While the cesarean was a much smoother process, right away I had recovery issues. High fevers that came and went and no one could ever figure out why. We were in the hospital for almost a full week because of it. Intense, I mean intense shoulder pain that I was told was trapped gas. To this day (including during my VBAC) I have never screamed like that shoulder paid made me. Horrendous.
Once we were home, the baby blues hit. I cried so much in those first 3 weeks. I remember googling (such a smart move, I know) about the lack of bonding and one lady said she didn't bond with her daughter until she was 9 years old. WHAT?! That sent me into some serious weeping.
A few months later more health issues in myself arose. I won't bore you with details, but to sum up, many doctors told me my symptoms were anemia related then finally figuring out that it was thyroid all along and was due to pregnancy. Eventually it worked itself out, but I didn't feel normal until she was almost a year old.
Each day our bond got a little better. I blame hormones obviously; the fact that she came along only 10 months after her big brother so I didn't feel ready, how her birth played out, the fact that she looked absolutely nothing like me and everyone insisted on reminding me of that daily, the array of health issues I had postpartum, our struggle with breastfeeding, and again..hormones. Man hormones are a bitch aren't they? So naturally, I was a bit nervous this time around about those blues. That darkness. My health. Baby's health. I was determined the next time to do anything I could to avoid the blues, and the horrific recoveries.
Before even getting pregnant this time around, I was in such a different headspace about babies and birth than I had been before. Blame it on the day job! Photographing newborns several times a week will give anyone baby fever! Through photography I was honored to witness and document several births as well. I can't put into words how impactful those were to me. Medicated, inductions, natural, scheduled cesarians, vbacs, each one taught me something. Each one led me closer to my own victory. My birth clients will never truly know what they've meant to me.
Now please, before I go any further... I am not here to hate on c-sections. C-sections brought two of my greatest blessings into my life. How could I not love how my babies were brought to me? Those were their stories. And I love them. But it's ok to want a different experience. To want an easier recovery and faster healing. To want a more intimate environment while bringing baby earthside.
That being said, when we got pregnant, I was motivated, encouraged, and determined to get my vaginal, healing birth experience.We read books. We met with doulas. We took childbirth classes, Bradley Method. So much learning and preparation went into this! It's all so fascinating. Oddly I found myself feeling closer to not only my baby in my tummy but also to my husband and to God during the whole process. The more I learned how intwined and perfectly planned each part of childbirth is, the more you can see God's handiwork in it all. Truly amazing and undeniable.
My pregnancy was wonderful...well, other than the beginning. At 7 weeks I had heavy bleeding and was told I was having a miscarriage. After calling in ultrasound (and hour after being given such devastating news) to "confirm the loss" the tech was able to find a heartbeat and report that all was well. Praise God again. I bled for 16 straight weeks for no given reason at all. But, overall, I had hardly any sickness at all, and only a small stint of sciatic pain to deal with. Otherwise it was smooth sailing!
By 35 weeks I was over it. The Braxton Hicks were often and annoying. And I was just so tired from the two toddlers that need all my energy and attention.
On Christmas Eve the first round of prodromal labor started. Contractions that were different and steady, but not really that painful. We packed our bags that night, just to be safe. But eventually we went to bed and the contractions fizzled out.
This pattern would go on and on and on over the next several weeks.
At least 3 different times I legit thought I was in labor. Painful contractions. For several hours. Steady intervals. Almost every night.
If you have experience prodromal or latent labor, you know the toll this can take on a mom-to-be. Hormonally, physically, mentally, emotionally. Drained. Every night thinking this might be it! but no. In my case, having to psych myself up each day. The VBAC pep talk if you will. Amping myself up for this marathon. And then no. Not today. Again.
40 weeks came and went. So did a blizzard and a full moon. Seriously? Come out girl!!!
In talking with my midwife and doula, we all suspected she was in a less than ideal position and was slightly posterior. I did tons of different positioning at home to try and turn her and get things going to no avail. My birth ball got a good workout as well. And I've never eaten so much pineapple in my dang life. Per my amazing doula's suggestion I decided to go see a chiropractor who was familiar with fetal positioning. Last ditch effort ya know. On my way to his office Tuesday morning I could very much feel baby in my left hip. Plain as day. He did his adjustments, which always feels totally bogus at the time, and I left. On my drive home, no lie I could tell she was centered and in my pelvis. So weird.
Little did I know...
That evening my husband was working later than normal so getting the kids fed and down to bed was on my big pregnant self. They were actually really well-behaved and after my husband Michael got home shortly after they were in bed, around 8pm. When he came in I was bouncing on the birth ball, eating an entire pineapple, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and watching gossip girl. Naturally.
I was having a few contractions here and there, but that was nothing new for me. He fell asleep on the couch, and I went up to bed around 10pm. At midnight I woke up to pee and when I got back in bed I was annoyed to feel a contraction. Great. This was going to keep me awake for no reason, once again. They kept coming, and I kept not caring. I laid there in the dark, timing contractions and browsing Facebook and pinterest. This went on for 2 hours and were just ever so slightly getting more painful. But I still wouldn't really call it pain at that point. Just annoying and tight. Since I was wide awake I got back on the ball in hopes that it would get things either steadier or make it stop.
They kept coming.
At 2:30am I went downstairs and woke Michael up just asking him to keep me company. Figured if I could hang out with him and occupy my mind watching a show together then they would fizzle out.
