Halcie's Birth Story

Halcyon Priest’s birth was wild and exceedingly unique.

Trigger warning: If you’re sensitive to medical stories, or if you’re pregnant or going to be and not sure you want to read a story of a birth gone wrong, please don’t read any further.

Well, that was a doozy. 😅 Halcyon Priest’s birth was wild and exceedingly unique, and not everyone is going to want the details.

I had a totally unremarkable pregnancy, but at close to 41 weeks, developed polyhydramnios, or too much amniotic fluid. Because this condition isn’t well understood, and can mean the baby is in distress, my doctor recommended a repeat c-section the Friday before Easter weekend. She also said that should I go against medical advice, she would recommend having a body scan done on the baby every day. So Easter weekend, we got a private sonogram every day to make sure baby was doing well, and she always passed with flying colors, so we continued to avoid the c-section.

On March 29, the same day I was recommended to have the repeat c-section, I believed I was in early labor. I was having regular, significant contractions throughout the night. This was actually just the beginning of a three-day, two-night prodromal labor (or “false labor,” SO RUDE) that would have me revving up for hours—sometimes with 1–2 minute contractions right on top of each other—and then stalling out for a few hours before starting again. What was technically “early labor” actually started the evening of Easter, March 31, when my contractions became intermittently regular. I spent a lot of time in the bathtub those days. 

I’d hoped to have an unmedicated vaginal birth (TOLAC, or trial of labor after caesarian), but after a long prodromal labor and sensing that something was a little off, we transferred to the hospital (dilated at 4 cm). The moment Alex stopped the car in front of the hospital, around 8:30pm, my water broke. It was hilarious cinematic timing. 

Once in triage (5 cm), the experience of my contractions changed dramatically, from intense pressure with regular breaks, to a continuous, sharp, excruciating pain without breaks. I opted for an epidural, which took over an hour to come. That was a really long hour. 

Once the epidural was placed, the pain relief came, but I still had some intense referred pain in my shoulders and what felt like a Charlie horse in my abdomen. A little maneuvering onto my hands and knees helped me work the epidural into my belly (it works with gravity), but it continued to feel extremely tight and uncomfortable. Over the next three hours I progressed rapidly to full dilation. 

I got to watch our sweet baby crown in a mirror (so much hair!!) shortly after starting to push at 12:45am, and all 8lbs 14 oz of her was born a little over an hour later, at 1:57am. My doula Ruth, “friend doula” Laura, Alex, and the St. David’s team were all present and giving the best encouragement. Alex made his amazing accidental April Fools’ joke by mis-gendering her as a boy, and the whole room got a belly laugh. I only had a minor stage 2 tear. Despite everything that came prior and next, it was a peak life moment for me. 

There were some unseen signs during her birth that not all was well with my health, including intense referred pain even when epidural was placed, major sleepiness during and after pushing, and post-birth vomiting and flushed skin. When my much-needed epidural wore off and my abdominal pain could be parsed from my labor pain, it became clear that something had gone wrong. 

Around 9am I was experiencing major, untreatable abdominal pain. This ultimately turned out to be a uterine rupture that probably began bleeding sometime during my early labor the evening prior, and had been expressing itself through the referred shoulder pain and abdominal tightness during the epidural. But because I didn’t have any external bleeding and baby girl wasn't in distress (one of the primary indicators of a rupture), they chalked it up to many other things before realizing the true cause. After emptying my bladder of 1.5 liters (omg so much!) and trying their very heaviest pain killers (which didn’t even touch the pain), they ordered a sonogram, found the internal bleed, and rushed me to the OR. I was so grateful for the relief of the general anesthesia after hours of inescapable and unexplained pain. And in hindsight, I’m grateful for the blood donors who helped save my life. 

The likelihood of rupturing during a trial of labor after cesarean is 1/400, and the likelihood of that rupture needing an emergency surgery is said to be 1/1000. So in case you read this and it’s sparking fears, please know that my complications are incredibly rare. 

After emergency surgery to stop the bleeding and repair, I woke up to discover I got to keep my uterus, which as it turns out was an incredible stroke of luck. The doctor who was on call—and only takes call once a month—is one of only a couple doctors in all of Austin who knows how to do a hypogastric arterial ligation, what my OB calls a “lost art procedure.” My OB told me that, had any other doctor been on call, the procedure would have almost certainly been a full hysterectomy due to the severity of the rupture. I got really, really lucky, and the hospital is actually planning to write a white paper on my whole story for education on my vanishingly rare case and medical management lessons. 

A whole cascade of other issues happened after the rupture, which kept me in the hospital for 8 days: 

  • I got an infection in my uterus, presumed endometritis, that I had to take a nuclear ton of IV antibiotics for (which totally wrecked my gut for a week and a half and was honestly the source of most of my constant pain).
  • A number of fluid collections developed in my abdomen and pelvis, one of which I had drained from an implanted drainage port that I rocked as "flask" for a week. These have required more monitoring to ensure they don’t get larger and/or develop infection, but as of now, my body seems to be taking care of them on its own. 
  • A possible C. Diff infection of my digestive tract.

It felt like the twilight zone—one unexpected and unlikely outcome after another that made time feel cast in amber and extended my pain day after day. My first day without major, constant abdominal pain was April 13, and I will never take that for granted again. 🙌🏻 

I’m now using a very hip walker to get around; it’s giving me a glimpse into my old age if I don't keep taking care of my body, like the ghost of Christmas future. 😂  My recovery is expected to be a longer one, likely 6 weeks, with lots of PT, OT, and other types of therapy to process the physical and emotional trauma of the experience. 

Halcie has been an incredibly sweet and easy baby so far, which has made Alex’s Herculean feat of essentially solo parenting for the last 2 weeks (with help from family) a little more manageable. He has been an absolute pillar of strength for our family as I focus on healing, gaining back weight, regaining mobility, and getting lots of rest. ❤️‍🩹 

Again, I want to reiterate just how unlikely this course of events really is, and that childbirth comes in a broad spectrum of experiences. This is just one very rare anecdote. And despite all the difficulty, I’m so glad for the ultimate outcome of a beautiful, healthy baby girl.