A few weeks ago I spoke with Sarah who had just finished writing her birth story and we both thought it would be interesting if I shared her birth story, from my point of view. So here we go.
I was sitting at home, doing nothing as is my M.O., when I got a text from Sarah saying her water broke. At first I thought she was joking, as she still had five weeks to go, but soon realized that this was the real deal. Initially I planned to jump in the car and get there right away, like I usually do. But Sarah assured me that it was going to be a long time and so I decided to stay home until things got moving.
I can’t say much about what happened that night or the next day, as I wasn’t there. Basically a whole night went by and not much progress was made, pitocin can be like that. The next day I planned to head over to the hospital around five. My amazing husband stepped up and watched our kids plus Sarah’s three so I could be there.
I showed up around 5:30 with dinner for everyone and the immediate joke was that Lydia found out I was coming and had to get out because contractions started pretty well at that point. I have to start this part by saying how incredibly honored and touched I was to be invited into the delivery room. When Abigail was born Sarah and I were not very close so I wasn’t at the hospital. With Nathan I missed his birth by just a few minutes and held that sweet boy not 15 minutes after he was born. With Abraham I waited in the waiting room and then had to leave shortly after he was born to tend to a fussy Nathan. So, when I arrived I thought I’d be dropping food off and heading to the waiting room. I felt so blessed to be able to stay and witness the things I did.
At first the contractions were pretty far apart and there was a lot of the usual joking and laughing. Then they started to come more steadily. I was so very impressed with Sarah and her determination during each contraction. She was a beast! She breathed, switched positions and basically everything you are supposed to do. I was so impressed with her. She was surrounded by an incredible team. My Mom stepped right in there covering her in love, support and helping with pressure points. Aubree had an incredible presence in that room. She was so calm and collected. She was right in there reminding Sarah of what to do and offering the kind of comfort only a sister can provide. She seriously could be a doula because she knocked it out of the park. As for me, I just tried to stay out of the way while offering as much love and support as I could.
I had to give the most important person in her birth team his own paragraph because I’m a little partial to him. In that room I had the privilege of seeing a side of my brother I have never really seen before. Tommy and Sarah are not overly affectionate in public. Don’t get me wrong anyone who is around them knows how much they love each other but being mushy isn’t really their thing. So seeing Tommy in such a quiet, loving, supportive and affectionate way was moving. Every time a strong contraction would hit Sarah’s eyes would immediately search for Tommy. He would swoop in right to her side. He held her hand, rubbed her back and told her how incredible she was. In those tough moments when she started to doubt her ability to continue on, his steadfast confidence in her shined through. His assurance and support were much more than anything any of us could offer. I had the rare opportunity to see love in its purest form. I was able to see how perfectly suited they are for one another. There is no question in my mind that God made each of them with other in mind.
Labor continued on and we all assumed good progress was being made. With each check there was frustration as she wasn’t progressing very well. Of course we all rallied for her assuring her that each centimeter was well-earned but we all wanted to see this little girl enter the world and of course see the pain end for Sarah.
Eventually Sarah made the decision to have an epidural. I was so relieved. After days of labor she was exhausted and I knew her body needed some rest for what was to come. We all assumed she would get the epidural, sleep for a while and then it would be baby time. Mom, Aubree and I went to the waiting room while the anesthesiologist performed the epidural. Not that long later Tommy came running down the halls to tell us it was time to push. I felt like we were in a tv show as we literally ran down the hall to get back there in time.
We had only been in the room for a few minutes when in one push Lydia entered the world. I have never been in the room for any births, other than my own. It is so hard to describe what it feels like. But I cried and felt closer to God. She was extremely beautiful and perfect. Being so early she was a bit on the little side, for a Sanderbrink baby, at 6 pounds 11 ounces. We are very used to her usual 9-10 pound chunkers so we kept describing her as “dainty”.
Everything seemed fine, Lydia was doing beautifully, until it was time to deliver the placenta. We watched the doctor take it out in strips and I remember thinking how strange that was. The doctor informed us that the placenta was large and because it came out the way it did she needed to make sure she got all of it. Never in my life have I seen anything like that. She went in at least elbow deep, sweeping her insides checking for any leftover placenta. I was so incredibly thankful that Sarah chose to get the epidural as it was difficult enough with that help. I distinctly remember her looking at us and saying “help me” at one point.
