Thursday, July 3, 2014

nova's birth story

I've hesitated to sit down and write this.  Not only has time not necessarily allowed me to do so, but my brain and heart are still processing through Nova's birth.  Her pregnancy being totally different than Duke's should've been my first hint that my labor and delivery with her would also be a completely new experience.

If you read the days before Nova, then you know I was having contractions days before she came.  I was convinced she was on her way, but then the labor would stop.  It was a hard time of waiting.

But finally, on that Wednesday evening, the 28th, the contractions were getting painful enough that I needed to do something.  The problem was that they were anywhere from 6-15 minutes apart. Because they weren't 3-5 minutes apart, I wasn't sure if the hospital would actually admit me.  But this was my second pregnancy and I was familiar with the level of intensity when it came to contractions, so I knew we were at a place where we needed to call and at least try to get admitted.

We met my parents at the hospital around 9:15 p.m. and handed Duke over to them.  After filling out all of the paperwork and waiting in the waiting room, we were taken back to a room about 10:00 p.m.

The nurse, Marisa, came in to check me and said I was 75% effaced and definitely a 4, but pretty close to a 5.  This was exciting news because it was the first time I really knew this little baby was actually on her way.  The doctor on call gave the okay for me to stay and Colt headed out to the parking lot to bring in our bags in between contractions.  I was so thankful that Nova had finally decided to come on her own without having to be induced.

At 11:00 p.m., I was a 5.  We were settled in the room, the antibiotic for GBS was in, my PICC line was in, and my gown was on.  We began walking the halls, pausing for every contraction that would come.

Since I was at a hospital, I was allowed to do 30 minutes with monitoring and 30 minutes off.  So for each 30 minutes I needed to be monitored, I'd either sit on the edge of the bed so I could stand to contract or I would sit on the birthing ball.

I was trying to play a game with myself - how long could I go before wanting to get checked again?  I was hoping to skip a few numbers, so it wasn't until 4:30 a.m. that Marisa came back in.  At that time, I was 80% effaced and dilated to a 7.  I was excited to have progressed and chose not to think about the fact that it took me 5.5 hours to go from a 5 to a 7.

I needed a change of scenery so I hopped in the shower to labor for the next 30 minute chunk of time.  It really was helpful having the heat of the water press down on the heat of the labor in my back.

Somewhere in this gap of time, Karlie (my sister) showed up as well as Makenzie, my friend who would be capturing Nova's birth.  Not sure when Reese and Merritt showed up, but they stopped by for a bit as well.  While the contractions were most definitely painful, I had a few minutes in between each one to relax, breathe, and even laugh with the people in my room.


7:00 a.m. rolled around and I think this was about the time that I switched nurses.  Angie came in to check me and I was 90% effaced and dilated to a 7.5.  Yeah, you're doing the math right.  In 2.5 hours, I progressed just half of a centimeter.  This is about the time I began feeling discouraged.

Sure, Duke's labor was pretty dang long (20 hours), but I had no idea what to expect.  It was my first baby so I had nothing to compare it to.  But this time around, I had such hope that labor would be a much quicker process.  However, it was moving along just about as slow as Duke's did.

We talked about breaking my water and although I knew that would only intensify the contractions, I wanted things to move along.  At 8:30 a.m., I was dilated to an 8.5/9 and my doctor came in to break my water.  I was so close.  So, so close.

It didn't take long for me to begin noticing the change in intensity in these contractions.  Once the water breaking deed is done, the game changes.  It's like turning the volume knob on your stereo all the way up.  Suddenly, everything is much more in your face.

I contracted at this level, at a 9, for 3 hours.

This is the part of the story where my brain and heart just stop.  There's nothing like this kind of pain.  It's impossible to relate it to a familiar human circumstance.  Labor is labor and it's in a category of it's own.  But 3 hours of labor when dilated to a 9 is in a completely different category.

Colt eventually asked Karlie and Makenzie to leave the room because of my state.  These contractions were unreal.  What had been a quiet process full of breathing was turning into something else.  My entire body was convulsing and I could barely stand.  Colt was holding me up as I doubled over in a lunging position.  At some point in this 3 hour span of time, I noticed that I wasn't getting any breaks in between contractions.  I could feel it, but you could also see it on the monitor.  It would peak and then go down just a bit, resting in this midway place.  My body, which had already been exhausted from no sleep and 3 days of laboring off and on, was not getting any time to rest.

But the worst part of all was when they said they needed to get a better reading on Nova.  Angie told me I needed to lie in bed for at least 20 minutes so they could make sure she was doing okay.  Handling those contractions was unbelievable.  I twisted and turned in that bed, holding onto Colt so tightly.  We prayed so hard with every contraction that my body would go that extra centimeter so I could begin pushing.

Several times throughout this segment of 3 hours, I had Angie check me.  I was so hopeful that at some point I'd hear, "Okay, Claire!  You're at a 10."  However, following each check, she said solemnly, "Claire, you're still a 9."  I was devastated and hopeless.

Finally, I hit the wall - the wall most every natural birthing mother hits.  I remember hitting this wall with Duke.  But this time was different.  With Duke, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  There were things I could do or try.  There was some sort of progression they were seeing, even if it was miniscule.  But with Nova, I was stalled at a 9 and nothing was changing.  3 hours and nothing had changed.

