Since today marks one year since we were in the hospital, in the middle of the induction process and preparing to meet Evelyn, I wanted to finally share her birth story! Ever since giving birth to Evelyn, I have completely fallen in love with birth. How beautiful that we, as women, are invited to share in the creative and life-giving power of God in such a tangible way as giving birth to a baby – literally giving birth to new life. It is absolutely incredible.
That being said, if you’re like me and enjoy reading birth stories, this one is for you! (Although I will warn you, it is a very long post!!)
Tuesday Morning: Finding Out That I Might Be Induced
Evelyn’s due date, January 19th, came and went. The bump was massive. But I felt no signs of labor approaching. No Braxton Hicks contractions, no new discomforts, nothing. I was beginning to think I’d just be pregnant with that baby forever! On Tuesday January 23rd (at 40 weeks, 4 days), I had my weekly appointment with the midwife. After taking my blood pressure, they found that it was a little high (just ONE point above the “acceptable” range). So the midwife recommended that I go to the hospital later that afternoon to have it checked again. She said that if it was still high, they would talk about inducing. I asked, “Wait, if that’s the case, would they induce… today?” She said, “Yes, probably,” and my heart started to race. There was a possibility that I would be in labor later that day. I could feel myself starting to quietly freak out (both with excitement and nerves).
My biggest fear in this situation was that I was no longer going to be able to have the birth I had hoped to have. I really wanted to have an unmedicated birth with as little intervention as possible. I assumed that with an induction comes pitocin, and with pitocin automatically comes an epidural. I really, really, really, did not want an epidural. (I could write a whole blog post on why, but that’ll be for another day.) I have heard so many people talk about how pitocin makes contractions so much stronger and more painful, so “you’ll definitely need an epidural.” I was really upset knowing all that.
After leaving the clinic, I called Joe to let him know what was happening. He got ready for me to pick him up from work so he could go with me to the hospital that afternoon. Then, I called my doula, Jess, and explained my fears to her. She assured me that there are more gentle forms of induction that they may try before pitocin, so not to worry. She also told me that she had attended induced births with and without epidurals, so even if I did end up on pitocin, I would certainly be able to get through it without an epidural. I felt a lot more calm after talking to her.
Tuesday Afternoon/Evening: Arrival at the Hospital
A few hours later, Joe and I arrived at triage. I was hoping they would give me a few minutes after arriving to rest after taking off all my winter gear and boots to make sure my blood pressure wasn’t slightly raised from those efforts. However, they went ahead and measured me right away. TWO points too high. That’s it. But as the midwife explained to me, blood pressure isn’t something they are willing to mess with. And since I was already past my due date, they decided the time had come for this baby to be born. Before leaving the hospital, they took a blood test to check for preeclampsia, and thankfully, that came back negative. So we left the hospital with plans to return around 19:00 that evening.
We spent the afternoon making sure everything was packed and getting our apartment ready for our parents to arrive since we told them we’d be heading in for labor that night. After playing phone tag with the charge nurse for a few hours, she finally told us around 22:00 that she had a room available for us and we could make our way to the hospital.
We checked in at the hospital, got settled in our room, and the nurse put in an IV port. Then the midwife (Hannah, midwife #1) came to give me cervidil, a cervical ripener (basically a tampon with medication that helps to ripen the cervix) and an ambien. She told me that I needed to try to get lots of sleep that night since the next day would be a long day. Unfortunately, I did not get much sleep (and neither did Joe) since the nurses had to check my blood pressure every few hours, and they frequently came into the room to adjust the monitors on my belly, which were tracking baby’s heart rate.
Wednesday: First Few Rounds of Labor
The next morning (Wednesday 01/24) around 11:00, the midwife (Denise, midwife #2) removed the cervidil and checked my cervix. It had not made much of a difference, so my body was definitely not ready for pitocin. Denise recommended placing cervical catheter to mechanically dilate the cervix along with using a different cervical ripener, misoprostol. The cervical catheter has two small balloons: one is placed between the cervix and the uterus and the other rests on the other side of the cervix. The two balloons get filled with water, causing the cervix to get pinched (mechanically dilated).
