After 41 weeks and two days, 24 hours of labor and a looming emergency C-section, our sweet Theo finally made us a family of four. His birth was incredible. It was exciting, terrifying, tiring, a little bit scary at the end and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I’ve mentioned several times that the goal was to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section). To say there were a lot of opinions surrounding my choice for delivery is an understatement, but I had the full support of my doctor (she excitedly high-fived me when she saw me two nights later in the hospital! — she wasn’t on-call to deliver me) and husband so I tried not to listen or let it bother me when others questioned my choice. The fact is there are risks associated with repeat C-sections as well as VBACs. The point is to weigh them and decide what’s best for you. That’s what we did and we decided a VBAC was the best approach, knowing full well things don’t always go as planned. In all honesty, my C-section with Isla really wasn’t bad. Yes, recovery is difficult and can be painful for the first few days, but my body bounced back quickly and I’m proud of my scar. It’s a tiny reminder of one of the best days of my life. I’d have gladly had another C-section had it been the safest way to deliver Theo. A healthy baby is the goal after all.
That being said …
I wanted desperately to try to deliver Theo with a VBAC. If it didn’t work out then so be it, but I wanted to TRY. Since my C-section was the result of a frank breech baby, I was the best possible candidate. Then there was the fact that Theo was riding low (as in L O W !) and I was dilated for several weeks before my due date. Always a good sign. But as we passed the 41-week mark and after postponing my “just in case” C-section several times, it wasn’t looking good.
Then in the wee hours one morning I was jolted awake by a searing pain. The “ring of fire” my sister called it. She wasn’t kidding. I had never been so happy to be in such excruciating pain.
I labored at home for roughly 12 hours before heading to the hospital after contractions suddenly went from 15 to four minutes apart. Upon arrival, I literally collapsed from the pain between the sliding doors of the emergency room and had to be wheeled in tears to the PETU. About an hour later I got an epidural. That sweet, sweet medicine that made the pain completely disappear but also claimed the feeling in and use of my right leg. To be paralyzed on one side was not exactly comfortable, especially while trying to push a baby out, but the contraction pain was more than I could bear.
Nine hours passed before it was finally time to push. That surprised me a little. I had no idea there’d be so much down time. I tried to nap — doctor’s orders — but that wasn’t happening, so instead I thought about my sweet girl at home. It was my very first night away from her and I missed her terribly. I wondered excitedly what her brother would be like and if I could really love another baby as much as I love my Isla. (Spoiler: I could. I do.)
We had an amazing nurse and midwife. Our nurse was with us every second. It was just the three us for most of the night actually, with the midwife coming in and out to check on me.
Without getting into too many details since they are very personal and also TMI … I pushed for a total of three hours. T H R E E H O U R S.
It was at the two-and-a-half hour mark that my midwife relayed a message to me from the on-call doctor, “Tell her she has 30 minutes to get that baby out or we’re giving her a C-section.” Game on, doc. She had called him to notify him about a few minor complications I was facing and to keep him in the loop. It was at this point she also explained to me that I had another option. If pushing alone failed, the doctor could use a suction, or “vacuum extraction,” and help pull him out. This sounded terrifying to me. There are risks, of course.
Just 15 minutes later the midwife decided things weren’t getting better and that the baby had had enough. My time was up.
Suddenly about 20 people came barreling into the delivery room — okay fine, probably not 20, but that’s what it felt like. Nurses, the OB, pediatricians, residents and probably the janitor. We decided to go with the vacuum. I was scared and really worried about Theo at that point but there was no time for second guessing.
A contraction came on and I pushed for longer and harder than I had in nearly three hours. I was determined. If the vacuum extraction failed, a C-section would’ve been even riskier, and after three hours of pushing the last thing I wanted was surgery. The next thing I heard was “Open your eyes, Risa!”
There he was. A healthy baby boy. My beautiful Theo. He was perfect.
They took him away immediately to check on a few things but within a few minutes he was curled up on my chest nursing with ease, just like his sister did. After all those hours and final minutes of chaos the whole thing seemed surreal. Surreal and amazing. And really, aside from a few hours of firey contraction pain, the whole thing was much easier than I expected. It was exhausting and sometimes scary, but with the epidural and a supportive nursing staff, not to mention having my amazing husband by my side, the whole thing was a piece of cake! Okay, slight exaggeration. But really I feel very lucky and every minute was worth it for my little guy.
It turns out Theo was born just five minutes shy of my deadline. Five minutes later and you would be reading about an emergency C-section right now. What a relief.
By the time Isla arrived to meet her new brother I was so tired I could barely function, until I saw her sweet little face. She carefully and slowly walked into the room and I could see how confused she was when she saw me. I was afraid the hospital room, the fact that I was confined to the bed (I was still numb on one side) and all the machines and needles would scare her. Instead, she climbed into bed with me and hugged me for so long I thought she’d never let go. She missed me as much as I missed her. My little love.
Then she saw her brother and fell in love with him just like we did. She wanted to touch his eyes and ears and nose and hair. I’m certain she was making sure all vital body parts were accounted for. And just like that my heart melted into mush and I forgot all about those brutal 24 hours. Now I know why women keep going back for more.
Welcome to the world, my darling Theo. We can’t imagine life without you. We love you to the moon!
(And because I’m feeling emotional: Isla’s birth story)