Reid Elijah Luders was born on December 25, 2017 at 6:52PM, weighing 7lbs 15.9oz and measuring 21 inches long!
When it comes to anticipating the birth of your second child, you have the advantage of knowing your prior birth story. Because Rosemary was born, via c-section, 5 days after her due date, I never anticipated Reid to come early. His due date was 12/31/17, and we had a repeat c-section scheduled for 12/29/17, but, at 1AM on Christmas morning, I went into labor!
Unlike my first pregnancy, I had been having a few contractions before I went into labor. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions periodically for about a month and spent the prior two nights with some uncomfortable (but not really painful), irregular contractions. Rosemary was hospitalized for 24 hours after a febrile seizure on 12/22, and we had been home for less than 36 hours before labor began. I feel pretty confident that the extreme stress from the seizure was the trigger for labor. I was already scared to have to leave Rosemary after the episode, but it came earlier than we even expected!
From the first appointment with the OB/GYN, we had discussed the possibility of a VBAC. I never really felt like I had missed anything by having a c-section, but the recovery was long. The thought of not being able to pick up Rosemary or living in fear of her jumping on me was the primary reason I was interested in VBAC. Because I had never labored with Rosemary, I was a good candidate (especially since she had ended up being smaller than she originally seemed when we were advised to go for a c-section). Throughout my pregnancy, I really wavered with the VBAC decision. I was really scared of hemorrhaging or laboring for a long time and ending up with a c-section anyways. I decided to book my c-section pretty late and figure it out as I got closer to the due date.
At 1AM the contractions started and I started timing them. At 2AM, I woke up Chris because the contractions were pretty regular at about 5 minutes apart. They were also super painful! After I woke Chris up and I had a few more contractions, we called the OB at 2:35AM to confirm that we should go to the hospital, and they told us to head on over. They asked if we wanted a c-section (like we had scheduled) or to try for VBAC, and I very sheepishly said VBAC. VBACs require going into labor naturally, which never happened with Rosemary, so part of me felt like I would never have to choose between c-section and VBAC. I was so torn, but knew I wanted to get home to Rosemary as quickly as possible.
We called my parents to come over and stay with Rosemary, and then we had to pack our hospital bags! I had thrown a couple things into a bag a few weeks prior, but we had to use the bag during Rosemary’s hospital stay, so we were completely unprepared. We hadn’t even put the infant car seat in the car. Packing through contractions was hard! It’s a miracle that we didn’t forget something important!
It took us a little while to get going because we had to hand off a few more instructions to my parents for caring for Rosemary after the seizure, in addition to the packing. We also took a few minutes to let me open my Christmas present from Chris because he had bought me a camera lens that I wanted to use at the hospital! I can’t remember exactly when we left, but I would guess around 4 or 4:30.
While packing and on the ride to the hospital, the contractions started to taper. By the time we got the hospital (around 5AM), they were nearly 15 minutes apart. I was sure they were going to send us home. They went ahead and got us a room, though, and we waited for the nurse to come check how dilated I was. About 30 minutes after we arrived, they checked my cervix. I was 2-3cm dilated and about 80-90% effaced. The prior Friday, I had been 1cm dilated and 90% effaced, so there was progress, but not a lot, and we were told that measurements are pretty subjective. I still thought we were going to get sent home, but they sent us to walk the hallways to see if labor would progress.
Walking the halls was not very fun! As we were walking, the contractions definitely picked up! They varied from 2-6 minutes apart. I was worried that their irregularity was an indication that it was false labor. We walked for about 2 hours and then I got too tired and came back to the room. The contractions immediately slowed again and I got pretty frustrated. I realized that labor could take so long before the baby was born that it might offset the longer stay caused by the c-section. I was getting ready to switch to a c-section when my midwife arrived. She was totally supportive of whatever I wanted to do, but offered to check my dilation to see if that helped make my decision. I was sure she was going to say I was still 2-3cm, but….
