Wednesday, October 31, 2012

And the waves came crashing: Evangeline's Birth Story

It was about 5am on September 20th when I decided to give up trying to sleep through the contractions. They had been waking me up for hours. I got up and walked around for a while and finally decided I should start timing them around 7am. They were about a minute long and averaging around 4 minutes apart, but pain-wise they were pretty manageable.

This was it.

I figured I'd pass some time lurking around facebook and guess what I saw? My sister Amanda (who found out she was pregnant within DAYS of me getting a little plus sign) posted on her wall "Ooooh these feel like the real deal ..."

You shut up!

I couldn't believe it. My sister and I were both in labor. Part of me was excited. I won't lie, though - part of me was kinda bummed that we might not each get our own "special day".

McKay let his boss know that I was in labor and that he wouldn't be going in to work while I called the clinic. They wanted me to come in for a labor check.

We went in and found that I was still at 3cm (I had gone in two days earlier for a labor check) and 60% effaced. Buh-MER. My midwife (Claudia) talked it out with me. Since I was a VBAC patient, she could reasonably send me to the hospital right then. Buuuut....if she did that, the on-call OB would have to be at the hospital from that point until I delivered since I am a "high risk" patient. And if that was the case, I would be on his time table. If I didn't progress the way he wanted, there would be a lot of pressure to augment my labor (pitocin, breaking my water, etc.) which would bring my chances of a successful VBAC down. Blah. She had me get an AFI and NST done to check my fluid levels and monitor baby's heart rate and contractions for a bit. Everything looked good and we made a group decision that I would go home to labor there as long as my pain was manageable.

I went home and labored. I took a nap. I labored some more. The contractions were remaining manageable. *annoyed* We went for a walk to see if that would pick things up. I got home from my walk and found out that my sister had given birth to her son - a handsome, healthy boy added to the family! Okay - my turn! Queue the Clary Sage (an essential oil that is a uterine tonic--it can induce or speed up labor). After another few hours, contractions were getting a little harder, but they were still manageable. I couldn't understand why my body was taking its sweet time getting my daughter here. I was so frustrated!

I called the midwife and updated her on the situation. Since contractions were closer together and and getting a little harder, she had me go to L&D and get checked out there. This was about 7:30ish in the evening. We got to the hospital at around 8 or so and they put me in a triage room where they checked me again. Kimmy (the most amazing charge nurse EVER) told me enthusiastically that I was "Easily a three-plus and seventy percent!" ... and then she saw my face. I explained that that wasn't much of a change from twelve hours before. Well she was determined to get me going. I put on a gown and she had me start walking the halls. This was about the time my amazing friend-slash-birth photographer, Susan, arrived at the hospital.

I went back to get checked an hour later and I was at 4cm. Some change...but not enough to get me excited.

Kimmy called Claudia and then came back to talk to me. She could admit me if she wanted....but then I would have to get a saline/heparin lock (a catheter inserted in a vein in my arm to provide quick, easy access in case an emergency called for any sort of injection) and I would need to be monitored continuously. Normally, that wouldn't be an issue because American Fork hospital has telemetry units for monitoring. Two of them. But one was in use and the other was being repaired. Blarg. She slyly explained that, if I was still a triage patient, I would be flying under the L&D/OB-GYN radar and I could continue walking. So that's what we did. I walked for another hour and a half, chatting and laughing with McKay and Susan between contractions.

At around 11:30pm, Claudia came and checked me and decided to admit me.

I got to my room, changed into my Pretty Pushers labor gown, got the hep lock in and we were ready to roll! I continued to labor in various different positions - the birthing ball, leaning over onto the bed, etc.

Contractions started picking up and getting REALLY hard. I finally got up on the bed and tried different positions there. One thing I really love about American Fork hospital is that they are super "natural birth" friendly. Birthing balls, labor tubs, etc. The beds even transform into a "throne" (birthing stool) with a birthing bar and everything. It's pretty awesome.

