Monday, July 28, 2014

Final Thoughts: E.J., My Attempted VBAC & Being a Family of Four

This will be my last birth-related post, and it's largely going to be a hodgepodge of various other things I wanted to document: how E.J. got his name, thoughts on my birth team, the beginning of our breastfeeding journey, etc.

And of course, I also want to give a short update on a few of the bigger issues I worried about before birth: my thoughts on my failed VBAC, becoming a mother of two, and where we go from here.


E.J.'s Name

We've gotten lots of questions about E.J.'s name. Okay, really one main question: is he a junior? The answer is "no." He and his dad are both named Eric, but their middle names are different. We did consider an Eric Jr., and if we had gone that way we still would've called him E.J. But, Eric decided he didn't want a full-blown junior, so we abandoned "E.J." for a while and started considering other names, likely using Eric's middle name "Ryan" as the baby's middle name. But nothing really felt right. I had been pushing for "James" as the baby's first name, but Eric wasn't loving it. Then one day, I realized, hey. We could go with "Eric James" and still use "E.J." as a nickname. I suggested it to Eric, and although neither of us outwardly agreed to it for some time, that just felt like "it." So, there you have it. E.J. is not a junior, but his name is a combination of two family names: Eric for his father, and James was my late paternal grandfather's middle name. Both of those men are/were good, strong, devoted family men, and I'm proud that my son is named after both of them.

Eric with E.J., and my Papa with baby me - almost exactly 32 years apart!

Also, for the record, we were not going for an "E" theme, although I understand it looks that way. We just happened to like two "E" names, and I did think "Ellie and E.J." sounded cute as a set. But, should there ever be a third child in our family, you can be pretty certain his/her name will not start with an "E."


My Recovery

I mentioned this in Friday's post, but my recovery this time around has been a million times better than last time. I attribute that to both fewer complicating factors, and fewer days of no sleep leading up to birth. I was able to get out of bed less than 12 hours after my surgery, and really was surprised how quickly I felt good enough to be up and about. Granted, for some time I still would get pretty sore if I tried to do too much too soon, and I'm certainly not Speedy Gonzalez running all over the place just yet. But I'm med-free already and for the most part, feel really good. Which, thank goodness, because I've been sleeping on a hospital cot for almost two weeks now. In a way, I think E.J.'s unexpected hospitalization may have helped my recovery, giving me basically nothing to do besides rest and take care of him. If I were home with my family, I would be more likely to be chasing after Ellie or simply taking on more physical exertion than I am here. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather be doing that. But hopefully this extra rest time will just make it so I am that much stronger and ready to dive right back into our family life as soon as E.J. and I are set free.


Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has been going extremely well so far. E.J. and I figured out the breastfeeding thing very quickly, exactly as I had hoped. He's a very good eater and I feel like on my end, my milk came in very quickly and largely regulated very quickly, too. (Well, with the exception of one clogged duct just this week - because my time in the hospital with E.J. wasn't fun enough, so why not add some pain to the whole thing?) I do think breastfeeding was one department where having done this so recently/for so long has benefited me, because it just feels more natural and I feel very relaxed about it this time.

One funny thing has been seeing Ellie's reaction to breastfeeding. I had wondered what she would think of it, considering she was just weaned herself in January. She doesn't seem to have any recollection of nursing herself, but she does like to talk about how E.J. likes to "eat nipples!"

VIDEO: Ellie discussing what she and her brother like to eat


My Medical Team

I know I mentioned this in the birth story, but I absolutely loved my medical team this time: Full Circle Women's Care in Jacksonville. As I said before, I chose my previous doctors for their reputation as natural-birth friendly. However, in comparing them to my current providers, I really feel that they were simply okay with my plans for a natural birth, whereas my current team encouraged it. Does that make sense? When we came to Jacksonville and I found out I was pregnant, I was worried about finding a provider that would be willing to let me try for a VBAC. The practice I found, however, not only was wiling to let me try, but it really seemed like it was assumed that I would go for a VBAC. Throughout my pregnancy they were very nonchalant about it, recognizing that my history in no way made me a poor candidate for a VBAC. They were very reassuring and completely on board with my plan (with a few caveats for safety, of course).

The majority of my prenatal visits were with midwife Lauren, and Eric and I loved her. We had a bit of a change of plans doctor-wise, however, as the primary OBGYN that drew me to this practice was leaving - her last day was June 30, and my due date was July 1. My research had informed me that she was the OB for VBACs in Jacksonville, so I was concerned when I learned she probably wouldn't be around for my birth. Lauren was great, though, and as the practice secured a new OB to take the previous doctor's place, Lauren continued to reassure us that the new doctor would follow the same philosophy and in no way were my VBAC plans in jeopardy.

As it turned out, the new doctor, Dr. Chandra Adams, was awesome. She was very kind and respectful, and as I described in the birth story, she treated me the way she would want to be treated if/when she is seeking a VBAC. She gave me every opportunity to have the experience I wanted; unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be. I can't express how much I appreciated her empathy and willingness to try different things to give me what I was hoping for, and her bedside manner when that didn't happen was just what I needed to feel that I was still in control of the situation. She really did everything she could to make me feel okay about ending up with another c-section, because she allowed me to exhaust all other options first. I am so grateful for that.

With Dr. Adams immediately after E.J. was born


My Doula

My doula was Cloe Smith and she was amazing. I worried a lot about finding a doula this time around because my doula last time (Jess!) was so fantastic, and I wondered how I would find anyone to compare. Luckily for us, we found Cloe. Her personality was very different from that of our previous doula, and when we made the decision to hire Cloe I was gambling that what made her different would make her right for this birth, because this birth was going to be different from my last. As it turned out, I think I was right. Jess was exactly who I needed at my first birth, and Cloe was who I needed at my second.

Cloe was very bubbly, optimistic and outgoing. A diehard introvert myself, I wondered how I would feel about that while in labor, but she was just what I needed. She was consistently encouraging and at times even a bit forceful in her admonishments to basically stay focused, don't waste energy, don't say you can't, keep going. I would say, "I can't do this," and she would say, "You ARE doing it." She essentially took the lead in how my labor went - constantly suggesting new positions and techniques. Every couple of hours it was, "Okay, now let's try this," which kept me from getting "stuck" in my head and just helped me progress through labor in stages. I think I needed that regular change of strategy to keep me moving through the day without getting discouraged or overwhelmed. As a massage therapist, and with her knowledge of positioning techniques, she did so much to help me relax and to try to get E.J. to turn how we wanted him. She was always calm, always matter-of-fact, and I trusted her to guide me through the process.

