In reflecting on Vance’s birth, it’s funny how it was remarkably similar to Maggie’s birth…but only after waiting for hours (about 35 hours, to be more specific) to get to that point.
For reference, Maggie was born at 42 weeks exactly, and even then required a nudge to get things moving. (Technically I had an induction with her, although all I needed was the cervical ripener Cervadil to kick me into labor.) Things went so quickly and well with Maggie’s birth, and I was hopeful I’d get to repeat it with Vance’s. Plus, because Maggie’s birth happened so fast, everyone told me to expect something even quicker the second time around.
Throughout my pregnancy with Vance, I felt confident I’d go past my due date again, and I was totally fine with that. Thankfully, I tend to feel great while pregnant, and don’t feel all that physically uncomfortable even at the very end. (I credit much of that to continuing to take Pure Barre while pregnant, by the way!) Since I was mentally prepared to be very overdue with this pregnancy, I wasn’t at all phased when my due date — Valentine’s Day! — came and went. I expected to have several days left in my pregnancy. Waiting was totally fine by me, especially since my body was showing no signs of labor (just like I’d experienced with Maggie), and so I knew the longer we waited the more likely I was to have a similar experience to my first birth.
But Vance had other plans. Or my body did, at least.
Kevin and I went in for an ultrasound on Monday, February 15 (routine to check the baby’s growth and your fluid levels once you’ve passed your due date), and a bit after that appointment I got a call from one of my midwives saying that my fluid levels were juuuust below the normal range. She said the OB who’d reviewed the scan recommended I be induced ASAP, but she and I talked through different options and she felt comfortable with me waiting until Wednesday morning and getting another ultrasound at that point. There can be many factors that influence fluctuating fluid levels, including something as simple as hydration, so she recommended I drink tons of fluids between Monday and Wednesday (and I DID — I drank water like it was my job!).
When we went back Wednesday morning for our next ultrasound, though, my fluid levels had dropped a good bit. That was at 10 a.m., and our midwife immediately called the hospital to schedule an induction, getting us a check-in time of noon. Whoa — all of a sudden things got real…FAST. We’d known an induction that day was possible, of course, and our bags had been packed for a while, but things started to feel like they were happening quickly. I tried hard to keep my tears in as I left the office, and made it to my car before breaking down. Of course I wanted to get our baby here safely — and I knew that drop in my fluid levels meant he needed to be born sooner than later — but I was also so scared that the repeat birth experience I’d been hoping for (another quick, unmedicated labor) wasn’t going to happen in this scenario. I just KNEW my body wasn’t ready to give birth.
We checked into the hospital and got settled in, and I got all hooked up to the heart monitors. We chatted with our midwife, Nancy, who was very aware of our birth goals and was ready to help us try to achieve them. I wasn’t dilated at all, so we started with a cervical ripener (a different one than I’d had when I had Maggie — this one was called Cytotec) and then the waiting process began. (Spoiler alert: waiting turned out to be the name of the game with this birth experience.)
Quick interjection here to say, as I always do when it comes to pregnancy and birth, that I was SO GLAD Kevin and I took a very in-depth birth class prior to Maggie’s birth. Vance’s induction took HOURS, and our midwife used tons of methods to help get my body into labor. It was emotionally challenging, but it would have been infinitely scarier if I’d been clueless as to what was going on. Instead, thanks to our birth education, I was at least familiar with all the things that were happening. That made ALL the difference.
My labor with Maggie progressed so quickly that our doula didn’t arrive until just after she was born, and so this time our doula was committed to getting to us ASAP. Ironic, of course, since things took forever. It was so incredible having her there, though. She arrived on Wednesday afternoon and stayed with us until Vance was born (early Friday morning), offering much-needed emotional support and just general company.
The Cytotec that we used first got me dilated to a whole centimeter (yay — ha!), and VERY mild contractions began. I wasn’t at all physically uncomfortable until just a couple of hours before Vance was born, and so there was lots of just hanging out in the room. The hard part was the emotional part — wondering if and when my body would go into labor, and worrying if I’d end up with a c-section instead. Thankfully, Vance’s heart rate remained incredibly stable throughout. He always looked great on the monitor, and so our midwife was comfortable continuing to try things to get labor going.
My mantra with Maggie’s intense and quick labor had been: “I can do this as long as I need to.”
My mantra with Vance’s slow induction was: “Let this be its own experience.”
Here’s a rough timeline of how things went during the induction:
Wednesday, February 17:
-Checked into the hospital at noon
-Cytotec inserted and left in for four hours (which got me dilated to one centimeter and started mild contractions)
-Foley bulb inserted and left in for several hours (which got me dilated to two centimeters)
-Pitocin administered via IV overnight
Thursday, February 18:
-Cervadil (the ripener I’d had during Maggie’s birth) inserted and left in for 12 hours (I was so optimistic about Cervadil since it had worked so well the last time, so when I was checked after it had been in for 12 hours and had made NO progress it was hard not to lose it.)
-Late that evening (around 11 p.m.), our midwife broke my water and hooked me back up to Pitocin
-Productive labor FINALLY began!!!
Friday, February 19:
-Vance was born just a little while later, at 2:03 a.m. on Friday morning!
After all that waiting and lack of progression, my body finally kicked into gear. In the end, my actual labor with Vance was SO similar to how it was with Maggie’s: intense, but quick. I was able to deliver him without medication as well, which is just the most amazing feeling and such a high to be fully present in your body for such a big experience.
As with Maggie’s birth, Kevin was INCREDIBLE support. I wanted the exact same thing from him this time around: To talk me through each contraction so I never felt alone in them. He also got to help deliver Vance (and we have an amazing video of it thanks to our doula, Lora). It was such a special thing!
Because there was an ice storm going on, the same midwife was with us the entire time. (Otherwise, she’d have been replaced by another midwife from our practice at some point.) It was awesome having the consistency of one provider throughout the whole experience, so that was a lucky thing with the weather.
Lora, our doula, was the absolute best. She helped talk us through what to expect as we waited, and would give us pockets of time for just the two of us as well. I still can’t believe she stuck with us that WHOLE time. It was such a gift, and we got to know lots about her in the process, which I loved. During labor, she was such helpful support, too.
We also had an incredible support system cheering us on from afar! It meant SO much to hear from friends and family as we waited and waited and waited for Vance to get here. Knowing they were thinking of us during that long experience meant more than I can say.
Vance Wallace Keller, your birth story was definitely all your own — and that’s okay! I’m SO glad you got here safely and that, ultimately, your birth ended up being exactly what I’d hoped it might be. I can’t believe I get to be your mama!