This entire pregnancy (and really probably since the day Austin was born) I’ve prayed that my 2nd labor would basically be the exact opposite of the 1st. My labor with Austin was just about everything I didn’t want. A quick synopsis of his is necessary for me to describe McKenna’s birth...
For Austin’s birth, I had planned on as natural of a birth in a hospital as I could get. I wanted no drugs and as few interventions as possible. But after my water broke and my contractions hadn’t picked up more than 5-10 minutes apart, even after 24 hours, I had to submit to being admitted to the hospital for antibiotics to prevent infection and ultimately an induction to get Austin out.
I was admitted to the hospital Wednesday evening at 6pm to start antibiotics and then was induced Thursday morning when things still weren’t happening on their own. Austin wasn’t born until Friday morning! I was monitored constantly and Austin wasn’t handling the pitocin contractions as well as we would have liked. They push on the baby unnaturally and often cause the baby to show signs of distress, when normally they would have handled labor just fine. And I really didn’t want to put Austin through that hard of a labor. What I wanted to be a peaceful, natural experience quickly turned into a medical and very stressful event, with everything out of my control. On top of all that, I had a nurse that was very rude and not at all in support of a natural birth. She even told me that she and the other nurses had made fun of my birth plan!
I had wanted no medication but the pitocin contractions were so painful that after 14 hours, I caved and got an epidural. I was having contractions as if I were in transition – double peaking and incredibly close together, but I was only 3-4cm dilated. The epidural helped some but not completely. The anesthesiologist didn’t put it in correctly at first and I had searing pain up the left side of my back. It took me yelling at her to make her do it again. (She was awful and rude!) She also didn’t tell the nurse or me that I could re-up the dosage when needed, so when I was in a lot of pain around 3am, we figured it was the epidural just not working and didn’t realize that I was fully dilated and my body was trying to push. So then they re-upped the epidural only to discover it was time for me to push. It took 3 hours to push Austin out because I couldn’t feel a darn thing!
The moment Austin was born I felt great! I was in love with my little man, who we had waited so long for! And I had a very easy recovery, which I was very thankful for. But I was very disappointed and sad about the experience up until that point. I know I went home with a healthy baby boy, but I feel like I was just lucky to have avoided the complications of the interventions.
When we found out we were pregnant with McKenna, I would joke that my new birth plan was to give birth behind a big tree somewhere! No being tied to an IV for days, no mean nurses, and no awful pitocin contractions! A homebirth would have been great, but Brian didn’t feel comfortable with that, in the case something scary did happen, not to mention he remembered how messy childbirth is! So I just prayed fervently that this labor would go differently, that my body would do what it was supposed to this time. I was also determined to enjoy the experience, no matter what I got though. When my friend Rebecca gave birth a few weeks ago after having to be induced, I realized that I let the circumstances of Austin’s birth suck a lot of joy out of the situation. Even if I had the exact same experience I was going to have a better attitude about it!
So onto McKenna’s actual birth…
About two weeks before I was due, I started having a good number of Braxton Hicks contractions. Sometimes 45 minutes apart but sometimes only 5. Some strong, but mostly just “there”. So when I went to my Dr’s appt that week, I was a little surprised that they hadn’t really “done” anything – I was just a fingertip dilated. Pretty much every 2nd time mom is a fingertip dilated the whole time. But I was totally fine with it. I’m one of those crazy women that actually love being pregnant and would have been fine going overdue! My contractions subsided for the most part and the next week at my appt, 4 days before I was due, I was more or less the same. A little more effaced but still no dilation. While I know that has so very little bearing on when a baby will actually be born, I felt that it would still be at least a few days. I happily called Brian on the way home and told him I was betting he could still hold his party on Saturday. We were expecting about 20 people over to watch the big UFC fight. Of course it was on the condition that we weren’t in the hospital having a baby! And the next day I was planning on taking Austin Easter Egg hunting at the Irvine Park and was excited that we would probably be able to go.
The next morning, (Friday) I woke up around 3:30 from the oddest dream. I dreamt that I was on Survivor and was competing in the challenges but having contractions and was holding up the games. Even weirder, Jeff Probst was being “played” by our pastor, Tim. I then dreamt that I woke up from my dream and told Brian that I was in labor and that he wasn’t going to get his UFC party. I think about 15 minutes later, I actually woke up and realized I was having contractions. They weren’t very strong but they did feel different from the Braxton Hicks ones I had been having.
