Sunday, April 7, 2024

Welcome to the World

We welcomed our sweet little girl into the world in early February and I have been dying to get her birth story recorded here but man oh man, having two under two sure makes getting anything else done a challenge! Things are going so well overall though and we are just over the moon in love with our little girl. Her arrival was everything I’d hoped and been praying for over the last 9 months. I know birth stories aren’t for everyone so feel free to skip this post if that’s you. But for those who, like me, are sort of birth nerds, enjoy the story of how our sweet Riley Jean entered the world. 

To get to her actual birthday, we’ve got to back up a little bit for some other details. When I went to my 36 week appointment, it was the first appointment that my midwife offered a cervical check. My biggest concern as I neared the end of pregnancy was making sure we had care for our son when we went to the hospital. I am surrounded by the sweetest of friends all willing to step up and help but the ease of having my mom here and not having to worry about calling someone in the middle of the night or dropping him off somewhere was important to me. So even though I knew it didn’t really mean anything at this point, I went ahead and said yes to the check, figuring she’d tell me I was 0cm and I could go on with my plans of having my parents come the weekend before my Tuesday due date. 

Well that is not what she said. She told me I was actually about 3.5cm dilated already and about 65% effaced so making some progress. She basically reiterated what I knew- that it didn’t necessarily mean labor was imminent. But also told me that I should be ready for labor at anytime now. Basically it could be tomorrow or in another month but be ready! Well this changed things- I was about 4cm with JB when labor started and I went from 4-10 in about 2 hours. So the news of being 3.5 cm at 36 weeks and 3 days made me a bit wary of waiting until almost 40 weeks to have my parents here. So we made a change of plans and decided my mom would come by herself at 38 weeks and my dad would join once baby arrived. 

Week 37 appt- 4.5cm, 70% effaced- convinced I’m going into labor any minute (spoiler alert I was not)
Week 38 appt- 5 cm- 75% effaced- mom is in town, starting to feel impatient that I’m so far along but labor isn’t starting. 

Overall I was feeling really good physically! I am very fortunate that pregnancy really treats me well! I wasn’t having any contractions or other pains and while I was definitely feeling more pressure, it was nothing that was making me overly uncomfortable. I was certainly grateful that a lot of the hard work of labor was essentially being done without me having to put in any effort. I mean I was halfway there basically and hadn’t had a single contraction that I was aware of. But nevertheless I was starting to feel antsy just from the idea that it could be, and in theory would be, anytime but it just wasn’t happening. 

Mom and I walked A LOT each day, including some extremely steep hills to try and encourage things along. If I was sitting it was on my birth ball. I ate dates, drank the raspberry leaf tea, continued chiropractic care… all the things I could do to be sure my body was as ready as it could possibly be. My midwife told me I could try pumping to get things going if I was anxious and after mentioning this to hubby we both agreed I would try it when I hit 39 weeks, which happened to be hubby’s grandfather’s birthday so we thought that would be a fun birthday for our daughter to also have! 

So that Tuesday I woke up early (at 4am to be specific) so I could pump before hubby went to work. We were trying to keep him from having to go in and come home if it was successful in starting labor. While my midwife wasn’t sure when I would go into labor she felt very confident that things weren’t going to take long once they got going. This made sense since I was already halfway there! So we didn’t want to waste time waiting for hubby to get home from work if we could avoid it. Pumping brought on contractions but nothing that stuck around so hubby suggested a walk around the neighborhood. Nothing like a nice brisk walk at quarter to 5, in the pitch black, when it’s 34 degrees out to make you wish you’d feel a contraction. We enjoyed a cup of coffee together and then he headed off to work since nothing appeared to be happening. 

Wednesday we were up early again for another power walk (or waddle) around the neighborhood but still to no avail. I will say that while I am not a morning person by anyone’s standards- the three early mornings with hubby leading up to labor are really sweet memories for me and I’m grateful at his insistence on 4am wakeups.

