Category Archives: Birth Story

The Birth Story, Part 4

(Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here)

Pushing was extremely difficult. Because of my asthma, I was never able to hold my breath for the full 10 seconds on the last push of each contraction. That made me feel like I was failing, and I became anxious leading up to each contraction, which only made it harder to give my all each time. I was also feeling a lot of painful pressure and asked for more pain medication, though we would realize later that something must have been dislodged and I was not receiving medicine like we all thought.

Time completely melted away during pushing. All I know is that I felt tremendous pressure and assumed the baby must be so close. My nurse kept saying, “She’s right here. One more good push!” But it was never just one more push. If I ever do this again, I will explicitly forbid anyone to tell me “just one more push.” Every time I heard that, pushed, and didn’t have a baby became utter disappointment piled onto total exertion. My anxiety over not being able to do this “the right way” started to take over my mind, and I was on the brink of an anxiety attack. I began frantically wondering what happens when someone cannot push the baby out. Will Addison be okay? Is she stuck without oxygen? Will I need emergency surgery?

At one point, I yelled, “Just get her out!” I was so worried that I was hurting my baby girl. I could feel her so close to being here, but it felt like it would be a million years before I could finish this. I was losing it. I looked up at Clayton. I found his eyes and I stayed there. I couldn’t move to the left or to the right, not up or down. I knew that disaster and fear and panic were waiting for me outside of his gaze, so I would not, could not, move. I stared at him, terrified, and he stared back at me. He was scared, too. I could see it splashed across his face, but that was the safest place in the room and I never wanted to leave his blue eyes.

“Natalie, what are you afraid of?” Dr. Peden asked with the greatest insight.

Everything! I wanted to scream. That I physically can’t do this! That you’re asking me to hold my breath when I can’t! That I don’t know how to push any harder!

But I didn’t say any of that. I don’t remember what I said, but I know it was a lie.

Dr. Peden directed a nurse to give me oxygen in between contractions. I don’t know if it helped, but it was a heavy realization that I was not handling this well. I dove into the pile of anxieties in my mind and shoved them over a cliff. I didn’t have time to be afraid anymore. My baby didn’t have time for me to be afraid.

On the next contraction, I knew this was it. I knew I would never be able to push the way they wanted me to. So I wouldn’t let myself get to a third push. The contraction came, I curled my back, pulled my knees into my chest and lost myself in that push. I have never worked harder than those seconds. The handful of baby-attending people who had gathered in the room let out a collective gasp.

And I felt it. I knew. My baby girl was in the world with me.

Relief and joy and pride and exhaustion crashed together in a wave through my body and mind. But then it all silenced into the purest, overwhelming love as a tiny, white baby with matted dark hair rested on my chest, floating up and down, up and down, to the rhythm of my heart.

“I love you, baby girl.”

And my sweet Addison Brooke was home.

Then I didn’t sleep for three weeks.

The Birth Story, Part 3

(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)

Thanks to God’s infinite providence, the doctors had changed shifts, and my absolute favorite doctor from my practice was on duty. She was much less strict about the time limit (I didn’t have any signs of infection yet) and worked with me to try and stick to the non-surgical labor I wanted.

Getting the epidural actually proved more difficult than anticipated. My stubborn defense is that the doctor did a lousy job of explaining what he was doing and alerting me when/where I was going to feel touching or poking. Basically, I was a big, fat flincher. I flinched so hard right before he stuck the needle in that he jumped backwards.

Finally, we conquered that hurdle and soon I was reclined and relaxing on the bed. Around 9:30 p.m. my doctor checked me again. (For anyone who is counting, this makes the 107th time I was checked.) Six centimeters! Woohoo! A hundred hours of labor to get one and a half centimeters, add drugs, and I get to six in an hour and a half. Someone’s uterus was obviously not relaxing going the natural route, but I won’t name names. I was completely thrilled with my progress, and my doctor was convinced I would be at 10 centimeters and ready to push in an hour or so.

Clayton’s mom had arrived by this time, and she hung out with us for awhile, along with my parents who had been invited back to the room once the epidural took hold. We were all in pretty good spirits.

The doctor checked me again around 10:45 p.m. To my surprise and disappointment, I was only 8 centimeters. And I had a fever, suggesting I was finally starting to get the dreaded infection. I know in my core that if I still had the doctor who was on duty in the morning, I would have been wheeled into the operating room at this point. But Dr. Peden agreed to give me just a bit longer, and I am forever grateful to her for honoring my wishes in a safe, reassuring way.

During the next hour, I tried to prepare myself for a C-section. If I had not progressed appropriately, I knew that was what the baby would need to avoid an infection. Honestly, I accepted it. I was ready to undergo the procedure that had topped my list of fears my entire pregnancy. If Addison needed to come safely into this world via surgery, I would give that to her. I fully anticipated that was going to be our story.

Around midnight, Dr. Peden returned for one final check. I locked in on her face, trying to read every eyebrow twitch as good news or bad news. Then she smiled. “9.9,” she said. “I think we can go ahead and push.”

I was ecstatic and filled with relief. I thought it was over, that we had reached our destination. I was so, so wrong.

The Birth Story, Part 2

(Part 1 here)

When we arrived at the hospital, I was taken to a room in the Emergency Department so that the on call OB/GYN from my office could make sure my water had broken. It had. Unfortunately I wasn’t dilated at all. She then casually mentioned that I would be taken upstairs to start pitocin. I’m sorry, do what now?

