Warning to all clients and others coming across this blog post: Please note that this is a personal blog post about my birth plan and labor. It is long and detailed. I would recommend not reading if you don’t want to see the details of my birth plan and birth. 🙂
Birth Plan: January 22, 2013 is a day that I will forever remember- it’s the day that I found out I was pregnant, the day that would forever transform our lives. I still remember it like it was yesterday- finding out without my husband, Josh, and waiting for hours until he got home. I stopped at Babies R Us and got some onesies to decorate and paint that would say, “I love my Daddy” and “I love my Mommy.” Josh got home and I had him immediately open up the gift that I had for him. It was so much fun sharing with him that we would be having a baby! He didn’t believe me at first- I think partly out of shock. 🙂 We were having a baby!!
Within a few weeks of finding out, I started doing a lot of research about labor and delivery. I had ALWAYS been that woman who thought going natural in labor was NUTS. We have modern medicine, so why wouldn’t you choose to benefit from pain medicine during the most painful thing women can ever endure? I had never even considered natural labor as an option; but during my research in labor, I found myself looking up natural birth more and more. I knew very early on that I wanted to go natural in my labor with little to no interventions if possible. This surprised me (and others in my life) when I made this decision, honestly. Someone recently told me, “there is no way I could go natural. I don’t have a high pain tolerance.” Ask my husband; I am NOT one to have a high pain tolerance at all. In fact, I’m a pretty big baby in a lot of aspects. I’ve cried more about random post-partum aches and pains than I did at all in the hospital during my labor! You have to be passionate about natural labor and determined to do it; and you CAN.
Once I had made up my mind to go natural, I started doing research on midwifes and doulas. I found out that my practice didn’t have a midwife route, and I didn’t want to leave my practice for the delivery, so I decided to find a doula to assist in my natural childbirth. Many people have not heard of doulas before, but I had a friend in Tennessee who was one and another good friend use one for her labor. Doulas are there to assist and help out in natural labor; they can be used with epidural and c-section labors as well; but they mainly assist in natural births. Once I made this decision, I started researching Atlanta doulas to possibly assist in my birth. I found my AMAZING doula, Karla Riley, though a Google search, interviewed her, and booked her the next week. I knew she was going to be perfect for us and our delivery.
Throughout my pregnancy, I was determined to do whatever I could to help my natural labor decision. I stayed fit throughout my pregnancy, running and eating well the entire time (well most of the time). I even ran a 15k and two different 10k races while pregnant with him. I was able to run until my 35th week of my pregnancy until my legs and feet got too swollen to continue. And no, he didn’t bounce up and down when I ran. J In fact, I actually gained 35 pounds with him (recommended 25-35) and have already lost it all. I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight just 15 days after having him. I worked hard during my pregnancy so I wouldn’t have to after!
Birth: Fast forward to early September. I started experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions about three-four weeks before my due date. These were infrequent, but very annoying and distracting at times. My first labor “scare” came two and a half weeks before my due date. I experienced labor contractions for a number of hours that began to come regularly and consistent. I didn’t think I was in labor, but then again, I wasn’t sure so I called Karla to check and see what she thought. We established that I probably wasn’t in labor, but experiencing more pre-labor. (This turned out to be correct.) This same thing happened another two times before actually going into labor, so when I actually did go into labor, I thought it was more pre-labor. I did, however, find out that because of all of this pre-labor, I was already 2cm dilated a week and a half before my due date.
The evening of September 24, Josh and I hung out with some friends, watched some TV later into the evening, and went to bed at 11:30pm. Little did we know that this would be our last evening home without our baby. I woke up at 2am with yet more contractions. At this point, I was waking up nightly every 1-2 hours with the pre-labor contractions; so I thought that this was yet another set of pre-labor contractions. I normally could fall back to sleep with them, but these did not allow me to fall back to sleep. Within the hour, I was pretty sure I was in labor. I called my doula and she began to get ready to come down to us. This was really happening! We were going to have our baby! Levi Josiah was officially on his way!
Karla got there around 6am; and I labored at home until 6:30am. I would have actually liked to stay at home longer, but we were worried about weekday traffic on 400 south plus there was rain that morning. We got to the hospital by 7am, checked in by 7:30am, and in my room by 8am. They checked me to see how far along I was at that point and found that I was still at 2cm from the previous week.
In going natural, I made a birth plan a few months beforehand to let my delivery doctor know my wishes and intentions during my labor. There is a lot more to this list, but these are some of the things I wanted to share in relation to how my plan helped my labor throughout the day.
1) I didn’t want an IV during my labor. Instead, I had a heparin lock (hep-lock) placed in my hand. This allowed for access to an IV line if needed, but I wasn’t attached to an IV, nor did I have to get tons of fluids pumped into me. I was able to drink water throughout the day to get the fluids I needed.
2) I didn’t want to be constantly monitored with a contraction monitor or baby heart rate monitor. These are cumbersome and hard to move around with when you are laboring naturally. I understand the necessity of them; so instead, I would get hooked up for 15 minutes every hour and then have the other 45 minutes to walk around freely as a I needed/wanted.
