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Julia Grace {her birth story}

I meant to write this earlier. Actually, I did write this earlier, spending 30-minute chunks of time here and there working on it during those first few weeks; I was determined to jot down everything I remembered. But then I accidentally deleted it one day. I was crushed and would’ve cried if I weren’t so tired. Maybe deleting it was for the best; it was getting extremely long and full of minute details—it started lacking the things I actually wanted to remember about that day. So here I am, two months (to the day) after her birth, sharing this with you. I read so many birth stories before it was my turn for labor and found every single one of them helpful in some way, so it’s my hope that this will help someone else. Fair warning: it’s still pretty very long, so grab a cup of coffee or pour a glass of wine and settle in before you start reading.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I’d be lying if I said I felt prepared and ready when I woke up that morning. I was anxious, nervous and scared—three things I didn’t want to feel the day my daughter would be born. As much as I wanted it to, my body never kicked into spontaneous labor on its own. I tried everything under the sun, but nothing worked, and that just added to my nervousness.

I was nervous because I had no idea what to expect from an induction. I heard and read so many different birth stories and they were all completely different. Some women had an easy-breezy delivery and others swore off ever having children again. For that reason alone, I didn’t have a birth plan. There were way too many variables for me to “plan’ for that day. My unwritten “goals” consisted of: holding off on pain medication as long as possible, staying out of the bed as much as I could, and not having a c-section. I really, really, really didn’t want surgery unless absolutely necessary.

Before Dawn

Friday morning, around 3:30 am, I woke up and went to the bathroom, pleading with God for my water to break. Several women told me they went into labor the night or hours before their induction, so I was holding out hope for that. But nothing happened. I went back to bed and attempted to sleep, but never shut my eyes since I knew I had to be up in an hour. Instead, I tossed and turned so much that it woke up my husband. Once we were up, we got ready and finished our last-minute packing.

While we loaded our car, Bella decided to chase a cat into the abandoned house next door, so at 5:30 am, before the sun was even up, we were yelling at her to get out. Once she was back she noticed our suitcase and bags and though we were going on a trip, so she hopped in the car (something she doesn’t ever do). It took another 5-10 minutes trying to coax her out. Silly puppy! We took off once we got her back in the yard, but about five minutes into our journey we realized my husband left his super-special birth hat back at home, so we made a u-turn. It was very important that he wore his hat!

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(It says “Father to” with a bee on it. Ha…get it? Also, my dad wore it when my mom was pregnant with me, so that’s pretty awesome!)

The drive to base was quieter than usual. I don’t remember if there was music playing (I’m sure there was), but I do remember reflecting that we’d be parents (most likely) by the end of that day. It was an overwhelming and exciting thought; I held back tears during that 30-minute drive.

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Let’s Do This!

Before we walked into the hospital, we prayed. We prayed for the baby’s health, for my health, for the doctors and nurses, and for a smooth delivery. I cried during that prayer, letting all the emotions I had been feeling drain out of me in the form of warm tears. I so badly wanted my body to go into labor on its own, so I had to trust God that things would still work out okay.  One verse came to mind and little did I know then, but I would reference it a lot during the next 17 hours: “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” With a deep breath I realized that I could actually do all things. I could do this. I just repeated that over and over, especially in those last hours.

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on our way up to labor and delivery..a reflection of us in the elevator

There was a little bit of a delay once we got up to labor and delivery. The base was doing an exercise (scenarios for war, etc.), which had most of the staff holed up in a meeting. The first nurse we met was just coming off the night shift and had no idea we were even coming in. She actually asked us why we were there. Once we explained the scheduled induction, she got us settled into a room and then left since her shift was over. The new nurse tech came in a few minutes later and he truly seemed like he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. It took him 25 minutes to get the monitors hooked up; I’ve had a non-stress test (NST) twice a week since 32 weeks and it never took more than five minutes to get on. I’m pretty positive I could set it up with my eyes closed at that point. He also informed me that the wireless monitors were broken, so I’d be confined to the bed. I was not a happy camper.

