I can’t believe it’s been one year since my sweet little Chase came into our lives!
Let’s take it all the way back to pregnancy for a second. Ryan and I weren’t trying to get pregnant, but in January we found out that God had other plans! This sort of set the tone for my whole pregnancy, everything was easy peasy! I am very blessed to say that I was never sick and really never even felt pregnant until I had a belly! Being pregnant was truly the best 9 months of my life. I loved every single second of it and I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin than when I was pregnant. Weird, but true.
It wasn’t until September, when I was 37 weeks that I started feeling uncomfortable. I’m a small person so I always felt shortness of breath with the way the baby was sitting in my belly. Every time I would go to the doctor he would reassure me that it was because I was petite. Throughout my pregnancy, I had only had 3 ultrasounds – one to confirm, one at 12 weeks which is called your Nucal scan, and one at 20 weeks for the anatomy. My doctor was very chill and laid back and I think he became even more relaxed since I was having a textbook pregnancy with 0 complications. I never knew what to ask, or what was considered routine. I was a first time mom and found comfort in the fact that my doctor was completely chill. We’ll circle back to this in a bit….
The week of my due date I finally was at my breaking point. For 9 months I felt amazing, was super independent, and really was going about life as normal. My husband always joked that he would forget I was pregnant most of the time. By this point I was about 28 weeks pregnant and was having horrible Braxton hicks. I knew though this week something was different. Up until the first week of September, I had still been making the hour and a half commute in and out of NYC for work, so I figured my body was just exhausted. I would call my doctor to explain that the cramping seemed more than just Braxton hicks but the nurse would always give me the whole “well you ARE 9 months pregnant” pep talk. Again, I figured my medical team knew best and tried to just relax. It wasn’t until one night that I was talking to my sister in law when I casually mentioned I had been very leaky (sorry TMI but pregnant girls get it!) for the last few weeks. She told me that I definitely needed to call my doctor first thing in the morning to let them know. Luckily I had an appointment the next morning since it was my actual due date. During that last week, there was always this little voice in my gut that kept saying something wasn’t right, so when we talked about the leaking, I started to get a bit more anxious.
When I went to the office it was officially my due date. They hooked me up to monitor to see if I was having contractions, which I was, but they weren’t consistent. I was frustrated since I knew I HAD been having contractions for the last few days but no one would really take them seriously until they were in a pattern. My doctor again came in breezily, checked my contractions, and was about to send me on my way. I begged him to take an ultrasound since I felt like something wasn’t right which he reluctantly did. After all, we had not seen the baby in TWENTY WEEKS. It turns out I had virtually no amniotic fluid left which can be catastrophic for a baby. I will never forget the moment he looked at the screen and said “well you might be having a baby today”. Ryan and I were shocked. We were instructed to go home, get our bags, and head to the hospital so I could get a more accurate ultrasound and then they would determine if I would be induced that night. I was so freaked out and in shock I don’t think either of us said a word on the drive back. I should also mention we lived about 30 minutes from the hospital, this is important later.
When we arrived at the hospital they were PACKED. Triage was overflowing with women who were in full blown labor. We were there for hours when finally I made it into triage for my ultrasound. By this point I knew I was in labor. The tech hooked me up to the monitor for my contractions, which were still not consistent. She did an internal exam, and checked my amniotic fluid levels. She told me that the hospital was super busy tonight and that I had enough fluid to hold me over till the weekend. I looked at Ryan and started bawling. My nerves were shot from the stress of not knowing if the baby was in danger from my lack of fluid, waiting for hours in the hospital, and mentally preparing myself for labor only to be sent home.
