If you've been following my work for a while, you'll probably recognize this couple! I've photographed Paige since she was a senior in high school... in fact I believe this is the 6th session I've done with her! Paige is my sister-in-law and she's expecting a baby girl with my brother-in-law Jesse in December! These two are always up for anything when it comes to photos. Their trust means so much because I definitely do my best work when I have the freedom to just act upon the light, location, and mood of the moment! Jesse apparently had a bunch of steak in his teeth during this session, much to Paige's annoyance although she obviously couldn't deny that it was hilarious and not surprising, knowing Jesse ;) Our family always laughs at how different Paige and Jesse can be. Paige always looks fantastic and clean and Jesse... well if Paige is trying for him, he's spot-on but otherwise expect to find him in the dirtiest and most tattered, un-fashionable outfit imaginable. They balance each other out and it's ADORABLE and I am way too excited for them to be joining the parenthood club any week now! Although their little gal was a surprise and I may or may not have accidentally contributed to her existence with a recommendation I should have known would result in another baby because Baylor kind of exists for the same reason... anyway it's way less sketchy than it sounds but I will spare you the details and let you enjoy this beautiful family!
Welcome to the world, Baylor Beau! On 5.13.15 you entered our lives, 8 lbs 6 oz and 19.5 inches of squishy sweetness. When you decided to come, you came FAST and it was nothing short of intense. If someone had told me that I'd not only be delivering you at 41 weeks and 3 days but that my entire labor would last less than 1 hour and 45 minutes, I would have laughed. (Actually maybe cried, having been through it now!) But you're here now, and you're wonderful, and today I celebrate you by telling the story of your birth.
My oldest child (Finley, read his birth story here) was born on his due date. So when Baylor's due date (also my birthday, May 3) came and went and he remained in my belly, I began to get a little antsy. Actually, I started getting antsy at 36 weeks. I didn't get checked for dilation until 40 weeks, and by then I was already 4cm dilated and I'm thinking the considerable discomfort I experienced in week 36 contributed to my progress (picture me trying to sleep at night practically on my hands and knees to ease the pain I was in). Next, Mother's Day (May 10) came and went, and I was still pregnant and it was really hot (of course we had record high temperatures in NEPA during the weeks I was overdue) and I was in a terrible mood. Still, my desire remained to allow labor to start spontaneously and I declined induction at 41 weeks, deciding to wait until I reached 42 weeks to seriously consider consenting to any kind of intervention to get labor started, barring any health issues with me or my baby. At 41 weeks and 2 days my OB informed me at my checkup that I was 4cm dilated and 80% effaced. I asked him to strip my membranes, which he'd offered to do the week before. I'd decided against it then because I was scared it would hurt! And then another week passed and my tone changed from "It's going to hurt" to "Get this child out!" It wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. After my checkup I had a nonstress test which showed that I was having regular contractions... regular as in every 3 minutes! But they didn't hurt. In fact, I had to pay really close attention to even know I was having them. In my mind, this was NOT "real labor." Real labor hurt. I'd had a baby before! I knew what to feel for, right?
After the nonstress test, my OB advised my husband and I to go out to lunch and walk around and see if things progressed. He told me to plan to head to the hospital if my contractions got uncomfortable. So Joey and I got pizza, went to Dick's Sporting Goods and TJ Maxx, got asked when I was due (it's hard to explain this to people when you're 9 days past your due date), and then went to Target to sit in the lawn and garden display area and attempt to time my contractions, which were still happening but still so harmless I couldn't tell when they started and stopped. Eventually we gave up on waiting for things to "start" and headed home, even though all our hospital bags were in the car with us. I didn't want to be hanging out in labor and delivery triage for endless hours while in this state of "almost" labor.
