Hello everyone! I'm sure you've all heard (after all, isn't it basically just our family members that read this? ;D) but our baby girl was born Saturday, February 28th at 4:18 am! She was 7 lbs 3 oz and 20.5 inches long (though measurements at the Dr's office since have led me to believe that was a mismeasurement--she seems to be more like 19 inches) and was delivered via a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). We are completely and utterly exhausted but are so grateful that she's here and we're healthy and well!
For those of you who want to read it, I'm about to write her birth story! For those who don't care much for intricate details about contractions and placentas, you can feel free to just scroll down and look at the pictures :)
Something to note before I get started: Nikolai was born a full week after his due date, so I had been telling myself that Miriam was going to be late as well in order to not be disappointed when her due date came and went. Because of this mentality, when we started seeing signs that I was possibly in real labor 5 days before her due date, I told myself it was false labor! (Because really, if it HAD been false labor and I thought it was the real thing, I would have been so mad!)
Things started rolling Wednesday morning when I lost my mucus plug. Thursday when I went in for my 39 week appointment, I had the midwife check to see if I was dilated (even though it's not a great indicator for when labor would start) and I was at 1-2 centimeters and "nicely" effaced. This was nice to hear--not because I thought it meant I was going to go into labor anytime soon, but mostly because it was good to know that my body was getting into gear to go into labor eventually. That night, I noticed I was having some contractions so we practiced timing them. They were about 10-15 minutes apart, but stopped when we went to bed.
Friday afternoon, Jesse started his spring break, and we celebrated by going to the Hands on Museum with Niko and playing a board game. I think I remember having sporadic contractions while we played--nothing remotely serious, just enough for me to notice I was contracting a little. After our game, we decided to go for a family walk, half in jest that if I was starting to go into labor, a walk would help--and if I wasn't, it would still be fun! I still definitely didn't think I was in labor, though.
We had a nice quiet evening after that. During this time we also took some time to clean up around the house--tidying Niko's toys, doing the dishes, etc--which in retrospect was totally nesting. At some point I noticed I was having more contractions, so I started timing them. From 6-7 pm, they were coming fairly regularly at around 8 minutes apart, and for the next 2 hours (8-10) they were about 6 minutes apart. Despite the regularity and how they were getting closer together, I still didn't think this was real labor. I think, in addition to needing to think Miriam was going to be late like Niko, that this also has to do with the way I experience contractions. These early contractions especially weren't even remotely painful--if anything, it felt like an uncomfortable squeezing around my lower abdomen. So I still thought this was just false labor.
This idea was helped more by what happened next: we watched a movie, and my contractions slowed WAY down--coming about 15-20 minutes apart for the next 2 hours or so. At the time, this looked like more proof that I had been experiencing false labor, though in retrospect it looks more like the Natural Alignment Plateau that we learned about in our Bradley Method class (link here, but basically it's a time in labor when dilation stalls, theoretically because the body is preparing for birth in other ways).
After the movie ended, we decided we should head to bed ("because who knows how many more nights of good sleep we'll have before the baby comes?" hah!). Before we did, Jesse remembered he had promised to call his brother Andy earlier in the day but had forgotten, so he decided to call to check in with him for a few minutes before we slept. While they talked, I sat at the computer and checked facebook or somesuch as I wound down for the evening. Contractions had all but stopped at this point, so when I felt a small gush of water from down there at around 12:15, I assumed the baby had just kicked my bladder and I had peed my pants! This was followed by a few tiny gushes, so I thought maybe my water had broken, but it was so different from the huge gush I experienced when my water broke with Nikolai that I thought it probably wasn't. I mentioned it to Jesse when he got off the phone, and we decided to keep an eye on it as we got ready for bed. Around 12:15, my contractions started up again, picking up where they left off at around 5 minutes apart. These contractions felt different from the ones before my water breaking--they felt more intense, with more pressure than before. At this point, we started to think we should call the hospital and see if they wanted to check me, just on the offchance it was my water breaking. I called the hospital around 1, and the nurse midwife on call said I should keep an eye on it for another hour, and if I had more leakage then I should call and come in and get checked.
