Judson Oak’s Birth Story | June 26, 2021
Early Pregnancy & Preparations
If you know me, you know I always have a plan. Then a backup plan in case that doesn’t work out. And then another for good measure because the plan is to always be moderately flexible. When it comes to mine and Daniel’s family planning, the plan was to get pregnant a long time ago. That didn’t happen so we moved to another plan. Wait on the Lord. And keep waiting. And keep waiting. And eventually in October of 2020 we found out I was pregnant with this lil one I’m writing about today.
After finding out we were pregnant, of course I developed a plan for his birth. We wanted to “kick it old school” as much as possible. This, to me, meant a crunchy pregnancy followed up by a neat little spontaneous birth experience in a birth center facilitated by midwives, my doula, and being coached by my sweet husband. So we did all the things. Found the birth center, hired the doula, and took all the educational classes we could just so we could do the “unplanned” thing and let God, my body (we believed designed by God for this purpose), and our little one dictate when and how he would come. There were some things I just really leaned into believing throughout this pregnancy: my body was made to do this and would instinctively know how to give birth, pain is a tool used to guide the birthing process to a healthy conclusion, and diligence in pursuing a natural pregnancy birth process is essential.
The Final Weeks
Gosh, I could go on forever and ever, but let’s hop to week 36 of my pregnancy for a quick check in. One of my pregnant friends ended up having her sweet daughter 14 weeks early… leaving me in panic mode that our baby would come early. So I went into prep overdrive. I had casseroles frozen, pet plans made, and every inch of the house scrubbed. Now all there was left to do was wait for him to inevitably come early. I would go into labor early–I just knew it. It was now the new plan.
Weeks and weeks went by. Literally. I had all my final appointments with the midwives and at each one I was constantly checking on what I would need to be prepared for my early labor. Each time I was assured, “You’re going to carry this baby to full term, Destinie. Trust that your body knows what it’s doing.” And each time I nodded reluctantly.
At week 38, I started my ultra-crunchy labor prep regimen: 4-5 cups of raspberry leaf tea per day, evening primrose oil twice a day, motherwort tincture 3 times a day, walking 3 miles per day (in June’s North Carolina heat might I add lol), and avoiding all of those “Are you ready for baby yet?” texts.
Judson’s due date came. June 13th. I was shocked. But that was fine: “most first time moms go past their due date by a little bit.” I tempered my expectations. Turns out I had been wrong. Judson would not come early. I had to admit to myself time and time again, “Baby is not late. Baby is exactly on time.”
At 40 weeks and 1 day I was ready to take everything up a notch. I pleaded with the birth center, “Literally give me anything else to do, and I will do it!!” I kept waiting on a labor inducing hack, and no matter what I tried…. Little guy stayed put. At 41 weeks we determined to do a membrane strip. I was sure my water would immediately break and BOOM: baby. Nope.
Since I was now 41 weeks, we had all kinds of pressure from well meaning loved ones, “When is your induction? Why haven’t you induced yet? Why are you letting the baby stay in so long? Aren’t you ready to meet him?” And each time there was a very fake cheerful response, “We’re just waiting on baby to decide when to come.” But it was killing me. Killing me. I felt like what I believed about God’s design for my body was being tested. Did God really create my body to do this? Am I broken? Am I going to be one of those sad stories of women who are pregnant for 60 years? (Fact check me; it has happened before.) And while we’re on the topic: stop calling and texting women that are past their due date about when their baby is coming. They know their due date is past and don’t need another reminder… but… moving on. 🙂
Beginning at 41 weeks of my pregnancy we were back and forth to the birth center checking on baby’s heart rate, movements, doing 3 (count them, three) membrane sweeps, and making plans to do a midwife induction. I did not want a midwife induction though it was admittedly a way better option than the hospital induction.
Here was the new plan: do a midwife induction on Saturday, June 26th at the birth center using herbs, certain movements, another membrane sweep, and all the other crunchy things you can think of. He had to be born on Saturday. Or else he would cross into the 42 week territory and have to be induced at the hospital. And oh how my heart cringed thinking of 1) giving birth at a different location than planned and 2) being induced by pitocin. It was my crunchy mom nightmare.
I wanted to go into labor spontaneously, so I woke up on Friday and decided I would hit it with everything I had. I began chugging my raspberry leaf tea, I doubled my motherwort dosage and added another herb blend full of cohosh, added clary sage oil to my every half hour herb regimen, and walked and walked and walked. I felt things change. I was a little intimidated by some weird feeling I had so I backed off taking all the herbs every half hour around lunch time and waited on Dan to get home so we could head out for yet another appointment to check on the baby. In the meantime I texted a close friend, “My hospital induction is now Sunday. Could you please pray specifically that baby comes today or tomorrow?” I did not know how effective her prayers were or exactly how that would play out. 🙂
Our Scary Appointment
Dan and I left at 3:30 pm to head to Chapel Hill for baby’s biophysical profile exam. Here they would check fluid levels, baby’s heartbeat, gross and fine motor movements, and heartbeat. Baby had 30 minutes under ultrasound to hit all the marks. Baby’s heart rate was “fine,” fluid was great, but the other two… the entire 30 minutes went by with no “practice breathing” and no gross movements. The ultrasound tech invited us to a special waiting room and said the doctor would be with us shortly for the results. I could just tell from the looks of this waiting room that it was the bad news kind.
