Only two years after my last blog post, and two and a half years after the birth of his sweet sister, Rory John Vos has arrived.
Before I continue with the details, please note that this story will contain details about BIRTH, so if you are squeamish, maybe stop reading now rather than later. TLDR: Labor was under three hours and everyone was ok in the end. Now here’s the whole story:
Rory’s birth story begins a few weeks before I imagined it would. This time around, I was determined to take the doctor’s “you’re never going to make it to your due date” warnings with a huge grain of salt and enjoy the end of pregnancy and the last of Ruby’s and my days as just the two of us. What actually happened was: I saw a different doctor at my 37-week checkup, who worried the baby was getting too large and sent me in for an ultrasound. This really disrupted my vision of playing it cool at the end of my pregnancy. I worried they were going to intervene and that it was totally unnecessary to worry, since he was probably a completely normal-sized baby.
I spoke with my own doctor at my 38-week appointment (mid-February), and she suggested that if I were still pregnant by March 9 (the day before my due date), which was her day on-call at the hospital, we would induce. My heart sank. I immediately worried she meant Pitocin and imagined another 12 long hours of active labor. She said she hoped breaking my water would be all it would take, but I was still nervous and frustrated that we couldn’t just wait for the baby to decide on his own when to come.
I spent the next week agonizing about whether to even agree to the induction and reading about interventions for large babies, alternatives, and castor oil. By my 39-week appointment, I had been having contractions, very cute, dainty contractions, every day for several days. I was hopeful he would come any day, but I had also finally come to terms with the idea of inducing on the 9th if he was still in there. It seemed nice to be able to sleep and eat before labor began, and to be able to schedule a sitter (thank you, Sue! and everyone else who was willing to help!) and prepare Ruby for what lay ahead with certainty for when it would actually happen. (She had spent many nights restless at bedtime because she was worried about us leaving for the hospital.)
That week, I had contractions (the adorable kind) every day in addition to a host of other symptoms that the internet says may or may not imminently preclude labor. But still, no baby.
So Wednesday, March 9, we called in to the hospital at 6:30am to see when they wanted us to come in, nervous that they wouldn’t have a room for us, or wouldn’t want us to come in until noon. They wanted us at 7:30am, so we quickly ate breakfast, gave Ruby lots of hugs and kisses and said goodbye, and headed off to the hospital.
They settled us into a room (we were the only ones in the Birth Center!), and by 8:45am, my doctor had broken my water. They decided not to give me any other drugs (we had discussed misoprostol), since I was already 3.5cm dilated. We assumed it would take a while for things to get going (we even brought games because last time it took 4 hours for the contractions to really get going), but within literally minutes I was having some contractions that grew with intensity each time. Within a half an hour, they were three minutes apart and stopped me in my tracks. We turned on Sandra McCracken’s Psalms album to help me chill out.
By 11am, the contractions were coming quickly and intensely, and the nurse popped in to tell me that if I was feeling constant pressure to let her know, because she would have me checked by the resident. I told her I was feeling pretty constant pressure; the resident check me, and I was already at 6-7cm dilated. The next half hour was the dreaded transition (when your cervix dilates all the way to 10cm). It was pretty rough, not that that’s surprising. I told Elliot, “Remind me about this part next time I want to have a baby!” By this point, I was hands and knees on the birthing bed, white-knuckling the raised back of the bed, and the contractions were on top of each other, no rest in between, each one worse than the one before. Elliot and our amazing doula, Bridget, helped me stay on top of each one with encouraging words and massage. I had been throwing up, and I was sweating like I was running a marathon. So much fun! I got up for a moment, and by 11:30am, I’m pretty sure I said “This baby is coming RIGHT NOW!” So Bridget went to get the doctor.
I climbed back up onto the birthing bed, hands and knees the only position that offered any relief. They checked me, and I was at 10cm! “You can push with your next contraction,” my doctor told me, “it will feel SO good!” I was glad to hear her say that, because the urge to push was overwhelming. Elliot swears that from here it was only 4 or 5 big pushes. My contractions slowed a little to give my body time to, uh, stretch as Rory made his descent through the birth canal. I remember yelling “He’s getting stuck! Is he stuck? He’s stuck!” because it was so strange to have (what felt like) so much time between the pushing contractions (and I was so worried I would have to get another episiotomy like I did with Ruby). In reality it wasn’t much time at all, and they assured me he wasn’t stuck. Elliot says he could see Rory’s ears come out as he crowned. In five minutes of pushing, Rory John was out with one last push. I remember screaming with joy/pain/elation/terror the moment Ruby was born, and when Rory was born it was sheer joy and determination that caused a crescendo from my coping moans to a sort of primal scream. Both are memories I’ll keep forever.
