Beyond our wildest dreams
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I probably don’t need to write anything after posting this intimate snapshot, but I can’t help myself! There's so much to share and document about this life-enhancing moment, and everything that lead up to it.
Best. Day(s). Ever.
So, I’m nearly 42 weeks pregnant. It's induction day. We're hanging out in our labor and delivery room at the hospital -- if you read Perfect Curveball (https://bit.ly/2rLkkKpl) then you get the ambiance -- think peaceful flower child meets tropical island goddess.
Beautiful. Tranquil. Freeing.
Labor Induction was far from our original "plan"...But even though we were going with "Plan B", it was important to us to stick as close to our birth preferences as possible. One of those preferences were to stir clear of Pitocin, a drug commonly used in hospitals in the U.S. during labor and delivery, especially, during labor induction. And actually, it was the route our doctors and midwives initially suggested.
Thankfully, we'd researched and talked with other birthing experts, including our hypnobirthing instructor, to learn about alternative ways to induce.
We ultimately used a pill called Cytotec to get the party started and a balloon catheter to keep the party going.
Around 2:30 p.m., our midwife comes in to give me the first dose of Cytotec.
After that, Julian and I talked and laughed for hours. We watched funny movies, ordered room service, and just spent time together. We were In labor, in love, and having a blast!
What a dream.
It seriously felt more like a staycation than a hospital visit. Not sure if it was the LED candles all over the room, the lavender mist spritzing into the air, or our room with a view (of the hospital parking lot ha) but you couldn't tell us we weren't on a romantic weekend getaway.
But honeeeeey, if we only knew what was in store for the next 20 hours, we would have been taking ALL THE NAPS while contractions (surges) were still subtle.
As I type this, I feel the butterflies in my stomach again. There was just something so sweet and innocent about those early laboring hours with Julian. No fear. No nerves. No tension. No sleep (oops ha). Def should have been sleeping but hey, it all felt organic.
What a perfect start to Savannah's journey to us.
As the sun set, our midwife came in to check my cervix. We were 6 hours in, and I was barely dilated 2 cm. Barely!
So we talked things over with her and decided to do another dose of the pill, and then insert a balloon catheter.
A balloon catheter (pictured below) is a narrow tube with small balloons on the end, once the catheter is inserted into the cervix, the balloons are inflated, which helps open the cervix. (emedicinehealth.com) Once the cervix is dilated beyond 3cm, the catheter falls out.
As our midwife gathered everything for the insertion, she warned me that the procedure tends to be uncomfortable and painful. On that note, Julian turned up our meditation music and I slipped my ear buds in so I could listen to hypnobirthing affirmations:
"I put all my fears aside, as I prepare for the birth of my baby..."
"I'm relaxed and happy that my baby is finally coming to me..."
Our midwife and nurses started going to work down there and I slipped in to my happy place as hubs massaged my shoulders.
I was so zoned out, I didn't even realize they were done!
But it didn't take long for things to pick up.
Surges quickly got more intense, and together, we handled them with ease. Julian massaged my lower back through each surge, as I listened to my affirmations:
"I am focused on a smooth, easy birth...."
"I trust my body to know what to do..."
Mind you, we'd been up since 6 a.m. and we were now somewhere deep between sunset and sunrise. We were getting tired, but were still so excited. We were calm, we were a team, and we were hypnobirthing like nobody's business!
This was about the time our grand fieldtrips to the bathroom began. The bathroom wasn't far, it was right there in our private room, but as the exhaustion crept in, and the surges kicked up, those treks to the bathroom got REAL, especially because the catheter was still inside me.
Of course, a lady doesn't normally share toilet tales ;-) but that's the thing about birth, its raw, it’s real, it’s messy, it’s in your face, it’s beautiful. And in this case, I feel like the bathroom trips paint a vivid picture of some of the honest and hilarious moments hubs and I shared as we slipped into delirium.
Bathroom Trek #1
We shuffle to the bathroom, baby's heartrate monitor in tow, and when we get there, the toilet seat is up. “Hmmmm...Okay, no big deal,” I say to myself , as I gently ask hubby to put the seat down. I take care of business, and Julian helps me sashay back to the bed.
We get right back in to our groove and continue to labor. More tired, but still totally in sync. At this point, surges are getting stronger and closer together, much closer.