My doctor explained that because my water broke, I would need to deliver the baby or at least be in hard labor within 12 hours to avoid getting an infection that could pass to the baby. This was vastly different than what I understood from our conversation weeks earlier in her office; I thought I had 12 hours to try and have contractions on my own if my water broke. Nope, 12 hours to get the baby out. Time clock: started. Strike two.

My doctor agreed to give me a couple of hours to see if I started having stronger contractions or progressed at all before beginning pitocin. I didn’t. And what had been one of my greatest reservations had to take place. I got an IV and started on pitocin to induce labor around 10 a.m. With the IV, I could only move around with the bulky cart attached to the drip bag. Strikes three and four. I don’t know what game we were playing, but my birth plan was definitely losing.

The contractions began getting stronger and more noticeable. For several hours I was handling them well. Clayton would rub my back and a birth ball and I became besties. Lying in bed was horrendous, so that was nixed pretty quickly. My parents visited for awhile (another no-no on the original plan). At first, it was a welcome distraction to have other people to talk to and laugh with. They brought lunch for Clayton while I munched on the hospital’s finest ice chips. So cliché.

Unfortunately, their visit stretched into the time the contractions crossed over into the much-harder-to-manage range. I had shown my parents how to see the contractions on the monitor, and every time I was about to have one, my dad would announce it from looking at the monitor before I had felt it yet. “Here comes one,” he’d say, making me unable to relax for any extra seconds I might have had before feeling it myself.

My mom could tell we were entering the no talk, no laugh zone and told my dad it was time to go. It was early afternoon when they left, and after that, things got real. The back rubs no longer felt good and Clayton needed to stay a good three feet away from me during contractions. The birth ball was losing its magic. I’m shuttering a little just thinking about those few hours and feeling perfectly content at the idea of Addison being an only child.

The pain got intense. I was having strong contractions every one and a half to two minutes. Despite how uncomfortable it was, I figured at least things were moving along and I could tell through the strength of the contractions that we had to be progressing. I decided I wanted the epidural around 7:30 p.m. My nurse wanted to check me one last time before she left at 8 and asked if I could hold off on getting the epidural until then. I was at the point in labor when I measured time in contractions. I honestly didn’t know if I had that many epidural-less contractions left in me, but I agreed. But I negotiated a 7:50 check.

One and a half centimeters. Thirteen hours of labor for one and a half centimeters. I was stunned and disheartened and totally discouraged. I wanted the largest cocktail of pain meds this place would serve me. I had just writhed in pain for hours and it was completely useless (according to my less than trustworthy reasoning).

Beyond being completely demoralized, my not progressing also made the C-section conversation relevant. We knew that there was a chance I could be forced to go that route if I didn’t get far enough along in the 12 hour window after my water broke. And now I had hit the time limit and was at a ridiculous one and a half centimeters.

The Birth Story, Part 1

It’s been six months, which is way past the deadline to make any returns or exchanges, so I suppose it’s time to share Addison’s birth story. If things like lady parts and uterine contractions are not your bag, I’d recommend returning when regular programming resumes.


I wrote about Addison’s birth late one night (well, very early one morning) in the darkness of her nursery as she slept a few feet away. I tried to capture the soul-shaking beauty of those moments. But there is also the play-by-play, nitty gritty labor story that needs to be told, mostly because even now, nearly six weeks later, the memories are still tinged with anxiety. Hopefully the retelling will help me put the sharper corners of that day in their final resting place and Mama can move on.

Leading up to labor, Clayton and I were fairly middle ground when it came to our birth plan. For the medical staff, we labeled it our “wish list” to keep those feathers unruffled. I was not adamant about having or not having an epidural and planned to just see how things went. You know, because labor is known for being a very go with the flow sort of experience. Let me just say now: if you go into labor not knowing for sure if you want or don’t want an epidural, you will be getting an epidural.

Other important requests I made were to labor at home for as much as I could, to not be induced with pitocin unless it became necessary, to be able to move around as long as I had not received an epidural (trying to take a walk while my legs were numb would certainly make for a hilarious birth story but do little to actually help the process), and to be allowed to labor at my own pace without an unnecessary time clock being held over my head.

Looking back, I can now confirm what every labor and delivery nurse and obstetrician knows but doesn’t say: birth plans are a crock. You can practice that breathing, attend prenatal yoga religiously, avoid sushi and alcohol like the plague and Kegel your heart out, but after a certain point, your baby and your body are calling the shots. You’re just a passenger on the ride.

My ride began at 5:50 a.m. July 14. I woke up needing to pee and was lying in bed trying to muster up the motivation to get up. And then my water broke. One of the questions I asked my doctor was if I would know for sure if my water broke. I was able to answer my own question. I knew instantly what had happened and sat straight up, blinking in disbelief. I went to the bathroom to “confirm” what I already knew.

The jumble of thoughts and words and questions fumbling around my brain can best be described as one of those word puzzles that take the letters from each word and scramble them up so nothing makes sense or looks normal. I didn’t know what to do first. I stumbled out of the bathroom and woke Clayton up.

“Um. My water broke.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’m sure. What should I do?”
“Then we need to go to the hospital.”

Such the level headed husband, that one. I continued my internal massive freak out while I got a shower and packed the last few things in my havin’-a-baby bag. Clayton called my doctor’s office and started packing his bag (that I told him to have ready weeks before, cough cough).

So…laboring at home wasn’t happening. Strike one.