The Birth of Arabella
by Abby Donnelly
In September of 2011, I met the most amazing woman ever. She agreed to take me on as a very late-in-the-game doula client to help assist me in the birth of my second daughter. My first daughter, Hadley, had been a scheduled c-section due to breech presentation almost three years before. Throughout the last weeks of my pregnancy, Jane was a constant source of calm in my own personal insanity. More than birth education and support, she was a true friend at a time when I needed one desperately. This is my daughter Arabella's birth story, and how Jane helped me bring her into the world. <3
On Friday, October 14th, I had my 40-week prenatal visit at around 11 AM. I walked in and was just a total mess. I was tired, hot, sore and sick to death of being pregnant. For the past week, I had been having contractions at night - enough to get me excited, then disappointed when they stopped. So I walked into the exam room on the verge of tears.
When the CMN tried to check my cervix, I told her I wasn’t sure I wanted to be checked; I knew if she reached up in there and told me I wasn’t dilated at all, I’d cry a bucket full of tears and schedule a c-section right then. After chatting a bit though, I consented to an exam, just to see where I was. She puts on gloves, does the exam, tells me I’m at a solid 3 cm and without warning strips my membranes, saying, “Just stripping you here--let's get this started.” Getting labor started was all fine and good, but what happened to prior consent? (And also, OUCH). I left the exam stunned, a little pissed off, but excited to get the show on the road.
I called Jane, laid out the situation, and got myself a consolation Starbucks. Ryan, Hadley, and I walked around downtown Denver for a bit, then went home to continue the waiting game. Contractions were random from there but nothing super different from the contractions I’d been having every night for a week.
Saturday I went to Target, walked around, and shopped for a while. Came home, was super cranky and bitchy and really just very pregnant. Went to Walmart for another walk and came home about 7:30 PM. Hadley was crashed out, and I was prepping to spend all night on the couch, pouting about being pregnant. I told Ryan to go to his friend’s basketball game. Then Hads woke up at 8:30 PM, absolutely hysterical. I dealt with that for two hours, then Ryan came home. Finally got Hadley to sleep around 12:30 AM and went to try and sleep myself, but laying down hurt like hell for some reason.
I got up, wandered around, and realized I was contracting and the contractions were different then the ones I’d be having all week. They were lower, closer together, but not very long - and strong. Called Jane around 1:45 AM to tell her what was up, agreed to labor a little while and make sure they didn’t stop (like they had a few nights before) and sent Ryan to bed for a nap – I’d wake him up and call my doula back in an hour. Worked through the contractions for about 45 minutes kneeling and in the shower, then got nauseous, threw up, and woke Ryan up.
Called Jane who urged me to eat, drink, and asked if I needed her. Told her I could go another hour, and I’d call her back. That hour passed with stronger contractions that still felt too “short” to be real labor, puking again, and just completely losing all sense of everything but labor - very much in “labor land,” as Jane calls it. I called her again at 4:45 AM and was VERY ready for her to come. Was in LOTS of pain and felt like the contractions were on top of each other. Got back in the shower while I waited for Jane to come. Baby felt super, super low, and I felt like I had to poop - hah. No. That was baby on my colon.
Jane comes at about 5:30 AM as I’m kneeling in the shower, moaning through the contractions. Finally get out of the shower and labor a while in the bathroom while Jane gets a sense of my contractions. The woman radiated calm, which was nice.
Hadley had woken up at some point while I was in the shower, and Ryan was taking care of her. I finally decided it was time to go to the hospital, so while they started to get ready, I worked through some more contractions. Then baby felt VERY low, and I sat on the toilet for a few minutes - and my water broke. It literally it felt like a water balloon popped - and it sounded like that, too. It was super surreal in that moment because I kept thinking, “Hm, that WAS like a water balloon.” At this point, the pain went through the roof, and I wanted to PUSH, BAD. Got dressed, worked down the stairs (through two contractions), and Jane drove me to the hospital with super, super skills. I was VERY impressed.
Ryan agreed to grab our bags and follow with Hadley - the plan was to have my mom meet us at the hospital to take care of her. My water kept gushing with each contraction in the car, and I was panting to not push (though I have to admit there was some small pushing despite the fact that I was crying that I didn't want to have the baby in the car). I will never, ever advocate that anyone induce labor by breaking water - the gushing actually helped keep the pain at a level that I felt I could manage.
Get to the hospital, walk in, working through three contractions. I thought I'd have her in the parking lot! Finally get a wheel chair that Jane found for me in the empty lobby and up we go to L&D. Get shown right to a room and get on the bed to see that Arabella’s crowning. From there it was a flurry of nurses and doctors (Jane counted - 7 nurses, doc on call who actually caught Bella, plus my OB who had just come on for shift change, plus NICU team on standby, which is standard if you come in pushing, I guess). Nurses trying to ask me questions and give me an IV (I think I told the nurse, “Don't you dare try to put that in me,” and she looked at the doc, who said I was fine). Again, thank goodness for my doula who answered their questions according to my birth plan.
Finally ready to push - Ryan and Hadley show up, and he tries to settle Hads and come see me. About 5 pushes (I had the hardest time telling when I had them), 45 minutes, and out comes Miss Arabella - posterior. Everyone’s a little shocked at her presentation. No tearing, no stitches. She's given to me for skin-to-skin time, but I was also bleeding pretty heavy. Jane told me later that the OB tugged on the cord a bit to get the placenta out. I get a shot of pitocin, nurses are trying to get me to sign papers and answer more questions, and the ped RN wanted at Bella. Couldn’t get her to latch well, so I finally passed her over to be looked at (and suctioned - she was a majorly mucusy baby - they pulled about 2 tablespoons of gunk out of her) and the bleeding kept up. Then the shaking started.
I got Arabella back, nursed some but the bleeding and shaking were getting worse, so Jane suggested I go try and pee (because an empty bladder helps the uterus contract down). Before I got up to pee, they gave me 2 or 3 cytotec, methergine, and perocet. Finally got the bleeding to slow and the shaking to stop, but then I spiked a 102.7 fever (prolly in response to all those meds - and Bella ran a little temp, too, since she was skin-to-skin and under a million blankets). By 9:30 AM the shaking had stopped, the bleeding was under control, and I finally felt normalish. Jane told me later that I probably lost about 600 cc’s of blood - and I scared the hell out of the labor floor, lol.
Arabella was born at 7:11 AM on October 16th, 2011 (two years and 255 days after her sister!) and weighed 7lbs, 4oz.. All and all, it was about a 7-hour labor, 45 minutes of “real” pushing, and a completely drug-free VBAC birth. Our hospital stay was extremely short, and while we were there, the nurses were impressed by Arabella’s nursing - she very rarely left the breast and was rarely out of my arms. Once home, she gained weight at a wonderful rate and became a wonderfully plump little baby. As I sit here now, eight and half months later, we’re still going strong in our nursing relationship.