3) I wanted to be able to labor in the shower. This was an awesome relief of pain, especially early on. I probably spent almost two hours of my labor in the shower.
4) I wanted limited checks throughout the day; and what I mean is limited checks to see how far along dilated I was. I didn’t want to get stuck in my head if I wasn’t progressing fast enough or as quickly as I had hoped. (And this ended up happening.)
So in saying that, I didn’t get checked again by the doctor until noon. At that point, I was 6cm. I was thrilled at the progress I had made in just those 4 hours. In labor, the longest part is getting to about 4-5cm. Most of the time, once you have gotten that far, it’s fairly quick after that. My doctor and doula seemed to think I would be delivering within the next few hours based on how fast I had progressed… this didn’t happen.
Parts of the day are still very vivid to me, while other parts just blur together due to my lack of sleep and dealing with the pain. Between noon and 6pm, I made it from 6cm to 7cm, progressing only one centimeter in six hours! That was rather frustrating, but I wasn’t going to let it deter me from my goal. Later on in the afternoon, I had intense labor pains with little breaks in between each contraction.
This picture is when I was hooked up to the contraction monitor. This was earlier in the afternoon when I still had more than a few seconds in between the most intense contractions of the day. You can see where it goes to the top and stays there- at one point later that evening, I had the line go straight across the screen with no dip!
They decided to break my water at 7cm to help speed up the process; but in doing so, this would increase my labor pains. When breaking my water, they discovered there was meconium in the water. For those of you who don’t know, meconium is the baby’s first bowel movements when they come out of the womb. Sometimes, in about 10-15% of pregnancies, babies will have that bowel movement in the womb. It can be serious if the baby swallows the meconium, but that happens even less than it being in the water (less than 5% of the time do they actually swallow it and have what is called Meconium Aspiration). Once they saw it, however, part of my birth plan to hold him immediately and breastfeed immediately had to be altered. They were going to call in a team to make sure he didn’t swallow the meconium, check him out, and then give him to me afterwards. The doctor did a great job of not making a big deal out of the situation, otherwise, I would have been super stressed; and I know I wouldn’t have had the mental ability to continue with my natural labor, for fear of the health of my child. Thankfully, neither of us were in distress during the labor process, so we didn’t have to even discuss a c-section at any point.
I finally got to 8cm after another hour, but my doctor at that point started discussing interventions due to my slow progress. She became very insistent in getting an epidural and using pitocin to speed up the labor process. At this point, I was in a lot of pain and becoming very exhausted. I wanted to continue with my birth plan, but I wasn’t sure I could do much more if I continued to be stuck at 8cm and progressing so slowly. Karla and Josh, and even my nurse, encouraged me and helped me through this time of uncertainty. Since neither Levi nor I were in distress, there was no medical reason to speed up the process or have me use the interventions. I will say though, that this was the one moment I almost gave up on my birth plan. I am so glad I didn’t. Their support and help got me through transition and eventually to 9cm by 8pm.
My body was telling me I was ready to start bearing down at around 9.5cm, but my doctor told me I couldn’t push until I was a full 10cm, otherwise I would tear my cervix. She was still insisting I get the epidural and pitocin at this point. Despite the pain of transition and the earlier part of labor, this was the hardest thing I had to do all day. I basically had to go against everything my body was telling me to do and breathe through the contractions that caused me to want to bear down- they came three in a row with no break in between lasting for 3 minutes total. I remember Karla telling me to “blow out a candle” and breathe through them by blowing on Josh’s finger in front of my face. Counting each time I blew helped me through the process, but there were still times when I couldn’t hold back and started to push down. I had to “resist” this urge for over 45 minutes.
Finally at 8:45pm, a new doctor from the 8pm shift change came in to meet me and see where I was. She had a very different approach from the previous doctor and told me if I needed to bear down, then I could. She didn’t once mention any interventions and was very proactive in helping me get to 10cm. Through some different techniques she used and my bearing down, I was able to get to 10cm within 45 minutes.
At long last, I was ready to push! I couldn’t have been happier at this news! I started pushing at 9:45pm and by 10:23pm after 20 hours of labor, my precious baby boy entered the world at 9lb 4oz and 22in long! His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and apparently very short on top of that, so when the doctor pulled him out, it snapped and broke! It’s quite funny to laugh at when I think back to it, because my poor doctor got hit with what looked like a war zone of blood- it was all over her face and delivery smock.
Things got serious after that, but I didn’t realize how serious. The special team had come in at some point while I was pushing and was ready to take Levi and check him out- they were working on me still, so I didn’t see any of this. Josh retold it to me later. They found out immediately that he had swallowed the meconium and was suffering from Meconium Aspiration. They didn’t allow him to cry initially because they didn’t want him choking on the meconium, so he was very blue and purple. They sucked the meconium out of his lungs and put a ventilator tube down his throat to help him breathe. They worked on him for a good ten minutes before they brought him over to me. I got to hold him for about 30 seconds before they had to take him upstairs to the NICU. Josh went upstairs with him while Karla stayed with me.
