First, I have to say that finding out I was pregnant was a shock and I dreaded the thought of labor and delivery. I was so freaked out about it that I swore to everyone I was going to have an elective C Section. I had never heard a positive birthing experience. My mom had a traumatic time with my older brother after her epidural wore off, he was stuck, and she was rushed into an emergency C Section. Two of my best friends were in labor for over 30 hours and had to have either an emergency c section or help from a vacuum. However, after attending a pregnancy exercise class and listening to multiple moms describe their unmedicated, natural L&D, my mind started to open up. I knew God had designed my body to do this, but was I mentally and physically strong enough? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. These women would say that they “loved” their birth experience. They told me they would do it again and wouldn’t change anything. They actually SMILED as they talked about it. A couple of moms started telling me I could do it, and after a few months I started to believe them.
I was 40 weeks and 5 days. My WONDERFUL doctor (Amanda Sellers) was going to let me go to 41 weeks and 1 day, so induction was fast approaching. I knew if I was going to have a good shot at completing this marathon without an epidural or c section, I did not want pitocin pumped through my system. So I read and tried everything Whitney Hollingsworth threw my way. When I got to 40.5 I knew my last option was castor oil. I researched it heavily, making sure it was safe. I talked to Dr. Sellers and had Whitney check with a midwife friend before I did it. Is it thick and hard to swallow? Yes. Did it make me have a bit of diarrhea? Yes. But it’s totally manageable. I took the castor oil at about 9 am that morning, went to the bathroom about 4 times, and then started light, irregular contractions around 4 pm. Whitney knew it was very obviously prelabor and told me to get as much rest as possible.
For a while that evening I was still able to walk, talk, eat a little, and even doze in between contractions, but around midnight things started to turn. I remember laying on my bed with my husband and cat asleep beside me trying to just breathe through the uncomfortable waves. I started moving my arms in the air to keep myself relaxed, haha. I knew if Martin woke up, he would think I was possessed. Around 2 am I started having to groan with my contractions and knew I wanted to go ahead to the hospital.
We met Whitney at the hospital around 3 am and my contractions were about 4 minutes apart. She had gone ahead of me to let the nurses know I was on my way, so they were ready and greeting me with smiles. Whitney, you’re the best! When they told me I was at 6 cm, I’m pretty sure I cheered! I couldn’t believe I had made it to 6 cm at home! Not only that, but I was almost to 7 cm, which many people say is the peak of pain with contractions. This also only gave me a short while to labor before the option of an epidural was gone! Whooo hoooo! I wanted the option to be taken away from me and it was… very quickly. I jumped to 8 cm as I tried to relax so my body could speed through this process. And that’s where I stopped.
Eight centimeters. Eight. Eight. Eight. Everytime they checked me. My water was still in tact and I was sitting at eight. It blew my mind. Wasn’t I supposed to be transitioning? My contractions were still 4 minutes apart. Don’t get me wrong. I was scared of transition, but I was also starting to get tired. I can’t tell you how long I sat at eight, but I know it was the bulk of my 16ish hour labor. Dr. Sellers told me that she would give me 45 more minutes and then she would break my water. Whitney to the rescue! Right after Dr. Sellers left the room, Whitney let me know there were a few positions we could try to break my water and speed things up. I was ready for anything. So we got into full squat positions for 3 contractions, lunges with a chair (3 contractions on each side), and then jumped back into my rest position. That’s when it happened. A sudden, sharp pain that made me panic. Martin and Whitney literally held me down and reminded me to breathe as I completely lost control and the nurse and doctor rushed in.
The nurse told me that the baby did not like that, but I had probably made some progress so she checked me again. She could no longer feel the water bubble and I was completely dilated and effaced. Mallory (our sweet nurse) told us to let her know when I felt like I had to push! I rested through the next few contractions, still a bit jolted by the sharp pain I had felt, and then got back into a full squat. That full squat told me everything I needed to know. My body was very clearly directing its squeeze downward and I was no longer relaxing as much as pushing. Whitney called Mallory back in, and within minutes, Mallory called Dr. Sellers in. I had my dream team around me, cheering me on like a football game for an hour and a half. I’m tearing up as I write this. What a beautiful moment.
Pushing was difficult. I had a hard time staying calm as I had most of labor. I needed more air! More chances to breathe! But my body was now running the show and it was do or die. I thought I would start delivery and then panic because of the sharp pain of a baby exiting. But if you’re scared of that too, let me reassure you, it wasn’t like that at all. I barely felt any sharp pain downstairs. It simply felt like so much pressure in my rectal region, that I was going to explode. To be honest, I didn’t care if I exploded. I was just ready to be finished. Everyone kept saying I was “so close.” I just knew they were lying to me. However, when I heard Dr. Sellers say “Ashley, one last push!” I knew she meant business and I gave it everything I had. There he came at 3pm! My sweet, little Elias.
I held him, looking at my husband and Whitney, crying because I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe this handsome, complete, perfect little human had been living inside me. I couldn’t believe I was getting to hold him in my arms. And I couldn’t believe I had done it. I had survived labor and delivery and I DID indeed love it. Glory to God.