In a true St. Louis baby fashion, Eleanor was not going to enter this world without first making a statement. Because just like the two older ones before her, Eleanor arrived on her terms coupled with a few twists in her birth story.
From our very first OB visit, I made my desire known to do Trial of Labor after Cesarean (TOLAC) and hopefully have a successful Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (VBAC) delivery. My case was a bit tricky considering I already had two prior c-sections and was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GDM) and chronic hypertension (HTN). However, Dr. Jenkins and Dr. Sexton, the two OBs we saw regularly at the Naval Hospital in Camp Lejeune, were very supportive as long as:
1. My GDM and HTN stay relatively managed and under control.
2. Eleanor continues to grow and is not in any type of distress.
3. I go into labor on my own.
Number 1 was "easy." I was taking medication for my GDM to control my fasting numbers but it was otherwise well managed with diet. As for my blood pressure, it was only being monitoring to make sure it is not trending into the 150s.
Number 2 was kept in check through weekly non-stress test (NST). I went to the Maternal Fetal Medicine every Thursday at nine in the morning from the time Eleanor turned 32 weeks gestation to make sure she was doing well.
Number 3. Ah. If there was anything that can throw off this whole thing, this was it.
Because of the (two) incisions in my uterus, induction was not an option. Any artificial stimulation (like Pitocin) to make my uterus contract further increases the risk for uterine rupture at the incision site. I was also only allowed to carry until 38 weeks to avoid more complications that comes with GDM and HTN, mainly intrauterine growth restriction and placenta abruption.
My husband and I really did not want to choose Eleanor's birth day but we also understood the risks. And in the end, having a healthy baby in our arms is what matters.
To appease my desires, Dr. Sexton allowed us to choose a date as late as possible. June 24th.
Eviction date has been set.
Wednesday, June 22nd. I have been nursing a cough for the past week so I made an appointment with my primary care physician. Mainly, I was worried that I would still have this pesky cough while recovering from an abdominal surgery (that's just begging for complications!). Turns out, I actually had wheezing and the difficulty breathing was more than just being 38 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I was put on medication and given an inhaler.
The coughing fits were also causing me to have regular contractions. During my last OB appointment, my contractions were 10 minutes apart. I was comfortable the entire day and the contractions never progressed closer. By 10pm, I was exhausted and gave up on the idea that I will be delivering any time soon.
Thursday, June 23rd. I woke up at 5:33am with some pretty intense contractions. Everything felt different so naturally my anxiety kicked in. Dean was still supposed to go to work but I woke him up at 6:04am and begged him not to leave me. Thankfully, his work was understanding and just asked to be kept updated while he kept me company.
I called the midwife in charge of my weekly NSTs to see if she still wanted me to come in. She wanted to see how close and intense my contractions were so we got everyone dressed and headed to the Naval Hospital.
9:06am. NST showed that I was contracting every 3-5 minutes. I was relieved to know I wasn't just imagining it! The midwife checked my cervix and it was only 3 cm dialated. But with my contractions so close together coupled with my history of c-sections, she had to send me to the labor and delivery unit.
The OB on call gave us two options: take me to the OR now because I am in early-active labor; or go home, walk, eat, labor at home and come back when contractions are 2-3 minutes apart or my water breaks.
I decided to go home.
10:31am. Dean wanted to walk at the mall. The plan was to go home first and get something for me to eat since I haven't eaten at all. But when we got home, I went straight upstairs to our bed and told him I just wanted to lie down.
11:36am. The pain was really intense and all I could do was just lay down and focus on getting through one contraction at a time. My contraction timer app was tracking them at 50-65 seconds long every 3-4 minutes. Dean says I have low pain tolerance (I really do...) so I kept telling myself, it isn't that bad. It is almost over. Just one more contraction. It has only been an hour since you came home and if you go back to the hospital now, you will just be disappointed at your progress.
Just. One. More. Contraction.
11:56am. Pop! I have never jumped out of our bed (pregnant and non-pregnant) as quickly as I did when my water broke. 😂 It's amazing how instinctual it was for my body to know what was going on. I barely made it to our bathroom before my capris were completely soaked. I told Dean, "I either peed my pants or my water broke."
