As I laid in the hospital bed, contractions coming at regular and frequent intervals, waiting for my parents to first arrive, I just kept singing “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns in my head. This song ran through my head during my amniocentesis months prior and again now, when I felt alone, my faith wanting to waiver. It was my reminder that while physically it may appear I was alone, I truly wasn’t as my Heavenly Father was right there with me, holding me, comforting me and telling me everything was going to fall into place. While I laid there, finding a peace in this process amidst the chaos and unknown, my parents entered my room. There has never been a time when I had felt happier to see the faces of my mom and dad. My heart lept from my chest with joy - they had finally arrived, I was no longer physically alone. I had people to breathe through contractions with me, I have people to laugh with, cry with and just share this unknown delivery with.
My parents immediately sat down next to my hospital bed, mom taking my hand in hers. I immediately relaxed. I shared with them I had started the induction, the painfulness of the procedure and that contractions had been constant since they completed the induction, and were about ten minutes apart. I laid in bed, continuing with contractions and talking with my parents. They shared with me my brother Jared happened to be in Seattle that day and would be finishing his meeting and coming to be with me for the delivery. It began to feel as if despite the chaos and quickness in getting induced and reaching out to family, everything was beginning to fall into place. Aaron, Zion and Aysa just needed to arrive now. In between contractions, while I waited for the final three people I needed to be by my side, I texted Riah in Oklahoma to notify him his sister would be arriving and asking for him to cover us in prayer.
Two hours after my parents arrived Aaron, Zion and Aysa walked through the doors. Complete calmness finally came over me as the people I needed most to get through this delivery had arrived. Aaron stood back while he allowed the kids to come next to me, hug me and for me to tell them I love them. After I had hugged the kids, Aaron came over to me, hugged me, kissed me and inquired how I was doing. I shared with him about the induction and that contractions were about 8 minutes apart and getting stronger. Shortly after his arrival, Aaron walked the hallway with me to assist in getting labor moving more; he held my hand, he told me about his morning, he breathed with me when contractions came; this was the beginning of him not leaving my side as the worry and concern was easily seen when looking at his eyes.
About 6:00 p.m. , not long after my brother Jared arrived, Dr. Harding came on shift. He arrived in my room to touch base with me, see how I was doing, introduce the resident who was working with him and share with me the plan for the evening. At this point, we would allow the contractions to continue to increase, waiting for the dilator to fall out, which would tell us we were at 3 cm. Baby would continued to be monitored. At this point it appeared Arrow was handling labor well, although she’d had a couple drops in her heart rate.
Hours had passed, nurses came into check on me, when suddenly I felt a strange feeling.
“Um, I think maybe my water broke, dilator is coming out or something. I don’t know.”
The two nurses who were in the room, Alix and Hazel, and my mom came to my bed. They pulled back the blankets, pulled back the lovely hospital underwear they had me in, and saw a large amount of blood on the maxi pad they had placed in the underwear. Calmy Hazel told me not to worry, that was my mucus plug coming out and this meant labor was progressing well. I looked at my mom, this didn’t seem correct, after all, when I lost my mucus plug with my prior kids, it was light pink and not bright red like period blood nor in such a large of an amount. I decided that if the nurses weren’t worried, I was not going to worry; that I would trust them.
Not long after losing my mucus plug, I had to use the restroom. Hazel informed me that while I was in the restroom, I could try tugging on the dilator that was attached to my leg; if it was ready to fall out a slight tug would just assist it in coming out. I did as I was told. The dilator came out instantly, along with large amounts of blood. I immediately called for my mom. I needed her to help me, as I couldn’t clean all the blood off my legs while, holding the fetal monitors on me and keeping my gown up and having contractions. While the sight of all the blood frightened me, I was thankful the dilator came out as this meant I was 3 cm dilated.
Labor continued on for hours. Arrow’s heart would only allow me to lay on my left or right sides. I could not lay on my back or be out of bed on the round ball laboring as if I was Arrow’s heart rate would drop. My contractions were getting stronger and closer together. Aaron remained by my side the whole time, holding my hand and breathing with me through each contraction. I would look at him while breathing and see how tired he was, but he wouldn’t take a break from coaching me when my mom would offer. He took me to the bathroom the two more times I had to go, each time helping in cleaning up large amounts of blood that would run down my legs as we walked to the bathroom and was all over me and the toilet. We inquired with Hazel about the amount of blood and clots when I used the restroom. She told us we shouldn’t be concerned unless there was a lot of clots and what appears to be an excessive amount of blood. We agreed we would show her the next time I used the restroom. Each time I used the restroom I tried not to panic. I never bled like this when in labor with my other kids. The amount of blood and size of the clots, didn’t seem to be normal; didn’t seem it could be due to nicking the placenta when inserting the dilator to induce labor, but again I would trust my nurse.
