by Angela Douglas
Angela Douglas has written on and off through the years. Most of her University focus was dedicated to English, Creative Writing,
and Journalism. In her career, she has written copy, web content, brochures, and other trade-related material for various industries. Outside of work, she has recently produced a handful of manuscripts, yet to be published. She is currently a real estate agent and proud mother of two in sunny Summerland, BC.
I will start this story by saying my son was perfect. Unscathed, unharmed and a ‘9’ on the Apgar scale. His birth was not perfect. It was traumatic. Not so much so that it stopped me from doing it again. I gave birth to another happy healthy child 19 months later, and her birth was wonderful. I had a midwife the second time, which made all the difference in the world.
The pregnancy was a planned surprise. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) three months prior and was in a brand-new relationship. As new as it was, we knew where we wanted the future to go, and that we didn’t have time to waste. We tried from very early on.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was shocked and elated. I didn’t think it would happen at all, let alone so quickly, we had only been together for 11 weeks at this point.
The pregnancy started off well. Brutal morning sickness, but I managed. Cravings that started off normal and got weird fast.
We got married in Vegas (and are still married today), so we could have a quick and affordable union, and all have the same last name. A few weeks after we got back, I really popped. Shortly after that I started swelling and having a hard time getting around. I couldn’t really explain what the problem was until I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, and then pre-eclampsia.
By the time I was 26 weeks pregnant, I had to have weekly stress tests in the hospital; they checked the protein in my urine, heartbeat of the baby, blood pressure, etc. At 32 weeks I was told to go on bed rest, and I made it to 38 weeks.
I was getting ready for my 38-week appointment, and I was just going to sludge out the door as is, in the only item of maternity clothing that still fit. At this point, I had gained close to 100 pounds. Something inside me said I had better have a shower in case this was ‘it’. My proteins had been increasing at the last few appointments, and at this point, I was feeling extremely unwell. My face and eyes were swollen, my legs were like tree trunks, and the swelling was causing them to itch.
“Every day inside is a gift.” My doctor told me over and over. If I can just make it to 38 weeks, my son would be fully developed.
I had a long shower, and headed out the door, with one last look around my apartment wondering if that was the last time, I would ever be alone.
I was right. I provided my urine sample and met with Grover (my doctor). He had a kind and informal style, sitting on top of his desk swinging his legs like a child. I liked it. He delivered tough news in an easy manner. “Well, Angela.” he said. “It’s time. Time to go across the street and induce this baby.”
Okay I wasn’t fully expecting that. I thought they would set an appointment time, or something where I could give my husband and sister a heads up. Maybe whip home and grab my hospital bag. But no. It was a no.
“Your proteins are high and your blood pressure is very high. You have preeclampsia, and you need to evict your tenant for both of your health. You made it to 38 weeks, you should be very proud.”
Normally, I protest everything he says. I take a long time to digest information, I throw up little problems, discuss details that don’t matter. All I could do was nod.
It wasn’t until I was moving my car across the street that it sunk in. I called my husband and got his voice mail. He was at the scene of a five-alarm fire. “Hey hun, just me, proteins are high, preeclampsia is bad, I am at the hospital being induced. Bye.”
And then another stellar, detail filled phone call to my sister that said much the same, only I added that I hope they don’t tow my car when the meter runs out.
Eventually they both arrived, my car was handled, hospital bag brought in. I had been induced with the gel. All the gel did was make me feel like I had to have a bowel movement for the next twenty hours, and it caused period-like cramps. I was checked a handful of times and no dilation was happening. Throughout those twenty hours, I was given the gel twice more, and was eventually given a Pitocin drip.
The next step was to break my water. I was already exhausted. I hadn’t slept the night before going into the hospital, and I sure as heck didn’t sleep during cramp-gate either. I was tired and hungry. They weren’t letting me eat, which I later learned, was in case I needed surgery.
Things were not moving along, I was wrecked, and still had to deliver a child. I was given the option to have an epidural with the water break. I took it.
I had given these specific instructions to family and friends: “I only want my husband and my sister at the hospital during the birth”. Somehow my mom (who lives far away) was in the lobby, and right during the middle of my legs-wide-open-getting-my-water-broken moment, my clueless father-in-law and his wife (who also live far away) waltzed into the room. I was mortified, and they were oblivious. I shot my husband a look and he quickly ushered them out of the room.