Denise warned me that it would be painful, but I knew that the process had to get painful at some point, so I was ready. So at about noon, the catheter was placed and I took a misoprostol orally. Sure enough, the intensity was immediate. In what felt like no time, I was suddenly experiencing severely intense contractions. Jess, Joe, and the nurse helped me to get into the tub, and that’s where I labored for the next few hours. I am so, so grateful that Jess was there to coach me through those contractions, because there was no easing into it. She helped me to focus on my breathing and making low grunting sounds (which was amazingly one of the most helpful tips through all of labor).
After about 4 hours of intense contractions with the catheter, the contractions began to ease up. Once they got a little less intense, I was able to notice the music we had playing. It was a playlist of beautiful worship songs that my friend, Perry, set up for me. As the contractions continued, but at a much lower intensity, I was able to focus on praying with the music, which brought me a lot of peace.
At 18:00, Denise removed the catheter. My cervix had dilated to 5cm and was 70% effaced, and Evelyn was at the -2 station. I was disappointed to hear this since I had hoped to be much farther along after all that intensity. Denise told us that it would probably take a while for my body to start producing contractions that match the mechanical dilation of my cervix.
By then, I was feeling much better post-contractions (but also pretty hungry) so I ordered pizza, yogurt, and chocolate milk. Yum! 😉
Wednesday Night: Pitocin Begins
Around 20:30, Denise recommended that we begin the pitocin. She explained that it would start very low, and that they would increase the pitocin very gradually, so I might be able to sleep a few hours before contractions get strong. Again, I tried to sleep a little, but simply couldn’t get comfortable (and again, the nurses had to frequently check my blood pressure and adjust the monitors on my belly, so the interruptions made it extra hard to sleep).
Joe, Jess, and I ended up spending most of the night awake. We prayed evening prayer together, chatted about life, prayed a rosary together, and even walked the hallways. (I looked glamorous with my hospital gown covering my front side and my pink leopard-print robe covering my back side, all while pushing along my IV rack with me… too bad there’s no picture of that. LOL) I also had another round of pizza around 05:00.
Thursday Morning: Pitocin Ends and Begins Again
By 06:00 on Thursday (01/25) morning, I had been on pitocin for about 10 hours. Anna (midwife #3) came in to check my progress. I was between 5 – 6 cm dilated, 70% effaced, and -2. I couldn’t believe that I had basically made no progress in all that time. Anna explained that we had two options. We could either crank up the pitocin to try to get things going, or we could stop the pitocin for a few hours to let my body sort of reset. Then we would start the pitocin again and hope that my body responded to it more effectively. Also, Jess, had to leave to attend a conference that day.
[Side story: we got in touch with our doula, Jess, VERY late into my pregnancy. I contacted her when I was about 34 weeks, and she agreed to let us hire her if we were ok with the fact that there would be a few days near my due date when she wouldn’t be available. 01/25 was one of those days. We decided to hire her anyway, since we trusted in the Lord’s timing. If she was meant to be there with us, it would work out just right!]
So, the pitocin stopped just after 06:00. I finally got in bed and actually did get to sleep from about 06:00 – 09:00, then for another hour after a blood pressure check. Those 4 hours of sleep were the most sleep I got the whole time we were at the hospital! I am very grateful for that!! When I woke up, I could smell major BO on myself… I practically begged the nurse to let me take a bath. She hesitated since normally women don’t take baths or showers (for the purpose of cleaning) in the middle of labor, but she went and asked the midwife. When she came back with soap and towels, I couldn’t wait to get clean!!
By 10:00, the pitocin had started back up, but I barely felt any cramping for a while. As the morning went on, I even got to sneak in a few short cat naps between checkups from the nurses and midwife (now Jodi, midwife #4). Joe was texting Jess all day to give her updates and to recount Jess’s recommendations to me for different positions to try to help stimulate labor, etc. By late afternoon, Jess returned from her conference. Not much excitement happened when she was gone, so the Lord’s timing truly did work out perfectly! She had me try a few positions that would allow Evelyn to adjust her position in case that was what was holding up labor.
Thursday Evening: Labor Finally Takes Off
As evening approached, Joe called one of our moms (who were both staying at our apartment waiting for the birth announcement) to ask if they could drop off some Chick-fil-A. They did drop it off for us (thank you!) but the timing didn’t quite work out…
Around 16:00, Jodi the midwife came in to check on me. Jess and Jodi got chatting about essential oils and the particular effectiveness of clary sage to help stimulate labor. Jodi agreed that it is extremely effective, and that it would be safe for me to use. So Jess went to work with rubbing the clary sage all over my feet, ankles, and belly. Less than an hour later, contractions started getting more intense.
