Hi, friends! Baby Greta is just over two weeks old and I want to share her birth experience with you while it's still relatively fresh. Even over the course of the last few weeks the intensity of the emotions I feel when I remember her labor and delivery has diminished drastically. Although in the moment I wished time would pass faster and I had little desire to complete the experience, nevermind relive it, the birth stories of my children are very dear to me in retrospect and I want to retell it now with as much accuracy as I can. I'm a detail-loving person so expect this to be a long one. If you make it to the end... you're motivated! ;)
For those of you reading who might not know, Greta is my third child and first girl. I would say that my first two pregnancies were very easy and enjoyable. I had mild "morning" sickness for about six weeks with each of my boys, and although it was entirely unenjoyable to experience (morning sickness/all day sickness is MISERABLE), it passed and I otherwise felt great until the very end. My physical stamina didn't seem to waver much if at all during pregnancy. In fact I felt like a better version of myself, for the most part. I loved being pregnant! Then there was Greta. She wasn't exactly planned, but she wasn't the shock that Baylor was- I knew I could be pregnant and took a test that came up negative. I didn't give it a second thought until I didn't get my period as expected a few days later. I took another test and was flabbergasted when it showed the faintest positive result. I didn't even tell Joey right away because I was convinced it wasn't true! I was super excited, but I had JUST reached a place where I was content not being pregnant. I'm one of those people who gets jealous seeing others growing their families. During a season where I finally wasn't longing for that, I found out I was pregnant. My heart goes out to those experiencing infertility or other pregnancy-related heartbreaks!
For a week or so, I was giddy with the recent news of my little surprise, and everything was great. But then the "morning" sickness started. OH. MY. GOODNESS. It was so bad. Bad for me, anyway. I know some people have it way worse. In former pregnancies I couldn't drink coffee, was bothered by certain smells... normal stuff. This time I felt 110x worse. I literally walked around gagging CONSTANTLY. I felt absolutely horrific all day long. Nothing tasted good. Nothing sounded good. I was weak and miserable. I remember being terrified to go to a store because I never knew when I would start gagging or need to throw up. I had this fear that I'd be in the Target produce aisle throwing up on the floor. So I basically stayed home and if I did go someplace I was always scoping out the nearest exit or bathroom or someplace I could throw up discreetly... just in case! There was one particularly scarring incident when Joey and the boys and I were driving to see friends and family, and we decided to stop and get some lunch. I never experienced hunger during that sick stage except that the nausea got WORSE when my stomach was empty. So the worse I felt, the more I knew I really needed to get something to eat. Yup, it makes a whole lot of sense! Anyway, we decided to stop at Subway and I'm usually the one who goes in if there's no drive through but I really wasn't feeling well (as usual but it was extra pronounced in that moment) so Joey went in to get the food instead. Good thing he did, because as soon as he walked away I found myself gagging. I quickly opened my door to throw up in the parking lot. There were approximately seven people hanging out nearby doing who even knows what, and the people parked next to me were waiting to get into their car and I'd just thrown up on the ground outside their driver's door. I closed my door but I still needed to throw up! So there was this huge cup we'd borrowed from my mom that I finished throwing up into. Needless to say we disposed of that cup promptly and did not return it to its rightful owner. Sorry for the graphic details. But that kind of sums up most of my pregnancy!!! The first few months were not enjoyable. I was hoping and praying I'd feel better by the end of the first trimester, but nope! Joey and I had a trip to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun planned which happened to coincide with the end of my first trimester and I was still sick the entire time we were there. But at least I could lay around all day and not have to cook or take care of my other kids! The problem was the HEAT! It was so hot. One day we were at the beach and on the short walk back to the resort pool I started feeling really lightheaded and nauseous, which was nothing new, but this time it amounted to something and I passed out from standing position and hit my head really hard on some concrete in a SUPER crowded area. And everyone just thought I was drunk! And then there was the fact that I couldn't drink water. I literally only drank orange juice for months on end. The first time I finished a bottle of water it was like a small victory! Even brushing my teeth was a war because my toothbrush gagged me so my dental hygiene really suffered for a few months. I had a tooth cleaning at some point and I remember praying I'd be able to make it through without throwing up and thankfully I did! The Lord provided so much unexpected extra help and grace during that time- and around 20 weeks I FINALLLY started to feel better, praise the Lord! Better in the sense that I didn't feel the need to throw up 24/7. And I could drink coffee and water again, hallelujah! I never regained my full physical stamina- it remained difficult to do normal things like just climb up the stairs. Around 19 weeks I thought I could find out the gender of the baby, and then my midwife said I needed to wait until 21 weeks and I broke down crying as I left my appointment and then sobbed in the car for a good 20 minutes. I thought she was so mean! Help a lady out! The first few months had been so emotionally and physically trying and I was clinging to some hope of finding out if maybe the reason I was so sick was because I was pregnant with a girl?! When I found out eventually that yes, my baby WAS a girl, I was so happy. Like I melted into tears instantly. It was some of the best news I've ever heard! I had always wanted a girl and now after so many hard months finding out I was pregnant with a baby girl was just the best gift!!
