Caroline must have sensed how ready I was for her to come out during that last blog post because she arrived the very next day!
On Wednesday, October 26, I woke up a little after 5:15am with a really upset stomach and crampy feelings. I just thought I had eaten something that didn’t agree with me. Pretty soon, though, it became obvious that the cramps were not the normal cramps that come with an upset stomach, but I kept trying to power through them in order to make it to work that morning. It quickly became pretty clear to me that these were probably contractions. They were much different & more painful than the tightening Braxton Hicks contractions that I had been feeling up to that point. Nevertheless, I kept trying to get ready for work just in case nothing really happened & things stalled out. However, at around 6:15 am, I started timing them and they were about an average of 5 minutes apart but lasting less than a minute. I was able to breathe, walk & talk through them pretty easily but still decided to email my boss and let her know that I wasn’t going in that morning, just in case. I told Brian that I didn’t feel comfortable with him going in either because I know myself well enough to know that if it HAD been real labor (which it was), I would have called him home from work WAY too late. In retrospect, that was a genius decision since we ended up at the birth center relatively quickly that morning. So Brian dropped Audrey off at daycare & came home.
Contractions were starting to get a little more painful, but still nothing too horrible. Around 10am, I decided to go upstairs, put on my Hypnobabies tracks and rest. I was able to doze off between contractions but was taken by surprise by the strength of some of them. Around 10:45, I got up and it became pretty clear to me that we needed to get to the birth center ASAP. Contractions were coming around 3 1/2 min – 4 1/2 min apart at that point, but were picking up intensity. I had to breathe through them and was no longer able to talk. I had Brian call the midwife & our birth assistant and off we went! Thank God the traffic into Old Town Alexandria was decent and it didn’t take us too long to arrive & minimal utterances of “Hurry the expletive up!” from me to the other cars. We got settled in, and about 30 minutes after arriving, the midwife decided to check progress. I was SHOCKED to hear that we were at 7-8cm dilated already, especially because at my appointment on Monday, my cervix was still too posterior for them to even feel dilation. Because I was so dilated, I got my first (and only) dose of antibiotics for the GBS almost right away.
I kept going through contractions using different positions on the birth ball, and then eventually moved to the toilet to sit because I felt increased pressure. Brian said that while I was in the middle of a contraction before moving to the toilet, the midwife apparently predicted that I would have two more contractions and my water would break. She was right! Luckily it broke on the toilet so no one had to clean it up. After our time on the toilet, Brian and I decided to move to the birth jacuzzi. That was SO nice. Contractions were picking up in intensity but Brian (and the student midwife and assistant) was amazing and really coached me through them well. He always reminded me to breathe, so I was able to focus on him telling me that, and our assistants saying “Let it all out on the out breath”. I also repeated some of the Hypnobabies stuff in my head. However, after about 30 minutes of some pretty painful contractions in the tub, I had a REALLY awful contraction that I just could not breathe through or stay focused through. I let out a few shrieks…all of the midwives came running in and at that point, my suspicion that this was transition was confirmed because they immediately began emptying the tub & telling me we had to move to the bed quickly. Obviously transition is never fun, and this was no exception, but I felt lucky that it only lasted one (long) contraction. We drained the tub and despite my lack of desire to move anywhere, got up to move to the bed between contractions so that I could push this little baby out! Stage one of labor lasted a little bit under 10 hours (from 5:15am to 2:40pm).
Pushing was hard, but apparently I only did it for 14 minutes…but in all honesty, it really seemed a lot longer than that. I had a few longer breaks between the pushing contractions which really frustrated me because I just wanted to be done! Brian had the option of “catching” Caroline when she came out but he opted not to; I was pretty happy with this decision in the long run because when push came to shove (no pun intended), I don’t think I could have let go of his hands during the pushing stage! I really needed his support in sitting and cradling my head and shoulders and hands. The midwives kept asking me if I wanted to touch Caroline’s head or watch her coming out and I kept saying “no, no, no, let’s just finish!” because when I am focused on an end result, I want that result accomplished. At one point, they made me stop for a minute, look down and see her head. I was really happy that they made me stay in that moment because seeing her head made me fully take in the enormity of what was going on. The hardest thing was waiting for the last contraction to push her shoulders out. As soon as I knew her head was out, I wanted the rest of her out ASAP! She was born at 2:54pm, about 10 or so hours after labor started. We both cried when we saw her! She is such a beautiful newborn with little rosebud lips, dark hair & dark eyes. It was impossible not to fall in love at first sight! She was SO alert and it was for such a long time; one of the midwives told me that as soon as her head came out, her little eyes snapped right open and she was looking around intently. Apparently, they do not see that level of alertness very often!
Our experience at the birth center was day and night compared to our experience delivering Audrey. Even though this was hard (of course it was, it was a birth!) and challenging and I found myself saying “I want to be done!” many, many times, this was easy & quick compared to Audrey’s birth! A naturally occurring labor is SO much more tolerable than a pitocin-induced one. Not to mention that the laboring and birthing environment is so much better and more soothing at a birth center than a hospital. The midwives laughed and said I made it such an easy birth for them because a) it was a day birth and b) I was very independent during it and allowed them time to “gossip and eat the cookies” we brought. Too funny! At the end, they commented that it was like I had never given birth because my attitude and energy were so good and high afterwards…I’m telling you, it was the adrenaline & endorphins!
We were allowed to go home within 3 hours of having her and that was so nice. It was like going in for a day at work and being home by dinner! We got to see Audrey off to “school” and were able to tuck her in last night. Caroline is nursing like a champion which is a total change from the early challenges we had with Audrey.
Audrey is IN LOVE with her new baby sister. As we were coming up the driveway with her yesterday, Audrey calls out “Baby sister?” It melted our hearts. She also shared HER blanket with Caroline…a big step for a toddler who thinks everything is “hers”. She loves giving kisses and pats to “baby”. I know we have challenges ahead of us when it comes to Audrey adjusting to this new presence in our lives, but we could not be happier to have two beautiful, sweet girls.