I thought, going into this pregnancy, that since Emily had been a VBAC that a doctor would feel much more comfortable about doing a second VBAC. And I was oh so very wrong. I contacted probably ten providers near me and all but one said they wouldn't even make an appointment with me. The one doctor who would make an appointment used our time to explain why she couldn't see me as a patient (and then billed me for it...(we didn't pay.))
So eventually, I made an appointment at the Pavilion for Women at Texas Children's Hospital at the medical center in downtown Houston. This took another week since you had to call and request an appointment with each doctor who then had 48 hours to let you know of their availability. By the time I got an appointment with Dr. Harris, she was my third-choice doctor, and I was 16 weeks pregnant.
She almost didn't believe me that I was 16 weeks, but did an ultra-sound and was surprised that was telling the truth (?!) and then let me know that she'd have to get approval from the rest of her team to see me as a patient and that she couldn't guarantee that any other doctor would go through with a VBAC if they were on call when I went into labor.
Needless to say, I was not very impressed on our first visit. She is a little gruff and slightly awkward; at one appointment when I was completely healthy and feeling good, she said, "Damn girl, you're boring!" But over time, we got more comfortable with one another and it was easy to see that she was smart, competent, and kept up to date on research and techniques. She was also very deferential to my opinion and choices. In every conversation, about epidurals, genetic testing, and early contractions, she'd always say, "You know how you feel and you're well equipped to make this decision and we will do whatever YOU want." I came to trust her completely.
By 34 weeks, I was starting to dilate and by 36 I was dilated to a 3. I was in constant pain and was so anxious about adding another person to the mix in our family that I would stress myself into an hour or two of contractions until I could breathe and talk myself out of it. I was very much counting down the days, but she had said she wouldn't strip my membranes or break my water until 39 weeks, so I was just trying to be patient. At my 37 week appointment, she took a long time on an ultrasound checking my fluid levels but eventually was satisfied.
On April 19, I was 38 weeks and 2 days and had my 38 week appointment. I packed a lunch for Emily and a snack for me and drove to the appointment, planning on stopping at the Houston Children's Museum on the way home from the doctor, which was our routine by this point. Only, when Dr. Harris did an ultrasound she had a very worried look. She turned the machine towards me and explained that she should be able to measure so much amniotic fluid in two dimensions and she couldn't, anywhere. She said, "This makes me nervous. I'm on call tonight and I want you to stay and have the baby."
I was totally shocked! She said, "Do you have someone who can come get Emily?" I mumbled something about a friend and she said, "Good. So we'll get you checked in and then we'll get rolling. Sound good?" And then she left. I made some phone calls to a friend to pick up my kids from school, and to my visiting teacher to come get Emily, and to Sam to tell him to come. Still no one returned so I went and found the nurse and she said, "You're still here?" I explained that no one had told me where to go yet, so she walked me to the registration desk and wished me luck.
I got registered and wolfed down some food (before someone could tell me not to eat) while I filled out some paperwork. Eventually they called me back. I changed into a hospital gown and they started an IV of antibiotics since I was group B strep positive. At this point it was about 11 AM and I knew I just had to wait about four hours for the IV to finish. Emily was being a trouper. She happily ate her lunch and explored the hospital room. She climbed on the chair and looked out the window at the cars and told me what she saw. Eventually she was getting a little restless, so I brought her on the bed with me and read her the entire 80 page Richard Scarry stories book. I snuggled her tight thinking that this would be the last time she'd be my baby and shed a few tears.
Soon, my visiting teacher, De Anna Owen arrived. I told her where my car was so she could get Emily's car seat and gave her my keys. It took a long time for her to come back and she said, "Just so you know, your car is on the blue level, not the green level." She'd wandered around the whole parking garage in the Texas heat listening for my car to honk. She could hear it honking, but couldn't find it, until she'd figured out the sound was below her. So she finally found it and got Emily's huge car seat into her car. Emily was a little confused about why she was leaving, but De Anna told me she didn't cry at all and talked to her about mommy and the baby.
