Birth is brutal and beautiful. This is our story.
Several years back at a “Lunch and Learn” work meeting, a doula came and talked to us about hypnobirthing. Though it seemed a little strange, the thought behind it rang true to me. Just like our other organs (the heart, the stomach, etc.), the uterus is meant to fill and empty. Birth is a totally natural process that women’s bodies were made for. It was then that I first considered the possibility of a natural birth.
Fast forward to now... when the hypnobirthing class I had signed us up for fell through, I ended up reading a few books instead. Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way seemed like the best method for me. Though I read it fairly late in my pregnancy, I started practicing some of the breathing and relaxation techniques and exercises. I still wanted to have a natural birth, but wasn’t quite as prepared or gung-ho about it as I thought it would be.
My pregnancy was a dream. I really, truly loved being pregnant. My body seemed to handle it so naturally, so I figured birth would just follow along that same path. I didn’t have a typed up “birth plan” but I wanted to labor at home for a few hours, then make my way to the hospital when things started getting more intense. My doctor was totally on board and said I could labor at the hospital while walking around, or in the shower, and she wouldn’t need to hook me up to an IV. I just wanted to keep things as simple as possible.
However, a few weeks before the due date, I tested positive for Group B Strep. Total. Bummer. It’s a bacteria that isn’t harmful at all for us moms, but can be extremely harmful to baby if passed to them during delivery. It meant that instead of the relaxing labor at home that I wanted, I would have to get to the hospital ASAP to get an antibiotic and IV. When I got this news, I was pretty bummed out, but Andrew assured me that all would be well.
My brother, Dave, was headed out on a mission June 15th, which meant if he wanted to meet the baby, baby would have to come sooner rather than later. Though it was also kind of against my “natural” birth wishes, I planned to get induced Friday, June 3rd at 7 AM if baby hadn’t made an appearance by then. I wanted my family to be able to spend some time with the new baby, that was important to me. We scheduled the induction, and we both felt good about it.
Around my 36 week appointment, I was already dilated to a 1 or a 2 and effaced 50%, so we all thought baby would come before the due date. However, in the back of my mind, I had a feeling he wanted to be a June baby.
At each weekly appointment, I continued to progress, and eventually was at 4 cm at 39 weeks. However, baby didn’t want to drop down. I started re-thinking induction, but my doctor, Kate, reassured me that she thought it was a good idea, especially because I was positive for GBS. It meant we could for sure get the two doses of antibiotics I needed to keep baby safe, and that put me at ease.
For the last few weeks, everyone would ask if I was having contractions. I would say maybe, or I think so, because I really wasn’t sure, and almost everyone told me… “If you were having contractions, you’d know!”
My mom arrived on Tuesday night, and I hoped that baby would come now that Grandma was in town—no luck. My due date came and went, and the rest of the fam arrived that evening. Induction was the next morning, and I was just feeling so awful about it. I had so hoped that my body would naturally go into labor… I didn’t want to force anything. Again, Andrew reassured me, and we tried to get some sleep before heading to the hospital that morning.
I woke up excited. My baby was coming to me, today! Then I saw a missed call and voicemail. It was the hospital. They were so busy and didn’t have space for us and asked us to call back around 10 AM to see if a bed had opened up. Talk about a rollercoaster. Around 10, my OB called and let me know that it didn’t look like anything was freeing up, so we could either keep checking in every few hours and probably end up getting induced that evening or just reschedule for the next morning.
I felt like this was my chance to let my body do its own thing, so we rescheduled for Saturday, June 4th, at 7:15 AM. It was wonderful to spend the day with my family; we had a nice dinner, played by the pool, and tried to get labor going with a few rounds of beanboozled. (I don’t recommend this). By midnight, still no signs of labor. Oh well. I felt at peace with being induced the next morning: I had given my body an extra 24 hours, and still nothing, so it seemed to be happening the way it was supposed to.
The next morning I was so nervous for another call from the hospital pushing it back again, but no call came. We drove to the hospital with my mom and Jenn and got set up in room 6—the “nicer” corner room—and my sweet delivery nurse Kathy started getting everything ready.
Walking into the hospital like that was completely different than I had imagined, but it was nice to have some time to get everything ready and to not feel rushed. They got the first round of antibiotics started around 9 and the Pitocin started around 9:15. Now that I could literally see my contractions on the monitor, I realized I had been having contractions all along, and really had no idea. What’s up with that?
My contractions became regular very quickly, and when my OB made her rounds around 11 AM, she said that there wasn’t much else we could do besides break my water and get things going. The contractions were already so regular, they couldn’t increase the dosage of Pitocin at all. I was dilated to a 5 at this point, and the baby was finally dropping down, so I figured, why not? At this point, the contractions were very doable, but because I was being induced, I was a lot more open to an epidural (though I still didn’t really want it). Since I didn’t naturally go into labor, I figured it didn’t make as much sense to force my way through what is typically a harder and longer labor due to induction.
At noon, Kate came in to break my water. Talk about the weirdest feeling ever. She stuck a crochet-hook like thing up in there to puncture the bag and all the sudden warm water just came gushing out and didn’t stop. It totally felt like I was wetting the bed, but to the extreme. My belly immediately deflated (which was so bizarre!) and the water just kept coming! Even the doc commented that it was a lot of fluid. Almost immediately after, I really started feeling the contractions.