At this point, I still wasn't sure that it was my water, but we decided to go ahead and finish packing our hospital bag and Nikolai's overnight bag just in case. It was a good thing we did, because around 1:18 my contractions kicked up a notch and started coming 2-3 minutes apart. They felt much more serious now, and I found I had to get on my hands and knees and breathe deeply, swaying my hips or doing pelvic rocks to cope with the intensity. At this point, I think I maybe acknowledged that I was in active labor, but I was still worried about going to the hospital so soon.
Some context: with Nikolai, we were at the hospital FOREVER and this time around I really wanted to be able to labor at home for as long as possible. Long labor at the hospital often leads to interventions (like getting put on pitocin to speed things up, having your water broken, needing to get an IV, etc), and I knew that my best shot at a VBAC would be to have the least interventions possible. Labor with Nikolai was also incredibly slow, so I worried that even though my contractions were very close together, we would get to the hospital and I'd only be 3 cm dilated or something, and then we'd be there forever and ever!
After a bit I decided it probably was my water that had broken, so we decided to head into the hospital. Nikolai was asleep upstairs, so we decided to call one of our friends that lives in our apartment complex to come sleep in our apartment for the rest of the night. Jesse pumped up an air mattress to put in the living room and started calling people (at 2 am, by the way!!) but alas! No one was answering their phones! We briefly contemplated just bringing Nikolai with us to the hospital and having someone come pick him up from us when we got a hold of someone, but thought we'd try a little harder to get someone to wake up first.
In the end, Jesse put on his coat and shoes and tromped through the snow to Megan and Jordan's apartment, where he proceeded to throw snowballs at their bedroom window to wake them up ;) After 7 or so snowballs, Megan came to the window and asked excitedly "Is Catherine in labor??" to which Jesse responded "Yes! Could you send someone over to sleep in our apartment with Nikolai?"
Within minutes, Jordan was at our apartment and we were off to the hospital! Let me tell you, I have never noticed how long and bumpy that 10 minute drive is before ;) Sitting in the car was not a pleasant way to get through contractions!
Fast forward a bit--around 2:30 we checked into triage, where they checked my vitals, tested to see if I was leaking amniotic fluid and checked baby's heartbeat. I was dilated to a 5-6 ("at least that much!" I remember thinking.) and was having intense contractions really close together. A few minutes in, the midwife and nurse noticed that Miriam's heartbeat had been low for awhile. The midwife told me everything was probably fine, but they wanted to get some more staff in there in case she wasn't ok. Within minutes, a bunch of doctors and nurses rushed in and decided that we should go to the Operating room, in case Miriam's heartbeat didn't come back up and I needed to get an emergency C-section. They whisked me back there and I remember thinking, "well, I guess maybe I'll have another C-section then! Oh well." The nice thing was, I honestly felt completely safe, knowing that if this was a true emergency that me and baby would be fine.
Once back there, they put an IV in my arm and tried to get a better read on baby's heartbeat with the ultrasound. Tons of people were rushing around, introducing themselves (I still don't remember any of their names!) and asking me questions about allergies and medical history. Meanwhile, I was lying on my side, trying to get through some really really intense contractions! I think my only concern at this point was that Jesse wasn't in there, so I asked a few different people a few minutes apart if we could make sure he got to come in. At some point he got to come in, around the same time that they 1) saw that her heartbeat had stabilized and 2) checked me and saw that I was about 8 cm dilated. They concluded that the intense back to back contractions I had had made her heartbeat sink so low, based in part by how they saw her heartbeat dip a little when the contractions I continued to have started. After monitoring me for a little while longer, I think someone said something along the lines of "well at this rate she's going to deliver in here if we don't send her back to the delivery room!" and, at length, they decided baby's heartbeat was stable enough for me to go.
Once in the delivery room, I switched from lying on my side to being on my hands and knees. The midwife checked me when we got in and I was at essentially 10 cm, but with a little lip of cervix left. I didn't feel the urge to push just yet so we decided to go ahead and labor for awhile to get to full dilation. Sometime around here, our friend and Bradley method teacher Sharon got there to be our doula (she needs to observe a handful of births a year for her certification to stay active, so we invited her to come to our birth!). She and Jesse were as helpful as they could be given the circumstances--I was having very intense contractions, and no massage or anything really seemed to alleviate the intensity. Sharon did grab some heating pads, which helped me relax a little in between contractions, but mostly they both reminded me to breath deeply and slowly.
