I’m going to be sharing the birth story of our daughter in the next 2 posts. Things are about to get wordy. I realize this is a food blog, but if you’ve been a longtime follower, you know I enjoy sharing personal stories as well. If you don’t enjoy reading birth stories that might have some TMI parts, please feel free to skip over these posts. I’ll be discussing certain labor induction methods we tried, but please talk with your doctors/midwives before trying any of these out on your own.
The story of how our sweet Lennon entered the world is not even close to the story I thought we’d be telling. She was due on 12/31/16 but ended up arriving 17 days late. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined she would go past the 42 week mark. Finally, nearly 3 months later, I’m working on typing up all of the details. I’ve always loved reading birth stories, so I definitely wanted to write about our experience before the detailed memories start to fade (I think they already have a bit!). I also hope that maybe this will help someone out there who needs to (or chooses to) stray from their birth plan, in knowing you can still make the experience a memorable one. Our story is the furthest from what we expected, but none of that mattered the second Lennon was finally born.
We’re lucky to live in an area with a few amazing birth centers. Chris and I were both fully on board with this type of plan for my prenatal care and birth. The centers all have certified nurse midwives (CNMs) and the center we chose is about 1/4 mile from an excellent hospital. (They run drills for emergency situations, which only happen about 1-2% of the time, and are fully prepared for all types of birth scenarios.) We absolutely loved our experience at the birth center and it was definitely the right fit for us. The midwives were all so kind, patient, and loving. The birth rooms felt like a swanky but incredibly comfortable hotel.
There is so much more I could say about the care we received, but I will just wrap it up by saying I can’t imagine the care being better anywhere else. We felt so loved and taken care of, even as our plans changed. They fully supported any reason for needing to transfer to the hospital before, during, or after labor (whether it be for an emergency or simply deciding you want an epidural). They weren’t going to risk our comfort or safety and we felt very confident about that.
My pregnancy was pretty amazing, and I still feel so unbelievably fortunate for that. I wasn’t struck with morning sickness, I didn’t experience food aversions or bizarre cravings, I worked out right up until I gave birth, and I was able to keep photographing and cooking through mid-December. I was somehow able to shoot 2 complete cookbooks and quite a bit of other freelance work during my pregnancy. Such a gift! Sure there were aches and pains, tons of peeing, restless nights, crazy fatigue (especially in the first trimester), but I generally felt pretty great. We had one little scare with Lennon’s heart rate in early December, but got checked at the hospital and everything was completely fine.
We attended birth classes at the birth center (they don’t teach any specific type of method, which we liked) and also hired a doula in preparing for the birth. I didn’t want to set a rigid birth plan, because I really had no idea what would feel right while in labor. The only thing I kept saying was, “Our plan is to hopefully have the baby at the birth center.” To birth at our specific BC you must be between 37 and 42 weeks, for safety reasons. We toured the hospital so we would have some familiarity with it, just in case we needed to transfer. There are reasons you might need to transfer mid-labor and post-delivery and also reasons the baby might need to transfer post-delivery as well. We mentally prepared as best we could, but pretty much assumed all would go as planned since my pregnancy was going so well. It’s easy to say you’re mentally ready if there’s the need for a transfer, but you can never really fully prepare.
Friday, December 30th (39 weeks + 6 days) we had an appointment at the BC. Everything looked great. Our midwife estimated the babe to be about 7lbs (solely from touch on the outside of my belly). They checked my progress for the first time and I was at 0cm. For a first time mom, they said this was completely normal and really doesn’t mean much. You could go into labor that day or it could still take awhile. We were prepared for a late baby and a long labor, so I still felt really good about everything. The plan from here was to have an ultrasound at 41 weeks to make sure my amniotic fluid levels were okay. Then, I would check in with the midwives each day after that and try different natural methods for labor inductions, under their advisement. My mom came out on January 3rd and Chris was back at work while we waited. It was so nice to have my mom here while Chris was working, so I didn’t lose my mind at home alone. I was still working out at this point, lifting some and going on daily walks. (I had also been going to barre classes all throughout my pregnancy, but around week 37 it became a bit too much.) I walked up and down our stairs and did squats through braxton hicks contractions, hoping it would help get things moving. There were a few nights I was up for hours thinking things were starting, but they obviously never did.
