She’s here! Good Lord. I can’t believe it. A week has already passed, and what a whirlwind it was. I’ve thought about writing this story down several times over the past few days, but never got around to it. Today is the day though. I need to do it before the details get lost in the fuzziness that is new motherhood. Just a warning though. I have a million pictures, and one includes a bloody baby. I’m not sparing any details, so if birthy things gross you out, read no further, friend!
It’s hard to know where to start on this one. As most of you already know, I had a vaginal birth after two c-sections this time. I didn’t officially decide to attempt a vaginal birth until I was 37 weeks along though. I spent my entire pregnancy going back and forth on what to do.
When I had Em by csection, I knew I would never try to VBAC again. It was way too painful (both physically and emotionally) to try only to fail in the end. And if I’m being honest…trying and failing left an ugly mark on Em’s birth for me. I was thrilled that she was healthy, but part of me was also grieved by how things went down. I didn’t want that for this birth. The OB who delivered Em had also assured me that my pelvis was too small to birth my babies anyways. So once Em came by c-section, I knew that with my next pregnancy, I would simply sign up for a repeat c-section.
Only I didn’t. I got pregnant again and for some reason, that decision did not come so easily to me. Every time I thought about picking a c-section date, I felt conflicted and I had no idea why. Once again, I had a very intense longing to have a vaginal birth this time around. I was insanely frustrated with myself over it too as I had already been told it was impossible. Whhhhhyyyyyy did I want to try again?
My new OB only complicated my decision because she was pro VBAC…even after two c-sections. She had read all the studies that deemed them safe, and was on board if I wanted to try. Part of me just wanted her to tell me no and make the decision for me. I know. Insanity, right? She said we would wait until late in my pregnancy and have an ultrasound to determine whether or not I was a good candidate – she mainly just wanted to see if Mae was actually in my pelvis or not.
I’ll spare you the emotional turmoil I went through (and put my friends through) during the weeks leading up to my ultrasound. To VBAC or not to VBAC. It consumed me every. single. day. Finally, on August 8th (I remember the date), I felt God calling me to just freaking surrender to Him already. DO IT. Surrender to me, and don’t care about the ending, Ash. I’ve got this. <—it sounded more or less like that. LOL. So I did. I handed my birthy plans over to Him…the ones I had been clinging to and crying over for weeks on end. And I felt immediate peace.
Over the next ten days, as I waited for my ultrasound, “I Surrender All” was my daily song. Anytime I felt a hint of anxiety or the temptation to wonder what would happen, I started singing that song. By the time the 18th rolled around, I had convinced myself that Dr. Logan (aka JLo) would say a repeat c-section was in my best interest, and I was actually okay with it!
However, to my complete shock, Mae was engaged and ready to go at that appointment. I had never had a baby engaged in my pelvis before…not even during labor, so this was a miracle in my book! JLo told me I was a good candidate to try and said my pelvis was just fine to birth my baby. So it was decided. I would try. Again. Phew.
I started doing all the labor-y type things after that appointment. Walking like a mad woman. Drinking raspberry tea. Eating pineapple. Bouncing on my birth ball. Seeing my chiropractor weekly (I had actually already been doing this for a while). Etc. It was fun to work towards sending my body into labor on its own. I came up with a birth plan and officially asked two of my friends to doula for me.
During that week, I actually started experiencing nightly contractions…something that had never happened in any of my pregnancies before. They kept me up all. night. long. It was awful and awesome at the same time! Awful in that it exhausted me and awesome in that it assured me that my body was working towards the end goal of getting Mae here.
At my 38 week check up I was 1.5 cm dilated and 50% effaced. I upped my birthing ball and pineapple game over the next week and by the time I was 39 weeks, I was 3 cm dilated. JLo asked if she could strip my membranes at the appointment and I said “please, and thank you!” That was on Monday. I had contractions all afternoon that day, and I was kind of afraid I’d go into labor that night. I say afraid because I was exhausted from being up all night the night before. I wanted just one night of rest before I went into the real deal labor thing. Fortunately, I got what I asked for! Contractions stopped completely that night, and I had some of the best sleep I had gotten in weeks! The next morning, my friend (and doula) asked if I’d like to go walk. We loaded up all of our kids and took them to the park. They played while we made a couple of laps around the circle there. It was hot so we eventually decided to go walk around and shop at Target. While there, I started cramping.
