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 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


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.


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.


Dad/Papa said...

I thougt you said you were done with the posts that make me cry!

Lauren Nicole said...

Such a sweet post, love the meaning behind his name and that everything is going well :-)