Ask, and ye shall receive!
Also, congrats on your pregnancy!
The Happy Hospital VBAC of Rex
born at 7:30pm on November 23, 2008
8 pounds, 8.4 ounces, 20 inches long
My first daughter, Cleo, was a surprise breech baby in 2006. After SROM and 24 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing, we learned she was breech, and I had a c-section. Surgery and recovery went better than expected. She was healthy, nursing went well, and I got on with life.
I learned that I was pregnant with my second child in March, when my second week of unexplained nausea could no longer be blamed on random stomach flu. Since I was still nursing Cleo and had been charting my body temperatures for a month, I was quite surprised to see a very dark maroon line on the test. Turns out I was already 7 weeks pregnant! The dating ultrasound set my due date at December 2. The 20 week ultrasound recognized several possible due dates based on different measurements, ranging from 11/26 to 12/2. We learned that the baby was healthy, and, when he finally took his very busy hand away from his personal area, a boy. We both had a hunch it would be a boy, so we were really excited.
The pregnancy was pleasant and uneventful, although I could definitely tell the difference between my breech baby and this one, who was head down and constantly punching my cervix. Pregnancy with a toddler was a thousand times harder than a first pregnancy! By November, I was feeling very "done" and hoping to go early. Prodromal labor started in mid-November and drove me crazy with breathless contractions, menstrual-like cramps, bouts of nesting and nausea, and annoying cravings for horrible junk food. On Thursday, November 20, I started to see some mucus plug and get excited. On Saturday, November 22, I was in a horrible, irritable, grouchy mood all day and convinced myself that I was the worst mother ever. We went for our usual Saturday night family treat of dinner at Buffalo's, and I forced myself to choke down some food, even though I was thoroughly nauseated. Thank goodness, because my water began leaking in bed that night and woke me up at 12:30. Not a big POP like last time, just more of a, "yick, squishy" feeling. Contractions started within 30 minutes, and I timed them while watching The Office Season 4 in bed. When they reached 7 minutes apart with some pink streaky show around 3:30, we decided to go to the hospital. After the surprises of my last labor and the quick pick-up of this one, I was not taking chances. I have always known that homebirth was not the choice for my family, so I was happy to be on the way to a nearby hospital with a midwife that I trusted and the personnel and equipment to keep me and baby safe if things should go badly again.
And here we had our surprise-- after seeing Kay at Isis for the entire pregnancy, Margaret would be my birth midwife. I was a little unsure, since I knew and trusted Kay so well, but I like to think that everything happens for the best, and I know that Margaret is an amazing midwife, so I went with it. We dropped Cleo off with my parents and got settled in at the hospital, and I began walking the halls as my husband went to sleep curled in a chair. I walked and walked and bopped along to my iPod and felt buoyant. They didn't plan to call Margaret until my labor picked up, so I had one exam and was found to be 3cm dilated, 90% effaced, with the baby at -1 station. I kept checking the board, and I was "ahead" of all the other moms up there, so I stayed excited. Then I got tired and rested for 2 hours... then I took a shower.... and labor stalled for quite some time. I began to feel abandoned as my nurse had to help all her other mothers push out their babies, my midwife didn't arrive, and huge spaces of time passed where I felt like labor was going nowhere, and nobody really cared. It is possible to labor quietly alone in the hospital, but it isn't always what you want!
Luckily, my wonderful friends, Christine and Emile, knew just when to arrive. Christine brought me a labor ball, a bunch of Gatorade, her cute little laptop, and some wonderful encouragement, and Emile showed up to lend her expertise, too. Emile had been the midwife at my first daughter's birth, and I found her knowledge and presence to be comforting. I cannot imagine two better friends or labor-sitters, and it was my dream all along that they would both be there to help me through the hell of labor and delivery and welcome my son into the world. Thank goodness for going into labor on Sunday morning! Christine got me on the ball, and my contractions picked up; I had to start vocalizing to get through. Margaret arrived and found me 4cm dilated and "paper thin", and it was decided to start a "whiff" of pit. Although I have always heard horrible things about pit labors, I am thankful for the hope and energy I found when labor picked up and got heavy. It hurt, but it was happening!
My memories start to get hazy here. I am ashamed of many of the things I remember saying during labor, and i'm even more embarrassed of the things I had forgotten of which my husband has more recently reminded me. I always wanted to see the dark places to which labor takes women, and i'm pretty sure I regressed into a 4 year old at one point, but I am thankful my friends and husband saw me through it. I absolutely required peppermint oil to sniff during contractions, because it was the closest thing to a drug I knew. And my poor buddies had to listen to Toto's Africa for nearly 3 hours straight, which is a grand testament to their friendship... but I needed it. When things got really hard, I knew I needed to "take the edge off", so I had fentanyl, which was wonderful. I went from mean, shrieking, helpless terror to joking around and yapping in french. When I got mean again, I had a little more fentanyl. And i'm so thankful for it!
