I will preface this post by saying I tried EVERYTHING to induce labor naturally:
- Walking / exercise
- Castor oil (yuck)
- Jumping jacks
- Getting baby to come out the way baby got there in the first place… if you know what I mean
- Spicy food (ALL the spicy food!!)
- Sitting on an exercise ball
- Gentle Birth Formula (I took that stuff every day since week 35!)
- Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)
- Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
- Labor & Delivery formula (an herbal tincture I got at my local birth boutique)
Seriously. You name it. I tried it.
I am a FIRM believer that none of those things ever actually work. If you try one and you go into labor, I believe that you were meant to go into labor at that point and it is purely coincidence. (Can you tell I’m cynical?)
I do understand that things like sex and castor oil really can work to induce labor because biologically the hormones produced from those things do jumpstart labor, but I believe they work on bodies that are actually ready for labor. Basically they work on a body where the cervix and baby are ripe for delivery. I say this because I literally tried everything in the book and Baby Stillman just wasn’t ready yet.
I will also say that this story (as with all birth stories) MAY include a few things (including a few pictures – don’t worry nothing HORRIBLE or x-rated) that could be TMI for a few of you, but you will just have to deal. This is the story and I want to remember every detail. Remember, labor and birth is one of the most natural things God designed – and He created every bit of it… the TMI parts and all. I will also say that this post is incredibly long. Sorry I’m not sorry.
With all of that being said, here is how the arrival of Baby Stillman DID happen.
I had been having contractions for WEEKS. They were basically just very intense Braxton Hicks contractions. There were multiple times over the two and a half weeks leading up to the actual day that I thought I was in early labor. My contractions would get closer together, but were never actually painful. They were just UNCOMFORTABLE – they’d make my heart race and they’d make it tough to breathe.
The night I tried castor oil, they got SUPER close together and I ended up going into the hospital to get monitored because I hadn’t felt the baby move. I was still not even close to being in labor.
I thought I’d be pregnant forever. I knew that wasn’t the case, but it was hard to not feel like that. I just knew I did NOT want to be induced. I prayed and prayed and prayed to not be induced. All I wanted was for a natural labor… no drugs. No pitocin. No epidural. No c-section. No nothing. I wanted a labor like God designed.
Oh, how naive I was.
I went to my 41 week, 2 day midwife appointment on Friday, August 16th. I was still 1cm (no change from the previous appointment), about 50% effaced and baby was still VERY high. My midwife proceeded to give me a rather “rough” vaginal exam. I don’t believe she actually stripped my membranes (I was told baby was still too high for that to even be possible), but I would concur with her assessment that the exam was rough. It was not pleasant. She also then ordered me to go home and try to get baby to come out the way baby got there in the first place.
At 41 weeks pregnant, this is not exactly the thing that is “top of mind.” No offense, babe.
But alas, doctor’s orders.
I left the appointment and went and got a cupcake from Whole Foods and then headed home. I was pretty exhausted so I passed out on the couch until hubby got home from work.
Things happened and we decided to go out to a nice dinner. We actually ended up going to the place where we had our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding, Russell’s Steakhouse in Hillsborough (we LOVE that place).
We happened to sit in the SAME room, at the SAME table we sat at during our rehearsal dinner… and as chance would have it, Like Jesus Does by Eric Church (our first dance song) was playing in the room when we were seated. I joked that maybe this was fate! Maybe that meant this was our “rehearsal dinner” the night before we met our baby.
After dinner, we went home, watched a movie, had some hubby and wife time and then went to sleep around midnight.
At 2am on the dot, I woke up to a feeling I hadn’t felt before. People kept telling me that real contractions felt like strong menstrual cramps. But I’ve never really been one to get bad cramps… I mean, I’ve had them, but never unbearable.
I now know EXACTLY what people mean when they say contractions feel like strong menstrual cramps. I had no idea until I actually felt them.
So yeah, I woke up at 2am with STRONG menstrual cramps. It was uncomfortable and painful. Nothing like the contractions I’d felt up until this point. I laid in bed just feeling contraction after contraction and I stared at the clock. I didn’t want to jinx it. I was afraid this was yet another false alarm. I honestly wasn’t sure WHAT was happening. I didn’t wake up John because I was afraid of the false alarm. Plus, I knew that if this was it I wanted him rested.
I finally started timing them with an app on my phone at about 3am. These contractions hurt. I had to breathe through each one. They were all over the place though. They’d come every 5 minutes and then every 10 minutes and then every 2 minutes etc. etc. etc. I wasn’t sure what to think.
This went on for another 3 and a half hours.
