Breastfeeding and blogging is way easier than breastfeeding and trying to stay awake in the hospital... So, lucky for all of you, Maebel is a bit more demanding than Raea (and a professional latcher) so I'm nursing around the clock and I've got a bit of "spare time" to blog another birth story.
According to my blog stats Raeas Story was my second most popular post (first was the 10 Things they don't tell you: Postpartum... Which I thought I was exaggerating at the time, but I WAS NOT!) So if you're up breast or bottle feeding, waiting for your own baby to come, or just find my grammatically incorrect blog updates to be super entertaining to read, follow the links and check out those posts as well... it will be impossible to write this post without referencing Raea's story since this story turned out to be an extension of that.... so, again, here is Raea's Birth Story. Onto Maebel....
Unlike my experience with Raea where I had a long bout of prodromal labor leading up to the "real deal"... I had almost no instance of steady or timetable contractions during the days leading up to this delivery. I had two small instances of contractions that I kept track of. The first one I was about 36ish weeks. My husband was traveling and I got a bit nervous that I had about 2 hours of contractions; they were weak but consistent. They pretty much stopped as soon as I came up with a plan of action for Raea without him, so I believe those were brought on from nerves and stress. This brought my cervix from 1cm to 2cm dilated and four weeks left to go. At around 38 weeks I had one false alarm where the contractions were much stronger (but still mild when looking at the whole picture), and 3 minutes apart for 10 hours. This was something I couldn't just ignore. I went to the hospital where contractions continued but I never progressed. I was now 3cm and 80% effaced 10 days out from my due date. I had a party planned for Raea's birthday the next day (which turned into a "birthweek") so again, I think stress played a role here. Once her party was over and I was fully ready for this baby (who I was 95% convinced was a boy at this point) all worth-while contractions seemed to stop! I felt like I was never going to go into labor because my one other experience consisted of so many strong contractions, false alarms, and moments where I thought I needed to go to the hospital; I couldn't imagine just having this all go down quickly, suddenly, and in one day!
If you followed my instagram stories I went through a list of labor inducing myths for fun and I hoped that labor would actually start before I made it through the list, but unfortunately the pineapple, cream cheese, long walks, stair repeats, running, spicy foods, (among other things) weren't even giving me a placebo effect... I was bored. My piriformis muscle had become so painful that walking was difficult, sleeping was difficult, and I was just so done with being pregnant! Those of you who go weeks past your due date are far more mentally strong than I ever will be! I was in a constant state of anxiousness because having such an unpredictable event looming over you with a 2 year old at home is hard! How do you do this without family nearby? My parents are barely 30 minutes away and even that distance and time stressed me out! What if my water broke at 3am while she was sleeping? I was so fearful of disturbing the peace for everyone. I just wanted this to all go down in a convenient way for Raea. She already was getting a sense of the massive change her life was about to undergo, and I just don't want to see her perfect little personality change in a negative way. I wanted all this to be a good experience for her!
Night after night I put her to bed talking about the baby and I think every morning there was no baby was starting to be weird for her. On the morning of August 15th (the day before Maebels official birthday but same day I actually went into labor) I woke up literally feeling like I could shit out a baby. I had a slight urge to "push" all day but being the day after my due date I decided to not get my hopes up; at this point I thought better to assume the worst and just start counting down until my induction scheduled for the 21st (I didn't want to schedule one but as a teacher, the last thing I wanted was to have to go back to work for 1 or 2 days way past due... could you imagine!? I'd totally cry the second someone asked me "where's that baby?"... which, every person undoubtedly would ask.) I tried everything physical to induce labor, the only thing I hadn't done yet was accept it's totally out of my control (being a controlling person is an upcoming theme in this post) I moped on the couch and Raea came to snuggle. I had this beautiful moment of stillness with Raea that probably only lasted for the seconds my husband took to capture it (I'm the photographer, but sometimes he nails it, and with a phone!), but it felt much longer. It was almost as if she gave me permission to have the baby and that she was ready to be the big girl now (why am I crying typing this?!). In my heart I felt this was the day after that moment... but again, for the sake of my own sanity, I had to pretend I was going all the way to the induction. As a family we packed up the car and went for a long walk at the park near Sneakerama.
