I shared Thomas' birth story, and have also written a post about choosing a doctor as a c-section mom. So I won't go into a whole lot of detail about my history, but it included four cesarean section deliveries and laboring to 10 centimeters with three of them! I found an obstetrician I really liked for my fourth delivery, so I was not sure what to do when we moved to another city and I found myself without a trusted doctor there. After trying a few different local doctors, and some major prayer and discernment, I opted to use the doctor I had for Thomas even though he was over four hours away from our current home! We made monthly visits for my appointments, which usually coincided with holidays and other events, so it wasn't too hard. But then we had to relocate to the Houston area in preparation for the baby's arrival!
On January 25th, we moved myself and the four kids to a rental cabin near the hospital as I reached 34 weeks gestation. We stayed there for almost six weeks, with Steven driving up each weekend. Being my 5th c-section and having dealt with preterm contractions, we wanted to be sure I was there early in case I happened to have a premature delivery. Thomas was born healthy at 37 weeks, so our hope was to make it to that point, which fell around Valentine's Day. We enjoyed our time in The Woodlands, getting to see family and friends, attending different birthday parties and holiday celebrations, and also going to some ballet classes at their old studio. Each week I got a little more worried about going into labor while Steven was working back home during the weekdays, but I tried to offer my anxieties up to God and trust that He would work out our daughter's delivery in His perfect timing.
After Sunday Mass on the 16th, 37 weeks!
On Monday, February 17th I had my 37 week appointment with no signs of the baby coming soon. We opted to discontinue the progesterone injections I'd been receiving weekly to ward off contractions. I felt great that day and Tuesday morning, and we even had an afternoon park outing with some friends on Tuesday afternoon. We returned to the cabin to complete some schoolwork before ballet class, and I started feeling a little "off." We still went to the ballet school, but I was feeling crampy and agitated. I was walking around the dance studio and felt like crying. I finally took Thomas to the car to rest for a little bit and call Steven. I was also texting my friend Veronica, but I didn't say anything to the kids. We grabbed some dinner on the way home and went back to the cabin where the kids went to bed and I sent text messages to other friends asking for prayer. I was hoping that a bath and some rest would slow things down, but I was starting to feel more contractions than crampiness and we decided that Steven would go ahead and drive up through the night.
Her foot in the last ultrasound
I was able to fall asleep with the knowledge that he was on his way and everything would be okay. I woke up and was worried that he was driving up for no reason, but I was still crampy the next morning and went ahead and scheduled an appointment with my doctor. They saw me right away and realized that I was starting to dilate (2cm) and efface (60%). I also got an ultrasound which showed a very short cervix. We decided that this was probably early labor and we should go ahead and schedule the c-section for that afternoon! They told me to be at the hospital at 12:30, so I went back to the cabin to pack and get ready.
Kids waving goodbye as we leave for the hospital. It felt so surreal!
It was a bit of a whirlwind trying to make sure we had people to watch the kids and to get myself showered and packed. I got a call to try to come to the hospital even earlier (at noon), but we didn't quite make it by then. I needed bloodwork which took some time, and waiting for the results ended up pushing my surgery back from 2pm to 3pm. After the bloodwork, we went up to the surgery triage area where I had to get into a gown, get hooked up to the monitors, get an IV, start getting fluids, the inflating boots on my legs (to prevent blood clots), and the other not-fun things needed before a c-section. I was so miserable for that time period. I was still having painful contractions and was starting to feel shaky since I hadn't eaten since the previous night. I was also so very nervous about the surgery and how I would handle the spinal anesthesia. Looking back, this waiting period felt more difficult than the actual c-section!
At exactly 3:00pm (the Hour of Divine Mercy!), I was walked down to the bright operating room and things started moving quickly. The young anesthesiologist began working on my spinal. It took awhile to get it working. Initially I just felt painful twinges down the middle of my back towards my tailbone. But finally I felt that familiar sensation of numbing legs, and I was laid back on the bed and hooked up to all kinds of monitors. He assured me that my heart was still beating when I started getting anxious about the way the beeps sounded. I started feeling lightheaded and was worried it would be like the last surgery where I kept feeling like I'd pass out. He asked if I felt nauseous. I said no, but he said they'd give me some nausea medicine to help. Apparently that did the trick because I didn't feel so bad the rest of the surgery. I was trying to breathe slowly and deeply the whole time. The nurse started rattling off my story...my name, the number of c-sections I'd had, etc. Someone called out asking if this would be my last baby, and I loved Dr. Rawson's response of "No way, I still have weddings to pay for!" Everyone was very positive in the OR. The other assisting doctor was a partner of Dr. Rawson, Dr. Labanca. I think he was challenging Dr. R a bit on deciding to deliver at 37 weeks 3 days, but he assured him it was the right thing to do. The rest of the time they seemed to be chatting about the Olympics. Oh, and at one point Dr. R raved about what a great job he had done sewing me up the last time around!
