Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Candace's Birth Story!

Well I have a fresh ice pack, just popped a Norco, baby is fed and napping, and I am in bed with my water bottle and laptop. Time to get this birth story written down.

A brief background - Claire was born via c-section in March 2013 due to failure to progress. I was in labor with her for 21 hours (epidural after 10hrs) and never dilated beyond 4 cm. Her heart rate was concerning throughout my labor and when she was born her head was turned sideways with the cord wrapped tightly around her neck twice. But she was healthy and beautiful and I had no regrets! That said, I felt like my body never got a chance to truly labor and I didn't find out what my body was capable of doing. I was stuck in triage for half my labor lying flat on my back having back labor with no coping techniques for the pain, and that's just impossible to endure! I was totally at the mercy of the medical staff, I knew nothing except that I was in pain and didn't understand any of my options. I knew if we had another baby that I wanted to find out what I could really do, so I began to plan for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Fast forward through six clomid cycles, a miscarriage, a letrozole/IUI cycle, a straight up miracle, a shocking positive pregnancy test after moving across the country, and nine months later…

(Funny story - the digital test that I took to find out I was pregnant kept a clear result on it my whole pregnancy, then when it finally went blank, I was in labor within the hour!)

My due date was August 2 for my second daughter and I was attempting a VBAC.  I hired two doulas, took lamaze class, practiced mindfulness, and found a doctor I trusted.  My family history suggested I would have very long labor, but I hoped that wouldn’t be the case. I had prodromal/early labor on and off since July 23, but fully went into labor on Sunday evening, August 9.  The contractions were regular and intense, and quickly increasing in intensity.  By 2am, I called my friends and brought Claire over to their house.  I called my doulas and one of them met us back at the house where I labored for a few more hours before going to the hospital.  The contractions were right on top of each other in the lobby of the ER, I had been in labor for 10 hours at that point.  By the time we got to triage I was checked and told I was only at 2cm, no change from my prenatal appointment a week prior.  I was so upset, this was just deja vu to my inability to progress in my labor with Claire.  I wanted to leave, but they made me stay until they could get a steady strip of the baby’s heart rate without any concerning decelerations.  It took five hours, but they finally cleared me to leave.  Before I left I made the doctor swear to me that he was confident in the baby’s health if I continued to labor at home.  He said he was completely comfortable, so we went back home to endure another day and night of contractions.

Tuesday morning I went in and the doctor stripped my membranes (I was 3cm).  He recommended breaking my water sometime in the next day or so since baby was already engaged, but I wasn’t comfortable about being “on the clock” when I knew we had a long way to go.  I take after my grandma and she warned me that all her labors were 3-5 days long, so I knew I had to endure.  Contractions were still about every five minutes, but I went home again and continued to labor.  I ate and rested between contractions to keep up my stamina.  I said a lot of prayers and felt a great deal of heavenly intervention, but it was definitely taking everything I had to get from moment to moment. I was grateful to feel angels attending me throughout my labor, it was a beautiful experience.

I kept this visual of Christ in my mind often throughout my labor

That night I texted my doctor and told him I couldn’t continue to labor like this and was ready for him to break my water.  He notified L&D and told me to try to get through the night and come in at 5am.  After a very painful, difficult night, I met my doulas and doctor at the hospital in the morning.  They said I was 3.5cm, even after 56 hours of labor.  I refused to even internalize that information, I had to stay hopeful and focused.  They weren’t able to get to my water with the hook so the doctor placed an internal monitor on the baby and ran the monitor through my water when he placed it.  So it had a very slow leak over the next several hours, rather than a gush at any point.  We didn’t do any pitocin or additional induction, just wanted to see what breaking the water would do.  

I labored in the hospital for a while and began to feel in awe of what my body was enduring for so long.  I could hardly believe how many hours it had been.  The only way I was getting through it was to choose to embrace the pain and allow it to happen in my body without tensing against it.  I tried to just let the contraction happen and relax my body around it.  It took absolutely all the mental focus I had to allow myself to relax around the unbelievable pain coursing through my body, but it made all the difference.  I found I didn’t care about switching up positions or moving through the contractions, it was all a mental challenge for me and I needed to rest my body in between to survive.  There were 4-5 contractions when I remember opening my eyes afterwards and being genuinely surprised that I was still alive after that kind of pain.  

I finally began to feel my focus crack.  When they told me I was at 6cm, I should have been happy, but I couldn’t help but focus on how much further I still had to go.  And I was truly exhausted.  It was much harder to labor at the hospital than at home because I didn’t feel like I could mentally replenish in between contractions, so I was wearing down quickly.  I explained to my birth team that I still had a long way to go and I was going to need a break if I was going to endure it.  After 64 hours of labor, it was time for an epidural.

The epidural was placed by 1pm and I couldn’t help laughing at the anesthesiologist for warning me about the “pain” I would feel with the large needle.  That was a welcome distraction compared to the pain I was feeling.  I got to peek at the needle too, it was pretty cool.  I couldn’t rest afterwards like I thought I might be able to, there was no turning my mind off after all I’d just been through.  I was able to sneak a couple bites of applesauce which was really helpful, and my doulas were amazing about turning me every once in a while and rubbing my legs constantly to keep up circulation.  After a couple hours I was at 7cm so we decided to start pitocin very conservatively.  We started at 1 and would only increase by 1 every hour.  (Typically pit is started at least at 2 and increased by 2 every half hour, but with a VBAC they want to be careful not to over-contract the uterus and risk rupture).

