I sat down to write out Emily's birth story and decided to read Anna's and Levi's first. I read Anna's and started to look for Levi's and realized I never wrote about it. Probably because I was so disappointed by the whole experience. It wasn't anything like the birth I was hoping for him, and we both had some health problems for months as a result of the way he was born. Every time I thought about it for years, I would get angry again about what had (and had not) happened. So when I got pregnant with Emily, I was much more proactive about getting the care and birth I wanted.
31 weeks pregnant
I started with an OB here in Grapevine who had done VBAC's for two of my friends. I liked him, but he was warmly distant like my OB with Anna and Levi. He said he was open, but hesitant about doing a VBAC after two c-sections. After that conversation, I started looking for midwives in the area. I finally found a midwife group in Fort Worth who only delivered in a hospital. It was exactly the combination I was looking for. I needed the medical support of a hospital staff in case of uterine rupture, but I wanted the care model of the midwives.
I went to an information session they held and talked to one of them afterwards to find out if they would consider me as a patient if I had two prior c-sections. She told honestly told me that there would be some reservations and I would be treated a little differently than a first-time mom, but that they could definitely see me as a patient.
35 weeks pregnant
It was a long drive for my check-ups, but I really liked the midwives and I liked that they were honest about their reservations. They took their time with me and answered my questions in detail. All of their VBAC patients had to meet with their consulting OB. He gave me the most straight forward assessment of risks and options anyone had ever laid out for me and I felt so empowered after our meeting to make decisions for my care. I decided that if I hadn't gone into labor by 39 weeks, we'd schedule a c-section for 40 weeks.
By 35 weeks, I was dilated 1.5 cm, 80% effaced, and the baby was low, low down in my pelvis. It was the last week of school and there were activities morning till night every day. I'd come home and have contractions all evening. I was sure I'd go into labor any day. But then school got out and life calmed down and my contractions were less frequent. At 37 weeks, I was dilated to a 2.5 and I started walking and swimming thinking I'd start labor after some exercise. I felt like the baby was going to fall out she was so low and the pressure on my hips was awful. I wasn't sleeping and was generally exhausted. But at 38 weeks, I was dilated to a 3, fully effaced, and the baby at a -1 position (I had no idea what that meant other than that, yes, she was super low down) and the midwife said the baby seemed perfectly content. So she swept my membranes in an effort to start labor.
And it definitely started! My appointment was at 2 PM and by 5 PM contractions had started. I timed them all evening and they were about 15 min apart. I tried to sleep and was able to (mostly) between contractions. The next morning, Sam took the kids to swim lessons, and his mom picked them up around lunch time. I took a walk in the morning and in the afternoon, Sam and I walked around the mall loop for two tiring hours. The contractions would get as close as 3 min apart and as far as 15 min, but nothing consistent. Since they seemed to slow way down whenever I sat down, I blew up our exercised ball and started bouncing on it while watching a movie (What About Bob?). About an hour into it, I was to the point where I'd have to kneel and rock through each contraction, so even though they were still about 7-8 min apart, we decided to go to the hospital since it was half an hour away.
Walking up to the room brought lots of contractions, but laying in bed while they filled out paper work and signed forms slowed them down again. Once I was changed and settled, they checked my dilation, and I was still at a 3 after over 24 hours of contractions. We waited about an hour to see the midwife on call and there was no change, so she suggested I sit on the birthing ball for a while. After another hour and still no change, she gave me the options of just keeping going, getting some sedatives and some IV fluids, or going home. I was HATING the fetal monitors so I decided we'd go home.
We got home around midnight and I took a hot shower and took some extra-strength tylenol (for the pain) and benadryl (to put me to sleep) like the midwife suggested. I got some restless sleep for a couple hours until I couldn't stay in bed any more. I took another shower and went upstairs to sit in chair and try to sleep. But after several contractions in a row had me on the floor, I called for Sam.
I asked him to give me a blessing, which he did and in it, he promised that we would be able to make the best decisions about the birth. I feel so grateful for that promise since, from that moment on, I felt confident about each choice we made. After a couple more really hard contractions where I was clinging to Sam and crying with relief after they passed, I confessed to Sam that I felt out of control. He said, "I'd really like to take you back to the hospital now," and I agreed. We got packed up again and headed out by 6 AM.
Once at the hospital, the same nurses who had just started their shift when we got there the evening before were just ending their shift and they got us checked in and passed on to the morning nurses. When they checked me and told me I was only dilated to a 4, I was so disappointed, but I was far enough along to stay at the hospital and they got me moved into a delivery room.
