I’m so excited to share our birth story with you! Our Lourdes “Lola” Carol Sousa arrived on July 12th, 2020 at 1:36pm weighing 7lbs 4oz and we are obviously just so so in love. I can’t believe she is already almost a month old… and that this is how long it’s taken me to share her birth story. Turns out, newborns are a LOT of work, ha, and yes, even with dad at home full time (can we just have a moment of silence for all the new moms who do this ALONE?! Honestly, hats off to you).
I want to share a bit of a disclaimer to start – this is my personal story and by no means am I giving advice on your birth plan or giving an opinion on your own personal choices. I have ZERO judgement for any way you want to or have brought your baby into this world. I will also say that my personal birth story may be triggering for some. I also fully believe that many new moms choose not to share the difficult details because they don’t want to come across as complaining – I think this can sometimes leave a different impression of what child birth really can be like… which for some is very challenging and scary. If this has also happened to you, you are not alone.
I am thankful for the Baby Prep class we took which explained the different stages of labour, how long it can realistically take, pain management options etc. because it helped me understand the reality, and took away some of the fear of being in a position of having a baby in the car (ha).
I absolutely LOVED being pregnant, which I never thought I would say! I always was so terrified about what symptoms I would have, but overall, my pregnancy was really uneventful. I had terrible nausea the first four months (thanks to meds – hello, Diclectin – I was able to function) and a mild nausea for the entire 9 months. If I stood on my feet for too long, my right thigh would go numb, I had an ovarian cyst rupture at 6 months which kept me in the hospital for 4 days, and in the last month, I was pretty much laying down 90% of the time… but other than that, I just loved having her in my belly. As someone who has experienced a lot of loss (4 miscarriages), I was terrified the entire time and was constantly waiting for her kicks. Luckily, our OB had an ultrasound machine, so we were lucky to get a scan every time we went in for an appointment.
I shared Lola’s birth video here if you’d like to see it!
I was given options from my OB (scheduled c-section, induction, spontaneous labour) and opted to be induced on her due date because she was measuring quite large (almost 9lbs at 38 weeks) – I knew that there was room for error in how baby measures in utero but was concerned she would grow too large if I waited to go into spontaneous labour. I kept an open mind for my delivery and didn’t have a birth plan in place – my goal was always to do whatever I needed to to get her here safe, and keep me safe as well and I don’t regret my approach at all.
I was induced on her due date at 8am on July 10th at BC Women’s Hospital – they insert a drug called Cervidil (a prostaglandin) into the cervix and this helps to soften the cervix so it brings on contractions – well let me tell you, the insertion is NOT fun and I needed the gas to get through it. It was very painful for me, but it doesn’t help that I was probably very tense and am the most squeamish person ever. Once that was done, they sent us home to let the drug begin to work and as soon as we were on the drive home, I began to have contractions. I’m sure they were mild, but they were definitely uncomfortable – this meant the drug was beginning to work, and fast. They give you the instructions that if you don’t feel the baby move as much, or are in severe pain to call and they will tell you what to do. At this point, it was around 2pm and I was in a lot of pain, and couldn’t feel Lola move as much, so we called in and drove back to the hospital so they could monitor her and check her heart rate. All was good, and they offered me a morphine shot in order to go back home and get some sleep while my body prepared for labour. I refused at first, but ended up taking it so I could just get a little relief. At this point, I was 0 cm dilated, but the cervix was softening.
We went back home around 6pm, and the morphine made me sleepy, so I went to bed with milder contractions while Roberto ate dinner. At around 10pm, he joined me in bed and as we were talking, I felt my water break! I was SO so so excited because I thought it meant she was coming, and fast! Roberto got some towels, we called the hospital again, telling them my water broke. Because I was one of the lucky 25% of women who carry Strep B (Google for more info, but basically it’s just a bacteria in the vagina 25-30% of women have and it’s nothing to be worried about, but they have to administer antibiotics during labour so baby is not affected during vaginal birth), they asked me to come in right away to start the antibiotic drips. We threw on my Depends, and off we went! I was so so excited and just kept saying, “she’s coming, she’s coming”… it felt so real.
Once we got to the hospital, I was in a lot more pain with contractions, managing them with breathing. We waited for our labour and delivery room to be ready, and at this point, with another check, my cervix was only at 1cm dilated. Those checks sure aren’t comfortable, but thank goodness for more gas which really relaxed me.
Once our room was ready around 11:30pm on July 10th (if you’re following, the same day I was induced), I was wheeled up. BC Women’s is fantastic, and our room was super spacious with a nice little spot for Roberto to sleep and a nice big TV – these comforts would be important because we had a long road ahead! It was so surreal and exciting to be in the room I figured she would be born in. We also had our very own dedicated nurse who would be in the room with us the whole labour period. I was given some toast with PB and jam (the last “meal” I would be allowed to eat for many hours) and they started an Oxytocin drip to get the labour progressing. They start it at a lower level and increase the concentration to progress things more quickly.
