I first published this story in three, cliff-hanging, posts. But… here is the full version. Warning: it’s LONG…
When Jason and I went in for my last regular OB appointment, on Monday, 10/15/12, two days before my due date, we were ready to hear more frustrating and familiar facts – not dilated, not soft, floating… yada, yada, yada. The nurse called my name, I obediently followed her to the scale (I maintained my weight the last month of pregnancy – wooHOO!) and sat for my blood pressure to be assessed. I coyly told her I hoped this was the last time I saw her for a while. She laughed and agreed.
As we followed her down the hall to our exam room, I felt it. A small gush of fluid that soaked the entire crotch of my favorite maternity skinny jeans.
“Um, hmm, I uh, just felt some fluid leak,” I casually explained to the nurse while glancing at Jason who’s eyes popped straight out of his head.
The nurse wasn’t excited, just told me to undress and they would test the fluid to see if it was the “good stuff.”
She left us alone in the room and I immediately launched into planning mode.
“Hon, we might be having a baby today. I have not finished packing the hospital bag. I didn’t delete those files off the video camera yet. I still haven’t had my pedicure. Did you get everything done at work already today? You know, you might not be going back to the office.”
Jason stared at me. “No, babe. It’s 10:00 am. Let’s just wait and see what the doctor says.”
“Mm-hmm. That’s wise. You know, today is October 15th, that’s a nice birthday.”
“Michelle, calm down.”
I love him.
My doctor came in, calm and matter of fact as usual. She didn’t rush to test the fluid – which left me a bit perplexed. Instead, she did all of the normal tests first – checked baby’s heart rate (120), measured my belly… then went for the good stuff. Her initial assessment was that it was not my water breaking. I was not dilated and only about 60% effaced.
“Besides,” she said. “You don’t want your water to break if you’re not dilated and ready to go into labor. All that means is that you would get induced today – and we may end up with a repeat c-section.”
Great. That’s not what I wanted to hear.
She left the room to review a sample of the fluid under the microscope, while I started whining.
“I was so excited there for a minute.”
“It’s okay, babe,” a clearly relieved Jason replied. “Like she said, your body’s not ready to have this baby yet. It’s probably for the best.”
“Whatever. I’m so done.”
I really was. SO DONE being pregnant. What is it with those last couple of weeks of pregnancy? They are terrible… especially with a very busy 16 month old who doesn’t slow down for a minute.
“Nope, sorry,” my doctor declared as she came back in the room. “It’s not amniotic fluid.”
“So, what is it?” (most obvious question ever)
“Probably just plain old pregnancy discharge. It’s a good sign. You get more of that towards the end, but hang in there. It’s not quite time yet.”
I put my soaked jeans back on. Thankfully, I wore a long shirt that day. I had a few errands to run near my OB’s office and I really didn’t want to run home and change. Also, Kenton had spent the previous night at my parent’s house. So, he was still hanging out with grandma and I wanted to take full advantage of the toddler-free time.
First stop was a grocery store. Walking in, I felt it again – another gush of fluid. I ran to the bathroom and dried off as much as possible. I started wondering if maybe my bladder was leaking. However, I knew that was unlikely as I had not had a vaginal birth before and the discharge didn’t look or smell like it had spent time in my bladder. (Sorry, but there’s nothing romantic about this part of pregnancy/child birth. If you can’t handle more talk of bodily fluid leaking from girl parts, this might be a good time to close your browser.)
I was ANNOYED. Not only was I nearly 40 weeks pregnant, I was gushing fluid that wasn’t my water breaking and starting to feel really moody. PMS’y-moody. I swung by the supplement section and picked up some castor oil, per the recommendation of a friend and vowed to take a swig the next day. (As I said, I was SO DONE.) I quickly finished up at the grocery store and was on to my next errand – dropping off a few of those groceries at my in-law’s condo.
My MIL was arriving the next day. She was going to spend three weeks helping us out. She had not seen Kenton in about six months, so we were all greatly looking forward to the impending airport reunion the next morning. I put some milk in her fridge, bananas on the counter, flowers on the entry table, and then got another gush. Grr.
I decided to forgo the rest of my errands and instead treat myself to a little lunch indulgence via a drive through on my way home. When the worker asked if I wanted any sauce with my bean and seven-layer burritos, for the first time in my life, I said, “Yes, please. Hot sauce.”
I am as mild as they come. The mild salsa at Chipotle has a bit too much kick for me. I order my pad thai at a “0” spice level. So, the hot sauce decision was a clear message to the occupant of my belly – time’s up!
