I never shared Everett's birth story. I just never felt like I could share something quite so private with the world wide web. Hahaha I guess after having one baby, you lose all sense of privacy and modesty and nothing is "TMI" anymore - any moms out there feel me? So I went ahead and wrote down Daxton's birth story while it was still fresh on my mind and soul, and even though it took me a few weeks to really get it all out, it was beautifully therapeutic for this heart of mine. And also, I spent a lot of time reading others' birth stories in the weeks leading up to his birth, and I actually feel like it helped me prepare for the unexpected nature of his birth. So this time around, I am happy to share and hopefully shed some light and hope for others who have experienced the unexpected in childbirth. Honestly, even though Everett's birth was super intense and ridiculously long (hello, 36 hours that I will never ever forget!), Daxton's proved to be much more, hmm what's the word for it - lively?!
Also, a few disclaimers. This is a birth story - so yeah, it's crazy LONG, there's some medical mojo and probably some TMI-esque content. If you're not into that, please feel free to skip over this post!
On Dec. 14, 2016 I woke up so ticked off. Another night went by that I hadn't woken up in labor. I know this may sound ridiculous, but this is my truth and this is my story, so I'm not going to apologize. I was sad, frustrated and just so wanting to go into labor. So on that morning on the 14th, I asked Stevie to take a vigorously long walk with me. I was ready to walk until that baby decided to come out. This was after we had tried everything else - days of eating spicy foods, rubbing Clary Sage essential oils on my ankles, getting a massage, then getting a specialty foot massage, having sex (not that much fun when you feel like a 500 lb. sumo wrestler), drinking raspberry leaf tea, bouncing up and down on my yoga ball, doing jumping jacks in the living room, eating eggplant Parmesan every single day, eating pineapple (there are a lot of foods they "say" will induce labor, and I tried them all), finally culminating to my all-time low point where I ran out into the yard around midnight to stand under the full moon while rubbing my belly in a clockwise motion. I read it on the Internet, so of course I had to try it. And of course, I felt a little weird and superstitious after the fact, and the wet grass was stuck on my feet when I walked inside the house which was just a reminder of how ridiculous I was. I'm sure all my neighbors saw me out there squeezed into whatever nightgown situation that actually fit me in my plumpest hour, and were horrified.
So that morning, we walked. We walked hard. I huffed and puffed and waddled by the nearby golf course and Stevie and I talked. We talked about how we would renovate our house, if we decided to stay there for the long haul. We talked about Everett. We talked about Christmas and our exercise goals for the New Year and Stevie's business idea. We talked about so many things, and I was having increasing pain on the left side of my pelvis. A sharp, shooting pain. Not contractions, but just an irritating, pinching, lightning kind of pain. Once we turned around the walk home was slower, and I had to keep stopping for rest breaks. To pant.
My spirit was a little broken. Would this baby ever, ever come out? He was such a tease.
Once we got home, the sharp shooting pain continued with each step of my left foot. I decided to call my midwife and ask her what the heck that was. It was aggravating and super frustrating, because I knew it wasn't productive, like contractions.
I called and they invited me to go ahead and come in at 2:50pm. So Stevie and I dropped Everett off at my sister-in-law's and we went over to my OBGYN's office. They were busy. We had to wait 45 minutes.
The Property Brother's were on in the waiting room. While we were watching and waiting, something incredibly uncanny happened. Then it happened again. I looked at Stevie, wide-eyed with disbelief. And then it happened again.
"Stevie, I just had a contraction."
And then again, and again, and again. They started coming relatively quick, every 10 minutes or so. He celebrated with me in that waiting room. By the time we actually got into the room where the midwife would see us, I was having regular contractions and they were real.