As the second round began to ebb, I was feeling trapped and helpless and scared, like I couldn't handle the pain. I felt like a trapped animal, and I was begging, pleading, poorly bribing for help. We decided to get an epidural, and they started fluids and called the anesthesiologist. It's funny-- with my first labor, I was very proud and rigid, with my birth plan and my insistence on 100% natural birth. With this labor, I wanted any crutch that would get me holding my baby without surgery. I am so glad that I was at a hospital that could provide options that allowed me to reach my goal! As the 20 minutes to epidural kicked down, I got desperate, and I could feel the pushiness coming on, so I only begged harder. I somehow thought that if I didn't tell them I was getting the urge to push, the epidural would get there in time.
And I ended up cursing the anesthesiologist with some very rude words, because the urge to push became utterly unbearable, and all hell broke loose. With the first push, we could see a thatch of hair. I hated pushing. I hated how long it took, how far it felt, how I could see the hair push out and recede again and again. At one point, I refused to push, and his head just bulged out, and Margaret made little mohawks with his wet hair. I was watching in the mirror, but I missed so much of what was going on, and I was very hopeless and whiny and pathetic. My friends and husband and midwife kept up an amazing cheering section and assured me that he would be out soon. It took forever, but they were right, and after 1.5 hours of pushing, his enormous head popped out, and I felt the most blessed relief ever. We watched him turn himself around, which was amazing and somewhat creepy. At this point, I had to close my eyes and push, and most of what I remember is in flashbacks and photographs and other peoples' memories. He had some cord around his neck, so Margaret popped it off with "mad skillz", as my husband says. His body popped out, which felt amazing, and he was placed on my chest, where I rubbed in the plenteous vernix and enjoyed gazing in awe at him. After Cleo's birth, she was whisked away for so many procedures that I missed, and this time he stayed with me, touching me, nursing, never being washed or messed with at all . Craig cut the cord, which is something we hadn't discussed but really enjoyed. The placenta seemed to pop out just a few moments later, and Margaret gave us a "tour" of it, which was unbelievably cool. I was always sad that I never got to see Cleo's placenta, and I am pretty proud to have had such a lovely, meaty organ-thingy to support my baby. Go, placenta! I had a small tear, which Margaret stitched up quickly and with very little notice on my part. I am grateful and amazed that I didn't have more tearing, because the photo of his head sticking out is crazy! Now i'm glad I took so long to push!
As I held my son and everyone cleaned up, I felt him start to shiver, so I called a nurse over, and Craig went with him to the nursery to be warmed up. While he was being checked out, they kindly brought me dinner, and I ravenously fell to tilapia and potatoes and green beans in my labor bed within 30 minutes of delivery-- a vast improvement over the c-section timeline! I have to admit that I am really impressed with the hospital's improved "mother and baby" initiative-- they made food more accessible, didn't insist on taking Rex from my presence or room, and overall really lessened the interventions that so may people malign regarding parent-child bonding. He was back in my arms shortly, warmed up and happy, and after they taught me how to pee, we were in our recovery room, snuggling as a family.
The difference between a c-section and a vaginal birth still amazes me. That I was on my feet within an hour of giving birth-- eating within 30 minutes-- laughing and smiling and holding my baby-- it was incredible. I was able to take such an active part in his care from the moment he emerged. I was very surprised by the soreness I'm experiencing-- just from the straining of pushing. My arms are pulled and exhausted, my thighs are cramped and sore. My stomach is much, much smaller than it was after surgery. And the undercarriage is in much better shape than it has any right to be, after seeing what I saw in the pictures. I am immeasurably thankful to have experienced a natural birth, and I know that it will go very far in healing me from any negative feelings left from Cleo's birth. There were weak moments in labor when I begged my friends, husband, and midwife to put me under, cut the baby out, anything to make the pain stop, and I am ashamed by my traitorous heart. My body knew what it was doing, and thank goodness it overrode my stupid head. I didn't want to push, I wanted to do anything else, but my body and baby made it happen, despite the fears and pains holding me back.
So here we are, exactly 48 hours after my tiny/enormous son emerged into the world, and he is sleeping peacefully in my bed while I type out as much of our story as I can remember. I can't wait to hear what Emile and Christine have to add, because I know my memory is pretty pathetic, and that I missed things as pertinent and funny as horrible and embarrassing. Craig will bring Cleo home tonight, and we'll all spend our first night together as a complete family. I am overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness-- for my son, for my daughter, for my husband, for my friends, for my midwife, for my VBAC, for fortunate timing and a healthy body, and, yes, for my hospital and nurses. Despite the pain and fear, it was the ideal birth for which I had hoped and dreamed, surrounded by friends and family and safety, with the best end result ever.