To be completely honest, most of what happened at the hospital is like one very long, very strange dream. I remember a lot of it so vividly, but what happened when is kind of difficult to remember. I know after we went in and got all set up, we called and told my parents to go ahead and bring Grayson up to see me. I knew the later it got the more pain I would be in, and I didn't want to scare him but I really wanted to see him. I also called my doula to let her know that things were finally getting started, and she said she would head up after dinner.
This time around was different on a bajillion different levels, but one of the main things that was different is the fact that I was up and moving around this time. Since I was induced last time they had me strapped to a monitor the entire time, so I never really got to labor the way that I wanted to. So since I could still do whatever I wanted basically, I went back to that looooong sky bridge and walked walked walked. Once my parents and Grayson got there they all walked up and down and up and down with me several times, until we all got a little tired of it. Every time I would have to stop for a contraction and basically cling on to the wall to keep from falling down from the pain, Grayson would get a little concerned. Someone would just tell him that mommy needed to rest and try to distract him, and he honestly didn't seem to be too weirded out. After tons of walking we went back to the room to say our goodbyes for the night. I remember being emotional about letting Grayson leave, because I knew the next time I saw him his entire world would be turned upside down. I was so so excited for it all, but also a little sad for it to be the last time I would see him as my only baby.
Everyone kept telling me that I should get some rest, but when you are having contractions that make you feel like you want to die it's basically impossible. They weren't super close together at this point, maybe 4 to 5 minutes if I remember correctly, but when they did come on they were insane. All of this part is truly a blur, but I believe when Dr. Cummings came in to check this first time is when he encouraged me to get the pitocin as well as an epidural. With the pitocin, I was super hesitant because I felt like that is what sent everything spiraling during my labor with Grayson. However, Dr. Cummings really encouraged me and said it was basically necessary at this point because my labor was going so incredibly slowly that we really needed to nudge things along. He said "The pitocin isn't what caused your c-section, it was your impatient doctor. I am NOT that doctor, and we will get your VBAC." So after his little pep talk I decided to go for it with the pitocin. He also suggested that I get the epidural beforehand as well. He explained that he is not a doctor who normally recommends an epidural (which he had told me many times before) but that I had been at it for so long, was already so exhausted and stressed, and had so far to go, that an epidural would allow me to relax enough to progress. Since I fully, 100% trusted him, I agreed to that too. And I'm so glad I did!
After the epidural I was finally able to get some relief and rest. Since this meant that I couldn't get up and move anymore, I put in my headphones and listened to my "relax" play list I had made. Gavin wasn't reacting great to the pitocin, so they had to keep coming in and adjusting the dosage and checking the monitors, which was nerve-wracking. I also had to wear an oxygen mask basically the entire time after the pitocin started, which was awful. I remember Dr. Cummings coming in at one point and pulling out the loooong sheet of paper that had I guess his heart rate over the past few hours and him looking concerned, which obviously concerned me. But then he said something along the lines of "you are fine, your baby is fine, relax", and I felt better.
The WORST part of having an epidural for me is that loss of control that you feel when your bottom half goes numb. It is so disturbing to see your legs and feet and to be totally unable to move them even an inch. To see people pulling them to the side and flipping them around and to have zero control is almost more than I can handle. In the middle of the night, the husband and my doula Maria were both asleep in those hideous hospital chairs, and I was laying there wide awake. I started having a legit panic attack because I felt paralyzed and was convinced that it was permanent. I had to talk myself down, do all kinds of deep breathing, I text my mom (who was obviously asleep at like 3 AM), and cried and cried (silently so no one would wake up). I finally calmed myself down enough that I was able to get a bit of sleep.
At some point there was a shift change, and my overnight nurse left. When she was leaving, she said something along the lines of when I come back I know you'll have had this baby! And I know you'll get your VBAC! Nicest thing she said the entire time - I had not been her biggest fan. But at 48 HOURS of active labor, I needed the encouragement. Then my new nurse came in and I. LOVED. HER. She was amazing. Seriously, so great. Dr. Cummings came back in around this time, which I'm guessing was about 7 AM, and he checked me and I was at a 7! I mean. It doesn't sound like much, but it was all I needed to get me over the hump and let me know I could keep going and get the job done. With Grayson I "failed to progress" past a 4, so knowing that in the middle of the night I had blown past that felt amazing.
Can you see the utter exhaustion? I swear I can feel it just by looking at my face.
Dr. Cummings came back a couple of hours later and I had progressed a little more, I believe to a 9, so he told the nurse to have me start pushing. This was around 9/930. It was so strange, and to explain that feeling is tough. But all of the sudden I felt like - wait! This is all happening so fast!!! (HAHAHA) I think I was a little bit in shock that it was actually happening, after the years of bitterness over my c-section and the months of planning for this moment, it was actually, finally happening. So. The pushing began.
