Oh, friends. It’s so dusty around these parts. When I published my last post on February 12, 2014, titled, “The Future,” I had NO idea that I would become a mama again on February 12, 2015. Isn’t it funny how life surprises us? If you’ve read that last post, you’ll know that our life has been all kinds of crazy for the last year. To add to the crazy (because there’s never enough of that!), we found out two weeks before leaving Virginia that we were expecting again. I have a hilarious and sweet video of me telling my sweet husband about the surprise. So, unexpected as it was (we do know how it happens and were actively preventing, so…), the FOUR of us packed up in Virginia, moved to Connecticut for 7 weeks, moved to Florida for 9 weeks, moved back to Connecticut for 8 weeks, and then found out we were headed to the Chicago, IL area. True to military fashion, the Navy didn’t cut orders for us until days before the truck was to arrive at our house. I was 30 weeks pregnant by then, and tired of spending life on the road, living out of suitcases. I saw about 10 different doctors in three different states for this pregnancy, which made things even crazier, especially with a toddler! So, I am happy to say that we are now settling in in Chicago, learning city life and the street-parking-only, public transportation, city condo lifestyle that it is. I would say that we’re not really city people, but we decided to embrace it for the next three years (how long we should be here), because why not?
Anyway, the reason for this post–we welcomed a baby GIRL on February 12, 2015. We left gender a surprise until birth, like we did with Harper, and we both honestly thought we were having another boy. From cravings to weight gain to how I carried to how everything matched up to all of the old wives’ tales–it was exactly like my first pregnancy. The only differences were that I craved more spicy food this time around and craved more sweets/carbs in my third trimester with Harper. It doesn’t match up at all to old wives’ tales! It’s so hilarious to me. We will probably leave all future babies’ genders a surprise, so now we REALLY won’t be able to guess! If it’s different–we won’t know! If it’s the same–we won’t know! Funny.
So, without further ado, I wanted to record Chloe’s birth story before things get too fuzzy. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway–this is a birth story, and birth is personal and messy, so if you don’t care to read about my cervix, contractions, etc, then please feel free to skip this story.
I experienced the same prodromal labor (labor that starts and stops, can last for weeks) this time that I did with Harper. It started with Harper at 33 weeks, and started this time around 31 weeks. I start feeling Braxton Hicks very early (like early second trimester), and these are different contractions. They are actually dilating the cervix. Between 32 weeks and 36 weeks, I dilated one cm every week. It’s kind of like being in labor for.e.ver. With Harper, I found it exhausting and anxiety-inducing, because I didn’t know what my body was doing and how at risk I was for pre-term labor. I ended up carrying him until 38 weeks and 2 days, so this time, I felt pretty chill about it all. I didn’t feel a rush to give birth, even on the most uncomfortable of days. It was a much better experience knowing that my body just does this prodromal labor thing and that I can still carry full-term. With Harper, I developed chorioamnionitis, which is an infection in the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. I must have developed a slow leak at some point and didn’t realize it. That was the reason we went to the hospital with him, but he ended up being born four hours later. I still don’t really know if I was in fact already in labor with him that day, or if I spontaneously went into labor there at the hospital (they were minutes away from starting pitocin to induce me when my contractions started sticking to a pattern and actually started dilating my cervix, so they left me to be). I’m always having contractions. For weeks. Every 2-10 minutes, when they really start hitting their stride. They would be every few minutes for several hours and then would stop without warning. No amount of water, rest, heat, cold, etc., affected them. So, I kept saying this time around that I seriously worried I wouldn’t realize when labor was here to stay and wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time (my first baby was born 4 hours after contractions picked a pattern, and subsequent babies are typically born faster, so….yikes!). That was my only worry. So, we waited.
Chloe had been in one position nearly the entire third trimester–head down and bottom on my right side. About 36 hours before she was born (around lunch time on February 10), she turned posterior (her spine against mine, facing out). For whatever reason, maybe because that position causes intense back labor, it changed the contractions. They were very different. My body was crampy and just weird feeling. I don’t know how to describe it, it was just different. Contractions continued on through the rest of the afternoon, evening and even through the night. I woke up many times to very strong contractions. They were, however, not in a pattern at all. The next morning (February 11), I started feeling like I wanted to withdraw to focus on my contractions, which was new. But alas, I was alone with my toddler, who was having an epic day of tantrums and fits. I felt discouraged and frustrated. I wanted to be enjoying my last days with just one, but he was testing my patience, as I was already so very, very tired from weeks of contractions and not sleeping well. I didn’t think I was in labor, I just thought we were getting closer and this was par for the course. I now realize I was in big time denial that labor was here to stay.
