On February 24, 2015, our lives were changed forever. Our daughter Tenley Kay came into the world! I’m really excited to share this story with everyone on the blog because it’ll serve as a journal for Tenley to read someday, too. I’m hoping to write it all down for her in a pretty journal in her mommy’s handwriting, but I wanted to type it all out as soon as possible so I won’t forget anything. Since this is usually a wedding photography blog, I will warn you in advance that this might be slightly graphic for people who can’t handle medical terms or talk of bodily functions. I’m not going to get too in depth here with regard to those aspects of Tenley’s birth, but it’s impossible to tell a birth story without some talk of . . . well. . . birth.
I had been having contractions for about two weeks prior to Tenley’s birthday. They didn’t bother me, weren’t painful, and weren’t regular. But I’m convinced now that those contractions were helping Tenley get into position and were dilating my cervix. I had been having weekly appointments with my midwife, but I didn’t know how far dilated my cervix was or how far effaced I was because my midwife’s philosophy is to check as infrequently as possible because checking increases the chance of infection & truly doesn’t tell anyone much at all; a woman can be walking around dilated to 4 or 5 centimeters for weeks or a woman’s cervix can be checked at her appointment in the morning and she can be dilated zero centimeters and then go into active labor later that same day. My midwife offered to check my cervix at my 39 week appointment, but I declined. I said, “It’ll happen when it’s going to happen. Knowing whether my cervix is dilated at this point won’t change anything.”
On Monday, February 23 (one day after my estimated due date), Josh and I hung out at home. We relaxed, I wrote a blog, we watched some Netflix, and we continued on with building our Thomas Kinkade puzzle that we had been working on for a few days. I’m sure you saw those adventures on our Instagram. I joked in that post Monday night about how I knew everyone was in suspense about our puzzle progress knowing full well that everyone was in suspense about my impending labor since I was past my due date. Little did I know, Tenley would make her grand entrance a few hours later!
While building the puzzle, I was having contractions. They were still mild, but my yoga pants were feeling pretty tight on my stomach so I walked to our bedroom to change into something more comfortable. As I started to slip off the pants, I felt a warm sensation like I had peed myself. But it didn’t smell like urine. I cleaned up & went out to tell Josh that I thought my water had broken. Josh thought, “Cool. We’re probably going to have the baby tomorrow.” I called and talked to my midwife to tell her what was happening & she let me know that we had up to 18 hours from then to get me on antibiotics for my Group B Strep (GBS). I won’t get into the medical jargon of GBS because I’m not a midwife or doctor, but it is relevant to the story to know that I was positive for GBS. It’s a bacteria that lives in the body of some healthy pregnant women, doesn’t affect the pregnant women, but can be contracted by the baby during delivery. If the baby does contract GBS, it can be very serious and can cause sepsis, meningitis, or pneumonia. Treatment for a woman with GBS is generally simply an IV antibiotic given to the pregnant woman during labor. That treatment was our plan once I arrived at the Mahoning Valley Birth Center, where I planned to deliver the baby. Tenley had different plans, however!
In preparation for labor and delivery, Josh & I had taken Bradley Method childbirth classes. They were very helpful & taught us so much! If you’re interested in having a natural labor, I’d highly recommend them & will gladly give you information on them. During these classes, we learned that getting rest at the beginning stages of labor is really important because labor can be a marathon. Since it was about 9:45 p.m., Josh suggested that we try to get some rest. We went to bed & Josh started helping me with some relaxation techniques. He rubbed my back and quietly described the night that he & I met and our relaxing time on our honeymoon on the beach in Jamaica. My contractions were getting pretty uncomfortable & I was starting to think there was really no way for me to relax in bed when all of a sudden I heard and felt a very loud pop inside of my body and a huge gush of fluid came out and absolutely soaked me. . . now I was sure my water had broken! It startled me so badly that I shrieked, which really startled Josh in the midst of his relaxing, calm speech. A minute or two after that happened, my midwife called us to check up on me. After telling her what had been happening, she told me to meet her at the birth center at 2:00 a.m. unless I needed to come earlier.
Once my water broke, the contractions got more intense. Lying down was very uncomfortable. That’s the beauty of laboring in the comfort of your home for as long as you can or laboring at the birth center- you can be in whatever position is most comfortable for you. No one is forcing you (or using persuasive tactics to convince you) to lie in bed because it’s more convenient for them or supposedly helps them avoid lawsuits. (But I digress). The most comfortable thing I found was pacing around the house. Josh was using an app on my phone to time the contractions at this point. They were a little more than two minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds. I was extremely enlivened to know that I’d meet our baby soon & we’d get to find out whether the baby was a boy or a girl! I was in pain, but I was concentrating on relaxing through it & on meeting our baby. The contractions started to come more quickly and become more intense.
