It’s hard to believe that it’s been four months since Jonah’s birth.
In some ways, it feels so fresh and vivid in my mind. In other ways, as we’ve settled at home and recovered, it feels like the events of the day didn’t actually happened or that they happened to someone else. So, before we get too far from his birth, I wanted to write everything down. First, for me to remember all those moments that led to the arrival of my little boy. And, second, to share my experience with friends and family. Due to COVID, it was just me and Craig there for the birth. No one was able to travel to Jordan. No waiting room filled with family. No friends stopping by. Just the two of us…and, then the three…
While Jonah’s birth was the most miraculous moment of my life, moments of that day were also some of the most overwhelming. As many births seem to go, nothing went quite according to plan…
Sunday, January 10, 2021, was my due date. It was also the day of my 40-week doctor’s appointment. Based on some complications in mid-December, it had looked like Jonah would be delivered early with a tentative induction planned for December 27 or 28. However, my condition stabilized, and my OBGYN felt comfortable with us continuing to wait to see if he would arrive on his own.
On Saturday, January 9, I took a long shower, cleaned up a bit around the apartment, went for a walk with Craig, and got sorted for the week. (Sunday is a work day in Jordan.)
On January 10, I got up, someone arrived to do work in our apartment, and Craig prepared breakfast for me. I quickly got ready, and we headed out to the hospital for my 40-week appointment. Our bags for the birth were lined up by the door. However, we decided no need to take them. [Weeks prior (when we went in for our December 27 appointment), we had packed our hospital bags, loaded up the car, and been ready – just in case. After the appointment, we had lugged everything back in the house. We thought, it’s not like we’re going to have the baby this morning, no need to bring the bags again.]
On the way to the hospital, Craig and I went through a few things in preparation for the appointment. As I hadn’t gone into labor yet, the doctor wanted us to select a day for induction – January 11, 12, or 13. I was leaning toward the 13th to give the baby a bit more time to come on his own. However, we decided that we’d see how the exam looked and make the final decision with the OBGYN.
We arrived right on time for our 9:30 AM appointment. We briefly sat down with my OBGYN; I gave her a couple of updates on how I was feeling, and we headed into the exam room for her to take a look at things, and, then, we’d discuss next steps.
On the exam table, the doctor began her exam, saying that things looked more favorable, and she anticipated that perhaps later that day or the next day I would go into labor (spontaneously). However, as she was finishing, something very unexpected happened – my water broke! “Oh! There’s liquid,” she exclaimed. The nurse started scurrying around. “Your water broke!” More running around. “This means admission. You’re having the baby today!”
We were speechless! While I was 40 weeks, we didn’t expect to have the baby that day.
In Jordan, once your water breaks, it means admission to the hospital and that you’re on the clock – the baby needs to be delivered within 24 hours (due to concerns of infection).
I got up from the exam table, got dressed, and tried to handle the shock of what just happened!
We didn’t have our bags. We thought we had more time. But, this was it!
I asked the doctor if I could go home with Craig and get our stuff (as we didn’t have our bags with us). I told her that I’d be back in an hour. However, she wanted me to stay and reassured me that Craig could take care of it while I stayed at the hospital. So, we headed down to labor and delivery (one floor down) around 9:45 AM to have a baby!
First thing, they connected me to the fetal heart monitor to make sure that everything was fine with the baby. I wasn’t having contractions yet, but they wanted to ensure that all looked okay. And, since my water broke, they went ahead and hooked me up to an IV and gave me antibiotics and also fluids.
While all this was going on, my OBGYN had changed out of her jeans and sweater and into scrubs and came down to check on me and talk through next steps – monitoring and then I could walk around a bit. We’d wait to see if contractions would start on their own and then consider induction with Pitocin if they didn’t. Craig and I needed to have the rapid COVID-19 test (as additional steps would need to be put in place if either of us tested positive).
Around 10:40 AM, I was able to come off the fetal monitor (after about a 40-minute monitoring cycle) and move around. While I was feeling some labor “pains”, it wasn’t full-on contractions yet.
While all of this was underway, Craig and I set the plan – he would run home; grab the bags and a few additional things that were not yet packed; talk to the worker about finishing up at our apartment; reach out to a friend about taking care of our cats; etc. I was very unsure about Craig leaving; however, the doctor told us that she anticipated it would be a long day with the baby not arriving until around 8 or 10 PM, particularly since there were not any contractions yet. And, there were some things that just had to be wrapped up at home.
However, before Craig could head out, there were a few more things to be done…
Craig headed down to admissions to officially check me in. Next, around 10:50 – 11:00 AM, we met the general practioner who would be involved in my care while we were at the hospital. We discussed my medical history and then she did the COVID-19 tests. (This is the third one that I’d had, and she was very thorough with her swabbing – to say the least!)
