Saturday, November 3rd , I was 2 days past my “due date” and ready to try and get things moving. When I was pregnant with my son I took castor oil and went into labor that night, so once again I plugged my nose and chugged down a glass of orange juice and that ever so lovely, thick, waxy castor oil. Sure enough, by that afternoon I was having some contractions, nothing too intense or close together but noticeable. Patrick, my husband, was convinced this was it, whereas I was a little more skeptical, but eventually we decided to call my mom (who lives an hour to the west) to come down and stay with the kids and we headed down to Bismarck (where my hospital is, over an hour away to the east) to get a Jacuzzi suite hotel and see what happened.
That night/Sunday morning, I woke up about 1:30 am with fairly intense contractions about 7 minutes apart. I couldn’t go back to sleep and really kind of needed to concentrate and breathe through each one, and finally started to believe this could be the real thing. By the time Patrick woke up at 7:00 they were down to 5 minutes apart, lasting a minute or longer and I was starting to think we might be heading in to the hospital relatively soon. I soaked in the Jacuzzi tub for a while and that seemed to slow my contractions down to about every 8-10 minutes, but then I’d get 2 or 3 contractions right on top of each other. We started packing up our stuff, and I said we should go get breakfast before we went to L&D.
Much to my dismay, once I got out of the tub my contractions slowed waaay down. By the time we got to the restaurant I was only having one maybe every 15-20 minutes or so. We went and walked around the mall to try and get things going again but nothing was working. Eventually we decided to go in to L&D just to get checked out and see if anything was happening, since we had already made the 90 mile trip. They monitored me for an hour, during which I only had one contraction, but the nurse said I was 2cm and 65% effaced, so I felt optimistic that all those contractions hadn’t been for nothing, since at my appointment on Friday I was high and closed. We came back home and sent my mom home.
Not 20 minutes after she left I started having contractions again. Patrick and I spent the evening with the kids, hanging out and listening to music and just enjoying what we thought would probably be our last night with just the four of us. Sure enough, that night around 1:00 I was once again woken with intense contractions that I had to breathe through. Eventually I got up because lying was too painful. By 4:30 contractions were consistently 7 minutes apart, and when I went to the bathroom I found I had lost my mucus plug all in one nasty bloody chunk. I decided I should text my mom, figuring that by the time she got ready and made the drive down it would be at least an hour and a half, plus then Patrick and I had over an hour drive to the hospital. I really REALLY thought this was it, since I hadn’t taken any more castor oil and with losing my mucus plug… It had to be!
Mom texted me about 6:00 am to say she was finally on her way. And not long after reading that text my contractions all but completely stopped. I literally went from contractions every 7 minutes to almost none, after working through them all night. I called my mom crying, telling her that if she wanted she could just turn around and go back home. She decided to just come down anyway since she was already almost half way there. I was super bummed for the rest of the day, but started having these odd pains low in my pelvis that were a little disconcerting, along with sporadic contractions that were really quite painful. This was Monday.
Looking back now it seems silly, but I called my doctor and his nurse said we should come in and get checked, so we made the trek down to Bismarck again. Imagine my disappointment when the doctor checked me and said that not only was baby still high, but he wasn’t sure what the L&D nurse was talking about because I was barely 1 cm dilated and only about 40% effaced. Feeling like the biggest hypocrite in the world, I asked him about maybe possibly inducing, as I really thought I just needed some help keeping contractions going. The doctor said he would be more than willing to try a low dose of pit if that’s what I wanted to do, especially since I was closing in on 41 weeks (though he was perfectly happy letting me go to 42 if that’s what I wanted) so we set up a tentative induction date of Thursday, November 8. I would be exactly 41 weeks. He assured me that if I changed my mind I could just not show up for the induction and instead come to my regular appointment that day. I left feeling utterly defeated and confused about what the best option was. I was fairly passionate about just letting nature take its course and ever since Emily’s birth had been very against elective induction, but here I was considering it because I just didn’t know how much longer I could take these super painful contractions (they honestly felt like pit contractions) combined with getting little to no sleep for the last few days. The stress of trying to figure out when to have my mom come down, while still leaving us time to get to the hospital, didn’t help.