Remarkably, I inhaled that meal, hot sauce and all, and barely felt a thing.
After I got home, I changed into some pajama pants, put my jeans in the wash and called my mom to ask if she could keep Kenton for a few more hours.
“I’m just not feeling 100%,” I explained. “I don’t know if this is going to develop into anything, but I don’t think I can handle chasing him around right now.”
“I understand,” my mom graciously replied. “But please pack your hospital bag for crying out loud.”
So, I started packing the dang bag – then complained about it on Instagram:
I was on my third pair of PJ pants because the gushing kept coming and I soaked through them. I was very grateful that I had already been to the doctor’s office and confirmed this wasn’t my water – because if I didn’t “know” that, I would probably be sitting in a waiting room all afternoon for more tests.
As the gushes continued, I finally decided to check in with my dad. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s a family physician with about 30 years of OB experience. I sent him a very, it’s okay, probably no big deal, I really don’t want to bother you, just call me when you have a second… text:
Around 3:30pm, he called and I explained the strange gushes that were NOT amniotic fluid, apparently. His response? Not exactly reassuring…
“Well, that’s odd,” he said slowly, clearly perplexed. “That is really odd. Hmm. So odd.”
“Dad, you’re not helping.”
“You need to call your OB office and explain that this to them. It’s really odd.”
(Later, he told me that he knew during this conversation that I’d be having a baby in a few hours, but neglected to share that with me now.)
So, I called the OB office and the nurse told me to get my arse to the hospital.
“I don’t think so,” I told her. “I don’t want to go in and be sent home like last week.”
“Michelle, get in the car and go to the hospital. Now. It’s possible we missed something this morning and you need to be checked out.”
“Are you SURE? I really don’t feel like going. I’ll be fine.”
Geez, people can be pushy.
But… the bag wasn’t completely packed, the house was kind of a mess, I needed to get dressed, straighten a few things in the nursery, charge the battery on the video camera… you know, way more important things than birthing a child.
I futzed around the house for another hour and then finally got in the car and drove myself to L&D. (Jason was going to meet me there straight from work.)
I waltzed up to the L&D desk with just my purse, looked the receptionist straight in the eye and told her,
“I’m here to be sent home in about five minutes.”
“Okay, clearly this is not your first baby.”
“You know, if your water is leaking, you’re not going home tonight. You do realize that, right?”
“Yeah, whatever. I have a bag in the car, just in case.”
Thankfully, my triage nurse was the sassiest sister I’ve ever met and exactly the personality I needed that day. The two of us had a good laugh about my “odd” symptoms and how positive I was that I would be going home shortly.
She got a sample of the fluid and soaked a test strip of paper in it.
“It’s just like a pregnancy test,” she explained. “Have you ever taken one of those?”
“How long does this test take?”
“Not long,” she replied as she took the test and brought it over to me. “How many lines do you see?”
“Wait. Does that mean…”
“You’re pregnant. Congratulations! It also means I can’t let you leave now.”
That’s when the tears started… I looked over at Jason…
“We’re having a baby!”
So, it was 5:00pm by the time I found out my water had indeed broken, when it probably happened (or started happening) at 10:00am. In my defense, this breakage of water was way different than Kenton’s birth story. In that case, my water gushed like a broken dam all over the… shower (convenient). This time, my water broke in smaller gushes, starting at my OB’s office, but they told me it wasn’t my water and I BELIEVED THEM. Still not sure how that happened.
So, seven hours and several gushes of fluid later, I had finally dilated to… drumroll please!… one centimeter. Wah-wah-waaaaaahhhhhh! I had also gone from 60% to 80% effaced. Not exciting… but it was progress. My OB was pleased my body had done something on its own and we were all still hopeful for a successful Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).
So, we set a plan in motion.
A plan I dutifully reported on Instagram.
First, we started a slow Pitocin drip. The idea was to let me slowly labor all night, then around 4:00am we would up the Pitocin and have a baby sometime in the morning. This plan would give my body a chance to slowly dilate and increase my VBAC chances.
It sounded like a good plan, but I was still pessimistic about the VBAC. The beginning of this birth story was eerily similar to Kenton’s. My water had broken, but my body wasn’t laboring on its own. I needed Pitocin to help get the contractions going. Last time, that ended with a baby in distress and an emergency c-section. I had so hoped for a “normal” experience this go-round, but that wasn’t happening. But – how many birth stories are actually normal anyway?!