With Cloe's help, I was able to do just what I had hoped: I was able to labor at home, intervention/med-free, essentially until I was ready to push. I strolled into the hospital at 9 cm, just as I had planned. If not for Cloe, I don't know that I would have done that. I probably would have gone to the hospital too soon, and would have ended up with an epidural much earlier, and ultimately I would have spent the rest of forever wondering if that was why I ended up with a c-section again. But thanks to Cloe, I know that I did everything I could. I labored the whole way through. I pushed. I didn't get my VBAC, but Cloe helped me get as close as I possibly could.

Basically, Cloe was great, and if you are looking for a doula in the Jacksonville area, I highly recommend her. Feel free to email me for her contact information.

With Cloe after the birth

Eric

It probably goes without saying by now that Eric was incredible throughout labor and delivery, and during my recovery. I am so blessed to have a husband who so effortlessly knows what I need and is willing and able to give me just that, without a second thought, always. I have talked in two different birth stories now about how in sync Eric and I were during labor, and about how my memories of laboring with Eric's support are memories that I will always treasure. Yes, I was in extreme pain, and that part wasn't fun. But I had to do it and in that case, there is nowhere I would rather be than in Eric's arms. His presence alone is a comfort to me and his physical support was how I made it through. I am forever grateful for his love, patience, encouragement, strength and support during the births of both my children. He is a phenomenal husband and father and all three of us are lucky to have him.

Being his usual attentive, sweet self

We did it!

Of course, at this point I'm only talking about Eric's support during E.J.'s birth - I haven't yet even touched on what a rock star he has been while E.J. has been in the hospital. Prepare for a lot more gushing when I get to that part, folks.


Processing the Birth

I have talked at length here about my hopes for a VBAC, and my fears of birth after my experience with Ellie's delivery. I do wish so much that I was here now talking about how I did it, I got the VBAC experience I dreamed of, and how empowering that is. But I'm not.

How I will process this birth really remains to be seen, and I know that it's going to be an evolving process. Only three weeks out, it already has been. In the immediate aftermath, I was very at peace with everything. I knew without question that I did everything I could have done. I knew that I was strong. I knew that I endured and fought for that birth that I wanted. I knew that my birth team did everything they could to help me. And ultimately, I knew that we made the decision that was necessary for both E.J. and me. No regrets.

And really, all that is still true. I still know all that. But very quickly, with the passage of very little time, some sadness started to set in as well. As much as I know all of the above to be true, I still cannot believe that I actually wasn't able to do it. It really didn't happen. I'm a little bit in disbelief, and a little bit angry - angry because I spent the majority of my pregnancy acknowledging the fact that a VBAC may not happen for me. But, at the very end, in an effort to make use of the power of positive thinking, I allowed myself to be convinced that it would happen. I envisioned it. I cried tears of joy at the anticipation of it. I forced myself to turn my thoughts around; I finally bought into what everyone around me was saying: I will have a successful VBAC. This will happen for me. And then it didn't. It may not be logical, but a part of me is angry at myself for buying into the hype only to be let down. It also doesn't help that I ended up with the exact scenario I was most afraid of, the one in which I labored completely and still couldn't do it. I said all along that if I was going to have a c-section again, I wished that it would be for some clear-cut reason (breech baby or some such thing) so that I could just schedule it and go in and avoid any uncertainty or surprises, not to mention having to go into surgery already fatigued from the physical stress of labor. But, that's just what happened, and then I had the pleasure of recovering physically not only from surgery but also from labor and hours of pushing.

I feel that ultimately I'm going to have to do a little bit of grieving. Should we decide to have more children, I will not try for a VBA2C. I just don't think I have that in me. So now I'm grieving that experience that I dreamed of but know I will never actually have. Not only that, I always envisioned having a large family - four kids, maybe. But I do not see myself putting my body through four c-sections, so my family plan will have to change. I had a hard time moving past Ellie's birth, but at least after that one I could say, "well next time, it will be different. I can try x, y, z." But this was my next time. There may not be a next time at all, and if there is, I already know what my birth will look like. I don't see another second chance here. I had my chance, and it didn't work out. And that's okay; I have two beautiful children who were well worth any method of delivery, a million times over. But now that I've failed to deliver vaginally twice, I need to think about what that does mean for me, should we ever want more children. And I will need to grieve the experiences I longed for but will not have.

I assume it will be a process. At least as of this moment, I do feel much closer to being at peace with this birth than I was with Ellie's at this point. But then again, I didn't realize how much was still unresolved for me after Ellie's birth until I was faced with doing it again. So for today, for the most part, I feel okay. But I also recognize that it may sneak up on me and I may have more processing to do down the road. We'll just deal with it as it comes, I suppose.


On Having a Second Child

Well, it's true. Mark me down as another one of countless moms who, before her second child was born, could not possibly fathom loving another child as much as her first, and now that the second child is here, can't imagine things any other way. What they say is true - you can't understand it until you feel it, but you just do love that child as much as the first, just differently. I feel like Eric hit the nail on the head when, after we had been home as a family for a couple of days, he said about our two kids, "They're both my favorite." Yes. Exactly.

Not only was I immediately filled with love for this sweet baby boy, but my love for Ellie has also changed as I have watched her interact with her brother. I plan to write more about Ellie as a big sister in its own post at a later date, but to this point, she has been every bit the doting sister I hoped she would be. More so, in fact. She is fully smitten with E.J., and asks about him first thing every morning. She wants to tickle him and rock him and hold his hand. When she sees him she coos, "Oh, E.J.! Hi, buddy! Hi, little one! Oh, E.J.! Look at him! He's so cute!" Her voice gets this excited, loving tone that I have never heard before and that I hope I will always remember. When he cries, she gets very upset (a sad side effect of being with him in the emergency room, I fear), and the rest of the time, she is telling us what he needs: "He needs his Mama! He needs to go in his nest (Rock 'N Play)! He needs his Daddy!" I love watching Ellie with E.J. and I can't wait to see them become great friends (hopefully) as time passes.

