Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ode to a VBAC

Half a year later and I am finally sitting down to write out Alice’s birth story before I completely lose all of the details. You don’t even want to know how little “progress” I’ve made on her baby book. Malcolm’s first year+ of life is beautifully documented in not one, but two Ruby Love Design baby books because I ran out of room to add pages to the first album. Jordan and I each wrote a personal letter to him for each month of pregnancy, we solicited relatives for similar notes to him, and included a “1st” card for each major holiday. By the time I get around to filling out Alice’s “Letter to Our Unborn Child” page, it will either be a blatant lie or, more likely, I’ll just fess up and try to make up for it with lots of sweet things about what a wonderful child she is, which won’t be hard to do! If she develops second child syndrome, it will be entirely my fault! In an effort to make up for it, I will go back a little further in her story.

My sister, Sarah, and I are 17 months apart and, with the exception of a few brief bumpy moments as teenagers (sharing a room can be rough), we have always been best friends! In part, I’ve attributed that closeness to our proximity in age, and I knew I wanted my own children to grow up as true contemporaries. All this to say, by the time we found out we were expecting Alice on June 6, 2014, we’d been actively trying for another baby for seven months, which is coincidentally the same amount of time we tried for our first baby! I think Jordan actually suspected I was pregnant before I dared to hope. After several nights of losing sleep needing to answer nature’s call, I snuck down early in the morning and took a home pregnancy test. A few months prior, I’d had my mom embroider a onesie I hoped to put on Malcolm to announce a sibling to his daddy, which said “I (mustache) You to Call Me Big Brother.” Before Jordan left for work, I dressed Malcolm in his announcement outfit and let him share the news!

The first two months of pregnancy went rather quickly as I was in three weddings! The first wedding was less than two weeks after we found out, so I wasn’t showing at all, but I was so bloated I cringe a bit at pictures of myself that day (although, the bride looked lovely and that’s what counts)! By the time the next two weddings rolled around, my bridesmaid’s dresses were a bit of a squeeze. Just look at this photo from Sarah’s wedding – yikes – Alice was definitely showing herself!

Interestingly, early in my pregnancy with each of my children I had a very vivid dream revealing their gender. It was only later I remembered that in my dream of Malcolm, he’d also been born breech! I wasn’t the least bit surprised at my 20-week ultrasound when the tech said I was expecting a little girl! I’d been telling myself and others that I was hoping for a boy, mostly out of practicality, I know how much I love my first little boy and we already have all the “boy” stuff, but once it was official, I was truly thrilled to have one of each. Growing up with only sisters, when I was a child fantasizing about being a mom, I always pictured myself with a little girl, and now that dream was becoming a reality! Jordan and I are fairly certain that our family planning stops at two children, so we decided to go ahead and use both of my favorite girl names: Alice Jane. Alice has been my top contender since sometime in high school and also happens to be a family name on Jordan’s side. Jane is not only one of my favorite names, but also honors a very close, generous family friend who has been like an aunt and confidant to me.

Alice’s estimated due date was February 11th. Malcolm had been due on May 11, 2013, but made his debut eight days “early” on the 3rd. Although, with Malcolm, they had adjusted my due date from May 1st based on my LMP to the 11th based on the first ultrasound, so in my mind, he came right on schedule. Given that history, I presumed that Alice would come right around her due date as well. At my 38-week appointment on January 28th, the doctor told me that my cervix was completely softened. This shocked me since the day before I went into labor with Malcolm I was still completely hard and closed. I was also a bit panicked because my mom wasn’t scheduled to come until February 8th, so I was nervous I would go into labor and have no one to stay with Malcolm. Sarah wound up flying in “just in case” and my mom moved her ticket up one week, so naturally…Alice came six days AFTER her due date.

My mom and I created several sewing projects for ourselves to keep our minds occupied, but I still felt like the “watched pot.” I’d tried every method of naturally inducing labor that I could find on Google, and the only one that seemed to do anything was pumping, but even then the contractions weren’t sustained. At my non-stress test (“NST”) on February 16th, the doctor stripped my membranes (ouch!), which must have done the trick because (spoiler alert) Alice was born the next day! The doctor wasn’t seeing the results they were hoping for at my NST in the OB’s office, so we were admitted to the hospital to continue it there. After a few hours, they were satisfied and we were sent home.

The next morning around 5:30 a.m. I awoke with consistent contractions and we began timing. By 8:30, they’d been five minutes apart for an hour, so we called the doctor and headed to the hospital, where we arrived around 9:00 a.m. A quick refresher on my labor with Malcolm: He was a footling breech and I went into spontaneous labor three days before my scheduled c-section. By the time we arrived at the hospital, my contractions were one minute in duration and two and a half minutes apart and his foot was presenting. The OR was already occupied, so I was wheeled into an alternate operating room, my water broke on the table and my doctor made it just in the nick of time to perform an emergency c-section, where I was under general anesthesia due to the lack of time for an epidural or spinal block. He was born at 7:44 p.m., only 44 minutes after pulling up to the hospital and less than five hours after my first noticeable contraction.

