I originally planned on blogging Matilda's birth story closer to her birth, but decided I wanted some more distance to be able to really process my thoughts before doing so. The crazy surges of hormones at the end of pregnancy and in those first weeks (months?) after really seem to affect me and make me more sensitive to pretty much everything.
Stephanie did a beautiful job of blogging the photos not too long after, but I also wanted to share my version, for anyone else who might have had a similar experience or has felt the same way. And also so Matilda could read it one day.
With Miles, they could tell around 32 weeks that he was going to be big. So as we got closer to 40 weeks, and kept seeing on ultrasounds how big he actually was, I was totally at peace that a c-section would be the best option for delivery. (And when he was born, it only confirmed that for me.)
With Matilda, she was measuring totally average--not too big and not too small, so all of my doctors kept saying I was a great candidate for a VBAC. Until about 36 weeks or so, I was ok with either route, especially since a VBAC looked possible. But I was totally fine either way.
Until I started listening to people on the internet.
It seemed like everyday I would see a new post on social media from someone who had just had a baby--quickly, naturally, and it was just no big deal. From both people who had never had c-sections and people who had. It seemed like I was supposed to want a VBAC. That I was a bad mom if I didn't try to have one, and that I was broken if I couldn't have one. In blog posts and in mommy groups, people seem to be such experts saying things like:
"Your body won't create a baby it can't birth."
"You should take charge of your birthing experience!"
"Ultrasounds can be off by 2 pounds either way!"
"There's so much fear in birth, and doctors are really just trained for worst case scenarios."
"Do what you feel is personally right for you! Don't let doctors scare you into something you don't want."
"Doctors only schedule inductions and c-sections to make things easier on their schedules."
Reading things over and over like these when you are 39-40 weeks pregnant (and your hormones are completely jacked up and you're so exhausted and uncomfortable) can completely mess with your head. I truly began to feel that something was wrong with me if I didn't go into labor on my own. Obviously everyone else could, why couldn't I? When I went for my doctor's appointment at 40 weeks, I was still at a complete 0 for dilation and effacement. Defeatedly, I scheduled a c-section for 41 weeks and 1 day, to try to give myself as much time as possible to still go into labor on my own, because even my doctors were saying not to give up hope. "People can go from 0-10 in a matter of hours!"
Each day that I didn't progress (despite all of the "surefire" things I did that seemed to send everyone else right into labor) I grew more and more depressed. My heart hurts thinking back to that time now, and how helpless Brad must have felt. I spent hours crying and asking what was wrong with me, why was I such a failure? I got pregnant without even trying, had a perfectly healthy pregnancy with no problems, but it just seemed like my body was giving up at the end.
I became consumed with going into labor. It was all I focused on, all I thought about those last few weeks and how much of a failure I must be. I hate that I let other people's experiences and comments influence me so much and take the focus off of enjoying Miles' last few weeks of being an only child.
I don't think most of my friends or family even knew how much I was hurting. With all of the annoying comments pregnant people get at the end about "how much longer" I'd just smile through clenched teeth and give some quick response; changing the subject to try to fight back the tears. I only let a few close friends know that I was struggling at all, because I felt like no one understood. Holding it in just made it that much worse.
My c-section was scheduled for Monday, March 16. On Saturday, we made plans to eat dinner with friends so I took a nap that afternoon and when I woke up, I was having some weird cramps that would come and go. They didn't hurt so I just assumed they were Braxton Hicks (which I'd never experienced). They kept coming more often, so I started timing them and the duration in between, but they remained super sporadic all through dinner so I just didn't think much about it. They continued throughout the night, and when I got up on Sunday, they seemed more consistent so I started timing them and thinking they might be actual contractions. We went to church and I only told Stephanie (our birth photographer) because I still didn't really believe I was in labor, but figured she needed to know in case I was. When we got home from church, things were kinda crazy because Brad had to film a video (remotely) with one of his idols so my mom came over to help me clean up the house while we got Miles down for a nap.
The cramping got more intense and closer together so I finally started calling them contractions and thinking I might actually be in labor. Brad got done filming and the contractions were getting harder to breathe through and were 6 minutes apart so we decided to head to the hospital (30 minutes away.) We called Stephanie on the way and she said she'd meet us at the hospital in case it was the real thing.
When we got there, we had to wait for at least 30 minutes before even going up to triage to decide if I was in labor. Once we finally got up there, they had me change into a gown and checked me.
I was still at zero dilation.
"But my contractions are five minutes apart!"
"Yes, but they don't appear to be doing anything. How about you walk around for an hour and we'll see if that helps things progress?"
Not to be graphic, but if you've never had a baby before, getting checked for dilation involves someone reaching up inside you with their hand to physically check with their finger the width that your cervix has opened. It HURTS. A LOT. If you are already having contractions, it REALLY hurts. It then makes the contractions hurt even more.
So now dealing with even more pain, Brad and I walked back out in the hallway and walked and walked and walked. Stephanie joined us as we walked stairs, I did lunges and squats and pliés, anything I could to try to get things going. I logged 1.25 miles and 8 flights of stairs on my Fitbit in that hour. You can't say I didn't try.
At the end of an hour we apprehensively went back to triage and I was painfully checked again.
We discussed a few options with the doctor there and ultimately decided I would just come back for the c-section in the morning.
I felt defeated, but I also felt like I didn't really have much of an option. I could continue trying to progress labor through walking, but who's to say my body would actually cooperate? I could exhaust myself and suffer through contractions to just end up with an emergency c-section when I already had one scheduled for 8 am (which was only about 14 hours away at that point.)