She smiled and obliged when I asked her to strip my membranes. That was another thing that I had heard would help, although at this point I was kind of certain I was in real labor. Still, it was my good faith insurance. I wanted to be sure that I was going to have this baby. Like, in this calendar year. She explained that the pain I was feeling could most certainly be associated with labor, even though it didn't feel like contractions. She suggested that I should go home and get some rest, eat a good meal and take a shower. I asked her if I should plan on checking into the hospital later that evening or if she thought it would still be a day or two. She said she didn't know, but to go ahead and get prepared to have a baby.
On the drive home we were elated and a little shocked. I couldn't believe I went into labor while sitting at the doctor's office. The contractions in the car ride were pretty strong, and I wasn't able to talk through them. We picked up Everett and jetted home, where I hurriedly jumped in the shower. I figured that would slow down the contractions (if they were Braxton Hicks and not the real deal), but there was no slowing down. They continued to speed up, and by the time I got out of the shower, they were coming 5 minutes apart. I quickly dressed and put last minute items in my hospital bag, and Stevie and I decided to call my wonderful doula Liz (who had been with me for my first birth with Everett). My mom had randomly stopped by since she was supposed to be meeting a friend around the corner for an early dinner, but when she saw what a state we were in, she called and cancelled her dinner. My mother in law soon arrived as well, to stay with Everett for the evening.
As the contractions sped up, I realized we needed to get to the hospital. Like, really soon.
My doula arrived around 6pm and we immediately called the midwife. We explained that I had been having contractions 3-5 minutes apart for an hour, and she told us to come on in. So we kissed Everett goodbye, piled into our Ford Expedition and Stevie started driving, with me and Liz in the back seat. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of, we've been here before. My memories from Everett's birth were suddenly so present - and I was reliving that exact car moment again. Riding with Liz in the backseat, Stevie in the driver seat. Talking about not going over the speed bumps fast. It was all familiar, we had all done this before.
When I checked into the hospital, there were Christmas trees everywhere. Little white lights and wreaths on every desk. I remembered my friend Elizabeth's labor story, about how she took one final pregnancy photo when she checked into the hospital, and I said, "Stevie! Will you take my picture? The last picture of Daxton inside of me?!" And he did. That was really special. I knew things would get really intense before it was all over (ha, little did I know how intense), and I wanted to remember this moment of excitement and joy and tiny little white lights decorating this memory.
In the triage room, they checked me and I was at 4 cm. "Do you want to go home or stay?", the midwife asked me. I was baffled - why on earth would I go home at this point? We were here. Let's do this thing! So we stayed. I suited up. And from 6:30 pm until midnight, I walked the halls of that hospital, huffing and puffing (as I had done earlier in the morning with Stevie, out in the fresh air, talking about home renos as if we were Chip and Joanna Gaines). I walked so much, with Liz and Stevie and my mom taking turns walking behind me. Each time I would have a contraction, I leaned into the walls and Liz would push on my back, giving me counterpressure, just like she had when I was in labor with Everett. Even though the contractions were hard, there was something incredibly athletic about this part of my labor. I felt really in tune with my body and I knew exactly what I needed to do for each contraction - it's amazing how the second time around, these things aren't so scary :)
When I wanted a break from walking, I sat on the toilet (sorry, TMI, but let's just be real), and I labored there. I even cranked up the Johnnyswim album Georgica Pond and put my ear buds in, and just got lost in the music. This was something I could never, ever do in my first labor. Music drove me crazy then. But now, I was completely in the zone with my body and the rhythm of the music and I was feeling super at one with what was happening inside me with my baby. I'll never forget these wonderful few hours, and I am really really grateful that I had them. Because unfortunately later, things got harder in a way that I couldn't help.
By midnight I had dilated to 8 cm. It was a celebration in the hospital room! Only 2 more cm until I could start pushing! I thought for sure that this baby would be coming soon, within a few short hours. I had dilated so quickly throughout the day and I felt such a sense of joy and pride that I had gotten this far without too much difficulty (don't get me wrong, the contractions really hurt), but I knew I was going to meet my little baby so so soon!
Then things slowed down. Way down.