The doctor came in and revealed to us that baby should have scored a total of 8 points on their exam… Baby had only scored 4. 50%. “That’s a failing grade,” I thought and broke down crying. It was then we were rushed to UNC women’s hospital for continued fetal monitoring. The doctor urged us to continue monitoring but that they recommended immediate induction should the baby’s heart be able to tolerate it.
On the way to the hospital I called my doula to keep her posted. I remember her asking, “What are you feeling?” “I feel like it’s my fault. I pushed too hard. I did too much. I held on too long. I should have listened to everyone else and induced earlier. I feel like a selfish mom for choosing what I wanted for my body over what others said would be the better option. I feel like this is all my fault.” She (her name is Joy–like my beloved dog!!) reassured me that it was not my fault. I had only done what anyone would do wanting to meet their baby spontaneously with a soon coming deadline.
We arrived at the hospital and rushed to labor and delivery where all those visions of an “overly medicalized birth” came into play. The hospital gowns, constant beeping of monitors, rushed nurses clambering around, bleached white walls, and pokes and endless prods. This was not the environment for me, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to know that baby was okay.
At the Hospital
I was hooked up to a heart rate monitor for baby and a contraction monitor for me while I waited on my midwife to arrive from the birth center. (Thankfully they have privileges at the hospital so I could still have some of my original care team.) Around 7 PM Belinda, my midwife, walked in. She walked into a tense room, I’m sure, filled with a stark white, nervous, and crushed mommy trying to hold in all the emotions. She said we would continue watching baby’s heart rate and see if we thought the baby could handle an immediate induction. A lot was said about possibilities that honestly went right through my ears… I just remember hearing, “Baby’s heartbeat is okay, not great.”
I knew it. I just knew our sweet baby was in real danger, and it was all my fault for holding onto some vision of a birth I wanted. The next conversation with Belinda, however, was exactly what I needed. She asked how I was feeling since this day was so much different than what she knew me to be planning. I tried to hold everything in while admitting, “I feel tested. I feel like everything I believed about my body, this pregnancy, and this baby is being tested. And I feel like being upset by it is making everything worse.”
Here Belinda said something(s) profound (and pretty blunt in true Belinda fashion) that was exactly what my sensitive lil heart needed to hear:
“It sounds like you have some really messed up idea that you have control in this situation. You don’t have any control. This is above you. This is in the realm of the divine. This is not your fault. This idea of control you have has got to go. It’s time to really surrender and give up what you thought was best. As much as you want to control this, you’ve got to realize sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do and it is what it is. And you’re entitled to a human experience. It’s okay to be mad, to be pissed. Take on that emotion and really feel it. And then let it pass, because we’ve got to get down to business about having this baby. Feel what you feel. We are going to do everything possible to still give you an empowering birth experience.”
Shortly after she left the room, I tried to do what she said–broke down. I was pissed. I was worried. I was beside myself. Dan held my hand while I let out all my insecurities, fears, and frustrations. Praise the Lord for good hubbies, am I right?
Belinda came back in and said she would work on getting me into a room to induce with pitocin, but we noticed on the monitors I was already having early labor contractions. I took this as a big W and thanked the Lord that He gave me such a great mercy in a time of doubt..
We moved upstairs into a room and got settled. We started pitocin around 8 PM mostly as an experiment to see how baby would tolerate contractions. The plan was to watch the babe and see if babe was stressed. If babe’s heart rate took a toll then we would move to a cesarean section. I felt what I felt and did everything I could to hold onto some of the original plan. I would do pitocin, but I would not do an epidural. I wanted to feel this experience, and I wanted all the benefits of avoiding pain medication. I wanted to move around, to cope on my own with the help of my birth team, and to have at least a little bit of my original plan in tact.
Belinda decided we should use a Foley bulb in addition to low dose pitocin to give us every opportunity to keep this birth as overly medical intervention-y free as possible (a phrase I coined on my own if you can’t tell lol). At 9 PM I was 3 cm dilated already, and Belinda was hopeful we would have this baby “around 4 or 5” that morning. It was about this time Joy, my doula, arrived. I gave her the rundown on everything so far, and she did an AMAZING job reminding me of some parts of my birth plan I could still (hopefully) keep in tact. This was such a huge blessing to my overly planning heart.
