On February 17th, our hearts doubled in size as we welcomed Miss Natalie Grace into our family.
And praise Jesus, her labor was so much faster and easier than her brother's!
On Wednesday morning, four days after my due date, we went in for a non-stress test to check her heart rate and movement. During this appointment, we learned that I was contracting every seven minutes. Much to my surprise, I had no idea the contractions were happening.
Because I had been 3+ cm dilated for over a week and because I had experienced two different episodes of false labor with her that created a fear of her coming in the middle of the night with little to no warning (two of my close friends experienced this with their second babies- one gave birth in her car on the way to the hospital and the other had a midwife show up at her house 2 minutes before her baby was born), I decided that I felt most comfortable going straight to the hospital from that appointment, and Matt was completely on board with that decision. In fact, knowing that we were 4 days past our due date, we had our bags packed in case my doctor made this suggestion.
I snuck this picture of my doctor making the call to his partner letting her know we were on our way. We were going to meet our baby girl today!!!
It was such a different experience driving to the hospital with total excitement and no pain. Matt and I were just plain giddy!
Hey, wanna stop and take a picture before we head in to have a baby?! Sure!
Checking in- did I mention this experience was so different from Ryan's?!
Because I opted for no medicine with Ryan and knew that this birth would probably involve some level of inducing, I talked with the doctor who would be handling Natalie's delivery about the best plan of action and asked her what parts of our birth plan would work based on the circumstances.
She recommended breaking my water but said we could hold off on pitocin and the epidural and just see what my body did on its own.
Once my water was broken, I immediately dilated to 6cm and Natalie moved to a 0 station. I think we laughed when she told us this- it took a good 15+ hours of hard labor to get to a 6 with Ryan, and here we were chit-chatting about meeting our baby with no pain medicine and no pain!
Glory, glory hallelujah!
Some time passed, I was checked again, and Matt and I talked about whether or not I would get an epidural. Since I wasn't experiencing any pain, it felt kind of silly to get one. But after talking through it all one more time, I had three thoughts that led to my decision:
1- By this point, my contractions were 2 minutes apart and I was 7cm dilated, so I felt like I had progressed far enough on my own for my body to continue making progress with the epidural.
2- Going into this birth, I wanted to make it at least to a 7 before considering the epidural. This is what I did with Ryan and I felt like it helped to get that far along before opting for anything for the pain.
3- I'll best honest. Going through this birth experience up until this point without any pain was FUN. Matt and I were talking about meeting our girl and getting to introduce her to Ryan, and no one (me) was falling asleep from exhaustion every minute between contractions, and no one (Matt) was being moved across the room as I held on tight and worked through contractions when they hit. Nope. I was laying comfortably in a bed with my best friend by my side talking about the unforgettable moments that we were within hours of experiencing. And the idea of going from that to potentially what I felt during Ryan's birth (not the mention the post delivery "reconstruction" if you will) sounded dreadful.
In short, I just wasn't in the mood to buck up and put my big girl panties on and take the pain.
So we called for the anesthesiologist and got a dose of epidural that allowed me to have control of my legs and feel enough to push when I needed to.
At this point, Matt and I both took naps and let things progress while we rested.
The nurses came in sometime while we were resting to give me pitocin, starting with the lowest dose (they were really great to allow us to ask questions and give our input on what we would prefer regarding medicine, and starting at the lowest dose for pitocin was one thing we requested), and then they came back about an hour later to increase it because my contractions had slowed down.
A little more time passed and as the nurses came back in to check on my progress (still at a 7), they felt like Natalie's heart rate was starting to speed up more than they liked. I immediately asked if they would turn off the pitocin and was happy to hear they already had. They also gave me oxygen for a couple of minutes to help lower her heart rate again.
At this point, I was definitely questioning whether I should have gotten any medicine at all, but I knew that me having those thoughts would probably only increase my heart rate which wouldn't be good for hers. So I chose to focus on the fact that they were monitoring her heart even when they weren't in the room, they responded immediately with a decision I felt made perfect sense, and I only needed oxygen for two minutes to get things back on the right track. And my body was now contracting on its own with no medicine.
I texted a few of my girlfriends to let them know I was at a 7 and contracting every two minutes. During our text exchange, I was explaining that I felt great other than some sudden low pressure, and my friend Andrea responded and said that when she felt that with Reynolds, he was delivered soon after. She recommended I have the nurses come back even though they had just checked me less than 10 minutes earlier.
And wouldn't you know in the minute or two it took them to walk to my room, I knew I was ready to push. And sure enough, when they came in I was fully dilated and Natalie had moved to a station 2, the last station before crowning.
It had been a little over 5 hours at this point, so compared to her brother's 24-hour labor (3 minutes shy to be exact), this had felt like a walk in the park!
Except that the doctor who was supposed to deliver me was next door delivering another baby.
