Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Another Birth Story

EVENT: Baby #2's Arrival!
DATE: Sunday, February 25, 2018
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 4:30 PM, Friday, February 23, 2018
FINISH TIME: 42 hours, 15 minutes (approximately)

Our second baby has finally arrived!


We are a bit more than two weeks out, and it's been a flurry trying to take care of her needs along with the needs of our first child (whose birth story is here).  However, I wanted to get this written before too much time went by and I forget the details. 

Beware -- this is a long one!


This entire pregnancy, I was pretty obsessed with having a better birth experience than last time when I had an unexpected C-section.  However, I also had the mindset that it could end the same way, which was part of what made it particularly hard last time because I really thought it would go smoothly and so the unexpected surgery threw me for a loop.  Not to mention, I still cannot remember much of the day my son was born from all the drugs and nausea, which still bothers me.

I was seeing a chiropractor last pregnancy, and I started going again this time.  They, in turn, recommended seeing a prenatal masseuse who helped me focus on alignment.  She told me that an unevenness in my hips could have caused my water to break early last time and the baby was probably not engaged enough for the induction process to work.  Over a few sessions, she worked on those things: alignment and baby's position.  It was a leap of faith because there was some belly massaging involved, which freaked me out but as I said, I was obsessed and she was a trusted referral.  The massages themselves were freaking painful during the hips/back/rib work (the belly part was pretty gentle), so sometimes I'd leave the sessions feeling like I was hit by a bus but then would feel a lot less achy for some days afterward.  I was a lot more achy this pregnancy in general, so I did look forward to the sessions.

I also drank a lot of red raspberry leaf tea and ate a ton of dates in the last trimester.  I kept reading about how these things can help tone/prepare the uterus, and I didn't consume enough of those things last time, so I hit them pretty hard in the last weeks.

The "Race":

Since I gave birth at exactly 39 weeks last time, I was convinced that I would have this baby early as well.  I stopped working about a week before I thought it would be time, but 39 weeks came and went and I was getting super anxious because in my head, the longer I was pregnant, the less likely a normal delivery would be.  At almost 39 weeks, I was only 1 cm along according to my OB.  The following week, three days before my due date, I was pretty discouraged and still at 1 cm, knowing that I was at 3 cm the last time I gave birth with very few contractions as far as I could tell, and with this one, I was having quite a few.  At this appointment, the OB offered to sweep my membranes, and I agreed.  She told me to walk the rest of the day and hopefully she'd see me at the hospital the next day.  So optimistic, I thought, especially since it's not like I had not been walking and sitting/bouncing on a yoga ball already.

In frustration, I went to the store to buy some things and then went home to share the "I'm going to be pregnant forever" news with "The Ukrainian."  While I was walking around shortly afterward, I had some contractions, but I had been having them randomly for weeks so I thought nothing of it.  Later in the afternoon around 4:30, I was starting to notice they were becoming more frequent, so I started using an app (Full Term) to time them... and they were maybe 11-13 minutes apart for about 30 seconds.  I still didn't think much of it but decided to keep timing them.  Since I never went into labor with the first, I wasn't sure what to look for at all -- the contractions just felt like I was about to have diarrhea (sorry for the TMI, but this IS a birth story after all).

Overnight, the contractions started coming 8-10 minutes apart, and I was starting to think this could be something and worried we'd have to get up and go to the hospital. This is troublesome because Tuesday would need to be awoken and dropped off, and he's on a pretty strict routine so this would definitely bother him.  I tried to sleep, but the contractions kept waking me up.  Toward morning, they spaced out 11-13 minutes so I was drifting off in between, but that was pretty much a sleepless night.