So moving onward. I didn't fully embrace my pregnancy with Greta like I had with the boys. I was in total survival mode for the first few months. Towards the end it was much more enjoyable but I still had issues, like sore varicose veins and restless leg issues and sleep problems and general fatigue! I don't know if I blogged more than one time my entire pregnancy with Greta while with Baylor I was SO passionate about blogging lots of helpful pregnancy stuff. So you can probably imagine that planning for Greta's delivery wasn't on the forefront. I literally just didn't think about it until I was already in my third trimester and then one afternoon I had a major meltdown because I realized I was terrified and whether I was avoiding thinking about labor and delivery or not, it was still going to happen. And I decided I'd rather face it now and plan than be caught off guard by it and become a victim of circumstance. I actually started to write a blog post on epidurals in collaboration with Joey (he gives epidurals as part of his job as an anesthetist and I thought an informative post would be nice for me and others) and that very day I ended up hiring a doula instead of writing the post because I got this surge of motivation to take control and PLAN! That was a major turning point and it was around my 28th week. When I met with the person who would eventually become my doula, Victoria, for the first time, I pretty much cried through the meeting as we talked about my vision for labor and delivery. She listened intently and she gave me someplace to start- with the HypnoBirthing book, which I've actually owned since my pregnancy with Finley but never read! There was a section on facing your fears and that's really what I had to do. I'm not one of those people who has had super positive birth experiences. When I think of birth my mind immediately goes to something more along the lines of "traumatic." So to face my fears I would walk through all the scenarios I could come up with and try to figure out a plan for each one. I also talked to Joey about any hesitations I felt he might have just so we could be on the same page. It really helped! I also studied some of the breathing techniques (relaxation and surge breathing), some of the relaxation techniques (relaxing my jaw mainly) as well as visualizations (cervix opening, what a uterus' muscles do during contractions) and positive birth affirmations. I didn't "do" HypnoBirthing to the full degree but all the things I mentioned above helped me IMMENSELY both before and during labor. I highly recommend even just studying up on those things. Like breathing sounds so obvious, of course you have to breathe! But it takes intention to breathe through contractions especially when you kind of just want to scream instead. Focusing on taking deep breaths to fill my abdomen helped mentally AND physically. And the jaw relaxation- did you know your jaw and your lower abdomen area are actually connected in a lot of ways? So if your jaw is tense, chances are you're tensing up and not allowing your body to work as well as it could and potentially even causing yourself a greater deal of pain! Long story short, I hired Victoria as my doula, and my birth story would without a doubt be WAY different and WAY less positive without her. She will forever hold a special place in my heart because of the work she did before and during Greta's birth!