Once all this was done, at around 11:00 AM, Craig headed out, hoping to be back in about one hour.
Just after Craig left, a representative from the nursery, came by to discuss my health history and preferences for nursery care after the baby was born. Unfortunately, she didn’t speak that much English (although, she had Google Translate to help) so the conversation wasn’t as beneficial as either of us would have hoped. However, the key points came across – I planned to breastfeed, I wanted the baby to stay in the room with us, I wanted to do skin-to-skin, etc. I definitely had more in my birth plan (which was in my suitcase at home!) but couldn’t think of the rest of it at the time. I figured the information I gave her was good enough.
For the next 30 minutes or so, I caught up on some messages on my phone and hoped that full-scale contractions would begin. Around 11:30 AM, my OBGYN came in and said that we should start Pitocin. Since my labor wasn’t yet progressing, she wanted to proceed with induction. We talked about other options; however, as it had been 2 hours with no change (and I was on the 24-hour clock!), she recommended starting with a very small dose and then we’d see from there.
There was also a concern about the color of the amniotic fluid following my water breaking. It had a light green tinge to it, which can be an issue. The doctor flagged this but said that, for the time being, we would just monitor it. However, it could indicate that other interventions (such as a C-section) could be necessary.
Around 11:35 AM, the nurse set everything up, and my OBGYN began the induction. She then walked over by my bed, sat down, and began explaining how the fetal heart monitor worked. There was an issue with the central system, and the fetal monitor and contraction readings couldn’t be seen at the nurses’ station. She explained that, while she would be doing regular checks (along with checks from the nurses) that I should also keep an eye on the monitors myself. She said that I’d also get used to hearing the pattern of the baby’s heart over the coming hours. And, between hearing it and the monitor, I’d know if something was wrong. She explained that the heartrate should be between 110 and 160. If it went above or below this range for more than 60 seconds, I should buzz the nurses’ station as that could indicate a problem.
As she was sitting there, and we both were looking at the monitor, all of a sudden, the baby’s heartrate fell. I saw it go to 94 and then continue to drop. The doctor told me to take off my mask (that I was wearing due to COVID) and take deep breaths. A nurse who was in the room helping set up the induction grabbed an oxygen mask and put it on me. I laid back, and the doctor began examining me and then yelling for other nurses. It was all in Arabic, but I heard the word “emergency” and “cesarean” several times. I looked over to the heart monitor and saw it was at 54 as my doctor worked to get the baby’s heart to recover. “Is everything okay?” I frantically asked as I clutched the hand of the nurse standing between me and the monitor. The next thing I knew, I was told that I had to have a C-section, and my doctor ran out to ready the OR. Quickly, monitors and cords were being unhooked, and a nurse with a small portable heart monitor was checking the heartbeat running alongside the bed as I rolled down the hall to the OR.
The moments being rolled down the hall were some of the most terrifying of my life. I had no idea whether the baby was okay. I was headed into an unplanned, emergency surgery. And, I was alone.
I had no idea when Craig would be back and was devastated that he wouldn’t be there for the baby’s birth. I had no idea how things would go in the OR or what to expect with things happening so quickly and no chance to discuss the procedure with my doctor. And, I was so scared of Jonah or I not making it through in such an emergency situation that we weren’t prepared for.
As we headed down the hall, I frantically called Craig (who was at home getting our bags and wrapping things up). I quickly told him what was happening and that I was about to have a C-section. He told me he would be there as soon as he could. All I remember is saying that I thought I’d have to have general anesthesia as it was so urgent and that I was scared and that I loved him. I got off the phone just as we rolled into the OR.
The OR was bustling with people. My doctor was there, ready for surgery. Someone came up to me and asked the last time I ate and what, someone told me to take my jewelry off, I gave someone my cell phone, and I watched as all of the tools for the operation were ripped out of their sterile packaging. Throughout this, a nurse had the portable heart monitor on my stomach and was checking on the baby.
It was so overwhelming and loud in the room, but my doctor started talking to me over the surgery preparations.
The heartrate had stabilized. The baby was okay. We could wait. She could call off the C-section, and we could wait.
I nodded okay.
Then, she yelled over everyone that the surgery was off – around 11:55 AM.
I asked around for my phone, got it back, and immediately called Craig to let him know. He was on his way.
I was rolled back to my room and talked with the doctor a bit. The fetal and contraction monitors were put back on and would stay there for the next 40 minutes to monitor the baby.
My OBGYN said that the baby was fine. There weren’t concerns that anything had happened to him during the drop in heartrate. With the heartrate recovered, she felt okay waiting to see if things would progress with labor. However, she was clear with her concerns. The color of the amniotic fluid was worrying. If the heartrate dropped like that again, she wanted to proceed with a C-section. She didn’t want it to happen a third time. I agreed. She also felt that holding off on the C-section, at that moment, was better psychologically for me and Craig. And, it would give her time to prepare.
