On my due date, Monday, February 1st, I had a prenatal appointment in the morning. She swept my membranes and told me I was dilated to a one and 75% effaced. I went to the chiropractor and acupuncture that afternoon. I felt my first contractions on the drive home! I had never made it to my due date or felt a contraction in my previous pregnancies, so it was an exciting day of firsts. The contractions continued every 8-10 minutes the rest of the evening and all day Tuesday.
On Tuesday evening, they were consistently 6 minutes apart and kept me up all night, so we went into the hospital around 4:00 am. Of course, they slowed back down to every 10 minutes as soon as we got there. At least I was now dilated to a two and 80% effaced. Contractions continued at the same pace on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but grew increasingly painful. My lower back just felt like it was burning each time.
By Saturday morning, I was so exhausted and felt like my spirit was being crushed by each painful contraction that seemed like they would never get close enough together to actually put me in labor. We took Claire and Maggie to their first dance and gymnastics class, which improved my mood considerably, and decided to go to the hospital again after lunch. My doula had suggested they might give me a sleeping pill so I could at least rest.
When they checked me, I was dilated to a four and 90% effaced, so they asked if we could walk around for two hours and come back. So, we spent two hours wandering around, climbing stairs sideways and doing squats. It was so nice to have a couple hours to concentrate on contractions with Adam around, but with no little kids! I relaxed immediately. When we went back to triage, I was still four centimeters, but completely effaced. They said they couldn't give me a sleeping pill because I was so close to active labor and they didn't want me sleeping through it!
Our options were to come home, with the promise that things were getting closer and we'd most likely be back soon, or to stay and have them break my water. They said they wouldn't suggest it if they didn't think it would work, but that I couldn't have any pitocin to help things along because it increases the risk of uterine rupture in VBACs. Man, this was a hard decision! Ultimately we agreed that five days of early labor was more than enough and asked to have my water broken.
We checked into a delivery room at 5:30 pm. The nurse had me change into a gown and started a hep lock in case I needed an IV later on. The on-call OB introduced herself and had me sign some consent forms. An anesthesiologist came by to talk about the epidural procedure so we'd be all ready to go if I wanted one. The OB did an ultrasound to confirm Betsy was head down and we discovered that she was posterior, which explained why my back was hurting so much! Our doula arrived at some point and had me try some different positions to get Betsy to turn around. Before we knew it, three hours had passed.
The doctor checked me at 8:30 and I was dilated to a six, although contractions still hadn't really moved closer together. We decided to hold off on breaking my water, the only trick in the bag, as long as I kept progressing on my own. We spent the next two hours trying different positions and chatting with our doula. Nothing had changed at 10:30, so the doctor broke my water. It was actually very anti-climatic, just a tiny trickle. The doctor really wanted me to get an epidural in case I ended up needing another c-section. Part of me had wanted to labor without medication, but after several days of painful contractions, that part of me was long gone. I was so exhausted from nights of almost no sleep!
After the doctor broke my water, I asked to begin the epidural process. The nurse got a bag of fluids going in my IV. The contractions all of a sudden got much closer together. I was standing and leaning on Adam, while he and the doula reminded me to breathe. I was mostly able to breathe through them, but I definitely broke down a few times, repeatedly asking when the epidural would be ready and crying that I couldn't do this anymore. I don't think I've ever been as happy to see anyone as I was to see the anesthesiologist walk in the room.
By 11:30 the epidural was in place and I was extolling the virtues of modern medicine. The OB came into check me again right afterwards and said that I was at a ten! Turns out I had been in transition for the last hour. The contractions never really gained in intensity from what I had been feeling the last several days, just finally grew closer together. I was glad that I wasn't a huge wimp after all. They let me rest and "labor down" for the next hour. It was such a weird feeling, knowing we were about to meet our baby. Except I was worried it would still be a long time yet, since the last we heard Betsy was posterior. I was imagining a four-hour pushing session and knew that even though we had made it this far, it was still possible to end up with another c-section.
They got the room all set up, we got started at 12:30 am, and she was out by 1:15. At some point, Betsy had flipped around into the normal position (eyes facing my back, instead of my front). I had built up pushing in my mind as the hardest part of labor, but thankfully that wasn't the case, especially because it's the only part I had that blessed epidural for! I was thrilled to be the first person to hold my baby. Adam and I couldn't stop saying how we couldn't believe that everything had actually worked out, especially that day. It was the most surreal experience of our life thus far.
But, y'all, I feel like my friends had all told me that I wouldn't even notice the whole after birth experience (delivering the placenta and getting stitched up). I would just like to go on record stating that I definitely noticed and was very glad when everyone was done poking around down there. After a couple hours, we were moved to a postpartum room on the floor below and finally got some sleep.
Adam picked up my mom, Claire, and Maggie in the morning and took them to meet Betsy. They were so sweet with their new little sister! He came back for a few hours in the afternoon, but mostly complained about being tired and not feeling well. My thoughts were, "Uh, yeah, same here." But when he went home again to help put the girls to bed, he came down with the worst stomach bug of his life! He actually called our friend, Steven (Betsy's godfather), to take him to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Steven also picked me and Betsy up from the hospital when we got discharged Monday morning.
Not really how I expected my hospital stay to go, but luckily I'm pretty good at taking care of newborns by now, especially when I don't have to recover from a c-section and can walk around on my own afterward. My mom was wonderful with the girls, of course, and Adam was back to normal by Tuesday. As far as c-section recovery versus that of a regular delivery, besides the immediate obvious advantages of the first couple days (aka being able to walk on your own), I think recovering from a vaginal delivery with just Tylenol is about the equivalent of recovering from abdominal surgery on Percocet. But I felt back to normal after my c-sections in about two weeks, while I know others have a tougher time.
The biggest reason I am so happy to have a VBAC is just to have all the childbearing possibilities of a normal 26-year-old woman. At least for now, because only God knows what the future holds, I don't have to worry about endangering my life or that of my child if we were to have a not-completely-planned pregnancy. And it seems like the odds of that are pretty good when using NFP. Just to have a future full of possibilities makes me feel like all my dreams have come true!
I am so thankful to all the doctors and nurses at the University of Washington for making it possible. Everyone was really supportive and wanted to see me succeed. My doctor at the community hospital where Maggie was born seemed to have the attitude of, "Sure, if the stars align perfectly you might end up with a VBAC." The only reason I even knew we could try for another VBAC is because Adam's cousin is an OB. He told us they were safer than getting a third c-section and that UW would be a good place to go for one. Except for a few things, like not allowing pitocin and encouraging an epidural, I feel like the doctors there were on my team and treated me like everyone else.
I just feel so grateful right now - for three healthy daughters, for living near a great research hospital, for a successful VBAC, for a mother who generously came to take care of us for three weeks, and for a husband who doesn't have to go back to work full-time for ten weeks. Life is wonderful.