I really tried to focus on enjoying the walk as a walk and not as a way to induce labor or stay fit. My husband and I talked a lot about what we want to do in the upcoming year; family goals, running goals, what we pictured Raea like with a brother (or sister, but mostly we thought brother). We reminisced in workouts we had done in the park we were walking at. I didn't even wear sneakers because, again, I was really trying to relinquish control and I thought if my footwear was more casual, (oofos flip flops for the win!) I wouldn't think of the walk as something with an "end goal" and rather just something I was doing just to enjoy (with that being said, I still tracked it and logged it on strava!) I started getting contractions during the walk but waited to time them until they were painful enough that I needed to pause. Again, I didn't want to get my hopes up at all! Meanwhile, Raea was enjoying walking passed all the dogs and realized she could lift the flap in the back of the Bob and play hide and seek or "where's 'Ra-Ra'" with us ("Ra-ra" is how she says her own name. I was totally against nicknaming my babies at this phase, but it's so stinkin' cute, it's hard not to call her that!) We walked for 90 minutes, a total of 4.5 miles. I was still having contractions 5-6 minutes apart, but I'm still not convinced. Afterwards I wanted to make sure contractions continued without walking so we stopped by Sneakerama to kill some time. I sat down and continued to time contractions and was relieved to feel them getting worse! Sounds weird to be happy to have more pain, but they were hurting me just enough that I knew this was going to be it. I let Lisa know I was having contractions and thought I was in early labor, but once Steve (her husband and store owner) caught wind of this, I entered an episode of "The Office" only it was a daily dose of my reality show "Sneakerama Steve"... Which is way better than any TV show (and any of you that follow me know how much I love, love, LOVE watching "The Office" on repeat! You basically can't be my friend if you don't know the references to the show) Steve basically is a less crude, nicer and smarter version of Michael Scott... you'd have to know him to fully appreciate it, but in no time he was buying Matt, Raea and I dinner, offering to drive me to the hospital, and with every contraction I got he acted as if he might go into Labor also. The last words he said before I got in the car to take Raea to my parents were "Don't push too hard"... How do you not laugh at that!? We went to my moms to get Raea settled and I started the timer over because I lost track in the car. I was now getting nervous. All I could think about was how I got stuck at 3cm with Raea. I was so terrified of that happening again that I was procrastinating going to the hospital. I was worse than Pam in that episode of the Office that I reference so much. Once the timer hit an hour again, contractions a steady 4 minutes apart and painful enough to take my breath away, I went to find out if I finally entered Active Labor, a phase I totally "skipped" (on paper) with Raea.
Even as I entered the hospital I knew I wasn't in nearly the kind of pain I was in when I entered with Raea. This was "stop-you-in-your-tracks"; "take-your-breath-away", pain... but no where near the pain I felt sitting in the parking lot afraid to be sent home from the hospital again 2 years prior. I could still breathe through these and I could still sit without twisting and turning like I am hooked up to an electrode machine turned on full blast; I could talk through the beginning and end of these (just for about the 5-10 seconds where it peaked I had to really focus and work through it)... So I was not feeling optimistic about being in "active labor"... Keeping my hopes down was essential to my emotional survival. As soon as I came in, I was checked, and HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND! I was 4.5cm! Praise the Lord! I was actually in labor, I was not being sent home, and I was really having my baby! My mood changed dramatically from fear of having a repeat scenario to "Hell yes! I can get the epidural as soon as I say the word!" I felt good, I was back in control (at least I thought). Something these two pregnancies and two labors have taught me a lot is that I enjoy control. You wouldn't think that given that my job is completely unpredictable... but the very essence of what I do at work is try to gain some sort of control over my students and help them to regain control over themselves and their own behaviors and choices. I don't mind being in a situation that I'm not fully in control of as long as I have the upper hand and have a little bit of leverage. With Raea's birth, I never had that... but with this one, I was 4.5cm, I could ask for the epidural at any time; this was powerful to me! I was now the driver.... at least I thought.