Bathroom Journey #2
This time, I'm certain I've got to go "No. 2", so there's obvs a bit more urgency involved, but you wouldn't know it by looking at us. We felt like we were really doing something, but in reality, we were moving S L O W. We were just plumb tired!
Julian's holding my hand, I'm holding the baby heartrate monitor, and we are on our way. We finally get there, and THE TOILET SEAT IS UP (again). I'm thinking, okay, what the hell? And again, in a weak whisper, ask hubs to lower the seat for me. He helps me sit down, and no sooner than my bum hits the seat, does a huge surge come over me!
And it is INTENSE.
I squeeze hubs' arm, and he massages my shoulders as he talks me through the surge.
I finish going to the bathroom, wipe (which is really hard to do with a catheter strapped to your inner thighs by the way) and hubs helps me up so we can start our journey back to the bed.
As soon as I get on my feet, another surge comes crashing over me, knocking my butt right back down to the toilet.
Julian is standing firm, speaking strength over me as I dig my nails into his arm:
"Don't panic. Your body is made for this...breathe through it..."
I am so very grateful for him. But in that moment, I remember thinking, "How the hell is he going to tell me not to panic?! And how the hell does he know what my body was made for!? Oh, I'm sorry, has he given birth before?!"
But those were just what I call, contraction thoughts. 😊 He was doing and saying everything I needed.
That round of surges passed, and hubby got me back to the bed.
By the time we get there, another surge hits!
At this point, I’m having double-peaking contractions. I’d be mid surge and another one would start! We’re talking very little to no breaks in between contractions! And here I am just begging Julian to tell me why the surges are happening and how we got in this predicament in the first place. Ha! There's nothing like delirious mid-labor and birth conversations. As Grandma Bea would say, they are “better than television!”
We continued laboring in different positions. Kneeling, squatting...both provided a lot of relief, but there was just one problem...I was literally collapsing out of exhaustion!
Oh, and in between surges, hubs was legit falling asleep standing up! Bless his heart. The Sandman hi-jacked the struggle bus and we were on board.
Also, at this point, the catheter was still very much intact, which means we were not even 4cm dilated. Eeek.
Bathroom Excursion #3
Low and behold, I've got to go again! Blame it on the catheter putting added pressure on my inner lady parts, or the lovely bout of diarrhea that often strikes during early labor. (One of those special labor and birthing secrets that no one talks about and hits you like a ton of bricks.) Anyway, here we are again, making our way to the bathroom. This time, the surges are so extreme and close together, I'm doubled over for most of the walk.
Glory! We finally make it to the bathroom, and would you believe it? THE TOILET SEAT IS UP?!
In all of my delirium, I breakdown and wail, "I don't understand why this is happening to meeeeee! Why is the toilet seat up everytiiiiime?!" aaaahahahahaha (Not funny in the moment, but hilarious now...Well, yeah…probably also hilarious in the moment)
I was just too exhausted to put two and two together.
What I failed to realize was that Julian had been running to the bathroom in between some of the surges, often only having a few seconds to rush back to me when a surge would hit and I'd call to him, "Babe! Where are you? Need...Massage...Please...Hurry!" He'd abort his mission and come running to my aide, leaving the toilet seat up. Bless!
Back to Bathroom Excursion #3
This time, while on the throne, hubs and I had a come to Jesus talk. I remember looking up at him, and barely able to make a sentence I muttered, "Too tired, I don't think I'm going to make it.."
And then, another surge hit!
Post surge, I continued, "Catheter is still in, so that means we are not even 4 cm dilated, we still have a long way to go." Then, in true Jasmine fashion I got a little dramatic, "This shit could last 3 more days!"
While, that may have been a stretch, it was also very possible! Thankfully, the Lord heard my cry, and so did Julian.
We. Were. Spent.
Looking back, I thank God for the clarity and discernment He graced us with in between those vigorous surges. I’m grateful we were able to pull it together and be coherent long enough to make the best decision for our babe.
We were about to venture greatly from our birth plan and preferences but it felt good to be able to huddle up and make a game time decision that would be best for our team.
Back to Bathroom Excursion #3
With me still laboring on the toilet, Julian takes my hand and says, "Babe, I am so proud of you and what you've done...double peaking contractions all night, no pain meds. You are incredible! But now we have to get you some sleep. Your body is shutting down. The most important thing for us to do is make sure that you’ll have energy to push our baby girl out when she is ready...Whether that's three hours form now or three days from now."
