I’ve written out this birth story in bits and pieces, starting on my iPhone while nursing, shortly after she was born, and I’m still working on finishing it up. It’s getting pretty long, so I might as well post what I have now and post the rest later.
My due date was June 25th. I was told that I was slightly more likely to have the baby early since Squeakles had been born three weeks early, but I reminded myself that it was also possible she would come late. It could even be July!
And so on the night of June 3rd, I told a colleague that I would email her some files, but not that night because I was tired and it was extremely unlikely that the baby would come three weeks early.
But of course...
(A little warning: This is a birth story, complete with fluids and tearing. So reader beware.)
If you remember, Squeakles was born via c-section. As thrilled as I was to have a gorgeous healthy baby in the end, I didn't enjoy going through major abdominal surgery and I enjoyed the month-long recovery even less. After much research and hand-wringing about the possible risks, I concluded that I wanted to try to have a VBAC rather than a repeat c-section. (There’s a very slightly higher risk of uterine rupture due to previous scar tissue and the usual risk of vaginal tearing from a normal birth, but if successful, no recovery period from surgery. And a repeat c-section, being major surgery, has its own associated risk factors.)
And so I did not schedule a c-section. My doctor was starting to suggest an induction, but I was not convinced. I had a new doctor this time because my previous doctor had moved away. I'd actually met him once before, when I was in labor with Squeakles, so I was somewhat familiar with him. But I knew that he was an advocate for preventive induction - something I support in theory but didn't particularly want to bring upon myself. He told me that he couldn't actually give me some of the drugs they use to induce labor because I'd previously had a c-section, but that there were a few things he could try (e.g., stripping membranes). I did a lot of reading about them, and hoped it wouldn't come to that. After all, Squeakles had been born three weeks early, so why not this one?
Indeed, around 2 am in the night that was exactly three weeks before my due date, I woke up with a jolt, feeling like I'd just been punched in the cervix and might have accidentally peed a little bit. My reaction was dismay - I hadn't had any incontinence during my pregnancy and didn't want to start now! I got up to go to the bathroom to change my "emergency" pad (the pad I wore in case I did suddenly pee myself). I used the toilet and thought that maybe, just maybe, that liquid that I felt might not be pee. But I couldn’t be sure I wasn’t just imagining it.
I got up and changed my pad. But when I walked back to bed, I felt a tiny bit more liquid - just enough to make the pad too wet to wear. At this point, I really considered that my water was breaking. But when I went back to the toilet I only got a tiny bit more fluid, so I reasoned that my mind was playing tricks on me and this was probably just middle of the night sudden incontinence. (In fact, this is almost exactly how things had gone with Squeakles – that I’d had only a little bit of fluid and wasn’t sure if my water had broken, only to have a baby in my arms seven hours later. Yet I reasoned, what are the chances that this birth would happen exactly as the previous had.)
I went back and forth on this for a while, and finally decided that it would be a good idea to pack my bag for the hospital - something I really should have already done. (Again, an exact replication of the situation when I’d gone into labor with Squeakles.) All of my walking back and forth between the bedroom and the bathroom while I debated with myself and then starting to pack must have woken J up because he then got up to use the bathroom. I told him what was going on, but I was so unsure that it was my water that had broken that we both agreed it made the most sense for him to go back to bed and try to sleep.
But he never managed to go back to sleep. In the meantime, I kept dribbling just enough fluid to soak through my pads, but didn't have any cramps. I might have started to feel a dull ache on my back from time to time, but I also could have just been imagining it. Finally J (who probably just wanted to go back to sleep) suggested I call the doctor's office to see what they thought. The doctor on call told me to go to the hospital to be checked because if my water really had broken, they didn't want me to go more than 12 hours because they don't want to risk infection. I asked if I could wait until the morning, but she told me I should go within the hour. So okay, I thought, I will go. I’m not sleeping anyway.
But of course Squeakles was asleep and we couldn't just leave him at home alone. Our backup plan had been for our friend D to come over, but she was out of town and I hadn't yet arranged for someone else to be our backup. We considerd calling D's husband (who was at home while she and their son were away), but felt bad about it because we'd never actually talked to him about doing this, and here it was now 3 in the morning. So I suggested to J that I just go to the hospital by myself by cab. I could take a cab there, and then if it turned out I was really in labor, I could call J and at that point he could bother A (D's husband, who is also J's friend and work colleague). And if J couldn't get in touch with A in the middle of the night, then J would just have to bring Squeakles to the hospital! J was a little skeptical about my going by myself, but I really wasn't feeling contractions so we left it as a possible plan while I moved forward about calling my parents and packing my bag.
