Before I begin, it it so important to me that I acknowledge you. Without your immense amount of love and support throughout my entire journey, I don't think my story would be the same. The strength and prayers that you had for me and Tallin is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Thank you for getting me through this. I love you all...
It is so hard reliving what was the most blissful time in my life, and also the scariest. This is the most raw, vulnerable, open, honest, graphic article I have ever written, so please read on with an open heart. I give you time stamps of when everything went down and get SUPER specific with tiny parts of my story. I remember the times of everything because all I did was stare at the clock above me, nervous out of my mind. I hope my birth story can inspire you, help you, soothe open wounds, cure present pain, alleviate past memories, or bring you some peace in your life. Motherhood and the journey to get there is no joke and you're not alone. This is "THE TALLIN BIRTH STORY".
If you have been following me from the beginning of my "mom-to-be" journey, you know that I have been super candid about having "placenta previa". According to mayoclinic.org, "placenta previa occurs when a baby's placenta partially or totally covers the mother's cervix — the outlet for the uterus. Placenta previa can cause severe bleeding during pregnancy and delivery". My placenta was 100% coverage of my cervix, and wasn't looking like it was moving over the course of my pregnancy, so my doctor prepared for me to have a scheduled c section before my original July 8th due date, to not put me and the baby at risk of going into early labor/having more severe bleeding (doctors will schedule you for a c section if your placenta never moves). I never felt afraid walking around with placenta previa and was fine about having the c section. I always had the mindset that 'I would have any type of birth in order to have a healthy baby'.
Before I take you to my actual birth story, it is important that I share the details of my first bleeding scare, so you can put everything into perspective and really live through this journey with me. There are SO many details that I haven't shared...until now.
Tuesday, May 8th, 12am sharp:
Aaron always jokes that I am a light sleeper, so for me to leap out of bed when his head hits the pillow is no surprise to him, but his time it was different. I leaped up to what felt like I had peed in my bed. As I felt a rush of hot "water" pour out from inside of me, I just knew I was bleeding. I ran to the bathroom and couldn't even wait until I reached the toilet. I stuck my hands down my pants, rapidly pulled them back up, and found my entire hand covered in blood. I pulled my pants down, sat on the toilet, and called Aaron's name! "Aaron, I'm bleeding!!" As I sat on the toilet, I had no control over my body and nothing could stop the bleeding. Blood was pouring out of my vagina in waterfalls and I was starting to hyperventilate as Aaron ran in. I looked into the toilet and my first thought was the worst one: I lost my baby. Terrified, we called my gyno and got instructions on where to go in the hospital.On the way, I was texting Lauren because she was coming home from a trip in Florida and I had the biggest meeting of my career this day. I needed her to run the show and let her know what was going on. Aaron and I sat in what we now describe as "the longest uber ride of our lives", where we sat in silence the entire time, scared out of our minds. By 12:50am I was hooked up to monitors. When asked to give a urine sample, I got up to pee and blood was dripping down my leg onto the bathroom floor. There was still so much blood in my urine that I could not provide a urine sample. What came after that was scare after scare of the unknown. "In case we need to deliver this baby now, here are the risks of children at 31 week births", the doctor said. I looked at Aaron crying, and in that moment, we didn't need words. We were thinking the same thing: "will we have a healthy baby?" Once the doctors saw that I was not contracting and the baby's heartbeat was was strong, our minds were set at ease, however, that did not mean that I was in the clear for the possibility of having an emergency c-section. Throughout the next hours, I needed to take steroid shots to develop the babies lungs and magnesium to develop his brain as a precautionary measure in case he had to be delivered early. The steroid shots hurt like crazy and each time it was given to me, they made me nauseous and hot, bringing on a fainting sensation. Once we heard that I was 100% not going into early labor, we were so relieved. I was placed on bedrest for the next nine days in the hospital in case any severe bleeding started again. If I bled, I needed to be a short gurney ride away from the delivery room in case of an emergency. The first night I slept in my room, I never felt more alone in my life. Even though I have an incredible support system, no one could understand what I was truly going through. My "always positive self" turned into a "shell of myself". The reality check of just how fragile my body was with what I always called "my pesky placenta" finally sinked in. I was a prisoner to my own body, stuck in the hospital. I talked to him every second telling him to hang on tight and cook some more. "We're in this together, baby. Just hold on tight." Day after day, I started feeling better and stronger. I, of course, befriended all the lovely nurses and cleaning staff and the hospital started feeling like home; flower deliveries, family/friend support, and my IG community washing away my sadness. After being in the hospital for 9 days, I was discharged and put on bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy. I was at 31 weeks with this scare and the goal was for me to be pregnant as long as possible, in order for the baby "to cook" more. At 34 weeks, I had my next scare.
