Warning: this birth story is a little bit more graphic than the ones I’ve posted before. This is out of necessity. I couldn’t post his story without certain graphic details. If this is going to make you squeamish, skip over this…
Apollo’s Birth: Cord Prolapse at Home
What is a cord prolapse?
From Cleaveland Clinic: In a prolapse, the umbilical cord drops (prolapses) through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby. The cord can then become trapped against the baby’s body during delivery. Umbilical cord prolapse occurs in approximately one in every 300 births.
Chuck and I knew exactly what to do in the case of a prolapsed cord because we had both read Peggy Vincent’s book, Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife where she describes two instances of cord prolapse.
Friday night after we put the children to bed, Chuck and I sat down to watch a movie. As I sat idly rubbing my belly, I noticed the baby had once again turned transverse. I had a head bulging on one side and bottom bulging on the other. We looked at each other and sighed…
The movie ended and I headed to bed at 11:20. Sometime after midnight, I woke up to a strong contraction…I had a few more, very strong but infrequent contractions, 12-20 minutes apart. I was uncomfortable so I kept making trips back and forth to the bathroom. At one point I finished up in the bathroom and was about to stand up when my water broke with a pop and a gush. The water just poured out of and wouldn’t stop. I called Chuck (who had headed to bed only 10 minutes before) but he didn’t hear me. Once the flood slowed a bit I put a towel between my legs and waddled down the hall, gushing fluid the entire way. I flicked on our bedroom light and told Chuck my water broke. I headed back to the toilet where the fluid continued to pour out.
We were immediately on high alert. If you read my previous birth stories, you know my water has never broken before I was fully dilated and ready to push…and in every case except Hezekiah, the water broke as the baby was emerging. I was six days overdue, the latest I have ever gone during a pregnancy. Was I in for a long, slow labor? Or were we going to deliver this baby in the next ten minutes by ourselves???
Call the Midwife
Chuck got the phone and called the (back-up) midwife and asked her to come out to the house and check me. He turned and headed down the hall and I stood up from the toilet. I glanced down and saw a good 3 ½ inches of umbilical cord hanging out of me.
This was the single worst moment of my life. I knew cord prolapse at home = death of the baby…the only way this can be prevented is with an immediate c-section…and I was alone in my bathroom 15 minutes from the hospital.
Nightmare or not, I didn’t hesitate for one second. I grabbed the cord and stuffed it back where it belonged, then slid to lie down on the bathroom floor. I yelled down the hall to Chuck, “Chuck, the cord prolapsed, call 911 NOW”.
Waiting for the Ambulance
As Chuck called 911, I crab-walked into the playroom, holding the cord in the whole time. I lay on the couch with a couple of pillows under me and soon realized I could not keep holding the cord in. Chuck needed to do it. Without a moment’s hesitation, up went his hand to keep the cord safe in my uterus. Soon I realized I couldn’t keep holding up my pelvic area so I slid down until my bottom was on the couch and my head on the floor. Chuck shoved another pillow under my backside.
It, of course, seemed to take forever for the ambulance to arrive. Once we heard them on the property, we realized we had no way to unlock the door. No one else in the house was awake…after a moment of deliberation, Chuck let go, dashed across the room to unlock the door, and ran back to me. Up went his hand again. His hand wouldn’t come out again until the Apollo was delivered.
Can You See the Head?
The paramedics were a bit shocked by the scene they fell upon…by this time I was hanging halfway off the couch- upside down, jammies around my ankles, and Chuck had his hand in my vagina, holding the cord in.
“Can you see the head?” they asked.
“NO! The baby’s not being born- the cord is prolapsed”.
It took several explanations to get them to understand the situation. It was immediately apparent they had no idea what a “cord prolapse” was. It was terrifying. All the while I was trying to stay relaxed…so I wouldn’t bring on more contractions. Once the paramedics arrived and Chuck could hang up the phone, he called a neighbor to stay with the kids. There we were- headed away in an ambulance in the middle of the night. Chuck had no wallet, no shoes (a paramedic grabbed a pair for him and our neighbor grabbed his cell phone). Off we went.
Nineteen Minutes from our House to the Operating Room
Once in the ambulance, Chuck called my mom to come out to the house with the kids and get everyone she knew to pray- the baby’s very life was on the line. The ride seemed to me to take forever (but by checking his cell phone record, we saw it took only 19 minutes to get from our road into the operating room). As soon as we arrived they wheeled us straight through the front doors of the childbirth center at the hospital and through the lobby. I can only imagine what the visitors thought as they saw me rushed in on a gurney, Chuck’s hand inside me, and the paramedics running full speed.
The OB was waiting for us and ushered us into a room with an ultrasound machine. After it warmed up he put it on my stomach and said, “There’s a heartbeat- we’re doing surgery. Code Purple!” They, of course, had the room all set up and ready to go for us.
In we went (I heard them yell, “Entering the room at 2:45!”) There was no time for an epidural. It took about five minutes to prep me and put me under a general anesthetic. As they were prepping me they noticed my jammies around my ankles and someone removed them. Meanwhile, Chuck was now kneeling on the operating room floor still holding the cord in place.
Despite coming c-section, Apollo still refused to come out. In fact, he came out breech and had his feet caught up under my ribs. Chuck was able to remove his hand just as they maneuvered Apollo out and had a great view of his male anatomy (we didn’t find out his gender during the pregnancy).
They warned Chuck ahead of time that he needed to stay back as they worked on Apollo. His lungs and a tummy were full of fluid. He had to be transported to the special care nursery because his lungs were “wet” and “crackly”. Chuck spent the first hours with Apollo, holding his hand, rubbing him and talking to him.
There is no doubt that Apollo surviving the prolapsed cord at home is a miracle. Thank God I knew what a cord prolapse was and thank God Chuck had the courage to do what he did. I only had one contraction after my water broke. Contractions would have moved Apollo down and possibly compressed the cord. It took only nineteen minutes to get from our house into the operating room. The doctors and nurses were so impressed that we knew what to do and that Chuck held his cord in and allowing him to breathe. Thank God for the OB on call who whisked in and used his skills to deliver my son.
I have no regrets. I don’t regret the c-section, not seeing him for his first few hours or anything else about the experience. I am only grateful to have my beautiful baby alive and healthy.
Our son is a miracle.