VBAC birth story

Caleb’s entry into the world got off to a slow start, but his birth was perfect.

The short version is my water broke Sunday morning, but I was in denial so we went to church. Then during church I decided we should go to the hospital, so we made arrangements for Simon and went in. I wasn’t having contractions but was admitted. Around 10:30 I lost my mucous plug and was feeling some mild contractions. By 12:30 things were moving and I called our doula. A rapid and intense labor followed and Caleb was born via unmedicated VBAC at 4:31 am.

Lori took these photos in the minutes after birth. I wouldn’t normally say I look great in these, but they capture the raw emotion of the moment. The long and overly detailed story below the pictures.

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Caleb’s birth story really starts on Saturday Feb 8th, when Rob and Simon went to see Monster Trucks (a post of it’s own coming soon). When we bought these tickets we had always joked that it didn’t matter when I went into labor as long as I didn’t have a baby on Saturday. I had actually moved my haircut up and it was done, but still went to get my legs waxed and I took off my old nail polish – no chipped nails. I worked on a manuscript (that has been SUBMITTED!) Then I tweeted this*:

“If I can just finish this manuscript I will have completed every ‘must do before baby.’ Then maybe my body will decide it’s time.” I didn’t quite finish, but I got close.

Sunday morning Simon woke up around 6:45, I got up with him with no real plans other than a lazy Sunday morning followed by church then a little work and cleaning. I went to lie on Simon’s bottom bunk while he played in his room and I felt something. It didn’t feel like pee, but I didn’t think my water had broken with just this little trickle. (The point that there are only so many things it could be stuck with me most of the rest of the day.) I told Rob half jokingly to be ready for anything today.

Rob and Simon made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I went to the bathroom again and there was more wetness, but still so little that I wasn’t convinced my water broke. I was feeling nothing else, no cramping or contractions. I sent this tweet:

“That awkward moment where you have to decide if your water broke or you peed yourself. Proceeding as normal for the time being…”

This led to some back and forth about what does water breaking look like. And some good wishes that contractions start soon. I called our doula, Lori, and put her on alert. I decided I wasn’t going to call the doctor quite yet, but enjoy breakfast and see what happened.

By the time we were ready to go to church I was pretty convinced it was nothing. The leaking was mucousy – which I’ve had on and off the last few weeks. I wore a pad and we went to church. At church Simon was being especially good during the singing so got to stay for all the songs. During the last song I felt something pass – like a period starting. So I took Simon to the nursery instead of Rob. I told him I’d come back for the last song (he really loves the music). Then I went to the bathroom and was pretty sure I was losing my mucous plug. Gross, but normal and not water breaking. I did decide though that I should call the doctor if things were starting. I saw a friend in the hall, alerted her we were probably going to the hospital to get checked out and could they take Simon after church. Called Lori again and told her I’d keep her posted. Called the OB and was told I should come in to check for amniotic fluid, which I figured they would, so really I’m glad I waited to call.

I went back into church to get Rob. As we were walking out I realized we had to go home first to get the insurance cards. On the walk home we decided to leave the hospital bag because I honestly thought they’d send me home. But I finished packing just in case throwing in the camera and toiletries. I grabbed the needed paperwork and the ipad to entertain me if there was a wait and we were on our way.

We took the subway and bus to the hospital. Noteworthy because every time someone asked how we were planning on getting to the hospital (we don’t have a car) I said, “Cab or maybe we’ll just take the train.” Which was ALWAYS met with looks of you must be crazy there is no way you’ll want to take the train to the hospital. But we did. At the hospital we went to triage and I noticed the contrast that Rob and I were in church clothes; a dress and boots for me. Everyone else was in legging and tees and had their stuff.

We got a triage room at 1:30, I peed in a cup, got changed into a gown, and hooked up to the monitors. The nurse tested the pad and it was negative for amniotic fluid, but the PA would also do an internal test / check. The PA came in, the baby looked good I was having no contractions. The internal check was also negative for amniotic fluid but lots of mucous. I was 1 cm and 50%. We got a quick ultrasound and while baby looked good and head was in position there was no amniotic fluid. So yeah, water broke and was gone.

birth_01The OB on call, Dr. C, came in and I asked about going home since it was now about 2 pm and I was hungry and NOT in labor as I was feeling no contractions. I would come back in a few hours or if things started. Dr. C said that I really should be admitted. So I asked if Rob could get me lunch when since he had to run home for the bag. She agreed to the food so I agreed to be admitted.

