I want to tell you about Noah’s birth, but that would be pointless unless you had Aria’s birth for comparison. So here is Aria’s birth story. Noah’s will come right after.
My pregnancy with Aria was fairly difficult. My nausea wasn’t awful, but I was uncomfortable a long time. I gained quite a bit of weight and swelled up early. By about 12 weeks into the pregnancy I couldn’t wear my wedding ring anymore. It was ridiculous. I failed the one-hour glucose test, but passed the three. Barely. My sugar levels were elevated, so I was told to watch my sugar. I consistently showed some signs of potential preeclampsia, so I was watched quite carefully. I never developed it full-blown, thank God, but I was really miserable by the end. My blood pressure wouldn’t regulate, and I spent most of my time the last couple of weeks lying on my side to try to lower my BP.
My due date was December 20, 2011. On December 22nd I had an appointment with my midwife, and was barely dilated. I was so frustrated. I was miserably uncomfortable, and I had hoped to have the baby before Christmas. The thought of being pregnant on Christmas made me mad. Yeah – I was done with pregnancy. It didn’t help that I was HUGE, and everyone I saw looked shocked and quizzed me on how I could still be pregnant. (People, do NOT do that to a pregnant woman. It’s insensitive, and you take your life into your hands.)
The afternoon of the 22nd I suddenly felt an extreme gush. My water broke! I called Andy, who was on his way home from work, and told him to meet me at the midwife, because I was going to get checked. By the time he got there Stephanie had informed me that what I was experiencing was an increased discharge that could go on for a couple weeks, but was not my water breaking. I was furious. I felt strongly that the universe was conspiring to make me miserable. (Yes, I had taken hormonal leave of my senses.) I couldn’t believe I might have to deal with this obnoxious discharge for a couple of weeks, on top of everything else.
I went home, ate dinner, walked to the library for books, and went to bed by 8pm feeling mad at the world. Around 8:30 my water broke. For real this time. For certain. No question. I phoned the midwife on call, and she told me to try to sleep while I was still able to. Sleep? Seriously?? I was so excited there was no way I could sleep. I tried valiantly, but slept not a wink. My contractions started around 11pm. They were far apart, and not painful at all. The next day around noon we went in to get checked. I was 3 cm dilated. After laboring more than 12 hours. But that didn’t strike me at that point, because I was oblivious to reality. I was just thinking this labor thing wasn’t so bad after all. We went back home, and around 2pm took ourselves to the birthing center to have the baby. By that time I was in actual pain. My labor had shifted to back labor, and the pain became excruciating. I can’t even describe it. It was just bad. Each time I had a contraction Andy had to push on my lower back so hard that his arms started to give out. And it still wasn’t hard enough. I labored in the tub, but wasn’t progressing. So I got out and walked around, and then got back in the tub. I was miserable and things were not moving. At one point sheer wishful thinking had me wanting to push.
Somewhere around 10pm Stephanie gently told me we were going to go another hour, and if things didn’t pick up we would need to transfer to the hospital and start Pitocin. She told me later that she could tell then that I was nowhere close. When she checked me I was dilated to 5-6 (probably closer to 5 – she was trying to be encouraging). At that point I started freaking out. I wanted an epidural, and I wanted it now. I couldn’t believe I’d been in so much pain I could no longer see straight for that many hours and it wasn’t doing anything. For the next hour they (Stephanie and the midwife student, Angela, who helped at the birth) had to coach me away from freaking out with every contraction. At 11ish Stephanie said we would start the process to move to the hospital. It turned out to be a long process. Andy had to pack everything up, Stephanie had to start a port for me (well, she did it out of kindness, because it was cheaper for us to do it there), and I had to sign paperwork. I would love to go back and see that paperwork, because I was blurry-eyed from pain and my arm was shaking so badly my signature didn’t remotely resemble anything.
Andy drove me to the hospital, a few hundred feet away, and it was the most horrific car ride of my life. Sitting was the most miserable thing I could imagine. Somehow my heroic husband drove and rubbed my back at the same time. (Rubbed – ha. More like ground his fist into my back.) It was after 1, maybe even 2, in the morning before I got my epidural. By that point I’d been in active labor more than 24 hours, excruciating and close contractions for nearly 12 of those hours. I remember being very angry that the anesthesiologist was taking so long to get to me. I had no concept of time, but it ended up being about an hour after we got to the hospital before I got the pain relief. Andy told me later that when I was sobbing to him that the guy was too slow, didn’t he care that I was in so much pain? the fellow wasn’t even at the hospital yet. After all, by this time it was 1am on Christmas Eve morning, in a small hospital. The anesthesiologist was understandably not at work. That epidural was the most amazing thing ever. I was told I might have discomfort, but I had none. I felt juuuust fine. I went to sleep, completely exhausted. Andy went to sleep in a cot beside my bed.