On the way home Patrick and I discussed everything and decided that we would go ahead with the induction if nothing had happened by Thursday. My mom said she would just stay with us until then so that if I did go into labor or contractions started back up again I wouldn’t have the added stress of trying to decide if/when to call her.
Tuesday was much the same, woke up in the night with contractions that I couldn’t sleep through, but by morning they were once again sporadic. When I did have one though they were painful enough that I had to stop what I was doing and breathe through them. It was another long, exhausting day.
That night I took two Tylenol PMs, determined not to even think about labor and just wanting a good nights sleep more than anything. No such luck. At midnight I woke up to contractions once again, and instead of trying to keep things moving, I immediately got into the bathtub where I dozed off and on between contractions until about 3:00, when my mom came down to tell me Emily (my 3 year old) had an ear infection. So then I was up for an hour or two trying to comfort her and help my mom keep her calm. Contractions tapered off again and I finally fell asleep at about 6:00, and slept fitfully for a few hours.
When I got up I began having contractions again. Very sporadic, but as always, very intense. Emily was starting to get a little worried I think at this point. During one particularly painful one she said “Mama, I’m sorry you’re having ‘constractions’”. So sweet! By this point my mom was starting to get anxious too, saying that something wasn’t right and that it shouldn’t be like this and she thought I should go back down to Bismarck (I think she wasn’t handling seeing me in pain any better than Emily!). I really didn’t want to as I felt like the boy who cried wolf, and didn’t want to be “that” patient who is in the office every day positive she’s in labor when clearly she isn’t. Finally contractions got back down to one every 7 minutes, and stayed that way for several hours so I gave in and called the doctor. I figured at the very least I was going to beg for something to take to help me sleep so that when I came in for the induction in the morning I wouldn’t be totally exhausted. The nurse told me to definitely come in, she was so nice about it. So I called Patrick and he came home, meanwhile my mom had to wrangle Emily and Isaac (my 16 month old) both to get them to town to take Emily to the doctor for her ear! What a stressful mess. Off we went to Bismarck, for the third time in almost as many days. We decided we would just spend the night since we had to be there first thing in the morning anyway. Patrick called and booked another Jacuzzi suite.
Contractions continued all the way there, and we got in to see the doctor without hardly a wait. My doctor is amazing, he never made me feel stupid or acted annoyed with me, and as usual completely put me at ease. He told me he’d love to check me and say that I’m 4 cm with a bulging bag of waters, but I think we all doubted very much that that would be the case. I was quite convinced that I would be caught in this prodromal labor limbo forever! After just a minute though he said “Well… Baby is definitely lower than she was the other day annnddd…. You are about 4-5 cm!” I literally started to cry when those words came out of his mouth and said “Are you serious?? Really?!” I was SO incredibly surprised to hear that, and relieved beyond words that something was FINALLY happening! He suggested that we go get something to eat, head back to the hotel, and take some Unisom. He was confident that if I could get 5 or 6 hours of good rest in that I would wake up in a good active labor pattern, and he would see us in the morning unless we decided we needed to head in earlier, in which case we could just go to labor and delivery whenever we felt like we needed to.