I couldn't handle much more.  It was torture and I say that with all seriousness.

I begged Angie to do something.  I begged her for an emergency C-section (which is laughable now, but at the time, I would've had Joe off the street cut me open without any anesthesia because I was so ready for this unbearable pain to stop).  She sweetly said that no, we would not be doing a C-section.   
So I asked for an epidural. 

She paused and looked at us both, knowing that I wanted a natural birth just like I had with my first child.  She calmly asked me, "Claire, can you tell me why you wanted to have this baby naturally?"  Through my tears, I said that I had such an amazing experience with Duke's birth.  The process was life changing and aside from that, I loved the way I felt right after delivery.  I told her that I am always one to do what I say I'm going to do.  I don't ever go against my plan and I certainly don't ever give up.  But this was different.

Colt asked me, "Do you want me to fight you on this?  Or do you really want the epidural?"  I sobbed and said, "No, don't fight me.  I need this epidural.  My body can't take anymore."

I had no way of knowing how much longer I would be at a 9.  If there was a way to tell the future and someone could've told me that I only had to do it for 20 more minutes, I could've done it.  But what if it wasn't just 20 minutes?  What if it was an hour?

Angie had seen me struggle through being a 9 for this long and I think she saw that I was serious.  It wasn't but maybe 5-10 minutes before the anesthesiologist was in our room.

He cracked a few jokes and immediately got the epidural going at 11:30 a.m.  I sat on the edge of that bed - holding onto Colt's arms, contracting at a 9, breathing the hardest I've ever breathed, and focusing the hardest I've ever had to focus. 

There were more contractions as I was lying on that bed, but with each one, the edge was taken off just a bit.  The peak wasn't as high and the duration wasn't as long.  Soon after the epidural, my mom and sister walked in and I lost it.  I kept saying, "I just couldn't do it anymore."  I had never wanted to see the two of them so badly before in my life.

My nurse told me (and the rest of the people in the room) to rest and after a bit, I could begin pushing.  I turned to my left side and within minutes (and with my mom rubbing my back), I was asleep.  I was asleep at a 9.  I couldn't believe it.

I napped for an hour (from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.) and right at 1:00 p.m., I began pushing.  I pushed a few times with Angie and she immediately summoned the troops.

Nova was born at 1:22 p.m. and my gracious was I glad to see her!  At first glance I thought, oh my gosh, I just delivered another Duke!  She looked just like him when she came out and I loved it.  Hearing her cry was a beautiful thing.  I had waited one day shy of 42 weeks to hear it and I was so proud to finally have her in my arms.  My doctor noted how long her umbilical cord was and showed us a fancy little knot Nova had tied at some point.

Nova was 9 lbs. even and 21.5 inches long (same length as Duke).  I couldn't stop thinking about how precious and perfect she was.  I loved everything about her.  Colt and I prayed over her and I spent the next several hours doing skin to skin and nursing my sweet baby.

While there were several days of early labor at home, my active labor at the hospital came out to a total of 16 hours (14 hours of natural labor, 2 hours with an epidural, and 20 minutes of pushing).

Even though I'm a month out from all of this, I'm still processing it.  I was comforted when talking to a friend about someone she knew who went through some legitimate PTSD after a very painful and discouraging labor.  "Traumatic" is exactly the word I would use as I think back on those 3 hours at a 9.

Childbirth is the craziest combination of beautiful and, in this case, traumatic.  Wonderful and awful.  Life-sucking and life-giving.  I guess it's the tug of war between all of those things that makes it an incredibly unique experience.  And, of course, the reward is unmatched by anything else. 

I'm so grateful for my little family of four.

{All photos were taken by Makenzie.  She was absolutely amazing and I would totally recommend her if you're looking for someone to capture your labor/delivery.}


  1. Those pictures are amazing, Claire. I can't even imagine that kind of pain. It sounds just terrible, but the reward is sweet indeed. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on your little girl and your family of four!

  2. Oh friend. Labor and birth are such a unique experience for us all. Speaking as someone who struggled with PPD after a traumatic birth, it's okay to have these feelings of confusion or loss...or just a sense that somehow things were taken out of our control. I'm sorry to hear on IG that nursing had been a struggle, I know how important that was to you. Thankfully, you can rest assured knowing you are an amazing and loving mother. Thinking of you and lifting you up in love! -Andrea

  3. Oh these pictures are just so beautiful and intimate. I am so sorry to hear how painfully long that you were stuck at a 9! I know that 7-10 phase can be really painful but I also know that they usually move fast. Nova just has a timing of her own! I honestly think it was so brave of you to get the epidural at the stage that you were at. I hope you don't feel at all like you gave up - you are amazing! And God is so good - yay for a beautiful and healthy baby!

  4. One of my babies was born with waters intact and that was easy. The other two were after my water broke and, thinking I actually would die in the transition phase, and I was only in it for like 30 minutes. You are seriously a rock star to have gone for so long and if you did have some PTSD then it's no wonder, girl. Well done. Well done indeed!

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement. It always helps to hear people say things that affirm the craziness of the whole thing! :)


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