Contractions were manageable at this time on my own. The Foley bulb came out around 11:30, and I encouraged Dan to take a nap to prep himself for what could be a really long induction process. I tried to take a nap too, but I was so hyped on adrenaline and so excited to get to chat with Joy that I couldn’t sleep. I even tried getting her to recite me a bedtime story that she had memorized from her kiddos bedtime story library to soothe me into sleep. It didn’t work, but it did make me laugh and feel comfortable. Joy and I talked about so much while Dan napped–how Dan and I met, my potty shyness, memorable moments from my childhood with my mom (including how I always wanted mom to make up bedtime stories; I thought reading bed time stories was boring and a form of cheating). I remember Joy asking something funny: my day to day pee schedule. She noted that she was keeping tabs on how often I went to the restroom, and I was overly skilled at going every hour almost on the hour every time. She was impressed, and I was pleased to get such a beautiful and obscure compliment. It’s the simple things in life. 🙂
It was around this time that the contractions intensified to a point that I could no longer over analyze baby’s heart rate monitor. My attention needed to be given to breathing through my contractions. We also decided it would be a good idea to wake Dan up and let Joy give him some pointers on how to help me manage contraction pains. She helped him learn exactly where to place his hands to squeeze my hips together. I remember giving them the compliment, “it feels like angel hands have descended from Heaven to give me relief.” I cannot describe how much help a simple hip squeeze from a support person did for me… but anyway… to keep with the story.
We turned on a playlist (my hipster hymns playlist) and Joy turned on her battery operated candles she brought for us to keep the mood as homey as possible in a hospital room filled with all the reminders of things I didn’t want. I remember being so frustrated every time I had to potty that I was hooked up to IV’s and in a hospital gown. It made movement so difficult, but I really attempted to be so grateful that our baby seemed to be doing okay through it all so far. I remember at one point a strange man came in covered in scrubs and all kinds of protective layers like he had just stepped out of the operating room. He was there to give me a rundown on anesthesia and asked if he could speak with me a moment. I wanted so badly to decline and say, “CAN’T YOU SEE I’M A LITTLE BUSY?” as I sat on a birthing ball trying not to cringe through the contraction. However, I remembered one part of my birth plan that I could keep in tact. I didn’t write it down, but I verbalized it time and time again, “I don’t want to be a jerk to anyone during labor.” I wanted to retain a semblance of humility and serve my birth team with a good attitude no matter what happened… so I listened to his spiel, breathed through multiple contractions, and let Joy thank him for briefing me on what could happen should this result in a cesarean section.
Shortly after it was my bathroom break time. I dreaded every time I needed to move positions. It seemed to take at least 6 contractions to get from 6 feet across the room. Joy always encouraged me to do a few couple contractions while on the toilet–something I’m sure was helpful… but something I really hated because the contractions were always more intense and meant I had to also do a few contractions standing and leaning against the wall (aka the PITS for pain). It was there on the toilet I realized I was going to throw up… So Joy grabbed a bucket for me to throw up in while Dan squeezed my hips on the toilet. It was one of the more vulnerable moments of my life to say the least.
At another one of these hourly trips to the bathroom that I loathed I felt my body do something different. My body just pushed… down… It was like I had no real control over it. I’m not sure who, but someone told me not to do it but to wait. I tried as hard as I could to remain loose during contractions but not allow my body to bear down like it had sitting there on that toilet. Joy recommended utilizing the hospital’s tub to do some contractions. This tub under any other circumstance was amazing. I fit into it so perfectly. There were so many bars to hold onto and so many aggressive jets. In fact I wish I had one in my home, but I digress. I got into the tub and did a few contractions there. The first contraction with the jets on was amazing. The second contraction with the jets on felt like the water pressure was flames on my skin. I asked for the jets to be turned off. It was around this time my monitors for contractions and baby were slipping. My sweet UNC nurse, Whitney, was trying to fix them when another contraction came on. I remember pleading, “PLEASE don’t touch them right now!” (This was one of my jerkier labor moments.)
Belinda arrived while I was in the tub and offered to check my dilation. This was great news except it meant I had to get out of the tub and over to the bed. In my head I remember thinking, “Can’t she just check me in this tub?!” Getting to the bed was another feat. I prayed in my mind that this check would happen quickly. I wasn’t sure how I could tolerate a check during a contraction.
