I know I don’t write much (or really, at all) here anymore. However, the overall story told on this blog would not be complete without including the details of Quentin’s birth. So I am returning to this space to tell one more birth story.
On Friday, October 3, I went to my OB for my 39 week checkup. In my prior checkup, I was barely 1 cm dilated and 60% effaced, but I’d been contracting off an on throughout the week, so I was hopeful the contractions had been productive. To my dismay, I made only slight progress. I had gone from “barely 1 cm” to a “loose” cm, and I was the same amount effaced. However, there was 1 big improvement, and that was that I had dropped extremely low, which my OB said was a very good sign. He stripped my membranes, telling me it would likely put me into labor or get me close to it. I had hoped for labor, which I didn’t get. However, I did get the “close to it”.
I went back to work that day, waiting for the contractions that many who’d had their membranes stripped told me to expect. Nothing happened until around 7 that evening, at which point the regular contractions started and continued throughout the night, allowing me little sleep. I was very hopeful something was going to happen the next day. In fact, my husband woke up early to pack his hospital bag, and we even made arrangements for Liam and Elena’s overnight care. Then, as if out of nowhere, the contractions all but stopped.
I was frustrated and disappointed by the stopped contractions. My goal for this pregnancy was to avoid another c-section, and in order to have a successful VBAC, I knew my body would need to at least act like it was headed into labor on its own. My OB was willing to let me go a week past my due date, but that concerned me too, knowing that Liam and Elena had both been nearly 8.5 lbs at 39 weeks. I was afraid if I went to 41 weeks, I would be birthing a 9.5 lb baby, and I doubted my ability to do that. The last thing I wanted was to go through labor and have a c-section at the end.
My OB checkup for the following week had been scheduled for Wednesday, October 8, but when Monday arrived, I was too impatient. I had to know if all that contracting had at least done something. Fortunately, there was an opening at 10:45 a.m., and so I changed my appointment time. My thought was also that if my OB stripped my membranes again only a few days after doing it the first time, it would perhaps send an even stronger message to my body to get things going. He also told me that if it didn’t put me into labor this time, he was confident it would cause enough change as to make my body favorable for induction, so we scheduled that for October 10, just in case.
I arrived at my appointment, and learned that I was still only dilated 1 cm, but I had moved from 60% effaced to 80% effaced. I had hoped for more, but was satisfied with that progress since it had only been 3 days since my prior check. My OB stripped my membranes again, and this time I immediately started feeling contractions. I went back to work, even though the contractions made it very difficult to concentrate at times. They continued in regularity through the night, resulting in another night of little sleeping for me.
The next morning, I was afraid to get out of bed, worried that getting up and moving around would cause my contractions to stop. I got up and started to get ready for work and the kids ready for daycare, but the contractions kept up in regularity and intensity. They were about 5-8 minutes apart, so not quite active labor, but still very regular. After some deliberation, I decided I should stay home from work, because some of the contractions were painful enough to not trust myself behind the wheel of a car. I told my boss that I would come in later if things subsided as they had the previous Friday.
I sat down at the desk and finished editing a photo session I owed a friend, and by the time I finished it was after 11, and things were getting quite painful; however, the contractions weren’t getting any closer together. I called my OB’s office and asked if I should come in for another check, and they recommended I go to the hospital. I called Nathan, and he left work to come get me. We arrived at the hospital around 2 p.m. He headed back to work, and I told him I’d call him as soon as I knew whether they would be keeping me.
Once I got checked in, the first thing they did was do a cervix exam. I was still around 80% effaced, but was 2 cm dilated. They told me the only way to know if I was in active labor was to keep me for a little while and do another check a few hours later. If I continued to make progress, they’d keep me. Otherwise, they said they would likely let me go home, but they expected I would be back by the next day if that happened.
They hooked me up to the monitors, which confirmed my regular contractions. They also wanted to get a good reading of the baby’s heartbeat. If everything looked ok, they would have me take a walk for an hour or so, come back and get checked again, then decide whether to officially admit me.
After a little bit of waiting, the resident doctor came in to talk to me about the baby’s heart rate. He was having some minor decels when I had contractions, which raised a bit of a red flag. He called my OB’s office, and they said to go ahead and admit me, because they wanted to keep an eye on things. Of course, this caused me more than a small amount of panic.
I got checked into my room around 4:30, and at 5:30 they decided to go ahead and start Pitocin on the lowest possible dosage (level 1) to help bring my contractions closer together. They checked me an hour later, and I had progressed to a 3 by this point, so we knew I was definitely in active labor.
The nurse kept recommending an epidural, because our baby continued to have decels. They weren’t worried, because he kept recovering from them. But, if that were to change, and the need for an emergency c-section should arrive, if I didn’t have an epidural in place, then I would need full anesthesia. I hated the thought of getting the epidural so soon, because I was managing the pain just fine. However, I also wanted to make things easier the need for a c-section did arise. So I went ahead and requested the epidural. My request was timely, because shortly after, the labor pains became very close together and much more intense. My water also broke around this time, so I knew things would only become more painful until his arrival.
They checked me again shortly after 9 p.m. This time, I was 4 cm dilated. Based on Liam’s labor, I figured I still had several more hours. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t due to the stress of the decels. I knew the doctors and nurses were watching me closely, so I’m not sure what I thought my vigilance was meant to add to all that, but my worry was great, and so sleep was out of the question.
Shortly after 11 p.m., his heart rate dropped down to 85 bpm, which is extremely low for a baby. Not only did it drop down, but it wasn’t coming back up. The nurse ran in, and the next thing I knew they were putting an oxygen mask on me and a team of doctors and nurses rushed into the room. Thankfully, his heart did eventually recover, but it kept dropping down very low, so I knew something was going to have to happen fast. I expected them to tell me I was headed to the operating room. However, instead, they checked my cervix again. To my surprise, I was fully dilated and our baby’s head was engaged! They asked if I had felt the urge to push, and I said no, but then the epidural was probably shielding that. I concentrated hard, and I told them I actually did feel like I could push. My doctors gathered around me, and I started the pushing process around 11:23 p.m. After 3 contractions and just over 10 minutes of pushing, Quentin Oliver was born at 11:35 p.m.
On his way out, it was determined that the cord was wrapped tightly around his neck. I actually had to stop pushing during one of the contractions so they could cut it for his safety. They don’t normally cut the cord that quickly, but they had no choice. This is why he kept having decels. Once he was out, they laid him on my belly, and he lifted up his head and looked at me, but he did not cry, which of course made my heart race with panic. I could tell from the look one everyone’s faces that they were not worried. They simply took him over to a baby bed and gave him oxygen until we heard that comforting little angry scream telling us that everything was going to be ok.
They weighed him, and we learned he was 7 lbs 7 oz, which was quite a shock to me, given that I expected him to be closer to 9 lbs! They didn’t measure his length immediately, instead they brought him back to me for some skin to skin snuggle time. However, we later learned that he was 20.5″ long.
While the decels were more than a little scary for me, especially accompanied by the fact that I was laboring after a c-section, which also has risks, overall, it was the easiest birth I’ve had. I’m so glad he is now in our arms, safe, and he is doing wonderfully! I can’t wait to watch him grow into the person he is meant to become. But, for now, I’m happy to keep him little as long as possible.