I love a good birth story, don't you? I haven't spared any details in this one, and I hope you enjoy reliving it with me. Like Liam's birth story, writing this down feels like pouring out a piece of me onto paper. It not only recounts Lane Eliette's grand entrance into the world, but a pivotal experience in my own life. I will never tire thinking about it or praising God for January 8, 2015. As traumatic as it felt in the moment, the joy of meeting our beautiful Lane overshadowed it all.
On the morning of Thursday, January 8, Shawn and I prayed a bold prayer: we prayed that our daughter would be born that day, a week before her due date. Shawn had 3 days off coming up and my mom would arrive the following Monday, which meant that if the baby was born, we'd have Mom's help with two kids instead of waiting around all week for signs of baby.
By midday, I'd had no contractions whatsoever. I felt pretty discouraged because, for weeks, I'd had at least a few strong contractions every day. Liam and I both took naps in the afternoon, and when we woke up around 4:30pm, we were stir crazy to get out of the house. It was a record cold day in Raleigh, so we bundled up and headed downtown to Marbles Children's Museum. We got there around 5pm.
As Liam ran straight for the train sets, I lagged behind him and noticed what felt like more than just a Braxton Hicks contraction. In the next few minutes, I felt another one - this one even stronger and longer than the first. At this point, the contractions were 8 or 10 minutes apart but not consistent, so I didn't want to get my hopes up that this was the beginning of real labor.
|5:55pm: selfie taken between the first few contractions I felt while at the museum.|
Shawn texted me a few minutes into our visit to let me know he'd be staying at work another hour. I replied that I might need him earlier than that. I wasn't sure, but the contractions were getting more uncomfortable (though still not consistent) and I felt stranded. I didn't know if I could lift 30 pounds of Liam into his carseat by myself, much less make the drive home during these contractions. I wouldn't have come all the way there had I known I'd be going into labor, but because I'd had no contractions at all, it hadn't crossed my mind. Plus, I was still a week away from my official due date.
Shawn headed our way and arrived at the museum around 5:45pm. The contractions were definitely becoming painful by this point, so we decided I would walk a few laps around the upper level of the museum and time them to see how close they were coming. Within a few minutes of walking, I realized they were 2 minutes apart, lasting about a minute, and they hurt. I couldn't talk through them, think through them, walk through them. I went back downstairs and told Shawn that we should probably head home.
On our way home, I had a gut feeling that this was the real thing. But because of our false alarm a week ago that had landed me in the hospital for a few hours, I didn't want to head to the hospital too soon. So at 6:30pm, I hopped in the shower to see if the contractions would subside. While in the shower, I endured two really powerful contractions that were enough to convince me that this wasn't slowing down. A baby was coming soon. I texted my OB (a friend from church) to ask him if he thought we should head to the hospital. He did, so we finished packing our bags and got into the car around 7pm.
The 12-minute car ride to the hospital was nearly unbearable. Contractions were coming in waves, one on top of another, and I was doing my best to stay under control (mostly for Liam's sake) and breathe through them. Liam was confused, asking, "Tired mommy?" from the backseat or giggling, "Silly mommy!" to break the tension when he saw the pain on my face. As I gripped Shawn's hand and squirmed in my seat, I told him multiple times, "I want the epidural as soon as we get there. This pain is no joke."
We arrived at the hospital around 7:15pm and I headed inside while Shawn met up with our friend who was taking Liam for the night. At the security desk, I had another strong contraction and had to lean over toward the security officer just after muttering, "My name is Whitney Newby... I'm in labor." It was such a stereotypical scene: me clutching my belly and breathing hard, him waiting for the contraction to finish, visitors looking on in a mix of sympathy and excitement. When the contraction finished, I was sent upstairs to triage.
Around 7:20pm, I waited for a nurse to come get me from the triage waiting room and because it was just after shift change, several nurses were leaving. I breathed heavily and swayed through contractions and one nurse stopped to ask, "Is someone helping you?" I told her they were on their way to get me, and as she walked away, I heard her say, "She looks too pretty to be in real labor." In reality, I knew this was real labor (or surely hoped it was!), but I hadn't even had the time to sweat my makeup off or look really exhausted. I'd only been having contractions for less than 2 hours.
At 7:25pm, I was taken back to triage and the contractions were stronger than I'd ever felt. The nurse briefly hooked me up to the fetal monitor, then checked me to see how dilated I was. At this point, I just hoped I would be at least 4cm and would be able to stay. "You're definitely in labor! 6 to 7cm dilated," she said. Shawn had just arrived from parking the car and we looked at each other astonished and delighted. 6 to 7cm! In my mind, that meant that a) We got to stay and have a baby and, b) I wasn't too far along that I would miss the epidural. We asked the nurse if she thought we would have the baby today or tomorrow and she calmly (though she probably thought we were nuts) said, "Oh, you'll definitely have her tonight." I asked her what the date was - January 8 - before slipping into another strong contraction.