After that initial sweep all seemed to be in order. Mom and I sat on the couch while Lydia was being looked at and people were attending to Sarah. At some point we looked over and saw blood pouring out of Sarah. Not a slow drip or tiny trickle but flowing. I knew at once she was hemorrhaging. The doctors informed us what was going on and I felt confident that Sarah would be okay. I myself had experienced a hemorrhage. In fact Sarah looked to me and asked if this is what happened to me, I told her it was and everything worked out fine. I should be clear here, I did have a hemmoraghe and ended up needing blood but nothing I experienced was anywhere near what happened in that room.
Time and time again the doctor would go back in checking for leftover placenta. Every time I remember thinking there is no possible way her arm can go in any farther and then it would. It was painful to watch, I can’t imagine how Sarah felt. At this point things started to get very serious, very fast. We had doctors and nurses all around. They were giving her drugs via IV, giving her shots in the legs, kneading her stomach and of course the dreading sweeping.
Around this time Lydia needed her shots and was having some issues with her blood sugars. Tommy asked me to be with Lydia so he could put all of his focus on Sarah. I was happy to oblige. I was able to help the nurse while she gave the shots and checked blood sugars. At one point her sugars were so low they wouldn’t even register on the monitor. She decided that she needed to use some milk from the donor bank to get her sugars up quickly. However, earlier Sarah was able to pump some and had set it aside. The nurse told me it was “lucky” because the amount Sarah pumped was the exact amount she would have ordered from the bank. What she called luck, I called Jesus. I was able to feed Lydia and spent the whole time telling her how beautiful and loved she was.
On the other side of the room things weren’t quite so serene. Sarah was loosing a lot of blood. Her blood pressure was so low and she was shaking so bad it wasn’t reading on the monitor. Around this time she started going in and out. They had her covered in blankets from head to toe, an oxygen mask on her face and she looked as white as the sheets she was laying on. Eventually they determined she needed blood and they added a transfusion team to the mix of doctors and nurses in that room. She got set up with another IV in her other arm. I don’t know if I’m conveying it well but just looking over at her was scary.
The doctor told Tommy that they wanted to avoid taking her to the operating room and that they were going to do everything they could in that room. They did. I can’t say enough kind things about all the doctors and nurses we encountered. They were confident and collected the whole time. Although Mom and I both saw their hands shaking a bit, I’m assuming that was from the adrenaline.
In that room horrible possibilities entered my mind. All I could do was lift it up in prayer. So I did. I prayed earnestly the whole time. In fact I can’t imagine how many prayers were going up for her at that time because I know that is what we were all doing. We prayed. Because when there is nothing else you can do you are reminded how little control we have in this life and you lift it up to the person who has all control.
I have no idea what was going on in Tommy’s mind but I can tell you what was on his face, determination. He was a rock. While I am sure he was scared and at times it broke though and the worry showed, he was unmovable. He and Aubree never left her side for a moment. Even when she was going in and out I could hear the sweet words they were speaking to her. It warmed my heart to realize I belong to such an incredible family.
Let me tell you something about Sarah. She is strong. I’ve always known that but that night it was proved beyond a shadow of doubt. She fought as hard as she could to stay awake because, as I now know, she was afraid she wouldn’t ever wake up again. As she was going in and out, every time she would come to she would ask about Lydia. In the midst of all that craziness and fighting for her life (I’m not trying to be dramatic but the situation was serious) her concern was for her baby. That’s a mother’s love.
Eventually things got under control. They were able to get the rest of the placenta out and the bleeding stopped. After getting some blood in her, the color came back to her face and she looked like her self again. We all breathed deeply in relief. We later found out she lost about half the blood us normal non pregnant people carry in our bodies. A major hemmorhage is losing 1000mL of blood, she lost 2200mL.
I could go into a lot of things about what happened in the days after that but Sarah covered it all on her blog. I just got the impression that some people didn’t understand how truly serious this situation was or how incredibly impressive my sister is. So I had to share.