The contractions were about a minute and a half apart and a minute long and had been this way for some time. Hazel agreed they could give me a shot of fentanyl to ease the contractions and provide me a break to allow me to have energy when the time came for delivery and pushing. This break in the intensity of contractions felt amazing. I held Aaron’s hand, while he laid his head on the edge of my bed and was able to rest. My contractions eased enough Aaron could take a very slight nap as I could breath through the contractions on my own.
About an hour after my pain medication was given, Dr. Harding entered my room, with the resident. They placed oxygen on me immediately explaining Arrow had stopped moving as much as they liked, although still doing well. They further explained they were going to check me again, see how I was dilated, effaced and how far baby had moved down. If we were at a good point, they were going to break my water and insert a heart monitor into Arrow’s head as they would be able to monitor her heart more accurately. They kept the oxygen on me while checking me having me take deep breaths to ensure Arrow was getting enough oxygen. The resident completed the check letting me know I was 5 cm dilated, 70 % effaced but still minus 3 which meant Arrow had not dropped any further down the birth canal. This was strange given I had been in labor since 1:00 p.m. and it was now about 4:00 a.m.
The resident left the room with me feeling defeated. The contractions were hard, long and close together and Arrow hadn’t dropped any further than she was when we started. I tried to focus on the fact I was halfway dilated and effaced almost all the way, but something didn’t seem right about her not dropping further. As I laid in the bed, on my side, trying to just remain calm, breathing through the contractions the resident returned to my room.
“Tiani, was the baby’s head down earlier?”
“Yes, she was head down at my ultrasound about noon and had been head down for the prior three weeks.”
“Okay. We are going to do another ultrasound to confirm if she is still head down.”
The resident left the room after informing me of the ultrasound, and returned moments later with the machine. My parents moved from my right side to the foot of my bed, and Aaron stood there with them. Hazel was on my left with the ultrasound monitor while the resident was on my right, running the ultrasound probe across my stomach. As the probe was placed on my stomach, it instantly became apparent Arrow’s head was no longer down. They ran the probe across my entire stomach and we instantly saw her head on my right side by my rib and her butt was down now - she had turned breech during labor. When the resident left the room to confer with Dr. Harding, we all looked at one another in silence. The unspoken concern hung in the air between us all.
Dr. Harding returned moments later explaining he wanted to perform the ultrasound himself as well to see the change in position. Again the probe was ran across my stomach, and again Arrow was found to be breech.
“Tiani, your baby has turned breech. This makes sense to me why she wasn’t dropping. I was concerned because your body was knowing what to do and the contractions were progressing in a way you should be farther along. At this point in labor, it’s unsafe for us to try to turn her. You will need to have a c-section.”
From here everything moved quickly. Hazel got Aaron his OR outfit to put on and began prepping me. I laid in my bed, watching Aaron get dressed, dad helping him cut holes to reach his pockets for the phones in order to obtain pictures. I watched Hazel get my hair cover, clean my stomach and all the while tried to remain calm as having a c-section scared me, having a spinal to numb me for the procedure frightened me.
While Aaron and I were getting prepped for the procedure, Zion and Aysa awoke. We explained to them what was going on, why and that I would be taken shortly for the procedure. Zion sat in the chair next to my bed and allowed me to hold his hand. This was how I sat until the OR nurse came to wheel me to the OR for the c-section.
Aaron and I entered the OR, where I was taken off the hospital bed, sat on the edge of the OR table to get prepped for my spinal. Aaron was seated in a chair by the door, where he watched the staff prepare for the procedure and me getting prepped and then getting the spinal. It took three tries to get the spinal in; I sat on the edge of the table, curved forward, hands on my knees, head to head with Hazel as she breathed with me and the anesthesiologist worked on getting the spinal in. Once the spinal was in they laid me on the table and began the other final preparations for the procedure. While getting me completely ready, Aaron was moved to sit by my head, and Dr. Harding entered the room to inform me that he was called in to deliver 32 week twins and Dr. Eggers would be performing my c-section.