The next morning was normal.  We took Tuesday to the library and then went to Panda Express for lunch.  I barely ate because I was starting to feel nauseated by the contractions, but we did get this fortune:

For the rest of the afternoon, the contractions would range from 3 minutes apart to 13, so I really wasn't sure what to do and figured it could just be false labor.  Around 5 PM, "The Ukrainian" told me that maybe I should call the hospital and let them know what's going on to see if they think I should go in.  My biggest fear was getting sent home after having to wrangle the kiddo, but the doctor on the line did think I should at least check... and so we packed up and left.  I only had a few contractions in the car, so I thought we were going to get sent home.  After dropping off Tuesday, we arrived at the hospital around 8 PM, and by 9, we were told I was 4 cm and recommended admission.  I was shocked since I was 1 cm the previous day and had stalled at 3 cm last time, so this was the most dilated I'd ever been.

Around midnight, I was still dealing with the contractions fine, but I was getting tired after so much no sleep and decided an epidural would be the only way I could get rest, lest I end up exhausting myself and needing surgery if I couldn't push the baby out.  Also, because I was labeled as high-risk due to my previous C-section, I had to be strapped to monitors and had to harass a nurse to unhook me to go to the bathroom.  They let me free for 40 minutes, and it was a lot easier to deal with contractions when I could move around than in the bed.

Getting the epidural was a lot more uncomfortable than last time, especially since I was actually having contractions this time.  So by the time it went in, it was past 2 AM and they had given me the tiniest dose of Pitocin, so I'm glad I opted for the epidural at any rate.

However, I did keep feeling some of the contractions, and at some point, I had to lay on my side and breathe through an oxygen mask because the baby was not liking me on my back.  So I didn't really sleep anyway, and as morning came, the contractions were getting worse.  I had prepared to get an epidural and feel nothing, so I didn't have that many coping techniques up my sleeve.  There was this one recessed light ring on the ceiling that I kept using as a focal point as I would count in my head to 20 or 30 seconds or so before the contraction would start tapering off.  I had created a playlist of stuff to listen to on my phone, but I didn't even want to touch it at that point.

Around 7:30 AM, I was 6/7 cm, which gave me hope that this was actually happening!  But I was struggling with more frequent contractions and pain in my back, so I had to lay on my other side.  Not too long after, the pain got worse and I buzzed the nurses to ask if there was anything that could be done, as clearly the epidural wasn't working.  (Or maybe it was and without it, I'd totally be off the rails!)  The nurse told me my water had broken, which is probably why things got worse.  I had no idea, so I guess the epidural WAS working since I was completely unaware of that happening.  I think they checked me and I was about 8 cm by then.

Around 10 AM, the contractions were pretty much coming with no break in between.  I was tired and luckily was able to have some juice to keep me going.  About half an hour later, I couldn't take it anymore and told "The Ukrainian" to call a nurse in because I wanted something done with my epidural and I felt like I was practically pooping in the bed.  I did think that this could also mean I was getting close?  I was told that I was progressing too quickly for the epidural to catch up, but in reality, I think I was having back labor because my masseuse had told me the baby was possibly sunny-side up and "The Ukrainian" later confirmed that's the way she came out.  Anyway, she told me I was complete and to ride out the contractions for the next half hour or so because they would help bring the baby down and would save me some work.

That wait was pretty agonizing, but "The Ukrainian" was getting pretty pumped and nervoud, and I just wanted it to be over.  I admit I kind of pushed a little during this period because it just felt right.  Finally, the nurse returned to guide me through actual pushing, and during this time, I pretty much vomited air, needed oxygen.  All along, I was feeling the contractions, which were lasting longer than I could push, so when I was supposed to be resting in between, I was battling the tail end of them, which was still pretty painful.  I was exhausted due to lack of sleep and food and wanted a break, but the nurse, bless her, was like, "You're not going to meet your baby like that."  She lowered some bars for me to grip, which helped.  I think I gripped them so hard that my biceps were sore for a few days afterward.  Maybe about an hour since we started, she called in the doctors.  For some reason, "The Ukrainian" decided he needed to pee right as they were starting with me, to which the male doctor said, "No more bathroom breaks, dad."  I was so into being done that I didn't care... the whole birthing process was definitely not the time for me to rely on anyone, mostly because I had to stay focused.