I didn’t wake up until around 7am, when I told the nurse I thought I might be ready to push. She told me to wait as long as I thought I could before trying. I waited until around 8, and then knew I needed to push. Of course I was lying on my back in bed, just the position I didn’t want to be in, but had to be in because of the epidural. Stephanie, Andy, and a nice nurse (I liked all the nurses who were part of the labor process) helped me through this stage. It took 4 1/2 hours. At the time I knew it felt like it was never going to end. I remember thinking several times that I never wanted to do this again, even while knowing, sort of helplessly, that I would. I purposely didn’t look at the clock, I just pushed and rested, pushed and rested. The nurse kept giving me sips of Sierra Mist, and after each one I thanked her. I remember hearing her marvel that I was being so polite. I also remember thinking it was a good thing I was a singer, because I was able to push a good long time when I needed to. When I mentioned that to Andy afterward he told me there were a few times they worried about me because I was pushing so long they weren’t sure I was still breathing at all.
In addition to being over 10 lbs (10 lbs, 3 oz, and 23 inches), Aria was sunny-side-up. She just was not interested in helping me by coming out quickly or easily. On the other hand, while I was working so incredibly hard, she was chillin’ out happily. Her heart rate never faltered, she was in no distress whatsoever. I remember being proud of her for that. It turns out that’s just part of her personality.
Despite her apparent ease, Stephanie finally told me that we were going to push one more time and if we didn’t see good progress (the crowning type), we would need to move to a c-section. She’d been preparing me for that eventuality for a while at that point. I pushed one more time, and we got good enough progress that she held off. Eventually, with lots of help from Stephanie and the nurse pushing on me in various ways while I also pushed, Aria was born. It was 12:24pm on 12/24/11. I had been in active labor for 37 1/2 hours. I had pushed for 4 1/2 of those. I was SO tired. I was excited to see that baby girl, but all my reactions were delayed. I felt sort of numbed by the physical and emotional toll of the whole ordeal.
Immediately I recognized that, though I wanted an unmedicated birth, if I hadn’t done the epidural I wouldn’t have made it without a c-section because I would have been too tired to push for so long. I also recognized that in another time or another place Aria and I would not have lived through that birth. And lastly, I recognized that with any attendant but Stephanie I would have ended up with a c-section. I am grateful for that woman for so many reasons.
I had what Stephanie described as a 2.999999999 degree tear. The closest she’d ever seen to a 3 without technically being one. I stayed in the hospital until late in the afternoon of December 26th. The first few days I had a terrible time with nursing. Every inch of my body hurt from the labor and delivery. Nursing hurt, and Aria wasn’t latching properly. I felt like I was starving her, she wanted to eat constantly, and I could barely move. I was emotional and exhausted and in pain. I honestly wondered why I had even thought I wanted children to begin with. It took a couple weeks before I could walk normally and sit normally. By then I also felt good about the nursing, and had recovered enough emotionally that I felt well-connected to my little girl.
By four weeks postpartum, I was thinking about the next baby. Yep. I might be a little crazy. I didn’t say anything to my husband for a while, because he was still traumatized. 🙂
The Lord had lined everything up perfectly for us to work through such a difficult labor. He led me to Stephanie before I ever thought about pregnancy, or knew anything about childbirth options. He led us to Bradley classes, which gave us the information we needed to work our way through the experience and make the decisions we needed to calmly and rationally (okay, relatively). And he gave me the disposition to deal with the entire situation. I’m not emotionally fragile. Many women would have been shattered by that birth, but I recovered from it quickly considering the trauma. When Stephanie and I discussed our approach for Noah’s birth, she pointed out that we had already handled worst-case scenario, so we knew I could do it and we knew what we would do should it arise again.
Which leads me to Noah’s birth. I was determined to try again for that unmedicated birth at the birthing center. But you’ll have to follow me to another blog post for that story, because this post is already waaay too long. 🙂