And the pushing continued. On, and on, and on. This is why I tell you that my nurse was so very amazing. She had me pushing in so many different positions. She had me on my side, on my back, using one of those peanut ball things, using a bar to hold onto - pretty much everything but standing up, she had me do it. Also, when I was about to start pushing, she said "OK, I want to turn your epidural off. I need you to feel this. I'm not sure if he'll let me, but if he will we need to do it, OK?" I agreed, and of course Dr. Cummings agreed, so they turned it off. Obviously all feeling didn't immediately come back, but I had already been feeling the contractions, and once they turned it off....OMG. They were hitting me HARD.
The pushing portion of things is super, super vivid to me, even now, four months later. It didn't go at all how I thought it would. My parents had come back up to the hospital with Grayson, and my mom was able to come in. I had A up by my head on my right side, my mom right beside him, my doula beside her, down by my legs, and my nurse on the left side. When a contraction would hit and she would have me push, I would grab for someone's hand, probably practically break it, and push with more strength than I knew I had. I kept my eyes closed literally the entire time, which was unexpected for me, but I kind of just shut down into myself. I didn't listen to any music, which also was unexpected, but I think I just needed 100% of my focus on what I was doing. Every once in awhile I would say "water" and A would get me my water or some ice, or say "hand" and he or my mom would give me their hand, but I don't think I said anything other than that.
My amazing nurse was so encouraging, and even though I can't remember everything she said, I know she said exactly what I needed to hear throughout the entire process. Probably about an hour later Dr. Cummings came back in to check me, and he very calmly said that I was at a 10, then he said "Let's have a baby". At that point all these people came swarming into the room, and my mom had to move down by my feet, but A stayed up by me holding my hand. I think I glanced around the room once, and other than that kept my eyes close.
Dr. Cummings was seriously amazing through the actual delivery part of things. I pushed and pushed and pushed, and I didn't think Gavin was EVER going to come out. Dr. C just kept talking to me so calmly and quietly, encouraging me and telling me what I needed to do differently. Everyone was telling me I could do it, telling me to push, telling me I was doing a great job - and I just kept going. Labor is such a strange experience, and I just remember feeling almost animalistic, if that makes any sense. I was making the craziest grunting/screeching sounds, and I remember thinking how strange it sounded, but I honestly couldn't stop. At one point Dr. C said "That sound you're making? It's not helping you. In fact, when you make it, the baby is moving back up. You're putting too much energy into that sound. Stop." Haha! So I tried to stop, although I'm not totally sure I succeeded.
When we were so, so close, he stopped and said "Were you an athlete? Have you done anything athletic in your life?" and I said I was a dancer and a cheerleader and that I played basketball in like third grade, but I didn't think that counted, and everyone laughed. He said "OK, yes that was funny, but you need to tap into that. That strength and determination and athleticism, you need to dig down and find that". So I kept going. Pretty soon, he said "OK, I can see the head!" Then he said "Would you like to see? Or would you like to feel it?" I said "Umm. Not see it, but yes feel it." So I did, and MAN. That is one crazy experience, to reach down and feel the baby actually coming out of you. I kept pushing and pushing after that, and a few minutes later he said "OK, feel the head now. See how far he's come? He's almost here."
More pushing, more pushing - endless pushing, seriously, and then finally, amazingly, blessedly, I pushed him out. He was here. I felt him leave me, and it was the strangest rush of feelings I've ever experienced. I cried. Dr. C held him for a minute, I guess making sure everything was good, I think he had passed some of the meconium already so he was a bit concerned, but then I heard the sweetest little cry I had ever heard, and he handed him to me. And wow. I mean, how can you even describe that moment? I immediately noticed that he looked JUST like Grayson did when he was born, and I said something along the lines of "Oh my God. Hi there baby! You look familiar!" He just stared at me and was so sweet and quiet, and I instantly felt my heart grow. If I had ever worried about not feeling for him the way I felt for Grayson, it was gone in that first millisecond that I held him.
My VBAC was so insanely healing for me. I had so many negative, complicated emotions that I was still dealing with from my first birth experience. This allowed me to do what I knew I could, what I know my body was made to do. It let me see that I wasn't a failure, that my body wasn't broken, and that I can literally do anything that I put my mind to. My sweet baby Gavin will always be so special to me because he gave me that. I was worried that since Grayson was my first and will obviously always be so special because of that, that Gavin wouldn't have that special "something" (such a silly thing to worry about, any mom of two or more can tell you). But this experience - this sweet little guy gave me this amazing experience, and for that I will always be so grateful.