Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Charlie's Birth Story

In May of 2015, I had an emergency C-section with my firstborn. I was told by my doctor that I would never have a vaginal birth, due to a pelvis that was too small. I was not eager to have more c-sections, and desired the benefits of a vaginal birth, including meeting the baby right away and not being pumped with drugs before, during, and after the experience. So for over 2 years, I planned to do a trial of labor after cesarean (TOLAC) with the hopes of accomplishing a vaginal birth (VBAC). I joined Facebook group called ICAN, or the International Cesarean Awareness Network. This provided me with countless resources in learning about and planning my VBAC, including local chapter meetings and support. I exercised more, ate better, attended a prenatal yoga class, chiropractic appointments, and bounced on a birthing ball for most of the pregnancy in preparation for the birth.

My due date (June 25th) had come and gone. It was hotter than Satan’s butthole outside and I was still pregnant. I couldn't induce labor on my own, try as I might. Running sprints, spicy food, lunges and squats and all the pineapple in the world could not get this baby to come before he was ready. Then, with an ultrasound scheduled for the morning of Monday, July 3rd (41+1) to make sure the baby was doing okay, I ended up in to the hospital at around 4 AM Monday morning. 

I had gone to bed Sunday night having contractions, which had happened many times before. Charlie kicked like he was trying to break out of Alcatraz, but at this point I thought I'd never go into labor, so I didn't read too much into it. At 3 AM I woke up for my typical pee-during-the-night-for-the-hundredth-time, and noticed my underwear was soaked. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and finished going to the bathroom. Then I checked the bed sheets: dry. Hmmmm. I was group B strep positive, meaning that if my water was broken, it wasn't a good idea to delay getting antibiotic treatments. There was no way to know for sure, so I woke Mitch up and told him we needed to go to the hospital to get assessed. Note: I was not having contractions.

We waited for our emergency babysitter to come (Thanks, Barbara!!) and after eating a yogurt, I got into the car and we made the very anti-climactic 35-minute drive to the hospital. In triage, the nurse took a sample of the fluid and left to test it, but not before letting me know in not so many words her opinion that she felt like I'd end up getting induced and getting a C-section anyway. Haha. Mitch and I were both fearing and expecting to get sent home, but apparently the fluid tested positive for amniotic fluid, and we were admitted. 

Never Tell Me the Odds

At this point I was worried because I wasn't having contractions, my fluid hadn't leaked at all since the one time, and things were headed toward an induction with Pitocin, making my chances of success go down a lot. Also, I hadn't eaten and was now under the insane "no food allowed" policy. The first thing they did after admitting us was to do an ultrasound. Apparently it's hospital policy to assess the size of the baby for any mother attempting a TOLAC, despite size assessments being approximate at best by this point in the pregnancy. They did the ultrasound and told me that my baby was measuring at 10 ½ pounds, which I immediately knew was wrong. More than one staff member asked me if I was sure I wanted to proceed considering the size of my baby, but my research and own feelings about the baby's size comforted me. I think it was around this point that the on-call doctor let me know (in a voice like she was breaking some bad news) that according to the approximate size of the baby entered into the VBAC calculator, I had a 52% chance of having a successful vaginal birth. My response was, "I'll take it."

At around 8 AM nothing was happening and I finally made Mitch leave to go get some breakfast. The on-call doctor came in for a talk with me. I mentioned to her that it was odd that my water had "broken," but I hadn't seen any fluid. She offered to check me and I was dilated to a 5 and 60 or 70% effaced. She said she still felt an intact bag (there likely was a puncture in the bag somewhere up above) and offered to break it for me. I called Mitch and told him I felt good about it considering the alternative was Pitocin, and we agreed to let her break my water. Meconium was present, and there was A LOT of fluid. After I lost most of the fluid, the doctor probed my belly and agreed that my baby did not feel as big as the ultrasound showed. Strong contractions started soon after, and we were on our way. 

Breathe, Just Breathe

The next hurdle to overcome was the pain of labor itself. Since I wanted to keep moving around to optimize the baby's position, my plan was to labor sans epidural. I swayed on the birthing ball, listened to my relaxation tracks, and talked to Mitch in between contractions. I was strong, supported, and ready for this. Each contraction took me closer to victory. The intensity of my contractions continued to increase, but I was calm and able to deal. I even refused the offer of pain medication, and was proud of myself for being able to go into deep relaxation and embrace each surge or contraction. That is, until transition came along.

Transition is the final stretching and opening of the cervix (8-10 centimeters) before the final pushing stage. It's where most women usually  say scream, "I can't do this anymore" and it means you're ideally near the end of labor and all you have to do is push the thing out. It also is the stage where you can't get an epidural or pain medication, for some reason???? This is the point where I lost my Zen, and wild-animal-being-tortured-screams started falling out of my mouth, unbidden by me. During this period of time (what felt like hours) I told myself fervently that I would NEVER have a baby again. What was happening was too horrific, too unspeakably bad, and I would never put myself in a position where I had to experience it again. At least, that's what I told myself then. 

