Wife to my high school sweetheart, boy mama to sweet baby boy Macrae, and two fur babies Shiloh and Milo, a full time high school history teacher, and overall enthusiast for life. Avid podcast listener, iced coffee drinker, and organized chaos manager. My passion is to encourage and inspire. To cultivate an intentional life, a life full of joy and an abundance of grace.
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Where do I even begin, I feel like I have had “write our birth story” on my to-do list every single day for the past eight weeks. To be completely honest, our birth story turned out to be exactly the opposite of what I had hoped for and planned and turned into being the sequence of events that I feared the most. Therefore, I have been hesitant to write it out, reluctant to open that door of heavy emotions and big feelings. However, as one who always advocates for the written word to fully process and express the deepest of things within the heart, I know that this will be a good thing. So, without further ado, I present, a completely raw and unfiltered story of the birth of our son, Macrae.
I think it is incredibly important to begin with what I had envisioned for birth. As someone who loves to plan and envision things, I began dreaming of our actual labor back in December of 2020, right when we announced our pregnancy to the world, after walking through a miscarriage earlier that year. Labor and delivery can be extremely overwhelming to think about. It’s painful and scary and full of so much unknown, yet it felt so good to visualize and dream during pregnancy of what labor would be like. I remember visualizing at night as I would lay in bed, before falling asleep, visualize what contractions might feel like and the sensation of bringing in little baby boy to the world. I had my vision of what exactly I wanted our birth to be like.
I read all the books, so many books. From Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, to Birthing from Within by Pam England, and Jackie Mize’s Supernatural Childbirth I felt so incredibly empowered and confident in what I wanted our birth to be like. These books empowered me and inspired me. I desired a birthing experience that was supernatural and empowering. I believed in a birth that would not only birth my son, but birth a strength within me and result in an entire new person being born. I desired one of those birth stories where women describe feeling like they are on the cusp of heaven, so consumed and overwhelmed in God’s presence and glory that every other feeling of pain or childbirth sensation doesn’t seem to exist.
We did all the things. We hired a doula, something I was incredibly passionate about. I knew I wanted someone there to support us and coach us through birth, especially so that Justin could focus on being fully present in the delivery room and supporting me without myself giving him the crazy expectations of knowing everything there is to know about a natural childbirth. Because that is what I desired. A natural, un-medicated childbirth. No intervention, no extra things, just me birthing my baby in a Northside delivery room. Well, given the fact that a pandemic was and is still very much in existence, the hospital’s visitor policy remained where only one support person was allowed in the hospital throughout the entire stay. So this meant that our doula, who we had hired (and paid a good sum of money for by the way) could not be present physically and instead would be a virtual support through the phone.
The months leading up to what we thought would be a for sure June arrival, J and I spent in education, with both our doula and our online childbirth class through Mama Natural. From learning comfort measures and techniques, to writing out positive birth affirmations and going over a list of things to say during labor with Justin, which he added as a section of notes on his phone, we felt confident, excited and hopeful. While meeting with our doula, we had gone over that often times in labor things don’t go according to plan and while it’s great to have a birth plan, things can change ever so quickly, so instead of having a plan, focus on having a feeling. Focus on “I want to feel this way during childbirth,” because while we can’t control what happens, the one thing we have complete control over is our mind and how we are feeling about things. I held onto that advice so tightly. So while, I had my plan of an unmedicated vaginal delivery, I had my desired feeling of wanting a birth story that made me feel incredibly strong, empowered and absorbed in the spiritual realm. And I believed so strongly in this.
Little baby boy was very comfy and cozy in the womb. Our due date – June 28 came and went. J and I spent several weekends thinking “this was our last weekend as the two of us.” At my 39 and 40 week appointments with my midwife I had her check to see if I was dilated. Which I was not. At my 40-week appointment (which fell on a Monday) my midwife asked about scheduling an induction. I told her that I wanted my body to go into labor on its own. So she arranged for me to come back in for another check on Thursday. I could write another entire blog post on the emotions and feelings of a pregnant woman who is still pregnant beyond her due date. Fun fact – the Mayo Clinic has advocated for due dates to be adjusted to actually be 41 weeks instead of 40 because how common it is for pregnancies to be longer. Anyways, the anticipation and emotions I felt that week were big, lots of big feelings as we anxiously awaited baby boy’s arrival, especially racing against the calendar towards an induction.
