Rose’s Birth Story: Part 1

20 Feb

In the OR soon after Jane Darby was born via emergency “crash” C-section, my doctor informed me that I’d be a great candidate for a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean.) I always thought it was strange that she mentioned it then, and wondered what about me, or my body, or my situation, made her know right away that a VBAC may work for me. Later I learned it was because I hardly labored at all with Jane Darby, since she was rescued within three hours of my medically necessary induction, and that trying a VBAC would really be like trying labor for the first time.

Honestly then, and throughout my pregnancy with Rose, I didn’t put much stock in the idea. Unlike some women who have had very unfortunate C-section experiences, mine back in 2011 didn’t really take a huge toll on me physically. It was the emotional side of the birth, and Jane Darby’s subsequent three-week stay in the NICU, that left me scarred for life. The C-section, in my opinion, seemed almost easier than getting my wisdom teeth out, and the risk of a VBAC (slight, I was told) didn’t excite me. I’d had my share of risk already when bringing a child into the world.

But a VBAC at least interested me. I realize some women would kill to have their doctors okay a trial of labor after a section, but I chose to be lax about it because I wasn’t willing to set myself up for disappointment.

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After talking it over with my doctor, Dr. G, Drew and I decided that if it came down to it, we’d try. If it happens, cool. If not, cool. I prayed to God to let take place what was supposed to take place, giving Him the slightest caveat that going into labor on my own and experiencing natural (with meds) childbirth would be exciting.

As we neared closer to our February 17 due date, surpassed 34 weeks gestation (the furthest I got in my first pregnancy) and showed no signs of impending labor, I relegated myself to the fact that I’d likely always have C-sections.

Even though I’d had regular Braxton Hicks since early January, week after week when my doctor checked me for dilation and effacement, I had no progress. Ever. It didn’t upset me; I knew having another C-section would be fine and make me no less of a mother. It may even be optimal, I told myself, and was reassured by friends.

On February 3, I went for my 38-week appointment. I was completely closed and tight, and the baby was very high. I was only a little soft, and had been that way for weeks. So different than being 100% effaced at 34 weeks with Jane Darby! I could sense that even my doctor thought my VBAC chances were dwindling, and she mused that by now my baby was getting pretty big, maybe too big for a VBAC anyway.

When I left that appointment, I quietly let die the albeit complacent hope I had had for a VBAC: it would not happen for me. Oh well. We tried. My first birth experience was a freak thing; I am not someone whose body cooperates properly in this having a baby stuff, I told myself. Thus I scheduled a repeat C-section for Wednesday, February 12, Lincoln’s birthday, and that was that.

My only true hang-up? That Jane Darby would always have this harrowing birth story that we’d sit around and talk about, and that Rose would just be the daughter born easily, scheduled and uneventfully. Still, it refreshed me to the point of tears to know we’d arrive at the hospital, have a baby and that she’d be fine. (But you don’t really ever know that, do you?)

Funny how things work out.

Here we go
On the morning of Thursday, February 6, I was chasing Jane Darby around the house trying to get her ready for school. I remember thinking it was pretty difficult to bend over and felt a little crampy. I told Drew my stomach hurt, and that I was having Braxton Hicks again. I put on my walking clothes and planned to go walk laps at the Galleria as I had done on every (cold) Tuesday and Thursday of my pregnancy.

As I was walking Jane Darby into school, I noted that the contractions felt just a little bit different than the normal tightening I had grown accustomed to. I got back to my car to wait on my friend Tiff, my walking buddy, and observed that, at the very least, the contractions were odd and consistent.

Tiff rode with me to the Galleria, and I told her I was having funny feelings in my belly. I giggled with each one, because it was so strange feeling, but I honestly didn’t believe they were anything. I was convinced they’d subside, but Tiff was already thinking I could be in labor.

We began walking, and actually got a few laps in. A few times I’d have to adjust how I walked to compensate for the contractions. I knew this was different than Braxton Hicks, but I was walking and talking and laughing. I tend to freak out over things, and in this case I was trying so hard not to freak out that I just didn’t allow myself to believe the contractions might be the real thing.

Tiff, on the other hand, was taking mental notes. After a while she told me I had had 12 contractions in one hour. At this point I was a little bit anxious, so we decided to go to Panera and get some food. That asiago cheese bagel and coffee were so good, and I’ve thought about them several times since. I didn’t know it would be my last meal for 19 hours.

While at Panera, Tiff convinced me to at least call the doctor. I felt they would surely tell me it was no big thing, since I could walk and talk during each contraction. But to my surprise (I am so new to this labor thing!) the nurse was highly interested in the fact I’d had 12 in one hour, and she suggested I come in right away. She even asked how far away I was.

Tiff drove my car, and at first we’d planned to run by my house for me to change and grab a few things. I’d just been walking and sweating after all, and my hair looked bad! But during the car ride I got more anxious, and so we just went straight to St. Vincent’s. All the while Drew was on standby at his office; we’d done this may-or-may-not-be-in-labor thing not once but twice before (with Jane Darby).

When I arrived to Dr. G’s office, my blood pressure was really high. Higher than I’ve ever seen it. I think it was my nervousness, and I also just felt so hot and clammy. While in the exam room, I began seeing a few spots, and when I saw Dr. G I told her I may faint. (What a drama queen.) I explained to her that these contractions were different, but she explained to me that, yet again, I had little to no dilation, was high and tight and not notably soft. In other words, the contractions weren’t being productive. Not yet, anyway.

