Steffen's Birth Story | Happy 7 Months

Okay...I'm finally sharing this. It's long, but I wanted to include everything. It's been finished for 4 months now. Here we go...

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"Love is a verb. People change when they are loved. Birth is a verb. People change when they are birthed or birth. When love and birth are united, powerful movement and change are inevitable. When the wind passes over the still pond, we see ripples on the water, but we do not see wind. Love passes over us continuously. We do not see love, but we experience its effects, its movement. We cannot stop Love or the changes loving brings about any more than we can stop the wind from blowing. And we cannot stop birth or the changes birth brings about." - Deborah Allen, Spirituality and Birth

Side note: This is somewhat graphic in a couple parts. I'm putting it all out there because I'm not only doing this to share with all of you, but as a record for our family. Consider yourself warned. lol.

This was started when Steff was 6 weeks old and finished at 3 months. I couldn't find the words until now.

As I sit here looking at the monitor, with my beautiful baby boy sound asleep on the other end, I think about how blessed I am. He melts my heart. I'll admit, the time since he's been born (6 weeks in about 30 minutes) has been both the happiest and the hardest of my life. I never imagined how hard it would be. I didn't realize that I had unrealistic expectations. I thought "hey...I've got these plans and then I'll adjust for us and Steffen". Number one piece of advice, don't have expectations or plans. Love every minute for what it is and don't expect to be rock star parents from the get go.

So...that is totally not the point of this. I want to remember it all. Every single thing about his birth. It's our story and it's a beautiful one. And a long one. It took what seemed like forever for us to be blessed with this miracle. We tried and prayed for years until God's plan was revealed. I honestly wouldn't change a thing. Be sure to check out the story of how we got here...it's a pretty good one too.

It all started a few weeks before my due date of August 5th. My uterus, which had been measuring right on with my due date, had started to measure small and I really wasn't gaining much weight. Our midwife, Melissa, suggested that we have an ultrasound with her consulting OB (who just so happened to be a high risk OB that delivered my wonderful sister Macy). She was calm and didn't try to alarm us. She said he was just probably a small baby, but since we had conceived via IVF, in combo with me measuring small, it would be best to not take any chances (we felt so blessed that we had all this care, plus the amazing care we had previously with our fertility specialist/OB and IVF dr's). Our ultrasound came and we were both measuring small as well as the blood pressure in the umbilical cord was high. All these numbers were just slightly off and we were assured that it was probably nothing, but worth monitoring and possibly inducing just to be safe. We kicked "get baby out naturally and healthy" in gear. Our number one goal...healthy baby. Our number two goal...as close to a natural (for us, this meant unmedicated, without interventions) birth as we could get. I wasn't opposed to induction, but knew that it could start a roller coaster of interventions.

Melissa asked if I would like for her to "strip my membranes" to see if it would get things started. She had also checked and I was 1 cm dilated and 80% effaced, which apparently doesn't necessarily mean a dang thing (Side note...I had, in the past, had severe cervical stenosis, so for me to be effaced that much and to have started dilating and for the cervix to be very soft, made me extremely excited). That evening I had my first "pressure waves" (what our birth preparation course, Hypnobabies, called contractions). We were so excited. Bret was more and more excited with each one and equally disappointed when they didn't amount to anything. As was my best friend, Andrea, who we texted the entire time. They were 30 minutes apart while driving to our baby CPR class. Then they were 20 minutes apart (while we were at the CPR class, out to dinner, and on our way home). Then they were no more. The next day I began losing my "mucus plug" (I mean seriously...could they not find a better word for this?). I thought that this had to be it. Texted our doula (who also taught our Hypnobabies class), who said that they can regenerate and that it could just be from the stripping done the day before. We employed several "induction" methods just in case. Walking, squats, Evening Primrose Oil (which I had been taking since 36 weeks), bouncing on the birth ball, and eating spicy food (luckily I didn't have heart burn at all), among other things. I knew that if the ultrasound didn't look good and he didn't come along naturally, there would be a chance of induction when we went in on Tuesday. After talking with our doula, Julie, who had also talked with Melissa, who had also talked with the consulting OB (again...so blessed to get so much care and attention), we felt that things would be fine and we probably wouldn't have to be induced. Then came the ultrasound..on pins and needles. I even had my sister (who was one of the very few people I told that I was nervous because I didn't want to worry anyone else) come along just in case. Wouldn't you know it. Little man knew what was up and decided to gain a bunch of weight in one week. Things were back on track. We had an ultrasound the next week just in case. Everything looked perfect. At the end of the ultrasound I asked if I would see them again next week (I was just a few days away from my due date) and the response I got was "nope...you'll have a baby next week". Yikes! Could it be?

