For most of my pregnancy, when asked my due date, I'd say "June 4, but he'll most likely be born in late May." Specifically, I thought he'd be born sometime between May 21 and May 28.
I had a cerclage placed when I was 10 weeks pregnant to hopefully prevent preterm labor and to prevent the necessity of bed rest. I had the exact same procedure done when I was pregnant with Bennett because of the combined 20 weeks of bed rest I endured while pregnant with Reid and Camille. With Bennett, once the cerclage was removed at 37.5 weeks, he was born exactly one week later.
The cerclage removal was scheduled for May 21 which was a Thursday, and Brian and I treated that as our deadline for being "ready" to have a 4th kid (ha!). After the surgical procedure, the doctor said I was 3 cm dilated, and we joked about possibly having a baby over Memorial Day weekend. The weekend came and went with only sporadic contractions. On Wednesday night (almost a week out), I began to think there was a very real possibility that I might be in the early stages of labor. By about 10 pm I was having contractions every 5 minutes that lasted a minute, but they just never felt quite strong enough for me to justify calling the doctor. I decided to go to bed figuring that if I was having a baby, surely I'd wake up and know. I woke up about 5 hours later to go to the bathroom and realized I wasn't feeling a single contraction.
The next morning, I went for my 39 week OB appointment. I was still 3 cm dilated. We discussed the options: 1) keep waiting 2) schedule a "pseduo" induction which would just be breaking my water because I can't have pitocin or other labor-augmenting drugs due to having had a previous c-section 3) schedule a c-section. We decided to keep waiting.
Friday, May 29 was eventful. I had been contracting off and on all day, and I also had a headache that was getting worse by the evening. I finally decided to go to bed in hopes that it was a migraine and it would dissipate with sleep. I took Tylenol and went to sleep around 9 pm, but I kept waking up with a throbbing headache. By 1:00am I was getting a little worried about the headache being blood pressure related (even thought my BP had been perfect throughout the pregnancy). I knew if I called the doctor on call, they'd likely have me come in. I decided to call my dad and see if I could borrow his blood pressure machine, just to get a reading at home. My sweet dad came over around 2:00am, and we took my BP several times over half an hour. We kept getting readings in the 140s/90s range (and even one in the 150s/100s). This was concerning for me since I'm typically a 120/80 kind of girl.
So, defeated, I called the on-call doctor. Of course, they told me to come in to Labor and Delivery triage, and the doctor said if my BP remained high then they would likely deliver the baby. My parents stayed with the kids, we went into triage, and wouldn't you know, my very first BP reading was 116/78, AND my headache had started to go away. My blood pressure readings over the next couple of hours were all perfect. The theories about this are that the headache was causing elevated blood pressure at home, the readings at home were taken sitting up whereas the readings in L&D were taken with me on my left side, or that the home monitor was really off (but my dad usually gets very similar readings to what his doctor gets). In any case, I was very relieved to be able to go back home around 5am Saturday.
The next several days were a never-ending monotony of extreme discomfort and contractions that never seemed to go anywhere. I went to the OB on June 2 for my (almost) 40 week appointment. I was dilated to 4 cm (so at least a little progress!) and almost fully effaced. I also had an ultrasound that showed a big, healthy baby who was unfortunately in the "sunny-side up"/posterior position. This position can make if difficult for labor to start and make for difficult and extra-painful labor and delivery. My OB was willing to do the "pseudo" induction/ breaking of water at any time, and it was SO tempting to schedule it for the next morning. However, after talking with my experienced doula, she encouraged us to keep waiting and to go to the chiropractor and try some positioning exercises to get the baby into optimal position.
That day, I decided just to settle in for the long haul and not schedule any induction. I made plans for the next few days like I wasn't going to have a baby at any moment. I made it to Reid's end-of-kindergarten awards and even his last day of school party on Friday, June 5. I couldn't believe school was out, and I hadn't had this baby yet! We spent Friday afternoon over at my parent's house playing with my sister's kids. I spent the afternoon sitting on an exercise ball trying to bounce the baby out. Friday night, I felt extra tired, and as soon as the kids were in bed, around 8 pm, I crawled in bed and slept for the rest of the night.
Saturday, June 6, Reid had a soccer game at 10am, and we planned to go over to Brian's parents' house later that afternoon to swim and eat dinner. I woke up around 6:45 that morning and decided to take a hot epsom salt bath because I was achy and crampy. I told Brian I really wasn't sure I wanted to go to the soccer game because I was just huge, and pregnant and achy, and it was supposed to be very hot and humid. We debated about Bennett staying home with me so Brian wouldn't have to wrangle all the kids at the soccer field. When I realized that Brian's mom was going to the game, we decided Brian would take all the kids (thank goodness!). I helped get everyone ready, and they left the house around 9:45.