That evening (it was a Tuesday), Joey and Finley went to hang out with Joey's parents, who are our neighbors. I, being my miserable self, opted to stay home. "I don't want to talk to anyone!" I told Joey when he asked if I wanted to come with them. Instead I did some cleaning, unloaded our hospital bags from the car and organized them in the kitchen, and tried to stay active, hoping that the contractions would intensify. I chatted with my doula on the phone and later stood in my driveway for a long time, enjoying the cool evening wind on my skin and praying that labor would start. Around 10pm, after eating a large portion of cherry and vanilla ice cream Joey had snagged from his parents for me, we decided to go to bed and get some rest, just in case things got real. The prospect of having another baby in the middle of the night (aka when I was tired) made me anxious. I was feeling the slightest bit uncomfortable from the contractions, but when I laid down in bed, EVERYTHING stopped. My body was completely at peace. I felt like a million bucks. I sighed and thought to myself, "I guess tomorrow we'll wake up and start another day as usual."
Although I was completely comfortable and not having contractions, I couldn't sleep. My feet were itchy and every time I drifted off I would start snoring and wake myself up (oh, the glamours of pregnancy). So I laid in bed for what felt like forever, finally got up to go to the bathroom and was discouraged to see that it was only 12am! I should have known not much time had passed because I seriously couldn't go more than an hour or so without peeing at that point in my pregnancy. I eventually drifted off into sleep and started dreaming about pain. And then I woke up and realized I WAS in pain. For a moment I drowsily wondered what was going on. And then it hit me. Could it be? A painful contraction?! The pain went away as I fumbled for my phone on my nightstand and opened the "Full Term" contraction timer app I'd downloaded way too long ago and hoped for another pain to consume my general abdomen area, which it did in no time at all. I clicked start on the app and waited in a considerable amount of discomfort until the pain went away. The first contraction I timed was at 1:07am, so I imagine the first one I had in general was around 1:03am or something like that. They continued coming every 2-3 minutes and lasted from 30 seconds to a minute. After a few minutes got out of bed and headed to the bathroom (yes, of course I had to pee again) and it was then that I noticed some bloody show when I wiped. "OKAY, THIS IS REAL!" I thought, and adrenaline began to pump through my body. Another contraction came and I leaned over the bathroom sink. "OWWW!" I said out loud, involuntarily. These were hurting, a lot! They were probably a 7 on a scale of 0-10. After the contraction passed I headed back to the bedroom, where I semi-frantically woke Joey. "Joey. Joey. JOEY. We need to go to the hospital. OWWW CALL YOUR MOM GET OUT OF BED HURRY OWWW!" By now it was probably about 1:17am. I grabbed my phone to call my doula and birth photographer, pacing around the house as I did so. My voice was shaky and of course my phone wasn't working which was cause for some annoyed grumbling on my part. After that I fumbled to find some clothes to put on (those who know me know I have awful eyesight, and I didn't have my glasses on or my contacts in, so I truly was fumbling), grabbing a long black skirt I'd worn days earlier off the floor and a long sleeved striped maternity shirt from the closet because it was chilly, or maybe I was just shaking because I knew there was no turning back and even though I'd longed for this moment for so long I was already terrified at the prospect of seeing this thing through to the end. When contractions would come, I would have to stop what I was doing and grab onto something, and I couldn't bear them silently. "This HUUURTS!" I would say loudly. "OUCH. Oh my GOOOSH!" Joey had shaken the sleep from his eyes and body and was hastily putting our hospital bags back into the car when his dad arrived to stay with Finley. At some point I did put my contacts in, in case you're wondering! We pretty much headed right out the door after that. The time was approximately 1:35am and the hospital was 30ish minutes away.
