It’s been just about two weeks (and really over 3 months now) since you joined our outside world. We have learned and changed so much together in that time…but more about that later. I want to tell you the story of how you were born because it was one of the most important experiences of my life. Mommy and Daddy both thought you’d join us so much earlier than December 14, 2014. While your due date was only a few days before, I’d been having contractions on and off for a couple weeks. It seemed like there was another sign that labor was imminent every few days. And yet, there I was, past my due date and SO very ready to meet you. You see, despite the mental and physical struggles of late pregnancy, I wasn’t so unhappy with being pregnant. Your kicks and hiccups made every day special and I’m sure glad you took every day that you did growing in that safe place. The real struggle of the last few weeks was simply being desperate to hold you and look at your beautiful little face. Oh how I longed for it. I had no idea then what being a mom was like or how I would handle the lack of sleep (still figuring that out). But, every part of my being just wanted to meet you.
I had a doctor’s appointment on your due date that ended in lots of tears and frustration. I was told you were high up and that I was only dilated to 1cm despite the fact that I kept feeling you try to drop down. The day after your due date I started working on every natural way of encouraging you to join us that I could. I scheduled an induction massage for Saturday (the next day) and bought evening primrose oil to take and clary sage oil to rub on my stomach. I had some contractions that night but nothing regular–this was pretty common for us. You wanted to be sure I had lots and lots of practice. And darlin, I promise I didn’t need that much of it.
Went to bed that night as usual but I woke up at 6am to a different and harder contraction that 5 minutes later was followed by another. Well, maybe you’d be born on 12/13/14…that would be a GREAT birthday! I started my phone calls to all the close family and friends once they continued at the every 5 minute mark for a while. I’m in labor guys! Get ready! Your daddy was so excited. He made me a smoothie and started getting things in order around the house while I confidently breathed through each contraction, bounced on my birth ball and did the cat/cow stretches. I can handle this!! That’s what I was thinking to myself for the first few hours. But, then things went in a different direction. Instead of being harder and closer together, they started coming randomly and less frequently. Oh no! Not again! Cmon Ellie! So, daddy and I did what we had learned to love to do….WALK! I’m sure the neighbors had gotten used to the view. This time we’d walk halfway down the street…hard contraction, lean on daddy, sway my hips, breath….keep walking. The contractions picked up again when we’d walk and then slow down the second I took a break to stretch or rest at home. By early afternoon I was SO FRUSTRATED. People were asking why I wasn’t going to the hospital yet and I knew it STILL wasn’t time.
So, the next step was to change the scenery. We hopped in the car and drove to my doula Mary’s house. It was time for a really long walk. Mind you…I was in slippers because you had my feet SO SWOLLEN I couldn’t wear real shoes. We walked and walked and contracted and walked. Still couldn’t really ramp it up enough for me to feel like I was ready to go to the hospital. I’m glad I was patient on that one…still had a LOOONG way to go. We got back to her house, chatted some more and contractions slowed down again.
Well, didn’t want to exhaust Mary too soon so we headed home. I remember I had quite a few contractions in the car and then AFTER we passed Coldstone Creamery, I decided I wanted some ice cream. Your dad was quick to turn around and take me back for it. The rest of the afternoon at home was pretty uneventful except I was mentally and emotionally tired and starting to get physically tired. Everyone wanted me to be ready to finally get you out and I felt so much pressure but there was nothing I could do. We drove around and looked at Christmas lights, we played lots and lots of “War” (card game). Your gigi and uncle matt headed up for the night because I guess they had faith you’d pick up the pace sooner than later and didn’t want to drive to the hospital in the middle of the night all the way from Charlotte.
This is when I hit a breaking point. I was so disappointed I started crying hysterically. I cried because we boarded the dogs for the weekend and it seemed like you weren’t going to come and I felt bad for them. I cried because I was tired of updating people that nothing was progressing. I cried because my whole body was swollen and I was so tired and uncomfortable. I cried more than I had in a long time. That’s when gigi and uncle matt came over to cheer me up. We watched funny tv shows and youtube videos and told stories and laughed so hard. I was noticing harder contractions again but I was trying not to over think it and just enjoy the company before bed.
