I've been anxiously waiting to be able to tell this story since Greyson Michael was born. I finally got our birth photos from our amazing photography of Aimee Sugar Photography. If you're not interested in real, raw birth photos or the story, skip this post. The photos don't start until midway through the labor and I tried to keep them as close to the timing of the story as possible. I'm not holding back the details because I want to remember this story for the beautiful and imperfectly perfect event that it was.
When you're pregnant with your first baby, everyone tells you to expect to be late. Some people even say to add 10 days to your due date for a more true estimate of when baby will come. Despite people telling me all of this, I really felt like Greyson would be early. There was just something telling me he would be, but I tried not to get too anxious for him to be early, in case he really was late. Before my first ultrasound, my original due date was October 19th. As soon as that date passed, I knew anything was fair game.
On Tuesday (10/21), I went shopping with a friend from our Bradley Method birth class. We both needed some nursing bras and we hoped that walking around the mall might help me go into labor, though we weren't really expecting anything to happen. Wednesday morning, I started having a dream about my water breaking. I rolled over and realized that something was definitely leaking. I stood up to go figure out if my water had broken and a huge gush came out (for the record, there is no "TMI" point in this birth story, I want to remember it all). Our birth instructor had given us an adult diaper for if our water broke so I fumbled around to find that and head to the bathroom. I thought it was totally silly that I'd need a diaper of all things, but let me tell you, it was needed.
I came back to the room and woke Steven up around 2 am. My exact words were "I am 99.9% sure my water broke." He shot up out of bed like he was ready to go to the birth center right at that moment. I reminded him we had plenty of time. We quickly went over our list of things we needed to do, including washing the crib sheets, and decided to try to sleep as long as we could since my contractions hadn't started. Around 3 am the contractions started. They felt just like strong period cramps and a few times I remember thinking about how I was nervous that the contractions would keep getting stronger.
We slept, and by we I mean Steven, until 6 am when I decided that I needed to get up and see if we could get the contractions to continue progressing. At this point, the contractions were lasting around 30 seconds and were every 5 minutes. Our birth center had told us to call when the contractions were 4 minutes apart lasting 1 minute and consistent for an hour but since my water had broken, we let them know and were told to come in around 10 to verify that it was my water for sure, but truthfully I didn't need confirmation. Nothing else in my body would be leaking?that?much.
We walked around the neighborhood, drove to get breakfast burritos and finished packing our bags. By this point, the contractions were strong, but I was still fairly comfortable. We headed to the birth center around 10, not knowing if we'd be far enough along to stay or if we'd be coming back home to continue laboring. We brought all of our things just in case. We were greeted by our midwife and her assistants for the day. I had only met the midwife once before, she has her own practice but jumps in and helps during the busy birth seasons. She was one of my favorites though and I remember a feeling of relief when I found out she was on call for the day.
Wendi confirmed that my water had broken and we decided that if she could easily find the cervix that she would check how far dilated I was. It's the birth center's policy, and a part of my birth plan, to not have my cervix checked later in the pregnancy or even during labor until it was necessary to make sure I could start pushing. This was especially important because my water had broken and I was at an increased risk for infection.?Wendi easily reached my cervix and measured it was 80% effaced and in between 4-5 cm. Wendi was totally surprised by this because she would have guessed by my reaction to the contractions that I was around 2 cm dilated.
Not knowing how long the labor could take, Wendi told us to go home and rest as much as we could and to keep her updated. After we got in the car, Steven looked at me and asked if we could get the car washed. It made ma laugh, but it had been on our list of things to do before Greyson was born and since I was still only having contractions every 5-6 minutes, I figured I could manage. Then we went home and ate a big lunch.?Every time a contraction started, the only position I could be in to relax through the contraction was a standing position. Even leaning forward or backward on Steven caused a lot of pain and was simply not comfortable. This made for an exhausting labor being on my feet pretty much all day.
We hung out on the couch and tried to relax but I realized that by doing that, I let my body get too comfortable and the contractions started growing further apart. So every 4-5 minutes I started standing up and walking around the couch to basically force a contraction. I didn't want my labor to speed down, especially because at this point it had already been about 12 hours. At one point, I needed something to keep me on my feet and keep my mind occupied so Steven and I decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies.