They kept coming.
I bounced on the ball a bit more and I guess it pushed things around because suddenly things were, ahem... moving... and I needed to run to the bathroom. Several times this happened. Let me tell you, bathroom cramps, on top of labor contractions... not a fun combo.
At 3:00 we called the midwife. Told her contractions were steady and getting more intense but only lasting about 45 seconds each. She said I was fine to stay home longer, and to call back when they lasted for a minute each, or were 2-3 minutes apart.
By 3:15 I texted my doula to fill her in. And also texted my friend Sara (also our childbirth educator) who was planning to come watch our kids. I told her to go ahead and come over 'just in case'. Well, about 15 minutes later I was saying, ok I hope Sara has left because this is getting intense. I walked around the house packing last minute items in my bag. The contractions were strong. I was moaning through them and holding onto Michael and swaying, but after that 45 seconds I was totally fine.
"Ahhhhhh....oooooooooo......uuhhmmmmm....ok, hey I'm gonna go brush my teeth/check on the kids/grab my makeup bag"
He thought it was weird how normal I was in between them and how focused I had to be during them.
By the time Sara arrived it was game on. She walked in to find me on all fours over the back of my couch, moaning into the pillows. No sooner than she said hello did I bark back that I needed a trash can to puke in. Welcome Sara! We all agreed it was time to leave. There was still snow and ice on the ground and the hospital is a solid 35 minutes from our house. But I was stuck on the couch. Contractions were close together and strong. I had stopped timing at this point.
Michael kept saying "Ok babe lets just get you to the kitchen island ok, baby steps."
"Ok babe lets get you to the island"
"Lets try and get to..."
"DON'T SAY ISLAND TO ME AGAIN!!"
That was the only time I snapped at him, which I'm damn proud of!
We finally make it out to the car around 4:45am . The drive was rough but I mostly had my eyes closed and concentrated on getting through the waves of pain. Sitting felt horrible and my belly felt so distorted. Next was parking deck. As soon as I stood up from the car I think thats when major transition stage hit. I'm moaning getting onto the elevator... loudly... and these three older men pile onto it with us. They reek of smoke and talk like their from Manitowoc County, I swear. Listening to me moaning and swaying and saying "Oh it looks like its almost time".
How I didn't punch them I'll never know.
We make it to the wheelchair. I couldn't walk any further but sitting was just as awful. All the bumps on the way to L&D, oh my word. We get to registration and are there for what seems like an eternity. I'm very loudly moaning at this point and my doula walks in right behind us. With one big contraction in the lobby my water somewhat breaks. I remember saying "Water! My water!"
We get into the room around 5:30.
They asked me to stand up to get in the bed so they can get the monitors on me. The second I stood up I started involuntarily pushing. It was her. She was pushing. I had nothing to do with it. And it freaked me out. I knew it wasn't time to push so why was she trying to come out?
Meanwhile they have the monitors on me but I don't hear a heartbeat. I'm asking them why and no one answers me. Michael tried to tell me they didn't have the speakers on. Nice try hon. My midwife tells me I need to get in the bed on my right side to help baby's heart rate. My right side may as well have been the location of actual hell. It was horribly uncomfortable. In this moment she also has to check me, and the other nurse is putting in an IV (just in case surgery became necessary). All the while the contractions are on top of each other and every time, baby would push down without my effort and it hurt so bad. In those moments, the high pitched screaming happened. I didn't know I could make those sounds.
The midwife said I was almost a 9 and they were putting on an internal monitor to better track her heart rate. They put oxygen on me as well because I was really starting to panic.
Birth without fear my ass. I was scared.
I told them maybe I needed the epidural so that I could calm down and that would help baby calm down too. I was so worried about her and worried I had a long way to go. Everyone kept whispering and you bet your butt I called them out on that.
"Why is everyone whispering? I know whispering is bad, just TELL ME!"
They all reassured me that baby was just fine, and that if something was a concern they promised to tell me. I could not bare to be on my side any more and told my husband to get behind me so I could roll to my back and lean against him. In that instant, transition ended. Thank you Lord.
Sitting back felt so much better.
I was told then that it was time to push on contractions. At first I still wanted to moan/scream when I pushed. They had to get it through my head to hold my breath while I pushed. That was confusing because so far I thought I needed to breath steadily through them. But not with pushing. Ok. Got it. Once I made sense of that I was making progress. They said they could see her head and I just shouted "Yeah I've heard that before, I don't care"
So my midwife told me to reach down and touch her head. Talk about motivation. Come on girl.
At this moment the anesthesiologist guy comes in the room and goes over protocol if they have to do an emergency cesarean and blah blah blah. Great timing bro... get out of here.
Back to pushing. I had long breaks between each contraction which was blissful. I leaned back on Michael and breathed steady and slow. Then the build would start and we all grabbed a leg and worked together. I buried my face in his arms with each push, and remember my doula rubbing my leg and affirming my efforts over and over again.
I don't remember a ring of fire just bowling ball pressure. My eyes were closed the while time until her head was out. I knew then that I had done it! She wasn't going anywhere. I opened my eyes for the final push and watcher her slide out. I felt it all. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes. Right up to mama. Slimy and gooey in the most wonderful normal way. My other babies were handed to me all bundled up and pink. So I relished in the grossness.