My Take on Pregnancy & The Birth Story of Easton Luke

Here I am, 3 months into this mom thing and realized, I’ve never sat down to write out the story of my precious son entering the world. If you’re here reading this, I assume you want to hear the juicy details of Easton’s birth but I couldn’t possibly tell you about that without giving you the details of my pregnancy first, so here goes.

My Take on Pregnancy

Pregnancy was an amazing experience for me and I’m certainly thankful for that. As a NICU nurse and former Labor & Delivery nurse, I know how miserable pregnancy can be for some people. I never had any morning sickness, just a little nausea before my night shift sometimes. I didn’t have many food aversions and I was able to exercise right up until the end. Learning about pregnancy and the little baby developing in my tummy along the way was so much fun for me!

With anything in my life, I do serious research to find the best options possible for me and my family. We are big on keeping our bodies above the line of wellness, so protecting my body throughout pregnancy would be no different. When I got pregnant I knew that God had given me this really special gift. As this baby’s mom, it was (and still is) my job to protect him by keeping my body nourished to support his development and to make safe decisions based off of sound knowledge. In the words of my Bradley Method teacher, “You wouldn’t sign up for a marathon and go run it tomorrow without any training or preparation and birthing your baby shouldn’t be any different.”  So, I set out to prepare myself as much as possible for this adventure.

Our first decision after moving from Asheville to Concord last Fall was where would I deliver our baby and receive care. We ended up choosing Baby + Co. and we get asked a lot why we chose a birthing center over a hospital. I mean, after all, we are both nurses. It seems people view birthing centers as unsafe but that’s just simply not the case if you choose a birthing center with the appropriate accreditations and highly trained certified nurse-midwives. Baby + Co. offers all of that plus a state of the art facility for a laboring woman. They only care for low risk pregnancies and are very serious about your safety. I could probably write a book on this but to keep it short, after working as an L&D nurse, I couldn’t see myself laboring in a hospital bed, attached to a monitor, unable to walk around, with IV fluids, unable to eat or drink much. That kind of environment just wasn’t for me. I wanted an empowered birth. One where I felt in control and supported. I knew that when it came to delivery, I wanted the freedom to labor how my body needed to and a place that could back me in that, especially if I was really going to do this thing all natural. Baby + Co. is able to provide a safe environment that is comfortable and care that doesn’t intervene unless necessary. It is also just around the corner from one of Charlotte’s major hospitals, Novant Presbyterian Hospital, where I had previously worked as a NICU nurse. I did a LOT of research and asked lots of questions before we made a final decision but we knew that choosing a birthing center was the right decision for us, as it aligned with so many of our beliefs about healthcare and our personal health in general. Choosing Baby + Co. also meant that I opted out of getting an epidural during labor and would only use comfort measures for pain relief. We also went into this with an open mind, knowing that anything could happen and we could end up delivering at a hospital if medically necessary.

As the preparation and pregnancy continued, I signed up for a Bradley Method class, took the preparation and breastfeeding courses at Baby + Co., and bought several books to help me along the way. My favorite book was The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth because it taught me what I could expect throughout each trimester and gave me unbiased options for decisions I would have to face during pregnancy. I highly recommend this book!

In our classes, we focused on preparing Devin to be my labor coach. We made sure he was in tune with what my wishes were and knew how to support me during the toughest moments of labor/delivery. Having my husband and best friend involved in my labor instead of an onlooker, was amazing and something I recommend to everyone. Its a kind of support that you just can’t get from anyone else! As my due date approached, I prepared to labor at home for as long as possible and recover at home if all went well with my delivery at Baby + Co. I focused on being in tune with my body and listening to what it was telling me. If you’re interested in knowing about the things I did during my pregnancy to stay healthy and what I did to prepare for delivery, comment below and I’ll get to work on another post with that info.