I was completely ready to just get the epidural like my mom told me. I had put some thought into it and since I already decided I didn't want to feel what it was like to push without the epidural, why wait at all? Why suffer? .. shortly after I was examined a midwife came and explained to me that the baby's head was very, very low. "Oh good!" I thought... but then she said "it's so low that your cervix is actually behind the baby's head, so I just don't want you to lay down yet. If you can, stay standing and walk a bit to get your cervix all caught up"... I didn't really understand what this meant but I heard "complication, c-section, go walk forever to fix this!"... I probably should have asked more questions but since no one seemed worried I tried to not stress... I was trying really hard to not be so controlling because I blamed myself for all the pain I endured with Raea because I never relaxed! I wasn't in much pain yet, still had a decent amount of space between contractions, but that feeling of control was stripped away. Even though I didn't need the epidural yet, I planned to get it early and now my plan had changed and I was coming up with a new one as I went along here. I didn't mind at first but I walked 90 minutes already today! I was tired and not knowing how much longer I had left made me want to conserve energy a little! We walked for about 40 minutes and then I told Matt I wanted to go back and ask them more questions. She said I couldn't lie down, but could I just stand and bend over? could I sit? The answers were "yes" so I stayed in the room alternating between the rocking chair and standing. As contractions got a little worse I started asking more specifics about the cervix being behind the head and at some point they stopped trying to explain it to me and just said "your baby is in perfect position, but the sooner your cervix lines up with the baby's head, the easier the rest will be"... and then began the internal conflict of when to get the epidural. Not if, WHEN.
Epidural, or no Epidural?
I was very sure I did not want to feel the pain of pushing, but since I was forced to keep walking for quite a bit after learning I was 4.5cm, a part of me began to get curious. I was seeking answers I didn't even realize I needed until this very moment in time. I needed answers about Raea's labor. So although this is technically Maebels birth story, it really turned out to be an extension of Raea's. I needed to have some sort of measuring stick for what level of difficulty her labor was. I had this "great" idea of waiting until I had just one contraction that reminded me of what I experienced for hours upon hours with Raea. Then, I'd get checked and see where I'm at! This way I would know if I labored through the intensity of a 6cm contraction or an 8cm contraction... or even a 5cm contraction. I didn't care what the result was, I just wanted something tangible. I needed this labor to help me work through letting that baggage go (baggage I literally had no idea I carried). I never knew I was so discouraged by Raea's labor. I knew that in the moments of her labor I had never felt such defeat and such insecurity... but at the time I happily accepted defeat, I happily got the epidural the second I hit 4cm. I happily pushed her out feeling not an ounce of pain. I had lots of people tell me it was the worst kind way to labor, but, was it? Why do I need these answers? I never felt like less of a woman... but I did feel like less of an athlete... and with such big athletic goals ahead... my ego needed to set that record straight.
