Hello from Ives & Christy
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"THE TEMPTATION TO QUIT WILL BE GREATEST JUST BEFORE YOU ARE ABOUT TO SUCCEED."
If there ever was a quote to sum up our birth story that would be it.
Some of you have followed along my pregnancy from the beginning, so you know that I did not find out the gender of our sweet babe until the delivery. Luka Hot Halverson entered this world on Monday, May 18th 2020 at 4:07 PM weighing 8 lb 3.4 oz and measuring 20.5 inches. Our world has forever changed for the better and despite such a small package, my heart and Andy's is overflowing with love. I believe every birth story is beautiful and unique and I wanted to share my experience with the ULA community.
Not another hospital bag list...
This one is from two mamas and all the advice they received from friends and family along the way.
During the last couple of months of pregnancy, nesting sets in and it feels like your life becomes a wide variety of "to-do" lists. There is a list for everything: from nursery, meal prep, birthing plans/classes, and what to pack for the most exciting trip of your life. Oh yes, if you chose a hospital birth then you need to plan and pack a hospital bag to get you through labor, delivery, and those first few days as a new family. Our goal was to take the guess work out of packing for you.
Christy and I are delivering at the same hospital and they are PREPARED. They have birthing balls, labor peanuts, music players, rocking chairs, diapers/wipes, and a lot of other goodies to make this experience easier for a new mama. Check with your delivery unit to see what they provide for laboring mamas.
The countdown is on mama and you are getting ready to meet that stranger that has been growing inside for the past 9 months. WOW. Take a deep breath and process the power of that.
Here I go, embarking on telling you the story of my most precious gift to date, Kaila Jae. I get teary eyed just thinking about the moment she was placed on my chest. It's hard to put into words what I felt, but from that moment forward, I saw life from a new perspective, I loved my husband harder, and I had a new appreciation for what my body was able to do. The birthing experience and recovery has been a humbling one to say the least and I want to caution you that this is a long one, so grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, play the station "warm and fuzzy feeling" on spotify, and cozy up on the couch to get a peak into the 4 days it took to get sweet Kaila into this world.
If you have been following my pregnancy journey, then you know I was 2 weeks past my due date. A little advice for any newly pregnant mamas to be that may be in a similar situation... don't announce the due date. Hopefully you won't be in my shoes or you get induced earlier, but it added so much pressure and part of me feels like it stalled me from going into spontaneous labor, because that silly little date felt like a locked in appointment for her arrival, it makes no sense at all why we put so much pressure on that specific date, but it felt like the longest 2 weeks of my life. I did ALL THE THINGS they tell you to do, in order to induce labor. Sex, eating 6 dates a day, red raspberry leaf tea, primrose oil, walking, etc. The only thing I didn't do was castor oil, which I have two bottles in my bathroom now because I ALMOST did, but the side affects of pooping my brains out while going into false labor just didn't seem worth it. Also, there was potential risk to the baby and that's what made it a solid no for me.
After many sleepless nights, baby girl still wasn't getting the memo. Her eviction notice had been hand served, and she was just a few days away from being forced out of that cozy cocoon of a uterus she had made her home for the past 10 1/2 months. But boy was she COZZYYY! Those two weeks were emotionally and physically hard. Looking back, I wish I could tell myself that I was about to be the happiest I had ever been and that it would be well worth the wait (which people did...but that is what personal hindsight is all about, right?).
As a reminder, January 2nd was her due date, I really wanted to go into labor naturally, and have a drugless vaginal birth. I also did not want to be induced, since pitocin, which is what they use to induce you, is a freakin BIOTCH and would make a drugless labor even harder and potentially increase the chances of a c-secton. So I toughed it out, I stayed pregnant for an extra two weeks as I watched my feet swell up until the only shoes that fit me were Rob's dads and I forgot that being comfortable in clothes, well at all really, was a thing humans felt... all in hopes that my body knew what to do and would eventually go into labor.
