amy courts: en route

Life and Death in 24 Hours: The Labor & Delivery Story
May 26, 2011, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life

I’ve debated back and forth about whether or not to write this blog and share my labor story. It’s a long one, and it’s not pretty. But because a few other womens’ blogs detailing similar stories have so helped and encouraged me – and because, in a way, sharing is therapeutic – I’ve decided to go with it.

So how do you begin to recount the events of one day that will remain both the best and worst day of your life?

At the beginning, I suppose.

At 7:30am on May 6, 2011, Paul and I arrived at Vanderbilt University Hospital’s Labor & Delivery ward for my scheduled induction. Originally, I was scheduled for induction Wednesday the 4th, but because an ultrasound and non-stress-test showed Elijiah was in good health, we were able to delay two extra days. Studies show that the majority of first-time mothers who deliver after their due date do so by the 8th day past-due, and Firday would be day nine. Neither of us was comfortable delaying any longer, since Elijah’s ultrasounds also showed he was a BIG baby boy…and growing bigger. And the bigger he grew in utero, the greater my risks were of needing emergency intervention. Since our goal was to have a natural labor and delivery with no intervention if possible, we wanted to give him a few extra days to make an entrance. But Elijah wasn’t coming on his own, despite a few weeks of false contractions; despite my having had strong Braxton Hicks contractions since week 27; despite our having done everything possible to naturally induce labor.

Me and E at 41 weeks

So the first thing we did upon settling into our labor suite was explain to my nurse that we’d still like to keep things as natural as possible. Granted, we were probably going to choose to induce with a Pitocin drip to get contractions rolling. But our hope was that once they became regular, we’d be able to stop the drip and un-tether me, leaving me free to labor naturally.

Alas. Things didn’t go according to plan.

Around 8:15am, my midwife checked me to find out how progressed I was in labor. The examination threw me into a horrendous contraction during which they lost Elijah’s heart rate on the monitor for more than five minutes. Within 30 seconds of making the call, 15 emergency team members were in my labor suite ready to wheel me off for an emergency cesarean section. Thankfully, they recovered his heartbeat quickly thereafter and we were able to avoid the c-section.

But I knew right then, deep in my gut, our course for the day was set. It was completely out of my control.

Still, we began the Pitocin drip and between 8:30am and 2:30pm, my contractions grew stronger but remained bearable, and by 2:30pm I’d dilated another two centimeters to four. My doula was on-call, ready to come whenever I transitioned to active labor, but we didn’t want her to waste her entire day in the labor suite with us while nothing happened. And you never know with Pitocin how long it might take for labor to really kick in.

By 3:30pm, my water broke and we were off. Contractions became a bit stronger and longer, and both Paul and I were getting more excited. Elijah was on his way! So I called my doula to let her know, and we just waited. Even by 4:15pm, the contractions were strong and getting more painful, but I was still able to talk around them if not through them.

By 4:45pm, when my doula arrived, I was in a state of near-constant contractions. I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but somewhere in that fifteen minute period, the contractions became a tornado.

During normal Active labor, contractions will last anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds, and will come every few minutes, allowing for a 60 to 90 second rest between contractions, until the Transition phase, when they last 60 to 90 seconds and come every 2 minutes or so.

Mine, however, were already on top of one another, lasting 1:30 to 1:45, with only fifteen-second breaks before the next…and I was only 5cm dilated; I still had 5cm to go before I could even consider pushing. Looking at the monitor – and my face – my doula kept saying, “This isn’t right; she shouldn’t be having contractions so strong or frequent til transition. This isn’t right.”

She called in the nurse at that point, who cut the Pitocin in half, and then in half again, but the contractions still wouldn’t stop, slow, or weaken. I was in such pain I couldn’t move or change positions at all. I was frozen. And when I wasn’t frozen, I was convulsing wildly.

By 5:15pm, I had been in one constant contraction for over 20 minutes…and they lost Elijah’s heart rate again. This time, they called it a “terminal deceleration” – they knew they wouldn’t be able to recover it this time. So at 5:17pm, I was off to OR for an emergency c-section, and by 5:24pm my baby boy was born. Turns out, there was a knot in his umbilical cord. Those heavy contractions were squeezing the life out of him and cutting off his oxygen supply. Thankfully, he was born in perfect health.

