Clarke's Birth Story
**I want to preface this entire post with this: from my early 20’s on, way before I even thought about having a baby, I always joked about how horribly painful and difficult my labor (and pregnancy) would be. FYI I was right. **
I am a little over 4 months post partum and I finally feel ready to finish writing Clarke’s birth story. Before I get into how it went, I want to talk about what I wanted. I didn’t talk about this beforehand, and if I’m being honest it is because I didn’t want to hear anyone’s opinions. That was by far the most annoying thing about being pregnant, a lot of people like to share negative stories, and I don’t think that is very nice! Haha Anyway, for my pregnancy, I was under the care of an amazing team of Midwives, through the University of Michigan. Being under the care of this team was the best decision I made for my care and for Clarkes. I felt supported and I felt calm and never felt worry throughout my entire pregnancy. Not only that, I never felt like a lab rat, who was a patient but not a person with feelings or concerns. My questions were always answered and I always felt respected. I will go into the difference between Midwifery care and traditional care in another blog if anyone is interested, because I definitely didn’t know all of that information going into my first pregnancy.
Anyway, my goals for Clarke’s birth were to go into labor naturally (not being induced), and have an all natural birth. No pain medicine. I had done the research and educated myself and my husband about pain management techniques. I felt really strongly that the risks of an epidural was not one I wanted to make. I have never been one to handle pain medicine very well and I was just sure that I would be the person where everything went wrong. In saying all of this, my end all be all was this: “I will do whatever is best for Clarke, and if I have a 24 hour labor, I might need to get some relief.” Boy was that some foreshadowing. But let me start from the beginning.
I was 40+3 days pregnant, and I was anxious. I went into my midwives’ office really nervous because she was going to check my cervix for the first time and potentially sweep it to try to get labor going. I don’t know why this made me so nervous, but if I am being honest, I didn’t want to rush her out of my belly. The reality of how much my life was going to change, and the fact that she was going to be in this scary world was a little over whelming. I liked that she was safe in my belly. Anyway, Logan and I arrive at the office at 7:50AM (we went early so Logan wouldn’t have to miss a bunch of work and so that he never had to miss an appointment), and they took us back and took my blood pressure and it was something like 140/70. Which was right at the point where they felt like it was too high. I told her it was probably just because I was anxious, and she took it again and it was still high. My midwife comes in and checks my cervix and I am only ½-1 cm dilated, so she couldn’t sweep my cervix since I wasn’t dilated enough. She then tells me I have to go in for a non-stress test in the morning at the hospital and has me go get some blood work done and give a urine sample to make sure I don’t have protein in my urine. Side note: It is really hard to give a urine sample when you are that pregnant haha. We schedule my induction for that Sunday (my 41 week mark), not knowing how the next day’s tests would go. Anyway, later that afternoon I got my results back and didn’t any protein in my urine, which was great news. I am not going to lie, when I left the midwives office, I was pretty emotional. I didn’t want to be induced and have a medicated birth, and the reality of my situation was very overwhelming. I talked to a lot of people that day and said lot of prayers and that night I felt at peace with whatever God’s plan was.
I woke up feeling great. I had the best nights sleep I had had in a long time and I felt like that was God’s gift to me, knowing that I would never get to sleep again! Haha Anyway, we go to the hospital and of course we couldn’t find parking, so my sweet baby daddy drove around for 30 minutes until he found one, while I was upstairs getting a non-stress test done, ultra sound, and checking on the Clarke’s activity (to make sure her environment was still okay). They hooked me up to a bunch of stuff and I just got to sit there and watch her move, about 10 minutes in, Logan came in and we just waited and watched the monitors. It was definitely not stressful at all. After it was finished, they took my blood pressure and it was still high…the nurse left and got the midwife who was on shift came and informed us that we were going to be induced that day. The fact that my BP was high again and I was already past my due date, she felt like it was time for Clarke to be in the world with us. She asked if we wanted to stay or go home. We decided that we wanted to go home so that we could hang out with the puppies, get some food, take showers, grab our bags, and let my family know what was going on and get a head start on making it to the hospital. This was all around 10:30 AM.
Logan and I left the hospital and we informed his boss that he wouldn’t be coming in and then we went to Costco! Haha Which I find very funny looking back on. Logan wanted a hotdog for lunch and I wanted to get some gum. We enjoyed ourselves and spent more time in there than we planned, I think we both hadn’t really let it sink in that we were going to go back to the hospital that day. After we felt Costco, we went to the bakery in our town and picked up 2-dozen donuts. One was for the family and the other was for the staff. I know what its like to work with nurses and they work so hard, I just wanted to show some appreciation.