For the first time in 9 months I cried because I was done – mentally, physically, emotionally, DONE. Ryan promised me that he would call my doctor first thing in the morning and get me induced if that’s what I wanted. I knew I was in labor and it was so frustrating to have everyone tell me I wasn’t and send me on my way. I remember turning to him crying and saying “ I know we’re going to be back here tonight”…
When we got home, it was around 9:30pm. We left all our bags in the car and headed inside to try to relax. My back felt like it was on FIRE so Ryan ran me a bath in hopes I could decompress a little. I got in the bath for about 15 minutes and couldn’t take the discomfort – for anyone who knows me this is a tell tale sign since I LOVE a bath! I got dressed again and sat in my bed. What happened next is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I was texting my friend Erin and all of a sudden I felt/heard this huge gargle, then all of a sudden a massive POP! My water broke. Now let’s talk about this for a second – everything you see in the movies is a lie. I thought it would trickle out or kind of leak, not basically pop like a 5-gallon water balloon. Spoiler alert, it also doesn’t stop for hours. I was in complete shock. I tried to yell for Ryan but I’m not even sure what words came out of my mouth. He must have heard the panic in my voice because before I knew it he was running up the stairs.
The scary part for me was that obviously I was panicked about my water breaking, but worse than that my body went into full blown labor the second my water broke. I had been in something called “latent labor” all week so as soon as my water broke there was no transition. My contractions were coming hard and fast and I could barely talk through them. I didn’t think this is how it was supposed to happen? I remember watching the Kardashian’s where Kourtney was taking a shower and blowing out her hair after her water broke yet here I was, barely able to speak with contractions 3 minutes apart and a towel shoved under my sweats. They were getting closer and closer. My mind went to “Oh my god what if we don’t make it to the hospital? What if I can’t get an epidural???”
My husband was amazing and stepped right into action. We were in the car within 10 minutes and on our way to the hospital. I was in so much pain. I was in shock. How could my body be going into labor this quickly? I became so angry that no one believed me when I said I was in labor and yet here we were racing back to the hospital not even 2 hours after they sent me home. It felt like eternity, but finally we made it to the hospital after running through many red lights and curse words.
Ryan quickly checked us in while I was doubled over in the wheelchair which was quick and easy since we had practically just left an hour ago. I think the staff felt so bad that they didn’t believe me when I said I was in labor, they called for my epidural while I was still in triage. Within minutes, I was checked into my room with the doctor waiting on me for my epidural. When I was pregnant, this was the one part that really freaked me out. I’m not sure why since I’m not afraid of shots, but for whatever reason, the thought of the epidural terrified me. The doctor asked me for my pain level at which I expressed that it was an 8 or 9. It wasn’t so much the actual pain, but my contractions were 2 minutes apart and pummeling me like waves where I couldn’t catch my breath in between. I was in so much pain that I was involuntarily pushing and making my heart rate go up, so the aneteesologisy jumped right in to get started. I was so worried about the epidural but to my surprise it wasn’t bad at all! Before I knew it, the epidural was in place and they expressed I would start feeling better in about two contractions. After what seemed like eternity, (which in reality was probably 10 minutes at most) I expressed to them that I was still feeling my contractions. The doctor then gave me a little bit of a top off and told me to call her if I still wasn’t feeling great. Within a few seconds it was smooooooooth sailing.
There were a lot of things looking back on these early hours of my labor that I think added to a lot of my complications. It was like the series of misfortunate events that kept stacking up to not be in my and the baby’s favor. Because my labor had come so hard and fast, the on call nurse thought I would for sure have a baby by the morning. Mind you at this time it was about midnight. She suggested Ryan and I get as much sleep and rest as we could and to call her if I needed anything. I didn’t think about the fact that it was weird that a doctor NEVER came in to check on me throughout the entire night. After all, this was my first baby, I was now feeling all sorts of good, and I wasn’t even 3 cms dilated at this point. I labored through the entire night without the on call doctor coming in to check on me and my progress. This should have been a huge red flag, but what did this first time mom know?
As anyone who has had a bad baby before knows, “trying to get some rest” is virtually impossible while in labor. I was so amped up on adrenalin and by that time, my labor had made its rounds through our family grape vines, everyone was checking in. Finally at about 3 am, I dozed off to sleep to get ready for my big morning.