I had about an hour between when they left and when Sam arrived. I'm glad I had the time to sit and think and process that I was going to have a baby that day. I was not at all mentally prepared, so I was glad to have some quiet. I was starting to get really hungry and my nurse told me I could get a salad or something light to eat which made me happy. I was starting to feel some contractions and knew things were getting going.
Sam came and told me that everyone at work was really excited. I had told him we had lots of time since I had to get the antibiotics, so he didn't need to race over. He was trying to get things tied up at work since he knew he'd be gone for a while so he stopped in at his boss's office to go over something he'd asked about that morning. His boss said, "Wait a minute, didn't your wife tell you she's having the baby?" Sam said, "Yes, but..." To which his boss said, "It doesn't matter. We'll figure it out. Get out of here!"
So Sam went home and got the hospital bag and some other things I asked for and cleaned the legos off the floor of the guest room so his parents wouldn't have to do it when they arrived. Once he got to the hospital, he got my mom on the phone. We'd been trying to call each other, but for some reason, the call just wouldn't go through on my phone. She had been so worried and had even called Sam's mom, just to find out if everything was OK. I assured her that everything was going fine and I'd call her when the baby came.
We talked and read and I rested for another couple hours as they started prepping the room for having a baby. I was starting to have stronger contractions. Around 5 PM my doctor came in and we talked over what would happen. She said it would be a busy night and if I wanted to get my epidural, it might be good to get it sooner rather than later before things got crazy. I had already decided I wanted to get one- in case of a uterine rupture or other emergency, it would save time. Dr. Harris broke my water and then they called the anesthesiologist. He came around 6 PM by which time my contractions had gotten much stronger. They sent Sam out to get some dinner and he was happy not to be around for shot. The anesthesiologist was excellent and after the initial pain I was just flooded with relief and warmth. I chatted with the doctor and nurse for a while and met my new nurse who'd be with me during delivery.
When Sam came back he said I looked nice and comfortable with the epidural. I told him that the epidural felt so good, not just because it eased the pain of the contractions, but because it took away all the pain I'd had for months!
The next few hours were spent reading, watching dumb movies, and resting. My nurse had me sit up to have gravity help the baby descend and I started to feel a little more pressure in my low back. The nurse was gone for a while, and when she came back she checked my dilation. I hadn't progressed much, so she brought in a peanut ball and put it between my legs. She told me to call if I felt pressure like I had to go to the bathroom. She left and almost immediately I felt a strong contraction deep in my back. I waited until there was a second one and called the nurse.
She came in around 11 PM and checked me and said, "Yep! You're at a ten and the baby's coming! I'll call Dr. Harris. It's so crazy out there tonight that the head nurse just asked me why my patient was taking up a bed when she wasn't having a baby. Well, now I can tell her you ARE having a baby. And soon!"
The kids came to visit with my in-laws the first day around dinner time. Emily was just sobbing and cranky and hungry and tired. Eventually they got to dinner and Sam talked some sense into the older two so that when they came back Emily just wanted to snuggle with me on the bed and Anna and Levi loved holding the baby. Levi immediately sang "My name is Madeleine" which is a song my dad wrote when we were kids which he'd sing with our own names. It was the sweetest moment.
Since then, it's been three months! She has grown from a tiny sleepy baby to a fussy, non-stop eating and crying baby, to a wide-eyed, happy, curious girl who sleeps all night and laughs and coos. Anna is so good with her and can calm her and play with her and help me so much. Levi likes to jump in and out of her life with quick, hard snuggles and tickles. Occasionally he'll stop and ask to hold her, but the moment she starts to fuss a little or spit up, he hands her over. Emily always wants to know where Madeleine is and if her eyes are open or closed. She loves to make her arms and legs move and LOVES to get a smile from her. She regressed a bit when Madeleine first arrived, needing her blanket and pacifier with her all the time and wanting lots of snuggles, but she's slowly coming back into her independent, singing self.
I think this may be our last child and I'm trying to soak in as many baby moments as I can. I love seeing how everyone has embraced Madeleine into our family and I can't wait to see her personality shine through. I already feel like we're starting our next adventure!