I love every moment of my job as a Seattle Birth Photographer. So many births are filled with a wide array of emotions.
Clara Mae was born at 5:43 AM on September 17th, 2016, weighing 7 lbs 4 oz.
At just past 37 weeks pregnant, the plan had been for my friend Tiffany to check into Valley Medical Hospital in Renton, WA sometime in the morning of Friday the 16th for a medically necessary induction due to Polyhydramnios–severe excess amniotic fluid. One of the more well known dangers of polyhydramnios is the risk of an umbilical cord prolapse if the water has broken. It’s a rare–but all too serious–risk, and the reason for the induction. Careful monitoring is key in such a severe case.
I arrived at just past 11 am to be both friend and birth photographer, and we walked, chatted about various things, and routinely checked the clock in frustration for not hearing from the hospital to head in to begin the induction process. The 16th was a full Harvest Moon, and a LOT of women rushed into the labor and delivery ward, many with broken waters. No space was available.
After many impatient hours of waiting to hear back, we got word of a room available and checked in just before 5 pm. Inductions, we knew, can take a while. But we joked, sang, danced, and laughed for quite a while, until things began to become a bit more serious. Labor was not progressing very quickly, and though we didn’t expect it to go fast, Tiffany was ready to get the ball rolling and get this baby delivered. An epidural was set so they could slowly and carefully puncture the amniotic sack to release some of the excess fluid around Clara, in hopes that she would be able to descend and kick start a more productive labor pattern.
Niagara Falls happened–everywhere. Fluid rushed out in amounts that shocked everyone. Not entirely unexpected, but still a shock to witness! Tiffany’s belly went from a hard and distended beach ball to nearly half the size. I could actually *see* Clara’s body outline now, where I couldn’t before. We couldn’t previously even see her movement from the outside!
At this point, things changed.
Unfortunately, the very sudden loss of an incredible amount of amniotic fluid led to a very sudden drop in Clara’s heart rate, and the decels were not recovering. You see, one of the lesser known dangers, and one that I’m sure the staff never expected (as it’s considerably more rare,) is the risk of a placental abruption. The very quick loss of such a large amount of fluid caused the placenta to tear away from the wall of the uterus, resulting in one of the most dangerous and gut wrenching moments of our lives.
Tiffany was swept into an OR and safely delivered Clara at 5:43 AM under general anesthesia. Thank you to the wonderful staff at Valley Medical Hospital, who literally saved the lives of my best friend and her daughter. I cannot express my immense gratitude to wonderful people who did their jobs so fast. It isn’t possible to convey.
Birth is an enigma. We can hope and pray that things will go smoothly, and they often do without much complication. Sometimes, it doesn’t. I’m happy to say that Clara is healthy and perfect, and Tiffany’s strength made me cry. She may have had a different birth experience than we hoped (obviously) but her baby is safe and healthy, and so is she.