The doctor also talked to me about going ahead and placing an epidural. If we had to rush to a C-section again, having an epidural in place would save precious minutes needed to safely get the baby out.
We discussed (at this point, Craig had returned, getting back to the room around 12:15 pm), and my OBGYN said that, as the monitoring of me and the baby looked good, we could hold off on the epidural if we wanted. Also, she called the anesthesiologist to give her an overview of the situation and confirm the anesthesiologist would be on standby should I need an urgent, emergency epidural. Based on this, we decided to wait.
Around 1:15 PM, after feeling that everything was stable with the baby and me, my OBGYN began labor induction again. She started with an even smaller dose of Pitocin to ensure that everything remained okay. Things went fine and so the Pitocin was increased every 20 minutes or so with contractions starting. Also, the color of my amniotic fluid looked to be clearer, which was a positive sign.
One of the reasons that I had not wanted to be induced is that I’d heard how painful induced contractions are (although, all contractions are – induced or not!). Once they started, it felt like there was barely any break in between them. And, those that I was having at first were not even helping things to progress with labor, per the doctor’s examination. Strangely (which I was not prepared for!), I felt the contractions most strongly in my legs than anywhere else – it was excruciating. (I’ve later discovered there is something rare called “thigh labor” that some women experience… I’m one of those lucky few, I guess!) Needless to say, it was clear to anyone on the labor and delivery floor that I was having contractions.
As the monitors looked okay, my OBGYN let me to come off and move around a bit. However, I struggled to walk much with the pain in my legs during the contractions. Moving around was helpful though. At one point, the doctor came in to check on me as I was going through a contraction. She said that they could hear me down at the nurses’ station so she wanted to check – Did I want an epidural? Did I want nitrous oxide (laughing gas)? I said that I would continue to hold off for now. And, she said, “okay, a hug will do,” as I leaned on Craig (in the “slow dance” position that we learned in our birthing class). A bit later, I had to return to the bed so that the monitoring could continue.
By around 4:00 PM, my OBGYN felt that things were finally progressing as she’d like. She offered an epidural again, saying that it would take about an hour for everything to happen before I’d have pain relief. However, I decided to continue to wait for labor to progress further.
Around 4:45 PM, she came back in to check on everything. At this stage, she recommended I go ahead and get the epidural. She felt that this was a good time in my labor. It would help me conserve energy. And, in case anything happened, the epidural would be in place. Based on talking with her, we decided to proceed.
Around 5:15 PM, the anesthesiologist arrived. He entered the room just as I was having a contraction (and yelling about it!). Multiple times while he was there, he told me, “You are a strong, self-confident woman.” Gotta love his birth affirmations!
He helped me get into position, explained how I needed to sit for the epidural, talked to Craig to ensure that he’d be okay being in the room (in which Craig definitely didn’t tell the truth about being scared of needles!), and got ready. As you have to be really still and the contractions were coming so close together, I was very worried about staying still for enough time for him to do the epidural. This resulted in my yelling, “I’m having a contraction”, each time one came so that he’d know to wait so I could do a better job of sitting still. Throughout each step of the process, he gave us an overview of what was going on and tried to keep the atmosphere light. At one point, he turned down some of the lights in the room for a “more romantic” atmosphere. Overall, I didn’t feel pain when getting the epidural, and everything went smoothly. They gave me a low dose epidural (which I had hoped and planned to start with) that could be increased, as needed. Throughout the evening, I continued to be able to feel my feet and could move my toes and (kind of!) my legs.
Around 6:25 PM, I called my sister. Fortunately, my mom was at her house celebrating a late Christmas so I got to talk to both of them together. We chatted on and off until around 7:15 PM. It was a welcome pick-me-up in an exciting but stressful day.
At 7:40 PM, I started to feel a small amount of pain in my right side and one of the machines that I was hooked up to began beeping (which we later found out meant that the epidural was running out). We followed up with my doctor and then one of the nurses.
A few minutes later, at 7:45 PM, my OBGYN came in to check on me again. As she began her next check to see how things were progressing, the situation changed rapidly.
The baby’s heart began to drop again – this time, worse than the morning. I saw it fall to 99 and then into the 50s. Craig and I were alone in the room with my doctor. She shoved in me, pushing over and over again, trying to get the heartrate to recover. I had flashbacks to the morning. And, then, I saw the heartrate fall to 33. She yelled over to Craig to grab her phone, which was on a table across the room. I heard her yelling “sabaya” (ladies in English), calling the nurses to the room. Once again, I heard “emergency” and “cesarean” as she continued to work. And, then she began trying to move my hospital bed toward the OR herself.
Nurses ran in and began unhooking me and rolling the bed to the OR. Craig followed behind.
