xander's birth story (aka SoulCycle saved my life)

I wasn’t even planning on writing my birth story. In all seriousness I thought it was a little silly. Like, aren’t most stories the same? Turns out, no.

About that whole beginning thing: let’s just go with the night we headed to the hospital. It is important to note that at this point I was 12 days overdue. AWESOME.

After a Friday night of scarfing down pizza & french fries and watching the ‘Hoos take a big L in the Sweet Sixteen we headed to NYU Langone at 130am via Uber. We wanted to take the bus but it was raining and cold. Whatever. But our driver did have only one arm. Details, details.

Upon arrival on the 8th floor the nurse greeted me in the hall by asking me what we were there for. Paul and I looked at each other and I timidly offered the “to have a baby?” explanation. While simultaneously screaming in my head “DON’T YOU SEE THIS BASKETBALL I JUST SWALLOWED?”

After a little bit of time in the exam room & contact between my OBGYN and the resident on call we finally got to our room. I still wasn’t in full-on labor so my OBGYN asked them to begin induction. They wanted to avoid the use of Pitocin, at least to begin with, so they started me off with a foley bulb. I am also very, very happy I didn’t know what this was before they started this process. Don’t look it up if you don’t know. Seriously. They “gave” me a double foley filled to 80ml & 60ml, respectively, and my husband promptly fell asleep. Three hours in and my valiant effort of a natural delivery was floating away on the wings of a butterfly. An epidural, it was!

We then played the waiting game. We found a Chrisley Knows Best marathon and indulged in its overall absurdity. If you haven’t seen this show do yourself a favor and tune in. Later that evening the foley balloon had aided in my progression of contractions and it was removed. Unfortunately overnight {Saturday night // 24 hours after our arrival} my contractions began to get further apart again.

The next morning the OBGYN, Dr. Berg, who was going to be delivering our little rascal {not my OBGYN, Dr. Kaplan, he was sick … but that is a whole different story} popped in and didn’t know whether to laugh or not when he found out my contractions were AWOL. He told the nurses to start pumping me full of Pitocin so we could have that baby.

So they did. And then they did. The contractions, that is. Just after 1pm I laid off the epidural and just before 2 the pushing commenced. And at 3:17pm our little rascal made his debut! While we were giggling about his flat butt and generally insane likeness to his father the two doctors became aware that my placenta was not delivering naturally. So they had to “massage” it out. Side note: not an awesome massage. It was terrible. But I was watching my little guy in his daddy’s arms and that, that has the ability to make just about everything right in the world. It was finally delivered, the nurses cleaned up, our baby was weighed, his footprints stamped and he was all ours.

My mom joined Paul and I in the room and we just couldn’t get over it. You know that elated state of being where you’re just talking to talk? That’s where we were. Somewhere in here I re-applied my make-up. We face timed with Paul’s family. And then the {awesome} nurse, Val, who had delivered Xander came back in and we started telling all kinds of stories.

And then this is where it starts to get blurry for me.

Paul tells me that I was the first to notice that something just didn’t feel right. I hadn’t paid much attention to the excessive bleeding I was experiencing as I had been told over and over and over again by new moms that lots of blood was normal. Apparently mine was far from normal. I’ll spare you those details. Val felt my belly and knew things weren’t going well right away. My uterus wasn’t contracting at all, instead, we joked, it shook like a plate of Jell-O.

The doctor on call was immediately brought into our room and she began setting things into motion. My OB had gone home but he was, poor man, called back in. When he got back to the hospital he brought in the ultrasound machine and immediately identified the issue: portions of my placenta had not been delivered and I would hemorrhage until it was. Things got tense. People were in and out. Paul had the baby but asked my mom to step out. And then I cried for the first time throughout the labor & delivery process. I just wanted to sleep. I hadn’t slept in over 42 hours. But there was no rest for the weary.

So I got the next best thing: I was put to sleep.