When I woke up in the morning, the new on call doctor came in to check on me. Her name was Dr. D and I truly believe there was an angel on my shoulder who put her on shift the day I was supposed to give birth.
At this point it had been quite a few hours since my “membranes” had broken and I still had not progressed the way the staff thought I should have. They were all under the impression I would be having a pretty quick labor but here I was barely at 4cm. Eventfully I had told my mom and dad that they should come to the hospital to hang out since we all thought the baby would be here in a few hours. Throughout these few hours, I was put on the peanut ball but had not yet started Pitocin. My doctor didn’t want to start Pitocin until I had to, since a lot of times it can cause both mom and baby’s heart rate to spike. They decided to try a foley bulb to see if this would make things go a little quicker.
I would say it was at this point that everything started to take a turn. It was the following afternoon, my water had been broken for 12+ hours at this point and there was still no progress. It was at this time that I also started to feel so out of it and so exhausted that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Truly, it felt like I had to physically hold my eyelids open to even hold a conversation with the nurse when she came in the room. My mom had come back to check on me and noticed that my catheter bag was full of straight blood. This was totally alarming being that my body was no longer releasing any fluid or urine. I started to bloat, my blood pressure was rising, and I couldn’t stay awake.
It’s at this point that everything gets a little foggy for me. I felt so out of it that I didn’t even know what was going on. The only time I would wake up was when my nurse would come in, shake me and tell me she was going to check for dilation. My nurse was very sweet but bless her heart, she did not help my case at all. Around 3pm she came in to check me and excitedly announced, “You’re an 8! I’m going to get the resident!” to which she then corrected the nurse and said I was still at a 4. I then dozed back off and told them to wake me when they needed to check me again. Having a diligent labor and delivery nurse is so important, and unfortunately I did not have one.
The next thing I remember is the nurses running in and flipping me on to my side and putting an oxygen mask on my face. Again, I didn’t even realize what was happening because I was so out of it. The baby started to get a little distressed, but it had seemed that we were able to pacify the situation and everything was okay. It was about 6pm at this point – my water had been broken since 10pm the day before. The resident had come in again to check me and to my surprise I was finally at a 9!!! This was it, FINALLY! My nurse went to check my temperature one last time and page the doctor, when all of a sudden her face dropped. I spiked a fever. A fever happens in less than 1% of labors and the proper term is “Intrapartum Fever”. This happens when your membranes have been ruptured for a prolonged amount of time and your body starts to develop an infection. I was informed at this point that the baby would automatically have to go to the NICU as soon as he was born. I couldn’t even process what they were saying since I still felt so out of it. I cried. How was this happening? I had the easiest pregnancy in the world, was prepared for every sort of scenario during labor, but never did I imagine my newborn baby would be spending his first moments of life in a cold NICU alone. I didn’t have much time to feel sorry for myself, since mine and the baby’s heart rates started dropping. Both our bodies were in distress from being in labor for so long and now we were fighting an infection.
Dr. D and her staff came rushing in and explained to me that the baby was in danger and so was I – they were going to rush me into an emergency C section. When I heard these words, I fell apart. I felt like I had been so strong this entire labor and after almost 24 hours, I was determined to deliver my baby naturally the way I had planned. I was hysterical, I looked at my mom who was still in the room and I could see for the first time that she was panicking as well. Everything felt so out of control and was going downhill so fast. Ryan and I had no clue what was happening, but whatever it was, it needed to be quick. Dr. D tried to calm me down for a few minutes and said “I’ll tell you what? I’m going to let you do a few practice pushes so you can see what it feels like, but in the meantime I’m going to have the OR prepped and waiting for you”. She literally was just appeasing me, since I had MINUTES to give birth to my baby when I wasn’t even 10 cm dilated at this point! I was still 9! It was game time. I was determined to have this baby and get him out safe and sound – his health and mine depended on it. I said goodbye to my mom who held such a brave face until she left, where she later told me she broke down because she was so scared for us both.
