Well, what do you know?!? I’m actually blogging today!! Is anyone still reading here?!? If so, THANK YOU for putting up with me in my four week hiatus. I’m going to make up for it today with a really long birth story post, so grab a cup of coffee (or a whole pot) and settle in… Here we go!
A disclaimer before I get started… I’m sharing this because a.) people like to read this stuff and b.) I really do want to have it all written down for myself (I re-read Sam’s birth story from my old blog at least 15 times in the weeks/days leading up to Nora’s birth) and to share with my girl one day . That said, I have students, a dad, etc. that read this blog. With that in mind, I’m going to spare you the gory details and graphic terminology of our birth story and just share the things I’d talk about if we were sitting around the dinner table (thanks Kendra for that little guide). HOWEVER, if you are considering a VBAC or have specific questions about that or c-sections in general, please email me. I can’t promise a quick response (I’m pretty much behind on everything these days), but I genuinely want to connect with you and be a resource/friend for other women through this space. I am happy to talk more candidly in that forum.
And, a little context:
– Jeff and I spent approximately 40 weeks praying, talking (to our doctor and each other), and researching Trial of Labor after C-Section. In the end, the doctor estimated that I had about 60% chance of having a successful VBAC and – given what we knew about the benefits for baby and mom, the fact that it had been almost four years since my last c-section, and the fact that a 38-week ultrasound revealed a relatively small baby – we decided those were “good enough” odds for us. Although I went back and forth throughout my pregnancy (especially in the last weeks when I would have really liked to have a date on the calendar), when the time actually came, I felt totally comfortable and confident with our decision – even excited to see how things would play out for us in Labor and Delivery Take 2.
Now, the play by play:
This entire pregnancy – despite proper warnings – I had been convinced that our girl would come early. I had been having strong and frequent Braxton Hicks contractions throughout my third trimester, and Sam was born three days early, so I expected Nora at least that much ahead. For weeks, I’d been leaving my sub plans in a prominent place when I left school in the afternoons, tidying the house every chance I got so I would be ready to go when the time came, and keeping my calendar completely clear. I had eaten pineapple/ spicy food/ Chinese food, walked a ton, bounced on a ball, etc. etc. You name it, I’d tried it (except Castor Oil – that’s gross). While in some ways the extra time was nice – I was able to finish out the third nine weeks at school, I got mostly everything done on my “Pre Baby To Do List,” and I spent some good quality time with Sam (even braving Chuck E. Cheese at 39 weeks and 5 days – ha) – I have to admit that I was a total jerk by the time we actually reached my due date. I was HUGE, uncomfortable, bored, and – frankly – tired of telling people I was still pregnant. In hindsight, I was a total diva but… hormones. 😉
Sunday morning, my due date, I decided to just forget about going into labor for a bit (Operation Have Baby would commence again in the morning). We went to the early service at church, then (because I did not want to be in our house any more) we went by Jeff’s parents for a little visit, and I ended up getting to go to brunch with my mother in law and sister in law. That afternoon, Jeff golfed with friends while Sam and I went to the mall and Target with my mom, and that evening we had dinner at my parents’. It was pretty much the perfect day before having a baby – Jeff and I both got to do things that make us happy with people we love. I had left the house a wreck that morning and had been gone for almost 12 hours; but, I’d had zero signs of labor, so I was sure I’d have Monday to catch up and get back on my A game.
After dinner that night, I was sitting at the bar in my parents’ house working on wedding stuff with my sister and commenting that I needed to get home to get Sam to bed. At about 8:30, just as I got up to leave, my water broke. At first, I wasn’t 100% sure that’s what had happened – my water broke with Sam too, but I was already at the hospital and had been laboring for close to ten hours by that point – but it became pretty unmistakable quickly. Ironically, at almost the exact same time, Jeff called me from the driveway to say he was home. When I called back a few minutes later, I told him, “I hope you aren’t too tired, it looks like we’re having a baby tonight.”
(I can now officially confirm that the only thing that will make you go into labor is to stop trying to go into labor.)
I’d been secretly hoping that this would happen (my water breaking) – although thank you Lord that it wasn’t at school – but when it actually did, I felt totally caught off guard and unprepared… I called the hospital to let them know that I was coming in and was a VBAC candidate (I also checked to make sure I had time to take a shower because I needed it), then I wore a pair of my dad’s sweatpants, and my mom drove me home. Sam was totally oblivious, so we decided he should just stay there with my dad. He was thrilled to have a sleepover with Bear.
