Y'all...please forgive me. I know I've been totally slacking on the Birth Story Series. So I'm making it up to you with a 3-fer! Today on the blog, Alyce (just Alice with a y) shares all three of her birth stories in one. Enjoy!
Centimeters dilated and timing of contractions are the little things I always felt made a good birth story. I paid little attention to these details during my own labor and therefore always struggled to find the “right” way to tell my story. After the birth of my third, I realized maybe I hadn’t written my story yet because it just wasn’t complete. In many ways, the stories of my three births are inextricably intertwined.
My first pregnancy was a pretty routine first pregnancy, over-analyzed, over-obsessed, and over-researched. I enjoyed every moment of being pregnant but hated not eating French fries (trans-fats!) and cherry cordial ice cream (red dye!) I was back and forth between wanting to just get the epidural and wanting a natural birth. I balked at the price of a doula, but I read The Idiots Guide to Natural Childbirth (yes, this is a real book) and I figured I was set for whatever I decided.
I went into preterm labor at 32 weeks on a 110 degree day. Procardia and brethine got me through six more weeks. My baby failed our 38 week NST, and I was sent to the hospital to be induced, early on a Monday morning. The admitting doctor deemed me “un-inducable”, inserted a foley bulb, and told me to eat lunch and settle in. Around 2 am my water broke and thus began what is typically known as a “cascade of interventions”: first Pitocin, then the epidural I caved for, and finally the c-section, when my daughter’s shoulder and my tailbone came to an impasse.
Thirty-four hours after our arrival, my daughter was born. I was in love, but exhausted, and starving! I can’t express how angry I was when I was told I still couldn’t eat. (looking back I also can’t believe I didn’t just eat a pack of crackers anyway). We were parked in recovery for hours and finally taken back to our room at 6 am Wednesday morning, almost 48 hours after I had left the house for what I thought would be a routine appt. We spent the next two days at the hospital, finally being released on Friday morning. We were sent home completely exhausted, feeling far less confident and far more scared and unsure about everything. I was also horribly depressed about what I saw as a “failed” birth and by my struggles at breast feeding.
As months went by, I began to research VBACs. I really, really wanted a better birth experience, in fact, I was kinda obsessed. The funny thing, though, is that I didn’t actually want another baby. One was enough! I just wanted a better birth, so I also was researching surrogacy—which I found out I was not a good candidate for due to my advanced maternal age and my c-section.
Later, as the fog of exhaustion of the first year began to lift, I realized I did indeed want another baby (I had to make a very convincing powerpoint to convince my husband, however!). My second pregnancy went totally smoothly. And I was much more relaxed (half-caff coffees! the occasional turkey sandwich!). My only point of stress was that my practice put a deadline on my VBAC. They were 100% ok with it—as long as I went into labor before my due date.
Through my research I had learned that one of the greatest factors affecting the success of a VBAC was having the support of a doula, so early in my pregnancy my husband and I had found one. Emily guided us through the pregnancy and helped me with my fears of the looming due date, helping me focus on the outcome of the birth and seeing the “pros” to any possibility.
My due date hovered menacingly on the horizon, and at my 39 week appt the doctor told me I should just “go for the c-section”. He said, “You’ve got an 8 pound baby and a 5 pound pelvis.” My husband still laughs at this, as this doctor apparently didn’t know the one way to be sure I get something done is to tell me I can’t do it.
On a Friday night, the last weekend before my Monday morning scheduled C-section my husband and I went out for dinner. I had bacon-cheese fries and an O’douls and resigned myself to the impending C. Emily had told me all births are different—and boy was she right, this second birth was fast and furious. That evening around 11 p.m. I started having contractions. After about an hour, I decided to get up and watch TV, and when I did my water broke. The contractions immediately sped up and intensified and after making all the necessary calls (Emily!, the hospital, my parents to come get my daughter) we set off on our Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to the hospital.
By the time we got through triage I was pretty sure I did NOT want a natural birth. I was also pretty sure that it was too late to get an epidural anyway. Emily and my husband were great support, holding my hand, applying counter pressure, giving me cool washcloths and feeding my ice chips, and laughing because I was cussing so much, except when a doctor or nurse was in the room. Just 5 ½ hours after that first contraction, my 9 pound baby was born at 4:30 a.m.