They put on an external monitor across my belly to keep an eye on baby’s heart rate – my biggest fear was something happening to her during the process so having the belly monitor on at all times was really helpful at keeping me calm.
At this point the nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural, and I’ve always been terrified of getting one (again, I’m super squeamish, so the thought of something going into my spine was absolutely terrifying). I asked her if the contractions would get a lot worse, and when she said they would, I opted to get the epidural. Around 2am, the anesthesiologist came up and started the process. They make you sit on the edge of the bed and stay super still – well, of course, I started to get super woozy and nauseous as it was being administered and kept telling her I was about to throw up and pass out. She was so kind and compassionate and kept calming my nerves. Finally, she had to stop the process, because I indeed started throwing up and passing out. My body literally just was NOT having it and I totally psyched myself out. She was able to do it with me laying down, and I got through it. I didn’t know what to expect with the feeling of the epidural, and it certainly took all the pain away, but it also made my legs numb and hard to move. They put in a catheter since because I was so numb, I wouldn’t be able to get up from the bed until after she was born. They also give you access to a button to top up the epidural if you feel any pain and I did my best not to over use it (I didn’t want my legs to be too numb or overdo the meds).
During this time, they constantly monitor your blood pressure, oxygen levels and heart rate. My blood pressure was very high, it had never been high before or during pregnancy, which concerned the doctors. They ended up giving me ‘bite and swallow’ (these work urgently) blood pressure meds to help, which did.
The doctor came in regularly to check dilation, and I was progressing very slowly, maybe 3cm at about 4am on July 11th (Lola was born July 12th at 1:36pm, so we had a LONG road ahead, little did I know…). I was starving at this point, and was only allowed popsicles, broth, or jello. You better believe I asked for each of these on the regular!
They continued to increase the Oxytocin to progress labour and Roberto stepped out to get a sandwich. I was dozing off and I always had one ear on the baby’s heart rate. All of a sudden, I heard it slow to almost the point of stopping and I completely freaked out – the nurse seemed alarmed as well, and I started literally bawling out of complete worry. The nurses called the doctor and they came in, calmed me down, and explained why the drop would happen (the increased Oxytocin) – they dialed back the dose and decided to put a monitor into my uterus, clipped onto her head for the most accurate reading. I was on high alert after that and didn’t get much more sleep from there on out.
Finally, I was able to get to 10cm dilated at around 9am on July 12th, and started the pushing process. In order to do this, they have a bar they put onto the bed that you push against with your feet, and tie a sheet to it – you pull on the sheet to bear down when a contraction hits, but because of the epidural, it was really hard to feel the contractions and the monitor they use to track the contractions wasn’t working all that well. I found it so difficult to know how well I was pushing because I couldn’t feel anything at all. Roberto would help me bear down each time by pushing my head up and forward, and I pushed as hard as I could for two hours. At that point, the doctor came in and checked her head position – it was not descending at all – my pelvis was too small to allow her head to pass. I knew we would have to move to a c-section, and even though it was one of my worst fears… I was just SO done and ready to do whatever it took to get her into my arms. The doctor said that I would be in the OR within 20 minutes and they explained the process. I was in tears out of fear, exhaustion and frustration and after 50 hours of labour, just SO ready for this all to be over.
They told Roberto they would come back to get him and rolled me into the OR. I was so scared and anxious, and asked the anesthesiologist who was there to give me a full spinal block (basically, a very strong epidural so you can’t feel anything below the ribcage) if he could give me some anxiety meds – he said he couldn’t until after the baby was out just because they didn’t know if the meds would affect the baby. I became super nauseous and started throwing up. Common, they say. I was laid out on the table, getting prepped, and all of a sudden, I woke up to Roberto beside me and the surgery in progress – I am sure the anesthesiologist must have given me something when he saw how scared I was. I felt SO out of it. I heard the doctors talking, unsure of what they were saying and things happened so fast, it was such a blur. The moment they pulled her out and she started crying was a moment of relief and happiness I cannot even describe – I know I was bawling right along with her. They placed her with me, and then cleaned her up. She was absolutely perfect! I couldn’t believe she was real and she was ours! Seeing Roberto with her… well, you can have a look at our birth story video to see, because it was absolutely magical.
From there, I was wheeled with baby and Roberto to a recovery area and the nurse monitors your vitals – again, my blood pressure was way too high and I was given more meds to help control it. My legs were starting to gain feeling again. We Facetimed Roberto’s parents and my sister, and then were taken to our postpartum room. I insisted Roberto go out to get us Chinese food from my fave place and an ice cold Coke. Pure heaven!
