Thursday, July 16, 2015

{Gracie's Birth Story}

Words can't adequately express the insurmountable love and joy my husband and I feel about our darling angel, Grace.  Our sweetheart was born on Tuesday, June 30th at 4:22pm, and she is absolutely perfect.  From the labor, to the delivery, to seeing her and holding her in my arms for the first time, to hearing her little cry, to seeing her little smile, my life has changed forever in the most beautiful and profound way.
It all began Monday, June 29th, with a visit to my doctor at which time she informed me I was still 3cm dilated, same as the week before, and 80% effaced.  She was convinced I would go into labor any day now, but just to be safe, we scheduled an appointment to induce me the following week in case I needed it.  Sean said to me as we were walking out of the doctor's office, "Perhaps that's exactly what your subconscious needs to get things moving."  Boy, was he right.  That evening my contractions started to get a little more intense.

Around 3am on Tuesday morning, I was jolted awake by a very strong contraction.  They were still pretty far apart at this point, but I knew my body was going into labor.  From that point on, Sean and I didn't get much sleep.  We labored at home until about 7am, when my contractions started getting much closer together.  We practiced everything we learned from our Bradley Method classes, including walking, breathing, massage, laboring on the birthing ball, squatting, and more.  I also made sure to eat something, rest, and take a warm shower.

By 8am, my contractions were 2-4 minutes apart, lasting at least 60 seconds.  If they continued like this for an hour or two, that would be our queue to go to the hospital.  We knew it was imminent, so Sean took the pups to the doggie hotel where they would stay for a few days.  When he came back, I said it was go time!  I will never forget the drive to the hospital.  It was only 15 minutes, but it was the most beautiful day!  The sky was bright blue with not one cloud in sight, and the sun was shining ever so brightly.  Sean and I both said to each other that it was the perfect day for our daughter's birth day.

We checked in at the hospital around 10:15am, and they admitted me right away.  When they got me into my triage room and examined me, I was 4cm dilated and nearly 100% effaced.  Sean's mom, who was my doula, arrived shortly thereafter.  Per my birth plan, I did not want to be strapped down to a fetal monitoring machine because I wanted to move around and labor in various positions that were comfortable to me.  The nurses were great in honoring this, and so I labored while standing and made sure to walk in between contractions.  At this point, when a contraction hit, I was most comfortable standing and bending over the bed.  Sean massaged me and made sure to keep me relaxed, while my mom-in-law played music and talked to me.

An hour later, I was moved to our labor and delivery room, where we met our wonderful nurse, Gerri.  She was out-of-this-world and took extra great care of us!  Coincidentally, our photographer, Lisa of SisterLee Photography, is Gerri's niece!  They had no idea they were working the same patient/client until we all were in the same room.  What a small world!  We gave Gerri a copy of our birth plan and let her know that I did not want any drugs, including an epidural, nor did I want to be strapped down for fetal monitoring unless we were concerned Grace was in distress.  Gerri enthusiastically said no problem, and let me labor in the room however I was comfortable.  She honored everything in our birth plan.  She was incredible!

Shortly after settling into our L&D room, Gerri wanted to check my dilation.  As she did, she looked at me with excitement and said, “Dang girl!  You’re already 9cm!”  Grace was also very low at this point; she was at a +2 station (the birthing stations are on a scale from -3 to +3).  Gerri also let me know that my bag of waters was bulging and that we had two options:  I could labor and see if it broke on it’s own, which could take a few hours, or she could break it for me, which would speed up the labor but make it more intense.  Without hesitation and a big smile on my face I replied, “Let’s break it!”  I didn’t feel anything as she broke it, but as soon as she did, I felt a warm sensation in my pelvic area.  Here we go!  And she was right…my contractions grew closer together and became much more intense.  I channeled the pain from each contraction and used it as a power source to bring Gracie down and closer to greeting the world.  I knew with each contraction, I was that much closer to meeting my daughter.

