I started having tiny contractions as soon as I left the office. My dad had driven me and on the ride home I started quietly timing my contractions on my iPhone, strangely excited to finally use the labor app that I bought and never needed with Lily. I didn't tell my dad right away about the contractions because I was still unsure that they were anything real and I didn't want to unnecessarily worry him. By the time we got back to my parents' house, I had felt about 4 small contractions.
Side note: if you remember, my beautiful sister had just come to stay with my parents after having surgery for a terrible ankle injury. I had held the baby in until she was out of the hospital as per everyone's request.
Lily was down for a nap and my mom and sister were getting ready to run some errands. For the past week it had been a continuous shuffle to make sure that someone with a car was near me at all times in case I went into labor. With my sister in the hospital all that time it had become quite the production (God bless my parents). I told everyone not to get too excited, but I was feeling some contractions and the doctor seemed pretty confidant (not that that was unusual for her) that she would see me tonight. I called Ryan and gave him the heads up that this could be it, all the while with the caveat that "it might not be, I'm not sure, I don't know what it feels like to go into labor!"
I had already decided that I didn't want Lily to be around me if my labor got intense at home because that girl is nothing if not empathetic and seeing me in pain would most definitely equal sobbing tears. Therefore, we decided the best plan of action would be to send me (and my hospital bag) along with my mom and sister while my dad stayed home with the sleeping Lily.
Our first stop was my sister's apartment about 40 min away. While they gathered clothes I laid on her couch and continued to time my contractions. Guys, I was having so much fun. I know that is not what one normally feels while in labor, but the contractions weren't that uncomfortable and I loved seeing how long each contraction was and how far apart they were. There was some variety, but they were pretty consistently a little less than a minute long and anywhere from 3-7 min apart. Looking at that now I'm like "get thee to the hospital woman!" but at the time I wasn't really uncomfortable and still unconvinced that this was the real thing. Every once and awhile Ryan would call to check on me and I would have to stop timing my contraction so I would yell "you are ruining my average!"
Our next stop was seeing our friend Jen at Starbucks. We sat outside and I continued to time. I could tell the contractions were becoming more intense, but honestly, they still weren't that bad. The only contractions I had ever experienced were pitocin contractions, so I was waiting for that level of pain. Spoiler alert: when they start to hurt that bad naturally look out because you are in transition. I remember sitting at Starbucks chatting and thinking it was so weird that none of these strangers at Starbucks knew I was in labor. I thought about just casually shouting it at them, but decided against it.
After saying goodbye to Jen we hit up some froyo because obviously. Everything I ate I kept thinking "is this the last thing I'll eat before I go to the hospital?" With Lily I wasn't allowed to eat anything substantial for approximately a million hours and it was the worst thing ever, so I was very happy to stuff my face all day this time.
Our last stop was in Bellevue to pick up Emily's sweet knee scooter (yes.) While I waited in the car I definitely noticed that I had to kind of breathe through a couple of contractions. At one point I talked to Ryan and we were trying to decide if I should meet him back at my parents house after work or if we should both head to the hospital and meet there. I was still nervous that maybe we had a long way to go and they would just send me home. He asked when we were suppose to go to the hospital and I said when the contractions are 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart. He asked what mine had been doing and I said that for a long time they had been about 55 seconds long and 4 1/2 minutes apart. To which he said "..."
Maybe I should have just gone to the hospital which was literally about 2 minutes and 20 seconds from the parking lot I was sitting in, but instead I decided we should all drive back to my parents house 30 minutes away during rush hour traffic. I'm telling you, the contractions weren't that bad, I hadn't consistently hit that 1 minute mark and I was convinced the hospital would send me home.
We may have taken a couple of wrong turns, which gave me some pause as to whether I was making the right decision, but I think deep down I wanted to see Lily before I headed to the hospital. I cried on the way home worrying about how she would handle all of this, me being in the hospital, us bringing home a new baby, all of it. We had talked about it for so long, but I knew she wouldn't fully understand it until the baby was here. We got home and I got to snuggle my sweet firstborn for the last time as an only child. Everyone ate dinner, but all I could stomach was a piece of bread with melted cheese. I think I was starting to get a bit anxious, plus I knew the possibility that whatever I ate at this point may be seen again (sorry, but giving birth is no joke and sometimes involves a little vomit, just saying.)
I laid on the couch and noticed the contractions were getting closer to 3 minutes apart and I was closing my eyes during some of them. They still weren't terribly painful, but they were definitely something. By the time Ryan got home I was ready to kiss my sweet girl and head to the hospital.