We went home after that and we both wanted to clean. I didn’t want any laundry or dirty dishes left when we got home. We also dusted and cleaned the floors and whatever else we could think of. Good thing too…because we didn’t do much cleaning for the weeks to come. Anyway we both took showers and got ready and spent time with the puppies. I had major guilt about how much their lives were going to change and it was hard to leave them. We took one last picture and got in the car to head to the hospital. It was about 2:30. We were told to call the floor when we were on our way, so that’s what I did. Then we were told to wait for them to call us back, so we turned around and sat in our driveway in the pouring rain because we didn’t want to make the dogs upset by coming back inside, just to leave again.
We got a call about 30 minutes later and we were on our way again, this time for real.
We got to the hospital and it felt odd that I was going there to have a baby, it was much different then I had expected it to be. I pictured going when I was in full blown labor and having to be wheel chaired in and having to talk myself through every breath. Instead, I might as well have been shopping or going to the grocery store. It didn’t seem real that I was about to be induced into labor.
We got to the floor and waited a few minutes before we were taken back to our room. In the waiting room two nurses met you and took us back to our room. I was then instructed to change into my hospital gown…and lucky for me my BFF Andie got me the cutest floral hospital gown to wear during labor, and I got so many compliments on it! It was pretty awesome. When the nurses came back, they had to start my IV…and this is just the beginning of when it started to go down hill. It took over an hour, 3 different nurses, and several bruised and blown veins to get my IV started. I feel like I am a fairly patient patient, because I know that they are just doing their best, but my goodness, I was aggravated. I knew I was about to be in a world of hurt and it annoyed me that they added to it by making my hand feel like it got hit with a hammer. Anyway…so after that, the midwife on shift came in and we went over the game plan. We wrote my goal for Clarke’s delivery on the white board and it was simple. Get her here safe. Then, since I was barely dilated and still wanted to reduce the amount of drugs being used, my midwife inserted a foley bulb to start my induction. They bulb was supposed to slowly dilate me over the course of 12 hours to around 4-5 cm. I asked what it would feel like, and she said that it would probably feel like period cramps. She inserted the bulb and then left. Shortly after that, the rest of my family showed up (Dad, Reese, and my Mamaw). My momma and Bailey were already there. The pain from the foley bulb was pretty immediate and a lot more intense than what I was expecting. I went from 0 pain to having a contraction ever 2-4 minutes in less than an hour. During this time, everyone was in the room just hanging out and chatting and I’m going to the first to admit, when I am in pain, I HATE noise. I also get kind of annoyed/angry. The contractions got so bad so quickly that I ended up throwing up. A lot. I couldn’t stop. Shortly after that, my water broke. So, just a recap: the foley bulb was supposed to stay in for up to 12 hours or until it fell out because you had dilated enough. Mine was in for 3 hours, broke my water, and I dilated to 2cm during that time. Since my water had broken, they took it out. I think because of risk of infection. I have never been so happy to see something leave a room. I felt like that thing was a torture device. It made me so sick so quickly. It is really hard to go from 0-100. I had prepared myself for a gradual build up of contraction and pain, and that was just not what happened for me.
After they took the bulb out and gave me a few hours to walk around and get out of bed. The contractions slowed back down and I ate a little while I wasn’t on any medicine, but didn’t have an appetite. At around 2AM they started me on Pitocin to try to get my labor moving again. I was pretty nervous about the Pitocin. I never wanted that to be an intervention that had to be used in my labor. They started putting it through my IV and pretty immediately I started having contractions every 2-3 minutes again. I got very uncomfortable very fast and I started throwing up again. To be honest, the throwing up part was very defeating. It made me feel like a rag doll to be retching like that during a contraction. The more important part of this equation is that Clarke’s heart rate would drop occasionally when I had a contraction. So they took the dose back down pretty low and within a few hours they took me back off of the Pitocin.