For whatever reason, around 2:00 that day, I texted my friend Julianna to (jokingly) ask her if I still got credit for having a baby on her birthday (Feb. 10) even if I just went into labor that day and had the baby on another day. This, obviously, lead her to start asking questions, and when I mentioned feeling the need to withdraw to focus on contractions (I was asking for prayer for patience with my toddler), she basically said: “WHAT! CALL YOUR HUSBAND! GET HIM HOME! CALL THE BABYSITTER! PACK YOUR BAG! YOU’RE IN LABOR, YOU CRAZY!” And then I realized that contractions had picked a pattern over the last hour (every 3-4 minutes, lasting 2 minutes each), and that she was right since my husband works an hour away. I hesitantly texted Jonathan and said, “I hate to draw attention if it’s a false alarm, but I could potentially be in labor. You don’t need to come home early. I just want to give you a heads up. Contractions are very different and I feel the need to withdraw to focus on them rather than try to ignore them like I have the last few weeks. Mostly, I need someone else to give Harper attention because I feel like I cannot right now. This has been going on all day, just gaining in intensity. This could be labor NEARING, but I thought I’d give you a heads up in case.” (Yes, I’m laughing at this now…) Then I hesitantly texted the babysitter we had lined up. I had been having early labor contractions for so long (7 weeks) at this point that I was more worried about drawing the troops for a false alarm than I was about accidentally having a baby at home! 20 minutes later, my husband was on his way home and the babysitter was coming over straight from work. They arrived within 45 minutes of each other, and in that time, I got into the bathtub (once Jonathan was home to watch Harper and finish packing the suitcase). There was no doubt in my mind at this point that I was in labor (by 4:45), so I got out of the bathtub to help finish the suitcase (he was contending with the toddler, trying to pack, and trying to get stuff set up for the babysitter, so he needed help if we were going to get out of there anytime soon). I kissed my big baby goodbye around 6:00, but all I could focus on was the fact that I needed to get out of there in order to focus on delivering the little baby.
We drove to the hospital, got checked in, got an IV placed (I was GBS-positive a couple of weeks prior, so I needed antibiotics for baby), and then a doctor came in the check me. I had been a “stretchy 4cm” dilated (whatever that means) by 36 weeks, and was 5.5cm at that point. Contractions were still holding at 3-4 minutes and 1.5-2 minutes long, so we were there to stay. Since all of my early labor had been done at home, I knew I just needed to focus on active labor and transition. I didn’t plan on having a epidural, but didn’t rule it out. I have always said that I feel like it’s the duration, not the height, of the pain that really necessitates pain relief (at least it would for me, but I do know I have a high pain tolerance). If you’re 20 hours into labor, dude, you just need to rest! So, I didn’t rule it out, and I didn’t go in with a birth plan (I didn’t with Harper either), I just took it one hour at a time. LUCKILY, this hospital had a room with a TUB!!!! I had no idea about this as all of the labor and delivery tours were full past my due date by the time we got to Chicago, so I had never even seen the inside of this hospital or its rooms until I was in labor! Turns out, there was one room with a tub, and someone had just delivered in that room, so it was being cleaned. I wanted to sing! I had wanted all day long to be sitting in a warm tub, focusing on contractions, instead of trying to understand, between contractions, why my toddler was so upset about every little thing in his day. I can’t even tell you how fast I yelped “YES!” when they asked me if I wanted that room to labor in!
Over the next couple of hours, they got my IV placed for antibiotics, moved me to the tub room, and had been monitoring baby and I for long enough that they felt confident in our stability enough to unhook me and let me get into the tub (they just came to me with HR monitors every 30 minutes to check on baby before, during and after a contraction, and then left me alone in between checks–I didn’t even have to get out of the tub). Around 11:00, four hours after I had been checked and was at 5.5cm, I was 6.5cm. My antibiotics had finished running an hour prior, but they needed to wait until 4 hours after completion to break my water. So, we kept going. Sometime after midnight, I was feeling tired and hungry and decided I needed to change positions and get out of the tub and onto the birthing ball (my second favorite thing ever while in labor!) to get this show on the road.
