Loyal OBMists may remember the birth story of Nancy’s first daughter, Alice, which can be found here.
Stella Frances was born on Sunday, April 18th at 12:43 AM. She was eight pounds and seven ounces, exactly two pounds heavier than her big sister.
Stella was breech from weeks 34 to 37, and for those three weeks, I prepared myself, mentally and emotionally, for another c-section. Though I chose not to do an External Cephalic Version (ECV) with my first daughter, Alice, I decided to do it this time around. It didn’t work (and it hurt like a bitch). The next day, we took our ironing board, propped it on the couch and I lay down on it, upside down, for 15 minutes. Then came an ultrasound showing that Stella had decided head-down was best, after all.
My labor started on Friday night, three days before Stella’s due date. I was in a bit of denial for a long time–I couldn’t believe that I was really in labor. I was excited and anxious and felt like I was holding the biggest secret in the world. The next morning, I was prepared for the possibility that absolutely nothing could happen, or everything could happen. I had the morning to myself, as Henry had taken Alice out for a few hours. By the time Henry and Alice returned, my contractions were heavier and more regular, to the point where I had stop what I was doing to focus on the contraction. Even then, I had a hard time voicing out loud to Henry that I was in labor. Maybe. I was still saying “maybe” at this point.
I started a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, for the nurses at the hospital. By this point, it was late afternoon and I found myself leaning on the kitchen counter when I felt a contraction coming on, my face resting on my crossed arms. I was also looking for relief for the relentless back pain. Around 5pm, we decided to call my mother and tell her to come over. We put in a call to my father to let him know that I was in labor. When Henry described my condition to my father, who has six children, he was skeptical and suggested that we should be at the hospital at this point. Sure enough–we ended up meeting my mother at the hospital around 7pm.
Once at the hospital, I was checked and told that I was only one centimeter. We had to decide whether to stay or leave, which we were doing when my mother arrived. We decided to leave, and get dinner at our favorite restaurant. On our way there, I suddenly realized that I didn’t want to be in public, that I wanted to labor at home and not have to be uncomfortable at a restaurant. I think I knew, deep down, that I was progressing quickly, that birth was imminent. So, we headed back to the apartment and ordered take-out from instead. I was encouraged to eat and I took a few bites of my salad, like a good girl, but promptly threw everything up. I continued to throw up for the next hour or so. In hindsight, I was going through transition, though none of us realized it at the time. Everyone wanted me to lie down and rest, and conserve my energy but I couldn’t lie in bed. The pain of the contractions and my back (my god, my back!!) was too much.
My mother, who was watching the ballgame, and also observing me, began to suggest that we go back to the hospital. It was 11 or 11:30 at this point, and I was in a lot of pain. Later, my mother would say that it was the cursing that tipped her off, that when I started cursing , it was definitely time to go to the hospital! (Note: I do not remember cursing at all!)
Henry and I left for the short drive to the hospital. The bumpy ride was a relief to my poor back, short-lived as it was–both the ride and the pain relief, that is. As soon as we arrived, I forced myself out of the car and threw up in the parking lot. We made our way up to L&D. I was moaning and carrying on and hollering about my back pain. The nurses had me lie down in the bed, so they could put on the monitors and check the baby’s heart rate. It was the most uncomfortable part of my labor thus far, having to be in that bed and I started hollering to be allowed to stand up–I believe my exact words were, “MAKE IT GO AWAY!” The nurses relented and helped me off the bed.
As they were adjusting my monitors after I got out of bed, my water broke. This made me yell “MY WATER BROKE.” One of the nurses said “what did she say?” I yelled again, “MY WATER BROKE.” With that, they all looked down at the floor, where, indeed, I was standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid. This sent everyone into a frenzy. All the while, I had been begging to be allowed to go to the bathroom and finally, at this point, I was escorted to the bathroom. My sweatpants, soaking wet, came off and I sat on the toilet. For what, I don’t know. I really don’t. I just really wanted to sit on the toilet. Women in labor are weird, what can I tell you?
The midwife wanted to check me at this point, and asked if she could. I agreed, a little worried that I would only be 2 centimeters or something like that. I couldn’t believe my ears when the midwife said that I was at 9. It had only been four hours since I was checked last and found to be at 1! Well, that explained the intense and unbearable pain. I didn’t have to be told to push! I was ready to go. I don’t remember when Katherine showed up but she was there as I propped myself up on all fours on the hospital bed, facing the mattress and gripping the top of it, willing this baby to GET OUT OF ME. I sent telepathic messages to Stella, strongly urging her to get the hell out. For 30 minutes, I pushed and screamed and grunted and generally behaved like an animal, pissed off that her head kept going in and out, which I could feel. Henry and Katherine were a tag-team, relaying information to me from the midwife and nurses, since I wasn’t facing them and didn’t know what they were saying to me.
Finally, I felt that “ring of fire,” and felt Stella’s head emerge. I heaved a huge sign of relief. Once her head came out, the pain all but stopped and the rest of her came out with a few more pushes. Another sigh of relief and I collapsed on the bed, my hard work over. She was born just over an hour after arriving at the hospital, so my mother definitely called that one!
When Stella came out, my first question, I think, was “Is the baby okay?,” followed by “Is it a boy or a girl?” I thought all along that I was having a boy, and I was excited but truth be told, when I found out it was a girl, I was a little relieved, as I thought about the mounds and mounds of girls’ clothing that we have packed away under Alice’s crib and our bed. Stella was placed on my belly after Henry cut the cord. I held Stella as we waited for the placenta to be birthed.
My older sister, who also had a vaginal birth after cesarean, had told me that “it hurts and then it’s over.” I was skeptical at the time but it’s true! It hurts, and then it’s over! And you have a baby in your arms to show for it! I will forever be in awe at my own strength and the primal nature of natural, undrugged birth. At this point, 6 weeks later, I’ve forgotten the pain. I’m not kidding you. Somehow, the intense, unbearable pain becomes not even a memory. It ceases to exist in your mind. It’s a great evolutionary ploy and it works!