Delivery Day

It’s 3:30am on Friday, April 6, 2018. I’m lying in bed wide awake because #pregnancyinsomnia and I felt a contraction. This one was different than all the others I’d had so far.  I had an incredibly healthy pregnancy and chose to forego any type of induction because I wanted my body to go into labor when it was ready. I also chose not to have cervical exams up until this point because dilation really doesn’t mean anything until you’re in labor. On this particular day I was exactly 41 weeks pregnant and I happened to have an appointment with my nurse midwife at 10am so I didn’t bother calling them to let them know I might be in labor just yet. I laid in bed until 4am deciding what to do and the contractions kept rolling in, five to seven minutes apart. Within the first thirty minutes, I knew that these contractions meant something big was about to happen. I decided to finally wake Devin up around 5am and told him I was having contractions. To make things even more interesting, my dad and brother had tickets to go to The Masters and I knew they were headed to Augusta, GA around 6am that morning. If you know anything about The Masters, you know that having the chance to go is a once in a lifetime experience. Since I knew that first time labors are usually long, I didn’t want to take away their chance for this adventure by making them stay at home and wait on a baby that may or may not be there until the next day. We decided not to tell anyone anything at this point. Devin suggested I get in the shower to see if it changed anything. The contractions continued regularly. I dried my hair and put on some comfy clothes. We went to get some food at Breakfastime so I could give myself fuel for the marathon I was about to run. I had my typical breakfast; a Belgian waffle, a bowl of fruit, and a few boiled eggs. We came back home, anxious for time to roll around for us to head to the birthing center for our appointment, so we went ahead and packed our car for the big day. Then, I tried to lay down and rest because I knew my body would need it but the contractions kept me fairly restless and I couldn’t seem to doze off for a nap.

We headed to Baby + Co. around 9:30am and when we got there, I told my nurse midwife I had been having contractions all morning. She checked my cervix at my request. I was already four centimeters and 75% effaced. I was shocked. She also did a non-stress test which is basically putting me on the external fetal monitor for 20 minutes or so until I had a reactive strip. This just means that she was able to see accelerations and good variability in the baby’s heart rate. All of this means that baby is healthy and tolerating whatever kind of labor activity I had going on. Everything went great so she told us to ride over to Target next door and walk around for a while, returning in two hours to be checked again. While we were in Target, I was super tense because I was out of the environment I thought I would be in during all of this. No labor ball, no tub, none of the comfort measures I had practiced using at home or in the birthing center. As it turns out, not even shopping could help me relax but I did manage to get some really comfy PJs to wear post delivery. During these 2 hours we also decided what to tell our families. Half of Devin’s family lives two hours away so they needed time to travel. My dad and brother were already in Augusta at this point. The crazy thing about The Masters is that you aren’t allowed to have your cell phone so there was no way for us to get in touch with them in a moment’s notice. Since I was so far along in pregnancy, my dad knew to call and check in periodically to see if anything was going on. I called my mom and explained to her what was happening so that when she talked to my dad the next time she could tell him to come home sometime that afternoon. We also called Devin’s mom and told them to hold off until we knew what would happen once we returned to the birthing center. I also informed my precious friend and photographer, Brookelyn, of what was going on because we wanted her there for the birth if at all possible.

We headed back over to Baby+ Co. at 1:00pm and my midwife checked my cervix again, saying I hadn’t really changed much. She sent us back home for me to labor. My contractions were pretty intense at this point, still five minutes or so apart, and since I was so miserable in the car, you know we got stuck in traffic on our trek home. #eyeroll It had been a while since I had eaten anything so we swung by Chick-fil-A for more labor fuel. No judgment people, its what the pregnant woman wanted.

Back at home I labored, using all the techniques and positions I had practiced in our Bradley classes. Devin held my hand the entire time, comforting me, ensuring me that I could do this. He told me I was strong, I was brave, I was his hero. He reminded me to breathe and to focus on getting through one contraction at a time. He never left my side. No one else on earth could’ve comforted me the way my sweet husband did during these few hours at home, or in the hours to come. Tears and all, it was a precious time together, savoring our last moments as just the two of us before our world was changed forever.

