Warning: very lengthy post. No flowery details. No descriptive prose. I tried to keep it simple. Still, it came out long.
Dominic, my first kiddo, was a c-section because he was breech. Recovering from major, abdominal surgery while learning how to care for a newborn was far above my skill level. I floundered. Newborns don’t come with a manual and the bed at home isn’t equipped with railings to grab on to and pull yourself out for midnight feedings. Nursing was also a rocky road. Turns out, the whole becoming-a-mom thing can rock your world.
If there’s such a thing as pregnancy-and-newborn PTSD, I had it. I was nervous about when we had a second child, in part because of the c-section, but more so because of the pregnancy. Nausea: I ain’t a fan.
When we were expecting our second, it was shortly after moving into our new home in Bountiful. My previous OB was at St. Mark’s Hospital so I went looking for a new doc. And I found a midwife, Laura Zaugg. Karen, my good friend and doula, suggested her as somebody she had heard good things about and that she was VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) friendly.
At the time, I figured that wasn’t a particularly difficult thing to find because as I was being prepped for my surgery with Dom, my OB told me that she would deliver my 2nd baby VBAC for me. I suppose that’s a funny thing to tell your patient just before you change their world with the birth of their first kid, but I never forgot her telling me that. I clung to that hope: a VBAC instead of major surgery again.
I set up my first appointment with the Laura and went in with a list of questions for her. I liked her. I liked her answers. Turns out, I liked her even more than my OB. Turns out, I was quite glad with the choice of a midwife. We set out a plan for preventative measures to keep baby #2 from repeating the breech position and set me up for a successful VBAC.
This pregnancy was awful. I was sicker than with Dom. I vomited more often and intensely. I kept on reminding myself that the nausea would be all gone the moment this second baby was born. I kept reminding myself that I would make it. This wasn’t a permanent sickness. It would all go away. Eventually.
At 40 weeks and 5 days, I woke up in the middle of the night to pee. After I climbed back into bed, I couldn’t turn off my brain. I couldn’t fall back asleep so I had a conversation with this baby girl inside of me. I tried to convince her that she could come out now, that I was ready for the scary world of caring for a newborn, and that I was very much done with being pregnant. I decided, around 4:00 a.m. to get out of bed and go sit on the couch in the other room to read.
But there had been a change. I grabbed my phone and took it with me into the upstairs bathroom. I asked the internet how you could tell when you break your water. I read all about it and decided, yep, mine had indeed broke. I didn’t just pee my pants. Eventually, I laid back in the bed, but didn’t sleep. I waited until Nathan’s alarm went off at 6, then I told him about it. I hadn’t really had any contractions yet, so I told him he should still go to work. Labor isn’t usually a fast process.
As he was getting ready in the shower, I started having contractions that were 5-7 minutes apart. Some of them started to get painful and I was ready for it. I wanted to be in pain. It meant that the end was near.
I got up and got in the shower.
This stopped everything. No more contractions and a few hours later, no more water leaking either.
I spent the morning, with Dom, relaxing at Laina’s house with her kiddos. Then I took Dom home for his nap. After, we went to the park. Dom rode his little balance bike and I followed him around the trail. Throughout the day, I was texting or talking to my mom, my mother-in-law, my sister, and my doula, Karen.
My midwife wasn’t in the office that day. Because of that, I didn’t want to call. I didn’t know for sure how the OBs would react, if they would want me to come rushing in. They weren’t my providers. I waited.
Nathan met Dom and me at the park with dinner. In spite of heartburn, I requested a cheeseburger. It tasted delicious. We went home, put Dom to bed and Nathan gave me a blessing. He said good things.
I slept fairly well (for being so pregnant) that night and nothing happened. No contractions. No labor. No more water.
Shortly before 8am on Saturday, I called the “after hours” number for the OB office. It rang and rang. Eventually, “Hello?”
Huh? Is this the right number? I asked, “Is this the number I call to talk to my provider from Lakeview OB/Gyn?”
“Who’s your provider?”
I gave the tired-sounding woman on the phone my information to have Laura contact me and the reason being that my water broke yesterday.
“I’ll have her call you.”