I had been group texting with a couple of my friends who were staying up with me to cheer me on (BEST.FRIENDS.EVER….they were getting texts like, “I’m so close to transition, I can feel it!” and “please keep reminding me that my hips and back are not going to explode into a million pieces!” and receiving hilarious face photos from a laboring woman that shall never see the light of day outside of that group of people, hahaha!). Around 1:00 am, I told them I had moved to the birthing ball so that Jonathan could apply counter pressure. And also, that I was starving and I wanted my sandwich, followed by the hashtag #letsdothis. 😀 And then I went silent on them….because the next 58 minutes were some of the longest and most intense of my entire life. I remembered how our doula with Harper had shown Jonathan how to apply counter pressure when I had back labor then, and because this baby was still sunny-side up, I felt like I was literally going to explode into a million pieces at the peak of every contraction (and they were still lasting 2+ minutes!). I wasn’t hooked up to any monitors by then, so Jonathan couldn’t tell when I was having a contraction. I was on the birthing ball on front of the bed, and he was sitting on a stool behind me. I would tell him when I was about to start a contraction, and he would push his fists into our previously agreed-upon spot in my back as long until I felt the peak of the contraction pass and coming back down (up?) to earth (that’s what it felt like), I would say, “okay…thank you.” And then I would spend the limited time in between contractions refocusing and regathering what strength I had left. We did this until 1:40, when the doctor came in and told us they had the all-clear to break my water, if I wanted them to. Of course, I said yes, wanting things to move along, knowing baby was protected with antibiotics. When she broke my water at 1:45, I was 8 cm. By then, I knew I was in transition, and just focused on making it through the next contraction alive (because anyone who has experienced labor, let alone back labor, knows exactly what I’m talking about…). Being in the bed on my back for her to break my water was HORRIBLE. I laid on top of my own fists to help alleviate any pressure that I could.
However, after she broke my water, I had two of the MOST INCREDIBLY PAINFUL AND INTENSE contractions that I think anyone could ever feel. In the second contraction, I somehow got out the words, “I’m….pushing!” (because Jonathan and I were alone in the room at this point). She was crowning before anyone got into the room, so after Jonathan paged the nurses to tell them I was pushing, he, being the doctor that he is, started throwing the bed into its birthing position. What came next was a lot of them telling me to stop pushing, me screaming, and people running in. They finished throwing the bed into birthing position, which meant reclining me back further, which was the most awful position to be in. My body was pushing and I had nothing to push against. I remember waving my arms like a mad woman and saying to Jonathan, “I NEED HANDS!” so he laid across my upper body and pressed both of his hands against both of mine. I remember two distinct times they told me to stop pushing, once after her head came out, and once after her shoulders were partially out. I now know that it’s because she was sunny-side up (face up) and that they had to do some maneuvering to get her out safely. But all I knew in the moment was that DUDE, that baby was coming OUT and HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU STOP PUSHING?!?!? (Answer: you don’t…not really. That’s like telling someone to stop throwing up, mid-vomit. There’s just no controlling it.)
THIRTEEN minutes after they broke my water, at 1:58am on February 12, Chloe Michele was born into the world. All 7lbs 2oz, 19.5 inches of her. Jonathan has been the one to announce gender to the room (and me) for both of our babies, and I wish so very much that someone had been recording him saying, “It’s a GIRL!…?????????” as if simultaneously so excited, so confused, and also trying to convince us all, since we thought for sure it was a boy.
We already can’t imagine life without you, sweet girl. Everyone says your heart will grow to accommodate the new baby, and that’s so hard to imagine before you’re in the midst of experiencing it. But, it’s so very true. So, very, very true! You’re now six days old (actually a week old only a few hours from now!), and I want to cry each hour that you age. Your brother is still a bit unsure about you, but mostly because he’s not a huge fan of sharing mommy…but, at 16 months old, he’s really still just a baby, too. We are so proud of our GIRL and so excited to watch you grow!