The contractions were still 5 minutes apart when they sent me home, and due to all of the walking, stair climbing and checks, they were now really intense and painful. Miles had already gone to my parents' house for the night (part of the plan already, since I needed to be at the hospital so early on Monday), so we went out to eat before heading home. I knew I needed to eat, but between the pain and how depressed I felt I didn't have much of an appetite. When we got home, I took a bath and got the contractions to spread to 10 minutes apart, but they were getting more and more intense. I tried to to go to bed, but woke up every time I had a contraction. I couldn't find a comfortable position in or out of bed, it was such excruciating pain with every contraction. Around 2 am I finally got back in the bathtub because the water at least helped take the edge off of the contractions. I was able to get maybe 10 minutes of sleep between contractions in the bathtub, and finally got out around 5 am to get ready to go to the hospital.
My c-section was scheduled at 8 am, and we had to be there at 6. When we arrived, we checked in and ended up waiting almost 45 minutes until we finally got a room. My contractions were back to 5 minutes apart and so, so painful. 8 am couldn't come quickly enough.
Stephanie joined us around 7:30 and we finally got a room. I was able to smile and talk between contractions, but was mostly just in pain.
I thought it was weird when I had Miles that they have you walk to the OR for a c-section. It felt even weirder to have to do that when I was in so much pain from contractions.
With Miles, they had a difficult time getting the spinal in, so I told the anesthesiologist about it, but she acted like it should be fine. It was even worse this time—it took multiple tries and I was contracting throughout, so they kept having to stop and wait until any time a contraction started. She ended up having to bring in another doctor to help, and it took over 20 minutes to finally get it in. About a minute after it went in, everything below the waist started to go numb and I could finally relax!
Brad was allowed to come in then, and it wasn't too much longer that she was out and we heard her start crying!
Eight pounds, 12 ounces and 21 inches long born at 8:47 am.
She was crying and crying until Brad brought her close to me, and when she heard my voice, she immediately stopped. It was incredible--she already recognized me. He held her up to me for as long as he could and she was still and silent the whole time I was talking to her.
They let Brad take her to recovery while they stitched me up. He got to hold her the entire time!
I felt like I was only gone a few minutes, but they gave me medicine to help with pain and to prevent some of the nausea I had with Miles, and it allowed me to nap while they were sewing me up.
The first time I held her, she latched on immediately and nursed for 40 minutes! I think she was a little hungry. :)
Once she was out, it was like all of the pain and disappointment leading up to her birth just melted away. It just didn't matter anymore. She was here and healthy and that really is all that matters. There was just so. much. JOY.
While we were basking in her newness, we realized we should probably give her a name.
We had a short list of first names and middle names but just couldn't decide on the definitive one until we met her. We skimmed the list and both agreed: Matilda March.
We liked Matilda because it was feminine but strong, interesting but not weird for the sake of being weird. It's pretty. It also has a lot of potential for nicknames if she wants to go that route one day. Our friend, Jennifer had actually suggested the name March when we mentioned we were still trying to find a name and said that she liked it more as a verb (than a month). Neither of us had ever considered it, but it suddenly made our short list and we even considered it as a first name for awhile. We love that it represents moving forward and progress. And Matilda actually means "strength in battle" so they also work well together linguistically! Both names also have literary roots that we liked--Matilda, the title character of one of our favorite Roald Dahl books was an amazing, magical little girl, as were the March sisters in Little Women.
We had decided beforehand that we wanted Miles to be the first to meet her, so we strategically worked it all out where we would wait until I was out of recovery and in a room to have visitors, Brad would bring Miles in first, have a chance to adjust to seeing me and the baby, then let the rest of our family come in to meet her. They took Matilda off to get a bath, and were getting close to moving me to a room, so Brad went out to find our family so that he could make sure they were out of the hallway when I was rolled through. They ended up wheeling my bed into the hall only a minute after Brad left, though, so Miles' first time to see me that day was as I was wheeled past him. He immediately freaked out and started crying. Agh!
Matilda's bath took longer than we thought it would, but it gave us time to spend with just Miles, which was really great. He told us about how he was going to cuddle the baby and ate pretzels with daddy.
Brad decided to take Miles for a walk when they were bringing Matilda back since she would need to nurse again, so I have a few minutes with just her, and then Brad and Miles came back to meet her. Miles chose one of his stuffed animals to bring her as a gift.
Matilda got him Baymax, which he was pretty excited about. After a bit of time with just us, we finally let the rest of our family come meet her and Miles got to introduce her.
Now that I've had some time and distance from her birth, I feel even more peace about it all. It seems like having a baby introduces so many options and so many supposedly right or wrong ways to do something. Everyone has different things they struggle with. I've been blessed to be able to get pregnant easily, have no major health problems and breastfeed really easily, so if the one thing I struggle with is progressing in labor, I'm just thankful that I had the option of a c-section so I could still deliver my children safely. It doesn't make me broken or any less of a mother.
I was one of those people who never really wrote down a birth plan for either of our children's births, because I knew God was the one who had the real plan. As a reformed control freak, motherhood has taught me - more than anything else - nothing is truly in my control. As much as we can plan and prepare, things aren't always going to go according to plan, but I am so thankful for that, because God's plan has always been so much better than anything I could have ever chosen for myself. He's allowed our family to grow and change so much in the past three years and has blessed us with some amazing adventures. I'm learning to enjoy the pivots and the alternate routes. That's when things get interesting. I'm thankful for surprises - especially when they are named Matilda.
If you are dealing with any similar feelings I just want you to know you aren't alone, and I'm here if you need an ear to listen! Here's a few articles that helped me leading up to Matilda's birth and in the few months after: