Wes turned 6 months last week – can you believe it? I hardly can.
I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to sit down and write his birth story.
Besides the logistics of actually finding time to sit down and focus, of course, which proves extra challenging when there are two kids in the mix vs. one, I also have been feeling kind of blocked around processing and sharing the story.
It just felt like it necessitated more space than I have had both logistically and emotionally, I think.
And as time passed and we got farther and farther away from his birth day, I began wondering if it even still made sense to take the time to write – and to share – this story.
But at the end of the day I knew I wanted to have the details of his big day and the weeks leading up to it written down in full to look back on, because I know firsthand how the memories, the rawness of it all, fade so quickly.
And I don’t want to ever forget the magic and intensity of the day he joined us in the world.
Even though I haven’t been able to create the space to write his full story until now, I did thankfully take some quick notes on a note app on my phone a few days after Wes’s birth, noting the timing of how everything went down.
I’m glad I did, because even when Wes was only one month old I remember the memories of his birth already feeling like quicksand. I found myself grasping at the grains of sand only to have them slip through my fingers.
What once was sharp, in focus, had now taken on a dreamlike quality. Did that really happen? And most importantly, how did I feel?
I feel even further removed from that day now, at 6 months out, which is why it felt really important to finally sit and focus and share.
So – here we go. Let’s do this.
Settle in and get ready for a seriously long post, because once I finally started writing, it turns out I actually had quite a lot to say. <3
Wes’s VBAC Birth Story
When I thought about how I wanted Wes’s birth to go, beyond obviously the most important goal of Wes arriving in the world safe and healthy, I always had in the back of my mind that I’d love to attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after C section).
When our first child, our daughter Riese, was born in November 2017, it was via scheduled C section (<- her much more punctual birth story that I wrote and published when she was only a week or so old… I remember working on it at 3 a.m. while holding her sleeping on my chest).
Riese was breech, and our efforts to turn her (we did not end up doing the version procedure, but tried a lot of other more low key at-home methods) didn’t work.
So, we scheduled a C section for right around her due date (1 day after, actually, as she was measuring on the smaller side), and that was that.
I was scared to have major surgery (and to recover from it), and having a C section wasn’t how I envisioned the birth of our first child going. But meeting her for the first time was absolutely magical, regardless of her arrival method into the world.
And in retrospect, wasn’t that the perfect introduction to parenthood?
E.g. Make plans, and then accept when those plans totally go out the window because the little one that is about to arrive and completely rock your world has their own agenda and they will very quickly show you that you are not, actually, in charge at all.
So – knowing that much more clearly this time around, I worked to hold and accept the many ways that the birth could potentially go.
If I ended up with another C section, that was okay, so long as Wes and I were safe.
And at the same time, I knew I could also work to set myself up both mentally and logistically (e.g. by hiring a doula and getting our doctors on board) to potentially have a VBAC.
Getting Ready to Meet Baby #2
Since the only reason I had a C section with Riese is because she was breech (vs. another complication), my doctors were supportive about the potential of me having a VBAC. They said I was a good candidate for it provided this baby was head down, of course.
Until the 36 week ultrasound when we found out that was Wes, in fact, head down, I didn’t let myself get attached to the idea that a VBAC might be possible at all. I just didn’t want to get emotionally invested if it wasn’t even going to be an option on the table.
But when we found out he was locked and loaded, that’s when I sprang into action.
Last time, we hired a doula early in the process and ended up basically paying her to be our photographer in the operating room (which was nice, but, you know, not exactly what we had in mind).
This time, I decided I’d wait and only hire a doula if we knew a VBAC might potentially be an option.
So, cue me at 36 weeks pregnant suddenly researching and interviewing doulas!
I considered using the same doula we had last time, as she was truly lovely, but she lives quite far away from us and I wanted someone closer by just in case.
I interviewed a few solo doulas before I found a team of doulas – there are 3 of them, which is great since one is always on call/available – that felt like the right fit and were all located right near us.
One of the doulas had even had a VBAC at the same hospital where I was going to deliver; it felt like serendipity!
I am confident that having the doulas on my care team is pretty much the only reason that our VBAC attempt was successful. More on that in a minute – but I can’t stress enough just how helpful it was to have them, not only during the birth but also in the weeks leading up to it!
