Daisy's birth story
Flash back to October 2022, I was 36+4 weeks pregnant. My in laws arrived in town to watch the boys for us while T.J. and I went a couple hours up the road for a few nights in Kentucky on the bourbon trail. Yes, I realize a weekend at a bunch of distilleries while mightily pregnant doesn't sound like the most fun but I don't drink bourbon anyway. My plan was to be chauffeur, indulge in good food, and enjoy a kid-free weekend away before baby girl's arrival. We were also going to be reunited with some dear friends we met in South Korea. We all got in to Bardstown late Thursday evening, checked in to our Airbnb, before heading out to dinner. That evening we stayed up late catching up on all the goings on since we'd last been together in the land of morning calm. Before we crashed we set our alarms to get up in time for breakfast and our first tasting of the trip.
In the middle of the night though, I woke up with intense itching on my hands and feet. It kept me awake for several hours but I chalked it up to being too pregnant, my skin stretched and too dry. It was concentrated solely on my hands and feet and the only relief I found was keeping them wrapped in a cold wash cloth. I woke up early, still itching like some sort of addict but still thinking it was just an annoying late pregnancy symptom coupled with my typically dry skin. I desperately sent T.J. out to the drug store for lotion and googled "itchy hands and feet during third trimester" looking for some relief. I was shocked by the first results. I had literally never heard of cholestasis but it was the very first thing to pop up, coupled with the words "increased risk for stillbirth after 37weeks." Not something I wanted to read a few just days before I reached 37 weeks myself.
I decided to text my good friend who is an obgyn knowing she'd give me a no-nonsense answer and assuming she would reassure me this was just annoying but not a serious concern. To my complete surprise she responded saying if I was her patient she'd do bloodwork asap and put me on the induction schedule for the following week. Needless to say, I was stunned and starting to panic but I was also not ready to give up our weekend. T.J. had planned each day down to the last minute, booking tastings and tours months in advance to secure our times, making dinner reservations, doing all the research and here we were on our first full day wondering if we should head home. Long story short, after wasting a couple hours in the local hospital to see if the bloodwork could be done there that day, we made the difficult decision to cut our trip short and head back to my own hospital. The nurse we saw later that evening did little to settle my nerves jokingly saying it's either nothing or its "deadly serious." People kept throwing around scary words like "stillbirth" and telling me to be very intentional about doing kick counts and to come in right away if anything seemed off but otherwise we just had to wait for the lab results.
When I still had not heard anything by the end of the weekend T.J. popped up to the hospital on Monday and went to the lab himself to inquire. He learned much to his frustration that the specific test I needed can only be done by a handful of labs in the country and my bloodwork hadn't even been sent out yet and likely wouldn't be back before the end of the week. Fuming he stormed up to labor and delivery, demanding better answers and some guidance. It was very heroic even though they wouldn't talk to him without me there. Still he stayed in the reception while he called and put me directly on the phone with a care provider who agreed I should come in the next day for an ultrasound and a non-stress test. My main concern was that at my 36 week appointment, just a few days prior, baby girl was doing well and I didn't want to wait around until she might be in distress. I was already not sleeping well due to the itching, which would wake me up in the middle of the night and then I'd lay there for the next two hours making sure I felt her kick enough. I knew I could not keep that up for long.
On Tuesday I went in for the ultrasound and non-stress test which gave me a bit of peace of mind. They also seemed confident the lab-work would be back by Thursday so I was put on the schedule for another NST then as well. Thursday finally arrived and after that NST the midwife sat down with me, held my hand, and let me know that my bile acids were elevated above the normal range and that they wanted to induce me. How did Monday sound? Even though I was expecting this it still stunned me as this was not at all like any of my other pregnancies. She could see me wobble/hesitate and said I could wait until Thursday if I preferred. Since I had my next midwife appointment scheduled for Wednesday anyway I figured it would give me a bit more time to get organized and for my body and baby girl to get ready for birth. I left the appointment feeling relieved to have answers and a plan, but still not entirely settled in my spirit.
T.J. was a bit stunned as well but also immediately questioned whether Monday would have been the better, safer option. He also considered his work schedule and knew he could rearrange things to be off more easily. I started to further doubt waiting a whole week after another night of restless sleep and worrying. First thing in the morning I called my midwife back and asked if I could move the induction up to Monday. They agreed and I immediately felt sense of peace. My parents made plans to come to town that weekend and I began reading up and watching youtube birth vlogs on how to have as natural and gentle an induction as possible.