I did not want an induction. I was not okay with an induction. I am still not okay with the fact that I had a scheduled induction. I think one of the hardest things for people is to feel confident speaking up against the norm. Whether that be the societal norm, or the medical norm. I really struggled standing firm in the doctor’s office. Maybe it’s because I like to avoid confrontation at all cost or I am a class A people pleaser, but whichever way, when I went in for my appointment on Thursday, I left agreeing to an induction Sunday night. I think part of me was thinking that surely baby boy would make his appearance before than so it wouldn’t really be a big deal, but in hindsight, I really wish I would have stuck up for my medical rights and insisted upon delaying an induction even for just a few more days! My body started showing symptoms that it was progressing to labor Saturday, so there is still a large part of me that wish I had waited it out and stuck to my gut feeling that there was a good chance baby boy could have arrived on his own without all the attempts at medical induction.
Our induction was scheduled for 8:00pm on Sunday, July 4th. We dropped the dogs off at camp on Thursday simply because being a holiday week we needed to get them in so they would have a spot. That being said, J and I had the sweetest weekend with just the two of us preparing for baby boy to get here. Sunday finally arrived and while I was so incredibly frustrated that my body had not yet gone into labor on its own, I definitely was looking forward to getting things moving along. The harsh reality of things is that I really did not have a peace in my spirit about the scheduled induction. When the hospital called Sunday afternoon to confirm our arrival time at the Women’s Center, I really wanted to say no, I was not coming. And I still wish I had done that. Anyways, J and I made a point to have a dinner date before checking in and that definitely was a memory I will cherish forever. Us sitting together at one of our favorite local restaurants absolutely giddy and overwhelmed and nervous with all that was to come.
We checked in to the hospital at 8:00pm. It took us about thirty minutes to finally get to the labor & delivery room. Once there, I immediately was greeted by the labor & delivery nurse who was on staff that night, she was a sweetheart, working her first shift back from her maternity leave. I was extremely honest with her and told her that I did not want to be induced at all and was not happy about being here. She said she completely understood. She handed me a hospital gown and I handed her my birth plan. I asked if I had to wear the gown or if I could stay in my own comfy clothes that I brought, thankfully I was able to do so (literally the only thing from my birth plan that I was able to stick with). I quickly changed while Justin unpacked our bags and got all my laboring tools ready to go. (It was super, super sweet how quickly he transformed the space for me). I headed back to the hospital bed to sign all the papers for the induction, get my vitals checked, bloodwork done, IV set, all those things, while Justin got the music set up and the blend of essential oils ready in the diffuser. I asked to not be hooked up on an IV yet, until it was absolutely necessary, but they had to go ahead and insert the line in so that once they needed it, it would be ready. They did do another cervical exam once we got there, and I was so pleased to finally hear that I in fact was dilated, 1 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Now, while she was checking me the nurse attempted to help get things started by taking action on her own with my cervix. Still not exactly sure what she did, other than it was one of the more uncomfortable things.
Around 9:45pm they began the first method of induction. They inserted Cervidil, which is like a tampon, that is inserted vaginally to release a hormone that aids in softening your cervix, thus preparing your body for labor. It doesn’t necessarily hurt, you just have to stay in bed (which is why they do this overnight) just more so uncomfortable – caused lots of cramping, combined with the lack of comfort of a hospital bed and my history of two broken tailbones, definitely not a comfortable night. I am pretty sure I slept for all of twenty minutes our first night in the hospital. Between getting up to pee, the cramping and overall discomfort. I had a hot water bottle – which I strongly recommend, that Justin kept filling up with hot water and I would rotate laying on each side, with the hot water bottle underneath my hips – that definitely provided much needed relief.
Around 3:00am, the nurse came back in as she noticed stronger contractions on the monitor and advised to hook a saline drip to the IV. Before she did so, I got up to go to the bathroom and when I did, the Cervidil insert fell out. This was supposed to stay in for a full 12 hours, but was only in me for 5 1/2 before it fell out. About an hour later, I got up to go to the bathroom again and that’s when I noticed the IV lost its connection and the piece that was to be connected to the flush in my arm (the piece delivering the fluid) had fallen out and was on the floor – creating a large puddle of saline on the tile. At this point things were comical. I was delirious, not having slept any, discouraged that we were being induced, and laughing that the two things I didn’t want (an induction and an IV) both had fallen out! Since I struggled sleeping any that first night, I had my AirPods in and streamed continuously the very powerful birthing playlist from Built to Birth by Bridget Teyler, which really provided a sense of calm and peace to get me through the discomfort and anxiety of night one.
