One year later – Isabelle’s birth story.

Isabelle was born a year ago this week. Can you believe it?! I never really wanted to write a birth story for Isabelle because it took me a long time to process her birth story and I was pretty sad about it for a long while. I was so happy that I had a healthy baby, obviously, but also frustrated that my body just couldn’t seem to have babies without a lot of interventions!

Isabelle's (Complicated) Birth Story

However, time has a way of numbing things, and I feel ready to write it all down. For those of you who are interested…

Here’s a not-so-brief recap of my birth story (featuring Isabelle).

+ I was feeling defeated once I got to 41 weeks pregnant, because I had been hoping that I wouldn’t need to be induced and my OB was talking about induction. I prayed that I wouldn’t get to that point. Our plan was to wait until 42 weeks and then break my water to see if we could get labor started (I was already 3cm dilated so the idea was that we could just kick start the contractions). And then we’d try pitocin and all of that good stuff as necessary. Since I was induced with Clara and it ended up in a c-section and her being born in critical condition (who knows if it was all because of the induction but that’s what ended up happening), I was not excited to potentially have a repeat experience.

+ I was also anxious because, similar to my experience with Clara, Isabelle (well, Baby Beni, as we were calling her) never dropped into my pelvis. I talked to my OB, doula, chiropractor, and even the Spinning Babies guru to help figure out why this is. I even went to a Spinning Babies workshop (at the encouragement of my OB, who was also there) to get some opinions about why my baby wasn’t dropping. The educated guess: my back was curved in such a way that was pushing the baby too far forward to drop into my pelvis. This was hard news to process because I heard “c-section” which I wanted to avoid. However, I was optimistic that if the contractions were strong enough, we could try some different positions during labor to get that baby down and out.

+ Thankfully, contractions started on their own in the early morning hours (2:30am) of Friday morning. I immediately woke Tim up and was so darn excited! We had been talking about being induced on Sunday, but it looked like I wouldn’t need that! This was a major win!

+ We called our doula when the contractions seemed to be getting stronger and I knew I was FINALLY (after 41 weeks and 5 days!) in labor. I was ready to have a baby.

+ By 6am the contractions had gotten pretty strong. All I remember was walking around the house and leaning on Tim during the contractions. I was too excited to rest, eat, drink… basically everything I was supposed to be doing. Our doula came over at 8am but left for a while and came back at 12:30pm, when I was starting to have more trouble handling the contractions myself. At 2pm we left for the hospital, convinced that my contractions were long enough and far enough apart to be admitted. We thought it was active labor – go time!

+ We were wrong. When I checked into the hospital at 3pm, I was only at 3cm, 60%, and -2. Basically, I was at the exact same place I was at the day before when I had gone in for a 41.5 week checkup and was at 3cm, -3. The resident who was seeing me asked if I wanted to go home and labor there to which I responded OH HECK NO. I mean, at that point I was in a ton of pain and could barely get through the contractions, which were frequent and very strong.

+ At 4pm I started experiencing back labor. OHMYGOSH guys. I had zero back labor with Clara and I did not understand what I was even feeling. There was no pain in my actual back, instead it felt like it was in my very very low back / tailbone. I guess Baby Beni shifted or something because all of a sudden there was back labor and it was the worst. Just the worst.

+ At 4:30 I projectile vomited all over everyone in the room. So that was a lovely moment. I still remember standing up with all of these people around me and just throwing up, with no notice, EVERYWHERE. There was no time to even grab a bucket. Childbirth is so glamorous.

+ By 5pm I was begging for drugs. All of the drugs. I knew the magic of the epidural from my labor with Clara and I wanted to stop all of the pain ASAP. I felt like I couldn’t handle one more second of pain and I wasn’t progressing, so I knew I needed to rest. My labor and delivery with Clara was really rough, and the part that made me the most upset was that I was so exhausted by the time I had her (via c-section) that I blacked out for parts of it. I just have no memory of some of that day and I felt so out of it that I was almost emotionless. Anyway. I knew that I wanted the epidural so that I could get some rest and be lucid for the actual delivery. My ideas of having a calm, natural, waterbirth went right out the window.

+ Epidurals are magic and I felt great for a while,  although I kept throwing up so they gave me Zofran. By 7:30pm, I was asleep. And then I woke right up at 9:30pm and by 10:30pm had to press that magic button to get more drugs because I was feeling increasing pressure with every contraction.

