On Tuesday, April 7th 2020 our little angel made her eventful entrance into the world. Isabel Grace Denner was born at 6:43 AM at 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 20 inches long. During my pregnancy, multiple people told me to have a “loose” birth plan, but to be prepared for it to go differently than planned. And in our case, that was certainly true. Originally, I had hoped to have a completely natural labor and delivery, but Phil and I had talked about the option of induction as the situation with COVID-19 began to grow more serious and affect many medical facilities across the nation. On Friday, April 3rd, I had an appointment with my OB and after talking with her and a few other doctors, Phil and I decided to go ahead with an elective induction. While I had originally wanted a natural delivery, it was more important to Phil and I that he could be there for the delivery and birth of our baby girl. My doctor and many others at our hospital were just waiting for the day when the hospital would change the rules and not allow a support person in the room. Since I was full term and baby girl was due on the 7th anyways, we decided this was the best decision with the current situation.
So on Monday night, around 8pm Phil and I headed with our bags to the hospital. The plan was at I was to arrive at labor and delivery at 9pm, where I would then be hooked up and monitored and given a small dose of cervidil. The purpose of the cervidil is to help finish ripening the cervix and I was supposed to receive increasing doses every four hours until my cervix was fully effaced and then on Tuesday morning I was going to be put on Pitocin to start contractions and my OB doctor would be there during the day to (hopefully) delivery the baby; although the process could potentially take longer than that. Throughout the day I had been having some contractions, but they weren’t very strong and I just thought they were Braxton hicks. But before even taking medication, the monitors were already registering my contractions at every 5 minutes. After giving me the first dose of cervidil, the doctors left the room so that Phil and I could get some sleep.
Or at least that was the plan. It didn’t take long for my belly to start feeling crampy (which was normal) but then my contractions got stronger. Phil did get a little sleep, but I don’t think I ever did fall asleep. By 1am when they came in to check on me and I was already 3cm dilated. I never did need a second dose of cervidil. At this point I still was hoping not to get an epidural, but was becoming more open to the idea of it. By 3am I was having contractions every 1 to 2 minutes and most contractions were lasting for more than a minute and a half and I was 6cm dilated. I felt like I could barely catch my breath before the next contraction started and they were getting increasingly painful. I still thought that I wouldn’t be delivering until later in the day and I was absolutely exhausted, having not slept since 7am on Monday morning. I didn’t know how many more hours I could go and also be able to push. So I finally caved and decided to get an epidural. The doctor had already warned me that it would probably be close to an hour after asking for one until I actually would get the epidural.
They started me on an IV and began prepping to have us moved down to a delivery room. I have no idea how I would have made it through the next hour without Phil. He held my hand through each contraction and helped me to breathe through each one. At one point while Phil stepped away to get our things together, I felt like I could barely concentrate to get through on my own. The walk down to the delivery room felt like it took hours. I think it was only a few minutes after I got in the room that the anesthesiologist came in and prepped me for the epidural. I was really nervous, but it went in without a hitch and before long I felt so much relief. The doctor said that we should be able to get some rest now and I began to feel really relaxed and we dimmed the lights. Much time hadn’t passed though, before the doctor and nurse came into check on me and helped me change positions. My blood pressure had dropped a bit, which is normal on an epidural, but the baby’s heart rate was dipping down after each contraction, which was a concern.
Every 15 or so minutes they would come in and have me change positions. I can’t exactly remember when, but at some point they broke my water and around 6:30am I was 8 and ½ cm dilated. Throughout this time, they continued to keep a close eye on the baby’s heart rate. Right after checking how dilated I was they told me that we were going to start prepping for a vaginal birth. I remember Phil laughing and saying “Well I’m guessing your OB won’t make it here in time for the delivery!” I felt so ready to meet our little girl and couldn’t wait to start pushing. And then only about 5 minutes later (or maybe less) 3 or 4 more nurses and 2 more doctors were suddenly with us in the room. Phil heard them saying, “Do you have the consent form for her to sign?”, but I didn’t realize what was going on until my doctor came up to me and said, “Lauren we are going to go ahead and do a c-section.” Everything after that was a blur. I remember starting to cry as I signed the papers and not wanting to let go of Phil’s hand as they lifted me off of the bed and rolled me out of the room.
I remember praying over and over, “God please let Isabel be okay.” I didn’t know until later why I was getting an emergency c-section and only knew that something was obviously wrong. I never realized just how QUICKLY a c-section could be performed, but like I said earlier they had decided to prep me for a vaginal delivery at 6:30 (Phil had checked the clock) and our sweet little girl was born only 13 minutes later. Things seemed to move even more quickly after I got into the operating room. I remember looking around and being able to count at least 11 people in the room with me and only seconds after getting the blue sheet up to block my view I could feel hands yanking around at my stomach. And then I felt myself being sliced open. And it HURT. The anesthesiologist by my head asked if I could feel pain and after saying that I did it was only a few seconds before I felt the pain go away; but I could still feel what was happening. I couldn’t see anything though, and it felt like an eternity until I finally heard the cry of a baby. Within a couple of seconds of that cry I felt a hand holding mine and without even looking up I knew it was Phil.
