Krista Afumbom’s birth experience took an unexpected harrowing turn but ended with the safe delivery of her healthy son.
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She intended to have a natural, drug-free birth as she did with her first child, Abigail.
One evening at home, Ms. Afumbom started having contractions that grew in intensity. She tracked the increasing frequency of her contractions using an app on her phone.
The Lakewood, Ohio mother labored in her bedroom for three hours. Finally, Ms. Afumbom woke her husband, Ferdinand, and her mother-in-law, a retired midwife visiting from Cameroon. Contractions were now 2 minutes apart.
Water labor at the hospital
On the way to Lakewood Hospital, Ms. Afumbom called certified nurse midwife Raja Shaheen and asked her to start filling the tub.
“I labored in the tub for almost two hours,” Ms. Afumbom says. Her family was very involved in water labor support and “Raja was very hands-on.”
Ms. Afumbom’s water broke when she got out of the tub to go to the bathroom.
She then moved to the bed to deliver her baby. The baby was expected to be 11 pounds. Because of this, two doctors were on standby in case of emergency.
“This time, I wanted a little more guidance and wanted to slow down the pushing to minimize tearing, especially with the baby expected to be bigger,” Ms. Afumbom says. “This time, I did not push for very long. It was very quick.”
As the baby’s head crowned, the midwife saw immediately that the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck. Ms. Shaheen guided the baby out to cut the cord as his head was emerging.
Nuchal cord, the medical term for the umbilical cord wrapping around the baby’s neck, occurs in approximately 15 to 34 percent of births, according to Ms. Shaheen. “Fetal movement in amniotic fluid causes this to happen,” she says.
“I didn’t know what was going on but I could see my mother-in-law’s face,” Ms. Afumbom says. “It was an expression of terror. I knew I had to pay close attention to Raja because something was going on. She delivered him and put him on my chest for a brief moment.”
Ms. Afumbom will never forget her first sight of her son. “He was gray-blue and completely limp,” she recalls. “That image stays with you.”
After putting Kai on his mother’s chest, the nurses took him to be evaluated and provide airway assistance.
“Neonatal support or resuscitation is provided in any situation in which a newborn would need assistance adjusting to an extrauterine (outside the uterus) environment,” says Ms. Shaheen.
The baby was silent. “He wasn’t crying,” Ms. Afumbom says. “I was calling and calling to Kai. I wrote a song for him that I had sung to him every day while I carried him. I started to sing his song to him.
“My husband said it was more like a minute but it felt like forever,” she says. “Finally, I heard him cry and it was loud!”
Color returned to his face. Ferdinand comforted his wife, telling her, “He’s pinking up, he’s doing great, he’s doing great!”
Kai’s health stabilized, and he weighed 9 lbs. 7 oz.
Ms. Shaheen says most evidence suggests that nuchal cords don’t put a baby at a higher risk of fetal or neonatal problems. “Studies have shown no short- or long-term fetal impairment with nuchal cord,” she says.
Ms. Afumbom was overcome with gratitude.
“When you are preparing for a natural birth, you envision the birth you want. And you just haven’t envisioned something like that,” she says. “I’m so thankful that I was where I was. I’m so thankful that Raja took action the way that she did. I was thankful that there were extra people in the room. There was a reason for everything. My son’s life was spared because of it. He was totally protected.”
To hear more of Krista’s story, please go to this post.