I got up to go the bathroom and figured the contractions were mainly because my stomach was upset. I was hoping they’d subside so the party and the egg hunt could still occur! But after about an hour of trying to let my stomach figure itself out and noticing that my contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart, I figured I was out of luck! I got up and brought the computer in with me and timed online so I’d have a record of them and could plot them out. Yes, I am a nerd that way! I also emailed my mom that she probably shouldn’t go out to Orange County that day and cancelled out of our Egg Hunt trip with my friends. I timed for about an hour and my contractions were more like 3-4 minutes apart at this point, but they weren’t getting any longer. Just 30-45 seconds. They were getting a little stronger, where I’d have to purposefully relax through them but still not too bad.
Around 5:15, I heard Brian stirring and I updated him on the situation. I told him he didn’t need to get up yet, that I thought it would still be a while. I timed contractions for about another ½ hour and by the end of that it felt good to moan through them some, so he got up for the day.
A little before 6am, I got in the shower, because the last thing I wanted was to go to the hospital all icky and then not get to shower for like another 2 days! I tried to save Brian some hot water but I had to stop moving with each contraction and we sadly only have about 10 minutes of hot water. So he was out of luck!
I had started getting the “shakes” right before I got in the shower, so after my shower I got in bed to get warm and to try to relax through the contractions more. They were getting more intense and I needed to vocalize more through them. I think they were about 2-3 minutes apart then. I told Brian that I was getting to the point that I was going to need help with them soon. I needed him to remind me to relax my shoulders and belly because I was tensing up and to start breathing with me through some of them. He was amazing! He was running around the house like a one man baseball team, getting things together and packing and then as soon as I’d call him, he’d be right there by my side helping me relax. I don’t think he’s ever run around so quickly but he was on it! I was so impressed and so thankful!
About 7:00, I think I was only in bed about 15 minutes when I had a doozy of a contraction! I felt a weird pop and then my water absolutely exploded on me. There was no water “breaking.” That’s way too calm of a word. “Bursting” is much more appropriate. I turned into a human geyser! It felt like I was gushing forever, but it was probably about 5-10 seconds. And what’s weird is that when Brian helped me up, we discovered I was soaked from the waist up rather than the waist down! Somehow the force of the contraction coupled with how I was laying with my pregnancy pillow spread my water all up my back! Both Brian and my first thoughts after “Holy crap, that’s a lot of water” was “Oh my gosh, I hope it didn’t just ruin our brand new, very expensive Sleep Number Bed!!” Hey, our priorities may be skewed but at least they’re skewed in the same direction! Thank goodness we splurged for the 10-year guarantee mattress pad because the bed was saved!! Um...the pregnancy pillow…not so much!
When we got me out of bed and into the bathroom, I suddenly was extremely nauseous. Brian quickly got a bucket and I threw up. And this is when things start to get a little fuzzy for me. While I showered again, Brian called Susan to come help with Austin since he was about to get up and I needed Brian’s full attention. Thankfully she was already in the car going somewhere because she was at our house within 5 minutes. And it’s a good thing! Before my water broke, the plan was for Brian to take Austin to my parents’ house and come back and take me to the hospital, since before that point, things were progressing but weren’t imminent. But within 10 minutes or so of Susan arriving, things went into warp speed. She helped me through only a few contractions before I started showing signs of being in transition. My contractions were back-to-back and incredibly intense! I think I was being quite loud at this stage too. The only thing I really remember was repeating, “This is what I want” over and over again. That really got me through several contractions. I tried to remember my determination to enjoy whatever labor I got and that really helped too. So even though I was in intense pain, it really was what I wanted! I was getting a completely natural experience without mean nurses and IVs!
Oh, one other random thing I remember from that phase – While I was showering the 2nd time, Brian changed the sheets on the bed. I got back in with a towel and Brian had planned on getting some clothes on me. I told him I needed underwear and a pad to absorb the water I was still leaking. He came back with the tiniest panty liner ever! Dead serious asked “Is this what you need??” Oh my gosh! That contraction hurt so bad as I laughed! I told him he’s only allowed to make me laugh in between them! I think about that time Susan arrived, so the underwear and pad were forgotten for a bit. But now every time I see those tiny liners in the bathroom cupboard, it makes me giggle!