Ellie hugging E.J.

Cuddling


Going Forward

I know people are wondering if we're going to have more children. Most are wise and haven't asked it outright (dude, don't ask a woman three weeks postpartum if she wants more kids, because most likely she will laugh you right out of the room), but I know the question is out there. And the answer is a big, "I don't know." As I mentioned above, I always pictured myself with a big family. But should we decide to have another, I will have a scheduled c-section. And in a way that's comforting, being able to know what to expect. But, I also know what to expect, you know? And I don't know how many more times I want to put my body through that surgery. Should we decide we want more kids, it will be something I will discuss with my doctor and Eric (of course) and we'll decide what's best for us. Of course, that decision also largely depends on where we end up in life (location and career-wise), so there are a lot of factors at play. And as of right now, I'm feeling pretty darn fulfilled with my two sweet babies. So, time will tell.

Of course, the idea that E.J. could possibly be my last baby brings up a whole host of other emotions - primarily, the desperate urge to freeze time, to remember every last detail of this sweet newborn, mixed with the helplessness of knowing that it's not possible and no matter how hard I try, details will be forgotten. All at once I don't know if I'm ready to be done, but I also don't know that I can really do it again. I guess we'll all just have to stay in suspense, won't we?

For right now, our plan is this: Enjoy our two little ones. Enjoy each other. Figure out our next life steps. We have a lot of figurative balls up in the air right now, and our new focus is getting some of those taken care of while we enjoy our little family of four. I don't know how long all of that will take, but it's going to be an adventure and I'm looking forward to it. And I have three really awesome people on the journey with me.

Family photo in the hospital on my birthday!

I am one lucky mama.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Handsome

E.J. is three weeks old now, and naturally, we're all still getting to know each other. He has been a very sleepy newborn, but his wakeful periods are increasing in frequency a bit and much of his awake time is spent just observing his world with those amazing dark eyes of his. So far, his personality seems to be very thoughtful and serious, good-natured and quiet. He seems like something of an old soul.

This is one of my favorite pictures of him so far. It was taken in our first day or two at home, before this whole hospital episode. I just love his expression, and those eyes. I feel like he's listening intently to you, taking in every word you say, so that when you finish he can offer you some very sage advice.


I CANNOT WAIT to get this handsome little man home at last - quite possibly TOMORROW!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Recovery and Homecoming

The rest of our stay in the hospital after E.J.'s birth was delightfully uneventful. My recovery was light years better this time than last. Granted, I didn't have the HELLP concerns this time, nor the blood oxygenation issues, etc., etc. Because of all that, I was able to get out of bed much quicker. In fact, they make it a point to get c-section patients out of bed within 12 hours of surgery, so by midnight after E.J.'s birth, I was up and (very slowly) walking around (and by "around" I mean the three feet from the bed to the bathroom, but it totally counts). I was also able to both eat real food and take a shower the next day. All of this was a great improvement from last time, and I think getting out of bed so quickly was key. Sure, I was rocking the pain meds for a couple weeks afterwards, and now, nearly three weeks out, I'm still moving a little slower than normal. But I feel a million times better now than I did at this point after Ellie's c-section, and I'm so grateful for that. My biggest recovery complaints weren't even pain related! Instead I was most whiney about the epic postpartum hot flashes I endured for a couple of days (SO HOT - I used so many ice packs), and the insane swelling of my feet, and well, everything a day or two after we got home from the hospital (stay tuned for our professional newborn photos for proof of that...oof). But I will certainly take those two things over breathing treatments, magnesium and a nearly-hospitalization-worthy kidney infection any day. E.J.'s Birth Recovery for the win!

Because we weren't spending our entire post-birth hospital stay dealing with my health issues, we were instead able to focus on E.J. - a delightful change of pace! We spent most of our time cuddling him and admiring him.

Sweetheart!

Eric and E.J.

Fussing over my boy

A couple of handsome Erics enjoying some skin-to-skin time

Checking each other out

We also did some eating. I mentioned that my liquid diet was lifted the very next day, but it gets better - because I was breastfeeding, the kitchen sent double portions of every requested meal. Feast!

This is me with two omelets, two servings of bacon, two servings of potatoes, two bagels and a whole bunch of juice. (Don't worry - I shared with Eric!)

We also found an opportunity to FaceTime with my sister in Japan to introduce her to her new nephew!

E.J., meet your Auntie Heather!

The primary way we passed the time, however, was with visits from my mom and Ellie. With each visit, Ellie got more and more brave in terms of interacting with E.J. The day after he was born, her big "step forward" was blowing raspberries at him when asked to kiss him (ha!) and touching his head.

My mom holding her grandson

Getting braver!

Raspberries!

Oh, these kids.

The second day (Sunday), however, was when stuff really got cute. Ellie found the courage to "hold" E.J. for the first time (with close supervision by Daddy) and it was just about the cutest thing I ever saw in my life. She was beside herself with happiness and was so, so sweet with him. She was gentle and loving, and if her immediate reaction wasn't enough to melt you into a puddle, she then decided that she should share the stickers she had on her shirt, and took one off and gave it to E.J. And then I died.

Ellie holding her baby brother for the first time

Too much.


VIDEO: Ellie holding E.J. for the first time

Giving him one of her stickers

E.J. sporting his sticker

The hospital was willing to leave it up to us as to when we wanted to go home, either Sunday or Monday. We had originally been leaning towards Monday (I wanted the good pain meds), but by Sunday I was feeling well enough and we were getting tired of having to track every little thing (feeding, diaper changes, etc.). We wanted to get home so we could just do our own thing without interruptions. So, we were ready to head home Sunday afternoon. Not too shabby considering I'd had my c-section only about 48 hours prior! We spent most of Sunday packing up and preparing to hit the road, and finally, we were able to bid farewell to Room 5.

The room we first lived in with our son

The other side

Alright! Let's get out of here!

Of course, E.J. was dressed in his snazziest attire for his big departure!

Two days old and already VERY fancy.

And so we loaded him into his carseat and home we went.

Loves it.

Bye, hospital!

He's ready!

Ellie was pretty excited to have us home, and when we put E.J. in his lamb bouncy seat, she immediately went to get her own lamb mat so she could "sleep on a sheep like E.J." She also threw out an unprompted "I love you, E.J." right away on the first night, just to make sure I was as big of a hormonal emotional mess as possible.