Claudia, McKay, and my mom were an invaluable support team during my labor. I was surprised by McKay, actually. Hospital settings tend to make him a little squeamish and uncomfortable, but he stepped right up and really took part in the whole process. I don't know how we could have gotten through everything without Claudia there coaching both of us and encouraging me. She is an AMAZING midwife - I am so glad we made the decision to go with a midwife!! She stayed with me the whole time and helped me through hours upon hours of horrible contractions and slow, disappointing progress.

After HOURS of labor, I was not progressing like I "should" have been. I was so frustrated with my body. Why wasn't this working like it was supposed to?! After being at a 6/6+ for a while, we decided that breaking my water was a wise and acceptable augmentation. The thought was that I had a lot of fluid that was hindering my progress and breaking the water would move things along. So she broke my water. It was green..ish. No bueno. Meconium. Claudia stayed very calm and explained to me that there was meconium in in the amniotic fluid, which can mean that the baby is under some stress. She wasn't too worried about it though, because her heart rate was absolutely golden and it's more common for overdue babies to have some meconium in the fluid. But the NICU people would have to be there when she was born just in case. She told me that nothing would have to be done as long as she cries. (Bring on that sweet, sweet music baby!)

Breaking my water didn't have the effect we were hoping for at first. Contractions slowed a little - the pain was still near unbearable, but they were getting further apart. It was bitter-sweet. Frustrating that things weren't moving along like we hoped, but nice that I had a little more time between contractions to get my wits about me.

I got to a point with my whole body was shaking between contractions. I hit a pain threshold that my body just didn't know what to do with. I couldn't handle it. I was crying between contractions. I hit a wall. I just couldn't do it anymore. I kept thinking "This is it. I'm going to die. I can't do this. I really think I will probably die." I was absolutely losing it. I started telling my husband and Claudia that I couldn't do it anymore. It hurt too much and I was done. They both told me every time "Ashley, you CAN do it. You're doing it right now. You are doing so great!" But most of me just wanted to give up and prove them wrong. I wanted to scream and die and ask for an epidural--no, DEMAND an epidural--but that was not part of my birth plan. It wasn't what I wanted and I knew even mentioning it would only mean McKay and Claudia reminding me of the fact.

Someone recently described the experience of labor and giving birth as being in an ocean and a wave is coming. You can't run back to shore and you can't jump over the wave because it will just plow into you and take you down. You have to just dive in to get through it. Amen, sister.

I don't remember if I mentioned it in a previous post, but I went to my grandpa the day I was "so sure" I was going to have my baby (at 38 weeks) and asked for a priesthood blessing. The message I got from it was basically "Be patient, Ashley. Have faith and be patient. Everything will work out in the end." I knew after that blessing that this process was going to be the biggest trial of faith I had ever encountered or probably ever would again. This was going to be hard. I just needed to trust in the Lord and know that everything will be okay.

That was the only thing that got me through it. In the back of my head I kept hearing it: "Ashley - you CAN do this. Just have faith and keep going. You can do this."

Finally, Claudia checked and I was super close. She told me that if I could handle it, she could stretch me the rest of the way during my next contraction. My first reaction? "HELL no!!" The contractions hurt bad enough as it was!! But then I thought, "Holy crap if I just let her do it, I'll get to push and it will all be over." So I told her to go ahead.

Queue the most unbearable pain I have ever felt. Vision blurry. Seeing stars. I think I might be dead. THAT kind of pain.

"Ashley. You're there. Are you ready to deliver your baby?"

I cried. I was exhausted and so incredibly happy at the same time. I was going to be holding my daughter soon. Let's do this!

I was so happy to be done with contractions. I mean...they weren't over, but I heard that being able to start pushing through them relieved so much contraction pain - made you feel so much better - and I was definitely ready for that. Now, pushing a baby out of your body is its own kind of pain. It doesn't feel good, but it feels a whole lot better than contractions and I'll take that.

With McKay holding one leg and my mom holding the other, I started to push. And push and push.

It was hurting more and more and then the look on my husband's face said it all before anyone else could say it - I knew they could see her.

Awesome nurse Kimmy asked if I wanted a mirror so I could see too.

Umm. Whoa.

That was something I had seen in birth documentaries and those baby stories on TLC and always thought "Yeah--NO. I will never be opting for the mirror. Who wants to see their lady business in that condition? No thanks."

