My big boy (8lbs 14ozs, 21 ins!) Jonah Levi arrived by successful VBAC at 4:41 this morning (January 7, 2013). He is perfect, the birth was amazing, and I couldn't be happier. God is so faithful!
(This is a rough draft copy of my birth story, which I will continue to revise and add on to...It is my hope that by sharing my story, I will be able to encourage women who are exploring their childbirth options to do what is best for their bodies and their babies. God created us to do such an extraordinary thing, and the experience of childbirth is such a beautiful priviledge. I pray that women will be inspired by my testimony.)
I began feeling "braxton hicks" on Thursday, 1/3. A friend of mine came over with her son for a playdate, and we enjoyed a couple of hours of girl-talk and lunch. The contractions weren't painful or timeable, but they were definitely noticeable. We joked about the possibility of me having the baby that weekend, but I still thought I'd most likely go "overdue" again, like I did with my daughter.
Friday, 1/4 - My friend/doula Suzie and I went to the mall together. I was still experiencing these fairly regular and strong "braxton hicks", and a couple of them even stopped me in my tracks during our mall adventure, scaring the crap out of Suzie and all the people around us, haha. That night the contractions became consistant at 10-15 mins apart, but still not painful. I was able to sleep through most of them, and was still referring to them as "braxton hicks". I felt encouraged that my body was preparing for labor, and embraced the idea that this "prodromal labor" could last for days or even a couple of weeks.
Saturday (1/5) afternoon, I kept myself busy to distract myself from these "fake" contractions. After dropping Nick off at work, I went to the mall for a couple of hours, had lunch at CPK with Phoenix, and then drove 30 minutes (one way) to & from a playdate. The contractions were becoming more and more noticeable, but still not painful. Throughout the day, I lost lots of my mucous plug and had bloody show with each bathroom trip. (Sorry for the TMI...Pregnancy can be so gross sometimes! Haha)
Saturday night I continued to experience what I was CONVINCED was "fake" or "prodromal" labor, although now the contractions were timeable at 6 minutes apart, and I couldn't sleep through them. At this point I started getting a little vocal/moany during contractions. I slept as much as I could in between waves, until finally around 1am on Sunday 1/6, I moved into the living room. I bounced on my labor ball, listened to worships music, texted my sister, babysitter, and Suzie to let them all know what was going on...I wrote a short blog entry, and ate some toast. I finally started to think that Maybe this was "it".
Around 6am I decided to lay down and try to sleep some. While sleeping, the waves spaced back out to 10-15 minutes apart but were still waking me up. Discouraged, I decided to send my husband to work and to go to church service.Suzie came over to help me with Phoenix, and I texted my babysitter and told her to go on with her day, nothing exciting was happening after all.
As I walked into church, I heard during announcements "Remember Meghan Crabb in your prayers today, as she is in the hospital having the baby!" (We had texted a couple people at the beginning of the morning...and never texted them back when we decided it wasn't time after all). I was CRACKING UP as I walked in the sanctuary and saw everyones confused faces! During praise & worship, I worshipped God with all of my heart, thanking Him, praying that I would glorify Him, pleading with Him to open my mind, heart, soul, and body in preperation of the upcoming birth. During this time, I had a couple of waves and sang through them which was an awesome, spiritual experience. During the message, I moved into the "nursing mothers room" and began timing the contractions again...3-4 minutes apart! Now things were getting exciting! I stayed throughout the service, chatting with the ladies in the nursing mother's room in between contractions. The message that morning was about "staying connected to the vine", which was a common theme throughout the rest of my labor. I was consistently reminded that I needed to draw my strength from God. The men at church were SO funny, they got so alarmed every time I needed to stop for a contraction! At one point, a friend had come up to tease me about laboring at church when a Very strong wave hit me - I leaned into her and she held me up while I moaned through it in the middle of the sanctuary. I could tell everyone was concerned I was about to have the baby right there or something! When we left church, I felt at complete peace and knew it was "time", but was also still in no hurry to get to the hospital.
Somebody had parked directly behind us, blocking us in, so I stood outside the car for a few contractions, went back in to go pee, and joked around with Suzie while we waited for that person to move. While it was slightly irritating that someone blocked us in, I also thought it was probably God's way of slowing me down so I didn't rush to the hospital too quickly.
We went home for lunch (I only ate an apple), I fed Phoenix, and we called Nick to come home from work. Suzie's mom drove over to babysit, and once everyone was fed and Nick changed out of his work clothes, we were off.
The whole way to the hospital, even though contractions were 3-5 min apart, I kept saying to my husband..."I don't know, I'm afraid they're gonna send us home. It doesn't feel painful enought to be real!" Thankfully, my dear loving husband knew better and continued on his way. When we checked in, I was 4cm dialated and fully effaced..this baby was coming!!!
[Walking into L & D, there is this little button you have to push and the nurse asks "How may I help you?" before she opens the doors for you. I stood there perplexed for a moment, and then responded "Uhmm.....Im here to have a baby?" Hahaha.]