Thursday, when my early wake up call rolled around, I decided to give the pump a try again. It brought on some inconsistent contractions again but this time when I stopped pumping I noticed they kept going which was different from before. So I was watching the time and noticing the contractions seeing if they were in a pattern and if that continued and got stronger. I was very hesitant to say this was it- I wanted to be sure. I did feel confident enough to tell my husband not to go to work for now. My first contraction after pumping was around 5:30 and I told my husband I wouldn’t call it labor unless I was still having contractions at 6:30. And I was.  I refused to sit down this whole time because I was worried if I sat down or stopped moving they would stop so I just swayed at the counter, paced around the island and wandered the kitchen. I ate a bowl of cereal so that I wouldn’t be starving if this was labor and I skipped the coffee to take it easy on my belly. 

I was keeping track of the waves using a contraction timer just to see how far apart they were and how long they were lasting and by about 7 they were consistently 5 minutes apart and lasting close to a minute each. Hubby said we should probably think about heading to the hospital but I wasn’t ready. I really wanted an unmedicated birth and I knew staying home as long as possible would help with that. The app I was using also wasn’t saying it was time yet either. Hubby said not to worry too much about that and we should go ahead and go, I could tell he was ready and not wanting to dawdle (like the midwife told us), but I was stubborn and said no. Later on in this story, I’ll be thankful that he kept asking if it was time!

Even though things were consistent and seemingly at that 5-1-1 rule- they were so manageable that I just knew it couldn’t be time. I was worried getting in the car and being in triage would cause my body to slow down and I’d end up being told I wasn’t really in active labor, they’d want to break my water or start pitocin and these were all things I wanted to avoid. So I told hubby I was waiting for the contractions to be more intense. I said we could maybe leave around 8:30 if things kept going this way. But right around 7:40 I had a contraction that all of a sudden was more intense than all of the others. It was still manageable but it just felt different and I told hubby you know what, I think you’re right-I think we should go. It was only that one, not a pattern of increased intensity but something just said- that was different, this is real, it’s ok to go. I knew they wouldn’t turn me away since I was so far along and that contraction reassured me that this was the real deal and I didn’t need to worry about getting there and having them try to intervene or move things along for me. My body was doing its thing and we could head over.

I had hubby snap a quick picture of me before leaving- something I’d forgotten to do with my first and was bummed about later on. So at 7:42 he took this photo of me…not knowing that just 2 hours later we’d have our girl in our arms.  

We were out the door by about 7:50 after a last hug and kiss for our big boy. I had been so worried about the car ride since I’ve heard it’s just the absolute worst and while the contractions I had in the car were not my favorite they continued to be manageable. It was during the drive that I put on my Christian hypnobirthing affirmations and then my labor playlist to help keep me relaxed. Like I had worried, my contractions did slow down just a bit. I can actually remember praying for a contraction to come when 8 minutes had passed without one and it did! Once I was at the hospital they did pick back up to about 5 minutes each- I think my body just was not a fan of the sitting position I was in and once I was up and moving again they picked back up. 

I walked in to the hospital check in desk while hubby parked so I wouldn’t have a long trek and went ahead and started getting checked in. They sent me up to L&D and told me hubby could meet me in triage (they always take mom back first without dad for a few minutes at our hospital). As I got out of the elevator and was making my way to the labor and delivery doorway, which admittedly is only about 50 feet, a nurse spotted me as I was breathing through a contraction, trying to walk but struggling to keep moving just a bit. Contractions? She said and I nodded, smiled and she took my arm and said come on back. Her name was Courtney and she was just the absolute best. My contractions were still hanging out at 5 minutes apart and while they were feeling pretty intense they were super manageable and truthfully I wasn’t in that much pain. 

So as I started to get into my hospital gown, I began to worry that I had been right before, that I was here too early and things weren’t progressing as fast as people thought they would. Courtney got some basic info from me about my contractions, and I let her know I had been 5cm at my last check (6days ago at this point) and then told me she was going to do a cervical check and see how things were going. I was now convinced she was going to say I was still 5cm or worse that I was somehow less than that- that my midwife had been wrong but I was definitely not 5cm. Labor can make you think some crazy things. 

Courtney let me know I was 8cm and I was floored. 8cm?! I should be in transition or I was right about to hit transition, the notably most uncomfortable labor stage. But nothing had really changed for me- things were still about 5 minutes ish apart maybe 4 at times. They were about as intense as they had been since I decided to go in to the hospital. I was amazed at how things were progressing. These were all things I had prayed for over my pregnancy. I continued to listen to my Christian Hypnobirthing affirmations, a track of encouraging scripture and my labor playlist- just kind of alternating between them every few minutes. 