Good to know I still had my sense of humor.
11:59am. I hopped in the shower to clean off and the water felt so, so good. I did not want to get out and really considered just giving birth there. And if it wasn't for my prior history, I really think I would have stayed.
Dean was on the phone with our friend from church asking to see if she could watch the kids since we needed to go to the hospital now. My mom wasn't due to arrive from Indy till later that afternoon. Our friend was also expecting a baby girl and already have two other boys. But that didn't stop her kind heart from saying yes and taking in our minions at such a short notice. We truly have been blessed with a great church family here in North Carolina.
12:29pm. Dean found an awesome parking spot near the main entrance. There is usually a man driving a large golf cart that gives people ride and drops them off at the main entrance. He saw my huge belly and offered us a ride. Dean started to deny his offer but I yelled said yes! I joke now that Dean was determined on having me deliver the baby either at the local Jacksonville Mall or Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital parking lot.
Dean wheeled me into the Labor and Delivery unit and once the nurse saw my face, she said, "Wow, I know that face." Thanks.
The OB on call checked my cervix and it was eight centimeters. Hallelujah! I was relieved that all the pain was actually doing what it was supposed to. I wasn't a wimp. It really hurt because I was close to giving birth!
When the OB was on his way out the door, I heard him asked my husband, "I thought I told you to come here as soon as her water breaks?" "We did. We dropped the kids off to a friend's house and went straight here after."
Everyone couldn't believe how fast I had progressed. I dilated 5 centimeters in less than four hours.
Since I was already eight centimeters, I asked if it was already too late for an epidural. I don't claim to be a brave, strong woman. I know my pain limitations and I was already way past it! The nurse said she will page the anesthesiologist and then she left to get the supplies to start an IV.
And then it happened.
The urge to push.
I don't know exactly how much time progressed. Dean said he noticed a change in my groans and facial expression. I thought I asked him to come get the doctor because this is happening now.
I was still at the triage room so they had to wheel my bed to an actual delivery room. The whole way they kept telling me, "Wait, wait, wait. Don't push yet."
To which I responded, "You all lied to me. You said the anesthesiologist was coming."
For a while that was all I was saying. "You said the anesthesiologist was coming." They were telling me to push because the baby is coming now. "You said the anesthesiologist was coming." I felt a ring of fire. "You said the anesthesiologist was coming." Push, you can do this.
"You said the anesthesiologist was coming!"
One of the nurses was whispering encouraging words on my ear. But all I was thinking was, this is so painful. I don't want to do it anymore. I wanted an epidural.
Honestly, I felt betrayed and I knew I wasn't giving it my all when I pushed because it hurt. Like I said, ring of fire.
And then my sweet husband came to my rescue like he always does. What took him so long to do so, I have wondered a lot since then. He learned over, forehead to forehead, and said, "You got this, babe. You're almost there. Just a couple pushes and you can hold baby Eleanor."
It was enough and just what I needed to snap me out of my pity party.
It hurt and making guttural sounds helped. I remember apologizing between pushes for making such noises. I was also hot. I wanted my gown off.
And then Dean let go of my hand to grab the camera and I thought, really? Now? To which the photographer in me quickly fixed that, yes. Now. You'll want this. (Thank you, love!)
She was here.
Meanwhile the OB was stitching me down there (ouch). I felt my stomach and I remember being sad that it was gone. It was soft and gone. I am no longer pregnant.
And you want to know something else that was so weird to me? The pain immediately stopped as soon as she was out. I don't know if it was the joy of seeing and holding my baby girl. Or all the adrenaline. Or just my imagination. But I had zero pain. Exhausted but the pain was finally over.
The staff were congratulating me for doing so well with my VBA2C. I didn't think I deserved it because of how I initially acted. My husband tells me he has never been so proud and amazed by my strength. My sister says I have officially done it all: c-section under general anesthesia, c-section under spinal block, and natural vaginal birth. It is such a cliché saying but it is true: all the pain and discomfort were worth it because of my sweet reward.
My beautiful Eleanor.