The contractions spread to 6 minutes apart. The momentum I had been hoping for by 8 cm wasn't there. I kept thinking, if I can speed up these contractions, then I can get enough momentum to push this baby out! But without the contractions getting closer together, it just felt challenging. Even though they spread out, they were getting increasingly more painful, and from midnight until 6am they continued to get more painful, but remained 6 minutes apart. I laid on my side in the hospital bed and fell asleep between each contraction. Everyone in my room was overcome with sleepiness, and we were all confused as to why things seemed to slow way down. Of course, we all reminded each other, Everett's birth took 36 hours in total. It was a long slow process. So perhaps that's what was going on here?
At 6am I decided that I needed a re-set. The contractions were so painful they were beginning to scare me a little, not because I couldn't handle the pain, but because I was getting so tired and I wasn't sure how to conserve my energy. I still needed to save some to push this baby out! I also feared that the midwife was going to tell me that I needed something to move the process along, something like a little p-word. So I decided to get in the shower, which had been a standby option during my first labor. Stevie put on his swim trunks and joined me. We stayed in the shower for almost an hour, praying for Daxton and making positive declarations out loud about this labor and delivery. We needed something to shift.
When I got out of the shower, the nurse came in and informed me that a shift change was taking place and that a new midwife was coming - and it was my favorite midwife. I got so excited and for a moment I thought, maybe this is why I've kind of been stalled out! Because God knew I would want this midwife to deliver my baby!
Oh, the things we tell ourselves.
That midwife came into the room with eyes ablaze. "I don't like what I'm seeing here, Kristen. You should be further along than you are." She checked me and I was still at 8cm - after 7 hours! What on earth. She told me that it wasn't a good sign that I hadn't finished dilating by now, especially since my dilation from 3-8 cm was so steady. She told me she wanted to do something to help things along, and I knew what that meant. The p-word.
So we talked about the options associated with pitocin. It was such a foreign concept to me, because my labor with Everett didn't involve any drugs or pain relief options and I wanted to have another natural labor and delivery again. I had heard so many horror stories about the pain that pitocin brings on when it helps speed up contractions. Because of others' stories and experiences, I had decided long before this pregnancy that if I were ever in a position where I needed to get pitocin, I would definitely get an epidural to go with it. It just doesn't seem fair to your own body, inducing painful contractions without relief. But I did ask the question - "So what if I start pitocin without the epidural and decide that I need it? How long would it take to get the epidural?", and midwife answered very quickly, "At least 45 minutes." That just seemed way too long if I were suddenly in horrible, unbearable pain. So even though the midwife mentioned that I could get some pitocin without an epidural (she also offered a few other pain relief options), I was very clear-minded with my choice. I would get an epidural with the pitocin.
I kind of can't believe it. Who was I becoming in this labor? This was pretty far off my birth plan. But I felt such a sense of peace about the choice, its unexplainable... Stevie was nervous though. He wanted to make sure I wouldn't be upset later that I had "resorted" to getting an epidural.
The midwife assured me that the pitocin would dilate me completely, and then I would be able to push this baby out. I was ready. This is what people talk about when they say that birth doesn't always go the way you plan, and you have to be willing to go "off the birth plan" based on what the circumstances call for. I was living it.
And guess what you guys? Epidurals are AWESOME. And this is coming from a girl who did a seriously long labor the first time around with nothing. Within 5 minutes of getting pricked in the back with what I assume is a very long needle, I was sitting up in the bed and suddenly feeling verrrrry at peace. I felt in control of my body again. My contractions were still very present and I could feel every single one, but I wasn't experiencing that edge of unbearable pain anymore. In fact, it felt sort of like being a yoga class - I was connected to my body and feeling the challenge of the contractions, but I wasn't consumed by the wrenching pain anymore. They got the pitocin started. I was curious to see how painful these contractions would be - would it be worse than natural labor? The dorky part of me wanted to compare and contrast. The pragmatic part of me wanted to do whatever to get this baby out.
