I LOVE reading people’s birth stories. Truthfully, I thought I would have ours up within a few weeks but one thing I never realized was how traumatic the birth process can be. Even if you have a good experience it can leave you with some pretty big emotions. Every time I went to write this I would write a few paragraphs, start to cry, then have to shut it down for the night. I am making myself finish this for numerous reasons. First, I want to share it with you all in case there are others who are in a similar position. Second, it is a part of my therapy homework. I always was a good student so, here we go… it’s done ! Last, even though I have trauma around it, I don’t want to forget any of the details. It really was an incredibly special few days. Dane David Forsberg was born June 8, 2021 but this story starts June 6th. Yes over 48 hours of labour coming your way, well not exactly but you get the point. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, glass of wine, or water… it’s a long one!
Okay, rewind 5 months and let me set the scene for you. It’s Friday night (June 5th) and Lee headed out for his diaper party (well actually I’m not sure what to call it as he came home with zero diapers lol) and I settle in for a night of chips and dip and Sex and The City. Lee stumbled in around 2am smelling like bourbon and cigars, tried to crawl into bed and I quickly gave him the old point to the couch. He obliged, grabbed his pillow and off he went. A few hours later, I woke up to the most intense pain I’d ever felt. I instantly sat up and just started taking deep breaths to try to help the pain- it lasted about 30 seconds and then went away. I got up, went to the washroom then crawled back into bed and really didn’t think much of it. I thought it was a braxton hicks contraction which I had been experiencing for a while already so I didn’t think much of it. Fast forward a few hours, I roll out of bed and we go about our day. I casually mentioned it to Lee but neither one of us really thought too much of it. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and so we were inspired to get our backyard in tip top shape so we could enjoy it this summer. We headed to Rona to grab some outdoor furniture, grabbed McDonald’s on the way home (obviously) and then spent the day putzing in the backyard. Like I mentioned, it was super hot so I was being very cautious and making sure I was wearing a hat, drinking water, taking breaks… all the things to ensure I was taking care of myself and the baby in the heat. We ended the day with a little IG photoshoot… the hot girl summer pic (shown below) to be exact. *Note- it was like 6:30PM when we took that photo and I was in the pool for maybe 15 minutes as it was FREEZING cold water- this is an important part of the story.
After snapping the photo, I went inside to have some water, change out of my suit and chill. It is now around 7:00pm. As I was chugging my water in the kitchen, another contraction hit me. This time I screamed loud enough for Lee to hear me. He came inside to check on me. Again, I shrugged it off thinking it HAD to be braxton hicks, I was only 33 weeks. This time, the fear of labour began to really sink in. If these were just practice contractions, how in the f was I going to make it through real ones?! I messaged my friends From Seed to Sprout and they told me to continue to monitor and if they got closer together to go in and get checked. We carried on about our evening. Just before going to bed, I told Lee he should think about packing his hospital bag, now let’s not forget, Lee was out the night before so he hit me with the “I’ll do it in the morning babe, I promise” he was too hung over and I still wasn’t convinced these contractions were of any significance so I didn’t push the issue. We went to bed early.
Around 4am I woke up with the most insane “period cramps”, still so oblivious to everything and half asleep I thought huh, that’s weird I would be having period cramps. I got out of bed to go pee and get a hot water bottle. Well, this is the part where I lose what I now know was my mucus plug. I was shocked… what in the fuck is that?! I think to myself. Looking back I knew what it was but clearly I was in denial. I crept back into my room to get my phone so I can do some googling. I’m just going to put this out there, but I wouldn’t suggest googling mucus plug. I had learned about it in my class with From Seed To Sprout but again I was ONLY 33 weeks, can’t be. I went and sat in the rocking chair in Dane’s nursery. I sat and rocked for about 5 minutes while I made “a plan”. By this time it was around 4:30am I decided I would wake Lee, we would go to the hospital to get checked and I would be home in time for my baby shower that Lee’s family was throwing me that day.