+ By 11pm I was 7cm, 100%, but still a dang -2. Baby Beni wasn’t dropping! I kept taking Zofran and kept pushing that glorious button for my epidural.

+ At 11:45pm, I was asleep.

+ At 2:30am I was at 8cm, 100%, and a -2. We had been talking about whether the OB should break my water during an exam to see if that would help Baby Beni to drop, but then it did break while she was checking me, so that solved that! I couldn’t feel anything at all, but it was messy. I’m so thankful for nurses who are willing to deal with such a messy process as childbirth, and all it involves!

+ By 6am we decided to try Pitocin to see if stronger contractions could get the baby down. It was basically determined that I was having tons of painful contractions, but they just weren’t doing enough. By 8:30am, nothing had changed, even with the Pit. There was talk of an IUPC to test the strength of the contractions and the whole thing was starting to make me frustrated and nervous. I just couldn’t understand why my body couldn’t push this baby out. I’m so thankful that I had a doula with me to help me understand what my options were and what likely scenarios could play out. My regular OB wasn’t on call, so it was nice to have someone I knew help me through the entire process, as some decisions needed to be made. The OBs and residents and nurses were also super helpful!

+ By 9am I was in a ton of pain because the epidural wore off and my butt and tailbone hurt A TON.

… And this is where Tim’s notes end! I had him take notes on his phone this time around because after Clara’s birth I had so many questions and realized that the nurses took almost no notes about what my labor was like, which might have helped me better process the whole event. In any case, Tim’s notes ended around 9am and ‘Baby Beni’ was born around 1pm… and so the remainder of the notes for the next four hours or so are based solely on what I can remember.

+ At some point we decided the epidural wasn’t working and they would have to re-position it. There was a different anesthesiologist working and he came in, introduced himself, and attempted to put in another epidural. The back labor was so intense that I was actually screaming and crying and I couldn’t get it under control. I basically remember being hysterical. Tim tried to put pressure on my tailbone and then when he got tired the doula would try and I was basically begging people to just put as much pressure as they could on my butt muscles and tailbone. I can’t even explain it, but putting pressure on it helped a bit.

+ What didn’t work, however, was the epidural. After about an hour, the anesthesiologist came in to try to put in another epidural. Which also didn’t work. I think he tried it about four times, and I received zero relief from the back labor. I was actually getting mad at the poor man because he couldn’t relieve my pain and he couldn’t tell me why he couldn’t relieve my pain. I think he said something to the effect of “well I’ve never had this happen…” which was not reassuring. Tim said he was a very nice man, but I just remember being so irrationally mad at him.

+ At some point the OB checked me and I was at 10cm so she said I could push! Yay! I was so relieved to hear this that I almost cried. I pushed for an hour but it felt like 3 seconds. I barely remember it. I knew that it wasn’t working because I didn’t feel any pressure at all. It just didn’t feel right. Then after an hour, the OB recommended we stop and wait for a while before trying again, since the baby wasn’t dropping – STILL.

+ At this point, since the epidural wasn’t working, Tim looked at me and called it – c-section time. We had made the decision weeks before that we wanted to ask for a c-section before it became an emergency (as it was with Clara) and I told Tim that he should help me make the call, since I can be stubborn and not really ‘with it’ when I’m sleep deprived and in pain and am feeling generally overwhelmed.

+ As a little bit of an added bonus, my normal OB was on call by this time, so she came in to do the c-section herself.

+ They prepped me for the c-section, except I could still feel my legs and the back labor and I was NOT comfortable with that. I told the OB that I could still feel everything and she told me that it was okay if I could feel my legs and back pain as long as I couldn’t feel my front (not comforting). But then she pinched the skin on my belly and I yelled out and she determined that anesthesia wasn’t working and we needed to go for a new plan… which meant that I needed to be put under general anesthesia.

+ Tim was rushed from the room and they put a mask over my mouth and I woke up later to see a bunch of faces peering down at me. (It was not exactly what I pictured the birth of Baby Beni to be like). I asked if the baby was okay and a nurse said “she’s doing great!” (or something to that effect) and that was how I found out Baby Beni was a girl! I started crying tears o’ joy immediately.

