Scarlett’s Birth Story

On Tuesday, July 29, the contractions came off and on all afternoon and evening. I both welcomed and feared them. They crept as close as 10 min apart, even five minutes apart a couple of times. Chris and I wondered if we would make it to our scheduled induction the next morning. I truly thought we wouldn’t at one point. But, as usual, the contractions stopped.
Sleep came surprisingly easily, but I woke at 3:30 when the carbon monoxide detector started chirping from a low battery. As soon as I was up, contractions tightened my belly. Fort started meowing. I gave up, got up, and started dressing and packing for the hospital.
Whenever a contraction hit, the fear did, too. All I wanted was to get to that hospital and get hooked up to the epidural. Even though I gave birth the first two times without any drugs, all I felt was terror at the idea of doing that again. One of the contractions was so strong, I had to stop and breathe through it.
We arrived at the hospital at 5:15 or 5:30. I kept reminding myself to just face each step as it happened. As we stood rather giddily at the check-in desk, the concierge appeared with a woman in a wheelchair. She was obviously in great distress, having been in labor all night with no sleep. A bit of guilt over strolling in there so happily joined our giddiness.
As we entered room 5, I committed the number to memory and thought, “This is it. This is the room where my daughter will be born.” Our doula Susan and photographer Heather arrived soon after. I changed my clothes, gave the nurse my birth plan, and we were off.
Or so we thought. The induction was scheduled for 6 am and we were settled in the room by 5:30 or 5:45. I didn’t get the Pitocin until 8:30. The hospital was really slammed that day and the doctor neglected to sign the paperwork saying my pelvis was adequate for vaginal childbirth. (You would think two previous vaginal births would provide enough proof of that.) They couldn’t start the Pitocin without that paperwork.
My contractions were 20 minutes apart, but fairly strong. The first order of business was the insertion of the IV. It took four tries. Then, the doctor tried to break my water, but the baby was still too high up and it caused an incredible amount of discomfort. So, they decided to try again once the epidural was in. (My water either broke on its own during the epidural administration or the doctor started a slow leak that didn’t really get going until then.) It was 7:35 and I was 3 cm, 60% effaced.
My doula gave me a foot massage while we waited for the Pitocin, which helped immensely with relaxing and passing the time.
Once the Pitocin started at 8:30, my contractions seemed to jump right to two or three minutes apart. A seemingly never-ending contraction hit 15 minutes after it was started. The nurse said it couldn’t take effect so quickly. Maybe it was psychosomatic.
Our nurse said we were third in line for the epidural. The Pitocin had been started at a 6, but they dialed back to a 3, I believe, since I was progressing so quickly.
The nurse anesthetist came in. I felt so incredibly relieved until it took four tries (It might have been more.) to get the epidural in. They said I have “really tight spaces” in my back, which is a good thing, except when you are trying to get an epidural. Despair filled me at the thought of seeing the birth through without pain relief again. Luckily, the next anesthesiologist got it in after a couple of tries. It really didn’t hurt to get it inserted, although I felt some odd twinges once they did get it inserted properly. I knew that was a possibility and they passed quickly, so it didn’t worry me. The worst part was staying in that hunched over position so long, especially during contractions.
Chris sat in front of me, holding my hands, the entire time I hunched over waiting for that epidural. I looked into his calm, steady eyes as best I could with my head hanging towards my chest. When a contraction hit, he encouraged me to think of Max and Lucy and how all of the pain was worth it. I started picturing all three kids’ faces (what I knew of Scarlett’s from ultrasounds) every time I felt my uterus tighten up. Eventually, this technique devolved into thinking, “Max, Lucy, Scarlett” really quickly over and over, but it worked. (Also, strangely enough, the blood pressure cuff helped. Whenever it went off during a contraction, the contraction didn’t seem as intense. Just a little pro tip there. 😉 )
The baby experienced some decels during transition, so the nurse administered some oxygen to me. Scarlett quickly rallied, thank goodness. The nurse said she just needed some time to catch up, since everything was going so fast.
The anesthesiologist had given me some extra medicine after the epidural was in. I think this was to make up for it taking so long. I began to feel very relaxed and numb, but I still felt a great deal of pressure and a little pain. The epidural did not have the effect I was hoping for after hearing other’s stories, but I think all of the pain relief and the oxygen calmed me. I wasn’t yelling the baby’s name or dropping F-bombs like I usually do during transition. 😉