I had some complications, needed stitches, and almost hemorrhaged, but they were able to get it under control. They gave me a dose of pitocin to help my uterus harden up and clot- otherwise, they would have given me a transfusion. Karla was an amazing support during this time as I was without my brand new baby who was very sick and my husband who had to go with our baby to the NICU.
After being monitored for almost two hours in the delivery room, they finally transported me upstairs to my room around 12:45am. I was told I needed to get into my bed so they could take my vitals and I could sleep. I broke down at that point and told them, I HAD to go see my baby. I finally made it up to the NICU; and while I could not hold him due to the many tubes and wires, I was finally able to touch him and kiss him. It was so hard seeing him in such a state, but I trusted the Lord and the NICU doctors to take care of him. I still didn’t realize the severity of his situation until the next morning when we talked to his NICU doctors. I think God was protecting me emotionally from that. Otherwise, I might have just broken down and slept in the chair next to him all night. I didn’t realized how close he was to dying and how serious it was.
Finally getting to visit my baby in the NICU. I still tear up when I go back and look at these pictures. I am so thankful for him and that he made it through this. I couldn’t hold him, but I definitely wanted a picture with Levi. Love him so much!
And Beyond: The next few days were spent recovering myself physically from the labor while going up to the NICU as often as possible to see our baby. They took his respirator out around noon the next day and had him on oxygen. Once the respirator was out, we got to hold him. We both cried when we finally got to hold him. My heart was so full that I finally got to really hold my baby. He still had tubes and wires everywhere, but so much better than touching him with that respirator down his throat. We also got to finally hear him at that point too since the respirator prevented him from making any noise. He got the breathing tube out the following day and began being fed through an NG tube down his nose. Our amazing NICU nurse worked so hard to have him start bottle feeding as early as possible too. I couldn’t nurse him yet, but that would come eventually.
Levi was moved upstairs to the 7th floor NICU for less sick babies on Friday evening. We were discharged from the hospital on Friday night and had to leave him there. That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I cried when I got into the car and realized I should be putting my baby in his car seat to take home, but we weren’t. We went home for a few hours of sleep to return back to the hospital the next morning. To help with logistics of seeing him and help our comfort level as parents, we ended up getting a hotel near the hospital for the next three nights until he was discharged from the hospital. This made it very convenient to get back and forth easily to visit him.
I basically spent the next three and a half days at the hospital with him. We would get there around 7:30am for his 8am feeding and leave around 9pm or 10pm after his 8pm feeding. He was a fast learner and able to nurse from me very quickly once we attempted it on Saturday for the first time. He gained weight and was getting better each day. I found joy in the little strides he was making one day to only be blown away by something else he did the next day. God was (and still is) with this little miracle. The doctors and nurses were blown away at how well he was improving with how sick he was in those first hours of life. They expected him to be there for a few weeks based on how bad off he was right after being born. I attribute his quick recovery to the amazing staff at Northside, but most of all, the prayers that were going up for him during this time. I know so many of our friends and family were praying for our Little Man. I could feel them all of the time. We serve a mighty and powerful God, and I thank him every day for our son. He truly is a miracle baby, and I tear up every time I think about it.
We were able to take Levi home with us on Tuesday, October 1, a week after being born. Homecoming was such a wonderful day! I cried tears of joy as we were wheeled out of the hospital together- yes, they discharged me on Friday and made me take a wheelchair out on Tuesday… haha. Putting him in the car seat to take home was simply wonderful. It was so surreal walking into our home with our baby for the first time; but it felt so right and perfect.
While the NICU visit was not apart of my birth plan by any means, I thank God for his Grace to have gotten us through that time. I like to look at the positives of the experience rather than the scary parts. We met some amazing people and got to share Christ due to this experience. I learned a lot about how to take care of Levi and didn’t feel so overwhelmed in taking him home two days after having him. It was hard never having him in our room at the hospital, but I got to sleep those first few nights- I needed it after 20 hrs of labor, getting 3 hrs of sleep the night before, and being up for over 26 hrs. I had great breastfeeding support from the NICU nurses as well as the lactation specialists at the hospital. I leaned on my husband for emotional and spiritual support more than I have during our almost six years of marriage- and I feel even more connected to him due to this experience. I count my blessings in the moments rather than the hardships we faced in those first few days.
We’ve had a week and a half at home now and are adjusting nicely. Like all newborns and first time parents, we are learning a lot as we go; but I wouldn’t trade this stage of our life for anything. I love this Little Man more than I could ever have imagined! Middle of the night feedings, being thrown up all over, and the constant tired feeling is totally worth it. I cherish every moment of snuggles and smiles and look forward to many more in the future. I cannot wait to share my Little Man more and more on my blog!
If you made it this far to read through my birth plan, birth, and beyond, thanks for sharing with me in my experience. If you’d like more information on natural child birth and why I chose this route, please feel free to contact me. It is something I am very passionate about after experiencing it myself.