Sunday, March 24, 2019

My Birth Experience Part 4: This Is It!

Here it is!!! My birth story written out for all to read! I was really honest throughout it in describing what the experience was like from my perspective. I'm so happy to finally have put it to words, just in time for Cannon's 1st birthday! :) 

*The credit to all the professional photos in this post goes to Joy Breaux from Cher Bebe Birth Stories. She did an amazing job capturing these sacred moments for us! 
*I reference Rene' a few times throughout the post. If you read the previous posts you'll know this, but just in case you're just tuning in, Rene' Johnson from Birth Help, was our incredible doula. I cannot recommend her enough! I am so thankful for all of the wisdom, guidance & support she lent us throughout my labor. I know my birth experience would have been completely different without her by our side! 
                                       •••••••

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” ~Psalm 30:5 What a perfect verse to describe that experience, but also our entire journey with infertility, adoption, pregnancy & birth. The pain I suffered one year ago tonight was all consuming, but the joy that came in the morning was worth every.single.second of it!

•••••••

The night I went into labor (40 weeks 5 days) felt like the longest & most emotional day of my pregnancy. By the time evening came around, I was dead on my feet! I remember the kids being wild, dinner being late & bedtime being long! My desire to get to the couch to prop my feet up was strong! During dinner, I felt what I thought could be contractions, but I didn’t make much of it. I’d had my membranes swept at my appointment earlier that day in a effort to encourage labor. This was a last resort move for me, because induction was looming over our heads at this point. Membrane sweeping can often cause non-progressing contractions, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But after a while, I started to glance at the clock to see how far apart what I assumed were Braxton Hicks contractions. 20 mins, 8 mins, 18 mins, 10 mins, 22 mins...irregular, short, not painful, “probably nothing” I told Cary. Shortly after getting the kids to bed (wayyyy later than usual! They usually go to bed at 7:30, it was about 10 p.m. at this point) I finally made my way to the couch. As soon as I sat down, my alarm to check my blood sugar went off. I heaved myself up & waddled into the kitchen to prick my finger. As I finished & made my way back across the kitchen, I felt a rush of water & heard a loud, “splat.” I looked down to see a puddle of water at my feet. “CARY! I yelled, OH MY GOSH, CARY, MY WATER JUST BROKE! AND OH NOOO, IT’S YELLOW & GREEN! SHOOT, MECONIUM! CARYYYY!” Another splat hit the floor & then another as I stood there freaking out! I was equal parts excited & shocked. I told Cary, “THIS IS IT! GET MOVING! GET THE KIDS UP &  OVER TO YOUR MOMS— pause....and there was my first undeniable contraction. “Wow,” I said...“this is happening!” We called Rene’ & then Cary went into high gear loading our sleepy kids & dog into the car to bring over to his parents house (they live in the neighborhood next to ours thankfully!). While he was gone I had a couple more contractions. They were 5 mins apart, not too long but felt strong. I was surprised by how quickly the pain came on. I threw on my “labor clothes” & began pulling out our bags to add the “last minute items.” By the time Cary returned, I couldn’t do much besides bark orders in between contractions. My contractions were less than 4 mins apart, all the while getting closer together, stronger & longer. Cary was running around with his head cut off & I’ll admit I wasn’t the most calm or patient in those moments either ha! Things were moving a lot faster than I had anticipated! I was anxious at that point to get to the freaking hospital. 

The car ride was not fun to say the least. It was so uncomfortable to be strapped in my seat throughout the contractions & Lord have mercy, I felt every bump on the interstate to my core. In between contractions, I alternated between yelling at Cary to speed up & scolding him to slow down. I wouldn’t let him turn on the air, so he was sweating buckets. When he turned on the radio I almost snapped. Haha! Needless to say, I did not feel in control of myself or the situation at this point. I was panicking! As we sat at the red light waiting to turn into Oschner, I turned to Cary & said, “I don’t think I can do this.” He didn’t say anything in return, which looking back was a really smart move. ;) A minute later we pulled under the ER overhang with contractions about 2 1/2 minutes or so apart. Blessed Rene’ was waiting for us. She directed Cary where to park the car & I went into the hospital with her. I don’t remember walking through the ER at all. I remember getting to the hallway & leaning into the wall as a contraction passed through me. I was pale & I was shaky, but Rene’s presence helped to calm me. 

We made it up to labor & delivery to check in & Cary joined us shortly. It was there, that I first vocalized with a contraction. This was something that I had never pictured myself doing, but it happened so naturally that there was no time or energy to worry about it & no thought about fighting it! The next part of the story is a bit of a blur to me. I remember going back in an assessment room, bleeding & leaking fluid all over the floor, which I was appalled by & apparently very focused on cleaning up. We were then very quickly directed to our labor & delivery room where I was asked wayyy too many questions by our nurse. It took some serious willpower not to snap at her when she tried to ask me a question as a contraction came on. Thankfully she quickly caught on & only talked to me between contractions. After the endless questions ceased, the nurse checked me to see how dilated I was. To my surprise & disappointment, I was only at 2 centimeters, maybe not even, the same as I’d been at my appointment earlier that day! This was a mental hit, but I tried not to panic. 