The anesthesiologist was incredible. She talked me through what to expect as they pulled up the blue drape below my chin allowing Aaron and I not to see the procedure. As the procedure began I lay on the table, my arms stretched out, shaking, teeth chattering, which is a common response to the spinal, looking at Aaron to my left. The anesthesiologist shared with me that when they pull the baby out, I would full a lot of pressure right before, then the baby would be out and she would notify right before this occurred. Not long after she finished educating me, she let me know it was time for the pressure, then she told me the baby’s foot was out and now the baby. I panicked as she told me the baby was out for the room was silent, not filled with cries of a baby, no cries of my baby. I looked passed Aaron to where the pediatric team stood, with the isolate and saw Arrow lying on the isolate, silent while they rubbed her vigorously. Repeatedly I said to Aaron “She’s not crying. She’s not crying. Go over there. She’s not crying.” He stayed next to me, looking at where Arrow was, obviously torn on what to do - stay with me or go over to Arrow. Suddenly, amidst all the silence, I heard the sweetest sound, the small cry of my baby girl. She cried enough to let me know she was alright, she was alive and here, that she was still fighting and determined to be here. It was with this cry, Aaron moved from my side to the side of his daughter, where he was able to begin photographing her journey.
I laid on the OR table, Dr. Eggers and Resident completing the procedure, watching Aaron take pictures and thanking God Arrow was here safely. The pediatric team got Arrow cleaned up, swaddled in a blanket and a pink ‘I was born at Swedish’ hat placed on her head. As they prepared to place her in the incubator and take her to the NICU, a nurse brought her to me, placing her next to my head where I got to see her face to face for the first time. I couldn’t hold her, but I could touch her, I could look at her bright eyes, her tongue sticking out of her mouth and say hello, telling her I love her.
Aaron left with the pediatric team to take Arrow to the NICU, although this was not easy for him. As he left the OR, he continued to look back at me, laying on the table, now alone again, getting stitched back up. He told me he loved me and I told him I loved him and I was okay so to go with Arrow and that I would be alright. It was not long after he left, that I could feel the pressure of the provider stitching me back up; a feeling that lead me to feel light headed and nauseous. I informed the anesthesiologist of this, who then provided me anti-nausea medication in my iv and held the blue vomit bag for me while I laid there, head turned to my left vomiting.
The anti-nausea medication kicked in quickly, the surgeon completed the procedure, I was cleaned up and wheeled back to my room where I saw my parents and my brother.
When I arrived back to my room, my parents told me Aaron had taken Zion and Aysa up to NICU to meet Arrow. My mom held my hand while we waited for Aaron and kids to return. When they arrived back to the room, their faces were beaming. Aaron instantly came to my side, asked how I was and then began sharing pictures with me of our beautiful daughter, Arrow Jaye Matai, who weighed 4 pounds 2.7 ounces and was 16.75 inches long.
We all talked and celebrated while we remained in the room I labored in, waiting to be moved to the postpartum room. While waiting we laughed at how after 14 hours of labor a c-section occurred because Miss. Arrow decided she wanted to arrive on her terms; we celebrated she arrived safe and healthy.
When the time finally arrived for me to be moved to the postpartum room, my family left to go get some rest, letting me know they would return later. I hugged them all good-bye sad to see them leave, but eager to get wheeled to my new room as on the way I would be detoured to NICU to see Arrow… not to hold her, as I couldn’t until my spinal wore off, which I was told would be about 4:30 that afternoon.
I entered the NICU, room 4, and my bed was wheeled next to Arrow’s bed, where she lay under lights, cords attached to her chest. I turned my head to my left, reached out my left arm and placed my left hand on the top of her tiny head, rubbing it. I gazed at her. She was here. She made it through labor and delivery; she now had another journey before her, as we had to learn about her heart, find out if she needed surgery, but for now, she rested peacefully. I stared at her in adoration; in awe; my heart flowing with such love, joy and thankfulness. While my heart was filled with joy it also ached… looking at her, only being able to touch her, not being able to hold her, hurt. I longed to hold her in my arms; to feel her against my chest, against my heart. I longed to feel her breathe, to kiss her head and to whisper in her ear “I love you.”