I started some laundry and picked up the house a little bit then I decided to take advantage of the completely quiet house to rest. I curled up in bed with my giant pregnancy pillow, and turned the TV on. We don't have cable, and the only thing on was a re-run of Criminal Minds. After resting for a minute, I realized I was contracting again. No big deal except that this contraction felt lower and more crampy than before. About 6 minutes later, it happened again. I just knew these contractions were "real". By 10:30 am, I called Brian at the soccer game to tell him I was having regular contractions 5-6 minutes apart that felt more real than the previous ones, but that there was no need to rush home.
I got out of bed and walked around the house for a few minutes, and the contractions continued. I decided to go ahead and fix my hair and put on make-up in case we were going in to the hospital soon. The contractions continued and were somewhat painful. I also contacted my doula to let her know what was going on. She suggested I take a bath to see if that slowed things down at all so I did. In the bath, I was timing contractions and they were every 3 minutes and hurting more. By this time it somewhere between 11:15 and 11:30, and I still hadn't heard from Brian. I called him, and he said they were just leaving the soccer field. I told him to ask his mom to come back to our house to watch the kids because I was pretty positive this was the real thing.
I was about to call my parents, who were planning to be at the hospital for the birth, when my mom called me. It turns out, they had been at Reid's soccer game too, and they were fully aware of the situation. I told them we'd probably be going into the hospital within the next 2 hours. I also realized that I was suddenly starving, and I asked my parents to stop and pick up something for lunch for me (random!).
By 11:45, I heard Brian and the kids arrive back home, and I had just called the on-call OB and left a message with the answering service. The contractions were getting closer and stronger. I knew I needed to get out of the bath and get dressed for the hospital, but I REALLY didn't want to. I slowly made my way out of the tub, the OB called back at noon and I was having such a strong contraction I could barely talk to her. She told me to come right in.
The next half hour is a blur--I was back in our bedroom with the doors closed, but I was vaguely aware that the kids, my mother-in-law and my parents were all at the house. Brian was packing up the car, and I was trying to give him instructions on last-minute additions. My parents had my food, but by that point I was nauseated and shaking and did not want to eat anything. I was trying to get dressed, but each time I stood up, I seemed to have a stronger contraction. I finally got dressed, and crawled onto my bed.
I told Brian that I couldn't see the kids and tell them bye because the contractions were so strong and close together and painful that I was afraid I would upset them. The problem was, I needed to walk through the house to get to the garage and to the car. Brian came up with the plan for me to go through our bedroom door onto our patio, through the backyard and into the driveway. He even closed the shutters in the family room so the kids wouldn't see my getaway :-)
The hospital is about 20 miles from our house, and I was so thankful that it was a Saturday afternoon with light traffic. That car ride was intense. When I had Bennett, I made it to about 8 cm without an epidural so I know what strong contractions feel like. Somewhere between home and the hospital, the contractions completely surpassed anything I had ever felt before. We made it to the parking garage right outside of Labor and Delivery, but the contractions were so strong and painful I thought I wasn't going to be able to walk in. I waited through a couple more contractions leaning halfway in and halfway out of Brian's car then found the strength to walk in.
Thank goodness, the admissions people didn't make me sit in the little cubicle and take all of my information and sign multiple forms. I think she asked Brian a couple of questions and immediately called a nurse to take me back. I was kneeling on the floor with my head on a chair when the nurse came out, and she waited until that contraction was over before helping me walk to a labor and delivery room. I remember hearing another nurse ask her if she was going to take me to triage, and she replied that I was drenched in sweat and kneeling on the floor so she figured she probably ought to take me straight to a room.
My beloved OB who had delivered the other 3 kids was out of town that weekend, so Dr. Tara Dullye was on call for him. I had met her several times, and she actually assisted on my c-section with Reid so I was comfortable with her, and honestly, at this point, I did not care who delivered this baby!
Dr. Dullye was already at the hospital when I arrived, and as soon as I was able to crawl onto the hospital bed she checked my cervix—9 centimeters! You would think this was awesome news, but in reality it kind of scared me. Yes, this was my 4th kid, but the first was a scheduled c-section, the second was a VBAC with an epidural around 6-7 cm and the third was a VBAC with an epidural around 8 cm. I had planned all along with this pregnancy to go totally natural. I had hired an expert doula (birth attendant/coach) to help me through the process this time. (Shout out to Melissa Espey-Mueller with North Dallas Doula Associates—she’s so knowledgeable and good!). However, the doula hadn’t arrived yet, and I was honestly just scared of the pain and scared of the thought of doing this all by myself.
