September 7, 2021

My First Baby – Olivia’s Birth Story

Newborns, Personal

I have always loved all things babies, birth, pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting. I was 5 when my youngest sister was born, and stepped in in every way in attempt to be her “second mom.” I loved watching  A Birth Story on TLC in middle school and high school. I got my “babysitting license” as soon as I could, and babysat regularly from age 11-22. Then I became an elementary teacher and taught k-2 for eight years.

So to say I was fascinated by my pregnancy and learning about labor and all the things babies and parenting is an understatement.

So here’s the birth story of my oldest, Olivia Grace, born on August 26, 2017. I’ll give an abbreviated version for those who want the two minute share, and I’ll give the long version for those who want the whole scoop.

My Birth Story- The Short Version

Eight days after my official due date, I woke up around 6 am on a Saturday morning and finally realized this must be labor. I labored at home for several hours and was in touch with my midwife all morning, and around 1:30/2 pm something changed – thanks to my parents, we decided it was time to go to the hospital. My dad drove so Jason could support me in the back and I’m so thankful because it was a LONG drive!

And then within an hour of getting to the hospital and after about 15 minutes of pushing, all 9 pounds 8 ounces of our sweet Olivia Grace came bursting out and we were immediately smitten! Jason and my dad were at my head and my mom was experiencing the magic from below and attempting to take some iPhone pictures.

I did hemorrhage quite significantly due to her size and how forcefully I pushed, so I had to stay in labor and delivery for several hours until my blood pressure normalized when I sat up, and I received two blood transfusions the next day. Then after two nights in the hospital we were on our way home as a family of three!

My Birth Story- The Long Version

At Home

My mom had my three of my siblings and I three weeks early, so she had her hospital bags packed before I did. I really wanted her and my dad to be at my birth if at all possible, so they had it worked out to a science – if I went into labor at this time of day, they’d take this flight, if I went into labor at this time of day, they’d drive. And every time I called them those last few weeks, they thought I was surely in labor.

Once I reached 40 weeks and baby girl still hadn’t made her arrival, they made plans to come the following weekend, knowing she’d either come any day or I’d be induced shortly after.

So it was Friday, August 25, exactly a week after our due date. We spent all day at the Newseum with my parents, and I remember thinking, “If gravity doesn’t get her out, I don’t know what will!” As we were resting at home that night, I told Jason that was the first time I was really “over” being pregnant. I loved being pregnant, but after being a week overdue, I wanted to meet my baby!

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I posted this picture on Facebook that Friday, saying “For everybody wondering, we’re not snubbing you, I am simply one week overdue! Come on, baby girl!”

We hadn’t tried any self-inducing methods, as we knew our babe would come when she was ready, but that night I asked Jason to massage some of the pressure points on my neck and back that we learned about at our birthing class, just to feel like we were doing something about it. I didn’t think/still don’t think the pressure points did much (who knows!!), but I woke up the next morning at 6 am to use the restroom, and as I crawled back into bed, I felt some cramping that wasn’t so comfortable.

I tried changing positions and curling up a bit more, but after about 20 minutes of lying in bed trying to sleep, I was just too uncomfortable, so I got up and went into the living room. These cramps were much different than my Braxton Hicks contractions, so I thought this was probably labor!

Jason and I had made a plan previously that if I went into labor in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t wake him up until I needed him, because one of us might as well get some sleep. And we had plans to get brunch with Mom, Dad, and of my best friends and her sister the next morning, so I knew he’d be up by 9. So I texted my parents and friend a little before 7, saying,

“I’m not making any promises, but I’ve been awake since about 6 and am having some stronger cramping (not like my Braxton Hicks, more lower abdominal) every 8-12 minutes or so that I can’t sleep through. Also had some pinkish discharge last time I wiped. Haven’t woken Jason up, because could be nothing, plus isn’t unbearable and I want him to get as much rest as he can if today is the day! Just giving you a heads up that our plans today might just be thwarted, or this could just be practice…”

The cramping wasn’t super consistent, happening every 8-12 minutes or so, lasting anywhere from 20-40ish seconds (I wasn’t actually timing at this point). It was not comfortable to sit through them, so I paced and walked around our living room. I had the TV on in in the background and had a friend working that morning and I knew she’d be up, so we also texted back and forth.

At 7:20 am I messaged her saying,

“Whew, definitely not comfortable, stop me in my tracks! Currently pacing our living room trying to eat an apple so I have something in me but nothing too heavy, and trying to walk off cramps. But not getting any easier lol.”

Jason got up to go to the bathroom around 8 or so, and I said something like,

“I think today is the day! But you can go back to sleep, see you in an hour.”

When he came back out at 9 am, I told him I wanted to shower but definitely needed his help, because I wasn’t sure what would happen. In the shower, contractions seemed to be happening quite often, maybe every 2-3 minutes (still wasn’t timing them), and I needed Jason’s physical support through most of them.