At 6:30am they really started to hurt and it was to the point where I could no longer just silently breathe through them… I was starting to vocalize through them. And I accidentally woke up John. He immediately was like, “Are you okay?”
And I told him I thought I was in labor. So, we lay there for another hour and he timed them. They were now, pretty consistently, 5 minutes apart. And again, they hurt.
I really did NOT want to go to the hospital yet because I was still so afraid I wasn’t in labor. So, we got up and decided to eat something. I had a couple small bowls of cereal. We then decided to take the dogs for a walk to see what that did. I had to stop every time I had a contraction. Then I decided to see what taking a shower would do. John sat on the toilet outside the shower timing contractions for me. I couldn’t even tell him I was having one… I’d just wave my hand outside the shower curtain when one started and stopped.
Finally, at around noon (10 hours into labor so far) I called my midwife. I was in tears. I said, “I think I’m in labor.” She said to me, “Uhhh, yeah. It sounds like it. Let’s bring you in and see.”
So, we gathered our things and headed for the hospital.
We got to Durham Regional Hospital at 1pm and went right up to labor and delivery. We got put in a room and they had me put on the sexy hospital gown and we waited.
We hung the We <3 Embry sign in our room… just like my mom had done in her labor and delivery room.
My midwife on call, Anne, came in and finally checked me at about 2pm. I was 4cm dilated and 80% effaced! I seriously cried. I was SO nervous that I’d still be only 1cm dilated. So 4cm was a HUGE deal! I was then officially admitted to the hospital and we knew at this point we weren’t leaving without a baby.
We finally texted family and a few friends to tell them I was in labor.
Sure, I was all smiles early on…
Then, it was all a matter of waiting and laboring. I got put on the monitors for a bit… baby was looking good and my contractions were consistent and close together (about 3-4 minutes apart). I was sticking to my guns and my birth plan that I was NOT having an epidural and I was doing this thing drug free.
John spent the next few hours in the room watching reruns of the Cosby Show and holding my hand. I ate SO much jello and italian ice and SO many popsicles. I was drinking my RRL tea, taking my herbal tinctures, sitting on the birthing ball, standing up, laying down.
Contractions HURT, but I was managing them quite well I felt like.
Our friends Dave and Kristin came by to see us for a little bit… (Kristin is the awesome friend who took these pictures for me. At the time I totally didn’t want my picture taken, but I am SO glad I have these to look back on) I wasn’t much fun. And I was vocalizing A LOT through contractions. As awkward and weird as I know I probably sounded, just making sounds as I was breathing out through a contraction REALLY helped with the pain. All the other things I learned in birth class really didn’t do much. But breathing and vocalizing did.
John kept trying to make me laugh. It turns out laughing while having a contraction is the WORST and hurts. Like, a lot. But, I appreciated it and it kept my mental state in check.
His parents arrived around 6pm or so and brought John some food. I made him promise not to tell me what they brought him because I was STARVING and could only have clear liquids. He went out to the waiting room to eat (it was Chick-fil-a, I came to found out later) with his dad.
My sister arrived shortly after John’s parents and they all just hung out in the room with us.
At about 7:45pm my midwife came in and wanted to check me again. At this point I’d been laboring for almost 18 hours, 7 of which in the hospital.
I was only 5cm.
Not good. I’d only progressed 1cm since I’d arrived.
My midwife and my nurse mentioned they wanted to give me pitocin at this point. I cried. I didn’t want pitocin touching my body! I was so afraid of that drug. I knew that it was going to make my contractions even stronger than they already were and even closer together. And I knew it was going to hurt. I was so scared. But, I knew in my heart that I needed it. My contractions were spacing out and clearly I wasn’t progressing enough on my own.
So, at 8:45pm they started me on 12ml of pitocin. And within 20 minutes my contractions were taking off – coming every 2 minutes and they. were. strong. Oh man. They hurt. Bad.
They backed off the pitocin a little around 10pm because I was responding so well to it (and by well, I was in PAIN), so they backed it down to 9ml.
Then my contractions spaced out again… so they upped me to 15ml of pitocin.
I was in so much pain, but I was continuing to press on. I was staying focused. Breathing and vocalizing through every contraction. I knew I could handle it if I just took it all one contraction at a time. If I didn’t think about the contraction I’d already had or the ones that were to come, I was okay. The 30second breaks (or so) that I got in between I used to rest as much as I possibly could.
But they hurt. Bad. It was a pain I have yet to describe.
At one point I took John by the hand and asked if we could walk the halls for a bit, thinking that may help. But the truth was, I wanted to get out of the room and I just needed to be with my husband for a minute.
