I was beginning to lose faith that my body would really be able to go into labor naturally, on it's own. I had read so many positive birth affirmations and quietly meditated prayers that this birth would be so different than my last. My son's birth four years ago was a sudden traumatic emergency C Section only four hours after they had broke my water to induce me at thirteen days overdue. He ended up being just fine and they couldn't figure out why his heart rate had dropped. It seems as though that type of birth was in the 1% of births, so the chances for a repeat emergency C Section seemed highly unlikely. Although all of my prenatal care this time around was done by the amazing midwives at Swedish Hospital, we did consult with an OB, Dr. Grabinski, who runs a statistical analysis of the success for a trial of labor after cesarian and her stats showed a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian) in the low 80% range, which she said was really great. Even when I was over a week over due, the chances were still in the high 60%- low 70% zone.
So, here I was at one week overdue with baby number two and starting to doubt my own body's abilities. The midwives stripped my membranes on Thursday, which got some contractions going (the first for this pregnancy), yet they were only about every seven to eight minutes apart and only twenty seconds long and were not painful at all. Those lasted on and off for the next two and a half days. I went to bed around 9pm on Sunday night and awoke around 11pm to some more painful contractions. I was getting hot flashes with these newer contractions and they were already about two and a half minutes apart and thirty seconds long or so. They say the rule of thumb for knowing when to go to the hospital is 5 to 1 to 1: Spaced out every five minutes, one minute long, and lasting around an hour or so. I figured I still had a while to go, but because the snow was already starting to pile up and it was expected to have quite the accumulation, we figured we better head across the bridge to the hospital right away.
I kept getting so hot with each contraction that I just threw on my flip flops and walked through the snow to the car. I had a couple contractions in the car, but they were still manageable. I'm just glad that the hubster was driving! When we checked in to OB Triage, I was already dilated around 5cm! That was really exciting news! I couldn't believe I was practically half way there already! I got a little too excited with the news becoming more and more convinced that this birth would for sure be quick like my mothers (four hours with me and ten minutes with my brother!). So, I was a little frustrated when I was still only 8.5 cm dilated after about four or five hours and the contractions were so insanely intense by then. I had started off with a really good squat sway that was helping ride out the contractions and then had moved to the bathtub. During my first labor I remember not getting much of a break between each contraction because my temperature kept going from super sauna hot to freezing shivering cold in between. This time was so much better as I didn't have as much temperature fluctuation and so I got decent rest in between contractions. By the time I got to the intensity of contractions around 4am or so, I was starting to curse and swear and cry at each contraction and I decided to just go for the epidural. I had thought I wanted a natural child birth, but I also just bottom line wanted a healthy baby, so it was definitely a line I was willing to cross. I am so glad that I did. That epidural was the bomb diggity! It was the best decision! I do not need a badge of honor for a natural child birth. I am totally A ok with that decision. No regrets. Compared to being totally under full anesthesia and not being able to even see my baby come out the first time around, this was no major loss. The best part was that the epidural worked beautifully on me and I still had a decent amount of ability to shift my legs and hips around and move a bit. The midwives seemed impressed that I wasn't really feeling contractions and yet I was still able to move myself up and down! Once I had the epidural, they told hubby and I we could take a nice long rest and sleep. Well, of course I couldn't sleep...I had way too much adrenaline for that and I was still debating between our top two names for our baby girl! It wasn't until just before the last pushes that I decided on my original name for her...the name I've had for a girl for years and years. I don't know why I was doubting myself!
Pushing was exhausting even with the epidural. It was really hard to know if I was squeezing in the right way in the right place. Pushing took over two hours. At one point I could tell that my hubby needed to get some food and coffee since I felt like we were making very minimal progress, so I sent him down to get some. I'm so glad that I did, since it was still probably another hour before baby came out! They let me look in a mirror at my progress, which honestly didn't really help me mentally much...it only seemed like I had that much further to go. That's mostly because I didn't realize that once you reach a certain point on the baby's head, the rest of baby just slides right out! I was envisioning needing to push at several points on her body like the whole head and then the shoulders, but luckily once I got past the biggest part of her head, she just slid right out!
As she slid out, they immediately placed her on my chest for skin to skin, yet she was looking quite blue and wouldn't cry! Phil and I were already in tears that we had had a successful vbac! That my body did it! Then when she wasn't crying, we gave each other a look of pure fear, "Here we go again!" I just kept repeating..."cry! cry! cry!" It felt like forever...like at least a minute, but of course it was much less time than that. They took her off of me and brought her across the room to the warmer where she finally let out a big cry and gained color, draining the blue away. I know it's cliche, but that was probably one of the most important sounds in my life! The midwives brought her back to me not long after to begin feeding. Thanks to the epidural, getting the placenta out was no problem. They didn't even take her back to weigh her for a good hour. The bonding was so intense and euphoric.
After they moved us to a smaller postpartum suite, we met another slew of helpful and cheerful nurses. The team of nurses in OB Delivery at Swedish Hospital is seriously top notch. They are great guides, coaches, and of course medical professionals. Leilah and I continued to develop our breastfeeding journey, which was off to a great start. I ordered as much as I could (ok, not really, but it felt like it!) from the cafeteria and then settled in to napping, feeding, and nurses checking our vitals. Leilah had all the normal newborn tests and our family came to visit that first evening. Micah was so sweet meeting his little sister; so excited and kissed her head and fingers and toes over and over again. All three grandparents got a turn holding her and she was just so calm and sleepy and barely cried. By the next day she began to get a little more lung power, but still remained super calm and sleepy. All three of us left the hospital by 5pm on day two!
Vaginal recovery is no small task and no joke. I don't know what I was expecting, but apparently I expected to be totally fine in less than one week! Naive, I know! After C Section recovery I figured it would feel way easier, yet with my memory of my first recovery pretty fuzzy, this time actually feels a bit harder! Thankfully, we've had our parents taking turns staying with us (mostly just to get Micah out the door to preschool!). Challenging recovery and all, I am just so proud and thankful towards my body. My body has redeemed itself. I finally know that it is capable of going into labor on its own and of giving birth without an operating room! The trauma of Micah's birth is behind us and we can finally move on. Leilah is here and she's healthy (at two weeks old she is already a whole pound heavier than birth weight!) and life is pretty cool as a family of four.