When I got home, I took a quick shower and got dressed while my mom, sister, and Jeff scrambled to get everything together and in the car. At this point, I was having some mild contractions. They were coming pretty frequently – every 2 to 3 minutes – but I could still talk and walk through them, etc. By 9:30PM (only an hour after my water broke), Jeff and I were saying a quick prayer in the hospital parking lot and getting ready to go meet our girl.
Checking in to labor and delivery when your water has broken is actually pretty nice because there is no question of whether or not you will be staying. Also, because I was trying for a VBAC, they take everything pretty seriously… A doctor has to be available throughout the entire labor, an operating room is prepped just in case, and I had to sign papers saying that I knew the risks of a VBAC and lots of other REALLY scary stuff. Thankfully, I was also assigned the sweetest nurse who had had a successful VBAC herself 18 months before and was pretty famous on the floor for being the one to work with moms like me. When she checked me for progress, I was about 4.5 centimeters dilated – not bad. Knowing that it could take an hour or two for it to actually happen, I went ahead and “ordered” my epidural.
As predicted, between getting fluid and waiting for the anesthesiologist, it took a while to get the epidural. In the meantime, my contractions had gotten much stronger, and I was in a lot more pain, so when the nurse checked me again around 11PM, and I was still only at a 5, I was super disappointed. We also discovered that Nora was still pretty high at this point, so my nurse had me lay on my side with one leg over what they called a “peanut ball.” It was fancy.
By this point, my mom had joined us in the delivery room, and the nurse encouraged us to rest while we could. Jeff fell asleep right away, but I was too excited. I was feeling good though, so I chatted with my mom, read a little of my book, and just waited… After about an hour (definitely no more), I told my mom that I REALLY needed to use the bathroom (which is a problem after you’ve had the epidural) and decided to call the nurse. She came in to help me out and checked me again. This time, to my complete surprise (remember, it had only been about an hour since the last check), she said I was fully dilated and Nora had dropped into a better position. It was go time!
Similar to my story with Sam, things had gone so smoothly leading up to the actual delivery that I was feeling very optimistic about the final push (pun intended). I was really hopeful that this would all be over, I’d be cuddling a new baby, and our nurse could add another notch on her ole VBAC belt in an hour tops. Unfortunately, my body had other plans…
I started pushing some time around 12:30AM. For most of the time there were four medical professionals – two nurses, a doctor, and a medical student – helping / monitoring me during this part of the process. Nora seemed to be handling labor well and was never really in any distress. However, about 45 minutes in, it became clear to us that she was going to be stubborn like her brother.
By this point, I was totally exhausted – remember, on top of labor etc. I’d also been shopping all day 😉 – and Nora was having trouble getting over my pelvic bone to get out. I was working as hard as I could and had even tried pushing in different positions etc. to help, but to no avail. The doctor had told me earlier that the standard was to have women push for two to three hours before deciding on a c-section, and that felt like an ETERNITY to me.
The medical team was actually really pro VBAC in our case. They were hesitant to admit that, despite my efforts, things weren’t looking optimistic and tried to encourage me to keep going for a bit longer. (The doctor said that in a “normal” delivery, she would be able to use a vacuum and get the baby out pretty easily at this point; however, that can be extremely dangerous for a VBAC so it wasn’t an option for us.) I was truly thankful for their encouragement and the fact that they erred towards a natural delivery (we’ve all heard the horror stories of doctors forcing c-sections etc.), but it did bring out the “people pleaser” in me even more… I really wanted to be successful, and I didn’t want to disappoint Jeff or (as silly as it sounds) the doctors and nurses. Honestly, I probably would have kept going for those reasons alone.
Thankfully, my husband – always the wise and collected one (even in the middle of the night with 30 minutes of sleep) stopped everything after a full hour of pushing and asked point blank – “She isn’t showing any progress towards getting this baby out, is she?” This wasn’t his first rodeo, and things were looking suspiciously similar to the way they had with Sam. Although we didn’t have any major problems yet, what we DIDN’T want to happen was to continue pushing until I was completely physically spent or – worse – Nora was in danger.
I was SO grateful for Jeff in those moments… He calmly gathered info from the doctor (no, I really wasn’t showing any change from an hour ago), asked me what I wanted to do, and encouraged me that he would support whatever I decided. I chose to give it one more round of hard pushing and then stop if nothing happened – which it didn’t. Some time around 2AM, we decided to prep an OR for a c-section.
I’ll be honest, at this point, I was feeling pretty disappointed. I felt like I hadn’t tried hard enough and worried that I wasn’t making the right decision. The medical team was supportive; but, I felt like they were disappointed too. I even apologized to my nurse for not “being able to do it.” Ridiculous.
