Monday, August 17: 39 weeks, 2 days
11:15 am I have my weekly check-up with my OB.
Everything looks good on the monitors and when my doctor, Paula, checks me, I am happy to hear that I am 1 cm dilated. This means that she can strip my membranes, which I have been hoping we’d be able do today. (Since I am trying and praying for a VBAC I won’t be able to be induced into labor so I am happy to have this little “push” that is natural.) The procedure is quick and she tells me to expect cramping through the rest of the day. We go ahead and schedule a return visit on Thursday for her to repeat the procedure in the hopes that the baby will come by the weekend, on/around his due date of Saturday, August 22.
Up until this point I have been having some minor cramping and occasional detectable contractions but nothing painful or notable. My feeling is that the baby will be late but I am hopeful that the scraping of the membranes will help move things along.
12:30 pm Michael and I meet for lunch after my appointment. I’m feeling cramps but nothing bad and we have a lovely lunch together. We are trying to take advantage of these final days together and we talk about my appointment and how the baby might really arrive in the next week or so.
5:30 pm I am home playing with Colt and texting with my girlfriends (who both just had their second babies – each having gone into labor after 2 rounds of having their membranes scraped). Paige asks me if I’m having contractions and I tell her that while I am, I have to focus to distinguish them from the general cramping I’m feeling. I assume all are just normal after-effects from the procedure and don’t think too much about it.
6:30 pm As I feed Colt dinner I start timing contractions. The timing varies but they are around 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart. They are not strong though so after 45 minutes I stop timing them so I can focus on playing with Colt before bed.
7:15 pm Michael is home and we are playing with Colt together. I am feeling the contractions a little more but still feeling totally fine. When it’s time to put Colt down for bed, Michael suggests that I do it while he finishes getting our dinner ready. Although I still don’t let myself think that this could really be “it,” I stay in Colt’s room a little longer than normal, sing to him a little more and pray a little extra with him before saying goodnight. The maternal instinct in me knows that these are my last moments with him as my only and I am both excited and heartbroken at the same time. (I cry even now as I type this.)
8:30 pm Michael and I sit down to dinner and I start timing contractions again. After about 30 minutes of timing them they appear to be about 1:15 long and about 5:30 apart. At this point I tell Michael that I think tonight could be the night and that I think I should try to lay down and rest in case we have a long night ahead. I go back to our room and he starts preparing lots of food that we can leave for Colt. We text Michael’s brother, Joe, and tell him that we aren’t sure but basically to sleep with his ringer on in case we need him to come over in the middle of the night. I text my doctor and, knowing that I want to try to have the baby without any interventions (including pain medicine), she encourages me to stay home as long as possible and asks me to let her know when I’ve reached a 7 out of 10 on my pain threshold. I don’t exactly know what that means but I know I’ve got a while.
10:15 pm I’m unable to sleep so I return to the living room. I had started working on a general-update blog post earlier that day and I want to finish it and post it. After I post it I start timing contractions again. They are still about 1:15 long and 5 minutes apart. They do hurt but I can definitely still talk through them.
11:15 pm Michael and I lay down in bed again. He falls asleep but I’ve found that the contractions are more uncomfortable in bed so after 30 minutes or so I am back in the living room on the recliner. I’m trying to be calm and breathe through each one but I have a hard time not tensing up and I end up just wiggling around.
Tuesday, August 18: 39 weeks 3 days
12:15 am I finally feel confident enough that I’m in labor to text my mom. The contractions are now closer together coming every 3:30 or 4 minutes and are 1:20-1:30 long.
1:15 am I wake Michael up to update him on my progress. The pain is still manageable but I am kind of freaked out by how long and close together the contractions are and I am wondering how far along I am. Michael encourages me to call Paula and while she says that I am welcome to go into the hospital anytime, she tells me that she thinks I’ll be a lot more comfortable at home and she says she’s afraid I’ll go in early and be disappointed by not being as far along as I think I am. Michael and I agree that our plan has been to wait as long as possible to go in and since my doctor also feels like I have a while to go, we stay home. We sit together in the living room, eat ice cream, pray, watch TV and keep timing contractions.
