Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ava's Birth Story

I have been putting off writing this post for several reasons.  One of which being that it was going to be loooong.  For the sake of those reading, I'm hoping I can keep it as short as possible. :)  Where do I even start?  I want to first clearly state that I it does not matter to me how other women give birth.  I think birth is beautiful no matter how or where it happens.  I chose to have a natural (drug and intervention free) childbirth for my second child. I do not think that my birth choices are 'better' than someone else's so please do not get that impression.  With my first child who was born in May 2009, I was induced (by choice) and had an epidural, so of course I do not judge any woman who chooses either of those things I just decided it wasn't right for me this time.  I had many reasons for this decision and while I don't think it's necessary for me to defend or explain myself I will give one of my reasons.  After I received my epidural with Hayden, I developed a (low grade) fever.  They get a little concerned when you are in labor and have a fever.  They gave me IV antibiotics and the worst part was after Hayden was born, they had to draw blood to make sure he was ok and infection-free.  This was not fun.  I had to watch my baby be poked and prodded (it was not easy for them to get a vein) and he just screamed as they tried for what seemed like forever to get their blood sample.  This was all right after birth.  When I should have been holding my newborn son and bonding with him.  Instead, I was watching him get stuck with needles and I couldn't comfort him.  I didn't realize it (and was not told) at the time, but a fever is a side effect that can occur from an epidural.  I don't know if this knowledge would have affected my decision to get the epidural with Hayden but it was part of what affected my decision this time around.  But like I said, there were many reasons I chose to go natural this time, that was just one small piece of the puzzle :)
I also want to say that I realize that there are women who aren't given a choice in how they birth and have unplanned c-sections.  My heart goes out to these mommies.  I can't imagine how hard that must be but I know that they are thankful to have their babies here safe and sound.  I want to say how fortunate I feel that I was able to choose how I gave birth and how thankful I am for a wonderful doctor and hospital staff that never tried to force me into things I was not comfortable with. 

Ok, due date: February 6th.  It came...and went.  I was actually surprised that I hadn't gone into labor a little early since I had been having braxton hicks contractions for weeks and weeks!  But, I was hopeful that she would arrive soon after.  Determined to avoid being induced, I wanted to let her come on her own no matter how long it would take.  I had no idea it would take so long.  I'm not going to lie, I was feeling sorry for myself.  Each day that passed and I woke up still pregnant I got a little more bitter.  "Why am I still pregnant? It's not fair."  "I'm never going to have this baby!"  "Is this some sick joke? As if 40 weeks isn't long enough to be pregnant, I have to be pregnant longer?"  I was just not in a good place emotionally during that time.  I couldn't stand checking my facebook because (well-meaning) people were asking things like "Are you still pregnant?" "When are you going to have that baby?"  "Are they going to induce?"  It was a constant reminder that I was still pregnant with a baby that 'should have been here.'  On one hand, I wanted people to understand that she didn't have to come by my 'due date.'  The world would not stop turning if she didn't.  And no, I didn't want to be induced, she would come when she was ready.  On the other hand, I felt it was unfair for me to have to wait so long for her to come.  I felt like I had waited long enough and didn't understand why she just wasn't coming!  This is a problem I have with 'due dates.'  They are to give us an idea of when the baby will possibly arrive but it's not written in stone that they baby must come by this date.  A normal pregnancy is 37-42 weeks.  Ava was born 2 days shy of 42 weeks so within the normal range.  Next time I am pregnant, I won't be telling people a specific due date and I won't get so hung up on one specific day.  It's setting yourself up for disappointment when it doesn't happen by that date.  Those 12 days after my EDD were torture and I don't want to experience that again.  One thing I had to remind myself was "no one has ever been pregnant forever.  She will come eventually!"  And she did.  

On Friday, February 17th I woke up (still pregnant) and went to the bathroom.  I had bloody show (for those that aren't familiar with this term, it is a pink/blood tinged mucous meaning that labor is imminent!).  My heart started racing because I knew that meant she was coming very soon.  I spent that day getting things ready and waiting for my labor to start.  Unfortunately, my parents (who had arrived 2 weeks earlier) had to head home that morning because they had to get back to work.)  I was devastated about this since I wanted to have them there to help us transition to being a family of four.  My mom later said that she thought it was God's plan for her not to be present because she did not want to watch me deliver naturally.  She didn't want to see me in that kind of pain.  So, they left and I was at home with Hayden.  I called Jeff to tell him what was going on but that he didn't need to leave work since I wasn't in active labor.   I went the entire day with nothing happening so I finally went to bed (late) and figured I would either wake up with contractions or labor would start the next day.  Well, I never got to sleep.  My labor started at 2am with crampy contractions.  They were very different from the tightening contractions I had felt for weeks.  I knew this was it but I tried to get some rest so that I could have some energy for labor and delivery.  That didn't happen.  The contractions were too uncomfortable to sleep through though not painful yet.  I finally woke Jeff up around 4ish (I think.)  I wanted him to start timing the contractions.