I texted Lori and let her know she should make her way to the hospital. Rob and I talked quickly through our Simon options. Since he was fine with our friends and their kids and they were ok keeping him overnight, we decided to leave him there. I called to let them know what was going on and that Rob would be home so they could pick up Simon’s overnight and daycare stuff.

My nurse was Michael, and a male nurse was weird for about half a second, but he was pretty awesome. There was a wireless monitor available so I was able to move freely and be monitored continuously. And he was nice enough to turn off the sound when I asked, because that drove me batty in labor with Simon the constant beeping and hearing the heart beat for hours. Michael and I did the paper work. Lori showed up. Rob called with questions about where I had put Simon’s bags. He saw Simon briefly when our friends drove over to pick up his stuff. Simon was a little confused, but went with it. I’m glad he got to see Rob.

At 2:30 Dr. C and Michael came back and said I was actually having a lot of contractions. They were irregular, but they’d like me to have the Hep Lock (previously had said we could delay until contractions). Fine – as long as I can still eat my sandwich – which was tantalizingly close. Rob finally got back and I ate. It was amazing. Lori had also given me some apple slices and chocolate she had with her just in case they changed their minds on the whole eating thing before Rob got back.**

While I was eating our doula got a call from another expecting mom who was in labor! She went down to the lobby to talk to the mom and find her a back-up doula. Rob and I chatted a bit and I decided to nap – I didn’t sleep, but I did rest and started feeling mild contractions every 8-15 minutes. I got up around 6 and stopped feeling anything, but was starting to get restless and bored. The rush of excitement that came with being admitted had worn off and I was starting to feel discouraged that nothing seemed to be happening.

Oh, but I did have a strange rash on both of my hands. It wasn’t connected to any adhesive and after some investigation we are pretty sure it was a reaction to the soap and hot water since I was washing my hands so often (lots of bathroom use going on). I got some baby soap and washed with cold water, which helped and the rash never got worse.

birth_02Dr. C checked in, contractions were still happening – even though I wasn’t feeling them. We talked about “the plan.” Due to risk of infection there wasn’t a reason to check me again until things picked up. As much as I like having data I know it would have been discouraging to be told nothing had changed… I also knew we were coming up on 12 hours post water breaking. The official time at the hospital was 8am (I was vague when asked). Dr. C said if by 8 am things weren’t moving / we didn’t have a baby that they would start a low dose of pito.cin and give me up to 12 more hours depending on the condition. This was way more lenient than I thought this would go. And we were all still hoping for best case scenario, that I would do this on my own. It was easier to be positive out loud, internally I was starting to think that things might not go how I wanted.

Lori asked how I would feel about her going home for awhile to give us some time alone and so she could sleep – she had been sitting on the window sill all afternoon and lives just cross town. I was fine with this. But first she suggested Rob go get some dinner since everything in the hospital was closed on Sunday, but there are quite a few restaurants around this west side hospital. Rob went out and grabbed a pot pie for him and some cornbread for me from Boston Market. Lori and I came up with a check in schedule then she left. Rob and I ate and then FaceTimed with Simon.

To let you know just how much he didn’t miss us, the whole conversation was him showing me toys he was playing with.

At 9:00 we settled in to watch Downton Abbey. I started feeling contractions again every 10 minutes or so. They still didn’t hurt, but they were consistent. At the conclusion I went to the bathroom and lost the rest of the mucous plug with some bloody show. Things might be getting real???

Dr. C came in with my night nurse, Melissa around 10:30. The first thing was chastising me for eating dinner. She thought that it was clear that after lunch I wouldn’t eat anything else. And really I wasn’t planning on it but when Rob came back with food it just smelled good. And I WASN’T ACTUALLY IN LABOR. Let’s just keep remembering that. I told her it was a piece of cornbread. And she then asked me to please stop eating since I was now starting to feel contractions. I was fine with this because I was no longer hungry.