After my initial check, Courtney got some details from me about my pregnancy so far and my birth wishes. I told her I was hoping for an unmedicated and very low intervention birth and she immediately was supportive. No one that was around for my birth ever questioned my desires. No one suggested I do things differently from how I wanted and no one was anything less than 100% supportive and I just could not have asked for a better team- something else I had prayed for was excellent supportive nurses and Courtney and Ashley were definitely an answer to that prayer. 

We moved from triage into the labor room where I got a new nurse- Ashley who was just as wonderful! We did some monitoring of baby girl to check her heart rate and how she was handling contractions. This part did mean I needed to stay in the bed for 30 minutes because when I would try to stand or move they would lose her heartbeat on the monitor. It wasn’t my favorite position but I just kept my playlist going and relaxed through it and it was over before long. At the tail end of this, my midwife arrived to check in on me. She let me know things looked great progress wise, that she was here if I needed her. She said I seemed to be doing great but that if I wanted her to stay and labor with me she could do that or I could just call her if I needed her. The fact that she was willing to stay with me was so amazing to me and just shows the wonderful care I received. However I did feel like I was doing great and was just kind of in my zone with my headphones in so I told her I’d let her know if I needed her. She let me know that she did have one other mom laboring who was at 7cm so if for some reason we ended up delivering at the same time, the laborist working that day would deliver one of us. I jokingly said, so its a race to see who gets to 10 first right? She assured me the laborist on call was wonderful and very natural supportive. But as she left, I prayed again like I had for months that my midwife, as opposed to an on call midwife or laborist, would be the one to deliver this baby.  

After she left we finished our monitoring of baby girl, everything looked great and I was able to get up and move freely at this point. I got the birth ball and was sitting on that just kind of rocking and swaying as contractions came, leaning on the bed. Ashley had stepped out to just let me do my thing and said she’d be back to check on me shortly. Shortly after this I decided I needed to go to the bathroom. I stood up and as I made my way to the bathroom I was feeling a little “pushy” as I’d heard it described in so many birth stories I’d read. I kind of ignored it but then I thought back to something my sister had told me about her birth stories and how towards the end she would end up in the bathroom convinced she needed to use the restroom but really she needed to have a baby. So I decided that I should call a nurse in and have them check on me to be sure I don’t accidentally have a baby on the toilet. So thanks for that sister! 

Hubby called the nurse button and asked someone to come back in. Courtney came in a few minutes later and by this point I was having a contraction that definitely felt like I needed to push. But I was still kind of in denial that anything was happening (because again, it was intense but not overwhelmingly so and I just didn’t think this could be it). So I told Courtney I just wanted her to check me because I might need to push but really I probably just need to go to the bathroom. And she looked at me and was like nope, it’s the baby. So she asked me to get on the bed so she could check and it was at this point that I all of a sudden realized how much pressure I was feeling because the idea of getting up on this bed and laying down seemed truly impossible. And I told Courtney as much. I just couldn’t do it. She was so kind and gentle and said she would help me, that if I couldn’t be on my back she could help me get down on my side. This was more manageable although still proved difficult. But we did it and Courtney said I was completely dilated.

By this point my midwife, Katie Beth, was walking in the room- I assume a nurse called her. And I think Ashley came back in at this point too. I know she was back by the time I delivered but the exact details get just a smidge fuzzy for these last few minutes. Courtney told her I was fully dilated and that I had been feeling like I wanted to push. Katie Beth let me know to just push as I felt I needed to and that they were going to be getting things ready around me. I told her what I really needed was to be in any other position than I was right now. She helped me off my side and into a hands and knees position on the bed and this immediately felt better and I could feel myself pushing. The other noticeable change was that I was vocalizing much more. Up until this point, the only real noise I’d been making was just breathing but now, I was almost unintentionally moaning/grunting through the contraction. Like my body couldn’t not make those sounds, they just came out as the contraction would start. When Katie Beth heard this change she just immediately encouraged me saying that I was doing great and just push when I felt like it, baby was coming soon. 