They were about 5-7 mins apart but still slightly irregular.  I texted my bestie (and photographer for the birth) that I was in labor with contractions 5-7 mins apart and would keep her posted.  I laid in bed on my side next to Jeff and tapped him awake every time a contraction would start (I didn't want to talk because I was concentrating) and he would time it.  We did this for a couple hours.  I was hoping to labor mostly at home and head to the hospital when I was close to delivery but that plan didn't work out.  I was having a little bit of bloody discharge and my contractions were very crampy (I didn't know that this was normal because I didn't really feel labor contractions with Hayden since I had an epidural.)  I was nervous about the blood and cramps so I called my doctor around 6 (I wanted to at least wait till then to wake him up on a saturday.)  He thought that I should go in just to make sure everything was ok. 

I arrived at the hospital just before 7am.  I had let Candace know that I was heading there and she met us there around 8am.  When I got to the hospital, I was hopeful that I would be dilated to a 4 or 5 since I was already a 2 before I went into labor and I had been laboring with consistent contractions for over 4 hours.  Well, to my disappointment, I was only a 2.  A TWO!  After all that laboring, I hadn't progressed at all!  That was very disappointing to say the least.  I felt like I was going to be laboring in the hospital forever and that was the last thing I wanted.

The nurse suggested some things to naturally get my contractions stronger and closer together and it worked.  Speaking of my nurse, I had the best nurse I could have asked for.  I loved her.  I truly feel like she was a God-send.  I was nervous that I would get a nurse that wasn't patient with me and that I would have to fight about what I did and did not want.  She was just the opposite.  I told her I was planning to go natural and she never acted annoyed or tried to talk me into meds/epidural, etc...  I didn't even have to tell her that I didn't want IV fluids, she just didn't even offer them.  They did have to give me an IV for antibiotics (I was group B pos.) but after they were done, she disconnected the IV.  She was also very supportive and when she came in the room and I was working through a painful contraction, she would tell me "you can do it, just breathe" instead of offering an epidural or IV meds.  The best part was I got to keep her my whole labor because her shift started when I arrived at the hospital and Ava was born just as her shift was ending! I even told Jeff, "I need to have this baby before 3 so I can have her the whole time." haha! 

Ok, back to my labor...I had progressed to 4cm a couple hours after I arrived.  At that point they put me in my own room (before then I had been in triage and was just walking the halls trying to get my labor more active.)

Shortly after I got in my room I asked for a birthing ball so that I could sit on that instead of lying in the bed (which I hated at that point because the contractions were getting pretty strong and the last thing I wanted was to be lying in a bed.)
The birthing ball worked great for me.  It allowed me to move around but I didn't have to stand.  I stayed on that for a while until I started getting very uncomfortable and contractions were getting pretty strong.  I asked the nurse to check me (she hadn't been checking me every hour, they were just letting me labor and she told me to let her know if/when I wanted to be checked.)  I was hoping so much to be 7-8 but I was a 6.  I was so disappointed (again) but they assured me I was making good progress.

I labored a bit longer and was getting miserable.  I asked her to check again and she said I was 7 and that she could try to push me to an 8 with my next contraction (NOT fun.)  But, we did that.  I remember going to the bathroom around this time and telling Jeff that I couldn't go on much longer.  I thought I had a couple more hours at least and the contractions were so strong that I couldn't imagine at least 2 more hours of the pain.  He was reassuring and I tried to put my brave face on.
After that things progressed pretty quickly (thankfully) and my doctor arrived.  They started setting up the room and I was thinking "already?"  My contractions were so strong at this point.  I had handled them (what I thought was) pretty well up until then but it was getting rough.  I was gripping the bars on the sides of the bed as waves of pain would wash over me.  I was clutching clawing Jeff's hands (he later showed me his battle wounds but I was less than sympathetic ;)  ha!  I was moaning from pain and they encouraged me to keep my sounds low to help direct my energy downward or whatever.  I don't think I did well at that...  Each time I felt a contraction coming on, I would look at Jeff and say "nooooo" in this moany, sad voice because I didn't want it to come.  I didn't want the pain anymore.  Around this time I was feeling pushy, not because of pressure down there but because I thought it would help me get through the pain of contractions.  I was desperate for some relief.  They encouraged me to push gently with each contraction to help ease the pain and move Ava down.  I'm not sure how long I did this but before I knew it I was pushing for real.  