A few pushes later, I was told to only push softly, and I knew that meant something was up.  The cord was wrapped around the baby's neck, but the doctor swiftly removed it, and I saw the baby get pulled up onto me.  It was surreal, and definitely proof that the epidural at least numbed the important parts because I didn't know it was going to happen that quick.  Overall, it was about an hour and 10 minutes which I was told was pretty normal for a first-time mom -- or for me, a first-time pushing mom.

The baby weighed 7 lb 12 oz and was 20 inches long, which is an ounce heavier and half an inch shorter than her older brother.  The doctors remarked that this was a considerable-sized baby (I'm guessing based on my size?), and I told them that I got the same comment on the operating table last time!  I guess that's just my default size for babies...

The doctors spent about half an hour fixing "the damage," which I'm still not exactly sure what it was since I wasn't really focused on it when they told me.  I do know it was "minor" overall and not in an area that normally is assigned a degree.  I did not have to push the placenta out... somehow the doctor was able to massage it out.  She told me I could push the button for more medicine as they were doing all this stuff, so I happily obliged.  Afterward, they congratulated me on the VBAC, as did a few other people during our stay.  I'm not sure how common it is for VBACs to succeed, but on the consent form they made me sign when I was admitted said 75%.  My OB had originally told me 60%.

After the birth, which happened around 11:45 AM, I was happy that I could order lunch, and that I did -- a ham sandwich and anything else they'd let me have.  The nurse (her name was Shari, by the way... she was amazing and I let her know that!) also brought me a turkey sandwich to tide me over while I waited.


The baby arrived the day before her due date, and we were able to go home the next day! 

As I do with my races, I'm reflecting here.  I feel immensely lucky that I was able to have a normal delivery that was pretty smooth as far as these things go.  I felt like I was in good hands at the hospital, although I was fully aware that VBACs have risks (the one most people fear is uterine rupture).  I had waffled back and forth during the pregnancy between trying for a normal delivery and scheduling a C-section.  Part of me was nervous waiting for labor since I wasn't sure if my body would do it, or what would happen to my existing kid if it happened at an inopportune time.  Also, I didn't want to end up trying and failing, though I knew that at least trying would have some rate of success, while not trying is obviously a 0% chance.  In fact, I had scheduled a repeat C-section in the final weeks, well beyond my due date.  I later canceled it in favor of an induction, but luckily that wasn't needed.  Again, I feel really lucky that my leap of faith paid off -- regardless of whether it was because of the massages and dates or just chance.

The recovery, although definitely not a cakewalk, is going better than last time.  I'd say also that my overall mood this time around postpartum has been better, and I'm not sure if it was the birth experience, method of birth, being more mobile, or just experience of having a newborn that has helped.  Hoping I stay on top of my needs so that I continue to feel all right through what I know is a tough time.  I'm giving myself a few more weeks to recover before trying to do anything crazy and just lowering my expectations.  Having two kids is definitely a juggling act!  I feel guilt for not being able to do everything my son wants, but I know this is temporary and I try to make up for it when I can.

As of this writing, I've lost about 15 of the 26 pounds that I gained this pregnancy.  I gained over 30 lb last time and was within 6-7 lb of my start weight by four weeks out, so we will see.  I haven't been eating the best, admittedly, but I'm trying to focus on having a successful nursing relationship with my new daughter first.  That's going a lot better than last time so far, but it started off rocky again, even with the normal delivery.  Luckily, I didn't let that get me down too much since I've been through it before.  So the last 11 or so pounds will either hopefully come out as water weight or will start coming off as soon as I can leave the house and move around more again.  I do feel a small itch to do more, but as I said, I'm lowering my expectations for sanity's sake right now.  Main focus is rest. My plan of attack for later is linked here.

Also, this is kind of a small point, but I gave birth the day of the Firecracker Run that I do every year.  Had we been sent home from the hospital the night before, this was still in my plans, but alas.  I guess I'll have to come back with the kids when she's 12 years old.