This entry is for the Giving Birth--A Defining Moment series on The Mom Pledge Blog. Other birth stories can be found here: http://www.themompledgeblog.com/2012/05/defining-moments-you.html
I've been working on Isabelle's birth story for the last week or so now and it's quite a lengthy one with five parts. Part 5 is the formerly short version of Isabelle's birth story. Before reading that, you may want to read the story of her sister's arrival: http://theworldofnatalie.blogspot.com/2006/02/miss-natalie-has-arrived.html because it shaped how I wanted Isabelle's birth to be (which was the exact opposite of her older sister's birth). If you get a chance, read the other parts of Isabelle's birth story which you can find on this blog, part 4 especially since I do feel that part 4 was the turning point of the whole thing. Without some of the events that happened during that part, I don't think I would have gotten the birth I worked so hard to get though having the support from ICAN and other online groups during my pregnancy helped greatly as well and helped educate me so that I could make the decisions I needed to make and be confident in those decisions as well. And of course, reading of other positive deliveries for women of size on The Plus Sized Pregnancy Website helped reassure me during those times I especially felt vulnerable due to blatant size discrimination in articles and posts I saw online.
Without further ado, here is Isabelle's birth story.
Saturday, July 17th was my due date and it had more or less come and gone without too much in the way of contractions or anything. I would have some here and there but maybe three an hour and nothing that I couldn't handle. I couldn't help but feel a little frustrated. I knew that there was a chance I would go past the due date since I had with Natalie but with Isabelle being in a good position and everything, I had gotten kind of hopeful that she would come earlier. It wasn't so much that I was impatient for her to come out because realistically, I knew that babies are harder to take care of outside than in but I was concerned that if she took too long to come out that my chance of a VBAC would end up being none and everything I did up to that point would be for nothing. I tried not to think about it though knowing that I still had three days before we even reached the gestational age Natalie was born at.
Sunday morning, the contractions I had been having all day Saturday started getting more intense and more in the back so I started to think that maybe this was it. I woke my friend (and acting doula) Tami up and she came down to help me out. After some time, she told me I should give the midwife a call and she would start boiling water for the pool so we could add some hot water in. She also added some hot water with the hose, getting water all over in the process. I gave the midwife a call and she said she would be on her way. When the water on the stove start boiling, Tami started to bring those down and add them to the pool. Eventually, the water warmed up enough that I was able to get in but Tami continued to boil water so that we could heat it up more since it was still a little cool. It was nice being in the tub and the labor calmed down a little but still continued. Neither one of us was really keeping an eye on the timing of the contractions, but we knew that we were still more or less at the beginning. I had music playing in on the computer and just in general, I was sort of veggie out, trying to remain relaxed and prepare for what would be coming up ahead.
Brenda, the midwife, arrived. The plan was that she would stay and help with labor as a montrice where basically, she would be labor support but she could also check on me and on the baby and she could check dilation. I had determined beforehand that I would get as close to transition as possible before going to the hospital. For sure, I wanted my dilation to be past where I had gotten with Natalie before I ended up with the cesarean. It was very important for me to reach that point and I did not want to go to the hospital before that at all. Still, we also wanted to not do checks too often so somehow, we had to sort of make a balance there.
I was talking to John when she arrived and she said "hi" to him and to Natalie. She wanted to check on me and the baby so I laid down on the bed in order for her to do that. Blood pressure was fine but it took her awhile to find the baby's heartbeat and I was a little nervous about that. I had been feeling Isabelle moving around so she had been fine but I know too that things can happen very quickly so I was worried that something was wrong but she did find the heartbeat and all was well. At some point, I went offline, telling him I would call him again if there was more and most of the time, I just focused on getting through the contractions in various ways. Tami gave me a lot of suggestions including walking around and made sure I was eating and drinking making me a cantaloupe smoothie and refilling my water bottle. Around 7, I started to get tired and thought I would try to get some sleep. I was able to sleep a little, maybe a couple of hours and woke up and the contractions had settled down. Brenda and I decided to do a check to see where I was at and I was pretty disappointed to hear I was only at 1 cm. How frustrating! Here, I thought that the contractions not just that morning but also from Thursday night on had been doing something. She did say that I was pretty effaced, just not dilated much so something was happening, just not much dilation, at least not yet. So, we talked and she was thinking that the baby was working on getting into position and that was why I was having the contractions but that she's probably not in the ideal position for dilation yet. Therefore, she suggested that I go to the pool, get on hands and knees and use that to help things out and maybe that would get things going better. She also recommended taking more of the cal/mag that I had been talking and Tami had some supplements to help with relaxing as well so that I could get more sleep. She left and I went back to bed, sleeping off and on until around 2pm.