It was strange to be in some in-between spot here -- Feeling at peace in my soul, but completely doubtful in my mind.
But God is always faithful and He brought me through it.
Right away the doctor wanted to break my water. I said no. Two hours later, she checked me and I was at a six. She asked again, and I said no. I was doing really well laboring with Suzie and Nick and didn't want to interrupt the flow of things with an intervention.
I quickly progressed to 8 cm, 4 hours after our arrival to the hospital. Until about 7cm, there was lots of laughter, joking, loving, dancing, and eating going on in our delivery room. Nick, Suzie, and I were truly enjoying this time together and the only emotion that filled that room was excitement. I worshipped loudly through contractions, keeping my mouth open and moaning (I believe there is a correlation between open mouth/open cervix. It seemed to work for me!). We went for one walk up and down the halls, noticing that I was the Only laboring woman in the entire L&D ward.
As transition approached, though, I decided it was time to start getting serious. We turned on some worship music, turned off the lights, and got quiet. It was an awesome time of praise, allowing God's presence to fill my heart and comfort my body with each contraction. Suzie had brought these awesome flameless candles. The room felt so serene and relaxing and we had an awesome flow going - As a contraction approached, I would simply moan - never had to say a word - and one of them (Nick or Suzie) would immediately be at my side, comforting me, holding me, supporting me as I breathed through it. It was so nice to have two wonderful support people who were so In Tune with my needs.
[One time, as Nick held me during a contraction, I started to bite him! Poor guy! He was so good, too...just letting me do whatever I needed to manage my pain.]
At this point, the babysitter texted us that she had to leave. It must have been around 6 or 7 pm, but I really have no idea...I lost all sense of time during my labor. We all discussed who would go home to be with Phoenix, and agreed that it would be best for Suzie to stay with me and Nick to go home. I was so sad for him to leave. After he left, I broke down crying in the middle of a contraction. Things got really crazy and we knew we were hitting transition. I cried "I don't want Phoenix to hate me!"
A few contractions later, I peed on the bed.
The next contraction, I peed on the floor. (And Suzie's shoes).
I was totally losing control of my body and managing the contractions was taking ALL of my concentration.
I went to use the bathroom, and this was when all clothing came off - Not to be put back on until after the birth. I told Suzie I wanted my skirt, so she spent 5 minutes or so digging through all of our bags to find it. When she finally handed it to me, I sobbed "I dont even want it anymore!" and gave it back to her. I was a total wreck at this point.
The doctor came in and I was at 8cm. She told me that if I let her break my water, the baby would be here in a half hour. OF COURSE I said okay.
Soon after, I felt the urge to push. They checked me and I was still only 8cm and the baby had dropped into a really bad position and was stuck, so I was trying to stop myself, and it was extremely painful. We sat like this for a few hours, contractions almost on top of one another and feeling pushy. For a while (I have no idea how long, it felt like eternity) they had me laying on my side, with the bed laid back (so I was on a sort of upside-down angle, to move the baby back up out of the birthing canal to reposition) which made it near impossible to manage the contractions - I was just counting through them in pain. Finally, I broke. I came to the end of myself and begged God for His divine intervention.
Sometime during this, Nick came back - My brother in law was able to be home with Phoenix, and she was in bed. I had no sense of time, but I figured it must have been 9pm or so if Phoenix was asleep.
After saying a prayer with my husband and Suzie, we decided that the best way to relax my body enough to help baby re-position was with an epidural. This was probably the hardest part of the labor so far. I felt like a failure, but I knew it was the only way to stay out of the OR at this point. My body was tired and there was no relaxing to be had with such strong contractions and the urge to push. I cried while they got the room prepped for the epidural, and Suzie asked me "are you sure you want this?" I sobbed and sobbed, saying "Im sorry I let you down. I let everyone down. I just cant do this right now".
Placing the epidural was pure hell. They made Nick and Suzie leave, and I was alone with a nurse and the anesthesiologist. The contractions were on top of each other, but I had to sit perfectly still on the edge of the bed, bent over my belly - squishing the baby - And crying. I moved once during a contraction, and the needle hit a vein. He had to start over again. The entire time I was wondering why it had come to this...Why did I need this epidural...Was I making the wrong choice...Was I headed to the OR. I was in so much pain, so uncomfortable, so alone, and so doubtful.