Elijah's first look at Daddy (and a camera)

Because I hadn’t gotten an epidural during labor, I was put under general anesthesia for the c-section, so I didn’t wake up until around 7:20pm. I was pretty out of it, but knew two things: I wanted to see and hold my baby, and I wanted to know why there was gushing between my legs. So I asked the nurses.

They checked me again, and by 7:30pm, just as they were about to give Eli to me, I was being hauled off to OR again, this time for massive post-partum hemorrhaging due to uterine atony. See, after a baby is born, the uterus naturally continues contracting in order to deliver the placenta and to allow blood to clot. Atony is when the uterus fails to contract. Hence, hemorrhaging.

By 9:30pm, my surgeons had re-opened my incision, drained the blood, packed me full of clotting materials, and sown me back up. But it didn’t work. I was still bleeding.

By midnight, after close to five hours of surgery and 20 units of blood transfusions, they had to do an emergency hysterectomy to save my life.

I woke up in Vanderbilt’s SICU Saturday morning, May 7, to the news that Elijah was perfectly healthy and incredibly strong…and that he would be the only biological son I’ll ever have.

My first visit with Eli, in ICU, about 17 hrs after he was born (and a couple hours after hearing the news)

My immediate reaction was, “You saved my life, thank God! And hey…we can adopt.”

As days have passed, my heart still echoes those sentiments… But I’m also just beginning to realize the loss.

And it stings, knowing that what made me a woman – my ability to bear children – is gone; knowing that I’ll never get to experience the gift of giving birth; knowing that I’ll never wear maternity clothes again, or feel my baby tumble and swing inside me, or have another baby who immediately, upon first meeting, calms at my touch, my scent, my heartbeat that he’s known for nine months…

But at the same time…Elijah is a miracle. That I’m here to love him, feed him, hold him, cherish him is a miracle.

I am equal parts broken by the reality that grows a little bit bigger every day, and grateful that I was given the magnificent gift of having such a perfectly enjoyable pregnancy, that I was able to carry him to term and even run and play and do yoga with him up until the week I delivered, that he was born so healthy despite 14 weeks of Braxton Hicks contractions (who knows how long that knot was in his cord!?!). And praise God (!!!) that I was cared for and saved by some of the absolute best doctors in the world.

I don’t know how to describe it all yet. I’m sure it’ll take years to process, a lifetime to grieve, and maybe an eternity to understand even in part.

But the best I can offer is this: My pregnancy, from day one, was a miraculous gift. We weren’t trying to get pregnant, or even thinking about it. Elijah was the best birthday surprise I’ve ever had. Carrying him was a joy, every single day. Yes, I was exhausted some days. Yes, toward the end I was convinced I would be the only woman to ever stay pregnant forever (oh, how wrong I was!). But I am so thankful that I learned to cherish every moment, every kick, every tumble, every sleepless night. I thank God for a healthy pregnancy free of sickness and worry. I thank God that even during those last days when I was so anxious to see his face, I was able to treasure the final moments. (And thank God we did that maternity photo shoot!!)

It’s as if this beautiful box encasing the most precious gift was left on my doorstep for me to find. As if I opened it only to be blinded by an exquisite radiance to enjoy for only a short time. It is if that box was promptly and unexpectedly slammed shut, with total finality.

I’m not sure if its temporary nature makes it that much sweeter and more miraculous…or if it compounds the bitterness of the end.

But I know that I have a son whose name is Elijah, which means “The LORD is my God.” I know that he is and was always meant to be my daily, hourly reminder that my God is not a god of anger, cruelty, passivity or indifference, but The God of compassion and comfort, infinite goodness and everlasting kindness.

So I know that while this one dream of family has indeed been stripped from me –from us – for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, God will plant in us new dreams that could not and would not flower had my womb not been taken.

It’s ok.

My Elijah, 2 weeks old and giving us big smiles!



28 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thanks for sharing amy. You and your family continue to be in my prayers. Your strength astounds and encourages me. Enjoy every minute of your miracle.

Comment by Bethany

Thanks for sharing Amy! Trust that our stories, in all of their honesty, are meant to be told. And as songwriters, we’re here to help tell other’s stories too. You have a new depth from which to share. Praying continued hope for you and great blessings for your sweet family.

Comment by Martha Christian

Beautiful Amy. Thank you for being so open and sharing your story. It moved me.

