Here I am almost six months after Olivia’s birth finally sitting down to write her birth story. For some reason, I have to take time after each birth to digest and process before I feel ready to put it into words. I am writing Olivia’s birth story to help me remember all the little details, and also for Olivia. I look forward to sharing it with her someday!
Let’s rewind a bit to talk about Olivia’s pregnancy. We found out we were pregnant on January 23, 2021. I took a test that morning before we were heading to the zoo as a family. I called Marcus into the bathroom and showed him the two red lines. All three times we have gotten a positive pregnancy test, it’s the same feeling of disbelief. And just as we have been in the past, we were cautiously optimistic and SO very excited.
I called my midwife group the following Monday, and my first appointment wouldn’t be until I was 11 weeks pregnant. I was barely four weeks pregnant at this point. Having to wait almost two more months before hearing a heartbeat seemed unbearable. It’s hard to feel like it’s real when you don’t have anything tangible other than an at-home pregnancy test.
Pretty much like clockwork, around week five my morning sickness set in. For me, morning sickness presents as an uneasy stomach almost all day, every day, getting worse in the evenings. I was nauseous until week 15. After that, my pregnancy was thankfully fairly textbook. I experienced back pain, heartburn, frequent urination and a LOT of pressure in the last few weeks.
The Gender Reveal
We found out it was a girl at a family-only gender reveal at my parent’s house over Easter of 2021. Marcus’ mom was the only one who knew the gender (she was the secret keeper for all three pregnancies). We all bit into cake pops with pink cake on the inside. I was thrilled it was a girl! Of course I would have loved to have a second son, but that moment when I saw the pink my heart burst with happiness! And now knowing and loving Olivia for the last six months, I can’t imagine our life without her.
Waiting for Olivia
Olivia came SIX days past her due date. My other two babies were two days late on their own without induction, so I knew a postdates baby was definitely on the table. But there was something that happened to me mentally in those last 3-4 days that I wasn’t expecting. I was so uncomfortable, so exhausted and so anxious about the impending delivery.
I had been having prodromal labor (where it starts and stops) for almost a week at this point. The emotional ups and downs of labor starting and stopping was too much. It was a very low point for me, and my anxiety was at an all time high. It was hard because I knew those were the last days I would most likely ever be pregnant in my life. I wanted to enjoy them, but I really struggled to find the joy. Marcus had packed and unpacked the car so many times at this point, and every time he took our bags back out I felt defeated.
We had hired a doula and I am thankful we had her to talk to during this last week. She checked on me every day and was there to ask questions about what different symptoms did or did not mean. At my midwife appointment four days past my due date my stats were 2 centimeters dilated, 80% effaced, -1 station and my cervix was soft and posterior. We tried all the things to naturally induce labor, but nothing was working.
Our Last Ditch Effort
There was one thing I was putting off as a way to naturally kickstart labor. At five days overdue, I was finally ready to give it a go. It’s called Midwives Brew and it is NOT GOOD.
Please note that this was something that was presented as an option for me my both my midwife and my doula. I am NOT recommending anything to anyone reading, and am only sharing my experience based on what was deemed safe in my specific situation.
The midwives brew is a concoction of a bunch of random things (like peanut butter, champagne, a smoothie mix). The main ingredient is castor oil. From what I understand, the castor oil essentially irritates your stomach and creates artificial contractions. If you are close enough to going into labor on your own, those stomach contractions can kickstart uterine contractions. The recipe I used said it would likely take 4-8 hours for contractions to start.
Laboring at Home
And BOY DID IT WORK. I drank the midwives brew at 8pm, and right around midnight on the dot contractions started. They were moderate at first, but quickly became stronger. By 12:53 am the contractions were inconsistent, lasting between 47 seconds and 4 minutes and occurring every 2-20 minutes – so a LOT of inconsistency.
I was feeling a lot of back pain and contractions that wrapped around the side of my hips. I laid in bed for about an hour with these contractions, and then had Marcus make sure everything was ready to go in the car. At that point I felt pretty confident that I was going to have a baby that night. Before things got too hectic, Marcus laid with me in bed and prayed for a safe delivery over me and Olivia.