And was he ever right!
Unbeknownst to us, when it came time for us to push, there would be a sense of urgency -- the midwife would have reason to believe the umbilical cord was around Savannah’s neck -- I cannot imagine desperately needing to push her out and just not having the strength. As it would turn out, energy and strength would end up being essential in the final stretch to keep us from an Emergency C-Section.
Again, we knew nothing about what was in store when we made the decision to ask for meds to help me sleep, but God did, and I believe he lead my husband to lead me in that moment.
It was time for an epidural.
As we waited for the anesthesiologist, Julian reached for his phone to text Mom and update her on our new game plan. That's when we realized we hadn't checked the time all night. It was now 5 o'clock in the morning! We'd officially been up 24 hours and in active labor with double peaking contractions for most of those hours!
I was at peace about the next move. Ready for relief. Ready for a nap!
Next thing I knew I was sitting on the bed, with my back rounded, leaning forward, putting all my weight on Julian. Back to back surges still consuming me. Hypnobirthing affirmations still playing in my earphones:
“I am prepared for any turn my birth may take…”
"I feel confident. I feel safe. I feel secure..."
As the doctor stuck the epidural in my back, she warned, "Now if you taste metal, or your ears start ringing, it’s really important you let us know immediately."
15 minutes later...I'm still feeling every bit of every surge. No relief. No sleep. My mouth tastes like its full of quarters and an incessant ringing in my ears starts drowning out my affirmations.
Something was wrong. I knew it, but I wasn't worried.
It was almost like I was watching movie, like it was an out of body experience. I had this peace, an inner voice reassuring me I would be okay, and that even if I weren't okay, Savannah would be. I knew I had to remain zen and confident so Babygirl wouldn’t be traumatized during her birth. Savannah was my focus, my reason, my peace.
I calmly told Julian and the nurse that I was tasting metal, hearing a high pitch tone in my ears, and still feeling EVERY SURGE at full force. The nurse hopped on her phone and frantically called the anesthesiologist back in.
Julian held my hand and stroked my hair as we waited. His stance was strong, his actions we calming, but his eyes told me he was afraid. I remember telling him that I love him and everything would be okay....no matter what, Savannah was going to be perfectly fine. I couldn’t hear his response over the ringing but his eyes said, "Damn, I love you girl".
The doctor rushes into the room. I can’t hear my hypnobirthing affirmations but I'm reciting them from memory...
"My muscles work in complete harmony to make birthing easier..."
"I feel a natural tranquility flowing through my body..."
Now, I'm sitting up right again, back rounded, as the anesthesiologist makes some changes to what was done initially.
FINALLY, the taste of metal disappears and the ringing in my ears fades out. I can hear the affirmations playing loud and clear:
"My cervix opens and allows my baby to ease downward..."
You see, epidurals are a lot like a box of chocolates, everyone’s body reacts to them differently, so you never know what you're going to get.
I've heard countless stories from women who say they were basically paralyzed from the waist down during labor and birth after getting an epidural; unable to feel contractions, unable to move their legs. That was one of the fears I originally had about taking the epidural route because I wanted to be as present as possible during Savannah's birth.
Thankfully, even after the epidural, I could still feel, move, and raise my legs. So for me, the epidural essentially just replaced pain with pressure.
A kiss from the Universe! 😊
With no pain, just pressure, it was finally time to nap!
Oh, and somewhere between Bathroom Trek #3 and getting an epidural, the balloon catheter fell out! So as I dozed off, I knew we were at least 4 cm dilated.
About an hour and a half later, I woke up to a beautiful sunrise and a soaking wet bed.
MY WATER BROKE!
My squeals of excitement woke Julian up and he called our midwife in to check me.
That’s when she declared the words we'd been hoping and praying for: "You're 9 centimeters!"
OH MY GOODNESS...I could've broken out in a praise dance!
Then, in the middle of that climactic moment, the midwife got called away to help with an emergency situation.
I welcomed the quiet though. The extra time was a gift. I got to spend some final moments getting centered and bonding with Babygirl before she joined us Earthside.
I could literally feel Savannah moving through the birth canal.
It was MAGICAL.
I get chills just thinking about it. As Julian napped in a rocking chair next to the bed, I talked to our angel baby. Encouraging her on her journey.
