My pregnancy with Anwen was a series of interwoven moments I may have hoped for but never expected to have...learning I was unexpectedly pregnant, allowing myself to trust in my body's ability to carry a pregnancy to term, approaching labor and attempting a VBAC...
...Overcoming obstacles (breech presentation, going past my due date, heart decelerations) and succeeding at a VBAC.
Succeeding at a VBAC.
I woke up a week after my due date with a nagging feeling. I hadn't felt Anwen move much (at all?) over night. I tried to get her to move. I drank orange juice, pushed on my belly, changed positions again and again. Nothing. Flashbacks to Rhys and Quin's birth started running through my mind. We called the midwife, and her instructions were simple: "get here now."
At the hospital, we were relieved. They found the baby's heartbeat. They checked my fluid levels. Everything looked good. Except. The baby was having some heart decelerations after contractions. The midwife was afraid she wouldn't tolerate labor. They couldn't let me go home, at 41 weeks pregnant, knowing I was having contractions, with a baby whose heart rate was dipping. They could fit us in for a c-section at 3:00pm.
I called our doula. Instead of attending the birth, would she be willing to instead provide postpartum support? She would.
The doctor came in. She confirmed what the midwife had told us: a c-section was likely.
Would we like to try a trial of labor? We'd be on a short leash - IV, constant monitoring, and a first class ticket to the OR at the first sign of distress - but she was willing to let us try a pitocin induction.
A window of opportunity.
They started my pitocin around noon. Early labor was lovely. My pitocin dose was low (2 milliunits) and the contractions were bearable. Kyle and I walked around the unit, we had tea, we listened to music. (Live harp music, at that, from a musical therapist visiting the unit!)
At four the OB came in to check my progress. A centimeter and a half. We discussed having her break my water. It would allow my body to kick in to help, and I was already on a time frame because of the induced VBAC. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Water broken. Contractions coming in waves. I felt suddenly disorganized and panicked. Pain. Relief. Pain. Relief. But instead of feeling like a rhythmic pattern, my contractions felt tangled up with each other, with my mind. Kyle brought me a hot pack for my back. Helped me get into a more comfortable position. I regained composure, found a rhythm.
I lose track of time.
Pitocin up to six. Want hot water. Into the tub. In a rhythm. Waves of pain. Relief. Laughing. Pain building. Cresting. Dissipating. Hot water is amazing. Again and again.
The pauses between the waves get shorter and shorter. Contractions build, peak, and dissipate...and build, peak, and dissipate. Relief slips through my fingers before I can grasp it. I feel panicked. I had planned not to use any medical pain relief. I also had planned not to use a medical induction.
"I want to talk about pain meds." As I'd requested months earlier, Kyle and my doula try to talk me out of it. The doctor checks me. I feel like I'm in transition, and yet I know, I KNOW, that I am nowhere near that point. I tell Kyle and our doula, "if I'm seven centimeters I'll go on without meds". I say seven. I mean eight or nine.
The doctor checks me. Almost three centimeters. I am not discouraged. I am relieved. "Get me an epidural." It's all I can say, again and again, until I'm laying in bed savoring sweet relief.
Two hours later. 4 centimeters. Okay. It's okay. I'm not in pain.
Two more hours pass. It's time to push.
At first I can't feel when to push. The nurse has to cue me. But then I can tell. I'm not in pain. But I can tell.
I push for an hour. The baby's heart rate starts getting low towards the end. Into the sixties. The midwife talks about the vacuum. It doesn't scare me, just motivates. We don't end up needing the vacuum. Kyle is by my side, holding my hand. We are doing this. We are in the hospital, we've been induced, I have an epidural, but we are doing this! The lights are dim. We are surrounded by flameless candles and beautiful music. The doctor is in the room next door, so we're back with the midwife. Does Kyle want to help deliver the baby?
And then she's out. Anwen. She's tiny and warm and wet. She has an amazing strong cry. She's crawling up my belly and all I can see are her beautiful big eyes - blue and deep and so, so new. She has matted dark hair and I'm already in love.
(Photos by Allison Connor, our wonderful doula)