Friday, May 31st: 3am:
I was so excited about May 31st. The week before, my gynecologist had give me the green light to have a quick maternity shoot to photograph the beauty of my belly. It was the only thing that I wanted. I was stuck on some serious bed rest, remember? So to get out of the apartment and have this special time in my life photographed was so exciting for me; my dream maternity shoot with my dreamy belly. But baby Watts had other plans...
If there was ever a deja vu moment, this was it. I arose from my bed in the middle of the night, I knew I was bleeding, I called A into the bathroom, called my gynecologist, and we headed to the hospital, just as we did the first time. There was a calmness about me bleeding this time that I can't explain. I think I just had experienced it before and knew EXACTLY what I was getting myself into so I just toughened up for myself and the baby and accepted all that was ahead of me. I called my mom from the uber for her to meet us in the hospital. She was staying in the city because she was taking me to my maternity shoot the next day. I got to the hospital and was immediately hooked up to monitors, like the first time. This time, I felt pain. I felt contractions. The doctors ensured me that I was not dilated and the baby's heartbeat was strong. He was cozy and safe and they did not need to deliver him at that time. After a few hours passed, I already knew that with this being my second bleed, my gynecologist would be keeping me in the hospital for at least a few days. In fact, I am certain she would have kept me there for the duration of my pregnancy, had Tallin not arrived that night.
I was finally moved into a room where I took a long nap and settled in. All the nurses on the floor came in excited to see me and made me feel right at home, again. I was happy to see familiar faces and even cracked some jokes. "I'm back girls and I'm never leaving!" I always try to find humor in even the toughest of situations and their smiles brought me comfort. At 3:30pm, I arose from my bed to head to the bathroom. I remember grabbing onto the bar that was next to the toilet so I could have some assistance because I was hooked up to the rolling monitor. As I went to urinate, I felt something totally abnormal and foreign slide out from inside of me. "Wait, where did that come from?", I remember thinking. As I looked down, I thought I was hallucinating. What was in front of me was the most frightening thing I had ever seen. I called my mom into the bathroom and we both just stared at each other. I had passed the largest blood clot I ever saw. TEXTBOOK stuff. It looked like a chunk of my insides were swimming in blood and I was just speechless. We called for doctors to come in, but they were all delivering babies so we had to wait till around 4:30pm for someone to come in. You know that car commercial where there are like six guys putting together the pieces of a car and everything moves super quickly? That is what this moment felt like. Within a couple seconds, I was butt naked, spread eagle on top of a bed pan that lifted me up (actually forget the eagle, she told me to "spread em like a butterfly"), and had three doctors and nurses surrounding me, inspecting me with a flashlight. "You're okay! No more bleeding and you're not dilated." Like, wow. What? How? What is going on and how much more can I go through? Well a lot....
