Joshua's birth was such a time of learning for everyone involved. We were taught so many things by our Father and stand in awe of the experience.
I had reached 43 weeks and 1 day in my pregnancy. While Abby was 10 days late, I secretly hoped that she was only late because of her positioning and that this birth would be different. So when I started having prodromal labor (also called "false labor", but different from Braxton Hicks contractions) at 38.5 weeks, I lived in a continual state of "This could be it!" I couldn't believe it each time when the contractions would fizzle out and we'd begin our wait again. But, miraculously, by the time I'd reached 43 weeks, I'd also reached a place of rest. Oh, I still wanted to get that baby out, but I was no longer a crazed lunatic about it! I figured God had something yet to accomplish before the baby could come and who was I to rush Him?
So, when, at 43 weeks and 1 day, contractions began at dinner time, I paid no real attention to them and just expected them to go away sometime in the night. By 11:15pm, though, I could no longer stay in bed. Contractions were about 6 minutes apart and I really had to breathe through them. Still, I wasn't ready to declare myself "in labor" yet. Been there, done that. So, I just sat up at the computer and tried to distract myself enough to get through them. Eventually, though, I was having trouble getting through them alone and wanted Don's support. I woke him at 2am and told him that today was the day. (That would be Monday morning). After listening to me moan through a few contractions, he knew I was serious and he jumped to life. He started moving things around and preparing our room...even sweeping! He drew me some bath water and I soaked for a while. We eventually called our neighbor who, along with her eldest daughter, had volunteered to come for the birth to help in any capacity needed. They both came for Abby's labor as well. They arrived sometime around 4am. They were both so excited that the day had finally come.
One of the things L, my neighbor, helped with was teaching me to make low moaning sounds through the pain. I had been making higher pitched noises, which she said was natural to do when in pain, but that lower sounds helped the body work better. It took some practice, but I finally allowed myself to make the sounds, which became more natural as the day wore on.
And wore on and on. In the early morning, I had determined that I was dilated to about 5 cm. L was sure several times that I must be nearing transition as I became more and more agitated about the severe pain I was experiencing. Each contraction brought fire to my back. I could deal with the pain in my abdomen, but the back pain was becoming unbearable. It even caused me to throw up. When, at sometime in the afternoon, I found that I was still at about 5 cm, I became completely defeated. I had been awake for nearly 36 hours, struggling through contractions that were unlike any pain I could ever imagine. In the early afternoon, they had gotten to 3 minutes apart, but by this time, they were spacing back out to about 8 minutes apart and I knew I had a long, long way to go. And that is about when I began to lose it.
If the birth had been near, I felt like I could go on. But with the contractions spacing back out, and no progress having been made all day, I felt like each contraction was pushing me further over the edge. We spoke with a doctor-friend and he suggested some maneuvers to get the baby to turn from the posterior position (the reason for the intense back pain and slow progress). His suggestion involved positioning through 8 contractions. But at that point, all my energy was completely gone. I couldn't even contemplate how to get through one contraction, let alone eight. Of course, the contractions were coming whether I moved through them or not, but in my mind, I felt like I could somehow stop them. Don and L actually had to move and lift me into each new position, as my arms and legs no longer seemed to work. Caleb came up to hold me and hug me when my sobbing became the new sound they heard. He was so worried about me.
Through much struggle and prayer, we finally decided that I needed help. I knew that if I could just get some rest, I could finish this thing. But rest is unobtainable when every 8 minutes your back becomes a raging ball of fire. I cannot tell you how much Don struggled through this decision. He wanted so much to be in God's will through this whole birth process and knew that the only thing to fear was to move outside of His will. I was much less objective, obviously, but knew that if I would allow him to come to a decision, that I would be secure in his covering. I cannot even explain how much I prayed that his decision would be the one I wanted, and I didn't know how I would continue if it was not, but I knew I had to let him make it. In the end, we decided that I would go to the hospital and get some pain relief, which would allow me to get some rest and enough strength to finish the birth. Our other hope was, that with some pain relief, that we would be able to get the baby to turn out of a posterior position which would ease the descent and speed the process back up. And, of course, that with some relief, that my contractions would pick back up.