I woke up and decided I would try to get to the pool. Tami agreed to drive me and when I finished getting ready, she had decided we would all go (encouraged by her five-year-old daughter). We went to the pool and I spent the time just relaxing in the water and trying to encourage Isabelle to move into the right position. I was having some contractions here and there but not very many, just a few or so per hour. We didn't spend too long there but it was nice to get out to the pool and have that time to relax, especially since I knew that it would probably be the last time I would get to the pool anyway.
At around 1 or 2 am, I was up with contractions again. They were in my back which was not making it easy on me. I woke Tami up and she started boiling water again. I walked around and did other things to try and help with the contractions and the back pain. Tami helped with that too, rubbing my back when I was having contractions. It was pretty similar to the night before and eventually, they started dying down and I was getting tired. Throughout the day though, I would wake up with contractions and eventually, I figured out that whenever I needed to pee, I would get a contraction and my back would hurt. By this point, it was REALLY hard to pee. I would have to lean to the side to really get much out and I wasn't feeling comfortable at all since by this time, the contractions were mostly in my back. Nothing steady or regular but I was in pain. I called Brenda mentioning that my bladder filling was causing the contractions and she suggested going to a chiropractor to get some help with baby's position through an adjustment. Tami scheduled an appointment for me and we left around 5 after Tami made me a really yummy green smoothie with dates and lots of greens. The car ride wasn't too much fun though with the contractions I was having and leaning back in the seat was definitely not comfortable.
The chiropractor was actually someone I had gone to school with which I thought was kind of funny. He noticed that my back (especially lower back) was pretty tight but my pelvis was nice and loose and he figured I would have the baby in the next three days. He asked me when I was due and I told him "two days ago." He mentioned that that meant he wouldn't have to be careful avoiding certain areas while working on my back. He was a little surprised to hear that I had not seen an OB in two weeks (I canceled my last appointment) and felt I needed to get in ASAP. I had figured that if I hadn't had the baby by the next day, I would since it would be past the gestational age Natalie was when she was born but the chiropractor seems very nervous especially since I was attempting a VBAC and Natalie had weighed almost 9 and a half pounds. He worked on my back a little, trying to loosen things up but he didn't do much in the way of actually adjusting me. He then recommended a cold pack and to come back if I hadn't had the baby by Wednesday.
Before going home, we stopped at the food coop for some stuff. We stopped at the bathroom first and I ended up in there for awhile after they left dealing with some contractions. It really was not fun needing to pee that day because it would trigger a contraction each time. Things did seem to be getting slightly more intense so I was having to do a little more to get through them. I called Brenda while I was there and she recommended getting some more rest and maybe even getting some wine to help with relaxing. If things were still the same, maybe book another chiropractor appointment. At this point, I was almost dancing with the contractions and leaning forward against the shopping cart. I'm sure I was getting some fairly weird looks while I was there but I wasn't paying too much attention. I did remember to pick up some massage oil since John had finally sent me money so I did that and then we all went home. I had some dinner and a little bit of wine which made me sleepy. Thinking I would try and get some sleep, I took an ice pack down to the room with me, put it to my back and tried to get some sleep.
I did sleep for maybe an hour or so before waking up to contractions. Not wanting to wake Tami up yet again, I tried to relax and go back to sleep, readjusting the ice pack. Didn't work. I kept going back and forth to the stairs to lean over them during the contractions. I was also constantly going to the bathroom (thank goodness I didn't have to go upstairs to do that because that would have been such a pain!) so I was walking from the bedroom to the stairs to the bathroom getting more and more frustrated and aggravated and just plain to the point where I could not deal with it anymore. I wanted the baby out NOW! and was thinking that I didn't care HOW she came out either! I was tired and the thought of another night of this back pain was enough to drive me insane. I was swearing, groaning, almost screaming in frustration and even anger, calling out to a higher power, and the whole bit hoping SOMETHING would happen. Finally, I had had enough and called Brenda and told her that I couldn't take it anymore, it was getting too hard, it hurt too much and I really just couldn't do it. She told me she would come up, check me out, and we would talk and see what our options are. After I got off the phone with her, I called Tami--again.
