Everly’s Birth Story || Hypnobabies + Induction at 42 weeks
Everly’s birth story is equally beautiful and sad for me. It didn’t happen how I wanted, and I cried many many tears over it, but the ending is still the sweet ending that I anticipated. Now as I’m writing it all out, a month later to the day she was born, I can see the juxtaposition of her birth to our journey with infertility. It’s not what we wanted, and we cried many tears to wait for so many years, but the ending of the journey is exactly as it should be. Everly was born on Tuesday, February 7, but there’s a lot to tell before all that, and I don’t want to forget one moment, so here we go!
My entire pregnancy went perfectly. Every test for bad things was negative and every test for good things was positive. I felt great, never had morning sickness, was not anxious for it to be over like every other mother I’ve ever known, and loved the way I looked and felt while pregnant. Even the moments that would have maybe seemed harder to me just made me smile and feel so grateful that I was able to experience it after waiting for such a long time and truly not believing it would ever happen for me. We planned to use Baby and Company birthing center in Nashville, which I was so excited about. It’s a beautiful natural birthing facility that looks more like a vacation room than anything else, with huge tubs and a big comfortable bed and lots of other things I was so excited to use. I planned for a completely natural birth, without drugs, checks or interventions, and I really had my heart set on a water birth. I completed a six week course with Jason called Hypnobabies, and studied and learned how to use hypnosis to create mental anesthesia to have a comfortable birthing time, and each time I had tested it for discomfort in other areas of my pregnancy, it worked perfectly and I was very excited to use it! We decided to hire a hypno-doula as well, so she could be a support to Jason in case he didn’t know what to do, and so that she could use the hypnotic peace and comfort cues that we had learned to help me along the journey. I did a TON of research about natural birthing, especially going by the methods and practices of the U.K., as they are more progressive in this area than the U.S. is, and they also have a lower infant and mother mortality rate while giving birth. I loved learning about delayed cord clamping, the “golden hour,” the cascade of interventions, how Oxytocin works vs. Pitocin, the history of birthing in the world and in America, and how my body was made to be able to give birth. I went into it completely confident that I could do it and was not afraid of pain. I was excited!
Birthing centers only take low risk moms, so as we neared 42 weeks (after which is considered post-term and therefore high risk as chance of stillborn babies increases) I tried everything to get labor going. I really didn’t imagine it would happen on my due date because I’d learned that 41 weeks and 3 days is actually typical of first time moms who refuse interventions, but I didn’t imagine that I’d go all the way to 42 weeks though and risk out of my beautiful birthing center. I refused to allow that scenario to take hold in my mind and tried hard to will it away. I bounced on a birthing ball and walked constantly, ate pineapple, dates, eggplant parmesan and other herbs and spicy food, did acupuncture, castor oil, dancing, pumping, membrane stripping (which originally I was against but decided to try to attempt to avoid the hospital), acupressure, chiropractic care, red raspberry leaf tea, “Spinning Babies” techniques, EVERYTHING (yes, that too)! The only thing I didn’t try was Evening Primrose Oil because it’s meant to help you efface, and before going into the hospital I was already 85% effaced, but only 1.5 centimeters dilated at 42 weeks. Finally on Sunday night I agreed to go into the hospital for an induction, understanding that the risks to my baby were just too high at that point to delay it further on account of only my desires. I was heartbroken and cried a lot, putting off packing additional hospital items until Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t just the place and the midwives and the familiarity I was losing, it was so much more than that, but this blog will be long enough without even getting into it. In short, I wanted a very specific experience. We had candles, a diffuser for Lavender oil, and a speaker to play my soothing Hypnobabies tracks. I planned to have a water birth and wanted a dark room, very private, with only the midwife and doula, my photographer/friend JC and Jason. I wanted it quiet, dark, and private– almost a romantic bonding time for Jason and I, and ultimately our baby. I knew in a hospital every one of those things was going out the window, so yes, I mourned. It was a lot to give up, no matter how sweet I knew the end would be with my precious baby.