I was sick of laying in a hospital bed, so my doc let me get up and labor standing, which was really nice. Andrew rubbed my back as I worked through each intensifying contraction. My mom and Jenn were still hanging around at that point, but once I was gritting my teeth and holding on to the rails of the hospital bed like my life depended on it, they decided to go get some lunch. Maybe 30 or 45 minutes after they broke my water, I was dilated to a 7.
I seriously started doubting my ability to keep going without pain meds but Andrew kept pushing me through. The contractions were getting so painful and so hard to handle, so I started talking epidural. I was ready to surrender. Right then my doctor came in, and when I told her that I wanted an epidural she told me that I was at a 9 and this was as bad as it was going to get. Andrew agreed, and so I didn’t give in to the seriously tempting epidural. (My nurse also mentioned that I would have to sit still, which probably wasn’t going to happen at that point.)
I love my OB! From that point on, she sat in my room with me and helped Andrew coach me through the last few contractions until it was time to push. Not long after, around 2:30 PM, I had hit that magic number 10, and it was pushing time.
I thought I had made it through the worst of it all, but pushing was by far 10 times harder than experiencing the contractions. I didn’t even push for long, but it was the most intense, painful full-body workout of my life. Once I started pushing, I was numb to the contractions, which was crazy, but with each one, I had that definite urge to push. It took everything I had, and it felt like it would never end. My eyes were closed almost the entire time. (The one time I looked, I just saw lots and lots of blood and decided it was better to keep them closed.) I was so hot and so sweaty and so uncomfortable. Jenn and my mom were all the way down on the opposite side of the hall, and they said they heard me scream a few times. It was that intense.
Andrew, the nurses, and my doc were awesome. They were so encouraging and reassuring and right there with me every step of the way. I had no idea that he was even crowning, but apparently, his little head got pretty stuck for a good 5 or 6 rounds of pushing. I thought he would never make it out, but then my doctor said, “One more push, give it everything you’ve got,” and I did. At 3:09, he was born. 7 pounds, 13 ounces, and 21 inches long. Feeling his little body make its way out was so surreal.
He came out crying, a loud, deep, guttural cry, and they put him right on my chest. It was almost an out of body experience. That little, tiny human was my baby: the baby I had grown inside me for 9 months was now lying right there on my chest. I could barely believe it. It was euphoric, but the pain was still so real. Beautiful and brutal. I hadn’t imagined those first moments with pain, but I think it only intensified the realness and the beauty of the situation. I had done it. I had given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. My body had worked so, so hard, and was so, so exhausted, but I had been given the most wonderful prize. My sweet baby was in my arms and my sweet husband was right there next to us. This new, fresh spirit, straight from heaven was now ours forever. What a perfect moment.
June 4th was a beautiful, sunny day. That night was the new moon. A perfect day to be born. Though it wasn't exactly the way I pictured it happening, it was the perfect day for our little Ray to come into this world. My labor wasn’t long, but it was intense. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I would do it a million times over to be with my sweet baby Ray.
As they stitched me up, my little babe just laid there peacefully on my chest. Eventually, Andrew cut the cord, the nurse helped me feed him, (I had the BEST colostrum she’d ever seen) and then they weighed him and cleaned him and me up a bit more. They gave him back to me, and I sent a very excited Andrew to go get my mom and Jenn. Andrew was just so happy and he immediately stepped into the role of “dad” with ease. I still couldn’t believe that I was a mother and that this perfect little child was mine. It was such a treat to show him off to his Grandma and Aunt.
Seeing my dad and brothers meet the babe the first time was so sweet. The grins on their faces are forever etched in my memory. Eventually, I let everyone else take a chance at holding him. I was just on cloud nine. I think I really was glowing and so in love with my new babe.
Later that evening, they moved me to a recovery room. I am so grateful my family was able to be there to experience this fresh, new babe. As we shared the news with family and friends, I felt such and outpouring of support and love for my new little family. So many people already love this sweet baby! Of course, everyone asked about his name. We still hadn’t made his name official; I wanted to get to know him a little more to make sure that we chose right.
Those first few days were happy and hard and a rollercoaster of emotions. I have never been so entirely sore in all my life. Feeding didn’t work out quite like it was supposed to at first, so our little one got jaundiced and had to go under phototherapy. Hard mom moments! Not being able to bring him home that next day was so difficult for me, but of course we have to keep this little one healthy. When he was finally discharged, I was so, so happy. Bringing him home was so sweet. He is already such a blessing.
I think that the moment it all really hit me was late one night a few nights after we had been at home with little Ray and I was singing to him while Andrew sat next to us on the couch. I started singing “I am a Child of God” and was immediately overwhelmed with the spirit. It was such a powerful testament to me that this little son of mine is truly a child of God and that I am so blessed to get to be his earthly mother. My love for him is unlike anything I have ever felt. It’s almost hard to manage it is so intense at times. Being his mother, feeding him, holding him, has already become such an integral part of my identity. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be his mother. It has intensified my love for his dad as well, and I hope that Ray will always recognize how in love I am with his amazing Father.
I still can’t believe this sweet baby is mine, but I’m so grateful he is here, safe and sound. Welcome to the world Ray Ashby Barrett. We couldn’t be happier that you made it here.