I learned later that as they were wheeling me out of the delivery room, a nurse had told Phil that he could join me in the operation room after he was dressed and they gave him PPE (personal protective equipment). Right after getting everything on a nurse returned to walk him over and he thought that they would be prepping me for the c-section. But as he walked in to the operating room, the first thing he saw was me, open, on the operating and the doctors pulling our baby out of me. After being ushered over to me and holding my hand for a few minutes, he went over to Isabel where they were cleaning her up and giving her oxygen on the warming bed. I was able to see her around the blue sheet, if I strained my neck enough. Each time Phil came back to me I asked if she was okay and finally they wrapped her up and gave her to Phil. He brought Isabel over to me and I was able to reach out and touch her face. She was so beautiful and opened her eyes to look at me as I talked to her. I wanted so badly to hold her in my arms, but after another minute or so they had Phil leave the operating room with Isabel.
After they finished stitching me up, I was taken to get xrays to make sure everything looked good (although I honestly don’t even remember getting them) and then they finally took me back to Phil and the baby. Phil gave her to me to do skin on skin and I never wanted to let her go. It was then that I learned that Isabel’s heart rate had been continuing to drop way too low, which is why they decided to do the emergency c-section. It was then that they realized that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck so as I was contracting and she was moving further down into the birth canal, the cord was tightening around her neck. Even towards the end of my pregnancy I didn’t think I would be getting induced and definitely didn’t plan for a c-section. It wasn’t at all a part of our birth plan, but once I held Isa in my arms and knew that she was okay it didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was that God had protected me and our little girl and brought her safely to us. In the end, it was such a blessing that I ended up getting induced and choosing an epidural, because they spent more time monitoring Isabel’s heart rate and were able to see what was going on. Also, because I had an epidural I didn’t need to go under general anesthesia, so I didn’t miss the birth of our baby and my recovery wasn’t quite as difficult.
Because of getting a c-section, the hospital normally keeps patients a few extra days, but because of COVID-19, I was told that if the baby and I were doing well we could leave on Thursday (2 days after delivery). We were all taken up to a postpartum room, where none of were allowed to leave until leaving the hospital. Phil even was able to order meals with me. We also had to wear our masks whenever other people were in the room with us. The nurses and staff that worked with us were absolutely phenomenal. We felt so supported and taken care of. On Tuesday afternoon, my OB came into see us and the first thing she said was, “What the heck?! That was NOT the plan!!” We all planned. Yes, that definitely was not the plan. My doctor was only supposed to work Tuesday of that week but ended up there the next two days and was able to check in on us each day. We were both absolutely exhausted. I don’t think either of us slept for more than 2 hours at a time before leaving the hospital. Even when Isabel was fast asleep there were techs or nurses coming in to check on one of us and administer meds, etc…
As time went on, I was increasingly grateful to have Phil there with me. Before the delivery, all I had thought about was how much I needed his support during labor; I had never considered how much I would need him after. I don’t know how I would have survived alone in the hospital for the next few days. From exhaustion, emotional tears, to adjusting to breastfeeding, and processing all the information I was given-having him there to hold my hand and walk through everything with me. As amazing as everyone was, it didn’t take long for us to both feel stir crazy and claustrophobic. With having a c-section recovery would look about different than if I had a vaginal delivery. Each time they checked on me they said that everything was looking great; they told me what warning signs to look for when getting home and that I wouldn’t be able to drive or lift anything heavier than the baby for 6 weeks. The first time I stood up, I was in extreme pain even with the meds and it was with much difficulty that I practiced walking around the room (like they had told me to).
Everything still seemed so surreal; every time I held her or looked at her, I just couldn’t believe she was ours. I know Phil felt the same way and even now it still seems surreal at certain moments. I can’t believe that God chose us to be her parents. This beautiful little angel is actually ours! When they finally gave us our discharge papers, we were so excited to get Isabel home and start life as our little family. Nothing about the delivery or hospital went the way we thought it would (and if you know me, you know I don’t always do well when plans change). But as we held her and snuggled her, none of that mattered. All that mattered was how God had provided for us and brought Isabel safely to us. All of this is just an incredible reminder that we can plan and plan and plan for what’s ahead, but ultimately God is in control and I can rest in that fact as Phil and I continue this journey as a family of three, with our Isabel.