To say that life doesn’t always goes as planned can be the understatement of a lifetime. I got a large dose of that reality last month when I gave birth to my first child. My beautiful daughter Eleanor was born by emergency Caesarean section on July 21, 2011, weighing in at 7 lbs. 8 oz. and 21 inches.
Being a project manager by trade, I tried my best to anticipate what would happen during the birth. I created a “birth plan,” which outlined everything I wanted to happen from my first contraction to leaving the hospital. Of course, I knew that labor can turn into an emergency, but after attending several birth classes, I felt assured that I would have a less traumatic experience. I mean, I prepared beforehand, right? What could go wrong?
Right up until I gave birth, everything was going according to plan. When my water broke, my husband drove me to the hospital. The hospital smoothly admitted me into a delivery room. My contractions were strong. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Then, my doctor noticed that my contractions caused Eleanor’s heart beat to drop significantly. Normally, a baby’s heart beat increases with each contraction; your heart would race too if a major human organ were trying to kick you out of your mother’s body. At one point, Eleanor’s heart rate fell from a normal 140 beats per second to 60, a sign of major distress. This pattern continued long enough that the doctor strongly recommended a C-section.
Disappointment washed over me. That perfect image of bearing my child “naturally” began to fade. I thought about surgery and fear took over. I didn’t want someone to cut my baby out of my body. I wanted to argue with the doctor, but I saw the look on my husband’s face as he watched Eleanor’s heart monitor. She wasn’t doing well. So, within minutes of the doctor’s recommendation, I signed the consent form to have a Caesarean section, and the nursing staff whirled me into the operating room.
My disappointment turned to gratitude almost immediately. When the doctor pulled Eleanor out, she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her body four times. To give you some perspective on how rare this is, only one of the eight people in the surgery room had ever seen that many wraps before. The medical charts only have space for 1, 2 or 3 wraps around the body. Essentially, the cord was getting pinched in such a way that each contraction was cutting Eleanor off from oxygen. If things had progressed “normally,” Eleanor would likely have been strangled to death before being born.
Today, I am extremely grateful to be sitting here writing you this with a perfectly healthy baby sound asleep next to me. She certainly didn’t come into the world “as planned,” but when push came to shove, well, we didn’t shove at all. Instead, we had to ditch our plans at the last second to ensure the health and welfare of several members of our family.
You can never be sure when the unexpected might happen. By definition, it happens without real foresight or planning. That doesn’t mean, however, that life’s little surprises have to get you down. In fact, sometimes a little emergency makes you appreciate what you have even more. Although every mother loves her child, I feel like I have a greater appreciation for this newborn baby given how close I came to losing her. Thankfully, not all things go according to plan.