This is the birth story of our Kathleen Claire. It is long and a little raw; I hesitate to share it and I may decide to take it down but for now here it is if you choose to read it's length. And if you wish, listen to this song while you read as it speaks my heart.
After a day of feeling tired and needing multiple naps, I wasn’t too surprised that by supper the contractions had started with firmness and consistency. This was Monday evening. I had about 20 minutes of “I am not ready, I can’t think, and I am not sure what to do now” before I got busy getting the girls bags packed and finishing up my labor bag. Even though I was only in the early part of labor we had decided that since the hospital is a good hour away we would drop the girls off, pick up Lola and spend the night at the B&B that we had made arrangements with. After getting the girls settled with Uncle Mark and the girls, we continued on our way and got settled at the B&B.
The first night and the morning continued like a well-rehearsed plan, early labor continued while we tried to rest, chatted, listened to music, walked a little and waited for labor to progress. We had a large and comfortable room with a small fireplace that added cozy warmth. I was having stronger contractions but they weren’t evenly spaced and we were starting to wonder what next. At about noon exactly Dan decided to go pick up some food from the grocery store for lunch and as he was leaving, the strong contractions hit. They were close together and very painful but with Lola’s reminders to relax and keep breathing, I felt very together. Very quickly, I began to feel the need to push or bear down and rather than trying to stop it agonizingly as I had in past labor, I just went with it. I felt strong and clear headed. I think Lola said that I was an eating laborer because I just wanted to eat between contractions. At some point, I kind of zoned out and while I know that both Dan and Lola were very helpful and so involved, I was pretty focused on contractions that were now coming one right after the other and on giving birth to our baby.
By late afternoon, we had decided that it was time to head to the hospital. I had been hoping that my water would break on it’s own but we had been prepared for that to be unlikely. I expected it to go pretty quickly once that happened. The first response once at the hospital was to be strongly chastised by a doctor standing at the reception for not coming in sooner as a VBAC and then to move into the whole flat on my back for monitoring etc. My contractions lessened in that position and when the nurse checked, the inner cervix wasn’t dilated meaning that my water couldn’t be broken. Informed that I wasn’t really in labor, I was shooed out the hospital being told to come back when I was “really in labor”.
I think that we were all starting to feel the effects of minimal sleep as we headed back to the B&B for another night. I labored alone while Dan and Lola slept for much of the night mostly trying to get the contractions to slow enough that my body could stop pushing and get some rest. Each time that I would fall asleep the contractions would get stronger and I would start pushing again so I never slept of more than a few minutes at a time until morning when I was able to sleep through a few for a little longer. By this time I was exhausted, frustrated and starting to feel like I was a crazy woman; mostly just not understanding why my body was working in such a way. At some point the words from the song that I linked came into my head and so I looked it up on you tube. Dan held me as I listened several times, cried and tried to release the desires for my child’s birth that I had been holding onto for the past months. I continued to hold this song in my heart for the remainder of the birth.
We decided to head back to the hospital and it looked like we were just going to start the same thing again; me flat on my back being monitored and contractions lessening for a time (basically this would work long enough for a 20 minute strip). Instead, I did a few things to keep labor going and was just so praying that I would dilate. The nurse sprang into action once she saw me pushing and was worried the baby was coming but yet again no dilation. After watching me and the monitor for a time, they realized that this was “real labor” and that something was not going right. From this point on, there was no more talk of whether my labor was real, but rather what we could do to get my labor to slow and my cervix to dilate. I was reassured that I was not “crazy” but that they were very unsure of what was happening or what to do. Because of my drug sensitivities and being that I was attempting a VBAC, our options were very few. So I took a couple of T3’s and basically curled up as the only way to slow the pushing.
By midafternoon on Wednesday, we began talking having a caesarean later that day. Thankfully through this the baby was showing no signs of distress and I was being allowed to labor without continuous monitoring. The worry was becoming the previous incision to my uterus and how it could hold up to the hours of pushing. Not to mention that I was exhausted. I had so wanted to deliver vaginally without drugs that I really fought against the caesarean but even more than that, I would have to go under general anesthetic meaning that I wouldn’t even be awake for the birth of my baby. If I even began to let myself think about not being awake for the birth of our child, missing those first meeting moments of bonding, Dan wouldn’t be in there either, and not being able to name our baby or nurse right away, I would just start to cry and so I couldn’t even go there.
Finally by evening, after several conversations with the doctor, I gave the go ahead to prep for caesarean with the understanding that I would be checked for dilation just prior to beginning the surgery. As part of the prep, I was started on a saline IV and a catheter was put in which caused two things to happen. As the IV ran, my contractions lessened significantly and I was completely able to stop pushing. And when they tried to put in the catheter (of which I have had several) I experienced the most extremely painful torture that I have ever experienced. Bar nothing else. The poor traumatized nurse didn’t quite know what to do with herself as I screamed at her to take it out and soundly refused to have it put in again after the second attempt. This made the doctor realize that I likely had some sort of infection that should have been picked up on when I had a urine test done the first time I came in. But, I didn’t have a test done and the nurse who had annoyedly ushered me away the day before got to hear about it from the doctor. But by this point we were unsure how to proceed and so I met with the anesthesiologist to decide what action to take. As we talked and went over my charts, we decided to go with the risks of having a spinal and he would be prepared to counteract to any negative reactions. I breathed many sighs of happiness in those minutes; I would be awake for the birth, I could hold my baby right away, and the catheter could be put in once I had lost feeling (Thank you Lord.).
As we began prepping in the operating room, it started to feel more real. We were really going to meet our baby soon and then everything would begin to fade away. We were still quite nervous because of the risk of the spinal and my possible reaction but we just kept reminding ourselves that we didn’t need to have fear. I also felt more secure knowing that each person in the room had been very supportive in trying to help me to give birth naturally and to find the best options for us (the doctor didn’t allow the nurse who had told me my labor wasn’t real and hadn’t done tests to attend the birth for which I was thankful).
And so as Dan sang my favorite songs and kept his face close to mine (for some reason feeling and smelling his skin was reassuring), our little baby was born.
Not into my hands as I had hoped. Not pushed from my body as planned. But born strong, well and healthy. Our baby girl. Little Kathleen Claire. She filled the room with a lusty cry and immediately wanted to get down to the business of eating. And as we held her close, laughed, cried and prayed over her, the long and difficult hours slowly melted away as the moments were filled with love for our daughter.
Now as I snuggle our little girl who is almost a week old and ponder the past week I am thankful. Kathleen is already so loved; she was loved in the womb but now as her. Her sisters are enthralled and she is soaking up the love. I did react to the drugs used during the c-section but it was controlled so I am having no lasting side effects and I am healing well. Kathleen is a beautiful and healthy baby. I am grateful that I was able to labor even if it was long and didn’t “work”. I am glad that through out labor I felt the movements of my child reminding me that there was a glorious end/beginning. I’ll not pretend that in my heart I don’t feel disappointed that I had a caesarean and already I have started to think of the what ifs or how I could have done things differently. It is hard not knowing why I wasn’t able to progress normally so that I could birth the baby. A natural, vaginal birth was important to me, yes I wanted very much to have a successful VBAC experience, and I am okay with that but I still just have to choose to let it go and to be thankful. And I am. I am so blessed by my three daughters, my three precious girls who are all such gifts.