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The Birth of Ali Blake Hollingsworth

It seems like just yesterday that my husband and I were sitting on our couch together laughing over the news that we were expecting our third baby in three years. We were equally thrilled and terrified over the idea of how outnumbered we'd be the next fall. But again, we were so grateful for the endless ways the Lord continues to grow and bless our family - even if it gets a little crazy sometimes.

Pregnancy #3 was business as usual for me. Physically, it was filled with all of its usual glory - nausea, exhaustion, headaches, etc. But amidst all of the ugly side effects, there was so much excitement. The biggest challenge this pregnancy was the emotional baggage that it pulled out of the closet. It turns out back to back births and pregnancies can do some crazy things to your hormones. Ha! Who knew? Anyway, that in itself is a whole other blog which I will address at a later date.

Before I knew it, I checked my app one day and was blown away to find that I was already in the third trimester! Time was really getting away from me with this one. Then just like that, I was waddling into a spa downtown at a whopping 39 weeks and 4 days. I just remember praying all week that labor would hold off until after that appointment. It was glorious! This entire last week of pregnancy had been vastly different from my last two. My previous labors always seemed to just start in full blown labor with no real warning signs. But with this one, I had felt weird all week. I had been super crampy everyday, there was so much pressure that I was just sure my water would explode if I moved the wrong way, and of course, the glorious “clean out phase." I was equal parts anxious and ready to get this thing going! But alas, that Friday night I was rolling into bed praying that labor would start sometime in the next 24 hours so that my OB, Dr. Bethea, would be on call and we could end this journey together. She had been such a comfort to me throughout this pregnancy, that I knew it would mean so much for her to be the one on the catching end. Then, just as quickly as I had fallen asleep, I was awaken at 4 am with what I knew was not a simple Braxton Hicks contraction. I waited in bed for a while so that I could continue to rest and to get a better idea of how things were going. After about thirty minutes of mild and manageable contractions, with decent breaks in between I decided to get up and start the day with a shower. I've never been one of those who looked pretty for delivery (you women amaze me) so I thought I would at least try this time. Turns out, I’d still be a sweaty, hot mess at delivery, but hey- I tried. After a shower and a little makeup, I still didn't see the need to wake anyone, so I napped, ate, and bounced around the house on my birth ball for a while. By 6:30 am, our whole crew was up and the “birthday party” had begun! I can officially check bouncing a toddler on my knee while sitting on a birth ball and contracting off of my list. (because that's every laboring woman’s dream, right? It was actually really sweet.) We decided to go for a family walk around the neighborhood before it was sweltering outside. My pain basically felt nonexistent the entire walk and I kept panicking thinking - “What on earth is wrong with me? This is my 3rd baby and I work with laboring women all the time, how can I not tell if this is real labor?” It was just so new to me. I just kept thinking and doing everything I would be telling one of my moms to do at this point. Our childcare plans had fallen through due to an evil stomach virus so we were still working on plan b. The boys weren’t bothering me at all, but I think my husband thought it might be best for me to just focus on labor without the boys in the house. We had no food in our house, naturally. So I sent him off with our two boys to a grocery store around the corner to shop and assured them I was fine and would call if things changed. I had been doing the Miles Circuit daily for the last couple of weeks and was able to rest very well in parts of the circuit, so I thought I’d start with that. It was during that circuit that things started to change. My contractions were staying 10-15 minutes apart, but were lasting super long and intensifying. I started feeling really confused at this point. Its so funny looking back at what I knew about labor in reality, but in the moment, it's truly like my brain isn't thinking that way. I had a friend lined out to fill the doula role for me, but hadn't called for her yet. In the moment I really just felt like I needed more of a virtual doula. Amanda to the rescue! (Amanda is my dear doula friend, mentor, and faith sister. She moved away a while back, hence the “virtual” part) We talked through everything that had been going on and what I had been doing. I remember having a painful contraction while on the phone with her that lasted nearly a minute and a half. She reminded me that length and strength was more important than frequency, and reminded me that it may help to get my kids squared away so I could take off my “momma hat” and just focus on labor. So we did just that. I called my husband back