We laid down around 11 to see if we could get some rest. Your daddy was just as tired and because he wasn’t in labor, he fell fast asleep. However, within 30 minutes something shifted and I sensed I should get up. Contractions were harder and coming about ever 2 minutes. Okay, I thought, THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT ELLIE! It’s probably go time now! So, I decided a shower would either calm or ramp up the contractions so I’d better start by taking one….your dad slept through all this. While in the shower I was having to push the walls through each contraction…stronger not calmer for sure! I got out, woke up dad (he was GONE so it took him a minute to process things) and called the midwife on call…my FAVORITE midwife was there waiting for our arrival. I called Mary and she was at the hospital when we got there….worst car ride of my life. We were quickly escorted into triage to check my vitals and progression. My blood pressure was VERY high. Before I even knew my dilation I was told I would no longer be having my water birth. Cue huge breaths of disappointment. This was a huge part of my natural birth plan and I wouldn’t ever get one toe in that warm glorious water. Next was news I was also unprepared to hear….I had not progressed AT ALL since my appointment on your due date. Stuck at 1cm despite 18 hours of contractions. You can probably imagine my heart sunk way down into my chest with all this news. The only positive words to me at that point were that I would be admitted anyway because my blood pressure needed to be monitored.
Let me say that the walk to my room was hard. I was fighting a mental battle and my legs were shaking I was already so exhausted. I knew I probably had a long journey still ahead but nothing prepared me for 22 more hours of labor. Sensing I needed SOMETHING to go as planned, dad set out some white christmas lights on the window sill and turned down the rest of the lights in the room. I tried to take a shower, but the water pressure was terrible and I wasn’t staying very warm. So I got back to the bed in a mostly sitting position for the majority of the labor from then on. The wireless contraction and heart rate monitors weren’t working right and my blood pressure had to be taken often. I was already so tired that I wasn’t too upset at that point to not have as much free roam of the room as I had planned on. The rest of the night was a series of breathing through and trying to rest in between. By the time morning light started to peek in Mary had me get up and brush my teeth to refresh myself. I just remember being frustrated every time she pushed me to get mobile. I HATED how much harder those contractions were on me when I was up and moving. But, without that you may have never come out! Gravity is always your friend in labor. I wish I could’ve been more active but I know I physically couldn’t between the BP concerns and the fact that I’d been awake for SO LONG! And I wasn’t allowed to eat at all!
Next my favorite midwife came in to check my progress after leaving me to labor all night. I’m glad I wasn’t checked more often looking back because it can be so discouraging–and painful! I was now at 4cm. Everyone was SUPER happy with that progress in a matter of 7 hours. They said the longest part of labor is those first few centimeters. BLAH BLAH BLAH was how I felt about every positive word spoken. I had become so discouraged and really started to question how much longer I could make it. OH, and I had also started having bouts of puking. Add that to a contraction and you have a real party going on! I just kept a goal in sight to make it a few more hours when the next midwife, Shelley, was on call and she would check me again. Well, she was VERY busy delivering other people’s babies (NOT FAIR) so I waited…and waited..and contracted…and was pushed into walking…and started groaning and forcefully yelling (low tones but LOUD).
I would guess somewhere around 2pm it was finally time to see how we were doing. I was I believe at a 6? Hard to say. I specifically remember being told you were still now down and engaged and I was BAFFLED as to how you weren’t coming down. Shelley suggested that I might want to consider letting her break my water to see if that would help pull her head down further. This was a turning point for me, sweet girl. I battled with the decision and had to do what I had to do. And that meant letting her break my water. I was desperate to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, for some reason having my water broken was so scary to me (as if that was going to be worse than active labor) and I was SO TIRED and KNEW my contractions would amp up after she did it so I decided I would give in to the epidural. I can’t tell you how judgmental I was of that decision until I was in my own set of circumstances. I made it 33 hours in naturally and I will always be proud of that. I felt strong. But now, it was time to give my body some rest. My blood pressure was ever increasing and my contractions were started to spread out again. As Mary said, my uterus was tired! We were ALL tired. So, the man with the plan came in and did the easy process of getting the epi. No joke. It was nothing compared to labor. I laid back and had to decide to be at peace with the situation. For a little while I felt the relief and got to spend time with my mom and rest. Then it seemed like more interventions had to follow the epidural…and I knew that would be the case because that’s why I didn’t want it, but it still came as a surprise as new monitors were hooked up and a catheter was put in. Mercy. Next check I believe I was at 7.5 but you STILL were high up there. Couldn’t get gravity’s help anymore either. But, I just kept rolling with it.