I went home and put the kids down for nap and the contractions started up. They were 6-8 minutes apart. I stayed in bed all afternoon and evening with contractions. Even though I had gotten a good night sleep before, I was starting to feel extremely tired again.
I looked awesome. This is my last pregnant picture.
Around 6pm, I had bloody show (I told you…all the birthy things will be written about), and after that my contractions really started to pick up. I texted my mom and told her to go ahead and come to our house as I thought I’d be heading to the hospital later that night.
My mom and doula (Bekah) both arrived at our house around 9pm. I had taken a bath in an attempt to slow my contractions down while waiting for my mom, and it was very efficient. Once Bekah arrived, I told her I’d like to go somewhere and walk to try and bring them back on again. We decided to head off to my friend Naomi’s house as she lived close to the hospital.
We got there and walked, and bounced on my birthing ball, and walked some more. Benji and I walked around the neighborhood and held hands. It felt like a little date and my heart needed that. At some point, I burped really loudly because I do that on dates, and it scared a man that was outside that I hadn’t seen. Yes…I scared a man with my burp. Sorry, dude. I assure you all…I am a lady…sometimes.
Around midnight, Naomi told me she thought that what I was experiencing was prodromal labor. She said I was too smiley to be in real labor and suggested that we wait things out. She told me not to get my hopes up on having the baby any time soon, but offered to let me spend the night at her house just in case. I knew I was in labor, and truthfully wanted to go to the hospital right at the moment because I was in a great deal of pain, even if I was smiley. But I decided to try and lay down for a while and wait to see what happened. I lasted an hour. I was dying. DYING. My contractions were lasting anywhere from 60-90 seconds and my god…they hurt. After an hour of laying there writhing in pain, I started shaking uncontrollably. I was terrified and started to feel desperate. I needed to go to the hospital. I just felt like I’d be safe there. I woke Benji and Bekah up and told them both I needed to go now. I may have dropped a couple of eff bombs in there too. Oh and I started crying uncontrollably. Good lord. Drama.
Bekah went and told Naomi we were going, but Naomi was half asleep and misunderstood, thinking we were heading home, not to the hospital. She stayed home and we headed off.
Things get a little blurry at this point. I know we were in triage for about two hours…and I was SO tired. I was handling contractions okay, but my eyes were rolling back into my head in between them, and I started to feel a little like I was dying. For real.
In all the rush to leave for Naomi’s house, I had forgotten my wallet at home. It had a special “call JLo for delivery” card in it. Since I was a VBA2C patient, JLo promised to personally delivery me no matter when I went into labor. We told the nurses that JLo told me to have them call her, but I didn’t have the card to prove it. Unfortunately, the OB on call that night was not VBAC supportive and if he delivered me, it would have been by repeat c-section. I was in so much pain that I started telling Benji and Bekah that if that man came into my room and told me I had to have a c-section, I wasn’t going to fight him on it. I was too tired and didn’t want to fight. At some point, we finally convinced the nurses to call JLo. They didn’t realize that I had had two prior c-sections – they thought I’d only had one. When they found this out, their eyes got wide. JLo was called, and we were moved to labor and delivery.
I forgot to mention that while in triage, they checked me and I was 4 cm dilated. This derailed me quite a bit simply because I was so tired and had been contracting ALL afternoon, evening, and night. All I could think was…geez…hours and hours of this crap, and I’m only 1 cm more dilated. I can’t continue on like this…hours of pain and exhaustion for just 1 cm. I was also fighting the mental battle of what if I do all of this and I stall at 7 cm again and end up with a c-section anyways – I had never gotten past 7 cm in any of my births.
It was at this point that I started telling Benji and Bekah that I needed the epidural. My birth plan had been ALLLLLLLL natural. No epidural. No artificial rupture of membranes. No pitocin. Etc. So when I started talking about getting the epidural, Benji and Bekah reminded me that pre-labor Ashley didn’t want one. And let me tell you something…it was ANNOYING. They had the best of intentions, and normal rational Ashley knows that. But laboring Ashley was kind of a beast and didn’t really care.