It’s 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday August 8, 2017. I’d showered, dressed, done my hair, make-up and was in a car, drinking my morning protein shake while I drove to my weekly appointment in Seattle at Swedish Maternal Fetal Medicine. Today was different though, I was scheduled to see Dr. Krabill prior to my slew of appointments at Swedish; I was to have the much needed echocardiogram on Arrow’s heart. As I drove to Seattle I worked hard to settle my nerves. I was afraid that after being admitted just a few days prior due to Arrow’s NST test being less than ideal, that today’s appointment may also not be positive. I blasted worship music and sang along, praising God for the works He has done and is doing; choosing to instead focus my heart on Him rather than on my fears.
I arrived to Seattle with time to take a small walk down the block to Starbucks, treating myself to a Vanilla Soy Chai Latte (my favorite) and a slice of warm pumpkin bread. I sat in the lobby of the medical building for Dr. Krabill, savoring the amazing flavors of my drink and treat while I read my book, with no knowledge of what my day would hold. Soon it was time to check in for my appointment, and I took my relaxing moment to the waiting room of Dr. Krabill’s office. Upon arrival to check-in, I was informed the clinic still had not received my referral from my health insurance. I contacted my health insurance to inquire on the status, explaining to them the urgency and requesting a stat approval. The insurance company said they would place an urgent request to my authorization that was in nurse review for medical necessity, and would call me back. 45 long minutes later insurance contacted me, notifying me the authorization had been approved for one echocardiogram. Unfortunately, it was already too late for me to have my appointment at my originally scheduled time; thankfully the office was lovely and rescheduled my appointment to occur after my tests down at Maternal Fetal Medicine.
I took a deep breath as I walked down to the elevators. I felt frustrated by the delay of my insurance company; I felt frustrated that today was already going to be a long, stressful day and now it was going to be longer. The benefit of the echocardiogram prior to my appointments was the providers I was to be seeing would have been able to also review the results to aid in their decision making with next steps if necessary. Now I would simply have my usual slew of appointments and then find out how the echocardiogram results may change their course of care either via phone call or at my Friday appointment.
I laid on the exam bed, listening to Arrow’s heartbeat - the twice a week NST. The sound of her heart was so lovely to me; it’s amazing how a sound so beautiful was also the major piece of concern for her health. I laid there, listening, praying. Thankfully the NST Tech was able to tell me the NST looked good; Arrow was moving much more how they like to see. The Tech then unhooked me, walked me down the hall to the ultrasound room for the ultrasound to check Arrow’s dopplers (blood flow). I took a deep breath as I crawled up on the exam table in the ultrasound room and said another prayer. The Ultrasound Tech began checking all the dopplers, checking Arrow’s heart and taking her measurements. As usual the Tech left the room to review the images with the provider to ensure they had all the images they needed, only this time she said to me “There is an increased restriction so I need to ensure the doctor doesn’t want additional images.” My heart sank - another restriction. I laid in the dark room, hand on my belly, numb.
The Tech returned letting me know no additional images were needed and she could walk me to the next exam room where I would meet with the provider. I entered the exam room, sat in my seat under the window and stared blankly at the door waiting for the provider. I didn’t have to wait long when Carolyn Ward, ARNP entered my room.
“Tiani, I know you weren’t scheduled to see me, but the other provider is behind schedule so I said I could see you.”
She pulled up a stool, sitting it directly in front of me, looked me in the eyes, and said “there have been some changes with the baby.”
“I know. The tech told me there was an additional restriction.”
“That’s kind of correct. The restriction is actually a reversal of her blood flow. She also hasn’t grown like we like. She is now in the one percentile with only a growth of four ounces in two weeks.”
“Okay.” I didn’t know what else to say. My eyes were welling with tears as much as I was trying to remain strong.
“Tiani, we need to deliver her. Let me step out and see if we are going to have you stay tonight on antepartum with an induction tomorrow, or if we are going to take you to labor and delivery with an induction today.”
I sat in the exam room, phone in my hand, ready to text Aaron when Carolyn returned to my room. She had left and returned in such a quick manner I didn’t even have time to unlock my phone to message Aaron.
“Tiani a nurse will walk you over to labor and delivery now and we will begin your induction and you will be having your baby.”