My gyno surprised me in my room to check on me around 5pm to confirm that I was staying in the hospital and also moving to a labor and delivery room JUST as a precautionary measure. With two scares in past 12 hours, she wanted me to be monitored for the next 24 hours in case I had a third scare and needed to deliver immediately. By 6pm, I was rolled into the L&D room and my dad, Aaron, and mom were all there now. Remember, I was stable and everything was fine. I just needed to be monitored closely in case. Since everything was quiet, I told Aaron, my mom, and dad that they should leave for dinner since I couldn't eat anything anyway in case I had the baby. I turned on Bravo and was relaxing. I felt totally fine. At 7pm my parents left my room to head out for dinner and would come back after their meal to check on me. By 7:02pm, I was surrounded by numerous nurses and a doctor, the doctor holding the monitor on my belly, trying to find Tallin's heartbeat. "What is happening" Is everything okay? Is the baby okay?" As I asked this, my phone rang and it was my gynecologist. "I am getting in a cab right now coming to you. Call back your parents and tell them to get back to the hospital. The baby had a dip in his heartbeat. Pretty sure we're delivering the baby tonight." "Are you kidding?" (Yes, I said that.) I got off the phone sobbing and looked at the kind strangers around me. "The baby is probably coming tonight? The baby is coming. I am scared. What is happening?" My parents ran back into the room 15 minutes later and my doctor not too far behind them. She was all scrubbed up. "We are delivering the baby now", she said, and I just sobbed in fear. I can still hear the nurse saying, "scrub up daddy" to Aaron. As all the craziness started to unfold around me, I headed to the bathroom. My mom came in to calm me down and amongst all my fear and anxiety, we had the most special moment I will never forget for the rest of my life. She said, "look in this mirror. It is the last time you will ever look at yourself before you become a mom. You are the best daughter I could have ever dreamed for and you will be the best mom in the world." We hugged and kissed and she sent me down the hallway with my doctor.
At 9:01pm, my greatest gift, Tallin Essex, was born. After the best night of my life, it quickly turned into my most frightening and worst sleep of my life. We originally thought Tallin was healthy and only in the NICU because he was a preemie, but through the course of the night, different doctors kept coming in to my room at what felt like every hour. "Tallin is struggling with his breathing so he needs a breathing tube." "Tallin has air pockets in his lungs so he needs a chest tube", "Tallin has little holes in his heart"...it was a fucking nightmare. As Aaron slept on the cot next to me, I would hold his hands sobbing and all we could do was pray that baby Tallin was going to be okay.
On June 1, I went down to see my baby for the first time. He looked like a tiny robot, hooked up to numerous tubes and endless amounts of wires. I didn't get to hold Tallin for six days, which was the most painful heartache of all. Hovering over his incubator, I would pray for his health and the second I would have him in my arms, consoling his tiny body and kissing my little miracle. The next 11 days were a cloudy blur of progressive emotions. I went from helpless, heartache, pain, sadness, and loneliness to hope, resilience, bravery, strength, and freedom. I was also dealing with the heartache of losing my baby bump; of it being taken away from me so quickly without any notice. I remember looking down and being like, "Ahh my bump! It's gone and I didn't get to say goodbye." Although my journey was a tough one, I loved being pregnant and although Tallin was here, I just wanted to feel him kick one more time and embrace my curvier body. It was a weird feeling I can't even explain, but if you have been there you totally know what I mean.
Supposed to be in the NICU until his actual due date of July 8th, one month after he was born, Tallin miraculously made it out in less than two weeks. Even the doctors were enamored by his advancements and desire to live and be healthy. And this was even crazier. 11 is my luckiest number. I swear my angels talk to me in elevens. My scheduled c-section date was June 11th. After being in the NICU for 11 days and ON June 11th, we took baby Tallin home. Talk about being surrounded by angels! It was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. He really is our little superman.
Although I may never get the NICU beeping out of my ears, I will never get the care of the NICU nurses out of my heart. A huge thank you to everyone at Weill Cornell Hospital for their care and love and nurturing Tallin to health. My nightmare is over and now I can start living out my dream, with my baby and A, as a family. I could have never imagined that this would be my journey in a million years, but as hard as it was, it was mine and I am proud of that and proud of myself for it. I prevailed and persevered through the hardest time in my life with the most special prize at the end of it all. I feel braver stronger, and sexier than ever and I can't wait to do it all again.
I am a mom, hear me roar.