Now that Caroline is nine months old, we’ve reached that moment of “nine month in, nine months out.” By now, a little over a week past her nine month birthday, she has spent more time outside of me than she did inside. I think that’s a significant milestone that deserves something special. How about her birth story? I’ve been wanting to write and share this for months (approximately nine), but just put it off and put it off. I wanted to devote time to it, and get down
all most of the details so that I could look back on this and remember the day perfectly. I think I did alright. Don’t worry, I left out enough. 🙂
Caroline Therese was born on June 19, 2014. Here is the story of her (grand, exciting, perfect) entrance:
Caroline was due on Wednesday, June 25, but we all know how useless a “due date” actually is. For most of my pregnancy, I fully expected to go beyond the 25th, as Charlotte was nine days past her due date and I never had any contractions or dilation until the day I went into labor with her. So I was very surprised to find out at my 36 week appointment that I was already 3 centimeters dilated, and my doctor did not think I’d make it to all the way to the 25th. Around that time I also started feeling something funny going on. Nothing painful, just something. I was excited about the possibility of giving birth early, but I didn’t want it to be too early – I had to get through the rest of the school year and I had signed up for a professional development workshop scheduled for the second full week of summer break.
Caroline is clearly a very good listener and a cooperative girl because I made it through the last day of the workshop on June 18th and woke up the next morning to contractions at 6:45 am. Thanks for that perfect timing, Caroline!
The contractions got me out of bed before Charlotte was up, but, even after going through labor once before, I still wasn’t sure if this was going to be “it.” Perhaps they were Braxton hicks contractions? Since I’d never had those before and didn’t fully believe I’d give birth before my due date the next week, I thought there was a chance this was just a false alarm. I had my weekly appointment that morning at 9:30, so after an hour of worsening contractions I called the office and let them know what was going on. They told me to wait things out until my appointment, and that we’d go from there.
Luckily, Chris had enough sense not to go into work that morning and called our moms to start heading over to care for Charlotte over night. He also called our day care provider and asked if she would take Charlotte for the morning until one of our moms arrived. She was already a little worried about me, watching me pace around the house wincing in pain, but we tried to hype her up and get her excited about the day while getting her ready to go (Grammy and Nana are coming! Mama’s having your baby brother or sister! You get to play at Therese’s house and see your friends!).
It was all a whirlwind until it was time to say goodbye to her. As soon I as crouched down and kissed her soft cheek, I started to cry with the heavy realization that, after that moment, our sweet little family was never going to be the same. The past three and a half years with Charlotte (and the nine months before that) had been the most precious years of my life, and suddenly I was hit hard with feelings of not wanting anything to change. But too late for that thinking, right? Everything was about to change whether we were ready for it or not.
Once she left and I was alone with my pain, the contractions pushed all that sentimentality to the back corners of my mind. I still didn’t even have a hospital bag packed. Between packing ever.so.slowly, I passed the next hour or so walking aimlessly around our house and chanting to myself “one step closer, one step closer,” every time I had a contraction. Good thing no one was home with me because I must have looked like the hugest idiot! I was trying to stay as calm as possible since I knew what sort of pain was looming ahead of me, and I’m pretty sure I was just pretending that all my chanting was actually helping.
I don’t remember the car ride to the doctor’s office as well as my middle of the night ride to the hospital three years earlier, but I do remember having to collect myself outside the office door before going inside so I wouldn’t scare everyone in the waiting room. The receptionists took one look at me when I stepped in and sent me right to the back to wait for Dr. Smollen. We skipped getting weighed one final time because who can actually stand on a scale in the middle of your 900th contraction anyway? Dr. Smollen took a quick look at me and said, “You’re having this baby today – you’re dilated at 6! Let’s get you to the hospital.”
I was obviously thrilled to hear this. With Charlotte, I got stuck at 4.5 cm and spent a looooooooong time in labor even after pitocin. Granted, I had been 3 cm dilated for the past 4 weeks so it wasn’t like my body had done all that work in one morning. But still, I was feeling more confident about the VBAC my Dr. and I had been hoping/planning for.
Oh. I guess I did fail to mention that I had been planning to try for a VBAC since the beginning of my pregnancy. My doctor recommended it the first time I met her – she said I was a good candidate because I progressed all the way through labor with Charlotte and because my c-section was due to a very rare cord issue that probably wouldn’t happen again. I brought up the obvious fear of placental abruption (which is why many women in the past who had had one cesarean birth went on to have more), but she assured me that the warning signs during labor are obvious and she’d be able to get me into a prepped O.R. in no time if necessary. I felt both reassured and excited about my delivery with Caroline. At the very least I simply wanted to be awake, and I felt very confident I’d get that!
Since Dr. Smollen’s office is right across the street from Mercy hospital, Chris and I were just going to walk on over to the ER entrance. I only made a few steps out the door before we realized this one minute walk might take us three hours at the rate I was moving, so the nurses lent us a wheelchair, and I got to take a much appreciated cruise, bumping along the sidewalk at record speed.
Mercy hospital is about 1/20th the size of the university, but my labor and delivery room at Mercy was just about as nice and large as it was at the u. I spent .01 seconds deciding that hell yes I wanted an epidural, and the sooner the better thankyouverymuch.
