Hey There, Archie… the day you were born

I wrote a similar post for Winnie, and while I don’t know how much I want to share publicly, I know I will be glad I put Archie’s story into words.

I’m going to jump right into it. There’s a lot to share (it’s a small novel 😬), so I’m not going to mince words with an introduction.

In early February, I was almost 30 weeks pregnant, and I was quickly growing uncomfortable. Later that month, my midwife sent me for an NST because of lack of movement. I had an anterior placenta, which was the reason I wasn’t feeling him, but the readings from that NST showed that he actually never stopped moving. (which is pretty on brand for him 😆).

The following week, another appointment determined my fluid levels had risen and were climbing. By the end of pregnancy, my AFI was measuring 32, and a “normal” range is around 12. From that point on, I was being seen 2x a week for NSTs and ultrasounds, my fluid levels were consistently rising, and our busy boy’s movements were becoming erratic at best. I was finding myself in L&D triage at least once, and often twice a week.

Along with the high fluid, I also had a stubbornly transverse baby. He settled in around 20 weeks and didn’t shift. We learned that 98% of babies eventually settle into vertex position (head down), and of the 2% who don’t, only 1/5 of are transverse. OF COURSE THIS WOULD BE MY BABY. 😂 The combination of my AFI plus a sideways boy made for a high-risk birthing situation. If my water were to break, we would be in very likely danger of a cord prolapse and even placenta abruption, so getting our boy turned became a priority.

There were also concerns about the why. Why was my fluid so high? The answer to this could have been anything from gestational diabetes to more severe, life-threatening concerns. I was checked for diabetes three times, and each time, my results were never concerning. So, with that ruled out, we were left with the more severe outcomes on our plate, ranging from spinal cord issues to internal organ malformations to genetic disorders including Down Syndrome and Trisomy 18… we were even addressing the devastating possibility of not bringing Archie home at all, or if we were lucky enough, bringing him home with potential lifelong care.

Here’s something we’ve learned about Polyhydramnios: if, through an ultrasound, you can rule out some of the more life-threatening situations, having a high AFI is relatively uneventful (except for being so very, very uncomfortable 😳). Cord prolapse and preterm labor are still concerns, but knowing what is (and what is not) causing the high fluid is a gift in itself.

Unfortunately, we were never able to get a good look at Archie’s little body to be able to rule out any of the above. Because, of course, our sweet boy NEVER cooperated with an ultrasound. 🙄 No matter how much they shook my belly, or what they gave me to eat to get him to wiggle, he was STUBBORN (and some things never change 😆) and stayed put. Not knowing meant we had to consider every possibility, and that’s a really hard place to sit.

I spent the last 6 weeks of pregnancy working on turning him via DIY methods. My hope was to get him into a position so we could see that he was ok, but also to prevent tragedy if my water were to break. Nothing worked, so we decided on trying a version (external cephalic version).

We weren’t sure how the version (and eventually the birth) would progress, and at this point, Covid had hit the states with full force. We had been shut down for 3 weeks, and fear was at its peak. There were conversations about whether my husband would be allowed in the delivery room with me, and that was a scary enough thought… but I also had to attend all of the high-risk appointments by myself, where I wasn’t sure what information we were going to get week-to-week.

The version (turning him) was going to be a trickier one with the cord in the way, and we had to prepare for a worst-case-scenario of an emergency c-section. If I found myself having that, it would be because the baby’s cord compressed and he was no longer receiving oxygen. So, surrounding my big belly in our little ultrasound room was an entire team of doctors and nurses on deck just in case things didn’t go well.

They began to turn him, and things escalated pretty fast. Shane has to retell me some of these details, but even his memory is clouded. There was so much happening at once, but we do know that our OB turned Archie, and while she waited for the maternal-fetal doctor (the high-risk doctor) to make decision regarding what was next, our boy flipped himself right back up into his beloved transverse position. OF COURSE HE DID.

An ECV is a pretty intense process for both momma and baby, and we had to go through it twice. As they were turning him a second time, his heartrate and mine bottomed out. I don’t remember much from the second turn other than my OB calling my name over and over. I also remember the ultrasound technician’s voice getting more urgent each time she called out Archie’s heartrate as it steadily declined. Shane has told me that they made the decision to break my water during this because they were certain he would just flip back if they didn’t. His heartrate was dropping, there were growing signs of fetal distress, and breaking my water was an effort to not rush to the OR.

