I want to start her story a little earlier before all the action, because I know there are heavily pregnant women staring into the lights of their phone, unable to sleep and wondering when they are going into labor. When you are at that stage you are desperately clinging to any sign that it will happen and feeling like it NEVER will. You may want to grab some coffee, this is a long story.
My pregnancy with Gracie was a lot harder than with Lucas. I’m not sure if that is because they were so close together or not. I was so big and with my history of preeclampsia I was convinced I would go into labor early or see some complications. From early on I struggled with my mood and back pain. I had some incredible nausea and felt unable to work a lot sooner as well. I quit work around the 32 week mark and at about 35 weeks I had cramping and what I thought were contractions all day. My mom drove me to my Dr.’s appointment and we confirmed that actually no, nothing was happening. At 38 weeks I remember feeling like I was going to start my period and even told my doula-”Hey, maybe.”
I was eating dates and drinking raspberry leaf tea. I researched pain management options, unsure if I wanted to try and have a medication free labor or get an epidural. I read story after story of all different kinds of birth. I googled pre-labor symptoms. I remember telling Enrique, I’m so sick of trying to be ready for this, I just want it to happen.
We waited some more. It was increasingly difficult for me to move around, sleep, and function. I was struggling with some major depression symptoms. I was feeling useless as a mother and wife, but I was so tired I was having a hard time caring. Then plague after plague hit my household. While I was 38 weeks pregnant, Lucas contracted Hand Foot Mouth and my poor boy was miserable. I was praying that I wouldn’t go into labor and have my newborn’s first experience in life be a sickness. After about a week Lucas was feeling better, and then wham, Enrique gets strep throat. I was furious. I was frantically cleaning everything, trying to stay on top of the germs and I learned that my mother was also very sick with a fever, chills and body ache.
So, I was feeling overwhelmed and like I had no help because I didn’t want to expose Lucas to any more sickness. At my 39 week appointment they checked my cervix and told me nothing was happening. I plummeted even further into my self-induced depression. I was trying to stay busy but feeling very anti-social. I went out with friends, and then a few days later I went to bible study by myself. This did help cheer me up. About two days before I went into labor I swelled up like a balloon. I would usually see swelling at night time, but this time it was just ALL the time. I went walking a lot that weekend trying to get things started.
On Monday, October 16 I woke up with Lucas and just felt very tired. I told myself that today I was giving myself a break. I was going to relax- guilt free. I did just that. Lucas played independently all morning and I lounged on the couch reading a book. After his nap I took him out to the park to give him time to run around. My heart wasn’t in it and the poor boy only got to play for about half an hour. Afterwards I went to the grocery store, determined to make dinner for my neglected family.
When we got home I was still exhausted. Enrique took Lucas upstairs and I made them tacos. When they came down to eat I didn’t even have it in me to sit down and eat with them. So, I went and got in a warm bath and stayed there for about an hour listening to an audio book. When I got out of the bath I remember thinking how huge my nose and lips looked. After my bath I got straight into bed and let Enrique get Lucas ready for bed. I then felt something I had never felt before- even with a previous pregnancy under my belt. My belly tightened up and loosened again. Not painful at all, just different.Enrique and Lucas came in around 6:45 and we were going to read books as a family. I told Enrique what I had been feeling and he said, “So it’s not cramping?” and I said no, it was definitely contractions. He got pretty excited. He started to leave the room to grab Lucas some water when I felt a little, pop! I said, “Stay with Lucas, I think something is starting up here.” I went to the bathroom and my water broke EVERYWHERE. I called out and told Enrique and I heard him shout, “YES!” and then he went to call my parents to come pick up Lucas while I notified my doula.
I was not in any pain, but I was a huge mess and couldn’t move without having more fluid gush out. I ended up sitting on a bunch of towels on the bathroom floor and double checked Lucas’ suitcase. He was actually super cute because he would hand me the items that he wanted packed up. You could taste the excitement in the air. Enrique and I were all smiles. I then tried to tie up loose ends with our own belongings we were taking to the hospital, then got back into bed, lying on lots of towels and with one of Lucas’ diapers in my underwear. I was trying to relax and get sleep before things started up but was having a difficult time. So I put on my audiobook, diffused some essential oils and just laid there. About an hour after my water broke contractions started. They were inconsistent at first. Soon, I was looking at them at about 10 minutes apart and lasting for a minute. They were noticeable and not what I would say comfortable but they weren’t hard to ignore.
It was around this time, before things got serious that I decided I wasn’t anybody’s hero. It was late in the evening so I was already tired. Also, because my water had broken so early and so much, contractions were going to be more painful. I decided I wanted an epidural. I had read several successful VBAC stories that involved an epidural. I was determined to show up in active labor which would also help my chances. I did not want to be miserable like I was with Lucas’ labor. I wanted to enjoy it and not have to focus on NOT focusing on the pain.
