Here it is. The story of how our baby girl Avary Layne made her way into this world. She is hands-down my greatest accomplishment and my biggest joy.
To give a little background, I was 22 years old when my husband and I found out I was pregnant. Having just celebrated 2 years of marriage, we were so excited to be adding a baby to our little family! I had such an amazing pregnancy! Despite the nausea at the beginning and the fatigue and swelling at the end, I had little to complain about. I remember entering week 39 of pregnancy and feeling like it was NEVER going to end. I thought for sure Avary was going to stay inside me forever.
That week, I had my routine prenatal appointment. My husband, Matthew, was there with me–something that did not always happen because of his work schedule. I sat there on the little table with the stupid crinkly paper as the nurse put the blood pressure cuff on to take my blood pressure. I waited. After the cuff released its pressure, I looked up at the nurse, whose face seemed rather concerned. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that my blood pressure was rather high and that the doctor was going to have to check it. I really thought nothing of it and waited for the doctor to come in. As soon as she came in, she took my pressure again. It was still high. She also went on to tell me that my urine sample came back with elevated levels of protein in it. She explained that high levels of protein in my urine coupled with hypertension could signal preeclampsia–a disorder that, left untreated, could mean a stroke for me and serious complications for the baby. She told me that she wasn’t trying to scare me, but that they have to take this very seriously and told me to go to the hospital right away so they could monitor me and the baby. In her opinion, she thought they would most likely induce me. After she left the room, I just looked at Matt and started crying. I was so confused! There I was, 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant, having had a completely healthy pregnancy up until this point, being told that I had this serious, life-threatening complication. I was definitely in shock. Matt reassured me that everything was going to be okay, and I calmed myself down. This was not a part of my “plan,” though. I had wanted to have a natural, unmedicated, water birth, and I was just told I would most likely have to have an induction.
Matt was supposed to go back to work after the appointment, but he called and explained what was going on. We drove home to get our hospital bags just in case we did have to stay, and then headed off to the hospital. When we arrived, they put me on a fetal monitor, took my blood pressure several times, did some blood work, and collected more urine. After a couple of hours of monitoring and tests, they told me that all my organs were functioning fine, the baby sounded great, and my blood pressure had gone down some. There was still protein in my urine, so they sent me home to do a 24 hr urine analysis. If you don’t know what that is, basically, they give you this huge orange jug and a plastic urine catch and you have to collect your urine for a whole 24 hr period. I was then supposed to return it to the hospital the next day. This was on Friday, January 22nd. Leaving the hospital, I felt like everything was okay. They hadn’t mentioned anything else about induction and they sent me home so I assumed that was a good sign.
Once we got home, Matt had to go back to work. I really didn’t want him to leave me after the stress of the day, but he had to. I also didn’t want him to leave because they were forecasting us to get a blizzard the very next day when I was supposed to return my urine to the hospital (which was a good 40 minutes away). Matt promised he would come home and get me and drive me to the hospital. Super pregnant lady + huge blizzard= not a good idea. So Saturday (the 23rd) comes and we get hit HARD with this crazy snow! Matt finally makes it home and tells me that the roads are horrible and that he really doesn’t think it is safe to drive all the way to the hospital. I call the hospital and explain my situation and how I cannot make it to drop off my urine. The midwife on-call did not seem very happy with this and explained that “my tests did not come back perfect” and something was still going on. She strongly urged me to watch out for any symptoms like headache, vision changes, elevated blood pressure, swelling, etc., as these could be signs of preeclampsia that could become a stroke or other complications. She told me to monitor my blood pressure, as well. When I got off the phone, I was scared out of my mind! At the hospital the day before, they had made me feel as if everything was okay and then this midwife made me feel like I might die! There was nothing we could do though because there was no way to safely get to the hospital in the weather we were having. Matt tried to keep me calm, but I was feeling very uneasy, nervous, and afraid for our little baby. That night, I contacted anyone I could think of to see if I could borrow a blood pressure cuff. No one had one. So the next morning–Sunday–Matt took me to CVS so I could check my blood pressure on one of those machines. My blood pressure was 151/90! I looked at Matt with a horrified look on my face and told him we had to get to the hospital. I called the hospital in the car and they told me to come in. We swung by the house and grabbed our bags and all the baby stuff–AGAIN–and headed to the hospital. At this point, I knew something was wrong and that they were going to induce me. . . I didn’t care about my “plan,” I just wanted our baby to get here safely. I didn’t know what to expect, though, because I hadn’t read much about induction at all.