Morning finally came, I was able to finally get some sleep (thank you hypno-birthing playlist) and had dilated to 2 cm which I considered a major win given the fact that the Cervidil was only in me for 5 of the desired 12 hours. When the morning shift of labor & delivery nurses checked in with me that morning, along with the midwife, they asked what I wanted to do as in go straight with Pitocin or do another (less of an intervention) method by administering Cytotec. Because my desire was to let my body try to take control of this thing at some point, I opted for the Cytotec first, to see if it would get things moving in the right direction. Cytotec, similar to the Cervidil, works to cause the cervix to dilate. It’s given in tablet format orally. They administed the first dose early that morning (Monday, July 5th) and also inserted a foley balloon catheter. Basically a catheter that is inserted and placed, with a side pressing on the front and back of the cervix, that is then inflated (like a balloon) to apply pressure to the cervix, hoping to cause dilation. My word of advice for those reading this who are going to have an induction, avoid this foley bulb induction at all costs. It is extremely uncomfortable. I could feel it inside and it just resulted in so much discomfort.
I had the foley bulb in from about 8:30 am to 4:00pm as they continued to administer the Cytotec. I tried to rest as much as possible during this time. Used the hot water bottle, sat on the exercise ball and leaned forward onto the bed (basically tried to avoid the hospital bed because it made everything way more uncomfortable). When they came in to check on the foley bulb to see how things were progressing, the foley bulb got stuck. Yes, you read that correctly, they pulled out the foley bulb just a little bit to realize I was not ready yet and tried to insert it again, yet it was stuck. Therefore, the midwife had to force it back in (to which she kept on saying aloud, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!”) It was excruciating. The foley bulb finally came out at 4:00pm. I don’t think I had ever been happier to part with that thing. Upon my next cervical check, I was 4cm dilated. Oh thank goodness, we are finally getting somewhere! The next step was Pitocin, yet the nurses agreed to give me a break, let us walk around, bounce, debrief for two hours before we continued.
J and I spent the next two hours doing laps around the L-shaped hallway. All the nurses at the nurse stations kept laughing at us as I waddled by. I bounced and swayed back and forth on the exercise ball, basically trying to do anything and everything to get this baby ready. Around 6:15pm they scheduled us to start Pitocin. The lovely midwife decided to break my water first to see if that would start things on its own. So she broke my water, and holy moly, the weirdest and warmest sensation. Talk about feeling like you are peeing yourself for an extended period of time, and it was so warm. They were shocked with how much fluid I had, which made sense given how much I was showing and how little I felt baby move throughout our pregnancy. As they broke my water, I literally watched as my stomach changed shape right before my eyes and could instantly see which side of my body baby boy was laying on. The midwife and nurse said they would be back, they just wanted to watch the monitor to see if my contractions picked up on their own before starting Pitocin. At this point, I truly found my zen. I got extremely comfortable in the bed, had my Labor & Delivery worship playlist on full blast on my phone and truly was zoning out. It was great. I felt good and I felt strong. To my surprise, as I was in complete zen, the nurse informed me that my contractions really had picked up and therefore they didn’t need to use Pitocin (yet). Thank the Lord. This was finally happening. I felt so encouraged that my contractions were strong and that I felt so good during them. I soaked all of this in. Within two hours of breaking my water, I had her check my cervix and I had dilated to 6cm. Hearing that was so incredibly encouraging. Finally, we are getting somewhere.