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Once we got to 40 weeks, thoughts of induction filled my head again. Walking...bouncing...yada...yada. Every exam showed that I was making no progress. All the bouncing (and pelvic tilts) were keeping him in just the right position, but nothing was helping push along the birth. He just wasn't ready. Momma was ready, but body and baby were not. My due date, Friday, August 5th came...and went. But wait...what are these...these feel different than before. Late on the night of August 5th I started having for real pressure waves, but only 3 that night. They were strong enough to wake me from my sleep, which I hadn't had before. The next day is when things got interesting. The morning of Saturday August 6th, things were getting more intense. I was craving my favorite pancakes from Ramsey's, so to Lexington we went.

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We timed everything all day. Things were pretty close together and strong, but still all over the place. We were waiting for "longer, stronger, and closer together" for an hour or more and were just never sure that was happening. I had quite a bit of back pressure, which really threw me off. I wasn't sure if the back pressure was also pressure waves. Now, most of the pressure waves I knew for a fact were real. They were intense. The ones during the day I wanted to feel. I almost enjoyed them. Yep...you read that right. I wanted more than anything for this to be the real thing. I didn't even use a lot of the techniques we had learned in Hypnobabies because I wanted to feel everything at that point. We hurried through breakfast because things were getting more intense. It was pretty hilarious having a server come up to you, asking if you need anything else to drink, while you're getting ready to have a baby and timing contractions. Once home, we went for a walk and had to stop a couple times. I listened to my early birthing CD's from Hypnobabies to relax and remind me how wonderful everything was going to turn out and how my body was doing what it's meant to do and this was normal and natural. Then came the evening. We had been texting back and forth with Julie (our doula), our photographer and friend Amy, and Andrea. I just kept asking "Is this it? Is this how it feels when it's time?" No one was sure because I was apparently calm. I wasn't sure because the back pressure. I decided to take a bath to see if things would slow down. I knew if it did that it wasn't the real thing. I don't know how long I was in the tub. I listened to a CD to help clear all of my fears and relax. I'm pretty sure I actually fell asleep. I know things started getting very intense at that point. I told Bret that I really thought this was it and we needed to start making our cookies for the nurses (yep...not go to the hospital...bake cookies). This is something we had planned on doing early on to take our minds off of everything. I'm pretty sure we waited too late.

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(That was the last picture I took until leaving the hospital. Rest of the images you'll see are taken by my wonderful friend Amy of Amy Parsons Photography. Thank you Amy for what I will treasure forever.)

While baking, and right in the middle of a very intense, toe curling, pressure wave, we hear a knock at the door. I'm totally limp and leaning against Bret at this point. Bret has cookie dough covering his hands. I move over and lean against the counter. At the door, we find my uncle that raised me, and uncle Dave, who live 3 hours away. It was hilarious. They just happen to be in the area and stopped to see us. I was not very good company. Bret finished the cookies and we hung out for a while. Dave watched closely while I focused and breathed and curled my toes through each pressure wave. He would say "that was a good one wasn't it". I knew this was it at that point. This was around 8:20 PM (according to Bret). We called Julie and asked her to come work through our early birth time with us. Only thing was, we were way past that point. I laid on the couch and listened to my CD's. Bret put pressure on my shoulder and said some words of encouragement with each wave. I knew we were going to leave soon. Julie arrived and asked to time a couple waves. After the very close second pressure wave she said "Yeah...I think we should go". We quickly gathered rest of our things (most were already in the car). I wanted to get our things and get to the car before another pressure wave hit. Walking out the door, I stopped and reminded Bret this would be our last time in the house before this life changing event. This was just after 10 PM.

