Willa’s Birth Story

This post will probably be TMI for some, but I’d still like to document this time. To read Ginny’s birth story from October 2017, go here.

Preparing

Since giving birth to my first, I became more immersed in the “Mothering” world through Facebook groups. In one of my groups, I learned about the Fertility Awareness Method and read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility to learn more. I learned so much about my body, hormones, and fertility and felt more empowered about my choices. We knew we wanted at least one more kid after Ginny and reading that book gave me the confidence to have a different story than our first journey.

In December 2018, I was still nursing Ginny (at age 14 months…we fully weaned in July 2019), but I had my ROF (Return of Fertility aka periods came back. FAM has LOTS of acronyms). It was around this time that I felt a really strong desire for another baby and to start TTC (trying to conceive), but Andrew and I discussed that we would wait until Ginny was around 18 months, so the following April.

From December to April, I was able to track my cycles using the FAM rules which focus on 1) tracking your CM (cervical mucus) to indicate when you are close to ovulation and 2) your BBT (Basal Body Temperature) which shifts after ovulation. Tracking these 2 items helps you to time sex to catch the egg or avoid if you aren’t trying to conceive.

Based on the above, we started trying during my cycle at the end of March/beginning of April. Unfortunately, we weren’t successful that time around. We tried again at the beginning of May, and I ovulated a little earlier than I had the previous cycles so only got one good day in, but it was a success! Conceived on the second cycle, without any assistance from fertility meds (like with Ginny). I think what helped is I was still nursing and my cycles were regulated better than before (I have always had irregular cycles due to PCOS).

There was one Saturday in May where I was completely exhausted and felt awful. I took a pregnancy test the next day and got a positive, so it made total sense! With my first pregnancy I had extreme fatigue before the positive test too. I posted here with pregnancy updates (not as much as the first time around – sorry second kid) but overall, I had a good pregnancy. The first trimester was harder this time around, just because I was trying to chase a toddler around while being completely exhausted. But once the second trimester hit, I felt pretty good all the way up until the last few weeks.

Labor

At my 36 week appointment, my doctor brought up scheduling an induction because she didn’t want me to go past my due date. I started freaking out because a) I didn’t want an induction and b) I didn’t feel prepared for the baby at that point and realized she was coming soon. Over the next couple of weeks, I started tackling my to-do list and was feeling much better about being prepared. I went ahead and scheduled an induction for my due date – Jan 29 – but was hoping/praying/assuming I wouldn’t get to that point since I went into labor early the first time.

The morning of my 39 week appointment (38 weeks + 6 days), I started having cramps. My first labor started with cramps which turned into contractions over the course of the day. At my appointment, I had a cervical check, measuring at 3cm and 75% effaced, but my doctor wasn’t too concerned. She also swept my membrane which can instigate labor. I followed that with a trip to the chiropractor. I felt sort of strange all day, mostly out of anxiety I think. The next day, I woke up feeling really good and took my toddler to meet some friends at the Crayola Experience. I’m so glad I got to spend one last day with her as an only child.

The next day after that (39 weeks + 1 day), I woke up feeling weird again with cramps and I lost my mucus plug. Around dinner time, I realized I was leaking fluid (amniotic fluid) but my husband went ahead and put our toddler to bed. We decided to head to the hospital and got there around 9pm. As we were admitted to the hospital, the doctor on call measured me around 4cm dilated and 75% effaced (the cervix was not completely thinned out), station -2 (the head hadn’t descended much). My doctor was actually the one on call for her practice and she was monitoring my progress overnight remotely, and we decided to convene in the morning to see if I had progressed further. It was a hard night – I didn’t sleep much mostly because I had 2 monitors on my belly, so I couldn’t get comfortable. I wasn’t having very intense contractions, though. We walked the halls for a couple of hours to help things along.

In the morning, my doctor came in around 9am. She checked my cervix but I hadn’t progressed past 4 since the previous night. She saw that only the forebag had ruptured (the leaking amniotic fluid) so went ahead and ruptured the rest of the sac. We decided I would go on a Pitocin drip to get my contractions going. My preference was to go through labor without pain medication again, so this sort of freaked me out because I’d heard Pitocin can make things intense quickly. But since it was my second labor, we hoped I would just need a little to kick start the process, so they went with the smallest dose. Once the amniotic sac has ruptured you are “on the clock”, from the hospital’s perspective. They want you to deliver within 24 hours to reduce risk of infection (although infection risk is increased through cervical checks, not just by your waters being broken). At the 18 hr mark I would have been put on antibiotics (so 1pm). Overall, I was freaking out because I didn’t want the snowball effect of interventions to happen once you start Pitocin and have a “deadline”.