We called our doula Rachel around 1am and she suggested we take it hour by hour. We called her back at 2:13am, and she asked to put me on the phone. After hearing me talk and breath through the contractions (poorly) she could tell I was working much harder to cope than the hour before. My breathing was deeper and I had to concentrate more during each contraction. She asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I immediately said yes, and she agreed that was the right decision. We loaded into the car and Rachel did the same to meet us at the hospital. We called our midwives, so the one on call was ready for us when we got there.
Heading to the Hospital
We quickly hopped in the car (luckily my two big kids were with my parents) and were on the road. I was tracking my contractions on the Full Term app on my phone and they were still not consistent. Some were SO LONG, and those were brutal.
We arrived at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women at 3:18 am, valeted the car and went right inside. Luckily our midwife was already there. She met us at the elevators, and after one look at me she said we could skip triage and go straight to delivery. I was so thankful for this, because that saved me extra poking and prodding and meant one less cervical check.
We got into a room by 3:27am (we somehow got a huge handicapped room) and our nurse Summer started to ask me a bunch of questions. There are people moving about the room getting things set up.
My Support Team
At 3:35 am Rachel arrived, and I was so happy to see her. My whole pregnancy I was concerned that she might not be able to be with us because of the ever-changing covid restrictions. This part is all a little blurry, but I do remember throwing up just minutes before giving birth. During these final contractions I had Marcus on my left and my doula Rachel on my right. Rachel rubbed some frankincense on her hands and let me inhale it to relieve some of my anxiety.
Just like he did the first two times, Marcus was an amazing coach, helping me with my breathing and reminding me of my strength. He continued to tell me how proud he was of me. These moments, albeit some of the hardest physical moments of my life, are some of my favorite moments of our marriage. We were a great team. I love you, Marcus!
The Last Few Minutes of My Pregnancy
Olivia’s heartrate was 130bpm, which was fantastic. In both Adeline’s and Jacob’s births their heart rates dropped around this stage, so not having that additional element to worry about was a relief. Olivia was in occiput interior position (head down and body facing toward my back) in the birth canal. This is the ideal position for a baby to move through the pelvis.
It was about to be show time. My midwife Kendra was standing at the foot of the bed. She performed a cervical check and shared that I was six centimeters dilated, with a bulging bag. This would have disappointed me a little bit knowing I had four more centimeters to go, but Kendra tells us she thinks things will move quickly. She suggests breaking my water because once we do so there will be enough pressure to finish dilating my cervix. I consent.
Time to Push!
At 3:46 am Kendra puts her hand back in to break my water, and it breaks on it’s own. She told me the head was RIGHT THERE. And as Kendra expected I was immediately complete and ready to push.
At 3:51 am Kendra tells us “We are about to have this baby.” I was like – right now? It’s all surreal because you are so ready, but then in that moment I didn’t feel like I was, mentally. But I knew the only way out of the pain was through it. I nodded, and I started to push.
I was laying on my back. Kendra poured glycerin to try and help prevent tearing. This next part (the pushing like you’ve never pushed so hard in your life) was intense, but thankfully so fast.
Seven minutes later at 3:58 am, after only two contractions pushing, Olivia was earth side. The instant wave of relief seeing her come out and hearing her perfect little cry is something I have a hard time putting into words. The last ten months had been leading up to that one beautiful moment. Seeing the face of someone you have loved since the moment I knew of their existence – there is nothing in the world like it. It feels like finally making it home after a long time away and embracing someone you love.
After a few seconds of relief and joy I noticed that Olivia was very purple. Marcus and I looked at each other anxiously, but no one else in the room was concerned at all. The nurses rubbed her for a few seconds and she instantly turned pink. The room stayed calm through the entire process (it was only about 45 minutes from the time we arrived to the time Olivia was born).