Between contractions I battled with my ego quietly and out loud with Matt and the nurse. The nurse kept asking me who I was trying to convince that I wanted the epidural. She kept reminding me that she can't make that decision for me and I need to just tell her when. At this point, I was still very much in control of my pain. I was swearing my way through contractions, but recovering well from each one. As the pain escalated, I felt myself let go of my buried disappointment in myself over Raea's labor. It's not like I expected to go natural with Raea (or Maebel), I never did. I never desired to... But I did think I'd at least make it past early labor without begging for mercy! I thought I'd make it far enough that I could at least relate to other people... and I was seeking that experience through this labor. As I contemplated when to tap out, I had one painful contraction and I looked at Matt and said "what am I doing? I think I should just get it"... I wanted him to tell me "okay, just do it" but he said "it's up to you, it's your body"... (such a perfect answer that I didn't want to hear, I wanted someone else to give up for me) but then he said "you're doing so great, this time is much better"... and then the ego turned back on and was like "yeah, you're doing so great!" and since he compared labors, I went back to comparing. Curiosity crept back in and I thought your still not even shaking, you're not throwing up... you're no where near where you got with Raea... keep going... I checked my watch. An abnormal amount of time passed between the last contraction and the upcoming one. I had learned at this point that when that happened the next contraction was much more intense. I braced myself as I felt the wave begin to come. I compare it to hearing the Jaws music... it starts slow and builds and builds... This one contraction was like an attack. It was the first one that lifted me off my chair like I was when I sat in the parking lot of the hospital with Raea's labor. That was enough. In that moment I decided to get checked and unless I was 8cm I was done. I was tired, hungry, and I don't think I needed answers anymore. In that moment I felt enough pain that I went back to what my mom said "just get it"... My mom is the toughest woman ever- if you're just joining me, she's had 8 kids, has run 80 marathons, and has swam for 12.5 consecutive miles... If my mom says to just get it, what the hell am I trying to prove? It was this weird feeling because I already made up my mind to prove nothing with this babys' birth... but I was still trying to prove something to myself about Raea's. I needed to validate the insecurity I remember feeling walking the hallway with Matt two years and 16 days ago. the lowest point in my life... but that's the thing about insecurity, it's gets a hold of you and always makes you feel like you need to prove something- true security doesn't take hold of you. When you are truly secure in yourself you are able to let go of ego, let go of expectations, and let go of "failures" because you know that every experience is just a fleeting moment and that in the next moment you can redefine yourself. I had my cervix checked, but since my baby's head was still in front of the cervix, it's a pretty aggressive check. 5cm. Yup, I'm good. I'm too tired for any more. I know from my experience with Raea that I could go longer if you gave me no option... but I had an option and sometimes strength isn't always measured in what you are able to foolishly endure in adverse situations, but rather how you move through the adversity. I finally was able to let go of that ego and just stop holding on to the past. Epidural PLEASE!
As it turns out, the room next to me was progressing at a similar rate. All that deliberating over when to get the epidural came back and bit me in the ass. The woman next door was a more secure woman than I was. She asked for the epidural earlier and so I had to wait. The first few contractions I waited through I was able to say "okay, only a few more, the epidural will be here soon"... but all of a sudden there was a dramatic shift. My guess is that since the cervix was behind the baby's head, and checking dilation was so aggressive, I progressed very quickly. Maybe this was the moment the cervix "caught up" to the baby's head? I begged for the epidural because at this point the shaking I experienced with Raea was now here. This was the point I said hours earlier that I'd tap out at; the moment I had just one contraction that reminded me of what I experienced for many hours with Raea. I almost threw up... but managed to dodge that one... it would have eventually happened if I went much longer at that level, but the anesthesiologist came in. While she was prepping I sat up on the edge of the bed. Suddenly I had a massive urge to push. I was asked to lie back down so they could check my cervix. If I was 10cm there was no point in getting the epidural. I was 8cm. They asked me again if I wanted it. Hell yes. This was the moment where every part of Raea's labor was behind me. I endured the pain of 8cm contractions for an ungodly amount of time with my first labor, but because I was stuck at 3cm with her, I never experienced the contractions coupled with the urge to push out a baby. I had reached a new pain threshold. Remember, I never wanted to prove anything for this labor. Since I could now put Raea's labor behind me, I finally started focusing on the one in front of me. yes, yes yes, give me this epidural! Let's do this quick so that when I hit 10cm I don't need to feel the pushing! I don't want to feel more pain. I'm good. I have nothing to prove. I have no desire to find out what a natural birth feels like- PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY! I sat at the edge of the bed with very little break in contractions. I tried not to move as they inserted whatever the F they do for the epidural... as soon as it was all set up I looked at the clock and said to myself "with each passing minute this will get easier... only a little more suffering-20 minutes max"... I think they could have put in a placebo and I would have felt better just thinking it was going to get better... I thought of a quote I say to myself often when I'm running "Anyone can suffer through a 5k"... and while I've never felt 5k pain or any running pain or Any pain quite like this, I was trying to convince myself that no matter what the circumstance, 20 minutes is a short amount of time to suffer. Thank God for all those pelvic floor exercises, because I actually suffered for less than 20 minutes.... Just not the way I was expecting.
