Birth photography by Sarah Delanie Photography.
Continued from Part One. . .
It was around midnight. I got a dress on, and then things got chaotic.
The strong back to back contractions turned into the long, clustered contractions that happened during Winston’s birth. The clusters weren’t too long at that point, but very hard to work through. I was doing decent emotionally, but started to feel pretty discouraged because I had no bloody show and had been in active labor for several hours.
I wanted to labor away from the hospital as long as I could stand, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay home much longer. I told Caleb he had to call my sister Melody to come care for Winston so we could leave whenever we wanted. He also called the doulas to say we needed them. We probably should have called them sooner but things progressed too fast in relation to our decision making speed since I couldn’t make up my mind.
I could hardly think now, because all that was running through my mind was chaos as I tried to relax through the clusters of contractions. I was barely okay emotionally. Caleb was trying to do everything he could to help and get ready for the hospital at the same time. I also noticed that every time I touched or moved the right side of my body, I had super strong contractions and so was contracting unevenly. At that point I labored some on the toilet and remember praying for a sign that I was progressing and after another contraction my water broke and I had a very small amount of bloody show. I knew then that I had not progressed very far because when my water broke it was a very small pop.
Christy and Jamie (my doulas) arrived shortly thereafter, somewhere around 3 a.m. By now, I had already been laboring with the clustered contractions for several hours and things were reaching crisis level physically and emotionally. Caleb asked Christy to check and see how far dilated I was (she was my primary midwife for Winston’s birth). I’ll be honest, I didn’t really expect that and didn’t want to relive the feeling of having Christy check me exactly like how I was checked in labor with Winston, but I couldn’t really talk enough to argue at that point either. I knew they were trying to gauge how my labor was going compared to last time. She checked, and I was dilated to a three. Everything, even the position of Cedric to some extent, was feeling just like Winston’s labor.
Labor continued to get harder and faster–more contractions in the clusters before a 30 sec or so break. Christy and Jamie tried several things to help me relax and get them to space out. We also called Dr. Kristin to come adjust me. After Christy had checked me I had a hard time getting off the bed because I had tipped past the crisis point. I think there were about 4-5 hard contractions in a cluster at that point. The first contraction in the cluster was always the worst and with no time to calm down and relax through the pain before the next one would hit, I was starting to panic big time. Not only was the pain hard to deal with, but emotionally I felt like I was going to be lost to the darkness again.
Jamie was on the floor in front of me supporting my feet while I sat and leaned back on the bed. I remember her telling me very firmly that I had to look her in the eyes through the next contractions. She wouldn’t take my “no” for an answer even though I felt like it would be impossible. I really think Jamie saved me from more emotional trauma at this point because she didn’t let me close my eyes. She held my gaze with a steeled focus that in the end helped pull me out of myself emotionally and kept me grounded through the intense pain and desperate emotions. During Winston’s labor there were hours where I felt like my head was going to split open because darkness in my head was so intense. So it was pretty significant to not experience that as much this time since I worked so hard to focus on Jamie.
Caleb and Christy went to talk for a minute and Jamie and I went back to the toilet. I started saying “I have to leave, I have to leave! I can’t be here anymore.” Everyone asked me to wait for the chiropractor since it was something I had wanted and might help, but I wasn’t sure I could wait anymore. They were trying to help me wait as long as I could possibly stand to go to the hospital since I wasn’t dilated very far. We made sure everything was packed up and waited until Dr. Kristin arrived. When she got there I was in so much pain I didn’t want her to touch me, all I could think was “I have to leave. Why can’t we leave.” I think at that point everyone fully realized I had passed the crisis point and was not doing well at all. I was using all three people (Caleb and the doulas) to hold me up through contractions. I don’t even think Dr. Kristin touched me much at all, and we left. I climbed in the back of the car with no shoes and leaned over the back seat on all fours. Caleb called the birth photographer to meet us at the hospital.
