Our new baby, whose name also begins with an A so we’ll call him by both initials here, was due on June 14, 3 days after J returned home from his business trip. Two weeks without Daddy was hard on A, but thankfully our family came to my rescue and helped out a LOT while he was gone. A got some quality time with his Grandma Rosie and his cousins and aunt who live nearby. I was terrified I’d go into labor while J was gone, and we had all sorts of emergency plans. As it turned out, AJ had no intention of arriving early or even on his due date. In fact, once I got to the 17th and he still hadn’t arrived, I was pretty sure I’d be pregnant forever.
I was scheduled for an ultrasound to make sure he was doing okay on the 18th, where we’d then discuss induction et al. I was trying for a VBAC, to avoid the difficult recovery I had with A, and really didn’t want to be induced. Thankfully AJ decided to begin his journey before the appointment, as I found myself with my water breaking at 4:30 a.m. on the 18th. I’d been worried about going into labor in the middle of the night, as A’s cousins were going to watch him while I was in labor. When I woke up to pee in the middle of the night and my water broke, I couldn’t help but think that AJ was both considerate (after all, I was on the potty already so the amniotic fluid didn’t get all over the place) and inconsiderate (it was the middle of the night!). I called my midwife, who groggily told me to get to the hospital and the on-call midwife would be there at 7 to check on me.
We called our sweet nieces, who came over to watch A. In the half hour it took them to get to us, we gathered our last minute items for the hospital bag, woke A and explained who was coming over and why, and started his favorite movie, Toy Story, as a distraction. Once they arrived, we left a tearful A to head to the hospital. We were relieved when they texted us that he stopped crying quickly and went back to the movie.
We got to maternity triage, where they did a test to see if my water had truly broken on a stick that remarkably resembled the stick you pee on to see if you’re pregnant in the first place. My water never broke on its own with Archer, so I had never experienced that particular part of labor before. But I knew, instinctively, that’s what it was. So when their test came back negative for amniotic fluid, I was very unhappy and convinced the test was wrong. No amount of description or explanation would convince the nurse her test was wrong-and I’m not usually that kind of patient. This is their job, they know what they’re doing and I trust their experience. But in this case, I knew my water had broken. Because I was Group B positive (a natural bacteria that all women have but that can cause problems during childbirth if the levels are elevated, requiring antibiotics), I knew I needed antibiotics as soon as my water broke. That’s what my midwife had told me when I asked what would be different about having Group B this time, and I wasn’t with A.
Thankfully, the nurse shift changed and my new nurse assured me that my midwife would want to examine me. She also said that she hated those stick tests, as they were often wrong– 40% of the time, actually. I had been so worried about being sent home, having to leave A again, and for waking my nieces up at 5 a.m. unnecessarily. I was also worried that my water had broken and I’d end up having my baby at home or in the car because the first nurse wouldn’t listen to me.
When my midwife arrived, she did another test where they examine the fluid under a microscope to see if it resembles a fern, which means it is amniotic fluid. While collecting the sample, more water broke, and she assured me that I was for sure in labor and not going home before even looking under the microscope (she still did, and it was fern-like, so HA! Take that, first nurse!). Unfortunately I was only dilated to a 1.5, and my contractions were five minutes apart and not that strong. She recommended using a balloon and catheter to put pressure on my cervix, making it open more and faster.
I agreed, because heck yes I was ready to get that baby out. If I could do it again knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t do it. It’s painful, and apparently contractions with a second baby are worse than they were with the first. The balloon-catheter thingy got in the way when I was walking or moving, and so I spent most of my labor laying in bed instead of moving around like I did with A. The labor ball, much like a yoga/pilates exercise ball, was a huge help with A. But with AJ, I leaked amniotic fluid every time I moved and I hate feeling moisture–heck, I overuse paper towels when I dry my hands!
With A, I didn’t ask for the epidural until I was dilated to a 6. My goal was to reach that with AJ, because I’m irrational when pregnant. I also didn’t know contractions hurt worse the second time around! I lowered the number to a 4, when the balloon thingy should fall out. Finally, I couldn’t take it and asked for it early. Thankfully the ballon thing fell out right before they came in to do it, so I kind of reached my goal.