I woke Lee with a nudge and said, “you better pack your bag I think we should go to the hospital”. I then forced him to look at my mucus plug on some toilet paper (LOL) gross, I know but I needed him to reassure me that I wasn’t seeing things. He SHOT out of bed and started panicking. I told him to calm down and that there really was no rush- I was just going to get checked. I hadn’t had any big contractions since 7pm the evening before just these damn “period cramps”. At one point Lee looked at me with a big grin and said, “doesn’t it feel like we are leaving on an early morning flight?!” I laughed as he continued to run around the house gathering things just in case we had to stay. Just as we were leaving I asked “do you have your passport?!” he replied “no omg do I need it?!” I burst out laughing… “no babe, you do not need your passport to have a baby.” It was adorable. In all the years of knowing Lee I had never seen him this nervous.
Because we got there in the middle of the night we went in through Emergency. They sent us straight up to labour and delivery. Remember how I told you it was super hot? Well, I don’t know if it was coincidence or not but apparently A LOT of women went into preterm labour. So many in fact, they had no room for me. Triage it was… ugh. This would mean a terribly uncomfortable bed, a super tiny room, and a bunch of different nurses checking on me but hey, I wasn’t going to be there long right?! Ps. Shout out to all the nurses I had in triage, they were all SO nice!
They hooked me up to the monitors so they could see how intense my contractions were and keep an eye on the baby’s heart rate. Sure enough they were contractions. Every 7-10 minutes… well shit! Still in shock, I asked “so how long are they going to want to monitor me for? I have a baby shower to go to and I need to wash my hair!!” the nurse smiled and every so sweetly said “oh honey, I don’t think you will be making it to your baby shower today”. Oh shit, I thought, okay… maybe I really am in labour. They gave me Nifedipine (a medication that is supposed to help stop labour) these awful pills that you have to crack open with your teeth and then chew. Until the day I die, I will never forget those, they were so gross! This would be the first of many times they would check my cervix. It was shortening but not dilated yet. Remember how I said it was super hot that day? Well, when one of the nurses came in to check on me she winked and said “maybe it was that hot girl summer that got ya”. Let’s be clear, this girl was so sweet and I want to think it was her way of saying I follow you on Instagram. I know she didn’t mean it in a negative way, but when you go into preterm labor you instantly blame yourself. Or, in my case anyways, I did. So hearing this was just the cherry on top. I did this. It was my fault…
Because I was 33 weeks we were scared but I feel like both Lee and I were oddly calm. We really leaned into each other and tried to stay as positive as we could. That day (June 6th) once they realized I was in labour and the contractions weren’t stopping any time soon they gave me my first steroid shot for the baby’s lungs. Holy shit it was a needle right in the butt and it hurt! The goal was to keep the baby in for 24 more hours so I could get the second shot.
Over the next 24 hours the contractions began getting more intense and would come approximately every 10 minutes. Lee and I were in triage for the majority of the day. Eventually they wheeled me back to the mother baby unit as labour and birth was full. To be honest, I preferred Mother Baby, it was much more comfortable than being in triage. In between contractions we spent the day working (it was the llaunch of the Ray in Sand and Black) Friends, Facetiming with my guests at my baby shower (yes- they had it without me, haha!), trying to sneak in some snacks when I could (they told me not to eat as they knew I would be getting a c section eventually- ice chips it was!) and focusing on breathing through each contraction. In between all this the nurses and doctors were continually coming to check on me. Each time someone would check me they would look me dead in the eye and say “you can do this, when a baby is this early, every single day counts” then they would hand me the Nifedipine…man those pills were disgusting.