The car ride was awful, but I actually got two decent breaks from contracting–enough for me to have a couple of thoughts! Not much had run through my mind for several hours–I think I even forgot I was having a baby–but I said, “Babe, I need the epidural.” and Caleb replied, “I know babe.” I was so relieved we could be on the same page when the birth plan needed to change. When we arrived at the hospital Jamie pulled up a wheel chair, which I kneeled in awkwardly so I could stay bent over all the way to the fourth floor. She told them I needed an epidural stat and they got started settling me in. When the midwife on call checked me, I was dilated to a four. It was around 6:00-6:30 a.m. now, a little over 14 hours into the labor.
Then came probably the hardest part of the labor. They originally told me it would be 10-15 minutes until I could get the epidural because they had to run lab work, which is normal. To me, that felt like an eternity of contractions because I would have at least 12 contractions in that time. So I tried to psych myself up for a couple more clusters telling myself hope was coming. But when more than 15 minutes passed, I was really starting to lose it and get more traumatized with each set of contractions because I was having a hard time hanging on emotionally. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t bringing the epidural in! I was yelling, “Help me!” After an hour, they finally came in and started prepping me for an epidural.
I found out later, the delay happened because it was shift change, and also possibly because the midwife on call wasn’t sure if I should get the epidural while only being dilated to a four. My birth plan said I wanted to VBAC, and usually it is recommended to wait until you are dilated to a six to reduce the risk of repeat c-section. With Winston’s birth I never made it past a five contracting like this for 24 hours without an epidural. Anyways, Christy was texting the midwife and said something to the effect of, “I don’t know if you’re stalling right now, but we needed the epidural yesterday.” The midwife on call called my primary care midwife, Carla, to see what to do since I wanted to VBAC. Carla asked what Christy thought, and when she heard Christy had said to give me the epidural she said, “Give her the epidural!” I’m so glad they are friends and trust each other!
The epidural seriously took forever to put in place compared to the one I had with Winston, but one surprise was that they didn’t kick anyone out of the room. Caleb got to hold me in the awkward position the whole time and I even have pictures of it. As is usually the case with the epidural, I felt like there was no way I could hold the position they needed me to be in through my clustered contractions. Fortunately there was a nurse who was encouraging and firm as she coached me, and her Australian accent was so distracting and unexpected it really helped me focus! I was disappointed not to get to have a water birth like I wanted and had “planned” both times. I was also nervous about the epidural increasing my risk of c-section as a vbac mom. But at the same time Caleb and I were at total peace that getting the epidural was the only way forward.
The epidural started to kick in, and then my blood pressure dipped along with Cedric’s heart rate. Everyone rushed in and they called the OB to request he be at the desk just in case I needed surgery. This exact thing happened during Winston’s birth except they lost his heart rate and I was rushed to surgery. I looked at Caleb (who had to stand back due to all of the people helping me), we both had tears in our eyes, and I knew we were thinking the same thing. A quiet grief that we may be headed to another c-section, and that this all felt so familiar. Another chaotic, difficult birth.
They gave me something for my blood pressure, and Cedric rebounded enough that they felt ok letting me continue with labor as long as they could put the fetal monitor in his skull for a more accurate reading. When they put it in, I was already dilating more and I found that encouraging!
The epidural had taken full effect now and the room finally settled down enough that I was able to process and take in all that had just happened and the fact that my labor had been an even faster repeat of Winston’s. I lost it. There were mixtures of grief that my labor progressed that way again, intense relief of feeling “rescued” this time before I had endured hours of emotional trauma, letting the fear out that I couldn’t process when I was in pain, and uncertainty of how it would all end. I was also readjusting my mental “birth plan” from having a natural water birth to the new scenario. It was now 8 a.m., and I was so incredibly grateful for pain relief.
Things were calm now, and I spent time trying to process and calm down. I prayed, and cried some more. I told Caleb we barely got the epidural in time, and he agreed. Later, the doulas agreed with us that I probably needed to have gotten the epidural sooner than we did because the last four hours before the epidural were way past the crisis point.
The rest of my labor was happily, mostly boring. I listened to music, and the nurses came in every so often to help me switch sides and Caleb and my doulas ate and rested. Dr. Kristin also came and adjusted me. I had time to calm down but also start remembering and thinking about the fact that it was my baby’s birth day! This was exciting! I even snuck a little trail mix because I was starving.
