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Hello, Abby!: Ashley's Birth Story

Introducing Abby Kaitlyn. Born May 1, 2012 at 10:58 p.m. 18 inches long and 5 pounds, 8 ounces. A perfectly healthy little peanut. We are so blessed.

It’s overwhelming and flat-out unbelievable that this 37-week roller coaster has ended with a beautiful baby in my arms. Our life is forever changed in the best way possible.

Thinking back to the day of her birth, I feel like I’m envisioning a story someone else told me. You know how you picture what characters and scenes from a book would look like, based entirely on the author’s descriptions? That’s how I feel about Abby’s entrance into the world. The experience was so surreal that it doesn’t feel like it actually happened to me. And even though it’s been 5 weeks, it’s still shocking to see her in our house just hanging out. Just one of us.

Her timing was a little hilarious for a few reasons. The morning of May 1, I completed a blog post called, “Hurry Up and Wait.” I had edited it, spell checked it, uploaded the photos. I had all but hit ‘publish,’ as I was waiting on my husband’s opinion (depending on the topic, I occasionally e-mail him my posts before publishing them, to make sure everything makes sense). Jason was really busy at work, so I decided to wait for his response and post the blog that afternoon… But then I went into labor :)  

I tell that part of the story because the morning of May 1, I was feeling pretty frustrated, and my blog reflected that sentiment. Going back and reading it now is pretty funny. Here are a few excerpts:

“That’s right — I just typed 37 weeks. I’m full term and feeling annoyingly boastful about it! If Abby comes today, she’s not premature. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been so proud of myself. So how do you celebrate being full term? You play the waiting game, of course.”

“I’m certainly not trying to rush Abby. I want her to come when she is 100 percent ready. But I really don’t want to be induced and force my body to do something it’s not naturally ready to do. And, let’s face it — My doctor totally got my hopes up a few weeks ago that I wouldn’t make it to 40 weeks. Obviously, it could still happen. But I’m a total gun jumper, remember?”

I didn’t think this baby was coming anytime soon — and neither did my doctor. I had my weekly appointment the day before (April 30), and after a few weeks of constant progress, I had stalled. My doctor kindly said, “It’s not going to be this week.” I’m not going to lie — I was disappointed. I was ready to give Abby a big ole smooch on her huge, chubby cheek. After the appointment, I had a few strange occurrences (looking back, that definitely was my mucous plug!), but I blamed everything on the cervical exam I had in the office.

At 37 weeks 2 days, I had hit that part in pregnancy where you can’t imagine being pregnant for much longer. I was trying so hard to be calm and patient. Honestly, my body still felt pretty good in the physical sense. It was the mental part I was struggling with. (Oh, and the peeing every 5 seconds part.)

Little did I know, I’d be holding Abby later that day!

12:00 p.m.: I was actually working from home the morning of May 1 and got a ton of stuff done. May 11 was set to be my last day of work, so I was pushing to get everything done by then. When lunchtime came around, I was absolutely fixated on McDonald’s. This was pretty strange for me, as I hadn’t really given into the whole “cravings” part of pregnancy. But for only the third time during my pregnancy, I devoured the salty deliciousness that is McD’s and then passed out on the couch for a little bit. (In hindsight, I think my body was storing up for the long night ahead!)

3:45 p.m.: The last piece of our nursery, a glider rocking chair, was delivered. We had ordered it weeks before, and it was the last thing we needed for Abby’s nursery. I paid the delivery guy at my front door, walked back into the nursery and all of the sudden, felt a warm liquid trickle down my leg. What the?!  My water broke! I think Abby knew her room was ready for her. I’m telling you… this girl has her dad’s comedic timing.

I sat in the bathroom and laughed to myself for a few minutes. Was this really happening? Am I peeing in my pants or is my water actually breaking? I was so excited at the prospect that I was going to meet my daughter in 24 hours or less!

After composing myself, I called Jason, who had been answering my calls within one ring for the past few weeks (a distinct change, as he normally couldn’t take many calls while at work). I decided to mess with him, just a little bit :)

Me: Hey! Guess what?!

Jase: Uh… are you… what?!

Me: They delivered the glider! I thought I was going to have to go pick it up, but this nice guy delivered it for just $20! It looks really good in the nursery.

Jase: (Slightly annoyed.) Ok, Ashley. That’s great. I’ll see it when I get home. I have to go.

