It all started as most typical Saturday mornings do. Sleeping in. I was in my 35th week of pregnancy and absolutely exhausted. I was experiencing round ligament pain every time I moved and a bit of insomnia every night. I was crazy swollen and snoring like a great whale. Needless to say, I was quite uncomfortable.
On Thursday I had been to my routine checkup with my OB where everything was progressing along normally. We scheduled an induction a week after my due date and tried to get the doctor to guesstimate how big she thought baby boy might be. I remember laying on the couch that night watching my stomach move while we watched the Amazing Race. I was mentally trying to figure out how I was going to deal with pregnancy for another 5 weeks because I was SO over it.
Friday morning while I was getting ready I noticed just a bit of red discharge. I called my OB and spoke to a nurse. Although it was slight, she was concerned that I had lost my mucus plug and highly recommended I take a trip to OB Emergency Services to get it checked out. After a call to get Keaton home from work we took a quick drive up to the hospital where I was checked into OB Emergency Services. I was in good spirits and really not too concerned. After a urine sample, a blood pressure test, a vaginal exam, and a non-stress test, Baby Robertson and I were declared healthy and were sent back home.
After a nice sleep in Saturday morning Keaton and I decided that the previous day was enough of a wake up call that we should be a little more prepared for when the real event took place. We spent the rest of the day running errands to get everything we needed for our hospital bags. That afternoon we decided to pay a visit to one of my good friends and her brand new babe. I knew we couldn't show up empty handed so we decided to make a quick stop at Costco to pick up some chocolate.
We parked the car just outside of the Costco parking lot so we could avoid the infamous Costco traffic on a Saturday. Where we parked required a little jaunt over a small grassy knoll. As we walked over the knoll there was a slight gust of wind that knocked the snow off the trees and onto yours truly. As you can imagine I gave a good shudder which induced what I thought was the feeling of me peeing my pants. Keaton was a bit ahead of me so I shouted, "Keaton, I peed my pants!". He replied, "No worries, I'll just go in without you." And thus I waddled back to the car. I sat there for a good minute being embarrassed about peeing my pants in the Costco parking lot until it clicked that most women described their water breaking as a feeling like wetting themselves. I figured I should check out the situation and so I put my hand to my lady parts to check the consistency of the out put. When I brought my hand up it was covered in bright red blood. At that moment I realized something quite serious was going on and that I needed to get to the hospital. I called Keaton and he rushed back to the car and we headed straight for the hospital.
At this moment I decided I could either completely lose my shit or deal with things in a calm and rational way. I figured if I wanted birth to be a good experience I might as well just be positive about it. In an instant something just clicked that I had to remain calm and I am so glad I had the moment of realization because that mental sentiment carried me through the next couple of days.
I decided on the drive I should call the OB Emergency Services at the hospital so they could expect me coming. Unfortunately after several minutes of trying to google the number I could not find it anywhere. It was then that I felt I really needed to talk to a medical professional so I called 911 and explained the situation and asked if they could transfer me to OB Emergency Services at the U. Thankfully the operator was super helpful and patched me right through. Once I got through to the nurse on call everything got real stressful real quick. I very calmly explained the situation and she was very concerned. She asked if I was in any pain, I wasn't. However, I was still bleeding. She tried to pinpoint where we were located several times, asking if we were traveling east or west, etc. I attempted to answer with humor because I'm so terrible at directions. In short, she did not appreciate my humor in that moment. I ended up telling her our home address and that we were two blocks away. She told me to stop there and the ambulance would arrive shortly. As we pulled up to our house I asked Keaton if he could grab our go bags and take Tillamook inside. (Poor Tillamook had been with us up until this point in the backseat.)
As Keaton was inside the house gathering things the ambulance arrived. I opened the car door ready to get out as the EMT met me. I asked if I needed to get up and he laughed and said that I should stay where I was. I once again explained what was going on. The EMTs took my blood pressure as well as my oxygen saturation. They told me that I did indeed need to go to the hospital. They asked if I wanted a ride, to which I replied that that sounded very expensive. I did tell the EMT I would leave it up to his discretion, if he thought it necessary that I ride with them. However, he assured me as long as Keaton took me straight to OB Emergency Services he was fine with Keaton driving me. And with that they handed me a towel to sit on in attempts to salvage the front seat of my car and Keaton and I headed up to the hospital.