Everything changed at that point. I was still scared to try for a VBAC, but I wanted to go for it. I also knew that it could still take a while, but we weren’t getting sent home, and I could now get an epidural! In fact, they were so surprised by how quickly I was progressing, that they rushed the labs so that I could get my epidural ASAP.
The anesthesiologist arrived about 30 minutes later to set me up. With Rosemary, the epidural was probably my least favorite part (until the long recovery). They aren’t that painful, they just feel like something is where it shouldn’t be (namely, a needle in your spinal cord). Chris and the nurse helped me stay much more relaxed this time, and I never felt like I was going to pass out like last time. About 15 minutes after the epidural was administered, I started to feel numb. They put a lot of medicine in at first to totally numb you from waist down. I felt like I weighed 500 lbs! They had me lay on my side because I could feel one side more than the other, but then kept alternating sides about every hour. Changing sides made watching the monitor a little tricky, but Chris helped me see them using the delivery mirror (ha!). It was cool to watch the contractions come and go without pain. I could still tell they were happening, but they no longer hurt – they felt like the tide receding before a big wave. Once the epidural was fully in gear, the midwife broke my water.
Unfortunately, the IV fluids and epidural slowed my labor down. I was going about 30 minutes between each contraction. They wanted to speed it up because 1) once your water is broken, they want to deliver the baby as soon as possible to avoid infection and 2) at a rate of 30 minutes between contractions, you’d only be pushing twice an hour once it became time! Although we had always heard that they would not induce a VBAC candidate, they decided to give me pitocin to ramp up the contractions. This made us a little nervous, but they told us that augmenting labor that had already begun was different than starting it to begin with. Plus, they assured us that the dose would be much lower.
It took a while for the pitocin to start working. They started me off at a level 2 (no idea what that metric is, but the levels can go up to 36), with a plan to increase the dosage by 2 every 30 minutes or so. I made it to an 8 before the contractions were too strong for their comfort (they were coming about every minute and not fully going away). At this point, they turned the pitocin off for a while, but eventually increased it back to a 6. I don’t know the exact time period for all these events, but the contractions became very regular (2-3 minutes apart) and I was declared fully dilated (10cm) around 4PM.
Once I was dilated, they told me that the baby’s head was at +1 station, but that they were going to sit me up and let me “labor down,” which essentially means to let gravity help the baby make its way as far down before I start pushing. They had me labor down for an hour, during which time I started to feel pain return. I was assured that pressure was good because it would give me somewhere to focus my pushing, but this was actual pain in my hip. They tried to give me a boost of the epidural, but it never really worked. By the time it became time to push, I was feeling every contraction very vividly.
The midwife returned and told me that it was time to push. I was pretty close to backing out of the VBAC at that point because I’m wimpy and could feel each contraction! But I had made it so far that I stuck with it. They had me do a few practice pushes, during the first two or three contractions (which are basically the same as normal pushes except you are bad at them at first so they call them practice).
I pushed for almost two hours before Reid was born. The midwife and nurses were so so supportive the whole time. Chris was an absolute angel, telling me how much he loved me and how proud he was of me. I was really appreciative of the support, even if I was super grumpy back to him. I mostly just tried to keep my eyes closed and focus on getting the energy to push. I had to take a break during 1.5 contractions and that turned out to be a way more painful decision than just pushing. Pushing, though, was so incredibly exhausting! I genuinely wanted to just ask for a c-section at about an hour and a half. Fortunately, though, the midwife told me that we could probably deliver the baby in 10 minutes if I got some really good pushes in, which helped motivate me.
I thought I was making no progress at the end because I was just so tired, and then all the sudden they said the head was out and then they pulled out the body! It was so surreal! They placed his body on my chest and he was so gooey! I wasn’t even sure how to hold him safely! They took him away to be cleaned, delivered the placenta and stitched me up after that. I was shaking pretty hard the whole time from fear, stress, and exhaustion. I was told that Reid was delivered in posterior position, which is considered more painful and explained the bump that he had on his head!