Again, somehow Lee and I remained super calm. I guess we just knew these were the cards we had been dealt and being frantic and panicking about it wasn’t going to help. We knew we would have to listen to our options, make informed decisions, advocate for ourselves when needed, and above all trust the professionals. Somewhere during this time, one of the doctors came in and told me that the NICU was full and that they were going to have to send me to Saskatoon to have the baby if I delivered in the next 24 hours. At first I was seriously confused, I thought he said the ICU was full. I just kept thinking why do we need an ICU bed, I’m fine… well I feel fine anyways. What the hell, was there something wrong with me too?! I was quiet and when the Dr. left I said very confused, “why do we need an ICU bed Lee?” He cleared the confusion…” N ICU bed babe.” Ohhh okay, that makes more sense. I didn’t go into panic mode just yet as it wasn’t a sure thing yet, we were doing our best to keep the baby in.
A few hours later, a different doctor came in and very matter of factly told me they would be sending me to Saskatoon to deliver. Que, panic mode. Through sobs I remember talking so fast and begging them to reconsider. “We have a very complex case, this baby is almost 8 weeks premature AND has Gastroschisis, there HAS to be a better candidate. Please, please reconsider. We have met the whole team, the surgeons, the doctors, we don’t have family in Saskatoon and we could be up there for months due to the baby’s condition! Please!!” I kept going back to our prenatal classes with Loreli and Sara From Seed to Sprout telling me that we would have to be my biggest advocate. They were right, the Dr. looked me and said “ok, let me go fix this”. She came back a few minutes later and said “you’re right, we need to keep you. We are sending someone else”. I want to stop right here and say a massive thank you to Sara and Loreli. I really don’t know if I would have stood up for myself had I not heard their voices in the back of my mind saying “you are your biggest advocate”. Looking back I honestly don’t know how we would have made it through had we gone to Saskatoon. I truly believe God only hands you what you can handle. He must have known we couldn’t handle going through all this without being in our own home surrounded by friends and family.
It is now June 7th and I made it 24 hours and got my second shot. What a relief. The contractions are still in full force and by this time I am EXHAUSTED. I know what you’re thinking: did you get an epidural or any drugs? Well, to be honest, I didn’t even think to ask if I could get an epidural. I forgot to mention but somewhere in the last 24 hours we found out that the baby was full breech. I had an ultrasound a few days prior and he was transverse which was exciting because he had been breech the whole time. Either way, he had moved back to being breech so a c section it was. I wasn’t too rattled about having a c section as I had prepared mentally for it. Gastro babies can be delivered vaginally but Lee and I had decided we wanted the doctor to be in complete control of the birth. I didn’t want to have to have an emergency c section or have any other added complications. So, with that being said, I guess I just thought I wasn’t allowed to have an epidural in case I needed to have a c section… trust me, I was not trying to win any hero awards. I should have asked for the drugs! Of course, throughout the day they were constantly monitoring the baby and me. They would check my cervix and by this time I was only dilated to about 1 cm. I kind of felt like Rachel from Friends, except I wasn’t overdue nor did I want to have the baby, but I am sure there were 25 women who came and went during my time in Labor. They eventually decided to give me Morphine to see if that would stop the contractions. It worked! They stopped around 6pm. We ordered Tumblers pizza and I crashed! I thought for sure we were in the clear…
Nope! I woke up around 3am June 8th in excruciating pain. The contractions had come back now 5 minutes apart and much more intense. Filled with disappointment, I woke Lee up, looked him in the eye and I remember vividly saying “I’m so sorry babe, but I’m gonna have this baby today”. It finally hit me. Three days of laboring/ trying everything in our power to keep this Bub inside was not going to work. He was going to make his appearance. Seven weeks premature and with Gastroschisis. I was absolutely terrified. They wheeled me back into labour and delivery in an actual delivery room and I was right. The doctors agreed there was nothing else they could do to stop my labor.
They scheduled me for a c section at noon but because they were full it ended up getting pushed until 2:00pm. By this time the contractions were so intense I was out of breath, hunched over, breathing as deeply as I could while Lee rubbed my back. Poor guy, I know I laboured for three days but he was right there rubbing my back every 5 minutes sleeping in a chair- props to him! Because I was only 33 weeks, they gave me a Magnesium drip which would help with his brain development. This was administered through an IV over about an hour and wow, I have never been on acid but I imagine that is what it felt like. I felt so hot, dizzy, loopy, and just super high. Not a great feeling.