The nurses were rushing in to our room every few minutes when the baby would have late decelerations during a few of my contractions.  I was on and off oxygen, and every time there was a particularly concerned “late”, the doctor would either cut back on the pitocin or turn it off completely, then slowly start it up at 1 again.  We figured out the baby did best with me on my right side, so I spent most of my time in that position.  The lates became so frequent that the nurse came in and explained to us that we were most likely going to end up with a c-section and we should mentally prepare for that.  My birth team crowded around expecting to need to reassure me, but I was actually completely fine.  I thought I’d be devastated, but my only birth goals were to give my body a chance to fully labor and see what it was capable of doing, and to have a healthy baby.  I really felt like we’d already accomplished the first goal and I’d definitely given my all to give my body the best chance to labor to completion, and now I just wanted that healthy baby however necessary.  It was a wonderful sense of peace.  But when the doctor came in he said we could keep going because the baby recovered really well every time so it wasn’t concerning enough to call it yet.  He said I had to understand that if the heart rate didn’t go back up right away, he would pull me immediately for an emergency c-section, but for now I could continue to labor if I wanted.   I made him look me in the eyes and assure me that he felt confident with the baby’s health if I continued.  He said he was absolutely fine with it and my mommy instincts agreed, so I continued.   

The doctor stayed with us through the night, and after I’d been at 9 cm for a couple hours and the lates started increasing in frequency, he decided it was time to make things happen so that we didn’t come so far just to go to c-section.  The pitocin was up to about a 6 at that point.  He raised the pitocin, turned off my epidural, and had me start pushing while he used his hands to guide my cervix around the last bit of the baby’s head and push me to 10 cm.  It took about twenty tedious minutes, but he was finally successful and I was complete!  I was the only one on the floor that was in labor at that point, so my room filled with nurses as I pushed for the next hour.  I was doing great with pushing until about halfway through when I completely doubted myself.  Having my epidural wear off, feeling all my contractions come back, and using all my strength to push a baby out of me after already being worn down from 80 hours of labor, was absolutely the most I’ve ever been through in every sense of the word.  I truly thought there was no way I could do it.  I said to the nurses about half way through that I wasn’t going to be able to push with those insane contractions, it was just too much pain.  I was throwing up and shaking uncontrollably. They didn’t say anything, and I realized it was because there was nothing they could say.  I realized I had to do it, so I did it!  After my brief lapse of confidence, I found determination and empowerment and I gave it my all.  They counted to ten, but I pushed for twelve.  They asked for three sets of pushes, I would say, “one more!” and do another set.  I was determined to see it through and get my daughter into my arms and so I pushed longer than they told me to and harder than I thought I could.  It was so surreal and I felt like superwoman doing the impossible!

As I pushed for the final time, I felt her come out of me and saw her enter the world.  I couldn’t breathe and felt my whole soul fill with euphoria - it was amazing!  I pulled her to me and couldn’t believe she was here!  I don’t know how else to describe it, I just couldn’t catch my breath, it was amazing.  The nurses took her away within a few seconds because she wasn’t as responsive as they would have liked, but I knew she was fine.  She was taken to the warming table while they sucked out her lungs, put her on oxygen, and got her to cry.  The cord had been wrapped around her neck twice, just like Claire’s had been apparently.  But I wasn’t worried, I just knew she was here to stay.  She was back in my arms soon and I was in another world of happiness with her. I had done it!!!  Eleven days late, eighty hours of labor, but at long last she was here!  She was all mine and it was so worth it.  
"I did it!  She's here."

I had been back and forth on a name for this little girl, but as soon as I saw her face I knew she was my little Candace.  I’m not sure how to explain it, it was like she introduced herself to me.  She was definitely Candace!  Her middle name was chosen the next day, after my great-great-great-grandmother Ellis Reynolds Shipp, one of the first female obstetricians in her state and one of my personal heroines.

Candace Ellis Robinson
August 13, 2015, 2:42am
7lbs 5 oz, 21.5” long

A brief word on postpartum - I was a bit traumatized to discover that the pain doesn’t just end as soon as the baby comes.  The contractions continued (hadn’t I been through enough?!) and the constant shaking was disconcerting.  About four hours after the birth they tried to move me to a recovery room, but I took two steps and the next thing I knew someone was shouting my name from far away I caught a huge whiff of ammonia.  Apparently I’d passed out for about a minute from blood loss.  I ended up passing a clot that was larger than both my fists put together, it was so huge!  Apparently it was just from my uterus being too tired to contract enough to stop the bleeding, so it pooled into a clot, not a huge deal.  I recovered quickly.  I barely had a first degree tear, so besides a ridiculous amount of swelling and exhaustion, I was good to go.  Candace was in perfect health and we were discharged 36 hours after the birth with zero issues.  My milk came in half the time than it did after my c-section and Candace hardly lost any weight, as opposed to Claire who lost so much we almost couldn’t take her home.  It was amazing to me that the factors of their births were almost exactly the same (cords around their necks, slow progression, etc.), but with more education on birth, determination to succeed, coping skills for pain, a stronger birth team, and, most importantly, an amazing, patient, dedicated, determined doctor, I had two completely different birth experiences.  And now I have two beautiful, perfect daughters!  Candace’s birth was the most spiritual, traumatizing, empowering experience of my life. I'm so grateful for the incredible experience.
Our amazing doctor

My girls

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