After the delivery, they discovered that I had a mild fever. In my head, I was thinking “well, duh – that was really hard and I’m pretty sure my epidural had worn off,” but they seemed worried about it. We had to stay in the recovery room a little while longer while they retested a few times and contacted a pediatrician. Because I had a fever, I got put on antibiotics for 24 hours, and Reid was taken to the nursery for lab tests. Apparently, when lab tests are drawn, the baby isn’t allowed to leave the hospital for 48 hours of the test, so we were required to stay until 10:15PM on 12/27.
We made it to the post-partum room around 10:30PM that night. My mom had been at the hospital the whole day just in case I went into surgery or had any emergencies, but mostly stayed out of the delivery room. My dad arrived after Reid was born to see him and drive my mom home. They ended up not being able to see the baby until after we arrived in the postpartum room, and then headed home to take over babysitting Rosemary (Chris’s mom and brother had been watching her since about 9AM because we were so worried about her after her seizure that we required two adults to be with her at all times. Sorry, everyone for being so demanding!)
We, then, sent Reid to the nursery so we could have a night to recover some. We had only slept about two hours when Rosemary was in the hospital two nights before and 1 hour while I was in labor, so we were exhausted! I still didn’t get much sleep out of excitement, but I was thankful for the little I got.
The next morning, I woke up before Chris and went and got Reid. My plan was actually just to look at him in the nursery, but I couldn’t find him and the nurses asked if I wanted to take him to my room once they brought him to me and I, excitedly, said yes.
I had attempted to breastfeed him the night before in the recovery room and once in the post partum room, but was too tired. After getting him from the nursery, though, I tried again and discovered that he’s actually a really good latcher. Breastfeeding was, easily, one of the hardest parts of new motherhood with Rosemary, and I was so grateful that it may be easier this time. At 4 days out, my milk has already come in, and Reid has begun to regain weight. After the week we had had, I was thankful for anything that would reduce our stress!
Chris’s family came to visit that first morning, and Lori got to hold him for a good amount of time. As usual, in a hospital, people continued to barge in the room around the clock, but it was less overwhelming the second time because I knew more about what I needed to say yes to (vitals, meds) and what was less important or could be sent away for a while (photos, lactation consultants, food).
My parents brought Rosemary that evening (12/26). This was the moment I most looked forward to and feared. When they brought her up, she was carrying the sweetest arrangement of flowers that she had picked out herself. The vase was a ceramic lamb, and it was so sweetly Rosemary. Once she saw us, she got excited and ran over towards us for big hugs. I was so thankful for the VBAC allowing me to move much more effortlessly! She was very excited to see us but a little hesistant about the hospital setting. When we brought her into our room, we showed her Reid in his bassinet. She was a little skeptical and kept waving her arm and making her “no” noise. For the rest of the time there, she was much more interested in running around the room than seeing her baby brother. I was concerned that she wasn’t going to like him, but knew that she was likely overwhelmed by the setting and missing her parents. It was really hard to say bye to her when she left, but I know she had been having fun with family!
We didn’t have any visitors the next day, which was very relaxing. I hadn’t slept great the second night in the hospital due to increasing pain levels, so I was happy to have a day to sleep when I could. Both Chris and I had lots of cuddle time, and I tried to make sure that my cuddle time was not completely monopolized by breastfeeding. By about 5PM, we were ready to go but had to wait around until 10:15 to be discharged.
All in all, the delivery and hospital experience was great! I have no regrets about my c-section with Rosemary because the delivery itself was actually a little less traumatising. But, with Rosemary running around, I am so glad I was able to have a successful VBAC! I can’t imagine not being able to hold her for so long!
Reid is a little angel baby. He latches easily and sleeps well! He really seems to love his mommy and daddy already because sometimes he’ll cry and a few sweet cuddles are all he needs to cheer up. He still feels a bit like a stranger now that I have spent so much time around a growing toddler with a huge personality, but I know he and I will soon be the BFFs that Rosemary and I are. We are over the moon happy to have him in our lives and can’t wait to see him grow into the wonderful boy and man we know he will be!
P.S. Did I mention that one of the nurses wore a Santa hat and beard during the whole delivery? That’s the sort of crazy thing that happens when you’re born on Christmas, I guess.