After a pretty horrific night, we were approaching 12 hours of labor and the 7AM shift change. The midwife checked my cervix and I had only progressed to 2.5cm. I felt heart broken. After the pain I had been feeling that whole night, and to not have progressed much at all. I talked to my midwife and asked if I could see how it went without Pitocin for a while. I was so frustrated and in tears after she checked me that we decided that it would be good for my morale to be able to walk around and try to get labor going in other ways (like I had originally planned). With Pitocin, I had to lay in bed and that was the last think I wanted during my labor. I wanted to be able to be active and get the baby moving naturally. So, that was our game plan. They unhooked the monitor and I was able to walk around and eat a little something, and the contractions kept coming. For the entire next 12 hours I was having pretty strong contraction every 2-3 minutes. During that time, I had the best nurse I could have ever possibly had, and she was so loving and patient and spent almost the entire shift with me. Since my water was already broken and the Pitocin had dropped Clarkes HR, they had to monitor her every 30 minutes. I spend 4 hours straight in a very hot shower sitting on a bench with water hitting my belly and Logan pouring hot water on my lower back (We found out later that Clarke was sunny side up), because my back labor was pretty horrific. Throughout all of that, my nurse would come into the bathroom, try not to get soaking wet, and check on Clarke, and give me some encouragement. She would bring me fresh apple juice and water; honestly, she was like my delivery angel. I cried my eyes out when she got off shift. Instead of doing a play by play of the whole 12 hours, I am just going to tell you what I did.
1. Was in the shower (sitting on a shower bench) for 4 hours straight. If you are someone who is against water therapy during labor, you are CRAZY!! It helps so much! I think the shower may even help more than the tub. My reasoning is this: the feeling of the water coming down on your belly helps you to focus on something else during the pain. I was in there so long, I could barely walk when I got out. My whole body was a grey color and my fingers were so swollen it took me a few hours before I could get my rings off again. To be completely honest, I was scared out of my mind to get out of the shower again. It was the only way I had figured out how to cope in 16 hours of labor. This was hour 16-20.
2. I also walked a lot, after I got out of the shower, Logan walked around the floor with me. I made a goal of going on 20 minute walks. We did those a few times.
3. I also used the birthing ball. I didn’t sit on it, I would use it to stretch out my torso on, and relax and sway during a contraction.
Side note: during this 12-hour span, they moved me to a tub room. Which was much bigger and nicer than my previous room, which did not have a tub. Just another reason the staff at UofM are phenomenal. They did everything in their power to make my labor and delivery the best experience it could be.
At the end of that 12 hours (without any Pitocin , but having strong contractions every 2-3 minutes almost the entire time), my midwife checked me and I had only dilated another ½ cm. So…just in case you forgot, I dilated a whole 2cm in almost 24 hours of hard labor. Let me just tell you, I couldn’t keep the tears away. I could not stop crying. To have worked so hard, and not have had one ounce of relief, I didn’t know how much more I could mentally handle. I didn’t see the point in enduring all of this pain with no progress. My midwife gave me a big pep talk before she left and she was in tears too. She put her forehead against mine and told me she was proud of me. She said that it was important to get this labor moving again and that we needed to try Pitocin for the second time. So, when the shifts changed, they hooked me back up. By this time it was Friday night around 8pm and I hadn’t slept since Wednesday night. I was delirious and I had a discussion with my midwife and nurses and we all agreed that it would be best to get an epidural so I could get some rest and my body could relax and see if labor would progress faster. I was really really scared about the epidural. I knew from the moment I found out I was pregnant that I did not want one, but at that point, I had been in labor for so long, I felt so good about the effort that I had put in and was at peace with what needed to be done. I talked it out with Logan and Mom and then called my midwife back in. She called the team and they were in my room within 20 minutes (which I was not expecting). Logan got all scrubbed up and put on all of his gear. They had me sit up and face Logan and put my feet on his knees (he was sitting on a stool). I had 3 contractions while they were inserting the epidural. They left the lead in so they could adjust the amount of medicine as needed. The anesthesiologists did a fantastic job and I honestly didn’t feel a thing, and I don’t know what I would have done without Logan. He helped me feel so calm about it all. Because I was so freaking scared and exhausted. After they put the epidural in, they stayed around for 30 minutes or so and adjusted the medicine until I couldn’t feel anything. It was the weirdest sensation I had ever felt. My whole lower body felt so heavy. I couldn’t move my legs and it was hard to keep my body on the bed (or so it seemed). It was really nice to not be in pain anymore, but good grief, it was weird to have no control over your body. Anyone who knows me knows that I am ALL legs, so I felt like the majority of my body was betraying me. They started Pitocin again and Logan and I watched the last episode of Suits that we were planning on watching earlier that day but for obvious reasons, I wasn’t interested... By this time it was around 11PM on Friday night. I started to drift in and out of consciousness, because I have never been that exhausted in my life. The next 8 hours is a blur or this sequence repeated over and over and over again. I would have a contraction then my nurse would come in because Clarke’s heart rate would drop. Her and another nurse would rush into the room and move me to my side or try to get me onto my hands and knees to get her heart rate to pick back up. During all of this, my blood pressure would drop. This happened way more times than I remember and by the early morning hours there were times when 5-7 nurses would come in and try to get Clarke’s HR back up. Everyone stayed very calm through these scary hours in the middle of the night, which helped me to stay calm too. Honestly, I remember how helpless I felt. I was fighting to even hold my own body weight up and I just remember apologizing to the nurses for not being more help to them. I also distinctly remember a new nurse coming in and joking about how awkward it is to meet a person for the first time and them seeing my bare butt…my private/modest/exhausted self was mortified. I looked over at my mom and Logan and there was stress in their eyes. It was starting to get scary that Clarke was still in my belly and that more and more people where showing up in my room each time. Apparently there was a team of doctors and nurses watching this activity all night, because when shift change happened I got the news.
