On August 1, we welcomed our first daughter into this world. Her birth story was quite the adventure, didn’t follow any of the rules, and comes with its own theme song. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s start at the very beginning.
Many years ago the earth was void and there was neither light nor darkness….
I kid, I kid.
But seriously. If you don’t already know our story, you may want to read my firstborn’s birth story which was basically a disaster and changed the way I view everything, my second born’s VBAC birth story, the story of our miscarriages and subsequent diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and finally our surprise pregnancy.
To say that everyday of this pregnancy I woke up feeling like there was a miracle baby inside of me is an understatement. I just want to give hope to all of you who struggle with thyroid/fertility/autoimmune issues – Nothing is impossible with God.
But back to the story.
I had visions of how my delivery would go. It would follow exactly like my last birth, except this time I would wait longer to go to the hospital, show up pushing, and come out of it smiling and put together like Princess Kate. Really, I didn’t allow for there to be any other option in my head of what could happen. Rookie mistake.
Photo Credit: Nikita Marie Photography – 35 weeks pregnant
The 9th month
This was probably my easiest and healthiest pregnancy minus being really sick in the first trimester. I tested negative for Group B Strep which was great since I tested positive with my two boys. I also barely had any Braxton Hicks contractions until the ninth month. At my 36 week appointment my doctor checked my cervix and I was 2 cm dilated. I was happy to be 1/5th of the way there already. That week I had some fabulous contractions and couldn’t wait to see if I had made any progress. At 37 weeks I was still a 2. (Note: If you are currently pregnant for the first time, please take my advice and pay no attention to cervical dilation until you are actually in labor. All it does is put your hopes up and down and there’s really no need for it. My doctors all viewed me as high risk because of my Hashimoto’s and VBAC status, so I had to really pick and choose my battles, but I really should have advocated for no cervical checks.)
At 38 weeks I had consistent, strong contractions the whole week and I warned everyone that I probably wouldn’t make it to 40 weeks. At that appointment I was still a 2.
At 39 weeks I looked at my doctor with desperation in my voice and said “Please, if I am still a 2, lie to me and tell me I’m a 3!” At that appointment I was an ‘almost 4’. I didn’t really care if she was lying or not, it was progress.
Photo Credit: Nikita Marie Photography
Should I stay or should I go?
At 39 weeks and 5 days I woke up at 3 am with breathtakingly strong contractions. I tried to sleep through them but I found that I had to stop and breathe through them. Excited, I got out of bed, swept the house, got the air mattress out for the guest room, woke my husband up so he could reach the oats for me so I could make a power breakfast, and informed all my friends that “today is the day”. The plan was not to go to the hospital until I was in transition, so I labored at home. The whole day. By evening time the contractions petered out. I was disappointed, but took hope in the fact that I had probably dilated more. I didn’t really sleep that night partly from the intermittent contractions and partly from the excitement of getting to meet our baby girl.
The next day I woke up with strong contractions again. They felt like the kind of contractions I had during transition with my last labor. I labored at home the whole morning trying to decide if I should go to the hospital or not and breathing through contractions while the kids tugged on my shirt and asked me to get their toys out and to make their food. I’m not going to lie, I felt like I was starting to go a little crazy. I started to think thoughts like “Why did I want to go through this again?” and I let my kids watch movies all morning long just to keep them quiet because the noise was really getting to me. I wondered if I was nearing transition. That afternoon I had another appointment “Yep, you’re still almost 4.” the doctor said with a smile. I was truly shocked and became really discouraged.
That night I didn’t sleep again. The contractions had petered out to about 12 minutes apart, but they were enough to wake me up. I had conversations in my head like “I just want to give up. No you don’t Sarah, you have done this before. Yes I do, a c-section sounds really nice right now. No it doesn’t, don’t you remember how awful that was. I’m too tired to labor.” Then I would laugh at myself for being so ridiculous. Then I would cry at myself for thinking too hard about everything instead of sleeping. Then I would laugh at myself for crying over contractions that weren’t even transition contractions. Then I would cry at the fact that these weren’t transition contractions and those were coming…and I was so tired. So very tired.
