P’s little heart, which had remained strong and steady, had started to slightly dip with each contraction. Thankfully, the midwife and nurses were on top of it, and brought me an oxygen mask. It helped to elevate her heart rate, and they tilted my hips to the right, which seemed to put her in an ideal position, as her heart rate remained stable.
I was starting to get uncomfortable from lying down for hours -the lower half of my body was immobile, and if I sit still for more than an hour without walking around, I start to go crazy- but the concerning part was that P hadn’t descended enough. I was worried about her heart rate, my cervix was inflamed, and the thought of an emergency C-section was lingering in my head. I didn’t know how long they would give me.
Our new midwife, Pam, (who was an absolute angel) came in to check me and see how we were going. When she checked my cervix, I felt the pressure of the bag of waters finally release.
“Your water is finally breaking, and I’m just going to let it happen slowly. I don’t feel a cord anywhere.”
By this point, I was at 8cm, so she left the room for a couple of hours in the hopes that P would drop. She told us to get some rest, and she’d be back soon to check on us. The problem was that P wasn’t dropping at a significant rate. In fact, at times, she wasn’t dropping at all. Pam informed us that if that it could be a natural response if the body and baby “knew” that P wouldn’t fit safely through the birth canal. On top of that, my contractions weren’t strong enough. That was slightly concerning and could lead to a dose of Pitocin to get things moving along which I was hoping to avoid. I tried to stay positive, but I wondered if a C-section was imminent. Each subsequent check produced little progress and more uncertainty as we were continually told to wait “just another couple hours.”
Thankfully, Pam was sure that more time was the key, so I put my trust in her experience and knowledge. I watched the monitor for P’s heart rate like a hawk until my eyes eventually drifted shut. I woke up when contractions were 1 minute apart. The brilliant thing about the epidural was that while the pain was removed, I could still feel the pressure of the contractions. I’d watch my belly harden and expand with each one, but without the pain. I could tell that things finally felt different without the bag of water in the way, and was hoping we’d get to meet P soon after such a long day/night.
I started to feel serious pressure in my pelvis. A few minutes later, Pam came back into the room along with a couple of nurses. She checked me at about 1:50am, I was FINALLY fully dilated to 10cm, and it was pushing time.
“Are you ready to meet your baby?” Her confidence despite everything to come was motivating.
From then on, the room became flooded with doctors and pediatric medical teams. Because of P’s estimated size, shoulder dystocia is a significant concern. If the baby’s shoulders get stuck in the birth canal, it can be a frightening emergency for the baby and mama. I knew this was a concern going into labor, but Pam assured me that she had some tricks up her sleeve to help the baby make it out safely. Worst case scenario, all of the emergency teams were in place if she were to become stuck. There were at least 15 people in the delivery room, including the emergency teams, cardiologists (because of the VSD), residents, and nurses. While we were about to venture into a potentially scary situation, Pam remained so encouraging throughout.
“I don’t want them to wheel you out of here, so let’s get this baby out fast. Are you ready, mama?”
When I heard “wheel you out of here,” I knew it was go time. The epidural had given me rest from the pain, and I felt strong and energized to do what I needed to do.
I pushed P out in 4 minutes (with just as many contractions) with Pam, Tom, our doula, and so many of the doctors and nurses cheering for me.
Her head was born, and Pam twisted and corkscrewed her body out of mine to assure that she wouldn’t get stuck. Thank you God for the epidural, because if I would have felt that sans drugs, I probably would have passed out. The rest of her body squeezed out, and I could not believe that my “toddler” had been born from my body. She cried immediately, as the pediatric team whisked her to the side table to check her shoulders, heart rate, and perform her Apgar test (7, and 9). I could see the look on everyone’s face, and they could not believe her size. Their eyes were like “Holy sh*t, that is a big baby.”
As they were checking her, I kept asking, “Is she ok? Is she ok?” and everyone promised that she was. I couldn’t believe it until she was finally placed on my chest, and I started to cry.
“You’re here. You made it. You’re finally here.”
She looked up to me with her enormous eyes, and quickly latched on to breastfeed. I gazed down at her, absolutely in awe of how perfect she was, and immediately fell in love. I didn’t even notice when the placenta was born (which apparently was the biggest one my midwife had ever seen), and being stitched up. (Surprisingly, I only had a second degree tear; the same I had with Liv.) I was too fixated on our little girl, whom I’d waited so long to meet.
It’s funny because I had a hard time imagining what P would look like when she was in my belly. Would she look like Liv, Tom, or myself? I had no idea. I just pictured this sweet baby with dark hair and big eyes. In that instant, she felt so fresh and new, but also like she’d been a part of us, and a part of our family this entire time. I’d been waiting to meet her, yet had known her forever.
I also fell in love with this guy all over again. There’s something truly magical about watching your best friend become a daddy for the second time.
This birth experience was a tough one, but without Tom and our amazing doula by my side, I’m not sure I’d be able to do it.
The rest of the evening (morning?) was a blur as they wheeled us to our recovery room, where we’d spend the next 3 days. A sweet touch: as you go through the double doors to labor and delivery recovery, the hospital has a button which plays a snippet of Brahm’s lullaby throughout the hospital, to indicate that a baby has been born. I heard it a lot while we were there, and each time, it made my heart so full and happy to know that another family had been given this same gift.
I was really looking forward to Livi meeting her little sister, and felt all of the feels when Tom brought her by after preschool the next day. The pure joy on her face and how sweet she was to P is something that I will never forget.
“Penelope, it’s me. I’m your big sister, Olivia. I will always protect you and take you to Disneyland.”
P still responds to Liv entirely differently than anyone else. It’s like she always knows when her big sister is nearby.
(Livi is so proud holding her. P was 1 week old in this pic)
So that’s the birth story! The end, and the beginning, at the same time. <3 We’re so happy you made it here safely, P. My heart, and our family, feel complete with you in it.