Lara Gerard: One Woman’s Traumatic Birth Experience

In our latest guest blog, Lara Gerard shares her traumatic birth experience with HerScoop.

After having five babies over the past seven years, Lara was accustomed to “fast and furious” deliveries in her home country of Canada. But she had never experienced anything like her sixth birth in Mexico.

And her story doesn’t end here. Her marriage has since ended, leaving Lara to deal with two devastating losses.

Lara bravely shares her heartbreaking story in hopes of reaching out to other women who have experienced a traumatic birth.

“If talking about it gives others comfort, I’m all for that,” Lara says. “I wish I had that after I lost him.”

Continue reading Lara’s powerful story below…

“Finding out I was pregnant with our sixth child was quite a surprise. A welcome surprise, but a surprise all the same.

August 21, 2012, I went to my gynecologist to seek her medical support to balance out the post partum hormones from my recent pregnancy with Tristan, who was born only 5 months prior. I was also late getting my second post­partum period, so I thought that hormones/depression or something physically awry was causing my body to go out of whack. On the off­chance that I was pregnant, I asked her to do a blood test (as the HPT I took came back negative). The blood test at the hospital came back negative, so she started me on Prozac for depression/anxiety and asked that I come back to check in with her in a couple of weeks time.

I took the Prozac for almost 2 weeks, and before it had a chance to take effect in my body, I noticed that something else was going on. I felt nauseous and dizzy. I suspected that it was my body adjusting to the Prozac, so I dismissed it. Two more days went by and when I was still feeling this way I decided to take another HPT.

It was positive.

I called my husband upstairs and showed him the pee stick. He had no idea that I had been taking Prozac and so I explained the oddness of it all and my concern about being on the medication and together we decided it was best that I just stop it cold­ turkey. March on baby No. 6!

We went to my gynecologist the next day, who did an ultrasound to ensure that the pregnancy seemed viable and sure enough, no sooner had the gel gone on my belly and the wand placed, his little heart beat raced across the screen. There he was. Here we go!

The ensuing weeks went normally…I experienced the usual morning (all day!) sickness for about 6 weeks. While something not pleasant, there is always that bit of relief that you know that the hormones are doing their thing and so the nausea is a (somewhat) welcome visitor.

Halloween was the first time that I noticed my belly ‘pop’. I went to the Halloween party for the kids in Paamul dressed as Cleopatra and it was clear that I was beginning to show. We started telling friends and family, posted ultrasound pics on Facebook and started breaking the news to the kids ‘you’re going to be a big brother/sister ­ again!’. They were thrilled. Indiana wanted a baby girl (of course) and the boys wanted a baby boy.

The beginning of the pregnancy was uneventful. He was growing in my belly and I was plumping up quite nicely too.

At the end of November, my husband and I went to Tampa, Florida to see Louis CK perform live. It was a short flight and was so nice to be able to have some ‘us’ time. I was thrilled to go shopping in the ‘first world’ and immediately spent almost an entire day loading up on maternity clothes at the mall. I was set.

After the second day of being there, we had planned on seeing a movie in the evening, but I was overwhelmed with nausea, dizziness and broke into a sudden fever in the hotel room. I stood under a hot shower for 20 minutes thinking that this was a passing thing and that we’d still be able to catch the movie later if I could just shake this. I lay in bed and told Adrian after half an hour that I wasn’t going to make it to the movie.

The next day, thankfully, I felt much better. The nausea and fever passed and I was ready to carry on with our short little vacation. We saw that show and had a great time before returning home.

One week after returning home, I went to see my gynecologist to get my knee checked. I had been limping along on it for a few days. It seemed very stiff and was quite sore to go up and down stairs. At my routine exam, my doctor checked my legs (as she was always quite concerned about my varicose veins). She told me that I should start wearing my compression stockings…and that that might help with my tight knee (thinking that the blood was constricting behind my knee and causing the problem).

Routinely, while checking my abdomen, she pressed on a spot to the right of my belly button that almost made me jump off the table. She was as equally surprised as I was. She pressed again and I confirmed that it was still a sore spot. Concerned that it was a possible appendicitis, she sent me for an ultrasound and for the gastro intestinal surgeon to check me out. While the ultrasound did not conclusively show any problems with the appendix, the surgeon was still concerned. It is apparently difficult to definitively diagnose appendicitis in pregnant women, as the uterus hides the appendix and the white blood cell count can be deceiving, as it usually registers high in pregnancy anyhow.