3:15 am The contractions are stronger and more frequent – often every 2 minutes or so. I am not looking forward to the experience of driving to the hospital, checking in etc. so we decide we should start getting ready to go so that we can just get there and get settled. My doctor, Paula, is actually already at the hospital for another delivery so she says she’ll see me when I get there. We get some final things together for our bags. I change clothes and get ready. Michael calls Joe and he comes over to stay with Colt until the morning.
4:20 am We are in the car headed to the hospital. In the 10 minute drive (no traffic at this hour!) I have 3 contractions in the car and another one right in the front lobby of the hospital. I feel a little bit like a spectacle but they are manageable. I text my friend Paige that if I’m dilated to a 4 or lower then I don’t think I’ll make it without pain medicine but if I’m a 6 or higher then maybe there is a chance.
4:40 am I am checked in, wearing the gown and immediately get hooked up to the fetal heart-rate and contraction monitors. The straps around my stomach feel super tight and uncomfortable and I hate watching the contractions register on the monitor – it somehow makes it worse to have to watch them peak and double peak before coming down. This position, laying on the bed is the worst. Paula comes right in to see me and informs me that she has just finished another VBAC and tells me that I can totally do it too. Then she checks me and says I’m 3-4 cm dilated and it could be 12+ more hours. I burst out laughing and say she has to be kidding. I can’t handle being strapped to the monitors and get up sooner than the nurses would have liked but I just can’t deal anymore. Paula has to leave but my dedicated nurse from her team is staying with me. I knew that my nurse would be 1 of 4 women from the practice (just depends on the day) and I feel blessed that it’s Roseli. I had met her a week prior and had gotten to explain my situation so she knows exactly what is going on – plus she speaks pretty good English and I am relieved not to have to be thinking in Portuguese right now. God’s grace. Roseli suggests we move into the shower and that feels much better. I am wishing there was a bath but there isn’t one available.
5:15 am I ask Roseli to call the anesthesiologist to come in. I know it will be 30 minutes from when I make the request before he can get to the hospital and the contractions are feeling really strong. Michael is supportive but asks (about 4 times!) if I’m totally sure that this is what I want. I am really struggling to breathe through contractions and can’t imagine handling it on my own for too much longer so I say yes. As time ticks on the only thing that gets me through each contraction is the promise that relief is coming.
5:50 am The anesthesiologist arrives and begins to administer the epidural. I have to sit still through 3 contractions and it’s pretty brutal. I’m holding onto Roseli and she is talking me through it. They say I will feel some pressure but it feels like a terrible bee sting. I want to be sure that nothing is wrong since a bee sting feels different than just pressure so I’m shouting, “Bee sting, bee sting!” They don’t understand but Michael remembers the words in Portuguese (picada de abelha) and they agree that it’s normal to feel stinging. When it’s over they tell me it will take 10-15 minutes to fully kick in and the final contractions feel like the strongest yet.
6:15 am The epidural has fully set in but there is a spot on my left side where it just didn’t take. I am definitely feeling relief but still having to “manage” through each contraction due to the pain in my side. It’s funny how different the epidural is vs. the anesthesia that I got for the c-section. I think I expected it to be more like the c-section where I was totally numb but instead the epidural seems only to target the pain – I still feel like I could totally get up and walk around (although of course I don’t).
6:25 am Roseli checks me and I’m 7cm dilated. I am so surprised to have made so much progress in less than 2 hours and for a split second I question the epidural that I just got, but when the next contraction hits and I feel the pain in my side I’m glad that I’m not feeling it everywhere. Roseli breaks my water and says she’ll be back soon to check me again.
7:05 am The epidural is wearing off a little bit and the area on my side that doesn’t have relief is growing. Roseli checks me again and says that I’m fully dilated. I’m shocked but excited. This is happening much faster than I thought it would when I checked in only 2.5 hours ago. She has me “practice pushing” a couple times through a contraction and is not too impressed with my performance but says that she’s calling in my doctor anyway. Michael leaves to get scrubbed in. Roseli and my anesthesiologist talk and say that they want to give me another dose of the epidural. I question this since I say that I want to be able to push well but they say that I’m tensing up too much due to the pain in my side and they think I’ll be able to focus more on pushing if I’m not hurting. I concede and they give me another dose which takes completely and soon I’m pain free.