The car ride to the hospital was interesting. First I called my OB's office (as I had been instructed to do when labor started) after yelling once again about the fact that my phone still wasn't working. It kept dropping my calls! "SERIOUSLY, DO THEY TURN OFF THE CELL PHONE TOWERS AT NIGHT?!" I complained, followed by, "OWWWW!" The call to my OB finally went through, and I ever so patiently waited as the answering system told me that the office was closed (as if I had no idea they weren't open in the middle of the night) and then proceeded to tell me all the hours the office was open during the week (very relevant information when you're in active labor), asked me to remain on the line or dial 1 if I wished to speak to someone, and FINALLY transferred me to an answering service. I've always liked having a different name, but let me just say that there are times when it's very convenient to have an easy, common name. Four minutes and several contractions later I had finally managed to tell the poor woman on the other line that my name was T-I-E-R-N-E-Y Johnson and I was in LABOR, real, painful labor. I had to stop talking entirely when I had a contraction, and even when I wasn't contracting my voice was choked sounding, like I was about to break into tears. She politely informed me that I should expect a call from the OB on call in 20 minutes, and that if I hadn't heard back within that time, to repeat the process of calling in. TWENTY MINUTES? Thankfully Joey realized that we did not have twenty minutes to spare, so he dialed the hospital and asked for labor and delivery. He basically told them we were coming even though they were very confused by the fact that he wasn't following the proper protocol! I texted a few friends and family members in between yelling about how much the contractions hurt to let them know we were "heading to the hospital" (those were pretty much my exact words). I remember telling Joey in a very desperate tone that I wanted to get an epidural ASAP while thinking at the same time that my doula (Kelly) would have a LOT of work to do to talk me out of one. I also called my mom. Actually, I made Joey call my mom. I heard her say something like, "Is Tierney there?" to which I hastily and angrily groaned, "I'm not talking to anyone!!!" (Sorry, mom!) About thirty minutes after leaving home we were nearing the hospital. We raced the wrong way up some one way streets and I barked at Joey to park the stupid car as quickly as possible. We entered the parking garage to the hospital in the "exit" lane (naturally) and pulled into a spot as close to the elevator entrance as possible. After we got off the elevator we had to use a phone to be allowed into the hospital, follow some signs through winding hallways to the emergency department, and register. This process is especially annoying when you're in active labor. It's a really great way to practice patience.
A receptionist waved us into a small room with two chairs. Joey sat down and began completing the registration process while I leaned against a wall near the door to the room, loudly moaning in pain when contractions happened and pacing when they weren't. I could hear the conversation Joey was having with the receptionist and when she asked who my primary care physician was and Joey couldn't answer, I turned away from the wall and in an irritated and impatient voice exclaimed, "I DON'T SEE HOW THIS IS RELEVANT, BUT IT'S DR. ANDRES." The receptionist then asked for identification, which Joey couldn't find in my wallet. I grabbed it from him and pulled out my license, slapping it on the desk for the receptionist. I wish I could apologize to that woman! I didn't know it at the time but my baby would be in my arms less than 30 minutes following that whole ordeal... I was in SERIOUS labor and I was being a jerk!
After the registration process had been completed (it took all of five minutes although it felt like forever) a woman with a wheelchair came to escort us to labor and delivery. I attempted to sit in the chair, but the moment I hit the seat I bolted upright again. "I can't sit down! I can't sit down!" I repeated over and over in a panicked voice as a contraction caused me to nearly double over. She looked kind of helpless. "You have to, I'm sorry..." she told me, explaining something about hospital policy. "I really can't sit down!" I protested, on the verge of tears, and I was being totally honest. I literally could not bear the pain of sitting down through these contractions. I wasn't trying to be difficult... sitting just wasn't an option. I think the lady with the wheelchair realized this, because she stood there for a moment looking conflicted before pushing the wheelchair up against a wall and saying with a sense of urgency, "Follow me." She grabbed a pass from a security guard that gave us access to an elevator and a series of doors. Every time a contraction came I would have to stop walking and lean against a wall or simply stand in the middle of the hallway, paralyzed. I was still yelling random comments about how bad they hurt. I was actually mad at this point. "WHY! OWWW! WHY DOES IT HURT SO MUCH!" At some point I moaned, "I'm going to throw up! I'm going to throw up!" Thankfully the urge to throw up passed as the contraction ended. We finally arrived at labor and delivery and I thanked the lady who has escorted us up as sincerely as I could at that moment.