As she helped me move into the hands and knees position she told me I could stay this way if this felt comfortable and that she would pass the baby through my legs to me once she arrived. I was so grateful that there was never a mention of needing to push on my back- they just let me do what my body felt was natural and not only let me but really encouraged it. In these maybe 5 minutes (seriously from me asking hubby to call the nurse to this point of me being on my hands and knees ready to push was so quick)- everything had picked up. And this is the one point of my labor that felt overwhelming and like maybe I couldn’t do it. And that is what I said. Things had gone from calm, peaceful and only mildly uncomfortable to extremely intense in a very short amount of time. When the next contraction hit, I felt the baby really move down- it is such an odd sensation to be able to feel where baby is in your pelvis. And it just felt like there was no way she could come out- it just didn’t feel possible to make room for her. 

So as this contraction hit I told everyone I can’t do this. And everyone in the room told me I absolutely could. And they encouraged me to push into the pain, that it meant she was almost here.  I had heard that a lot in birth stories I’d listened to as well- that you pushing into the pain as opposed to trying to shy away from it actually made it better.  So I determined that I would do that with the next push and I did…and my water broke! I honestly had kind of forgotten about my waters at this point until I heard the splash. And I’ll admit I was mildly disappointed that this effort did not push baby girl’s head out but I did find that pushing into the contraction was better than trying to hold back- not great, but definitely better. I vaguely registered that my midwife noted meconium in my water. I can remember her telling me that the delivery team was here but that I didn’t need to worry because everyone in the room was supposed to be here. I did not register exactly what she meant at the time because honestly I hadn’t even realized that more people had come in. Because of how I was positioned, I was facing the wall so all I could really register was hubby in my left peripheral, Courtney in my right and I could hear Ashley and Katie Beth talking to me. There could have been an entire marching band behind me and I wouldn’t have known I don’t think. I was just in my birth zone. Now I realize that they had called in the NICU team because of the meconium- just as standard procedure in the hospital- in case baby girl had aspirated meconium and needed breathing support. I’m glad I did not register this at the time because it would have alarmed me but all I could focus on was getting baby out. 

With the next contraction I pushed and thought to myself that I just need to keep pushing because if I don’t get her head out this time, I’ll just have to do this whole crowning part again. Looking back this would have been the “ring of fire”. And it definitely was the hardest part of labor but was so quick it was not as horrible as I’d heard it could be. I know they tell you to not push to hard during this part to prevent tearing and I guess there are people who can not push during this part but I absolutely could not.  Once her head was out, there was a brief pause before one more push to get her shoulders and body out. And then the last few minutes of discomfort completely disappeared and I was just nothing but happy! 

I’m not sure I could ever adequately put words to the feeling of those moments immediately after birth. The pure joy, the overwhelming love, and intense pride is just unlike anything else. 

This birth was absolutely everything I had prayed for. My sister gave me a prayer journal 2 Christmases ago and the journal is meant to be a 5 year journal. Each daily page has space to write for 5 years. So on January 1 2027 I can look back at what I prayed on January 1, 2023 and so on. And I cannot even wait to read through my prayers next year as I am writing new ones. I can’t wait to read myself praying for this labor, birth and baby and know that those prayers were answered so fully. 

So at 9:41 am, a mere 4 hours after contractions began, Riley Jean made her arrival into the world. This is where I’m extra thankful that hubby kept encouraging us to get to the hospital. There is less than 2 hours between that picture hubby took before we left and Riley being born. We were at the hospital only about an hour and a half total before her arrival so had I waited too much longer at home I could have been welcoming her on the side of the highway instead! 

After some skin to skin it was time to get her measurements. Hubby and I had been sure that she was so much smaller than JB (who had weight 8lbs10oz). Certainly she wasn’t more than 7lb10oz- if that. The nurse laughed at us and assured us this baby was AT LEAST 8lbs and we just couldn’t believe her. But sure enough she ended up being 8lbs 9oz and 19.5 inches long- almost the exact same size as JB. I guess you just forget how small they are at first- even when they’re not very small! Then it was time to get cleaned up and head down to our postpartum room.

Postpartum recovery at the hospital went great. I had two more fabulous nurses, no major complications and hubby and I just relaxed with our newest love for about 24 hours. And then we were out of there as soon as they’d let us leave. 

I am so grateful for how her birth unfolded and for the sweet growth of our family. These first two months have been busy but also so sweet and special.