This time, I had no desire to go into the pool so I told her not to even bother with the water. Just had no interest in it at all. Tami helped me through some contractions rubbing my back and I would just lean forward. She went upstairs and I had some contractions and was using the stairs again for those. Unfortunately, I dropped that idea entirely when, during one of my contractions, a spider ran out at me! I screamed! Mind you, I'm not a big fan of spiders and having one run out at me almost in my face during a contraction was not a fun day, let me tell you. That idea abandoned, I went upstairs. Tami suggested trying some things out during the contractions, one of which just didn't work for me. I really could not be in any position where I was either straight or leaning back at all and definitely could not be on my back. Anything that got me leaning forward was the best. But I kept trying things out and what I was doing was leaning forward at the counter in the kitchen and sort of lightly bouncing from one foot to another while Tami rubbed my lower back hard. That helped out a lot. The rubbing part was VERY important in helping the back labor and without that, I would not have gotten through those contractions. I also focused a lot on the swirls in the counter; that also seemed to help a lot. I also walked around and that was okay but leaning forward was definitely the best position for me.
Around two or so, my water broke. Now, it wasn't a gush or anything and I wasn't sure if it was my water but I was feeling trickles coming down and my panties were getting pretty wet. I was also getting more bloody show and had gotten a bit of mucus at one point too. Tami gave me a pad and I put that on so that I wasn't leaking all over. She made me a drink of apple cider vinegar and honey and I was drinking that. She also made sure I was drinking water and getting some food in me, I think a banana and maybe some grapes too. By the time Brenda arrived at around 3:30 or so, things were getting more intense. I was noticing that the contractions were getting closer together and were getting longer. It didn't seem like there was much time at all between the end of the one contraction and the beginning of the next.
We decided to do a vaginal check on me. That wasn't easy because I kept having contractions and it HURT to be on my back, I could not stand it AT ALL! But I was able to get on my back for a little bit, long enough for her to check me and she told me, "You are farther along than you were with Natalie!" I was SO HAPPY! I had reached a big milestone for myself and that really helped me emotionally to continue on. She also checked my blood pressure and on the baby and we both were doing well. I still had contractions to get through and both Tami and Brenda helped me through them encouraging me and giving me suggestions like making low sounds and encouraging me some more and rubbing my back and making sure I drank and got to the bathroom. Around 4, Tami decided to take her daughter to the babysitter's and I decided it was time to call John since I figured it wouldn't be long before we would leave for the hospital. I called him and he told me he was still half an hour from home. That was about all I could really do because the contractions were making it hard to talk so I passed the phone to Brenda. Not much was said though and the call ended pretty soon after that.
Contractions were getting closer and closer together and it wasn't very long before I asked her to do another check since I was feeling that it was time to go to the hospital. I think it was close to 4:30 and I was at 8 cm. Tami came back shortly after that and we got things together to get to the hospital. I didn't call labor and delivery, sort of forgot about that but I was well beyond the "call when you get contractions 5 minutes apart" rule that the OB had given me (which was part of the plan, HELLO, was NOT going to be at the hospital for interventions any longer than I had to!). I followed Tami out to her van and I remember it was still dark and quiet out since it was not quite 5am. I got into the back of the van and into the seat on my knees sort of leaning over the seat. Tami starts driving and I watch everything go by the window while having contractions and sort of wonder what would happen if we were to get pulled over.
We get to the hospital and Tami drives past the ER, which had been moved, and drove towards the area where the old ER used to be. I reminded her that the ER had been moved and that she had driven past it. She ends up having to turn around to head back to where the new ER is. We pull up and she opens the door and I get out. I didn't have my shoes on so I walk to the desk bare foot. I let the person at the desk know that I'm there to have a baby and I was already registered. It took a little bit for her to understand and get things going, especially since I had failed to call L&D (gee, sorry, was a little busy having CONTRACTIONS!). Brenda comes in and before too long an orderly (or nurse? who knows!) shows up with a wheel chair. I get in. Tami goes to park her car and Brenda follows (or maybe it was the other way around?! I forget now!). I'm having contractions while the guy is wheeling me down the hall and he tells me that I have to wait because he's NOT ready to deliver a baby for the first time! lol I thought that was pretty funny. It was a LONG trip though! Goodness! We had to go down all these halls, to an elevator, up a couple of floors, down more halls, to the skywalk, across the skywalk, to another elevator, up a couple more floors, and down more halls until we get to L&D. Then, they're about to wheel me into room #4 when I say something about how I keep ending up in that room! In fact, it's where I was when I was in labor with Natalie and it's where I had been just a couple of weeks ago when I got sent up to L&D to check on the baby because her heartrate was just a little high. So, instead of taking me to room #4, we go into room #2 and he wheels me in saying excitedly, "She's having contractions 1 minute apart!" Brenda leaves, going with the orderly to get back to her car since she had been called to another birth and Tami stayed (she had caught up with us by then). I get out of the wheel chair and into the bathroom where I get changed into a gown. By now, it's past 5am.