Sunday night we arrived at 8pm, with our doula Kayla meeting us there. It was extremely comforting to have someone there who knew what you’d wanted and were losing, who knew the hospital and birth process, and who was there exclusively for you and on your side. Her presence was invaluable right from the start. When we arrived and I checked in, we discovered that somehow I wasn’t listed as from the birthing center, and so at first we were assigned to the wrong area (when you come from the birthing center you are transferred to the midwife group, never a doctor unless it’s an emergency). Because they didn’t have that information, it also meant all the rooms with a tub were taken. I cried again when I learned that, trying to hide the fact from my very sweet nurse and midwife who could tell that I was very sad to be there. They were wonderful though and tried to make me as comfortable as I could be, allowing me to turn off lights and put out our electric tealights, diffuse some lavender and although they seem surprised when I mentioned it, allowed me to wear my own outfit that I had brought for birthing. I was not sick and didn’t want to feel like a patient, so wearing my own clothes was important to me. The nurse was extremely interested in Hypnobabies after reading my birthing plan, which included asking them to only refer to my comfort level instead of pain, and asking for quiet and several other slightly unusual requests, and I liked that she seemed so open to it. That night we discussed using Cytotec to stimulate my cervix to open (it’s artificial prostaglandins, like what is in semen–which is why everyone agrees that sex helps you go into labor normally!) and if needed, use a foley bulb after that. After two four-hour rounds of it, trying to sleep despite having my blood pressure checked every half hour and having a hep-lock stuck in my arm, I was only about 3cm dilated, which was disappointing, but was also enough progress to make the foley bulb unnecessary. It was morning by then and a new shift had started at 7am, so I now had a new midwife and nurse.
My 2nd shift midwife made me laugh when I met her. I was recurling my eyelashes (I’d chosen to wear Lipsense and Shadowsense, plus waterproof mascara so I would look good in the pictures during my birthing time– Lipsense and Shadowsense does not come off AT ALL and I wore it 21 hours before deciding to reapply. Yes, I sell this stuff now because it’s just that good!) when she came in, and she exclaimed “Oh! She’s putting on makeup!” We all laughed and she said she fully approved after I told her I was one of those people who felt better when they looked put together. At that point we had been there already 10+ hours and very little progress was happening, so Peg, my midwife, suggested we start Pitocin. When I let her know how anti-Pitocin I was (there are so many wonderful things your baby and you don’t get to experience when you use Pitocin) and that I wanted to wait as long as I could, she agreed that we should try some other methods, like pumping and such, to see if we could get things started. That day we spent walking around the hospital wing, trying pumping, bouncing on the birthing ball and various exercises and positions. The bright spot in that day was when fresh, warm baked cookies and cold milk was delivered to our room by my mother-in-law! I had no idea you could deliver to a hospital room and it was such a wonderful surprise! Despite all of our efforts though, my body reacted oddly, increasing my contractions when I was still in bed and pumping (they got to about every minute or so), but when I moved around or danced to some rowdy music, they would slow down, which is the opposite of how things normally progress. I used my Hypnobabies techniques the entire time and it was completely painless, sometimes I wasn’t even aware of when I was having contractions, but by late afternoon I was still only 3.5 centimeters, so we finally agreed it was time to start Pitocin.
Around 6pm or so the Pitocin drip was started at the lowest level, my blood pressure was checked every 15 minutes, the baby monitors on my belly were being used continuously, and I had an IV of fluids as well. I hated being hooked up like that, but tried to make the best of it as I settled in to rest and listened to my Hypnobabies tracks. Every half hour they increased the Pitocin drip, and I stayed very comfortable using hypnosis, although I could now feel the intensity of the waves were starting to pick up. Pretty much right after that started, at 7pm, we got our 3rd shift midwife and nurse. That midwife’s bedside manner left a lot to be desired, and I really didn’t like her a bit. It’s funny because I never voiced that, but about a week later talking to Jason and Kayla, they had thought the same things! She was just rude about our preferences and patronizing and I had to be forceful to get things the way I wanted, which really stunk because usually you don’t deal with that with midwives and it was something I’d wanted to avoid. Fortunately she wasn’t there for the actual birthing, but we had to deal with her quite a bit for the next 12 hours.
At 1:15am on Tuesday morning, things got real. I was half-sleeping (I fall asleep very quickly, but with the waves coming more frequently and having my blood pressure checked so often it was a challenge to get rest) when I got a very intense wave that woke me up. It was the first time I would have described any part of my birthing time as painful. Jason was sleeping on the couch and Kayla was in a recliner in another room so I texted her “Whew. Definitely getting harder.” to which she replied “On my way.” I was in awe of how that first hard wave just knocked me out! I was instantly incredibly tired, and it was the weirdest thing! Each one after just made me more and more tired, and I don’t think I opened my eyes hardly at all the entire time, simply because I couldn’t! At that point the nurse came in and I told her too that it felt different so everyone got together to talk options. After a cervical check indicated I was at 5cm we agreed to break my waters, which was another hard decision for me. I knew it put a deadline on me, but it would also likely get things going together with the Pitocin, so we agreed. It was WEIRD! It didn’t hurt any more than a cervical check does, but the feeling of water going through you like that is so strange! It felt like I swallowed a waterfall and it was coming back out. So bizarre. Anyway, at this point we called our photographer!