and a close friend came by and got the boys. The plan was to labor at home a while longer, but things started changing quickly. Frequency was the same, but the intensity was definitely picking up. I was having more and more pressure and the dreaded - back labor. I told my husband that I think I wanted to go ahead and go to the hospital. He was shocked by this decision and even tried to talk me out of it! I almost listened! Ha! In the past I have made it in complete and ready to push, but I guess you could say that my body was telling me to go. I’m thankful that I listened. Before leaving, we stopped in our kitchen with gathered hands and did my favorite thing we do in birth- we prayed. We prayed over baby, me, our team, doctors / nurses, and that God would be glorified through our birth. In that moment, we had no idea how many prayers he’d answer in the coming days. We then loaded up and let the rest of the team know. We live about 2 minutes from our hospital and on the short ride there I started panicking about going. I was like “Oh my goodness! I can’t be going to the hospital now. Why did you let me come?!?! Etc. etc. ect”. Before I finished that rant, I was in another terrible contraction. The rant then turned to “Oh my gosh. What am I doing? Why do I CHOOSE NO DRUGS?!?!” Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mean that statement. I love natural birth and wouldn’t have it any other way, but man, that back labor was killer. That contraction ended and we walked into L&D with me again regretting my decision to come in. But when I got to the counter and saw the nurses there and my OB, who I knew were all an amazing team, I felt better about my decision. When Dr. Bethea checked me, I was 7-8 cm (the least dilated I’ve ever been at the hospital. Ha!), with a bulging bag, and the position I suspected - OP (baby was sunny side up - not ideal). Now, I’m a doula. On a normal day, I would have lots of suggestions for an OP baby - but that moment I was blank. I immediately told my husband to - “Call Amanda!”. After my husband talked to her we got to work. I was in the bed, hands and knees with my birth ball while my husband brought in some killer hip squeezes! I was so proud of him! I remember noticing that the back labor had changed and thinking that baby must have moved. It was almost immediately after that the great water explosion of 2018 happened. Seriously, it was the biggest gush I’ve ever felt. I’ve always waited for my water to break on its own, but this was by far my most dramatic break! My husband said it actually sounded like my birth ball had popped! When my water broke I could not see it because of the position that I was in, but I heard them say there was meconium which made me nervous. Fortunately there was very little time to let that nervousness sink in, because it was time to push. I could tell baby was coming down and coming down fast! We turned back around and got into position using the squat bar and started pushing at 12:11. Now, I have a history of HATING pushing and it always takes forever, so mentally that is what I was gearing up for. Much to my surprise, five minutes later at 12:16 pm, Dr. Bethea was holding up a sweet baby GIRL!!!! I frozen in shock because A) I couldn't believe it went so quickly and B) I had a baby GIRL!!!! I was so excited and relieved. I had been starting to want a girl more and more near the end of pregnancy but just knew it would be a boy. Which totally would have been great, but I had really been feeling girl. The plan was for my husband to announce the gender, and he said “I don't know, is it a girl?”. In his words, he was “under pressure and there was a lot going on down there!”. But i knew immediately that she was my Aline Blake, the baby girl I had been dreaming of. Named after the heart of our family, my maw maw, who I know was smiling down on us with her sparkling blue eyes. This moment in time, surrounded by family and friends who loved me, amazing nurses and sweet Dr. Bethea, was full of so much joy that I'll never forget. Unfortunately, due to the meconium- Ali Blake was taken pretty quickly after birth and had to spend the first 5 days of her life in the NICU. This was a very new and scary experience for us. But man, let me tell you - every moment that passed we were seeing and feeling prayers be answered left and right. It's always amazing to me to see that the Lord hears and cares about even the most simple things - like milk production and good latches. Even since being home, the Lord continues to bless us. The only word I could possibly think of to describe our feelings in this season of life is grateful. I am grateful for my little girl who bears the name of someone so dear. I am grateful for brothers that love her (even too much sometimes). I am grateful for a husband who goes above and beyond to meet all of our needs. I am grateful for friends who have loved us and fed us. Lastly, I am grateful beyond words that the Lord called me to be their momma. Our hearts are truly full! We love you, baby girl.

"Every prayer for you is like a seed in the ground Every tear I cry is like rain And in its due season I pray a harvest will be found Your heart and mouth confessing Jesus' name"