Hey, friends! Boy, it has been a while since I’ve written for y’all here! It’s so nice to be back again. In the weeks leading up to my December 14th due date, I had written a couple articles ahead of time, with the intention of posting them on the first couple Fridays following James’ birth. Well, as you can see, that didn’t happen. It seemed that each Friday came and went with my either failing to realize what day it was or else just not really feeling like posting anything. But, now, at long last, I submit to you James’ birth story along with the update that, as of today, I am getting back into my regular schedule of weekly posting here on the blog!
We always hear and acknowledge the fact that every baby is different, unique in its own way. But little did I know how vastly different even a woman’s various pregnancies can be from each other! We might think that the same woman going through the same life events of pregnancy and childbirth might be in for pretty similar experiences each time, but let me tell you – even with currently just two pregnancies and deliveries under my belt, I already have experienced the fact that no two pregnancies and deliveries are the same!
I should not have been surprised by just how different my labor with James and his birth turned out to be from Anna’s, considering how different my pregnancy with him was. While my pregnancy with Anna went by the book and she lived up to each and every old wives’ tale pertaining to a girl pregnancy, my pregnancy with James was far more unique and rare. At 15 weeks, I developed a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) in my right hip and had to immediately be hospitalized overnight and put on blood thinner medication (medication which I continue to take to this day, and will have to until at least 6 months postpartum), and then went on to discover in the weeks that followed that this clot was not merely a fluke, but that I actually have an underlying hereditary blood clotting condition. While we had planned to have a home birth with James just as we did with Anna, this new development of having a blood clot and being on a high therapeutic daily dose of blood thinners caused me to have to plan for a hospital birth instead.
In the weeks and months that followed that diagnosis, life settled into a new normal and things seemed to be pretty by-the-book as far as my pregnancy went, save the issue of the blood clot. I went to monthly and then weekly appointments not only with a regular OB, but with a high-risk OB, as well, who was carefully monitoring the baby to make sure my blood clot condition was not affecting him in any way. However, at my 36 week appointment with the high-risk OB, I was told during the routine ultrasound that my amniotic fluid level was low. The doctor was not extremely concerned, however, and what with it being the week of Thanksgiving, just told me to go home, get some rest, and drink lots of water. I tried to follow those orders as best I could (though I am not a very good water-drinker, I still was doing all the things I could to try to get more water in me -like adding lemon juice or other flavorings to my water, etc. ). I went back the next week, on the Monday after Thanksgiving, November 28th, for a follow-up ultrasound with the high-risk doctor and was told that not only had my amniotic fluid level not gone up any, it had actually continued to go down. At this point, the doctor was not willing to mess around. He immediately scheduled me for an induction that evening. At 37 weeks, 5 days, I was far enough along that baby arriving that night should not adversely affect him and yet I still had long enough time in my pregnancy left that would render the situation potentially very unsafe for the baby if we were to just let things go. With the amniotic fluid levels continually dropping and with likely at least two weeks remaining in my pregnancy, baby’s life could have been in danger had we not gone the induction route, as low amniotic fluid results in a decrease of the shock absorbency of the uterus, which in turn leads to an increased risk of a prolapse of the cord – a condition which could be fatal to the baby.
So, on Monday, November 28th at about 7pm, Owen and I headed downtown to the hospital. Before that, we had run by our midwife’s house and she had checked me to find that I was already 2-3 cm, anyway. A huge blessing to hear! She felt that I was likely a good candidate for an induction in the sense that my body was probably ready enough to be able to respond well and quickly to it.
At about 8 o’clock that night, we were settled into our own hospital room, I got into bed, and they began monitoring my heart rate as well as baby’s. Hours went by and still no one had come in yet to begin administering the pitocin. All that waiting, along with horror stories I had heard about the awful labor pains brought on by pitocin, began to make me a little anxious! Apparently my anxiety was showing up in my heart rate, which in turn was leading to a change in baby’s heart rate. Next thing I knew, a nurse came in saying my OB was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. Now, let me just say here what a blessing it is to have the OB I do! He is my midwife’s backup, and so I had met him once before during Anna’s pregnancy when I had to have the GBS test. His bedside manner is great, and so when I took the phone, the first thing he said to me was, “So, I hear you’re pretty nervous.” It took me aback at first, because I hadn’t said anything to any of the nurses about being nervous. That’s when he told me that our heart rates were revealing my anxiety. He calmly told me that things wouldn’t be as bad as I was thinking, that I could take comfort in the knowledge that my midwife was going to be there with me as my doula, and he encouraged me to just enjoy the time with just my husband before our little one arrived. “Just kick back and watch a movie or something,” he told me. 🙂 So, that is exactly what Owen and I did. Between snacking on peanut butter crackers and gatorade and watching a Christmas movie on the hospital room tv, we would occasionally remark to each other that we couldn’t believe we would be meeting our little boy soon! Those hours definitely were a sweet time for just the two of us to have some time to ourselves before things picked up and everything got busy!
At one point, I was checked at the hospital and it was discovered that I was already having some contractions on my own. Whether they were Braxton Hicks or whether I would have gone into labor on my own before long, I don’t know, but I’m so thankful that my body was so ready to receive the pitocin and respond quickly to it.
Finally, at midnight, after four hours in our hospital room, my nurse at last administered the pitocin. At my OB’s orders, they were going to take things slowly with me to avoid any sudden, strong contractions. My nurse was very comforting, telling me that they were going to start on a dose even lower than their usual low dose. I was quite thankful for that!
