A lot of friends and family have asked to hear Hewson’s birth story and I’m more than happy to share it, but it’s a little long and hard to tell every to each person individually! So here is a post about the blessed event for those who are interested.
Our sweet Hewson Smith was born 1:20 in the afternoon on August 30th, 2016. While his birthday was the happiest day of my entire life, it was also the hardest and most frightening. Before I begin, though, please know that this isn’t a birth horror story. It didn’t go at all according to plan, ours is a story of love, of life, the unexpected, and the collision point where pain and fear blossom into joy.
In order to place this story into context, I need to start by saying that I’ve been afraid of giving birth ever since I learned where babies come from. During pregnancy, after a lot of research and six weeks of birth classes with JL, I overcame my fear and opted to attempt a natural birth with the Midwives at Vanderbilt.
I loved (still love) their philosophy and practice as they champion a woman’s body and her God-given power in birth. I also appreciated that they don’t deny women pain relief if/when needed and, most important of all to me, my delivery would take place at Vanderbilt Hospital and if anything were to go wrong, a team of doctors would be RIGHT there to help. And so, once I made my decision and educated myself, I was actually really looking forward to giving birth.
Fast forward to my 41 week appointment. (For those who don’t know, due dates are set at 40 weeks.) I was carrying a large beach ball on my 5’4″ frame and to say I was uncomfortable would be an understatement. While I really had hoped to go into labor on my own, there were NO indications (apart from Braxton Hicks) that Hewson was anywhere near making his debut. So we scheduled an induction, using the gentlest and most natural means possible first, for Monday the 29th at 9pm.
I have to say, getting induced was actually really nice because I got to do things on a schedule instead of in a mad rush or in the middle of labor pains! JL and I finished our last few checklist items, took our dog Kazmo to my BFF Lauren’s house, and went out for dinner–and of course we made sure to order dessert. At 9pm I calmly signed my paperwork on the labor and delivery floor, got the nice room with the tub (used for pain relief), and JL and I unpacked a bit as we were anticipating a very long labor. I was a little bit nervous, but we were both SO excited to meet our little boy, we were practically giddy.
Little did we know our nice plan was about to get blown wide open.
When we settled in and met with the midwife on call, Amanda, I was surprised to find out that I was zero centimeters dilated. Yes, twelve days after due date and no progress. So to get that process going, Amanda ordered one dose of cytotec. Our nurse strapped me up to a fetal heart rate monitor and a contractions monitor, gave me my first dose and tucked me into bed to get some sleep by about 10:15. The goal was to use the pill to kick my labor into gear and the progress naturally from there.
However, about after about twenty minutes a team of four or five nurses rushed in. “Did you move the monitor? Did it fall off?” asked the nurses. I had not moved an inch and neither had the monitor. They frantically started moving my body from side to side while accessing the monitor screen. JL and I silently watched and did what the nurses ordered until one of them announced, “Here we go. We’re good.” Apparently, Hewson’s heart rate dropped off of the monitor and it took a while for it to pick back up again. This happened three more times over the next hour and JL and I became increasingly scared with each visit.
My midwife had been in several times during the “excitement,” but by the fourth episode of this event, she explained that although he was recovering beautifully each time (eventually), his heart rate dropped significantly whenever I had a contraction. Given that I wasn’t even technically in labor yet, this was very concerning. Amanda made it clear that while she wanted to give me every possible chance to have the birth I wanted, but she told me that it was looking more than likely that I was going to need to have a c-section.
Because of this possibility, she suggested that I consider getting an epidural. The reason, she explained, was that if I didn’t get one and they did have to do an emergency c-section, I would already be prepped, I would be conscious, and JL would be allowed in the operating room. If I declined and they needed to do an emergency c-section, I would have to be put under general anesthesia and JL wouldn’t be allowed in the operating room. “I want you to do what you feel most comfortable with, but I would like for you both to be able to be present at your son’s birthday.”
My midwife’s obvious warmth and care for my feelings was comforting, but I felt like I was in a bit of an emotional tailspin. Never in my life, and not once during my pregnancy, did I even consider the possibility that I would get a c-section.
I asked for a few minutes alone to discuss with my husband. The whole thing felt surreal. The room felt hot. I remember trembling, terrified for our baby. On one hand, I didn’t want to believe her because any other bad news I had previously received from a medical professional never came to fruition. Surely this was the same, I told myself. And yet, on the other hand, I could see right there in front of me on the screen that my little boy’s heart rate was dropping and I couldn’t deny that I needed to prepare myself for the worst. I wanted to do whatever it took to make sure my baby was born alive and so that we could be there for him from his first breath.
So I said yes. I got the epidural.
To be perfectly honest, I was pleasantly surprised. Part of my fear of birth was, actually, the epidural. Sticking a needle in my spine? Thanks, but no. However, it was not painful AT ALL. JL held onto me and showed me (and the rest of the staff) cute videos of Kazmo and the procedure was over before I knew it. Once the epidural kicked in, not only did my pain 100% subside, Hewson’s heart became beating strong and steady. Our midwife Amanda, my husband and I were thrilled! She suggested that we get some sleep and to see how the labor progressed overnight. I asked that the volume on Hewson’s heart rate be turned up so that we could hear it. I could hardly sleep as I listened to the monitor, my own heart rate easing with each strong and consistent beat of his.
At that point I was a strong 4 cm dilated and we thought that, should this continue, we could have a healthy baby sometime the next day–without pain to boot! I finally fell asleep with a sense of calm satisfaction, feeling like things would go according to plan and that everything would be easy from that point forward.
(I should mention that when this all happened, JL and I decided we needed to call my parents for extra support. God bless them for getting up in the middle of the night and staying in the hospital the entire time.)
Ready for part II? Here it is!