Vivian Joy's Birth Story
Disclaimer: I do not write any of this for any medical advice or diagnosis. I am under the care of a fabulous doctor as well as Vivian is under the care of a fabulous doctor that follows mom’s recovery as well. They have walked through all of this with us. I share my story as just a story. Thanks for reading with this in mind.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve been in this space.
Hi. I am still alive. We are here.
Last I typed here, I was pregnant with baby #5. Now I am cuddling sweet Vivian Joy who just turned 11 weeks. She is just the best, sweetest, most amazing baby (that I currently am mothering (-;) I have tried to write her birth story more than once, but I forgot to save it and it all got deleted. And I never got the chance to try again until now.
The truth is, her birth story is a little scary for me to type because I’ve gone through things that didn’t touch me the last four births. But also, moments of grace rescued me in ways that they didn’t the last four births either.
It all started when my trip to the UN and our renovations were both done. All of the crazy excitement had died down so alllllll I had to do was sit tight for a few more weeks and relax— growing baby the rest of the way. Easy Peasy. Right? Wrong.
Around 37 weeks I woke up from a nap in a panic attack. I have never before gotten panic attacks, so this was entirely new to me. I was thrown into these long moments of absolute terror, thinking that the baby was crushing me. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t slow my racing heart. The walls were closing in on me. And this nightmare feeling of being trapped and suffocated didn’t go away when I woke up. This very large belly couldn’t be removed for a moment of relief.
It was terrifying. Thankfully, Aaron was home and he convinced me that I could, in fact, still breathe. I wasn’t being crushed. Everything was okay.
I think this started because this was my biggest baby (she was 9 pounds a week early), plus my doctor commented that I had a very large (and healthy!) placenta, and something about the way that both the baby and placenta were positioned lent a very real physical feeling of my lungs being squished. Multiplied by exhaustion, this pushed me over into a mental game. Also from weeks 31-36 I had a HORRIBLE case of bronchitis which really weakened me physically like I’ve never been before in my life. I’m convinced this all contributed to the physical/mental storm.
Honestly, the word “panic attack” doesn’t do it justice. I think it should be called “terror attack”. It feels like drowning but while nowhere near water. Like you’re thrown into the middle of the worst terror of your life, but you have no idea why or how to get out of it. Like you’re EXTREMELY claustrophobic of everything….including just room air.
It was AWFUL.
These panic attacks were off and on during the day and then…they started to be every night. Every time I would lie down and try to sleep, this feeling would overtake me again and I would jump up and just pace the house all night long. It was scary and exhausting. My friend Patti who lives over on the west coast always seemed to be up right when I needed help the most, and she would talk me through it. She gave me tricks to try— warming up a blanket in the dryer and wrapping myself in it, sleeping upright in a recliner, listening to talks on anxiety and panic, convincing me that no pregnant woman had ever died due to being crushed by her baby (it sounds so silly to say it out loud now, but at the time it was very real). I couldn’t control it, and I felt like I was losing my mind. Add in extreme exhaustion because I couldn’t sleep…and it was a downhill slide.
All of this is very important to my birth story because it led me to ask my doctor for an induction right at 39 weeks. Mentally, I knew I did not have it in me to go any longer. I couldn’t keep on panic attacking all night long when she was fully cooked and it was now safe to deliver. As much as I wanted to wait for the baby’s timing, I knew that my mental health was important too. My last two babies I had been induced at over 40 weeks. Carter came on his own at 39 weeks, and Addison was induced for medical reasons at 39 weeks.
My doctor was very understanding as I explained everything that had been happening, and she was totally game to do a 39 week induction. The only problem was, since it wasn’t “medically necessary”, it would get bumped first thing if the Labor and Delivery floor was busy. 39 weeks fell right on a Friday which meant I had one day before they shut down inductions for the weekend. Great.
I waited all day Friday for the call that I could come in, but it never came. I finally called them and asked and they said they were so sorry, it was too busy and I would have to wait until Monday.
At this point I wasn’t sleeping even one minute all night long. To be told I had to do this for three more nights (at least— they could bump me on Monday as well) was literally terrifying to me. I broke down and sobbed all afternoon because I just didn’t think I would make it. I lost it all over again in a conversation with a nurse, crying and struggling to calm down, knowing the night of panic attacks I had in front of me as soon as I tried to lie down. Her suggestion was to “take a warm bath and take deep breaths.” Someday, somewhere I would like mental health in pregnant women to be taken as seriously as physical health. But I digress.
I prayed and prayed that my body would start labor on its own, but out of 4 labors, my body had NEVER started on its own (except for Carter’s which sort of started and when I went to L&D they took pity on me and broke my water which got me rolling for real).
I had been having contractions on and off for WEEKS so I was also exhausted from that, but never anything real. And trust me, I did all the tricks.
After pacing the house most of the night, I finally fell asleep Friday night around 3am and was able to sleep 4 hours. I got up and felt incredibly well rested as that was the most sleep I had gotten in weeks.
Eli came to me where I was sitting up in bed and he said, “We are meeting the baby today!” And I replied sadly (with a tinge of bitterness lol) “Not today, love. But soon.”
Aaron knew I was struggling, and he declared that he was going to make breakfast for us all! The kids gathered around him to help. It was going to be a good family day. I just had to take it one minute at a time.
I got out of bed and went straight to the kitchen to make coffee. I saw where Aaron had the boys working with them— they were making pancakes and eggs and sausage links.
I smiled as I reached for the coffee pot. As scary as this experience was, in that moment I was surrounded by love and I felt it.
