January 8, 2024
If there is one experience that teaches you to let go of control and take things as they come, it’s motherhood. It is both humbling and empowering to bring a little life into the world, but it often does not go as planned. We were blessed with a healthy pregnancy, birth and recovery, albeit the birth was not how I had originally thought it would. My hopes is that in sharing my experience, I can help ease the heart of an expectant mother out there impatiently waiting for labor to kick-in!
I started writing this as our three-week old slept on my chest. I finished it on the day she turned eight weeks. Life with a newborn! I can’t believe two months have passed since we welcomed our little girl to the world, it seems like we’ve had her forever and like she’s still brand-new all at the same time. It has been the most challenging and most amazing time of my life.
Our birth story begins a few weeks before little Josephine made her arrival. At 39 weeks I had a cervical exam to see if I was dilating. I was 1 cm and had been so for about three weeks. The last few months were spent praying baby girl would stay put so I could make it to our babymoon, my sister in law’s wedding, mini sessions and a board meeting at work, but now I was more than ready to meet her. I had been eating dates and drinking raspberry leaf tea nonstop; we had gone on lots and lots of walks and tried all the wives tales to get her to move, but nothing. I felt defeated but still hopeful, thinking that any little pain could be the start of a contraction.
After another cervical exam at my 40 week appointment still had me at 1 cm, my doctor recommended induction before 42 weeks. I had no control over the tears that came upon hearing that news, and looking back I was definitely being overdramatic. I don’t know why I was so dead set on going into labor on my own. I think part of it was pride – I had an easy pregnancy and thought birth would come just as naturally for me. I wanted to at least try an unmedicated birth and thought it would be better if labor started on its own. I also had some anxiety about spending a lot of time in the hospital, so I wanted to spend as much time in the comforts of my own home before going in. Another concern was her size, I was so worried about tearing and thought it she stayed cooped up in there for too long she would clock in at the same weight of the Thanksgiving turkey we just bought and wreck my body on the way out. And finally, I think part of me just felt like my body was broken and wouldn’t be able do go into labor.
My doctor offered us three options for an induction date: that same evening, the following evening or the following Sunday, which would give us almost a full week to wait it out. We decided to give her the six days and see if anything happened on its own. I continued eating my dates, drinking raspberry leaf tea, and tried every exercise in the book. From yoga poses to walking for miles till I could hardly even stand. Saturday rolled around and there was no sign of a contraction so we decided to spend the day with some friends at a football game (See inlaid photo for one of the last snaps of the bump, featuring a friend’s new puppy). It felt so normal it was hard to believe that the next day we would start the process that would change our lives forever. We ended our day at Texas Roadhouse of all places with my sister-in-law and friends and we toasted to the upcoming birthday of our daughter (a sprite toast for me).
The next morning I woke up renewed and excited. I got dressed and went to mass, where I spent a lot of time crying and thanking God for a healthy pregnancy. I prayed for peace going into the induction and was immediately soothed when my favorite hymn started playing after communion, Be Thou My Vision.
After church, I ran some errands and met up with my parents so they could keep Dollie while we were at the hospital. I made some returns and tidied the house. It felt so normal, like we were just going out of town for a few days.
When time came to leave for the hospital, I was giddy. We loaded the car and began the short drive to the hospital. The same drive we had been making so many times over the last eight months. Each time I drove to a doctor’s appointment, I thought about the day we would drive to the hopsital for delivery. I pictured Jordan zipping through the traffic as I breathed through a contraction in the passenger seat. He would pull up to the ER, brakes screeching and put me in a wheelchair where I would be wheeled up and baby girl would quickly arrive. My body would be perfectly intact and people would be in awe of how easy my delivery was. Instead, we calmly drove and chatted, listening to our favorite songs and talking about what we wanted to order for dinner once we got settled in. It was during this moment that it dawned on me that the induction and extra six days of pregnancy were a gift. Instead of stressing over contractions and frantically racing to the hospital, I had a peaceful weekend with friends and family and a calm and collected arrival at the hospital. I wasn’t stressed or scared, I was just excited. It wasn’t what I thought I wanted, but it ended up being exactly what I needed.
We got to the hospital and immediately were greeted by some familiar faces when I saw a client at the elevators. Turns out they were being induced, too! I was so excited to finally be there I awkwardly rambled on and then abruptly left the conversation when the elevator arrived, leaving my friend to wait for her husband alone. (If you’re reading this, I am sorry for being so awkward, Virginia!)