I decided it was worth calling my parents in the middle of the night because they would have a three and a half hour drive ahead of them. When Squeakles was born they didn't get on the road right away, thinking the whole process would take several hours and subsequently missed his birth! (It was a seven hour labor and they arrived within the hour after the c-section.) So I told them that things might be starting, but that I really wasn't sure. I didn't strongly urge them to get out of bed and start driving down here. In fact, the way we left things was that I'd call them back if it really turned out to be labor, but otherwise would let them sleep and call them back in the morning. What I probably should have realized was that if I'm calling people in the middle of the night and packing a bag, rather than just heading back to bed, there probably is something real going on even if my brain doesn't quite believe it!
But soon enough I did get enough clues that this was real. I kept soaking through my pantyliners and leaking tiny amounts when I sat on the toilet. And I started feeling a little more achy, though still nothing like contractions. But they were enough for me to agree that we should just call A to come over and stay at our apartment with Squeakles while J came with me to the hospital.
We called A at 3:20 am and he answered the phone sounding surprisingly awake and said he'd be over in ten minutes. And he was. He definitely moved faster than we did! But when he showed up it was clear he was exhausted. He waited patiently while we finished packing and I changed the sheets on our bed for him (and also in anticipation of my parents probably staying there the next night). By the time we were ready to go (at 3:50 am) I was finally feeling contractions, ones that were still mild but which made me want to sit down. I'd started timing them and they were about six minutes apart before we left the apartment.
We took a cab to the hospital and got dropped off at the ER because the main entrance was closed. At the triage desk, they took some quick information from me and then brought me upstairs to Labor and Delivery in a wheelchair. There I had to sign in at another desk and my contractions started getting harder and even closer together. They were now about three to four minutes apart, and I was having trouble answering questions while they were happening.
At this point I wanted to go directly to a labor and delivery room, but no, first I had to go to a waiting room to wait for a triage bed (which is a step before getting a bed in a labor and delivery room). In the waiting room my contractions were getting so uncomfortable that I couldn't sit in the seat (I had to get up and lean over the seat), and at one point I asked J to ask the people at the triage desk to hurry up! They said they were just waiting for a room to be ready. (Seriously, why aren’t the rooms always ready? Isn’t this what they are for?)
It was probably only about 20 minutes from entering the hospital to getting a triage bed, but it felt like forever. While we waited, J called my parents and his to let them know that this was really happening.
When I finally got into a room, it was a shared room. Behind a curtain I could hear the sounds of a fetal heartbeat on a monitor. I felt bad because I'm sure this woman could hear me every three minutes - I was moaning and saying ow, ow, ow while having a contraction. I was supposed to be getting undressed and putting on the gown.
Soon a nurse showed up to do some stuff I can't exactly remember, but at this point I was in enough pain that I was already asking for the epidural! Part of the reason I knew I wanted it this time was that whenever I had a contraction I also had the same pain in my outer, upper thighs that I’d had in my labor with Squeakles. That had been excruciating and I didn't want to be dealing with that same pain while trying to push. But the nurse had to take more information from me and put the monitors on me.
Soon a doctor appeared, and although she was not my regular doctor, I recognized her as the one other doctor in the office who I'd had any interaction with and I was happy to see a familiar and friendly face. I asked her if I could have the epidural and she said not yet. She checked to see how dilated I was and I was shocked to hear I was only 4 cm. I figured with contractions like I was having that I must be almost there! I asked her again about the epidural and she told me that there are a few things they had to do first (like an ultrasound!) and then move me to a birthing room upstairs and then I could have an epidural.
J came in the room then, but only briefly before the nurse made him leave the room so she could ask me a few questions. That took at least 10 minutes and felt like forever.
I was next sent to have an ultrasound to confirm that the baby was not breech. I was in absolutely NO mood to have an ultrasound, especially since my doctor had previously told me that it's very unlikely for the baby to have flipped (and he'd just seen me four days earlier) and that you really can just feel where the head is by pressing. More annoying was the fact that when I'd had Squeakles at this very same hospital two and a half years earlier they didn't make a woman in labor stop for an ultrasound before letting her have the baby! But they ignored my complaints and dragged me into the room. By now it was 5:10 am.