So once we got out of the shower, Jason started quickly packing our final items, pausing to help me any time I needed, and we thought we’d be leaving soon. But a few minutes after getting out of the shower, the cramping spaced out again, so we slowed down, as well.

I texted the friend we were supposed to meet up with at 9:55 am, saying,

“I’d say this is the real deal! Gonna call my midwife as soon as next contraction comes and goes just to touch base!”

So I called the midwife on call (I was with Arlington Women’s Center, connected to Virginia Hospital Center), told her I thought I was in labor but not yet active labor, and just wanted to touch base and let her know she’d probably be meeting me at the hospital that day. She told me I might be in labor, but by the sound of my voice, she didn’t think it would be any time soon. I had one contraction toward the end of our conversation and had to stop for a moment to breathe through it, but that was that. And Jason was in contact with my parents this whole time, keeping them posted about when they should come over.

I wish I wrote down the timing (maybe 10 am?), but I kept noticing that when I sat on the toilet, I felt a lot of pressure on my vagina. I knew it couldn’t be our baby’s head, but I had no idea what it was. I just knew it wasn’t awesome and I didn’t want to keep feeling that – not at home, at least. So I asked Jason to take a look with a flashlight, and he said it looked like the “amniotic sack or something.”

I figured he didn’t know what he was talking about (sorry, J!) but thought we should call the midwife again. She said it was likely vaginal hemorrhoids and it was all normal, no need to be concerned.

My friend and her sister stopped by around 11:00 that morning to snag our Newseum tickets so they could go that afternoon and they were with us for about 10 minutes. I had 2-3 contractions while they were there, including one as she was praying over us. I realized way after the fact that my contractions were then probably <5 minutes apart, which is when most docs say to come in, but I wanted to birth at home as long as possible, so my midwife said to come in when they were 2-3 minutes apart, lasting for a minute, for a full hour. And I was still completely able to participate in conversations, just had to pause to breath more deeply.

My parents came to our apartment around 12, and my contractions starting ramping up almost immediately. We started timing them, and they were already 2.5 minutes apart, lasting for at least one minute, and this went on for an hour. During this time, I had to stop in my tracks for every contraction, most often needed Jason’s help (sometimes Dad jumped in to relieve Jason), but in those 2.5 minutes I had between the contractions, I was able to jump back into conversation, as well as take some bites of soup.

After that hour, Jason called the midwife (she always said she knew when labor was really full blown when the husband called instead of the laboring wife!), and I made sure Jason told her I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. She told him I would know when it was time, and that she’d be seeing us later.

I remember saying to Jason at some point in this time that my contractions weren’t as painful as I thought they could be, but that I was just  tired. So I thought we’d be at home for a while longer.

During the next hour, my contractions were just as frequent, but this time I couldn’t stay in any sort of conversation during my breaks, and I kind of went into my own world. When my parents saw that big change, they insisted we leave for the hospital. And it was a good thing they did!

We left our apartment around 2 pm, although it took a while to even get to the car. Mom drove our little car, and Dad thankfully drove Jason and me in his big SUV. I was able to recline in the back with Jason by my side, rather than be more scrunched in our car. It was still really uncomfortable to do anything but stand during contractions, so being in the car was not wonderful. And it was a good 30-40 minute drive!

My eyes were shut almost the entire time, I would just pop into reality to make sure Dad knew where he was going/where the entrance was (I know, backseat driver, even in labor). I’m assuming I was in “transition” in the car, but I didn’t experience a noticeable difference (i.e. nausea) like you learn about in birth class.

Birthing At the Hospital

We got to Virginia Hospital Center around 2:40 pm (I remember seeing 2:38 on the clock as we were pulling in), and Jason and I slowly made our way to the elevator and up to the third floor. The walk down the hallway from the elevator to the nurse’s station where we actually checked in seemed like the longest hallway ever, and we had to stop several times for me to work through contractions.

Once at the nurse’s station, Jason sat down and got us checked in while I continued pacing around, and labor was hard. I was so frustrated that checking in took that long, because my baby was clearly on her way! A nurse, also named Lauren, came to pick us up from the nurse’s station and walk us to our room. We of course had to stop several times along the way, and I was moving very slowly.

When we got into the room, I changed into the hospital gown and she had me sit to hook me up to the baby monitor and put in an IV port just in case. This part was terrible! Sitting was so uncomfortable, and she kept asking me to sit still so the baby monitor could register.

At one point I remember her saying something like, “Wow, there was just an abnormality in the reading of your baby’s heart beat. It could mean nothing, or it could mean you’re super far along in labor, but we’ll have to try the monitor again.” (She kind of said jokingly that I could be far along in labor, but none of us actually thought that was the case.) As she put the IV, she made a bit of a mess with my blood that squirt out, so I was still frustrated I had to sit through those contractions.

My midwife, Michelle (I was so hoping she’d be the midwife on call!), came in to check on me around 3:20. She did a cervical check at 3:25 and laughed as she said, “Well, you’re fully dilated! This baby is coming soon!” We were all stunned!

