on the monitors and people came running in and explained there was no time and they had to rush me to the operating room and put me under as fast as possible to get baby out. Panic was kind of taking over…people were literally yelling for backup. Once in the OR, my OB was paging for help she needed a second doctor to be in the room and couldn’t find one. The person responding to the page asked "sorry what doctor do you need?" and she replied "any doctor in the hospital! now!" It was crazy in the room... i saw the looks on everyone’s faces and knew this was a scary situation. My OB was on the ball but so annoyed at the wait it was taking to get the right team in together. I laid there in pain not knowing if my baby was even still alive as the monitors for baby were gone now - no time to hook anything like that up. The anesthesiologist was this sweet old man who stood beside me and talked to me and was my calm amongst the chaos. He patted my head and said “bless you dear” right before they began and I remember thinking this man was a sign that God was in the room with me and hadn’t left me alone. Then I was immediately put under.

When I came to, I was in recovery alone with some nurses. I was so nervous to ask or say anything because I didn’t know if I wanted to hear the news. They brought me a drink and I heard someone mention “boy” but I didn’t know who they were talking about or if it was my baby or someone else’s. My midwife came in and said the csection went well and baby was being worked on and was okay. She told me Scott had seen the baby and asked if i wanted Scott. I said yes and by then I was in tears. Scott came in and I learned I had a boy and he was okay. I didn’t expect anything further yet sadly there was more. I learned that when he came out they had to resuscitate him because the meconium was inhaled into his lungs and he couldn’t breathe... and because of the frailty of a newborn being resuscitated, the contents of his chest had been pushed to one side and his right lung had collapsed in the process. They immediately made the decision to put a tube in his chest to fix that problem but it was a serious thing. Treatable, hopeful, something this hospital had always had success with, but still a scary situation. A tiny newborn boy. Struggling. Down in the NICU. It was a lot to take in but I was grateful for the team who obviously knew what they were doing and grateful that my little boy had survived the awful situation that he was put in.

Rhode Atticus came into this world at 4:22pm on Saturday February 2nd weighing 8lbs 3oz and was 22inches long. He looks so much like his sister but with more masculine features.

It was such a mystery how the birth had gone so wrong. After consulting with the OB in the days that followed - this is what she believes was happening:

His cord was being restricted - it was wrapped around his shoulder when he came out so when I would contract and my body would try to send his shoulders and head into birth position it would send him into distress because his oxygen wasn’t being delivered via the squished cord. My body was in labour for so long just trying to send him down into the birth canal/proper position and not progressing (and I’m sure Rhode was giving pushback against the contractions to fight for his life) which is why my cervix was hardly responding. Contractions were strong despite little dilation at first because my body kept sending stronger and stronger contractions trying to get him down. It’s hard for me to think about how hard that experience would have been for him…his safe haven suddenly turning on him and becoming a threatening environment. It really breaks my heart but he is a resilient one. It's mind blowing to think about how after labouring for two days, if I had have waited only another 30 mins to go to the hospital, I could have very likely lost my baby. 30 freaking minutes. If I hadn't checked my blood pressure, if I hadn't trusted my gut, if I hadn't insisted that I was done waiting and it was time to ask for intervention. It blows my mind when I look down at my healthy son and think about how differently things could be if I hadn't trusted my gut.

Things were really difficult and really emotional the first few days processing all that had happened but there was also so much joy and oh so much cuteness watching my boy in his NICU home hanging out and seeing him open his eyes to look at me when I talked to him and rubbed his head. On the Monday (day 3) I cried for most of the day without being able to stop or control it. I was assured the weapiness was normal especially given what we had just been through. NICU life is definitely a type of hard you can't possibly understand until you're precious baby is in there. Not being able to hold my baby whenever I wanted was so hard. We had big issues at first establishing nursing because his tubes and cords made him irritable and fussy and he didn’t have patience for latching. It was so hard to hold a rooting baby who was giving every feeding signal in the book and not feed them. At one point they were even holding feeds as they were worried about his digestion and risk of infection or bowel shutdown and that was incredibly hard for me as I could tell our boy just wanted food and he would look at me with this expression that broke my heart. An overnight nurse and I ended up working together and following our instincts to somewhat ignore the orders on that one and prove that Rhode could handle the feedings which was successful and ended up allowing him to continue on milk via his nose tube. By the next night he was able to finally latch which was a huge victory! Once he latched it was so much smoother of a journey for us with breastfeeding.