I was still wasn’t feeling like I was coping well. My body was tense, I was freaked out & I hadn’t gotten into a good rhythm or position for handling the pain. Everything was happening too fast & not at all like I’d imagined! The nurse started an IV & I was put on antibiotics for GroupB Strep. This was frustrating because I wanted to be able to freely move around, but it wasn’t that big of a deal & was over before long. What was super annoying was the constant fetal monitoring situation that I ended up needing for my entire labor, but at least it was wireless so I was able to move around. In the end, the constant monitoring saved me from a c-section, but it was annoying & distracting because the straps wouldn’t stay in place on my belly. 

At this point, things were getting intense. Rene’ helped me to release tension, reminded me to move my hips & helped me switch positions every so often. Cary became a crucial part of my labor early on, applying much needed pressure to my aching back. Back labor was not something I expected & it was honestly one of the hardest parts of the whole physical experience up until pushing. 

I labored in a few different positions before making it to the bathroom. I don’t remember much of that time though, just that I survived it. Oh & also that I was only wearing a bra at this point & for the remainder of my labor. I am a modest person & had been extremely concerned about what I would wear during labor, but it turns out that I didn’t give a flipping flip lol!!! I also had towels & a blanket draped over me at different points because one minute I’d be cold & the next hot. My eyes were closed for 99% of my labor & I had absolutely no concept of time. I remember laboring in the bathroom most vividly. I was straddling the toilet backwards with my knees to the wall. I gripped the toilet hardware & pressed my head into it as well. Rene’ put a cloth there for me as a buffer, but I still ended up with a pretty big bruise on my forehead. 

Every contraction felt like it was more than I could bare. But bare it I did...somehow. It took a little bit, but I was able to get into a rhythm of releasing tension & surrendering to the pain. After each wave of agony, I would lower my head & my entire body would rest. Relief would flood me followed by dread as I thought to myself, “I can’t do this anymore.” I had no energy for talking, so no one knew how much I struggled mentally throughout my labor. Although I did feel as if I could hardly go on almost the entire time, I also had a wealth of mental stamina built up from my months of practice with positive birth affirmations, which I drew on both subconsciously & consciously for renewed strength. I didn't feel strong, but I knew I was strong, powerful & capable. I never once considered an epidural, it wasn’t even a thought or an option to me. This was the way I was going to labor & that was that. I did wonder a few times if I had lost my mind to be putting myself through this, but I knew in my heart that this was the experience I deeply desired to have. I began to embrace the pain, submitting myself fully to labor, knowing that every wave of it was bringing my baby closer to me. 

As another contraction neared, I would raise my head, which would signal Cary to place his hands back on my back. His miraculous hands & tireless support were truly everything to me in my most difficult moments. Vocalizing was a crucial part of my labor & I did it with nearly every contraction. Rene’s calm & steady presence also lended strength to me. Her encouragement after a long contraction or direction to release tension when I was clamming up was invaluable.

I labored in more positions, side-lying on the bed, in the hot shower (the water was amazing on my back), back on the bed & in other positions that I can barely remember. My legs were shaking, time meant nothing, the pain radiating through my belly & my back was all consuming. There was no thinking ahead, it took everything in me to survive the present. Contraction by contraction, my only focus was surrendering to the next one. In my mind, I imagined my baby moving down, my body opening up & desperately longed for it to be over. I thought to myself, “This is torture!” But still, I endured. 

It’s so funny to me how much stuff I brought with us for labor vs. how much we actually used, which was basically nothing. Cary fed me bits of food along the way & kept me hydrated. He put on our labor playlist, we used an oil or two & that was really the extent of the tools we used. But still, I’m really glad I was so prepared & brought all the things we did, because it helped me to feel confident going into everything! Cary was definitely my rock throughout labor. Just knowing he was with me & he believed in me meant so much. Although things were a little rough to start, once we got to the hospital, he was exactly the servant-hearted, calm, strong, connected presence I needed. 

I vividly remember the contractions getting longer, stronger & more intense. I was side-lying at this point. The pain was unbearable. I couldn’t speak, my eyes were glued shut, & I could hardly move, it took every bit of strength I possessed to persevere. Cary says I fell asleep a few times in between the monster contractions, which isn't uncommon in this stage of labor. I knew this must be transition, the hardest part of labor...the part that takes all of your strength & makes you want to give up or simply die, either would suffice. I had held off on getting into the labor tub for when I felt like I absolutely had to have it. Water is used as a comfort measure in labor because it can distract from the pain & more. The time had come for some relief! I asked Rene’ to fill the tub. Then, at the end of what felt like the king of all contractions, my body started to push on its own. I let out an involuntary sound that came all the way from deep in my gut & then another as the pushing happened again with the next contraction. Pushing ruled out the tub, thanks to group b strep & the presence of meconium (baby bowel movement from in utero - which was apparent when my water broke). At that point, the nurse checked me again & I was nearly 9 centimeters dilated! PRAISE THE LORD, I thought. 

