Spoiler alert: This story has a happy ending.
I never reached a point in my first pregnancy when I was “over it”. It was new, it was exciting, and the cold weather kept me comfortable. This pregnancy was a different story. I was heavier than before, the summer heat was intense, and every move I made had become way too tedious. So, when I reached 39 weeks of pregnancy, I was very ready for baby girl to make an appearance.
Since I had Willow 5 days before my due date, everyone (including me) was anticipating that I would be early again. Right after I hit 39 weeks I could tell that my body was prepping for labor, but it was just too hard to know definitively what was going on. It was also really hard not to compare how I felt to “last time”. Although as it turned out, the process was surprisingly similar.
On Monday the 21st around 4 am, I felt my first real contraction. I had a few more over the next few hours, but they were very irregular. Still, I made sure to contact my sister (doula extraordinaire) and our families just in case we had to set our labor plan into action. I was once again thinking about my last labor, which went a little something like – contractions start Monday at 1 am, are random throughout the day, get real at 1 am on Tuesday, have baby at 1 pm. So here I was thinking that by Tuesday morning it would be the real deal and I’d have the baby Tuesday afternoon! (I was only slightly off.)
Monday went on and I was feeling discouraged because the contractions seemed to be getting weaker and more irregular. My family was still on alert, but I told them it was probably a false alarm. It was a funny feeling wanting labor to start, considering I was also really afraid of labor. But this time, I told myself, it will be different. Epidural. Done deal. Stay calm.
Around Monday at 10 pm things started picking up. I didn’t know how fast or slow things would go so I called my mother-in-law who immediately left to come here and watch Willow. She arrived around 11, and then Tom and I went back to bed to try to get some rest. Rest didn’t really happen for me, though. An hour later I called Anne and asked her to come over. She arrived at 1 am we sat down to talk about what was happening.
I was feeling a little confused. My contractions were getting stronger, but not really much closer together. Based on “the rules” of labor, you head to the hospital once they’ve been close together for an hour or so. The problem was that the strength of the contractions were making me think I was really starting active labor, which made everything inside me scream GET TO THE HOSPITAL. I agreed to try to get some more rest, but after only a short while I had to listen to my body and say it was time to go. I really didn’t want to arrive at the hospital only to discover I wasn’t as far along as I thought, but deep down I knew that wouldn’t happen. As we were gathering our things together the contractions got painful enough that I had to vocalize through them. Fortunately sweet Willow slept through everything. It was about 3 am when we got in the car.
Obviously there’s no traffic at 3 am, so we had no trouble getting there. I admit, in the car I freaked out a little bit. The contractions were intensifying and I was getting some sense memory of my horrible transition with Willow. A very strong contraction ended and I started crying and said that I was afraid. Anne encouraged me to take one contraction at a time and to focus on breathing through it.
When we arrived at the hospital Anne parked the car and we got taken right up to Labor & Delivery. Lucky for us it was a slow night/morning, and so we skipped triage and went right to our delivery room – the same one as last time. The staff were all very kind and I let them know right away that I wanted that epidural! Just saying it out loud made me feel better. I was so glad we had arrived at the hospital and things were happening.
They got me all hooked up and the baby was doing great. One of the OBs from the practice came in to check me and I was 7 centimeters. Perfect. I wasn’t crazy!
The process of admittance continued while I was laboring. The contractions were tough but I just kept telling myself that I didn’t have to feel them much longer. Finally it was time to insert the epidural. Anne had to leave the room and Tom sat by my bed. I had started to shiver a little from nerves. I’ve heard that the placement of the epidural can be painful, so I was bracing myself. In actuality, it was nothing. I was lucky not to have any contractions until after it was inserted. As I lay back down, one last contraction reared its ugly head. But that was it. The last one I felt.
Almost immediately a warm, pleasant tingling sensation began to spread down my legs into my feet. It felt like slipping into a big wonderful bathtub, and I felt my whole body relax. It. Was. Amazing. I cannot even begin to describe the relief I felt. It was perfect.
Once it had taken full effect, the OB came back to break my water. We had agreed beforehand that this was a good plan, since that was what had really gotten my labor going last time. After my membranes were ruptured (painlessly!!!!!) we all settled in to get some rest. It felt so good to be able to sleep. After a few hours, the OB came back to see what was happening. Well, apparently I was SO relaxed that my contractions had slowed significantly! I had to sort of laugh at that. The baby’s head had at least engaged some more.
No real progress in hours meant it was probably time to start pitocin, which was just fine with me. I decided long ago that my motto for this birth would be “go with the flow”. I wasn’t nervous about the pitocin at all. We all agreed it was a good idea and they started me on the lowest drip possible. In the meantime, they suggested we get some more rest and to let them know if I started to feel pressure.
The sun had started to come up and the room had a pleasant glow. I felt so grateful just to be there and to know that I’d meet my baby soon. We all got a little more sleep, and I woke up around 8:30 am. By that time the doctor’s shifts had changed, which meant Dr. Fong, who delivered Willow, would once again be delivering my baby! That made me happy. She is a very friendly, cheerful person.
It was getting on 9 am when I started to feel that familiar (but without the pain, NO PAIN!) pressure down there. I could feel it intensify at the peak of a contraction. I casually announced that I felt pressure and in a few minutes Dr. Fong came back to check me. Well, I was fully dilated and baby’s head was right there. You’re having a contraction now, so go ahead and push! It was literally that fast. Some of the nurses were laughing because they couldn’t get their gloves on fast enough. Anne and Tom couldn’t believe it either. The baby’s head was visible from the first push and no surprise – another full head of hair.
I pushed for 3 minutes. I wasn’t sure how pushing with the epi would feel, but somehow it was so much easier to feel what to do. It seems counter intuitive, but that’s what happened. I knew just where to push and I didn’t have to strain. Three minutes, and Violet was there. She felt so sweet and warm. It was wonderful.
