This is part of the PAIL monthly theme for October. For more submissions on this topic, go here.
I’ve been trying to get this post together for the PAIL monthly theme submission but holy shit you guys, this parenting a newborn and a 3.5 year old is KICKING MY ASS. Seriously. I’m raising the white flag.
It’s so hard to find a moment of time to myself because if I have that, I really should be sleeping. But I really want to write this post so I’m going to attempt it, and hope that it won’t take me that long to do.
Osita’s birth was a long, drawn out affair. When I finally got around to writing it down, it ended up being three lengthy posts (which can be read here, here and here). I had a lot of expectations for my first birth. I read a ton of books. We wrote a detailed birth plan. We hired a doula. We hoped to get through without medication of any kind. We ended up getting the birth experience we had hoped for, but with the added bonus of back labor, which made the whole thing really difficult for me. At the end of it I felt disappointed that, despite being all I’d hoped for, I didn’t particularly revel in the experience of it. In fact, I kind of wanted to forget that most of it had ever happened.
With baby #2 I had almost no expectations–I never even wrote a birth plan. I wasn’t wedded to the idea of an epidural but I certainly was open to it (and if I had back labor again I was DEFINITELY going to get one). The only things I really cared about happened after the baby was born; the getting him into the world part was up for grabs.
Most people don’t include the month leading up to the birth as part of the birth story, but I feel like the weeks before my son’s birth were absolutely a part of his coming into the world. First there was our adjusted due date, which totally messed with my head in a lot of ways. If the doctors had just stuck with my November 2nd due date I would have expected my son to arrive around his adjusted due date of October 22 because that was almost two weeks early and exactly when his sister made her way into the world (weighing a hefty 9lbs). When they officially changed by due date (at the 12 week NTU scan) because he was measuring so far ahead, I started thinking he may come even earlier than that, although I was prepared for a likely debut around the 22nd.
Then October came and I was 3cm dilated and 50% effaced at my 37 week appointment. At this point I was incredibly uncomfortable, and the baby was so low that I couldn’t even pee sitting down. His head was measuring 40 weeks and the rest of him was measuring 38.5 weeks and I was sure, just sure that he’d be coming any day.
And then he didn’t. At my 39 week appointment I was 4-5 cm dilated and 60% effaced. The doctor also estimated the baby was at +1, so very low. By this point I was having trouble peeing even standing up; the baby was literally crushing my urethra and most of the time I had couldn’t pee until there was suddenly a popping feeling and all my pee would rush out. I had experienced false labor four times by then, each time feeling more sure that “this was it!” only to have it peter out after 2-3 hours. I was having a really hard time dealing with the fact that my body seemed ready to go and yet nothing was happening. I was also becoming more and more panicky at the prospect of how big the baby was going to be and the damage he’d likely do to my lady bits upon arrival (I had a third degree tear that caused a lot of problems after my first birth). Last but not least, I was coming to terms with what I finally admitted was a recurring bout of clinical depression, along with increasingly hard to manage anxiety. I started taking Zo.loft and basically begged my OB to schedule an induction for the week of my due date.
And miraculously, she did. Once I knew that my baby would be arriving on or before his due date I was able to relax a little. I had everything ready at work and started taking off the Monday before my scheduled Tuesday induction. Monday was an idyllic day until another (very convincing) bout of false labor convinced me to have my parents pick up my daughter from school while I called L&D. Of course, after three hours, the regular contractions disappeared. Thank god I had an induction scheduled for the next day or I might have just lost my mind (I definitely cried, which I feel should be noted and felt awful that I’d stolen our final night and morning together from our little girl).
Finally noon on Tuesday came and I called L&D asking when I should come in. Here is where it was first suggested that they wouldn’t have room for me at Kaiser San Francisco that day. It was also suggested that no hospital in the area would be able to admit me. Queue panic attack.
At 5pm I called again and was very upset to learn they never intended to follow up with me, as they promised they would. Luckily the OB on call was very kind, understood my concern and happily called Kaiser Redwood City, asking if they could admit me.
We actually birthed our daughter at Kaiser Redwood City because they have a midwives program and we’d heard they were more supportive of un-medicated births. We’d planned on going back there to have our son, because we had such a great experience the first time, but when our induction was scheduled for when my OB was on call at SF, we decided to go there. It ended up being VERY fortuitous that Kaiser SF was full and we ended up in Redwood City. I’m so happy that happened.
It should be noted somewhere that while I was relieved to have an induction date, I was also nervous for the actual induction. I’d heard how difficult pitocin-induced contractions could be and while I was open to an epidural I also feared it might be ineffective (I had heard a few horror stories). I also wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being tied to an IV poll before an epidural (due to the pitocin) and confined to bed after one. Plus, having a catheter scared the crap out of me.