Ummm... then get me another doctor is what I was thinking.
And I'll be totally honest. This is where this pretty great birth experience turned into a hot mess.
I had said from the beginning that I was happy to have a nurse-in-training be one of the nurses in the delivery room because I wasn't having any pain and remember back in my student-teaching days appreciating all the experience I could get from various teachers. Okay, but let's be honest, it is so not the same thing... as I soon learned.
Well as it turns out, the nurse who WAS experienced was with my doctor in the room next to ours delivering the other baby. And bless her heart, the nurse-in-training tried to use the quietest whisper I guess she had, but I definitely heard her say to someone else who showed up in my room, "Okay, so this is going to be my first delivery, so just let me know what I can do."
Meanwhile, the new person who had entered the room kept telling me to "try not to push" and "breath, don't grunt- breaaaathhheee."
To which I wanted to say, "Breathe this *^#@*%- have you ever tried to not push out a baby?!"
But I refrained. And tried to "just breathe."
Meanwhile, in between breaths I was trying to reassure Matt that I was, in fact, not in any excruciating pain despite the fact that my involuntary reaction to "just breathe" when my body was trying to push sounded like I was dy-ing.
So in between contractions I decided it was a good time to remind the nurses that another doctor was going to need to get in my room ASAP.
Well praise Jesus, about a minute later my doctor appeared, but for some reason decided it was a good idea to turn on all of the lights when she arrived- which was kind of like having someone shine a spotlight in your eyes in the middle of the night, but I tried to focus on the fact that she was there to catch my baby.
She took a quick look and said, "Oh wow! This should take no time! I bet you can have her out in one push!"
Let's take a minute to realize the importance of under promising and OVER delivering (pardon the pun) in a situation like this.
So despite the fact that my new random nurse and my nurse-in-training (who was experiencing her first delivery care of me) were all off on their counting and telling me to hold my legs and push when I wasn't contracting (with the bright lights all in my face), I managed to wait for my next contraction and push as hard as I could.
Well low and behold my sweet baby did not come out.
So I took this opportunity to tell the nurses that someone needed to grab my other leg (bless Matt for knowing what he was doing) and that I would tell them when I was contracting (translation- don't tell me again to push until I tell you I am ready to push)... and if I had enough breath before the next contraction I would have added, "And just let my husband count because he knows what he's doing." But thankfully my 'tude was interrupted by the next contraction.
And praise the Lord it only took 4 more pushes because on the last one I cried out, "I need her out!" and pushed with everything I had.
But my relief and joy quickly changed as they laid her on me and I could tell that she was too white and not moving. So, just like I did with Ryan, I passed her right back and said (somehow calmly), "She's not moving; they need to take her."
And just like we experienced with Ryan's birth, the team of doctors and nurses came in our room and started working to get her to breathe and cry for the first time while my doctor explained that the cord had wrapped tightly around her neck on the last push and had stunned her. She was reassuring us that she would be okay, but Matt I were still waiting for a cry and watching the timer on the wall increase second by second.
At this point, I just started praying out loud the same words over and over, "Let her cry, let her cry, let her cry."
I could see the look on Matt's face as he watched the nurses work from a better angle than I had and could tell that he was nervous, so I just kept repeating my prayer.
Finally, at the 3.5 minute mark, we heard her cry, and we both let out a huge sigh of relief.
They brought her back to us and I got to hold her again, although it felt like I was holding her for the first time because now I knew she was okay.
Those sweet eyes so red. I just remember being so thankful she was okay and in my arms!
Because they had to put her on a CPAP machine and then oxygen until she was able to breathe on her own at the 2- minute mark, I wasn't able to hold her for long and wasn't even able to nurse her. This was the hardest part for me for sure- especially when she started rooting when she was in my arms! I asked again if it would be okay for me to nurse her some, but they said they really had to take her to the transition nursery to monitor her breathing to ensure that she didn't have any other episodes of not being able to breathe on her own.
So Matt went up with her while I stayed in the room and called in my mom and sister to explain to them everything that had happened.
Meanwhile, Matt sent me pictures of everything that was happening in the transition nursery as they weighed her and monitored her heart rate and breathing.
And then he sent me this one of her holding on to his finger. Ahhh! The sweetest. I was so glad he got to be right there with her!
And then my big buddy came to see me and I got the sweetest snuggle time with him!
...and my sweet nephews too!
Matt took Ryan up to see his sister through the window of the nursery and he said that Ryan was so excited to see her. He waved and repeated, "Hiiii, Nan-ni, hiiii!" and kept asking to go back up the elevator to see her after they had come down.
We finally got our sweet girl back just after 11pm that night. And when Matt held her in his arms and started talking to her, she looked right up at him and smiled. Melt.
We were beyond grateful for her ultimately safe delivery and to finally have her in our arms.
Sweet, sweet girl. We love you so much and feel so blessed to call you ours!