Okay, thanks, lady and sorry to put you out on a Saturday morning.
No contractions. No leaking. This is the pregnancy that never ends. I am so patient.
We ate a breakfast of pancakes and eggs then went outside. I grabbed the shovel and started digging up a corner of the garden that was filled with tall grass weeds. I piled them on the cement behind me as I pulled them out to the roots. I grunted with the awkwardness of my body, but the work kept my mind off the nausea and the waiting.
Around 10:00 am, Nathan called the on-call number again and talked with the tired-sounding woman. Again, she wasn’t very helpful and was surprised that we hadn’t told her that nobody had contacted us yet. Isn’t that your job to make sure happens?
Laura called a few minutes later and I explained everything to her. Since the clinic wasn’t open, she directed me to go into the hospital and have the labor & delivery nurses run some simple tests to determine that for sure, it was amniotic fluid. I asked her how long that might take, whether or not we should take Dom with us, and she suggested finding a babysitter. Mom could drive up and be there in 30 minutes, but I wanted to just get this taken care of already so I texted a couple of neighbors. The first response won the opportunity to have Dom come and play. I finished packing my hospital bag, we took Dom over to play with his friend, Leah, and we drove five minutes up the road to the hospital.
It was just after noon and I suddenly realized, crap, I hadn’t eaten lunch.
I sat on one of the hospital beds, wearing the little, breezy gown, getting checked by this nice nurse, Cresta. The amnio fluid test took just over a half an hour for the results. My water had, indeed, broken. It had now been 33 hours so I didn’t get to wait for labor anymore. It was game on. Change of birth plans as I was going to be induced now.
Please don’t tell me this means my body can’t progress through labor.
Nathan ran off to get food, which he snuck to me when Cresta was out of the room. I ate some fruit and half of a turkey bagel sandwich. Then I was given the “allowed” calories of a strawberry smoothie. At least I wasn’t hungry now, too.
Mom picked up Dom from the neighbors.
Cresta started an IV line and hooked me up to Pitocin to induce labor at 1:20 pm. Karen arrived to begin her doula-ing just after 2:30 pm, when I was dilated to 3 cm and on 6 milliunits per minute (mu/min) of pit. Laura arrived right then, too, to feel for baby’s head and check things out.
She was very positive about how low baby’s head was. She could feel the amniotic sac still bulging out and was going to break that. The previous leak had been a high one, which is why it eventually died off. She broke that at 2:35 pm then left to let labor come rolling in.
I sat on a yoga ball while Karen and Nathan gave me some massages. Contractions started to pick up. We strapped up a portable monitor so that I could wander the halls. We found out that it was just one hall. Up and down. Up and down. We looked at the same pictures and commented on how it was carpeted and that might be hard to clean things up.
Shortly before 6:00 pm, the pit was at 14 and a new nurse came in: Irene. She started her shift by checking me. I wanted to be so close. Contractions were getting difficult to handle. I was dilated to 4 centimeters and 80% effaced.
When I heard that I was only a 4, I got really down. Irene noticed and started telling me how what really mattered was how I was that far effaced, the cervix thinning, and that I was progressing well.
It was time to get in the tub. I climbed in around 7:00 pm and with each contraction, I was starting to get more negative, make more noise, and really struggle through them. I can’t even begin to write how it was to go through them. It wasn’t pain. I can tell you that much. Pain doesn’t describe it right.
Karen and Irene suggested that I turn down the pit to help handle the contractions better. I was worried that we had come this far and I didn’t want to slow down any progress. I was starting to think that I couldn’t make it through this. A c-section would have been done by now. How would I get to the end?
I looked up at Nathan, around 7:30, when they lowered the pit down to a 1, and told him that I needed an epidural. He kept asking me to make sure I really did. I know that wasn’t the plan, but I was feeling fearful and the negative feelings made the contractions even more difficult to handle.
Irene suggested that I get checked before they brought in the anesthesiologist.
The sooner they start something, the sooner it might help. I was worried that even with an epidural, I wouldn’t handle the contractions. I didn’t have much faith that medicine would help.
Laura showed up around this time and helped coach me through the contractions along with Karen and Nathan. At one point, I smashed my face into her ID badge during a contraction.