There was just SO MUCH pressure and I felt like I wanted to push a few times. I wasn’t quite complete, but I was dilated to 8 cm. I progressed from 5 cm at 9:55 to 8 cm at 10 am. They turned the Pitocin off after that. I started shaking hard at 10:05. The nurse started making phone calls. I heard her say that she hadn’t been able to go in to her other patients since room 5 was moving so fast and she needed someone to check in on them. She also called down to my doctor’s office and warned that we were going to need him very soon.
By 10:15, I was 9 cm, 100% effaced, and the baby was at zero station. By 10:30, I was fully dilated except for an “anterior lip”. The nurse said I could do some “practice pushes”, but to not push full-on until the doctor arrived. I think she might have called again and said, “We need Dr. Seeker right now!” I asked how quickly he could get there and she said, “Don’t worry, he can run really fast.”
I started pushing in earnest at 10:45. The nurse told me to hold off, so I breathed through a few contractions. The doctor arrived at 10:55 and Scarlett emerged, yelling her beautiful little head off, at 11 am. She entered this world almost exactly 15 months after her sister left it at 15 months of age and just short of a year after the loss of Baby Bean.
It was all I could do to avoid lunging and snatching her from the doctor’s hands. The most overwhelming urge to see and hold her hit me full-force. He handed her to me after holding her up briefly, but they had to warn me not to pull her up too far, because the cord was still intact.
Our doula received the honor of cutting the cord after Chris demurred. The nurse did ask at one point during the pushing if I wanted to see the head, but I said, “No, I just want to get her out!” I felt some embarrassment about that later. Chris did look and I think it was a pretty odd sight for him.
All I wanted to do was look at Scarlett. I did notice Dr. Seeker working to get the placenta out (He wanted to deliver it quickly to help avoid excessive bleeding this time.) and stitching me up. But she consumed my attention completely most of the time. She reminded me more of Max than of Lucy. Her hair seemed to be blond and she didn’t have much. She was also so tiny compared to our other babies. Max weighed 8 lbs, 3 oz; Lucy weighed 7 lbs, 14 oz. Little Scarlett weighed in at 7 lbs, 3 oz, surprising us all. We thought she would be another eight-pounder, but she probably would have gotten closer if we had waited instead of inducing.
I did experience some bleeding issues again, but the nurse worked aggressively to stop it. After a little extra time spent in L&D, she got it under control with much less trauma and discomfort than after Lucy’s birth.
My back is fine. I actually pushed lying completely flat this time, instead of curling up and pushing. It did seem a bit harder and it still hurt, despite the epidural. But it was worth it to avoid herniating that disc again. I experienced a first degree tear, like the first two times. It’s already stopped hurting.
I wondered if I would swear to never give birth again after this one, as I did the first two times. The answer is “Not exactly”. After still suffering so much anxiety and the epidural not working quite like I wanted, I decided that there is just no way to make birth easy. Plus, the fact that I have apparently suffered bleeding issues after each birth (I didn’t think it was any worse this time than after Max’s birth, but the nurse said it sounded like I bled too much after his birth, too.) makes me wonder if it is just too risky for me. I will ask my doctor about those issues. Only time will reveal if there is another waiting to join our family. For now, I love Chris, Max, Lucy, and Scarlett with all my heart.
To see the stunning photographs taken of Scarlett’s birth and her first meeting with big brother Max, please visit:
Thank you so much to our photographer Heather Gallagher, our doula Susan Steffes, my doctor Christopher Seeker, and the nurses and staff at The Women’s Center and St. David’s NAMC.
And to my love Chris – looking into your eyes reminded me why I was doing this and helped me through it. I love you.

1 Comment

  1. November 6, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    […] Last week I had the honor of photographing Scarlett’s birth at St.David’s North Austin Medical Center. Scarlett was received with so much love and anticipation by her mother Sara, father Chris and big brother Max. Scarlett is the second daughter to Sara and Chris who lost their baby girl, Lucy on Mothers Day 2013 to dilated cardiomyopathy at just 15 months old. After having two natural births and suffering some extreme back pain with Lucy’s birth, Sara opted to have a scheduled epidural. I was so privileged to witness the love between this family as they celebrated the arrival of their daughter and I am humbled to have been asked to document such an intimate day in this family’s life. To read Sara’s account of Scarlett’s birth story and to read several other beautiful and thoughtful stories of motherhood, family and loss, please visit Sara’s blog. […]

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