We decided once the contractions reached 45 seconds and were less than two minutes apart that we should head to the birth center. At that point, they were pretty darn painful. We called my midwife to tell her that we’d be coming to the birth center. She was already there waiting so she said she’d see us soon. Our bag was already packed, but Josh had to put it in the car. The weather was extremely frigid. . . in fact, we broke a record that day for how cold it was. It was minus 20 degrees with the wind chill! Josh started our car & started to carry our bags out. At this point, I was completely inward focused. I honestly didn’t know if Josh was with me or if he was in the garage taking care of the bags. I was listening to my body & doing what it needed in order to deal with the pain I was going through. Josh told me that I had to put on warmer clothes to get in the car because all I was wearing at that point was a nightgown. He helped me into our bedroom and helped me put on my yoga pants. He was telling me it was time to get into the car. I followed him out into the kitchen and really started to break down. . . I knew at that point that I couldn’t get into the car. I was in way too much pain to endure a car ride. I told him I couldn’t go & his eyes creased with worry. He gently explained, “Danielle, we have to go now.” This might sound very strange to you, but in our four and a half years of marriage, Josh & I have never raised our voices at one another in anger or frustration. The only time we yell is when the other needs to hear us from afar. It’s just not our style to yell or scream. In response to Josh’s calm declaration “Danielle, we have to go now”, I yelled “I CAN’T GET IN THE CAR!” Josh’s eyes widened at my very loud outburst. Just then a particularly strong contraction came on and I had to grab onto Josh and wrap my arms around his shoulders so I wouldn’t fall to the floor. I’m pretty sure I left bruises on his shoulders from squeezing him so hard during that contraction as it double peaked and took my breath away. He told me, “You’re doing a good job.” At that point, all I felt was self-doubt (which we learned in class is a classic symptom of the transition phase). I whimpered, “No, I’m not.”
I had only been in labor for a couple of hours, but those hours had been filled with very intense contractions. I was truly starting to doubt that I could go on if the pain was going to progressively become worse and more intense for many hours. We had learned in class that the labor of a first time mom lasts for 12-17 hours on average. I thought to myself that there was absolutely no way I could endure another 14 hours of labor. Looking back, I now realize that I was in the transition phase and that the self-doubt, nausea, and extreme pain I was feeling were all propelling me closer to meeting my baby by the second. Josh was still attempting to convince me that we needed to get into the car as soon as possible. I told him I felt like I was going to throw up and that I was in too much pain to get in the car. A couple of minutes and a couple of contractions later, I knew undeniably that it was time to push. I had heard other women talk about what it feels like when you have to push, but it’s obviously something you don’t know until you feel it. I knew I had to push & my body knew it needed to push RIGHT NOW. There was such a sense of urgency that I could not control what my body was doing. I could tell by the look on Josh’s face that he didn’t believe me that it was time to push. I’m pretty sure he was in denial that this was actually happening at our home.
I had been pacing around & just happened to be in the living room when my body completely took over and I got into an all fours position on the carpet. I asked Josh if he could see the head because I felt like it was there. This is the part you can most certainly laugh at because it is very comical. He said, “You still have your pants on.” I was completely unaware of this fact until he told me. . . how interesting it would’ve been if I had pushed out my baby with yoga pants still on. . . oy. So Josh stripped my pants off as I stayed in the all fours position and he told me that he couldn’t see a head yet. Josh then did something else quite laughable. He hurriedly grabbed a puppy pad leftover from the package that we had potty trained our dog Punky with when she was a tiny little puppy last winter & couldn’t go outside in the cold. He didn’t want me having our baby on the carpet without some protection, I guess. Knowing what we know now, that puppy pad wouldn’t have done much. . .