The surgeon and I decided that we would wait and see. If the pain was still there the next day, we would consider surgery. Sure enough, the next day, the pain was still there. We waited one more day with the surgeon telling me not to go too far from the hospital ­ and when the pain was still prominent upon inspection, he booked me in for laparoscopic surgery. On December 12, 2012 he performed the laparoscopy to remove the appendix and while in there discovered that the tissue covering my organs in the area of my appendix ­ including fallopian tube, ovary, appendix were ‘strangling’ those organs and seemingly limiting blood supply.

Also, the main femoral artery coming into the abdomen was hard and swollen (like a small garden hose)…likely exacerbating the poor circulation in my legs and potentially causing a problem with blood flow to the uterus. The doctor painstakingly took 45 minutes to show us the post­surgery video and how he released the tissue to relax the organs and the artery. We were also fascinated on how he was able to work in and around this giant orb which was our little boy, all hidden way in the uterus in my belly. The surgery was a ‘success’ and the baby was in no way harmed or affected by either the surgery or the general anaesthetic. I was on my way to getting back to normal again.

Or so I thought.

They kept me at the hospital for observation for the next couple of days. I was experiencing ‘gassy’ like cramps, but apparently this is normal with laparoscopic surgeries, so they weren’t overly concerned. I went home, and while sore, I was looking forward to getting back to my normal routine. I was home for one full day.

The next day, my inlaws came to spend the afternoon with the kids. We got the kids to bed and had dinner. They went home and I went upstairs to bed. I watched some TV on my iPad and about 1 hour later I started feeling a very uncomfortable wave of pain creep across my lower abdomen. It started getting worse and worse, to the point where I could barely stand up straight. I was concerned about internal bleeding or something being wrong with the baby. My husband brought me warm towels to try to alleviate the pain (which we thought was gastritis), to no avail. I called my doctor and she suggested I come in right away back to ER.

In the ER waiting room, they hooked me up to a fetal monitor and could not detect the baby’s heart beat. Concerned, my doctor immediately sent me for ultrasound. For the excruciating 10 minutes between ER and the ultrasound room my mind went to the worst places. Is the baby alive? Is my uterus ruptured? Thank goodness, the technician confirmed that his little heart was still beating strong and it didn’t appear that there was anything wrong with the uterus ­ or the baby. What a relief.

The pain was still there though. It came in waves. The doctors admitted me to maternity for observation for one week. They strapped a fetal monitor on me and treated me for everything from gastritis to possible infection. They switched my diet from solids to mushy food. I had times where I felt better, and then it would come back on in full force. The only way that I could somewhat ‘relieve’ the pain was by stacking pillows on the bed and doubling myself over on them. Cradling my belly in the pillows and taking the weight off my feet.

Throughout that week, even though the diagnosis was unsure, they did seem fairly certain that the baby was fine. Neither the ultrasounds nor fetal monitor caused them to think otherwise.

Their last option was to do a CT scan of my abdomen to determine if there were any abnormalities. While torn about not wanting it due to the radiation the baby would absorb, the risks were calculated and at 21 weeks pregnant, we decided that the risks were low for defects to the baby, so we went through with it. It came back negative for anything.

Having exhausted all of their hypothesis, my gynecologist and the gastro intestinal surgeon suggested that they send me to the hospital’s bigger brother in Cancun Hospiten Cancun. I was not interested in being transferred to yet another hospital, spending hundreds of dollars a day to start all over again. I was so tired of being in pain and the uncertainty of it all, I just wanted to go home to Canada.

Against the doctor’s advice, I checked out of Hospiten in Playa and decided to fly home to Vancouver to get a round of second opinions. My husband booked me on a flight leaving to Vancouver the evening of December 19, 2012. Fortunately, the pain started to subside the morning of my flight and it made it bearable to get on the plane. Armed with all my medications (mainly for gastro­intestinal issues and pain) I boarded the plane that evening and arrived in Vancouver at 1am. My family met me at the airport and we proceeded directly to St. Paul’s ER. It was cold, dark and rainy.