My nurse explained how to push, and I could tell everyone was just waiting to wheel me into the OR. I looked at Ryan and he told me I could do it and that now was my chance to try. My first push I could tell was pretty good because everyone seemed very surprised by my ability to make something happen. My doctor explained to me that we only had a few minutes, but to keep pushing with my next contraction. It was then that Dr. D realized the reason the baby was losing oxygen and was stuck for so long was that he was transverse AND posterior. Having a baby in the posterior position is usually an automatic C section because the baby can inhale a ton of fluid on their way out, which can then get into their lungs. She explained to me how dangerous this could be for both of us, but was going to try to turn him as I was pushing. Again, the baby’s heart rate started dropping, but I was making progress. I don’t know what came over me – whether it was my determination to have a natural birth or the motherly instinct kicking in knowing that my baby needed to get out ASAP, but something kicked in that felt like an outer body experience. I started to push without even having contractions knowing I didn’t have much time. With every push, my doctor was twisting and turning to try to guide the baby out. Within 20 minutes the baby was almost out! One more push and I would meet my sweet boy!
Dr. D coached me through my final push and finally he was here!!! I had dreamed of this moment for 9 months, but unfortunately, it was nothing like I thought it would be. My baby was delivered and it was dead silent. I felt like I could hear a pin drop in the room which at this point was jam-packed with doctors and nurses. My doctor assured me he was okay but that “he was just a little stunned” – these words are etched in my brain. I kept looking at Ryan wondering what was happening. Was the baby okay? What was going on? It seemed like eternity before I finally heard him make a peep, and at last, they put him on my chest for a mere moment before he was whisked off to the NICU as Ryan followed behind. At that moment, I had never felt more alone in my whole life. I had just delivered my baby, after 23 hours of labor, 2 minutes of fast and furious pushing, and now I was alone in this cold sterile room without my husband, and more importantly, without my baby.
That next half hour was a blur. I was alone trying to process what was even happening. My doctor had my mom come in once I was stable and explained to her that in her 40+ years of delivering babies she had never delivered one like that. She was blown away that I was able to do it and that the baby was safe.
I couldn’t see the baby in the NICU for a few hours. I needed to be stabilized and my epidural had to wear off before I could go see him. At last, at around 1:00 in the morning they wheeled me into the NICU to go see my tiny baby. When I finally saw him my heart broke into a million pieces. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined my baby being in the NICU. I became irrationally angry and confused at how this happened. How was he transverse for so long yet no one knew? How did they not realize the baby was posterior? Why did they let me go so long with my water broken so that I developed an infection that put my body into shock? Why didn’t anyone listen to me when I expressed my concerns? As I was staring at my baby alone in a plastic bassinet with wires all over him, I felt the tears flood down my face. I never imagined the first time I would see his face would be like this. The problem was that I had this vision in my head of what my labor would be like and this certainly was not that. I was only able to stay at the NICU for about an hour since I still wasn’t in great shape myself. My husband put me back in my wheelchair and we started down the long dark hallway back to our room, without our baby.
I have to add that the admiration I now have for all NICU nurses is immeasurable. They take care of our most precious and vulnerable selves when we cant. I will never forget the nurses that held my baby when I couldn’t. Who gave him his first bath, fed him his first bottle, and changed his first diaper. Although it truly aches to think about not being here for these milestones, I’m grateful for the love of total strangers to treat my baby as their own and give him the care he needed so that he could get back into our loving arms.
The next few days were chaotic. After an emotional 5 days in the NICU, Chase Cristian Cuccinelli was finally cleared to go home and we obviously could not have been happier. Although this journey was not at all what I expected, I am grateful for my angel Dr. D for saving my baby from a situation that could have been way worse. Without her, I’m not sure what would have happened to either of us. Despite my crazy experience, I am incredibly blessed to have a healthy son who came into this world, and call me nuts, but I did enjoy childbirth and everything that came along with it. I will never ever take for granted how amazing it is to have a safe delivery, and how much we, as mothers, go through to bring our angels into this world.
Thank you for reading Chase’s journey!