I officially hired our doula team at 37 weeks, and from there it was off to the races.
And by off to the races, I mean: hurry up and wait.
The end of pregnancy, similar to being on the precipice of any big life change, is a weird combination of impatience and apprehension.
You want to be done with being pregnant already and have your baby here and in your arms, and you also find yourself feeling nostalgic for the way things are, and nervous about how much they will change.
This second time around I knew very much, in a way that I could only imagine the first time around, how a new baby would rock our world. In a good way, and also in a really hard way.
Having only made the transition from 0 kids to 1 kid before, we had no idea how the transition from 1 kid to 2 kids would be – not only just mentally but also logistically and physically.
I read two books while pregnant this time around that helped with the transition to a family of 4, and I highly recommend them both.
The first one is “Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Improbable Grace, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family.” (affiliate link)
I loved this book so, so much.
It’s so sweet and heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time, and it really beautifully aligned with exactly how I was feeling being pregnant with our second child, and all that that meant for us as parents and also for Riese, who had been the sole focus of our world for 3.5 years.
When the author talks about how heartbreaking it was to watch her first child struggle with being “de-throned” when their second child came home, it made me cry.
To be fair, it was pretty easy to make me cry while pregnant because, you know, hormones. But it is also just the most lovely, poignant book – and it also manages to be laugh out loud funny at times, too.
The other book that I read while pregnant this time was “Transformed by Birth: Cultivating Openness, Resilience, and Strength for the Life Changing Journey from Pregnancy to Parenthood.” (affiliate link)
I wasn’t sure if this book would be relevant to me as a second time parent, but a friend who has multiple kids read it and recommended it so I decided to give it a shot, and I’m glad I did, as I believe it really helped me get into the right mental state to be ready for the birth experience in general.
It helped me slow down and turn inward during a time when it’s easy to rush to the next thing, which was especially good because we had a bit of a rocky end of pregnancy with a lot of false alarms.
The Lead Up: Cue the False Alarms
At my 38 week appointment, my fluid levels were looking a bit low on the ultrasound.
My doctor said it was still in the normal range, but it made them nervous and they didn’t want to wait a whole week before seeing me again, so they asked me to come again a couple days later for another check.
They also said to come to the appointment with Matt and with our hospital bag because if fluid levels were low again, they’d want to go straight to a C section. Oof.
That was a lot to process – going from waiting to go into labor to OMG I may need another C section and also it may be in 2 days. Wow.
The weather was outrageously hot by the end of my pregnancy, and I was probably a bit dehydrated, so my doulas recommended making sure I was drinking a LOT of water, especially leading up to the next ultrasound fluid check.
We were nervous and came to the follow up appointment prepared mentally (ish) and logistically to stay and have the baby that day, just in case.
But thankfully when we went in all looked okay and my fluid levels were higher again. Hello, false alarm #1!
I got the okay to come back again in one week, at 39 weeks and a couple days.
Matt didn’t come with me to this follow up appointment (and neither did my hospital bag). It was another really hot week and I think I ended up doing a lot of walking the day before.
When the ultrasound tech did the checks, the fluid levels were on the low side again (I think just out of the normal range if I remember correctly).
My OB came in and told me that they wanted to take me in for a C section that afternoon, and that I should call my husband and prepare myself for surgery. I burst into tears.
I asked her to give me a little time to call my doulas and to process things a bit. When she left the room, I called Matt and asked him to come to the hospital ASAP, and got my mom lined up to pick Riese up from school.
My OB came back in and said that another option, if I wanted, was to get a second opinion at their partner Maternal and Fetal Medicine office, which was in the same building. They had an appointment available in 30 minutes if I wanted to take it.
I called our doulas to discuss with them and they were in favor of the second opinion, and running additional tests. Based on their research, they said that low-ish fluid alone was not enough reason to go straight into a C section, unless there was something else going on as well that made the situation higher risk.
So, they suggested doing the second ultrasound and also requesting a nonstress test to make sure everything else looked fine with the baby, and then to go from there. They also suggested I chug some water and have something sweet, so I did that as well.
By the time Matt arrived I was about to head in for my second opinion ultrasound. The technician did measurements and checks at least 3 or 4 times and every time she did it my fluid levels were in the normal range.
