Once, about ten months ago....oh, never mind that bit.
For the men in the room, or people that don't want every single detail, I recounted the basic information in this post. Look no farther. If you go below the asterisks, it is at your own risk.
If you want the background to this pregnancy, you can go look here.
Ok. So, as many of you know, my official due date was January 1, 2009. I rebelled against that and asserted in many ways that I was going to have the baby by the end of the year, and I picked December 28. I actually did have reasons to think that 12/28 was a better date, and you can ask me those reasons if you like.
In any event. Christmas came and went. December 28 came and went. January 1 came and went. Now we were beginning to get cranky. Marcus and I are planners. And as said before, Jonathan's birth was planned. So this waiting thing was hard. My Friday OB appointment on January 2 was disappointing.
Saturday, January 3, I woke up and started having contractions! Yeah!! They were fairly short, 20-30 seconds, but relatively frequent, for four or five hours. Then they stopped. Then they started. So my sister came over for dinner and the spend the night, to stay with Jonathan in case we had to make a run to the hospital in the middle of the night. We all went to bed and the contractions stopped.
Not many on Sunday.
Sometime on Sunday evening I felt the baby move and shift out of a head down position. So, I decided to take a wander to the doctor's office in the morning to see. By the time the morning came around, I had started having the contractions again, and still felt that the baby's position was off. Not wanting any surprises, I called the doc very early and he told me to head to Labor and Delivery. We rousted the troops to come watch Jonathan, again. Our plan had been just to take him with us to the doctor, but then we envisioned Labor and Delivery with a toddler, and opted for the other plan.
So, that is how I wound up in the hospital for six hours on Monday, January 5. They sent me home because I was only 1 cm dilated and the contractions had slowed. However, because things seemed to be happening in earnest, we decided to have my mom come and take Jonathan to their house (two hours away) for a few days. And so she did. Of course, essentially the second she drove away, the contractions stopped. And nothing happened.
All week. I tweeted and left Facebook status updates informing people that NOTHNG was happening.
Thursday evening I went to bed and thought labor might start. There was nothing I could point to, I just felt off. I warned the doula and Marcus.
Friday, 1:30 a.m. I started leaking, and small contractions started. At 2:30, my water broke and there was no mistake. Labor had actually started. Aimee arrived at about 3:30 or so, and I was having fairly regular, not horrid, contractions that were about 10 minutes apart. Enough that I couldn't talk or walk through them. By 5:30 I was in the aqua doula (labor tub) and the contractions were coming closer together and lasting for at least a minute.
The only position that was slightly comfortable was if I was on my hands and knees, resting my cheek/chin on the edge of the tub. And
By about 8:00 a.m. they were about 4-5 minutes apart. And right about that time, I "gave back" all the tiny bites of food that Marcus and Aimee had made me eat. Good thing I had a two quart sauce pan as a catch basin.
But about that time, 8:30 or 9:00, the contractions started to space out. So, I got out of the nice warm tub, and walked around a bit. Some inside, some outside. In my nice fuzzy long nightgown. Things weren't speeding up, and the contractions were about 10 minutes apart again, though undoubtedly they were labor contractions.
Aimee suggested that we try to sleep. Sounds weird, but Marcus got a heating pad, like a Bucky. I lay on my left side on the bed and he lay right behind me and pressed the hot pad against my back. That way, when I had a contraction, he could apply counterpressure to my lower back like he had in the tub.
We actually were able to sleep. Which was a blessing, although irritating because it meant that my contractions were still spaced out. Making my life difficult, but not being productive in terms of labor progressing.
After about an hour of sleeping/contractions, at about 12:30 p.m. we tried walking. If you were driving around Vienna on Friday morning and thought it odd to see a pregnant woman out for a walk in a red robe, that was me. Oh, and brown mammoth crocs. With black socks. Stylish. The walking helped a bit, but not as much as she had hoped.
And so we decided to go to the hospital. The thought was that perhaps a little bit of pitocin might bring the contractions faster. Also, she wanted me to wait for an epidural, based on how she had seen me dealing with the contractions I was having.
We arrived at the hospital at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Got myself settled in with a saline I.V. The FOURTH poke in a week, but at least this one took the first time. We waited to see my doctor, who is the chief of obstetrics at the hospital rather than electing to see one of the residents. There are all sorts of reasons why, but the result was that he did not come to see me and check my "progression" until 6:00 p.m. So I had had a chance to get back into a good rhythm with the contractions. He did not think I was as dilated as we had thought, but in any event, I was in active labor and wanted to wait to see what progress would be made.