Onto the actual birth story. My due date of April 27, 2017 came and went, which didn't surprise me. I was actually in really good spirits especially considering I near lost my mind waiting for Baylor to be born... which ended up being 10 days after his due date! I know due dates aren't exact but Finley was born ON his due date so I think I have some expectations about them. I was just trying to take it a day at a time, relax, and stay on top of things like dishes and such. I was on high alert and had lots of plans in place in case I had another precipitous labor. In fact we never ventured more than about 30 minutes from our house/the hospital after my 38th week and always had someone on call to watch the boys just in case labor came on fast and furious. I didn't want to be in the final stage of labor in the car, or deliver a baby somewhere random, or have my kids be in the waiting room at the hospital with Joey while I had a baby! I was obviously a little paranoid. But my labor with Baylor was legitimately 99 minutes long from the first contraction to delivery and it caught me SO off guard and I didn't want to go down that road again! On Saturday, April 29 Victoria texted me and reminded me to fill my mind with positive affirmations... and I did. I reassured myself that my body knew what to do, and that I would relax and let it work to birth my baby when my labor began, that Greta would be born when she was intended to be born even if I didn't know the date, and that I didn't need to have fear. Joey and the boys spent much of the day outside and I relaxed inside due to extreme seasonal allergies! I really didn't want to take medicine so I tried to avoid exposing myself to too much pollen- I'd had a hardcore allergy attack a few days prior that had me curled up on the couch crying until Joey convinced me to take a Claritin-D which then subsequently made me feel so amazing/overstimulated that I didn't sleep a wink that entire night!!! So that was all to be avoided. Saturday night Joey and I settled down in the living room to watch a movie that neither of us were very interested in (La La Land). I was sharing a protein bar with Baylor, who was still awake because I'm a softy and I broke the rules and let him come downstairs when he couldn't fall asleep! We were both looking forward to an early bedtime, especially Joey who had chopped down this massive bush and done heavy manual labor outside all day. I felt a little trickle as I sat on the couch holding Baylor, but I told myself it was nothing. Then I felt it again, and trying to sound calm I said, "Joey. Maybe you should go get me a towel or something. I think my water just broke!" Joey jumped into action and ran to find something absorbent and then I made my way to the bathroom. I knew I hadn't peed my pants (and trust me I unfortunately knew what that felt like to do that! #pregnancyprobs) and yet they were clearly wet... but I didn't want to jump to any conclusions! However a few minutes later I realized was definitely leaking a slightly pink-tinted fluid. The adrenaline started pumping as I realized, "This is it. There's no going back now." It was about 9:30 pm. So much for an early bedtime- who knew when I would sleep again! Of course this all happened at night. During the day I would have been like, "YAY, LET'S HAVE A BABY!" At night my attitude is always more like, "Please, Lord, don't let it happen at night when I'm tired!" But obviously I didn't have a choice in the matter, so I tried to put on a brave face. (Even though I'll admit, I was nervous.)
First I contacted Victoria. She has two little boys and I knew she needed to make arrangements for them. It felt so weird to say, "My water just broke!" Then I called my mom, who of course didn't answer her phone. I texted my dad and he told her to call me. I told her my water had broken and she said she was on her way, with my grandma. The drive for them was a bit over an hour. Joey and Baylor had since gone up to bed. Joey knew the smart thing to do was rest as much as he could while he had the chance. Our house was a mess and I was pretty amped up so I finished some laundry, cleaned the floors, and rearranged the dishes in the sink to make them look less messy. Priorities!!! I'm a stress cleaner. I clean everything and anything when I need to help myself calm down or focus or whatnot. All intense emotions basically amount to cleaning for me. When I felt somewhat resolved about the state of our house I went upstairs to lay down in bed. During pregnancy I always suffer from restless legs and itchy skin, and it's worst at night. Between my irritable legs and skin and the fact that Greta was setting new records with the amount of moving she was doing inside me, there wasn't much resting going on. I closed my eyes but after an hour or so I went back downstairs. At this point my mom, grandma, and doula had arrived and were chatting in the living room.
I could tell things were happening within, but I wasn't having contractions steadily in the sense that I could time them. I could tell when I was having one but they didn't hurt, and they were sporadic. So basically this was not a "Baylor" experience and I wasn't sure how I felt about that. With his labor I didn't have time to stop and think and in a way that was a good thing. I delivered him sans-epidural mainly because I didn't have the choice, even though that was my goal to start with anyway. I really wanted one, trust me! But I arrived in labor and delivery 9 cm dilated and delivered him 7 minutes later so pain meds weren't an option. I wanted to deliver Greta without an epidural (maybe I'm a glutton for punishment but that's what I desired) but now I had all this time to consider my choice and I was so nervous for some reason I would back out. Probably because that's what had happened with Finley's labor- it was much more similar to this in the slow start sense. And his labor was just so painful and I did eventually get an epidural even though I hadn't wanted one. But I reminded myself that I had prepared way more and had a doula this time! I also resolved that getting an epidural wasn't the end of the world. I left that option open for myself in the back of my mind. I was trying really hard to stay positive and confident but it was a struggle.