At 7:35pm, my IV was placed. They asked to hook me back up to the fetal monitor, but I told them I needed to use the bathroom first. The nurse made sure, "You don't feel the urge to push, do you?" No, I told her. I'd just had lots of water and needed to use the bathroom. I thought to myself, As of 10 minutes ago, I was 6-7 cm. Surely I have at least another hour or two until I feel the urge to push. Shawn and the nurses helped me to the bathroom and as soon as I stood up, the urge to push was unbearable. I told the nurse I had to push, walked a few steps toward the bed, then squatted instinctively right there on the floor and began to push. "Noooo nononono!" yelled the nurse. "Let's get you to the bed." I couldn't believe that I might be ready to push just 10 minutes after being 6-7cm dilated, but I got on all fours on the bed (the only somewhat comfortable position) and asked if she could check me from that position. She does (bless her heart) and announces, "Yep. Nine and a half centimeters!"
At this point, there were three thoughts circling simultaneously in my head: 1) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 2) I am suffocating/dying/drowning under the weight of this pain. I can't do this. 3) Where in the world is Epidural Man?
The pain at 10cm dilated was beyond anything I've ever experienced. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. The contractions came wave after wave and only let up for 10 to 20 seconds before hitting again. I gasped for breath and looked up at Shawn helplessly. He was just as stunned as I was about how fast this was all happening. I kept reaching for him, then pushing him away when he got close. Neither of us knew how to cope.
When I felt the urge to push again, still on all fours, I panted through it for a couple contractions to wait for the doctor to arrive. Around 7:45pm, the doctor bounded into the room, gowning up and pulling on his gloves. This is probably when it really hit me: I would not be getting an epidural. There was simply no time. I would be having this baby soon and with no medication.
I wish I could say that strength from within just welled up and I took the challenge head-on. That I dug down deep into the core of my faith to endure the pain with grace and fortitude. In reality, it felt just the opposite. I did not feel brave or strong. I panicked. Fear wrapped around me like a blanket. I wanted to crawl out of my own skin, out of this moment.
But within seconds, the nurse and the doctor flipped me onto my back to begin pushing. I couldn't help not pushing. It was a primal sense that, when you don't have any medication to numb you, you just can't stop. For the first couple pushes, I writhed on the bed and screamed out in pain, which didn't accomplish much. The nurse then did exactly what I needed her to do: she grabbed my hand, had me look her in the eye, and said, "Whitney. You are going to have this baby. You can do this. You are doing this. But you have to stay under control. You have to breathe. Use your breath to push, not to scream, and this baby will come soon."
It was exactly what I needed to hear, and a turning point for me. On the next push, the doctor said, "You're doing great! Reach down and feel her head." I felt it, and on the next push, her head was out. On the next push, her body emerged and at 7:53pm, Lane Eliette was born.
All 7 lbs. and 4 oz. of her slippery warm body was placed onto my chest and I didn't even cry: I was still in so much shock. Shawn was, too. Immediately, the excruciating pain of the last few minutes had vanished and was replaced by the purest joy of a flawless little girl in my arms, just two and a half hours after I'd felt the first contraction. Less than two hours before, I'd been playing with Liam at the children's museum. Whoa. We had been at the hospital less than 40 minutes and I had pushed for about 5. Whoa.
The next few hours were spent marveling at what had just happened. I think Shawn and I said, "That was the craziest thing we've ever experienced" about fifty times. We FaceTimed with family who had just received news that I was 6-7cm, then minutes later, saw a baby in our arms. Shawn's brother and sister-in-law had driven downtown to retrieve Shawn's car, which we left at the museum, and hadn't even made it home before Lane was born. It was surreal and unbelievable to so many.
Before Liam was born, I had planned a natural, unmedicated birth, complete with hypnobirthing classes. But in the throes of labor, I had opted for the epidural. This time, I'd planned for the epidural but just hadn't had time. So while I was so grateful to have endured a natural birth, it was not a serene or peaceful experience. It was actually pretty traumatic. The recovery, on the other hand, has been miraculous. Somehow, I didn't tear or require any stitches, so I was up and walking around within an hour of Lane's birth and feeling little to no pain. (Don't hate me.)
Once we were moved up to our postpartum room, the adrenaline rush I felt was palpable. I changed out of my hospital gown and into real clothes and walked a few laps around the postpartum ward, feeling amazing. The nurse finally encouraged me, "I'm glad you feel so good, but you just had a baby... you need to go rest." I didn't sleep the entire night, abuzz with the miracle that had just taken place and drinking in the beauty of our precious Lanie girl.
Her name is Lane Eliette, and we didn't decide on it until a week before her birth. Lane is my middle name, and I grew up being called "Lanie" by my parents, so it's an endearing name to me. Eliette means, "My God has answered," and oh, how He has. He has already answered so many prayers surrounding Lanie's life: our prayers for a healthy baby after a miscarriage last year, even down to our prayers for her specific birthday. I guess you have to be careful what you pray for. We prayed so boldly for a January 8th birthday, and that's exactly what happened. We prayed that it would be quick. Now I'm not sure if that was the best idea. :)
Lane is the sweetest, easiest newborn and we are so enjoying getting to know her. God is so good to us and as we gaze into the eyes of our new little girl, we know that full well.