Olivia came out with her hand by her face (just like Jacob!). Unfortunately for me, this makes it even more difficult to push them out. Olivia loved having her hand in that position for the first month or two, so we have reason to believe she spent a lot of time in utero with her hand up by her cheek.
She had a short umbilical cord, just like her sister and brother. But unlike my other two labors, the cord length didn’t affect the pushing phase by making her heart rate drop (probably because it was so quick)!
The Golden Hour
After about a minute, Marcus cut the cord and I pulled Olivia up to my chest. She stayed right there in my arms for more than an hour. It was in that hour she latched for the first time. In my other labors I experienced chills and shakes after delivery, but this time my body handled it much better.
In that first hour, Marcus, my doula and I talked excitedly about the whirlwind of what had just happened. We also said how precious Olivia was about 100 times. Marcus and Rachel both made me feel so good about the delivery and how hard I had worked to bring her here. The adrenaline rushing through my veins from the birth in addition to having Marcus and Rachel being my biggest cheerleaders had me just bursting with pride. The two loudest thoughts in my head were “I am so happy she is here” and “Thank you Jesus for this beautiful baby girl”.
After more than an hour snuggling, the nurses brought her over to the warmer to get her stats. She was 8 pounds, 1 ounce and 19 inches long.
My whole labor was less than four hours from the first strong contraction to baby’s first breath!
We were moved to postpartum before 7am and started our very short stay at the hospital, which was only about 36 hours total. During that time we were able to have Bella Baby Photos come by our room for a photo shoot. We got these photos taken of Jacob also, and I definitely recommend taking advantage if you are birthing at a hospital that offers it. It is wild for me to look at these photos and think she was only ONE day old in them.
I did suffer damage to my perineum, but outside of that I was doing great after the birth, both physically and emotionally. I was able to get up and move around our postpartum room pretty much immediately. We had a great stay at the hospital with no complaints other than the frequent interruptions that are inevitable on the postpartum floor.
We packed up, drove home and introduced Adeline and Jacob to meet their baby sister. For both our second and third babies, we decided to introduce the kids to their new sibling in the comfort of our home instead of at the hospital. This worked really well for our family based on the ages and personalities of our kids. If you are having some anxiety about an older sibling meeting a baby for the first time, I think this approach is worth considering.
Olivia’s postpartum season for me was actually my best of all three of my babies, and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that Marcus had a generous paternity leave. He was able to be home with us for seven full weeks, in which he was the primary care provider for Adeline and Jacob. He got them ready for school, did drop off and pick up, and a large bulk of the evening parenting. This allowed me to focus on healing, nursing and getting into a groove with Olivia.
Not having the stress of him going back to work so quickly allowed me to be less anxious, more rested and really enjoy this newborn season. I know that all companies do not offer this type of leave, but I want to use this platform to say how HUGE it was for our family during this season. I truly think paternity leave (in addition to the ever important maternity leave) is one of the biggest ways we can help combat postpartum depression.
The People who Made it Possible
I had a great experience with the midwife group at The Women’s Specialists of Houston. Their in-clinic care was wonderful, and I felt very well taken care of. They were knowledgable, encouraged questions about my physical health AND my mental health and never rushed me during appointments. What stands out most to me about their model of care was how they looked at me as a whole person, not specifically my weight or one specific measurement. It was the generally positive outlook they had that left me encouraged after most appointments (minus those ones at the very end where we were overdue). We also felt very well supported by our doula Rachel Stonebrook. I would recommend her if you are in Houston and looking to add a doula to your birth team.
We also had a very helpful village of people that provided meals to us through a meal train, and I cannot tell you how much that meant to us. If you have supported my family in any way throughout Olivia’s pregnancy, birth or postpartum season I want to give my heartfelt thanks. Whether it was a meal, a thoughtful gift, hosting a sprinkle (thank you Alley!), a sweet message or a simple prayer I am so thankful. We felt very loved.
If you got this far, thanks for reading about Olivia’s birth story. We are incredibly thankful for this precious gift of another baby girl to add to our family.