Through every contraction, Steven would start the timer and get into his position standing behind me. Once the contraction started, I'd focus on deep breathing, closing my eyes and rocking back and forth with Steven's help. Throughout the day I was able to deal with the contractions on my own if I had to but as the day progressed, I physically needed Steven's help to get through them. He watched my breathing to make sure I didn't forget to breathe and continued reminding me through every contraction that I was doing great.
By dinner time, my contractions were strong, but not strong enough that I couldn't relax through them or focus on other things during the contractions. We were waiting for the point where I couldn't talk in between the contractions or during them. Truthfully, that time didn't come. I walked through contractions while on a walk around the neighborhood, had contractions through phone calls with our birth instructor, etc. Finally I started to get impatient (18 hours of labor will do that). I asked my midwife and birth instructor what I could do to speed things along. Both suggested taking castor oil which I had decided was not something I was willing to take unless I had to. Instead I took a sitz bath and we tried to go to sleep around 8pm. We knew baby was going to be here within the next 12 hours or so or else we'd be in a really bad position in reference to the risk of infection.
Around 10:30 I woke Steven up and told him we needed to go in. All day, laying down on my side had produced really painful contractions and going to sleep was no different. I had started to get nervous about how quickly the last stage of labor might progress and didn't want to be at home waiting any longer. Little did I know that our choice to go into the birth center was the last of things within our "plan."
After we got to the birth center, the team checked on both me and baby Grey. My blood pressure?was a little concerning but after another 30 minutes or so went back to normal. As they started monitoring Greyson, they started to get concerned with his reaction to my contractions. Each time I would have a contraction, Greyson's heart rate would dip but then come back up after the contraction ended. They wanted to continue monitoring his heart through the contractions.
At one point, the contractions were starting to get bad enough that I remember wanting some relief. We had chosen a completely natural, low intervention birth plan so pain medicine wasn't an option or a thought in my head. The?plan had been for me to deliver in water at the birth center. Once the pain was starting to be intense for me, I just wanted to be in the water but knew getting in the tub too early could slow down my labor. So we opted for a shower instead which gave me the relief I was looking for but also simultaneously made my contractions a bit stronger.
At this point, they started to be more concerned about Greyson's heart rate. Each contraction was really taking it's toll on Greyson. They had me try different positions during contractions to see if anything helped but unfortunately every position still put stress on Grey. This is when Wendi realized there had to be something going on with Grey's cord. She didn't know whether it was just being pinched or if it was actually around Grey's neck, but either way it was concerning. Finally at one point she came to talk to me and told me she no longer felt comfortable with us being at the birth center and we needed to transfer to the hospital.
At the time, I would've chosen the pain of a thousand contractions over hearing those words. Being transferred to the hospital had been one of my greatest fears throughout the pregnancy. It was a fear that I honestly didn't even process because I just kept telling myself it wouldn't happen. Steven quickly stepped in and talked me down, reminding me that the Lord was in control and wasn't going to let anything happen to our baby boy.
Within ten minutes our peaceful and serene birth room with only two other people besides Steven and I filled with six male EMT's and more than enough medical equipment. Being transferred to the hospital itself wasn't a great thing to hear but then hearing that I'd be going alone in the ambulance was another wave of emotion. I just kept my eyes closed and kept reminding myself that it was in God's strength that I was going to do this, not my own.
Once we got to the hospital, I worried Steven wouldn't be able to get to me quickly. But luckily within minutes of me being there, he and our birth photographer rushed in followed by our midwife team. The?best?part about being transferred was that Wendi and her assistant Fatima were able to come with us. I completely trusted Steven to advocate for me but knowing he had Wendi to ask questions or get confirmation about things was the biggest sigh of relief for me. Because I had gone to a few appointments at a local OB's office before choosing the birth center, I was a patient of record and was able to have a doctor from that practice as the delivery doctor. Ironically (because of our chosen birth class and method), her name was Dr. Bradley.
The doctor got everything prepped and checked my cervix again (without asking this time) to see where I was at. Before leaving the birth center Wendi had also checked and I was right at a 9. By the time we got to the hospital (around 1?AM), I had just a lip left of the cervix before being completely dilated and ready to push. Pretty quickly, I started feeling little urges to push during contractions. It was getting to the point where?not?pushing was more difficult. I followed my body's cues and pushed a little when I could feel my body pushing as a reflex. Greyson's heart rate continued to fluctuate during contractions but at this point the only option was to continue moving forward.