Since I was worried about dehydration but didn’t want a constant IV we agreed on IV fluids every four hours, starting at 2:30, since I had just finished a bottle of water and Dr. C didn’t want me drinking now that I was feeling things. Melissa did ask me to take some sips of water every hour though. J

I mentioned the bloody show and Dr. C decided to check my cervix. 2-3 cm and 50%. CRAP! This was progress, but very SLOW progress. (After this entire exchange I realized that the dinner we were arguing about – since I got pretty defensive about it – was one piece of cornbread three hours earlier. Which now is just funny to me.)

I texted Lori with an update and Rob and I talked. We decided we should try to sleep since the night or the next day were going to be intense. I probably should have given Rob the bed since he actually did go to sleep, but the recliner wasn’t too bad. I lay down for a few minutes but the contractions were getting stronger. I paced around the room and alternated between sitting on the ball leaning on the bed and the bathroom sitting on the toilet. This is the only part of labor where I used Hypnobabies well. I was able to “turn off” during each contraction and mostly relax through it. Things were getting more intense, but I was content to labor on my own in a dark room.

At 12:33 I had this text exchange with Lori-

Me: Def feeling all now. Moving between ball and toilet. Letting Rob sleep. At the moment I’m doing well in the dark and quiet. This is what I remember labor to feel like.

L: Ok, but it will go faster this time. Don’t leave me home to long.

Me: I’ll update you in 30. Prob have you come back then.

L: Ok

Me: Or go ahead and start making your way back because that one made me want to puke.

L: Ok…be back soon.

I gave Rob until about 1:00 then I woke him and he should get ready. After washing up he started rubbing my lower back through the contractions. I got on the bed and did a few on my hands and knees leaning over the bed. I also decided that I needed to start timing contractions NOW, so I download a contraction timer to my phone. I timed for about 30 minutes and was having ctx every 4 minutes lasting about a minute. And after I saw that they were that often I said “ok, done with that, now it’s just stressing me out.” Ha.

ctxtimer

Lori came back! Rob put on the HypnobBabies tracks to play through out loud. The HB tracks were really soothing. I wasn’t consciously listening to them, but it created a nice atmosphere and helped me occasionally remember to use my “off switch” which I was pretty good with the second half of each contraction. Going into them was a lot more ow oh, low vocal, then OFF to come out. I did this for awhile and moved back to between the bathroom and ball for a bit. Somewhere in all of this I threw up in the bathroom. Which was a relief physically. And glad I had food in me to get out.

At 1:30 Melissa came back in because the wireless monitor finally ran out of batteries. I was sitting on the ball leaned over the bed. I told her I was feeling really dehydrated. We decided that continuous IV fluids were a good idea. She put on the new fetal monitor and I was going to have to stay close to the bed because of the wires. I also said I my legs were starting to feel really weak. Melissa requested that I get back in the bed if my legs were weak. I was really, really ok with this request. The contractions were intense enough that I just wanted to lay down. Rob actually had to half lift me into the bed. So I lay on my side and pulled up on the bed rail for a kind of counter pressure movement. Lori and Rob mostly just ignored my declining of everything they offered and did it anyhow – like the ice packs. I was getting a little nuts and had no idea what I wanted. I did left them know if something felt bad, but mostly I let them do what they could. The ice packs were pretty freaking amazing and Rob moved them from my back and side to my legs or neck. Lori rubbed my hands and talked me through each contraction helping to remind me to vocalize with low tones.

Everything just started to run away from me and I was half crying through almost every contraction. I know I was to a point where I was saying I couldn’t do it and I didn’t want to and this hurt too much. There was a part of me that was waiting for Rob or Lori to let me off the hook and ask me if I wanted an epidural. My thought for this birth had been that I wanted no epidural if possible but that if things got to where I was getting no break – which is what happened in my labor with Simon – I would opt for the relief. With Simon I NEVER had a break between contractions; it was constant for nearly 11 hours, until I got the epidural. To their credit they didn’t say it (I had asked them not to.) And finally I asked. This was around 2:30 maybe. Lori called Melissa and we were told the anesthesiologist was in surgery so it would have to wait. I cried. And we kept going, because what else could we do.

