September 15th, 2009 was by far the most adventurous day of my life.
If you've read the birth story of my son, you'll hopefully understand my thoughts and feelings concerning the upcoming birth of my daughter. I was in personal predicament, being pulled in two different directions; on one side was my obstetrician strongly recommending I have a repeat cesarean section due to "risk factors" and the other side were my instincts telling me myself and my daughter were healthy enough to handle labor and that a natural vaginal birth was best for both of us rather than a surgery, given before she was even ready to be born.
That morning I had an appointment with my obstetrician. I brought my husband Jason with me because I knew it was going to be tense. The week prior, I had agreed to tentatively schedule a repeat c-section for Thursday, the 17th, which was one day before my due date. My OB and a perinatologist recommended I not go past my due date because of risk factors I mentioned in my last post. During the appointment as my OB is telling me he really doesn't think I should push the date back to wait until I go into labor on my own I broke down in tears. I was hoping to not get emotional, but at that point I was tired. Tired of fighting, tired of arguing with a medical professional, tired of unsolicited advice from others telling me what I should do. I felt my body and my daughter were telling me something: That everything was fine. All the recent tests (including one that morning) showed she was healthy. But there was a little part of me that felt compelled to listen to this man who had the medical degree and 25 years of experience. My husband asked him, "Are my wife and daughter in danger?" and my OB replied, "Well, there's always the possibility of sudden stillborn."
As below the belt as that comment was, I still knew, I just knew that we were okay. I went home and cried my eyes out and trying to come to terms with the fact that I should just give in and have another c-section. My doula, Linda, said we didn't need to make any decisions today, and that I had until Thursday morning to decide. She said to do my best to relax. That was much easier said than done.
At 5 pm I went in our back yard to sit with my son while he played. As I tried to get comfortable on an uncomfortable wooden patio chair I felt some movement down below and a warm trickle. I told myself not to get too excited that my water broke and stood up. Sure enough, warm clear fluid raced down both legs and if you've ever had this happen before (the same thing happened with my son), it's pretty obvious that it's not pee. I was in somewhat disbelief. But OH MY GOD IT HAPPENED! All the tears, all the worry, stress, indecisiveness and frustration, all came together and this was it. I still didn't know how it would all turn out, and there was still worry that my daughter wouldn't handle labor well, like the doctors warned me she may not, but at least I was going to get the opportunity to try to labor like my body was meant to.
Jason got home from work about 10 minutes later, we scrambled to eat and get some last minute things together. I called my doula, Linda and she was ecstatic. She said to call her when we got checked into the hospital because it would most likely be a while before my labor began. And away we went.
In the car the contractions started. They were uncomfortable, but bearable and I could still talk through them. But pretty much all I was saying was, "Ouch, this really hurts." They were steady at 5 minutes apart. We got to the triage floor and I approached the front desk where there were 3 nurses there. No one looked up for several seconds and that, for some reason, really irritated me. I suppose I expected them to see me, throw all their papers in the air and start yelling, "Oh my God, she's here!! The girl that wants a VBAC is here! Everyone get ready!" No such luck. They were very busy, but got me checked in and into a room. At that point time started to go really, really slow and I was very impatient. They took entirely too long to do everything, (which in hindsight they weren't, but in my position it was taking too long to do anything). My contractions were getting noticeably stronger and I felt like I had to go to the bathroom (yes, poop). This happened twice and both times I had to unhook myself from the monitors and tip toe across the triage room to the only bathroom. I had to stop a couple of times for contractions to pass.
The nurse came back and checked my cervix. I was 2 cm dilated and 90% effaced. So, no big emergency. Yet. She said they were really busy and would check again for a room. At this point time seemed to go as slow as molasses. People could not move fast enough. The only thing that was moving fast were my contractions and I really, really, wanted to get to a delivery room. Now, I don't consider myself a high maintenance kind of girl, but I told the nurse I needed a room, NOW. The next thing I knew I was getting into a wheelchair (which before then I thought only sissies had to be wheeled from triage to labor and delivery. I thought for sure I would be walking. Insert hysterical laughter on that thought). I asked the nurse to stop twice on the way while I had a contraction.