The best description I've heard for contractions at this stage (commonly called "transition," meaning the transition between active first stage labor and second stage labor, aka pushing) is throwing up, but in reverse. It sounds crazy, but I really wouldn't describe what I felt as pain. It was really just this incredibly physically violent feeling, the way your body feels when you throw up. Like throwing up, it made me feel completely exhausted and shaky too. (Also, I can think about it now, but when I thought about it just a few hours after her birth it made me cringe and shake and feel weak, even though the sensation was long gone!) Anyways, thankfully that intensity didn't last long before I felt the urge to push. The midwife checked me and we were good to go! The timeline gets a little hazy at this point, but I think it was around 4 am.
I pushed on hands and knees for awhile, but my arms and legs started to feel shaky so I switched to side lying, and then semi-reclined. Jesse and Sharon helped me hold up my leg, which, frankly, I don't think I could have done without them! After some pushing, they told me they could see the baby's head and that she was moving down nicely. I reached down and touched her little head, which was sort of exciting, but also sort of not. Context: when I was in labor with Nikolai, I pushed for 3 hours and he basically didn't budge, but everyone told me they could see his head and that it seemed like he was moving. So this time, I heard them say she was progressing and I sort of thought to myself "you people are lying! Sure, I can feel her head, but I'm still going to be doing this for hours, if she comes out at all!" More context: my OBGYN with Nikolai, when asked why I had a C-section, told me that my pelvis was really flat shaped and that Nikolai just wouldn't get past it. So this time, I definitely had the fear that we'd get all the way to pushing again only to have baby girl get stuck too! So I definitely felt pretty dubious at this point that little girl would come out.
After some time, they had me put on an oxygen mask because they were worried about Miriam getting enough oxygen, though now I can't remember why. Also, after some pushing they said "a lot" of her head was already out, which I still thought was hogwash, until I reached down and felt a TON of baby head, already out! That definitely made me feel more positive. After a few more pushes and some honest to goodness terrible pain (crowning! the ring of fire! it's as terrible as they say!) she came out! I don't remember pushing the rest of her body out at all. I think my contractions slowed some at that point because they gave me a little bit of pitocin so I could deliver the placenta in a timely fashion. It came out easy peasy and was really cool looking!
I had some unusual tearing that they couldn't fix there in the delivery room, so after half an hour or so with Miriam they took me back to the OR to get a spinal block and get stitched up properly. This took the longest--about an hour and a half, during which Jesse (who stayed behind with Miriam) started getting a little nervous and almost started asking if everything was going alright. Around 6:30, we were reunited in the recovery room, and I got to hold Miriam again :)
Something I thought was interesting about the whole thing was how opposite this labor was from Nikolai's. Nikolai was late, my water broke early but didn't speed labor, labor took forever (22 hours), I pushed forever and ever and ended up with a C-section. Miriam came early, I was in early labor for all of maybe 8 hours, my water broke and made my labor stronger, and we were at the hospital for all of 2 hours before we had a baby!
One last thing: a HUGE thank you to the kind friends who took care of Nikolai for us while we were in the hospital. Megan and Jordan kindly arranged for him to go to different people's homes on Saturday when we were recovering, and made sure he had somewhere to sleep Sunday night. Several friends took him into their homes to play, eat and sleep, and it was overwhelmingly relieving to know that he was being taken care of by people who cared about him and about us. We are so blessed to know such wonderful people!
Also, a big thank you to Miriam for being so considerate as to arrive at the very beginning of spring break, and on Jesse's brother's birthday no less! Wasn't that thoughtful? ;D
If you've read this far--thanks! And if all the details grossed you out, sorry ;) If they didn't gross you out, and you want to see pictures of my awesome placenta, let me know! I wanted to post them but really didn't want to freak anyone out ;)
And my sleep-deprived brain is robbing me of a good way to end this post so....the end!