We got down the hall and I just burst into tears. I’d been laboring for almost 20 hours at this point and I was exhausted, in serious pain, and I was started to get really scared. I just kept saying, “I don’t know if I can do this. I’m so scared.”
John was amazing through it all. He just kept kissing my forehead, rubbing my back, telling me he loved me and how proud he was of me. He kept saying how amazing I was doing. I so needed that. But I knew in my heart of hearts I was getting weary.
At midnight my midwife came in to check me again.
I was “barely” 7cm, still 80% effaced, and the baby was still REALLY high.
I burst into tears. I knew that 7cm-10cm (aka: “transition”) was the hardest part of labor… and after being awake and laboring for 20 hours at this point, I just didn’t think I could do it.
I was also really nervous because the baby was so high. Baby wasn’t even close to being in my pelvis. So, we started talking options.
My three options at this point were:
- Continue at the current pace. No drugs. Continue on pitocin. See what happens.
- Get an epidural, up the pitocin, try and rest.
- Get a c-section.
I didn’t like any of the options. But after discussing, John and I thought a c-section at this point was probably going to be the best route considering where the baby was. My fear with going with option 2 was that I was going to end up having a c-section anyway… and I didn’t want to continue laboring for so long only to end up in a c-section. Option 1 was clearly not an option anymore.
But then we learned that the OR wasn’t going to be available for another 3-4 hours because someone had JUST gone in for a c-section.
So, here I was, faced with options 1 and 2 only again. I couldn’t do option 1. It just wasn’t an option. I was too tired and in too much pain. I was terrified of option 2, but figured it may be a blessing. Maybe the epidural would relax me enough and the higher dose of pitocin would get me to where I needed to be to be able to push.
So, option 2 it was.
Side story about the epidural – the anesthesiologist came in to do the epidural (which I was TERRIFIED of, by the way. Me and needles? Not friends.) Well, his name was Dr. Eugene Lee, but I could only see Eugene on his nametag. Being my usual self, I tried to make friends with him (amidst contractions). I was having a contraction while he was talking to me about the risks of an epidural (I could be paralyzed, etc…) and I was telling him I was having a contraction while vocalizing. He said, “I’m going to keep going so we can get started.”
I heard nothing he said. I was not amused and clearly he wasn’t either.
Anyway, I kept calling him Eugene and my husband noted that he was a Dr. and probably would want to be called Dr. after all those years of schooling (my husband was joking and just trying to lighten the mood). So, I called him Dr. Eugene. The nurse, my husband, and midwife all thought it was hilarious. Dr. Eugene? Not so much. Never cracked a smile.
Oh well. I still giggle thinking about Dr. Eugene.
So, I got the epidural, which wasn’t awesome (getting stuck with a giant needle while having a contraction is not great), but compared to pitocin contractions, it wasn’t terrible. Within about 30 minutes, my entire lower body was numb. I could feel contractions, but they were no longer painful.
They told me to rest, but between the HORRIBLE case of labor shakes that I got and the blood pressure cuff going off every minute, I was not getting any sleep.
Shortly after getting the epidural, the nurse came in and put in my catheter and the doctor came in and broke my water. Talk about crazy weird sensation.
So, 12:30am, here I am, in bed, water broken, epidural in, pitocin pumping, and now we wait.
John was able to sleep a little. My sister and in-laws went to the waiting room to try and rest. I laid there nervously waiting.
I continued to labor for another 2 and a half hours.
At 3am, in hour 25 of labor, 2 and a half hours after breaking my water, upping the pitocin, and getting the epidural, my midwife came in and checked me again.
I was still 7cm and baby was not dropping.
At this point, my midwife and the doctor looked at each other and looked at me and said, “This tells us the baby isn’t descending and we have to get that baby out.”
So, at 3:15am the decision for a c-section was decided.
Basically everything I prayed for in regards to labor and delivery – my desire for a natural, drug-free birth, no pitocin, no epidural, and certainly no c-section were completely out the window.
But, I knew that it was the best decision for our baby. And that was ALL I cared about. I kept saying, you do whatever needs to be done for this baby to be okay.
My family came in and we all prayed together. I asked my sister (who had also had a c-section) what her experience was. I was so nervous. I’ve never had surgery before and I was so afraid of feeling something or just all the unknowns.
She really reassured me. John got his awesome white “suit” put on and they wheeled me into the OR to get me prepped.
