This week on the Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast, I was joined by Caitlin Fitzgerald for the very eventful and traumatic birth story of her first baby during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Caitlin opens up about her unexpected induction, unplanned C-section, NICU stay, postpartum struggles, and so much more! Due to the pandemic, she […]

This week on the Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast, I was joined by Caitlin Fitzgerald for the very eventful and traumatic birth story of her first baby during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Caitlin opens up about her unexpected induction, unplanned C-section, NICU stay, postpartum struggles, and so much more!

Due to the pandemic, she was unable to receive the postpartum support that is so necessary for mothers to have, and she had a hard time breastfeeding and bonding with her baby.

As Caitlin walks through her birth story and her early postpartum days, she wants mothers to know that things don’t always go how we expect them to go, and it is okay if you need help getting through those bumps in the road.

This is a really fabulous episode that will resonate with many women out there because SO much happened. While Caitlin’s story is not what I might call a “typical” birth story, hearing these types of stories is important from an educational standpoint and to support the birthing mama whose story it is.

Telling your story, especially when you’ve experienced birth trauma, is one of the best ways to process and begin to come to terms with everything that happened. At the end of the episode, Caitlin opens up explicitly about what her healing has looked like, and the fact that it took until her baby was 9 months to even realize how much her birth trauma was impacting her as a mother.

I’m so excited to share Caitlin and her story with you today, so let’s dive right in!

Caitlin’s journey to pregnancy

Whenever I have a guest come on the show to share their birth story, I like to start off by asking them about how they got pregnant and hear a bit about their trying to conceive journey.

Caitlin shares that her cycles were always very irregular, so she didn’t know what to expect. In her head she thought it would be at least 6 months, so you can imagine that she and her husband were shocked when she got pregnant in the first cycle after she went off birth control!

Because of her irregular cycles, she didn’t really know how far along she was when she got her positive pregnancy test, so she went in for a dating ultrasound, and in her words (note the sarcasm), “That’s where all this fun began.

The story of Caitlin’s pregnancy

When she went in for a dating ultrasound, it turns out she was only 5 weeks – and for that reason, they couldn’t see baby or a heartbeat, just a gestational sac. Caitlin described the anxiety this caused, especially because she hadn’t told her husband it was all happening yet! Luckily at 6 weeks, they saw the baby and a heartbeat, and everything was good.

Then around 9 weeks, she had some spotting, and she had a subchorionic hemorrhage, which is pretty common but again, very nerve-wracking! No one wants to see blood during their pregnancy, but fortunately, everything was okay.

Caitlin then had some abnormal blood work after her 12-week scan that led to the need for specialist appointments to rule out the risk of Spina Bifida. Fortunately, the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist did not think baby had spina bifida. However, he did mention that they should keep an eye on Caitlin’s pregnancy because a high AFP can be related to issues with the placenta, a higher risk for preeclampsia, and a higher risk of IUGR.

And then COVID hit

Caitlin was 36 weeks pregnant on March 13th, 2020 when the world shut down due to COVID. She shared that she was asking for an induction every week, and was just so scared about everything going on, the possibility of her husband not being able to attend her birth, and the craziness of the times!

At 39 weeks when Catilin went in for her appointment, her blood pressure was high, and she was measuring a little bit smaller than they were expecting. When they put her on the monitor, they saw that baby’s heart rate was dipping and her fluid level was very low – so it was time to have her baby!

She called her husband and told him to come for her induction, but not to rush because it was going to take some time. During this part of the episode, you’ll hear Caitlin describe the COVID precautions in place and the fact that she and her husband would not be allowed to leave their labor room at ALL.

They had to prepare to have everything with them right from the start – car seat, phone chargers, food, everything!

Related: COVID-19 Pregnancy Tips

Time for her induction

Caitlin’s induction was started with a Foley bulb. Caitlin says that her nurses had her a little worried about handling the discomfort of the Foley Bulb but when it actually came down to it, it wasn’t that bad – totally tolerable.

After a few hours, they started her on Pitocin and she was laboring all through the night. Caitlin actually shared that she took Birth It Up: The Natural Series and felt really confident and in control. She was using many of the mantras from the class and described her labor pain up until this point as really bad period cramps.

Then around 5 am they took out the Foley Bulb and she was at 5-6 cm, which was great! At this point, they cranked up her Pitocin and things got really intense and painful. She made the decision to get an epidural around 10 am because she just wasn’t getting a break between contractions, everything was right on top of each other.