I called ahead to the hospital and told them we were coming in. The woman on the phone asked if my water had broken and I told them no, but that I had been dilated to 4cm that morning, to which she replied "Oh! Good for you!" Haha. By the time we checked in and were lead back to the "oasis" for monitoring I think it was about 9pm. A couple of very nice nurses monitored my contractions and then did a cervical check. I was 6 cm and they were NOT sending me home. They said they would get me set up in a room and if I wanted to talk about pain management then we could. I just kept saying that I wasn't really that uncomfortable yet. I was planning that I would most likely get an epidural if the pain got really intense since I wasn't really worried about it slowing my labor, but at that point I was breathing just fine through them and figured I would just see how things went.
Now comes the worst part of both of my labor experiences... the IV. Now, I understand the need for the IV especially because if I did end up wanting an epidural I would need to have one. I didn't feel like I needed to fight to not have one, but I HAAAAAAAATE IVs. I've always hated needles, but IVs stay IN YOU. Oh and also? A nursing STUDENT was putting it in! Basically my worst nightmare. Part of me wanted to shake my nurse and scream "NO, YOU DO IT!!!" but even while in labor, apparently I don't like to rock the boat too much. I blame good parenting. It really wasn't all that bad, she did a good job, but for the next few hours I would look over at Ryan and say "I hate this IV, it's creeping me out, did you know?" over and over again. He loves me.
So I am in my room, with the IV, and the nurse notices that I am closing my eyes and breathing a little harder through each contraction. My doctor came in giving me the "I told you so" eyes, she checked me and I was 7cm so we decided she could break my water and see if that would get me the final 3cm. Around this time is when my mom showed up after having put Lily to bed, I can't tell you how much it meant to have her there with me. The nurses asked if I wanted to get the epidural at that point, but I still wasn't in terrible pain and I didn't want to be stuck in the bed, so I decided to walk the hall for a bit and then see how I felt.
Ryan and I spent the next 20 minutes walking the "hall" which was literally like 100 feet. We went back and fourth twice. That means it took me 5 minutes to walk 100 feet. I was having pretty frequent contractions so I would stop at the wall every few feet to breathe through them. They had these ballet bars on the wall and all my years of dancing kicked in and I tried a plié during a contraction. Not a real one mind you, but just bending my knees and trying focus on relaxing my body during the contraction instead of tightening up like I wanted to. It felt good and it made me laugh thinking what I must look like, a giant whale doing pliés. But I digress. I know some people really rely on coaching through contractions and lots of reassuring etc. For me I very much go inside. I close my eyes and focus internally. All I needed was for Ryan to be there next to me and I am glad he wasn't all up in my face trying to be soothing because that is not what I needed. We would joke in between contractions as we walked and it felt so funny to me that I was in labor. Each contraction was pretty intense, but I wasn't sweating and crying and screaming "YOU DID THIS TO ME!" When I wasn't focusing on the contractions, I was laughing and smiling and feeling so lucky to have Ryan there with me. This time was even better because he was not only my wonderful husband and friend, but I had already watched him become the best dad I could have imagined. At one point I suddenly felt nauseated and it crossed my mind that when you are in transition a lot of women (myself included) felt like vomiting. The feeling passed and I thought I couldn't possibly be in transition.
We got back to our room and the contractions were coming on pretty strong and fast. I decided to get the epidural now before it was too late and the nurse called for the anesthesiologist. They did not do a cervical check at this point and I am oh so very glad they didn't, more on that later. With Lily I had a bad experience with the anesthesiologist. It took him 7 tries to get the epidural placed. Lucky for me I was in so much pain I barely noticed, so really it was more traumatic for Ryan. This time she got it in on the first try. The worst part was trying to stay in a sitting position during a contraction. It was so uncomfortable to sit. Up until this point I had really been up and moving for the majority of my labor. Now the contractions were coming on top of each other and the last thing I wanted to do was sit. I was literally holding myself up off the bed with my arms during each contraction (My arms felt great later, let me tell you. They did not.) At one point during a seated extremely painful contraction the nurse was pushing the heart monitor on my stomach and in a crazy labor lady moment I said "could you please not do that right now?" Yes, even my emotional outburst during the worst part of labor was quiet and polite, I don't know what is wrong with me. I did try vocalizing during one of these contractions because people said it helped sometimes to let out a moan, but really I just felt silly, so I retreated back inside my own head and to my quiet breathing. I think hot yoga and my amazing (but evil) massage therapist provided me with the best tools for managing pain and discomfort.
Once the epidural was in a little before 1:00 am they had me lay down and my doctor came to check my progress. Oh hey, I was 9.5cm dilated. No wonder it hurt to sit up, I was practically sitting on her head! Part of me was like, oh oops, I kind of almost had a natural childbirth. If they had checked me before the anesthesiologist came there is no way they would have given me that epidural. I also think I would have said never mind, if I'm this far lets just go for it. In the next 30 minutes though I was very happy things had happened as they did because *surprise!* baby girl was posterior (face up instead of down, meaning her spine was against my spine and the biggest part of her head was coming out first.) I'm thinking the only reason I hadn't had terrible back labor was because I was hardly ever lying down.