I then gave up on sleep and got back into the bath tub. I was still listening to my audiobook and timing contractions. They were becoming more frequent and difficult, but still inconsistent. The huge difference between this labor and my induced labor with Lucas was that I had a complete break in between contractions. The contractions were also different in that they were in my belly and would kind of radiate down in my thighs. In the bathtub I decided to paint my nails, and of course they looked terrible. I kept having to get on my hands and knees to work through a contraction. I decided I wanted to get out of the tub and while the water was draining I noticed my mucous plug. No blood or anything, just a big glob. (I had lost pieces in the upcoming weeks, but never anything bloody or substantial.)
My contractions at this point were about 3 minutes apart but only lasting around 30 seconds. When they were happening I was sure that I needed to go into the hospital, but then it would stop and I would be sure that I was just a wimp. I then proceeded to clean my entire bathroom and sent Enrique to walmart for slippers and adult diapers for the car ride to the hospital because my water was still coming out.
I got pretty lucky in that a nurse that lives in my neighborhood and that I worked with was working that night. I texted her back and forth letting her know what was going on and ended up calling the midwife to let her know I would be coming in. On the phone she said something along the lines of, “What I have to tell you is to come in.” but then would say, “…so SLOWLY make your way over here.”
I was having to stop completely with my contractions at this point and they were now only 2 minutes apart but still only lasting 20-30 seconds. When they would start up I would think about my lips or concentrate on my breathing. I was refusing to think about anything that was going on “down there.” When Enrique got home from walmart I was still unsure if I wanted to go in. I told him I was going to get in the shower and try and clean up (super pointless) . In the shower the contractions felt stronger. I started to feel a little nauseated. This made up my mind about the hospital. The only time I felt sick in my labor with Lucas was when I was in transition and I DID NOT want to be in transition in the car.
I got out and got dressed and told Enrique it was time to go. He put our stuff in the car. I was making my way to the car but had to stop through contractions and breathe at this point, things were really starting to hurt. I remember Enrique putting our Irobot vacuum cleaner remote in my face and asking me when I wanted to have it start up. I was not concerned about the vacuum cleaner.
I climbed into the trunk of my CRV with lots of pillows. It was a cool night but I kept asking for more A/C. I had been dreading the car ride but it turned out to be one of the best parts of labor. It was cool and dark and through each contraction I would just focus on Jesus. I was also trying really hard not to think about where we were in route. I had driven it so many times on my way to and from work and I knew it by heart. When I wasn’t focusing on Jesus, I kept repeating: ER, Admit, Epidural. Enrique expertly got us there in half an hour. He later told me he had pushing over 100mph.
When we pulled up to the Emergency Room, I got out of the trunk but I had to work through another contraction before going inside. Enrique went inside to tell them what was going on and I followed a few seconds later. I walked up to the registration desk and the tech said, “Hang on.” and she went and grabbed some nurses who all ran outside with sterile equipment packs. Little did I know those were for me. Enrique had gone in and said, “My wife is giving birth!” and they thought that meant right then. Things calmed down after we communicated more effectively.
I was starting to be a lot more impatient at this point. Enrique would ask me a question, but I would start to have a contraction. I would be breathing through it and he would ask, “Well? What?” and at one point I said, “Baby, please stop talking to me.” I was in the ER waiting room maybe 20 minutes to half an hour. Enrique was showing me some funny memes to pass the time. Some I didn’t get at all, but this one did give us both a good laugh:
They came down to get me and took me straight to a labor room. I was happy to be there and ready for the epidural. They started an IV in one stick, which is an anomaly for my veins. It was in a great area too, I could move freely. They put me on the monitors and started fluids. When they checked me I was 5cm dilated, and I think around 70% effaced. It was about midnight.
My doula arrived shortly after. She and Enrique rubbed oils on my back and performed a lot of counter pressure. I wish I could say that I was a champion laboring woman, but I was pissed that I was still feeling contractions. I whined and moaned about it, which looking back is embarrassing. When a contraction would come on I would ask for pressure pressure pressure. They couldn’t press hard enough. After each contraction I would pray it was the last one I felt. Tenna my nurse informed me I needed a whole bag of fluid before they could start the epidural. She put a pressure bag around the fluid to help it flow faster. My doula said, “Hey, until you have a needle in your back, you need to endure.” I tried, but I also kept whining. During contractions I would bring all my attention to my eyebrows and try and “count” them.
I remember Mercy asking if I wanted them to check me before I got the epidural. I think she was hoping I would be encouraged by my progress and go all natural. I want to say here, yes I COULD have gone all natural, but I was determined not to. I still did not want to feel the pain. I probably paid for that later.
