Raleigh Russel

So I feel like my birth with Lyla was a lot more insane than Nico's because Lyla's was such an adventure!

When I was 31 weeks pregnant we discovered that Lyla had a heart defect and that I'd be delivering her in Boston. I had all these plans about how I was going to deliver- naturally, medication free, and only stay in the hospital for 24 hours since home birthing on the Island at the time wasn't really an option. Once we learned about her defect and that we'd be in Boston, I was crushed knowing that she was going to be born any way she decided to be born. Looking back, I laugh that I thought I had that much control over her plans for arrival. At the time though, I felt defeated.

At 32 weeks pregnant I woke up in labor and was ambulanced up to Boston where I spent eight days in labor while on bed rest at Tufts hospital.

I had my cervix checked three times a day but only ever dilated 1 cm. They kept telling me I could do it naturally if my body would let me and if she didn't become more distressed.

I ended up being wheeled back to the OR three times before she was actually born. I would have contractions and her heart rate would drop into the 50's. We were all trying desperately to keep her in me and bake, and of course once we'd get to the OR her heart rate would come right back up.

My mom was with me for the whole 8 days, sponge bathing me and bringing me goodies from China Town. My husband would drop everything and race up to Boston every time we had a false alarm. At least once while I was being wheeled back I was screaming that I wanted my mom while on all fours with an oxygen mask and my butt hanging out. I was stuck in labor and delivery so I heard multiple women giving birth all around me 24/7.

Finally we had all had enough. I was tired, they were tired and they promised that the next time her heart rate dropped we'd go back. Well of course her heart rate didn't drop once that day. David flew up and just as we had both fallen asleep her heart rate dropped so they came rushing in shouting HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

The actual surgery was quick. She shouted a bit once she came out and I was in and out in under an hour. I was able to hold her that day (she was born at 1:30 am) but I was so heavily drugged that I don’t remember much of it. Lots of big terms were being thrown around and they were transporting her to Children’s Hospital Boston later that day for her first (of many) heart procedures. She was fully intubated and had, what seems like, lines coming out of everywhere. The next day as I was recovering and attempting to collect the colostrum that was pouring out of me, we realized we hadn’t heard from Children’s Hospital yet. We called and got the line transferred at least 5 times before someone told us that they had attempted her procedure and her heart stopped. For half an hour. And she had a brain hemorrhage. We asked if she was going to make it, and they told us to get to Children’s right away.

The next 48 hours are a complete blur. The nurses at Tufts handed me a handful of Percocets and I was literally running through the hospital to get in a cab. I never felt much pain. I never felt anything. I was also never able to make breast milk after that.

She survived. They gave us a grim outlook when we arrived. Possible foot and finger amputation. No one knew what her life would be like after the brain hemorrhage, but they were optimistic.

9 years, four more heart procedures, one open heart, one spine, and two ankle surgeries later, she’s a happy thriving young lady.

8 years after her birth, I delivered another baby via c-section. Nico also had a congenital defect, but it’s completely unrelated to his sisters. I had a really hard time recovering from the surgery this time. I had a TON of scar tissue from Lyla, so opening that back up again was awful. It took me a full 12 weeks to recover fully. It’s amazing what age can truly do to your body!

Things I wish I had known about birth in general is when you plan, god laughs.

  • I thought my second section would be just like the first. It was not.
  • I thought my body would bounce right back after birth, it never did. I eventually came to know and love my new body (post Lyla) and I’m working on it now post Nico.
  • I wish someone had told me that you bleed for months on end afterward (especially after a c section!) and adult diapers are your new best friend.
  • I wish someone would have told me about how the scar feels forever afterward. It’s numb and hard/weird to touch.
  • I wish someone would have told me to take every single hospital supply I could get my hands on for recovery.
  • I wish someone would have told me the emotional and psychological strain that a c section puts on you. It’s harder, or sometimes impossible, to make breast milk and that’s okay.