My two kids, both sleeping on sheep

That night we put E.J. to bed in his own crib, and that was it - the start of our life at home as a family of four!

The beginning of something wonderful!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Happy "0" Birthday, E.J.!

Our birthday boy!

So now you've heard the whole birth story, and when I left off in my last post, we were back in our room after my c-section, basking in the joy of Eric James.

That afternoon my mom brought Ellie to the hospital to meet her baby brother, and we had ourselves a proper birthday celebration, complete with cupcakes, a "0" candle, balloons, party hats and gifts.

Ellie loved meeting her brother. She was a little hesitant to actually go up to him at first, but she kept saying to me, "Mama! You have a baby!" She was also very excited about the balloons she and Grammy brought from the grocery store ("I brought some balloons, Mama!"). I planned the birthday "party" largely for Ellie's benefit, because she is very into birthdays right now and I thought doing something fun like that would be a good, positive introduction to her baby brother. It was a hit indeed! (It probably didn't hurt that there was cake, and that the only "birthday gift" exchanged was actually a stuffed Daniel Tiger doll from E.J. to Ellie!)

Ellie and Grammy getting their first look at our newest family member

Let's party!

Ellie checking out her new brother

Daddy's hands are full, so Ellie will take over the photography duties!

Father and son

My mom holding her grandson for the first time

Loving that cupcake!

Party kids

Ellie opening her gift from E.J.

It's Daniel Tiger!

Our first photo as a family of four!

The party wasn't the only fun thing we did on E.J.'s first day of life. As you know, it was the Fourth of July, after all. So when the party died down and it was just the three of us left in our room again, we turned on the Macy's NYC Fireworks on TV and watched that. And, to our delight, we realized we could see some of the Jacksonville city fireworks from our hospital window. So, E.J. got his very first dose of birthday fireworks right away. Happy Independence Day indeed, little man!

Watching the NYC fireworks from a bit of a greater distance than we used to

Eric and E.J. watching the Jacksonville fireworks out of our window

Not a bad way to start your life, right?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Birth of Eric James

Before I dive into this, I think I have to mention that today is my birthday! I knew this birthday would not bring any sort of big celebration, considering that I anticipated having a two-week-old at this point, but I certainly didn't expect to be spending my 32nd birthday in the hospital with said newborn. Not exactly the party I always dreamed of, you know? BUT, E.J. is doing very well. He hasn't had a fever since Thursday night, he's eating and sleeping well, his white blood cell counts are back to the normal range and the nurses removed the last of his monitors last night, so I can finally snuggle him without worrying about disconnecting any wires. Later today Eric and Ellie will come by to celebrate with me, too. So, all in all, not a bad day!

Alright, let's talk other E.J. news - let's talk birth story! It seems fitting to talk about birth on my birthday, yes? This will be long, of course. (Not three-parter long like Ellie's birth story, but long!)

The short version, in case you'd rather not read this whole thing: I went into labor at 2:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 3rd and labored at home for 21 hours (in pursuit of a VBAC), until my water broke just before 11:00 p.m. I went to the hospital at 9cm, spent a couple of hours trying to push, and ended up with an epidural to give me a rest break. After a couple hours of sleep we resumed pushing...for nearly four hours. E.J. was posterior and stuck at the pubic bone, which ultimately resulted in a repeat cesarean section after a total of 35 hours in labor (27 of them unmedicated). It was an exhausting experience but very, very worth it in the end!

Now, for the detailed version:

When I left off in my "Waiting for E.J." post, it was the night of Wednesday, July 2. We had just turned off Harry Potter with a half hour of movie left to go, because it was about 11:00 p.m. and we were pretty tired. Off to bed!

I was still having occasional painful contractions but for the most part, I was able to sleep through them and they didn't seem to be coming with any real timeable regularity. Ellie made noise at about 1:00 a.m. that woke me up but I dozed off again until 2:00 a.m. At that point, the contractions were picking up in frequency and intensity enough that I could no longer just sleep through them (though I certainly tried!). Around 2:20, Eric started timing some of them in bed, and at about 3:00 I decided to get up and style my hair. Vanity, my friends. It hit me. I remembered feeling so gross by the end of Ellie's birth, and although I had no illusions about looking glamorous immediately after E.J. was born (thank goodness, because I would've been sorely disappointed), I did want to start the process off feeling like myself. So, the hair had to be done.

My hair styling proved to be a nice contraction management technique, as I much preferred to manage the contractions by standing (just like my previous labor). So, I would curl my hair a bit, then pause to hold on to the bathroom counter and sway through a contraction, then resume the hair styling. I was also Facebook messaging with my sister in Japan, because I knew if it was 3:00 a.m. here it was 4:00 p.m. there, so she was definitely awake. She was very excited that labor seemed to have started!

Even after I finished my hair I tried to hang out in the bathroom a little while longer - I wanted to give Eric at least an hour to sleep if I could. During this hour I also lost my mucus plug, and for the first time I started to really let myself think that things might be happening.

By about 4:00, I was tired of standing so I tried to get back in bed, but lying down through contractions was not a good time. So, back up. I tried several other positions, including kneeling on the floor in front of the bed or glider, but the best was standing and holding on to E.J.'s crib.

Eric wanted to help me pass the time and take my mind off things, so he went out to the living room in two trips to get some water and his laptop so we could watch that week's episode of "The Bachelorette." What better way to distract yourself than with trashy TV, am I right? We started the show around 5:15 a.m. but my contractions started coming faster (about two minutes apart) and rather painfully at that point, so we had to stop the show after about 15 minutes because we were taking too many breaks and I couldn't focus on it.

And so the morning wore on. My contractions were coming about every two to five minutes and lasting 30 seconds to one minute each. They were far more intense than I remembered most of my contractions being last time, and I was struggling. I tried to sleep again around 7:00 a.m., but again, that proved impossible. I was already feeling tired though, and I knew I had a long road ahead. Actually, I think my body was in survival mode because I felt almost narcoleptic through much of my labor - I could fall asleep in an instant between contractions. All morning I basically perched on the edge of our bed, dozing off until a contraction started. Then I would quickly stand up, brace myself on the side of E.J.'s crib and breathe and sway until the moment passed. Eric was always right beside or behind me and often would apply pressure to my lower back/hips which was a great relief. Then, when the contraction finished, it was back onto the bed to doze off until the next one. I spent the entire morning holed up in our bedroom because my mom and Ellie were up and about in the rest of the house, and I really didn't want Ellie to see me in so much pain.