So, back to the story. Kaiser Redwood City had plenty of room so at 6pm we headed down there. It was so nice being able to walk into L&D without navigating painful contractions. I loved leisurely getting ready and having time to call and text people while we waited to be seen. First an OB came in and said we’d start with pitocin and then see how things progressed. Later a midwife came in and she suggested that because the baby was so low and I was so dilated and effaced, that we just break my waters and see if that gave my body the extra push it needed. I had actually been wondering if that were a possible plan of action and was so relieved to hear her suggest it. I consented immediately. Then she took her little hook and tore my bag of waters and it all began.
The first thing that happened was we were told there was meconium in my waters. This was concerning but the midwife seemed very calm and not at all alarmed so I didn’t let myself get too worried. Only moments after my waters were broken I shifted my seat and a huge gush came out. Seconds later I felt my first contraction.
The contractions came quick and strong after that. At first I was able to manage them easily enough by myself but soon I needed Mi.Vida’s help. Our nurse, Pauline (who was amazing, by the way) informed me that I couldn’t take off the sensor until she got ten minutes of “tape” on the baby’s heartbeat. This was hard for me to hear because I wanted to lean forward or walk during the contractions but if I did the sensor would lose the baby’s heartbeat. Looking back it seems like the contractions went from manageable to unmanageable within 20-30 minutes but it may have been longer. I quickly realized I wanted an epidural and asked for one. Our nurse started getting everything ready as the contractions became more and more intense.
Finally the anesthesiologist arrived. I answered all the questions and consented to the epidural. I positioned myself on the side of the bed and wrapped my arms around my nurse as he swabbed my back. Suddenly I felt this incredibly urge to push. In fact, I had actually started pushing, it felt like the only way to manage the contraction I was in. I told my nurse that I was pushing and she told the anesthesiologist to stop. She tried to get me to lie on my back but I wanted to get the epidural and then push (at this point my contractions felt totally overwhelming). The nurse told me lie down and then checked me. I don’t remember her saying much, just that there was still a little lip left on my cervix but that I could push once the midwife got there.
Except it felt impossible to wait and with every contraction I found myself pushing. I just couldn’t stop, even though everyone was yelling at my to slow down, to not push so hard, to move my butt to the bottom of the table. It all felt so overwhelming and I didn’t know how to stop. At this point I was hyperventilating and kind of losing it. Pauline managed to get me back into myself by admonishing me to look at her and once my eyes locked on her face I was able to pull it together and move myself down the table. I was also able to push in smaller spurts until, after about five minutes of pushing, my son had made his way into the world. He arrived an hour and fifteen minutes after my waters were broken.
When my daughter was born I didn’t feel her emerge. This time I was very aware of my son leaving my body. I was ready and waiting for him to be laid on my chest. Mi.Vida and I were sobbing with happiness and relief when we met him. Mi.Vida cut his cord and then a pediatrician took him to make sure he didn’t get any meconium in his lungs. He was kept for about ten minutes while they checked his oxygen levels. He definitely looked a little blue when he came out and I was a little worried about him but the doctor kept assuring me that he was fine. After ten minutes they gave him back to me and Mi.Vida and I got to marvel at our little man. We started breastfeeding immediately and Mi.Vida called both sets of parents and announced our son’s birth.
I was able to quickly and uneventfully deliver the placenta. This time I only had a small first degree tear and the doctor assured me I would have been fine had my son not emerged with his elbow up by his face. I was so relieved that so little damage had been done despite his large head size (14 inches) and his weight (8.5lbs).
My parents came that night to meet their new grandson (they live in Redwood City and were close). They couldn’t believe he was already here! I felt great after the birth and reveled in the opportunities to snuggle with my baby boy. The first night in the hospital was great. Mi.Vida got to sleep in the extra patient bed while baby boy and I bonded. We left for home the next day.
All in all I found this to be an incredibly positive birth experience and I feel so fortunate for how everything went. I’m so glad we ended up at Redwood City, where a midwife suggested breaking my waters instead of pitocin. I’m so glad that our induction was as natural as possible and was over quickly and relatively easily. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a more better experience and I wouldn’t change a thing about how it all happened.
It’s funny to me how my birth with my daughter went exactly how I wanted and yet I felt disillusioned, while the birth of my son was not anything like I imagined it would be and yet I felt empowered. I wonder if I felt so much better about my second birth because I had so few expectations going in, or if it was just a much easier experience for reasons totally out of my control. Probably a combination of both. What I do know is that I’m so thankful this second story, this second birth. It makes me appreciate both experiences more and I feel so, so grateful for how both my children came into the world.