"Everyone" told me that pitocin contractions are a different beast, that it's impossible to do it without further interventions but I was encouraged by other mamas' stories. I hadn't been checked for dilation at this point but based on my previous pregnancies and this being my third baby I figured I was already at least a little progressed. I hoped they'd be willing to do a membrane sweep to see if that kick-started labor like it did for both Tommy and Will before starting any sort of medical induction. I made sure to tell T.J. that I still intended to do this without an epidural and would need him to encourage me and probably talk me off the ledge during transition when I might be tempted to change my mind. He agreed but maybe a bit skeptically. I suspect he remembered (maybe even more clearly than I do) how irrational and out of my mind and body I was during that stage of Will's birth. But I assured him that I was determined because my experience with Will's unmedicated delivery and subsequent recovery was night and day better than Tommy's. With William I was up and about, no tearing, no pain and feeling like myself almost immediately. I loved the primal experience of feeling my body do what only a woman's body can and was created to do. The sweet suffering, the raw intensity of pain immediately, instantly replaced by a surge of endorphins, release and relief. Pure joy sweeping over me the instant he was out of my body. Barring any more surprises or complications of course, I wanted to do that again.
On the morning of Daisy's birthday, I set my alarm for 5 am and called in to the nurse line to confirm where I was on the schedule and what time I needed to arrive. They let me know to come in by 8am and I went back to bed for about an hour but then excitedly woke up to take a shower and curl my hair. It's surreal knowing exactly when you'll go into labor but it does have it's perks. Then we loaded up the car, kissed the boys goodbye and told them we were off to the hospital and would be home with their sister in a couple days (dodging a certain 5 year old's questions about specifically how that would happen).
We arrived at the hospital and were shown to our room and I met the midwife on the day shift. She sat with me and told me she understood an induction wasn't what I'd hoped for and that she'd do whatever she could to help me have the labor and delivery I wanted, or as she put it I could be as "crunchy as I wanted." She checked me and confirmed I was already 3cm dilated and then did a membrane sweep. She got me hooked up to a contraction monitor and put in a hep lock and then I was left to my own devices. For the next couple of hours we were undisturbed as I walked laps around the room, bounced on the yoga ball and thought bring on the pain! I could see on the monitor that I was having regular "contractions" but they were not painful at all and just felt like the braxton hicks I'd already been experiencing for weeks at that point. T.J. would periodically ask if I was feeling anything, to which I'd respond with a disappointed no. The midwife came back at noon after about 3 hours and brought me a sack lunch which I inhaled knowing the hard work was still ahead of me. She asked if I wanted to keep doing what I was doing or start a low dose of pitocin. It's bizarre hoping for pain but after several hours of what felt like nothing I was ready to get this show on the road.
I was hooked up to IV fluids but they were able to find a wireless contraction monitor that stuck directly to my stomach instead of the belt so I had fewer cords to contend with and didn't have to unplug myself every time I needed to use the restroom. Being able to snack and walk around and move as I needed was really important to me and I'm so thankful my midwife and the hospital recognize the importance of these freedoms in birth as I know not all hospitals or providers do, especially for an induction. Now that the pitocin was pumping I was expecting the waves of pain to start picking up but while I continued to register regular contractions about every 3-5 minutes on the monitor, nothing else really changed. The nurse would come in every 30 minutes and up the pitocin drip one unit at a time and then I'd wait for the next contraction to see if this one would have some bite to it. T.J. would look at me expectantly each time and still nothing, no pain, very frustrating. We continued this pattern for several hours, until around 7pm and I knew I was feeling way too comfortable and normal. They asked me if I wanted to be checked again and I was hesitant because I knew I was going to be disappointed but we also wanted to know what the rest of the night would look like. So after the shift change I met the new midwife and she checked me and told me I was at 5cm. Progress but not much in my mind. She offered to break my waters but I knew that would immediately ramp up the pain and since I figured I still had a ways to go I wanted to keep that cushion in tact. We had honestly expected the baby to be here by then and T.J. had planned to go home kiss the boys goodnight and grab a change of clothes after she was born. Since that seemed like a ways off still and we were both getting antsy I sent him home to pick up some dinner for us and grab whatever he wanted for the rest of the night. T.J. left around 8pm and the nurse came in and bumped up the pitocin again....