Spoiler alert, that didn't exactly happen and since we were almost at 2 weeks overdue and the doctors won't let you go past that, due to increases in still birth going up, it was time to go against nature and deliver on that eviction notice. So on January 14th, we started the induction process, with a foley balloon first, as this was the most natural way to start dilating my cervix. It's essentially a balloon that they put in your cervix and fill with saline water. I was able to go home after having the balloon placed, which was really nice but it felt like the most painful, crampy period I have actually never had. Rob got off work early to come to the doctor with me and assisted the doctor in putting it in. I wanted comfort CARBS, so we got sandwiches from The Other Coast Cafe and I ordered some comfort food I was craving. When we got home I tried to nap... Rob's favorite version of me. You can only have the foley in for 24 hours, so if I didn't go into labor naturally and/or if the balloon didn't fall out I would go into labor and delivery the next day to continue induction.
I woke up the next morning and the balloon hadn't fallen out and I was feeling better. So I did a quick workout (insane/annoying or motivating? Not sure), made some energy balls for the nurses, and we headed into labor and delivery. It was about 11AM when we checked in and the doctor on call checked my cervix. The foley balloon was successful in a way, as I had dilated to 4 centimeters, woohoo we thought that was great progress! So the nurses spent the next 3 hours trying to get the IV in my arm to start pitocin, they could not get a good vein on the top of my forearm, probably because of all the water retention (pictures to come later). But this wasn't a great start... finally, they got the IV in and onward with the pitocin. Although this isn't how I wanted it to be, I knew that I would meet my little girl soon so I was ready to start.
The standard measurement of Pitocin is prepared by adding 1-mL vial containing 10 units of oxytocin and increasing the dosage every 30 minutes. I bring this up so you can understand how much I was given. They usually start by increasing by increments of 2, so that is exactly what they did from about 2PM until 10AM the next morning, which brought me all the way up to 23. The nurse had informed me that an average person going into labor naturally has a dosage right around a 7. As they began to increase my dosage, I started to feel contractions every 5 minutes, but they weren't intense enough to be considered "active" labor.
Around 10AM the next day, when the doctors were changing shifts, the next doctor on call came in, which I loved her from the start because she was to the point, hopeful, and empowered me. She checked my cervix and we found out that I hadn't made any progress since I came in, I was still at 4 centimeters. Thoughts of a c-section haunted me, since my body didn't seem to be reacting to the pitocin. (Looking back, I don't know why I was so terrified of a c-section... again personal hindsight, this is helping me realize I am a stubborn one once I have my mind made up). Since we didn't see progress with such a high dosage, she told me at this point my body was completely saturated with it and it was best to give my body some time to flush it out. The chances of me going into active labor using the same approach by continuing to increase the dosage were slim to none. In addition, I still wasn't completely effaced (my cervix wasn't 100% thinned out, which is the end goal and I was only about 40% effaced).
Game plan 2 began... so we turned it off and while my body was flushing out the pitocin, I took misoprostol, which is used to thin the cervix, again working towards that 100% effacement. We waited 4 hours for things to happen, I got to take a shower since my IV was removed and had a chance to power nap and eat something. Those 4 hours felt like a glorious little reset, but I would soon find out that what we are calling "miso" didn't do anything. The doctor reassured me that we still had plenty of time and other options before we would resort to a C-section. She knew I wanted a natural vaginal birth, so next step was to break my water and restart pitocin. This time IT WORKED! Man, were my contraction intense after the first hour when were only at around a dosage of 4. Breaking the water was the magic trick to get things started!