I was still contracting just as hard as ever, just with the epidural now. The OB, Dr. Farzam came in around noon and I was dilated to a 7.5. Further than I ever made it with Winston! Everyone was excited, but I wasn’t ready to celebrate just yet. Around 2 p.m. Carla (my midwife) was finally on call and checked me and I was the same (this was around when my contractions finally spaced out). She and Dr. Farzam then recommended a small dose of pitocin to get my body going again since I was so close to the end. We consented.
Shortly thereafter I started feeling more pressure so Carla checked me and I was complete with a small cervical lip! Carla hung out in the room (she and the doulas are friends) while I labored down. Meanwhile I got serious about resting with some earplugs, as I hadn’t had any sleep for about 24 hours and I was nervous about pushing and how long that would take. It had been hard to sleep before because I was trying not to obsess over the constant beep of the fetal monitor.
Around 4 p.m. they woke me up and told me it was time to push. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but after one push they put oxygen on me and put my feet in stirrups. They told me they were going to coach me and that I needed to push hard and fast and not breath as I pushed. I knew this meant the baby wasn’t doing too well, and I was conscious of the fetal monitor getting slower and slower and slower. It was scary and emotional, and I tried to push all thoughts to the back of my mind and focus hard on what I was doing. I felt very nervous since I couldn’t feel well to know if I was pushing right or enough due to the epidural. All I knew was that I wanted to get that baby out in time! I really appreciated that even though it was an intense/nervous time, everyone tried to help me stay excited and distracted from any complications and I even got to reach down and feel Cedric’s head coming.
Nearing the end I think Carla put in a call to the OB to get ready to do the vacuum. Eventually she said “The baby needs to come out on this push Hope!” She pulled out a mirror and told me to focus and on the next push I was surprised at how effective the push was. She actually had to tell me to slow down. At 4:30 p.m. August 8th, after 20 minutes of pushing and just over 24 hours of labor, Cedric was born and Carla told me to reach down and get my baby. The mirror was awesome though because even though I was more on my back, I could see my baby being born as well as reach down and get him! I think Cedric had the cord wrapped around his neck which was probably part of the heart rate problem. Words cannot describe what I felt to have such a long journey come to a close and meet my baby boy, and on top of that to have things go smoothly. It is probably the most grateful I’ve ever felt!
Cedric had a hard time clearing his lungs and breathing well, so the nurses were having to do a lot of stimulation and checking on him, but they did it all while he was on my chest and I had complete access to smell and touch him. It was so special, amazing, and emotional (keep in mind I missed all of this after Winston’s birth, so it seemed extra extraordinary!)! I did have a 2nd degree tear and more blood loss than normal, but not a hemorrhage. I was a little worried about hemorrhaging at first because I kept hearing Carla asking them to crank the pitocin and she was spending a lot of time very focused down there. But I just told myself if it were really serious Jamie or Christy wouldn’t be so cheerful!
Cedric came out with a huge lump on the back of his head from his head being stuck in my hip, but it went away fairly quickly. It’s amazing how babies’ heads change shape so rapidly. He also came out with the longest little fingers (and fingernails. . .I called them villain nails!), and had the same pattern of milia on his little nose that Winston did. I could tell Winston and Cedric were unique but brothers right away. The next few hours I just soaked up holding Cedric and it felt amazing not to have him taken away from me and to enjoy holding him without all of the weight bearing down on an incision. They didn’t even do his newborn exam until 10:30 p.m. when we asked for it!
My emotional and even hormonal recovery have been so entirely different. I’m much less emotional this time, and I can forget to a certain extent the labor and birth. I remember after having Winston I would hear some mom’s say, “It’s amazing how quickly you forget the pain!” and I remember thinking, “How is that even possible?! I cannot forget one. single. thing. The emotional and sometimes physical ache is constant.” This time I can see what they mean. Even though I experienced a few hours of traumatic labor, the focus has been more on Cedric and our family, and I’ve been able to move on with life without the birth experience completely clouding my view of life. I felt like God gave so much mercy towards me in every step of Cedric’s birth and I feel so undeserving and humbled. We love our littlest guy!