After that they cut the cord very quickly and took him over to the warmer. We had asked for delayed cord clamping, but I guess when babies come out so quickly, sometimes they get a little stunned, and so Rory needed some attention. Elliot was teary-eyed; I was just flabbergasted, completely fucking gobsmacked that it was only 11:35am and he was here. They laid me down and the doctors went to work stitching me up (2nd-degree tear this time, “a normal amount” of stitches, my doctor said when I asked her how many). I could just see Rory in the warmer, so I focused on watching him, still trying to process that my baby was out and here and safe and alive. They put him on my chest a few minutes later, and we got acquainted. I forgot how squishy and floppy newborns are. He latched onto the breast pretty quickly and snuggled and snuggled for almost two hours, while we called our parents and family before they took him back to weigh and measure him. I think my jaw might have hit the floor when he weighed in at 9 pounds, 12 ounces. That is a HUGE baby! They were right after all – he was big.
Another bit of this story is that I was diagnosed with preeclampsia after he was born. I had some high blood pressure, so they ran some blood work and took a urine sample (it is completely not fair that after my rock star birth, I had to get a catheter for a urine sample – OUCH!), and sure enough, there was protein in my urine, but apparently not enough to panic (?), so they just monitored my blood pressure until I left. I’m fine now.
The nurses got us settled into our room, and Ruby came with Sue to meet him later that afternoon, which was great, because they put tighter visitor restrictions into effect the next day due to the stupid flu. She was sort of unsure about the whole situation, but interested in her new brother.
I spent the rest of the day absolutely in shock that the labor had gone so quickly and reflecting on how it had actually been pretty overwhelming and scary in the middle of it, just because it was so fast and intense. I remember, during transition, running through options in my head to see if there was any way I could get myself out of that situation, but none of the options I came up with would offer immediate relief, so I went forward. The contractions were almost unsettling, both in the moment and remembering them later, they were so intense and big. And yet, I survived.
I felt so relieved that the labor hadn’t been a huge ordeal, and I felt so empowered by pushing with such purpose and determination this time. I had been so nervous that taking 3.5 hours to push Ruby out had been somehow my fault, not the product of sheer exhaustion, that I had felt fearful of the pushing process. But when it came time, this time it was visceral. It was primal. It was natural.
Pretty much immediately after the birth, I told Elliot, “I might be done. That might be it for me.” That stands out so much to me, because right after Ruby was born I just knew I could do it again. It had been pretty terrible pushing for 3.5 hours, but I knew I wanted at least one more and could do it again. Now I’m honestly not so sure, and that’s actually kind of a relief. All through the pregnancy, I wished I knew if it was the last time, and now I feel a sense of peace thinking that it might have been.
Welcoming Rory into our family has been an exhausting joy. He is a thankfully pretty chill dude, and his sister is adjusting about as well as you would expect a 2.5-year-old girl to adjust. She needs one-on-one time with us, and as long as she gets that, she’s pretty happy to have him around. She only asked to take him back once, and that was two weeks ago already! The last few days, she has been more interested in hugging him, kissing him, holding him, and reading to him, all of which are a huge relief and very sweet.
I’m so relieved to say that I have felt so much better during this recovery time. In just the second week postpartum, I could already sit on the floor and do a puzzle with Ruby; last time I was still carrying a pillow around to sit on two weeks in. Now, three weeks postpartum, I feel pretty good! I still have the ups and downs of hormones, and I know I’m still not 100% healed, but I feel like I’m at least on the road to feeling like myself, and I don’t feel so nervous that I’m never going to feel better. Plus, this time my body knows how to nurse. We know how to take care of a newborn already. Those things have made the transition so much easier. Family coming to help has made the transition easier. I’m still nervous about when Elliot goes back to work, but I know we’ll figure it all out together.
Welcome to the world, little boy. We love you so much.