May 18, 2020

I Get To Love You / Addison Lea's Birth Story and Video

May 1, 2020 our newest girl was born, a week past her due date and this is her story. Men or women that don't want to hear about things related to birth, pass on by. 

First, here's little backstory for those that aren't familiar with our other births. We have three other kids and all three were medicated, hospital births. The first was a bit traumatic, an experience I wouldn't wish on any first time mom but that was 10 years ago and we learned a lot from it. After the first birth, we changed both doctors and hospitals and had really great experiences with our next two and can't speak highly enough of the staff and doctor. 

Then, fast forward 4 years and here we were pregnant again. Only this time I had several friends who had done these crazy "home births" and delivered at birth centers. I was intrigued.

After a lot of prayer and talking to everyone I knew that had a non-hospital birth, I decided to read up on it a bit more. I knew I didn't want a home birth as the place we are living is not our home and I just wasn't fully comfortable with that idea. A birth center, however, was something I wanted to know more about. 

The first book I read was, "Birth Without Fear: The Judgment-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum" I highly recommend it as it covers all different kinds of births and how to have the best experience wherever you choose to deliver, hospital, home, birth center. 

The next book I read was, "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth "Updated With New Material"" Definitely a great read if you're thinking about natural childbirth. This left me thinking, wow, I could do this - maybe. But the fear of pain and lack of confidence in myself was something I was struggling with. I prayed for clarity. Deep down I wanted to do this naturally but I needed a push.

That push came at a normal checkup with my doctor. I was probably about 24 weeks along at this point and planning on a hospital birth with the doctor that delivered my last 2. Then he told me his practice was changing and that we'd be delivering at a different hospital. The same one I had my first at. The same place who's staff was less than desirable. The same place that I did NOT want to go back to. 

I talked to Eric about it. Finally voiced the idea of a birth center, thinking he may think I was crazy and talk sense into me. Instead he was all for it and ready to take a tour. We scheduled a meeting with an amazing midwife that has literally birthed every single one of my friends non-hospital babies, Ruth Cobb. She was amazing and we left knowing she'd be with us when baby #4 was born.

I was 30 weeks due and a few weeks before anyone would hear the whisper of coronavirus when we made the switch. It's funny because at the time, I got all the normal questions as to why we'd want to switch. Most people it was curiosity because who would want to go through the pain if they didn't have to? There was also the concerned questions and comments about what a midwife does, how close we were to an actual hospital if we needed to transfer, and all the other concerns people have that aren't familiar with non-hospital births. I'd done my research. I made my choice. I took it in stride. 

But then, here came the coronavirus and hospitals were taking all kinds of precautions. Everyone was afraid of Covid-19 and didn't know much about it. Stories were coming out about limiting support people to one or in the worst cases, none. Women all over the U.S. were delivering babies alone. It broke my heart. I was so thankful we would be at the birth center. The previous questions about our choice to switch changed to support and encouragement that we wouldn't have to deliver in a hospital durning this time. 

There were definitely changes with the birth center and I watched each week to see what was going on. No visitors would be allowed to wait in the waiting room to keep numbers down and the risk down. This bummed me out since my entire family is always present at every birth. Coming and going in the hospital room as allowed. This time it would just be me, Eric and another person. Our middle had wanted to be in the room with us, but for now, that wouldn't look possible. I was still allowed to have my husband and sister present so I was thankful for that.

The weeks went on, state mandates were made and I tried not to worry about birthing alone. I didn't want to do it alone. I couldn't do it alone. I prayed and prayed and prayed. 

The week before she was due, I had an appointment with Ruth, and found out I was dilated to a 3. This meant nothing to me as this was my fourth kid and I had been dilated at a 3 for a couple weeks without anything happening in prior pregnancies so I didn't get my hopes up. 

A week passed, nothing new. I had felt a few small contractions but nothing worth talking about. Each day past my due date dragged on. We had been quarantined for nearly 2 months at this point so I was already over being home and over being pregnant. The anticipation was getting to me and I was past the fear of pain with having my first natural birth experience and just wanted this baby here. I even googled "what does a contraction feel like," because what else do you do when your fourth kid is past due? 

Another week passed and I went back to the birth center for what we had scheduled for my first postpartum checkup but the baby was still in there. Ruth checked me again and to my, and her surprise, I was dilated to a 6. She could not believe I hadn't started active labor yet and was a little concerned about how fast the baby could come once it did start. She sent me home and told me to go on a walk and make sure I had the emergency number ready to call because it could happen at any point. If not, we were scheduled to come back the next day to check me again. I thought for sure we'd be going back to the birth center that night.

We left to go home and started calling people to prepare them. My mom would be watching the kids since they couldn't be there due to Covid-19 and all the precautions being made everywhere. We decided they'd spend the night with her, just in case I went into labor in the middle of the night. Next I called my sister because she was still allowed to be in the room with us, Praise Jesus. She was going to spend the night, just in case.