We had just a little less than a 10 minute drive to the hospital which gave me enough time to get everything in order. I called my local in-laws to ask if they could watch Tillamook over the evening. I also called my sister and explained everything that had occurred up to that point. She promised to relay all the information to my parents and the rest of the family. I then contacted my out of town in-laws to explain what was going on. I was quite busy spreading the news so I didn't have too much time to worry on our way up to the hospital.
Once we arrived Keaton grabbed the wheelchair and wheeled me over to OB Emergency Services. Due to our experience the day before we knew exactly where to go. They had me change out of my clothes and into a gown and called in a nurse and midwife to check my vitals, examine me, etc. The staff couldn't quite figure out if my water had broken or not because there was a decent amount of blood. Because of this they decided they would test the discharge to see if my waters had broken. We were so caught up in what was going on we hadn't even parked the car! We had just left it unlocked with the hazards on in front of the hospital. Luckily, it was a quiet Saturday afternoon, so when things settled down Keaton ran back downstairs to park the car. While we were waiting for test results the nurse came in and told us it was their goal to keep my pregnant until Monday. In the interim we had to get little man's lungs to develop a bit faster. To do this they issue two steroids injected right smack dab in your butt. These injections have to be issued 24 hours apart. The goal was to keep me pregnant long enough to have the second one. After this they wheeled me over to labor and delivery.
They put us in a nice and spacious room and gave me my IV. We met with our nurse Sam who went over the details of our birth plan with us. I told her I was hoping to be dilated to a 6 before getting my epidural and that I would like to do skin to skin after he was born. And that was the entire extent of my birth plan. I explained that I felt like it wasn't worth over-planning because I really couldn't control much of what was going on anyways.
After that we were joking with the staff and all in all having a pretty good time. I was mentally preparing to hang out in the hospital for a few days while we got little man's lungs to mature a bit. It was then that Dr. Disney arrived on scene. She said that I had preeclampsia. She explained that I had had several severe blood pressure readings while in OB Emergency, I had protein in my urine, and that my platelets had dropped to below 100. She then went on to explain that they needed to induce labor and they needed to do it now. She also explained that because my platelets were so low that if I wanted an epidural I had to get one before my platelets dropped any lower. She also explained that they thought that my bleeding was from a placental abruption although they wouldn't be 100 percent sure until I delivered. All in all I was not totally thrilled with Dr. Disney at that point.
Keaton being the practical one asked if we could retest my platelets to see if I really needed to get an epidural stat - which they did. My platelets jumped back up just a tiny bit but were still sitting under 100. Looking back I think we didn't fully understand that the platelets were related to the preeclampsia so I'm sure the staff retested just to make sure we felt like we were semi in control of making our own decisions. In the end I decided I didn't want to push out a baby without some pain relief - that just wasn't my idea of a good time - so we sent for the anesthesiologist.
The anesthesiologist had a few more visits to make before me so while we were waiting we popped on the food network and had a shift change. Our nurse Holly arrived and she was so much fun! We had great late night conversations about medical mary jane, the food network, and donuts.
I'm not quite sure when they added the pitocin and the magnesium but I do know they were on my IV stand. All the while my blood pressure was being checked every 10 minutes by a machine and baby was being constantly monitored. At some point Keaton and my father-in-law James gave me a blessing. I don't quite remember what was said or even who gave it but I do remembering feeling less freaked after that.
Now the rest of this is pretty fuzzy, I think it is fair to blame the late night hours as well as the magnesium for this. I know the anesthesiologist came in sometime after midnight and we had a great time. I was having so much fun that I told Keaton to take pictures while the whole thing was happening. Let's just say those photos are not for the weak stomached ;) At some point they put in a ripening balloon (that's as fun as it sounds) and a catheter. Then they mostly left me alone for the night minus the constant beeping of the blood pressure machine.
At 6 am after a very unrestful few hours they checked my progress again. I was dilated to a 4 and 80 percent effaced. They took the ripening balloon out and oh boy did I feel that. My epidural had really only numbed my right side - not so much my left. The way the epidurals work at the U is the give you a base dosage and every time you hit a button you can get a top off. Unfortunately, every time I hit the button I would get these terrible adrenaline shakes. The nurse explained that this mostly had to do with my hormones but man were they awful. I would get crazy cold and the nurses would pile 3 or 4 blankets on top of me until my muscles would finally relax and then I would get crazy hot. I think we went through the process at least 3 times until I asked if the anesthesiologist could come back and just increase my base dosage a little bit. He did and it helped a ton. No more crazy shakes.