Oooo boy, things got hard quickly. The first half hour wasn’t terrible and we were still able to walk the halls, but my contractions increased in intensity almost immediately. After an hour (10am ish), I had the nurse check my cervix and the baby’s head had descended, but I had only dilated to 5cm. That was disheartening! There is a reason people tell you not to get checked too often, for your motivation (plus again, risk of infection)! I was moving around the room and with each wave, I would hold onto the table or bathroom counter and sway and try to breathe deeply. I’m sure I said several times…”I don’t think I can do this anymore!” Andrew was a great coach, though, and talked me through each contraction. We both agreed that at the end of the second hour, we would turn off the drip to see if the contractions continued without it. That was at 11am.

My contractions seemed to intensify from that point. I was getting tingly in my hands because I wasn’t breathing in deeply enough, so they gave me an oxygen mask. Around 11:30, I had the nurse check me again and I was almost an 8! The waves were coming right after one another so I knew I was getting close. It was good motivation to keep going because I knew it would end soon. The nurse was keeping my doctor informed of my progress the whole time: her office is in the adjoining medical building so it was only a few minutes to walk over, and they closed for lunch at noon. Around noon, my nurse checked me and I was at 9cm. I started feeling the urge to bear down and push and we were all anxiously awaiting the doctor to arrive. At this point, we had the bed set upright and the foot was dropped down. So I was sitting up with my legs low, and would sway my legs back and forth (this was a favorite position during my first labor too).

I asked the nurse to prepare the squat bar for pushing, which she pulled out, but by the time the doctor walked in, the baby’s head was crowning so there wasn’t really time for the squat bar. It was only a few minutes from her walking in, getting her gear on, and I started pushing. I was still sitting fairly upright, but they wanted me to pull my legs towards me. I didn’t really understand what anyone was saying, so I was thinking “just put my legs in position for me!” [again, this is my probably skewed perspective so I’ll have Andrew weigh in a bit…this point in time is so surreal]. I think I pushed for less than 10 minutes total (maybe 4 contractions worth?). It feels like you are taking a giant poop. I’m sure I made some weird, crazy noises. The end result was worth it. Baby girl Willa came out and was born at 12:27pm. She weighed 8 lb 1 oz, 20 inches long, born at 39 weeks + 2 days gestation.

They wiped her off a little bit, but she was placed almost immediately on my chest. I was just thinking…Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! It was just so surreal. With my first, she had meconium staining and cord issues so I only got to hold her for about a minute before she went to the NICU for a few hours. But, I was able keep Willa on my chest for a solid hour and it was amazing. She latched almost immediately and it felt so good (like in a rewarding way). She had some fairly significant bruising on her face, probably from moving down the birth canal so quickly. But otherwise, was healthy.

This hour afterwards, I felt especially chatty which was weird. The switch from can’t-talk-I’m-in-so-much-pain to delivering and instantly feel better is amazing. I was also suddenly starving so we ordered lunch: a chicken wrap which was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. I ended up with a 2nd degree tear so had to get stitched up. Again, this process is so uncomfortable because I had to get local anesthetic since I wasn’t numb from an epidural. In Ginny’s birth story I wrote that I had 3rd degree tears, but I think it was actually only 1st degree in retrospect (again…memory…I might be wrong). After I was stitched up, the placenta came right out, probably because I was already nursing which helps the uterus contract and deliver the placenta. I’ve read the afterpains of subsequent children are worse…I agree this is true, but nothing more than uncomfortable while nursing for the first few days.

Postpartum

The 2 days in the hospital are really fantastic. All meals are provided, 24/7 care for me and the baby, and our family came to visit multiple times. My parents live only 10 minutes from the hospital and my in-laws brought our toddler a couple of times each day. Because Willa was nursing so well, that part was also nicer than the first time – we didn’t need lengthy sessions with the lactaction consultants and I didn’t need to pump which was awesome. She even went to the nursery each night for a few hours at a time so we got some stretches of sleep. It’s always a little bit of a shock coming home from the hospital, but we had family come to visit us every day the first week. It’s so wonderful to have both families close by.

We’re almost 2 weeks out now, and I could probably keep writing about the transition from family of 3 to 4. Ginny has done pretty well, but she got a cold then double ear infection the week after. Willa then got some of that congestion but we were able to get into the doctor. She tested negative for RSV thankfully, and the congestion is already improved in a day or two.

My recovery has felt harder this time around, but maybe I’m just more cautious. I’ve been limited to picking up no more than 10 lbs, so Andrew has been the primary caretaker for Ginny and that has made the transition a little harder. My milk came in strong on day 3, and been dealing with engorgement since then, but it finally improved after a week.

Willa has been terrific, though! Newborn needs are so simple: eat (she’s a great eater), sleep (she’s been sleeping pretty well at night), and pee and poop (also doing great). She was already up to 9lb 4 oz at her 2 week checkup, so that has been encouraging. Her bruising took a couple of weeks to heal, and the whites of her eyes are still a little bloodshot. She also had jaundice which often happens when they have bruising from birth. The 2 home treatments are feeding to flush it out (no problem there), and sun. The first several days at home were fairly overcast, so unfortunately no good sun for about a week. But a couple of days in the sun and the jaundice went away finally.

So, that’s our story so far! Baby girl is now 4 weeks old and life is falling into a routine.

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