I was hurriedly wheeled to the OR leaving my mom, Paul, and our new bundle Xander waiting just beyond those swinging doors. This is where we played thumb war to see if I could be put to sleep. I had eaten a bagel immediately after delivery {since I hadn’t had solid food in over 36 hours!} but, thank God, I had made the cut-off. Last thing I remember is the anesthesiologist fussing at a nurse because I still had all of my jewelry on.

*Here’s what happened in the middle, none of which I remember, obviously, as I was in la-la land: They began the surgery and were getting those placenta pieces out and I started bleeding even more. Like a lot, apparently. So much so that they had to, as the OB explained to Paul mid-surgery, had to hit the red button in the hospital alerting that it was an emergency. This is when they started to give me some O+ blood {2 bags to be exact}. It is also when the upwards of 40 people began to filter into the OR. Seriously. 40.

And then my blood pressure began to plummet. At some point in time I had also been given an iv of fluid. Then, suddenly, the fluid began to fill my lungs. Something about so much fluid movement in my body it was the only place for it to go hang out. This is called a pulmonary edema. Since the fluid isn’t supposed to be there {duh} my heart began working overtime to pump it out. But it was coming in too fast and my heart just couldn’t handle it. This is when I went into what the doctor described to Paul was a mini cardiac arrest. They had, of course, recognized when the fluid was filling my lungs quickly and began pumping it out of me by way of my catheter. Paul & my mom, on other sides of those swinging doors, saw the nurses running into the hallway with these bags of fluid to document the amount. They first came out carrying one bag each. They then began running out the door carrying 2 bags at a time. That’s a lot of fluid.

They gave me a steroid shot to awaken me. And did I ever. The first thing they said // asked me was: what is wrong? To make sure I was alert and to also see how my lungs were doing. I opened my mouth to speak and merely gurgled and began coughing uncontrollably. That’s when I got my Star Wars oxygen mask. The anesthesiologist, Igor, held my hand the entire time. They were all arguing about what had happened. Someone asserted that it was TRALI. Another blurted out another assertion. And so began the avalanche of assertions from folks around the hospital. They asked me 2 minutes later what was wrong again. This time I could barely speak and I said, “I can’t breathe.” They started to argue over who was taking me back to their department. The head of ICU, head of SICU, head of Cardiology, head of Respiratory, and my OB all thought that I was their case.

Throughout the process of not being able to breathe and essentially drowning all I could think, over and over and over again, was Thank you, God for letting me hold my baby. I was so grateful. And in the midst of the chaos I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.

Luckily I had been physically active throughout my pregnancy. Thanks for saving my life and making me poor SoulCycle! The doctors & nurses all said that being fit saved my life. I ran the Chicago Marathon at 18 weeks and 6 days. We went to Jackson Hole when I was 29 weeks and I wasn’t allowed to ski. But I went snowshoeing! Lots and lots of snowshoeing. And I went to SoulCycle up until … and on my due date. I worked out in our building gym after that. Mostly because I didn’t want my water to break in a class. OY. I was embarrassed enough in middle school and high school.

SoulCycle saved my life pregnancy
Halfway un-shoed after one of my many SoulCycle NoHo classes with Nina and her killer selection of pop chick music … my fav.

SoulCycle saved my life
One of my only selfies in life. But, at 38 weeks+ after a SoulCycle class it felt right.

I was up for the entire night being poked and prodded. And then my case was reviewed by the aforementioned departments starting the day shift so I got a whole new set of medical folks popping in to visit. Paul even found one of our dear friends just roaming around the halls of the hospital. She didn’t know where I was but she said she just felt better simply being there. Oh, Carbo.

We still aren’t quite sure what happened, TRALI was asserted and denied, as were a couple of other medical terms that I have no idea what they mean. But I do know: we have a group of friends & family that prayed & prayed. We felt so loved and supported. And while it wasn’t the most laid back way to start parenthood we were still floating amidst clouds of bliss.

And that is where we find ourselves still. One year in today and the joy Xander brings Paul and I is something else. But it took me a while to first understand the gravity of what happened, then I had to acknowledge it without coming at it with a joke. And now felt like the perfect time to share.

 This blog was published first here >> check it out! 



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