Above: New mom Ashley Emigh, fiancee Michael, and baby Rosa.
One woman’s journey to first-time motherhood
By Susan Tulino
On June 2, Ashley Emigh of Bealeton, entered Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center ready to have a baby.
The 33-year-old first-time mother was 39-weeks pregnant and had a scheduled induction date to mitigate the risk of complications from gestational diabetes. With ongoing restrictions and safety protocols in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, Emigh knew that her labor and delivery experience might be a bit unusual, but it turned out to be complicated for other reasons including a lengthy labor, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission and a blood infection.
A Long Labor
Emigh was admitted on the evening of June 2, but it wasn’t until 4:45 a.m. that her water broke, and her induction officially began. However, Emigh wasn’t experiencing contractions, and she soon learned that her cervix was barely dilated. At 9:30 p.m. on June 3, her care team administered Pitocin, a natural hormone used to induce labor and cause contractions.
“My contractions became stronger and more painful, but I wanted to see if I could deliver without an epidural or pain medicine,” said Emigh. “The pain got so bad though, that I was unable to rest comfortably and was pacing around, and began crying. I received two doses of intravenous pain medication early on the morning of June 4. I broke down and requested an epidural and a catheter around 8 a.m. and was finally able to get some rest.”
However, four hours later, Emigh’s cervix was dilated only two of the ten centimeters needed to begin pushing. By 5 p.m., she was only at five centimeters. By now, it had been 20 hours since the Pitocin had been administered, and the baby was starting to show signs of distress. The option of a Cesarean section came up.
“My heart dropped,” said Emigh. “I’d been so hopeful to be able to deliver vaginally. But I couldn’t risk the baby’s health. Within a few minutes, I was in the operating room. My fiancé, Michael, was there to reassure me.”
Nearly 49 hours after being admitted, at 7:57 p.m. on June 4, Emigh heard her daughter, Rosa, cry for the first time. However, both mother and baby would require additional medical attention before they could go home as a family of three.
An Extended Stay
Rosa had difficulty breathing shortly after delivery and spent her first five days of life on IV antibiotics in the NICU. After being brought to the recovery area for rest, clean up and a uterine examination, Emigh was taken to visit Rosa, and was able to return frequently over the next few days.
“She just needed a little ‘boost of health,’” said Emigh. “The nurses were wonderful about answering all of my questions. Since I was in recovery, I needed to be in my room resting whenever I wasn’t with her, but I could sense that she was in good care.”
Rosa’s admission to the NICU wasn’t the only cause for concern for the family. Emigh spiked a fever the day before her scheduled discharge date, later learning that she had a bacterial blood infection that required antibiotics.
After an eventful 10 days in the hospital, mother and daughter were discharged on June 12. Despite her long stay, Emigh focuses on the good when looking back on her experience.
“When you can feel comfortable from day one to discharge, you know you’re in a great place. I couldn’t have asked for a safer environment, a better team of doctors and nurses, or a more compassionate bedside manner,” said Emigh. “Even when shift change came around, and a new nurse was caring for me or Rosa, I could see how well the providers communicated with one another.”
Emigh gives much of the credit for her positive patient experiences to the NICU nurses who bonded with Rosa and helped her family through a tough time.
“We are fortunate that Rosa’s stay in the NICU was short-lived, but it was still scary to know that our daughter needed extra medical attention,” Emigh shared. “Even after her discharge, the team made sure we were set with diapers, wipes, formula and more. They really took care of our family.”
To learn more about maternity services at Novant Health UVA Health System, visit NovantHealthUVA.org/services/womens-services/maternity-care.