I was a milisecond away from saying "NO. No mirror!" But I stopped myself. I decided that seeing the progress might be motivational. If I could see how far that last push got me, I would be much more inclined to keep pushing. So they set up a mirror. It Crazy. My mind went to some other place where that wasn't ME I was looking at, but the things I was doing were directly affecting what I saw.

Crowning. Yikes. I had heard women try to describe the "ring of fire" and I agree with them - there is no describing it. So I'll leave it at this: it huuurrrrts. It buuurrrrns. But it also means that you're about to deliver a child, so you plow through. It was at this point that I started bleeding. I could see a lot of concern on McKay's face. Claudia told me to stop pushing for a second or I was going to make it a lot worse. This brings me to another point--I had heard women talk about having "the urge to push". What is that? What does it feel like? Well I know now. And you can't just..stop. It's like someone has thrown a handful of dirt at your face and they're telling you not to blink.


She told me to just give her little "grunt pushes". What on earth is that?? I know 'push' and 'don't push' (and those are both difficult in their own way), but I don't know what little grunt pushes are!! I must have figured it out because, before I knew it, there was a head.

She wanted to cry right away--that's my girl!! They suctioned her mouth a couple of times to clear her throat and there it was. That beautiful sound of your child's first cry. I cried too. Another push - shoulders out.

Claudia looked up at me and said with a sweet smile "Look what you did, Ashley. Your little girl is here. Reach down and grab your baby."

And I did.

Oh my gosh--it was the most amazing thing I've ever done. All that time and pain and work and then the most beautiful, glorious payout: I reached down and got her under the arms and pulled her the rest of the way out and onto my chest. It was....completely indescribable. Words do not exist that could even form a sentence to say what I felt at that moment.

I made a baby (with some help from McKay, of course *wink*)

I carried it for the better part of a year. 

I endured 24 hours of contractions and 45 minutes of pushing. 

I delivered a little miracle. 

I got my VBAC. 

I have a daughter.


  1. I'm so happy for you I started bawling. :) I'm so proud of you for giving birth on YOUR terms! Way to go, girl. She's beautiful.

  2. I love love love your birth story for so many reasons. I love American Fork Hospital, I love Claudia, I love your strength, I love the photographs, I love that you had such a beautiful birth. And even though it's an unpleasant thing, I like the way you described the pain when Claudia was stretching your cervix. My midwife (whom I would NEVER hire again and NEVER recommend to anyone) did that for HOURS while I pushed without the urge. It was really traumatic. Anyway, that's unimportant to this story. Congratulations on your beautiful daughter and on a successful VBAC!

  3. Oh, and I can so relate with the frustration when things didn't progress in the time frame you expected! Our girls have minds of their own it seems. :)

  4. SO SO SO glad you finally posted! :) I'm so glad I got to be a part of such a wonderful event for you guys. You did so amazingly well during the whole thing! I was so impressed.

    Also, that quote you were talking about with the contractions being like the ocean, was that Gisele? Because I seriously just watched More Business of Being Born and she described it like that too.

    Love you! :)

  5. Awww, you totally made me cry! So awesome. Congratulations!

  6. You are amazing! I am soooo glad you got the unmedicated VBAC that you wanted! CONGRATS!!!

  7. This is all so familiar! Congratulations on your all natural vbac! You rock!

  8. This is all so familiar! Congratulations on your all natural vbac! You rock!

  9. This was the most beautiful birth story!! I'm doing a vbac in June and I'm so excited/scared haha...but this post really encouraged me. Congrats and great job, momma!!

  10. I love these photos!!! Those I'm pretty sure I won't be having a baby anytime soon :D

  11. LOVE the story. So touching. I cried :) The pictures are amazing and catch all the details. So GREAT!!!!

  12. I'm sorry, I hope this isn't creepy. I saw the link to your blog on the side of someone else's blog and thought, "I haven't seen/talked to her in forever, I wonder what she's up to." And so I read your birth story and it is so inspiring to me. I had a c-section with my baby boy and I'm hoping with my next one (not pregnant now but some day) to do an all natural VBAC but so many people tell me I can't. It's nice to hear that it CAN be done. Good for you! And congratulations on your little girl.