45 minutes later, nothing had changed. The pain was extremely doable, and I was sitting up in bed chatting with my mom and Stevie and Liz in between the contractions. But I hadn't dilated any further, and the contractions didn't get closer together. So they amped up the pitocin.
45 minutes later again, still no change. They upped the pitocin once again.
Once again, nothing happened. Not one single change.
The midwife came back. Now, remember, I really like this woman. During all my prenatal care, I felt like she was the one midwife that really "got" me. She knew my personality, knew my convictions, and was very *for* my natural birth plan. Which we had already forgone. But when she came back after my 4 hours on the pitocin and epidural with absolutely no progression, things got real. She told me that I wouldn't like what she was about to say, "I need to bring the doctor in to see you. She's probably going to talk about some things that you don't want to hear. But you should be further dilated than 8 cm by now. Something isn't right here."
I immediately began to get angry. I knew what this little speech was leading to. They are going to freaking tell me I need a freaking c-section. Insert a few explicates, because as someone once told me, cursing is for labor.
I had my outburst of anger. I don't think I yelled, but who knows. I started asking Liz question after question - am I just a statistic here? Have I been duped? Am I just another dumb girl who comes into the hospital with a natural birth plan and leaves with a c-section?? Is there really *something wrong*?
Throughout this entire labor, my heart rate and Daxton's heart rate had never faltered. There were no signs of a problem. Why on earth would I need a surgery? Things were just going slowly, right??
The midwife came in with the doctor, and everything in the room got very very fast. The doctor sat down with me and was frank. She told me that I had fallen "way off the curve" and I should have already had my baby by now. She explained that something wasn't quite right if pitocin hadn't finished my dilation, so she wanted to go ahead and check me and see if she could feel the baby being positioned incorrectly. I consented. What else was I supposed to do? At least she was being really straight forward with me. I appreciated her candor.
She checked me and announced to the room, "Okay, the baby is ROT." I just stared blankly at her. She explained that ROT means that his head should be facing down so that my cervix could properly dilate over it, but instead, his head was turned entirely to the left. This is why I hadn't fully dilated - his head wouldn't allowed it.
She said, "I know that a c-section isn't on your birth plan," and then explained what we could do to try to get him out without resorting to a surgery. Which involved us "working together" during my contractions, with her putting her entire hand up in my uterus and trying to rotate Daxton while I pushed with all my might. No big deal right? I took a deep breath and agreed - anything is better than getting sliced. From the moment I said yes, the room was flooded with half a dozen new nurses and technicians. The friendly anesthesiologist was back and threw the switch on my epidural, amping it up by 50%. Everyone gathered around me like you see in the movies, helping me hold my legs behind my knees, and began yelling words of encouragement - You can do this! You've got a contraction coming, are you ready? Get ready - okay, now push! Push! PUSH PUSH PUSH!!!
Remember that lovely feeling I described before, about the epidural being relatively light? Well, since they gave me a ton of it all at once, I couldn't feel the contractions at all. I felt a surge of intense pressure and heaved into pushing to the best of my ability. It was hard to feel where to put all my energy. I bore down as hard as possible. I pushed like my life depended on it. I closed my eyes and went into the deepest parts of myself, pushing from a place of absolute desperation to meet my son. I tried to open my eyes and focus on Stevie's eyes, but everything was so intense and I had trouble focusing on him. I exerted all my final energy into those pushes, and felt myself come very close to the edge of my ability. Everything around me was light and dark all at once, and I was overcome with a piercing siren of pressure and hope and doubt.
We tried this technique for 3 rounds of contractions. Each time the doctor tried to turn Daxton's head (with her hand inside my uterus), he didn't like it and turned back into the ROT position. And each time she tried to move his position, his heart rate dropped.