Imagine your insides are ripping themselves apart, and you simultaneously are about to have the worst diarrhea you've ever had in your life. That's what transition felt like to me. I screamed something about "I'M GOING TO POO!!" and they took that as a sign to have me start pushing. So from 12:20 PM on, I pushed. By this time they could feel that baby was mal-positioned in what's called a transverse or turned sideways position--baby's face was facing my thigh instead of facedown (the ideal position for birth).


Pushing was grueling. It helps you deal with the contractions, but it hurts like a mofo. I made slow but steady progress, with the baby going from a -1 to a +1. 

I had been up since 3 AM and had only eaten a yogurt and some Jell-O by this point. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love food, and the not being able to eat thing didn't help my mental state one bit. Mitch was a trooper in helping me through each contraction, and coaching me along the way. I may have told him to shut up at one point. After an hour and a half of pushing, I was running on empty and began to lose focus, asking for them to "just take him." I was so tired that I could hardly get words out. Eventually, they offered to give me a break via an epidural in order to let me sleep through the contractions for a couple hours. 

Once they explained this, I wanted to shout, "WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY THIS BEFORE?!?" but was too tired to do so. The anesthesiologist came in and I begged him to hurry while I struggled to hold still between contractions. As soon as I got that epidural, relief slowly started to spread. I asked them to up the dosage, and then I immediately passed out and welcomed the blackness. 

A little less than two hours later, I awoke from my slumber. I felt somewhat refreshed and ready to give things another go. Mitch gave me a quick blessing, and then the midwife and nurse came back in to help me start pushing again. Mitchell held one of my legs the whole time and encouraged me. Despite the rest I got, I now had zero sensation from the waist down, and so struggled to push productively, but that's the price you pay for pain relief. They eventually brought the doctor in to attempt to turn the baby to a better position, which seemed to work if only a quarter turn. 

As I continued to push, the doctor and midwife came and went. I sensed things weren't looking too great when they kept whispering to each other and being gone for longer periods. My nurse was right there with Mitch the whole time, encouraging me and keeping me going when I lacked motivation. After about 2 hours, things were looking bleak and feeling just like they had last time when Benjamin got stuck. My nurse Tami came in and told me that they were prepping the OR, but that baby was fine and I was making minuscule progress, but progress nonetheless--baby was now at +2 station--so I shouldn't throw in the towel yet. I felt the same way, but hearing this from her gave me the last push I needed. Mitch also let me know that I was so close, and that he believed I could do this. What a guy, huh?

One Last Push

The midwife and doctor came in wearing some OR gear, and said bracingly, "Okay, give us one last big push and then we'll discuss what we need to do next!" This lit a fire under me. I did NOT go through most of labor without pain medication for nothing. I did NOT get this far just for things to end in another C-section. I gave them a couple pushes and supposedly (Mitch tells me, since my eyes were closed and I was not aware of anything but pushing the baby out at this point) their eyes got pretty big, because in that last round of pushes, I got baby to move quite a bit. They then said he was in position to vacuum out, and by that point I knew I could avoid the C-section. I continued pushing while they prepped, and the atmosphere in the room was extreme surprise with high excitement. 

They got the vacuum on him and I continued pushing, bearing down and curling up into a ball. My body left no room for baby Charlie to remain. After two "pop-offs" with the vacuum and every last ounce of my strength, Charlie's giant head emerged, followed quickly by his body at 6:36 PM. They plopped him onto my tummy and all I could think was, "What? He's here? I did it?" He immediately started crying and I just rubbed his squishy slimy little body and asked over and over if he was really here and if I really did it. Because up until he was born, I had resigned myself to an eternity of pushing (it was 4 hours in total). 

I wish I could describe what it felt like to finally hold that little human that had taken so long to finally enter this world. He was soft and warm and so sweet. Mitch and I both blubbered and smiled and congratulated me on getting Charlie out. I kind of wished we had filmed it, because I still don't believe it happened in some ways. It's funny how the birth of a child can bring so much love into your life: more love for your spouse, more love for your already living children, and of course bunches of love for that new little soul you've welcomed. Even love for yourself and the wonderful amazing thing you've just done.

Anyway, that's it. He's here. To all the VBAC haters and naysayers (you're probably not reading this post), I say, "I did it." I can do hard things. My husband, my nurse, my doctor, and all the countless people praying for me made it possible. Of course I had to be willing to try (and keep trying), but I did not do this alone. Of course I feel proud of myself and what I've accomplished, but I know I didn't do it on my own. I had lots of help, and was very lucky that Charlie's heart rate was fine the whole time and no other complications occurred. So there you have it. Happy one month, Charlie! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I'm Doing Great For Now!

