Thora’s Birth Story
I woke up at 8am on Saturday the 3rd having infrequent contractions. They didn’t seem worth timing, but they also didn’t go away after several hours. Right at about 1pm, I decided to time them to see if there was any kind of pattern.
Timing revealed they were about five minutes apart and were lasting for roughly a minute. Since that’s more or less the rule of thumb for calling your providers saying you’re in labor, I decided to make sure things were actually happening so I waited it out — for the next SEVEN HOURS.
The contractions seemed to start spacing out a bit around 8pm, so I called my midwife, Denise, to let her know what had happened that day. The waves never got closer together or any more intense, so I correctly assumed they were prodromal labor and not actual labor and Denise basically confirmed this. Still! It felt like progress.
The next morning, I barely had any contractions at all; certainly nothing worth timing. However, I did start losing my mucus plug (gross, sorry) which continued throughout the day.
Monday was pretty similar. I knew things were barely getting going and I was okay just letting events unfold – I wasn’t getting my hopes up that this was “real labor” or anything.
That said, I was super uncomfortable and cranky all day long. I went to my chiropractic appointment at 10am and couldn’t get comfortable on the table. I was coming down with yet another cold (I think the grand total over the pregnancy was seven) and I just wanted to lay down and relax but I couldn’t figure out how because no positions felt relaxing in the slightest.
I went to my prenatal appointment at 2pm and declined a cervical check. I just hate them so much and I also didn’t want to know a number and have it discourage me. It would only be a measurement of where I was right then, not where I might be once labor kicked in or even a guess as to when labor would kick in.
Much later that evening (Monday the 5th), I noticed I was having a pattern of contractions. They weren’t severe, but they were definitely much more difficult to get through than the ones from Saturday. Daniel was tired and I told him it was fine to go to bed – I was watching TV and working through the waves.
After several hours of working through the waves by relaxing, I noticed that I wanted to vocalize to get through contractions. I felt like an idiot doing it, but I made a little noise with each and that seemed to help get through them. They were still about ten minutes apart, but they felt really intense.
Finally, around 2:30am, I tried to get comfortable enough to rest just in case labor actually kicked in and I was in it for the long haul. I propped some pillows up on the couch and reclined a bit. It wasn’t the greatest, but it did allow me to fall asleep.
At 4am, I woke up because of a weird sensation in my nether regions and I thought, “that felt like it could have been my water breaking.” But I was so outrageously tired that I drifted back to sleep for a split second and then momentarily became convinced I dreamed the whole thing. Then I came to my senses and realized that if I thought my water had broken, even if I was wrong, I should get off the couch and into the bathroom.
The second I stood up, I knew it was my water. I soaked my underpants and leggings just with the few steps to the bathroom, and I stood there for a minute trying to decide what to do. I wasn’t having contractions right then, but maybe I should call somebody? Or not? Aaah! This was turning into the real thing!
I decided to put on some Depends underwear so I didn’t sog any furniture and I laid back down and tried to get some rest. I managed to wait until 6:30am to wake up Daniel and tell him my water broke.
At about 7am, I requested to switch him spots so I could have the bedroom and he could use the living room to entertain Wesley for a bit. I called Denise to tell her my water broke at 4am but contractions were still about 10 minutes apart.
However, at about 7:30am, contractions really started to kick in and they quickly became more difficult to work through. I received a text from my friend Meagan saying she saw my tweet about my water breaking and if I needed her to take Wesley for the day, she’d be happy to do so. I let Daniel know that she offered and that things were picking up to the point where I felt like I needed him, so could he please go drop Wesley off? He got everything together and left to walk Wesley to her house.
Once he left, contractions were about 3.5 minutes apart and I had a really weird crying jag. The contractions weren’t unbearable by any means, but I just felt like I needed to cry, I guess? It happened a couple more times over the course of the day and I found myself saying “I’m okay, I don’t even know why I’m crying.” Once Daniel got back, I let him know he should probably call the midwives to tell them that things were really kicking in.
Krysta, the midwife intern, arrived not too long after we called. She took my vitals and reassured me that we were doing everything right.
