How has it been EIGHT DAYS since we became parents to two little boys? Mind blowing. Time moves at a snail's pace and it sails past you all at once in the twilight zone of newborn world. It also leads one to irrational decision making. I.E. I feel compelled that THIS is the best time to blog. Ten PM at night - the littlest brother is settled in and asleep - and I could be asleep too. But, for the moment, this seems like a great choice :)
After Liam was born, I did a blog post of his birth story so that I would have a place to go back to remember every detail of that experience. Now it's Shepherd's turn! If you're like me, you can read a personal story of someone else's and get engrossed in it and love all of the juicy/intimate details. But if you're not like me, then this one probably isn't for you!!!!!! It's just my story and his story and you're more than welcome to experience it with me.
Note: If I were a male and reading this post, I'd go ahead and exit out and call it a day, my friend. :)
I went to see Dr. Thompson at 38.5 weeks and I was SO THRILLED to learn that I was dilated to a 2 and I was 80% effaced. GLORY! I had been cramping and having occasional contractions for a week at that point and it was so encouraging to hear that progress had been made. A lot of the sweetness of Shepherd's birth story is because of the context of how Liam was born and having a miscarriage last summer. My body simply didn't do anything when I was carrying Liam. Not one Braxton Hicks. No dilating. At my 41 week appointment, the ultrasound showed next to no amniotic fluid left for him and my doctor felt it was essential to induce the next day. We did pitocin - had a very hard labor with no epidural - stalled at 8 cm - was told it was either an epidural to help everything relax and dilate or jump to a c-section - did the epidural and did dilate to a 10 - pushed for quite a while and Liam got into a face up and twisted position - at which point the doctor said she really didn't think he would come out. C-section. I can't really go back and second guess much of that experience and I was just so thankful for a healthy baby boy out of it. But it was somewhat traumatic and the healing that happened after delivery was as much emotional as it was physical. I am so thankful the c-section was there to help Liam come safely but there is something deeper than words can express inside of me that desired to have him the other way. I knew within weeks of delivering Liam, that I wanted to look into a doctor that did VBACs so I could learn more about options.
There are definite risks with VBACs but my dear friend, a labor and delivery nurse at St. Francis, told me that if I wanted to go that route next time, Dr. Thompson was the best. So I made my appointment less than a year after Liam was born to have him do my well woman checkup and talk to him about my c-section! From that appointment, I knew I would go with him. He pulled my surgical report and went over every detail with me and sat and talked to me like he had all the time in the world. He told me that I was a good candidate for a VBAC but he told me about the risks and his philosophy too. The man has been doing these for 30+ years. I so wish that every single one of my friends who have experienced a csec could have a conversation with him. He doesn't just go into a VBAC haphazardly. He has a very specific approach and method that is bred from years of experience.
So, when he saw that my body was making progress at 38.5 weeks, and he felt the baby's head and accurately guessed he would be between 8 and 8.5 pounds (gestational diabetes generally makes babies bigger even if your blood sugar has been well controlled), he explained to me all of the reasons why he felt we should induce.
Now. Had he been talking to me three years ago, as a first time mom with every intention of avoiding interventions such as an epidural and induction, I would have found a way to say 'no thank you.' But, he was talking to the now me. The me that went through a very difficult labor without an epidural, ended up with an epidural and then had a somewhat rough c-section. Man, talk about a brutal recovery! I knew that this time I would get an epidural much earlier in the process. You have to go into a VBAC knowing that a c-section may still be the very best outcome. I had zero/zilch/nada desire to go through the physical experience of extreme pain and then end up with another surgery. Pass the drugs, please. When he recommended an induction, I had to process a bit. I saw him on a Thursday and the only opening in the following two weeks to induce was the next Monday morning. I would be exactly 39 weeks. Zion and I talked it over, and we both felt odd peace about it and agreed we'd be there Monday morning.
Well, God was so nice to me. Seriously. Starting Thursday, the cramps/contractions started going to another level and continued over the weekend. I wasn't sure I'd make it to Monday! The mucus plug (seriously - please tell me you're not reading this if you're a guy) started coming out on Friday night and on Sunday I was fairly certain I was in full-on early labor. I was able to rest and it eased back but it was so reassuring to me to see that this time, my body was cooperating with delivering a baby! So when we went in on Monday morning, I felt great about it. READY. By the time they checked me I was at 3 cm and having contractions every 5 minutes. Fist pumping ensued.
Here's the link to the post that I wrote the morning we were going into the hospital.
The whole day was smooth. Which bowled me over in comparison to my first labor and delivery! Liam was worth every second and more, though :). I'd do that whole thing over again in a heartbeat to get to the end and have my first precious baby boy in our lives. BUT - I felt the kindness of God from the moment we got there until way after Shepherd was born. I don't know why the two experiences needed to be so different - but I had a deep appreciation for this one because of the first one!
Dr. Thompson broke my water around 10:30am.
Had to start breathing through and focusing around 11:30am.
Decided I was ready for the epidural by 1:00pm.
Got it at 1:40pm..... turns out the anesthesiologist was our friend's dad - whom we had never met - but I sure did meet him in a special way in that moment. Hi Dr. Gillock! We love your son and daughter-in-law! Meet my derriere! Ain't she grand??!!