In the NICU you have to stay positive and not let the worries get to you. It’s hard seeing anxious parents worried about their babies. It's hard being one of those parents. But there is also such a solidarity in there as we all “get it” and understand the amount that it sucks. Everyone is rooting for each other. I worried not even meeting Rhode for many hours after he was born and not being able to hold him and nurse him would make the bonding difficult and make my milk be very slow but it came in no problem. I did some things to try and help with that like essential oils and lots of hand expressing and in the end my supply is basically a fountain of gold which is awesome. I also worried he wouldn’t know me or we would feel a disconnection but my fears were tossed aside when I was very obviously the only person he wanted when he cried... even the nurses knew the boy just wanted his mama. There is something so special about how he looks up at me. I know he knows I am the one who carried him and that is such a beautiful feeling. As I battle (knowingly irrational) feelings of failure once again, I am so comforted by how he looks for me and is soothed by me.

Facing the reality that my second birth was not easier than Isla’s like I had hoped but actually more traumatizing than the first is so hard. I really had every positive thought and prepped myself for a healthy and peaceful delivery but sometimes life has other plans. Despite the fact that this isn’t what I wanted, I am so blessed. To be honest a csection was my biggest fear about labour for so long and now after sitting in the NICU for countless hours amongst other anxious families with babies who need special care, a csection is the least of my worries. On top of that, my recovery though not easy by any means has been manageable and predictable. It has definitely been easy compared to what I experienced previously. My recovery after Isla was a complete rollercoaster and it was very challenging and painful - I cant even put into words what kind of pain it was to tear a third degree episiotomy and be restitched with dwindling local freezing only to then proceed to get it infected twice and later cauterized. It just really really sucked. Literally a hundred times worse than this recovery. I’ve actually been relieved and doing so well physically!

So I do feel very grateful. Blessed to be much more mobile this time. Blessed to be able to fully care for Rhode how he needs. No hemmoraging or anemia this time. My iron was only low enough to be advised to keep on the prenatals. This was just a new mountain for us to move. I feel so thankful to have been in good hands, with great medical staff all around us, and I’m thankful for my husband who has been by my side through every step of this - a solid rock for our family. Our parents and a few friends have made sure all was well on the home front with Isla which has helped us a lot.

We spent 6 days in the hospital, which all things considered was rather short. I am amazed at how fast Rhode healed. Every single day was improvement after improvement. X-rays got better and better. Meconium that was pushed down into his lungs worked itself out over the first few days until it was no longer a problem. The placed chest tube corrected the pressure in his chest, putting things back where they needed to go and giving his lung the support it needed to re-inflate. Eventually the tube was clamped for a trial day to see if his lung would collapse again. Then after a nervous 24 hours, the X-ray showed his lung was strong. The next step was tube removal which was also a nerve-racking situation. We were in the NICU around dinner when the nurse told us our Dr. was on his way to take the tube out. No real warning, just that it was happening in a few minutes. We were given the option to be there which we accepted. I masked up and was able to administer sugar water (babies love it for pain) and hold Rhode’s hand the whole procedure which was very quick but still hard as heck to watch. We were informed that the procedure carried a 5-10% risk that the lung would collapse and so we had to just wait and see what the next day’s X-ray said. We watched his monitors like hawks to see how his oxygen levels looked as those would indicate a sudden problem but they never faltered. The next X-ray showed no issues and so we knew we were on the home stretch. The last couple days in the NICU and the hospital overall were spent watching Rhode's chest site to ensure his small incision did not get infected and that it healed properly before we could be discharged. They also require NICU parents to have their baby in their room at least one night just to make sure the parents are confident to take the baby home and care for them on their own.