This birth was beautifully different, and even with a second degree tear I was up later that day to help the nurse give my son his first bath. (I wasn’t even there when my daughter was given her first bath—all I have is a picture). My feelings upon being sent home this time were much different. I was exhausted and emotionally spent, but I knew I could muddle through.
When this second baby was just 10 months old we found ourselves unexpectedly expecting. I told Emily before I even told my mom! I knew I needed her there more than anyone, even though this time we were heading into it knowing we could do it. My biggest fear, initially, was that this birth would be even faster than the previous one. Our hospital was only a 5 minute drive from our house, but I worried about being at work, during rush hour, in a snow storm. This fear was in conflict with the deadline my practice insisted upon. In fact this time, as my advanced maternal age had done nothing but continue advancing, they wanted to section me BEFORE my due date, if I hadn’t gone into labor. I didn’t want to travel further, but I didn’t want this arbitrary date determining the outcome of my birth either.
At 35 weeks I decided to switch practices and make the hour-plus drive to Georgetown, Ohio every week to see Drs. Patridge and Varnau. Immediately upon meeting them I knew I had made the right choice in switching (and wished I had been with them from the first visit of the first pregnancy).
The final weeks of my pregnancy passed uneventfully. I finished work, made sure the kids’ Easter baskets were filled and hidden and relaxed knowing I had a great support team in place. The Saturday before Easter was ridiculously warm for March, so my husband and I spent the day taking the kids for walks and playing at the park. All through the day, and especially through dinner and baths, I was having pretty intense but irregular contractions. I had been texting Emily and we were hoping that once I got the kids in bed, drank some water, and laid down that things would subside (Emily’s Easter baskets apparently weren’t yet complete!)
Well, lying down had the opposite effect, and after an hour or two of trying to rest it became clear that it was getting to be time to go. My parents came to get the kids we had just gotten to bed, and we headed out to the hospital.
Drs. Patridge and Varnau deliver at Mercy Anderson, so we had a little longer of a drive from our home in NKY this time. But it was a calm one. The contractions didn’t hurt any less than the last time, but this time I knew I could do it. We got settled into our room and waited for Emily and our nurse to show up (Emily had asked one of her favorite nurses to come in for us—one of the great and unexpected perks of a doula!).
My goal for this birth was to NOT have this baby lying on my back in bed. I wanted one of those hippy births I read about in the Ina May books, but of course with all the comforts and security of the hospital. I wanted all the modern medical advancements available…IF, but I didn’t actually want to use them. I wanted to be in a place of peace within the chaos, but I wasn’t going to call my contractions by a “nicer” less painful sounding name either.
Despite my hippie aspirations, and although I wasn’t as scared as I was with my previous births, this one was a lot harder than the last. It didn’t go quite as quickly. There were moments of levity, like when Dr. P came in the room to check on me wearing a shirt that read “Statistically speaking six out of seven dwarfs aren’t happy”, and moments when I thought I surely COULD NOT go on. At one point Emily convinced me to go sit on the toilet. The constant pressure (my water still hadn’t broken) had me running there all the time anyway, and I was getting pretty exhausted. The fetal monitors weren’t staying in place when I was sitting there, so our nurse, Pam, came in the bathroom and sat on the floor beside me, holding the monitor in place. That small act was one of the most meaningful parts of this birth.
I kept begging to be able to push—the pressure was pretty unbearable and I really, really was getting tired. Emily kept telling me I’d know when it was time, but I just didn’t trust myself yet that I would. At some point Emily and Pam got out the squat bar and after a few agonizing contractions using the squat bar for leverage my water finally broke. And then it was time. I think Dr. P barely got to the room. I scrambled to my hands and knees at the head of the bed, pushed probably 3 times, and out he came.
I remember a crazy rush to flip over and get my slippery, enormous (9lbs, 3 oz!) baby into my arms and the flurry of activity around me. Then it was time to cut the cord. The last baby I would have was finally about to be completely separate from me. It was the last time I would be part of two. It was the epitome of bittersweet—it was the end of a journey, not just of this birth but of all of them, but although it was an ending it was a happy one, one symbolic of so much, so many lessons I had learned, so much love I had gained, for my babies of course, and for my husband and Emily and all those who helped me through, but also for myself. I could do THIS. And if at 5 feet tall and 40 years old I could VBAC a 9 plus pound baby, without an epidural, I knew I could do anything.