We began the trip to Omaha, (our local hospital does not allow VBACs and would've taken me for an immediate c-section, calling in a surgeon from Lincoln), which seemed to take an eternity. We arrived at about 9pm and got right into a room. The nurse verified that I was indeed at 5 cm and shortly after, the doctor on call came in. We told him what we wanted and he agreed, making us very secure that he felt that there was absolutely no reason that I would not have a VBAC. The epidural was given and I immediately began to sleep...resting so well that within just a short time, the doctor returned to check my progress and I was at 8 cm. (My water broke with the exam and it was full of meconium, a normal occurrence with an overdue baby and not alarming to the doctor...they would just have NICU standing by just in case.) The head was still not coming down, though, and a new problem was developing. The baby's heartrate was slowing with each contraction, which is normal, but it was taking a long time to regain its speed. They tried putting me in different positions, giving me oxygen, and everything else they could think of to get the baby more oxygen. Still, the heart rate was not improving. Rather, it was getting slower and slower. The doctor had me try to push, hoping that we could get the head descended and speed the birth, but the posterior position was still holding that head high. Without an immediately impending birth, the doctor felt that a c-section was our only hope of getting the baby out fast enough.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I do not have an automatic trust of doctors. I've read too much to accept the fear-pushing that often goes on with doctors. And I know that many times, their advise is based on their own protection (being able to say "I did all I could") or even convenience (inducing because of a "scheduling conflict", for example). And distress of the baby is an overly-used road to a c-section. Of course, that is not to say that all doctors are bad, or that they only think of themselves or anything of the sort. I do believe that in most cases, they are acting in a way they think is completely right. And I am grateful for the service they provide. And, there are genuinely times when the only option to birth a healthy, live baby is to do a c-section. I just think that they are overused, especially in the U.S., and that they are often seen as the only option when they are, in fact, not.
Feeling the way I do, then, made the decision a hard one. Was this a genuine case of distress? Was this the only way? Even now, I do not know. I will never know. Would the baby have been fine if we had waited? Maybe...maybe not. What I do know was that as soon as we gave the go-ahead, I had a sense of peace about it. I knew that we were doing the right thing for us. Perhaps, even, it was the reason we had come, the reason I had felt such a need to get to the hospital. Perhaps. We won't know. What I do know is that though disappointed that I would have a second c-section and worried about the risks it involved for both the baby and me, I was sure that we were heading in the right direction.
They began to quickly prep me for the surgery. Don was given those paper clothes to change into so that he could be there while my epidural was pumped up to completely numb me from belly to toes. The extra drugs in my system, along with my exhaustion and nervousness over the baby's condition, caused me to shake uncontrollably. It was the most frustrating thing. I did get some relief right about the time they were pulling the baby out, which was so good. Don got to glance over the drape to tell me that it was a boy! I was so incredibly happy...especially for Caleb's sake, as he's been praying for a brother for about 2 years now. He emerged at exactly 1:30am and was whisked off to the other room right away. Don left to go see him and I waited to be put back together. At some point, someone called out that he was 9 pounds, 10 ounces and utterances of awe went around the room.
Things started to go bad for me at that point. The shaking returned full-force and I began to feel very panicky. My chest felt tight, my face felt flush, I felt like I could not breathe...I had a complete and total panic attack. It was terrifying. Don returned to find me begging for help and thrashing around (as much as I could, being numb from the belly down). They injected some really strong drugs and I eventually calmed down and passed out.
I awoke in recovery and drifted in and out while I periodically asked questions and took drinks of water. Joshua spent the time in the NICU. It took some time to stabilize him, but he did great and was really released quite quickly.
Don wheeled him to me at about 4:30, 3 hours after birth. Joshua was really ready to nurse, but I had to give him a once-over first!
We moved into a post-partum room and spent the entire day alternating between sleeping and eating/feeding Joshua. Don's mom brought the kids up to see him in the afternoon. Here's my two red-headed boys!
Abby did remarkably well for the visit. She got to wear a sticker saying which room she was visiting and decided it looked better on her neck. At one point, Don plopped her in Joshua's isolet and we all laughed to see our "baby" so crammed into something that she was dwarfed in just a moment ago (or so it seems!). My, but they do grow up so fast, don't they?
My aunt and uncle came up in the evening and brought my grandma and grandpa as well. Grandpa is not doing so well anymore, and so it was great to see him come to life so when he held Joshua. It is a precious picture to me.
Recovery for me went (and is going) so much better than it did with Abby's c-section. I believe that is due, in large part, to the fact that Abby required a good deal of pushing, pulling, tugging and smashing to get her out because of her transverse position. Joshua was a quick slip out. I think the internal trauma was so much less with his.
Joshua's blood sugar had a hard time staying in the safe zone (it was below 40 most of the time) and we ended up staying an extra night because of it. They wanted it to go up and stay up before releasing him. By the time we left, his poor little heels looked just like raw meat, they had been stuck so many times. Through the night, each time they poked him and did the test, Don and I would pray with all our might that it would be a good score and it was just such beautiful words when the nurse would give his new score, each higher than the last and all over the cut-off. By morning, they declared him healthy and ready to go home.
It was a wild ride. I still have a hard time processing all of it. But, I do see God's hand in all of it and I feel like I've been brought through something magnificent (though traumatic at times!) to the other side of being closer to God and closer to Don.
We are now home and resting.
I will try to get back to the blog ASAP to post more pictures (with a lot less words!!) and keep things current. Of course, the garden did not take a vacation while I was gone, so there is much to do around here, both inside and out.