Rob did tell me afterward that he would have challenged the epidural had the anesthesiologist been available. Partly because he knew I didn’t really want it. But more because he didn’t want it to slow things down and be any part of the reason a C-section might happen. I love that he was so good and active during this whole process and we had talked in detail about what we wanted.

I was getting really scared here. I couldn’t see the end – I mean I know a BABY – but I felt like I had hours to go and I knew I couldn’t do this for hours. but time was moving fast at this point. Each hour really felt like only a few minutes. At 3:30 Dr. C came back in and somehow Rob and Lori got me turned so that I could get checked again. This time I was 9 cm and +1. This is good. But I don’t think I really believed I was so close. I had got it in my head that I had hours to go and that I couldn’t do it and had let the fear that this was going to end in another c-section cloud everything. Around this time I had told Rob to turn off the HB as it was no longer soothing and just adding noise.

From here on I was NOT calm. I cried a lot and was in that land of crazy talk. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t think I could do this. And I just wanted it to be over. The contractions were rolling at this point and I felt like I had lost all control of pain management. I was having a hard time keeping my voice low. And maybe every third contraction I was able to turn off. They were rolling now and as one was ending the next one was starting. I kept saying I felt like I was going to puke. What I meant (I realize now) is that I was feeling the urge to push. Once Lori figured that out she called the nurse. And we were told someone would be there soon. Since I had been told not to push until Dr. C and nurse got there. But they didn’t come. We called again. And they still didn’t come. (Something was going on with the woman in the room next to mine – no idea what, but it tied up several nurses and Dr. C for awhile). Lori finally told me to go with my body and push if I needed to. This was not fun or probably all that productive. But allowing my body to bear down was the only thing that was offering any relief.

Lori finally went out to the hall to tell the nurses/Dr. C/whoever was available that I WAS READY. Someone told L that I had just been checked and wasn’t. L said that was 45 minutes earlier and I was ready. L came back to me. Then we heard an argument – or at least loud voices – discussing whether I was in fact ready. I was thinking it kind of doesn’t matter if you think I am or not my body is pushing and I need to get this baby out or get pain relief NOW!!!

Dr. C finally came with Melissa (a little after 4:00) when I got turned – hey guess what she could see the head. I was still running from the contractions, stretching my body up instead of down. My hair had come out of the ponytail and I said that I needed to fix my hair befor I could push – one of many crazy things – Lori put my hair up while Rob laughed. Lori and Melissa talked me through how close I was and that I could do this. The bed was broken down. Rob just held my hand. And maybe a leg – I don’t really remember. Dr. C talked me through pushing. I feel like it was all very loud. I was still kind of freaking out and there were three people talking me down. After two not so great pushes through two contractions I asked to rest and I did – I guess this was during a break… Then over three contractions (I think) I pushed five times and the head was out. It hurt like hell. One more and Caleb was on my chest. Then it was amazing. The relief and the rush and wow I actually did this.

I don’t remember him crying. But Rob and I both had the happy tears. I got to just hold Caleb immediately. This was the thing I wanted most. Dr. C asked if we were collecting cord blood, since we were not she waited until the cord stopped pulsing (a few minutes) then cut the cord (Rob declined). Then it was time to deliver the placenta. I asked if I could push and Dr. C said if you want go ahead. That push was the most satisfying. Something came out and it didn’t hurt. Getting to see the placenta was pretty cool. Dr. C showed how it had all connected. I meant to ask Rob to take a picture but forgot.

I had a second degree tear so while I was getting stitched up Melissa took Caleb to the warmer to get weighed and measured and foot-printed. We left him diaper free but he was wrapped up in a towel and got a hat and Rob held him while Dr. C finished. Then I got him back.

The worst part of the after birth time was the pressing/massaging of my stomach to help my uterus contract down. That hurt so bad and caused my legs to shake. Not sure if this was before or after the stitching – maybe both. I just remember that it hurt.