Back to the timeline – I think my mantra only ended up helping me for about 10 minutes, because very shortly I clearly entered the “self-doubt” stage. Part of me was realizing “Oh crap, I waited too long to go to the hospital”, but the other part of me was flashing back to Austin’s birth and I was convinced I was probably just being dumb and overdramatic and was just 4-5 cm. I was really afraid we’d get to the hospital and I was going to have to labor at this intensity for several more hours!
I think about then Brian & Susan realized things were moving fast and they called my Godmother, Helen to come stay with Austin. Susan would stay with him until Helen got there and then come join us at the hospital. Austin woke up sometime around here and had to hang out in his room. That was really hard for me. At first you could hear him playing in there, but after about 10 minutes he realized no one was letting him out and he started banging on the door! That made me start crying. But Susan & Brian were busy trying at the task of getting me in the car.
Brian wasn’t sure we should try and kept asking me if I could make it. I was still in LaLa Land, thinking, “I’m only like 5cm dilated” so I kept telling him yes! Not sure he should have believed me. My contractions were only about 1-2 minutes apart and double peaking. In between, we would do baby steps to get ready. In between one set, I think they got my pants on. In between another, a sweatshirt made it about ½ way on! Then I made it to the end of the dresser. Then the doorway. Then the hallway door. Then the front door! Then a good-bye to Austin. (I was so sad to leave him! But he was just excited that Auntie Suz was there 1st thing in the morning!!) Then the car. Brian said it took as long to get me into the car as it did to drive to the hospital!
When I laid down in the back seats of the car, the change in position caused a massive contraction. It was at this point I instinctively realized that screaming felt waaaay better than simply moaning. I scared Brian so much he called 911 because he thought McKenna was coming right then! I also apparently scared the neighbors too! One came out of his house…across the street! Brian had tried to get in the driver seat while I still needed him for this contraction, so I was yelling “No! Stop! It hurts! Wait! Stop!” We’re pretty sure we have a couple neighbors that think he beats me now!
I guess the 911 people weren’t being incredibly helpful and after I explained to Brian it just felt good to be really loud, he decided to just make a run for it. I think they more or less told 911 to forget it and hung up! Brian then drove incredibly quickly and remarkably smoothly to the hospital. He was on and off the phone with Susan, making sure the hospital knew we were coming and that my Dr had been called.
We got to the hospital shortly after 8:00. That should give you an idea of how hectic the last several paragraphs were! All that happened in about an hour! I was definitely in a pushing stage when we got there. Sorry for TMI, but mostly I just felt like I had to poop! (Hey, if you’re braving reading a birth story, you should expect some mention of bodily functions!) Can’t tell you how upset it made me to think of possibly having the new car smell replaced with that! I was already upset that I was leaking amniotic fluid on my new seats!! (Thankfully it was very little and easily cleaned! Thanks Brian!!) I wonderfully did not poop in my new car and was wheeled into the ER. They checked me to see if she was crowning and was going to be born there or if there was time to get me up to Labor & Delivery. I was a little shocked when they declared me 10cm dilated! Remember LaLa Angela still thinks she’s about 5cm despite all the contrary signs! But I wasn’t crowning yet. She was at a +1 station, which means she was on her way out, but still has a few inches to descend before crowning.
The ER doctor determined I still had some time, so up to Labor & Delivery we went. The whole time all the nurses are telling me “Don’t push! Just breathe!” Because my Dr wasn’t there yet and we weren’t set up to deliver, they didn’t want to me to push her out yet. I kept telling them that I couldn’t not push and I didn’t care who caught her! And realistically I couldn’t help but push. I wasn’t pushing effectively or with the right muscles and but I was pushing somewhere. Even just straining against the contractions felt better than doing nothing. But I was doing what I could to not push and I think that made this part much more painful. At one big contraction, I think I yelled at the top of my lungs “I can’t NOT push!!!” and just then the Dr walked in and said to go for it!
