Wow, what a wild ride labor & delivery is. Every baby comes so differently.
I shared about my first daughter’s delivery and after y’all’s cool feedback, I thought it would be fun to share my delivery experience with River here, too. It’s something I wanted to write down for my own memory’s sake anyway and when y’all asked if I would share about this one, it gave me a reason to put “pen to paper” again, and this time, a little sooner after the fact than I did with Wylden’s. You can read about W’s delivery here if you want to compare & contrast the two experiences.
Disclaimer: If medical things weird you out, this isn’t the post for you. And honestly, maybe this will be the most boring stuff you’ve ever read. But for those of you who are nerdy about births like I am and loving hearing all the random details, you’ve come to the right place, hehe.
PREPARING FOR LABOR
I labored naturally with my first daughter Wylden & hoped for another natural delivery with River. Although I’ll admit, this time, I wondered more to myself, why do I even want to deliver her naturally? Why does it matter to me? Is it worth the agony of labor? And honestly, I can’t even really put my finger on why I wanted to do it again, but I just did. (I know that’s not very compelling.) It’s just something down inside me that wants it. I think part of it is just this energy that comes from believing that you can do hard things. And then doing them. It’s a little bit addicting. Like a horribly hard workout that you hate while you’re at the gym, and then love later.
I said this about Wylden’s birth and I’ll say it again, the most helpful thing I did in preparation, was simply learning what would be happening inside my body when I went into labor. And having Harrison learn about it, too. The more you understand your body, the less fear you’ll have & the more you can respect the WORK that it is doing. I also tried to prepare myself mentally by accepting that every birth is so different. Maybe I would get an epidural this time, maybe I would be induced, maybe I’d have a c-section - there are so many factors out of our control. But what I hoped & prayed for more than anything was a safe delivery & healthy baby, no matter how everything played out.
River was due on Monday, July 29th & when I went in to my 40 week appt on the 31st I let them check me & I was 3 cm dilated, 60% effaced. Since I was past my due date, I also decided to let them strip my membranes. The midwife told me that it was usually 50% effective in getting labor started.
After the appointment, I took Wylden to play with a friend and felt pretty crampy - but wasn’t sure if it was going to lead to anything more just yet. We played at the Muse at the mall & I chased her through the department store clothing racks & we ate Chick-fil-A in the food court. It was a pretty great morning.
Side note: Something I want to remember about this past little season of life is all the fun I had with Wylden. I thankfully wrapped up all of my photography work for clients about 2 weeks before my due date and it left space for me to really enjoy time with my girl. She’s my little buddy and we had lots of pool & zoo & park playtime. She’s so fun & spunky & chatty right now at 1 1/2 years old and it’s just so fun being with her!
Later that afternoon, I had my mind set on making a big, fresh dinner with some veggies we had picked from Harrison’s grandad’s garden. When you’re that pregnant, every meal feels like your last and every little bit of time you have not in labor feels like one more chance to do something fun or get something done off your to-do list. So, naturally, I was dead set on frying some fresh-picked okra, ha!
As I was making dinner, I felt cramp-level pain contractions starting to come and go, but I was dead set on making dinner and enjoying it dadgummit. We ate with Harrison’s parents and after they left, I finally started tuning in to my body a little bit more and realized it. was. happening.
I gave Wylden a long bubble bath and felt the contractions starting to get a little more intense. I carried her upstairs to lay her down for bed for the last time before taking on her role as big sister. Laying her down in her crib had become difficult with my belly in the way & I remember thinking, it will be nice to not have this big ol belly in my way soon. (; It felt really peaceful & sweet laying her down knowing when I would see her next, things would be SO different!
~ Last day as an only child! ~
I took a shower and blow dried my hair, pausing during contractions, and threw a few things into my hospital bag. Over the last few weeks prior, I had become a little obsessive about organizing things around our house. Emptying out the tiny trash cans in each room even if they had one tissue in them, doing the laundry in tiny loads, folding socks (what’s wrong with me), wiping things down. It just felt good to have things in order knowing at any moment I could be leaving the house for a few days. But as my contractions got progressively harder, I laid down on the couch and watched Harrison go into go-mode. Cleaning up from dinner, doing the dishes, and even putting together a changing table that had just gotten delivered to our doorstep during dinner. I felt so loved by him!!
Around 9pm, I turned on Law & Order: SVU (lol) and started timing my contractions. There’s actually a super easy app on my phone that I used called Full Term - you just press start & stop as your contractions come and go and it keeps track of the timing for you. Ideally, I wanted to labor at home as long as possible because I felt that it would help my mental endurance.
HEADING TO THE HOSPITAL
By 11:15pm, contractions had been lasting about a minute long and were getting closer and closer together, an average of 4 minutes apart, but some even closer. After being encouraged by some people who reminded me that second babies can sometimes come more quickly, we decided to head to the hospital and not push our luck any longer. When I got checked into triage around 11:30, I was 4-5 cm dilated and got into my room around midnight. From that point on, it was war.
CONTRACTIONS & LABOR
Y’all should know. I am a pretty modest person. Like, growing up I hardly even changed in front of my mom. I say that just so you can fully soak in the vulnerability of labor & delivery for me, haha! When I labored with Wylden, I mostly labored sitting criss cross on the bed. But with this delivery, I tried more positions to see if I could find something that felt the most “comfortable” and conducive to helping my body get. it. done. I ended up laboring mostly on my side while Harrison & my mother-in-law, Tracy, rubbed my back.