+ Even though I had always said I’d be happy with a boy, I so very much wanted Baby Beni to be a girl. I was a weepy mess as they wheeled me in to see her. Later, my doula told me that she shot the nurse a look and tried to correct her by saying “the BABY is doing great!” but I had already caught on. The plan had been for Tim to reveal the sex to me, but as did everything else in the labor plan, it went out the window.

+ Seeing Isabelle Rose for the first time was magical, but surreal since Tim was already holding her and I felt like I wasn’t even there when she was born. She was completely bruised up from trying to get through my pelvis. She was also 10 lbs. TEN FREAKIN POUNDS. Or 9 lbs 15 oz, offically.

+ Guys. I’m only 95 lbs. So how I make 10 lb babies… I just don’t know.

+ I’ll never forget the moment Clara met Isabelle. She was so excited. I was so excited. Tim was so excited. It was the best.

+ Fast forward a few days… typical hospital recovery, nothing special. Isabelle was healthy and life was great. But then… spinal headaches.

+ It was generally thought that I was getting them because so many holes had been poked for the attempted epidurals that some fluid leaked through one of them. They didn’t want to do blood patches on all of them, so they said I’d have to wait for the headaches to go away on their own. Lovely.

+ Basically I went home with a huge newborn, excited toddler, tired husband, and was unable to even sit up. I can best explain spinal headaches as a migraine that went away (for the most part) if I was lying flat. And my neck hurt so much it felt like I had been in a car accident. And my tailbone and butt muscles were completely bruised from the back labor and all of the pressure. Actually, my tailbone hurt for months afterwards. I was a mess. Not to mention all of the ‘regular’ c-section recovery stuff.

+ I had a masseuse come over to attempt to loosen some of my back muscles. (She brought her table with her and even let Isabelle lie next to me so I could nurse her while the masseuse did her magic!) I loved the massage, but it didn’t produce lasting effects.

+ Finally, I went to a craniosacral specialist and my headaches went away the next day. I have no idea whether it was coincidence or not but I was so darn happy. Even the c-section pain meds and lying down and drinking tons of caffeine couldn’t keep these spinal headaches away, so when they suddenly disappeared I was so freakin’ relieved.

And that’s it. That’s the story of how Isabelle came into the world.

Isabelle's (Complicated) Birth Story

I’m satisfied that I allowed my body to go into labor on its own and that I did everything, EVERYTHING I could to try to deliver my baby naturally and with as few interventions as possible. However, I obviously ended up needing a ton of interventions.

If I could do it again, knowing everything I know now, I would have waited until my body went into labor and then went straight to the hospital for a c-section. I like the idea of my baby telling me when (s)he wants to be born, but I also know that my body simply cannot get these huge babies out.

This is one of the main reasons that I don’t ever want to be pregnant again, but that’s a different post for a different time.

It’s not a magical story. My labor and delivery were really hard in many different ways and I’m glad that I received so much support and great medical care. I’m thankful that Isabelle was healthy and that I was able to cuddle her without the wires + monitors that Clara had attached to her for the first few days. I’m blessed that I live in a country and a time that allows me to have a tough labor but live through it, with a very live baby. I don’t take it for granted that in other circumstances, both of my labors/deliveries would have killed me and the babies.

I wish I had a different labor and delivery story. I very much wanted this delivery to redeem my last one. (Clara’s birth story is here.) I was hoping that the complications with Clara happened because my water broke before contractions started, then I was induced, and then her heart rate went crazy before she could drop. However, it looks like neither baby could ever have dropped into my pelvis and that in itself are where the complications begin.

Before I sign off on this verrrry long and not-so-entertaining post, I want to say that I believe birth stories matter. The phrase “at least you are both healthy!” goes without saying, and I don’t discount that, however, I think we need to acknowledge that some moms have pretty awful birth experiences. It’d be like saying “at least you got married!” after someone’s disastrous wedding. I think it’s okay to be sad that an event didn’t go as expected or desired. I had plans for both of my girls’ births. I wanted them to be magical experiences. I wanted to be present. I wanted to see them come out of me. I wanted Tim to cut the cord and announce the gender… I’ll probably always be disappointed that I will never get to have some of those experiences. However, that being said, I held both of my babies today and that in itself is magical. I can mourn the past events and also let them go and focus on the blessings I have in my present.

Isabelle's (Complicated) Birth StoryThe end. Or rather, it was the beginning.

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