Another hour or so passed and my contractions were still intense and getting closer together, active labor had absolutely started. The thing with pitocin is that your contractions happen every 1 to 5 minutes, and they are INTENSE, compared to a gradual increase in intensity and time between when your body releases natural oxytocin (or so I am told). The nurse had told me that the goal was to get my contractions to be 1 minute apart, mine were not super consistent, they were anywhere from 1 minute to 5 minutes apart. Another few hours of breathing through the contractions and what felt like blacking out (there is a reason people have another kid) took place. It was around 8PM when the contractions REALLY became unbearable or it felt like I couldn't power through them, they were 1-3 minutes apart and I was compulsively shaking between each contraction, so I needed to use a different pain management technique other than white knuckling through. The nurse and Rob walked me to the room with the jacuzzi and filled it up with warm water. Here I labored drugless for another 7 hours, time really wasn't a tangible thing and Rob doesn't seem to have had a concept of it either, so these are all estimates. The water was such a relief, but still painful, I vomited twice from the pain (which I have only puked 2 other times in my life before this). Rob was MY ABSOLUTE ROCK, he helped me breath through the contractions and the bathtub really was a game changer. I had never seen him in that light and really don't think I would have been able to do it without him. The water helped me relax my cervix during contractions and in my mind, dilate. I was still compulsively shaking between contractions, so my body never really had a break... although the shakes felt like heaven in comparison to the contractions. The nurse took my temperature and since I was on the high end, I had to have my blood drawn... ALL WAS GOOD. I was passing out in between contractions, as this was my body's way of shutting off before it needed energy to push through. Each time the nurse came in to increase the pitocin, internally I was screaming "NO! I can't take anymore pain!", but that is the goal folks! So I tried to close my eyes and internally go somewhere else. I really don't know how long I was in that tub, it was almost an out of body experience.
After about 7 hours, so a total of about 36 hours of no sleep and having pitocin pumped through my body (minus the 4 hour break) I felt like I had made a lot of progress. I even felt a sense to push. I told the nurse this and she was really excited, but I needed to get back into my room in order to get checked. Since they broke my water, they could only check my cervix a few times, due to increased chances of an infection. My body felt like FOR REAL DEATH, if I could ever guess what that feels like. They had to wrap me up in sheets and put me in a wheel chair, as I compulsively shook to get me back to my room. Once they got me back on the bed, I was hoping I was somewhat close to 10 centimeters. I actually remember laying on the bed and passing out again between contractions, my body couldn't handle it. As the doctor came in and checked my cervix, I was shocked but had ONLY DILATED TO 5 CENTIMETERS... meaning that in the 10ish hours of intense active labor, I had only dilated 1 centimeter... FUN!I had no energy to cry, but it was defeating. At this point, the doctor looked at me and said "I know that you want to go natural (no drugs), but I would HIGHLY recommend an epidural. This is going to be a long night and my fear is that you will have no energy tomorrow to push if you don't get some sort of relief, given how long it has been." With every fiber in my body wanting to say no, I quickly did the math in my head and it took awhile but I decided I didn't need to be the hero. I needed to go 5 more centimeters... if it took me 7 hours to dilate just 1, who knows how much longer this could take. It came to the point where it was either get the epidural or more than likely I would need a C-section because I would have nothing in the tank to push.
It was around 2AM when I decided to do it, to get the epidural. I know I had made the plan to go natural and I still do wish that from the beginning I just went into labor spontaneously and could trust that my body knew what to do, but given my circumstances, it was absolutely what made sense. As soon as I felt relief, I told my husband, "I don't regret this ONE BIT!" He told me that he couldn't stand to watch me suffer like that any longer and was happy that I made the decision. We both agreed I would have had a c-section if it wasn't for the epidural.
What could have been 10 minutes or 3 hours later (time is a little blurry, sorry friends), the lights in my room were turned on and my body was flipped over, as 4 unknown faces stormed into my room and placed an oxygen mask on my face. My heart dropped (literally and figuratively), causing baby Kaila's heart rate to drop too... it may have been one of the scariest moments of my life. I immediately asked them to take the epidural drip out, really thinking I had made a mistake at this point, but apparently that wouldn't help anything. She was a rockstar throughout the entire process, with her heart rate staying strong, and luckily as soon as they gave me oxygen, her heart rate leveled but they did have to stop the pitocin completely in that moment. Which meant this was going to take EVEN more time, as they had to gradually bring the dosage back up. They told me this was normal and at this point I had to just trust. Birth truly is a life or death situation. Every mama out there knows what I am talking about. it is instinctual and you are willing to do anything in that moment to give life to a healthy babe, you really have no other option.