Photo Credit: Nikita Marie Photography
At 40 weeks exactly I told my husband to stay home from work. I was having a hard time managing the boys at home alone through the contractions. My mom was on her way to come help and so I figured that subconsciously my body was holding back from progressing in labor until I knew that there was someone who could take care of the boys for us while we went to the hospital. The contractions came and went throughout the day.
During this time I was texting my friend Ashley who was planning to be there for the labor and delivery. She was an incredible support during my second son’s birth and I was so grateful she was willing to be there for me again. She’s also extremely patient as I kept texting her “Maybe it’s time to go to the hospital now.”, “Never mind”, “OK, maybe now”, “Never mind”, “I’m sure it’s real this time.”, “Never mind”. You get the point. Scott and I joked that the theme song for this labor was “Should I stay or should I go?”
That evening, after my mom arrived, Ashley came over to the house and helped time contractions. They followed their regular pattern of being consistently inconsistent. She recommended I go for a walk. Scott and I waddled around the block and they picked up again. Finally, around 7:30 I made the call – it’s time to go in. I didn’t want to deliver in the car and I was certain that this, for me, was transition.
It’s time to go!
We showed up to triage and just for good measure I walked up and down a couple staircases. The hospital gives me anxiety and the last thing I needed was for labor to stall and for them to try any interventions on me. In fact, I was praying I could have a completely intervention-free birth. Christian music was playing in the lobby and I knew it was a sign from God that this was all right and soon we would have a baby. In triage they checked me. Yeah, you’re still an “almost 4”.
And this, my friends, is why I will forevermore and always advocate for no cervical checks. If I didn’t know I had made absolutely no progress, I would not have started wondering if I would be delivering in the mental-health ward instead of the labor and delivery ward. Thankfully I had a crunchy nurse who whole-heartedly supported my natural VBAC efforts. She even let me sneak my friend in to triage. She strongly advocated for me to go home, and finally the doctor agreed. I was so tired I told everyone I was just going to stop laboring and get a good nights sleep, and try again in the morning. (LOL) At 10:30 I was finally back in my own bed, the contractions had stalled and as I drifted off I prayed “Please Lord, let me sleep.”
It’s time to go….again – but first cheese!
At 12:30 I was jolted awake by a strong contraction that had me gripping for something to hold onto. As it passed I waited for another one. A few more came, but not nearly as strong, so I tried to go back to sleep. At 2:30 the strong ones came back and I found I couldn’t lay through them. I tried to sit up and was having a hard time sitting through them. I noticed my legs and arms were shaking. Worried my water was going to break I grabbed a towel and some cheese (Hey, can’t labor on an empty stomach!) and woke up my husband. “We need to go back.” I said.
In the car I started having doubts. “Maybe we don’t need to go back.” I would say between contractions. He kept driving. Then a contraction would come “Never mind, we need to go!” I would gasp. I didn’t let him call Ashley until we actually got to triage because I was seriously debating taking a detour and going through a drive-thru for some food. “You’re going to have to sneak me some food.” I instructed my husband.
We got into triage and the crunchy nurse was still there. She checked me. “Well, you’re a good ‘4’, there’s definitely been some progress.” she tried to console me. My husband and I just sat there and stared at her with blank expressions on our faces. It felt like someone was playing a cruel joke on us. They monitored me for an hour and there was contractions, but no progress. We all decided it was best if I just went home again and tried to rest. However, this time the attending doctor didn’t agree. Because I was a VBAC, she wanted to monitor the rest of my labor. I was crushed.
You do not get to go!
The blessed crunchy nurse went to work looking up peer-reviewed research to fight for my case and she was on and off of the phone with the doctor for what felt like hours. During that time I just wanted to sleep. The contractions stalled again and the nurse made a passing comment that if I were to take a Benadryl, I may be able to get some rest. I decided to take one and what followed was the most glorious ten minute nap I have ever had in my whole life. Seriously, I woke up refreshed and ready to labor. I also woke up to find that all of our efforts for me to go home were a wash.
As we walked to the labor and delivery room, I felt so discouraged. At this rate it was going to be DAYS before I was 10 cm and ready to push, but hospitals don’t just let you sit around and labor for days. Plus, the on-call doctor didn’t seem to be too supportive of my wishes. When she showed up to the delivery room, our conversation went something like this:
Dr: “You will need to get hooked up to an epidural right away.”
Me: “No, I don’t do epidurals.”