One of the more difficult parts of the entire process was the fact that I couldn't move around a lot or change positions, especially once I got to the point of pushing. Moving around more could've put extra stress on Grey so I was stuck in the bed, the position I had wanted to avoid the most.
From the time we left the birth center to Greyson's birth, my eyes were closed almost the entire time. I had such little energy left and having my eyes open simply wasn't worth the energy. Steven stayed right by my side, helping with a cool wash cloth on my chest or forehead, rubbing my hand or arm and continuing to tell me that I was strong and that the Lord was with me. Steven has always been a great encourager for me but I've never been encouraged the way he helped me through the labor.
At a certain point, pushing became necessary. Everyone talks about the pressure you feel when you're ready to push and it was certainly unmistakable. On my right side I had the delivery nurse, at my feet was the doctor, and on my left I had Fatima (the assistant midwife), then Steven at my head and Wendi behind him jumping in whenever necessary. Through each contraction I had a roomful of people cheering me on (including our amazing photographer) and encouraging me, which was so helpful at that point. I don't know how long I pushed before Greyson's head started to really come down the birth canal. I was asked if I wanted a mirror to watch, which truthfully I would have wanted to, but I knew I couldn't keep my eyes open while pushing through a contraction. At this point I thought we were home free and just needed time for my body to work but then little Grey threw us for another loop.
Sometimes when babies are in distress during delivery, they will have a bowel movement of meconium, which is their first stool, before they're born. After a contraction and pushes, the doctor called in the nursery team and let us know that had happened. Because of the meconium, Greyson would have to be taken to the nursery after birth and wouldn't be able to do skin to skin with me. At first, they weren't going to let me see or hold him but by the grace of God they changed their minds. At this point things got intense and my midwife team gave me a pep talk to let me know that if Greyson didn't get out soon, things could drastically change. They didn't need to give me specifics, I could tell from their tone of voice that whatever they thought the doctor might try to do was not something I'd want.
The rest of the pushing is all a bit fuzzy to me. All I know is at one point I reached down to feel his head crowning, there were multiple contractions that were so intense I had to push six times for 10 seconds instead of just 3 times. I couldn't stop pushing even though my energy was gone. Somehow, I pushed through my lack of energy and sleep deprivation and Greyson was born at 5:55 am. After 27 hours of labor, my sweet boy came into this world.
It wasn't pretty (he was covered in the meconium), it certainly wasn't perfect, and it wasn't at all what we had planned. Nonetheless, it was raw and real and perfect in its own right. As soon as he was born, the doctor cut his cord which had in fact been around his neck. He was moved to the nursery staff's table to inspect him and weigh him, where Steven followed. Suddenly I was by myself (Wendi was there, but having Steven leave was hard for me) and the doctor was continuing to do things when I thought I was done.
From across the room I heard that he looked great and was 7lbs 3 ounces and 21 inches long. Another mother's intuition I guess, but I knew he would be right around 7lbs. Finally they brought my boy over to me and I was able to hold him. At this point, I didn't feel a lot of emotion other than exhaustion. Steven and I just stared at him in awe and though we didn't say anything, I know both of us were just thanking Jesus over and over again in our heads that Greyson was okay.
There were so many things that were outside of our original birth plan. Thankfully nothing was done that was completely against our wishes, but I can definitely say I didn't imagine the birth going the way that it did. It was never an issue of control for me, but I had truly feared the interventions that might happen if we had been at a hospital. Thankfully the hospital we were at was a very natural friendly hospital and I can honestly say I was very pleasantly surprised with the entire experience.
I can't say that I wouldn't change a few things if I could, mainly the cord issue for Greyson. It breaks my heart knowing how tough of a labor it was for him and of course as a mama, I wish it had been easier on him and more difficult on my body. All that matters now is that he is a sweet, healthy little boy and the Lord's faithfulness was so evident throughout the 27 hour labor and delivery and our four day stay at the hospital.
Mamas-to-be, remember this. Writing or imaging a birth plan isn't a bad thing. But remember, things will always be different and no one's birth plan goes exactly according to plan. Remember that ultimately God is in control of your birth, your body was designed to do amazing things, and at the end of the day a healthy baby and healthy mama are the only two things that matter.