We got home, ate dinner, went on a long walk and nothing. We finally gave up and went to bed after 11 and then I had a small contraction. A few minutes later, another one. Nothing big but it did get me excited. Eric turned on the light and started reading and told me to rest. If I could sleep through them then they weren't big enough to go anywhere. Midnight rolled around and after a few, very spaced out contractions, I fell asleep. I woke up the next morning slightly defeated and wondering if my body remembered how to go into labor.

That morning Eric made some eggs and toast for us and insisted we all eat because we'd need our energy for the day. I probably rolled my eyes, convinced I wouldn't need energy because the baby was staying in there forever. We ate, showered and made our way back to the birth center around 11am. 

Ruth checked me again and I was now at a 7. Still no active labor but my body was getting ready anyways! Apparently weeks of little contractions were actually doing something. Again, here we were trying to figure out what to do. We could go home and wait it out or she could break my water and hopefully get things going. Nothing was guaranteed and if we broke my water but labor didn't start for 24 hours, I'd have to go to the hospital. Something I really did not want to do, especially now. I also didn't want to leave and chance a fast labor with Eric delivering the baby in the car so we decided to break my water and go for a walk around the building across the street and see what happened. I prayed that the walk would get things going and reminded God that I really didn't want to transfer to a hospital and to please help my body start labor. 

It was 11:35.

As Eric and I walked, we decided it was a good time to narrow our names down. And no, we had still not agreed on the name yet. It's hard when you don't know if you're naming a boy or a girl. 

We talked about names on our list and a couple new ones then I had a contraction. Praise Jesus! Start the timer! 9 minutes went by and nothing. I felt defeated and worried that it had stopped again and that I may never actually go into labor. 10 minutes and another contraction. Okay, this gave me hope. Not a lot. I didn't want to get too excited. 

We walked another lap around the building and I had another contraction. 30 minutes had passed. Contractions were sporadic, 10 minutes, then 12, then 9. We both needed to go to the bathroom so we walked back to the birth center having decided on 2 names, one for a boy and another for a girl. 

We got inside and grabbed some ice and water and started settling our things in. I turned on some music and got the diffuser going with surrender and, another contraction. They were getting a bit stronger. This was going to happen. Maybe. Please, Lord, let it be happening. 

Marlita, a doula and midwife assistant was there and checked the baby's heart rate. Healthy and strong. Thank you, Lord. Another contraction. 

According to the timer, they were about 5 minutes apart or so. The contractions were definitely getting more intense and I was so hot. Eric grabbed a little fan and would turn it to my face during the peaks. I tried moving on the birthing ball but the pressure was too much so I just leaned over the side of the bed and found that to give me the most relief. As they grew in intensity I just kept reminding myself that I had to relax my body. Maybe all those hours of reading natural birthing books, meditating on bible verses, and affirmation cards were coming in handy.

Sidenote, one book, "Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition", talked about your uterus just being a bag of muscles. In order for that muscle group to work it's best, you needed to let it do its job and focus on relaxing every single part of your body. 

When I felt a contraction coming on, I made it my goal to relax as best as I could. I'd start with my face, no tense jaw, just open my mouth and breathe. Then I'd tell myself to relax. Breathe. And then I'd move to my neck, relax. My arms, relax. And then the contraction would be letting up and I'd totally relax and lean into the release of no pain. I remembered from my reading, to focus on the in between parts of contractions, not the rush itself. So I did that as best as I could. Not so bad, I thought. I can do this.

Everyone in the room kept telling me I was doing great. While I was thankful for their encouragement, I didn't feel like I was doing anything great. I was just focusing on not tensing my entire body up.

This went on for about 2 hours but seemed much shorter. Each contraction was getting closer and gaining intensity. I wanted to try getting into the water for a little more relief. I heard it feels amazing and is a nice distraction. Ruth let me know I may not like it since I was already so hot. The warm water may make me feel worse. We decided I could try it and if I didn't like it I could hop right back out. 

It was almost 2pm and it turned out, water was just what I needed and I felt instant relief. 

Eric kept my head and face cool with iced wash cloths and the fan while I labored in the water for a bit. I switched the playlist from more upbeat music to one I made for the birth center. Ruth told me if I felt the urge to poop to let her know. Apparently that meant the baby was close. Good to know.

There wasn't a lot of talking going on, or at least much that I recall. I was just focused on relaxing until Eric started switching up the music. It was annoyingly distracting so I asked him to stop and just let the song play. I didn't care what it was, just let it play. He turned to my sister and told her he remembered being told that during the birth class, oops. It made me want to laugh and I was thankful for a little humor in the midst of everything. 