At some point in the morning I decided that I needed more nutrition to have the strength to push a baby out. I had Keaton grab me some chicken broth and I went to town. Needless to say, that was not a good idea. I tried to hit the nurses button but I didn't quite get to it in time. I projectile puked and oh man did it go everywhere. My hair, my gown, my bed, the floor. It was hilarious it was so bad. My poor nurse Holly was so kind and gave me a good clean up and changed my sheets. Mind you I couldn't feel my legs at this point so there was a lot of rolling me back and forth to accomplish this task.
By 9:30 am I was dilated to a 5 and 100 percent effaced so they up-ed my pitocin and said they would recheck in 4 hours. There had been a shift change at 7 and we had been having a really great time with our nurse and the shift leader. However, I think around 9-10ish my nurse was called away to another patient to help with her birth. I was nervous who I would be getting next because I had loved all the nurses thus far but then walked in Sam! The nurse I had had when I originally arrived. Keaton and I greeted her very enthusiastically.
Over the course of the morning my good friend Kjrsten joined the party to come photograph what was happening. My mother and father-in-law stopped by to visit. Keaton and I had basically decided that our coping mechanism through this whole process was humor and a lot of laughing so we really had been having a lot of fun despite the stressful situation. At one point during the morning Sam came in and asked if I needed a rest. Which I most definitely did. Once everyone left Sam said something along the lines of, "Hey, I know you two are having a really good time but Sarah you are actually quite sick and you really should take some time to rest." It was at that point I knew Sam was the perfect nurse for me. She knew how to have a good time when it was appropriate but also knew that I needed a dose of reality and that I really did need to take it a bit easier for the next few hours.
Another check happened a 1:00 pm, I was still at a 5, but the doctor said we could call it a roomy 5. I laughed. Roomy was not a word I was hoping to describe my cervix now or ever again. They were having a hard time getting readings on Baby Robertson so they popped in an internal monitor so they had a bit of a better of an idea of how he was handling things. Around 1:30pm Keaton was in desperate need of a real meal. Our last real meal had been around noon the previous day and it had indeed been Costco hotdogs.
They checked me again at 2 pm and BOOM, I was at a 10. Kjrsten had been cool enough to sit with me so she called Keaton asap so he could come and join the fun. From what I surmised Keaton had enough time buy some food and lift the fork to his mouth when she called, at which point he ran upstairs. And then we waited, we waited for the contractions to become more consistent and for Doctor Allison to come and join us.
Then the fun part began, pushing! Sam asked what position I wanted to be in and I said anything that would help us take advantage of gravity. Because I couldn't use my legs our options were a bit slim in terms of pushing positions but we made it work. Keaton and Sam each took one of my legs. The Doctor explained how to push and how to count. Kjrsten played DJ and photographer. And Keaton was there giving me lot's of positivity. We spent most of the time jamming to Mr. Paul Simon while we worked on bringing baby boy into the world.
At this point I had let me epidural wear off enough so that I could feel my contractions just ever so slightly through my left hip. It sounds weird but it was enough to help me figure out when I was supposed to push. While pushing the Doc informed us the the baby's head was on its way out. She asked if I wanted to touch it. I reached down and was totally freaked out and excited. It was a real human. Seriously so surreal.
After about 35 minutes of pushing at 3:59 pm little man officially joined the world. He weighed 6 lbs 5 oz and was 18 inches long. They immediately put him on me for some skin to skin and Keaton cut the cord. Little man was pretty quiet at this point. I swear that silence felt like it stretched for hours. Finally he started to cry just a bit but after a few moments you could tell he was struggling. Lucky for us we had a whole team of pediatricians ready to receive little man. They popped him under the warmer and immediately went to work on the little guy.
Our nurse Sam had forewarned us before pushing even began that due to baby being premature there was no question he would have to spend at the very least a few hours in the NICU after being born. I'm so glad that we had talked about this before it happened so I could prepare mentally for not being able to immediately spend time with my son. That being said, I thought I would be just a complete mess when they took him away from me but I was actually really grateful. It was painfully obvious that he was having a hard time breathing and I was so happy to have a team full of trained professionals ready to take care of him.
Before they took him to the NICU the staff very thoughtfully let me have just a quick moment with him. In all honesty I really thought they had just shown him to me before they took him down, but the pictures prove that I was actually able to hold him!
