Annabelle Mae Guinn | 5 lbs. 13 oz. | 19 inches
I wrote Annabelle’s birth story shortly after she was born. I wrote it for two people: her and me. I wanted to remember with clarity the events of that day, one of the best of my life, and I wanted her to be able to go back and read about the day she was born.
I decided to share it here on my blog because, well, I love reading other people’s birth stories!
Pre-Labor (T-60 hours)
Both Andrew and I thought our little joy would make her arrival early. I came 10 days early and Andrew was right on time. By 36 weeks I was already starting to dilate and making progress, so we naturally thought she would come ahead of schedule. We were wrong.
My due date was Sunday, July 16, 2017. The big day came and still, nothing was happening. That night at midnight I woke up with bad cramps, back pain and some bleeding. I thought “this may be it!” After two hours of lying in bed googling “what does labor feel like?” and trying (unsuccessfully) to time what I thought may be contractions, I got tired and fell asleep.
Worried about the bleeding, I called my doctor first thing and got my appointment that Monday moved up from afternoon to morning. They were worried my water might have broken so I went in for an ultrasound then saw the doctor. She said that it didn’t appear my water had broken based on the amniotic fluid levels.
They hooked me up to a non-stress test machine which is basically a few bands around your belly that monitor contractions and the baby’s heart beat. If I wasn’t sure if I was having contractions before, I certainly was after. Seeing the numbers on the machine reassured me that the back pains and cramps I was having were, in fact, contractions. The nurse said they were too sporadic to be considered labor so she sent me on my way to the office.
I went into work around 11 am then worked until about 3 pm that day. Now that I knew I was having contractions – and their intensity was increasing – it was difficult to focus on work. I left for home and caught an afternoon nap before venturing out on a steamy evening walk to try to help things along.
The contractions died down that evening and didn’t re-surge until the middle of the night. Again, I woke up to cramps and back pain and thought this might be it. After an hour of inconsistent contractions I fell back asleep.
Tuesday morning I woke up disappointed that nothing had happened overnight. I was still bleeding and having inconsistent contractions so I opted to work from home instead of going into the office. My friend Meredith and I took a 2-mile walk to try and help things along. Then, I edited a few blog posts and sent some emails while balancing on an exercise ball. I was in a pretty crappy mood since the contractions were starting to hurt more, yet didn’t seem to be getting any more consistent.
On my lunch break I went out to get a sandwich and hit up the grocery for a few last minute essentials. When I got to Potbelly I had noticed the contractions were getting stronger – but not more frequent. I found myself pausing in the middle of my order to breathe and the employee making my sandwich asked if I was tired. I explained “no, I’m having a contraction.” She was so excited for me and told me about birthing her daughter. She ended up comping my meal! It was such a sweet gesture, and it put me in a much better mood.
After that, I was really ready to get things moving. I was ready to try anything. My friend Meredith recommended eating fresh pineapple and drinking red raspberry leaf tea so I grabbed both at H-E-B. I carved up the pineapple and ate as much as I could before gulping down some tea. I feel like after eating the pineapple the contractions did intensify – but just briefly – so I went back to work.
Early Labor (T-18 hours)
That evening I was in a pretty sour mood (being 40 weeks pregnant and in pre-labor for 36+ hours will do that to you!) so Andrew arranged for us to have dinner at Kerby Lane with his family to distract me. At dinner was when things really started to pick up. My back pain intensified and contractions started coming consistently in about 10 minute intervals. I was glad to be with such a large group where I didn’t have to carry on much conversation. After dinner we went to get ice cream at Amy’s before heading home. (Little did I know that would be the last ice cream I would eat for 11 months…but more on that story later.)
At home, we got ready for bed and watched some Netflix. After two nights of disappointment I didn’t have much hope that things would be any different. We were scheduled to induce Thursday morning so I had mentally resigned myself to one more day of this on-again-off-again contraction nonsense.
But by 9 pm the contractions did start getting consistent enough to make me download an app to start tracking them. In our birthing classes they had taught us don’t go to the hospital until “411” – contractions are 4 minutes apart and one minute long for one hour.
By 11 pm they were consistently 8-10 minutes apart. At that point Andrew fell asleep. I was in too much pain to sleep, so I sat on my yoga ball and shopped online.
By 1 am the contractions were much more intense but still 6-8 minutes apart. By this point I’d ordered the baby some new clothes, new stationary for all my friends and goodness knows what else on Amazon.
By 1:30 am things picked up quickly. I was suddenly having contractions 3-6 minutes apart. And they hurt a LOT more. Some were longer, some shorter. All were getting pretty painful. I made a mental note that if it continued at this rate I would wake Andrew up at 2:30 am. I could hold out for just one more hour!
At the stroke of 2 am I looked up from my computer and noticed a bug crawling across the room and shooting under our bed. Being 9 months pregnant and in labor, I was in no position to be crawling under the bed, so I not-so-calmly woke Andrew up to kill it. At some point mid bug killing and contraction I said “screw it; you’re up, let’s just go to the hospital.”
Andrew disposed of the bug, grabbed our bags, packed up the car and I called my obgyn’s office to let them know we were headed to the hospital.
