|Finn (age 9 weeks) meets his 2029 Prom Date Ryder (age 2 days) for the first time.|
Part One: Ripley's Birth
R and R
|Ryder, 7 months, dips her toes in the ocean for the first time as big sis Ripley (2.5) looks on|
As siblings, their lives are forever intertwined. When we decided to have a second child [editor's note: Nina and her husband had always insisted they were in the "one and done" camp, so we were all surprised and excited when they decided to have a second baby], I reasoned with my husband, Drew, that only he and his sister share the delight and agony of having two kooky parents, as did my sister and I. Like an inside joke only the two of us could ever understand and share. And so began our journey into having a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). The story of Ryder’s arrival would not be complete without describing Ripley’s arrival two years prior.
My pregnancy with Ripley was fairly typical: nausea the first trimester, gained weight in the
normal range, felt giddy with anticipation the entire time. I took my daily prenatal vitamins as directed,
stayed away from your laundry list of foods to avoid while pregnant and stayed with my OB/GYN
practice that I had started with five years prior for my routine gynecological care. And right there, that
was probably my first mistake. I am a law-abiding, rule follower by nature. I have no problems with
authority and never challenge the establishment. I had absolute faith and trust in nature and that my
body will grow this amazing thing and that my body will just figure it out. I wanted a natural birth but I
didn’t know what that meant. My mentality was to trust fate, let things play out and see how it goes. I
read two books, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy.”
We took a day long birth class together and toured the hospital, all given by a staff member of the
hospital. I was about as ready as a pig on its way to the slaughterhouse, oblivious to everything.
On a Monday night, at 36 weeks and two days pregnant, I went to bed as usual, except I felt
a snap in my abdomen as I lay down. I felt a rush of adrenaline come over me, but then I reasoned to
myself “This is way too early” and “Everyone I know had their first baby late.” About an hour later, I
got up as usual for my first of many trips to the bathroom. When I lay down, I felt some fluid leak and
my first thought was that I just peed myself. I got up to wipe and when I laid down, it happened again. I
hoped this wasn’t what I thought it was but I knew.
After the third trip to the bathroom, Drew gently asked in his groggy voice, “What’s wrong?”
He bolted straight up in bed. He turned to look at me, “What do we do?”
The details of the night are still pretty clear, but rather hilarious. Drew and I were online trying
to find a phone number to reach the on-call doctor. I felt fine but was getting a little nervous. My next
appointment was later that week, and we were supposed to go over what to do for the big day. The
giddiness was rising inside, but so was the anxiety. Drew had to go out and get maxipads because I
didn’t have any and there was no way I was going to hospital with wet pants. I still had to pack a bag
but before that, I had to wash a baby outfit. And the dishes in the sink had to be washed because one of
my greatest pet peeves is to return from a trip with dirty dishes in the sink. And, did I forget to mention
that there was a snow storm in the forecast? So here was Drew, shoveling two tire tracks down our long driveway and sprinkling salt at 2 AM like a dutiful husband.
When we arrived at the hospital at 6 AM, the first thing they did was check that my water truly
indeed did break. I was nervous. Part of me was hopeful that I was wrong and that I might go back to bed
and get more sleep. The other part of me was annoyed and insulted that they didn’t believe me and
had to use litmus paper to confirm amniotic fluid. The nurses and staff went about their job, as calm
and normal as can be and here we were, our minds racing with adrenaline and excitement that this baby would arrive by day’s end.
We were directed to a labor and delivery room. Immediately I was asked to change into a gown
as a nurse went about getting the room ready. She asked me a huge laundry list of questions while
another came in to take what felt like a quart of blood out of me. Then she proceeded to insert an IV
port into my hand and strap a fabric belt with a plastic device around my rotund belly to monitor the
baby’s heart beat. It was all surreal until the monitor began projecting the thump-thump of our baby’s
heartbeat. I sat patiently on the bed, cross-legged, waiting for my baby to arrive. I wanted to be a good,
cooperative patient. The contractions had begun, but only mildly. I was 3 cm dilated upon arrival.
By 1 PM, I was starting to feel uncomfortable. The contractions were starting to feel like bad
menstrual cramps. On a normal day, I would have popped some ibuprofen by now. I reminded myself
that I had wanted to “see how it goes” but my anxiety and fear got the best of me. The only friend I
knew who had given birth naturally without an epidural had done so with the use of a narcotic called
Stadol. It is a medication given intravenously, as she said, “to take the edge off.” I felt like Alice in
Wonderland, discovering the rabbit hole. Deal with the contractions? Well, maybe, if I could just take
the edge off. As soon as they injected the medication, I immediately relaxed and felt more comfortable.
So comfortable that I fell asleep, or I thought I did. I started to hallucinate. Closing my eyes helped
but I kept seeing images of purple milk and could hear my husband chuckling at me. I could feel the
contractions coming and going, like ocean waves at the beach, peaking then slowly drifting away. Then things started to get worse. I felt like I had no control, like I was so intoxicated. The room was spinning out of control, and I couldn’t make it stop. I remember feeling so tired, just so tired and wanting to give up. If only my water hadn’t broken at midnight, I could have gotten more sleep and been ready for this day. Why? Why couldn’t you wait, little Baby? And then, I snapped out of it. Stadol’s effect had passed.
It was 5 PM and I was only seven cm dilated with a lot of work ahead. Weren’t you supposed
to be here by now little Baby? That was it. This was the point that I asked for an epidural. Three more
centimeters? Are you kidding me? Hail down that anesthesiologist because this mama is ready.
Within 30 minutes the anesthesiologist arrived. He was nice enough, spoke in clear, calm
sentences. Again, I was nervous but the procedure was easy. Immediately I could relax. I mean,
just relax. I didn’t feel anything. And this time, I did fall asleep for hours and it felt so good. I was so
exhausted, like pulling an all-nighter and then running a race. My mind was blank, my body like Jello.
Two hours later, the nurse came into our room and immediately moved the baby monitor all
over my belly. Apparently she was losing the signal. After tossing me side to side like a rag doll, she
seemed content enough with the signal and left. The best part was that she would turn the volume to the maximum level, so the baby’s heart beat echoed off the walls like we were in a night club. Ten
minutes later, she was back, cranking up the volume (we had turned it down when she left), pushing
the monitor all over my belly: up, down, side to side. She pushed me to my left side, then my back side, then my right side. Finally, she went and got the doctor. At this time, I was laying on my left side, curled up in fetal position, or at least I think I was. Who knows what my legs were doing given how numb I was. The nurse and the doctor stood quietly in front of the monitor, just staring at it. It seemed like ten full minutes passed before either of them said anything to the other. My husband stood behind them, peeking over their shoulders.
The doctor checked me. Nine centimeters! I was almost there when the doctor gave me the
news I suspected: we needed to do a c-section. She said I could be in labor another hour and then
have to push for another hour. This could go on for two more hours and the baby’s heart beat was not
stable. Could the baby and I tolerate this for another two hours? Probably not. And I believed her. I
trusted her because she was the doctor and I wanted to be a good patient.
Because of the epidural, they had given me a medication called pitocin. The pitocin speeds up
labor because the effects of an epidural alone tend to slow down labor. In my case, the pitocin caused
a “tonic contraction” lasting ten minutes. A normal contraction lasts 90 seconds. This tonic contraction
created a lot of stress on the baby, causing the heart rate to increase rapidly to 190, followed by a sharp
drop to 60. The doctor asked me if I had any questions. The only question I could muster was “When
are we doing this?”
“Now,” she replied.
To be continued...