In the NICU he was still having trouble keeping his oxygen saturation up so he was put on some heavy oxygen. He was also given an IV with antibiotics. Just a few minutes after they took him down to the NICU my mom, sister, and nephew arrived on scene with a glorious box of VooDoo donuts. They had grabbed one of the first flights they could and I was so grateful to have them there. Not to mention completely thrilled that I could finally eat again.
University of Utah is a breastfeeding friendly hospital so not even an hour after baby was born the nurses taught me how to hand express and I was collecting colostrum for little dude. In a situation where I couldn't do much for my little man medically it was nice to feel like I was helping with his recovery in some way.
Keaton spent much of his time with Baby Robertson while I was in labor and delivery recovering. After about two hours after delivery I was able to be wheeled down to the NICU and see little man for about a half an hour. I was still pretty doped up on mag but it was so wonderful to just sit there and take in everything about him. He was just so perfect and small. It broke my heart to see him with all those tubes and wires but I was just so grateful he was in a place where he was receiving the best possible care he could. The nurses were just so sweet and gentle with him. That first room he was in at the NICU just felt so reverent. It felt like a sacred space for all those little babies and their parents.
After what seemed like the shortest half an hour of my life I was moved up to my recovery room. It took a little bit of work to get me from the wheelchair into the hospital bed - I could mostly feel my legs at this point but due to the magnesium I was quite wobbly. Once I was in bed I noticed the little bassinet in the corner of the room. The nurse asked where my little guy was and I told her he was in the NICU. Something to the affect was said about how I wouldn't be needing the bassinet. That stung. Obviously it was not intended that way but I think that was the moment everything that had transpired over the past few days really hit. I kept it together long enough for my nurse to leave and then I just sort of broke down. Keaton cuddled up next to me in the hospital bed while I just sort of sobbed. It was very therapeutic and definitely needed.
At that point it was turning into late evening and I didn't want little babe to be by himself. So I opted for some alone time so I could get some rest and Keaton could spend time in the NICU with little dude. Keaton facetimed me a few times while I tried to rest so I could see our beautiful baby boy.
I will say one thing I learned about spending time in the hospital is that it is indeed very difficult to get rest. Because I was still on magnesium (for the preeclampsia) my vitals, reflexes, and oxygen saturation were checked every hour for the first twelve hours after I gave birth. I also was told I needed to hand express/pump for my colostrum every three to four hours. Needless to say, I tried to rest but it was difficult to do so with everything going on.
That night around 10:00pm baby's breathing hadn't improved much. His oxygen saturation was sitting right around 80 percent which isn't fantastic. Fortunately for us the staff was really great in explaining what was going on. Generally babies' lungs develop between 30-36 weeks. The body produces something called surfactant that help the tiny air sacs in the lungs open. This in turns helps the lungs fully expand after the first initial cry after being born. Due to little dude having breathing issues and not being able to keep his oxygen saturation up it was decided that we should introduce artificial surfactant into his lungs. I wasn't there to experience them putting it in but Keaton said the baby's response was almost immediate. He then spent about 8 hours on a ventilator and then was switched over to a high flow of oxygen through a nasal cannula.
The next morning after a lot of bribing the nurses and CNA's with donuts they let me go down to the NICU with Keaton and spend some good quality time with the little man. At that point we still hadn't given him a name. It just didn't feel right naming him without spending some time getting to know him. We finally landed on Archer Pierce Robertson. Archer was a very last minute addition to the potential names list. Keaton and I just really liked it. We thought it was a good strong name, not to mention we could call him Archie. Pierce is my mother's maiden name and a nod to my Grandpa Pierce who I think who was one of the sweetest men I have ever known.
It took a couple more days to get me off of mag and healthy enough to go home. Mr. Archer spent a total of about two weeks in the NICU. Although I won't say I'm grateful for having a little one in need of that special care, I am SO grateful for our entire experience. The staff was amazing and I really felt that we were exactly where we needed to be. I can ever say thank you enough to the University of Utah hospital and the way we were treated there.
All in all the whole process of giving birth was really an incredible, life changing experience. Bringing a little human into the world rocked my world but it has truly given me so much joy. I am so glad that Keaton, Archer and I came through this experience happy and healthy. I will always look back on this experience with joy and gratitude.
[All photographs shot on film by Kjrsten Madsen]