Me: Ok. Sounds good. But we probably won’t be home because my water just broke!

It was a moment that I had thought about so many times. I think it went perfectly :) While Jason rushed home from his office, I decided to shave my legs and put some make up on. I know that’s super cliché, but hey, it was all I could think to do in the moment. I debated washing and straightening my hair, but that seemed a little too daunting. I hadn’t even packed a bag yet — I wasn’t due for 3 weeks! But luckily, Jason had packed some of my necessities (like contacts) for me. Trying to pack a bag was actually really hard. I just kept walking in circles. And, unbeknownst to me, once your water breaks, it continually breaks until you give birth. I was completely unprepared for that, so I probably changed underwear 10 times in 20 minutes. All that said, it was obviously a very exciting time for us. I kept taking pictures, as this was the last time we were going to be in our house just the two of us. Jason kept asking really cute questions, like “What should I be wearing to meet our daughter?”

5:00 p.m.: Sitting in rush hour traffic while you’re in labor is a strange thing. Shouldn’t you get some sort of alarm to put on your car so everyone gets out of your way? I continued to take pictures while sitting on an old towel. I started getting “real” contractions about half way to the hospital, but they were completely manageable. I thought, “If this is it, I’ve totally got this without an epidural!” What a silly, silly thought.

We had a few funny situations once we pulled into the hospital. Checking in at the front desk, obviously in labor, a non-pregnant girl cut us in line. Really?! Then, when we got to the counter, the woman asked me if I had an appointment. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or punch someone. The waiting area in triage was also a bit of a disaster. But luckily, since my contractions were consistently less than 5 minutes apart lasting longer than 1 minute each, I was the first person called back. I’ll never forget the walk back to the triage exam room — I got the worst contraction I’d had so far. I could tell that things were progressing very fast.

6:30 p.m.: From this moment on, my hospital experience was wonderful. The triage nurse was fantastic. Even though she had been doing this for years, she was so excited for us. As she was checking my progress, she kind of freaked out and yelled, “I see hair!” I started crying at the prospect that my daughter had hair as Jason proceeded to text my mom and sister the nurse’s comment. My mom and sister took this to mean that Abby had crowned and would be out in minutes. My sister, who was two hours away in college, jumped in her car and started driving. Jason will never live that down.

Since I tested positive for group B strep, I made sure that they started the antibiotics that I needed right away. The antibiotics take about 30 minutes per round, and you have to get two rounds, four hours apart. For some reason, I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to have enough time to get both rounds. (Not to give it away, but my intuition was pretty much spot on.)

7:30 p.m.: Waiting in triage for my room to be ready on the delivery floor, my contractions got extremely intense. I had been in active labor for some time now, between 4 and 5 c.m. The nurse kept telling me how good I was doing, as Abby was so low. She couldn’t believe how fast things were moving.

When I was wheeled into my delivery room, my doctor was waiting for me. Seeing her brought a huge sense of relief to me. She was so calm, kind and confident. At that point, I was getting contractions back to back. I had little to no time to recover between contractions, but I tried to relax and focus on Jason. He was so sweet and catered to my every need. He rubbed my legs, held my hand, propped me up, slow danced with me, left me alone… Whatever I needed, he did. It really helped that he watched the monitor and told me when the contractions were on their way down. Knowing it was almost over helped get me through. For the most part, it was just me, Jason and the delivery nurse in the room.

8:30 p.m.: There was a distinct change at some point when the pain became too much. I looked at Jason, and he gave me the nod of approval. Bring on the epidural! I had thought about whether or not to get an epidural for months. I went into the experience with an open mind — I would do what I needed in the moment. Could I have made it without one? Of course. But I had labored for hours without it and in that moment, I didn’t see any reason not to bring my body some much-needed relief. It was the right decision for me, and I’m glad I made it. The anesthesiologist was awesome. I’m sure she’s everyone’s favorite person on the delivery floor.  She raised the bed and had Jason stand in front of me. The hardest part was I had to hold perfectly still has she inserted the catheter, which when you’re getting back-to-back contractions can be quite difficult. I remember that being a low point. During each contraction, I remember involuntarily saying, “Owwwww… Owwwww…” I couldn’t stop saying it. No screaming or movie moments. Just holy crap. Oww.