Victoria, my mom, and my grandma Nancy and I all sat in the living room for a bit and watched my stomach roll around as I got poked and prodded from the baby inside. Everyone was in good spirits... except for me. I wished I could be somewhere quiet. I didn't want to joke or listen to stories or do anything other than focus on what was to come. My mom did encourage me by mentioning that she thought I had a high pain tolerance. I don't necessarily agree but she said she's noticed it over the course of my life so... mom wins! Eventually we all decided to get some rest. Victoria and I chatted about waiting to go to the hospital until things were happening more actively and I thought I was on board with that but as soon as everyone laid down I dialed the midwife on call at the hospital, and she advised me to come in since I thought my water was broken. I knew what it was like to be in the car and navigating a hospital in active labor from my experience with Baylor and I didn't want to do that again. I realized I would rather go in while I was still somewhat comfortable so that when things really got going I would be able to do what I needed to do without knowing I still had hoops to jump through. So Victoria rested for all of 45 seconds before I woke her up and told her I wanted to head to the hospital. I also woke Joey up and we collected a few last things before heading there. Thankfully the hospital is 3/4 of a mile from our house! We arrived around 1am.
As I expected, we were put into a triage room upon arrival in labor and delivery. One of my goals regarding labor was to avoid laying on my back and to have as few internal exams as possible. The nurse tending to me wanted to monitor my contractions and baby's heart rate for a bit, so I laid on my right side and had the monitors strapped to me from there. I was very tired and laying down only made me more aware of this. I was asked 110 random questions and I feel kind of bad thinking back but I had an attitude along the lines of, "I don't want to do this right now." I was probably mumbling and I know I was talking really quiet when I answered the nurse. I had my eyes shut and I was half asleep, trying to breathe deeply and relax when I felt an uncomfortable contraction. The nurse wanted to know how often I was having contractions and I honestly couldn't say. I said it felt like I was always having one in some ways, but I wasn't in an insane amount of pain. It was kind of annoying trying to explain that. But the monitor showed I was having them regularly, regardless of what I could feel. A resident came and swabbed me to see if my water had actually broken (it had, which I knew, but I can understand why the hospital needed to confirm) and then I laid on my back briefly while she checked me for dilation, which wasn't actually uncomfortable at all. It's funny how different each labor can be! (I was 4.5 cm, for the record.) Going into labor I was all about, "I'm not laying down on my back, I don't want to be checked for dilation any more than I need to!" I just remember from having Finley how uncomfortable that felt. But the internal exams didn't bother me one bit this labor- in fact I was only ever checked 2 times total, and once only because I requested it! Isn't that amazing? My desires were really respected in that regard. What I didn't expect to be so much of an issue for me was the monitoring of baby's heartbeat. It REALLY threw me off because I would usually have to sit or lay down so the nurse could get a good listen, and especially towards the end it became mentally daunting for me to be laying down having contractions. I'm Group B Strep positive (and have been each pregnancy, darnit anyway) and I wanted to avoid antibiotics but I didn't consider that my water would break! I never ever thought I would have a labor begin with my water breaking. So it was mentioned in triage that I needed to start the antibiotics but I said I wanted to think about it more, which I could tell was really stressing the resident and nurse out. But I was also not really in a mood to care that much. I usually take things very personally and I think I tend to be a people-pleaser but I was too focused on how hot and nauseous and sleepy I was at that point. I felt clammy and jittery. While Joey, Victoria and I waited in the triage room alone to see if I was going to be admitted I asked for a trash can and threw up a few times and felt a bit better afterwards. But it became clear to me at that point that I was really nervous with the slow start. I wasn't nervous in the sense that I thought I was going to need Pitocin or anything. Just nervous of what was to come in general. Again, I had so much time to THINK and get inside my own head. I think my body was clearing itself out because I threw up while in labor with Finley too but I think it also had to do with me being nervous.