Ironically, the constant pain I had been feeling the previous week continued to fade.

The next 24 hours was spent meeting with 2 surgeons, 1 gynecologist, 1 general specialst, having a 2.5 hour detailed ultrasound, various blood tests and a urine culture. At the end of it all, the doctors in Vancouver were just as stumped as the doctors in Playa. The ultrasound showed that the baby was perfectly fine/normal and that there were no abnormalities with either him or my organs after having the surgery.

The doctors met with me after 24 hours and said that they could not find anything. That perhaps I had passed a small kidney stone (that was somehow missed on the ultrasounds and CT?) or that it was merely my body reacting badly in healing from the surgery. They gave me the option to stay longer for observation or go home. They suggested that as long as the pain was not getting worse, it was probably better to leave the hospital. At this point I was so homesick for my family ­ especially being Christmas time I just wanted to go home.

I went back to my mother-in-law’s house and the next day my husband booked me a ticket back to Playa for Saturday, December 22nd. I was going to be home for Christmas!

I got home in the evening of the 22nd and it seemed as though my pains were not coming back. While stumped as to what the cause of this strange pain in the last couple of weeks had been, I was just happy to be able to be with my kids and get on with life.

The next week, while I did not have a re occurence of the pain in my abdomen, something still did not feel 100% correct in my uterus. The lower part was tender and I found that sleeping was more uncomfortable than usual. My stomach ached when I got up in the morning. I continued to wear my compression stockings religiously and try to stay off my feet as often as possible, as Iwas not going to jeopardize this baby or my recovery.

On New Year’s eve, my husband and I went for our regular (decaf) coffee at Starbucks. I was feeling particularly off that day since waking up. Sore and somewhat crampy…Nothing overwhelming though. I decided to try a new pair of compression stockings that went all the way up over my baby bump. While somewhat snug, they weren’t painful, but my stomach increasingly was.

After coffee, we stood up to go downstairs and I felt a gush of fluid escape. After going home, I went to the washroom to discover a large amount of greenish discharge in my panties and also when I wiped. While there was no blood, there was definitely something wrong and between that and the (progressively) worsening cramps I started to worry. I told my husband and once again we went back to ER.

The fetal monitor was showing minor contractions and the doctors were concerned about the greenish discharge. The colour and the amount was indicative of some sort of infection and now the doctors were suspecting (Chorioamnionitis) an infection of the placenta/uterus. The prognosis for this kind of infection is not good, as the only way to stop the infection is to remove the baby. And since Huxley was only 23 weeks (to the day), he would not be able to survive outside the womb. I implored the doctors to try everything they could and was hopeful that it was not this infection and that somehow they would be able to stop these ominous contractions and I could continue on with the pregnancy. I thought, even if he was born prematurely (i.e. 30 weeks), that he would be able to live with some initial help. My single defined goal became to keep this baby inside me for as long as possible.

I spent New Year’s Eve alone with Huxley (my unborn baby) and our fetal monitor. I could still feel him kicking and the monitor showed a healthy heart beat for him. The gynecologist on call (not my regular gynecologist) had me on a medication called Indocil, in hopes of stopping the contractions and a radical course of antibiotics for the purposes of being able to get rid of the infection that was supposedly present both in the vaginal canal and my bladder. Ultrasound showed that the round of contractions that I suffered earlier in the afternoon opened my cervix to over 1 cm and my cervix was ‘short and soft’. The gynecologist said that if he could stop the contractions and eradicate the infection, they might be able to perform a ‘cutelage’, which is essentially putting a stitch in the cervix to keep it closed for the remainder of the pregnancy.

I tried to remain hopeful.

At 3am, my contractions started coming back strong. I frantically dialed my husband (who was at home looking after the kids). He could not come in to be with me until the first nanny arrived at 7am as he was alone in the house with no help. Both of us were stuck ­ he at home and me in a hospital room by myself ­ thinking the worst. I was on strict bed rest and could not even get up to go for a pee.

At 7:30am on New Year’s Day, my husband arrived at the hospital and my contractions were still going. The gynecologist already had me on the strongest dose of Indocil that he could have me on (intravenously) and so he said that if the contractions came back he would have to change my prescription. The day went on and the contractions became more bearable. Later on in the evening though, they started getting worse again. He decided to switch me to another medication “used mainly in the States” which is basically a strong muscle relaxer. When the contractions started coming on stronger once every 3 minutes he gave me 2 to swallow and opened a capsule up and put it under my tongue. The contractions started slowing again.

