How has it been a week already?
You know when you have a newborn and the days just slip by and you’re left wondering, “What in the hell did I do all day?” Well, having a newborn and a toddler compounds that feeling by a million. I’ve been intending to sit down and write out this birth story every day, but even the simplest tasks seem to take hours and my perfectly reasonable to-do list never seems to get shorter. Of course it doesn’t help that it’s December, which is busy for just about everyone.
Anyway! Some of the more observant among you may have already noticed that I delivered a week past my due date… meaning… I DID make it to my one year work anniversary, and so I DO get the good maternity leave. Woo freaking HOOOO! On Tuesday morning I brought everyone a huge breakfast smorgasbord to celebrate. I left work on Tuesday night feeling awesome, and also ready to go into labor. At that point I figured it was a mental thing and maybe just thinking it would be enough to bring it on. No such luck.
Since I anticipated being early and couldn’t even imagine making it past Tuesday, I had finished up/handed off all my work and didn’t see the point of starting anything new for just one day. Rather than going in and twiddling my thumbs all day, I decided to start my leave on Wednesday and just use the day to wrap up last minute errands and spend some quality time with my little girl. Plus, it was Eric’s birthday, so I went over to his mom’s house and we baked him cupcakes and ended up having a birthday dinner with some of the family. It was nice…but still no baby.
Thursday morning was more of the same. I was on the “maybe” list for Thanksgiving, but I ended up going to Eric’s family gathering, skipping my family since theirs was over an hour away and I had my Friday morning induction scheduled for 7AM. We ate way too much, played some games, then drove over to Eric’s parent’s house to drop Molly off for her very first sleepover. By this point I was nervous as hell. One way or another, that baby would be out in 24 hours.
And then it was go time.
WARNING: I’ve included a few slightly graphic post-birth pictures below. Nothing too extreme, but there is a bit of blood, so I wanted to mention it before I shock and horrify someone.
Friday, November 27th (Black Friday!)
We arrived and got set up in the birthing room, where I donned my lovely hospital gown and got all ready to go. After they hooked me up to the monitors I was surprised to find out that I was, in fact, having contractions, about 8 to 12 minutes apart. I didn’t feel them at all, so it’s possible that my worst fear came true and I’m one of those people who doesn’t know she’s in labor. But really, they didn’t hurt! Baby boy was moving around like crazy as usual, so maybe he was just covering them up.
I got checked and was still only 1cm, 50% effaced (despite the fact that they’d said 70% effaced at my previous OB/GYN check, but whatever).
And despite the fact that I wasn’t nearly as swollen as last time, it once again took three different nurses multiple tries to get the IV in. Ugh, I have crappy veins! It was so unpleasant getting stuck over and over again. This time I managed not to cry, though.
My OB decided to use a foley balloon to get things moving along. For those of you not familiar with this technique, a foley balloon is a small catheter that’s inserted past the cervix and inflated, then attached to a weight. I was told it could take between 15 minutes and 12 hours to fall out on its own. I was also encouraged to walk around to help the process, so Eric and I started making awkward laps around the maternity wing, with me walking as normally as I could with a weighted saline bag hanging down the side of my leg. I did start feeling stronger contractions and had to stop every few minutes to catch my breath. About 35 minutes after we set out, I suddenly felt something very strange happening, so I turned to Eric and said, “I think it’s coming out. Yes, it’s definitely coming out. You need to go get someone.” It wasn’t very painful though, just very weird/awkward, especially since it fell out in a (thankfully empty) hallway.
I got back in bed and was immediately checked after our little walk and was at 5cm and having regular contractions – yay! My optimistic mind started to think maybe I could even have the baby by lunchtime. My sister – who works retail and was scheduled to work 10-2 (this was Black Friday, remember), started panicking that she was going to miss the whole thing.
My OB was doing a c-section at this point so I didn’t start Pitocin immediately. I’d say my pain level was about a 3 on the 10 scale.
Started Pitocin. Time to get the party rolling.
Surprisingly, the pain did not increase too much with the Pitocin, but I still managed to psych myself out since it just hurt so badly when I was in labor with Molly. It helped that the anesthesiologist who came by to introduce himself earlier was very nice and competent and had 30 years of experience. I told him about how much the epidural hurt going in last time so he researched my case and found that a student had been the one to administer the epidural (which I don’t remember at all). He promised that it wouldn’t be like that this time, if I chose to get one. I wanted to hold out and see if I could handle it on my own…but I was nervous.
So I got the epidural.