The next several hours were mostly just me laboring in our living room, standing in front of our entertainment center. Standing seemed to be what felt best to me, so I leaned on the entertainment center and put my weight on my hands during contractions. Hip squeezes also felt nice to me – I didn’t have any back labor, but the pressure on my hips and back felt good and gave me something else to focus on.
Krysta was really good about making sure I had a cool washcloth for my face (this was fantastic), and she put the essential oils I bought to help with labor on another washcloth so I could sniff them. She set up a little fan for me so I didn’t get too hot, and took over the hip squeezes for Daniel occasionally so he could eat or use the bathroom. She also made sure I could reach my Gatorade and water and encouraged me to eat a protein bar at some point to keep my energy up. (Long story short: Krysta is the best.)
At some point, she left to get lunch and Denise (the main midwife) came over. Things were pretty intense for me then, and my hands were starting to hurt from leaning so much on them for so long. Denise recommended I try leaning over the birth ball while on my knees to see if that would give my hands and shoulders a bit of a rest.
It did, I guess, but my contractions were more difficult to work through and I didn’t like the hands and knees position as much as I liked standing. My vocalizations started to get a little higher-pitched during especially difficult waves, and I really had to try to keep the panicky tone out of them. This was really hard to do. Denise was on the couch right next to me, knitting and saying supportive things to me. I did a pretty good job of remembering to keep my jaw relaxed and my noises low-ish, but if they got high again she’d remind me to bring it down a bit.
I had another crying jag about then. My contractions were coming really close together and there were a lot of “double-peaked” ones that came on strong, but instead of going away they just came down a bit and then went back up and peaked again. I remember crying and saying something about not getting a break in between them and how I could manage them better if I could get a break.
Finally, Denise suggested trying to break my water to see if that would get me through the last couple of centimeters. Since I didn’t have a ton of fluid when my water broke that morning, we figured it was the hindwaters and she was going to try to break the forewaters to help things along.
I managed to make it into the bedroom and I got my Depends off, but before I could make it onto the bed, I had a contraction and put my hands on the wall to get through it. Then I felt something weird and said, “My water is leaking again. Nope– wait. Oh god.” because my water really truly broke and I could see it starting to puddle on the floor. Denise said, “Up on the bed! Get on the bed!” And I laid down and then heard the most hideous noise – it was like someone pouring a bucket of water onto the floor, except it was coming from my own body and I was on my bed. It was a rushing river noise and I will probably never forget it. I was apologizing and Denise and Krysta were flinging chux pads at my lower half, trying to absorb the fluid and preserve the bed. (It was a lot of fluid.)
Unfortunately, the fluid wasn’t clear – it was stained with meconium, meaning the baby had gotten stressed at some point and had a bowel movement. Nobody seemed very worked up about it, so I wasn’t worried, but I knew that it wasn’t a great sign.
Denise checked me and I was at 7 or 8cm. Oddly, I don’t remember the cervical check being that bad – they were by and large the absolute WORST part of my labor with Wesley so that shocked me a bit.
I kept laboring, taking the occasional bathroom break, and the midwives sometimes asked me if I was feeling any rectal pressure or pushy feelings. I didn’t really feel anything like that for a while, but then I noticed I felt a little pushy if I had a contraction while I was in the bathroom. It was like my body was trying it out a bit without meaning to.
The midwives had me sit on the birth stool in the middle of my living room, and Denise checked me again to make sure I was complete. She said I was basically there but with an anterior cervical lip. She then gave me the option of laboring for another hour or hour and a half to let it disappear, orrrrr she could try holding the lip back while I pushed. I opted for the latter.
It took me a while to get into the groove of pushing. At first, I wasn’t even holding my breath during the contractions – I was still trying to breathe through them instead of pushing through them! It also took a few tries to figure out where exactly to push.
The midwives had been checking the baby’s heart tones throughout the labor process and they’d been great. However, after one contraction where I actually pushed effectively, they checked the heart rate and I while didn’t hear the number right away, I didn’t need to. I knew something was off. Instead of the ga-gunk-ga-gunk-ga-gunk heartbeat, it was more like ga- gunk (pause) ga- gunk (pause). Somebody said, “86.” They kept the doppler on and the baby’s heart rate recovered pretty quickly, but that number was WAY lower than they like to see. A heart rate of 110 is worrisome, and this was way below that. I pushed for another contraction and her heart rate dipped to 90, and Denise said, “Get up! Get on the bed. Fast!”