I tried to get over the monitor issue, but when the nurse tech came back and started poking at me to get an IV, I stopped him and asked that someone come and explain the plan for the day. Up until then I had no idea what was going to happen. The head nurse came in a few minutes later and the second I saw her I held my breath. Like I said, I’ve been going in for NSTs for nine weeks, so we had a pretty good beat on the staff there. The head nurse on duty that day was our absolute least favorite nurse. She lacked bedside manners, was negative, and made you feel stupid for not knowing what she was talking about. I tried to be patient as she explained how the pitocin was going to work. After she left I decided to put my opinions about her aside. I needed positive vibes that day and didn’t want her bringing us down.

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The nurse tech came back (cue eye roll) and tried to stick me for an IV. Tried is the key word—he failed not once, not twice, but three times. It originally started on my right arm (where he tried twice) and then moved it over to my left hand. (I’m jumping ahead here, but I’ll just talk about the IV for a minute.) He placed the IV on my left wrist, which was fine at the time, but after awhile it started stinging and hurting whenever I’d bend my wrist, and then the machine started beeping whenever I moved my arm (I’m left handed, so this happened often). That was not going to fly for the rest of my labor, so the head nurse came back in and moved the IV once more back to my right hand. It was around 9:00 am at this point and they hadn’t even started my pitocin.

Getting the party started

Finally, the pitocin drip started a half hour later. They started me on 6mg, which was fine with me. The smaller the dose, the better! The goal was for me to have five contractions within 10 minutes and once my body could handle that, they’d up the dosage. Less than two hours later, those Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been feeling for a couple months were kicked up a notch; I hit their five-in-ten goal, so they upped the pitocin to 8mg. My body liked the 8mg, because I kept steady at their five-in-ten goal so well that they went up to 10mg just a half hour later. That, however, hurt…a lot. Around noon they brought it back down to 8mg, where it stayed for several more hours. I was happy that my body could maintain the contractions at the lower dose.

During that time, “nutritional medicine” came in with food for me! I had a plate with Jell-o, a tiny cup of beef broth (maybe like 4 ounces), a Popsicle and some juice. I wasn’t really hungry, but figured I should have something to sustain me for the next several hours. Over the course of an hour or so I had the broth, Popsicle, and had part of the Jell-o, all of which I’d later regret. 

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my last bumpdate

A couple hours later I told the nurse I didn’t like that I needed the bathroom. She suggested I put on this belly band type thing to make the monitors portable. I told her that the nurse tech said they couldn’t be wireless and she basically rolled her eyes at him. At that point she quickly became my new best friend. In between contractions I waddled my way to the restroom. I went number one and then felt the need to go number two…so I went. It turns out that if you need to go number two while in labor you need to let a nurse know since the same feeling mimics how you push to get the baby out. Whoops. Luckily I really just needed the bathroom.

On the way out of the room I asked if I could stay out of bed for a while and try some of the techniques I read about to get through the contractions. I tried the ball, but at that moment it was the absolute most uncomfortable thing in the entire world. I was there for a little longer than I wanted (mostly because I felt bad asking for help moving again!) and then moved to “slow dancing” with my husband.

OUCH, Give Me Drugs!

Standing up and moving around just intensified the contractions, so at 2 pm I caved and said I wanted an epidural as I got back in bed. There went my other two “goals” for the day!

The midwife, Lt. Colonel Harmon, came in (she had been in before the check me earlier) and talked to me about options. She knew I wanted to wait for an epidural as long as possible, so she told me about another medication that could basically take the edge off and help me rest. She mentioned that it could work up to three hours and I’d feel a little drunk. I hadn’t had a good drink in almost a year, so I was game.

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don’t worry, this picture is from before they got my monitors hooked up. I have photos of me in labor, but they will never see the light of day.

At 2:30 I had my first “margarita” in nine months and could finally relax. Colonel Harmon checked me then and I was excited, wondering how much I changed from when I came in. That morning I was a “tight” 3 cm dilated and 75% effaced. Now I was an easy 4 cm and around 90% effaced. I was getting somewhere, but slowly; I was disappointed things hadn’t progressed more. I didn’t have time to think about it much, though. The medicine kicked in and I started feeling loopy, so I closed my eyes and napped for a little bit.