Up until this point I had been very mobile, walking and moving but at this point the contractions were stopping me dead in my tracks. Since we were potentially facing rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon, we decided to call Baby + Co. Our midwives told us to go ahead and come in so we loaded up the truck again and headed back to Charlotte. The car ride was miserable for me; each contraction more intense than the last and we couldn’t get to a comfortable environment fast enough for me. When we arrived, they checked my cervix again and I was still only five centimeters. My water had still not broken. I was thankful that Easton and I were both tolerating labor well but I was wondering when it would get to the point we had all been waiting for. I knew that my slow progression could be for several reasons but I felt strongly that it was because I had not been in one comfortable place for too long, pausing my labor each time we moved to a different location. I was crossing my fingers that my midwives would say I could stay and labor there because a car ride back home would’ve truly broken my spirit at this point. Guess what! THEY DID, they kept me to labor there and I was thrilled! We told our families to go ahead and come on over to the birthing center but not to be in too big of a hurry. We chose to only have our parents and siblings with us there because we knew that it could be a long time and really late before I delivered Easton. Having a history in Labor & Delivery, I knew how exhausting it can be waiting around on a baby. My grandmother was at home praying fervently for me. Lots of people cheering us on. Our families quickly filled the waiting room and anxiously anticipated the arrival of Easton Luke. Brookelyn arrived too and took some photos of us during labor (that I’ll cherish forever).

We spent the next 8 hours laboring; in the tub, on labor balls, on the bed, in the shower, on the yoga mat, with every single combination of comfort measures possible. Exhausted, but Devin still never left my side. He continued to try and feed me protein rich snacks and lots of fluids with electrolytes, even though I didn’t really want it. He knew I needed it because of the insane amount of calories that are burned during labor and he could see how worn out I was. He massaged my back, gave me counter pressure during contractions, walked with me, held me, encouraged me. Contractions grew closer together and got increasingly more intense. Physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, it was the most overwhelming, all-consuming thing I had ever experienced.

So far, my midwife had just come in the room to check Easton’s heart rate and for a few other things but no cervical checks since 5pm. Around 1am she came in and asked how I was doing. I was drained, depleted, and desperate to have this baby. She checked my cervix, told me I was eight centimeters (I was excited), and asked if I wanted her to break my water. I knew if my water would ever break, Easton’s head could push on my cervix and dilate it faster so when she asked if I wanted her to break my water, I agreed. I had a huge gush of fluid and at first it was a relief. Then the nurse asked my midwife to check the color of my fluid. It was a very very pale yellow. This wasn’t the best news. Yellow or green tinted amniotic fluid meant there was some meconium in my fluid. Meconium means that at delivery Easton could aspirate on some pretty thick fluid and if he was unable to clear his airway, his health would be in danger. There are lots of reasons for meconium to be present and since I was a week post due date, I wasn’t worried because it just meant that Easton’s bowels were mature. However, the birthing center does not have respiratory therapists and cannot deliver babies with meconium stained fluid, no matter the amount. At that point, my nurse told us we were going to have to go to the hospital to deliver. I asked her if she was serious, even though I knew she was. My second to worst fear was happening. I was in disbelief. Devin was heartbroken for me, with tears streaming down his face. My coach was struggling. I had to pull it together. No one could do this but me. I prayed for strength, for patience, and for a safe delivery. Somehow, by the grace of Jesus, I pulled myself together with the thought that going to the hospital was best for Easton repeating in my head. I have seen much thicker, greener meconium and knew that we weren’t at a point that was worrisome yet but that it could potentially get to that point and I wanted NICU nurses and NICU respiratory therapists there to save my baby if need be. Devin went out to our families and explained what was going on. My midwife and nurse helped me get dressed. My brother and Lesley graciously and quickly gathered our things that had been scattered all over the room for eight hours. Everyone headed to the hospital. I squatted in the floor of Devin’s truck (because I couldn’t bear to sit in the seat) with both of our midwives in the back seat. It was the longest two block ride of my life.