Comment by stephaniebairrington

Dear Amy, My heart ached as I read this but I rejoice with you for your wonderful, beautiful and perfect son. You never get over the pain of loss but you do learn to live with it. Cry out to God, He understands. I pray for you and your sweet little family and know that God will bless you in ways that you can’t even imagine.
Keep moving forward, Mary

Comment by Mary

From you, Mary, this is much appreciated. Thank you!

Comment by amycourts

Oh, Amy. I don’t even know what to say. So happy you were able to have that little miracle. And I’m amazed at the thankfulness you show even through circumstances that would make most of us very bitter. Though I’m sure you’ve had your bitter moments, but you’re doing the right thing in finding the things to appreciate about this, mostly your gorgeous son.

Comment by Misty Fagan

I don’t think there’s a way to mask th bitterness of loss. It’s weird. The grtitude for Eli is often strongest when I’m allowing myself to feel the full weight of the loss. They are two of the strongest pulls – in opposite directions – and yet, it’s perfectly right.

Comment by amycourts

so proud! you did a beautiful job of telling your story and i know how hard it can be… no one but you will know the tears that you cried as you typed… praying more of us speak so that those who need to hear and know they are NOT alone will hear us (also praying there are less and less who will need to hear)

Comment by Marilyn

amen! it goes without saying but i’ll say it anyway: thank YOU for sharing; it emboldened me. God is good to have used tragedy to introduce us.

Comment by amycourts

Thanks for writing this even thought it was surely heart wrenching to recount. Beautiful, real words.

Comment by Lisa

Amy, Thank you so much for sharing this!! As another person commented, I’m sure you must have shed many tears while you were writing it, cuz I know I bawled my eyes out just reading it. Your positive attitude and thankfulness to God for your miracle son are truly wonderful to see and I know that you desire God to use you to help others who are facing similar situations. We love you and are praying for you as you heal physically and for you and Paul as you heal inwardly! God bless you!!

Comment by Diane

it would indeed give me much comfort to be a stumbled-upon-blog for another hurting woman some day. for now, i’m just grateful God is so unfathomably good…even when i don’t see or get it.

Comment by amycourts

Amy, your blog is beautiful written and though i want to write so many things right now, my heart fails me. Know that we love you and are so thankful that God did not take you 🙂 Eli is such a gift to you and i see it in all the pictures you have posted! Hugs and so much love to your beautiful family 🙂

Comment by sarah hensel

Amy, I’m grieving with hope for you. I love you and am so proud of you!

Comment by Melani

Amy, I will never know fully how you feel but I am so very sorry. As you might know, Tom and I suffered a miscarriage, through a D&C, 1 month ago. We thought we had 1 baby die on us and as it turned out, there were 2. Sometimes hearing other stories of different situations helps the healing. I thought I was the only one this happened to. Luckily I researched and found tons of families that went through the same thing. I have learned that we have zero control of our lives and we have to be ok with that. Only God knows the path he picked for us and we will follow it, even if we don’t always agree. Keep your spirits up. Elijah is a lucky baby for having amazing people as his parents. Again, I am very sorry for both of you.

Comment by Brittany Cardenas

Great loss is geat loss, and makes us kindred. Thanks for sharing this Brittany. You guys are in my heart and prayers!

Comment by amycourts

Amy, we’ve never met. My husband went to high school with yours so I know him. I just wanted to tell you what an inspiration this blog entry is. Your ability to see the gift in such a difficult time is truly amazing. I’m sure there are times that you struggle and grief overwhelms you but your gratitude, hope, humbleness and the pure love you show brings tears to my eyes. And finding that I’m crying because of the joy and strength that you demonstrate rather than your loss has really caught me off guard. People like you restore my faith in humanity. Being a mother is hard. We have four children ages 2-6 and they certainly have their days but I’ve always said I’d gladly sacrifice anything, even my life, for them without giving it a second thought. You clearly are the type of mother who is willing to look at her child’s needs first and without resenting the sacrifices it may take. Today was a rough day at our house… no naps, one of my twins threw $75 worth of prescription medication in the toilet to soak, potty training accident and somehow, a bag of chips managed to find it’s way in to THREE rooms of my house. Thank you for reminding me of what a blessing and a miracle they are. I had fertility issues and faced the possibility of never having my own children. On days like today, remembering that and thinking of you, I feel honored to clean up after their messes. I go to bed happy. (And sorry for being the creepy Facebook stalker. Hopefully, Paul will tell you I’m not crazy. Hopefully. 😉

Comment by Jammie Hermans

I don’t think you’re creepy. Ha! But thank you. I’m sure I’ll return to this blog and these thoughts down the road, on days when he’s driving me mad. I do hope to never lose sight of the miracles in the midst of the loss. They are many.