Things got intense fast. I asked for a wireless monitor so that I could labor in the tub. We had the exercise ball in the tub, and I rested with my upper body on the ball, while J had the shower handle and sprayed hot water all along my lower back. I definitely felt all the things there. After spending 45 minutes in the tub, I rotated between standing with J and the toilet. The contractions were all encompassing and happening directly on top of one another. I kept feeling like I had a bowel movement, so would go and labor on the toilet while holding on to Justin’s shoulders. Things seemed to be happening fast and my body was shaking uncontrollably. Based on all my research and education prior to birth, I was convinced that my body was going through transition (the phase where you go from 8cm to 10cm dilated, right before pushing!). At this point, I was absolutely questioning whether or not I could do this. Hopeful, that things were moving along well, I asked for another cervical check. When she checked me, she basically said I had made very little progress from earlier. Not even 7cm dilated. I felt so incredibly discouraged. I had just spent the last however length of time laboring through what felt like the most intense thing of my life to not have reached any progress. I felt like my body was failing me.
The nurse said she was going to start Pitocin at this point and it was at this moment that I had an overwhelming peace to get an epidural. My plans all along for our birth story were to not get an epidural. It wasn’t that I was against it, I just did not have a peace about it. Combined with a determination to have a completely unmedicated birth that fit the description described above. However, in this very moment, after laboring for the last 25 hours and being awake for almost the last 38, I had an overwhelming peace to get an epidural. If we were starting Pitocin, then I was getting an epidural and I felt an ease about it. I asked the nurse and she called the anesthesiologist. It didn’t take long for the anesthesiologist to administer the epidural, which was not bad at all, I didn’t even feel a thing. Truthfully, the moment that I gave my body and mind permission to get the epidural, things felt so much better, which I think goes to show exactly how mental labor can be.
The one thing I am extremely grateful for is that at every moment and stage of labor I felt a peace for that moment and for that stage. The hard feelings I have towards our birth story didn’t really emerge until afterwards, upon reflection. So, I am extremely grateful that for each phase of labor, I truly felt the Lord’s peace. The epidural was administered around 10:00pm and the Pitocin began around 11:00. The one good thing that happened at this point was the epidural allowed me to completely relax and rest. Two things which had not happened since Saturday’s night of sleep and we were heading into Tuesday. I was able to rest, relax, and let my body (under the guidance of Pitocin) do its thing. Except, my body did not.
The sensation of the epidural was incredibly weird. It was great to feel so relaxed, but my goodness my body could not stop shaking. Additionally, the nurses kept coming into check and readjust the fetal monitor as well as assist me in alternating sides positioned around the peanut ball. Every fifteen minutes, I shifted my hips from right to left to try and engage my pelvis to push baby further along. All the while, numb from the epidural and unable to really use my legs. It definitely was an odd feeling. The problem with Pitocin though, was my body was simply not moving forward with labor. The nurses came in to check things so frequently. They were monitoring baby’s heart and were only able to give me the first dosage of the Pitocin before having to cut it off because of concerns for baby’s heart. At first, I felt extremely excited, having been so set on an unmedicated birth, I started to wrap my mind around the fact that I was heavily medicated at this point and thus the giant marathon of a task of pushing a baby out naturally just got a lot easier. However, it was around 12:30am that I started to get the sense that things were not progressing as they should. The nurses checked more frequently and so did the OBGYN, which I had only seen once before at that point. They basically told us at 1:30am that they were concerned for baby as his heart was showing signs of distress on the monitor. Furthermore, my body was not responding the way it should to the Pitocin, and neither was baby. At this point, labor had completely stalled as baby was in the same position as he was hours earlier and I only 7 cm dilated. Thus, the doctor needed to do an emergency c-section, there really was no other safe option he explained.
I wish I could accurately explain the intensity of my emotions and feelings in this moment – hearing that I needed to have an emergency c-section. The one thing I desired so strongly to not have, was happening. Things moved so quick at this point. Nurses, techs, the anesthesiologist were all in and out of our room prepping me for surgery, all while Justin had to quickly pack our entire room up and shove it on a cart in a matter of minutes. I remember asking to make sure that I was going to get a stronger dose of pain meds as I was so very tired of this whole thing and absolutely terrified of a caesarean. Before I knew it, I was wheeled down the hallway and into the operating room and my goodness hello bright lights. It was 1:30 in the morning, I had been awake for 48 hours and laboring for 36 of them and it was as if I was looking directly into the sun. They began prepping for surgery. The anesthesiologist administered an even stronger dose through the epidural and I started shaking uncontrollably. It was a terrible combination of the pain medicine as well as my anxiety. I have never felt more fearful and scared in my entire life. Thankfully, the guy standing by my head could sense these things and asked for a very warm blanket which he laid across my chest and arms (which were strapped down to two tables as I was sprawled in a superman position.) This was the last thing I had wanted for our labor and yet, it was happening and there was nothing I could do about it. Justin was able to enter the room moments before they began (actually, I think they already had started according to Justin’s peripheral vision as he walked past the operating table to sit by my side.