The nonstress test on the baby also came back with flying colors – everything looked great.
With this information, the doctor in that office agreed in partnership with my team of OBs that they would give me a few more days to wait and see if I would go into labor on my own.
Phew… what an emotional roller coaster. It was Friday, May 21, and this was false alarm #2.
I was told to come back on Tuesday, May 25, one day before our due date, for another ultrasound and nonstress test (unless I went into labor on my own first, of course, which was what we were all hoping for).
By the time Tuesday rolled around I was still not in labor, despite efforts to get things going with everything I read on the internet about how to induce labor. Womp, womp.
I had made sure to rest and get a LOT of fluids and thankfully everything looked great on both the fluid check and the nonstress test. My doctors agreed that it was fine to wait a few more days and to come back again on Friday, May 28, which would be 40 weeks + 2 days.
Once again that Friday, everything looked good on both tests.
My doctors agreed to give me one last shot to go into labor naturally, with a deadline of Tuesday, June 1, which would be 40 weeks + 6 days. They did not recommend me going later than that day, and we had a “just in case” C section scheduled for that afternoon.
I asked if we made it to Tuesday and I still hadn’t gone into labor on my own if there was a possibility of a gentle induction, and my doctor said to make an appointment for first thing Tuesday morning for a cervix check.
If I was already dilated at least a couple centimeters and fairly effaced, then they would be open to a gentle induction (aka just a tiny amount of pitocin vs. any other measures) since it was likely my body would be amenable to it.
If I was still closed up completely, they recommended a C section instead.
So Close and Yet So Far
That Friday afternoon, I started feeling more crampy pelvic pressure, and that night, I started having some early/stage 1 labor.
How exciting – could this be it?! (Spoiler alert: false alarm #3.)
The contractions felt like bad period cramps but coming and going like a wave, building and then retreating. The contractions were about 15 minutes apart and uncomfortable enough to keep me awake a lot of the night… and then in the morning they stalled out.
By Saturday afternoon I was feeling pretty low energy and blah. Contractions kept coming and going on and off but in less of a consistent pattern and more spread out. This continued overnight and into Sunday afternoon, when the contractions switched to about 10 minutes apart.
The weather had cooled down a bit so I was able to get in a walk, which helped raise spirits, and I hoped it would get things moving along, too. I was also doing all the other things – eating dates, drinking raspberry leaf tea, bouncing on a yoga ball, etc.
Sunday night was especially uncomfortable.
At 1 a.m. I texted my doulas that “things may be ramping up but it’s hard to tell. Started having contractions again about 10 minutes apart in the early evening. Tried to go to bed but they hurt enough to keep me up. About 8 minutes apart now. Still like period cramps but they hurt more than they have the last few days.”
I started feeling excited – surely this must be it, right?! (Spoiler alert: false alarm #4.)
My doulas recommended I continue to try and rest, and to use a heating pad on my lower back to help with the pain, which I did. It was a long night – every time a contraction would come I’d flip over onto my hands and knees and kind of rock around and moan.
By Monday morning, I was exhausted.
Three nights in a row of painful prodromal labor (labor that stops and starts and doesn’t progress) and lack of sleep was really getting to me.
In texts with my doulas that morning, at one point they said labor was such a mental game, and I replied: “Yeah, I feel like it’s currently a mental game that I’m losing.”
I’m glad I have these texts to look back on because I had already forgotten how rough those last few days were.
Monday afternoon, on Memorial Day and at 40 weeks + 5 days, my doula came and dropped off a tens unit for me to help with the pain.
I was feeling nauseous and dehydrated but some food, water, and the tens unit helped lift my spirits a bit and while the tens unit didn’t take away the pain it did help distract from it a bit with a different sensation. I was grateful to have it.
On Monday night, after Riese went to sleep, I was still having contractions. I was feeling pretty down as I knew the next day was the last day that my doctors recommended us waiting until, and it felt like things weren’t going to progress on their own.
I remember Matt drawing me a warm bath with candles and calm music to help me relax. It felt really good, and I hoped relaxing a bit might help move things forward, but I unfortunately had another long night of painful prodromal labor that didn’t go anywhere.
June 1, 2021 – Let’s Do This
On Tuesday morning, June 1, at 5 a.m., I texted my doulas that I thought I had lost my mucus plug.