The drive. Oh the drive. I kept thinking about my friend Rebecca and how she said even her short drive to the hospital was not fun. Our drive would be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Speaking of time. I knew it was dark, but had no clue what time it was. I lost all concept of time. Time was measured in 5 minute increments to me. The hour didn't matter, only the time between each wave. While driving we text everyone and said we were on our way to the hospital. In our mind we had, not only the hour drive, but probably hours of birthing at the hospital. We didn't want to tell everyone too soon in case it would be a while. During the drive, with each wave, Bret would put his hand on my shoulder and try to help me work through it. Julie said she knew every time I had one because Bret would swerve a little. I felt like I was pushing my foot through the floor board. On the outside, I was apparently cool and calm, but on the inside I was a total mess. Things were getting very intense. I listened to everything I could to relax and it would work for a while, then I started to worry we wouldn't make it in time. I started playing mind games with myself.

We get to the hospital and Bret pulls to the front door. We get out, I get in a wheel chair (I had thought I would walk up, but was over that by this point). I won't let Bret leave to get our stuff until Julie is by my side. Julie arrives within the minute and Bret gets rest of our stuff from the car. I order...um ask nicely...for Bret to forget the car - he leaves it parked right at the front door of the hospital (where it stayed until after Steff was born and a friend asked if we wanted them to move it). They both help me through a very intense wave (I don't know what I would do without either one). I give the okay and we make our way to check in.

This whole time I feel like I'm looking and acting like a mess, but no one knew because I was so calm on the outside. This still amazes me because I really thought I was a mess. I broke out of my tranquil, calm, self, to let the lady at check in know that I was serious and needed to get back immediately. FYI...if you let them know this, they will hurry. She asked if I was in a lot of pain. I wanted to stay positive, but also knew that I needed to get back quickly. "Yes...yes...I'm in pain" made it's way out of my mouth. Then I kept telling myself "pressure, not pain. Pressure, not pain." Then...I closed my eyes. Everything was a blur. I left my eyes closed pretty much until Steff was on my belly. I opened them to see the room and to look Julie and Bret in the eyes when I thought I couldn't do it.

Once in the room, I was hooked up to the monitor to check on Steffen's heart rate. A cervical exam was also done to see how far I had come and how much I had to go. You can imagine my dismay when I was only dilated to 3 cm's. 3!!! I knew I had a while, but jeeze. The worse part though, Steff was not digging the pressure waves. I listened as my baby's heart beat would drop so far down that I thought it was going to stop completely. I was only 3 cm and I had to get my baby out. I had asked to not be hooked up to an IV and to only be hooked to the monitors for a short bit, but with this, everything changed. Whatever they said they needed to do, I said ok. Bret and Julie would, thankfully, ask all questions for me. I was so lost because all I could think about was that heart beat. I'll never forget that sound. I couldn't focus through the pressure waves at this point. They were too close together and too hard. I was shivering and couldn't stop. I had to pee so bad that I couldn't stand it and wasn't able to get off the monitor. Truly the worst part for me was the shivering and the pee. I couldn't concentrate. I laid there thinking I couldn't do this and I needed an epidural. I thought there was no way I could do this for hours. Everything was happening too fast. I had no time in between to refocus. (Side note...I definitely do not think there's anything wrong with epidurals, it's just not what I wanted. Everything had been so clinical for us. I wanted something to be as natural as possible. And I knew that, although my body was screwed up and it took forever to get pregnant, that didn't mean anything was wrong with me pregnant. Also note that the only reason I asked for an epidural was because I thought the long, strong, and close together waves were going to go on for hours. Just in case you're someone who's thinking "I knew she would ask for an epidural".)