They had to wait a certain number of minutes after the spinal before they could begin (I think it was about 10-15mins), and they were timing that to the second! Steven came in just before they got started. Dr. R asked what I could feel and I didn't respond. He said that was the right answer! Before I knew it they told me I'd feel the tugging and they said they could see her hair. They asked Steven to take a look, but he said he'd wait (he doesn't like to look at my belly during the surgery and stays by my head the whole time). Finally she emerged at 3:27pm, but she wasn't crying. They moved her to the table and the neonatologist started working on her. They were doing lots of shaking, rubbing, and checking her reflexes. It took about two minutes to get her to breathe and cry! That was a bit scary. I think her Apgars were 3 and 8. The neonatologist asked Steven in the midst of this if he was nervous but he said, "not unless you are." He assured Steven that all would be fine, even though she was purple and they were starting to get out the oxygen mask just in case. I was so grateful to hear her first cries!
They got her cleaned off and I think they asked me what I thought she'd weigh. I said low sevens. Sure enough she was 7 lbs 1 oz. Each of my babies has been between 7 lbs and 7 lbs 5 oz, whether born at 37 weeks or 41 weeks! I guess that's as big as my body can handle. We told them her name and they all sang "Happy Birthday" to Katherine! They brought her over near me, and I got to touch her sweet face for a few minutes and take some pictures before they took her and Steven out to the recovery area. Everything seemed to go so quickly. I usually feel like the waiting for me to be sewn up takes forever, but very soon after Steven and the baby left, they were closing me up. I think it was finished around 3:50! It all went so smoothly and Dr. R said that things looked great and it didn't appear to be a uterus that had gone through five c-sections. That was encouraging!
I don't usually remember a lot about the recovery time. I know I have been given morphine and who knows what other drugs, so I'm a little dopey and the nurse always has to help latch the baby on during that time. They gave her a little bath just as one of the girls came up with Steven. I think my mom and Ellie also came up during that time. I was finally able to have some ice chips, which I was thrilled about, and soon after it was time to wheel me down to my room. I started to get the morphine itches, which lasted through the night. The whole family was now able to come up to meet little Katie.
Steven stayed with me that first night to help care for her since I couldn't get out of bed. The baby was also pretty fussy that first night. I was so hungry, so they allowed me some jello and juice. Unfortunately it didn't settle well, and I got sick soon after (my first time to ever get sick in the hospital; I usually have a stomach of steel!). I was quite miserable with the IV, catheter, loud inflating boots, itches, hunger, and other uncomfortable parts about being stuck in bed for the night. Thankfully, around 6am they were able to take off the boots and take out the catheter so I could get up and go to the restroom. I felt so much better after that, and was thrilled that afternoon when they took out my IV and I was no longer strapped to anything! From then on I was just on oral medicines (painkiller and Motrin).
I spent my usual time in the hospital watching television; this time it was mostly HGTV and the Winter Olympics. I always enjoy the hospital's crunchy ice, apple juice, and graham crackers, as well as the soggy bacon each morning. I stayed for three nights and really tried to soak in the quiet of that hospital room, knowing that my loud life would be back before I knew it! It's always such a special time for me to get to know my newest baby and I treasure those special hospital days I get to spend with them. Steven would bring the kids up to see me each day, and my parents came to visit daily, too. Other visitors included Beverly, Aunt Jill, Julie and kids, Jackie, Aunt Pam, Grampatti, Veronica and little Miriam. I got some special treats of Guadalajara and Chuy's Mexican food and even a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake one day. Katherine got lots of adorable outfits and other little gifts during that time.
We were discharged from the hospital on Saturday, February 22nd, and Katherine wore the same little pink outfit that both her sisters wore home from the hospital. I continued my recovery in our rental cabin for two more weeks before we came home. I am so grateful to Dr. Rawson and all the medical staff who helped us to have a safe and healthy delivery. I am also grateful to my husband Steven who allowed me to make the choice about using this doctor, even knowing the difficulty it would cause financially, emotionally, and physically for our family. I know it was worth all the headache and stress, the drives back and forth, and the challenges of living in a cabin for over a month. Most of all, I'm grateful to God for blessing us with a precious new life and allowing us to meet her here on this side of Heaven. I can hardly believe that things went so smoothly, and I'm hopeful that we might even be able to welcome more children if God so wills it.
Thanks to anyone who has made it through this very long birth story! Please feel free to comment with questions or prayer requests, especially any other c-section moms who might read this. I was considering hosting a c-section birth story link-up, so let me know if anyone might be interested in joining or reading that. Blessings to all!
My hero, Dr. Rawson, with Katherine at one week old
Our beautiful baby, Katherine Maria Grace!