a birth story of bravery.
This precious birth story comes from a married-in-to-our-crazy-wonderful-family cousin, whom I adore and admire. She is a real fighter, the stuff that baby’s dreams are made of. Gritty, tender, strong and passionate, she kindly shares her traumatic, but redemptive birth story with us.
Courtney deGeest: first baby, born premature at 32 weeks.
My first pregnancy was hard. I was very sick and lost 10-15 lbs in the first trimester from all the vomiting. I was put on Diclectin and only threw up 1-2 times a day after that until about 24 weeks. At 12 weeks 5 days I had bleeding and since I was Rh negative I had to go in and have an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay, as well get a Rhogam shot. From what they could see in the early stage of pregnancy, things looked good, so when I went in for my 18 week ultrasound I was absolutely blindsided by what we were told. They told us they didn’t think our baby would survive. This was my first pregnancy, and I was of course devastated and completely unprepared to hear that since I was a very healthy 23 year old with no genetic issues in my family. We had further tests done over the next few weeks and found out that yes, our baby was going to be very sick, but the initial test results were not correct and our little boy had a chance of surviving. We were so naive throughout this whole ordeal and even though they did their best to prepare us, we truly had no idea what to expect (and in all honesty I don’t think the doctors did either). But we hung on to the hope that we have in Jesus, and that anything was possible. This belief got me through the rest of my pregnancy.
It was a Sunday night, January 20th, 2008, when I was woken up by contractions in the night. Thinking it was Braxton Hicks I tried to go back to sleep. I was 31 weeks, 4 days pregnant at this point and in disbelief that this could be true labor. I went to work the next morning and nonchalantly mentioned to my co-worker that I was woken up by contractions last night. She encouraged me to call my OB and let her know. When I called, they insisted I come in right away since I was considered a high risk case. They squeezed me in and I saw her within 20 minutes of my call. I was 1-2cm and my cervix was softening. I was sent home on strict bed rest and told the only reason I could leave my bed was to go to the washroom on my hands and knees.
That night I was woken up again by stronger contractions around 1:00 am. I called my OB and she told me to head to the hospital right away.
When I got to the hospital around 2:30 am, they checked me and I was progressing: 2-3cm. Since they knew my baby was going to be very sick they informed us I would be delivering at BC Women’s hospital in Vancouver, an excellent hospital, better equipped to deal with my case, than the local hospital in Victoria, BC. They quickly called for a helicopter to transport me to BCW, and got to work getting me ready for the trip over. I was put on a gurney, given an IV (seven attempts!) and loaded onto the helicopter at 4:30am. My husband tells me it was a beautiful ride over getting to see all the lights above the city.
In Vancouver, my contractions eased up and things slowed down. For the next 3-4 days I would be transfered back and forth from antepartum to the high-risk labour rooms every day. They were doing their best to keep me from delivering early so prematurely. They were giving me medication to decrease my blood pressure which in turn slowed/stopped the contractions and labour temporarily. I have low blood pressure to begin with, and they finally reached a point where they couldn’t give me anymore of the medication because they feared my BP would drop too low. After five days of exhaustion and an emotional roller coaster ride, I didn’t quite understand that this decision meant I would deliver soon. I began having manageable contractions that day, that lasted throughout the whole day. A nurse checked in on me at 6:00 pm and I said I thought I should get checked because I was contracting so much throughout the day. She seemed annoyed but went and got the doctor anyway. Sure enough I was 6-7cm and they told me, “This is it, he’s coming. We’ve done all we can do.”
We started making phone calls to the rest of the family to let them know. I was very peaceful throughout most of my labour. I am sure it was the peace of God as the situation at hand was far from peaceful. I had strangers in and out of my room constantly. New doctors and nurses every day and night. My only comfort was my completely exhausted husband, who all week had been sleeping on a foamy mattress on the floor in my ever-changing hospital room. And my mom, who was driving up and down from their house in Seattle just about everyday that week to see me. I found the one thing that kept me focused during labour was nitrous oxide, or laughing gas. When I would feel a contraction coming on I would inhale a big breath of gas and slowly breath it back out. It made my labouring feel calmer and helped me to block out the overwhelming activity going on around me.
When things started to get intense, I suddenly heard God tell me that our son would be born without CDH (congenital diaphragmatic hernia) and that he would cry when he was born (something kids with CDH don’t do as they usually come out blue and not breathing). We were told that he would be born with CDH, so this was quite a surprise. I felt so strongly about what God had spoken to me that I declared it out loud in my delivery room for everyone to hear! It was a euphoric and powerful moment to say the least. Later, when they had x-rayed our baby’s diaphragm, the doctors were baffled that he didn’t have CDH!
Shortly after that I felt the overwhelming urge to push. I looked up at my nurse and said “I am going to push now”. It was so amazing and empowering how my body seemed to know exactly what to do at each stage. I didn’t read any books on labour and I didn’t attend any prenatal classes, since I was only at 32 weeks. But it was so natural and my body just kept cuing me on what to do next. I didn’t have to think about a thing. I was only 32 weeks 2 days, but I pushed like it was a full-term baby. After the first push or two I had a momentary feeling of panic, the only one of my entire birth experience, where I stopped and looked at my husband Jesse and said “Wait! I can’t do this!”. Everyone in the room affirmed and encouraged me in that moment, which helped me press on.
I pushed him out in 8 minutes, probably because he was so small. The OB wasn’t even ready to catch him. He had his back turned to me and was setting things up when I pushed him out onto the bed. He gave a loud and strong cry, and suddenly I was in tears, along with my husband and mom. I hardly got to look at him before he was whisked off to a resuscitation room, where they stabilized him and prepared to transfer him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at BC Children’s Hospital (connected to BC Women’s by a hallway, thankfully). They wheeled him by my bed 40 minutes after he was born and I finally got a quick glimpse of his face, as the rest of his body was covered up in towels to keep him warm and protected during the transfer.
I tore a little because I pushed him out so hard and fast. I was bleeding when they told me it was time to deliver the placenta. I tried pushing the placenta out for over 45 minutes. I began to bleed heavily, and the doctor panicked. They decided to take me into the OR and manually remove my placenta before I lost more blood. Right before they were going to take me in to the OR, we found out the room was being used. My doctor began to panic. “She’s hemorrhaging and we need to get her in NOW!” I began to panic. Suddenly I was in the OR, being put under. And the next thing I remembered was my husband, Jesse, standing over me in the recovery room. I lost so much blood, I had to have two blood transfusions. Jesse had been with our little boy while I recovered and kept me updated.
Our sweet son, Asher Cole de Geest was born at 10:03pm, January 25th 2008, weighing a whopping 3 lbs. 13 oz. Asher means happy, blessed, and laughter. Cole means victorious or victory for the people. He is truly a happy, blessed, and victorious boy who brings laughter and joy to everyone he meets. Feb. 5th 2008 was the first time I was able to hold my sweet baby, when he was 12 days old. It such a precious feeling, it’s hard to put into words. One year and one month later, on March 10th 2009, we were finally able to bring our sweet miracle boy home for the first time. We had moved to Vancouver, and were excited to be moving back home to Victoria.
He has defied all odds set against him and proven all the doctors wrong. The beginning of his journey in this life was paved with trials and suffering, but his life continues to be a testimony of the faithfulness, mercy, and grace of God.
We are now pregnant (24-25 weeks) with our second boy! According to the ultrasounds, he is healthy! We are looking forward to hopefully having a more typical birth experience this time around, although in the end, all that matters is that he is in my arms and healthy.
If you have a birth story you’d like to share, I, along with my readers, would love to have it! Send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org