Inside the unit it was calm and quiet. Joey approached the front desk and someone handed him papers to sign while I wandered further into the until, and I'm sure everything about my body language displayed a sense of extreme discomfort. A nurse named Nikki came up to me and said, "Honey, come with me and we'll get you checked out." I followed her into the closest room and she handed me a hospital gown. I stripped off my clothes and pulled on the gown, not caring that it wasn't fastened in the back. From this point it's kind of a blur. I just know I was in more pain than I thought I could survive and I was being really, really loud and obnoxious about how much I hated what was happening. I was almost crying but I was in too much agony to actually cry so instead I just yelled complaints and comments about how much the contractions hurt and how much I didn't want to be doing this. Nikki asked me about my Group Strep B status, and I told her I was positive. I recall being asked to rate my pain on a scale of 0-10 and I definitely said 10. Or maybe I just wanted someone to ask so I could say 10. Or 11 or 12 even! She told me to lay down, and I awkwardly did, half on my right side slash back, my body twisted and tense. Apparently Joey was now by my side. Nikki checked me and I could hear the surprise in her voice as she declared, "Honey, you're 9 cm. I see lots of hair on baby's head!" (Baylor didn't end up having much hair! Maybe she was trying to cheer me up?) In response to this, I exclaimed, "What? WHAT? I have to pee!" Nikki said, "Honey, you're not going to go pee right now. Do you feel the need to push? I think your water is broken." I told her my water wasn't broken (she didn't believe me). I think I also told her I was probably going to poop all over. I don't know if Joey was being polite when he said he wasn't looking or if he was trying to protect my dignity? Anyway, at this point nurses and techs and random bystanders and the OB on call and who even knows who else started to fill the room. I think everyone in labor and delivery was bored that night because there were a LOT of people in my room. Who wouldn't want to come watch the loud crazy lady give birth? The OB (a woman, Dr. McNulty) was not delaying in getting dressed in delivery attire. She sat down to check me as soon as she'd finished. "How far am I? Can I push?" I frantically asked. She said, "You're complete but there's still a little cervical ridge." Someone tried to put an IV in my right hand at some point, and I guess it wasn't successful because I ended up with another one in my left hand. I remembered reading somewhere or someone telling me that pushing made the pain of contractions stop, so I just kept asking when I could push, my voice high and panicked sounding. By this point my friend and birth photographer Emily (who is also a doula) had arrived. She later told me she could hear me yelling when she got off the elevator outside the labor and delivery unit. I'm not proud of it, but everything was happening so fast that I couldn't mentally process my way through the contractions, which is why I was yelling so much, even though it didn't really help! Anyway, after another contraction the doctor told me I was ready push, which I immediately began doing. I honestly don't even know if I was having contractions when I was pushing. I just wanted so desperately for it it all to stop, and I knew I needed to get the baby out in order for that to happen. So in fully improper form, my body tense and twisted, half on my side, half on my back, yelling, head thrown back, and not breathing well, I pushed as hard as I could and don't even remember if pushing stopped the pain of contractions because something sure continued to hurt! "I CAN'T DO THIS! I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS!" I wailed. My nurse Nikki said something like, "Honey, this is what you wanted! You're doing this!" Joey said he was waiting for me to flip out on her for being sarcastic, but honestly I couldn't do anything at that point but scream. Someone was trying to get me to hold my right thigh under my knee while I pushed, which I'm pretty sure I refused to do. I have no idea what was going on with my left leg! It was probably flailing around somewhere or maybe Joey was holding it as he said, "You're doing a good job, bean!" (In my head I was like, "NO I'M NOT!") I heard a nurse to my right try to be helpful. "You need to stop screaming and breathe," she said, which I tried for approximately 5 seconds with no success and promptly resumed yelling. My photographer Emily jumped into doula mode. She set her camera down somewhere in the background and I heard her come up to my left side, near my head, and touch my cheek (her hand was really cold). "Tierney, curl your body around your baby and push." For some reason I listened to Emily above everyone else in the room. I felt like I was ripping in half but I pushed with everything I had. When I stopped pushing for a moment, my water broke/exploded, and I heard Nikki say, "There's the water!" Without waiting for direction I began pushing again, my voice starting to get raw from yelling, again feeling like I was going to split in half. I suddenly felt like all my guts fell out of me (the feeling of the baby coming out is THE single weirdest most unexplainable feeling I've ever experienced), and I knew from birthing my first son that this meant my baby was born. It was 2:41am, about half an hour after we'd arrived at the hospital. I'd only pushed 2 or 3 times, but it felt every bit as difficult as the 16 hours of labor I'd endured bringing my first son into the world.
