I am a proud mom of five, two of whom I have given birth to.
I always knew I wanted a big family, and nine years ago when I had my son after a relatively "easy" and uneventful pregnancy, I assumed conceiving and carrying more babies would be a breeze. Not surprisingly, I was wrong.
After six years of unexplained secondary infertility, failed IVF treatments, an ectopic pregnancy, two miscarriages, three surgeries, and a divorce, I had accepted the fact that my dream of having more children, was likely not coming true; at least not biologically.
When I married my now husband and his three children, I could confidently say I had the big family that I always wanted, just not in the way I had hoped. And although I had peace with the fact that this beautiful blended family might be exactly what God had planned for me, the desire to become pregnant again was still there.
So, for two more years, we tried. More treatments, more doctors, more heartache, and more negative pregnancy tests. I even became a step-grandma along the way to a child who we now care for full-time. I was mothering children in every way possible, but still, I longed for more of my own.
Until the day I stood in my bathroom at 6 am and stared down at those two pink lines. I didn't even have to squint to see them or hold it up to the light.
I was finally pregnant!
The pregnancy and its complications
I wish I could say the next nine months were pure bliss, preparing for the arrival of our miracle baby, but this pregnancy was far from easy. I had hyperemesis gravidarum until week 25, and as soon as that subsided the debilitating migraines kicked in. I then developed symphysis pubis dysfunction, something I had never even heard of until I landed in my OB's office in extreme pelvic pain at seven months.
This condition (which usually affects second time mothers) is when the ligaments around your pelvis become too relaxed and stretchy providing too little support as your baby grows. I was already carrying low, so the constant unsupported pressure made it somewhat impossible to complete simple tasks such as changing positions in bed or going to the bathroom unassisted without excruciating pain.
But despite the constant struggle, I powered through it as I reminded myself, This is what you've always wanted.
At 39 weeks, I could no longer do basic tasks, and I feared that a natural labor wouldn't be possible given the amount of pain I was already in.
To induce or not to induce?
At our next OB appointment, we were faced with a difficult decision: to induce or not to induce. Because the pain was getting worse and worse, my OB suggested induction. I knew that if I were to wait any longer, labor itself might be unbearable, so I agreed, albeit reluctantly.
Based on my little knowledge of induction and a handful of stories I had heard about from mother's who had induced labor, I was terrified—I highly suggest NOT googling "induced labor." Despite my fears, I went ahead with the plan, and we arrived at labor and Delivery the next morning at 7 am, January 3rd. Unfortunately, once we checked in, we were told they were "full," and we'd have to wait until a room opened up.
We were frustrated because we both didn't get much sleep the night before and had to get up early to be at the hospital, but we didn't have much of a choice at that point, so we waited. And waited and waited and waited. By 2 pm, I could barely keep my eyes open and decided there was no way I could go through labor with how exhausted I was feeling.
So that's when we headed home to take a nap. I closed my eyes for about 45 minutes, and at 4:30 pm, I got a call saying they were ready for us, so we started making our way back to the hospital.
We got into a room at about 6:15 pm, and our nurse started to get things ready. My OB came in to say hello and did an initial cervical check to see where our starting point was. I was already four centimeters dilated and 80% effaced (which can be common for women who have already given birth), so thankfully there was no need for any Cervidil, and we all agreed we could start with the lowest dose of Pitocin.
At about 7:15 pm is when I actually received the first dose, right as my sister arrived at the hospital from the airport. It was just her and my husband with me in the room, and the vibe was relaxed and casual since my contractions started out pretty mellow.
I had expressed to everyone upfront that I wanted to go slow, so the nurse was great at checking in with me every 30 minutes or so to see how I was doing, and if I was comfortable increasing the Pitocin. We continued with a slow increase until about 12 am when she checked me, and I had only progressed to five centimeters.
I was about to ask her to increase at a slightly faster rate, but about five minutes later, I heard a pop and realized my water had just broke (weirdest feeling ever). My contractions quickly intensified. I grabbed my husband's arm and squeezed him with all my might as each contraction approached quickly.
Despite the fact that my husband and I didn't make a birth plan, we naturally fell into a rhythm as he synced his breath with mine. It was as if he was transferring his strength to me, and I needed every ounce he had to give. I'll never forget how connected I felt to him at that moment.
After seeing how much pain I was in, but knowing I didn't want an epidural, he suggested nitrous oxide (laughing gas), which we had discussed previously as an option to take the edge off. I had a great experience with this as a way to manage the pain and help regulate my breathing—while it didn't mask the pain, it did make it easier to breathe and relax in between contractions. I think I even cracked a joke at one point about my husband's coffee breath.
At 1:30 am, I felt the strong urge to push, so the nurse got my doctor and everything ready for delivery. I pushed for about 15 minutes, which felt like the longest 15 minutes of my life. There were a few moments I thought I wasn't going to be able to get through it, and it felt so different from the pain I remember with my first.
But I distinctly remember in those moments when it felt impossible to go on, reminding myself that this is a moment in time. Not only was my body designed to do this, but it was doing it whether I liked it or not and would continue to do it until I had my baby in my arms.
We had a brief scare towards the end when my doctor told me to stop pushing because the cord was wrapped around her neck (although thankfully, he did not tell me this). He asked me to wait to push with each contraction and was able to cut and release the cord before she was all the way out.
Our sweet miracle baby, Emberly Olive, was born at 1:48 am Friday, January 4th, after about six hours of labor and just over one hour of active labor. Although I was shaking a lot (which is normal right after birth due to the hormones and fluid shifts), and a little bit stunned from the pain I had just experienced, I was so overcome with emotion that I was able to block out the negative and focus on my sweet baby.
We got to enjoy her for a full hour, skin-to-skin before the staff cleaned her up and weighed her.
As I process this birth and the journey that led to this moment, I feel so much gratitude for every struggle that I experienced along the way. Not only did it teach me many valuable lessons, but it gave me the strength and determination to (literally) push through what felt like an impossible situation.
There was something about feeling every moment of bringing this child into the world that was really important to me. I'm not sure I can explain why it just was. And looking back I surprised myself in so many ways (I mean, I can barely handle a paper cut so unmedicated labor wasn't something I thought would ever happen).
I understand this isn't everyone's experience and I genuinely believe that no matter how you arrive at motherhood, it is a miracle.
So, if you are fearful of the process, try to embrace even those hard moments. If you are longing, hoping, wishing for a child, don't give up, but also remember to give yourself a break. And If you are worried about the way your birth will happen, I encourage you to voice that to your team, but to give yourself permission to deviate from that plan if needed.
This was my path to motherhood, and it was far from what I had "planned," but exactly as I had dreamed it would be.