anton edward: a birth story

8:59 AM

It was the second week of December and I had completed my third semester of graduate school and was diving head first into completing the items on my “to-do before baby comes” list. I was feeling how fleeting these days were and was hoping I could squeeze it all in. I would lie awake in the wee hours of the morning combing over it all - put up the outdoor christmas lights, finish wrapping presents, buy breast pump, bake christmas cookies, send out christmas cards, sterilize baby bottles… The list went on and on. One morning as I was going over my mental to-do list in my mind I noticed that my feet were exceptionally itchy. I rubbed them against the sheets. Once, twice, three times and yet the itching did not dissipate. Strange I thought… but before I could think more of it there were lunches that needed to be packed and children to be ushered out the door. Another day began. I was 36 weeks and feeling huge, tired and achy all day long. 
The following week the nightly occurrence of my feet itching continued except I also began to itch on the palms of my hands. And then my arms and my stomach. I was becoming more and more uncomfortable. A part of me thought it was just par for the course, another annoying end of pregnancy side effect. But then something clicked. I pieced together in my mind a memory from somewhere - a show, a movie? I recalled that itching and pregnancy is not a good combination. I began to google… The culprit seemed clear - cholestasis of pregnancy. A disorder that develops in pregnancy that causes your liver to malfunction and a buildup of bile to occur in your blood, becoming dangerous and in some cases life threatening for the baby. I panicked, as I am want to do, and Kevin calmed me down but we both agreed to call my OB the following morning. We got a hold of her the next day and she said that although my symptoms sound like cholestasis they would still require the need blood work to confirm. She mentioned that because it’s a liver function test the results take at least 36 hours to come in. I had my bloodwork taken on Thursday and the results would not be in until the following Monday morning. 
However, I remained terribly worried. I was 37 weeks at this point and immediate delivery is required at this point for mothers with this disorder as every day after 37 weeks the amount of bile begins to double. I read things like “your baby could be fine one day and gone the next.” I panicked more. But I tried to trust my OB and we ate dinner, talked about our plans for Saturday (we were going to go to Chestertown as always and visit our beloved bakery there), I took a bath and we went to bed. I slept for about two hours and was woken up by pretty severe pain under my ribs on my right side. Apparently in pregnancy that is where your liver gets pushed to. The itching was also worse than ever and I could not sleep no matter how I tried. I took some Tylenol and went downstairs to work on a pair of mittens I was knitting for Valusha for Christmas. Kevin must have heard me leave and joined me downstairs. I told him what was happening and we decided to call the emergency line at my OB’s office and demand that they look up the results of my bloodwork. The OB on call that day said he would try and would call me back shortly. This was Saturday morning, my mum’s birthday, and we continued with our plans to go out. I was in the middle of getting dressed when my OB called me back. I’ll never forget his words “You tested positive for cholestasis. I need you to pack your bags and head to the hospital now. You are having this baby today.” I hung up, called Kevin into the nursery and collapsed into his arms. It was all so much. The pain, the shock, the fear, the not being ready… My c-section wasn’t supposed to happen for another two weeks. I didn’t feel ready to give up this pregnancy, I was scared for my baby’s safety, I was panicking about the logistics of it all. Kevin calmed me down, helped me focus on the fact that we would be meeting our son in a few hours and we got to work arranging everything as quickly as we could.
By 2 pm we were checked into labor and delivery and they began to prep me. The hospital was oddly quiet and my OB kept getting called into emergencies so we waited. And waited. We talked, we laughed, we cried and sometimes we were just quiet as waves of anxiety rolled through us. I was so grateful for the monitor and the sweet sound of my baby’s heartbeat those three hours, confirming to me that he was ok. 
And then finally, a little bit after 5 pm Kevin changed into scrubs and we began walking to the OR. At this point I remember feeling like I was functioning on pure adrenaline. My memory is choppy but I remember just how massive and painfully bright the room was. And cold, I remember being horribly cold. Then began my most hated part of this entire process - where I feel like a doll. I won’t regale you with the details of my spinal block but let’s just say it took him four tries and after the second one I just felt like I left my body. I am so grateful, however, that at this hospital they made Kevin an integral part of the team - he held my hands and sat right across from me with my feet resting on his knees which helped so much. Finally, he got it in the right place and I began to feel myself evaporate from my feet up. And before I knew it they began. Kevin was to my left and I just kept looking at him to keep myself from focusing on what was happening. I just lay there repeating to myself “Please cry baby, please cry, please cry…” At this point all I cared about was my son coming out healthy. Especially, when I felt like my body had failed him.  
And then those words I wait for the entire nine months - “Ok mom and dad, get ready, here he comes!” And then the cry. That glorious, angelic most beautiful sound in the world. He cried so loud and instantly Kevin and I both began to sob as well. Tears of joy, relief and gratitude. He is here. He is healthy. It is over. I kept saying to him, over the blue curtain that separated us, “Mama is here my baby. I’m here. You’re ok. I love you. I love you so much.”
A few moments later they whisked him away to the pediatrician and Kevin left with them. While my OB and the nurses worked to get me closed up they told me that they will not soon forget this delivery because they could hear him crying before they took him out of me and they had never seen anything like that! I wanted to have them tell me that over and over again. After fearing silence for these last few hours his cry was the sweetest sound. 

In a few minutes Kevin returned with Anton and the baby nurse. They mentioned that he was struggling to breathe and they wanted to try him skin to skin on my chest. Almost immediately he began to try to nurse and latched on perfectly in a few short minutes. He calmed down and began to breathe beautifully. Everyone was thrilled and relieved and they decided to let him stay with me since that seemed to be helping more than anything they could do. And so we were wheeled to post-OP together. Within a few minutes he was sleeping peacefully on my chest. My boy. My son. My perfect angel. I never wanted to let him go. I wanted to breathe in his every sound, smell, every curve of his lips and wisps of hair on his head. I couldn’t stop kissing him. His goodness was pouring over me and I felt like I could cry tears of joy for a hundred years. All this time it was him - this perfect boy! 

Now that we’re two months into life with him I continue to be grateful for his perfect delivery and his health since then. It was not lost on me how risky it was to have him delivered so early and the effect that cholestasis had on both of us. I’m also grateful that at the most critical time I listened to my intuition and called and shared what technically seemed like a “silly” symptom. And then I am even more grateful that I listened when my intuition was pushing me once again to have them look up my results that weekend. I don’t want to imagine what could have happened if we had waited until Monday afternoon. Mamas really do always know best. 

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