With the Pitocin in, I started feeling contractions pretty regularly. They were manageable and at first I kept talking right through them. Jason was by my side the entire time. My mom stopped by with Kenton. I was so happy to see him! Since he had spent the previous night at my parent’s house, I had not seen him in more than 24 hours, so it was a sweet reunion.
My mom had him in a new outfit (since I hadn’t packed enough clothes for him!) and she brought two sleepers for us… one that said “Little Brother” and the other, “Little Sister” – we were all starting to get really excited about which one we would need. Although, we were fairly certain which one we’d be keeping.
Jason and I were still convinced we were having a boy. We had a boy’s name picked out, but were still deciding on a middle name. Most of our private conversations that evening involved tossing out different boy middle names. We had three girl names selected and briefly discussed those – enough to eliminate one name. We were undecided on girl middle names – but didn’t bother discussing those because we were certain we would be having a boy.
By 7:30pm, my mom had taken Kenton back to her house to put him to bed and my dad had arrived. My contractions were now intense enough that I could not speak through them – but were still manageable. My nurse explained the anesthesiologist was set to go into a C-section at 9:00pm. I had until 8:30pm to decide if I wanted an epidural before then. Otherwise, I would have to wait until about 10:30pm. So, for the next hour, I was able to carry on a conversation with my dad and Jason – with the exception of :30-:45 seconds of the actual contraction. They were coming every two minutes at that point. I felt they were manageable, Jason and my dad were encouraging – so 8:30 came and went and I never called for the epidural. My dad left shortly after that – convinced we were in for a long night.
I’m not sure what happened after that, but between 8:30 and 9:15pm, those darn contractions increased so much that I was DONE. I threw in the towel at 9:15 and was decidedly out of luck for at least another hour.
My nurse, Stephanie, mercifully turned off the Pitocin, which barely helped. My body had taken the hint and labor was in full swing. The pain, for me, was intense. The contractions were really difficult. They lasted :45-:60seconds and were coming every other minute. I was not mentally prepared for drug-free labor. However, I learned quickly that if I tackled the contraction head-on as it started, I could control and manage how I handled the pain. If I lost concentration, the pain was much, much worse. For the next 90 minutes, I impressed myself by how I was able to handle intense labor. I also realized just how wimpy I was with Kenton’s labor. This time, I was much better focused and handled the situation really well… as long as the room was perfectly quiet and no one touched me. HA! It also helped (tremendously) that I knew I would be getting relief in the near future!
Around 10:30pm, Stephanie (finally) gave me some pain meds through my IV. They took a good amount of the edge off, but just 15 minutes later, my hero emerged, the anesthesiologist! Angels started singing from the heavens and my epidural was inserted at 10:45pm. I felt immediate relief. I slowly emerged out of my very somber/intense state and started thanking everyone in the room, profusely.
However, I was only at 3cm. Even though the amount of pain I experienced told me I should be further along – it was actually good news. I made progress (despite having turned off the Pitocin) and it was slow progress – just what the doctor ordered!
With the epidural on board, I was finally able to rest, as was Jason. We turned off the lights and I drifted off on my side in the hospital bed while Jason tried to get comfortable on the “cot” that’s actually a bench with a thin pad. Stephanie was planning to come back and check my progress at 2:00am.
I rested, but didn’t really sleep – I was too excited! I began noticing I could feel the pressure of contractions on the left side of my body, but not the right. At first, I ignored it – but then began to fear the epidural was failing. So, I rang for a nurse – it was 1:00am.
Stephanie came in and said she would flip me over to the other side to see if that would help. (Once that epidural is in, you can’t really flip yourself from one side to the other without assistance.) After she helped flip me, she decided to check my progress, even though it was an hour early. Because my water had broken, they were only checking my progress when necessary to avoid infection.
As she began to check, I watched her face intently – hoping for good news.
Suddenly, she dropped her head dramatically, and swung it back up with a loud laugh.
“You’re not going to believe this,” she laughed.
“What? What’s wrong?” I started to get nervous.
“You’re fully dilated. I can’t believe it!”
It had only been two hours since the epidural – when I was just 3cm.
I grabbed her arm – kinda hard – “DO NOT JOKE WITH ME!”
“I’m not!” she said, laughing even more. “You need to start pushing.”
I grabbed her other arm, “This means I’m actually going to have my VBAC?!”
“Yes, that’s what this means. I need to go call your doctor.”