Let me jump ahead for a second and say that, because I never dilated beyond 4 cm, that I never was in active labor. However, the descriptions of the various stages of labor (early, first stage, active first stage, transition, second stage (pushing), etc.) indicate that I managed to make it through the transition stage. I don't know what the answer to that is, except to say that I have decided that obstetrics and midwifery is as much an art as they are a science. My doula certainly thought I had made it through transition and was actually suggesting that I "bear down a little" with the contractions. And she also gave me some "pushing" pointers because she thought that the pushing phase would be quite short. So, there was something weird about my labor.
Back to the progression, or lack thereof. Between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. I was severely uncomfortable, to put it mildly. The contractions were just miserable (and all y'all who have been through it are saying, "yes, yes, they were for me, too.") According to our doula, herself a former Bradley teacher, and my husband, I was "doing all the right things" to manage the pain: breathing, relaxation, etc. However, I did not feel like anything was being managed. And I was a sniviling, snotty mess. I could not stop shaking, toward the end, and I was done. If I could have just taken a breather, perhaps I could have done it, but that really isn't an option. So, approximately 18 hours after serious contractions had started, and about three hours into 'active labor' (or whatever....after that weird transition thing...) I asked for, and got, an epidural, at about 9:00 p.m. or so, Friday night.
Shortly after that, my doctor came and checked again and said that I had made not progress. Still 4 cm dilated, though I was fully effaced, and the baby was still high up in my pelvis and had not moved. He suggested that we all, including him, take nap. Four hours later, my contractions had slowed a bit, and when he checked me at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning, he said there had been no change. He was reluctant to give me any pitocin, because he suspected that there was a reason that the baby was not descending and allowing me to dilate. So, I had another C-section. Thomas James Maher was born at exactly 3:30 a.m. 10 pounds even. 22 inches long. Full head of straight dark brown hair.
When asked if he could see any reason why the baby didn't descend, he said that the head just wasn't quite properly positioned, and that the baby was just spinning around trying to figure out what to do, but just wasn't doing it. So. Nothing any of us could have done. Would laboring longer have given him more time to figure it out? Perhaps. And there was a era in which there would have been no other option and I would just have had to struggle through. And the end result might have been other than a happy, healthy baby boy and a happy, healthy (and tired and sore) mother.
My purpose in attempting a VBAC was not to make some grand point. There are points to be made: I do believe that the C-section rate is unnecessarily high; that women often take what is perceived the 'easy' way out, etc. I also believe that the culture and mindset around birthing needs to shift to a non-medical model of care. And I could get really passionate about the issue and do some "activist" work. But that wasn't the point here, I just wanted the best for me and my baby. I believed that was a vaginal birth. And, I think, it was.
Since I did go into labor, I know that Thomas was ready to be born (as he should have been at 41 weeks and 1 day late). I know that he and I both benefited from the labor hormones. My body was able to shift from pregnancy to post-partum in the fashion that was intended. There are so many amazing things that happen in the mom and the baby during labor and immediately after delivery, and they happen best in a particular order. Physcially, I am more tired and sore after this birth than my first, scheduled C-section. That would be from the two extra nights of no sleep and the work of labor. However, emotionally, I feel much better. I feel like the labor worked out a lot of the stress hormones or something.
So now, we are off and running. Thomas is nursing well, my milk has started to come in, a bit earlier than previously. Breastfeeding will still be a challenge, but it is one that I am expecting. A bigger challenge will be balancing the needs of Jonathan as an almost 2 1/2 year old and the newborn needs of Thomas.
What have I learned in this whole process? The big lesson is that I cannot control most of the important things in life. This really was one of the few situations that drives home that point. For those of you who have watched me wait and pace and wait some more, you have witnessed some of the frustration. Didn't God (and this baby) understand that there were tax advantages to being born before January 1? Didn't they understand health insurance premiums and the difference one day would make? Didn't they understand that I was so very very tired of being pregnant? It was helpful that people kept reiterating to me that 'babies come when they are ready.' More importantly, however, was me learning to trust God in new ways and learning a little about what it means to wait.
p.s. I know, I know. Y'all want pictures. Fine. Just give me a day or two.