We were eventually transferred to a delivery room at the end of the unit. For a brief moment I wasn't sure if I would be admitted and I was thinking that they'd need to escort me out on a stretcher!!! It was mentioned that an abnormally high number of women had come in with broken water that night. Once we got to our room I had a saline lock put into my left arm. My memories of this time are a little fuzzy but I know Victoria started to diffuse some essential oils that apparently smelled really good. I unfortunately was still super congested from allergies and couldn't smell a thing. I also sounded like I was hacking up a lung the entire time I was at the hospital and for a few days after which was a bit unpleasant! I bounced on a yoga ball for a while and I think Joey, Victoria and I had a conversation about toothpaste? I still wasn't super uncomfortable physically besides being mentally unsure, but I would breathe really deep through my nose and relax my jaw whenever I had a powerful contraction. The resident who had seen me in triage eventually came in to talk to us about the antibiotics for the Group B Strep. She said she'd talked to my midwife, who strongly advised them, especially since my water had broken so many hours earlier. I could tell they were reallllly anxious about me getting them. They were breaking out all their tactics! Again I said I wanted to talk to Joey and Victoria about it and eventually we decided I would get the first dose. If my water hadn't been broken I probably wouldn't have consented to them because I know how important it is for baby to be exposed to mom's biome in the birth canal and obviously antibiotics kill off a lot of the bad but also the good bacteria... but in the moment we felt that the right thing to do would be to get them as advised. While I was being hooked up to receive them, Joey fell asleep sitting up in an armchair (see photo below)- he must have been really tired! Victoria and I did a few yoga moves on a yoga mat on the floor, and then I sat on a yoga ball with a trash can in front of me because I still felt really nauseous while I received the antibiotics. I probably started them around 6 am, soon after the sun rose. They burned as they went in- it felt like someone was ripping the hair off my arm with duct tape and like I had a deep bone ache at the same time. It also felt like they took for-ev-er to administer. I eventually told Victoria she should go lay down and she fell asleep really fast. At this point I started to feel really bad for myself. I was so lonely especially now that everyone else was sleeping. I wanted to go to sleep sooo bad- I felt like I was wavering on the brink of being awake and asleep. I tried laying down in bed but I was definitely having contractions because as soon as I would drift off to sleep, I would have one and it was very uncomfortable and took focus to get through. So basically I was kind of crying by myself, thinking about how much I didn't want to be doing what I was doing. I was still nervous for what was ahead. I felt like everyone kept reminding me that things hadn't really "started" yet and I was already so exhausted mentally and physically that I couldn't even fathom being asked to do anything strenuous or painful. Eventually the antibiotics were done being administered and I think Joey unhooked me from the machine when the beeping woke him up. One perk of having a husband who works in the medical field is that he knows how to work a lot of machines even though I kept asking paranoid questions like, "Joey are you supposed to be unhooking that line/pressing that button/etc.?!"
After the antibiotics were done being administered I went into the bathroom, and after I was done I stood in front of the mirror crying. I was so burdened by the cup I knew I needed to bear in order to bring by child into the world. No one else could do it for me. The weight of that responsibility weighed so heavily upon me and I couldn't help but think of Jesus in the garden before he was taken to be crucified. (Easter had only been a few weeks before and the story was fresh). His friends were "with" him but they were sleeping, and he was so lonely. He was fully aware of what was coming, of what HE ALONE had to do, and he was just begging God to take the cup from him. The Bible says that Jesus fell to his face and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me..." (Matthew 26:39). I feel ridiculous comparing what I did in delivering Greta to what Jesus did when he died on the cross, but I don't think I've ever experienced loneliness to that degree before, nor such an intense longing for a responsibility to not be mine. I wanted so badly for the cup of childbirth to be on someone else in that moment... just not on me. Joey and Victoria were with me but they couldn't do the work for me, and I was terrified. Simply put, I didn't want to do it. I'm so thankful that the Lord used that moment to reveal more of the heart of Jesus to me. It's one of the things I treasure most about Greta's birth experience. I understood that time in Jesus' life better than I ever had before. It also reaffirmed to me that in Christ, suffering has value that no happiness or time of calm and peace can offer. No one wants to suffer. But what hope to know that in Christ, suffering is not without purpose!!!