After that contraction ended, we both decided it would be best to be in the bathroom, which was about five steps away from where I was. Josh supported me by holding me up underneath my arms from behind as I walked there. At that point, I could definitely feel the baby’s head starting to emerge! Punky had been quite curious throughout my labor & had stayed by my side. She attempted to follow us into the bathroom, but Josh thankfully was able to shut her out. (Our other pug Norris had been snoring the entire time in bed. . . )
As we entered the bathroom, Josh could see a small portion of the baby’s head. He was still behind me at that point & knew he needed to get in front of me fast. I began to get into a squatting position and the baby’s head was completely out at that point. Josh said, “Almost there. . . the head is out.” And I pushed. And the rest of the baby was OUT. Fast. . . very fast. Thankfully, Josh was there and reached his arms out to catch her. He said, “We have a baby!” as he breathed heavily through bouts of adrenaline. He lifted her up & she was a little purple. She hadn’t breathed or cried yet. This was the first time that night I felt scared. I asked, “Is it okay?” three times. (Sorry, Tenley, that I called you an “it.” I hadn’t looked to see what you were yet!) As Josh held the baby up, I held my breath. The baby’s eyes slowly scanned the room as if she was just checking out the new bright world she had entered. Then she took a deep breath. The time she took to take a breath felt like an eternity when, in reality, it was only about 3-5 seconds. Josh handed her to me and I couldn’t stand anymore. I sat down the closest place I could, which was the toilet and just held her to my skin. I finally got the idea to check between her legs and cried hot stinging tears of joy as I realized she was a girl. I said, “It’s a girl!” And Josh said, “Oh, it is?!” He hadn’t even thought to check amidst all of the excitement. Josh called the midwife & delivered the unbelievable news. . . the baby was here. I climbed into the tub and that’s where Tenley & I hung out until our midwife came. Tenley immediately latched on and started to breastfeed- instincts are amazing. Seeing her face was the most indescribable experience. I loved her immediately and intensely and it was a feeling I had never felt before. She was mine. . . a part of me. . . the perfect mixture of the person whom I love so much in this world and me. She was the most beautiful sight in the world. I’ll never forget that feeling & I’m sure I’ll fall more in love with her each day.
When our midwife Rachel arrived, she clamped the cord & Josh cut it, which wasn’t too big of a deal now that he had delivered our baby!Rachel helped clean me up and took care of the massive mess in the bathroom, which was so incredibly appreciated. Rachel’s nurse midwife student Janae also came to our house to observe and help. After cleaning me up, Rachel then helped me to the bedroom and took vitals on both me and Tenley. She weighed and measured Tenley, too- 7 pounds 13 ounces and 20.25 inches long. Tenley was doing great, but she was pretty sleepy & her resting heart rate was normal, but on the low side. Rachel stayed to monitor us and check in on us about every hour.
As I laid in bed next to Josh holding Tenley, I thanked God over and over for watching over us and keeping us safe through Tenley’s delivery. I couldn’t stop thanking Him and praising Him for such an awe-inspiring, beautiful, exceptional gift. The happiness I felt was unlike any I’d ever felt before. It was a constant rush of intense emotions.The sunrise was beautiful that morning & I felt like it was God smiling down on our family.
By about 5:00 a.m., Rachel was still a little concerned. Tenley’s heart rate was still not too high (although it was still in the normal range) and Rachel had an “off” feeling about it. Because I was positive for GBS and I did not receive the antibiotics, the off feeling was even more pronounced. We decided, in an abundance of caution, to take Tenley to the hospital to get antibiotics and to have cultures done to make sure she didn’t test positive for GBS. They had to test her at 24 and 48 hours so we were in the hospital for 2 days. Although a hospital experience was not in our plan and, honestly, I was very upset with having to go there, I completely understand why Rachel recommended it. GBS is serious & is nothing to gamble with. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and Tenley was 100% healthy, but it’s better safe than sorry when dealing with the health of your child.The hospital experience was exceedingly stressful for me. I think I might have slept about five hours total in two days. After all was said & done, however, Tenley was healthy and that is all that mattered.Side note- those aren’t scratches on her face. She just hadn’t gotten washed up since being born yet.Seeing Josh with our daughter makes my heart soar with happiness. He’s the best dad!Like I said. . . five hours of sleep in two days. Ugh. Josh & Tenley look really cute in this one, though!
On February 26, we got to return home and have been in a euphoric state ever since. We can’t stop staring at our daughter. Don’t get me wrong- recovery has been difficult for me and we haven’t been getting as much sleep as we’re used to, but the good quite easily outweighs the unpleasant. When there are particularly difficult parts of my recovery to deal with, I just gaze at her pretty, little face and I’m reminded that it’s all worth it & I’d do it again for her in a heartbeat.
Josh & I are parents. We have a daughter. We have to pinch ourselves many times a day to make sure we’re not just dreaming up this lovely life and all of its beautiful blessings.