Today’s story of perseverance comes from Abigail Brady and her traumatic birth story.
Mom to two children, ages 5 and 7 months.
Briefly describe your experience:
On January 13th, 2023, I woke up in a lot of pain. I felt like I was having contractions. I was in so much pain that I could barely walk. My husband took me to the hospital. When I arrived they discovered I was having minor contractions, my white blood cell count was also high, along with my baby’s and my heart rate was slightly elevated. They weren’t sure what was going on and ran a bunch of different tests. The contractions weren’t consistent and ended up slowing down. They thought I had some sort of infection but weren’t sure what kind. They even thought I had appendicitis at one point. I had an MRI done (which was super painful laying on my back). I remember sitting in the MRI machine trying my best to do breathing exercises and counting down each second until I was done.
After 12 hours trying to figure out what was going on they finally realized I had chorioamniotis (a placenta infection) and admitted me into labor and delivery. I was only 36 weeks but they needed to get the baby out because of the infection. I was given an epidural and started on pitocin. Getting the epidural was one of the best things because I was in a lot of pain. Once the epidural hit it was so nice to finally be able to relax.
After 22 hours I was barely progressing so they rushed me into the OR for an emergency C-section. I would later find out that I had gone septic. I was terrified to get a C-section. The thought of being awake for surgery was beyond terrifying. My nurse was the absolute best and helped me through my panic attack. They got me back into the OR fast. Getting a C-section is such a crazy experience. You smell and hear all the things.
They were able to get Ella out fast but when she came out she wasn’t breathing so the NICU team did everything they could to get her breathing. After some intervention they were able to get her stable. Once I was stitched up they took me back into labor and delivery. After what felt like forever I was finally able to meet my sweet little baby girl. Due to the C-section and going septic I couldn’t stop shaking. I wasn’t able to hold my baby on my own so the nurse helped make my first experience holding her special. I was also able to get Ella to breastfeed right away which was a major blessing.
After we got to spend time with Ella, the nurse discovered that her blood sugar levels were off so she was admitted into the NICU. I remember going into the NICU seeing her connected to monitors and oxygen. Her tiny little hand had an IV in it. Her little foot was red from getting pricked so many times from testing her blood sugar so often. I remember sitting in my hospital room, on the postpartum floor, hearing other moms with their babies and being so envious. I so badly wanted my baby to be with me in the room.
They ran some heart tests and found that she had a hole in her heart (asd secundum) and secondary pulmonary hypertension. That was causing her oxygen levels to be low. After 5 days in the hospital both Ella and I were sent home. Because of her heart issues she was sent home on oxygen and a heart monitor. It is hard having a baby on oxygen because it feels like they are on a leash. I couldn’t take her from room to room without moving the oxygen tank. It was also hard going places because the monitor would beep if it got bumped.
After almost 2 months of that we met with a pediatric cardiologist. They ran tests and found out that her hole had closed and her pulmonary hypertension cleared up. She was good to go off of oxygen.
Who or what helped keep you grounded when you initially found out about the diagnosis? What about currently?
When I found out that I had chorioamniotis I really only knew that it was a placenta infection. I stayed away from Google while in the hospital because I didn’t want to stress myself out. It wasn’t until 2 days after that I found out I went septic right before the C-section. I am still in the process of processing the whole thing but I plan on doing an EMDR session with my therapist. Talking with people about the whole experience has helped me out a lot. My husband sat down with me 2 months after it and we talked about the whole experience from the beginning, that made a big difference. Don’t be afraid to share all your emotions about the situation. It’s a process so make sure to be patient with yourself
How did you balance the needs of your family and yourself while still allowing room for coping?
I had a lot of help from my family and friends. Due to the infection and the C-section I was in the hospital for 6 days. My son (who was 4 at the time) was having a really hard time while I was in the hospital so my husband had to go home at night and be with him. During the day both mine and my husband's family would help take care of him so that my husband could be at the hospital with the baby and me.
While I was in the hospital my mom and sister organized and deep cleaned my house. I had really bad pelvic girdle pain so I wasn’t able to get much nesting done because of the pain. Since Ella was a little early I hadn’t finished her nursery so they put everything away and made it look nice for me. Checking out of the NICU took forever so we didn’t get home until 9pm. It was so nice walking into a clean home and being able to see my son!
People brought me meals which made things so much easier. It was nice to not have to worry about what to make for dinner for 2 months! I had a hard time, at first, figuring out how to balance everything. I had a hard time sitting still so I probably pushed myself harder than I should have but keeping myself busy is how I cope. I had an incredible support system and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. Once I was cleared to workout I started training for a 5k. Working out is one way I take care of my mental health. Going for runs or walks was very healing for me.
What advice would you give to parents in a similar situation (or really any parent who is dealing with uncertain challenges)?
You are a lot stronger than you think. It’s ok to ask people for help! It’s ok to not be ok. Going through a traumatic labor and delivery can be rough. It takes time to unpack it all. Be patient with yourself. Therapy is a wonderful tool when you have a good therapist that you click with.
What has this experience taught you about resilience?
That I am strong. That pain and fear are temporary. My biggest takeaway from it all is that I am a badass who is capable of so much.
What is something you wish others understood about going through a traumatic birth experience?
It takes time to process the whole experience. Having a baby in and of itself is already an emotional experience. When you throw in trauma it heightens the emotional experience. I went through times where I would just cry and other times where I felt numb. If someone you love went through a traumatic birth make sure to be patient with them and be there for them when they need you.
Update on you and your kids:
We are all doing great! Miss Ella doesn’t have any issues and is a healthy and happy baby. She just recently started to crawl and has been saying mama. She has the sweetest little personality. I recovered from the C-section and ran/walked a 5k 5 months postpartum which was a big deal for me because I hate running.