I looked at Bret and Julie and calmly said "I can't do this. I want an epidural." Everything was back to back at this point. Almost constant. The nurses and Bret gave Melissa an update. Everyone thought it would be a while, but with Steff's heart beat dropping, she thought it best to come on. Once there, she checked and said "have you been feeling pushy?" I said that I had, but thought it was too soon and was holding back. Julie asked how far I was and she said "10. You're complete. He's here. Once I break your water, he's here." For the first time, I cried (this was tears of relief) and said "He's here?" She asked if I was sure I wanted the epidural right as the antistesiologist walked in. I said if he was here I didn't need it. Looking back, I should've known I was already in transition. Shivering from the hormones, pressure waves so close together. Julie always said that we don't birth by numbers and just hearing the numbers (dilation, etc) can be discouraging. It really messed with my mind that's for sure. I should've just trusted my body.

As everyone was scurrying around, I looked at Julie and said I didn't think I could do this. She said "You've done it. Open your eyes. Look at everyone running around. That means he's here." With another pressure wave, I said I couldn't hold my pee any more and that I was just going to do it. I peed everywhere and felt like a million dollars. This is what was holding me back. With this, I lost rest of my "mucus plug" (gross). I also started to be much louder (I was afraid I had scared all the other women on the floor) and said with a growl "peace" as I would breath through each wave (and eventually breath out during the pushes). Melissa broke my water and the party really got started. Bret was to the right of me. Julie was to the left. Bret held my head and my right leg. Julie held my left. I had no idea how to push. It wasn't like what I had read (probably because Steff was so small and there was less pressure from him). It didn't feel like my body was taking over and pushing. I had to make it happen. Melissa said to hold my legs and curl my body around Steff and push him out. I couldn't hold my legs, instead I held Bret and Julie and almost broke their arms. Bret said he couldn't believe how strong I was and that it took all his strength to hold me. They were each reminding me to breath and giving me cues to relax. I truly thought that there was no way I was going to push him out. With each push I thought if he wasn't out, he wasn't coming out. Bret said he could see everything and it was amazing. It was like what was going on "down there" was completely separate from me.

While pushing, Steff's heart rate continued to drop each time. Our midwife said that he didn't like the pressure waves and I had to get him out now. That with the next push I needed to push as hard as I could. She turned around, a pressure wave came at the same time. I decided that was it and he was coming out now. I screamed and pushed with everything inside me. This is what God made me to do. This was it. I didn't care what happened to me. God gave me the power and he was out. She literally turned around with my scream and caught him. There was no moment of his head coming out and then me pushing again to get his body out. He was out. Bret said Melissa calmly unwrapped the tiny cord from his body and laid him on my belly. I later found out that it was not only wrapped around his neck, but up under and around his arms, his body...everything.

I opened my eyes. He was here. On my belly...not inside it. I ripped my gown open and asked for him to be on my chest. He went to my chest and everyone started to dry him off. He started to cry and I shushed him to calm him as I had so many other babies. I was finally calming my own. They asked Bret if he wanted to cut the cord and he asked if that was okay for him to do (I thought that was so cute). He cut the cord and we were in pure bliss.

Here's my most prized possession. A quick video Julie thought to get with my phone. I edited it to remove all nipple shots. :) For those reading this through email, you will have to watch it at 

http://vimeo.com/38135861

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Our photographer, Amy, arrived just after his first cries, which was about the same time that we had thought to get my camera. She says she had never seen someone so calm and that I handled the stitches with just a flinch (the only reason those were even needed was because of my last crazy push).

We arrived at the hospital around 11 PM. He was born at 12:32 AM. I couldn't believe it was August 7th. I pushed for maybe 20 minutes (which is suppose to be fast for a first time momma).