They say you can sleep when you have an epidural, but that didn't happen for me. Not only were my eyes glued to the heart rate monitor, but I continued to compulsively shake between contractions. Although I couldn't sleep, I could relax through my contractions and felt the pressure as I dilated, it was really cool. Around 8AM that morning, they checked my cervix and I was 8 centimeters! This was great news and we thought the push would begin soon, but due to Kaila's heart rate dropping at the end of my contractions, they had to closely monitor the pitocin and this slowed everything down even more. At this point, I think the new doctor on call thought I would need a C-section but our amazing nurse was our advocate as she had been our nurse on a previous shift and told us later she fully communicated that I was strong, that I was an athlete, and that I COULD do this. Around 10AM, I felt an extreme urge to push and the doctor was no where to be found. It was becoming extremely painful, so the nurse decided to check my cervix. She announced that I was in fact 10 centimeters dilated, 100% effaced and ready to push! A light at the end of the tunnel after 3 days of obstacles continuously being placed in the way. I tried to hold back so the doctor could confirm, but Pam the nurse made the judgement call as she couldn't watch me suffer any longer and told Rob to grab my other leg and we started the to push.
My contractions were not as intense or close together as we would want for this part of labor, this is also why I pushed for 4 hours, rather than the typical 2 hours tops! I had to really push when I felt a contraction so basically for the next 2 hours, I worked to get her head to crown. Rob was absolutely amazing, coaching me through it and his excitement level when her head crowned was indescribable. We got the mirror so that I could see her head as well and this helped me immensely. It was incredible to see her head actually coming out! The doctor on call came in to assist and when she was there, my pushes were much more efficient. Mid contraction and push I began to projectile vomit and at this point I was physically and emotionally defeated, but there was no turning back, I was so close.
What was amazing was that in the last half hour, our doctor who knew us and our journey and we absolutely adored, showed up to save the day! She was working in the outpatient office, so we had the pleasure of her getting to deliver baby Kaila! As we were approaching the final push, my doctor compared this to the finish line of a marathon being in sight, so I knew it was time to give it everything I had. With "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beattles playing in the background (a song that reminds me of my childhood, that my dad always had playing as a kid), the contraction came and I pushed! I pushed past the end of the contraction knowing I was emotionally and physically done and just had to get her out. With that final push, Kaila entered this world. What a beautiful moment that there are absolutely no words for. She let out a small whimper, was placed on my chest, and both Rob and I were in a euphoria state of love, fatigue, and absolute shock at what we had created. Tears may have been involved.
She was more than we could have ever imagined. Our world was forever changed and a piece of me died that day. I truly went to battle for this little girl, which is symbolic for how I hope to show up for her every single day. And let's be real, there are no glamour shots of me during labor. It was tough and my body took a toll, some may even say it looked like I had been beat up. But I had a new appreciation for my body and what it is capable of.
I left with a new meaning and appreciation for this life. Knowing that what may seem impossible, is in fact possible. It was humbling and yet empowering and if there is one thing I can say for sure it's that every ounce of pain was worth it. The woman's body is incredibly strong, beautiful, and resilient. My birth story is just that, mine. No judgement or comparisons. It took 4 days to push this peanut out and I am a strong and more resilient woman because of it.
I left the hospital with a battle wound that rocked me and I am still recovering from, but that will be a story for a different day. A part 2 of this birth story that I will share.
Are you a mama? What was your most memorable moment of birth? Can you relate to my story? What questions do you have for me? Comment below!