Dr: “It’s not an option, the rules for this hospital are that VBACs must be delivered with an epidural.”
Me: “If you read my file you will see that it is an option since epidurals don’t work on me.”
Dr: “I read it, but I don’t agree. You will also need an IV running.” (I had an IV inserted into my hand, but it wasn’t hooked up to anything.) Studies show the sugar in the water can speed up labor.”
Me: “You want to put SUGAR in my body?!”
(Taken about 2 minutes before my water broke)
Water, water everywhere
The bigger room was nice, and my new nurses brought out a big ball for me to labor on. It was now 5 am and so as soon as we were alone, we discussed food. Ashley decided to run out to see what she could find and as she walked out the door I joked “I’ll try not to have the baby while you are gone!” Three minutes later my water broke.
I was standing in the middle of the room when it happened. A huge gush. I had really wanted to experience my water breaking on its own (my last two births the doctor artificially broke my water – one of the reasons my first birth ended up as a cesarean section.) I felt an urgency that things were going to happen really fast. “Call Ashley! Call Ashley!” I frantically told my husband. Him and the nurse cleaning up the huge mess that was my amniotic fluid clearly did not sense my urgency. They just took their sweet time. “I told her not to hurry back.” my husband commented as he hung up the phone. I probably would have made some smart comment had not a contraction started coming on.
Anyone who has been through labor knows that contractions post water breaking are a whole different level of pain than contractions pre water breaking. I braced myself…but it wasn’t too bad. I couldn’t decide if I should be disappointed or happy. Then another one hit right away and immediately I had to change my breathing patterns to get through it, I also felt a lot of pressure.
The nurse, who was still cleaning up the mess, must have noticed the change and decided to check me. She had to wait until another contraction passed. I just knew I was going to be a 7 or an 8, maybe a 9 if I was lucky. “Hmmm, I would say you are 5 and a half. Negative 2 station.” she said in her sweet little voice. Now I am not a yeller. I’m really not. But I threw my hands up in the air and just belted “You have GOT to be KIDDING me!!!!”. I closed my eyes and prayed “Lord, have mercy on me.”
A couple minutes later Ashley arrived. At this point I was not able to get out of bed because the contractions were so strong. I braced myself for the long haul. The doctor showed up, and after watching a contraction, decided to check me. “You’re a 7” she said with surprise. I think I was even more surprised. Progress? Actual progress?!
A couple more contractions later a flood of doctors and nurses came rushing into the room with concerned looks on their faces. They threw an oxygen mask on me and started making me roll over onto my side. The baby’s heart rate had dropped and they were wondering if my uterus was rupturing, a rare complication that can happen with VBACs. They decided to put a heart rate monitor on the baby’s head and while doing that they discovered I was now 9 centimeters dilated.
The next contraction my body started pushing. “Don’t push!” a bunch of voices instructed me. I tried to blow through the contraction so I wouldn’t push, but it wasn’t easy. They checked me again and I was almost 10 cm.
And she was born
Another contraction later and it was time to push. The doctor who I wasn’t too fond of at first all of a sudden became a great help. I am told I pushed for about 15 minutes, but it felt much longer. When the baby started crowning I yelled out “Don’t clamp the umbilical cord!” “Of course not” the dr. replied. I had requested delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin and thought I was going to have to fight to get it, but this doctor was on board with my birth plan. A minute later and only an hour after my water first broke, I delivered the most beautiful baby girl. They immediately handed her to me, umbilical cord and all, and I held our little miracle.
Then our sweet baby girl latched on and nursed skin-to-skin for 2 hours straight. Not once did the hospital staff try to take her away from me to bathe her or measure her. This was so different from how the hospital staff treated the birth of my son three years ago when I got to hold him for only a couple of minutes before they snatched him away to do everything. Later, the staff told us that new research shows that babies are more alert and nurse better when you wait at least 12 hours to bathe the baby.
So far recovery has been excellent and so has the transition from two kids to three. I am so incredibly grateful that I got to experience the whole labor process from beginning to end without any major interventions. Although I had really desired a natural home birth, I have no complaints with how my hospital VBAC birth went. Oh, and everything happened so fast they didn’t have time to give me the ‘required’ epidural or get an IV running.
Her name means “gift from God” and she is our miracle. Thank you Lord!