Before Miller, I was two for two in rough birthing experiences. One frustrating but successful and one traumatic and failed. The second experience left us feeling like birth was a roll of the dice and our safest bet was to walk away and be grateful for the two healthy kids we had. But time does tricky things to your brain and as Holden grew closer to two, the painful memories of his birth had dulled. In the back on my mind, there was this little nagging idea...a third. Within a few months, we had gone from the self proclaimed presidents of the "two and done" club to making an appointment with my OB to talk about what a repeat c-section would look like.
So, three it was. Without spending too much time on the backstory, I'll just say that birth and pregnancy does not mesh well with my Type A personality and the "letting go" that is necessary in order to not drive yourself crazy, did not come easily to me...or at all. But after much mental torment (seriously, I need to chill), it had become clear to me that my original plan of a scheduled c-section wasn't the best option in my case and that that the best plan for me and the baby was to give vbac a shot. To be honest though, I was never mentally "all in" with the vbac plan, evidenced by a panicked moment in week 38, when my amazing midwife talked me down from scheduling a c-section. There is a small added risk of a "catastrophic" complication with vbac and although my logical mind was able to work through this, I had already experienced what it feels like to be in the midst of a potentially catastrophic birth complication and I think that made it difficult for me move past the risks. So with the guidance of my midwife, I came up with a middle-ground plan. Vbac with conditions: no induction, no interventions. My body either does it on it's own (which wasn't unrealistic since it had done it once before) or I have a c-section. So decisions were made and a plan was set.
With a December 5th due date, I wanted to get as many Christmas activities done before Miller was born since I knew we would be housebound for the majority of the Christmas season. The day after Thanksgiving, we got our Christmas tree with Ben, Lauren and kids, went home and rested and then we all went to Zoolights that evening. Lots of walking and quite a few strong but painless contractions but they had been happening since the second trimester so nothing new. I was 11 days shy of my due date so labor didn't seem like a real possibility yet. Usually when I went to bed, my contractions would slow down or stop but while I tried to fall asleep, I noticed that they weren't slowing down and that they felt lower and deeper. I gave up on sleep and started paying closer attention to them when my water broke. I jumped up and yelled to Kyle and then ran to the bathroom. My water hadn't broken on it's own with my first two labors, so this was completely new to me. I've heard before that women sometimes aren't sure if their water was actually broken but this was no mystery. My water was definitely broken. My adrenaline started pumping and I started flying around the house. I called the on-call midwife and they advised that we could wait at home as long as we were comfortable but to come in after 10 hours if labor hadn't started. We called our moms and Lauren, then took care of a few final tasks (like installing his carseat) and then camped out on the couch.
I was having real contractions every 5-10 minutes but they were still pretty manageable pain-wise. After a few hours, we heard Holden hop out of bed so Kyle went up to try to get him back to sleep but he was adamant that the task was best done by me so I went upstairs too and laid down with him. Kyle sat on the floor, ready with the contraction timing app, I was snuggled next to Holden and Claire slept above us in her bed. Our last moments together as four. We stayed like this for about an hour, contractions getting closer and stronger...Kyle even was starting to hint that it was time to go to the hospital but I knew that things hadn't really taken off yet. Holden wasn't falling asleep so we called Lauren to help with him (which meant that he talked her into watching cartoons in bed or else he would suddenly "need mom"). Kyle and I went back down to the couch and tried to get some rest. Kyle fell asleep while I watched T.V. , drank tea and kept moving and timing. After a few hours, my contractions went from 5-10 minutes apart, to 30 minutes apart, to completely stopped. I joined Kyle on the couch and napped for about an hour. I woke up and knew that the whole "it happens on it's own" condition of my vbac was starting to look less likely. I'm not an expert, but I was suspicious that my contractions had stopped because Miller had moved and was no longer in the optimal position. We were a few hours shy of the time that the on-call midwife had suggested we come in if labor hadn't seemed to progress but I decided that it was time to go.