I still had the labor shakes and so I was just shaking uncontrollably. Once I got into the ER and transferred to the operating table, they upped the dosage in my epidural. I immediately got extremely nauseous. I started throwing up right there. Since I was strapped to the table, all I could do was turn my head to the side and try and throw up in a little cup they placed by my head. Yeah, that was fun. Not.
They gave me something for my nausea and, of course, in typical Molly fashion, I tried to make jokes about it all.
At about 4:10am, they brought John in and he sat by my head and held my hand. We held hands and he kissed me and they started the procedure. They did some “test” areas to see if I could feel anything and I couldn’t. I never felt any pain, just a lot of touching and pressure. I was so nervous and still shaking uncontrollably which was horrible.
Then, the next thing I knew, they said, “Be prepared for a lot of pressure.” I just felt like a big push and then like a suction type feeling and the next thing I heard was the sweetest cry I’ve ever heard.
John stood up to look and he said, “Well, it looks like I’m outnumbered again.” (We have 2 dogs who are girls).
I love the picture on the right because you can see the time that she was born on John’s phone…
I immediately started crying and said, “We have a GIRL?! It’s a girl?!” I was so shocked!
At 4:24am, on August 18th, 2013, after 26 and a half hours of labor, our sweet girl was born via c-section. She was 8lbs 11.9oz and 21.5” long.
John got up and went over to where they were cleaning her off. Her apgar scores were 8 and 9! She was beautiful, perfect, and healthy! She was everything we had prayed for.
They gave her to John and he brought her over to me and I kissed her and kept telling her how beautiful she was. I kissed John. I kept telling him how much I love him.
The doctor and my midwife asked the name and we both said, this is Lilly Eileen. She was our Lilly Eileen.
I hated that I couldn’t do skin to skin right away or hold her right away, but I knew I wanted John to not leave her side. So, John went with her to the nursery while they stitched me up and put me back together.
I remember being in the operating room chatting with the doctors and nurses (and Dr. Eugene was there, too!) and I just kept saying how happy I was, how thankful I was for everything they did, and I kept saying how much I love my husband. I don’t know what came over me, but I remember laying there on the operating table saying how hot I think he is, how much I love him, and how lucky I am that he is my husband and the father of our DAUGHTER.
Daughter! We have a daughter! A baby girl! A little Lilly.
I am still in shock as I write this.
Also, as they were stitching me up, the doctor noted that Lilly was very high (nowhere near in my pelvis) and in an awkward position. She said, “Yeah, there was no way this baby was coming out the other way.” They also suspect that it could have been because she was too big for my pelvis. …dang it, I was really hoping my Buckley buns and child-bearing hips were going to come in handy finally. But noooooooo.
About 40 minutes later, they took me back to my labor and delivery room to recover and about another 15-20 minutes later, John came in with Lilly and I got to hold her for the first time.
I just kept staring at her. She was so perfect and beautiful.
She may not have arrived the way I thought I wanted, but she came in her own time, in her own way, and she was healthy and perfect and ours.
The next few hours were really a blur. Recovering, getting transferred to postpartum, etc. I don’t think I even slept a wink. No wait, I know I didn’t sleep a wink until the next night… and even then, sleep was fleeting. Heck, it still kind of is.
We were in the hospital for another 3 and a half days after that. We were visited by so many wonderful family and friends. The nurses and my midwives and the doctors were all SO amazing.
The recovery was and has been tough. The incision pain is horrible. Going to the bathroom at first was the worst. At first, walking was tough. And all modesty pretty much went kaput in the hospital. “Oh hey, that’s just my butt hanging out of this gown.” “Oh hai, those are just my boobs you’re seeing.” “Don’t mind these giant mesh undies.” “Oh don’t mind that, that’s just a bag filled with my pee since I can’t get up from this bed.”
Breastfeeding initially was really challenging (I plan on writing about my first days and experiences with this soon). Lilly lost a lot of weight at first. So that time in the hospital was like an emotional roller coaster. Moments of pure joy and excitement followed by moments of lots of crying and lots of fear.
But, in the end, the Lord blessed us with a beautiful baby girl. She is everything we prayed for. I marvel at her every day and I marvel at the way the Lord designed her and her birth. I look at the details in her ears and her eyes and her hair and her fingernails and I just am in awe of God’s work and God’s glory.
We have been given a gift. A precious gift. We feel so blessed that the Lord saw fit to lend our sweet Lilly to us. That’s what she is. She’s our daughter on this earth, but ultimately she is a daughter of the King… and He has entrusted her to us to take care of her. And when we consider the job we have laid before us, we know that it is all worth it.
“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.” 1 Samuel 1:27
We went home from the hospital on Wednesday, August 21st, 2013. Our little family.