JC (Jessica McIntosh) is a longtime friend of mine, and in fact is the first new friend I made when I moved to Nashville to be with Jason. We connected quickly, both of us being Christ-followers and photographers and even getting married on the same day! She has an infectious and loud laugh and lights up a room, plus has a crazy talent with her camera, so she was definitely the person I wanted to document our journey. She did our maternity photos too, as well as our newborn lifestyle session we did after Everly was born. She arrived maybe an hour later, I really don’t know for sure, and I was in the middle of the waves at that point. They were strong and fast, and because my Pitocin level was so high, I didn’t have time to use my hypnosis cues in between waves to keep myself comfortable. The few times I did manage to, everyone could tell the waves were easier. Jason even said aloud each time “Good, that one was easier” or “You did so good during that one.” Even without me telling him I was using my hypno-anesthesia, he could tell by my reaction that it worked for me. My only regret is that I was on such a high dose of Pitocin (I was at 19ml, while and the maximum they offer, I was told, is 20ml) that the waves came too quickly for me to do it consistently. Without the hypno-anesthesia it was rough, and it went on for about four and a half hours before my cervical check (which was brutal being on my back and having waves while getting checked) finally declared me at 9cm. That was a turning point for me. I still was going through the same sensations, but instead of concentrating on getting through them, I was concentrating on trying hard not to push yet. My midwife basically just told me to wait until I felt I couldn’t not push anymore. I was a bad judge of time, but I would guess I maybe managed to hold back for a half hour, and then it was on.
Pushing is such a different phase. It felt the same as waves/contractions (pretty awful unless I was able to use the hypno-anesthesia in time), but I now had the goal to push, and since my body wanted to anyway, you kind of just go along with it. It went on for two and a half hours before Everly came, but I think it would have been less if I’d understood that you use the exact same muscles as when having a bowel movement. I kept telling them “Oh no I have to poop!” and they just kept saying, “No, no you’re good, that’s the baby, just keep going!” I thought it was strange I couldn’t tell the difference, but it never clicked that I should really just pretend to be going #2 and have at it. I think when I finally figured that out in the last 20-30 minutes (someone actually said “Just push like you’re pooping!”– I love blunt people) it felt more effective and really got going. I really wish someone had said that sooner because I was in too much of a haze to connect the dots myself! Sorry for that detailed description, but if it helps another first time mom push correctly in the future, it’s worth saying! Anyway I tried several positions, and really wanted to use gravity by doing standing, squatting or some variation, but it was just too much for me. I was exhausted and moving made everything worse, so I finally ended up in what I knew was one of the least effective positions, but the only one I could handle– laying on my side.
The absolute best part of the birthing process comes at the end. Big surprise right? But really; I was pushing harder and harder, hearing people’s excitement and knowing the end was in sight, but not really knowing how much longer it would be. Unbelievably, no one actually told me when the head was coming out and then when it was out! I just kept pushing and pushing and it was unbelievably exhausting. I wish they had told me what was going on because I think those final minutes would have been more bearable knowing that my baby was almost out! The best part though was when my new midwife (the 4th shift had started at 7am, but fortunately my 4th shift midwife was my 2nd shift midwife, so we already knew her and she knew what we’d been through and what our preferences were. I was very happy snotty midwife #3 was gone.) Peg said very forcefully “Sarah-Marie, look at me!” I didn’t know at this point how close I was to the end, so in a daze I looked up, laid back down, and then in an instant realized I had just seen my baby! I looked up again immediately and watched her pull Everly all the way out. It was the most incredible, intense, miraculous thing I have ever seen, but my first thought was “Wow, that’s a big baby!” I couldn’t fathom that something that big had just come out of me. I was so amazed and emotional that I completely forgot to even wonder about the gender; all I knew is that I wanted that baby in my arms STAT! Peg remembered though, and deliberately not looking, she held up Everly to Jason and said “What do we have daddy?!” Jason very comically and with a very surprised voice, said “We have a GIRL!” I didn’t realize until that moment how very much I wanted it to be a girl. I was SO happy.