We spent the last few hours trying to guess what we were going to have, listening to music, taking our family photo of just us two, saying a prayer or two, and soaking up the last few moments of just us two. I get teary eyed just thinking of those last few moments. HolLee as we had known it for the last 15 years was coming to an end. We were nervous, scared, overwhelmed, exhausted, but more than anything we were really excited. We were ready…well as ready as we were ever going to be.
From here, I don’t remember a lot but I do remember it was a VIBE in the operating room. I didn’t really have much of a birth plan other than get the baby out safe, play good music, and have Lee tell me what we had. I had been dreaming of this moment basically our whole pregnancy. I couldn’t wait to hear Lee say the words “we had a…” I remember being shocked at how many people were in the OR- I want to say there was at least 8, maybe more. Everyone was SO nice, cheerful, and seemed so calm and collected. I sat on the bed, tried to make small talk because that’s just who I am, but it was hard. I took as many deep breaths as I could to calm myself down and then I got the spinal. They gave it to me just as I was getting a contraction and so honestly I don’t remember the pain of the needle. I remember staring into Lee’s eyes so he wouldn’t faint, haha he is VERY afraid of needles. Lee ended up knowing the anesthesiologist- I think they played basketball together, AND one of our OB’s doing my c-section! Erin and Lee are cousins through marriage, how cool!?
We asked if it was ok to play some music. Of course everyone was ok with it. So we hit the “HolLee 2.0” playlist that Lee made and it began. The professionalism in that room will be something that sticks with me forever. The pregame speech to the team that the OB (Erin) made was like a quarterback to his players before a game (Lee’s analogy). We reminded them that we didn’t know the sex of the baby and Lee was going to announce. Everyone was ready. It was time to meet our warrior.
I don’t remember too much in regards to the process of the C section, but I remember the table was shaking and I felt a lot of pressure. It was not a gentle process but it didn’t hurt. The entire time I stared into Lee’s eyes. I knew if I looked up into the light I could see the reflection of what was happening and I didn’t want to. He stared back at me, but I could tell he had one eye on me and one on the reflection of the light where he could see the birth. The most serendipitous moment (I get chills thinking about it ) was when Dane was just about to “enter this world” our song came on. “Better Together” – Luke Combs. Like come on, it was like out of a movie! Even the OB stopped and said “wait isn’t this your engagement song?” She then turned to the room and said “K everyone, they got engaged to this song!” That was a pretty special moment for us.
We then heard a cry, and I let out a gasp/ scream of relief. A scream is good… I think that means he is breathing on his own. They did delayed umbilical cord clamping, and then bagged his organs so it felt like FOREVER until we got a glance at our baby and by glance I meant .5 of a second. We saw our Bub with his bowels exposed, we weren’t able to tell if he was a boy or girl and I remember thinking it doesn’t matter- let the professionals do everything they need to do to keep him safe. I wanted them to focus on Dane and not worrying about telling me the sex of the baby. Lee would do this when he was stable. Lee moved over to the isolate where the NICU nurses were prepping the baby. One of the nurses came over to me and said “He’s doing amazing. He is doing great. He is breathing”. Remember, at this point, I still didn’t know what I had and ALL I wanted was for Lee to tell me what we had. I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed but I cannot blame this woman. It was a high stress situation and she was doing everything she could to help keep me calm. But that didn’t stop me from yelling across the room “I don’t even know we had, can Lee tell me?!” Erin, looked over the curtain at me and said “oh God, no one has told you what you had yet?!” “NO!” I replied. That is when they lifted the bowels to show Lee that it was a boy. He came over to tell me. We just sat there and cried, laughed, and stared at each other. This is it. He is here. Dane is here. Shortly after he whispered in my ear, “Babe, he’s going to be an athlete you should see his hand eye coordination as he grabbed the cords they were attaching to him”… lol oh Lee.