I get settled and then it's time to start dealing with the fun stuff. Bleh. They're asking me questions, half I don't even remember now but some of them were just stupid like whether I was taking prenatal vitamins. Someone comes in to take my blood (the vampires have to get in before daylight, you know!) and the nurse decides that I need to be tested to determine if the fluids leaking are in fact from the amniotic sac. This meant lying on my BACK! Did I mention that it HURT to lie on my back, especially during a contraction? It was not fun having to lie on my back a FULL MINUTE for this stupid test. Then, they want to do a vaginal exam. That I should have declined but I was kind of focusing on other things so wasn't really thinking at that point. A resident comes in and he checks and then the nurse checks and they stand and talk for a moment to come to a consensus and finally they decree, "5 cm!" Um, WHAT?! I was at an 8 when I left the house! Tami mentioned later that she had forgotten to warn me about this, that other people may not come to the same conclusion as to how far along I was. Then comes the fun part. I have to get an IV. I HATE IVs. I got one with Natalie and it was worse than the stupid contractions! I did not want one.
"The doctor won't even work with you if you don't get one," the nurse tells us. I should have called her bluff but again, wasn't quite thinking of that at that point. I was sort of like fine, just get it over with but do it right! Unfortunately, the nurse I had did not do it right. She tries my right hand and blows the vein. Great. Not only did it hurt like heck but now, I'm bleeding all over the place and she has to do it again. So then she tries my left arm. And AGAIN, blows the vein. Um...okay, you want me to have an IV but you can't get it in? The OB comes in at that point with the resident doctor and the first nurse and starts giving me this whole spiel on how I'm such a high risk patient and that normally they would recommend that I just have a repeat cesarean and blah blah blah blah blah. I end up signing yet ANOTHER form saying that I will not hold anyone responsible if something were to happen in my attempt at a vaginal birth and my baby ends up harmed or killed in the process (or something to that effect). The OB leaves the room. The anesthesiologist comes in. Thank goodness it's the one I had spoken to just a couple of weeks ago. She's really nice and she had been great answering all of my questions for me. I asked her what was in the IV and she told me that it was just nutrients and stuff like that. She gave me a numbing shot in my hand, waited a minute or so, and then put the IV in and that time it took and it didn't hurt at all! Now, why can't they just use an anesthesiologist in the first place instead of a nurse?!
Then she leaves and the first nurse is trying to monitor the baby. I refuse to go on the bed because I did not want to lie down. I sat in the large comfy chair that was in the room but I try not to lean back much because, again, it hurt. Trying to use a belt on me was impossible so she had to hold the monitor to my belly. I try to cooperate as best as I can but also try to remain as comfortable as possible during the contractions. Tami had grabbed some of my stuff including the massage oil and she had put some on my back after asking me if that was what I wanted. When I wasn't getting checked for something, I would tell her to rub my back whenever I had a contraction. I was almost demanding about it too! A contraction would hit and I would say, "Rub!" I guess that's kind of one of those signs of intense labor, the laboring woman doesn't say "please", lol. Still, other than a number of "Oh l---!" and maybe some "OM-", I really didn't do much swearing, if any. I think I was kind of shy about that or either that or I really do just swear when I'm angry. lol
I was kind of worried because it had seemed like the contractions backed down a little. They didn't seem to be quite on top of each other as they were before I left the house. I also sort of entered a quiet stage, I seemed to be more focused inwardly or something. It's hard to describe. Even though I was at the hospital though, the thought of drugs didn't really enter my mind, even when I was told I was only at 5 cm. I was glad to be clear headed and it was definitely much easier to deal with the pain NOT being under any drugs, even IV meds. Fortunately, no one said a thing about drugs or even suggested them and I kept getting through the labor one contraction at a time.