An hour or so went by with no noticeable changes. At one point, they upped the pitocin. I began to have noticeable contractions, but, amazingly, they were not at all painful! Which made no sense, considering just how strong they were – with each contraction, you could easily see my belly tighten up really hard under the bed sheet.
Various nurses came and went, the anesthesiologist came in to ask if I wanted an epidural which I turned down, the pitocin was upped a couple more times, and Owen and I just continued to watch tv and chat.
And then! At about 3:30am, 3 1/2 hours after the pitocin was started, I got up to go to the bathroom and by the time I was done, I knew that things were changing. No longer did I want to be upright. And from having already had Anna, I know that when I’m at that point, things are about to get serious! I shuffled back from the bathroom and told Owen it hurt to be upright. He immediately texted Michelle, my midwife/doula, and she agreed that it was about time for her to make her way to the hospital to join us. Owen notified the nurse that I was now having painful contractions and she checked me to find that I was between 6 and 7 cm. Sure enough, transition was starting.
In mere minutes, the contractions became incredibly intense. While, with Anna, the contractions were felt more in my back and relief could be found through Owen and my mom applying counter pressure to my lower back using tennis balls, these painful contractions were all in front and down low, with nothing to be done for them. Again, so different from my experience with Anna! I began having to implement the deep breathing techniques I had learned from our Bradley classes during Anna’s pregnancy, as well as the horse-breathing technique my sister-in-law had told me about (thank you, Grace, because the horse-breathing makes all the difference during the terribly painful contractions!). With each contraction (that were coming pretty fast and furious), I kept having to alternate between horse-breathing, moaning, and shifting around on the bed trying to seek a more comfortable position. Now I was understanding exactly what folks meant by pitocin making regular labor contractions a whole lot worse!
After only about 15-20 minutes of the painful contractions, nurses began scurrying here and there, setting up for the delivery! I thought they were crazy- after all, I had just measured 7cm minutes before! But a nurse checked me again and I was 9 3/4cm! No wonder I had been in pain – nearly 3 cm. difference in only about 15 minutes. Things were happening so fast that neither my actual OB nor my midwife/doula had even shown up yet! I suddenly began to have the urge to push and the resident in the room gave me the go-ahead to push if I needed to.
As best I can tell looking back, it was around 4am when I started to push. That’s right – I started pushing a mere 30 minutes after contractions finally began to be painful. Crazy! Everything was happening so fast, I could hardly wrap my mind around it all. I pushed 3 or 4 times and then the next thing I know, the resident attending the birth tells me that with the next contraction, we’ll have a baby. I remember so clearly thinking, “No, we won’t. That’s not how my body works – I pushed for 4 hours with Anna, so there’s no way James is about to be here after only 15 minutes!” But, sure enough, with the next contraction, our little James Owen Hargraves was born into the world at 4:15am on Tuesday morning, November 29th. Minutes later, both my OB and my midwife/doula arrived! 😉 We looked back at Owen’s phone later to see that it was 3:36am when Owen had texted Michelle that I was starting to have pain. So, from then until the time James made his arrival only 40 minutes later, I went through both transition and pushing. It was all crazy fast! But I am so, so thankful it was! The quickness of it all was absolutely God’s grace to me, because I honestly do not know how much more I could have handled. I may have had a baby at home with no pain meds before, but pitocin contractions are quite different! Though I only had to deal with them for about 40 minutes, that was enough for me!!
The moment James was born, he was placed on my chest and my first thought was, “We have another Anna!!” When I was pregnant, we had wondered if, while Anna had been born with a head-full of dark hair, our boy might end up being a baldy. But, nope! Instead, he was totally the boy version of Anna, with even thicker and darker hair (though I hardly know how that is possible)!
As I was being stitched up (have I mentioned how quickly James arrived??), I cuddled with our newborn son and Owen and I relished our first few moments with him. Michelle, my wonderful midwife/doula who is truly a part of our family now, stood nearby, taking pictures and just enjoying the moment with us. After probably 15 minutes of just enjoying holding him, Michelle encouraged me to see if James would nurse. I put him into position and he immediately began to nurse, as if he had been doing it all his life. Though born two weeks early, you wouldn’t have guessed it! He’s been a little nursing champ ever since (which is evidenced by the fact that he has gained 5 pounds and grown 4 inches in the two months since birth!! He has quite the hearty appetite. 😉 ).
Our sweet little newborn nursed for probably about 40 minutes or so, and about an hour after he was born, the nurses took him to weigh and measure him. Our little boy born 2 weeks early wasn’t so little! 😉 Born at 37 weeks, 6 days, James Owen weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces and measured 20 1/2 inches long!
Though having a hospital birth, and especially an induction, were by no means in my birth plan when I got pregnant with James, nevertheless I am so grateful that things happened exactly the way they did. For, I learned a lot through it all! I learned that there had been undiscovered pride in my heart over the natural at-home birth I had had with Anna. I realized that I had judgmentally looked down on ladies at times who did labor and delivery differently than I had. I saw in a new, tangible way just how intimately involved our Lord is in the details of our lives. How, though we may have a birth plan we have written up, He is ultimately in control. How, though we write up our birth plans according to what we think is best, our labors and deliveries go in ways that He knows are ultimately best. For all of these lessons, I am so deeply grateful to God that He was in control and caused this pregnancy and labor and delivery with James to go so vastly different from the way I was expecting it all to go. If you would like to hear more about these lessons I’ve learned, you can check out this FB Live video I did on the topic:
And so, while far different from the story I may have perhaps chosen to write myself, the birth story of James Owen proved to be a beautiful story indeed.