Once I got the epidural, it was a waiting game. Jason stayed by my side (except when I forced him and my sister to go eat dinner downstairs). My parents and sister were there most of the time. My in-laws even stopped by. We took pictures, talked about what it was going to be like to have Abby here and just hung out. My legs felt like they weighed 100 pounds each. I could move them, but not very well. The nurse had to prop one of my hips up, which was pretty uncomfortable. Even though I had the epidural, I could still feel each contraction. They felt like an intense muscle spasm in one of my butt cheeks — but much better than what they felt like without the juice. I was actually glad I could still feel them. I wasn’t sleepy or out of it. I was just more relaxed.

9:30 p.m.: I’ve heard epidurals can stall your progress. Luckily, this didn’t happen to me. I had hit 6 or 7 c.m. a while ago, so the nurse said she didn’t want to check my progress again until after I had the second round of antibiotics. I think she was worried I wasn’t going to have time to get it… and perhaps ignorance is bliss!

We had a few scary moments where Abby’s heart rate fell drastically low. I’m still not exactly sure why this happened but they said that the umbilical cord was probably being pinched. They threw the oxygen mask on me, moved me in different positions and made me breath deep. I freaked out each time this happened, of course. Once I found the right position, her heart rate shot back up.

10:30 p.m.: Finally time for the second round of antibiotics. Before I could even ask what was going on, the delivery nurse was frantically on the phone calling for the doctor and running around preparing gowns, gloves and everything for the actual birth. It all happened so fast. I guess the time had come! But apparently my doctor was still upstairs in the middle of a surgery. I vaguely remember hearing this. Huh? Really? This is really happening? I’m not going to have my doctor?!

All the sudden, THREE, yes THREE young men walked into the room. After the fact, I realize it was a resident and two students. All I remember is that I saw them out of the corner of my eye and with both my legs up in the air, I yelled, “There doesn’t need to be THREE of you!!!” Hey, a girl in labor gets one dramatic moment, right? Jason remembers the situation as if it was a Three Stooges episode. He said they came in the door, all bumping into one another, exuding zero confidence.

But luckily, in a true movie moment, my beautiful, confident, amazing doctor busted through the doors and told everyone to clear out. Or at least that’s how I picture it. Thank God for her.

The nurse prepped my doctor as she talked me through the next steps. I always thought that I’d just want Jason in the delivery room, but everything just happened so quickly and naturally that I was actually really excited to have my mom and sister there too. It was a family event. I even had a mirror so I could watch. (I highly suggest this!)

10:48 p.m.: I pushed in rounds of three. I couldn’t believe how hard I was pushing. I never dreamed that it would feel like that. I pushed for three, maybe four rounds. Each time, I could see Abby’s head come farther out. I was inspired each time to push harder so that I wouldn’t waste the previous progress. When her head came out, I can only describe the feeling as a huge rush of relief.

10:58 p.m.: After 37 weeks 2 days, I was holding my daughter. I got to hold her on my bare chest for 30 minutes. It felt like 30 seconds. At this point, I didn’t know what she looked like. I just held her close and felt her. I felt her breath. I felt her skin. I felt what it was like to be a mom for the first time. I was holding her with one hand and Jason with the other. I definitely had tears in my eyes, but to be honest, I didn’t sob like I thought I would. I was so happy. SO happy. I kept telling her that we’d protect her and love her. Jason’s reaction was something I’ll never forget.

They tell me that Jason cut the cord, that I got a few stitches, that I delivered the placenta… but I don’t remember any of this. I was in a fog. A lovely, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime fog.

Abby was here, and she was perfectly healthy. Everything I had prayed for had come true. It was truly unbelievable.

I’m not sure why we always assume something is going to go wrong. I guess as a first-time mom we just can’t believe our bodies are capable of such a miracle. We listen to too many horror stories. We know too much from Internet research and exaggerated movie moments. But our bodies were meant to do this. Enjoy your pregnancy because your baby is going to be healthy and in your arms before you realize what’s happening.

Since she was born, Abby has already gained a few pounds. She’s grown a few inches. She can support her head (when she wants to). We’ve had awesome moments (singing her to sleep), awful moments (insatiable, exhausting growth spurts), hilarious moments (the projectile trifecta)… And it’s only been 5 weeks.

I have puke all over my chest as I write this. And I couldn’t love it any more.

Thank you for following our story. Sharing this experience has been such a blessing. I hope it has brought some comfort to you during your pregnancy.

Here’s to the late nights, the first smiles, the blow-out diapers, the overwhelming emotions… Here’s to being a first-time mom!