And miraculously, Susan walked in too! I was really worried she wouldn’t make it. Brian and I had asked her if she would like to be there for the actual birth this time. For Austin’s birth we wanted to have just a special moment with just us, but this time we wanted to share it. And she has been such a wonderful auntie and huge support that it just made sense for her to be there.
Within minutes they had the bed switched to “delivery” mode and got me turned from my side to a semi-sitting position and told me I could start pushing. Brian says this was at 8:40. The moment I was moved, my contractions spaced out, probably not a ton, but it felt like I had forever between them. What a relief! I could breathe and think about what I had to do. My 1st push wasn’t useful. I had spent so much time just straining pushing and that coupled with not having any muscle memory from pushing Austin out, that I couldn’t figure it out. And I couldn’t figure out where I wanted Brian and Susan to hold my legs and I couldn’t figure out which muscles I needed to use. It was all just very non-instinctual, which bummed me out. I thought that my body would just keep doing what it wanted to! So I did a practice push in between contractions to get an idea of where I needed my legs and we had them set up a mirror so I could figure out where to push. That all did the trick! 3 or 4 contractions with hard and long pushes later she was crowning. And that’s when my body wouldn’t let me push anymore! It hurt so bad that I couldn’t will myself to push. So I asked if I could just breathe her out and the Dr suggested I do little grunts. One contraction of little grunts and her head was out.
And then she was stuck! Little girl has some broad shoulders! They lay the bed down and a nurse pushed straight down on my pelvic bone while the Dr gently pulled and maneuvered her and I pushed with everything I had and out she popped!
McKenna Rose Crowley was born at 8:56am! Just 16 minutes of pushing. She’s my little chunker! 8lbs 12oz. 20.5 inches long. Austin was only 7lbs, so she looks very chubby compared to him! Poor thing got Momma’s thighs! Despite her weighing almost 2 lbs more than Austin and coming very fast, I didn’t tear at all! Sooooo incredibly glad I stopped pushing when I did and gently got her out. I really think that made a huge difference!
She was a little blue and not breathing too great, but I still got to hold her for a little bit before they whisked her off. But she recovered quickly and was back in my arms in just a little bit. I had a very easy recovery and we left the hospital just a little over 24 hours after she was born. I wanted to get home to my little man too, since he wasn’t allowed in the hospital to visit.
Right after she was born, I told Brian that this labor hurt so bad that I thought 2 kiddos was enough, but by the end of the day I was already forgetting the pain and just enjoying the excitement of it all! It felt so amazing to actually get the birth I wanted! Not that I’d have asked for one so fast next time, but I would take 10 of those labors over what I had with Austin!! I’m very thankful that God sometimes has a sense of humor when he answers our prayers!
I have to take a moment and sing Brian's praises again! He was amazing through this entire experience. From being by my side for every contraction I needed him for, to coaching me while I pushed her out, to handling absolutely every aspect of Austin's care when we got home so McKenna and I could get nursing and sleeping figured out. I can't even fathom how scary and heart pounding of a situation this was for him! But he kept his cool every step and was totally in control! I certainly could not have does this without him! He's wonderful!!
Now that we’re home and settled, things are going great! Austin didn’t quite know what to think at first and just ignored her. I think he thought she’d be leaving soon. But now he’s coming around and interacting with her more. Not always as gently as we’d like, but we’re working on it! And I hate to say it out loud, for fear she’ll hear me and change just to mess with me, but at this point she’s an even easier baby that Austin was. I didn’t actually think that was possible!
One last note...Brian and I still got to watch the fight! No big party though, but we had our family over to watch it. (Well, some people watched the fight - the grandmas just came to hold McKenna. Grandmas aren't really into UFC!) Definitely a bonus to getting out of the hospital quickly. It's a good thing too! It was a great fight!!
Now for the pictures! These were made possible by Rebecca, since somehow in the confusion we made it to the hospital without a camera and no one else in my family brought one to the hospital! Susan called Rebecca right as I started pushing and she amazingly arrived shortly after McKenna was born to let us borrow her camera. What is this world coming to when a whole herd of Wileys and Crowleys arrive somewhere without a camera??
My Little Chunker! I just love those cheeks!
Austin Meeting His Sister! While it looks like he's fascinated with her, he's really just captivated by the chest strap button on her seat belt!
Our Beautiful Little Princess!
Thank you, Lord, for this beautifully precious girl!