Around 17:00, I sat on the labor ball and swayed on there. Eventually, I decided to get up and try walking the hallways again. However, as soon as I was standing, I realized the contractions were too intense to be wandering the hallways. I decided I wanted to get back in the tub. (This is when the Chick-fil-A got dropped off, but the nurse set it on a table and it wasn’t touched.)
Once again, in what felt like no time, the contractions got severely intense. It was like they went from 0 to 100 in an instant. I was also super nauseous (remember all the pizza and ice cream I had been eating?) which made relaxing through the contractions almost impossible. I began to experience intense fear and doubt about if and how I was going to get through all of this. All the comments I had heard from different people about definitely needing an epidural if I was getting pitocin came flooding back into my mind. I started to think about how the “only reason” I wanted to labor without an epidural was to prove that I could do it (which isn’t even true), and how that wasn’t a good enough reason. I began to convince myself that because I had already missed two nights of sleep and I had no idea how much longer this was going to last, I needed to get an epidural.
So I started asking for one. I couldn’t communicate aloud with many words, so I just kept saying, “please” and “I’m serious.” Jess and Joe insisted that I was doing great and I could do this without the epidural, but I just kept shaking my head and saying, “No,” which I meant as, “No, I’m not doing great. I need the epidural or I won’t get through this. You HAVE to listen to me.” Finally, Jess leaned in and whispered to me firmly, “Kirsten, I think you’re believing lies right now. You have everything you need to do this. God’s grace is enough.” I just kept shaking my head because I was so mad that no one would listen to me. Finally, Jess said, “Ok, you can have an epidural, but Jodi is going to have to come back to check your progress before she can order it, and it’s going to take a while before you actually get it. So until then, you’re still going to have to get through the next contraction.” NO!!! I knew she was right, but I simply couldn’t bear the thought of having to get through one more contraction. I was devastated.
Thursday Evening: Grace
Somewhere during all that debating over an epidural, I did vomit. What I didn’t realize was how badly the nausea had been getting to me. So after those comments from Jess and after getting sick, my attitude began to change dramatically (although I didn’t recognize that until after all was said and done.)
Jodi came back to check on me, but no one mentioned an epidural. At one point, in the few seconds I had in between two contractions, I offered a desperate prayer: “Jesus, please help me. I need you to carry this cross for me, because I can’t do it on my own.” (Just re-writing that prayer makes me instantly tear up…) That’s all the time I had for that prayer before the next contraction showed up. But that’s all it took. Jesus’s grace flooded over me, and the course of my attitude through labor had completely transformed. No longer was I desperately seeking an end to all the intensity, but I was able to embrace it and finally allow my body to do the work it needed to do. With Jess’s coaching, Joe’s encouragement, and their silent prayers, I was able to settle into a rhythm that helped me to simply allow the contractions to happen.
About two hours into the intense contractions, I felt my body spontaneously give a short push at the peak of the contraction. It happened again over the next two contractions. I realized that maybe I need to tell someone. So at the end of a contraction I said, “I just pushed.” Jess and the nurse realized what I was saying, so they called for Jodi to come back and check me. Jodi found that I was 8 cm and 100% effaced. Jess was excited at so much progress in only a few hours, but I was surprised that I was only at 8 cm. Jodi decided that it was time to get me out of the tub and onto the bed. (I wouldn’t be allowed to deliver in the tub since it was an induction). Getting out of the tub was a process! I only had enough time to stand up before another contraction started, then time to step out of the tub (contraction), then walk toward the toilet (contraction), then sit on the toilet (contraction), then pee (contraction), etc. It took a while for me to actually make it back onto the bed!
Once I was back in the bed, Jodi went ahead and broke my water to allow dilation to speed up. Around the same time, I noticed some commotion going on next to the bed. I heard the nurse call for the midwife-in-training who happened to be in the room, and it sounded like something was wrong. I refused to open my eyes to see what was happening since I knew I needed to maintain focus on my breathing to get through the contractions and try to resist pushing. [After labor was over, I found out what had happened. Since I had been laboring in the tub with an IV, the nurse had wrapped plastic around my arm and sealed it with tape to try and keep the port dry. When I got back in the bed, the nurse cut the plastic off my arm. However, she accidentally cut through the IV line, so she had to pinch it with her fingers and urgently called the midwife-in-training to help her quickly reset the IV. According to Joe, once they had me all cleaned up, the nurse said, “Well, that was one for the record books.” And I had no idea!]