My epidural was bliss this time! Well, except that my veins are difficult to find and work with and that it took three nurses, multiple pokes, and about 45 minutes (AGAIN) to get the dang thing in. My IV ended up in the crook of my elbow, which meant I had to keep my right arm straight for the next 7 hours. This was easily the worse part of my labor, which I think is a pretty dang good thing. It was very small price to pay for getting me through the next seven hours.
Also, unlike my first epidural with Charlotte, this one worked perfectly at managing my pain while still allowing me the ability to both move and feel my legs. The first time I was truly paralyzed, but I thought that was normal since I’d obviously never had an epidural before. I was so pleased and comfortable for the next several hours that I felt like I was being treated to a nice long rest all afternoon.
My mom and Amy brought Charlotte over in the afternoon. She came in tentatively, her finger in her mouth and her eyes darting from me to the IV to the beeping machines. She spoke in a quiet voice and gave me a cautious hug. Seeing me that way made a lasting impression on her because even recently she’s mentioned that she doesn’t want to have a baby when she grows up because she doesn’t want to go to the hospital! She has plenty of time to change her mind about that if she wants to, but my poor dear! Sorry sweetie pie. Here is the only picture of me during labor, hanging out with my favorite (freaked out) visitor:
After some time Charlotte and the grandmas left to run errands, eat, do who knows what (I was a little too preoccupied to find out all the details), and Chris and I were left to wait it out until it was time for the hard work.
I progressed steadily through my contractions without the need for pitocin, and though there were a few moments during the later hours when we heard the heart rate dropping slightly, it was pretty uneventful. Dr. Smollen checked in on us often (she was running back and forth between the hospital and her clinic), even just to pop in and reassure us when the heart rate dropped. She remembered what I had told her months earlier about Charlotte’s heart rate during labor, and she knew we’d be nervous. That small gesture meant so much to me and really put my mind at ease.
Finally, at around 5:15ish, it was time for me to start working on getting this baby out. This was obviously the hardest part of my day, in case you couldn’t guess. And it suddenly felt like the baby was taking up SO MUCH space in my abdomen, which is where I felt all the pain. But after some serious work on my part, and a little bit of tugging on Dr. Smollen’s part, our baby finally arrived at 5:43 pm.
There is no greater relief than finally giving birth. I mean, when they placed my baby on my chest nothing else mattered – she was healthy and it was over. I’m pretty sure I started laughing, and Chris was laughing (maybe) and still holding tight to my hand, and we were just happy happy happy.
And then I remembered to ask, “What it is? Did we have a boy or a girl?” We had chosen to wait to find out, and now the moment was here. Just as I was with Charlotte, I was certain from the beginning we were having a boy. Chris went back and forth, and Charlotte had no doubts that she would be getting a sister. I must have just transferred all that supposed “mother’s intuition” over to my daughter.
I was so pleasantly surprised when the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” Though I would have been thrilled to have a son, I secretly wanted another daughter more. I loved having one daughter so much – two just seemed like a dream. A sister for Charlotte, all the hand-me-down clothes, double the sweetness; what’s not to love about that?!
She surprised us all with her size – 8 pounds 11 ounces. My doctor was certain she wouldn’t be as large as Charlotte was at 8.5, but I knew better than that. I’m pretty sure when I was pregnant her little feet could have stretched their way all the up my throat. I felt very “full of baby.” It sure was nice having chubby little cheeks to smooch as soon as we met her that day.
“What’s her name?” Dr. Smollen asked. The nurses looked on eagerly. Yes, good question. What were we going to name this child? We didn’t have a final choice nailed down for either a boy or girl, and we hadn’t been too concerned about that either. I knew we’d figure it out when he/she was born because we’d just have to. Now that it was time to decide, I surprised myself. I looked up at Chris who was now holding our brand new baby girl. “I think you should choose her name,” I said, and I meant it. I’m not usually one to hand over the baton on things like that, but in that moment, I really felt strongly that he should name our second daughter.
“Really?” He looked at me incredulously. I nodded, and he easily chose Caroline, his long-time favorite name.
And then I did end up cutting in by deciding her middle name should be Therese, my (very beautiful) confirmation saint name. I guess I couldn’t give up that much control. 🙂
The next hour or so was so peaceful and sweet, and I am so grateful to have been awake and conscious for Caroline’s first hours of life. We held off on letting the family in right away because I really wanted to share our first moments with the baby privately with Chris. We wanted to meet her first, and then hold her, nurse her, snuggle her, memorize her without feeling pressure to hand her off and pass her around. There would be plenty of time later for that. Selfish? Maybe, but I feel a mother earns that right.
Caroline Therese Doran was here! We were thrilled and already so in love. Then, when Charlotte came in, and I watched her hold her baby sister for the first time, with her already loving touches and her “Hi Carolines,” I knew that that very moment was the beginning of the best days of our lives.
*Read Charlotte’s birth story here. What a different birthing experience, but it all turned out just as well!
*Gah, we were the worst at taking pictures that day! We have zero with Chris, but I swear he was there.