At this point, the gyno said that he was quite concerned that the contractions didn’t seem to want to go away (and it had been 24 hours at this point). And, because the infection was still present, he had already used a ‘second line’ antibiotic that can potentially cause ear problems in the unborn baby.

I started to spike a fever and due to the sheer amount of muscle relaxant he just gave me I started getting an allergic reaction: itchy hives on my hands and body. He had to give me an anti­allergen to calm down the hives. My heart rate was also getting higher and he was not optimistic.

He gave us an option. He said that we could ‘wait it out’ at Hospiten in Playa, or we could continue treatment in their bigger brother hospital Hospiten in Cancun, where at least they had a neo­natal ICU, in the case that the contractions could not be stopped and I went into labour. There was not much hope placed in the fact that even they would be able to save the baby at only 23 weeks if he was born, but it was our only option ­and hope.

We had to try everything.

The doctor gave me another dose of the muscle relaxant at 10:30pm and we waited 2 hours for the ambulance to show up to take me to Hospiten in Cancun. The doctor prepared all the notes, including medications, ultrasound results, etc. and they went with me to Cancun.

My husband followed behind the ambulance (which stopped for gas en route!) and we arrived at Hospiten in Cancun 40 minutes later. I waited in the ambulance for forty minutes. Apparently the front desk knew nothing about our impending arrival and had ‘no space’.

At this point I was due for my next round of muscle relaxants (I had happily managed the entire ride in the ambulance with only 1 or two small contractions) and I started getting panicky. I called my doctor in desperate hopes that she could explain to them in Cancun the urgency of getting me checked in and back on my meds ASAP. She called and they seemed to move a bit faster ­ at least getting me in the door to the ER triage area.

In the ER triage area, I was put on what amounted to a very hard wooden board covered in a thin layer of plastic. While extremely uncomfortable, I was grateful that I was not experiencing regular contractions ­ and my husband and I thought that I was on the road to a possible recovery. About an hour later, the resident gynecologist came in and asked why I was there. I assumed at this point that my records had not been reviewed. I explained my problems and said that I was aware they had an NICU at this hospital, and in worse case scenario they might be able to help save my son if he was born early. He looked at me incredulously and said (in Spanish) ‘We don’t normally consider a baby viable until at least 26 weeks’.

So the priority immediately switched.

We were not going to consider a possible premature birth, we were going to do everything possible to keep this baby in for at least another 4 weeks minimum. That’s all we could do. And I was beginning to think it might be possible, because my contractions were significantly diminished. I told him about the medications that I was last given in Playa and how those seemed to be the most effective and that I wanted to continue those ASAP. Apparently he had other medications he wanted to use, but assured me that he was fairly confident that he could contain the contractions and delay the birth. With that, he left the ER ­ and us ­ for the rest of the night.

We waited in the ER holding room from 1:30am until almost 5:00am where my contractions steadily started coming back. Becoming frightened that this time they were not going to subside, my husband frantically went up and down the hallways trying to find help. There was nobody else left in the ER triage rooms (wheras when we arrived it was full).

They had amazingly managed to move everyone else, yet the prenatal patient fell to the bottom rung of their priority scale.

The 1 or two nurses that my husband was able to track down had no idea what was going on. In fact they didn’t even offer me a bedpan to use the washroom the entire time I was there.

Nobody was around.

My husband went back and forth to the reception area to to try get the front desk to call the ER ‘doctor’ (who seemingly had no authority/knowledge to give me medication in the absence of the gynecologist). The doctor came in one or two times and reassured us he was going to call the gynecologist to find out what to do. I kept begging them to check my files to give me the same meds they gave me in playa (the muscle relaxers), but they seemed unsure what type they were or how to administer them.

Desperate, I called my gynecologist back in Playa to try to call the other gynecologist to find out what the pills were called and to convince them to put me on the same ones. My gynecologist kept saying that it’s a different hospital, she doesn’t have authority to tell them what to give me and can’t help very much other than to advise them on what was given in Playa. I was beginning to lose hope.