Thank goodness for the high blood pressure, because otherwise (I think, anyway) I may never have been sent to Labor and Delivery. I may have been told to come back if my contractions got worse. But alas, to L and D I went to rule out PIH (Pregnancy Induced Hypertension.) This was around 11:30 a.m.

Tales of Triage
I’m not a huge fan of L and D when it comes to the triage area. I’ve spent way too much time in triage before being admitted to have a baby, for both pregnancies. From my perspective, which I know is extremely skewed, my time in L and D triage always seems to be a long, drawn-out process of me trying to convince everyone else that I’m in labor, and finally, after hours and hours and hours, my winning out and having a baby. Maybe that’s just how it goes for everyone.

In triage with Jane Darby I had the threat of being sent home multiple times, and finally I was. We all know what happened next. With Rose, I beat a dead horse: are you going to send me home? Please don’t send me home. Do you think you will send me home? Don’t send me home.

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In triage, Nurse S (who will begin my list of people I never want to see again because I was embarrassed or annoyed or both) quickly ruled out PIH; my blood pressure had returned to normal. She also quickly ruled out “real labor,” as she called it. She said something along the lines of, “I hate to tell you this, honey, but these aren’t labor contractions.”

I guess she was probably right at the time she said it, but I sure didn’t like it. By then, around noon or so, the contractions were actually bothersome. Not bad, but not funny all the same. Tiff, who stayed with me until Drew arrived at about 1, can attest that she wasn’t the most sympathetic person. My favorite quote from Nurse S is, “What’s your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10? And if you say 10 I’ll be upset.” Boo.

Now, only later at 4 a.m. I realized Nurse S was totally right. Those early contractions were nothing. But the problem was that these early contractions weren’t picking up on the monitor for some reason, and I wasn’t progressing, not yet, so I was coming off as some wimpy girl who had a very low pain tolerance for, yep, NOT real labor contractions. The nurse told me some women labor on like this for days. (Not me, lady!)

The more time went on, the worse the contractions got. Still not oh-my-gosh worst-pain-in-my-life contractions (those would come), but worse. I took some Percocet and Stadol. Still, I was afraid Nurse S wasn’t convinced. I could tell she was inching toward a send-home recommendation.

I asked several times to talk with Dr. G, but sometime around then I was checked and, bravo!, I had dilated. Only just a tad, but the pesky contractions were finally working. By now I was having to quit talking, squeeze Drew’s hand and arch my back during each one. (I didn’t know the more tense you are the harder it is to progress. Whoops.)

I also didn’t know, or had forgotten, that you can’t get an epidural until you’re dilated 4 cm. What a cruel thing to have bad contractions before dilation! Some people are already at 4 before contractions begin. How nice.

Time marched on, and I had to start walking the halls with Drew. Here I was, trying to breathe through each contraction, lean on Drew, squeeze his hands, etc. I was laboring and I had no clue how to labor. Does anyone? I didn’t have time to research labor before Jane Darby came, and with Rose I was just so convinced I’d have a C-section that I never did my research this time, either. I didn’t know that trying to relax, though impossible, is actually helpful, or staying home as long as possible helps, or that tensing up is the worst thing you can do. Basically, I totally botched this labor. Next time I’ll do better.

It was snowing outside the windows at St. Vincent’s, but I was so unimpressed. I was that girl moaning in the hallways, with random nurses asking if I was okay. By now Nurse S was on board, probably because I gave her a sob story about being sent home from L and D with my first child, and how she almost died, and how it was traumatic, and how I can’t go home feeling this way, and how I’m in pain. My tears got to her, and they were real, by golly!

Poor Drew. At this point, around every five minutes, I’d beg him to go find help. He later told me that sometimes he’d go in the hallway just to pretend to fetch the nurse. Bless. I was nice to him, but kept begging him to just do something. “You’ve got to help me,” I’d say. “You’ve got to get them to give me medicine.” It’s interesting looking back, because it was so bad. But, somehow, it got so much worse.

Hello, Room 317
At some point, and I don’t know why because I was not yet at 4 cm, Nurse S got word from Dr. G to admit me. This was about 6 p.m. Wahoo! Everyone was convinced I was in labor. Now, freakin’ give me an epidural.

Dr. G came in and, good grief, I had so many painful contractions in front of her. She commented, from looking at the monitor, how big they were. She held my hand and I remember pleading with her to help me. She was so calm. “We’re here. We’re helping you. You’re fine. We’re helping.” She explained to Drew how to coach me during labor, and thankfully ordered the epidural. At one point she even asked the nurses what was taking so long.

The worst thing is you have to be pumped full of a big bag of fluids before they can administer the epidural, and that takes about 45 minutes. All that while things were so painful, and I just kept my eyes on that bag, which was emptying very slowly.

Finally, the time had come. Nurse S explained exactly what I was to do and not do during the epidural. I’ve had one before, so I wasn’t worried. And yep. I rocked it. Nurse S was my friend then. So funny how an epidural feels like a pin prick when you’ve been contracting for hours.

It didn’t take long for it to take effect, and pretty soon I was watching my contractions happen on screen and not feeling a thing. Cloud 9. I had arrived. From here on out things would be pain-free and stress-free. Because that’s what epidurals do, right?

I guess I was misinformed, or just naive, or just an idiot for thinking epidurals take away the pains of labor. I had a nice two to three hours of comfortable bliss, but the worst was most definitely (most definitely!) yet to come.

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