I was still having painful contractions about 10 minutes apart but tried to rest a bit more – our cervix check appointment was at 9:30 a.m. and I was anxious to see what would happen from there.
Matt and I left for the hospital that morning nervous but also really excited. Either way, we were going to meet our little boy that day!
I remember first meeting Riese being one of the most powerful, amazing experiences of my whole life, and knowing that was waiting for us again was so exciting.
That morning was the first time I ever had a cervix check – I never got one with Riese and I didn’t have any earlier in this pregnancy either. It was pretty uncomfortable and I was anxious to see what the results were – I was really hoping that the last 4 nights of on and off labor hadn’t been for nothing and that my body was on its way!
Sure enough, it ended up being worth it! I was 2 cm dilated and fairly effaced, too.
The doctor said she was comfortable doing a gentle induction, and that we could see how things went/how my body responded and go from there.
Eeek!! Cue excitement and also some fear – it’s really happening, and RIGHT NOW!
We walked right over to labor and delivery with our doctor and got settled into our room. My doula texted me that if they hadn’t started pitocin yet, to tell them to wait so I could have a little food first.
I was kind of nauseous and didn’t end up eating a lot, but this still ended up being a smart tip because it was a long time before I would eat again!
At 11:30 a.m., the pitocin got started on level 2, and at noon our doula, Carolyn, arrived. I was feeling pretty nervous but also really ready to move forward already after so many false starts!
(In case you’re wondering, since I was vaccinated and also since they did a rapid covid test on me when we arrived and it was negative, I was allowed to labor without my mask. Others in the room, including Matt and our doula, were all masked.)
Carolyn warned me that it can take awhile for things to get going with an induction, but maybe since my body was already on the way things ramped up really quickly, even with such a low dose of pitocin. I believe at the max amount I only was on level 6 or 8.
By 12:30 p.m., I was in active labor with very consistent contractions. We were really rocking and rolling now, and having our doula there was incredibly helpful in helping me manage the pain.
I was doing a lot of walking around the room, bending over the bed during contractions, etc. Our doula did this amazing thing where she would kind of squeeze my butt/hips from the side and it helped a lot during the worst of the contractions.
This phase was painful and intense but honestly not THAT much worse than what I’d been experiencing the past 4 nights straight at home.
By 2:45 p.m., though, I was feeling pretty burned out. Not getting much sleep and being in pain for so many days in a row meant I was pretty done with pain.
When I started throwing up (from the pain), I was officially like “check please, where is that epidural now thank you.”
I had talked to my doula about the likelihood that I would want to get an epidural and that it was important that I not feel guilty if I wanted one, and she was super supportive about whatever I wanted to do.
We had basically said let’s wait and see, but that there was no reason for me to be a martyr, and by this point I felt I had experienced enough and was ready for some relief. 😉
Throwing up from the pain actually caused my water to break, though, so that was a good thing!
It felt like a trickle (I said: “Um, it feels like I’m peeing but I don’t think I am?!”) so I wasn’t totally sure my water had broken, but the doctors later confirmed it had!
By 3:30 my epidural was placed, and by 4 p.m. I got some sweet relief. Woohoo!
Right after the epidural kicked in, I got checked again and wow – I was already 6 cm dilated! That was fast!
I was nervous that the epidural might stall our progress, but it actually ended up being the opposite.
I believe it was also at this point the doctors turned off the pitocin since I didn’t need it anymore to keep things going.
Time to Push!
I rested for a little bit to regroup, and at 5 p.m. I got checked again and clearly my body responded well to the epidural/finally being able to really relax and rest because suddenly I was at 10 cm and fully effaced – whoa!
There was a flurry of activity – my doctor came in, lots of nurses were around, and they said let’s do this, let’s push! (Spoiler alert: false alarm #5.)
At 5:15 p.m. I started pushing.
There were a ton of people in the room and the energy was really upbeat and everyone was excited. Wow, we were doing this, our baby might be here SO SOON!
The experience of pushing was surreal and intense. I had no idea what I was doing but our nurse and doula were great about instructing me, and Matt was an active participant as well, holding my leg in various positions at their instructions, etc.
I was grateful that my epidural was not a super strong one, so while I was no longer in crazy pain I could still easily move around and kneel and do different positions.