Finally, the CRNA arrived. This part was hard because to get the epidural you have to sit upright which isn’t fun in labor. While I was sitting there, Tenna told me that Gracie was having variable decels and that she liked when I took good deep breaths. I was trying to make some jokes, but I think they came off rude and nobody got them. A little bit later the epidural was in, but only working on half of my body and I could feel my contractions in one hip. They wanted me tilted to one side because of Gracie’s heart rate and of course I wanted my baby to be healthy but it was preventing the medicine from hitting the other hip. I was thinking, “She is just going to have to deal with it for a minute.” Eventually I was numbed but could still feel the pressure of my contractions. I remember feeling like I could touch her head if I wanted to. When they checked me I was dilated 7 and she was at 0 station. It was about 2:30am.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for things to go a bit south. Gracie was having late decels and couldn’t tolerate me being in any position but on my right side. They put a nonrebreather mask on me, and I laid there and tried to get rest. We would try to try different positions but every time I moved her heart rate would drop. So, I stayed on my right side with the peanut ball.
Now that my doula and Enrique didn’t have as much work to do, they looked tired to me. (Or maybe they were tired before but I just able to focus on them now.) The night wore on, Gracie continued to have decels. At one point I remember they said, “Oh look, bloody show!” (A good sign the end is approaching.) and it was a little awkward that I was completely numb and three people were staring at my vagina. Eventually the midwife came in and talked to me about how uncomfortable they all were with her fetal monitoring strip. She checked me again and I was dilated 8 and Gracie was still at 0 station. I think it was a little past 4am. At this point the doctor was consulted and I was advised to do a c-section which I agreed to.
I want to pause and take moment here to talk about how valuable it is to have a doula. They are not only there for pain management, which believe me is value enough in itself. Mercy, my doula, would help us pause with the provider in the room and say, “Do you guys have any questions?” Enrique and I would look at each other blankly because when you are going through the moment you have a hard time being broad minded. Mercy then would come up with a question and we would both be like, “Yeah, that is a great question, I want to know that!” Before we agreed to the c-section she helped us ask a lot of questions about whether or not it was truly necessary. This was so helpful and gave me so much peace about the decision we made.
They started the surgery prep and eventually wheeled me back to the OR. Something about the epidural and/ or antibiotics/ being cut open makes me shake A LOT. My teeth were chattering and I was feeling like my boobs were falling into my throat making it difficult for me to breathe. I literally had Enrique pulling the skin on my chest away from my throat because I thought that would help. I remember asking the CRNA if I looked okay on the monitor, and I was afraid that I was having a reaction to the antibiotic. I’m pretty sure it was just unrealized anxiety, and it sucked. I was very nauseated and she gave me at least two doses of Zofran. I felt like I was going to shake off the table. You only feel pressure during the cutting open part, and it only takes about 10-20 minutes for them to actually get the baby out. I remember them talking about the meconium she had passed (A sign of fetal distress) and I remember being very thankful we were doing the c-section. I then heard the midwife say, “GREAT muscle tone!” and then hearing Graciela cry for the first time. It was a serious cry, she was mad. She kept crying until they eventually laid her on my chest.
While Gracie was on my chest I felt so much calmer and my shaking and nausea subsided. She was so beautiful and I wish I could capture for you how surreal it is to hold the life you have been anticipating for the past 40 weeks in your arms, but I’m not sure there are words for it. She was born on October 17, 2017 at 6:13am weighing 8 pounds and 5 oz.and 20 inches long.
Much too soon they took her away and Enrique went with her. I started feeling sick again and I asked my nurse, “Are we almost done?” and Tenna said, “No, she is being very thorough.” The doctors was being thorough because when she made my incision my uterus tore. She was afraid that my ureters had been effected. I of course was worried because ureters like pretty much every other part of your body are a big deal. I can’t tell you how long I was on the table, but it was much longer than my first c-section, and again, I feel like it was harder. After the doctor explained to me that she was scared about my ureters and sent me down for a CT scan with contrast dye to check on them. As a nurse who has taken patients down to this room I was like, “Oh man, I’m going to be allergic to this dye and code in here.” Which was always my biggest fear when I took patients. I did not code, and my ureters were absolutely fine. I was able to walk to my postpartum room rolling Graciela’s bassinet in front of me.
I can’t be sure that the epidural did not cause my labor to stall sending Graciela into distress, but I do remember that she had variable decels before the epidural. Had I not had the epidural in place my birth story may have turned out exactly like Lucas’. OR it could have been that beautiful VBAC I was dreaming of. Labor really hurts, and I can’t blame myself for wanting pain management. That being said, you CAN manage the pain. I COULD have managed the pain had that been my desire. Some women get epidurals and have wonderful vaginal births. I am not one of them.
Recovery after that c-section was rough. I didn’t feel like myself for at least 2-3 weeks after. I took a lot of pain medication which has it’s own nasty side effects. I could not lay down without being in pain and I remember one night everyone was sleeping soundly except for me. I was hurting so badly and just wanted to rest but couldn’t. I say all this not to scare anyone, but just to make you aware of what a c-section recovery CAN be like. So, just bear it in my mind as you make decisions about how you want to labor.
All in all I am very pleased about how it went. I’m very happy that I went into labor on my own and was able to be at home for awhile. I felt supported by Mercy and my husband and the medical staff. I felt like the medical staff was competent and provided me with great care. I am at peace with all decisions that were made, which is more than I could say with Lucas’s labor. Ultimately, I have a beautiful sweet baby girl!