She left the room. Jason groggily came over and we both kind of stared at each other – shocked by how quickly everything had progressed. I was absolutely giddy. I was not going to have major surgery and instead was going to birth a child the “normal” way – and hopefully have all of the perks that come along with that (faster recovery, better breastfeeding experience, better “war story” to share… etc…)
We were left alone for about thirty minutes. I didn’t feel anything – despite my fears, the epidural was working just fine (praise the Lord).
Stephanie came back in and said she decided not call my doctor yet. We still didn’t know how long I would be pushing and since it was the middle of the night, she decided to only give my OB one wakeup call, when it was actually time for her to come in.
So, it was time. Time to start pushing. Something I had given very little thought to. I figured the nurses in the hospital would tell me what to do – seeing as that what they did for a living, every day. Best just to trust them and do what they say. And… that’s what I did. I followed instructions as best as I could… pushing three times during each contraction. Stephanie and Jason were so encouraging. They both kept telling me I was doing a great job. Jason was clearly impressed by how I was handling everything – which just made me feel more confident and comfortable. Stephanie’s encouragement felt amazing because I could tell she was sincere and she did this for a living – and I realized this was probably the only time in my life I would experience this. (Oh yeah, we’re DONE.)
I pushed three times per contraction for about 20 minutes. Yes, I was watching the clock. I grunted through my first push of a contraction. Took a breath and started push number two…
“STOP!” Stephanie had that same look on her face she had when she discovered I was fully dilated hours ahead of schedule. “You need to stop.”
“Okay. What’s going on?” I really couldn’t feel much – no pain, just pressure (just like everyone says).
“Your baby is about to come and I need to get your doctor here.”
So, with that, I was left waiting for THIRTY MINUTES. I felt the pressure of every contraction during that half hour with the intense urge to push every single time – but I had to hold back. That was incredibly difficult.
Finally, my OB arrived – in scrubs, no makeup, and seemingly amused.
“Wow,” she began, “You’re having a baby a bit sooner than we all anticipated. You ready to keep pushing?”
HELL. YES. LADY. WHATTOOKYOUSOLONG? GET THIS BABY OUT OF ME. NOW. RIGHT NOW.
I pushed through two more contractions… and then… our baby emerged. Jason broke our “eyes up HERE” rule because he was so enamored with the process. Because he was looking, he caught the scary sight of the cord around our baby’s neck. Our OB cast a glance his way, quickly slipped it off and reassured Jason it was okay. (I missed that moment in real life – but saw it on video. No, you will never see that video. Don’t ask.)
Immediately, the baby was put on my tummy and looked up at me, straight into my eyes. Eye contact with my sweet baby immediately = BEST. MOMENT. EVER.
The baby was turned toward Jason when “it” was put up on my tummy and as I was lost in those dark blue eyes, I heard my husband say as casually and matter of fact as anything he’s ever said,
“It’s a girl.”
“IT’S A WHAT?”
To say I was shocked would be the understatement of the century.
“It’s a girl.”
“Are you sure? Maybe the penis is just hiding?”
So, I looked, and sure enough – GIRL.
I immediately started bawling my eyes out and kissing her all over her head and face… as she screamed beautiful healthy baby screams.
For the record, I’m sure I would have had the same reaction if “it” was a boy – but there was something magical about the shock factor that made everything about that moment incredibly special.
I got to hold my baby girl for about 15 minutes. I just kept saying, “I love you” over and over. I also told her how much her big brother was going to love her. This skin to skin time was one of the primary reasons I was so incredibly grateful for a VBAC. Also, we could do delayed cord clamping/cutting. Jason cut the cord after it stopped pulsing.
They weighed her – 7lbs 12oz (more than a pound lighter than her brother, who was 8lbs, 13oz)
They measured her – 20.75 inches (but just a quarter inch “shorter” than big bro!)
They wiped her down – and the nurse declared,
“You’ve got a red head!”
“A WHAT?!” I didn’t notice the red hair at first because… let’s be honest… she was covered in blood when I was holding her. I just assumed she had blonde hair like her brother. But, Jason clarified things for me…
“Yes. Confirmed. Red head.”
That drew lots of ooh’s and ahh’s from everyone in the room… apparently, it’s not too common.
When she was back in my arms a few minutes later, I started nursing her. She took to it right away and stayed latched for 90 minutes! Of course, she probably wasn’t eating that whole time, but she did get some food in her belly and lots of bonding with momma. I immediately had hope that this breastfeeding experience would be leaps and bounds better than last time (and it has been!).