We left the office that day feeling a million times lighter. We were getting somewhere! Contractions had spaced back out to about every 10 minutes while at the doctor, but were still painful. We decided to do some errands and then go out to eat. After that I planned on going back to the hotel, taking a Unisom and trying to get some sleep. At Sam’s Club I quickly realized that there was no way I’d be able to sit and eat a meal at a restaurant. I had about 3 contractions while we were at the store and it was a little embarrassing since I had to stop and deep breathe through them. I was really getting uncomfortable in a hurry. We decided to just get take out and eat at the hotel. We stopped to get Patrick’s food and then to another restaurant for mine. As we were pulling up I said “I kind of think we should just go to the hospital now, I think we need to go!” Patrick asked if I was sure and I said yes so he called and cancelled our room before going in to pick up my food. When he came back out he said “Are you sure you want to go already? Remember that after you get there they’re going to hook you up to the IVs and monitors and everything”. (He was such a good ‘doula’!) “Well it’s too late now, we cancelled the room already”, I said. He just laughed and said he was pretty sure we could get it back again if I wanted. SO I decided to go back to plan A, he called the hotel back and we headed over. It was about 4:30 pm by now.
As soon we got into our room I started the Jacuzzi and got in. I ate some of my food in between contractions. By 5:00 they were coming much faster, about every 4 minutes and lasting well over a minute. I told Patrick again that I wanted to go in. He said “I think we should wait. Let’s wait an hour and see how you feel”. I was NOT happy with that answer, and after another contraction I said “I don’t think I can wait that long”. We finally agreed that we would wait another half hour and see how I felt then. Bless his heart for not giving in to my fears, he was definitely being my rock and helping me to achieve my goals when I had lost sight of them, although at the time I wanted to kill him. All of a sudden I started getting a familiar constant pain in my lower back. Both my previous babies were posterior and the back labor was unbearable. This is when I started to panic, and that along with three sudden contractions all on top of each other were my undoing. I started bawling and told Patrick we had to go RIGHT NOW, I couldn’t do this, I was dying. I managed to get out of the tub and get dressed, sobbing with each contraction. I only made it half way down the hallway of the hotel before another contraction hit, where I stood leaning against the wall, moaning and crying. It would have been a sight for anyone who happened upon us, I’m sure! Incredibly, my back labor let up as soon as I got out of the tub.
We got out to the car and I was terrified for the ride. Having to sit for contractions was absolute hell. But as soon as I got in, my contractions slowed down again. We got to the hospital and my contractions were only coming about every 8 minutes, but I was still crying through each one. We got up to labor and delivery and I climbed into the bed so the nurse could check me. 6 ½ cm, she said. I couldn’t believe it! I was sure that since the contractions had once again slowed down that I would still be between a 4 or 5. I was so proud of myself, and in shock, since when I had my first vbac I had already been in the hospital overnight before getting to even 4 cm, and gave in to the epidural shortly after reaching 4. Contractions were still spaced out 8-10 minutes apart, but the nurse said “well, they’re progressing you so we’ll take it!”
I still can’t believe how easy the rest of labor was, or how quickly it went. I got my IV and answered all their intake questions. Contractions when they hit were a beast, but they were spaced out so far that it really wasn’t too bad. The nurse asked what I was thinking as far as pain management, did I want the epi or no? I told her I had originally planned on not having one, but the closer my due date came I had been thinking about it and decided that since this was our last baby I wanted to really be able to relax and enjoy and remember every minute of it, so I wanted the epidural after all. She said okay and that she would let the anesthesiologist know but it would be a little bit before he could come up. She checked me at that point and said I was a good 7-8 cm. Contractions still hadn’t gotten any closer together, but the next one I had was so intense that I started throwing up. The nurse came back and said that was a good sign, I was getting close. At this point I started wondering if the force of vomiting had broken my water. I felt “wet” down there, but nothing gushing out like I had experienced after having my water broke with my last two labors. I even asked Patrick to look, but he couldn’t really tell if it had or not.