After arriving at the hospital and running much of the same tests they did on Friday, they told me they were going to induce me. They explained that since I was now 40 weeks pregnant, the baby was big enough and healthy enough, and it was safer for her to get here than to be inside me any longer. They explained that the only way to resolve preeclampsia was to deliver.
So on Sunday, January 24th around 4pm, they began the induction process. They opted to begin by giving me Cytotec, an oral pill that was to be taken in 3 hour increments that helped to soften and dilate the cervix. Before they began the process, I was only 1 cm dilated. After they gave me a pill, I had to spend 1 hour in the hospital bed on a fetal monitor and a blood pressure cuff so they could monitor me and the baby’s reaction to the drug. They explained that they could give up to 7 of these pills and if this did not help induce labor, they would have to move on to different medical/drug options. So, I received a pill at 4pm, 7pm, 10pm (Sunday), 1 am (Monday), 4am, 7am. . . By this point on Monday, I was feeling contractions. In the morning, they weren’t very strong and were still coming inconsistently, but it was progress!
As the afternoon rolled around, my contractions started coming more consistently–about every 5-7 minutes. They started getting more uncomfortable so I began doing my relaxation techniques and different techniques to try to get comfortable. Since I had planned on having a natural birth, I was listening to my hypnobirth and labor music, I labored on the birthing ball, I labored in the shower. . . I will tell you that, for me, the shower REALLY helped my labor pain. My hospital had those removable shower heads and I just pointed it at my back or my abdomen when a contraction came on and it helped get through the discomfort. The birthing ball was also an amazing pain relief for me, but NOT sitting on it! Sitting on it seemed to intensify my contractions because it opens up your pelvis. I did do it just to help move her down, but I liked bending over at the waist and leaning on top of the ball and swaying my hips back and forth during contractions. That helped alleviate some of the pain.
Even though I was induced, my hospital allowed me to walk around and labor how I wanted to. They would routinely have me get in bed to monitor the baby and my blood pressure, however. As afternoon became early evening, my contractions were coming exactly every 5 minutes and were strong. I had talked to my doctor earlier in the day and she had said I could still do my water birth, but she recommended I don’t get in the tub until my contractions were very close together. While I was being monitored in the bed, they informed me that my blood pressure was going up again. This was a huge concern because at the time the induction started, they had also been giving me blood pressure medication. My doctor came in and told me I had to stay in the bed lying on my left side for the remainder of my labor. That was the only way to keep my blood pressure down and make sure the baby was okay. I cried. Laying in that stupid bed and trying to make it through contractions is near impossible! It was SO incredibly painful to lay there because the position only intensified my pain and there was no relief. After enduring this for an hour or two, I was screaming and crying every time a contraction came. At one point, Matt started crying because he hated seeing me in so much pain. Finally I told Matthew and my mom that I wanted the epidural. The epidural was not in my plan, but neither was being stuck in the bed for my whole labor. I knew pushing was so far off, and I didn’t feel like I could make it in this kind of pain until that point. I told my doctor and she thought it was a good idea. She told me that she knew it wasn’t in my birth plan, but the epidural would actually help lower my blood pressure (the pain of labor was also elevating it) and it would allow me to finally sleep and get some rest before pushing.