To the Hospital (T-10 hours)
We only live a few minutes from the hospital, and I had several contractions on the way so I was feeling pretty confident in my decision to go in. (My biggest fear was being sent away and not admitted.) We arrived at the hospital at 2:30 am on the dot. Andrew parked the car while I toughed out a few contractions supporting myself on a concrete pillar by the front of the emergency room.
It was a quiet night in the ER – no one else was there except the security guard and the nurses who checked us in. One nurse escorted us up the back way to the labor and delivery floor. Andrew helped answer a ton of questions, signed paperwork and got us checked in while I worked through more contractions.
Before they will admit you they do a check to make sure you’re actually in labor. If you are they put you in a real room and admit you.
The nurse did an exam and let me know that I was only one centimeter dilated. I wanted to cry. (Actually, I’m sure I did.) I was pretty sure they were going to send me home. But the she said that it felt like my water had broken, and if that was they case, then they would admit me. She did a test, and sure enough, they detected amniotic fluid. I was going to get admitted!
They seemed very concerned that my water had broken and were frustrated that I couldn’t tell them when it had happened. I had never had the classic signs my water had broken, so best I could place it was Sunday night when I started bleeding. They didn’t like that answer.
After being moved to our room and getting a doctor on the phone the nurse said they were going to monitor me over night but they didn’t plan to give me pitocin yet. Also, and more importantly, I couldn’t have an epidural yet. They’d wait till 7 am to check my progress and if I hit 3 cm I would get to have one.
Admitted to the Hospital (T-8 hours)
It was about 4 am by this point, so Andrew and I hunkered down for 3 hours of hard, intense labor. After that experience, I have a newfound respect for all mothers out there. Those contractions were no joke. There was no resting.
Andrew and I put into practice every move we’d learned in our birthing classes to ease the pain. He was incredible. He was super supportive and ever encouraging. I could not have done it without him.
I don’t know how I made it through those three hours, but I can tell you by 7 am I was more than ready for another exam. The doctor came in and announced good news: I was at 7 centimeters! And better news: I could get an epidural. Praise the Lord. I hugged my nurse and cried actual tears of joy. (I think Andrew might have as well.)
Calling the anesthesiologist and setting up for the epidural took a good 45 minutes, so we toughed it out until the miracle worker came to our rescue. I hate needles and have always been scared of getting an epidural, but by the time I got to the actual event, I wasn’t scared at all. It was easy and relatively painless. And oh the relief it provided!
The epidural allowed me to calm down and finally start to get excited that we were soon going to get to meet our beautiful miracle rainbow baby!
Post-Epidural (T-4 hours)
At that point they decided to let me rest for a little bit, so from 8 to 10 am ish I tried to sleep. I got in a few Zs but it is hard to sleep in the hospital. When you have an epidural they hook you up to a machine that takes your blood pressure every 15 minutes or so. It’s hard to sleep through that! Also, every 30 minutes they come in to flip you from side to side to keep the medication evened out. So, while I got some rest, I didn’t really sleep.
Pushing Round 1 (T-3 hours)
At around 10 am the doctor came in and did another check and I was at 10 centimeters! Time to start pushing they said. I did three rounds of pushing and they decided it wasn’t time yet. They’d give me a break and let me rest some more. We’d “labor down” and try again in a few hours. I was thankful for the rest, so we tried to catch a few more Zs before the main event.
Pushing Round 2 (T-20 minutes)
Around noon our nurse came in and gave me another check. She said we’d push once or twice without the doctor to see how it was going to go. Apparently it went well, because she said the baby was super low and got the doctor on the phone immediately. The doctor asked if there was time for her to finish with the patient she was with and my nurse said no – come now! This had us really excited.
From that point on things moved pretty quickly. There was a nurse from the nursery in setting up and prepping all the things for the baby while Doctor Cherry and Nurse Elizabeth coached me through pushing. With an epidural, pushing I thought was pretty easy. Basically it involved being able to hold my breath for 30 seconds at a time.
After less than 20 minutes of pushing, Annabelle was born.
All my friends had told me that I would know when things were getting close because suddenly a lot of people would be in the room. That wasn’t the case for us. Apparently there had been a rush of babies being born at the same time, because it was was just our doctor, a nurse and Andrew in the room when Annabelle was born.
The moments surrounding Annabelle’s birth were kind of a blur. There are only a few things I remember and the rest was told to me by Andrew.
As soon as Annabelle was born the doctor put her on my chest. I cried tears of joy just staring at her. I remember the doctor laughing and telling me that she was peeing on me, but I didn’t care. I laughed with Andrew and the doctor.
Annabelle weighed in at 5 lbs. 13 oz., much less than the 7+ lbs predicted by the sonogram only three days earlier. Everyone was surprised, even the nurse! (That became important later when the doctors wouldn’t let us take her home because they thought she wasn’t gaining weight. But that’s a story I’ll share later!)
After the losses we suffered, it felt incredible to hold perfect Annabelle in my arms. It sounds cliche, but truly in an instant I realized a love I had heard about but not yet known. I knew I was made to be a mother.
Seeing Andrew hold Annabelle, I knew he was made to be a father. I remember sitting in the hospital and looking at them both with such pride and love.
I told Andrew later that night that while I’d been a believer for a long time, I didn’t feel like I truly understood God’s love for us until I became a mother myself. The love of a parent is like nothing you can explain, and to know that God loves me more than I even love Annabelle, well, that’s really something else.