Holding on to E.J.'s crib for contraction support

Around 10:15, Eric spoke to our doula, Cloe. She told Eric that because I had not yet progressed at all as of my most recent doctor's appointment, we still probably had a lot of time left. She told him to encourage me to eat, rest and be positive. Eric was already trying to keep me hydrated and fed, and this time he made me an awesome egg sandwich. It really was delicious...even if I nearly threw it all back up while eating it during a contraction. Oopsie.

I had an appointment scheduled with my midwife at 11:30 that morning (Thursday, July 3), so off we went for that. Let me tell you, I did not enjoy the car ride. Neither did I enjoy the fact that the normally empty waiting room at my doctor's office was packed that day - they were double-booked due to being closed the next day for the Fourth of July. So, I stood and swayed and hated everything there in the waiting room for a bit, probably scaring the daylights out of all the other poor pregnant souls waiting their turn. Your day will come, ladies.

Finally the nurse caught sight of me and noticed that I was, you know, in labor. So, she got me right back to a room and the midwife, Lauren, soon joined us. As Lauren prepared to check my progress, she made sure to warn me that because of where we had started, there may not actually be much progress yet, so don't get discouraged no matter what the exam reveals. Then when she checked me she said, "ooooh, girlfriend!" and I knew it was good news: four centimeters! Already! She said it was up to us then where we wanted to labor - we could go straight to the hospital if we wanted, or could go home for a while. We were so pumped about so much progress so quickly that had we had our hospital bag with us we might have (mistakenly) gone right over to the hospital, but instead we decided to go home and call Cloe first to see what she recommended.

Eric's first labor-related text to our families

At this point, I think we were both pretty excited that things were happening, and both assumed that we would be too early for a July Fourth birthday. I had made the joke to Eric the day or so before that E.J. would be born at like 11:30 p.m. on the 3rd, just narrowly missing Independence Day. We both assumed that would be coming true!

When we got home we called Cloe. I spoke to her around 1:00 p.m., and she told me she had massage clients scheduled for 1:00 and 2:30 (she is also a massage therapist). She recommended that I still come to her for my 4:00 massage appointment (the "induction massage" was no longer necessary, but she was willing to help me relax and work some pressure points for me). That sounded like a terrible idea to me - I certainly didn't want to get back in the car if I could avoid it, and frankly, I just wanted to stay in my own home to labor. I was mid-contraction while we were discussing this, however, so I agreed to it basically just to end the conversation so I could go moan and sway in peace. Sensing that I wasn't entirely comfortable with how we left things, Cloe called back a few minutes later to tell us that she had cancelled her 2:30 massage appointment and would come over around 2:00.

Eric made me some macaroni and cheese for lunch, and Ellie was down for a nap by that point so I emerged from the bedroom and ate my lunch while bouncing on the exercise ball in the dining room. I still preferred to manage my contractions while standing, so I would get up for each one. In fact, by this point I had realized that my favorite contraction position was just where it was last time: standing and leaning into Eric. Labor, for us, is another example of how we get ourselves into perfect sync in times of stress. Eric very quickly learned the sound of my breath when a contraction was starting and would immediately come stand in front of me. I would wrap my arms around his neck and he would hold me, swaying with me and reminding me to breathe. Not only was this physically the most comfortable way for me to handle contractions, but it was also emotionally comforting and encouraging. It was such a sense of closeness with Eric, and something I'll always cherish.

"Slow-dancing" through a contraction

Cloe arrived at our apartment shortly after 2:00 p.m. and jumped right into helping me manage contractions and trying some techniques to get baby to turn, because he was still in a less-than-ideal position which was causing me the "fun" of back labor. She helped apply counter pressure to my hips while Eric was my support in front, and she also suggested I prop one foot up on a chair for contractions. After some time working like that in the dining room, Cloe suggested I try sitting on the toilet in the bathroom - I forget the reason why, but it was supposed to help in some way. Surprisingly enough, it did! My contractions felt manageable and even slowed a bit, to the point where I was basically falling asleep on the toilet. I was so tired.

Sensing that, Cloe suggested I try to relax in bed a little bit again, with her help. She made me a nice little nest with pillows and blankets and a big inflatable peanut (for lack of a better way to describe it) to hold between my legs. She had me lay on my side with my back to her and she turned down the lights, turned on some soft music and massaged me while I tried to doze off. She encouraged me to "go in" and relax and let my body do the work. I'll be honest - I don't know what kind of witchcraft it was, but it worked. I'm not sure how or why, but I was able to relax and essentially ignore my contractions and get some rest. Every now and then a tough contraction would hit and I would come out of whatever trance I was in, and I would be in full-blown panic mode, struggling more than ever with the contraction at hand. But Cloe was always able to calm me and get me back to that peaceful place. If I hadn't experienced it myself, I never would have thought it possible.

I rested like that from shortly after 3:00 p.m. until about 5:00 p.m., and then I'd had enough. We decided then to go for a little walk around the neighborhood to try to get things moving faster again. On our way out, Ellie caught sight of me. I missed her so much through the day so I went into her room to say hello to her, but a contraction came soon and I quickly left so she couldn't see me, and managed the contraction silently so she wouldn't hear. I was impressed with my ability to control myself even through those painful contractions, and I was glad Ellie hadn't witnessed it in full force. We left then and walked a pretty short distance while sucking on lollipops and sipping on water, stopping every so often to breathe and sway through contractions. It was drizzling a little bit but we walked anyway.

We returned home shortly and had a little something to eat. Ellie was having her dinner then, so we snagged a little of that: a piece of pizza and some applesauce. Ellie caught sight of me and I heard her say, "Want to see Mama again!" I just hated being so close to her but forcing myself to keep my distance.

We then went back out for a little longer walk, which included almost getting hit by a golf ball thanks to some punks hitting balls at the sand volleyball court by the main complex pool. Good times!

When we got back home, Cloe suggested we try some positioning work to try to get baby to flip. She made a little bed for me on the floor of the bedroom, and had Eric sit in front of me to cradle my head. She had me get down into "polar bear" position (basically, on all fours, but with my head down to the ground), and she ran a scarf under my belly to try to encourage E.J. to move. I hated the contractions in this position and although Cloe encouraged me to "go in" again here, this position did not last that long.

