Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife


Vignette: My Birth

Posted by Lucille on November 2, 2016 at 8:35 PM

My parents met in an evening French class. Both of them had been in a previous long term relationship and both wanted kids, so when they fell in love they didn't waste a lot of time before getting married and trying for a pregnancy.

Four years later, Mom still wasn't pregnant, time was ticking by, and medical tests hadn't found any causes of infertility. Dad came up with a theory that the issue was stress, so-- the way I heard it-- he showed up at her work with flowers and said, "I just quit my job, you're quitting yours, and we're moving to France and not coming back until you're pregnant."

I was conceived in France two weeks later.

Given mom's age and difficulty getting pregnant, they opted in to the available screening tests. One of them tested for a spinal protein as a way to screen for spina bifida. It came back truly off the charts. The doctor said he had literally never seen a result that high, and that for that much spinal fluid to be in the amniotic fluid, my spinal cord would have to be completely open along the full length. A repeat screening was still super high but lower than before, and all of the ultrasounds looked fine, so they encouraged my parents to be cautiously optimistic.

Mom hadn't gone into labor by my due date (Valentine's Day) and was starting to develop pre-eclampsia, so her labor was induced, on the same hospital floor where I just finished my nursing school practicum. As she started to push, a whole host of staff piled into the room- nurses, doctors, students, even an anesthesiologist- so many that they couldn't all fit and had to pile up outside the door, ready to rush me to the OR if my spine was open. And then I came out, and I was perfect. They put me on my mom's belly so that everyone could see my back. My mom knew I was okay because the emergency crew suddenly vanished, and she reached down and ran her fingers back and forth along my perfectly intact spine. In Dad's words, I was born, and I was loved, by so many people that it was two full weeks before I slept outside of someone's arms.

The final theory about the spinal protein is vanishing twin syndrome. Usually vanishing twins vanish very early, but my twin must have stuck around just long enough to start developing a spinal cord, and then been reabsorbed just in time to not be there on ultrasound. Dad likes to credit my intelligence to breathing in my vanishing twin's spinal fluid for months, and says that if only we could synthesize that protein and add it in to amniotic fluid we could breed a new generation of ultra-intelligent super humans. It gave my childhood imaginary friends a spooky factor and gave my little brother the ultimate closing argument- if I ever try to chastise him for something, he likes to remind me that at least he didn't reabsorb a sibling.

Here's my parents and I with the nurse who was at my birth. I got to talk with her this summer and send her these pictures! I attended births in this room and probably monitored little ones' heart rates with this same stethoscope.

Meeting my grandparents for the first time.

I love the triad of women in this photo: my mom, her nurse, and our family friend/doula who is also a nurse- passing on the birth knowledge and welcoming me into the world together.

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HIPAA Disclaimer

Sometimes I have the privilege of being a part of intimate, powerful moments in other people’s lives. I cannot and would not share these stories, because they are not mine to tell. However, they touch my life and become part of my own story. When I share these moments here, you can trust that I have not broken anyone’s confidentiality. The characters are invented. They are not real, but could be. I take creative license to communicate the essence of my experience while respecting the privacy of others.