I had a relatively uneventful pregnancy until the very end. Some mild morning sickness in the first trimester slowed me down a little. But then the awesomest second trimester ever (or at least I assume, since I've only had one) followed it. I felt fabulous physically, mentally, in every way. I don't think I have ever felt more "on top of the world" in my life than I did during this time. The third trimester brought with it more fatigue and some dramatic emotions (bless my husband's heart), and some pretty remarkable swelling. I felt like a big ol' tomato, and more than one stranger in the grocery store asked about my due date and informed me that they thought I could go at any moment. Thank you. Thank you so much.
But all in all, I still felt okay - at least not out of the ordinary for a full-term pregnant woman - and I began preparing for natural childbirth. Some people (interestingly, most had never been pregnant) told me I was crazy, but I remained confident that my body was made to do this and I could manage the pain. My husband, who is a registered nurse, and my obstetrician both cautioned me to stay open to other forms of childbirth just in case something happened or I had a change of heart during labor. I agreed to this, and learned what I could about natural childbirth while keeping a caveat in my mind for the special situation.
My due date was Friday, Feb. 19, and when I went for my weekly check-up on the previous Tuesday I had not progressed at all. The doctor noticed my swelling, but my blood pressure and other tests were fine. He scheduled me for the next Monday, Feb. 22, to see my regular OB who had been on vacation. If I had not progressed by the 22nd, I planned to ask my doc to wait another week to induce. I wanted to give my body as much time as I safely could to go into labor on its own.
I showed up at 8:50am on the 22nd, and thus began the roller coaster ride. My blood pressure was very high, and they found protein in my urine - both signs of preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that a small percentage of pregnant women can develop late in pregnancy. I also told the doctor for the first time that I had experienced blurry vision (another sign) for the last couple of weeks. I just happened to mention it, as I didn't realize it was related to preeclampsia. Given all of this data, he was noticeably concerned and told me he wanted to deliver my baby "sooner rather than later".
I said, "Well, I was going to ask for another week..." He just looked at me; he obviously did not like that idea. So I said, "...but you're the doctor, so you tell me."
"I'm on call tomorrow," he said, "so I would like for you to check in to the hospital tonight." Right then, I realized that we were going down a different path than natural childbirth and I started to get a little emotional (which was honestly not rare at all during this time), but I held it in. He explained the basic schedule of what was going to happen at the hospital, and then he had to go and ask me how I was feeling! Well, I pretty much lost it then. If my sweet sister, Holly, wouldn't have been there with me, I would have felt even crazier than I already did. I was disappointed, and I was starting to get scared, and she really helped me feel normal. My doc did, too, and he assured me everything was going to be okay. They put me on the baby monitor for a little while, and the baby's heart rate and activity were stable, so he sent me home and told me to get some rest.
Side note :: It is still quite ironic to me that I was tasked with getting some rest on the day before the birth of my daughter.
I did get some rest physically, but mentally it was not even possible. My mom and grandma came over to help me pack my hospital bag (I know, I know...) and do other last minute things, so I could just lay around and wait to go to the hospital. Jeff got home from work around 6pm, and we were out the door at 7:30pm. I checked into the hospital that night, and they started pitocin at 7am the next morning.
I still tried to deliver without an epidural at first, because I was afraid it would slow down my labor. The contractions were manageable at this point - definitely the first stage - and sometimes I wasn't even aware I was having one until I looked at the monitor. At 1pm, my doctor came in and broke my water, and suddenly the contractions were really, really intense. There was almost no down time between contractions, either, and I wasn't mentally prepared for this huge increase in the pain level.
Around 3pm, I asked the nurse to check my progress. I told myself (no one else at this point) that if I was 5cm or less, I would ask for the epidural. She checked, and I was 3cm. Additionally, when she finished she said, "You know, I think that was a booty I just felt. It wasn't hard. It was soft." I felt a wave of fright come over me, and I whispered, "C-section." No one had said anything about that to that point; we weren't even 100% sure that she was breech. I believe it was the Holy Spirit who put those words in my mouth so I wouldn't be totally freaked later.
My nurse went to get the charge nurse, who check me as well and did an ultrasound and confirmed that Ava was breech. Then they called my doctor, who was there in 30 min, and he checked me AGAIN (3 times in less than an hour) and did another ultrasound. Oh, and at some point in there, they inserted the epidural. It's hard for me to remember the order of everything during that time. This definitely helped take the edge off the contractions, though, for which I was grateful. My doctor told me that my baby was frank breech and wasn't descending at all, so he wanted to just do a C-section. He led us in a prayer, then said he would be back in a couple hours to perform the surgery. I was so anxious for him and the nurses to leave the room so I could just be alone with Jeff and my mom, and as soon as they were out the door, I just lost it. I don't think I have ever cried that hard; I just needed some way to let it all out.
And I don't remember much of the next couple of hours. I may have slept some. The doctor got back to the hospital at 5pm, but we had to wait for the surgery room until 6pm due to another C-section. Finally they wheeled me in there. I do remember feeling good at this point...much less pain, and I knew I would see my little girl very soon. The doctor told me that he was going to pinch me, and if I feel anything I must tell him. Well, I really felt it. So they dosed the epidural again. Five minutes later, another pinch, and I still felt it. They did this two more times and it still didn't take completely, so they decided to do a spinal block. After everything else, this was the final straw for me mentally and emotionally, and I consciously decided to just shut down.
I didn't feel the insertion of the spinal block at all (thank God), and while it caused some nausea, it worked. Five minutes later, our baby was born. And while I was so far from the natural childbirth that I wanted, I did feel it when the doctor pulled her out; it felt like someone was pushing down on my chest. When I heard her cry, I cried from joy and relief. I have never praised the Lord like I did in those moments.
One very cool thing was that Jeff was the first one to see her and talk to her. The doctor had to give her to the NICU nurses to make sure she was breathing properly and had all the meconium cleaned out of her airways. I sent Jeff over to the warming table because I wanted her to at least hear someone she could recognize. I remember him saying, "Hey, baby girl. This is your daddy. Everything is going to be okay." He just said it over and over. What a wonderful moment for them to share! He was so calm and reassuring to her, and to me. The first time I held her was special, too. I couldn't believe how much I already loved her, and as soon as I saw her! My heart just ached, like it does when you fall in love...in fact, I was falling in love. I remember thinking, "Nothing will ever be the same."
And it hasn't.
[Here's a pic of our little Jelly Bean just moments after her birth. They had just taken her foot prints. Jeff is holding her hand. Also, the position of her legs will give you some indication of how she was arranged in the womb.]