I am excited to share James’ birth story with all of you, in hopes that my experiences will help other mamas feel confident and happy with their birth preferences, birth experiences, and any unexpected events that go along with the arrival of a baby. Unexpected has been a theme for me, for all three of my pregnancies. While, I had great and healthy pregnancies for all three of my children, towards the end of each one there was a little surprise we weren’t expecting. I will elaborate more on my first two deliveries in another post, but I wanted to focus on James’ story, as the experience is fresh.
As I was nearing week 34, I started to notice the familiar itching in the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet. This feeling has been something I had experienced when I was pregnant with both Charlotte and Lucas. It was the onset of Cholestasis of pregnancy, which is a liver condition. Not much is knows about the condition, but hormones changes that occur in pregnancy may slow down the flow of bile in the liver leading to a build up of bile in the liver and, eventually, the bile salts enter the blood stream causing itching. The first symptom of Cholestasis is intense itching and blood work will show elevated liver enzymes and bile acids. If you experience this, you should speak to your Midwife or OB right away, as there can be complications for the baby. There is no known cause of Cholestasis, there may be a genetic link and it is thought that hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy may also lead to this condition. Good thing is that the minute your little one is born, the itching goes away and the liver enzymes should return to normal. I supported by liver between pregnancies in hopes of delaying the onset to later in the pregnancy or not having it at all. Each time, I was diagnosed around 35 weeks, which is great as research shows, the onset may occur sooner in subsequent pregnancies.
The itching wasn’t new for me so we stated protocols of monitoring the baby more consistently through NST and ultrasounds. Everything was going well, the itching wasn’t too bad, and we were waiting on blood test results for bile salts. This test can take 1-2 weeks to come back.
Week 35 rolls around, I am still continuing monitoring and doing well, feeling nothing out of the ordinary. On one of my visits to the midwife for an NST in their office, I noticed back pain when I got off of the examination table that almost felt like an ice cream headache in my lower back. It was intense! Only lasted about 5 minutes, so I thought it was just my back tightening due to pregnancy, and I was used to it living most of my life with back tension due to scoliosis as a child.
This pain continued in the night but was much milder; again, I just assumed it was normal pregnancy back pain (something I hasn’t experienced much in my previous two pregnancies). Friday morning (September 18, 2020) comes and I am 35 weeks, 5 days, as I get out of bed to start getting the kids ready for school, I felt a gush; it was a lot of bright red blood. So many things swirling through my mind, I couldn’t even think straight. We called the midwives and they told his to make our way down to the OTMH right away and they would meet us there. Longest car ride ever! I could feel James moving which was calming my nerves. We got to the hospital and were greeted immediately by nurses and the OB on call. They examined me, as the bleeding continued and decided I would have to be rushed into the OR for a caesarian birth, as it was a placental eruption. Again, not much time to think! We just did what we had to do so that James entered this world safely. Within thirty minutes of arriving at the hospital, James Anthony Handscomb was born at 9:56am. It was my second cesarean birth so I did know what to expect, but again, not the birth I had “planned.” It was ok; nothing mattered, as James was ok. We know how very lucky we are that he is healthy and that the bleeding was visible to know there was an issue. After James was born, he was placed on Chris’ chest for some skin to skin and then they placed him on me. After being on me for less than one minute he started to have trouble breathing. He was taken to the NICU to be put on a ventilator. After about 18 hours on the ventilator, he was ready to come off. Visiting the NICU was a challenge due to COVID as well as a challenge for breastfeeding. I was so thankful that I was able to express colostrum (with the help of my very supportive and loving husband) and we delivered syringes of the liquid gold to the NICU. I would make many trips through the day and night for feedings. After three days in the NICU, James’ breathing was stable, he was gaining weight and we were able to take him home!
None of my births were as I had planned or envisioned but I am thankful that all of my babies are healthy. I am happy to share my experiences in hopes that other mama’s out there may find it helpful as they walk their journey.
“Then suddenly my world was in my arms.
And it frightened me and calmed me all at once.
I had changed in an instant.
The day he was born, I was too.”
~ Jessica Urlichs