One hour post birth Caleb was taken back to the warmer for the eye ointment and vitamin K shot (both of which are mandatory here). He got a diaper too. And I got a clean gown J

I remember Lori leaving while we were in the Labor room. At our follow-up meeting she told me it was after breastfeeding. I was glad to hear this because when Rob and I were talking we couldn’t remember if I had even tried to nurse before moving to the post-partum floor.

At 7:15 I moved to a wheel chair. I had to move slowly: sit up, legs to floor, stand using IV as support, move to chair. But I did it all on my own. Caleb was tied in my arms with a bed sheet. Rob grabbed the bags and we moved downstairs to the post partum unit.

Despite the slow start this birth experience was better than I dreamed it could be.

Recovery and emotional processing to come…

*I never thought I’d tweet so much during the process, but there was a lot of waiting. Since we were letting people know about the nothing that was happening on a very limited need to know basis, it was nice to be able to have this outlet with my online friends who have been pregnancy and parenting support over the last year. I’m also happy for the record.

**I never thought eating would be a theme of this story. Because when in actual labor eating is the LAST thing I want to do. But since I wasn’t actually in labor, just hanging out in a hospital room enjoying their cable, I was starving. And had I been at home – I would be eating. (Boredom was the other theme I didn’t expect to feel.)

Family of Four

I had a lot of plans for this week. Instead, we had a baby!

Caleb_12hrs2_blogannounceThe whole experience was fantastic. Rob was awesome!

family_pic_CalebSimon got to come visit Monday afternoon when Caleb was about 12 hours old. I love this picture of his anticipation. We didn’t take any pictures of the actual encounter, but video to come.

simon_hospital

Tuesday we got to come home – it’s so nice to be home.

IMG_1039Wednesday we braved the subway for our first double well child visit (2.5 years and 2.5 days). Simon is now done with vaccines until he’s 5 and his weight gain is still excellent. Caleb is still at birth weight – yay breastmilk and is great. He has a follow-up to check weight in two weeks. We also have a follow-up appointment at the hospital in 2 weeks to repeat the hearing test in one ear.

first_subwayThursday was a snow day and today is more of the same.

sweepinEventually I’ll get around to all of the skipped plans. For now we are doing lots and lots of this.

photo-23

Deep Fried; 37+5

Since the baby was half-baked at 20 weeks, I can’t really say he’s fully cooked now. But deep fried seems just about right for my state right now. I know it’s best for baby (and if I’m being honest me too) to stay in there at least another week, but I AM DONE. This pregnancy I’ve chronicled more how I’ve felt about being pregnant whereas with Simon it was more a check list of what was going on. In reflecting last week, while there is no longer disbelief about being pregnant – that’s been gone for awhile now – I can’t help but still be in awe about what a FREAKING MIRACLE this is. While there is a part of me that will be sad to (most likely) never feel another baby kicking inside I’m ready for him to come out. I also realized last week that February marks seven years since Rob and I MET. Just to think about how much my/our life has changed in that time is pretty amazing too. (I’m going to try to get a post scheduled to mark the day, since I will likely have a newborn by then)

So here are some comparison shots. First with this baby, then with Simon. Any bets on how much longer until this guy makes an appearance?

bellycompare_no2

bellycompare_simon

I am to the point now where I’m feeling kind of crappy all the time. Reflux/heartburn or such has finally kicked in. It is no fun, and I am SO SORRY for all my friends who had this for months of their pregnancy. It sucks, but I got off easy. My back hurts all the time, but at least it’s manageable still. I have so much school work that needs to be done before the baby comes. And since I’m not teaching and I’m working from home most days I really shouldn’t complain about this either. But I’m JUST SO OVER IT. I want a break to just lay on the couch for a few weeks… I know I know… So part of my readiness to have the baby is to be able to stop working. But then it will just be hanging over me and I have to remind myself I do prefer to be done and have the option to focus 100% on the new baby for as long as I want. (If I don’t finish there will be pressure to start writing again before I’m ready)

My brain and body are fried. We are waiting and working and I’m doing my best to just get things done. At least the apartment is ready. Hopefully I’ll get the final few posts and a new video tour up before baby… but totally low on my list.