After that Joey and I decided to go walk the hallways and let Victoria sleep. Getting moving was the BEST choice we could have made. My energy level went up 100% and I felt so much less sick and tired and unmotivated. It also really got things going with contractions- I began having them regularly and they were strong. I walked through some of them, but for others we paused in the hallway and Joey would squeeze my hips while I focused on breathing and that really helped. The funny thing is that there were a lot of other women there in labor and we didn't see a single other mom the entire time we were there. (Okay I lied, I saw one lady getting some ice once!) Joey works at the hospital I delivered at and he knew the anesthetist on call, and as we walked the hallways we could see him going from room to room to monitor all the other mothers who were there laboring with epidurals. Now please don't get me wrong- I am NOT trying to shame anyone who chooses to labor with an epidural!!! I had an epidural with Finley. It was awesome. And sometimes it's absolutely the best choice for mom and baby. But it's obviously a specific way of laboring. I mean I know from personal experience you can't get out of bed, can't even go pee without a catheter. It's just a totally different way of giving birth than what I chose to pursue with Greta and it was really interesting to be walking around, going pee on my own, not getting acquainted with the anesthetist, figuring out how to manage the pain without drugs. In fact it gave me some motivation realizing that I was the only one out and about during labor because I felt free! I felt like I had options. I mean I wasn't by any means skipping happily up and down the hallway but it really reinforced to me that I was DOING it, pursing my goal (whether in that moment I wanted to or not). (The anesthetist actually stopped in after I delivered and congratulated us and said hi to Joey and said he was glad I hadn't needed him!) After walking and contracting regularly for a while I decided to ask to be checked for dilation. I was really hoping I'd made some good progress and I was thrilled when my midwife told me I was 7 cm! At this point it was probably 9 am but I'm really not sure because I wasn't checking the time. I was super happy because honestly to get to 7 cm I hadn't reached that "OH MY GOSH I CAN'T DO THIS!" point in terms of pain. Yes, I was uncomfortable and in some definite measure of pain and I really needed focus and help from Joey/Victoria to manage, but I wasn't begging for an epidural like I had been with my previous labors. I think in my mind that's what I expected of myself. It was really hard to overcome my OWN doubts about myself. We really can be our own "worst" enemy but I also know we have the power to be our biggest cheerleader as well!
After checking me, my midwife wanted baby to be monitored for at least 20 minutes, so I laid down on my left side in bed and had some pretty crazy contractions but thankfully they weren't one on top of each other. I swear I was counting the seconds- when it became clear that my 20 minutes was up I was buzzing my nurse to get me off the machines so I could out of bed!!! For me the thing that helped me manage the pain the most was MOVING. Moving got the contractions going nice and steady, and it helped me ride them like a wave instead of them being like waves crashing on top of me. In all my other labors I would say I absolutely felt like I was being obliterated by waves to the point of drowning to death. This was different. (Granted I was not at the end yet. I got to that point eventually but it was only for a brief amount of time!)
After the monitoring Victoria (who had woken up from her nap) and Joey and I headed back into the hallway to walk again. My midwife recommended that I take a warm shower to help speed things up but I was still really hot and a warm shower sounded like the last thing I wanted. I also didn't want to speed anything up- I was taking it all one step at a time and I was scared to urge things along any faster than they were happening at that point. As we walked, Victoria was holding my left hand, and Joey was holding my right, I had my eyes closed, and I was more "sashaying along" than walking because it felt better during contractions. Joey laughed at me and said it looked like I was trying to walk with a swagger. It was probably funny but I didn't have the spare energy to laugh so I smiled quickly to humor him and then grumbled at him to keep doing his job rubbing my back and holding my hand! The contractions were close together now, and they were VERY strong- I could tell they were doing their job! I was really focusing as we sashayed along- I purposed to take deep, slow breaths in through my nose to fill my abdomen and give my uterus room to rise as it contracted, allowing it to do its job to open my cervix so my baby could be born. I had to take several of these long, slow breaths to get through many of the contractions. I knew I looked stupid so I avoided walking near the nurse's station so I could look stupid in as much privacy as I could manage! We kept getting in the cleaning lady's way. (She actually stopped in to see us after I had Greta because we felt like old friends after all that passing each other in the hallway!) Victoria was great- she did the same swagger walk I was doing so I didn't have to look stupid alone! Joey was rubbing my lower back in a circular motion the whole time, and for some