A mere thirty minutes later I woke up with intense pain. The contractions were back (well, they never really left) with a vengeance. I tried to work through them, by breathing and using relaxation techniques, but gosh darn-it, those things hurt! I wanted the good stuff and I wanted it now; I asked for an epidural.

getting “the good stuff”

Around 5 pm my new best friend walked into my life in the form of the anesthesiologist. She had papers for me to sign and told me all the risks of getting an epidural. I had a contraction as she was telling me about the extremely slim chance of being paralyzed and I told her to stick me with her giant needle. If you know me, you know that I like to have absolutely nothing to do with needles… ever, so the fact that I willingly asked her to stick me with it tells you something! She got me all set up and I honestly don’t even remember being scared about the needle or the fact that she was poking next to my spine.

The anesthesiologist gave me a button so I could administer the medicine as needed. (Don’t worry, there was a cap on using it three or four times within an hour…or something like that…to prevent an overdose.) A half hour later I could feel the medicine flowing down my back and eventually the contractions started fading away…almost. I could still feel everything plain as day on my right side, so they had me turn on my side so the medicine could head in that direction. That helped a little bit, but there was still one spot on my stomach where I could feel every damn contraction. Still, it was better than feeling everything.

making progress

The nurse (a new one at this point, they had a shift change) came in and checked me for progress. Within an hour (they checked me before the epidural and there had been no change) I changed from 4 cm to 7 cm dilated and I was 100% effaced. It was nice knowing things were actually progressing. In fact, just a half hour after they checked me, I progressed even more.

A nurse tech was in the room getting my blood pressure stats when we all heard something on the monitor that sounded like the baby leaped inside me. At the same exact time I felt something happening down there.

“Um…I think my water just broke,” I said. Sure enough, at 6:15 pm, my water broke all on its own.

Just as my water broke, I felt the need for more of the epidural, so I pressed the button for the first time and felt more relief. I liked knowing that I was in control of how much I wanted. After they confirmed that my water broke, they also said they noticed that the baby already pooped, so things would need to happen sooner rather than later. Around that time I started feeling weird: I got very shaky and nauseous. The nurse tech smiled and said that was a sign that things are getting close. As happy as that made me, I really, really felt like crap.

Feeling sick and feeling more pain, I pressed the button for a second time, and an hour later, at 7:50 pm, I finally threw up the little liquid I had in my stomach. I immediately felt better, stomach wise, but I could tell things were getting more intense at this point. I was just feeling so much pressure and I started to get a little panicky knowing that I was getting closer. I had my husband read some Bible verses I prepared and the only one that stuck in my mind was the one I said earlier that day. “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”

ready to go!

At 7:56 pm the nurse checked my progress and I was at 10 cm, 100% effaced, and ready to go. The nurse—I seriously loved this particular nurse and I never even got her name, which makes me sad—had me get into position and do some practice pushes so I could get a feel for what I was about to do. Colonel Harmon also came in to say that she’d be hanging around upstairs for when I was ready to actually push out the baby. She said that most first-time moms usually push anywhere from one to three hours, and since the baby went to the bathroom, they’d really like her out within three hours at most. There was an end in sight, which was hard to wrap my head around!

The next several hours are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. If you recall, I only pressed the epidural button twice, so things started wearing off. During this stage of labor I could literally only think of one thing at a time, so even though I started hurting more, I didn’t even think to press the button again. To help manage the pain and get through each contraction, I moaned in a rhythmic pattern. I remember making the noise and being fully aware of how different I sounded; I knew I was moaning, but it didn’t sound like me at all.

At the beginning, I put my feet in the stirrups and started pushing that way. Getting the right technique for pushing took some time—I was using muscles I never knew I had, and I had to get my mind absolutely and completely focused. The second I lost focus I lost my urge push. After about 10 minutes I knew I needed more leverage, so I asked if someone could hold my legs up. Some poor young (male) nurse tech had my right leg and my husband held up my left leg—I owe them so much for what they did! Little did they know then that they were in for the long haul.

push!!

I started pushing with all my might at 8 pm. With each contraction I would push three times and hold that push for 10 seconds each time.

