Our Family Grew from Two to Three:
Liam’s Birth Story
Since having my Harrington Rod Surgery when I was 13, I’ve known that having a child came with a high likelihood that I would deliver by caesarian section. While not every case is the same, my spinal fusion was quite aggressive, and back when I had my Harrington Rod Surgery, I was concerned that it would impact my ability to have kids in the future. When I asked my doctor about it after my surgery, I was told that I would be able to have children one day but the Harrington Rods could pose some difficulties for delivery that could be best avoided with a c-section. So I’ve known that it would be unlikely for me to have a natural delivery for a long time, and I had made my peace with that.
We didn’t get in to see an obstetrician until about 20-ish weeks into my pregnancy, but when we did my doctor outlined some of the most obvious risks associated with having a natural delivery with my spinal fusion — such as back labor and difficulty getting an epidural placement if one was needed in an emergency situation. We came to the conclusion that a planned c-section was likely the best route to go, just as I had expected. At the time, he mentioned that closer to my set delivery date we would need to review this plan more with the anaesthesiologist as they may have further input that could alter our delivery plan.
I had a great pregnancy. I really loved it. I didn’t get the dreaded nausea that so many experience, I exercised for most of my pregnancy, and I really felt at my best. I’ve never been someone who’s been particularly confident in myself or my body, but during pregnancy, I truly did feel beautiful. I didn’t expect that, and I really enjoyed being so at peace with myself. I felt like things had gone really well, and I felt mostly confident in our delivery plan. While, in an ideal situation, a natural birth would’ve been preferable, I knew this was always the most likely course of action and so I didn’t really have any issue with it.
Early on, I had decided to see some of the positives of having a possible scheduled c-section – it would be nice to know the date to prepare for (provided Liam didn’t arrive early), and it felt good knowing that we would be able to likely avoid an emergency situation. I felt a sense of calmness about the idea of having the surgery while awake, having Jer by my side, and getting to meet my baby. The most important thing to me was the safety of our baby, and this plan felt safe.
As the weeks passed by and our delivery date approached, I did begin to get nervous about what it would mean to have a c-section – the recovery time, what that recovery would feel like, and if it would mean we would need to wait some time before growing our family further. I think these concerns are pretty normal and common. Nearly every woman I have talked to has said they had a moment of panic when they really realized “uh oh – this baby has to come out of me!”. Up until that moment, you know that you’re going to deliver that baby one way or another but as the day nears, it does get pretty intense and it can feel intimidating. And while I think it’s important to know what you’re in for, recovery-wise, I probably spent too much time googling what recovery would look like for me. Word of advice for future mamas: Google with caution!
About two weeks before my delivery date, we had a call with one of the anaesthesiologists at the hospital to discuss our potential birth plan. He said there were two options — the first being the more likely option, was that I would have a spinal epidural and be awake for the delivery, and would get to meet my son right away. The second option was that I would be put under completely and would meet my son after I woke up from surgery an hour or so later. He said the first option was more common, but that he couldn’t give us a certain answer for which would be ideal for my situation. He said on the day the anaesthesiologist doing the surgery would tell us the optimal route, after assessing my back and rod placement.
I had hoped we would be able to go with the first option. I liked the idea of being able to meet Liam right away and it made me a bit sad to think that I wouldn’t be able to see his first moments after delivery. But, because I knew my Harrington Rod Surgery did throw a curve ball into plans, I also tried to see the second option through a positive lens. Was it the ideal option? No. But Liam would get to be with Jeremy in those first moments and I felt good about that.
In the weeks before our delivery date, I began experiencing some vision issues. When I went in to see my doctor, I mentioned my vision issues and he said we should check my blood work. Better to be safe than sorry. We were a week out from our set delivery date and he said if we noticed anything unusual in the blood work then we would promptly move up our delivery date.
The next morning, we went to the hospital’s maternity wing and got my blood work done. I was sitting in the triage room, and a woman came in and sat in the bed next to me. She was also there getting testing done, and a team of doctors and nurses came in to let her know her options. I remember so clearly her response: “So does this mean I’m having a baby today?”. You could tell she was scared and excited all at once. And the doctor said, “Yes, you will definitely meet your baby today!”. I remember thinking: I wonder if they’ll be coming in and telling me that next! At that moment, I felt really grateful that I had packed my hospital bag over the weekend — something I accidentally procrastinated doing.