Bekah is one of my best friends, and she knows my birth stories and how they wounded me. She knew my heart’s desire, and wanted to see it through. She was gracious while reminding me of my birth plan.
And Benji…God bless him. He was a bit more firm because he’s physically been there as I’ve fallen apart before each c-section, and had to recover physically and emotionally from each one. He had seen me walk through and agonize over every single decision I made during my prior births, wondering if I had done something wrong. He had sat and cried with me. He lived through those disappointments with me, and didn’t want me to go through that again…so he was a lot more stubborn about my choice to get the epidural. I love him for it…but I was still mean to him in that moment lol. Sorry, babe.
Eventually, after lots of screaming from me, and punching a table or something, everyone agreed that I should be put out of my misery. I think they were really just afraid that I’d eat them alive if I didn’t get my way. I’m still ashamed of how I behaved. Bekah says I was only mean to Benji, but I think she’s lying.
So I got the drugs. And then I was in HEAVEN. You just don’t even know. Seriously. Look at the before and after:
I took a nap, and progressed to 7 cm. When I woke up, nice Ashley was back!
Doubting Debrah came back with her though. I was now at 7 cm. My stalling point.
Okay…this is where it happens every time. I’m going to stall again, I just know it! Just make peace with it and you won’t be so disappointed when it happens again <—- my thought process.
I want to say I was at 7 cm for three hours, when JLo came in and said we weren’t going to get discouraged over it. She was going to break my water and start pitocin. I’m glad she wasn’t getting discouraged, because I sure as hell was! I just knew I wouldn’t go any further. They cranked up the pitocin, and I started to feel more pressure. It wasn’t too bad, but I could feel it. Sometime later, JLo came in and I was at 8 cm. I kid you not, my belief was that she lied to me to make me believe in myself, so that I would stop blocking my body from progressing. I did NOT believe I was 8 cm.
The nurses came in on an hourly basis and flipped me from side to side to help Mae move further down into my pelvis (I think it’s called the epidural roll?). It took about 1 to 2 hours to progress each centimeter. It was torturous. Eventually I was told I was 9 cm. Hmm…maybe JLo isn’t lying to me? Am I really at 9cm?
Again, I stayed there for a while, until Naomi came in with her peanut ball. Google it. They’re amazing, and I wish I had used it the entire time. They put it between my legs and within five minutes I was complete.
I fell apart when JLo said I was ready to push. No really. I did. Here’s proof. Naomi took pictures of my ugly cry:
I never in a million years thought I would hear those words. JLo asked if I was in pain and I told her no…I was just so happy. I STILL could not believe it was happening though. I kept asking “is this really happening? Does this mean I’m going to push her out?” It was just absolute shock and disbelief..the whole time.
Still being in my negative state of mind, I was expecting about 2-4 hours of pushing. Naomi turned on my labor grooves playlist which included classics like “you can do it put your back into it” and “push it”. Me, the doulas, the OB, and the nurses ALLLLLLL danced to my awesome music while I pushed my precious baby into the world. My wonderful husband, who isn’t much of a dancer (unless it’s to ska), just smiled and videoed the whole thing for me. What a gift!❤ It was so incredible and SO much fun! Celebratory. Exactly how I had always wanted to experience birth!
I pushed for about 20 minutes, and JLo asked if I’d like to deliver her. UMM…yes, I would! So I got to pull her out. I was literally the first person to touch or hold her once she was earthside. It was pure magic, y’all.
Seriously. It was one of the most incredible moments of my life, and I’m still in awe that it actually happened. I never once believed in myself. I was TERRIFIED of trying and failing again…so I almost didn’t even try. I can’t even believe that. I almost didn’t try! What if I hadn’t? What if I had given into fear and let it win? I would have missed out on one of the greatest moments of my life!
God was so gracious to me. He surrounded me with people who believed in me, when I couldn’t believe in myself. They encouraged me to go for it. They all helped to carry me through this. I’m so grateful to God and my support team.
I’ll be writing a couple more posts in addition to this one. I want to write about my “birth injury”, Mae’s NICU stay, and my thoughts on VBAC vs. C-section (because people keep asking). But I’ll save that for later, because this is already hella long!
God bless you if you hung in there and read the whole thing!