At 7AM my midwife, nurses, new doctors, and anesthesiologists all came into the room together and made a big U around my hospital bed and I pretty much immediately started crying. They explained to me that it was time for Clarke to get out when she was still healthy and that she wouldn’t have the energy to make it through the birth canal and I wouldn’t have the energy to get her out. We had both been through too much and labor was not progressing like it should be. Not only that, but Clarke was sunny side up, so she was not in the best position to be delivered (that also explains the extra painful back labor I was experiencing). They told me they were going to get the OR prepped and they would be right back to get me. I asked if I could have 30 minutes to process what was going on, and they told me I had 5, because baby girl needed to come out. I just couldn’t quit crying. I had gone though such a hard fight to do what I thought was best for my baby girl, and it wasn’t what her story was supposed to be. My midwife on shift was actually the midwife I had had on the first shift on Thursday night, when I wrote down my goal for my labor was. We wrote my goal was to have a healthy baby. This C-section was going to make that happen. I talked with the anesthesiologists (who ended up being my saving grace during surgery, she was so sweet and compassionate) and my whole family was in the room before they wheeled Logan and I out and Dad said a tearful prayer (as he always does before I have a surgery, its probably weird to have surgery traditions)…anyway, they told me I could listen to any music I wanted during the surgery, so I chose my good luck album, it is what I listen to when anything important and stressful is happening in my life. This seemed like a more than appropriate time, it’s the Lauren Daigle ‘How can it be’ Deluxe album. They put thee curtain up and on one side was Logan and my midwife and the other side was my anesthesiologist. It was a room of all women (expect Logan, obviously), which made me really happy and at peace and powerful. My anesthesiologist was adjusting the medicine to make sure I couldn’t feel anything from right under my breasts and below. Once I was numb enough and couldn’t feel anything, the doctors opened me up. It was really weird, because it wasn’t painful, but I could tell it was rough. I could feel my body being pulled around and yanked in all different directions. Within 10-15 minutes Clarke was pulled out. It was so weird to be that numb, but to be able to feel her being removed from my body is something I will never forget. I just felt so overwhelmed. She didn’t immediately start crying when scared me really bad, but it couldn’t have been more than 5 seconds before I heard her. The hardest thing about having a C-section is that I didn’t get to see her for almost 5 minutes after she was born. Logan was over on the other side of the room with her, which made me happy, but I was also dying inside that I hadn’t gotten to meet the sweet girl that had been in my belly for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, Logan brought her to me, and I just started crying again. I have never felt that overwhelmed in my entire life. To hold this precious life that you made with the person you love most in the world. There are no words. There will never be word for that kind of love. As the surgeons stitched me up, they told me that my c-section was one of the peaceful and beautiful surgeries they had ever done. God was with me the entire time, and there was no questioning that.
If you are still reading, then kudos to you! haha The reason it took me so long to write this post was because it's extremely personal, and emotional. It was not an easy labor, but let me to you this. I have complete peace about the way it turned out. I have a healthy baby, and I know that even though it wasn't what I expected it to be, it was still what it was supposed to be. This was the way she was meant to enter the world. She put up a fight, and I think I'm okay with that. I hope she lives her entire life that way.
P.S. I would like to thank my unbelievably amazing husband. Im not even going to go into all of the reasons why. You are phenomenal dad and supporting husband. I love you.
P.S.S I would also like to thank my momma. Becoming a mom has been the most wonderful gift and I am so thankful for you during this season of my life. You were my angel during labor, but you have been even more of a blessing after Clarke has been here on earth with us.
P.S.S. 37 hours of labor was a piece of cake....SAID NO ONE EVER!! But, id do it all again for her.