So, just to give you a lovely visual image. I’m in my hospital gown. No panties. Laying on my side. And they are lifting my gown to rub my back - which is SO unbelievably helpful by the way! So I am just totally exposed, y’all… It’s like there were two parts of me inside my brain. The normal Suzy, that is like HEY GUYS, COULD SOMEONE PUT A BLANKIE ON ME OR SOMETHING THIS IS AWKWARD AND I’M FEELING A DRAFT AND I’M WAY TOO NAKED RN. And then the laboring Suzy, who gives zeroooo you know whats about anything because labor is MISERABLE. Hahaha. I’m gonna tell y’all straight up if you’re trying to deliver naturally, too - it’s not easy. Or fun. It’s agony. But it’s freakin amazinggg when it’s all over. The high you feel. The energy. The love. You were MADE FOR THIS. But I’m not about to tell you it’s a walk in the park either.
About an hour out from pushing, my nurse offered me nitrous gas if I wanted to try it. I decided to give it a try and I would say that my overall conclusion about it is this. I think it’s a great option because it’s something you can try and then stop if you don’t like it. The effects will wear off as soon as you stop inhaling it. For me, it didn’t take away the pain of the contractions, but it did seem to help my body relax and work with the contractions. I had begun to get very shaky towards the end and it helped my legs stop shaking as much in the middle of contractions. It also seemed to serve as a good way to focus my breathing as I thought about taking deep breaths slowly in and out, in and out.
WHY THIS LABOR FELT HARDER
Logistically speaking, my labor & delivery with River was relatively similar to my experience with Wylden. But, the mental game is one of the most important parts of enduring through labor. And I had definitely let my guard down. Without realizing it, this time around, I had let little things I had heard or read about other people’s experiences affect my expectations. For example, I had a friend who only labored a couple hours and when she got to the hospital, she was 10cm, ready to push! Without realizing it, I had set my hopes & expectations on the same thing happening for me.
With Wylden, I labored until I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore and finally let them check my progress and was thankfully about fully dilated when they checked. This time, I asked them to check me about 4 times & each time when I wasn’t 10 cm yet, I let discouragement creep in. I let myself look at the clock far too often. And overall, I felt less mentally in control.
My take-away would be to prepare for the worst. Not in a negative sense. But to hold loosely to expectations. Because every baby comes in its own way, in its own time.
It’s funny. When I talk to other women about delivery, it seems like many are most afraid of the pushing. Of the tearing. Of that whole process. But for me, when it was finally time to push, it felt like I could hear a chorus of angels singing HALLELUJAH somewhere because I knew it was finally almost over. I do feel a sort of rush of adrenaline and panic because it’s like all the emotion of the whole process builds to this climax, but for the most part, it is so relieving.
Up until this point, my water still hadn’t broken, which was different than my previous experience with Wylden in which it had broken while waiting in triage. So while pushing through my contractions, I saw (and felt) my water break with this giant splash. (Honestly, it felt straight up crazy weird and I was half embarrassed.) I’ll spare y’all from allll of the graphic details, but after lots of other fluids and embarrassing moments later, maybe about 5 or so contractions, at 3:23am I finally pushed our girl out!
I can’t remember if I screamed when I had Wylden, but y’alllll, this time, I screamed. It almost felt out of body. Like I was floating above myself and could hear myself screaming and was like, “girl, what are you doing?!” But it is wild how you get to this point where you don’t even care anymore and you’re giving it everything you freaking got to meet your baby. I screamed SO loud. I am literally laughing out loud replaying it in my head. I remember yelling, “COME ON BABY!!”
THE MOMENTS AFTER
Harrison’s sister, Allie, was in the room with us too and she was able to capture some of the images for me with my camera right after I had River. I am so thankful! It’s cool to relive the moment through those photos and it will be pretty awesome to share with River one day when she’s grown up. Unless she thinks it’s totally weird and lame & that her mom is so granola. But we’ll see. Hehe.
After she came out, I immediately got to hold her on my chest. Even covered in blood & all the yucky stuff, it felt so good to hold her close and finally know her outside of my belly! I had some minor tearing and the doctor sewed me up while I held her. It’s like God made our babies the perfect distraction after delivery while our bodies are still contracting to get the placenta out and we’re getting stitched up. I felt SO happy & SO thankful & so relieved for it to all be over and have River finally in our arms.
Harrison cut the umbilical cord. They got River all cleaned up, weighed, & measured. And we headed to our new room in the mother/baby unit. Harrison passed out instantly on the couch, but I couldn’t sleep. I just enjoyed the silence of the room and held our girl until the sun came up.
River Camellia Collins was born on Thursday, August 1st, 2019, 7 lb 13 oz, at 3:23am at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. We stayed in the hospital until we were cleared to go home on Saturday morning and over the course of those 48 hours, we saw her start to take on her own little look. At first, every one thought she looked just like Wylden, but now at almost 3 weeks, we’re realizing she seems to have a totally different look to her and I can’t wait to continue to watch her grow!
On Friday, they called our room to ask us for River’s middle name to put on the gift certificate. We had such a hard time narrowing it down. But I loved the idea of my girls being my little wildflowers. Our family our little growing garden. So I was set on it being a flower of some kind, like Wylden’s middle name, Lily. We settled on Camellia, one of my favorite flowers, that grows all over my parent’s yard in Florida.
I am so thankful. Thankful for a healthy pregnancy and baby. For the people in the room that supported me during my labor. For my nurse and doctor and all the medical staff who cared for us. For my little family. It’s all a gift I don’t deserve.
If you made it this far. You are such a NERD. (Like me.) About babies & delivery! Thanks for listening and relishing in the memory with me. If you’ve had a baby, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments! Babies are little miracles aren’t they?!
To read about Wylden’s birth story & compare hers with River, click here!