Ahhhhhhh the epidural. I. Love. It. I felt so clear about my desire for one this time. No regrets...not even one teeny tiny whimpering of one. It was a great epidural though. I had one patch of feeling (although definitely not 100%) in my left leg/hip area. I could feel a cramp there every time I was contracting. It turned out to be very helpful for pushing! If we have the honor of having another baby - sign me up again. Sign. Me. Up.
I got checked right after the epidural and was at a 6! I mean, seriously, it just seemed like the progress was flowing so smoothly - and I kept pinching myself. Next we did different positions to get Shepherd to keep coming down. And the next time we checked, I was at a 8+. Whaaaat?????
Not too much later, my nurse Diane (amazing amazing) came in and said, 'Listen, I'm going to check you again because Dr. Thompson just came on the unit. This is bizarre, but seriously when he gets here his patients usually start delivering." Lo and behold, I was even closer. In comes Dr. Thompson to check on us. He takes a quick look and says, 'Let's have this baby, Abi.' Um, okay! Poor Zion Spencer. He had stepped into the restroom just before Dr. Thompson came in. When he came back into the room there was all of the tools, I had assumed the position and we were literally just getting ready to start. Bless him, that was a quick turnaround!
At first, Dr. Thompson had thought that I would delivery quickly. Well.....not that quickly. We pushed for fifteen minutes and he said, "Abi, I want you to take a break (again - THANK YOU epidural). I've got a patient that needs me for a c-section. I'm going to go do that and I'll be back in 15 minutes to do this with you." Okay! Although, I will say, I think that Zion, my mom and I were holding our breath for a little bit during that wait. We had gotten to this point with Liam too when my doctor got really uncertain and kind of shrugged and said she didn't think it was going to happen. The vulnerability level is unreal in those moments. You're doing all you know to do to but there's no way around it - it is and it feels absolutely out of your hands. It could go either way.
He swept back into the room 20 minutes later and again said, 'Let's have this baby, Abi!' I can't even begin to say how helpful and life-giving it was to feel his belief in me. He kept that tone the entire time, telling me I was doing perfectly. Ha! I mean, how often are you told that you're perfect???!!!! It took me a little bit to not balk at his statements...but I found a way and decided to just embrace it for what it was - deep encouragement that this was happening. We pushed a total of about 1 hour and 15 minutes. In essence, this was like having a first baby from a physical perspective. So, there was a LOT of pushing that felt totally unproductive. Mercy, I think it took me 30 minutes straight of pushing to actually get a feel for how to do it productively. But, even when I was doing it totally wrong and getting frustrated, Dr. Thompson would just say 'Don't worry about it, Abi. This is how everyone starts out and this is what everyone does. You'll get it.' He just never put an ounce of doubt into the room. I couldn't believe it. At some point, I asked him if he felt I was past the c-section zone. I kid you not, he looked right at Zion, and said, "Oh I've known for two months that she wouldn't have a c-section! She has been so calm and positive about it from the beginning and that's really the perspective you have to have instead of worrying and trying to control everything. We're not having a c-section today.'
Now, including that little bit feels audacious. I could have just skipped over that. But, in my shoes in that moment, his words meant the absolute world to me. It meant everything and I want to remember it. I just couldn't believe that he believed in me so much. He's not a risky man and if there was a need to do a c-section, I know that he would not have hesitated. I tear up just re-reading his words because after you've worked so hard with a labor and ended up with a c-section the feelings of failure are fairly real. God brought so much healing to my heart after having Liam. But to hear my doctor being proud of me and believing in me made both Zion and me emotional.
I remember with every contraction, Dr. Thompson would passionately say, "Let's go to work Abi!" It's those ridiculous little phrases that kept me going. My mom and Zion kept the encouragement going too and somehow I never felt like I couldn't go through with it.
We pushed and pushed and pushed to get him past the pelvic bone. And, then, in an instant - my precious boy's head was down far enough that Dr. Thompson had me reach down and feel it. It was everything I needed to re-engage but also enough to make me fall apart. I could feel it happening and was on the verge of weeping for the last few pushes. Not helpful for pushing a child out of you. :)
Having never pushed a baby out before, I thought that the hard part would be pushing the actual baby out - the last part. I was so shocked that that wasn't true! After he got past the bone - he just slid out and right into my hands where Dr. Thompson had me reach down and pull him up.
Our baby boy. The baby our hearts longed for after losing a baby last summer. We had ached for him and my heart had deeply desired this kind of delivery. There aren't words, really. God has been so gracious. So gracious. Zion and my mom were there every step of the way and Zion and I got to hold our screaming son on my chest right after he was born. Dr. Thompson believed in me and gave me the opportunity to deliver a child without surgery. How could I ever say thank you adequately?
Friends, these are my pictures. They are intimate moments and they are so precious to me. Feel free to pass because there is a little blood and guts glory :). But I think they tell the story much better than any words of mine are capable of.
I am sleep deprived, friends. I am hormonal. But, I am so thankful and utterly in awe of the gift we've been given. Shepherd Levi Spencer was born on September 29, 2014 at 6:08pm. He weighed 8lbs, 2oz and was 21 inches long. We are a family of four and I could not be more tired or more happy :). Liam doesn't necessarily want to hold his baby but he loves him. We have two boys that melt our hearts with their preciousness every single hour. Still can't wrap our minds around how much we've been blessed.
Thanks for letting me gush, share honestly, and record our story here so that I'll always have the details to refresh myself. I'm guessing it will be about one more hour before my little man is ready to feed again so off I go to sleep - briefly!
Much love and thanks,