Our nurse was AMAZING. She was encouraging and capable. She told me, "I am going to do anything I can to get you this vaginal birth today. I will be so disappointed if we can't make this work, so we're going to make it work." Then she immediately said, "I think you're dehydrated. Can I put an IV in and give you fluids?" I loved that she asked permission first and gratefully accepted since I'd been thirsty for hours, but drinking anything made the nausea worse. After another hour of labor, I was shaking uncontrollably and the contractions were longer and harder than ever. She checked me again and there was no progress. Hearing that, I asked if she could talk to me about an epidural. She told me the risks and benefits, how it might help and what might be complications. After that, I told her I wanted to go ahead and get one.
Resting after the epidural. I'm so glad I brought my own pillow and blanket from home. I was freezing.
Once they got there, it took two tries to get the epidural in right. It was awful, but my nurse just gripped me to hold me still and put my head on her shoulder. I held her so tight and she didn't complain at all. But once it started working, I felt that flood of warmth and calm. The shaking stopped and I was able to breathe and relax. My nurse got me settled on my side and I soon fell asleep. About an hour and a half later, the midwife came to check on me. In that short time I had dilated 3 more centimeters to a 7. They asked if I wanted them to break my water, and I said yes. Then they rolled me to my other side and I fell back asleep. When I woke up again an hour later, I was fully dilated and they said I would soon be ready to push.
It took a while for the midwife to be available, but the nurse and student midwife who was assisting that day got me sitting up and situated. My nurse explained to me how I would push and told me she'd tell me when since by that time I wasn't even feeling much pressure at contractions. Once the midwife got there, I started pushing. After maybe two pushes, the midwife said she'd leave me with the student and come back later. I was trying to do what they asked, but but they were often correcting me: pull on your legs more, keep your head down, push lower. I couldn't feel a thing below my waist, so I was having a difficult time feeling what was different between good pushes and unproductive pushes. At one point, I thought, "the midwife is my coach correcting my form, the nurse is my cheerleader, and Sam is my faithful fan telling me how great I'm doing, no matter what."
Eventually, the midwife came back in and she immediately said, "She needs to roll on her side." That seemed to make all the difference in how I felt things. I started to feel when contractions were coming and felt calmer during the rests between pushes. They put up a mirror and I could see the progress of her head coming into view. They were telling me I was doing well and then, after what seemed like just another push, the midwife said, "Keep pushing as long as you can and we can get her out." And just like that in one minute, her head emerged and I watched the rest of her body come into view followed by a big cry. While I was pushing her out, Sam said, "Wow!" and I could here the pride and wonder in his voice. That one word is still a favorite moment that I play over in my head. Overall, I pushed for about an hour and Emily was born at 1:35 PM.
They put her right on my chest and I kept saying, "You're here! You're here with me." Of course I was crying and holding her tight. Another nurse came in and started rubbing Emily down while she was still on my chest. Around that time, the student midwife called to Tanya that there was still a lot bleeding. They told me I had bad tearing and they would need to start repairing it right away to keep the bleeding at bay. At that point, they had Sam cut the umbilical cord and they started to stitch me up. It took forever. I had a 3rd degree tear along with other lacerations. I'm glad I had the epidural so I didn't have to feel it while it was happening. In the time it took, I held Emily for a while longer, Sam held her, and the other nurse cleaned her up a bit, weighed and measured her, and put on her eye drops. And they still weren't finished. I was getting worried since not only was it taking so long, but Emily cried the whole time. And not just a little newborn whimper, but a big wailing cry. I briefly thought, "What have I gotten us into?"
Eventually of course, it was done and they brought me a sandwich. I nursed a little and Sam's family came with Anna and Levi. They were two little crazies running around the hospital room. Neither of them wanted to hold Emily or even take a picture with her, but I knew they were excited about her. They moved me to a recovery room upstairs and I told Sam I was tired and ready for people to go. Sam went to dinner with his parents and they gave Emily back to me to hold. She started getting fussy again and didn't want to nurse on one side. My new nurses came in and had me moving her in all sorts of positions. I finally just put her on the other side and she latched right on. Once she calmed down, she ate on the other side, too, and then I was alone and holding her skin to skin.
It was then, alone and quiet and warm, holding that soft sweet baby on my chest that I really fell in love with her. I just stroked her and breathed her in and kissed her while she slept.
We passed a long night in the hospital full of interruptions and crying and uncomfortable beds. The next morning was long, too while we waited for her to be 24 hours old and pass all the tests. In the mean time, we decided on her name, Emily Jane Cosby. Emily means "striving" and I feel like that's a good word for what it took to get to the point of the beautiful birth we had together and the wonderful first few days we've spent together. I can't wait to see what the future brings for our amazing little girl.