Comment by amycourts

Wow Amy, what an amazing story. Upsetting and joyful at the same time. You have a beautiful family. It sounds like you are going to get a lot different perspective on this child than most mothers. You’ll be cherishing every single moment. Even the ones that might drive you up the wall. 🙂 I don’t know how you women do it; no wonder you are such great ultra runners. 🙂 Thank you for sharing, it touched me greatly.

Comment by David Hopkins

Amazing indeed. God is good and present. I hope to remember it always! Now, for that Ultra… 🙂

Comment by amycourts

Thanks so much for sharing your heart. Your faith, transparency and strength are truly an inspiration. Like you guys, we’re the parents of a single child (it just occurred to me that I kinda hate the term “only”)and next to my salvation and my wife, he’s the greatest gift I’ve ever known. Your story brought back some wonderfully sweet, poignant, scary and never-to-be forgotten memories of 27 hours of labor (OK, my wife did all the work, but I was there) pushing, ice chips, laughter, tears, joy, panic, knees-to-the-earth prayer (actually, knees to the tile in a hospital bathroom as I pleaded with God to save my wife and our son)….and seeing our Heavenly father work in ways that were as dramatic and real as any we’ve ever imagined or certainly experienced. Our son is 24 now and every day of his life I’ve thanked God for him and every day of his life I’ve given him back go Him. As I’ve told him (and about a jillion young marrieds and youth that I’ve taught in Bible Study over the years) we can never, ever possibly fathom the power and depth of a parent’s love for their child until we’ve experienced it ourselves. And if that love seems so huge, so overwhelming, so heart-bursting, mind-blowing indescribable in our finite human reality, how much greater is our infinite Heavenly Father’s love for His children? How much more must He experience joy or grief or disappointment… much more does He long to care for us, nurture us and hold us close to Him? I truly believe that one of the greatest aspects of being a parent is that it gives us just a small taste of His love for us. So, back to the point..thank you, Amy. God bless you for sharing. Our prayers will be with you all; prayers of joy, thanksgiving, praise, continued physical healing and that God will continue to use you as never before. Blessings to all…

Comment by Rick Carroll

Oh, so true! I can’t count how many times I’ve thought, ‘how did God ever sacrifice His only begotten. I could nver…’ His love is unfathomable.

Comment by amycourts

Found you from my dear friends blog–shadow of grief. Just wanted to thank you for sharing your heart. From my friend’s experience, I know how important it is for people who have a similar experience to be able to connect with others that relate.
A passage I’ve been meditating on lately:
“Those who sow in tears, will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5

Comment by toshowthemjesus

Her blog is what emboldened me to share. 🙂 Carrying one another’s burdens is paramount! And that verse…wow. How …perfect. Thank you!!

Comment by amycourts

Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like your son is truly a miracle. Many women struggle with infertility and never have the chance to be pregnant or deliver their “own” child, many adopt while many others live childless lives so realize God blessed you with this for a reason because so many of us will never have that or truly be a “woman” as you state. E is very handsome and I’m sure you’ll be taking him running very soon.

Comment by A

There is certainly a kindred-ness to the sorrow we share as women who, for whatever reason, cannot have children. And across the board, the Truth remains that God is ever-wise and sovereign. I think I’m learning, as I go, womanhood is so much more than parts. It’s that uncanny ability to relate.

Comment by amycourts

I think it’s a feeling that you can’t really even begin to understand or process until it’s actually happened to you. I actually had my tubes tied that morning and lost my uterus that night. My husband said NO MORE after Phoebe. It had been a verrrrrry long road up to her, and he was *done*. I would have had 17 more children had it been up to me. These things never *are* up to us, I’m realizing. So much of what we think we’re in control of, we actually aren’t at all. I know – elementary concept…

I told the doctor to take my uterus in order to save my life. It feels strange that it is just *now* hitting me, four months later. I’m not sure what to do with the emotion.

Comment by Rach

[…] name, Elijah David – which means “The LORD is my God; I am His beloved” – after he was born. Not insignificantly, the name Joseph means “Yahweh Adds” or “Even […]

Pingback by Waiting for “Even More” « amy courts: en route

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