Trying to get baby to flip

I had many moments of weakness during this labor, if we're being honest. At the height of the contractions I would often call out that I couldn't do it, which is a terrible mindset. But I really sincerely feel that these contractions were just so much more than what I felt with Ellie, and they really came pretty consistently all day long. It was very tiring and I was really ready to be done. Whenever I would say that I couldn't do it, however, Cloe and Eric would reply with encouragement: "You can and you are!"

After the polar bear position was over, Cloe lit some (battery operated) candles to put around the bedroom and had me sit on the exercise ball, leaning over onto the bed. While I sat and rocked there, she used some oils and worked pressure points on my ankles and feet to encourage things along. Eric turned on a Pandora station for some music (he had created this station after "The Bachelorette" fell through in the morning by searching for "Moonlight Sonata," my favorite classical piece). Although I was sitting on the ball, I still had to stand for contractions and at this point I was starting to move into the "transition" stage of labor (or so I'm told, based on how the sounds I was making during contractions had changed). During one of my first strong contractions in this stage of the evening, the Pandora station was playing Pachelbel's Canon in D, which was the song I walked down the aisle to at our wedding. This brought me to tears, and I just couldn't help but cry even though Cloe had been encouraging me to not waste energy with crying. It was just such an emotional moment, standing there holding on to Eric, having him support me while I labored to bring our son into the world and this important piece of music from our wedding was playing as the soundtrack. How do you not cry at that?

Of course, the soundtrack wasn't always so beautiful and emotional - this relaxing Pandora station was regularly interrupted by 7-11 Slurpee commercials, featuring the loud, obnoxious sound of someone slurping up their Slurpee. That'll snap you right out of that beautiful moment, that's for sure!

Eventually we moved back out into the living room, where I kept "slow-dancing" with Eric through contractions. We brought the ball out there and I tried to sit and bounce between contractions but it got to the point that sitting seemed to almost trigger the contractions - every time I even started to squat down to sit, another contraction came hard and fast. They were very, very intense at that point and I was really starting to feel frantic through them, despite Eric and Cloe's comforting and encouraging words. Things were getting real and I couldn't help but keep thinking to myself, "why on earth did I ever think I wanted to know what this feels like?!"

Cloe applying counter pressure while Eric supported me

Cloe told us that she thought we really were at the point that we could go to the hospital if we wanted to, but she didn't think we needed to rush out just yet. She suggested Eric and I take a shower first, sort of as a cleansing, relaxing fresh start before the next stage of labor. I reluctantly agreed (basically, I hated everything), so Eric and I went to get towels from our bathroom to take into the guest bathroom (bigger shower, more space).

On our way to the front bathroom, while still in our bedroom, another contraction came and I grabbed onto Eric. Cloe came in from the living room and put counter pressure on my hips, as usual. Then all of a sudden, I felt a pop and a splash. My water broke, all over the carpet and both Eric and Cloe's feet (and mine too, of course!). Eric had missed out on a fun water-breaking story with Ellie's birth, but he got one this time! It was 10:50 p.m. at this point.

In light of the amniotic fluid all over my bedroom carpet, I decided to decline the shower and just go straight to the hospital. We quickly gathered up everything we needed to take with us, said good-bye to my mom and off we went. Cloe reminded us to drive slowly, and suggested I sit in the back seat so I could lay down a little if I wanted, considering that sitting still seemed to be triggering my contractions. Fortunately, Eric remembered that the on-ramp to I-95 that we would normally take was closed at night for construction (of course it was), so he and Cloe discussed an alternate route.

Another update to family

The car ride felt like a nightmare. That was when things really took a turn for the cinematic, and I was every cliche pregnant woman you see in the movies - yelling and screaming in the backseat, snapping at her husband, the works. I first made Eric turn off the radio because I just COULD NOT HANDLE THE TALKING. Then Eric tried to talk to me, and I don't even remember what the poor guy was trying to say but I'm sure it was perfectly sweet and reassuring and loving, but all I wanted was for him to STOP TALKING. (To my credit, I did apologize for asking him to stop talking as soon as the contraction passed, so at least I was aware that I was being crazy.) I also begged my contractions to PLEASE STOP until we got to the hospital. PLEASE STOP. Man, I hated that car ride.

We arrived at the hospital and I have never been so happy to get out of a car in my life. In the short distance from the car to the hospital doors, I had to stop three times for contractions. And again in the elevator. And at the check-in desk. I remember haaaaaating the check-in process. We were already pre-registered, but they still wanted me to fill out a bunch of paperwork, which included questions like date of last menstrual cycle. Which, I mean, I guess is important in this circumstance but OMG BABIES ARE COMING OUT OF ME. I DO NOT KNOW THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS RIGHT NOW. I just wanted to get to a room and STOP WITH THE QUESTIONS. Yes, everything in my head was a yell. But seriously, they couldn't have put those sorts of things on the pre-registration forms? Why now???

When we got into our room, there were already about four or five nurses buzzing around. It just felt so crowded and frantic and I hated everything. I stripped off my clothes and donned the ever-flattering hospital gown, and they tried to get me hooked up to monitors. Again, I hated the whole process because monitors required me to be in bed, which, as we know, is not how I prefer to deal with contractions. On the positive side, however, they checked my progress and as of our arrival at 11:45 p.m., I was nine centimeters! Not only was I so close, but we were going to have ourselves a Fourth of July baby after all!

Stuck in bed and hating it. Also, I was SO HOT. Eric is holding a cooling washcloth on my forehead.

After about 40 minutes (of me totally spazzing out during contractions in the bed), Eric asked the nurses if we could do intermittent monitoring so I could get out of bed. They had to keep me on the monitors, but said that I could stand next to the bed, so I did just that. My contractions were incredibly painful and my body was involuntarily pushing somewhat with each one. By 1:00 a.m., I was really starting to feel the urge to push. Baby E.J. was at a 0 or +1 station.