reason it was really nice and helpful. I don't usually like being touched but I was very much relying on the help and touch of him and Victoria in that moment. It felt like the epitome of teamwork, what we were doing as we walked. I was so comforted to have them by my side. I no longer felt lonely- I felt like my only job in the world was to walk as my body labored. My mind couldn't wander; it just handled the task at hand with resolve. I'm not sure how long we walked for but sometime around 10:30 am I started to feel the first hints of desperation creeping in. I still felt somewhat in control in the sense that I was going through the motions I needed to go through to manage the pain- and it was working. But I knew I couldn't just walk until the baby fell out. At some point there probably had to be a transition into my room, maybe onto the bed. I was starting to feel how exhausted I was physically and I was still SO HOT. I had probably needed to eat something hours and hours ago but I had been so repulsed by the thought of food the entire time that I hadn't been able to eat anything. I'd been chewing on ice and sipping water here and there and at one point I'd been able to manage a sip of juice but they clearly hadn't fortified me. I felt like I had been trudging through the desert all day and my resources were simply spent. So at my request we headed back to my room because I wanted to be checked again for dilation. I was really hoping it was time to push the baby out. Victoria suggested trying some supported squats, and I did them but badly even though I didn't care- with every second I became more and more aware of how weary I felt. I remember not being able to feel my arms when we were doing the supported squats. I was dizzy and my vision was starting to fade out at the corners and I felt like I was 140 degrees (seriously why was I so hot the entire time?!). I swear there was sweat coming from every surface of my body. My body felt like it was shutting down, like I had completely run out of fuel, and I remembered what I'd felt like before I passed out in Cancun. In that moment losing consciousness would have been a relief, and though I didn't fight it, I somehow stayed conscious... although it felt like I was somewhere in between being asleep and being awake. My midwife was in the room getting things ready, along with my nurse. I could hear them working quietly in the background but I had my eyes closed, or if they were open I wasn't really seeing anything. I somehow ended up on the bed on my hands and knees. This is when I felt myself starting to lose control. The contractions were coming so close and so strong that I didn't feel like had even a moment to collect myself. Someone put a squat bar up and I tried hanging on it but I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't think it would take practice to figure out a squat bar, but now I know! So basically that didn't work, especially given the fact that I was so past the point of return in terms of mental clarity and physical strength to be shown how to use it. So again I found myself on my hands/elbows and knees. I felt paralyzed by the pain and exhaustion. I felt like I was in another world. Now that I wasn't walking, wasn't able to use that to manage the pain of the contractions... they just took my breath away. I wanted to cry out but I could barely whimper from the pain and tiredness. Joey and Victoria took my hospital gown off and I remember Joey saying, "I can feel the heat radiating off you!" As I perched there, panic starting to take over, Joey calmly reminded me how well I was doing, how far I had come. He was encouraging me to be strong. I didn't want to be strong! I didn't think I COULD be strong any longer. In the background I heard someone- my midwife I think- mention getting the second dose of antibiotics started. If I could have laughed I would have. Seriously. I remember saying, "NO. No. No. No." I'm not sure if I said it out loud. But I've never been so sure of knowing what I didn't want in my life!!! My doula later told me she had suggested, "Wait" when that second dose of antibiotics was mentioned. I wanted my midwife or nurse to check me and say, "It's time to push!" That's all I wanted. My mind was fixated on it. I guess I was thinking that in my head and not vocalizing it because no one was checking me or telling me anything! I remember moaning during a contraction, "Help me, guys, someone help me!" I must have gotten the point across that I wanted to be done because then I could hear everyone asking in collected voices, "Do you feel like you want to push?" I didn't, and that made me panic even more! Did that mean I wasn't ready to push yet?! I had to keep enduring this?! Maybe my initial request for independence in my labor and delivery had put me in this situation! Since no one was giving me clear direction and I was desperate, I tried pushing a little and doing so eased the pain of the contraction I was having just the tiniest bit, but I was motivated enough by that tiny bit of relief that I pushed some more, a little harder, and I could feel the pressure of Greta's head for the first time. I realized I had probably been not relaxing as much down there as I could have been. I started to feel the "ring of fire" and I realized that I could end what I was being forced to endure- so I mustered up whatever strength I could find within and I pushed as hard as I could, and as I did I screamed REALLY loud involuntarily