Belinda checked me, and I remember her joyful words so clearly in my mind: “How ‘bout 8 centimeters?” This was around 5:30 AM. I was thrilled, because I knew this meant things were rolling! And I needed them to be. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could cope with the pain. Ya know how everyone says, “Savor the breaks between contractions.” I felt no breaks. Just a lesser version of a 4 hour long contraction, it seemed. Moral of the story: all births are different. That–or people lie to be nice. Haha
I was laying on my right side. Dan was in front of me holding my hand and rubbing sweat off my brow and lip with a cold rag between contractions. He whispered time and time again, “I’m so proud of you. You’re doing a great job. A break is coming.” Little did he know a break was not coming. It wasn’t his fault I told him to tell me that to encourage me. Neither of us knew really…
The room got busier. Another nurse or two showed up… Contractions were faster. And I noticed this involuntary primal noise (grunt?) that came with contractions. I felt that same feeling from earlier on the toilet. My entire body squeezed in, and I felt a bearing down. There was no breathing during these contractions. They were the most intense, but I learned after 2 or 3 that they were way better than what I had been experiencing for the past couple hours. These contractions, while stronger, were more manageable because I could actually lean into them. And when I did, they shortened.
Here came some more of Belinda’s words that pierced my ears. “Oh yeah, when this water breaks we’re having this baby!” The entire birth team was around the bed holding my legs, helping manage pain, and my sweet Dan was there by my face. Ya know they say to visualize your “relaxing space” to get through contractions. As silly as it sounds, during contractions I told myself… “When this is all over, you can go home, lay in your own bed, and snuggle Joy and Petrie.” It might sound weird, but honestly having our sweet baby wasn’t what urged me on. It was snuggling my pups. Take that for what you will. 🙂
Contractions kept peaking, and the bearing down continued… I kept leaning into it praying my water would break so I could just go ahead and start really pushing this baby out. I remember feeling something icky between my legs… and I asked someone to please wipe my downstairs. Feeling hygienic was still important even in labor. Haha
Belinda was at the bottom of the bed, and I felt all this pressure–kind of like a balloon. Little did I know I was pushing out my amniotic sac with our sweet little one still in there. The birth team was waiting on my water to break, but my body wanted to do something a little different. Belinda encouraged me to really push with each contraction. This was around 6:05 AM. I pushed with the intention to break my water, but Belinda had other intentions. I would push this baby out, and whatever happened with my water would happen. I remember someone saying, “Wow look at all that hair!” I was so confused… Was the baby here?! I said, “Can you see them?!” I told Dan to reach down and touch their head so he would technically be the first person to touch them. He humored me. 🙂
During one contraction, Belinda encouraged me to push multiple times… a new concept to me. She said, “Hey–we’re getting this baby out! Keep pushing!” A couple contractions were chaos. Everyone was saying, “Great job! This is amazing! Go Des!” And it was really hard to hear. It was at this time Belinda said, “HEY. Only listen to my voice. Push again! Push again!” And she used her tatted up, gloved hands to pull our little one out the rest of the way.
Our baby boy was born at 6:15 AM on Saturday, June 26th, 2021.
Our little one laid at the end of the bed as Belinda ripped open his amniotic sac and threw him onto my now semi-flat tummy. His umbilical cord was pretty short, so he just chilled on my stomach while Belinda helped me deliver his placenta. I just remember a bunch of chaos and talking–but at the same time the moment was so so quiet in my mind as I looked down to see that goopy baby’s hair.
Then I realized I still didn’t know if we had a son or a daughter. I said, “Wait, is it a boy or a girl?” And someone’s arms flew into the scene to open his legs and Joy exclaimed, “He’s a boy!”
I was SHOCKED, and that’s when the tears started flowing. I had a son. We had a son. All the hard work was worth it, because he was here finally. There had been a real person with a real soul inside my womb, and now we knew a little bit more about him.
Somehow amidst all of this the placenta was delivered. It was not unnoticeable, but it was much easier than delivering our son. Belinda said, “Dad, do you want to cut the cord?” Daniel softly said, “No, I’m good.” Poor guy had just witnessed a lot and needed to stay up by my head. Turns out watching your son being born in the amniotic sac can be a lot to handle physically and watching your wife deliver him can be a lot emotionally. They asked if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord, but I wanted to reserve this honor for someone truly deserving and who will always be a huge part of Judson’s birth story: our doula, Joy. I asked if she would like to cut it, and she was psyched! Joy cut his cord, and I pulled him up to my chest, kissed him all over his little grimy hairy head, and cried tears of thankfulness to God. It was at this point I zoned my hearing out to notice the hipster hymns playlist still playing in the background. I heard the cadence, “You are good to me, good to me.” I hummed along for a moment while Belinda stitched me up (little guy had his arm up and cut me on the inside), and I thought of how huge of a gift this little guy was from God. Though his story went very differently than I anticipated, God was still so, so good to us. He was born vaginally in his sac with no epidural at the perfect place and time for God’s will to be done. So many pieces of his story were such sweet mercies to me–not to mention: my placenta was heart shaped!! A little reminder of how God stitched every piece of Judson in my womb with love and intention just like God will for all of Judson’s days.
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