At this point they give Lee the option to stay with me or go with Dane. We both agreed before the birth that he would go with Dane. I was in good hands. He gave a little speech to everyone in the room (it was the sweetest thing) thanking them for everything and off he went as I got stitched up.
I remember this took much longer that I anticipated. It took them no time at all to get Dane out but it took what felt like forever to sew me up. Once I was stitched up, they wheeled me to recovery. I remember feeling so lonely and empty. It was the first time Lee and I hadn’t been together in 4 days and it was the first time I had ever been separated from my baby. Was he okay? Were they putting his organs in right now? Was he still breathing on his on? I texted my family and a few friends and just laid there. I remember thinking, “this isn’t how I’m supposed to feel.” My nurse brought all my stuff from the labour and delivery room to me. The first thing I noticed was my pillow case was missing… don’t ask me why I remember it so vividly, well, probably because it’s like a $90 pillow case. Anyways it went in the hospital laundry and is forever gone. I hope whoever has it in the hospital enjoys it as much as I did!
Holly basically blacked out from this point on so it’s Lee here! I left the delivery room and went into another room that felt like it was 10×10. Turns out it was the NICU itself and had 30 other beds. It just didn’t feel like that at the time. Everything was crowded. There was 17 people around Dane. I remember looking around and counting and thinking “wow, this is kinda a big deal”. Gastroschisis isn’t a very common occurrence, so we figured that a lot of learning would be happening. I remember standing there and then all of a sudden they closed the curtains on me. I was shocked. Was something happening? Is there an emergency? Why did they do that? I’m standing right here and I was told I would be able to be part of this. A nurse that knew me came over to tell me that it was because of the risk of me fainting and the risk of infection with so many people around. So now I stood there awkwardly as people stared at me. They asked if I wanted to sit in the waiting room. “Sure” I said. But I remember pacing back and forth in the waiting room while some shitty day time soap was on the TV. I took 15 steps and I was out of there. I walked back to try and find Holly and at least try to support her during her procedure. Nope! Couldn’t get back to her either. So I was a sitting duck. I ended up finding my way to Holly’s area where they would wheel her in and sat there. Do I text people?! Do I Facetime anyone? Do I just say fuck it and go back to Dane. This is the most exciting moment in my life and I was in a dark curtained off area… by myself. So what did I do?! I bawled my eyes out. Safe to say emotions were running high and I was alone, so this was a great place to let it out.
A little after that, the nurses asked if I wanted to see Dane. So off I went. I didn’t really know what to expect, I mean I just had a curtain closed on me. I walked up and there he was. My son. We did this. We made this. I reached into the isolette and touched his little finger. Scared shitless that I would hurt him. Looking back he was so small. I didn’t realize it then because I usually don’t head into delivery rooms to do weight checks. But it didn’t matter, nothing mattered. He was breathing and looking perfect (even with the imperfections).
Holly was wheeled in shortly after. She was so traumatized that she doesn’t remember anything, but what a special moment to see. Watching Holly’s eyes light up when she saw him was something I will never forget. They gave us some time and we just sat there, staring at our beautiful baby boy. All of the emotions were flooding out. Happiness, fear, peace, calmness, relief and reality to name a few. We stayed with Dane for what felt like 3 minutes but was probably more like 45 minutes. Me again, this part right here is what really hurts. I don’t know why it bothers me so much but I cry and get angry with myself. Why can I remember so vividly that they lost my pillow and how I felt about it but I cannot remember seeing my son for the first time. What does this say about me? It kills me that I don’t have that memory. I wish so bad I had a video of it. I wish we got a family picture in that moment. Something to hold onto.
They then recommended that I head back to the room for rest. Lee wheeled me back in the room and we began the recovery process. Only to have the Neonatologist come to our room and give us the news, Dane had stopped breathing and had to be intubated.
And so our NICU journey began.