PUUUUSH two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Relax. 

Take a deep breath.

Get ready and go again.

PUUUUSH two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Relax. 

Take a deep breath.

Get ready and go again.

PUUUUSH two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

I did that scenario for three and a half hours straight, adding in a fourth and fifth push near the end. There was a point, towards the end, where I was so exhausted that I fought the natural urge to push and made my mind and body ignore the contraction, because I just needed an extra 30 seconds to regroup and rest. I’ve completed two half marathons and I can honestly say that labor was more taxing on my body than those events.

Everyone in that room was so supportive. The nurse would tell me that she could see my baby’s head basically bobbing back and forth and kept telling me I was doing a great job. But around 10 pm, after pushing with all my might for two hours, I started losing steam. I started pushing on my side, just to change things up and see if I could push better that way, but nothing changed. I kept hearing the same thing over again—that they could see her head and that I was doing great—but I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t making more progress. I literally couldn’t push any harder.

the turning point…

Around 10:30 pm, Colonel Harmon came in to see where things stood. She told me that I was doing a great job at pushing, but the baby’s head was stuck behind my pelvic bone and she was turned to her side, making it more difficult for her to find her way out. She also said that, at this point, she was going to call Dr. Leach to come in (he was on call and lives about 10 minutes from base), because if I kept pushing to no avail, the baby will need to come out sooner rather than later (because of the meconium, so time was of the essence).

Calling Dr. Leach only meant one thing in my mind: a c-section. As a midwife, Colonel Harmon couldn’t perform a c-section, so if I needed one, he’d have to come in. At 10:45 pm she told a nurse to call Dr. Leach. I was too exhausted to cry or get upset.

At one point, when I had half a second to breathe and recover from my latest contraction, Colonel Harmon asked if I wanted to touch her head. I said yes and felt my baby for the very first time. It was a surreal moment, but I was tired of her being in and just wanted her out! I started staring at the clock, knowing Dr. Leach would arrive any minute. I know they wouldn’t pressure me into having a c-section unless medical necessary, but I was just so tired that I knew I’d give in once I saw him. So I kept pushing.

Colonel Harmon suggested I change positions to see about rotating the baby better so that her head could slip past my bone. I was so fiercely determined to not have a c-section that I started pushing four and sometimes even five times during a contraction. Each time I pushed I amazed myself with the noises that came out of my mouth. Not sure if I had another push in me, I prayed for strength and repeated, “I can do all things. I can do this!” over and over in my head. The nurses were still counting for me, but since I hadn’t pushed the button for more of the epi medicine in awhile, I could absolutely feel when I needed to push, which is how I could add in a couple extra pushes per contraction.

let’s get this baby out!

Putting in extra effort started paying off and I could tell I was doing something good, because the Green Team (all the nurses and techs in there were wearing green scrubs) started getting louder and more excited with their encouraging words.

Then, all of a sudden, things started to happen.

The Green Team quickly started moving things around the room. I just kept pushing, literally holding on to the bar (and the nurse) next to me for leverage as my legs were still up in the air. I remember seeing Colonel Harmon put on an apron-type thing, a hairnet, and she changed her gloves. I thought for sure that something was wrong and that they were seconds away from wheeling me in for a c-section, but then she told me it was just about time for me to meet my baby. She said I managed to get her head out from under the pelvic bone, so it was just a few more pushes to go. I was completely shocked. I did it! I was doing it! I was seconds away from meeting my baby!  

She said that with my next push she wanted me to push with everything I had and that it would feel like I was “on fire” down there. Then she said she wanted me to stop after I got to the ring of fire and try pushing slowly so they could make sure the cord was okay and to help with her shoulders, and all that jazz.

I told her I felt the urge to push.

It was time.

I pushed and instantly felt the ring of fire and knew I needed to slow down…but I couldn’t; I was in such a zone and so in tune with my body that I just kept pushing. On the second push, at 11:27 pm, I felt an immediate relief as my baby slipped out into the world.

I was speechless and in awe as they placed her gooey, brand new body on my chest. I said, “hello,” and kissed her little, perfect head.

I did it.

I was a mom.

Julia Grace was here!