After getting the epidural and self talking (or swearing) my way through the first 5 of the expected 20 minutes before it all kicked in, a contraction from the depths of hell came. My water broke... and from this point on, in my opinion, there was no break between one contraction and the next. Just constant, constant pain and agony from the pressure of needing to push. I felt slight warmth in my back so the baby was now racing the epidural and I desperately wanted the epidural to win! The anesthesiologist hadn't even finished taping everything completely in place and she said I think she needs to be checked again..." I couldn't stay still anymore, I needed to relieve the pressure. I was checked again and I was 10cm. "Fuuuuckkk! They are going to ask me to push and I still feel everything!!" I was yelling out loud "I need to push! I need to push! I don't care who the fuck catches this baby I need to get it the FUCK out now!" but the voice inside me was yelling "no, fuck no, fuck, fuck, fuck FUCK NO! This is NOT possible with all this pain." The doctor walks in and I yelled again that I needed to push now, and he had no gloves or anything on, he smiled and joked with me (I had seen him just two days before, I liked him and was glad he was on call) and he said "So? push!" I did. Shortly after he was there with gloves and told me to push again. I pushed 3 times I don't think I took a single breath, They kept telling me to take a break but I didn't want to. I couldn't (not to mention, there wasn't really a break between contractions. Like what, one breath?) I pushed through the worst pain I could imagine until I felt the relief of the head being out. Then the shoulders. The hard part was over even though it wasn't completely over.
I will never forget this moment... It's strange to describe (and no one available for photos at this point!), but so essential to the story. After I pushed the head and shoulders out, the baby's hips were still inside me as I waited for another contraction. The Doctor said "would you like to see your baby?" I looked down and could see the face of what I thought was my baby boy. The doctor held up *his hand and waved it at me and said "hi mom, one more push!" I looked at what I thought was a boy, half inside me, half outside of me... I pushed once more and as the baby came out I saw that it was a girl! I felt nothing after that! It could have been the epidural finally kicking in, it could have been adrenaline, it could have been that I was just done with the hard part. I don't know. Matt and I just cried. I can't believe it's a girl! I literally was looking at what I thought was my boy and I watched this beautiful transition from a stranger without a name to Maebel Ann. I never said I wanted a girl, because I would have been happy with a boy too. You genuinely just want a healthy baby. But, part of me really always held out hope to have two girls so they could grow up as sisters close in age like I have. My sister is having a baby 6 weeks from now and someday Raea and Maebel can have that kind of relationship... In the moment I saw it was a girl, I re-wrote this whole story of my life ahead of me in an instant. They say when you die you see your past flashes before your eyes; when Maebel was born I saw my future (of course it was like this really cheesy unrealistic Lifetime movie version, but.... eh, if my future can be like that even for a fleeting moment, I'll take it!) Just like with Raea she nursed right away. She is a MUCH bigger baby (8lbs 9oz!), and her personality is already very different
So did I have a natural labor? NO, Maybe the epidural helped 15%? Maybe it only helped with the stitching after the fact? ... but if I were to do it all over again (which I would totally have a third after 2020) I would not hesitate. I would get the epidural immediately... I'll save my enduring pain for the races I have in the future... Hopefully ones that bring me to the Olympic Trials... but in the meantime I'm going to take the next 6 weeks and focus on enjoying these moments with my two little girls that I can never get back.
Thanks to all of you who followed along with this journey! I wont be posting as frequently on facebook now that the pregnancy is over, but if you want to keep up to date subscribe or follow me on instagram: c_mom_run_fast for postpartum recovery and training.
Welcome to my blog! I've been blogging for a long time on various platforms. My intention has never been to reach the masses, but rather to give myself a chance to reflect and journal. I feel it at least challenges me to be somewhat coherent, however you can expect ramblings and grammatical incorrectness here!
I've recently been diagnosed with CECS and fPAES and had it treated with BOTOX of all things... So I suspect to see more and more people looking for answers with that in the future and hope to continue blogging so there will be easy to access follow-ups as that was helpful for me.