I was pretty nervous about getting the epidural because there are so many horror stories, but my nurses kept assuring me that the anesthesiologist was wonderful. They prepped me and the room and told us that he preferred no one else be in the room with me, so when he came in, Matthew left the room. Some new nurse came in with him, and I did NOT like her. I was expecting her to coach me through what I was supposed to do and be encouraging, but she was not. She barely said anything to me! There I am in the heart of labor, having crazy contractions, sitting cross-legged on a horribly uncomfortable hospital bed, with my back arched like a cat, waiting to get stuck with a huge needle and the nurse said nothing! The anesthesiologist began pushing on my spine–which is fine and normal–but he was taking a long time doing this, which I found odd. I asked him if everything was okay and he said yes. I then feel him stick the needle in. It really doesn’t hurt, but for me, it was the most disgusting feeling! When he stuck it in, I felt him wiggling it around which was making me feel sick. Then he started pressing on my back again and preceded to ask me which side of my spine I felt the needle on. Honestly, I was trying to not pay attention and I told him I didn’t know. I really couldn’t tell, all I could feel were my contractions! Then, I feel him take the needle out and I’m thinking I’m almost done when he sticks me again with the needle! I literally yelled, “What are you doing??” He didn’t reply and neither did the nurse. He did the stupid wiggling thing again, and at that point, I felt like I was going to pass out. I told the nurse in front of me and she literally said, “You’re fine.” I said, “NO, I’m really going to pass out. I’m getting sick. I’m. . . I’m. ..” My speech began slurring, I couldn’t hold my head up, my eyes wouldn’t stay open, and everything was going black. I’ve never passed out before but I thought that is what was happening or that maybe I was just dying. That’s what it felt like. I was crying for the nurse to help me and she was like, “Just breathe.” and began slapping me in the face! Legit, slapping. I then felt the anesthesiologist stick me for a THIRD time with the needle and I screamed, “What are you doing?! I want you to stop! What is wrong?” He then finally told me that I had a slight curve in my spine and he had trouble getting it in the right spot. I was so mad, tired, sick by the time it was over, and I was scared that I was going to end up paralyzed or that the epidural wouldn’t even work. When Matt came back in the room, he knew something was wrong. I explained it to him while crying, and he felt really bad for having left the room. It took a while for the epidural to kick in and actually make my legs numb, but when it did, I could not feel my legs AT ALL. When the nurses had to move me, I kept trying to help, and my legs were doing nothing (haha). I don’t know if it is a side effect of the epidural or if my body could just finally relax, but I got soooo sleepy. I couldn’t keep my eyes open even when I tried. I got some good sleep overnight.
After realizing how numb my legs were, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to push because I couldn’t feel anything. They give you this button with your epidural where you can increase the dosage if you need more pain relief. By early morning, I stopped pressing the button altogether because I wanted some feeling back in my legs for pushing. As the morning wore on, I could feel the epidural’s strength wearing off. I could feel my legs better and I could feel my contractions again. They came and checked me that morning around 7 or so and I was 8 cm dilated. It wouldn’t be long! They told me to call them in when I felt like I absolutely had to push. Around 9:40 AM on Tuesday, January 26th., I felt so much pressure and knew I needed to start pushing! My doctor came in, as well as a visiting doctor, my nurse, and a nurse for the baby. My husband and my mom were also in the room. When they went to check me, they looked and they said, “Wow, her head is right there! I need to get my gear on!” Once they were ready, I started pushing. My mom, Matt, and my nurse helped hold my legs. As I was pushing, they were all saying, “Faith, she has your hair! She has dark, curly hair and there is so much of it!” I was so excited because I had hoped she would have hair. I asked if they could get a mirror so I could see. They wheeled in a big mirror and I saw her head full of hair. I felt like crying, I was so excited! Being able to watch in the mirror gave me so much motivation! Matt was so encouraging to me and so excited throughout the whole pushing process. He even touched her head! After a couple pushes, her head was so close to crowning. Everyone kept encouraging me, and I knew I could do it! Once her head crowned then came out, her body came out so quickly! I got to help catch her.
I immediately started crying when I saw my baby girl. She came out, eyes wide open, staring at me and her daddy. It seemed like she hardly blinked, she wanted to take it all in. She barely cried at all. She just stared at me. Everyone says you can’t describe the feeling you get when you meet your baby for the first time, and they are right, you can’t. It’s euphoric. Exhilarating. Empowering. Emotional. Overwhelming. Waiting to meet this little person you’ve had inside you for 40 weeks, then finally getting to meet them. . . There is nothing like it. The love is instantaneous. I was in awe that this was my baby, that me and Matt made her, and that my body just delivered her. She was and is perfect. When I think back to the way Avary came into the world-quiet, interested, mellow-it is exactly how her personality is.
In a lot of ways my birth was traumatic: developing preeclampsia, dealing with a 3 foot blizzard when I had to get to the hospital, getting suddenly induced, having a horrible epidural experience. . . Months after having Avary, my mom told me that at one point during my labor, my blood pressure got as high as 190. I was on the brink of something really scary. And I’m surprised my doctors didn’t end up doing a c-section. But I am so so thankful that God watched over Avary and I and saw us through that delivery. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!