By 7:45, the nurse anesthetist placed the first epidural. They increased the pit back to an 8.
That’s right: the first.
They checked me and I was only dilated to a 5, but I was 90% effaced.
I moaned through contractions.
The epidural only took on my left side. They rolled me to my right side hoping that would move the meds over and I gripped onto the bed, struggling through contractions that seemed to come one on top of the other. Somebody said something about triple peaking and I didn’t know what that meant.
They finally redid the epidural, placing it higher on my spine, and by 8:30 pm, it worked on the right side, too.
I was saved.
At 9:00 pm, I was checked and was 9 centimeters and 100% effaced. Laura had gone home for a break and would be back when I was ready to push. Irene explained this part was “rest and descend”.
It’s true. I could rest with the epidural. I watched on the monitor as the contractions continued, lasting longer, seemingly getting stronger.
Shortly after 10:00, Irene said they would call Laura and let her know that I was ready. She told me that for a first vaginal delivery, pushing took an hour or more. I looked at the clock, as the end of the day neared and wondered if our baby girl would be born this day. At one point during labor, Nathan and I had agreed that we would name her Gabriela Jane. I wondered when I would meet Gabbi.
Laura arrived and a slew of women rolled in with her along with gear. They rolled in a table that they said would be for baby, two women driving that in. They rolled in another table filled with surgical-looking gear and set that near Laura. They threw drop cloths (or so they looked) down on the floor at my feet. Laura was getting scrubbed in. Irene was to my left, Nathan to my right, Karen getting her camera ready.
I was a bit fearful that all of this prep and gear and surgery looking stuff was because what was about to go down with my body and from between my legs. There was a lot going on suddenly.
But Laura grabbed my attention and said that Irene would help coach me through pushing by watching the monitor closely. I was entirely focused on this older nurse standing next to me. At 10:20 pm, I started pushing. I didn’t know quite what I was doing, if it was working, because of the epidural, but Laura and Irene said I was doing a good job. I listened to the coaching as I numbly attempted to push down, hold my breath, use the contractions, and bring a baby into the world.
Near the end, Laura took over the push-coaching as she instructed me to do short pushes to try and avoid tearing.
I could attempt here to describe the feeling of what it was like when Gabbi was born, how even with the epidural, it was this crazy feeling of when she was entirely birthed, and how it all felt to succeed with a VBAC. I couldn’t do it justice. Just like I couldn’t possibly describe the contractions and how I couldn’t handle those.
But also, I get to keep that feeling of Gabbi’s birth all to myself. Sorry. I ain’t sharing.
Gabriela was born at 10:53 pm.
They gave her right to me, placing her tiny body right on my chest by tucking her up and under my hospital gown. That was a good trick that allowed them to leave the umbilical cord attached. Nathan was able to cut that several minutes later.
She was already latched and nursing by midnight.
And the weeds in the yard? Still in a pile on the cement, the shovel leaned up against the retaining wall, other weeds still growing where I’d left them in the garden.
And this, my friends, is the smile that comes when a mama realized that she succeeded with a VBAC. Woot woot.
A few stats or things for me to remember:
- Birth weight: 6 lbs 13 oz (37th %)
- Birth length: 20.5 in (94th %)
- Head circumference: 36.5 (98th %)
- Nausea rolled in: 6 weeks pregnant
- Nausea left: the moment Gabbi was born
- From 6 weeks to about 20 or so, much puking
- From about 14 weeks until about 20, took Zofran for nausea
- Tried Diclegis during first trimester, didn’t help with nausea/vomiting
- Back pain down the leg resolved through chiropractor and physical therapist
- Third trimester: lots of heartburn, took ranitidine
- Low iron levels, took iron pills which tasted nasty when burping
- Worked until the day my water broke
- Labor took about 9 and a half hours
- Pushed for about 30 minutes
- Third degree tear
- Stayed two nights in the hospital
- We named her Gabriela because it was one of our favorite Latina names
- We named her Jane after my Aunt Jane (my Grandaddy’s sister who I used to call when I was in preschool), and Great Great Grandma Jane Kearl