Ella Joy’s Birth Story

/ February 19th, 2021 /

I was bound and determined that I would have an unmedicated natural childbirth.  I did all the research, I did a million kegels, I mentally prepared myself for the pain of labor and birth and repeated all of the positive affirmations.  But I also knew that things don’t always go as planned.  I was diagnosed with mild polyhydranimos (excess amniotic fluid) at week 36 in my pregnancy.  I went home and Googled it, of course, and read all of the risks associated with that diagnosis.  One of those risks is prolapsed cord – the cord moves into the birth canal before the baby.  This means an automatic c-section since it is life-threatening to the baby.  With every contraction, the baby’s head puts pressure on that life-giving cord and cuts off their blood/oxygen supply.  I believe God prepared me ahead of time for how my birth plan would go awry. 

My birth plan that I gave to my providers.  I got this through Mama Natural.

I was going to write this story myself, but every year Stosch writes a letter to put inside our yearly photo album and Ella’s birth story was part of that letter.  I think he tells it well. 😉  Anything surrounded by ** is an addition from me!

“At the end of last year, we said that our arms were open to whatever 2020 may bring, and 2020 filled our open arms with so many blessings! I began working from home full time when the COVID lockdowns began in March. A couple weeks later, Juliana discovered she was pregnant, and after a Spring, Summer, and Fall of balancing pregnancy with photography, Juliana gave birth to Ella Joy Sabo on December 15, 2020.

The doctors had Juliana do an ultrasound and a non-stress test each week towards the end of her pregnancy due to excess amniotic fluid (polyhydranimos) **this made me HUGE and uncomfortable!!!**. A few days after her original due date of December 12, the doctors noticed that Ella was not doing practice breathing in the womb and had Juliana go to the hospital in Clarion, IA, to be induced on December 14. They used Cervadil overnight, then used the mechanical balloon to dilate her the next morning. By the early afternoon, they broke her water **they weren’t kidding when they said I had excess amniotic fluid! Holy waterfall!**. In the early evening, Ella’s heart rate began falling precipitously during Juliana’s contractions, and our nurse, Sam, checked Juliana’s cervix. When checking Juliana, Sam felt the umbilical cord (prolapsed cord) and had me press the red “Staff Assist” button. A few seconds later, our room was filled with frantic nurses.

The chaos was real—one nurse who had longer fingers exchanged hands with Sam so that she could better keep Ella’s head up in Juliana’s uterus during contractions (so that the contractions didn’t cause Ella’s head to pinch off her blood/oxygen supply). Another asked someone to get a doctor, but nobody could find the doctor. They yelled to get the OR ready, they rolled Juliana on her side, and Sam repeatedly told them Juliana didn’t have any type of painkiller. I remember Sam warning her colleagues, “she can feel everything,” and it made me feel sick. In the understatement of the century, Sam also apologized to Juliana that this whirlwind emergency was not part of her birth plan.

And then Juliana was swept out of the room on her hospital bed—rolled by multiple nurses, two more on the bed with Juliana, and one of them using her hand to push Ella’s head back against the contractions **I call this my Hollywood movie story – rolling down the very public hallway with nurses on my bed all up in my business + lots of chaos.  ALSO having contractions with someone’s hand up in your cervix + no pain killers is NOT fun**. I was left standing in the open doorway watching Juliana get wheeled to the OR. Nurses were running up and down the hall and everyone was yelling. For the rest of my life, I will never forget the feeling of utter helplessness watching Juliana and our unborn baby—my whole life—be rolled away for an emergent surgery.

While I texted our families to pray now and pray hard, the whirlwind continued for Juliana. In the chaos of the OR they tried to find the baby’s heartbeat. They got a reading of 170 beats per minute but then discovered that was Juliana’s heart rate and not the baby’s. Makes me sick to think about that, too. The anesthetist asked for Juliana’s weight, and Juliana gave her the number and then clarified that it was her weight before her water broke. That’s a perfectionist. Another nurse used a damp washcloth to wipe tears off Juliana’s cheeks. That still makes me cry.

During this time, they sent a nurse back to the room to tell me what was going on—that Ella’s heart rate had stabilized and that they were preparing for surgery. I saw the doctor sprint down the hallway and into the OR. They moved me into the hallway outside the OR so I could go in as soon as Ella
came out. I saw the doctor’s hat on the floor—he had been undressing as he ran.

They told Juliana “this might burn,” when they injected the anesthesia, and she confirmed that it did, in fact, burn, and then she was out. **I needed to have general anesthesia since I didn’t have an epidural, so I couldn’t have a spinal tap.  This meant I was asleep for her birth**. Two minutes later Ella was welcomed into the world and I was brought into the OR. All this was less than fifteen minutes after I’d pressed the red button.

I stayed with Ella while they gave her the typical medications and tests. APGAR score of 9—awesome! When her weight registered as 9 lbs 4.9 oz, the nurses in the room all wondered how such a big baby had been in such a little mother. We later learned that the cord wasn’t just below Ella’s
head—it also wrapped around her neck multiple times. The nurses brought me and Ella back to our room to wait for Juliana. Juliana had wanted to do skin to skin with Ella as soon as she was born, but since she could not, I was determined to do the best we could with what we had. I took my shirt off and cradled Ella in my arms. She latched onto my bicep and nearly sucked it off the bone.

About thirty minutes later, they brought Juliana back to the room. When her bed rounded the doorframe, I saw her head lift up to peek into the room looking for Ella and me. We both cried then, but it didn’t stop there. We randomly cried for the next few days. It was such a scary experience, but we felt so blessed that our family was safely reunited.

So really, the entire year of 2020 pivoted on a fifteen-minute increment on December 15, 2020. It had a happy ending, thank goodness. We were so blessed and happy before, but Ella Joy Sabo has given our family a new dimension of blessings and happiness. She is a little replica of Juliana’s baby
photo, and she is as sweet, content, and hilarious as we could hope for. She fills our house with far more than crying—she squeals, grunts, snores, hiccups, sneezes, and toots. When she’s in the living room on her play mat and I’m in my office, I can hear her legs and arms churning against the mat like swishy pants and her furious breathing as she tries to take the world in. She loves to stare at Juliana’s face and the Burggraaf hands photo in our addition. She is the perfect daughter for us.”

And now just some cute photos of a cute baby. <3  Some of these were taken by me, some by our awesome photographer, Kimberly.

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