I started to write this a couple of times and thought it would be more cathartic or memorable if I hand wrote it; but as it turns out, parenting two kids while keeping your sanity does not allow for much physical writing.
If you read my first post, you already know the story of baby Luca really started back in 2011, right after Charlotte was born. I had done everything I thought I could to prepare for a natural birth. I was young, active, and healthy; but Charlotte was breech.
I finally attended my first prenatal yoga class when I was 37-weeks pregnant with Charlotte. After a failed external version, three weekly chiropractic adjustments for a month, headstands in the pool, and a million other inversion activities at home, I was desperate for her to turn. Spoiler alert, going to one yoga class is not enough to relax your body or your mind. I was so stiff that even after thirty minutes with a heating pad, relaxing music and scents, my whole backside remained clenched prior to the chiropractic adjustment, every, time.
My doctor at the time was unwilling to let me go into labor naturally, as she feared she would not be available as the delivering OB in the event that labor occurred over her vacation. Had I heard this insanity a few years later, I would have said, “oh well, I will risk it.” But I was not as well-informed then, and I also was not the type of person to speak up for myself. Yes, Charlotte was a healthy baby, and yes, she is an amazing, thoughtful, creative, and beautiful five and a half year-old now; but that doesn’t change that I still felt grief and regret about her birth.
Fast forward: Not only was I determined to have my second child (Luca) naturally, I was also haunted by the idea that this pregnancy wasn’t real. I had experienced and was still healing from an eight-week miscarriage that my body would not let go after four weeks of waiting – two weeks of medicines- then two D&Cs (one was an emergency after I hemorrhaged). But even after my body healed, the mental recovery took even longer (again, see my previous post). I remember when the hospital called me to tell me that my progesterone levels were going up and that this pregnancy was healthy. I was sitting in my car in Indianapolis and almost couldn’t respond to the nurse because I was so choked up. I don’t know if it was all out of happiness or fear or joy, but it was raw emotion.
While pregnant with Luca, I started going to prenatal yoga classes around eight weeks. My first visit, a fellow mom looked at me and said, “Oh? Are you really pregnant?” I think she thought that maybe I was there just to shadow the class or in training, but I told her, “Yes! I need to get a jump on making this pregnancy the healthiest it can be.” This seemed to be a theme with this pregnancy; I struggled with people questioning not only whether I was pregnant, but also how far along I was. I think that they meant it as a compliment, but after having enduring the previous loss, it did not feel that way to me. I really tried to make it obvious that I was pregnant, partially for the general public’s knowledge, but mostly out of a need to convince myself that this really was happening.
My first trip to Austin was shortly after our house sold in October 2015. I got online and looked for a prenatal yoga class. I found Lisa Young’s class at Austin Prenatal Yoga and immediately emailed her. She was very responsive, supportive, and helpful. When I went to the first class in October no one questioned me being there – I was welcomed and supported. Everything in Austin already felt right, not only for this pregnancy, but for our family.
Of course when Charlotte and I moved out to Austin in November, everything did not fall perfectly into place, nor did all my problems immediately disappear; but I did keep going to yoga. I began substitute teaching and looking for volunteer opportunities and even got Charlotte enrolled in school. We were making moves and meeting people. However, my anxiety and depression – along with my general worried nature – still saw dark shadows everywhere.
My parents came to visit me in January and again they visited right after Luca was born. My dad gave me a compliment when he was here in May: he said that the nursery really had come together since January. He said it had looked like a “catchall storage room that you hadn’t really moved into,” and I told him this is just a reflection of my state of mind at that point. In January, I was still in doubt even though I was 24-weeks pregnant; even though I had seen him on the ultrasound and had been feeling him move around for more than a month. I still couldn’t still grasp the reality that this was happening.
Today, staring at my cruising 10-month old, I have no questions. The pregnancy and birth happened.
I have told my story to several people and at the heart always sit many lessons, gifts even, from Lisa and my yoga practice. I was so lucky to have an amazing nurse who believed in me and – more importantly – encouraged me to trust myself. She respected my desire to not discuss pain and was literally on her knees applying counter pressure whenever my husband, Charlie, could not. Our cozy hospital room smelled of peppermint oil; it was filled with music and laughing, and the lights were cozy and dim. I envisioned myself on a beach as my vocalized exhales reminded me of the tide. I felt safe- to the point that my customarily shy, self-conscious, modest self was able to strip down to a sports bra, tell Charlie what I needed, and admit to myself that I was scared; but I could do this.
THE BIRTH STORY:
Contractions started at 4:45 Wednesday morning. I waited, mostly in child’s pose, until 6:30 to wake up Charlie and went downstairs to tell my mom this baby was coming sometime today/tomorrow. Charlie and I both showered and ate breakfast, then we went for a walk. I called my doctor’s office around 8:15, and they said I needed to progress further before coming in. So we decided to go back to bed since my mom was there to take care of Charlotte. Around 10:00 we got up, and my mom was starting to get anxious. I really didn’t want to be at the hospital any longer than I had to; plus they had said to wait. Her anxiety wasn’t helping things, so we decided to go get smoothies, take another walk, and get lunch: Indian food. After lunch it was too hot to walk outside so we strolled around BabiesRUs and found a cute suit for Luca to wear to a friend’s wedding. At this point it was 1:00 in the afternoon, and contractions were coming every five minutes (even more often when I walked).
