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! 

1 comment:

  1. I knew that you could do it and in deed you did! Happy one Month. Dad