I actually enjoyed my birth. Let me say that again – I enjoyed it! The epidural stripped away all my fear and allowed me to actually be present at my child’s birth. I was able to look at Tom in between pushes and smile. That means everything to me.
When Violet was getting checked out I needed a few stitches for a minor tear near my episiotomy line. They assured me it wasn’t that bad and made me laugh when they told me what a great job they were doing down there.
Another surprise was Violet’s weight! She was a big girl at 8 lbs and 7.6 oz. Throughout our stay at the hospital everyone kept remarking on what a big girl she was, but its been so long since I’ve been around a newborn she seemed pretty tiny to me.
Once Violet’s checkup was done they brought her back to me and we thought we’d try nursing. Now….obviously this was (and is) a very delicate thing for me. Many months in advance I had decided that I would feed Violet formula from the very beginning. As my due date got closer, I started to think that there was no harm in just trying it out when she was born. Maybe she would be a natural at it. However, even if that did happen, I still had major reservations. Since I never breastfed Willow successfully, I wasn’t really too interested in forging unfamiliar territory already having my hands full with a toddler at home.
Violet was very enthusiastic about eating, and she latched on well enough to do so, but it was definitely not comfortable for me. She seemed so determined I let her stay there for a while, but in the next hour I discovered that she had already given me a blood blister on my nipple. Another “clamper”. Oh boy.
Since I was really determined to stick with my “go with the flow” plan, I chose not to worry about it. Violet was taken away to the nursery and I was left to eat some lunch and wait for feeling in my lower body to come back. Once it did I was surprised at how sure I was on my feet. They put me in a wheelchair and brought us down the hall to our private recovery room. (So worth the money.) It was nice to get settled in and even nicer how good I was feeling. I knew that the soreness would set in over a few days, but compared to my first experience (it was impossible not to compare), I felt worlds better. After we’d both been able to nap, Tom went home to relieve his Mom and bring Willow back to the hospital to meet her sister. Over the next few hours we had visits from both sets of grandparents, and Tom came back with little (or big?) Willow, who was just sort of overwhelmed by the whole thing. She went into quiet observation mode and sat next to me in the hospital bed, which was just fine.
After a while our visitors left, my parents left with Willow, and Tom and I were alone with our new baby. When she started to fuss I attempted to put her to breast again. She was so eager but just couldn’t seem to open her mouth enough to latch on properly and so she was clamping on my nipple again. After just a few minutes her fussing intensified and I just felt too bad to deny her the formula that was right next to me. I still didn’t get upset. The lactation consultant wouldn’t be back until the morning, so I decided formula would be fine until then. I had already begun to make my decision, but the LC was such a nice woman I figured I’d wait until I saw her one more time.
That night, just as Tom and I had settled in to sleep, we were interrupted by a nurse. Oh right, who gets to sleep in the hospital?! I remembered how exhausting it was last time to be constantly interrupted, and I decided that it was probably alright for them to take little Violet to the nursery. I definitely felt guilty, but since I wasn’t going to attempt breastfeeding and she was asleep 95% of the time, I thought it would be really great for us to get some rest. And we did. It was so nice. We got Violet back around 6:30 the next morning and all was right with the world.
A few hours later, right on time, the lactation consultant came back to see me. I filled her in on the previous afternoon and said that I suspected Violet was having latching difficulties similar to her sister’s. The LC felt in Violet’s mouth and sure enough, she was biting. You can’t force a baby to latch properly, or push her tongue forward, or open wide enough. I was facing another “wait it out and see” situation. The conversation got going – in the meantime I could pump, I could try a nipple shield, I could spend hundreds of dollars to work with a lactation consultant at home and I thought… “No.” I knew right then, I would not be doing that again. I began to cry unhappy tears for the first time since Violet was born, and I told this wonderful woman that I just couldn’t do this again. And, being the wonderful woman that she is, she told me that that was just fine. She understood how traumatic my first experience was, how it was prevented me from enjoying my daughter, and how it had sent me into what was probably the worst depression I’ve ever felt. She told me to feed and enjoy my baby. Be the happiest mom you can be for your girls. That’s all.
I felt unbelievable gratitude, relief, and release. From that point on, when nurses and doctors asked how she was fed, I unflinchingly, unapologetically, and without explanation said “bottle.” When she was hungry, I cuddled her close and fed her. And I didn’t miss anything.*
The day and night passed without incident. I was doing well, Violet was doing well. Tom had gone home to be with Willow and I think we all slept well that night. The following morning we were all anxious to get home. Before I was discharged, Tom returned with Willow, who was much more comfortable at the hospital with just mommy and daddy. As always, my heart almost burst when I saw how delighted everyone on the floor was with our beautiful, sweet, happy Willow. The nurses said that Tom and I made cute kids, and I couldn’t help but agree.
The sun was shining as we buckled our girls into their car seats and left the hospital as a family of four. That night there was a beautiful sunset in Bay Ridge.
We’ve been home for a week now and so far, it appears that Violet is as calm a baby as her sister was. Like Willow, her latch sometimes causes her to struggle while eating, but having been through this once I know that it will sort itself out.
We know there are major challenges ahead. My body is still recovering and so I am limited as to what I can do for both girls. Lucky for me Tom happily roughhouses, changes diapers and whatever else needs doing.
The title of this blog is also the title of a song from “On The Town” (see my very first post!). I was a smitten 17-year-old when I saw Tom perform in it. Its been one of my favorite shows ever since, and every song makes me think of him/us. Since this blog is about our life and our story, Lucky To Be Us seemed the most appropriate name. And really, it’s never been more true than it is now.
*followup post to come.