Remember that pressure I had been feeling when on the toilet at home? Well, shortly after my cervical check, I felt something start to come out of my vagina. It was as if a water balloon was filling up from inside of me and coming out as it filled. Michelle and the nurse were both saying “Woah!”, and Jason and my mom joined in. I was wincing with discomfort (not pain), and wanted to know what was going on! It turns out my amniotic sack was coming out, fully intact, so I asked Lauren to try to get a mirror so I could see.

I remember Michelle saying something like, “This is so cool! I just want to pop it!” She had never seen that happen before and thought we were going to have an En Caul Birth. But all of a sudden, that “water balloon” burst everywhere (Mom said it was the size of a softball), jolting me back. Well, my water had officially broken! That was at 3:30. Our baby was coming very soon. (And all those hours before, Jason was right – he was seeing my amniotic sack!)

There was some meconium in my water, so they called to make sure someone from NICU was on standby. In the meantime, they got me out of bed to change, as well as to change the bed sheets. I was still feeling contractions, but Michelle told me that discomfort would soon change and I’d know when it was time to push. Jason was sitting on a stool as I was standing and holding onto him, and 10-15 minutes later, my whole body shook and I made a, “Woah” noise. Michelle said, “That’s it, back in bed!”

At 3:45, she had me lay on my side and I pushed every time my body told me to. I roared each time I pushed, and was relieved that my body gave me natural breaks. I now had a mirror in the room, like I wanted, but I couldn’t open my eyes. Dad was on one side of me, Jason was on the other side, and mom was watching and taking pictures. At some point in the pushing, Michelle told me to put my hand down and feel my baby’s head…what a crazy experience and feeling!

I was both in the zone and also keenly aware of what was going on. I remember feeling the nurse wipe my bottom a few times, and I asked if I was pooping, and my midwife said, “No!” She didn’t want me to be distracted. I asked again after another wipe and Jason said, “Yes, yes you are.” It was actually a really funny moment we look back on!

I remember wondering when I’d feel the classic “ring of fire,” but Olivia didn’t come out in small steps; when her head came out her whole body came out! Michelle said she could have dropped her it happened so quickly, and she threw her right onto my chest. I don’t remember feeling the pain or sensation of Olivia coming out, but I distinctly remember feeling my huge belly deflate.

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She’s Here!

Now I had my sweet baby girl on my chest, we got to hear her crazy lungs scream, Jason cut the cord without hesitation (he didn’t know if he’d be able to handle it or not), and we had become our own little family! The NICU doc glanced at Olivia but said she was absolutely fine, the meconium wasn’t a concern, so I got to keep my newborn on my chest the whole time.

The nurse declared that Olivia was born at 3:59 pm, so that’s the time on her birth certificate, but fun fact, the live pictures my mom took of Olivia coming out show that she was born at 4:01 pm. She was 9 pounds 8 ounces and came out with cheeks!

Almost worse than labor was the stitches. It was only a second degree tear, but because of the way I tore my midwife asked an OB to help, as they had to stitch in layers. It wasn’t painful, per say, but it was very uncomfortable and even just holding my legs open for that long was uncomfortable. The beautiful part, however, is I was able to continue holding Olivia the whole time, and every time I winced in discomfort she’d cry out – it was almost like she could sense or feel my discomfort, like we were still one.

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Shortly after finishing my stitches, they raised my hospital bed so I could sit up, and I quickly felt light-headed. My midwife laid me right back down, my blood pressure dropped to 52/45, and I essentially passed out, but I was “with it” enough to know I had a baby on my chest to protect. When I came to and we were trying to figure out what happened, my midwife said that because of how hard I pushed and how quickly Olivia came out, I hemorrhaged and lost 2L of blood. So we had to get my iron tested to see if I’d need a blood transfusion.

The nurse pumped me full of fluids and I ate to help get my blood sugars up, but I had to remain laying down for a few hours because each time I sat up, I felt dizzy again. I didn’t feel well enough to get out of bed and into the wheel chair to head to the postpartum wing until around 9 pm.

In the mean time, however, we were all feeling good, enjoying our babe, and some of our close friends came by for a visit, and I was so happy they were there and able to meet our new babe so quickly.

Because I hemorrhaged so significantly while giving birth, my hemoglobin levels just kept dropping, so the next day I received two blood transfusions and could tell a significant difference in how I felt. Then after two nights in the hospital we were on our way home, ready to adjust to being a little family of three and getting to know our sweet Olivia! And I was SO ready to finally shower. I somehow didn’t shower or even change out of the hospital gown the whole time we were there, and we never put Olivia in any clothes until heading home.

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AND I can’t tell you her entire birth story without also telling you she’s the reason I became a sleep consultant and my business is named after her. You can read more of our story here.

Finally, if you’ve made it this far, you probably love birth just as much as I do. Thanks for reading!

With Grace,