As promised, it went in just fine and barely hurt at all – just a quick burning sensation and it was over. I was told to lay on my side and let them know if I felt dizzy or lightheaded. Less than 5 minutes after getting the epidural, I started to feel funny all over, and then everything happened very, very quickly. My blood pressure started dramatically dropping and I was shaking and throwing up. It was 70/something, then lower – the lowest it got was 54/30. At the same time this was going on they also lost the baby’s heart rate completely on the external monitor. So once again a flurry of people rushed into the room while my poor husband was stuck in the hallway wondering what the hell was going on (my sister had found someone to cover her at work and had arrived by this point, but she and my mom and my other sister had all headed to the cafeteria to grab breakfast, so they had no idea about the drama unfolding).
Even though I was in distress myself, I was much more worried about the baby and the fact that they couldn’t find a heart rate at all. They stabilized me pretty quickly and then used an internal probe to try to get a read on the baby. The whole thing probably lasted less than 10 minutes but felt like a lifetime. I was terrified that 1) somehow the epidural had caused the baby’s heart to stop beating or, 2) we would need to have an emergency c-section. Luckily, they found the heart rate and eventually everyone cleared out and the commotion died down. Phew! Crisis averted.
They had stopped my Pitocin while the drama was unfolding and started it back up again at noon. Over the next two hours a pattern emerged – they would start the pit, lose the baby’s heart rate and/or get low reads, and then have to stop it until he stabilized to start up again. He was moving a lot and we were back to the external HR monitor, but still, it was clear that his heart rate was dropping every time I had a contraction. At that point I stubbornly tried to tell myself that it wasn’t really dropping, just getting lost since he was so squirmy, but my doctor did not agree with this assessment. They also put in another monitor to measure the strength of my contractions.
After a couple hours of stops and starts, my doctor came in to check me. Unfortunately, I was still at exactly the same place – 5cm. She went over to the sink to wash her hands, and with a big sigh she said, “Amanda, I’ve been doing this a long time. We can try a few more things to try to make this work, but I can already tell you it’s going to end up as a c-section. The baby just isn’t liking what we’re doing here, and you’re stuck at 5cm because we can’t keep increasing the Pitocin when his heart rate isn’t stabilized. So you can either do it now, when you have some control, or it could end up as an emergency c-section later. It’s up to you.”
She wasn’t trying to be mean… just honest. I knew it was a possibility all along and a stronger possibility since I had had one before, but still, it was a crushing blow. Especially since making good progressions was one of the reasons she originally proclaimed me a good candidate for a VBAC.
At that juncture a c-section just made the most sense. There was more risk involved the more things she tried (such as pushing more fluid into my uterus to try to ease the baby’s distress, which could increase my chances of a rupture). This time I didn’t cry. I just nodded and accepted that c-section was our fate…again.
I got prepped and rolled back for my repeat c-section.
Everything was pretty much the same as last time – same bright lights, same giant curtain to hide all the gory details. After just a few minutes of pressure and a distant tugging sensation, our little Liam was pulled out into the world at 2:54 PM with a strong, healthy cry.
I found out a little later what all the distress was about – apparently he had the cord wrapped around his neck twice, and tightly, which explains the heart rate decels during contractions. Also, alarmingly, my doctor said that when she cut me open to do the c-section, my uterus was stretched so thin at the original incision site that she could literally see the baby’s hair before she cut into it. Um, wow… good thing we didn’t try to push fluid in.
One of the reasons this c-section was so hard to accept was that my OB/GYN is a twice and done kind of place, meaning that once you’ve had two c-sections, you’re not allowed to try for another VBAC. I know there are some doctors who will attempt a VBAC with a 3rd pregnancy (even found out it has it’s own acronym, VBAC2), but honestly switching doctors just to do that feels like it’s not worth it. Plus it seems my babies prefer c-sections. For my next child I’ll probably just schedule the c-section and not even worry about it, especially now that I know exactly what to expect in terms of procedure and recovery. Although my doctor quipped later on, “Watch, we’ll schedule you for 38 weeks and your next one will slip right out at 37 weeks as a surprise VBAC.” I guess anything is possible. I’m going to try not to worry about it just yet.
I got wheeled back to recovery and got to hold and nurse my son, which went well from the start! He has a strong latch and took right to it like an old pro.
My mother-in-law brought Molly to the hospital while I was still in recovery and we took some family photos – I look clearly exhausted but that’s to be expected.
Everyone took turns holding our little man.
The next few days went well, much better than last time with the exception of Day 2 for various reasons. I jotted down some notes so I’ll just do bullet points for the rest of the things.
-Remember our terrible pediatrician last time who I was convinced was trying to steal and keep my baby? Well, I definitely picked the right one this time! She was young (so I felt like I could relate to her) and very good, to the point that I would consider sending my kids to her if her office wasn’t like 35 minutes from my house. And get this – she has three children named Molly, Liam, and Aiden (which is my nephew’s name). What are the odds?!