Well I guess was all I needed because things shifted almost immediately. With the lights dimmed, and the room quiet I started feeling more. I wanted to make the contractions work for me so I bounced on the yoga ball next to the bed and noticed I needed to lean over the bed to brace myself. I also heard myself start to moan and breathe deeper through them. And then I was vocalizing even louder... but I was still just 5 cm right? I casually texted T.J...
Our house is about 20 minutes away so he hurried back. When he walked in the room I was a very different gal from the one he'd left barely an hour before. I was still standing next to the bed but then would drop into a deep squat and moan loudly through the now more frequent contractions. I asked T.J. to push hard (HARDER!!) on my lower back each time one would start and then brace for the next one. I started to feel a lot of pressure and like I needed to use the restroom so I dragged my IV in there and parked myself on the toilet and closed the door. For some reason this is where I go when labor picks up aka transition though I didn't realize it at the time. It's so hard to describe pain because it's not something you can feel outside of the experience but let's just say it was intense. I was beginning to feel crawl out-of-my-body frantic and worried that this was the "dreaded" pitocin finally kicking in like I'd been warned about. Could I handle hours more of this bombardment? I immediately began to doubt myself and all the reasons I wanted a natural delivery in the first place. It seemed stupid to put myself through this kind of pain, this freaking sucked. I told T.J. to tell someone, anyone, to get me something, anything. I didn't want to do it anymore.
T.J. reminded me that I had told him explicitly that if at any point I asked for an epidural it meant I was close. I. Did. Not. Care. So he got the nurse while I stayed on the toilet with the door closed because now the pressure was so strong and I still felt like I just really needed to go to the bathroom... Anywho, I heard the nurse come in and ask T.J. how I was doing. He told her I was saying I wanted an epidural but he also impressed on her that this is pretty much exactly what I did during Will's birth, the last time I tried to have our baby on the toilet... The midwife opened the door to talk to me (talk me down). She said they could call anesthesia but gently suggested that maybe they should check me first because it was possible the pressure I was feeling was actually the baby. Kindly she left out the "duh." I, however, was adamant that I just needed to go to the bathroom and then they could check me, just let me go to the bathroom! Even in my haze of pain and pressure and denial I overheard the saner people in the room start to organize and get the room ready for the baby.
I finally begrudgingly agreed to come out of the bathroom to be checked but told TJ not to look (like he needed the reminder). When I rage-waddled out there were more people in the room. Along with T.J, my nurse and midwife, there was the baby's nurse, and a med student who was on a labor and delivery rotation and that I had earlier consented could watch. The room had been prepped for baby's imminent arrival and it felt a little strange walking into the bustling room with everyone watching to see what I'd do next. The midwife asked if I could lay down and yeah right absolutely not! So instead I "gracefully" climbed up on the bed and knelt facing out at T.J., wrapping my arms around his neck for support. The midwife sat on her stool behind me and confirmed what she already knew, I was complete and the pressure I was feeling was indeed the baby. This wasn't her first rodeo so she asked for a face shield as my waters still had not ruptured and we were expecting a Hollywood movie style finish. I could push whenever I wanted she said. With the next few contractions I yelled out, with T.J. holding me upright as I gripped his neck. The pushing was almost involuntary, but without an epidural I could feel her moving down each time. Then slowing, holding back, hesitating at that last hurdle until finally pushing beyond the pain I felt her leave my body and join the world. Instant relief, instant joy!
(She still makes this pouty lip, so basically she's gonna get whatever she wants. Forever and ever amen.)
(She still looks at her daddy like this. Seeing him hold each of our babies is forever a melt my heart core memory. I did not know how badly he needed a baby girl until right then.)
After some skin to skin, she was weighed and measured (still a big girl like her brothers even at 38weeks) and we were soon walking down the hall to our recovery room for the night. After a glorious shower I felt like a new woman. I had no tearing or pain (except for every time the nurse came to push on my uterus to make it contract down) and as third time parents we were kind of like can we just go home now, please? But Tennessee requires a newborn screening at 24 hours after birth. Since she decided to wait until 9:55pm you can bet at 10pm the next night and not a minute too soon we were hustling out of the hospital, loading the car and bringing our girl home. Then in what feels like the blink of an eye our sweet Daisy girl is somehow six months old. Why do six months in the womb drag but these past months with her in our home have just flown! I will forever look at her and marvel at what we made! No matter how it happens I will always think birth is simply, positively miraculous. What a gift and a privilege to carry her inside my body, feel her grow and move and kick, and then get to do the hard, messy, beautiful work of bringing her into our lives. I absolutely cannot imagine our family without her and I can't wait to know her for the rest of my life.