I waddled to the bedroom and laid down on the bed. Denise told me not to push, even if I got the urge to. They had the doppler on me and Denise pushed the baby up a little (so any pushing progress I had made was thereby undone) and her heart rate was back in the 140s. I sort of lost it here, because laying down felt HORRIBLE and not being able to push felt HORRIBLE and it made me sort of unable to handle the contractions. Denise decided that the heart tones were weird enough that we needed to transfer to the hospital.
I sort of saw that coming; I mean, once I heard that awful heart rate of 86, I knew things weren’t going to work out how I had hoped. Krysta found a pair of leggings for me and helped me put them on, as well as my shoes. Denise called the hospital to let them know we were on our way. Daniel hurriedly packed a hospital bag for us, because even though we were supposed to have done that beforehand just in case, we hadn’t done it.
I had another contraction on our way out the door, and even without me pushing, the heart rate did something weird again and we knew transferring was the best option at that point. I got into our car facing backwards, sitting on my knees and hugging the headrest. Krysta got in the backseat with us and Denise drove her mini-van. We arrived at the ER entrance and the hospital staff put me in a wheelchair (horrible) and wheeled me to Labor & Delivery. I asked the ER nurse (who I knew – she’s the mom of a high school classmate) if they would give me anything to stop the contractions (Terbutaline!) and she confusedly told me no, she didn’t think they would do anything like that. I still figured they would, especially since I assumed I was going in for a c-section and I think she didn’t quite know why I was there yet.
They had me undress and put on a hospital gown, and then a ton of people were asking me stupid questions during contractions. “WHEN DID YOU EAT LAST?” I have no idea? I had a protein bar at some point in the past? “WHEN DID YOU LAST DRINK ANYTHING?” Same deal – I had some Gatorade earlier? The anesthesiologist was the one asking most of the questions and finally a nurse was like, “DURING A CONTRACTION?! REALLY?!” and then he mostly waited until I was done wailing/moaning to ask me things.
This was the absolute worst part of the whole experience. I was in an awful lot of pain because I couldn’t stand up to work through the contractions, I wasn’t supposed to push because that’s what was messing up the baby, and not pushing when you have the urge is like trying not to dry heave, and people were poking me with needles and shouting questions at me that I couldn’t answer, either because I couldn’t physically respond or because I didn’t know the answer. I kept my eyes shut for most of it and just wailed/moaned loudly through the contractions because that was really all I could do.
The OB on call, Dr. S, sat with me and explained that she knew this really was not where I wanted or expected to be and she was sorry for that, and she wanted to make sure I was taken care of and that the baby was safe, so she recommended having a cesarean. I nodded. I knew the moment we transferred that I wasn’t going to get my VBAC, so I had a little bit of time to come to terms with it. Plus, I was in absolutely so much pain that I really did not want to have it go on for any longer than it had to. They did finally give me a shot of Terbutaline and I laid there and hoped it would kick in.
I signed all the consent forms in between contractions. They started to wheel me to the OR and all of a sudden they slowed down and I saw my mom! She gave me a hug and told me I was doing a great job and she was so sorry I ended up at the hospital. Then I was in the OR and the anesthesiologist started to set up for my spinal. Once that was in place, I could finally relax – the Terbutaline never did work, so I was in a tremendous amount of pain until the spinal took effect. I was really thankful for it – it had been roughly twelve hours of labor at that point and I could finally just lay down and breathe.
In stark contrast to my first c-section, the anesthesiologist, JJ, stood where I could see him the whole time and kept up a conversation with me. He made sure I was comfortable, and he chatted with the doctors. They didn’t strap my arms down! Once it seemed like things were starting, I asked a nurse if she would sort of narrate to me what was going on on the other side of the blue sheet. She was more than happy to, so I got to hear that they were cutting, and then moving my muscles (which the doctors complimented me on – they said I had great abdominal muscles and I responded by saying something about how you wouldn’t expect it from a chubby girl, but thanks!) and that they were about to take the baby out.