I think around 3:15AM, Jeff put on his hazmat suit, and I was rolled back for surgery… One of the hardest things about a c-section is not being able to watch and know what is going on (they put a sheet up around your chest that blocks any view you might have had). Because of the medicines, I wasn’t in any pain at all, but I could feel pressure, pulling etc. Even though I’d done this before, I was actually more nervous this time – I think I was just more aware of what was coming and what could go wrong than I was with Sam… I did a lot of praying in those final moments of prep and was SO glad to have Jeff by my side holding my hand etc.
As a fun little side note: If you read Sam’s birth story, you’ll remember that he wasn’t crying when he was born (which scared us all to death). Because of that, all throughout surgery prep, I kept telling Jeff (and whoever else was nearby) that I just wanted to hear Nora cry. Well, about five minutes into surgery, she did – she let out a big wail. I said something like, “there she is! I hear her!” and the doctor called back that she hadn’t even been delivered yet. Apparently it doesn’t happen very often at all, but Nora let out an audible cry while she was still in my tummy!!! It was still a few minutes before she was actually born, but I was able to relax from that point on.
Finally, at 3:41AM on Monday, March 23rd, she was here. My feisty little redhead came out kicking and screaming. I hated not getting to hold her immediately; but I was able to watch them clean her up and weigh her through a little hole in the sheets and after just a minute or so Jeff got to bring her to me. (One thing I kind-of love about a c-section is how involved the dad gets to be right away!) She was fussing like crazy, but I rubbed her sweet little cheek, and she calmed down immediately. My Nora Kent. My girl.
As they were stitching me back up, the doctor told us that Nora was, in fact, pretty stuck in there and was also facing the wrong direction (“sunny side up”), so our decision to have a c-section was the right one – even if I had continued pushing for the entire two or three hours, we almost definitely would have had the same result in the end. That made me feel SO much better about how everything happened and, again, thankful for Jeff’s wisdom early on to stop when we did.
My “clean up” took about thirty more minutes, so Jeff got to go with Nora to the nursery and introduce her to our families who had been waiting patiently for a few hours by this point (bless them). When Sam was born, I’d had to go to a recovery room for an hour before I got to him; but, this time, they took me straight to my room and brought Nora to me as soon as surgery was over. The mandatary recovery time took place in my room while nursing and cuddling my baby for a full two hours. It was perfect.
The rest of the next day is still a little bit of blur, but it was mostly spent resting, snuggling, and introducing Nora to all the people in our lives that already loved her. Sam went to school that morning with no idea how much his world had changed and Jeff brought him to the hospital late on that first afternoon. I’ll share more about them later, but their first meeting was so much better than I had even hoped for… He was SO sweet and interested in his little sister. We have a video of their first few minutes together that I will treasure forever.
So, there it is… Not exactly the way I would have planned it, but a perfect story nonetheless.
Finally, a few things you might be wondering about:
How has recovery been?
Really, fine. Before Nora was born I would have told you that my order of preference for delivery was 1. VBAC, 2. scheduled c-section, and 3. labor and then c-section. In the end, I got my “worst case scenario,” and it still wasn’t that bad. 😉 I think recovery has been even easier this time around than it was after my first c-section, although I’ve been surprised by how little I remember from then. All along one of my biggest worries about having a c-section was not being able to take care of Sam once the baby came home. With that in mind, I made it a point to follow all of the doctor/nurses’ instructions, get up and move around often, take all my medicine (no shame), and rest when possible… I also took advantage of a full FOUR days in the hospital to allow my body time to heal and to bond with my new girl. As a result of all those things (I think), my transition home went really smoothly. I had several days of soreness, a little pain in my incision (even some sensitivity still), etc. but – for the most part – things have been great. I do wonder how recovery would be different if I had a “regular” birth story – or even just a c-section without laboring first – but, it was nice knowing what to expect this time, and it really wasn’t that bad.
Do I regret trying for a VBAC instead of just scheduling a c-section to begin with?
No. I honestly don’t. There is something pretty exciting (at least in hindsight) about actually going into labor, and I’m glad I got to experience that again. I’m also thankful that my girl got to arrive in her timing (not mine) when my body was ready. Even though things didn’t turn out the way I “wanted” them to in the end, I’m still proud of myself for trying and glad that I did… I think I might have always wondered “what if” if I hadn’t.
What does this mean for future babies?
If we decide to have a third baby (the jury’s still out), we will deliver by planned c-section. End of story. At least we won’t have to stress about the decision. 🙂
Whew. There you go. If you made it this far, you deserve a medal or something. Thanks for reading! Now, back to snuggles and diaper changing… More on our new life as a family of four coming soon – I promise!