7:45 am My doctor arrives and I get moved into the delivery room. Everything happens so quickly now. It all seems so intense. It feels like this really big, crazy thing is happening to me and I can’t stop it. The lights. The people. The bed I’m on. They position me and tilt the bed so that I’m almost in an elevated squat of sorts. I feel a little more exposed than I’m totally comfortable with and I make sure that Michael is back with me up at my shoulders. He is God’s grace to me right now and is such a comforting presence through this whole process. He is truly getting me through it. Once everything is in place my doctor asks me to start pushing. I don’t feel like I’m doing a very good job but she and Roseli coach me through what to do and soon I can tell that the baby is close. Michael is getting excited and is really cheering for me. They tell me they can see the baby’s head and they give me oxygen for the final pushes. The next thing I know I can feel his head coming out. One more push and his whole body follows.
8:10 am Fincher Oliver Harper is born, praise God. My doctor puts him right on my chest and I have never felt more overwhelmed in my life. I can’t process all that just happened. The physical feeling of it all, even with the epidural, is the most intense thing I have ever experienced. I am in love with my new sweet boy and the first thing I think when I see him is how much he looks like his brother, Colt. This is a comforting thought to me – it’s familiar and already saturated with love. I notice that he has funny little ears – one of them looks like someone took a little nibble off the top. I love this detail. He is so white and slimy but Michael and I just hold him and kiss him. We call him by his name and tell him that we love him. We thank God for the blessing of this baby and for the way He honored our prayer for a successful VBAC. “We did it.”
After a few minutes they ask Michael if he wants to cut the cord. They tell him that it’s “harder than it seems” but he has done this before. He grabs the scissors and in one strong cut he goes all the way through, splattering blood across all the doctors and nurses. Everyone laughs.
Even with the sweet, slimy baby on my chest and the epidural, I am keenly aware of the fact that my doctor is now focused on getting me all cleaned up. I can feel more than I want to and they give me more local anesthetic to help me deal for the next 15 minutes. I don’t feel pain but I can still feel what’s going on and I don’t like it. Paula reassures me that everything looks great but I am super freaked out by it all and am shaking by the time it’s over.
The doctors take Finn to get measured and weighed. He is 3.485 kg (7 lbs 11 oz) and 51 cm (20 inches) long. His Apgar score is 9 then 10 and he’s perfect.
8:45 am They wheel me out to a little cove and bring Finn over to nurse for the first time. He has no problem and nurses for 30 minutes on each side. We hear lots of other babies crying but Finn is so calm, sweet and peaceful. Michael and I marvel at what a beauty he is and we are amazed at how much he reminds us of Colt as a baby.
10:00 am we go up to our room and I’m so exhausted that I basically fall asleep as they are wheeling me there.
That afternoon I am in and out of sleeping and nursing. I FaceTime my mom but I struggle to recount the birth story mostly because I am still so overwhelmed by it. I feel so thankful that God gave us the blessing of a VBAC and everything went great but I also feel a little like I’ve been traumatized. I take a shower and can’t believe how much better I feel than I did after my c-section, but I am also feeling pain in different ways (and different places) that scare me a little.
6:15 pm Joe visits and brings us dinner and, most importantly, Colt. It is almost more than I can handle to see Colt in this moment – I love him so much and feel a little torn over the reality the he is no longer my only. He is so sweet and gives his brother kisses. Finn “gives” Colt a puzzle and Colt loves it. Then he crawls up next to me in bed and asks to hold Finn so we hold him together. It’s too much but somehow I hold back the tears because I don’t want Colt to think that anything is wrong.
After they leave, Michael and I talk about how incredibly blessed we are. We thank God for His abundant provision and we trust Him for the days ahead.