And that was it. She wouldn't put him in danger, so she stopped. She looked at me and said, "We are done with trying this - his heart rate has dropped and this is now an emergency situation." Suddenly an oxygen mask was lowered onto my face and the flurry of nurses rushed all over the room.
I looked at Stevie and we both knew what this meant. There was no question in his eyes or my mind - we were going to get this baby out, and it was a surgery that was going to do it. We nodded to each other, breathless, pouring sweat and compounding fear and hope. I turned to the doctor and said, "We trust you." She looked me right in the eyes and said something, I can't remember what, but she was reassuring me. I wasn't hearing words anymore, I was communicating almost solely on the language of eye contact. Just by looking at them, I knew Stevie and I were in unity on this decision, I knew my mom was prayerfully hopeful, I knew my doula was sad but believed this was the right call. And we were all trusting the instinct of this doctor and her team to take over the birth and safely bring my baby into the world.
Suddenly my bed was rolling. Stevie was being dressed in scrubs by the team. They began wheeling me toward the OR. I remember my mind suddenly got very clear and focused. I remember thinking to myself, "I'm probably going to need some counseling to process all of this, so I need to remember everything." I counted the number of nurses in the room - 7. The color of their scrubs - powder blue. The tone of their voices - fast paced but calm. Everything was being imprinted in my memory. The trusty anesthesiologist was back in the room, his team was poking and prodding me. He asked if I could feel his pokes below my belly button. I almost yelled, "yes!" - because I didn't want them to start the surgery if I could feel anything! He said, "Okay, I'll give the epidural 30 more seconds," and thirty seconds later, he poked me again. I told him I could still feel his pokes and it wasn't numb down there, and he said, "Really??" Then they all looked at each other and agreed on something, and he informed me that he would be putting me under general anesthesia because it was time to operate. He said that Stevie wouldn't be able to come in the room now because of the general anesthesia and they lowered another mask onto my face. The last thing I remember is grabbing the nurse's arm next to me and pleading with her to take care of my baby. She locked eyes with me and nodded in agreement. If it sounds melodramatic, well, that's exactly how it felt. They were going to take my baby out of me and I was going to have almost nothing to do with it.
And then I don't remember anything else.
When I woke up, they told me my baby was healthy and safe, and in his daddy's arms. Stevie had been holding him for almost thirty minutes when I finally got to meet my big, stunning baby boy - he was so big! I couldn't believe it when they told me everything about him! 9 lbs. 8 oz.! 21.75 inches long! He screamed from the moment the doctor pulled him out of my womb (which meant he hadn't been influenced by the general anesthesia, thank goodness). Stevie's eyes were brimming with gratitude and exhaustion and tears when he laid Daxton on my bare chest. He helped me hold him, since I was still numb and unable to maneuver my body. But nothing mattered. My boy was healthy and strong and a fighter. And he was here. His blue eyes were already apparent and his long, lithe body was sturdy and thick. What a gorgeous, perfect gift from my maker.
It's really great to have a birth plan. I would recommend that everyone formulate one before going into labor, because it helps you prepare for the serious task at hand. And it gives all the people involved in your birth a snapshot of who you are and how they can best serve you. However, it's really good to know when that plan needs to change. In my case, everything on my birth plan was considered by the nurses and midwives and doctor, and they were so honoring to try all sorts of options before having to throw that wonderful plan out the window. And you know what? I don't feel bitter about having a c-section. That kind team tried everything in their arsenal of tricks before resorting to the surgery. I felt super honored and grateful. My baby was safely brought into this world and that is the most important thing.
I'm still processing his birth. Some days I feel absolutely great about the choices I made and how the events unfolded, because I can see God's hand in each intervention. Other days I stare at my peeling scar and I feel sad. I write down questions as they enter my mind, I'm continuing to seek answers. But I feel certain about one thing - this is a great birth story and a treasured birth. Because he's here! The world is a better place because my Daxton is in it.
Thanks for reading my story, friends. Here's to the next chapter!