Shortly after that the anesthesiologist arrived. After getting all my medical history and explaining the risks, he said “You’re 8 cm? You’re looking pretty good, are you really sure you want the epidural?” I couldn’t decide at this point (indecisiveness was my middle name throughout this whole experience!). In between contractions I felt like I could do it, but during contractions I felt like I was dying. Finally I said “Well, I guess I can try to go without it”. My nurse very nicely said “Are you sure? Remember, we haven’t broken your water yet and things get pretty intense after that”. Oh yeah, I had kind of forgotten about that… In the end, I decided to get the epi, but told the anesthesiologist that I wanted a very very light dose. And that is exactly what I got, it was just the right amount of pain relief that I could still easily move around and felt contractions, just not the pain. I was pretty sure I could have walked if I’d needed to. I was very happy with my decision.
Then the on call doctor came in (who just happened to be the same one who delivered Isaac!) and attempted to break my water. She was down there for a minute or two and then said “Well, I THINK I got it, but I’m not entirely sure.” Apparently baby was so low that not much fluid was coming out. I was between an 8 and a 9 at this point. Looking back, I am fairly certain my water had already broke when I started vomiting, and my nurse agreed that that is likely what had happened. She said she wasn’t going to be “more than 15 steps” from my room and she would be seeing me soon to have this baby! I told my nurse that I wanted to labor down this time, since I pushed for 3 hours with Isaac starting from the minute I was 10 cm, and ended up needing the vacuum to help get him out. I really wanted to avoid that this time. She told me that was perfectly fine, and to call her when I started feeling pressure in my bottom or the urge to push. Less than half an hour later I told Patrick that I was feeling pressure. He asked if he should get the nurse and I said “no, it’s not too bad yet, let’s wait a little longer”. Less than 5 minutes later I said “Okay, yep, definitely time to get the nurse!”
She came in and asked me to try a couple practice pushes before she got the doctor. Patrick grabbed one leg and she grabbed the other and told me to push when the next contraction hit. I started pushing and just a few seconds into it she said “Alright, that’s gonna be the only push I have you do, I’m going to get the doctor!” and proceeded to practically run out of the room. I told Patrick that I couldn’t really keep myself from pushing a little, the pressure was super intense. The doctor came flying in, putting on her gown and getting ready. I asked for a mirror and the nurse seemed really excited that I wanted to watch and got it set up and angled so I had a good view. The doctor told me to push with the next contraction and I immediately could see her head coming down. One more push and she was crowning. I could feel it burning and knew enough to ease up pushing a little so I wouldn’t tear. Then her head was out. It was incredible! The doctor was sort of easing her back and forth to get her shoulder out and I asked if I should push. She said “nope, just let her come on her own” and sure enough just a second later she came sliding the rest of the way out! I hope I never forget what it was like to see her emerging from my body, it was so amazing! I could see there was meconium in the water, but baby girl started crying as soon as she was out. I heard the nurse ask if they needed to bring in the NICU, but the doctor said “nope, judging by her cry this baby is just fine!”. I was so relieved, as one of my fears with this delivery was that something would go wrong with the baby and they would take her away from me right away. Patrick cut the cord and they placed her on my chest. It was every bit as amazing as the first time with Isaac. After a few minutes they took her over to the warmer and wiped her off some, listened to her breathing, and weighed her. 6 lbs 13 oz, just one ounce smaller than Emily. Then they brought her back to me and she immediately latched on and started nursing, and didn’t stop for over 2 hours! She is still a great little nurser.
I didn’t think any labor experience could top my first vbac, but this time around was literally everything I could have hoped it would be. I was glad to have progressed all on my own, without the help of pitocin. I was proud that I made it to 8 cm before getting the epidural, since I was only half that when I got it for my first vbac. I was relieved to only push for 5 minutes, and ended up with only one single stitch that was more to be on the safe side than out of necessity. It was once again so fulfilling and satisfying, the perfect end to my child birth experiences, since this is our last baby. With Isaac I was so happy just to have gotten my vbac, but there were a few things about the experience that I wished could have been different. With Avery there is nothing I regret, nothing I would change. It didn’t end up being the unmedicated, all natural, perfect birth you always hear about, but it was certainly the perfect birth for me. It was truly an amazing experience.