and out came Greta's head! And I kept pushing and screaming because I knew her body needed to come out and I couldn't back down now, and well, it did just a few seconds later. I still hate that feeling of the baby coming out! I've hated it ever since I had Finley. But guys, SHE WAS BORN!!! I was DONE!!! It was 11:05 am. So there I was, on my hands and knees with my baby wiggling around and screaming under me. Everyone was saying, "Pick her up!" But I was frozen there, eyes closed, wailing away and making a big scene as I always do after I give birth. I'm one of those people who is so overwhelmed by what just happened that I can't even fathom holding my child right away. Literally it's like I just got done being tortured to death and suddenly I'm supposed to be in tender mom mode?! I guess I can't make that switch quickly! After what was probably a few minutes I flipped over onto my side/back and held Greta for the first time. She was still attached by her umbilical cord which is what I wanted- delayed cord clamping, which my hospital practiced regularly anyway. She was so sweet. She reminded me of Finley. But I was also still shouting and crying things like, "I'm never doing that again, please don't make me do that again, that was horrible, how did I survive that, I can't believe that's over, is it really over, oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh, etc.?!" I shake so bad after I have a baby, and the shaking began in due time. So I laid there and held my baby and shook and shook as I delivered my placenta. I was SO JUMPY when my midwife was trying to "survey the damages" so to speak, I was afraid I was going to involuntarily kick her! I did get one stitch- I think I've gotten one stitch every time. My midwife sang to us/herself as she cleaned me up, and then she kissed me and the baby before she left. My mom, grandma Nancy, brother Carson, and kids arrived soon after. I wasn't expecting them to come quite so soon! I felt like I needed a few minutes alone, firstly because I was naked with a bra and blanket on, secondly because I needed to unwind mentally! But it was fine. I cried when I saw my boys. And later, a bunch of Joey's family came to visit and I totally just fell asleep laying there in my bed with a room full of visitors. I'm pretty sure I was exhausted! ;)
Thinking back, I'd describe the experience as... complete. It feels complete. It was absolutely 100% the hardest thing I've ever done. Without a doubt. Physically and mentally. It drained me to complete emptiness. It brought out an almost animalistic will to carry on- when it came time to deliver, I didn't know where I was going to pull the strength from, but the will to survive conquered. And somehow the fact that I "chose "my experience makes it feel harder... but also makes it feel satisfying. For the first time I felt like I had DONE childbirth, not like it just happened to me, like I was a victim of it. Yes, I still felt traumatized immediately following the experience. And yes it hurt. I won't lie about that. But I have a sense of pride, not just for surviving, but for setting a goal for myself and following through on it. And of course I am grateful. So grateful. For my doula Victoria, as she empowered Joey and I to accomplish what we hadn't been able to achieve in our two former births. I'm grateful that I was able to labor (for the most part) as I wanted and needed to in order to let my body work naturally yet keep myself as comfortable as possible. I'm grateful that a midwife delivered my baby- she didn't treat me like a medical malady. She treated me like a woman doing what only a woman can do! I'm thankful that the Lord orchestrated a slower labor than Baylor's, giving us TIME. Time to arrange for childcare, time to focus, time to take everything one step at a time. I'm thankful for a complication-free pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
And finally, something important I realized during my labor with Greta is how BIG of a deal birthing a child is. Whether you do it vaginally or by cesarean, with an epidural or without... it's a big deal. I couldn't help but think of all the women who give birth children they don't intend to keep. What a brave thing they do. I can't imagine proposing to go through all the work of pregnancy and childbirth and then not wanting or not being able to keep the reward at the end of it all. I've never understood it in that way before. There I was, someone who wanted my child desperately and cherished her life from the very start and even I was wavering in my resolve to bring her into this world. So to every woman who has given birth: no matter how you gave birth, or to what means you gave birth... you experienced something sacred. You accomplished something extraordinary. Give yourself the credit you deserve. Because God knows (and I know and you know) it's not something to be taken lightly. Be proud of what you've accomplished!
Until next time, folks. (NEXT TIME?!
P.S. I never feel like I'm "done" writing my birth story! I could add details indefinitely. Like that Greta breastfeed before she was even unattached from me by her cord! Or that Robert Packer was so great at allowing for uninterrupted skin to skin time! And so hands off in a good way the entire stay. But also they need to hire a lactation consultant. And get their act together and keep their midwives and treat them right! I'll stop now. But if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask them. :)