Here is one part of the day that made me a little mad. With Lily I was able to get the lightest dose of the epidural. It took the edge off the contractions, but I could still feel them and I felt the urge to push and could move around and get on my knees etc. When discussing the epidural this time with my nurse, I told her my experience and how I was hoping to do the same thing this time because I was so glad to be able to feel when I needed to push, She was like "oh yeah, we can totally do that! Our epidurals are a different medication now and everyone likes them so much more because you don't need as much medication blah blah blah." Cut to an hour later, I've had my epidural and the nurse says I'm 10cm, lets start pushing. I asked if we could wait until I felt the urge to push and she responded "oh you won't feel that with the epidural." I was all "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! Did we not just have this conversation?!" But at that point there was nothing I could do but push.
Pushing was peaceful for me just like it was with Lily. I had to be coached this time and it wasn't quite as satisfying because I wasn't feeling any pain at all. With Lily I was still feeling my contractions so pushing was such a relief. This time I was talking and joking between pushes, a stark contrast from the shaking silent creature I had been only moments before. At some point the nurse mentioned that it didn't feel like she had much hair. This made me inexplicably happy. I was really hoping that she would have a look all her own and Lily just had SO MUCH HAIR. If this one was a baldy she would surely have her own look. My doctor was attempting to turn her as I pushed, but little girl was determined to come out looking up at the world. I remember a moment after her head was out thinking that Ryan and my mom could see her face, they knew what she looked like and I still did not. She actually made a little cry and I thought it was so crazy that I could hear her and she wasn't even out yet. They told me to push and suddenly my doctor said "stop!" and there was some excited laughter. I knew this was it. Once everyone was ready I pushed one more time. My doctor directed me to reach under baby girl's arms, and just like I had with Lily, I pulled that girl into the world and onto my chest. I looked at her sweet face and said "is she really a girl?" which received laughter as well as confirmation. Then I held her close and whispered "happy birthday." It was 1:28 am.
Miss Emilia. Born 7/19/12 at 1:28 am 8 lbs 12 oz 21.5 inches
We were able to snuggle only a few moments because as she had come out sunny-side up, she had inhaled quite a bit of fluid as it rushed over her face. They whisked her across the room and I watched a bit terrified as they put a tube down her throat to suction out her airway. I sent Ryan to be with her, but girlfriend could not have cared less, she was just chilling like "hey Dad, no big deal, just have a tube down my throat, when is breakfast?" I knew then she was going to be quite the mellow baby. While they checked her out my doctor was finishing up business on my side. She was bummed that I needed stitches, she said if Mila had come out in a normal position I would have been fine. I could have cared less at that point because I was just worried about my unusually quiet 10-minute-old daughter. They finally got some big cries out of her so my heart could settle a bit and once she was weighed and measured they handed her back to me and I got to nurse her. Nursing was so much less daunting having had 16 months of it under my belt at this point, but it had been almost a year since I had any practice. I would tell you it's like riding a bike, but I am kind of terrible at bike riding, so lets just say it all came back to me pretty quickly and I was flooded with happy hormones.
Almost immediately after Mila was born I asked the nurse to get the epidural out. I had my end game in mind and that was "get this freaking IV out of my wrist!" I knew from experience that they would not take the IV out until I was able to get up and use the bathroom on my own, twice. Since I had waited so long to get the epidural and I was so insistent on getting it out asap it was probably only in place a little over an hour. Because of that I was already able to walk to the wheelchair when we were moved to our "mom & baby" room. Nothing motivates me more than having the heebie-jeebies.
The next day and a half was a blur of snuggles and kisses, very little sleep due to lots of check-ups and a baby who we eventually figured out was just too hot. We had her wrapped in too many blankets and just couldn't get her to settle, I was worried she was hungry and was nursing her on and off for hours until we finally unwrapped her and she passed out. To this day, if she is fussy for seemingly no reason I take off a layer or a hat and she is out. The things I do remember in the blur are how much more the cramping hurt than last time. Apparently with your second kid the pain from your uterus contracting back to its normal size is more intense, who knew? Also the back pain. Even when Mila was sleeping I could not, I was so uncomfortable. I think it might have been the result of how she was positioned during labor as well as the muscle contractions while trying to hold myself in a sitting position for the epidural. I do not think the pain was from the epidural itself because everything was so smooth and brief compared to my last delivery and I had no pain then. I was finally convinced to take a small dose of pain medication and was able to get a few hours of sleep on our second night.
The only moment in that day and a half in the hospital that is crystal clear to me is this one:
The moment she arrived she was transformed. Sisters. I couldn't believe how excited she was, "baby sister!" she cried. She got it.
Things have been a whirlwind ever since. We are slowly adjusting to this family of four thing, it is different, but oh so great. Most of the time I feel like that emoji face with the hearts for eyes. Yeah, that one.