But they didn’t; they came in and let me know that I would not be having my baby that day and that my bloodwork looked overall good. They told me to go home, take it easy, and get ready to have our baby boy next week. And so that’s what I did.
On May 3, 2023, we woke up at 4:30 AM, showered, filled up the cats’ food and water bowls, and hopped in the car to go meet our baby. When we arrived at the hospital, they hooked up my IVs and then we waited. Our surgery time had to be bumped by about an hour, and our jitters were growing. It felt like we were waiting forever and no time at all, all at once.
We then were brought down to the surgery area where we met the anaesthesiologist to discuss the delivery plan that was about to happen. She had reviewed my case and surgery the night prior and after careful consideration, she recommended the second option that the previous anaesthesiologist had outlined. She shared that her concerns were that a spinal epidural had a reasonably large chance of failure because of my rods, and that if we ended up having to put me under in the end, then that would mean that I was exposed to double the infection risk. She was concerned that if the epidural became infected that it would be extremely dangerous for me.
I’ll be honest, that moment was hard for me. It hit me like a ton of bricks – I wouldn’t be there in the first moments of my son’s life. I would miss it. I wouldn’t know if something went wrong or if decisions had to be made, and I wouldn’t be able to hold Liam for the first hour (or more) of his life. Jeremy and I had already discussed certain birth plans but I realized that I wouldn’t know if everything went well or not until I finally woke up. I wouldn’t be able to hold Jer’s hand in the operating room, and he wouldn’t be in the room when Liam was first born. That was hard. I cried, hugged Jer, and then walked to the operating room. As I walked to the operating room, I reminded myself over and over again, that if I couldn’t be there, there was no one that I felt better knowing would be there than Jeremy. I took, and take, immense comfort in that.
The operating room experience was overwhelming. There were so many nurses and doctors in the room and so many things happening all at once. And that’s not saying that they weren’t great – they were – we had an amazing team of doctors and nurses. I felt really lucky to have such an incredible group of people bringing Liam into the world. But, I was still crying – half out of excitement that Liam would soon be here, and half out of fear of what was about to happen, what I miss and would not know. One of the nurses was talking to me about what was about to happen, sharing that she knew I was scared but in no time my son would be in my arms. And then I was asleep.
While this was happening, Jeremy was in a room just outside the operating room, waiting to meet our Liam. A nurse came in and let him know that the surgery was about to begin and that in just a few minutes they would bring our baby boy out to him. Instead of minutes later, Jer said that about 30 seconds later he heard Liam’s first cries. The nurse came back out and said he could come in to cut the umbilical cord and see Liam for the first time.
Jeremy said he came into the room, I was completely tented off and being stitched back up, and there was Liam on a table to the side of the room with two of the nurses. He was crying, and ready to have his umbilical cord clipped off so that he could be swaddled up and cozy again. We had originally been told that Jeremy wouldn’t be able to cut the umbilical cord because he wouldn’t be in the room during delivery, and we really appreciated that the staff brought him in to experience this rite of passage to fatherhood.
Jeremy wheeled Liam in his bassinet back to our hospital room, where we would stay for the next 48 hours as a new family, and he was surprised to see my parents there. We hadn’t been sure they’d be able to come, and it was so special for them to have met Liam in those first moments. I feel lucky that there were three people who love him so much, all present for him when I couldn’t be.
I was asleep for around an hour and then held in the surgical recovery room for about 30 more minutes before I could go meet Liam. When I woke up, I wanted to go to the hospital room right away, but I appreciate that they held me back because I kept drifting in and out of consciousness, and I wouldn’t have had as clear a memory of meeting him for the first time as I do, had they brought me there sooner.
Meeting Liam was the best moment of my life. He was, and is, the most beautiful and incredible little person. My family actually captured the moment on video which I deeply cherish. I watch it often and bawl every time I do.
Liam was born May 3, 2023, at 10:13 AM. He was 8lbs 3oz. In the very first hours of his life, he smiled (I’m not kidding, we got a photo of that, too. Second photo in the carousel!) – and that perfectly captures exactly how this little guy is. He’s happy and sweet and his smiles light up every room. He has brought a joy into our lives that I didn’t know was possible. We are so blessed to have him.