Whoa, so long since I last wrote here. I have no excuse other than the fact that I write for a living, and somehow writing on my own personal blog loses its appeal when I spend most of my days writing whatever I can to make money. So with that aside, here's my short update since I last wrote:

Since August of 2015, I:

  • Continued working from home part-time and raising my son (full-time)
  • Quit one job and started two new remote freelance jobs (Jan/Feb of 2016)
  • Saw my husband receive his BS in Social Work from UVU
  • Benjamin turned one year old and we had an epic party for him with 3 cakes, family, and food
  • In May 2016 we picked up and moved our little family to Mesa, AZ for Mitch to complete his MSW at ASU
  • Took an amazing girls trip with my mom and sisters to Lincoln City, OR
  • Learned that AZ summers are everything people say they are and suffered through the insane heat with a stir-crazy toddler and no car

  • Started writing a book (for fun) and joined a writers' association
  • Experienced an "AZ Autumn" where the only thing that changes are the license plates (hello snowbirds)
  • Learned what it's like to be morning sick when you're the breadwinner (spoilers, it wasn't fun)
  • Basked in the 70-degree December
  • Was hospitalized over Christmas break in Utah for dehydration and vomiting while Benjamin also had croup
  • Learned that 50 degrees is "bitter cold" to AZ natives
  • Took an actual family vacation to Irvine and Temecula, CA over spring break that was awesome
  • Enjoyed an amazing January and February of warm weather and sunshine

As for Mitch, he dutifully went to school and his internship and is now just 6 weeks shy of graduating with his Master's degree and finally being done with school. I'm so proud of how much work he's done and how long he's been in school without a break, not to mention working full-time for a year and part-time all others. He's what you'd call "past burnt out" at this point, but hey--we are almost there, babe!

Benjamin is a crazy pseudo-savant who does everything early and thinks he's been two since he turned one, so who knows what that means for after he actually becomes two. We'll see. He's a joy and the brightest spot in our lives, but also a handful! The best things we do are also often the hardest. Just picture me chasing him around while also being super sweaty and pregnant, and you'll get a basic idea of a day in the life.

'You're Gonna Miss This'

So that brings us to now. I'm 25, pregnant with my second child (another boy), and on the cusp of my husband graduating and having a real-life job and income. We live in a 2-bedroom apartment and eagerly look forward to the day when we can let Benjamin run free in a yard of our own. But until that day, we'll keep plugging away writing a task here and there, completing homework assignments, changing poopy diapers (potty training, please come soon!), and generally just living life. Many times in the past year, we've thought "when we have money..." or "when we get there..." but I keep having the nagging feeling that we'll never get "there," and we'll definitely miss these simple moneyless years of hard work and sacrifice, because it just naturally helps you realize what's truly important.

The Elephant in the Room

As for being pregnant, I show early in my pregnancies due to a short torso, and I end up looking like I'm smuggling a basketball/watermelon/what-have-you under my shirt by the end. This causes many strangers to feel the need to comment on my size, or to ask how soon I'm due. "How much longer have you got??" Is my favorite.

May 3, 2015 (the day before Benjamin was born)

Something you should know is that pregnant women usually don't appreciate comments about their size. Yes, they are huge--but trust me--they know! Every time I get out of the shower, I'm a little shocked at my reflection. So PSA: you don't need to tell pregnant women that they look like they're ready to pop. Just smile, give them a cool drink, and ask if you can carry their groceries or open a door. That's all you need to do.

With that being said, quite a few people ask me how I'm doing. This is totally valid, and I'm fine with it. The end of my last pregnancy was probably the most hellish thing I've experienced to date, so overall I feel pretty good these days. No rash that makes me want to blow my brains out (yet), no painful cyst on my back making it impossible to sit/stand/walk, and the heat really isn't all that bad yet. The point here is that by the time I drop this baby, it'll be about 120 degrees and I'll be as swollen as a boxer's face after the 12th round. So, by comparison to my previous pregnancy and what my future likely holds... I'm doing awesome! 

The more I think about it, the more I realize this attitude is quite freeing. Come what may, I feel good now. The future probably holds some unpleasant stuff, but I'm doing great for now! My back aches and I'm never cool enough, but I feel pretty dang good otherwise! And that's a beautiful thing, because as the days get hotter and my back hurts more and I sleep less each night, I really am still doing great! Positivity is key, here. I can get through this, and I can do it with a smile on my face. There's so much I've got going for me (see husband graduating and awesome toddler above) and I really am doing great. Even if it is for now, now is always now, and I can always keep that attitude going. 

In a few short months, I'll be raring to push a baby out and basically just a sea cucumber as far as movement goes. But hey, I'm doing great for now! It's only been 95 lately! That's way less than 120! And when it gets to 120...well, at least it won't be humid. And who needs to wear clothes anyway.

Y'all have a great day.