This is where it gets real, peeps.  I'm gonna be 100% honest here and I'm not gonna try to act like it happened all gracefully and calmly cuz it didn't.  All of a sudden, during a hard, long push my dr. used his fingers/hand to break my water.  WOWZERS!  Talk about the most intense, crazy pain I have ever felt!!!  It honesly felt like I actually had her right then.  I must have had this  'what happened' look because they said "that was your water, your water just broke."  NO, you just tore my bag of waters open with your fingers!!!  At that point it was like she was immediately crowning and the pain was so intense.  I started losing it a bit a lot at that point.  I was saying "Get her out!"  Repeatedly.  And, "I can't, I can't."  I even said "I'm going to die." I wasn't like screaming these things but I was pretty desperate.  Well, it was happening whether I liked it or not!   My body took over and pushing was like a reflex.  It happened without me even doing it on my own.  Weirdest feeling ever.  My whole body lurched forward and pushed with each contraction.  I felt animalish (is that even a word?) or even a little posessed at times, ha!  I was moaning, grunting and yelling a bit, I remember the dr. telling the nurse to close the door to my room.  I pribably traumatized a few preggos on the maternity floor. haha! I 'saw' this different side to me that was so instinctual.  My body knew exactly what to do even though I had never done this (naturally) before.  I remember feeling like Ava was too big to come out of my body.  I felt like there was no way I was going to get her out. 

But, I told myself that the only way to get her out was to push, hard and keep pushing till she came out.  So, with (I don't know how many, it didn't seem like many after she was crowning) pushes, her head and shoulders were finally out and I grabbed her under the arms and pulled her up to my chest and laid her there on top of me. 

I was the first one to hold her!  What an awesome feeling to pull her out like that.  It wasn't really planned, it was sort of last minute that my dr. told me to do it and I'm so glad he did.  She was born at 2:54 pm almost exactly 13 hours after I went into labor and 8 hours after we got to the hospital.  After she was out it was instant relief.  It was over.  She was finally here!  It was surreal.  I was so happy she was here and it was over but it was like a dream.  Everything was happening so fast.  Then I remember noticing that my throat was sore and I asked if I was yelling a lot and Jeff said no so I think it was the pushing/grunting.  I did tear a little so they had to give me a few stitches then I delivered the placenta and that was it.  Whew!   I remember telling Candace (my bestie/photog who has had two natural births) "I can't believe you did that twice!"  I was a little shell-shocked.  If you would have asked me then if I would ever deliver naturally again, I would have said "no, never!"  But, I'm thinking a lot of women would say that immediately after a natural birth!  I had visitors right away and the word I used to describe it was "rough, it was rough."   And it was, but it's so true what they say, you forget the pain. 

And now when I look back at my natural birth, I don't remember the pain, I remember the good things.  I remember Jeff being by my side every step of the way.  I remember him being my rock and encouragement (he didn't even stop to eat or drink the whole 13 hours I was in labor!)  I wouldn't have 'needed' him as much if I wasn't in pain.  I love how this experience brought us closer together as a couple. We worked together and it was hard but we got the best reward at the end.  She made it worth it. 

And if we are blessed with another child, I hope to deliver that one naturally too.  Not because I enjoy pain (or even have a high tolerance for it, because I don't!) but because I cherished the experience as a whole even with the pain, fear and feelings that I couldn't do it. 

Just shy of 8lbs ;)

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to my bestie, Candace Wilson, for being there for hours and hours during my labor photographing and documenting it for us.  She doesn't normally offer birth photography but she was willing to do it for us.  She took all of the images used in this blog post and did an amazing job!  I hope she doesn't mind my edits (which only consisted of converting them to b&w.)  She didn't eat the whole time (I don't even remember her even taking a drink!) and was so dedicated to her job as my photographer and an encourager.  Words can't describe how thankful I am for her and her role in our birth that day.

Thank you for taking the time to read my novel birth story.  I'm glad that I documented it and can look back on it.  It was a beautiful experience that I don't want to forget.

All photos taken by Kristen (blog author) unless otherwise stated. Do not copy/save or print without permission. Thank you!


  1. This is so amazing, Kristen! You are one strong Momma! And I know that precious girl with the cutest hair I've ever seen was worth it. :)

  2. awwww so beautiful (if not kind of scary for a first timer at 37 weeks herself!!) thank you for sharing the amazing story of Ava's birth xox

    1. Thank you! :) Natural birth is definitely intense but don't get me wrong, it is SO amazing and SO worth it!!!

  3. I loved reading your story! It is very similar to mine. My first baby (a girl in 2009) I went into labor 2 days before they wanted to induce. I also had an epidural and ended up with a fever. My second baby (a boy in October 2011) I decided I wanted to try natural labor. Boy what an experience that is!! I agree with you that at the time I would have said never again, but now looking back it was such an awesome experience! It is amazing what our bodies are capable of if we just let them do it : )

    1. SO true, Jamie! It literally amazed me how my body knew EXACTLY what to do. It's so empowering to prove to myself that I CAN do it! :)

  4. Ava is beautiful! My birth story was a lot like your first and from the short-lived pain I felt before my epidural I can't imagine enduring it as long as you did. I am jealous of all of her hair! Lily Kate still has to wear headbands and is going on 6 months! Congrats to your sweet family! :)

    1. Thank you! :) I do love all of Ava's hair, sadly it has started to thin some and I am SO sad. She still has plenty to clip a little bow in but I still find myself putting her in headbands because they stay on better! I think a soon little DIY project of hot gluing on the inside or something so that they grip her hair better because they just slide off her hair!


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