A Preemie in A Pandemic - Keith's Birth Story

***Trigger Warning *** This is our birth story. It was an emergency situation and reading this story may bring up feelings from your birth experience. Please read with caution.


I have tried to keep this as G-rated as possible, but also to give our birth story the space and respect it deserves. There are some details that have been left out but I will forever be grateful to the team that worked with us over my pregnancy. They literally saved both of our lives! If you have any questions or want more details or just to share your experience with me please feel free to reach out!



Obviously, this was not how I imagined becoming a mother to be. As a kid I dreamed of having my own kids one day and never did I think I would be pregnant during a global pandemic. I had hardly left the house since March 17th other than to go to doctor appointments in the city. Unfortunately, Jesse would have to sit in the car in the parking lot as I went into my appointments alone. I would text him updates throughout my appointments to keep him in the loop as much as possible. I just hoped that this would all be over by the time our baby came so that our doula could attend the birth.


Fast forward to April when I started having abnormally high blood pressure. I mean I would always get high blood pressure whenever I went to the hospital (white coat syndrome) I had my blood pressure checked by three different doctors and each one got a different reading, my blood pressure always seemed to spike when I went to see my OB. I blamed it on the fact that we are in the middle of a global pandemic and I had to attend these appointments alone.


After being put on medication and having weekly fetal assessment appointments to monitor my blood pressure I arrived at my weekly 10 am Wednesday appointment. This week was a little different. Jesse was able to attend this appointment. We wanted to see if him being there and me being wheeled up in a wheelchair would make any difference in my blood pressure. It did not as it was higher than it had been. I was a little disappointed as this meant that this would not be a quick appointment. After getting a few more readings we went to the ultrasound where we discovered that the amniotic fluid was low, and our baby had not grown as much in a week as they would have liked to see.



Somehow, I was either oblivious to what was happening or handling my stress very well (less likely) as I was not reacting to the severity of the situation. After having another doctor come in and double check she came to the same conclusion and I was sent over to labour and delivery for observation. One doctor said we may have our baby today another said that we would probably be sent back home. Still not anxious, just annoyed as it was creeping to lunchtime and I was getting hungry.


After seeing a handful of other doctors and being hooked up to more monitors I had established a team of medical professionals who were all on my case. After an hour or two of them weighing all the options they concluded that having the baby would be the best option for the both of us.



Still completely oblivious to the severity of the situation I was overcome with emotion at the fact that I had to get this baby out today. I had not written out my birth plan but being induced was not on the list. Thankfully, my nurse was very compassionate and helped me put together my birth wishes.

Looking back on the whole situation I was never told just how serious the situation was, thankfully, I know that I would have reacted completely different and it would have negatively impacted both me and the baby.


At around 2 pm the decision was made, and we were on our way to our birthing room. We had called our parents to let them know the situation and prepared for whatever was about to happen next. I was about a centimeter dilated at this point.



3:10 we started Pitocin, Jesse went to grab a snack and although I was not allowed to eat or drink, but I was given the best popsicle I had ever tasted.


At 4:55 the doctor came in and broke my water, which is the weirdest feeling in the world. I was about 3 centimeters dilated at this point.


At 5:30 contractions started to intensify. Unfortunately, due to our situation and Covid rules a lot of options I wanted to use for comfort measures were not an option and I somehow managed to ride the waves of each contraction.




At 6:20 I got up and went to the bathroom, I noticed bloody show and knew we were on our way (Thank you Doula training!) Once I got back into the bed and laying down the contractions came fast and furious. I asked about my drug options, which I was dead against in the beginning, but decided that I would try the peanut ball; and I had one contraction and literally threw the ball as they became that much more intense. I asked for a cold cloth for my head and I made Jesse come and hold my hand as things got crazy.


Around 7 I could not take the pain anymore and caved and said, “I can’t do this anymore, I need the drugs!” *** Side note, all my doula training went out the window at this point! I was in survival mode. In hindsight I know that this is the famous line in transition which is the exact stage I was in. The nurse got me to sign the consent form and then informed me that the anesthesiologist would be about 30 minutes and decided to opt for Fentanyl to hold me over. The nurse gave me half a dose that I know did not kick in in time.


At this point I was laying in the fetal position on my side which was the only position I felt comfortable in. Unfortunately, this position was not allowing the monitors to pick up the baby’s heartbeat which was not handling contractions well. I kept being told that if this was not fast that I may end up having a caesarean. My stubbornness made me ignore that comment every time it was mentioned. At some point I had asked to go to the bathroom again and the nurse got the doctor to come in and check me to make sure I would not have the baby on the toilet.


As he was walking in my body took over and started spontaneously pushing the baby down, it literally felt like my body was trying to get rid of everything that was inside of me. My body pushed twice, and the doctor came in and asked me to flip onto my back so he could check me. This was the exact moment the anesthesiologist walked in.

As soon as I flipped, I let out a roar I did not know I had in me… okay maybe a few screams, sorry to anyone else in the Labour and Delivery ward at that time.


Immediately the room filled with people and the doctor said the baby is right there and it was time to push. There was no time to prepare the bed or the room for delivery because he was coming then. Once I learned how to properly push and was told to focus on pushing and stop screaming, I pushed once and stopped to take a breath. The doctor told me I could not stop that I needed to get him out now because he did not like how his heartrate was dropping. Later, Jesse told me that the heartrate was well below normal. The doctor said if I did not get him out now that he would have to give me an episiotomy, lol no thank you. I pushed with all I had and out came the head; little did I know that I had to keep going and asked if he was out. They all told me I needed one more push. Jesse said no one more, one more push and I saw his little feet fly out.



Our perfect little boy, who did not get his name until the next morning, was born June 10, 2020 at 7:29pm. He did not make a peep and just took in his new surroundings. Once they told me he was okay I knew I could breathe!

At this exact moment I would say that the fentanyl kicked in! Not only was the pain instantly gone but the words that came out of my mouth are not in my usual vocabulary. I could not believe that I did it, and essentially without drugs!


Thankfully, our little boy was healthy, and we were able to do delayed cord clamping as well as have almost 2 hours of skin to skin with him before he went to the NNICU.

He was born at 35 weeks and 3 days and weighed 4lbs 12 oz


After this was all said and done, I found out that I was induced for gestational hypertension/ borderline preeclampsia and had a Precipitous (means VERY FAST) delivery with a likely placental abruption (placenta starts to separate from the inner wall if the uterus. Can deprive baby of oxygen and nutrients).

Little did I realize that just a few short weeks before I was reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and had highlighted this section on page 214 “Induction was seen as potentially risky, so there had to be a good justification to use it. One clear-cut indication was in a full-term pregnancy with a decrease in the amount of amniotic fluid or a change in the baby’s heartrate pattern (signs that indicate a deteriorating placenta)”

After realizing everything that went down that day and how close to dying, we both were I can confidently say that I have a greater appreciation and respect for maternal health care in New Brunswick. No, it may not be perfect but because of the quick thinking and eye for detail that our team had they were able to save both my life as well as Keith’s. Without the care that we had neither one of us would have made it. Sure, it may not have gone how I had hoped, going to appointments alone, not having our doula but it happened the way it did for both our health and safety!

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Jessica Vanderlaan Certified Doula 

Tel: 1-506-435-1116

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