Soon enough, I started feeling the contractions again. Harder and harder until again I was yelling through them *poor Philip and Mary*. Sometime later I was seen by a new set of nurses who just came on their shifts. They were immediately concerned for me at my pain level with the epidural and sent for someone to come fix it right away. AND YES IT WAS FIXED. I was literally napping for 45 seconds between contractions and then able to breathe through them MUCH better almost immediately. Philip still coached me through each one like a champ. I was at 10cm and you STILL weren’t ready for me to push. Another HOUR of contractions before they started setting up and helping me learn to push. Daddy was getting impatient to meet you but I was just so relieved to not be in so much pain that I just kept breathing through and eating my ice chips like a good girl!
Here’s the best part…I finally got to start pushing! I was so excited because it was time for you to be born and to hear you cry and to see what you looked like. Once I knew how to push, I was pushing like a champ. Shelley made mama feel like a rock star. She and your daddy were cheering me on as if I was running in the olympics or something! It felt like such a short amount of time but I later found out it was over an hour of pushing! Crazy part….surprise ending…you were SO TINY. I’ll never forget that last push. Your WHOLE body came out together and I have never in my life felt such relief wash over me. The pressure was gone and I looked down to see daddy cut the cord (wanted to delay that but you had a lot of poo all over you and possibly in your lungs). I kept saying oh my goodness she’s so small! I watched and cried and laughed and smiled as they got some of that poo off of you and cleaned out your lungs. Daddy was right there taking pictures and then they brought you to me, snapped open my gown and placed you inside it on my chest. Your skin on my skin. You wouldn’t stop crying and I just kept saying, “hi baby! it’s mommy don’t cry!” It was the most overwhelming thing I have experienced. Dad and I were in awe of what had just happened (and COMPLETELY exhausted).
I found out right after you were born that you were not in a good position. You came OP, or “face up” which meant you gave yourself and mama a MUCH harder journey and explained everything that happened in my labor. The nurse described the situation with a great analogy that I won’t soon forget. She told us to imagine someone placed a hula hoop at the bottom of the pool and instead of swimming to it and going under it face down like normal, you had to swim down to the bottom of the pool facing up and go under that hula hoop. That’s how much more difficult it was for you to come out that direction instead! No wonder!
Soon after being placed on my chest, you calmed down and fell asleep and after I was stitched up and cleaned up they took you to get measured and weighed with daddy while I was changed and freshened up to head down to our mother baby room. When I came out I learned you were only 5 pounds 3.6 ounces and 19″ long. So small!! We all wondered how it happened but you proved that you were healthy.
Unfortunately, as we were heading to our room we were re-routed back to the labor and delivery room where we were given the news that my last urine sample showed the protein in my urine was twice the normal level and I was considered to have pre-eclampsia. I was not going to a regular room but to their adult ICU to be put on a magnesium IV for 24 hours so that the neurons in my brain would be calmed and I wouldn’t have seizures or a stroke. We were in shock that yet another obstacle had been placed in front of us. I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed without a nurse, I had to stay hooked up to the pulse monitor and blood pressure cuff and had the IV line and a catheter still. Because of this, daddy changed your first diaper and swaddled you up after he was shown how.
He was next to you for your first bath and handed you to your visitors. He was amazing already at being your daddy. I treasured all that time with you even though I couldn’t get up. Most of it was spent with you skin to skin with me to keep your temperature up. Everything else goes far past your birth so I’ll save it for a separate post. I just want you to know that even though it was the hardest 40 hours of my life, it was by far the most worth while thing I’ve ever pushed through. You will never know how you changed my life and how much love I experienced at 10:16pm on December 14th. Somehow my love has grown every single day since. I may not have been able to give you that warm water entrance drug free like I had so hoped and planned…but you came the way you did and you’re my beautiful healthy girl. I’m so much stronger for giving you life and I am so proud of you. I love you little Ellie Hope Burton. Someday you will understand what an answer to prayer you have been. And someday when you have your first child, you’ll begin to understand this love for you that I’ve tried to explain.