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I asked if I could start nursing him. This came much more natural for him than it did for me. It felt a little more awkward than I thought it would. He wasn't quite interested yet, but pretended for a bit.

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During this time Bret went to let everyone know he was here. Andrea had stopped in the room at some point and I had yelled that no one was allowed in. She thought for sure this was going to go on forever and that I was going to be in that much "pain" for that long. They were all in complete shock that he was already here.

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My sister and aunt were on their way from my home town. I talked to them on the phone after Bret came back and cried for the first time since Steff was born. They arrived just in time to come back when everyone else got to.

After realizing Steff was much more interested in the world than nursing at this moment, I asked Bret if he wanted to hold him. His heart swelled with pride. It was beautiful.

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They took him to the warmer (which was in our room) and did the initial tests.

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Bret took his shirt off for some skin to skin with Daddy. I couldn't get over how excited he was to do this (for anyone who knows Bret, he acted like he does when he's getting pumped up for a football game, with a little bounce...not quite a hop...and a clap...I was waiting for a "woo" to bust out).

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We attempted breastfeeding again and he latched right on like a champ (within 30 minutes of being born).

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Steffen nursed for 30 minutes and we had wanted to wait for him to finish before having everyone come in (he also cut our visit short with everyone because he wanted to nurse some more and he continues to be an awesome eater to this day). Watching him being passed around between some of the people who love him the most still makes my heart smile.

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My sister Myca got to hold him first and then Bret's sister Chasity. Everyone talked about how tiny and perfect he was.

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My sister Keisha and our best friend John stuck around til the wee hours that morning. We talked. We laughed. We celebrated what we had all waited for so long. We kept Steff with us until around 8 am when they took him to bathe and see the pediatrician. I am forever grateful to St. Joes East for this special time with our baby. I remember Bret saying that he was so happy he felt like his chest was going to explode. That it was a different kind of happiness than our wedding day. I remember waking up to him telling Steff about "sleepy town" and rocking in the chair while telling him all about who we are and who his family is.

It was beautiful. It wasn't what I imagined...I didn't know what to imagine. It was perfect. I got exactly what I wanted. A perfect healthy baby, with the least amount of intervention possible. Later Melissa said that if the birth had gone on longer (which if I had an epidural and things slowed down, it probably would have), I would have had to have a C-section (which, of course, isn't the end of the world, just not what I had wanted) because of the cord and his heart rate. It's just another reminder that everything happens for a reason. I wouldn't change our journey. It's ours. He's ours. He's. Ours. I can't believe it. I will end this with a full heart and the knowledge that all things are possible with the love of God. Thank you.

And I just want to specifically thank our family for making this possible, Peggy...Read...Mikie...Erica...Grandma Dot. Also, thank you to Keisha and Andrea for listening to me talk about...everything. Thank you to all those who received my mucus plug text messages. Thank you to Julie for teaching us everything we needed to know, supporting us through the pregnancy, the birth, and every day since. Thank you to Dr. Veloudis for discovering what was wrong and fixing it, preparing my body for this beautiful miracle, as well as being so wonderfully understanding when we decided to work with a midwife for the birth. Thank you Dr. Homm and staff for everything through our IVF journey. Thank you to Melissa, Stacey, and Julie at Woman Kind Midwives of Lexington for the amazing care you gave us. Thank you Melissa for being our advocate. Thank you Dr. Barry Campbell and staff for taking care of us when things seemed a little off. Thank you to everyone at St. Joseph's East Women's Hospital for your fantastic care...being respectful of what we wanted and making sure we had a healthy baby. AND...thank you to everyone who prayed and prayed and prayed, especially our dear friend Dawn who rallied so many others to pray for us. Without each and every one of you, I know this wouldn't have been possible. God worked his plan through each of you. I am eternally grateful.

So so so so so much love,

Cilla and Bret :)