Cloe supporting me through a contraction

The doctor and nurses agreed to let me get back into bed and try to push to see what happened. I started out sitting up to push (the bottom of the bed goes down, making it into a chair, essentially). Then, the brought in the squat bar and I held onto that to push. At this point I remember thinking a great many not-nice things about the nurse Diana, who insisted on trying to find the baby's heartbeat with a monitor the entire time I was pushing. So, I was holding onto this bar, pushing and wanting to just GET THIS KID OUT ALREADY and she was reaching all around me, very much in my personal space, trying to find his heartbeat with the monitor. Oh, the rage. I wanted a lot of unpleasant things to happen to Diana in that moment. Sorry, Diana.

I then propped my feet up on the squat bar and tried pushing that way for a while, then I laid down while my team held my feet and legs and I tried that position for a bit. Around 4:00 a.m., baby was still sitting in a +1 station and we started to discuss getting me an epidural so I could finally rest. The thinking was, I could relax for an hour or so, get some sleep, then resume pushing all refreshed. Let me tell you, as much as I wanted an unmedicated vaginal birth, that epidural decision was a piece of cake. If I'm being honest, if we had come to the hospital earlier, I probably would've gotten the epidural long before that point. The memory of the sweet relief of the epidural is very vivid for me from my first birth, and after all those hours of intense, rapid contractions and hours of pushing this time, nobody had to ask me twice if I wanted that sweet heaven. BRING ME THE EPIDURAL.

Once that decision was made I got very impatient and thought the anesthesiologist would never show up. I hated every single contraction just that much more. We made the epidural decision around 4:30 a.m. but it was 5:30 by the time that bad boy was in place and I was happily NOT regretting every one of my life choices every two minutes with each contraction. Finally, I could get some rest. (They said they gave me a mix that was about 70% strength so that I would still feel pressure but not pain, but it felt pretty a-okay to me.)

Cloe made up the couch-bed in the room for Eric then went to get coffee. When some machine started beeping shortly thereafter, Eric was waiting for Cloe to get it before realizing she was gone. He got up to get the nurses then went back to sleep. As for me, I passed out pretty much right away and was out cold. I don't remember any beeping or any of that, although I do remember asking Cloe to take a picture of Eric sleeping at some point. I also remember that the nurses came in at some point and put an oxygen mask on me and asked me to turn on my side, presumably for the benefit of the baby. I had a similar situation during labor with Ellie. I did as requested and then was right back asleep.

Sleeping Eric

What was supposed to be an hour of rest turned into nearly four glorious hours of sleep. I woke up around 9:00 a.m. to the sounds of Dr. Adams, Eric, the nurse Karissa and Cloe whispering about me. When I opened my eyes, there they all stood and it seemed like it was basically, "Good morning! Time to push!" And just like that, I was back at it.

The morning update

During the pushing phase this time I was both loving my epidural hardcore, and glad that I had done some pushing without it the night before. With the epidural, I could feel the pressure of contractions but not the pain, and because I had already done some pushing, I knew what I was supposed to be doing, even with the decreased sensation.

And so, I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. E.J. had come down a bit while I slept but it still was not easy. The nurse and Cloe and Eric helped hold my legs while I pushed, counting to ten twice, and later three times, for each contraction. At one point, they said they could see the top of E.J.'s head and he had curly black hair, which I found very encouraging. I knew he would have black hair!

Pretty early on during the morning pushing, E.J.'s heart rate started to decelerate significantly during pushing. I took some contractions off from pushing and tried laying on either side. Between each one, I was reminded me to take deep breaths in my oxygen mask. He started to handle things much better and I resumed pushing for some time. Dr. Adams even left the room for about an hour to see if the nurse would have better luck, with orders to call her when he finally descended into the birth canal.

As the pushing continued with little progress, Dr. Adams returned and started talking about possible courses of action. At this point, the baby was posterior (sunny side up) and was having trouble getting out under the pubic bone. The first possible strategy was using the vacuum, which could help encourage him down. She was clear that the top of the vacuum was lightly attached and if two tops came off assisting the delivery, then it would be a c-section. Additionally, laboring women can only push for so long without progress before it becomes unsafe for mom and baby, which would also mean a c-section. Those two courses of action fueled me to keep pushing, because no way in hell was I ending up with a c-section after all this. No freaking way.

Through each push I listened only to Eric's voice cheering me on (though there was also shouting coming from Cloe and the nurse), and in between pushes I looked into his face. At one point, I wanted to ask him to pray for me, but I knew he already was. As for me, I was praying for strength and for my baby's delivery. I was talking and singing to E.J. in my head. I was envisioning myself birthing him and hearing his cry and feeling his tiny body on my chest. I was thinking of Ellie calling the four of us a family. All these things kept me motivated, and I pushed and pushed for contraction after contraction for hour after hour. I never felt tired. I felt determined.

When things still didn't seem to be progressing I asked Dr. Adams if I could try any other positions, and she suggested putting me on all fours. Getting there was the least graceful I have ever felt, let me tell you (giant belly plus numb legs does not a nimble woman make), but by that point, who cares? We tried that for a while but still, no success.

Finally it was time for the talk that deep down I knew was coming but wouldn't let myself even think it. Dr. Adams had been trying to turn the baby or help him under the pubic bone each time I pushed but was not having any luck. He had actually turned sideways at one point before settling back in to a posterior position. She did not think the vacuum would be able to get a good suction given his position behind the pubic bone. However, she expressed that she was willing to try. Given that his heart rate was becoming less stable during contractions and the fact that he had finally passed meconium, she left us to talk about what we wanted to do next, stopping short of actually recommending a c-section. It was obvious what we needed to do at that point, but it helped that she let us feel like we were making the decision.

I have to take a minute to talk about Dr. Adams. She's the new doctor that took over the practice I've been going to, and she's very soft-spoken and kind. I know that she was fully supportive of my hopes for a VBAC. In fact, I commented to Eric that our last practice in NJ - the doctors we saw for Ellie's birth - were fine with my plans for a natural birth. But this practice actually encouraged a VBAC/natural birth. Not only were they on board with my plan, but they wanted it for me just as much as I did. I sincerely believe that. I also learned later that Dr. Adams just gave birth via c-section a year ago, and is hoping for a VBAC herself with her next pregnancy. She told Eric while she was washing her hands before heading into the operating room that she was doing her best to treat me as she hoped she would be treated if she were in my shoes with her next birth. VBAC patients are typically allowed to push without progress for two hours with an epidural. Dr. Adams let me push for nearly four (plus the pushing the night before). She let me try different positions and exhausted all other options before resorting to the outcome we all tried so hard to avoid: c-section. And even when she clearly knew that was how this was going to end up, she framed it in such a way that it still felt like the decision was up to us. We still felt like we had control.