Fast forward an hour or so and labor is ticking along according to the machines I was hooked up to and my latest dilation check. This was great, except the epidural wasn’t working on one side. I could feel labour pains but only on that side of my body. After more than an hour of that torture, the anesthesiologist came back in and attempted a second epidural.
The epidural kicked in and worked, thank goodness. And I fell asleep. Hard. I was snoring my face off when in my dream I could feel a major pressure ‘down there’ like something was coming out. I woke up and felt the pressure again. I looked over to the nurse who had been assigned to monitor me around the clock and said, “I think the head is out.”
She smiled and said “Oh I don’t think so sweetie, it’s your first baby and...” as she lifted the sheet to check, her face changed and so did her tone. “Yep, heads almost there, I’m going to go grab the doctor now.” And away she ran.
The doctor came in, one from the ‘team’ of doctors I was assigned to but had never met. From the first push to the last it was only about twenty minutes. Not bad for a first baby I kept hearing.
I reached down and grabbed my boy from them as he came out. He looked perfect. He was big, and chubby, and well developed. His eyes were open, and he was alert looking right at me and then all around the room. He was breathing, but he wasn’t crying. It was so quiet, stoic and magical. I held him for a few minutes in awe.
The doctors were having a hard time delivering the placenta, and I was trying to push but nothing was happening. They said I needed to have a manual removal performed or to have surgery. They warned that they would not be able to top up the epidural as I had already had “too much”, and the epidural was too high to help for this purpose anyway. The manual procedure consisted of something that belongs in a barnyard. I chose to do it anyway, because I didn’t want to have the surgery. A female doctor then entered the room. They chose her to do the procedure because her arms were slimmer and longer. I still shudder at the memory.
Without detail, she attempted more than once. It was very painful, and I started feeling weak. I looked at my beautiful baby, looking right at me, and didn’t notice the chaos around me. Everything was beeping and flashing, and people were coming in and out. At some point, I looked at my mom who had entered the room to see us. I could see her tearing up at the sight of her first grandchild, and then I saw fear in her eyes. I saw others with the same expression. Then I started to feel faint. I was hemorrhaging and my family was witnessing it all.
I was rushed into surgery, unconscious. I ‘came to’ in a surgery room with bright lights shining down on me. I was signing something I couldn’t see. I was convulsing so much that one person was holding the clipboard with the form and someone else was holding my hand with the pen in it. Everything went dark.
Five hours later, I woke up in post-op. I couldn’t talk because my throat hurt, and the nurses didn’t know I was awake because my eyes were so swollen that you couldn’t tell if they were open or not. Eventually, I got their attention and begged them to take me to my family. They wheeled me up the stairs and spoke to me casually as though I had been in there for a haircut. No info about my surgery, just a ride upstairs.
Nothing else mattered when I entered that room. My husband was holding my son almost asleep with his finger in his mouth. My baby must have been so hungry. My mom and sister were still there, they all waited until they saw me. They were given no updates. I got some big hugs before they left to catch up on some overdue sleep.
My husband’s dad and wife showed up unannounced again. They insisted on holding the baby and posing for pictures without realizing what we had just been through, or that I hadn’t held my own son yet, except for that brief moment at birth. I whispered expletives in my husband’s ear. Minutes later, they were gone. All of them. They were hungry and wanted to eat, so I told hubby to go ahead with them. Get some food, get some rest, I would be fine. I am fine.
I wasn’t fine at all, but I wanted to be alone. I held my Johnny and promised him I would never leave him like that again. I bawled like a newborn. Which was ironic because he didn’t.
We spent the next five days in the hospital, the next two weeks recovering from a major infection likely due to the ‘procedure’ and endured subsequent surgeries and pain as a result. I also suffered from postpartum depression.
It was all worth it. I have this wonderful human being in my life. It took me years to be able to talk about this. In fact, I just read the hospital records earlier this year, to try to fill some holes and get closure. I almost died, and now know my son’s life was at risk as well, with the preeclampsia and undiagnosed placenta accreta.
I almost died, but I didn’t. I was terrified to have another child, but I did. I survived and love my life to pieces. I wouldn’t change anything now, but I may have gone back in time and found a midwife or a doula to advocate for me. I was so vulnerable during this time in my life, I had no voice. Until now. Thank you for reading.