-Liam has a sacral dimple, which is a deep indentation right above his butt that is usually harmless but could be an indicator of spina bifida. We had to do an ultrasound in the hospital but thankfully it came back normal. So now it’s just another place I have to wipe when I change his bajillion poopy diapers.
-It’s truly amazing the difference between having a 5lb baby and a 7lb baby. Last time we had what felt like a hundred people looking over our shoulders, checking and scrutinizing feeding logs and making us feel completely incompetent at nourishing our child. This time, since he only lost 1 ounce the first day and 4 ounces the second, no one paid much mind to when or how much he was eating. We were sure to take meticulous notes just based on prior experience, but since he was so good at breastfeeding from the get-go, it wasn’t an issue at all.
-Right after my surgery I was on morphine, and that was great, but the second day I got switched to Dilaudid (another narcotic painkiller) and it did n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Seriously, I must have some kind of intolerance to this particular medication, because I might as well have been injected with sugar water. Every time I felt pain, they pushed it straight into my IV, and then… nothing. No relief. So that second day was kind of like hell.
On a related note, Eric brought Molly to the hospital on Saturday around 9am and she spent the day with us there. He came loaded up with a bag full of toys, and intentions of pulling out the cot for naptime. I guess we underestimated how small the room was, and even more so with toys everywhere… Molly is a very well-behaved child and is very good at entertaining herself, but that’s a looooong day. Plus this was Day 2, when my pain meds were not working at all, so I couldn’t hold her or cuddle with her like she wanted me to, which was frustrating and heartbreaking for both of us. Nap time was a complete disaster because every time she’d start to think about drifting off, someone would walk in the room for one reason or another or there’d be loud noises in the hallway. Finally, after all of us reaching our wits end, Eric took her home in the late afternoon and quickly lined up a babysitter for the next day so he could actually get to spend time with me and Liam (since he was so busy attending to her, he barely got a chance to hold him).
Right before they left I had my one and only epic meltdown. Eric had to use the bathroom so he went down the hall and left Molly running loose in the room. I was nursing Liam and she was overtired and cranky at that point, and decided to crawl behind the hospital bed and get stuck and start crying. Prior to that she had knocked my nurse call button onto the floor and my pain was intense at that point. I sat there immobilized in bed, listening to her scream (after a full afternoon of whining and crying, mind you) and I was just so exhausted and overwhelmed that I started bawling at the notion of these two needy children to take care of. Eric and the nurse came in at the exact same time to find me sobbing and helpless. Of course it was all resolved quickly and I returned to a rational state not long after. So far, that’s been my only “moment.”
So my advice for anyone with toddlers – a day at the hospital with the new baby is NOT a good idea (saying that now makes me feel silly, like duh, we should have known that). The following day (Sunday), Eric dropped Molly off with my sister and then his sister came by later to pick her up and take her to a birthday party. I got text updates all day and it was clear that she had a blast, plus Eric and I were much more calm and relaxed not worrying about her all day and just focusing on Liam. Oh, and I had switched to a combination of Percocet/Motrin by that point, so my pain levels were much better. AND I got to shower finally. That’s a guaranteed mood lifter.
-Falling in love with Liam was not the same as with Molly. With her, I was so overwhelmed from the first minute I met her… I was a mommy, finally. She was so tiny and precious and waves of love just washed over me. With him, it’s not that I loved him less – just that I was better prepared on what to expect. If anything, I think falling in love with him happened more slowly, growing gradually over those couple of days in the hospital as I got acquainted with him and his individual quirks. So I ended up in the same place – totally head over heels crazy about him – but got there on a different path, if that makes any sense.
-Liam has the best grumpy face ever. He really just looks mad at the world all the time, and it’s totally adorable. Not that Molly was smiling at this age, but she always had a very inquisitive and good-natured expression… Liam, not so much. I was watching him the other day and I figured out the word for how he looks isn’t quite angry, it’s more like indignant. Like he totally resents the fact that we made him come out. It’ll be funny to see if that matches his personality as time goes by.
I have more to share but this post is creeping up towards 3,000 words and has taken me two full days to write, ha. I’ll wrap up by saying that the adjustment has gone even better than I could have imagined. We got home from the hospital Monday afternoon and Eric was able to take off until Wednesday and work from home Thursday and Friday, so I got to ease into this parenting two kids thing with help. Molly is IN LOVE with Liam. She loves showing off “her baby” and the first thing she says to me every morning when I fetch her from her crib is, “Baby? Baby? Baby?” She likes to pat him and point to his nose and ears and cover him with his blanket when he’s in his Rock ‘n’ Play. Every time she takes care of him I die a little from happiness.
Not sure how I got so lucky, but I am damn grateful. I truly could not ask for more.