I was insistent on keeping my AirPods in my ears so that I could listen to my labor & delivery playlist throughout the operation. I was very concerned with not wanting to hear any of the conversation amongst the surgeon and his assistants nor did I want to hear the clinking of any medical tools. As soon as Justin was by my side, I asked for him to start the music so I could zone out. He had my phone in his pocket and hit play. Despite the fact that I had been listening to a beautiful and curated labor & delivery playlist for the last 20+ hours, for some reason, when Justin hit play, the song “California Girls” by the Beach Boys started blasting in my ears. It is 1:50am in the morning, I am on the operating table, living out my worst case scenario and the Beach Boys are screaming in my ears. Justin describes the look that I gave him next as one that he will never, ever forget. Thankfully, he changed it back to my playlist quick. I also will never forget looking into Justin’s eyes during this moment. I was so scared and worried. Scared for what I was going through and so worried about baby and whether or not he would be okay.
In what seemed like only a few short minutes after the beginning, the guy that was sitting behind my head motioned to Justin to get his phone out (which resulted in Justin recording a video of baby boy actually being removed from my uterus!) and no I have not seen it. At this point, knowing things were getting real, I threw the AirPods to Justin because the only thing I cared about now was hearing my baby boy’s cry. I was so caught up in the fear and anxiety of our birth unfolding in the exact opposite of how I desired and planned, that I forgot about the excitement of meeting our precious rainbow baby. And at 2:06am, on Tuesday, July 6th, our beautiful son was born. I heard his cry instantly, as they pulled the drape down so I could see his face. Justin was called to the front of the room to be with him as they took his vitals. (Side note – I was very frustrated that I was unable to hold him. The hospital protocol for a c-section was delayed skin-to-skin which really annoyed this mama) Anyways, a sweet moment was that he kept crying until Justin walked over to him and held his hand, and that is when he stopped. Once he was measured, checked, and cleaned up (and I was still in the process of getting put back together) Justin and baby boy came right by where my head was laying. I will never forget this moment or this feeling. I reached up and touched sweet Macrae’s face and said “Hi my baby, it’s your momma” and at that very moment Macrae opened his eyes for the first time. And that right there was everything that my heart needed.
I am so thankful for medicine and technology and for the staff at Northside to take such great care of us. And I know that at the end of the day all that matters is a healthy baby and for that I am so thankful. However, I also believe in honesty and vulnerability and the truth is I still really struggle with our birth. A birth where I desired to feel strong and empowered, absolutely capable. Where instead, I felt weak and as if my body continued to fail me. I was so strong in my desire to avoid an induction and let my body do things on its own terms in its own way, and yet through all the forced methods of induction it seemed as if they prevented my body from being able to do what it was meant to do. Again, I am so incredibly thankful that Macrae is here and healthy and happy, he is the greatest joy. However, I cannot ignore the fact that through the one experience where I yearned to feel empowered and strong, the resulting feeling instead was that of weakness, feelings of being broke. And I know that at some point this needs to be worked through with counseling as the way that I view myself and my body has drastically changed and I think that is absolutely worth mentioning. Because as I have shared my struggles with our birth story through Instagram, I have heard from so, so many who had similar experiences and feelings and that is simply not okay.
And if you have made it this far, why goodness thank you for your care and/or curiosity in our birth story. I think birth stories can be beautiful and powerful. I believe there is so much importance in telling the story of the beginning of human life as it is truly a miracle. But oh my goodness, the amount of emotion and level of feelings that I have towards Macrae’s birth is definitely intense. And while I desire to feel strong, I simply don’t. And finding that strength is definitely going to be a process, especially now as I continue to travel down the postpartum road. And for those mommas to be who may find themselves reading this birth story, I want to encourage you to have your plan, but focus more so on your feelings leading up to birth. And regardless of what happens, regardless of how you may feel about what happens, at the end of the day, a healthy baby is truly all that matters, and our sweet son has made every single bit of it worth it. Every emotion and feeling, big or small, absolutely worth it.