The contractions were getting powerful so I moved my body around, trying to ease the pain and just kept talking to myself, sometimes out loud, RELAX, just relax. Another one over. I asked God for strength. I couldn't do this on my own. Somewhere during all this I looked at Eric and said, "This is not fun. Do you want to do this?" We laughed and I knew no one could do this. It had to be me. 

Then things started getting real. Like, contractions were almost on top of each other. That window of relief I'd been focusing on was getting almost gone and it was next to impossible to stay relaxed. The pain was almost unbearable but not the kind that brought tears, just overwhelmingly intense. I knew we had to be getting close or at least, I prayed we were.

Ruth came over and asked if I wanted to birth the baby in the tub. I didn't know. I couldn't think that part through. I didn't know what I wanted or didn't want. They needed an answer answer because they'd have to raise the water temp if I stayed in the tub. I couldn't imagine getting out and having a contraction in the middle of it and told Eric I didn't think I could get out. He immediately grabbed the drain to let some of the cooler water out and they cranked up the hot water. The rush of hot water flooded over me and it felt amazing. Until the next contraction started building and all of a sudden, I knew I was going to poop.

The most intense pain mixed with pressure overcame me and I yelled at Ruth that I was going to poop. She got ready and gently said, no, that's your baby. I argued again, unable to breathe or do anything really. She reassured me that the baby was coming and told me to breathe. I literally could not breath. She said I was breathing. Eric said I was breathing. Ashley said I was breathing. I didn't feel like I was breathing. 

I looked Ruth in the eyes and asked her what I needed to do. She told me to bring air into my chest and push. I did.

What was that? Oh my gosh. Baby's head was out. 

I didn't know it at the time, Eric did, but the cord was wrapped twice around her neck. Ruth told me to push again. I did. 

Baby was out, Ruth did some ninja master flip with the baby under water to untangle the cord and boom, there it was in my arms breathing the first breaths and I could breathe again. 

What in the world just happened? I couldn't believe it. The pain was completely gone and I was holding my baby. Total shock.

At 2:39 our baby was home.

Ruth asked us if we checked to see what the baby was. No. How did we miss that? We looked down and we had a girl! I looked at Eric and he said, "Hello, Addison Lea." Then I melted. A complete rush of emotions came over me and I was just in awe of the whole experience. I had just done that. I couldn't believe it. I closed my eyes and could hear, "So will I" playing and I thanked God for everything that had just happened.

Eric cut the cord and they gave Addison to him so I could get out of the tub and made my way to the bed. 

I delivered the placenta and then Eric brought me our girl and she immediately started nursing. 

After about an hour had gone by, I needed some mending from a little tearing so Eric and Ashley took off with our girl. I was still bleeding and forgot about the dreaded stomach massage after birth. We needed my uterus to shrink down quickly and those massages were maybe worse than labor itself. Not really but whew, they were not fun.

Addison was weighed, measured and all those newborn things and then we hung around to make sure everyone was healthy, strong and ready to go home.

After we got Addison's temperature up and my bleeding stopped, we ate a little Mexican food. Praise. And then headed home to introduce our girl to her brother and sisters. 

We got home at 9pm and were surrounded by family loving on our girl. The excitement my kids had over meeting their sister was one of the sweetest things I've seen. Two weeks have passed and they're still completely obsessed with her. She is the sweetest, most beautiful thing I've ever seen and we are so thankful for her and the entire birth experience.

Several people have asked about delivering at the birth center versus the hospital and if we would do it again. Yes. 

Was it painful? Oh my gosh, yes! Would I trade the pain to deliver at a hospital? No. Not one bit. The entire experience, even during a pandemic, was incredible. We weren't bothered by a constant flow of nurses coming in and out, checking this and that, a doctor showing up just when it was time to push then leave, ALL the monitors and sounds, the sterile hospital feeling, the rushing around and everything else that comes with a hospital birth. 

Instead, we had our own space to move about. The freedom to walk around or get in a tub. An incredible midwife and doula that were there through it all. A calm, quiet only interrupted by encouraging words and streaming music I'd spent hours picking out. My sister there to not only offer support and love but also capture the entire day behind her lens. An experience where I was treated like a powerful woman, believed in and fully capable to do one of the hardest, most rewarding things in life and to share that with my husband. Yes, he was present for every other birth but it was this one that he felt needed and valued, because he was. I couldn't do it without him and for the first time, he felt that. For him, this was the best experience and we're both so thankful we chose it.

So that's her story. Thanks for sticking around!

Here's her birth video. Thank you forever and ever, Ashley, for capturing our day. I am forever grateful.


Special thanks to Ruth and Marlita. If you're considering home birth or a birth center in Tulsa, I cannot speak highly enough of Special Delivery Birth Center

All pictures and video by Ashley Campbell.