36 weeks; the final push

I know they say that the end of pregnancy drags on. I’m really waiting for that to kick in. I’d really like some of that feeling like I’m just waiting and waiting and waiting. Instead life is still barreling on. Every week I’m astounded that it’s Wednesday again. at 34 weeks I told someone I was 30 weeks along, then had to correct myself. The fact that I WILL have a baby in arms in the next 35 days blows. my. mind.

20140121-212329.jpgPhysically I’m still doing ok. At my last check-in post I said I was feeling great. But that was written a few days before 30 weeks. From writing that post to the appointment with the midwife some moderate to severe back-pain set in. At 30 weeks words like “sciatica” and “physical therapy” were thrown out. We’ve since determined that it was strain, most likely caused by carrying a heavy backpack to Staten Island a few times a week and to any other meetings I went to. I’ve been wearing a belly support band / back brace thing that helps. Also, for the last few classes I carried only essentials to class – going so far as to leave my laptop home – and since the semester has ended I’m using the stroller instead of diaper bag if I’m out with Simon and carrying the smallest bag possible anywhere else. Luckily I’m able to pretty much keep myself house-bound if I need to right now. All this to say, my back is much better. Although the building of the “stairs bed” – I think Simon’s term for bunk bed will forever be used – pushed me over the edge the last couple of weeks. And all I did was hand Rob stuff or keep Simon occupied! (post on that tomorrow, promise) The exertion has caused the back pain to return which makes it hard to walk and causes nausea. But I’ll take mild pain every day over debilitating pain once a week. At my appointment yesterday the midwife said that if the bad pain comes back I need to call in immediately.

20140121-212251.jpgMy weight gain plateaued at around +27-30 pounds after 32 weeks, it fluctuates. I’m happy with this, I know I’ll gain a bit more in the next month, but I’m on track for less than the 42 I gained with Simon. We are hoping for a slightly smaller baby to increase VBAC success chances – although a bigger baby isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. I’m eating pretty well and finally consistently taking a prenatal vitamin. THAT only took 8 months. I need to drink more water.

20140121-212244.jpgI’ve been listening to the Hypnobabies more consistently. I’m not sure how this will go when I’m in labor, but it definitely relaxes me now. I had a check-in meeting with our doula a couple of weeks ago. I still like her as much now as when we hired her. That’s good. Our BIG meeting is next weekend to discuss specifics as best we can. I talked with the midwife last week about hospital policies and procedures. The best news is that unless something is wrong they recommend laboring at home as long as possible (keeping in mind that second births tend to be faster than the first go-round). I was concerned they would want me to come in ASAP because of the VBAC. We went through some other questions I had and was told that everything is negotiable – but how much is dependent on how everything is going. And I was told it’s a good idea to bring a typed copy of my ideal preferences as a starting point. So I’m working on a birth preferences document. I have a few questions for the OB still about C-Section things if that becomes necessary. And I’ll go over it all with our doula in our meeting before finalizing. Mostly everything is looking good for a VBAC and it is really nice to be at an OB/midwife practice where the assumption is no intervention unless requested instead of the other way around. At every appointment now we are talking about labor signs and outlining different scenarios.

20140121-212236.jpgI’m in full nesting mode and this is also likely contributing to my over-doing it. But I really want to have everything “done” by 38 weeks. Partially because I’m a planner and partially because I don’t want a big to do list when I’m to huge to move.

As to my academic crisis, I’ve backed off of a lot and am down to two things I have to do and one that it would be really nice to do. I feel good about the pressure being gone. Although there is still quite a bit of work in these two “things.”

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I think I’m ready for this baby and in the meantime soaking up the last few weeks of Simon as the only child. And I’ve decided that I WILL NOT go into labor before Feb 9 which is when Rob and Simon are going to Monster Truck Jam and I have a “spa day” planned to get a hair cut and my nails done. That’s at 38.5 weeks – so there is a pretty good chance baby boy will cooperate.

When Rob was taking these pictures I think we took about 100 because I couldn’t stop laughing or making weird faces. Enjoy the outtakes.