Happy Mother’s Day! Here’s another fantastic birth story from Kim, a mother in my due date club, this one a successful VBAC with a hospital team that was very respectful of her birth plan. Isn’t it wonderful when that happens? Enjoy!
On August 20th, 2010, two little pink lines appeared on a pregnancy test about which I’d barely given any thought. Mike and I had just gotten back from an anniversary trip, on which we had decided to stop trying for a 2nd baby until 2011. We had been trying for awhile, and the monthly disappointment was becoming too much for me to handle. I figured I was just late, not pregnant. I can’t begin to describe the rush of excitement I felt when I saw those two lines. After a shaky start that included low HCG levels and a blank 1st ultrasound, I finally got to see Ashley’s sweet heartbeat on an ultrasound screen at 6 weeks, 5 days.
Fast-forward to 41 weeks, 1 day…
I had irregular, but intense, contractions all day on Friday, May 13th. Since they petered out and never got into a pattern, I chalked it up to needing to drink more water or just doing too much in anticipation of my scheduled VBAC induction on May 18th. We had a lot to do before our baby girl arrived! I sat on the birthing ball for a couple hours, because I figured if they happened to be real contractions (and I was convinced they were not), I might as well help things along. Since it was Friday night, Mike and I decided to stay up and watch television – the show “Four Weddings” to be exact. He is NEVER going to let me live that down. We normally go to bed around 9:30pm, but we ended up watching TV until 11:30pm. Hey, it was Friday night! We didn’t have to get up the next day.
Around 3:30am, a strong contraction woke me up. The intensity surprised me, so I glanced at the clock and made note of the time. Of course, my “pregnancy bladder” kicked in, and I had to get up to use the bathroom. It was then that I noticed lots of bloody show. I decided to get back in bed and time contractions – if I had any more, which I was sure I wouldn’t because I’d been having false labor for weeks. Sure enough, soon after getting back into bed, I had another intense contraction. I looked at the clock, noted the time, did some difficult math (it was 3:30am!) and realized that they were 6 minutes apart. I woke up a little more and timed contractions for the next hour. They gradually moved from 6 minutes apart to 5 minutes apart. At that point, I realized, OMG, this is happening – I’m going into labor ON MY OWN! (Key since I was attempting a VBAC.) At that point, I woke Mike up and told him that I didn’t think we’d be going to yard sales that morning. (We had plans to walk our big community yard sale that morning. He was so excited about it.) By the time I took a shower and finished a little breakfast, my contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes – active labor, 3 hours after the first contraction woke me up.
After reassuring Brooke that her baby sister wasn’t hurting mommy (hard to do while breathing through a contraction at the same time), we got in the car. We dropped Brooke off at a friend’s house and Mike made a beeline for the hospital, as my (very) vocal reactions to my contractions convinced him that this was VERY real labor and not a false alarm. On the way there, Mike mentioned that he’d forgotten the camera. I seriously thought about telling him to turn around.
When we got to the hospital, I skipped triage and was sent directly to labor and delivery. I also walked in under my own power! Yes, I am proud of that! I was at 4cm, and they started an IV so they could put in my epidural. My OB and I had decided together that, since I was attempting a VBAC, I would get a light epidural in the (unlikely) case that I ruptured and needed an emergency repeat c-section. An hour later, my epidural was in, and 4 hours after that, I was at 7cm. At 9cm, my water had still not broken. They decided to break my water to encourage Ashley to come down a bit. When they did that, they discovered thick meconium. However, my OB said that since she wasn’t showing signs of distress, it was fine to continue (though I was ready to sign papers for the RCS, if needed). They did decide to use an internal fetal monitor so they could more precisely monitor her heart rate. At this point, my contractions started to slow down, and I was given 2cc of Pitocin to get things back on track. It worked, and I went from 8cm to 10cm in an hour.
I started pushing, and just like with Brooke, I was doing a good job, but Ashley just wasn’t coming down. When I initially considered a VBAC, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to push through the mental block of my uterine scar and push as hard as I needed. Turns out, that was not the case, and not that my body really gave me much of an option. When it was time to push, it was time to push! (As I said, I had a “light” epidural in case of a rupture and emergency c-section; I could still feel everything, which is how I wanted it.) I pushed and pushed and pushed.
Finally, after two hours of pushing, the OB said that we had to start making decisions because it didn’t appear that Ashley would be coming out without help. He explained that since I had gotten her down to a certain point, he could use the vacuum to help me get her out the rest of the way. If that didn’t work, I’d be taken back for a c-section. OR, I could just choose the c-section now, though my OB strongly encouraged me to try the vacuum.
This choice was familiar, as it was the same exact choice I’d been given during Brooke’s birth. (Then, I went with the c-section, and we discovered that Brooke’s cord was wrapped around her neck twice, preventing her from descending.) I asked the OB about the chance of the cord around her neck, (since that could be catastrophic in a vacuum delivery) and he said he was confident that wasn’t the case, so I gave my consent to use the vacuum. My OB explained the risks and said I’d only have 2-3 pushes to get her out, and if it didn’t work, I’d be taken back to the OR for a c-section. So, he told me to rest through a couple contractions and to tell him when I was ready.
I rested through two contractions, and I started to feel a “big” one come on. I told myself “you can do this,” told my OB, “let’s go,” got up on my elbows, put my chin on my chest, and pushed as hard as I could’ve ever pushed. With that push, Ashley crowned. I pushed again, and the rest of her came out at 6:19PM – nearly 15 hours since I’d been woken up by contractions. I felt the ring of fire as her shoulders passed, but I didn’t care, because OMG, I just had a BABY!!! I was immediately overwhelmed with joy and love, and started to weep at what had just happened.
My OB rushed Ashley over to the neonatologist on stand-by to check for meconium in her lungs. A minute later, the neonatologist gave her the all clear and said, “Dad! Get over here!” The presence of meconium changed our birth plan so that Mike couldn’t cut the cord, but my OB had left quite a bit of the cord so that once the neonatologist gave the all-clear, Mike was called over to cut off the rest of the cord. I thought that was such a nice gesture.
Mike took pictures (he went back to get the camera as soon as I settled into my labor room) and I watched them rub her down while I was stitched up (vacuum extractions are not kind to the mother’s body). After they weighed her, they swaddled her and gave her to me. All I could do was stroke her hand and say, “You’re here. HI!” I remember feeling like my heart would just burst when she opened her eyes and looked at me. Everyone and everything faded to the background, and I was hers and she, mine.