Not long after that, I had this urge (WARNING: TMI) to poop. It was a very strong urge so I went into the bathroom and I tried to go but it was like having the WORST case of constipation EVER. I could not poop. Not at all. But I was feeling the urge so I was pushing, trying to poop. I had also been pushing a little here and there during the labor as I felt the urge to. Nothing major but just bearing down a little here and there. This urge started to get stronger but sometimes, if I did bear down too much, it would sting a little so I would stop. But the urge kept getting stronger. Around 7, there was a shift change and I got two of the SWEETEST nurses EVER. They were GREAT. They encouraged me to lean on them and just gave me some great support. Tami was there giving me support too and it was just the four of us women in there. I was still getting the urge to poop and getting very restless because of it. I wasn't really feeling any back pain anymore just this incredibly insane urge to poop! I ask to be checked and one of the nurses checks me and tells me I'm at 8 cm. I tell them I feel like I have to push and the nurse tells me not to but I really could not hold back so I keep bearing down kind of during the contractions (having read a number of articles talking about the wisdom in listening to our body when it says to PUSH!). At one point, and I have NO IDEA why I did not think of this before, I squat down next to the bed because it just seemed like a good thing to do. lol I think by this time, I was going mostly on instinct or something. I tell them to check me again because it feels like the baby is going to come out! One of the nurses checks me while I'm squatting and tells me that I'm complete! Tami's all excited, saying, "You can push now!"
So, I'm thinking, okay, I'll push right here! lol And I sort of tell them that and the nurses are like, "Oh no no, you have to get in bed!" Aww man! So, I get up into the bed, and I mean, really, she feels like she's very close to coming out, like I don't even have to push and she's going to come out any moment now but I get into the bed, on hands and knees, butt towards the bottom of the bed. People are rushing in, the OB (who I am sure is surprised that I'm already ready to push) is telling me what position to be in! You have got to be kidding me! I have to get OFF the bed?! I had to get off the bed, go to the side of the bed, get back in and scoot down with my butt at the bottom of the bed before I can push! FINALLY, he says push and I'm like OK! I push with everything I have but pull back a little when I feel some stinging then push even more. I felt a head passing through, then a shoulder, and then this very weird slippery feeling as the rest of her body passes through and Isabelle makes her grand appearance!
"You did it!" Tami says and I sit there in shock as I realize that I just gave birth vaginally, an experience that I did not get to have when I had Natalie just four and a half years before. It was the most amazing thing in the world and I had never felt so empowered in my life. I have a baby! It was simply amazing! And with that feeling came a high like I had never felt before.
Isabelle had some out a little on the slimy side. Unbeknown to us, she had passed meconium and was COVERED in it, and I mean covered, she was GREEN. lol But she was healthy and crying and had a full head of hair just like her sister did. I was still kind of in shock due to everything happening so quickly so I didn't think to demand that she be handed to me instead of her being taken over to the warmer to be suctioned out and stuff. In the meantime, the OB was waiting for the placenta to be ready to come out and when it was, he told me to push again, and it came out quickly and easily. He sort of tossed it into a pan and that was that but I was just kind of absorbing everything and still getting used to the idea that I had a baby. He had to stitch me up as I had a second degree tear so he did that and there was a short time there where we were separated but it wasn't too long before they brought her over to me and I was able to look down at this precious little bundle. It took me a few minutes more before I thought to nurse her and the nurses helped me get situated so I could do that. She latched on and nursed like a champ. The wishes I had in my birth plan regarding the Vitamin K shot, the Hep B shot, and the eye drops were respected, I just had to sign a waiver which they gave to me right there to sign. Eventually everything got done and everyone left and that's when I remember that I never did get the computer set up and online so that John could watch the birth so I got that set up and I also started making phones calls to let everyone know that Isabelle had arrived.
And yes, believe it or not, that IS the short version. lol I'm sure I have already forgotten things and left things out but I did the best I could remembering everything that happened in those three days. I have no doubt at all that I would not have been able to do this if I had not had the wonderful labor support I did. Tami especially was amazing waking up for me in the middle of the night, three nights in a row, boiling water and bringing the pots down the stairs to the rec room, making sure I ate and drank, and in general, being very supportive and encouraging when I needed it most. Brenda was great as well and I totally appreciated the time she took to come up and be with me as a labor support and to help me stay at home as long as possible. I wish everything had come together for a homebirth but this was the second best scenario and it as well as it could go considering everything I had to go against (including massive weight biases). I had gone through SO much on this journey and learned a lot about myself along the way. I'm confident now that if I do become pregnant again, I can find a way to have the birth I want to have and that what I need to have a successful birth is a good support team. That is what EVERY woman should have.
And of course, it wouldn't be a birth story without a picture:
This was taken the day we went home from the hospital when she was two days old.