But… I kept pushing and pushing and we didn’t seem to get anywhere. When people started to slowly trickle out of the room, including my doctor, Matt and I looked at each other like: “Womp, womp.”
The next few hours are a blur in my memory.
I do remember that the baby’s heart rate was really stable which was good and the reason they let me push for so long – it was actually a little less stable before the pushing phase and I remember my doctor and nurse looking at each other nervously at one point and me thinking “oh no… here comes the C section. Hang in there baby, we can do this…”
The pushing went on and on and on and on and on.
After what felt like forever, our doula had me try some different positions to see if we could get the baby moving.
He hadn’t progressed down far enough yet in the birth canal, and our doctor said he was face up, too, both of which might have been why the earlier pushing efforts weren’t going anywhere (and also maybe why I had labor that stopped and stalled the previous few days…).
I was so tired and uncomfortable and really questioning whether I could do this or not.
Our doula tried a bunch of techniques from Spinning Babies – she had me lying on my side with one leg super far over the other in a kind of twist, almost falling off the bed… she had me kneeling for quite awhile, which increased my urge to push a LOT, and seemed to help move things along… we used the peanut ball a bunch… honestly all of this part is kind of a blur because we tried so many things and I was so exhausted.
Time went quickly and also really slowly at the same time.
Around 9 p.m. was a big low point. I had been pushing for nearly 4 hours with what felt like no progress. I remember my doctor coming in around this point to check on us.
She looked me in the eyes and asked: “Are you sure you want to keep doing this?”
I responded: “No. But – yes. I don’t want to give up.”
At this point, our doula switched things up. We had had the lights low for quite awhile, and low key music on, and the energy was just soooo low and I was feeling so dejected.
Our doula turned brighter lights on and got some higher energy music going. “Let’s do this,” she said. “You CAN do this.”
The renewed energy in the room gave me some extra energy and I was able to dig deep and keep pushing.
At one point, his head started peeking out, which was HUGE motivation. I felt like I was finally getting the hang of pushing and I could actually see the reflection of what was happening in the light above me. Every time I pushed I could see a tiny bit of his white head peeking out.
Around 10:20, there was suddenly another flurry of activity. Our doctor put on her scrubs, and the nurses prepared the room. This was it – he was coming out!
A few more hard pushes and at 10:26 p.m. I experienced the most surreal feeling – our baby literally flying out of me all at once. I couldn’t even believe it when they put him right on my chest.
I was so overwhelmed with emotion and exhaustion. My first words to him were: “It was you!” He was the one in there all this time. What a gift to finally – FINALLY – get to meet him.
He was 7 pounds and 1 ounce of perfection and he was here.
Matt got to help cut the cord, and after placing him on my chest briefly immediately after he was born, they quickly whisked Wes away to do some tests on him.
We found out later they were nervous because he turned a little blue and there was some cord wrapping (which is why the doctor made sure he came out quickly when he finally started to emerge). His original apgar score was 6, but a minute later it was 9. Whew.
He was back on my chest a few minutes later and basically didn’t leave my chest for the rest of the night.
Pushing for 5+ hours was the hardest physical event of my entire life, including my marathons and that insane mountain hike (summiting Mount St. Helens) I did in my former pre-kid life.
It was absolutely nuts – so exhausting and so all-encompassing and the craziest, coolest experience. Nothing could have prepared me (or Matt) for the intensity of the whole thing.
The rest of the night was such a blur – I was SO hyped up on adrenaline and so in awe of the sweet little baby on my chest.
Matt and I ordered food from Silver Diner (excellent life decision, especially this milkshake which was magical after not eating for what felt like a billion hours), and after a couple hours we all got transferred over to our recovery room, where we spent the next two nights.
I remember being so wired that first night that I basically just held Wes all night and watched him sleep.
There’s truly nothing like the experience of being with your baby for the first time, and I wanted to make sure to really soak it up because I knew it would be the last time I got to experience this magic.
Thank you to those of you who followed along on my second pregnancy journey and shared tips, advice, and love along the way. I appreciate you sharing in our joy more than you know!
And I hope that even though this birth story is incredibly delayed, that it was worth the wait. Thank you for being here. <3
And just in case you missed it, here’s an update from a few weeks ago: Virtual Coffee Date.