The anesthesiologist had trouble administering the epidural, despite my ability to hold still. Because I was attempting a VBAC, I had to have fetal monitoring the whole labor, and we knew when each contraction should come. Unfortunately, the epidural didn’t work. The pain continued to get worse, and I was mentally losing my patience with myself and was worn out and starving, but I couldn’t eat in case I had to have another C-Section.
An hour after the first epidural, they came back to try again. I couldn’t help it– I was so exhausted and didn’t want to go through the pain of another epidural, and I began sobbing, shaking with emotion. My amazing nurse, who distracted us with crazy stories and hilarious antidotes, took my face in her hands, put her forehead against mine, and calmed me down. I had reached my limit, but she knew exactly what to say and do to help me. It was amazing.
The second epidural finally worked and I felt some relief. I took a nap while J went to get some lunch, since it was now 2 in the afternoon. The day toiled on, with 12 hours since my water broke coming and going. Finally, ten minutes before my amazing super nurse was about to get off (she was determined to meet AJ, after being with me all day), she checked and I was at a 10, ready to push.
I was nervous and excited. I never got this far with A; he went into distress when I was at an 8. We pushed on counts of 3, over and over again. I had no idea how long the pushing was supposed to last. As I pushed, my nurse told me what was going on (I don’t do blood well and there are certain things I don’t want to see!). She saw his hair before anything else. 28 minutes later, at 7:18, he finally arrived. He warbled a cry, and they placed him on my chest, and I cried and cried and kissed his beautiful full head of black hair.
All of his cries were warbles, with trembling chin and a unique sound that made all of the nurses and midwives say, “awww” and coo over him. We cleaned him up and started breastfeeding after J cut the cord. I tried to deliver the placenta, but it wasn’t budging and my midwife had to manually remove it and then stitch up where I’d torn, a grade 2 tear (the most common). He was 9 pounds, 1 ounce, and beautiful.
Although I’d successfully delivered via VBAC, my recovery was just as difficult as with A. I had a terrible time with the stitches, a poor reaction to the tape used on my back for the epidural that resulted in a huge rash, and a puffy, swollen arm from where my IV had been. Due to the placenta issues, I had to be on more antibiotics after I was discharged, as well as painkillers. I also had an embarrassing issue that required a painful in-office procedure a few days after the birth.
6 weeks after delivery, I was still bleeding. It was discovered through an ultrasound that not all of the placenta was removed, and I took medicine to cause uterine contractions to try and get it out. When that didn’t work, I was scheduled for surgery. I felt great after it was over, just tired. But ten hours later, I began getting sick to my stomach and couldn’t stop. When it finally abated, I tried to just go to sleep. But every time I laid down, my headache worsened. When I began getting sick again, I called my doctor and was told to go to the ER. Several hours, more vomiting, and medicine and a liter of IV fluids later, I could finally go home and go to sleep. Again, our amazing family stepped up. J’s sister, A’s aunt, came and stayed with an already-asleep A so we wouldn’t have to take him to the ER. A week later, I finally stopped bleeding and called myself healed from a delivery that occurred 10 weeks earlier.
Through all of the difficulty of the 17 hour labor and long recovery, my sweet husband was by my side. All through labor, recovery, surgery, recovery, ER visit and recovery, he was always there. I’m incredibly fortunate to have him and our family, who helped out so much. His mom came for weeks to help us adjust to having a toddler and a newborn, and with all my complications, it was truly lifesaving. Regardless of how difficult it all was, it’s all worth it when I look at this sweet face:
AJ is such a good baby. Sweet, snuggly, and a GREAT sleeper. He eats well, he sleeps well, he hangs out on his own or allows us to hold him. He’s practically perfect most of the time! A loves being a big brother and helping. He hands me diapers, gives AJ his pacifier, holds his hand and asks to hold him all the time.