We rolled into the OR. My OBGYN told me that while I was dilated to 6 or 7 cm but that we needed to do a cesarean due to the the baby’s heart dropping. I nodded in affirmation.
From there, I was transferred to the operating table. The anesthesiologist on shift quickly topped up my epidural, and surgery began at 8:00 PM in a buzzing operating room. Jonah was born at 8:06 PM.
They pulled Jonah out, and he screamed out crying. I was so relieved and began crying myself. I looked back to Craig and saw that he was too.
I got a quick look at Jonah. He was perfect. Then, he was whisked away to the other side of the room. Craig followed closely.
For the next 50 minutes or so, I was being closed up. Craig watched over Jonah in the OR and then accompanied him up to the nursery where Jonah was put in an incubator to warm up and rest.
Around 9:00 PM, the surgery was completed. I was unhooked from machines and such, transferred to a rolling bed, and rolled into (what I call) a transition room around 9:15 PM. I was shaking fairly hard so they continued to monitor my vitals over and over. My OBGYN sat down in the room with me and worked on her reports. It wasn’t clear why Jonah’s heartrate had dropped—the umbilical cord wasn’t around his neck, and there weren’t any other apparent issues, she told me.
About 5 minutes after I arrived to this room, Craig appeared. He had been watching over Jonah in the nursery. My doctor recommended that he stay with me for a bit, and we sat together as Craig showed me photos that he had taken of Jonah and updated me on how he was doing.
Around 9:30 PM, they felt that I was stable and could be moved to my room in the recovery ward.
Craig headed to find our backpacks, which we’d last left in my labor and delivery room. The nurse told me that she had to call some people to come move my bed (as, she told me, while she didn’t mind helping, it wasn’t her job to move beds). She disappeared, and I was left by myself.
At first, I didn’t mind waiting; however, 10 minutes and then 20 minutes passed, and no one was anywhere to be seen or heard. At one point, I contemplated pulling the monitors off myself in hopes that an alarm of some type would go off and someone would come get me. Around 10:05 PM, Craig came back, asking why I was still there. He thought I’d be in the next elevator up to my room and then I never came so he returned to find me. The same nurse finally returned, and she and Craig ended up moving my bed themselves at about 10:10 PM. Upon arriving to the room, the nurse who moved me, two nurses from the recovery ward, and Craig (!) transferred me from the rolling bed to the recovery one.
As soon as I arrived to the room, I asked the nurse for my baby. However, they were insistent on getting him dressed before bringing him to me. All I wanted was my baby!
Finally, at around 10:30 PM, I officially met Jonah for the first time and got to hold him. He was perfect.
About 20 minutes later, a nurse came by to help me try to breastfeed him. We had a successful start with her help. (Although, we ended up calling her back a few minutes later for some more help!)
After that, we got some snuggles in and called our families.
Despite the many words written here, it’s really hard to capture all of the moments and everything I felt the day that Jonah was born.
I’ve never felt so many emotions, so strongly.
I’ve never felt as much fear, relief, and love as I felt that day.
And, despite being away from family and friends, I felt so sure of those who were by my side that day, knowing that I could depend on them to take care of me in the midst of so much uncertainty. While not much went to according to plan, in the end, Jonah and I made it through the day healthy and safe. And, for me and Craig, that’s what mattered.
While the C-section wasn’t planned and was terrifying as I was rushed to the OR and laid on the table waiting for Jonah to come out, hoping that he would be okay, as a doctor recently told me – you did it to save the life of your baby.
Craig was my rock through it all. Even when he wasn’t able to be there, he was my constant. He was by my side, supporting me through the anticipation, pain, fear, and then relief and joy of Jonah’s arrival. I feel so lucky to have him as my partner. Words can’t express how happy I am that Jonah is ours to raise together. I only hope that other women going through childbirth have someone as loving and supportive by their side. I couldn’t have done it without him. We made it through the day together as us two, becoming us three.
My OBGYN was the most incredible doctor. She was with me all day. She sat by my bedside in the labor and delivery room, kept me company after surgery, never went more than 15 minutes (or so) without coming into the room to check on me, and guided me through the highs and lows and unexpected events of the day. I can’t imagine Jonah’s birth without her. Even she had a look of joy on her face as she lifted Jonah out of and over the curtain after he was born.
Like many births, Jonah’s was dramatic.
Of the many moments of the day, the one that I never want to forget is that of Jonah’s arrival into the world – bloody and screaming. The emotions of seeing Jonah for the first time in the OR – full of life, seeing Jonah again (hours later) and holding him to my chest, and later feeling his skin against me and just knowing that he is mine… There are no words to describe these moments or emotions.
Happy four months, Jonah! Being your mother has been a joy. I can’t wait to see what the months ahead hold.