I lay there shaking uncontrollably, emotionally exhausted, and in disbelief that all that had just happened. I was crying weakly but no tears were coming out. I guess Baylor was put on my belly right away, but I wasn't aware that he was there. I was saying something about how horrible what had just happened was and how I never wanted to do it again. I began begging the OB to give me as many numbing shots as she could before stitching me up. I couldn't handle any more pain! Thankfully I only needed one stitch and I didn't feel a thing. The placenta was delivered (I can't remember if I got stiched first or if the placenta came first) and I guess I looked at it (Joey said I did) but I don't remember. Again, so much of this is a blur! Eventually I was holding Baylor skin to skin, studying his unfamiliar face, trying to get to know him. He nursed almost immediately and his latch was phenomenal. I couldn't believe it! I'd initially had a hard time nursing my first son because he was lazy and tongue tied. My IV started bleeding all over, and I got offered the option of a shot of Pitocin or another IV, but I opted for another IV... my third and final one. I found myself shuddering and thinking over and over again then over the next few days, "God bless people in pain. God help people in pain. I can't imagine feeling that kind of pain and not knowing how to make it stop." People started to filter out, my doula Kelly arrived and I felt terrible that everything was over, but not terrible enough to forget how simultaneously insanely happy I was that everything was over. I don't know if I felt worse for her or for me! We all reflected on what had just happened a little, I completed the formal registration process, got cleaned up a bit, and then we were moved into a recovery room where Emily took a few photos before leaving Joey, Baylor and I to begin our lives together. It was still technically the middle of the night. Joey texted a few family members, who likely didn't get the messages that we'd gone to the hospital AND had the baby until the morning. I remember my phone was about to die and I'd texted my best friend, "Heading to the hospital" around 1:45am. When she woke up she must have seen the text and responded with, "You probably can't talk now but please let me know how things are going! Good luck!" I simply sent her a picture of Baylor, haha! She was like, "THAT WAS FAST!?" We ended up staying in the hospital for 48 hours so Baylor could be monitored for any signs of being impacted by my being Group Strep B positive and not having time to receive antibiotics during labor. The traumatizing memories faded quickly and even though I can recall the events, I can certainly convince myself it wasn't as bad as I thought it was in the moment. It's amazing how quickly mothers are able to forget to pain of childbirth. I know the Lord made it that way for a reason, or mankind certainly would have gone extinct a long time ago!
And that's Baylor's birth story! I had a meticulous birth plan typed up and printed out that I never even took out of my hospital bag. My doula arrived an hour after my baby was born. I had envisioned myself working through labor contractions with intense yet calm focus and shedding sweet tears as I saw my baby's face for the first time. Things did not go as planned, to put it simply but hey, I got my pain-med-free birth experience whether I wanted it or not! Ultimately, I don't mind at all. I had little to no control over how Baylor's entrance into this world played out, but the Lord knew exactly what the plan was, and nothing was ever out of HIS control, which is what matters in the end anyway. So, thank you Lord for a beautiful baby boy, competent medical staff, supportive friends and family, and "lessons learned the hard way" (as I often like to say)! And thank you Lord for all the million blessings you so graciously bestow each and every day, whether I realize them or not :)