Saturday, October 22, 2016

Zella: A Birth Story

Zella was born on December 23rd of 2014, a mere two days before Christmas.  Being our fourth child in five years, my husband and I had exhausted our list of approved baby names and were completely stuck when it came to potential middle names.  We would soon come to realize, however, that the answer was actually staring us in the face.

My pregnancy with Zella was routine, even mundane.  I had some of the best prenatal care available first at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia where my husband was finishing his pediatric residency, and then later at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where we moved for his fellowship in clinical informatics.  As with my prior three pregnancies, I was nauseous during all waking hours up until around the 24th week, and then from there I felt pretty great.  My days were spent schlepping my other three children, at the time ages 5, 3, and 1, to their copious amounts of extracurricular activities.  It was exhausting, but it was normal.

I’ll fast forward a bit to my 37 week obstetrics visit.  My doctor easily located the baby’s heartbeat and then determined that I was already 6cm dilated.  I had all three other children anywhere from one to three weeks early, so again, this was no surprise.  This time was slightly different in that the baby’s head was not actually engaged in my pelvis as it should have been by that point.  The concern here is that if my water were to spontaneously break at home and start me into active labor (as it did the last three times), there would be a real risk of cord prolapse once that water was gone.  We determined based on this information that I would go in that evening and be induced while my doctor was on call --- a pretty perfect scenario.

That night we had a final meal with the family and then my husband and I left my mom with our other kids and headed off to the hospital.  I was willing myself to believe this would be a normal delivery, just like all of the others, but something inside me felt different…anxious.  After all, who has four boring deliveries in a row?

After waiting a while, the nursing staff was able to get us into a room and begin an IV.  I knew I would want an epidural again, especially since this was an induction, and so we waited on anesthesia.  We could hear the external monitor beeping with the baby’s heart rate and noticed instantly when the frequency changed.  There was a flurry of excitement as nurses came to try to adjust the location of the monitor, but nothing changed the strange sound of what we called “missing beats.”  An internal monitor was placed, and promptly kicked off by Zella, no doubt miffed at being messed with while in-utero.  The second internal monitor was successful, but it only served to confirm what the external monitor had been telling us --- something was wrong.

My amazing doctor looked at me and said that at this point she really couldn’t guarantee anything and felt like our best course of action was to get this baby out quickly with an urgent Cesarean section.  I was shocked.  I thought we were going to have our fourth incredibly boring and utterly safe delivery of yet another child, but not today.

I’ll skip the gory parts and say that Zella was born via C-section in the wee hours of that next morning with no real complications and two Apgar scores of 9.  She was immediately seen by cardiology and monitored for the next three months.  They diagnosed her with a cardiac arrhythmia, VSD, and PFO at birth, but by three months and after countless tests it was determined that all three issues had spontaneously  miraculously resolved on their own.

But back to that middle name…  Zella was named after her grandfather’s grandmother, her great great grandmother “Zella Jane Peel” (married to “John Quincy Underwood”).  As we sat in the hospital room on the day of her birth, it suddenly came to me.  Celeste.  This happened to be the first name of my excellent obstetrician who made that difficult call to take Zella urgently even though it wasn’t in the plan.  Heavenly…a meaning we wouldn’t quite understand or learn to appreciate for another few months.
  



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