Once the epidural was in place, I was able to rest. When the cathater was placed, I released a ridiculous 1400 ml of urine! How was it even possible to have all that, plus a baby, and a placenta, in there..and not even realize I had to pee?!? We were astonished! We also thought that perhaps it was part of the reason the baby was stuck in such a weird position. The nurse helped me into positions conducive to repositioning baby, and I slept there for a couple of hours. When she checked me again, I was ready to push! Suzie made a comment around this time about the baby having Jan 7th as a birthday, and I was so out of touch with what time it was that I exclaimed "No Way! I'll die if this goes on past midnight!"....And she told me, It IS midnight!!! I had no idea it had been so long! Everything had been seeming to move so fast to me. We turned off the epidural, and as soon as the feeling arrived back into my legs, I was up and about - Changing positions, pushing, and getting very excited. I wasn't in a terrible hurry and was taking the time to soak it all in...learning how to push, resting in between contractions, trying out the birthing stool, birthing bar, etc. This lasted for a couple of hours before a gush of meconium came out. The nurse got more serious with me at this point and said, "We need to get this baby out soon."
I immediately became discouraged...I was so afraid to end up in the OR again, after all of this hard work. I tried every position possible, and nothing. He wasn't moving. The nurse told me she thought I'd push best on my back. I fought it so hard - Convinced that I'd done SO much research, there was NO way that would be the best way to push! But after an hour or two of doing it 'my' way with no progress, I gave in. I laid down on my back, and within a few pushes, I could see the head!!! I couldn't believe it was working!!!
Now this part of labor was the most exhausting. I was completely drained. My heart rate was accelerating, and the baby's started dropping. The doctor came in and told me it was time...I had to do this. So I did. After allowing an episiotomy, I was ready to do this. I have no idea how long I pushed for. It felt like hours, it must have been two or so..and we did take a couple of breaks.
But I pushed. I pushed like there was no tomorrow. I felt like I was going to burst. Everything on my body hurt, and I just wanted this baby OUT. With the last few contractions (Though I didn't know at the time that I was as close as I was) I was yelling "Just get it out! Use the vacuum or something! I can't do it!"
To which my doctor responded, "I'm not doing anything - You are doing this. You are doing great".
I was immediately encouraged and remembered that GOD was with me. He had put this birthing team in place for me and He would bring me to the end of this. I remembered Isaiah 66:9-"Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?"
So I pushed with all of my might. I didn't even know I had this kind of physical strength. I was so focused that I totally missed watching him come out, even though the mirror was in place and I had been watching for most of the pushing. I just remember looking down at the table after a giant, exhausting push, and there was a baby there!! Later I found out that he was born "sunnyside up" (occiput posterior position). After he was out, I immediately fell back in the pillows and rested...I was more tired than I've ever been. I looked up, and there was Nick on my left, and Suzie on my right. Both of them were crying, still holding my legs up. I felt surrounded by love and joy. It hadn't quite hit me yet that I had done it - I had a successful VBAC! I was just SO tired!
He was having trouble breathing from the meconium, so they quickly cut his cord and took him to the other side of the room to be examined. I got stitched up (I ended up with a second degree episiotomy), and delivered the placenta. My husband leaned down to kiss me and announced proudly to the room "It's a Penis!!!" (He always has a way with his words :-) )
Delivering the placenta was weird for me...It was huge! The doctor started pulling the cord and a nurse was pushing my belly, and I kept saying "No dont do that, I want to deliver it naturally...don't pull the cord." But the doctor completely ignored me and kept doing it without so much as a response. Suzie intervened and said "Stop, she said not to do that!" And then the doctor looked up and said "Listen, you're bleeding a lot and we need it to stop. We need it out now." I'm not sure to this day if there was really a problem or not, I was very confused and felt completely detached from the experience. I let them do what they needed to do and stared across the room at my baby boy - being poked and prodded at by the NICU team, making this horrible struggling noise, unable to catch a good breath. The nurses reassured me it sounded worse than it was...He was going to be okay, he had just swallowed some meconium.
I was finally able to hold him after 45 minutes. I immediately took him out of his blanket, took my bra off, and let him play around with nursing. They told me not to expect him to latch right away, but he did! He was born a great nurser. :-) Everyone left the room, Nick went home, and Suzie and I fell asleep with baby on my chest.
And so this was the end of my VBAC journey - At a hospital sporting a 42% csection rate and 8% VBAC rate - Three days of prodromal labor - 14 hours at the hospital, Artificial rupture of membranes, meconium, epidural - All odds against me - God carried me through. He kept His Holy promise, and fulfilled my heart's desire to give birth.
God's presence was overwhelming in the midst of my pain, my struggle, my excitement, and my joy. I've never felt as close to Him as I did when I had gotten to the end of myself - the last stages of this labor, when I had nothing left to give - He stepped in, and He took over. He gave me HIS strength, HIS courage, HIS spirit - And I was able to overcome. I am so thankful for His faithfulness and love for me. (Isaiah 40:31 "But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.")
We chose the name Jonah pretty easily after birth. Nick had recently read the book of Jonah and really liked it. The stubbornness of our son's delivery seemed to be pretty appropriate with the story of Jonah - Who was also a stubborn guy. We also thought that the irony of my labor lasting 3 days was just too much to ignore. So we settled quickly. Levi is my husband's middle name. Jonah Levi. He is so perfect and his name fits him well.
Although I couldn't help but ask after we settled....Does this mean I'm a whale?