I stood my ground though, literally, about not lying on my back for very long. They gave up trying to get me to lie down while they put the IV needle in my hand (quote from the nurse: "this is the first time I've done this while I'm the one sitting down and the patient is standing up"), but did insist I lie down for the ultrasound. I waited for a contraction to pass, laid down very quickly on the bed and said, go you have two minutes!! As if to drag it out they insisted on taking two pictures. And then, casually before they let me go on my way, one of the nurses said she could tell I was in transition because I was all sweaty and shaking. Well, duh! That whole process had taken another 20 minutes.
Finally, in this condition, I had to walk down the hall, go up an elevator, and then down another hall. Or well, actually, they didn’t make me walk, but I insisted on walking because sitting down was worse, or at least, I insisted up until the point when I really wasn't making any progress walking down the hall, stopping every three minutes to lean against a wall waiting for a contraction to pass. They finally convinced me that it would be better to get into the birthing room than to lean against the railing in the hallway until the baby appeared. This whole process took another half an hour.
At 6 am I was finally in the birthing room being checked for dilation again, while J vigorously massaged my legs to ease the pain with each contraction. I was still only 6 cm, which again, was nowhere as far along as I felt, but it did give me time to finally get the epidural! I had contractions before the epidural, then about two more fading ones as it was taking effect and then suddenly, they were gone. I mean, completely gone. The only thing I felt whenever I had a contraction was a dull ache in my right leg, but the searing pain was gone so I was thrilled.
Now I was ready to be compliant, so I laid back happily, not even worrying anymore about how much longer it would be. Within half an hour my regular doctor arrived, checked my dilation, announced I was at 10 cm and could start pushing!
It turns out that pushing with an epidural is a lot different than pushing without one because I really couldn't feel anything. Weeble was nowhere near low enough yet for me to feel the pressure of her head or body, so basically I just mustered up a bunch of energy and squeezed. After a while the epidural started to wear off and although I didn't mind being able to feel my body a little more, I also had a lot of pain in my legs, so I asked if they could turn up the drip a bit more. Then of course I was a little too numb, but eventually things settled into a comfortable numbness.
It was probably within the hour that J and the doctors could see her head, but she didn't progress beyond that very quickly. My contractions started getting farther apart, which meant that I could only push about every ten minutes. In between we all just sat around, talking about what I could do to push better next time or commenting on the time (my doctor was supposed to be somewhere by 9 am) or the weather. Then my right leg would start to ache and simultaneously the doctors would notice on the monitor that I was having another contraction and without any one actually saying anything, everyone got into position holding my legs and I started to push again.
They positioned a mirror so that I could see what was going on. It took a while before I could see the baby - at first I just saw very surreal bulging - but then finally, I was able to see the top of a little head! Having a mirror helped immensely because I was getting some real feedback about what my pushing was doing, and I realized I was spending a lot of energy tensing up but not actually pushing.
After the pushing continued on for a while, my doctor started threatening the idea of using a vacuum or something, and commenting that he didn't want this to continue much longer. He gave me about half an hour more to get the baby out, which partly annoyed me, but mostly spurred me on because there was no way I was going to let him do anything - whether a vacuum or a c-section! (I chose him because he strongly supports VBACs, so I knew he wouldn't push me into one unnecessarily, but I also knew that he was monitoring everything and would not hesitate if he thought one was necessary. So I really wanted to push enough to make sure that it wouldn't be necessary.)
Finally, at the end of one of the pushes, I felt like if I just kept pushing, she would come all the way out. I asked if I could keep pushing, everyone said sure, and all of a sudden, there she was, coming out! When her head (and maybe shoulders?) came out, my doctor asked me to stop pushing, and I tried, but it was so hard because I just wanted to finish and get her out. But he'd warned me in advance that if he told me to stop it would be because I was tearing or going to tear and he wanted to be able to minimize it. Soon I got the go ahead to push again and then, at 8:43 am, she was born! (And just like with Squeakles, it was a seven hour labor. And yes, my parents missed it again.)
I am pretty sure there was a lot of blood down there, but they wiped her off a bit and handed her to me, and there she was - a living beautiful baby in my arms. I held her for a few minutes and then they took her to clean her, weigh her (7 lbs 2.6 oz), measure her (20 inches), and take her temperature. In that time, the doctor started stitching me up. Apparently I had a "complicated" second degree tear, which isn't horrible. Fortunately I still had the epidural in me so I couldn't feel anything he was doing; it really just looked like he was sewing down there!
And then they gave her back to me to hold, while J laid down and slept as if he had just gone through labor. The doctors left the room and I just held my baby, waiting for my parents to arrive.
And so ends the Weeble’s birth story. I have lots more to say about the aftermath and recovery, breastfeeding, sleeping, and getting to know my little Weeble, but I think today’s post is long enough.