Just then. Just as I reached to start the coffee, the unthinkable happened.
My water broke.
It literally has never EVER broken on its own in any of my other labors. In fact, as the doctor manually breaks it, I have gotten comments every time how it is SUPER hard to break and strong and WOW.
But this time, it broke on its own so that I could go into Labor and Delivery on a Saturday and legally, they had to induce me.
This was God’s kindness to me.
Also, good things come to those that make coffee. I have proof.
Aaron was elbow deep in this fantastic breakfast.
“Um, my water just broke.” I told him.
“But…pancakes!” He looked confused. It had never gone this way before. lol
We got the kids dressed and loaded up to be dropped at Papa and Grandma’s house. (Side note: the kids had packed their own bags and as I thought I had two more days to repack them, to this day I’m not totally sure what was in them. But the kids did show up to church Easter morning looking slightly homeless….so yeah. I guess I should have packed those bags with a bit of faith. (-;)
We dropped the kids and got to the hospital. Just as I got out of the van, the baby’s head must have shifted after acting a bit like a cork, because a second gushing of water came out. And I mean, like a Niagara Falls situation. I asked Aaron if he could see it water all over me? He’s like, “Nah, you’re good”. As soon as we got out of the dark parking lot he changed his answer. Ha!
We got admitted and ready to go. The board read “Let’s meet your baby today!” and the day was finally here. (Note: we got up to L&D and the place was EMPTY. Like, it was me and two other moms.)
It took them a minute to kick my labor into high gear. Remember, my body never does this on its own. So we got some pitocin rolling, and Aaron set to work making best friends of an entire shift of nurses, residents, and doctors. Still it took my body forever to respond.
So even though this is my fifth baby and we checked in around 10:00am, it was nearing nighttime before I actually got into active labor.
I got a fantastic epidural (finally got a chance to rest!). The anesthesiologist was amazing, and as he was leaving he asked what we were naming the baby? We replied, “Vivian!” He replied that his grandma’s name was Vivian and that she was just an amazing person.
After months and months of name uncertainty, her name in that moment finally felt real.
About 10pm my epidural started leaking on one side (because of how I was positioned because of my fear of lying down all the way) which meant it soon stopped working just on one side. That was fun. Vivian’s grandson came back in and fixed it but that side was never completely pain free the rest of the time. Super duper fun.
It was then during “conversation to distract Deanna” that I found out that it was National Pot Day.
Say what? My sweet baby girl would have a Pot Day birthday?
The next day was Easter.
And the timing of things was super close. Given the choice…which would you choose for your child?
It was ten minutes to midnight when I was ready to push. I knew it was time. I’d done this four times. Absolutely certain.
Sometimes these decisions just make themselves.
Guess who hung out for an extra twelve minutes?
Pot Day Birthday vs Easter Birthday…..difference of a few minutes.
I have an Easter baby!!! (well, for this year anyway. But Pot Day is every year lol.)
Born at 12:07am at 9 pounds, 21 inches, as and healthy as can be.
Vivian Joy! Vivian means “life” or “alive” which paired with “Joy” (also my middle name) was the PERFECT Easter name.
She has been just absolutely the sweetest baby. A fantastic nurser, a good sleeper (knock on wood), and very chill and yet alert (serious case of FOMO with the big kids).
And it really felt full circle because Vivian was born in the same hospital room that Addison was born in (9 years later). And one of the nurses remembered this AND that she had helped us with Addison’s birth. ENTIRELY different experience all around.
But same room.
(Fun fact, when you’ve had 5 kids in the hospital, walking the halls suddenly becomes a stroll down memory lane as you point out each room each of your kiddos was born in. Ha!)
I will say, the panic attacks didn’t go away immediately after she was born. It took 2-3 weeks for them to disappear as they tapered off in intensity. That first week was SUPER hard because I was so afraid to fall asleep yet she would wake me up within an hour and then I’d have to try to fall asleep again over and over again all night long. That first night home I only got one hour of sleep. Yet she slept really well.
But even though I got so little sleep, it was like I was running on a physical super high. I had SO MUCH energy. I didn’t even need to touch my usual decaf mix of coffee (which I was avoiding anyway just in case it was contributing to the problem).
That first week was brutal emotionally even as I felt great physically. I was extremely fragile in so many ways. Aaron was a great support and extremely understanding in the support of my recovery.
As the weeks went on and I got more and more rest, my body seemed to reset itself back to the pre-panic stage place. As I could force myself to sleep little bits it got better and better. The sleep and rest component seemed to be huge in my recovery. The more sleep I got, the more I COULD sleep.
At 11 weeks post delivery, this now all feels like a distant memory. This emotional trauma was nothing like I had ever experienced before, and it was honestly terrifying. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I’ve been working hard to take extra good care of myself as I’ve recovered from birth. Not just physically but mentally too. Not over doing it. Forcing myself to rest. Clearing my mind with lots of exercise, fresh air, and outings with the kiddos.
I took extra breaks from the blog, from my savings page, from teaching, from performing.
I’m learning that it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to do nothing. It’s okay to rest.
And it’s okay to admit this all out loud. It really helped me to talk to other people who said that this had happened to them. So if you’re reading this and wondering if you are going crazy… you are NOT. and it gets better.
And plus….sweet baby cuddles. They are always worth it.
I am so grateful for the gift of a fifth baby and for strength and protection to make it through the experience of her pregnancy, birth, and recovery. The Lord was extremely kind to me throughout the entire thing.
Vivian Joy. The word “love” doesn’t seem strong enough.