In true fashion, I'm late to posting my birth story for Baby #2. There's definitely not as much down time as there was when I was just a mama to one kiddo!
We are entering into Week #6 of life with Fran and it's been quite fun and, let's be honest, exhausting. Luckily, we've had so much help from family, even though we no longer live in Bloomington. BIG thanks to our loved ones who have spent time with our energetic toddler, helped me run errands, taken us in for overnights, fed us, and more. I often hear, "Wow, a newborn! How are you feeling? You must be so tired." And honestly, managing the newborn is a breeze- it's making sure my toddler is feeling supported that's quite tiresome and emotionally draining. "Wanna play with me, Mama?" are the sweetest words to hear but a difficult request to act on as I multi-task nursing, changing diapers, managing spit up, fixing meals, making sure the laundry pile doesn't get *too* big, etc. Solo parenting is no joke and every day I can't help but think about the single parents who do this regularly. My heart goes out to you.
As most of you know, my husband works out of town Monday-Friday. One week before my estimated due date, he surprised us by coming home a few days early. He was just as eager as me to have baby #2 and told himself he would come home early, I would be more at ease, and consequently our baby would make her appearance. HAHA!! Why do we trick ourselves into thinking we can control these types of situations? Our baby was *not* ready to meet us and during my doc visit that week, I was told my cervix was only 1 cm. dilated and "stretchy." I requested a membrane sweep, which hurt like CRAZY, and we went on our way. Our doc actually said something along the lines of, "Not sure you WANT to go into labor right now because a more favorable cervix will make for an 'easier' and more straightforward labor." The few weeks leading up to Fran's birthday, I had tons of Braxton Hicks contractions and was going to the bathroom (upset stomach) frequently. Like, a lot. I had this happen the day before I went into labor with B, but this was a very prolonged experience I was not prepared for. Every night I thought, "Okay, so these don't feel like contractions but this is my second baby so maybe these cramps are intense sooo...???" At one point, I thought I ate some bad food! I do think all the crampiness helped my cervix change but it was weeks before baby girl was born.
I tried most of the ways to induce labor at home. I ate two whole pineapples in two days, people. I also tried evening primrose oil capsules. It's hard to say what "worked," but I think a combo of choices did move things along a bit. On the evening of Thursday, June 15, I had been feeling pretty crampy. I stayed up too late watching Netflix (we're all guilty of this, right?) and around midnight decided I should go to bed. By 3 am, I was awake with more intense cramping (contractions?!) and thought I *might* be in labor. I had lots of prodromal labor with B, so I wasn't trying to get ahead of myself. I called Josh (who was 3 hours away for work!) and let him know things were happening. By 5am, I was downstairs on the couch watching HGTV and eating breakfast. B woke up around 7am and giggled at me while I draped my body over a yoga ball and tried to keep my cool during contractions (veeeeery funny, kid). I called Josh around 8am and he knew it was time to get on the road to come home. I arranged with my mother-in-law to take our toddler to Bloomington to hang with family. Josh arrived around 10am and our doula, who we had been in contact with all morning, came around noon or so. She did a quick cervical check to find that I was 4 cm. dilated, which made me super excited. I was so ready to have our baby!! I told her I wanted to try to get to 5 or 6 cm. before heading to the hospital- I figured I would want an epidural but was planning to wait until I was a little farther along before deciding.
My doula suggested I load up on water and Gatorade and to walk around for a bit. She left to grab a cup of coffee while we did our thing and when we called her to come back, I was REALLY feeling pain in my lower back. It's hard to describe but it felt like an intense stretch that wrapped underneath my rib cage on the left side. Nothing made it better. The shower, counter pressure, hands and knees...I was at a loss of what to do. I couldn't believe it, but it felt exactly like when I was laboring with B (and I thought I had pulled a muscle with him!) I think it was around 5pm when I asked her to check me again-- I was still at 4cm. I knew it would take a while to get checked in at the hospital and meet with the anesthesiologist so I was ready to get in the car and go! I called the on-call number for my doc and found out she was out of town (awesome) but her back-up, who I had never met before, was calm and listened as I talked to her between contractions.
By the time I waddled up to Labor and Delivery, I was throwing up and could barely move. The contractions were all consuming but the back labor hurt even worse. When I used the bathroom, my water broke (very subtly- not like those crazy scenes in the movies) and we had to wait for the anesthesiologist for about 2 hours. I think my epidural was in place by 8pm and around that time, the doc suggested breaking my water. I agreed to it but when she checked me, she couldn't find it (?!?) and that's when we suspected it broke earlier while I was using the restroom. Weird!!
The pain of my contractions went away almost instantly, but the back labor stuck around for about 20 minutes after the epidural was in place. Once it did wipe out the pain, I felt so much better. Like, a fog had been lifted and I could actually think and talk again! I hopped on my phone to update our people on labor progress and Josh watched a movie on his laptop. It was around 10 or 10:30pm when Josh said he was going to try to sleep and suggested I do the same. He happened to look up at the monitor, which was showing contraction after contraction. He mentioned it to me and that's when I realized I was very shaky. I buzzed for the nurse to come in-- she checked me to find I was complete and baby's head was RIGHT there. She called for the doctor and the staff got the room set up pretty darn fast. The nurses put a mirror at the foot of my bed and the doc and Josh supported me while I pushed in a side-lying position. Our doula snapped lots of photos and Baby Fran was born in about 3 contractions!! Just like I did with B, I was able to reach down and bring her up to my chest. She cried instantly and was ready to nurse as soon we were skin to skin.
I felt very emotional this time around when I pushed Fran out. I don't know if it was because I had done it before and was anticipating what to expect? I was still vulnerable to the experience and had all of these big feelings, but I wasn't as immersed in the shock of "OMG I'm becoming a parent!!" It felt very surreal to have her in my arms, especially after all of the wondering with timing and stressing about whether or not I'd go into labor when Josh was home with us. All of those concerns just faded away. I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be and was reminded that labor unfolds in such a unique and unforgettable way. I was not prepared to experience back labor again but when those familiar sensations resurfaced, I knew that getting the epidural would help me cope. And I couldn't *not* cry when she latched. We later found out she was tongue tied, but to have an ambitious nurser who was ready to eat brought on such intense feelings of joy. I sobbed and told my doula, "I forgot what it feels like to nurse a newborn!" while touching my baby's wet, dark hair and studying her every move. And I think her behavior from the first second we met her still rings true to her personality at Week #6. Her cries are loud and distinct. She is a serious snuggler and wants to eat all of the time still (even after her tongue tie revision, too!). She's just like "BAM, here I am!" I like to joke she's a diva, the queen, the boss, etc. She knows it, too- and her brother is just as smitten with her as the rest of us are. Before she was here, I wondered how everything would fit together in the postpartum period. How would I love another baby? How could I mother two kids at once? But now I question what life was even like before we became a family of four. We wouldn't trade her for the world- Fran is the perfect addition to our family!