Also, because I had been induced for gestational hypertension (high blood pressure) they had to take my blood pressure every few hours. So, just before I got out of the tub (in transition, starting to push…) my blood pressure was taken. It measured high (image that…), so labs had to be run. Which means just after I got in the bed (and just after my IV got reset), the lab tech came into the room pushing her cart, turned on all the lights, and started drawing my blood. Meanwhile, the contractions have NOT slowed down, so I just kept my eyes shut and tried my best to ignore what was happening with my arm.
About an hour after I had gotten back in bed (so around 20:00), the pushing sensation was getting incredibly intense. Jodi found that I was still at 9 cm, and there was some minor cervical swelling, so she encouraged me to resist pushing as much as possible. The contractions were about 1.5 minutes long, happening every 2 minutes (only a few seconds in between). It took every effort in me to try and resist pushing, but eventually it got to the point where it was not possible to resist. The pushing was happening whether I liked it or not.
Just before 21:00, the involuntary pushing was getting so intense that it was clear to everyone that this baby was coming. Jodi had another patient in labor, so she had been gone for a while. It was also time for the midwife shift change, so Denise (#5, same as #2) was coming back on duty. Anne, my nurse, began calling for Denise to come to our room STAT, but Denise kept not showing up. As we waited, Anne began coaching me on how to push so I would be ready when Denise arrived. Some time later, Denise came strolling cheerfully into the room saying, “What’s up everyone?? My pager died…” but Jess cut her off and said, “she’s between contractions so you need to check her NOW.” Denise was taken by surprise but quickly came over to check me. She suddenly said, “Not only is your cervix GONE, but baby is at +2 station!” It was time.
And then everything changed. Anne called for the backup nurses. Denise put on her gown and gloves and got in position to catch the baby. The backup nurses came rushing into the room. The lights were turned on. The baby warmer was pulled out from the closet. I felt so much excitement and so many emotions in that instant. The moment had come. All the hard work had finally paid off. We were about to meet our baby.
Denise told me, “As soon as you feel the next contraction, go ahead and push!” So I did. I pushed with all my strength. I honestly didn’t even feel any pain from the pushing, because all I cared about was giving it everything I had so my baby could finally be born. After about 3 pushes, Jess shouted excitedly, “I can see her head! Do you want to see??” But I was so scared that if I looked at her head or reached down to touch it, it would completely throw off my rhythm, so I shook my head no.
Then, not long after, the attention turned to Joe. Apparently he had gotten pale and came close to passing out. He had been so focused on supporting me and making sure I was drinking water that he must have gotten dehydrated. Denise said, “Doesn’t he have a drink?” So Anne grabbed the Chick-fil-A drink and a wet washcloth for him, and Denise said, “Don’t worry! Happens all the time!” Thankfully, he was fine after that!
A few pushes later, Denise told me, “Give it all you got on this next one! Your baby could be born on this next push!” So I gave it everything, but suddenly Denise yelled, “Stop!!” and I watched her working quickly to make some sort of adjustment. She seemed to clear things up, because she gave me the go-ahead to continue pushing through the next contraction. [Turns out, Evelyn had one of her hands up by her face, and Denise had to quickly work to move it into a better position to minimize tearing.] One or two contractions later, at 21:20, Evelyn was born!!
Everyone was immediately impressed by how big she was, so the team started making guesses as to how much she weighed. Guesses varied from around 8 and 9 lbs, but turns out she was actually 10 lbs 0 oz and 22 in!
Friday Morning: Reflecting
So from the time we got admitted to the hospital on Tuesday night until Thursday night when she was born, 47+ hours had gone by. It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning while Joe was still sleeping that I really got to process through all that had happened. I thought of that brief prayer I had made at a point when I didn’t think I could go on, and I recognized all the grace that Christ poured into me from then on. He really did give me everything I needed in each moment. All I had to do was turn to Him and ask. And He provided in abundance.
It was an incredibly long and exhausting process, but truly the most beautiful encounter with grace I have ever experienced. I am forever grateful for the honor of sharing in Christ’s Passion through the cross of birth. Thanks be to God.
And God bless Evelyn James.