The doula arrived about 10 minutes after we did, but truly everything was a blur by that point. The back of the hospital bed was elevated, and I was on my knees leaning over the back of the bed. It was the only position that seemed remotely “doable” at that point. I had thrown up a few times, and the nurses were trying to start an IV access which is hospital policy since I had previously had a c-section. They also had to have me on continuous fetal monitoring so they were trying to get that set up even though it was difficult with the position I was in.
The contractions. Oh. My. Stars. The contractions. I was having major back labor, and I just felt like my hips and lower back were going to explode with each one. Brian and the doula were doing hip compressions with each contraction, and in my mind, they were the ones causing the excruciating pain. At one point, I yelled for them to stop then immediately realized that the pain was MUCH worse without the compressions! I wasn’t screaming, but I was sweating, shaking, and crying. I know it’s shocking that I wasn’t a zen earth mama laboring goddess ;-) I believe the only “mantras” that I was chanting were “no, no, no!”, “ please make it stop”, “I can’t do this”, and “Oh God! Please help”.
My water had not yet broken, and the OB and the doula both kept encouraging me to let the doctor break my water to speed up the end of labor. I understood their point, but I knew I’d have to roll onto my back for her to break my water, and the thought of that just seemed impossible at that point. After a few more contractions, I think I agreed, and somehow got on my back. She broke my water, and I was 10 centimeters dilated and fully effaced. Unfortunately, there was also meconium present in my amniotic fluid (just like with Bennett) so they started calling down a NICU team to be present for delivery for suctioning.
It seemed like once my water broke everyone thought the baby would be born in a matter of minutes. The whole room was set up, the doctor was in her gown, and the NICU team was ready. However, in spite of continuing contractions, I felt no urge to push. This went on for at least 45 minutes, and the doctor and doula believed that the baby was probably still sunny-side up, or at least partially rotated, which is why he wasn’t coming out. During this 45 minutes, I upped my “crazy laboring lady” game by repeatedly BEGGING the OB for narcotics. I knew it was too late for an epidural, but I had that IV access started already, and I just kept thinking that if she gave me something…ANYTHING to take the edge off then I might survive. Dr. Dullye would sweetly tell me that it was too late and that giving me narcotics that close to delivery would be bad for the baby and leave him “stunned” and possibly struggling at birth. In all my maternal glory, all I could think in response to that was, “I don’t care. They have a NICU upstairs.” It’s terrible! Definitely not my finest moment! But alas, no narcotics were administered.
The doula suggested moving me onto my side with one leg in a stirrup to try to get the baby into position to push. Her knowledge really was invaluable at this point. I, of course, was resistant, because I just didn’t want to move again. I did though, and around this time, the doctor stepped out of the room for a minute. The doula had told me at some point that pushing would make me feel better—that I could “push away the pain of the contraction”. I suddenly felt the slightest urge to push along with a very strong and painful contraction. I was so fearful of pushing for some reason, but I just grabbed on to that idea of pushing making the contraction go away, and I started pushing with everything I had. I was told I pushed twice, but I don’t remember ever stopping pushing once I started. Once I felt the burn of pushing I just wanted the baby out that instant.
The doctor wasn’t in the room, the nurse started paging her, and she ran in scrubs without her gown on and couldn’t find another one. She realized there was no time to find another gown, and she caught the baby just as he came out. I looked down for a moment and saw him coming out, but the doctor immediately cut the cord and handed him off to the NICU team for suctioning.
For the first 2-3 minutes, all I could do was cry—I almost felt like I was in shock at what my body had just endured. I would also ask if the baby was okay. Even though his first APGAR was a 3, he was quickly pink and they told me his heart rate and breathing were fine. He finally made one tiny cry, and I knew he was okay. I finally got to hold my sweet Collin.
The official stats:
June 6, 2015 at 2:32 pm
8 pounds 7 ounces (our biggest baby by 5 ounces)
20 ¼ inches
4 hours and 32 minutes from first real contraction to delivery
In conclusion, the first words out of my mouth regarding natural childbirth after pushing Collin out were “I can’t believe I just did that. That was the dumbest decision of my life!” However, I also know that I would have been SO disappointed in myself if I had not followed through with my natural childbirth plan. I won’t say natural childbirth is for everyone, and if I was having a 5th kid (WHICH I AM NOT. EVER.), I really would have to think long and hard about whether I wanted another natural childbirth or not. It was painful, it was scary, it was stressful, but it was also empowering. I liken it to running a marathon (another thing I’ll never do). I did it, it was insanely difficult, I never want to do it again, and I want a sticker for the back of my car J.