Things began to move quickly & the energy in the room shifted as nurses began bustling in & out of the room. I stood up with my hands on the bed, my legs wide apart & moved my hips in circles as my body continued to push, all the while with Cary’s hands still on my back. I asked for my mom to be called into the room because I didn't want her to miss the birth. I was told she was there, by the door behind the curtain, quietly praying. She came out & put her hand on my shoulder for a brief moment. I remember sensing that the room was lighter, I peeked open my eyes to see the sun rising. I got my first idea of how much time had lasted as I realized I’d labored throughout the night. 

A few minutes later, I heard a familiar voice enter the room. Amanda, our mid-wife! I was so excited because she hadn’t been working the night before & I didn’t know her weekend schedule. She was a breath of fresh air, full of energy & encouragement. She could see baby’s head! "Only a few more pushes" she told me! I continued to meet my body’s natural pushing with all my efforts. Pretty soon, my legs grew too weak & I had to change positions. I tried a few pushes on hands & knees, up on my knees & similar positions on the bed, but between the horrendous pain in my back & the total exhaustion that was consuming my body, I couldn’t hold myself up any longer. And so, in an effort to save any remaining bit of my strength, I ended up on my back - the position I had never imagined I would deliver from! 

The final parts of my labor are hard to revisit & there’s a lot I would like to block out. I was in total agony, completely & utterly exhausted...giving it all I had but it didn’t seem to be enough. “HELP ME!” I screamed. I just wanted the baby OUT. I pushed and screamed and pushed but he wasn’t coming. I felt defeated but I kept going, all the while hearing, “one more push, one more push!” At one point I had charlie horses in BOTH of my legs AT THE SAME TIME! Nurses were literally holding up my legs for me in the end & Rene’, Cary & my mom were close speaking words of encouragement & praying for me. At some point, my doctor, who had been monitoring my labor from down the hall the whole night, had come into the room. Finally before the final push, after trying a few other things, she stepped up & cut an episiotomy. This was uncharacteristic of her to do at all, especially without permission, but at that point, we all knew baby needed to come & I didn’t care what it took! “He’s here!” I heard Amanda say & then there he was, my beautiful baby boy, born at 7:43 a.m., which we later realized it also the exact same hour & minute that I was born!!! Crazy! 

As Cannon was lifted up & brought to my waiting arms, relief flooded every part of me. Tears filled my eyes & I kept saying, “Hi, lovebug! It’s your momma. Hi, baby! I love you! We waited a long time for you!” I rubbed his sweet little head as tears fell from my eyes. Cary was absolutely overcome with emotion of course! It was the most precious moment! Cannon had a short cord so he couldn’t immediately come up to my chest. It wasn’t long before the nurses grew a little concerned about his color & breathing, so he was whisked away to the corner of the room for a few minutes while they checked him out. Finally, he was able to come back to my chest, but sadly only for a moment before taking a trip to NICU assessment center where he would have to stay for a few hours. I was so sad that I wasn’t able to spend that precious time with him on my chest, bonding & nursing during the “golden hour”...but I felt strangely at peace with it. Mainly, I was just beyond exhausted at that point & so deeply relieved labor was over. 

Cannon had low blood sugar thanks to my gestational diabetes, but within a few hours of nursing (& with a little help from the colostrum I'd harvested at home & brought to hospital - we used syringes & an SNS system to give it to him), we were able to get it stabilized & he was released to stay with us in our room! Hallelujah! He was beautiful & looked so healthy. He weighed 7 lbs 11 oz & was almost 21” long. I was so proud & in love with every inch of him! There was nothing sweeter than soaking up his perfect face & snuggling him in my arms! Our long journey to meet each other was finally over, and the rest of our lives together had begun! 

•••••••

I really can’t believe my miracle baby is ONE today! Cannon is such a joy & a gift to us. I’m so thankful God created him & allowed me to bring him into the world! Thank y’all so much for letting me share our story with you. So many of you prayed for us every step of the way & we will never forget how powerful your prayers were! I hope our testimony continues to encourage others in their own journey to grow their families. 

With love, 
Tyler 

Now for ALL the photos!
But first I want to give another shoutout to Joy Breaux of Cher Bebe Birth Stories for capturing Cannon’s birth so beautifully. And thanks again to my parents for giving us such a priceless gift! These photos are so cherished.