We did it! 

happy birth day, Julia Grace!

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one of her first photos!

She was breathing, but they were concerned, because she wasn’t crying. Since they noticed earlier that she had gone to the bathroom already, they whisked her off me and took her a few feet away where they started poking and prodding her, trying to get her to cry.

She never did cry for them, but aced her tests (scoring an eight and then a nine on the Apgar scale). Harmon took this time to get my placenta out and stitch me up. I asked my husband questions about her (Was she a really she? How much did she weigh? {9 lb, 2.7 ounces} Ten fingers and ten toes? Why isn’t she crying?); I was intensely jealous he got to spend time with our daughter, but also overwhelmingly happy that he was there to old her tiny hand.

Once they realized she was okay and just quiet (ha…she screamed for us later!), they brought her back to me. Those few minutes I got to snuggle with her were priceless. We did some skin to skin and she wanted to eat right away; it was amazing to see her instinctively find her food. After she ate for a little bit the nurse I loved brought in a four course meal for me: a frozen spaghetti and meatball Lean Cuisine, some crackers, string cheese, a Hostess cake, and a ginger ale. I was so hungry that it tasted amazing.

Eating gave me the energy I needed to sleep (ever been so tired you just can’t sleep?) so I passed along our new baby girl to my husband so he could get some skin to skin bonding time with her while I fell into a deep sleep for about an hour. That night was restless since they had to take our vitals more often than not, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that my little girl was here.

I’ve never been so in love. She’s perfect. 

 

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24 Comments

  1. Okay truth: I cried while I read this. You are amazing! I love Julia's birth story. The sounds you talk about making just made me smile. I have a good friend who describes her birth sounds as "animalistic." I thought I was quite loud during Everly's birth but Aaron says it was all in my head and I was quiet as a mouse! I'm so proud of you. Truly, you are amazing.

  2. Oh my gosh. I am tearing up because my sister just told me yesterday she is having a perfect baby girl. Little Miss will debut October 1st. I never understood the big deal about being an aunt till now. I am so eager to end the cycle that our family has had. We have no extended because of family drama. My sister and I chose to change that. We speak once a week, at minimum. And text. We are closer than ever. And Little Miss will have an Aunt she knows and loves and trusts, something I never had.
    Julia Grace's story is wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  3. You are such a freaking rockstar! This story is so amazing! It's funny, the two providers you mentioned are the two I see at the Women's Center and I love them both.

  4. Whew, what a story!! I got tired just reading it, LOL! I'm so glad you were able to avoid a c-section. That was one of my biggest fears, too. It's funny to me how different inductions are from hospital to hospital. They didn't start me with pitocin, something I was very thankful for. I think that's probably why I was able to hold off on pain meds for so long. But seriously, KUDOS for pushing and feeling all that! I can't imagine!

  5. You are such a trooper mama! You came through labor like a champ and I'm so so proud of you 🙂

    She's perfect and beautiful and worth everything!

  6. Oh my gooooooooooood. Pushing for that long? I can't. You're a super hero. And hearing all of this makes me super super super glad I used that epi button to its full potential. Seriously lady, I'm in awe.

  7. LOVE LOVE LOVE your birth story. Sweet Julia!!!<3

    I am definitely there with you on the pushing. My epi wore off too and the two hours of pushing was the worst pain/tiring moment of my life. But, so so so worth it!!!

  8. Your birth story reminded me a lot of how things were with Millie. Definitely the most exhausting and painful thing I've ever done, but I'm glad everything was okay in the end for you guys. She's beautiful!

  9. Gosh I love birth stories! This one's a great one! You wrote it so well!! What a great memory to have on the ol' blog! 🙂 Way to go, too!

  10. What an amazing birth story!!! I am going into it the same way- really don't want to have a c-section but just want to let the other stuff happen as it has to. Thank you for sharing her beautiful birth with us!!!!! Great job mama!

  11. Aww! I love this! My sweet boy was born exactly a month before your adorable little girl… I ended up with a c-section, though, after 11 hours of labor and 2 1/2 of pushing. I'm so glad you didn't have that mess to deal with! She's gorgeous 🙂

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