My experience with Alice could not have been more different. I had discussed a vaginal birth after cesarean (“VBAC”) with my doctor and researched the Bradley Method for natural labor. When I arrived at the hospital, I was only at 2 cm despite the frequency of the contractions, so we spent most of the day lying in silence while I visualized and focused on breathing and relaxing through my contractions. When the nurses changed shift later in the day, the nurse who came in said she had trained with a Jamaican midwife and gave me some great tips for walking and swaying through contractions and helped Jordan find the best spots to put counter-pressure on my hips and back. When we were walking the hall about two hours before Alice was born, we heard another laboring woman screaming at the top of her lungs and my nurse said, “Don’t worry Emily, that has nothing to do with you. You can do this!”

The nurse had told me to let her know if my water broke or if I started to feel pressure. By this time, it was close to 5:00 p.m. and I hadn’t had an internal check since my arrival. Walking helped cope with the contractions, but I’d been laboring all day and I didn’t feel an increase in pressure, so I was starting to worry that I wasn’t progressing. The pain, uncertainty, and hormones suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks and I came to the point where I didn’t think I could do it anymore. Remembering back to my reading, EVERY natural labor book out there warns of this moment and reassures that this means you’re almost done, but when you’re going through it, it sure doesn’t feel like it!

I started talking with Jordan about the possibility of having the epidural after all. This was a really emotional decision for me because I’d been so determined to do it on my own, but I just felt exhausted, defeated, and desperate. My mom had three successful natural deliveries, so I called her to talk through it. She was so encouraging and assured me that if I needed the epidural that didn’t mean that I was a failure. Jordan was also so wonderful! He gently reminded me of my goals (I think he didn’t want to see me disappointed in myself), but also offered support if I changed my mind. I asked him to call in the nurse, who told me that the anesthesiologist was currently in the OR with an emergency c-section, but he could come start an epidural for me in about 30 minutes. Then, something amazing happened! Literally, the next contraction, before the nurse had even left the room, I felt incredible pressure like I needed to push!

The nurse had me lie back down on the bed to check me and I was at 7 cm and had my bloody show. She told me I probably only had an hour to go, and this new information completely changed my attitude, giving me renewed purpose. I am now so grateful that the anesthesiologist wasn’t immediately available, so that I was able to achieve my original goal. My bag still hadn’t broken, and it coming through was the enormous pressure I was feeling, and it was such a relief when it finally burst! They called in the doctor and I got into position. The doctor encouraged me to push hard to speed things up and the idea that the harder I pushed the less I would have to, really spoke to me, although in hindsight I’m not sure this was the best approach as I tore pretty badly. I only had to push through about five contractions before our little girl arrived at 6:00 p.m. on (Fat) Tuesday, February 17, 2014, weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and measuring 20 inches long.

They immediately put her on my chest, which was something I didn’t get to experience with Malcolm. She had quite a lot of dark hair, dark eyes, and kept sticking out her tongue, ready to nurse right away. Although Malcolm breastfed for 15 months, he was tongue-tied, which presented some latching issues in the beginning. Alice made it abundantly clear that she was not tongue-tied and latched on with ease! Jordan reminded the doctor of our request for delayed cord clamping (which you can read about here), so she waited a few minutes until it stopped pulsing to clamp the cord and have Jordan cut it (also something he didn’t get to do with Malcolm).

Neither of us had any complications, so it was pretty smooth sailing. I was able to shower the next day and take a few pictures with our beautiful daughter. The hospital served us a celebratory dinner that night, and we were discharged the afternoon of February 19th. Alice wore the same pale pink Feltman smocked dress that I wore home from the hospital in 1986. It was chilly out, so she also donned a fuzzy cap knitted by my youngest sister, Molly. As you can see in this photo, Molly had made Malcolm a similar one:

I am on top in this photo and Alice is on bottom, wearing the same coming home dress:

Malcolm had been such a smiley baby right away that, at first, Alice seemed so serious, but now we think she’s even more smiley than he was! I have been really fortunate that both of my children have been great sleepers, and Alice is really content so long as someone is talking to her and if all else fails she LOVES to go outside. She and Malcolm look so different to me. He definitely favors the Fletcher side of the family with fair skin, light hair, and blue eyes, and Alice is colored more like her daddy, with olive skin tones, dark hair, and dark, dark brown eyes! Even their voices are different. Malcolm has been a somewhat reluctant talker and Alice is constantly vocalizing (loudly) already! I always knew that I wanted a baby girl, and once again, the Lord knew exactly what I needed even more than I did. We thank Him each and every day for these precious gifts and it is our greatest prayer that our children will have friendship with Him and live to serve His Kingdom and others!

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