Gosh, I was just so proud of our girl.
That one on one time with her right before "go time" was invaluable.
I got excited as the room started to fill up. My mom made it back just in time and there'd been a shift change so the new midwife and nurses began to file in.
This was is it!
TIME TO PUSH!
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the pushing phase. I was so connected to Julian and Savannah. And I felt physical, emotional and spiritual strength on a level I'd never tapped into before. It was like I was being empowered by my mom, my grandmothers, and so many women who came before me.
In the moment:
My affirmations are playing:
"I fully relax and turn my birthing over to nature…”
"I see my baby coming slowly and easily from my womb...”
Julian is holding one of my legs, and massaging my scalp and shoulders as he whispers encouraging words to me. There’s a positive and optimistic nurse holding my other leg, and my mom is nearby, with her iPhone in the air, capturing every moment on camera. Perfection.
I could not have asked for a more supportive, peaceful, stimulating group of people to help usher Savannah into the world.
Every time I felt a surge coming, I gave the team a heads up, took a deep breath and then pushed!
In between surges, I breathed deeply, tapped into my hypnobirthing affirmations and zenned out.
"I bring myself into deeper relaxation, as my birthing advances..."
“I breathe correctly and eliminate tension..."
That's when the midwife hit us with words you never want to hear. Words that had potential to create fear and insight panic. She said it was very possible that the umbilical cord was around Savannah's neck and it was super important to get her out quickly, so if my surges didn't pick up and happen closer together, she'd want to start Pitocin.
We were calm. We were centered.
Again, I realized this was bigger than me, bigger than us. I knew I had to stay calm so Babygirl would not sense any negative feelings as she made her way to join us. I also knew, that if I worried about the umbilical cord or fixated on the midwife's Pitocin suggestion, my body would tense up and make Savannah's journey through the birth canal more difficult.
I’m so thankful that I didn’t have to fight any battles. My husband was there to advocate for our little family. And he did just that.
As I prepared to push again, I glanced up at Julian. He was staring at the contraction/heartrate monitor. There was tension in his brow and his jaws were clenched.
"Babe, can you please relax your face? I'm trying to stay calm, and I can see stress all in your face," I said to him.
Ha! Spoken like a true woman in labor huh?..Not, "Is everything ok babe?" Not, "What's the matter babe?" Just, "Please fix your face." We crack up laughing about it now but Sheesh 😊
"Then she needs to get one thing clear, she doesn't need to be saying anything about Pitocin.” He said in a calm but stern voice. “The baby's heart rate is good. Your heart rate is good. Contractions are moving. We are not using Pitocin! Everything is going as it should."
My man! (Insert proud wife in labor dance)
Mind you, Julian and the midwife were standing right next to each other! Haha Hubs is holding my right leg, and she's in position to receive the baby.
I remember thinking well, this just got awkward. But, hey, she got the point, and evidently my body did too because no sooner than Julian finished his sentence, did my surges pick up their pace.
It was as if my body was like "Yeah! Yeah! What he said! We got this." 😊
After a couple more rounds of consistent surges and pushes, Julian said he could see Babygirl's head!
SHE WAS RIGHT THERE!
The smile on his face was EVERYTHING! And when I glimpsed over at my Mom, she was giving me a thumbs up and a huge smile to match. Between the two if them my heart just melted. Such a powerful moment.
I pushed with all the Mama-bear strength in me!
Her head...Her shoulders....And then, by the grace of God, our angel baby was there! IN THE FLESH! Laying on my stomach!
It was almost as if the room fell silent and time stood still. A joy unlike anything I've ever experienced came over me, and Savannah and I cried together.
As she laid on my chest, staring up at us, I knew that she knew exactly who we were and what we just accomplished together.
And I totally I lost it when she made her way to my breast and started suckling.
Savannah Rose -- Wise, patient, strong, gentle, and graceful, and she was just a few minutes old!
God! Was this real life?!
Julian was elated, kissing me, telling me how proud of me he was (he's THE BEST), and I was kissing Savannah, telling her how proud of her I was.
Wow! Just wow!
And there Mom was, proud of the three of us, recording every magical moment.
And so our beautiful adventure continues as we embark on our greatest assignment. God, thank you , thank you, thank you for delivering on every promise! Thank you for choosing Julian and I, and trusting us with the angel that is Savannah Rose! We are forever grateful!