The nurses maintained that we had to ‘wait until a room was ready upstairs’ before they could initiate any kind of medication. After putting up quite a fuss about how my contractions were beginning to worsen, I begged them to get me something. The ER doctor came over with a (weaker dosage) pill of Indocil which I knew would not have the desired effect. I begged them to check the chart and give me the same medicine I had been given in Playa.

I called my gynecologist again and started yelling.

The doctor came back with only one of the muscle relaxants and a sleeping pill. At this point, my contractions were every 3 minutes again and progressively getting more and more painful.

At just after 5am they finally wheeled me upstairs to a room. At this point my contractions were so bad and I was convinced I was going into labour.

Once in the room, almost everyone disappeared. The ER doctor came in maybe twice (on our repeated requests) and when I was begging him to give me something for the pain he scurried off to ‘call the gynecologist’ again. Their solution for my pain (which at this point is heavy labour contractions) was Tempra in my drip. I kept calling the nurses in to ask them to get the gynecologist. They came in the room (usually 10 minutes after I would ring) and then promptly turned around saying that they would ‘try’.

Eventually they basically just stopped responding to us.

It is important to note that for the 3 hours that I was suffering major labour contractions, I was not connected to anything other than an IV with some Tempra and saline. I was not connected to a heart rate or fetal monitor to at very least, make sure the baby inside me was still alive or that I was not having a heart attack.

After 3 hours of going through heavy labour contractions and the consistent dance of calling the nurses and begging them to get the gynecologist to come in, my water started to break.

At this point, a very rude nurse came in and essentially barked at me “RELAX!” to which I told her “you don’t understand, I am in labour…I have done this before…I need help. I need the doctor now”. She continued to say I didn’t, that everything was ‘fine’ and that the doctor (not even the gynecologist) ‘may be in in 20 minutes’ and that I ‘just needed to relax’.

She even pushed my knees down on the bed as I told her that felt the need to push coming on. She said ‘don’t push’. When I told her my water had broken she took a cursury look between my legs and disagreed with me. She then left the room.

It was at this moment that I started to go into a full panic. I knew that the baby was coming and that my husband and I were essentially alone in the this hospital room with no help.

I was in so much pain that with each contraction I felt that I was either going to throw up or pass out. I was screaming “Help me! Please someone help me”. More than just a primal cry from pain, I hoped that my pleas might fall on the ears of a doctor, or nurse ­ or ANYONE that could come in the room and help me. Instead of helping, the nurses would close the door to our room so that people couldn’t hear my cries for help. My husband kept opening the door in hopes that someone actually would hear them and help us.

Five minutes later, a nurse came in and gave me a shot of Supradol into my IV and 2 contractions later my water fully broke. I screamed and my husband started yelling to them to get the doctor because the baby was coming. Just then, the horrible nurse came back in and got on the phone again. She said something slyly into the phone (almost smirking) and the next contraction Huxley was in the birth canal. I was desperately trying not to push. Thinking naively (or desperately) somehow that the process could still be reversed.

Maybe if I squeezed my legs together tight enough he wouldn’t come out. Unfortunately that was not the case. He came out to his waist and then one more push and his entire small body landed on the bed.

It was at this exact moment that the gynecologist rushed in the room and put gloves on and picked Huxley up from the bloody bed. My biggest fear was realized. I had said several times to the doctors in Playa that if he was to born prematurely, I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want the heartbreak of this image burned in my mind. The doctor raised him up and I saw him. My husband tried to protect me “don’t look” to which crying I said “I saw him”.

The doctor quickly left the room with Huxley, leaving us with the horrible nurse. She, either extremely awkward or just genuinely callus, giggled to someone as she commented. I looked up at my husband who glared at her. How could she find anything amusing at a time like this? I felt incredibly empty and sad. On one hand wondering if there was any chance for our little boy, and on the other hand knowing that was likely the last time that I would ever see him alive.

The next thing that happened was a whirlwind. Immediately the nurses wheeled me out of the room without any indication of where I was being taken. I wasn’t sure if I was being taken to join Huxley, or just being moved somewhere else.

Apparently I was being taken to the ER to have a D and C performed on me as the placenta was still inside me and the doctor (believing that the placenta could be infected) needed to remove it from my uterus right away.

