“Am I gonna live"?
These were the words I managed to ask the very attentive, very worried anesthesiologist as he moved the Nitrous Oxide mask toward my mouth.
My mind told me that there was a chance I would die but my heart told me a different story. How anticlimactic it would have been to have endured 40 hours of natural labor and a stat C-section with "laughing" gas as an anesthetic, to never meet my baby boy. I held on with all my strength as they pulled Makaio from inside of me and began putting me back together again.
The natural birthing class that my husband and I took 3 months earlier did an awesome job of persuading me to try having a natural birth. The teacher boasted about the joys of bringing forth a baby without the pollution of modern medicine numbing our bodies and senses. She spoke of giving birth as a sort of modern day right of passage into womanhood...a concept that has disappeared in this current age of painless convenience. I was impressed by her rhetoric and challenged by the thought of having my baby with all of my senses intact. But could I really do it? Honestly, inside I was just a scared little girl hoping to achieve that "right" without actually going through the "passage".
On the way home from class, my hubby and I chatted about "going natural" or using pain management during labor and delivery. We both agreed that it would be better for the baby and for me to avoid the drugs if possible.
As the days went on, I thought more about a natural birth, read some convincing books and I prayed... I felt the Lord showing me that the birth of my son was indeed going to be a right of passage in my life. He showed me that from this birthing experience I was never going to be the same. He wanted to plant, deep within me, a treasure of wisdom, truth and hope. He wanted to deepen His roots in my soul and entwine his spirit with mine even more. I had no idea how all of this would unfold or how these truths would manifest in my life. I was just an excited, naive expectant mother waiting to give birth to her baby boy...waiting to be forever changed.
The time for delivery was fast approaching. I spent those last days of my pregnancy trying to stay sheltered from the hot Hawaiian sun. I laid by the pool, relaxed in my air-condition apartment and just waited. I remember the first mild contraction I felt on the morning of September 3rd, three days passed my due date. I really thought it was no big deal. I had a friend over that morning and we swam in the pool and chatted. My contractions were mild and weren't too bothersome. As the day progressed, the pain started to worsen. At 2 p.m. I called my husband in tears. I told him it was time for him to come home. I was in labor. I made a phone call to my birth coach, Margie, and told her we would be heading to the hospital soon. Although my contractions were coming on irregularly they were becoming too intense to bare. At 5 p.m. we began the hour long journey to the hospital. When we arrived, I was put into a room where I undressed, put on a gown and laid in a bed. The nurse came in. She checked to see if I was dilating and I got the first bit of disappointing news. I wasn’t even 1 centimeter. What? All those contractions and no progress?
We were told that we were welcome to walk the hallways of the hospital or go back home until things became more intense. We opted to walk the halls since the drive back to Kona seemed daunting. Two hours of walking and many excruciating contractions later, the nurse checked me again. I had made no progress.The nurses encouraged me to return home. We got back in the car and headed to Margie’s house where I could continue to labor and my husband could rest after his long day of work. At this point, the labor moved down into my lower back and the pain was so horrific that the memory has yet to fade.
A couple of hours went by and I decided it was time to head back to the hospital. We arrived an hour later and I was admitted, checked and told yet again that I had made no progress. By now it was early morning. The hospital was facing a shortage of nurses and midwives, two other ladies were closed to delivery and I could hear their screams from down the hall. I was in agony and hoping that their screams would not become my own in the coming hours. I was on hour 15 of labor at that time. Exhaustion and dismay set in and I demanded pain medicine. I was told by the nurse that I “was not a priority.” She also added that given the little progress I had made, I probably would not give birth until noon that day. It was only 2 a.m. It seemed like horrible news at the time but oh, how I wish she had been right! I thank God He has not given us the ability to see the future as 24 more hours of labor were still to come. I was devastated by her harsh words.
Lord? Where are you?
I can't remember much more of what happened during those next few hours. With the morning light came a new shift of midwives. When my new attending midwife entered the room with a smile and a positive attitude, I felt refreshed. Amazing how the human body can bounce back even through exhaustion. I was determined to deliver my baby...and soon. I found the strength to get out of bed and experiment with the birthing ball, chair, shower and tub. As the contractions came on strong, I concentrated on breathing. At noon, the midwife checked my cervix. I was 6 centimeters dilated after over 24 hours of labor. The midwife encouraged me and told me that in a few hours I would be pushing my baby out. I pressed on.
At around 3 that afternoon, I was 8 centimeters and felt the urge to push. The midwife came in and assisted me to push the baby out. After several attempts, she noted that my cervix was now swelling and closing up. Another huge disappointment. At that point the nurses mercifully gave me a narcotic to help with the pain. I felt so relieved. This helped to pass several more hours.
The sun was going down by now and another shift change was about to occur. The nurse who treated me harshly would be back on duty. However, this time, when she walked in my room she rushed to my side and gave me a very sincere apology accompanied by a vow to make me her focus until I finally delivered. I welcomed her sincerity and she became the best thing that happened to me during my stay. I knew that I now had the attention of a very capable nurse.
By 7:30 pm on September 4th, eyebrows began to raise. "Is this girl ever going to deliver this baby?" This question buzzed amongst the delivery team. My room became flooded with hospital staff as they told me what my options were. When the word “Epidural” came up, I was beyond relieved. I simply could not handle any more. No sleep, no food, no rest, no baby. I was finished. The anesthesiologist came in, read me the risks and I eagerly signed as my husband held on to me.
The epidural was a God send! I was able to rest. It was inserted at 8 P.M and I had enough in the drip to last for four hours. I was resting finally and hopefully dilating. At around 11 pm, I spoke to the nurse and reminded her that I only had one hour of drip left. I asked for more. No one ever came. But… by midnight when the drip was empty, I was fully dilated and ready to push! I was so very happy. The team came in and I began pushing. I did so for about 1.5 hours. Nothing…no baby. It was 2 am on September 5. The doctor was called in from her warm bed. She came into my room and told me we could try to use the vacuum to get my baby out or we could do a c-section. Not wanting a c-section, I opted to try the vacuum. The many hours of labor had softened my insides so much that the vacuum tore the birth canal and I began bleeding. Although the doctor tried to stitch me up, the stitches would not hold. The bleeding became uncontrollable, baby’s heart rate dropped and the Doctor called for a stat c-section. With no time to lose and certainly no time to give me more pain medicine, they tossed my husband scrubs and told him they would be back to get him.
They never had time.
At 2:24 Wouter Makaio Roos entered the world into a chaotic scene in the operating room. A huge baby boy surprised the doctor and nurses. Weighing 9.4lbs, his screams filled the air. Somehow joy took over as I drifted off, relieved just to be alive and hoping to forget all the trauma.
I woke up to a whole new world. One that was filled with happiness at the arrival of our son, but also one filled with questions.
Why in this modern day had I almost died giving birth?
Why had I been allowed to endure such an ordeal while educated medical staff stood by?
Why hadn't God intervened on my behalf?
In the next few weeks, I had more questions than answers, more pain than pleasure, more anxiety than consolation and more doubts than certainties. During this tender time a deep spiritual truth was being sewn into the fabric of my being…one that I still don’t fully comprehend but understand enough to now see as beautiful.
To be continued…