Arriving at the hospital, full of fear and in a place of unknowns.  I waddled into the doors, onto the elevator, and up to the eighth floor. I, unhappily, signed consent and HIPAA forms. Our family was confused and thought I was having a c-section. Thankfully, my sister-in-law Lesley is a nurse and she was able to explain what was going on. The nurses escorted us to my labor room. I met my nurse, Sherise. She was smiling, helpful, and incredibly patient with me. I knew I couldn’t lay flat on my back in the bed and being still was out of the question. She had another nurse come start my IV while I was standing and swaying. She squatted for over 20 minutes listening to Easton’s heart beat in correlation to my contractions. She was an angel. Now that my water wasn’t intact, my contractions were the most intense yet and rolling in about a minute and a half apart, sometimes with only a thirty second break between them. One on top of the other for over 2 hours. I endured more labor, sweating profusely as Devin drenched me with ice cold wash cloths. He heard me start to grunt and asked me if I was pushing. I told him no. I was lying. My body was pushing without my control and I could feel Easton was kicking his way out. I didn’t tell my nurse but I proceeded to grunt my way through every contraction, working through any labor position that was comfortable. Devin walked with me around the room but I mostly stood on all fours on the bed. I eventually told my nurse I had the uncontrollable urge to push. She had me do some practice pushes on all fours and it wasn’t really productive but more of a relief for me. I tried pushing on my side and I wasn’t getting anywhere with that either. I was inconveniently placed in a room without a tub and had originally wanted to be in the tub at Baby + Co. when I delivered Easton. I had dreams of pulling him out of the water and onto my chest myself. None of that was happening here in this cold hospital room.  Reluctantly, I laid on my back to see if I could effectively push this way. Devin saw Easton’s head. We both got excited. I was almost there! Easton would soon be in my arms. I continued to embarrassingly scream and grunt through each contraction and knew Devin’s hand had to be turning blue at this point. I had been in my nurse’s shoes. I have held the hands and legs of women as I coached them through pushing their baby out. I never knew how much impact that could have on a woman’s delivery until this moment. My nurse kept me focused and in control. They called the doctor in (who I had unfortunately never met), prepared the delivery equipment, and the just-in-case emergency personnel arrived. I was elated to see two familiar faces enter the room, former coworkers from the NICU, Leigha and Lia. In disbelief that they were in my delivery but I had full faith that if anything happened to Easton, they would take the BEST care of him. Devin said seeing them gave me a burst of energy and boy did I need it because the ring of fire is REAL, friends. With the intensity of Easton’s head coming through the birth canal, I pushed with everything I had, knowing that the harder I worked the sooner I could hold that sweet baby on my chest. I was weak and weary. Pushing through one contraction, his head was out and with a few more pushes on the next contraction his body followed. At 4:35am on Saturday, April 7th, 2018 our handsome Easton Luke was born. I had the nurse put him immediately on my chest. Nothing grosses me out and I didn’t want him wiped off very much because I knew that having amniotic fluid on my chest would help him breastfeed sooner. Although he had a lot less hair than my pregnancy indigestion had suggested he would have, he was PERFECT. Much like his stay in my womb, he was immediately hungry and let me know he was not happy about it with the sweetest cry my ears have ever heard. Within a few minutes he was breastfeeding. We waited an hour before we did anything else or had visitors, savoring the moments as a family of three and letting Easton get in some quality skin to skin time while the doctor stitched my tears and the nurses cleaned me up. Easton was eight pounds and fourteen ounces of pure love. Twenty inches long with big hands like his dad, great-grandpa and uncle. His perfectly round head said his entrance to the world was fast and furious, even though we all knew it wasn’t. After graciously waiting all night, Brookelyn came in to take some photos as soon as the doctor would let her. I will forever be thankful for her patience because I also knew she had a wedding to photograph later that day. It was shift change and my nurse needed to go home but she never once acted as if she were in a hurry. She was patient and agreed to let our ENTIRE family come in the room all at once before I went to my postpartum room. The exhausted and elated faces in the photos below say it all.

So, here we are three months later, still in disbelief that this baby is real and that all of this actually happened. We are in even more disbelief that our then almost nine pound newborn is three months old today. Parenthood stretches you, exhausts you, and overjoys you in ways you never imagined. Each day is different than the one before, and each day we grow evermore grateful for the life that has been placed in our hands.

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