They moved him into place a second time, broke my water, and (this might be a little TMI) the amount of fluid that left my body was … remarkable.
😳 I mean, everyone in the room was commenting on it. (thanksssss for that 😂) My vitals immediately started to climb and I could take a deep breath for the first time in weeks – it was nothing short of incredible. 🤩

Once the drama was over (and it took a while because the amount of fluid that was never-ending), we moved into a delivery room where I labored for a few hours. COVID restrictions meant we couldn’t leave the room, so we sat watching TV and FaceTiming with our girl.

Our OB came to hang out a handful of times, and it made the time pass more quickly. Thankfully, my body progressed without the need for medical assistance, but it still took time. At some point, they weren’t able to find Archie’s heartrate with the external monitor, so they attached the fetal scalp monitor. We are so thankful for that decision because of the accuracy and immediacy of that kind of monitoring. Archie’s heartrate got squirrely towards the end of delivery, and we can’t help but be thankful for the information this monitor provided that the typical external monitor doesn’t.

When it was time to deliver our boy, my body started to feel like it was giving up. I started to shake violently and my blood pressure plummeted. This is also when Archie’s pulse dropped to a paltry 40 bpm. A number this low can quickly end tragically.

The air became suffocating, and we knew something wasn’t right. An entire team of doctors and nurses moved in – they were preparing for the worst. We still didn’t know what his viability outside of the womb would be, and they had all hands on deck.

Warning: this part is hard for me to share, but I want to remember these details.

They put an oxygen mask on my face and rolled me to my side. Then to my other side. The heaviness in the room was palpable. There was a tension that we couldn’t climb out of. Shane and I tried to remove ourselves and focus on delivering our baby, but there were so many strands of fear and what-if’s being woven, and we were trapped at the heart of it all. And, as the staff moved around me in the bed, I wondered what it would look like to be on the other side of this.

At one point, I thought about what it would feel like to leave the hospital with an empty backseat. I didn’t ride with Winnie in the backseat when we brought her home, and I wondered if I’d ride back there this time, even if I was by myself, just so the carseat wouldn’t be lonely.

I also wondered what Shane would do if he had to leave without his baby or his wife. We hadn’t talked about it, but the spacey, fogginess I was in removed me from the chaos and left me sitting there with that tragic question.

That’s when the OB came up to me, and I remember her putting her hands on my shoulders. Things came back into focus and I stopped drifting. I don’t remember much more than that and the word “now.” She was telling me it had to be now. We had to do this right now.

Our baby boy was face up and had the cord wrapped around his neck, his heart rate was dropping, and it was a fight for his life. But I had nothing left to give. I was shaking uncontrollably, and I felt like a shell of myself… like I was giving whatever life was left in me, and that when it was over, I would just dissipate into the air. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

My body fought when if felt like there was nothing left, and it wasn’t enough – our OB ended up grabbing ahold and pulling him from my body.

They put him on my belly, but I barely remember seeing him. I only remember numbers being shouted again, and my baby was floppy and gray. The cord was quickly cut, and he was hurried away from us.

More urgency, more people moving it to help… the entire room was holding its breath. We heard more numbers, including an Apgar of 2. My OB was calling my name again, and Shane was rubbing my face. I was drifting, and it took a few minutes to realize I didn’t know if he was ok. I launched into a series of frantic, panic-driven questioning, asking if he was alive and if he was ok.

And just like that, I felt myself come up from the water and breathe again… we heard him cry. They announced his Apgar had increased, and they began to talk sweetly to him instead of shouting over him. Conversation and smiles returned to the room.

They handed us our baby, and we knew we were holding a miracle.

Over the next few days, we were able to determine that the cause of my high fluid was likely a malformed esophagus that was healed in perfect time. He struggled to eat his first few bottles, almost as if he hadn’t been practicing swallowing in the womb. But after a few days, he quickly got the hang of it. This isn’t something we can ever know for sure, and we don’t care what the details are. We know what could have easily been our alternative, and we are so thankful.

The next few weeks were spent monitoring his movement and his muscle tone, to rule out other concerns that had been brought up. He quickly outgrew those concerns, and here we are, a year later. We have a STRONG, and HEALTHY baby running around.

It is not lost on us that we could have had a VERY different outcome. Everything we were facing during the last weeks of pregnancy had two potentials – extreme diagnosis or it could be nothing. We’ve never been so thankful for nothing.

Also, I want to end with a small “disclaimer” of sorts… this is a scattered recap. Shane and I both tried to consume so much information in such a small window while also welcoming a new life and being intensely worried about him. There was a lot on our plates all at once, so please forgive me if this post is worded poorly or has missing pieces. I have tried so hard to convey both the urgency and the peace that followed us that day, and that is no small feat. It’s taken me an entire year to really get this into words. I appreciate your grace as you read.

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