At some point during this baby-high, I realized my OB was still… eh-hem… “working.” She seemed deep in concentration, possibly concerned. I decided to check in on her…
“How’s it going down there?” I don’t know, it seemed like a good start.
“Are you a bleeder? When you cut yourself, do you bleed a lot?” she responded, not looking up.
“Okay, because, yeah, okay.”
Clearly, that was encouraging.
“Is there a problem?” I tentatively asked.
“You’ve lost… er… you’re losing a lot of blood,” she said, matter of factly – never looking up from her work, which I now noticed was somewhat frantic.
“Okay,” I glanced down at the precious bundle in my arms. “Am I going to need surgery?”
“No, no surgery, but possibly a transfusion.”
Actually, a transfusion sounded better than surgery and definitely sounded like something I would survive to continue mothering my precious kiddos. Yep, a transfusion was okay – worth it. No problem. Sign me up.
More than an hour passed after our baby’s birth, our nurse made several trips out of the room for more supplies… and finally, she declared me done. Transfusion not needed. My “battle wounds” were not particularly deep/severe, there was just a lot of them and they bled a lot – and I had a hemorrhage. In all, I lost 1200cc’s of blood.
1200cc’s no biggie.
Not unless you consider the fact most women lose between 300-500cc’s of blood during childbirth.
My OB said it best…
“You have the most boring pregnancies and dramatic births.”
Just trying to keep you on your toes, doc.
The time she spent working on me was not particularly scary or stressful. Jason and I were enamored with our daughter and the fact, WE HAD A DAUGHTER. It was, however, awkward to make any joyous phone calls while she was clearly working feverishly. So, instead of calling our families to tell them the good news, we talked about something kind of important – what on earth were we going to name this child?
As I said before, we had a boy’s name ready to go. Well, we could scratch that now. (It was going to be Anders, by the way.) We had two girls’ names…
Genevieve Grace, we would call her Gigi, was “the” girls name for years. Jason mentioned it once while we were dating and I was sold. If Kenton had been a girl, well, we’d have an almost-18 month old “Gigi” running around right now. At some point, the name Camille was tossed in the mix and during this pregnancy it grew on me – and began to shove Genevieve aside. We tossed around a few middle names for Camille…
Eileen was my grandmother’s middle name. My dad’s mom who died when I was 16. I loved the sound of Camille Eileen and the family connection was appealing. But… we never discussed these name possibilities seriously… Because we were sure Baby Anders would be joining our family.
But, here we were with a baby girl. And we had to make a decision.
As soon as they told me she had red hair, I was drawn to Camille Eileen. My grandmother had red hair and, to me, that seemed like a lovely connection. However, I honestly liked all the names equally. I told Jason to pick. He hesitated.
I reminded him that I basically picked Kenton’s name. I wanted our son to have the same initials as my dad, KAF – and Kenton was the only boy “K” name that we liked. He remembered and agreed it was his turn.
I was certain he would pick Genevieve – so I was surprised when he walked over, took a long look at our daughter and declared, “She’s Camille Eileen.”
It was perfect. She is perfect.
Back to reality, it was time for me to move out of the L&D room and upstairs to recovery. The nurse came to put me in a wheelchair. I stood up, turned, sat down, and immediately lost control of my body. My head fell back, my limbs became heavy, I could hear everything, but I couldn’t communicate. That really sucked, because the nurse called for someone to bring the “smelling salts” and I knew I didn’t want to smell those, but I had no choice. But, they did the trick and snapped me out of it… enough to get back in bed. Which I did and immediately went straight to sleep.
Apparently, all that blood loss was catching up to me.
Jason and Camille spent that time bonding while I rested. A couple hours later, they were able to transition me upstairs – but on orders of 24 hours of bedrest and an extra night in the hospital for observation. Also, ice packs, lots of ice packs – and drugs, the good kind (for 24 hours, then it was the not as good stuff).
A full VBAC vs. C-section post is for another day. But, I will say I’m glad I was able to do a VBAC and even though my recovery was (and still is) a bit more involved than the average gal – I don’t regret it for a minute. I would take that over C-section recovery fo’ shizzle, especially with an active toddler at home.
Speaking of, the first thing I did when I got home… was scoop up this little munchkin…
Photo by: O’Grace Photography
Which was exactly what drove my desire for a VBAC in the first place.
I’m not going to be shy about it, I’m pretty darn proud of myself. As I should be, Amen?
After all, I’ve got two amazing birth stories, which resulted in two amazing children.
Photo by: O’Grace Photography
I am one blessed momma, with an incredible life. I could not be happier.