On Friday morning (day 6), our paediatrician came to our room and said to us “so on your last day here I am going to ask you how to actually pronounce your last name...” and proceeded to ask us how it's pronounced and I smiled as I knew it was go-time. (For the record it's per-ont not parent lol). In a crazy turn of emotional events, after being discharged from the hospital we faced another snowmaggedon as weather for the past few weeks has been just awful. We waited for hours in our room anxiously looking outside and checking the weather app hoping it would clear for us. We saw a clearing in visibility and radar and decided to try and make a break for it only to get to the elevator and learn that our highway had just been closed because of an accident. Our hearts completely sunk. We went back up to the paeds floor to request to possibly stay longer but they had already deleted us from the computer - no longer patients. The nurse offered to let us sit in their meeting room until we figured out a plan. I sat in there and just cried and cried (awkwardly as people walked by). I hadn’t seen Isla in 4 days and was just so done. So ready to go home. I had done exceptionally well at staying positive the whole week and loved all the great care we got, but being released only to then be stuck was just too much for my tired, hormonal self to handle. Hotels were looked into, families offered to cover costs, we were advised to stay put…and off we went on the drive home...lol. We took a route that would add about 20 minutes to our drive but one that the roads were open and someone had confirmed for us that the route wasn’t too bad weather wise. Nothing could stop us and although it was a careful and slow drive, we both knew it was the right choice. We had driven through worse for a lot less before. As we pulled in the driveway, I finally relaxed. Home had never felt so good. Seeing Isla meet her brother and say "baby Rhode!" was one of the highlights of my life and I just couldn't wait.

I wanted to share the story earlier while we were in the hospital but we didn’t have internet which made that hard to add photos to. Mostly I worried about sharing the story until we were out of the woods. I was still in the thick of all the possibilities and all the uncertainties and wasn’t ready to involve the world in our story yet. We were taking things one X-ray at a time to be honest, and I didn’t want to face bad news, never mind have to deliver it to many people wondering. So now that we are home I feel I can finally share as I know people wondered what happened and I knew eventually I would want to share Rhode’s story. Around the time of discharge, Rhode's doctor asked us if we had any questions and I asked what we needed to know for future care for him considering what he had endured - would he have any issues? The doctor plainly and confidently told us "no, he is going to live a normal life." This was coming from the most thorough doctor I have ever encountered...a fact based person who explains every possibility to you in detail. The fact that he told us he had absolutely no concerns for Rhode was such a triumphant moment for us. Such a breath of fresh air after a week that I am not sure between the anxiety and the oversupply of milk that I ever got a full breath of air...haha.

We know that without much info to go on, people still prayed hard for us and sent a lot of love, well wishes and all the positivity our way and we felt it ALL. Honestly, despite a rough start, we truly felt all the goodness that kept coming. Thank you to everyone for your love and support! God has been so good to us...using such a scary situation to strengthen us and give us a new empathy and understanding with parents of sick kids. It's something that we hope allows us moving forward to bless others going through tough situations with their children as a support in ways we wouldn't have previously known how to properly meet them where they are at and make sure they have what they need. Now we know.

So... we are home and learning to do life with two littles…and loving this blessing of being able to raise a son! Isla loves her brother. She mostly just loves babies and loves that he is here. I know any of her other emotions that may come out will be valid and was expecting her to be a lot more conflicted to be honest, but she has been great!

You may be curious about the name since it’s a unique one. Rhode is a name Scott had picked out for many years to name his son after what he considers to be the most badass and awesome contribution to 70s music - the Fender Rhodes piano. We decided to drop the “S” on the end because we liked the sound of Rhode better. For myself, I think of rhode as a nod to our “road” ie. our journey with all its twists and turns as a couple and as a family and how it has all led us to this place of grace and beauty... to be “Parents” and all the miracles that have been poured into that. Atticus is a very notable literary character as the father in To Kill a Mockingbird, who fights for fairness and kindness. But the name itself means “father-like” and I could have no greater prayer for my son than that he would turn out with a heart of gold like his daddy, so the middle name was my pick as a tribute to great fathers and in particular, my husband and as a prayer that Rhode would have the heart to “father” the generation that comes after him…as that’s what life is truly all about - passing the torch and making the world a better place for those who follow us.

This first photo was taken only about 4 hours before Rhode was born! The rest document our journey in the hospital from labour, NICU, our own room, and heading home.





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