On Wednesday, September 30, I went in to my post-due date appointment -- one I had really hoped not to keep. I was freaking out on the way there, because I knew my doctor would want to come up with some sort of plan. She had already advised me that she thought I should have a C-section, and I knew she thought I should be induced if the baby hadn't come yet. I didn't want to be induced because I blamed my C-section with Cal on my induction with him. However, as we discussed what to do in the exam room, I started to feel like an induction would be a better option than waiting things out, especially because this time I was already dilated and showing signs of labor. I was also having higher blood pressure than I ever had before, and it was getting close to the pre-eclampsia limit of 140/90. My doctor was going to be in the hospital the next day, and because I had so much anxiety due to my last birth experience, I felt like it would be better if she was my doctor. We arranged for me to come in at 10 pm that night for an induction.
My grandma took Cal for the rest of the day so I could sleep before the induction, but before she left I found myself crying because I realized that it was the last day of just Cal. I felt a little guilty that I was not doing something special with him instead of just sleeping and sending him away, but I knew it was the last sleep I would get for a while and I needed to take advantage of it.
When Scott and I got to the hospital, a resident came and measured Nolan. Everyone kept commenting on how active he was, which made me laugh because it was always the same with Cal, too. He was continuing to measure big, of course, and the resident admonished me that it might be smarter to have a C-section because I hadn't been able to successfully push out Cal. I smiled and nodded because at that point I was NOT going to give up trying. My IV was started and the baby and I were put on the monitor, and just before they started the pitocin I started contracting on my own 3 minutes apart.
For the next twelve hours or so, I had these mild contractions as they ramped up the pitocin. They checked me eight hours into it, and I was still dilated to a 4 despite being a little more effaced. I was starting to feel really discouraged. I had called my doula at 4 am when I started to get more uncomfortable, thinking that labor was imminent, only to have nothing develop for hours as she was there. I had to be on the monitor because of the VBAC and pitocin, so I had this little portable monitor. I could walk about twenty feet outside of my room in either direction, so I walked on my tiny little leash for about 2 hours. My doctor kept checking on me as she saw me in the hallway, and I was bemoaning the fact that my contractions didn't hurt. "They'll hurt eventually," she told me, "and then you'll wish they didn't."
Finally, at 12 pm, right before they were about to check me again, my contractions started to really, really hurt. The nurse told the doctors to wait an hour, and I started needing counter-pressure on my back and deep breathing to get through my contractions. I had decided to try and have the baby without an epidural, because I thought that possibly part of the reason I had not been able to push Cal out was because of the epidural and being stuck on the bed for hours. The first hour was ok. It really hurt, but I was able to change positions and move through the contractions and rest in between. They checked me at 1 pm, and I was at a 6. Finally something was happening!
Shortly after this check, things started getting really painful. I haven't really had non-pitocin contractions, so maybe they all feel like this, but I started feeling like I was being crushed from the inside out. I started feeling like maybe this no-epidural thing was a bad idea. I asked Scott to turn on my running playlist because I felt like running was the only analogous thing to this -- Running was the only other thing that I would just make myself push through until it was over. It worked for about an hour. It was hard, but I could tolerate it.
Then things just got too intense. I started saying, "I can't do it, I can't do it," and my doula and Scott were encouraging me to keep trying. Finally I said, "No, I really can't, I need the epidural." Once I decided to get the epidural, the contractions felt even more unbearable. I'm sure it only took 15-20 minutes for the doctor to get there, but it felt eternal. Once they arrived and needed me to get in certain positions, I could not handle it and started screaming. Several people ran into the room thinking something horrible had happened -- nope, I just waited longer than I should have to get the epidural!! In those moments before they inserted the needle I was absolutely sure I was going to die. I'm so impressed by those who have had a natural childbirth because I do not know how in the world I would have continued through that.
Once the epidural was in, I started feeling some relief although I had horrible spasms down my right hip for about a half hour afterwards. The nurses kept encouraging me to push the PCA button. With Cal, they had told me not to push it because it would make me less able to feel when to push. Even if they hadn't encouraged me this time I think I would have been pushing it every 15 minutes. The doctors came in to check me again and I asked them to give me 15 minutes. When they did check me, I was dilated to a 10 and my water hadn't broken yet, so they broke it. Then they had me "labor down" for two hours. The baby's head was still somewhat high, so they said they would just let my uterus push him down for a few hours while I rested. I was able to sleep a little and read a book. When they came in 2 hours later, they said his head was +1 and I was ready to push.
At this point a different nurse came in (they were understaffed and I had had different nurses throughout the day). I had wanted to push side-lying because it makes the pelvis wider, but she recommended trying on my back and then if I was having trouble we could switch to side-lying or using the squat bar. I started pushing and I couldn't feel a thing. It was AMAZING. With Cal my epidural had really worn off by the time I started pushing and it was very painful and exhausting. I was pushing as hard as I could now. I could feel the contraction and when to push, but I couldn't feel pain, just effort. The nurse kept saying, "You're a really good pusher, this baby is moving down." I couldn't tell if she was just being positive to keep my going or if I really was getting him out, so I kept looking to Scott to see if she was telling the truth.
I had started pushing at about 6 pm. At 7 pm, Dr. Jensen came in to say goodbye -- it was the end of her shift. I was sad that she was going to miss delivering this baby too. At this point I still really didn't know what would happen. I knew he was moving down, but I felt like he could still get stuck, just like Cal had. The night shift doctors came in a few minutes later, and one of them was the resident from the night before. I could tell she was excited that I was pushing and that she couldn't believe I had gotten that far. After she and the other resident checked where the baby was, they decided not to leave the room. It was at that moment that I finally believed that I really might be able to have this baby vaginally, and I started to cry every time I thought about it.
When his head crowned, I could feel the pressure of it, and the doctors told me to push at "half-strength." Just a few pushes later and suddenly I felt like everyone was talking, and I saw Nolan and heard him cry. They threw him right up on my chest, and there he was. It was so amazing. One of the hardest things about Cal's birth was that I had to wait to see him for a long time, and now I had this baby seconds after he was born. He was sleepy -- probably because I had pushed my epidural button so many times -- but with a little encouragement we got him to latch on. (He then proceeded to nurse for 3 of the next 4 hours. He was born hungry). I was so happy that I got to keep looking at him and holding him without anyone taking him away.
And as I was nursing him, they told me I could eat. I had been eating on the sly throughout my labor because with Cal I got so hungry and dehydrated that I felt like it contributed to my inability to push him out, but I hadn't eaten since I went into active labor because it was so painful I was afraid I would throw up. Scott had been to Chick-fil-A earlier and started feeding me nuggets as I held Nolan. It was perfect.
I was almost afraid to ask how much I'd torn, but it turned out to be a very superficial first degree tear. 11 days postpartum, I hardly feel like I had a baby (other than all the weight I have yet to lose). I feel so blessed to have been able to have a VBAC, and I couldn't have done it without so many people -- the chiropractor who helped him turn when he was breech, my doctor, who let me try even though she was fairly certain it would end in a c-section, my amazing doula without whom I don't think I could have done it. Getting this baby here has been my project for the last nine months and I'm so grateful that I had the birth experience I was praying for. Now I just need to figure out how to keep this little creature (and his big brother) alive. More on that later. :)