The next few says were such a blur with my recovery and I had a really hard time moving around the bed and getting up so Roberto was on double duty taking care of Lola and I. Lola latched to my breast right after she was born and we did our best to feed and pump in the hospital while supplementing with formula. C-section recovery can be very hard, and I was very uncomfortable and even scared to move for fear of tearing the incision. When my catheter was finally removed a few days later and I was supposed to get up, again, common theme, I was scared to hurt anything and it was painful. I had horrible gas pains and things were not moving, if you get my drift. It actually took a good week after she was born to get things moving, which became increasingly painful.
The feeling of the incision and postpartum tummy was intense – my skin and empty baby bump felt like it was made of heavy clay… I don’t know how else to describe it and the good news is, after a week, that feeling faded. This first week was really challenging. We were not sleeping, I was in pain, Roberto was doing it all, I wanted to be doing more but couldn’t, my blood pressure would not regulate and my body was healing from a 50 hour labour and all the meds that accompanied that.
After 5 days, we were finally allowed to go home and I continued take blood pressure meds. Roberto’s parents and brother welcomed us home and his parents slept over for two nights, feeding us and taking care of Lola so we could sleep more regularly. It was so amazingly helpful!
Unfortunately, I had a pretty bad setback about 3 days after being home and started to get high fevers and the chills. I chalked it up to postpartum hormones and healing. I had a few breakdowns with Roberto because I was just feeling so horrible physically. I felt like my body was out of my control. I called the nurses line and spoke to a public health nurse and when I told them about my fever, they insisted I head back to the ER so Roberto’s parents came to watch Lola, and off we went. Because of my fever, I was a Covid risk, and was put into a special room, and treated like a Covid patient which meant special PPE protocol (I was tested when I arrived, and it was negative). They took my vitals, and my heart rate was 150bpm which was cause for concern so they started me on an IV for fluids and took my blood for testing. Of course, the process of the IV and blood draw is more complex for me because my veins are hard to find, so this involves multiple people, multiple tries, and often an ultrasound machine even for the most senior anesthesiologist. It also means more tears from me because as I’ve said a few times, I’m very squeamish, We had a big scare when they took my blood pressure and it was 60/40. The nurse called the doctor and the doctor was alarmed and rushed in with a few more people – I completely lost it and told Roberto I was so scared. I literally was worried I was about to die… does that sound dramatic? Now it does, but in the moment I truly believed I was in trouble. They rushed a second IV to get more fluids into my body and continued to take my blood pressure which recovered. I was admitted to the hospital while they waited for my test results – I sent Roberto home that night even though he didn’t want to leave me, it was more important he was with Lola. It was very emotional to be separated from my baby, and although the hospital said both he and baby could stay in my room, I felt it was safer if they, especially Lola, stayed home. Up until then, I had been pumping to keep my supply up… I ended up stopping during this hospital stay because my body needed to heal, plus, when I found out that I had a bad infection, I was scared I passed it on to her without knowing… it was traumatizing to be fearful about her health.
After 24 hours, the blood tests came back (they had to wait for the cultures to develop) and it turned out I had a blood infection (E.coli and a second bacteria I can’t remember the name of), a uterus infection and a bladder infection. I was SO glad I came in when I did and didn’t chalk it up to postpartum – note to all of us – listen to your body and get the help you need.
Again, the fear of the infections had me scared for my life and hearing E.coli worried me that it was maybe a super bug. I truly thought I could die. I calculated my life insurance and worried that I wouldn’t see Lola grow up. Yes… I know that sounds dramatic but it was very intense and I was so scared. The doctors and nurses assured me I would be fine and started me on an antibiotic drip to fight the infection. Because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, I am on meds that suppress my immune system – it means my body does not fight infections well. I stopped my RA meds. What caused it? They believe it started in the uterus and spread to the bladder and blood. Within a few days of the antibiotics being administered, I started to feel better, and my tests came back negative for bacteria. 5 days after being admitted, I was discharged with oral antibiotics. I was so so so happy to get home to Lola and start our lives as a family of 3!
Well, that was a long one and if you’re still here, thanks for reading. It was important for me to share the truth of what labour and birth was like for me. We all have our own unique journey, and we can do hard things. Would I do it again for Lola? Yes! Was it harder than I could have imagined? Yes. Would I go the induction route again… probably not, only because of the amount of medical intervention, long process and eventual c-section… but hindsight is 20/20 as they say!
Huge thank you to everyone who took care of us at BC Women’s Hospital – many of which treated me with such compassion, and wiped away my tears and fears. And a huge thank you to my husband who truly showed me what love was during our birth and postpartum process – the way you cared for Lola and I has made me love you even MORE.
Welcome Lourdes “Lola” Carol Sousa XO