Dr. Adams, the nurses and Cloe all stepped out so Eric and I could discuss it and I broke down. We both did. Eric just held me and we cried. How was this happening? After all that? All the contractions, all the positive thinking, all the pushing, all the encouragement and support and hard work. How? But at the same time, we both had the peace of knowing that we had done every last thing we could, and at this point, there was no reason to continue and risk creating an emergency situation for me and/or E.J. So, we cried together and then dried our eyes and said, "Let's go get our family."

And so we did. With my first c-section, it had escalated to an emergency situation, and the whole thing was very hectic and chaotic and frightening. This time, it was very calm. They prepped the room and assembled the team and gave us instructions and wheeled me down the hall to those doors that gave me a panic attack back when we took our hospital tour. As soon as I got into the operating room I looked up at those lights - the big, round white lights that have been the focus of many panicked flashbacks for me since Ellie's birth. Something about those lights...they scared me and that stuck with me. I felt my heart rate start to rise and my breathing quickened, and then I met the world's chattiest anesthesiologist. I don't know that this guy was talking to me to purposefully distract and calm me, but that's exactly the effect he had. He asked me all kinds of questions, about how long we lived in Jacksonville, Eric's job/career change, my work, how to avoid jury duty, etc. The whole time I was being prepped, this guy was making small talk. I think he just generally is interested in talking to the people he meets on the job, but I am so grateful to his chatty nature for taking my focus off those lights and the surgery.

In the meantime, Eric was rushed out of our room to wait outside the delivery room by himself (for what he says felt like forever). During that time, he did get to talk to Dr. Adams (as mentioned previously) and the woman who was on her to way to clean our room. He remembers her being rather positive and encouraging.

Before I knew it, Eric had joined me in the room and we were ready to go (Cloe was not allowed in).

In addition to the anesthesiologist (and the janitor), everyone was really very nice. One friendly nurse offered to take pictures for us and made sure to snap this last picture of us as parents of only one child:

Let's do this "family of four" thing!

One thing that was different from my first c-section was that I didn't really get a play-by-play report as to what was going on. I felt a lot of tugging and pulling but I didn't really know what was happening, and I didn't get any warning before they pulled the baby out. But, before I knew it, I heard someone say, "1:27 p.m.!" and I realized that meant that E.J. was here! Our Eric James was born at 1:27 p.m. on the Fourth of July, 2014. He weighed 8 lb, 6 oz and was 21 inches long with black hair and dark blue-gray eyes.

And boy, was he cute!

But they didn't hold him up over the sheet and I didn't hear any crying. Nobody in the room seemed panicked but both Eric and I were nervous. Eric could see what was going on - they had carried E.J. right over to the warmer and were working on him. He didn't seem to be moving at all. I urged Eric to go be with him and held my breath, waiting to hear a cry. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I started to hear a little whimpering, which gradually escalated to that beautiful, beautiful cry. We learned later that E.J. couldn't cry right away because they had a tube down his throat to check to make sure he hadn't swallowed any meconium. But, he checked out fine and I loved that sound!

Eric and E.J. in the OR

VIDEO: E.J.'s first cries

Eric went over to say hello, take pictures and cut what remained of the cord. He says he read about needing to make a firm cut, but forgot in the moment and had to cut it again. While he was over there, people called out E.J.'s stats to me from across the room and I marveled at how similar he was to Ellie: He weighed 8 lb, 6 oz, and she weighed 8 lb, 7 oz. Both were 21 inches long. Both posterior and born via c-section at 27 minutes past the hour (Ellie at 3:27 p.m., E.J. at 1:27 p.m.). Apparently I make babies very consistently!

Also, can you tell which W. baby is which?! These pictures of my two babies were taken just moments after each was born.
(It's Ellie on the left and E.J. on the right!)

I mentioned this before, but next came my favorite part of the birth. They brought E.J. over to me and I was able to hold him up against my head and chest, skin-to-skin. Right there in the operating room, I cuddled and kissed and touched my new baby. No, it wasn't what I had always envisioned, but it was a precious moment that I won't soon forget. E.J. was so calm there with me and I relished that experience.

Eric giving me my first look at our son

Proud parents of a new baby boy!

Eric and his son

Kissing my boy

Skin-to-skin

I held E.J. like that until they had finished working on me, then he and Eric stepped out for a moment while they got me transferred back onto my bed to go back to my room. Once I was all situated, they handed E.J. to me to hold for the ride back to the room. I loved that I got to hold him in transit, and I also loved that at this hospital you really do labor, deliver (barring a c-section, of course) and recover in the same room. After Ellie was born I was taken to recovery, and the timing worked out so that we were stuck there during a shift change so we spent hours just sitting in recovery before we were returned to our own room. I hated it. This time, we went straight from the OR back to our room, so it felt like we really had the whole day left to get settled and enjoy our newborn in peace.

Headed back to our room!

Recovering in peace

Of course, there was a little more fussing over me to be done, and the nurse helped me to get breastfeeding underway shortly after returning to our room. She asked if I had nursed my first child and I responded, "Yes, for 21 months," so she basically said, "oh, you got this, then!" And sure enough, we did. E.J. latched on like a pro and our breastfeeding experience so far has been effortless. Just like before, how lucky that makes me is not lost on me, and I am so grateful to be able to feed my children with ease. Hey, I'm not super awesome at birthing babies, but I rock at feeding them.

Once everything died down and the room cleared out, Eric and I were left to stare at E.J., take his picture and call family to share the good news (and his name!). A while later the nurse came back to give him a little sponge bath, and then it was back to just us. Our hospital is a "Baby-Friendly Hospital," which means that not only are they super encouraging of breastfeeding, but there also is no nursery for healthy babies; the baby just stays in the room with you the entire time. So we had E.J. all to ourselves, and I loved it.

The final update

Hating his bath

Proud Daddy

Exhausted but very happy!

And that, my friends, is how Eric James came to join our family. We gave him a more complete birthday celebration later that afternoon, but I'll save that for my next post.

Welcome to the world, Eric James!