Things started to get significantly more intense.  As it turns out, my bulging bag of waters had stretched my cervix to 9cm, so when we popped it, my cervix shrunk down to 7cm.  After breaking my water, I labored for three excruciating hours where my contractions were one on top of the other with hardly a minute in between.  I couldn’t get comfortable so for a while I moved frequently changing my labor positions.  I labored in the shower with warm water running over me, in a squatting position, on my hands and knees, sitting on the toilet, and laying on my side, all the while with Sean holding my hand, rubbing my back, rubbing my head, and speaking calming and loving things to me.  His mom was unbelievable as well.  She had relaxing music playing and talked me through each contraction by telling me to focus on certain instruments in the songs, and helping me to control my breathing.

After an hour of laboring in various positions, I had to lie in bed on my side.  My contractions were so strong that I couldn’t move anymore, and Grace was so low that my body’s natural instinct was to push, however I couldn’t yet because I wasn’t completely dilated and didn’t want to tear.  My mom-in-law held my hands and we were face to face for every contraction with her breathing deep while I mimicked her to keep me from hyperventilating.  There were times I squeezed her hands so hard I thought I broke them.  Sean continued to rub my back and speak calming things to me.  They kept me focused, calm, and most importantly, they kept me breathing.  There were a couple times I almost lost focus and almost lost my breath, but my mom-in-law brought me back to deep breathing before I lost control.  I remember going into an almost trance-like state of mind, an out-of-body experience of sorts.

My dad and his fiancĂ©e, Jodi, arrived.  He said he couldn’t wait anymore, that he had to be at the hospital with his little girl.  He was in the room with me, and having him there gave me a surge of energy and strength that I can’t describe.  I knew mom was with me too.  I had been talking to her in my head throughout my labor, but when my dad arrived, I felt my mom with him, and their strength empowered me to push through the indescribable pain that came with each contraction.  He and Jodi stayed in the room with me until the end, and I’m so glad they did.

About 3 hours after we broke my water, the pressure in my pelvic area was nearly unbearable, and the urge to push was now impossible to resist.  I looked at Gerri and said, “I’m a 10, I know it!”  She measured me, and sure enough, I was dilated to 10cm!  It was time to push!  Gerri had already set everything up and my doctor arrived right away.  I asked for a mirror so I could see my little darling emerge.  I gave one big push and there was her head!  I remember seeing a black, slimy ball!  It was her.  It was my daughter!  I couldn’t believe how much hair she had and how dark it was!  We thought she’d be a little blondie or red-haired girl.  I gave a second big push and felt a huge relief of pressure in my pelvis.  Her head was out!!  With the next contraction I pushed again, and out popped her shoulders and the rest of her body.  She was here, and she was perfect.  She was so alert with her eyes open.  The doctor called Sean over to cut the cord, and so he did.  Then they immediately placed Gracie on my chest, and I felt an insurmountable feeling of love and joy.  She latched on to my boob right away and fed for the next hour and a half!  Sean and I cried tears of joy.  This little bundle was ours.  We had a daughter.  After years of trying, our dream of starting our family finally came true.  We couldn’t stop staring at her with her chubby cheeks, full cupid lips, deep blue eyes, full head of hair, and teeny tiny feet and hands.  She weighed a perfect 7lbs 2oz, and was 18.5” long.  My brother had just arrived and came into the room with us.  There was never so much love in a single room as there was in this moment.  Me, Sean, my mom-in-law, my daddy, my brother, my soon-to-be-step-mom were all crying tears of joy with the biggest smiles on our faces.  We were in complete awe of this darling little being that I just brought into the world.  I’ve never been so happy in all my life.

Everything about my labor and birth went so smoothly and I am so grateful for that.  Sean and I prepared, mentally, physically, and emotionally, and it paid off.  I gave birth without drugs, without tearing, and without an episiotomy.  My “drugs” were my husband and his mom and all the relaxation and breathing techniques we had practiced for months on end.  That was the way I wanted to give birth, and so we did it.  I could not have done it without my husband as my coach as my mom-in-law as my doula.  They kept me calm, focused, relaxed, and determined.  It was a quick labor, as I only labored at the hospital for 6 hours, and only pushed for about 10 minutes.  Grace was ready to greet the world, and the world was ready to meet her :)

Below is a quick birth story video (don’t worry, it’s very classy and tasteful) along with some pictures our photographer took.  She captured the beauty, pain, fatigue, strength, and love during the labor and birth of our sweet angel, and I’m beyond happy.
Photos taken by Sisterlee Photography