When we got to the room, I immediately had to throw up. I was trembling and shaking like I had never experienced before and began to feel like I was completely out of control of my body. Like it wasn't even my own. I made it to the bathroom and told my husband and Linda that I wanted some privacy. I sat on the toilet and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I had one hand on the wall and the other clutching the safety handle bar. I was pale white, sweating, and a little confused. Was this early labor? If I was only 2 cm dilated, didn't I have possibly hours and hours before I even make it to 4 cm, when the active labor stage starts? I left the bathroom and the obstetrician was there. For some reason I was relieved to see that it was a woman, perhaps I thought she would be more supportive that I wanted a VBAC. I managed to make it into the bed and the OB began asking me question, after question after question. About my health history, about this pregnancy, about my previous c-section, about my pain. I couldn't talk through contractions and even in between was difficult because all I wanted to do was be still and not utter a sound in fear that my voice vibrations may conjure up another contraction. I finally said, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but isn't all this information in my file or on some computer here?" With that, the OB said she wanted to check me again. Perhaps they know when the laboring mother gets feisty, things are moving pretty quickly, who knows. I finished a contraction and told her to hurry and check. I had my eyes closed and heard her say, "She's a seven".
Excuse me? Seven centimeters? I immediately thought of a book I had read, Your Best Birth where Ricki Lake describes the transition phase of labor going from seven to ten centimeters as something like, "This is the part where you're not fucking around anymore!" And boy was she right. I have also heard women say that at this point you sort of leave your body. It was like that for me. It was all happening so fast I could do nothing but think of how to stop the pain. I had previously decided to have a natural child birth. (Again, insert hysterical laughing here). However, when given the option to have an epidural when my head was spinning around, guess what I said? I would have taken a shot of tequila with a hit over the head with a frying pan.
The anesthesiologist arrived and I had to sit through transition contractions while he administered the medication in my back. He kept saying, "Don't move!" Ummm, okay. As soon as he left the room the OB checked me again and said, "She's complete." I heard the nurse tell me she was sure I was complete before he even started the epidural and that I had just gone through what takes most people 10 hours of labor in one hour. I've mentioned in other blog posts that I've always been the type of person that does things in a hurry. Apparently this was no exception.
I kept asking if the baby was doing well and the nurse told me (after I asked her for the 10th time) that she was doing better than a lot of babies that come in with no "risk factors" like mine. After the epidural kicked in things were a lot more peaceful. They left me alone with my husband and Linda so I could "labor down" and just let the baby come down naturally. After more than an hour the nurse said I could practice pushing and I said, "Like a dress rehearsal?" It was a little strange to push with no feeling down there, but practicing did help. They said they could see her coming. I was impressed with my husband who previously said he wouldn't want to see her come out at all, but he did in fact look. Part of the baby's head showed and I asked him if she had hair. He said yes. The nurse decided to call the OB to deliver. I was ecstatic!
It was 10:30 when the OB came in and sat down. I did about 4 sets of pushing and her head was out. One more push and Sydney Marie was born at 10:37. The OB put her on my chest and it was totally quiet. I didn't cry like I thought I would. I didn't say anything. I was stunned. Stunned that I did it. Stunned that she was here, finally and she was fine. Stunned at how beautiful she was. And stunned at how beautiful labor and birth are.
They let her stay on my chest for at least 30 minutes, I can't remember how much time passed. I think I finally cried, as did Jason. The placenta was delivered with no problems and the scar tissue was still attached to it. I didn't have any tearing. I kept thinking it was too good to be true, that everything went so well, even with the fast and furious labor. I said a few times that I felt like I was dreaming and that I would wake up and it would be earlier that same day. Linda pinched me and said, "You're not dreaming, you did it!"
I want to close this post by saying that the reason I wanted to share all of this was to emphasize the importance of listening to your body. Sometimes it's easier than others, but if we try and open ourselves to it, our bodies will communicate with us. I never once felt like anything was wrong during this pregnancy. There were times when I had to stop and ask myself, "Am I lying to myself?" and the answer was always no. I spent time alone, relaxing to become in tune with the mind/body connection and my body responded by opening up and communicating with me. I had to trust it and let go of fears which was probably the hardest part. In all that I have been through over the last several years, doing this has been the most empowering and healing reward I have been given.
Sydney Marie- 2 days old
*I also wanted to give a special thanks to the staff at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women. The nurses and obstetrician were so helpful and played a major role in the safety and smoothness of my birth. Without them and their support that night, I'm not sure how it would have turned out. I don't believe there are enough words of gratitude.
Photos courtesy of author. Please do not duplicate without my permission.