Our drive to the hospital was actually kind of nice. At this point, my contractions were still completely stopped so things were calm and quiet. We parked, took a selfie, and checked in at the ER. We were brought up to labor and delivery, where they confirmed that my water had broken (again, no mystery). The midwife came in and we talked about my options. She was optimistic that a successful vbac was still a really feasible scenario. She suggested that we could start pitocin and get my contractions going or we could wait for several hours and see if they would start on their own. I mentioned my suspicion that he had moved out of the optimal position and my reservations that went along with this and she suggested that we do a quick scan to see where he was, with the hopes that this would help me decide what my next step would be. They brought in an ultrasound machine and as soon as the midwife ran it across my belly she said "well those are his eyes, looking up at us" and things instantly shifted in my mind. This was my third labor with a posterior facing (or sunnyside up) baby. The first lasted over 30 hours and then second ended with a crashed heart rate and an emergency c-section. The midwife was supportive but encouraged me that it's not entirely uncommon for babies to start OP and then move during labor with strategic positioning (which I knew to be true from my first birth) and that we could start pitocin and get into some positions that would help him move. From a medical perspective, vbac was still a very real option but I had been down this road twice already and I knew where it was going. The midwife gave me full control over my decision and I looked to Kyle and he gave me the "it's totally up to you" speech. I paused, reminded myself of my plan (my body does it on it's own or I ask for a c-section) took a deep breath and called it. Baby #3 would be born via c-section. The OB who was working came in and introduced himself. It was actually the OB who attended the birth of one of my best friends, which was kind of cool since our boys would be delivered by the same doctor. Then the anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself and told us that we were more than welcome to have my friend Nicole in the room with us to photograph (which is not the case with a lot of anesthesiologists, so we were really lucky).
We prepped for the surgery for about an hour and then they brought me back to the OR. I had been there before, during Holden's birth, but this was a completely different experience. My anesthesiologist was such a blessing (and I rarely use that word). He was so focused on making sure that the experience was a positive one. He even played some classical music on his iPhone for me to listen to. It didn't feel like a medical procedure, it felt like birth. Kyle and Nicole were brought in once I was set with the spinal. Everything was so calm and controlled. Although this was my second c-section, I was put under for my first so I really didn't know what to expect. I had heard that there is a lot of unpleasant pressure during the surgery and I suppose that is true but if I'm comparing that sensation to natural labor, the c-section was a walk in the park. Very quickly, the team was saying "here he comes" and suddenly they are holding my son up for me to see.
My most distinct memory of Miller's birth was the moment that the nurse brought him to the warming table to be examined and we got our first good look at him. Instead of having one of those awestruck, warm and fuzzy moments, I was completely confused. He looked so much like Holden that it literally confused me. I had already birthed that baby, what on earth was going on? Such an odd and unexpected feeling to have in that moment. I still kind of laugh about it. They quickly did his examination and brought him over and laid him on my chest while they finished surgery. I was able to hold him (with Kyle's help since he was so wiggly) until it was time for me to be moved to the recovery room. The whole process went so quickly but I felt very present and able to fully wrap my mind around the experience as it happened...a birthing first for me.
We rested and nursed for an hour, maybe two, and then our kids, moms and Lauren came in to meet Miller. The best part. I knew that introducing Miller to our two older kids was going to be magical but it went well beyond my expectations. Nicole was still with us, photographing their meeting and I look back at those pictures and I'm quite certain that those 20 minutes are the most beautiful and important moments of my life.
So that is the birth story of our sweet boy. I spent a lot of time during my pregnancy, agonizing over the vbac or c-section decision but in a lot of ways, I feel like the circumstances of my labor ended up making the decision a simple one. After Miller was born and we were getting ready to be moved, the midwife congratulated me and mentioned that not only was he posterior facing, he also had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck (the combination of factors that most likely caused Holden's distress during his birth). Again, lots of babies are naturally birthed under these cirucumstances but I can't help but feel like this information further assured me that we made the right choice for his birth.
I told Kyle that I was writing Miller's birth story today and he said "Oh cool. It's kind of a boring birth story, isn't it?". The answer is yes, it's a pretty boring birth story and I couldn't be more grateful for that.
I'm attaching the video that Nicole made of Miller's birth because it's basically the most amazing, heartbreakingly beautiful thing I've ever seen :)