My husband followed with me down to the ER and kept asking where they were taking me and if he could come. The nurses were extremely rude with him and literally blocked his passage when he tried to accompany me. They said to him “you cannot come in here”, yet could not provide an explanation of what was going on, or what he should do.

I was wheeled into the ER and the anaesthesiologist and doctor successively shoved papers in front of my face asking me to sign consent forms to surgery. I could barely think straight. I kept asking them to please explain to my husband what was happening so he would not be worried. They said that they already had.

I was moved onto the surgery table with my bloody diaper underneath me with the remains of the birth. I had to slide my legs into stirrups and 2 minutes later I was knocked out.

Meanwhile, the nurses told my husband to get fully dressed in scrubs and wait outside and that he could come in and see me shortly. He sat outside the surgery room for 1 hour and the whole time nobody said anything to him…except sadly for one person who ironically congratulated him on being a new father.

Finally, thinking that perhaps he should have taken the initiative to come into the room to see me, he was stopped by a nurse who told him curtly “go back to your room”.

In the intervening process between going from surgery back to my hospital room, my husband had the painful task of going to the neonatal unit to see our son whom he was told had died 20 minutes after being born due to his heart giving out. I know my husband saw him ­ his whole little body and while I desperately want to hear every detail of him I cannot bear to know. My husbnad simply said that he had ‘little hitchhiker toes’ like his big brother Oliver.

I came back to consciousness in the hospital room to my husband. He told me that Huxley didn’t make it. He asked me if I wanted to see him one last time. While I knew that seeing him would be one of the most painful things I would have to experience, I knew that I could not let him go without one last look and to hold him to my chest.

Fifteen minutes later the neo natal doctor wheeled a small cradle into the room with our little boy wrapped in a hospital blanket. The doctor handed him to me and I was amazed at how perfect he was. His little serious face; eyes closed and dark. Pink skin, tiny arms which I pulled out of the blanket to reveal his tiny little hand with 5 perfect fingers. He looked so much like Oliver, our first born.

I kissed him on the forehead and told him I was so sorry. I was surprised that his skin seemed warm. Almost like he was just a small sleeping preemie.

My husband held him too, then took one last photo and we gave him back and watched him being wheeled out of the room. That would be the last time I would ever see our son.

In a still anaesthetic­induced stupor I fell back asleep. I woke up an hour later and my husband was not in the room. He had gone to the funeral home to arrange Huxley’s cremation. I cried again. It was like being in a horrible nightmare.

That night my mother arrived from Toronto to be with me. I cried over and over as we recounted our story to her.

The next day, the man from the funeral home came up to our room to deliver Huxley’s ashes in a small silver box. Again, a wave of sadness overcame me as I realized that our little baby boy was no longer even flesh anymore. That all I had left of him physically was contained in this little silver box.

I ached to go back to the night before when I could feel him kicking inside me. To the day I found out we were pregnant. To the hours I spent looking over pregnancy sites to see other women at the same stages of pregnancy as me, to reading through on his developmental milestones (‘he’s as big as a banana now!’), to the hopes and dreams of all that goes with the impending arrival of a new baby.

Perhaps I’m used to the medical system in Canada, but it is surprising to me that the hospital in Cancun would simply allow a woman who had just lost her baby to walk out of the hospital with not even so much as a pamphlet on how to deal with loss. There was no follow up, no chaplain, no suggested therapist or support group for me to go to. I just simply was expected to pay my bill and leave.

I will not get to nurse him. I will not get to silently watch over his cradle as he makes the sweet cooing and snuffing noises of a newborn. I will not get to hold him against my chest and cradle him in my arms. I will not get to give him his first bath, or change his first diaper. I will not watch him get his first tooth or eat his first solids. He will never fight with his brothers and sisters or play with them out in the backyard roasting marshmallows in the twilight.

He will only survive in my heart and my mind as a memory of what might have been and what is now lost. The pain of losing him is as deep and reaching as losing a limb or a piece of your soul.

It is the loss of hope, the loss of future, and at its most basic it feels like failure. Goodbye sweet Huxley. You will be forever missed and forever with us.”

Sadness flies on the wings of the morning, out of the heart of darkness comes the light ~Jean Giraudoux

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