Carolyn hugged me as she handed me over to the nurse who would walk me to labor and delivery. I was numb as we walked the five minute walk through the building from Maternal Fetal Medicine to Labor and Delivery. My mind was racing… I needed to get a hold of Aaron to get kids and get down here. I needed to contact mom and dad to have them come now since they are in Seattle so I am not alone. I needed to get ahold of work to notify them I will be out on maternity leave effective now. The list of what I needed to do kept me from fully feeling my fear of delivering my daughter at 35 weeks.
As I entered the Labor and Delivery wing of Swedish Medical Center, a nurse, Alix, poked her head out of a room and said “You must be the one I’m getting the room ready for. Come on in.” I entered the room, noticing the gown on the bed as the nurse told me to to change my clothes, get the gown on and she will then begin my vitals while we wait for the doctors to come speak with me about how they will begin the induction. I changed my clothes, got into my gown, laid in the hospital bed and then inquired if I would be able to take a few moments to message my family to get them en route to the hospital. I messaged Aaron, my parents, work and my brothers between Alix taking my vitals, starting my iv and the providers coming into the room to speak with me about the course of the induction. It was chaotic and everything was moving so fast; I had no time to fully process what was happening and within 45 minutes of being told I would be delivering my baby, I was in the hospital room, changed and beginning the induction while Aaron was still two hours north and my parents 45 minutes from being with me. I was going to begin the induction alone, contractions could start and I would be alone… in this moment I chose to not be afraid, I chose to trust, after all what other choice did I have? Being afraid would change the situation or make any of it better. Trusting was about hope, and the whole journey with Arrow had been about trust and hope. There was a reason the providers were moving quickly on starting the induction. They wanted the best outcome for my baby; this meant me being alone for the start of the induction. I needed to find peace with this, for waiting to have my family with me but risk a less than desired outcome would not be worth it. I had to be strong, stand in faith and know my family would be there as soon as they could join.
Strength and standing in faith sounded great in my head while I listened to the provider tell me how they decided to induce my labor - a cervical balloon dilator. She explained a catheter would be inserted up to my cervix where it would be placed and the balloon filled to keep it in place. The pressure of the catheter balloon against the cervix would cause contractions to begin, and the catheter would fall out once the cervix was dilated to 3 cm. If no progress of dilating after 12 hours, pitocin would then be given to assist in contractions.
This all sounded reasonable, until the provider asked me if I needed pain medication prior to them inserting the cervical dilator. The provider asked me how my exam upstairs went to determine if I needed pain medication. I explained it was like every other time I had to be checked to see if I was dialated or effaced (for the record I was not dilated or effaced and baby was -3 at this point). We agreed then I should be alright with no pain medication would begin the insertion. The provider reclined the bed so I was slighting my head slightly upside down; the nurse took my head saying “I will be your nurse and your mom right now.”
I tried to be strong. I tried to breath deep and relax while they inserted the cervical dilator, but I have never felt such intense pain. Tears streamed down my cheeks, I told them it was hurting. They agreed to stop, apologized but said they have to ensure it’s right up against the cervix, so maybe pain medication would be beneficial after all. I agreed. They gave me a pain medication in my iv and then resumed the insertion. This time, I still had to breath deep, focus on a spot on the ceiling and tears still fell, as the pain medication alleviated the intensity of the pain, but didn’t remove the pain.
Once completed, the bed was raised back up, I was covered up with blankets, informed I could feel crampy, and contractions could take a bit of time to start. The provider said she would monitor contractions from the nurses station and will check in on me later. The nurse completed hooking up the fetal monitors while I laid in bed, wiping my tears and feeling the contractions begin all while waiting for my family.
Strength and standing in faith… the induction hurt, my strength felt weak but I continued to hold on to my faith. I kept reminding myself “faith over fear” even in this moment. I chose not to fear the upcoming process, fear if Aaron would make it, fear if Arrow would be able to handle the stress of labor and delivery or any other fear that could surface. Instead, I would have faith… Aaron would arrive with the kids in time, my parents would be there soon, Arrow would arrive safely into my arms, healthy and strong.
I'm a single mom of four radiant kids who believes in relationship with Jesus over religion. I'm trying not to battle with fear anymore - instead I am choosing to follow what God has called me to do. With that you'll find me here, trying to be brave, with the goal of being authentic and honest about God, single parenting and the beauty in the mess of my joyful chaos. It's sure to be a journey... and I am blessed to share it with you!