41 weeks came and we had the ultrasound (at the hospital) to check the amniotic fluid. There was plenty. Yay! We joked she must be having fun in her wave pool. At 41 weeks + 2 days (Monday) we headed to the birth center to be checked. The baby’s heart looked great and I was close to 1cm. Finally. Something! We were scheduled to come in the next day and they would start pulling out their “bag of tricks” to hopefully get things moving.
At 41 weeks + 3 days, the first thing the midwives suggested trying was a foley balloon. Basically the opposite of fun. Since I wasn’t dilated at all, they couldn’t do any membrane stripping and they told us it doesn’t really have a chance of working unless you’re at least 1.5cm. I’m not going to go into much detail on the balloon, but they inflate a small balloon inside the cervix with saline and leave it there for up to 12hrs, to hopefully start the process of dilating. It will fall out on it’s own once you’re at 3-4cm, or it can easily be removed at the 12hr mark. I remember the car ride home after having it placed, wincing in pain. It did not feel natural to have something going up where the baby should be coming out. It was one of the first times I had cried during my pregnancy, not from the pain but from the uncertainty of everything.
Once we got home I rested a bit and then I started having contractions every minute or so for hours, some more painful than others, and some that I had to really breathe through. We were thinking this was the start of labor. We got some of our bags out and ready. I was feeling good and as prepared as I could be for labor. Around the 10 hour mark we had to remove the balloon because of a slight issue. I was beyond relieved to have it out (and everything was fine), but from then on contractions faded. I was still feeling positive overall and had so much support from Chris and my mom (and of course other family and friends). It kept me busy sending everyone updates.
At 41 weeks + 4 days we were back at the birth center for the next step. Still no more progress. Now it was time for castor oil. I was NOT excited about this, mainly from stories I had heard from others about how awful it was. Many of these interventions can send you into false labor as well, which is a major bummer and also exhausting (mentally and physically). Our midwife said this works about 75% of the time, so we were hopeful. After a not so enjoyable evening, nothing happened. I was getting pretty discouraged at this point and knew in just a couple days we’d be at the hospital for a real induction.
We headed to the birth center again the following day. 41 weeks + 5 days. The last thing we tried was breast pump stimulation and taking special herbs mixed with water. I did this for 10min on, 10min off for 2 hours, while bouncing on an exercise ball (something I did for hours each day at home). We had a heart to heart with our midwife about the next step, which was heading to the hospital the following day at 8:30pm to start an induction. Cue the tears. I had so many emotions as we said our goodbyes to the amazing midwives and staff we grew to know and trust so well during our pregnancy. It was difficult leaving the birth room, where I mentally prepared myself for birthing our baby. All of our prenatal care took place in the birth rooms, so they really felt like home to us. It was scary not really knowing what was ahead and how things would feel once we were at the hospital. The hospital has their own team of midwives who would take over our care, along with the labor and delivery nurses. We were confident everything would work out, but it was still a mental hurdle to overcome.
We arrived back home and updated family and friends. We tried our best to have a relaxing evening at home, still hoping maybe it would happen.
Our deadline day came, 41 weeks + 6 days. I of course made a big waffle breakfast for Chris, my mom, and my amazing friend Ann. I knew hospital food would be sub-par, so waffles were necessary. Ann brought a bunch of my very favorite cookies from a nearby restaurant, and I stashed them in our hospital bag. We repacked our bags for a longer hospital stay (you only stay at the birth center for 4-6hrs after birth), took a long walk with the dog, ran last minute errands with my mom, cleaned the house (me...neurotic), and ate Chipotle for dinner. I remember eating about 5 bites and then only being able to stomach the rice. Nerves were majorly setting in. We hugged my mom goodbye (she stayed at our house) and headed to the hospital. I remember texting updates on our way there and thinking how uneventful the car ride was. I had always imagined lots of screaming and pain, but this was so different. We walked into the hospital with our bags and joked that it felt like we were checking into a hotel. It was all a bit surreal.
Part 2 coming soon!
Thanks so much for all of your love and congrats over social media these past few months, as well as for your patience as I slowly make my way back to this space.