I called the doctor again, and the same nurse answered. I told her I could still walk and talk through contractions but I was sure something was happening. She said I could come in at 2:00. We went to get coffee/tea to energize. At the doctor’s office, my OB ensured me I was progressing and that I should head to the hospital where she would check on me at 5 before leaving for the day. I asked if there was a chance they’d still send me home- she said it was improbable, and if they did, I’d be back that night. After a few computer glitches and a room change (I had to be on wireless monitors because I was a VBAC patient), I was getting ready to have my baseline vitals taken.
I felt my water break. I told the nurse, and she confirmed it was amniotic fluid. I was group b strep positive so they 1) didn’t want to do any more cervix checks since my water had broken, and 2) had to have an iv of antibiotics. Thankfully all of these gadgets and “precautions” did not inhibit my movement. I continued to labor all around the room. The nurse at this point kept asking me about pain until finally Charlie said, “she doesn’t want to talk about that and she doesn’t want an epidural.” She finally understood. Thankfully nurse shift change came a few hours later, and the magical Elaine was with me every step of the way after that.
Around 8:00, Charlie was getting really hungry and I told him he should go get dinner because I was going to need him strong. He felt confident leaving me, as Elaine was able to stay with me. However at some point while he stepped out, Elaine did, too, and the doctor on call, not mine, came to talk to me. I was alone and caught off guard when she basically said at 10:00 that evening, she’d be back to check me, and if I had not progressed by then, we’d discuss “augmenting” labor- which meant 1) pitocin, inner-uterine monitors (no leaving the bed), or 2) a C-section. I wanted nothing to do with either of those, but people-pleaser me just said “ok, we shall see at 10.”
Charlie returned, and we watched a few funny shows, listened to music, and happily sported the yoga positions we learned in birthing class to manage contractions. At a few points, I was in the bathroom when one would hit, and I simply dropped to my knees on the bathroom floor to breathe through it. Throughout all of this, Elaine offered other ideas of positions and movements that she had seen women use.
At around 10:30, the on-call doctor came back and said I was only at a 4, but I still had fore water – apparently only my hind water had broken earlier in the day. Who knew these things existed? I thought it was just one? Without asking, but I would have agreed, she broke the fore water and almost instantaneously my contraction intensity skyrocketed. I started to vocalize each one, telling myself if I could get through the first breath of each one, then I could make it through them all.
At a few points I was very scared and remember thinking I didn’t know what to do. Charlie and Elaine would calmly reassure me to breathe, tell me to believe I could do this, and offer counter pressure or other support. After a few hours of strong contractions, I was on my hands and knees, basically naked, on the hospital bed. I laid my head down and closed my eyes in between contractions. I could hear Charlie- is she sleeping? Should we wake her up? What will happen if the baby comes while she’s asleep? Elaine responded- “she will find her mama strength.”
Finally I turned to my side – I needed to push – so Elaine called in a second nurse to see if it was time. I have heard terrible stories about women getting their cervix checked during labor, but weirdly when they did this, it relieved some of the pressure. I was almost there, but not yet. They couldn’t find Luca’s heart beat- it had been going down during each contraction as his head was squeezed, then going back up. So they placed a monitor directly on him. At this point my body was getting very scared. Everything was shaking. They said this was normal because of all the stimuli I was experiencing and to not fight it because it would only get worse. I started to get hot, and heard someone say I needed to “let go” so that my body could be calm. Of course I started visualizing Frozen and hearing “Let it Go.”
I started to cool down but still couldn’t get my breath back. They gave me oxygen – it smelled like candy. They told me I was complete. I pulled the oxygen off my face and said, “okay, I’m pushing then!” The assisting nurse said, “if you push now, I’ll be delivering your baby,” to which I said, “I don’t care who catches him, this is happening!”
Seconds later, in walked MY doctor – I was so happy! But I quickly looked petrified when she started gearing up and I saw a huge tray of tools. I looked at Charlie, and he understood (we had talked about not letting anyone cut me or do any sort of intervention that was not 100% needed to save me or Luca). He said, Lara is really worried about those tools. The doctor assured me there were clamps for the cord and that the only thing she would use on me was olive oil. “It will help the baby slide right out; you’ll thank me for it.” Charlie the comedian replied, “I’ll thank you.” But this humor was helpful, as the hardest part was happening- the ring of fire. I admit I thought to myself, “why didn’t I just have another surgery?” at this point.
With each contraction, they had me push as they counted to ten, three times. After the third contraction (so total of nine, 10 second pushes), he was born! (3:46 am 8lb3oz 21inches). “Where were you hiding this baby?” someone asked. All discomfort ended. All I felt was joy. They let Charlie cut his cord, then immediately placed him on my chest. He peed on me, but I didn’t care. My placenta came without me even noticing. Luca latched right away. After a bit of a hemorrhaging scare was cleared up, Luca got a bath, and Charlie passed out. I was up for hours just holding my sweet baby, entirely full of joy. Charlotte came to meet him at 9:00 that morning. I was crying tears of happiness to have them together.
Charlie was in awe of me, and my mom was shocked when I confirmed I did not have an epidural. I had been telling myself for months I could do this- and I did!
Images via @emilycoxhead