From then on, it was a whirlwind. I was in a funny mood because my hormones were all over the place. I was so incredibly happy, which was a big change of pace from being sad the last few days with thinking about having to go to the hospital and then actually being there. I was more exhausted than I’d ever been in my life, with incredibly heavy eyes, but all I wanted to do was stare at this perfect face in front of me. The mix of joy, exhaustion, relief, wonder, excitement and love was overwhelming, and I’m not the only one who cried. Jason and Kayla cried too (Kayla told me later that this was the very first time she’d ever teared up at a birth!), and everyone was chattering and busy. There were a ton of people in the room: nurses from our shift and the last shift who wanted to watch the finale, our midwife, a doctor to stitch me up, the NICU team in case they were needed, the people setting up the surgical equipment for me, the nurses for my baby, and more. It felt like the room was just full of people. I’d wanted peace and quiet and just a moment with Jason, but that wasn’t going to happen here, and luckily I was too happy with Everly to think much on it. Once she came out and they laid her on me, all I could think about was wanting to do skin to skin immediately, so they aided me with that while we waited for the placenta to come. I couldn’t bring her too close to me because the cord was very short and we wanted to wait until it stopped pulsing before we cut it.
From there I delivered the placenta, got all stitched up (funny story: because I was in a hazy crazy mood, when the doctor was stitching me up and had to repeatedly ask me to keep my legs open as I was too distracted by Everly to remember, I quipped “Sorry doc, my parents always told me to keep my legs closed for guys so it’s just habit!” The ensuing uncomfortable laughter was priceless), and started breastfeeding as soon as I could. I’ve read a million articles on that first golden hour and the benefits of skin-to-skin and baby-led breastfeeding so I was ready to go! After the first hour I let the nurses weigh and measure Everly and they did the Vitamin K shot and put our matching bracelets on us. She was only gone from me for a minute or two, but I was anxious to get her back! Within three hours it was time to move into our permanent room for the day, and on the way I mentioned being hungry and our poor nurse looked mortified that they’d forgotten to get me breakfast. They brought me a chicken salad lunch, and within an hour I ordered another hot lunch too. Jason went down to the cafeteria and got two burger meals and he completely deserved it. We were famished!
The rest of the day and next morning we were inundated with a billion hospital staff checking on her or me every ten minutes it seemed, and it was the opposite of restful, but again, we were too enthralled with Everly to care too much that first day. By that night though we were determined to leave asap the next day. We called family, took pictures every minute or so, tried to sleep, and did all the obligatory tests and things. We arrived home around 4:30pm on Wednesday and stayed in to ourselves for a few days, allowing our first visitors that weekend. It was very peaceful to have the time to ourselves, and since we were learning her, and getting the hang of sleeping arrangements and breastfeeding, I highly recommend the little break!
So there’s that. I never claimed to have given up my long-winded days, and I want to remember all the moments, so there it is. There’s actually even more detail in the photos below too! It was a difficult and hard thing to do, and yeah, I’m still bummed over how it all happened, and that’s okay. It doesn’t reflect on how I feel about Everly, and it’s okay for me to mourn the loss of something that was very important to me, so I don’t apologize, and I won’t be made to feel bad about it. It’s easy for people to say “Well, at least you got a healthy baby” and of course that’s true, but it doesn’t diminish my feelings. Birthing isn’t just about the baby, it’s about the mom and dad too, and it matters how it goes. I know I’m going a little soap-boxy here, but women suffer from postpartum depression all the time, and sometimes it’s because they don’t feel heard or feel like their feelings don’t matter because the baby is fine. Don’t trivialize it, because I sure don’t. I would change nearly everything about my birth if I could. The best things I got out of my experience though was an even deeper love and appreciation for Jason, who was indescribably wonderful, my rock throughout the entire thing, and the most incredible little girl I have ever met. Those things mean a lot to me, so I guess I did get my romantic moment at least a little, and I am thankful for that! Next time though, I want a freaking home birth…
Everly Jane’s Photo Birth Story by Jessica McIntosh Photography
Our room at Vanderbilt. Melrose is the name of the Midwives group that you automatically get transferred to when you have to leave the birthing center, Baby & Co, for high risk reasons.
Warning! The next set of images is the baby crowning. While you don’t see anything graphic from me (the angle of the photo makes it so you can’t), it is a pretty intense set of images with baby’s head coming out.
Warning: Placenta photo ahead.