We were quickly admitted and settled into our room in labor and delivery. The nurses had a hard time getting my IV in, four tries to be exact. As someone who hates needles, I am pround to say I handled it pretty well. I can only think that someone from Heaven intervened and calmed my soul so they could do what they needed to do and get the line in. Next I was set up with a foley balloon, which would manually ripen and dilate my cervix. Once that was in, all we had to do was wait till I dilated enough for the balloon to come out. Contractions began shortly after the balloon was inflated but they were manageable. They really only felt like period pains. Jordan picked up Mekong for dinner which we ate and and watched Encanto. I started to feel super tired so my nurse offered me a sleeping pill and some pain medicine and after some more awkward rambling induced from the from the meds, I dozed off for what would be my last full nights sleep in a very long time….
At 4:30 am my nurse came back and said it was time to remove the balloon and begin pitocin. Not gonna lie, removing the balloon HURT and I was not expecting it. Contractions really took off once I received pitocin but again it was managable. My doctor came in at 7 a.m. and to check me and I was 4 cm. I started feeling uncomfortable and wanted to stand up and walk around. I asked the nurse if it was too soon to begin laboring, to which she replied, you have been laboring for hours! I walked around and bounced on the ball till it got worse, and then Jordan and I began a new technique to make it through the contractions where he would squeeze my hips as I leaned forward and breathed through th pain. We managed like this till about 10 am when the back labor got to be so bad that I was I tears and couldn’t speak. After a particularly painful bout of contractions, I asked the nurse if we could pack up and go home to try again later. She suggested we go ahead with the epidural now since 11 other women were in labor and we might have to wait for the anesthesiologist. I agreed because by 10:30 am I felt like my spine was breaking and I really just wanted to curl up and die. I went and laid down and threw up a few times before the epidural came. Jordan said he found me to be super cute in this moment (pictured below), which is nice to hear because at that moment I just felt like a broken heap of bones 😂.
I got the epidural and settled in with a peanut ball for a good two hour nap (one hour on each side). I think I must have had a really good one, because it felt evenly on both side and I rested very well. Because of the back pain and the way my belly felt, the nurses thought that baby girl was slighty facing up and on her side. By 12:30 p.m. I was 8 cm dilated and we began some exercises to “spin” the baby to face downward. At 1:30 p.m. I told my nurse I felt pressure on my bottom and she said that it was time. We did one final exercise to get her in position and I began pushing at 2:00 p.m.
Something I did not prepare myself for was the pushing. Despite all my research, I thought you only pushed for several moments at the very end, I had no idea it could take several hours…Thankfully after just 30 minutes my doctor asked if I wanted to feel the baby’s head and upon feeling her, it was over and I made the final push. Josephine Anne was born at 2:30 p.m. weighing 7lbs 7 oz and 21 in long and we have never been the same since!
Although Josephine’s birth was not was I had “wanted” it was perfect for us and a true miracle! From the time we were admitted to the time she was born was less than 24 hours, and she came much faster than I could have hoped for! And for someone who was stressed about spending a lot of time in the hospital, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I am forever grateful for the amazing care we received in labor and delivery and afterwards in the recovery unit. Every nurse we met was so sweet and took amazing care of myself and Josephine, setting us up for a healthy and quick recovery.
To anyone reading this, I hope you takeaway that everything happens in its perfect timing and how its meant to be. When I was very pregnant and frustrated, someone told me that every moment of waiting brought me closer to meeting my daughter. Now that she is here and time passes too quickly, those days preparing for her were such a gift. If you are stressing and overexerting yourself trying to induce labor at home, don’t feel like your efforts are going to waste, because even if that walk didn’t send you into labor or your cervix didn’t soften enough from eating six dates a day, you are still helping to prepare your body for labor and that will help a lot with your recovery! And finally, always remember you’re not alone. Many of the women you know have gone through this and survived – and thrived! – and there is a whole team of nurses, doctors, midwives, friends, family and fellow mamas right there with you in the thick of it. And at the very end of it all, you have the best possible gift.
Here are some of the things that helped me through labor:
Things I brought and hardly (or never) used:
Things I forgot and wish I brought:
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Jacqueline Burns is a milestone and family portrait photographer based in Richmond, Virginia. Inspired by the beauty and timelessness of film, Jacqueline captures families in their natural element, creating memories to be enjoyed for years to come.