She was born at 7:49pm and I heard her cry! Several people said, “That is a BIG baby!” and I was like, oh no. I was imagining some 13-pound behemoth! They pulled her out and I saw her being carried over to the warming table – she didn’t look that big to me. She was covered in a thin layer of vernix and they rubbed it in with a towel or blanket or something. They made sure Daniel could see her and take pictures! Her APGAR scores were 7 and 9, so between the meconium in the waters and the weird heart rates and the okay-but-not-awesome 1-minute APGAR score, she really did not handle labor very well.
They swaddled her and gave her to Daniel, who brought her over to me so I could see her. Because my arms weren’t strapped down, I got to touch her fuzzy little head and pet her cheeks. JJ offered to get some family photos of us, and he let me take off my oxygen mask for them.
Then I got the shakes. With Wesley’s birth, everyone in the room ignored that they were happening and nobody told me what was going on. This time, JJ was like, “Oh man, you’re shaking – are you cold? Let’s get you comfortable.” He put some blankets on my arms and around my head, and then they plugged in this space heater thing that looked like a ShopVac and put the hose under my blankets so I had hot air blowing on me. I think JJ also gave me a shot of Demerol then, but I’m not sure exactly what for. Those things didn’t totally solve the shakes, but it made them SO much better, and just the fact that somebody noticed and thought to try to solve the problem was so nice.
Once they were done stitching me up, they sent Daniel back up to L&D with the baby and I was sent to “Recovery.” This was the part I considered the stupidest, because there’s no reason that I couldn’t have breastfed my baby in recovery. My vitals were fine, her vitals were fine, and I spent the next hour by myself (well, with nurses), staring at the ceiling, having my blood pressure checked every ten minutes while my baby was elsewhere, being held by everybody else but me.
After the hour was up, I was wheeled back to my room in L&D where Daniel and my parents had been hanging out with the baby. She started to get fussy right when I arrived, so they handed her to me and I snuggled her and got her latched on and she breastfed for basically the next four hours straight.
Before my parents left around 11pm, Daniel and I decided to go ahead and share her name: Thora Pauline. Thora was actually on our shortlist of girl names when I was pregnant with Wesley, and we liked it so much we kept it on the list for this baby. It’s an old lady name that was last popular in the 1890s, and we just liked it a lot – it sort of reads like a botanical name to me (like Willow or Violet) even though I know it isn’t, and we both liked the Nordic origin as well. Pauline was my paternal grandmother’s middle name, the one who taught me embroidery and shared her love of crafting and homemaking with me. Plus, Daniel’s brother’s name is Paul, so it felt like we were hitting two birds with one stone.
Thora got pretty jaundiced in the hospital (bilirubin level of 19 – they like to treat it if it hits 16) so she had to be under the lights overnight.
She has the same tiny-mouth nursing method that Wesley had, but unlike him, she isn’t damaging me at all so while I do have to correct her latch a lot, I’m not having to use the nipple shield! She’s gaining weight like a champ – only lost 6% of her weight in the hospital and managed to turn it around and start gaining a little before she was discharged.
Overall, I am actually pretty happy with the way her birth turned out. I’m obviously not thrilled about having a RCS instead of a VBAC, but this time I don’t feel like I missed out on anything since I made it all the way to pushing. I tried my best, got to labor at home, and only really missed the last bit where the baby actually exited my body. It was the baby that dictated the need for the transfer instead of my body giving out. And even during the surgery, I felt involved. With Wesley’s birth, I felt like I was actively prevented from participating, and with Thora’s I was very included and I didn’t ever feel ignored.
I think that feeling of inclusiveness is why I haven’t been very emotional at all postpartum. I haven’t cried or even gotten weepy about anything! And that’s two weeks out! With Wesley, for weeks I cried anytime anybody mentioned a c-section or anytime I thought about my mom helping me out in the hospital. And this time I haven’t even teared up about anything! My c-section experiences are like night and day. There were huge, dramatic differences in the way I was treated before, during, and after the surgery with each baby.
Thora will likely be our last child, so while I’m disappointed I probably won’t ever experience pushing a baby out of my body, I got to experience all the other parts of labor and I feel good about that. As Denise said several months ago, my whole story will be different this time. And it was.
Thank you for sharing your birth story. I’m so glad your experience this time was so much better. Though I wish that you had gotten th exact birth you had hoped for.
Thora is absolutely perfect! What a little sweetheart.