On top of that, because baby’s heart rate kept dipping, her provider wanted her to stay on her left side as much as possible. And that’s really tough! Because if you’re being told not to move, there are so many labor pain-coping strategies that you just can’t use effectively anymore.

In her words,

“I give myself credit! You know, I made it 16 hours with Pitocin. So you know, hey, not nothing. That was my woohoo moment. But the epidural was nice, because it did allow me to sleep. Because at that point, I’d been awake for a day and a half.”

An unplanned C-Section

Caitlin continued laboring with Pitocin once she got the epidural, and was doing position changes with the peanut ball, but she wasn’t progressing as much as they wanted. So at 8 pm that night they made the call that baby needed to come out and a C-section would be necessary.

Everyone in the OR was excited because we didn’t know the gender – everyone was guessing and when baby came out it was a boy!

But then from there, everything got really scary:

“I kept asking, did he cry? Because I didn’t hear him cry. And the anesthesiologist said, Oh, sometimes C-section babies take a minute to cry. Just give him a minute. So I’m like, Okay, so I’m kind of laying there. And I kept asking, did he cry? Did he cry? Did he cry?

And like, at this point, no one’s answering me because it had been a minute or so at this point. And then I hear code purple. And five people rush in to baby. And I’m kind of like, what, what’s happening?”

You’ll hear Caitlin open up about the sheer panic she felt. Her baby needed compressions, and the neonatologist finally came in to let them know he had “failure to transition” meaning that he had a hard time being born and adjusting to life outside of the womb.

He needed a little bit of a jumpstart, but he did recover fairly quickly. By about 10 minutes after birth his APGAR score was a 9. But he did need to stay in the NICU for some observation and breathing help.

Postpartum hospital stay

Caitlin and her husband went to bed that night and she still hadn’t seen her baby. Her husband was able to go visit him and get a picture, but with a CPAP on his face, she still felt like she didn’t even know what he looked like.

Throughout that night they were doing fundal rubs, and she was up pumping for her baby so that they could bring him anything she could get. By the next morning, Caitlin describes that she just felt like crap. She’d been awake for so long, had a stressful birth and night, her blood pressure and blood sugar was low, and she didn’t even feel like she could get up until about 2 pm the next day.

While all of this was happening, so many people were contacting her wanting to know if it was a boy or a girl, how baby was doing, and how she was doing. But in her mind, she hadn’t even met her baby yet!

Once she saw her son, things started to get better. He improved every day and was in the NICU for a total of 5 days. Caitlin describes how she got to do lots of skin-to-skin with him and the way that benefitted both of them so much!

Postpartum recovery

Caitlin says that she was able to recover quite a bit just in the first few days while her baby was in the NICU. By the time she was discharged she felt like she could already move around so much better and was in a lot less pain.

You’ll hear her talk about her feeding journey and her baby’s tongue tie, and the process of getting that released. He had terrible reflux and didn’t sleep. He was always crying and upset. They finally went to a gastroenterologist that diagnosed him with silent reflux. Once he got on medication and hypoallergenic formula he was instantly so much better!

Wrapping up Caitlin’s story

At this point, Caitlin reiterated that her story is unusual and that she doesn’t want to scare other moms! We recapped the whole thing, and it really was such a series of unexpected events that became Caitlin’s story and transition into motherhood – and while it’s not the average story, it’s important to tell and hear these stories!

The final question I ask Caitlin is how she’s been able to process all of the trauma. She opened up about how much she did struggle and how difficult it was to bond with him. She described how he felt like he wasn’t hers and she kept waiting for his real mom to come to get him.

She explained that she didn’t realize it was because of the birth trauma. And that she didn’t realize that until she started talking to someone professional when he was 9 months old. Caitlin also talks about how before she gave birth she thought she knew all of the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety and would be able to recognize them easily – but when she was actually in it, she couldn’t see them.

Be sure to tune in to hear more about this and why getting help is so important.

About Caitlin

Caitlin Fitzgerald is a 28-year-old mother of 1, a full-time Clinical Researcher, and wife to her husband of almost 4 years. Getting pregnant was the easy part, and after a somewhat eventful pregnancy, Caitlin experienced a traumatic birth during the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Caitlin walks through her birth story and her early postpartum days, she wants mothers to know that things don’t always go how we expect them to go, and it is okay if you need help getting through those bumps in the road.

Liesel Teen, BSN-RN
Founder, Mommy Labor Nurse

Meet your host

Hi there. I'm Liesel!

As a labor and delivery nurse, I've spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn't have to be that way for you!

When you know what to expect and have the tools to navigate the experience, you'll feel confident and in control.

I believe you deserve a better birth — no matter how you deliver.