Monday, April 20, 2015

Judah's Birth Story -- Part 2

Judah William's Birth Story Part 2

You can read Part 1 here.

This is long. You've been warned again. :)

Sometime around 9pm on Saturday, 3/14/15, we headed to the birth center. Jordan and I went in first to make sure we were there to stay, but the rest of the family followed close behind. When I had talked to Luanne on the phone she asked me which one of the three birthing suites I wanted and I chose the one I had been in the most (in appointments and classes) because I was familiar with it. We were the only ones there so the whole place was all ours! Haha.

Luanne checked me and said I was 6-7cm dilated so we were there to stay! We brought all our stuff in and the family settled into the front waiting area to watch the ACC championship game and play cards. They seemed to have a jolly good time of which I'm glad especially since they were such troopers and stayed through the whole night. :)

I met the nurse/doula named Tracy who would be attending the birth with the midwife. Luanne was more of an all-business type and Tracy was the lovey-dovey-fuzzy-encouraging one so they really balanced each other out and made a great team. I was so thankful for them and felt as though they truly cared about us and the baby. For the first couple hours they let us be alone besides checking in to see if we needed anything and to monitor my blood pressure and Judah's heartbeat. They gave me a robe to put on, lit some candles, and filled the tub for me to labor in.

I continued with my swaying through contractions tactic mainly using the birthing ball on the bed as pictured. This ball had stuff in it so it wouldn't roll around which was nice. I tried to sit on it but didn't like that during contractions, it felt best to be standing. Laying down through a contraction was the WORST so I definitely wasn't doing that at all.

I didn't use a certain method or anything, but had done a good amount of reading about birth without medication and had taken the "Birth Out of Hospital" classes at the birth center. I knew that to let my body do what it needed to do, I needed to go with the flow and not fight the contractions. One thing I had learned was the cycle of fear/stress --> tension --> increased pain --> more fear --> more tension --> more pain, etc. It was truly the Lord who lessened my feelings of fear through Scripture, Jordan's encouragement, and a supernatural sense of peace. Whenever I felt myself tensing up through a contraction, I would keep swaying, control my breathing, and whisper "relax" over and over as I relaxed my muscles as much as I could.

When the tub was ready I was eager to get in and see if it helped with my back labor. It felt fantastic. The water temperature was just right (I was afraid they wouldn't let it be hot enough for my liking) and I was able to relax more and sip on Gatorade. Jordan pulled up my Spotify playlist of all Coldplay only Coldplay (my favorite band ever). I still swayed and moved through the contractions, but let the water hold my weight. It was cool how they could still monitor Judah's heartbeat regularly under the water with the doppler.

Many people had been asking if I was going to do a water birth. My response was usually, "We'll just have to see!" because I really didn't know. I didn't know how the tub would feel to me but kept an open mind without ruling it out. I knew that if being in the water helped and the baby started coming, I probably wouldn't want to hop outta the tub and dry off while fighting an urge to push. And it really helped us to see videos of water births at our classes. So I just kept it as an option and wanted to see how it would play out. I loved being in the water, but it seemed to be slowing my progress down as the contractions became a little further apart.

They suggested that I get out and walk for a while to really get things going. We walked around the birth center and went to talk to the family out front. They were so happy to see us and couldn't believe how cheerful I was to be that far along. Yeah, the contractions weren't fun or anything, but I was just so happy to be there and excited. The environment and Jordan were really keeping me calm and peaceful, and everything was still so manageable at this point.

Remember how Jordan was still fighting a stomach bug? And how he also has two herniated discs in his back and hasn't even been able to walk normally for months? The Lord totally answered our prayers with a yes and gave him the strength he needed. He took one of my Zofran pills (the last person to take one wasn't me! ha!) and was able to eat some food. I'm sure some of it was him being strong for my sake but I wouldn't have even noticed at the birth center that he felt badly or that his back hurt. He was SO positive and encouraging in just the right way, helping me in any way possible.

It seemed like time was going by so quickly. It's hard to remember what all we did during this time -- mainly just walking around, talking, and listening to Coldplay. I do remember that when she checked me again, I was 9cm and we were talking about how it probably wasn't possible for him to have a Pi Day birthday (3/14) anymore because it was getting close to midnight. But we thought it'd be REALLY soon.

And then 5.5 hours later he was born. The end.

........just kidding. :) This is the not as pleasant part that Jordan doesn't like to revisit in his mind. (I've been getting him to help me remember stuff.) And I can't come close to remembering it all because it's such a blur. But I'll try.

After that last time before midnight I never looked at the clock again. I had no sense of time at all. I didn't want to know how long it was taking. But at this point my body was completely ready -- fully dilated, cervix thinned, all systems go -- but little Judah was not. He was cozy right where he was and didn't want to budge. 

That whole posterior, head tilted and not down thing was still fully in effect. My water wasn't breaking and I had no urge to push whatsoever. So this was a weird time for me. The whole time I had a goal to reach -- get to 10 cm! And now that I was at 10 cm, what was I supposed to do? Keep having contractions that were continuing to increase in intensity and were one on top of another forever? I remember thinking to myself, "This could never end. He may just stay in there. How long could he stay in there?" and then also thinking, "What actually IS an urge to push? Am I having them and not knowing it? That seems URGE is something that you definitely feel. What if I don't want to feel it? I'm really scared to push. I'm REALLY scared to tear. Maybe I should just not do this."

I could feel the fear coming on and I didn't want it to. Not one bit. So I asked if I could get back in the water. They suggested a shower, and the shower had a separate sprayer thing that Jordan could point at the exact spot on my back where all the pressure was. I thought this sounded excellent. It was a walk in shower area next to the where the toilet was. (Let me just mention that the toilet seat was heated. Heavenly.)

Jordan put on his bathing suit and helped me into the shower. Those two bars that you see in the picture were perfect for me to lean on and let Jordan spray my back. Ohhh man my back. The pressure in my lower back was so intense and concentrated, it covered an area about the size of a softball. Not at all what I imagined labor to be like. I think we were in there quite a while. I was SO SLEEPY. Couldn't hold my eyes open. I was trying to stay fueled with food and hydrated with water and Gatorade, but then I threw up. I knew this was a good sign that things were still happening, but here's what was going on.

  • Judah still wasn't moving down at all.
  • My water wasn't breaking.
  • I was still having no urge to push.
  • It was starting to take too long, especially since I was already completely dilated.
  • My blood pressure was getting too high.
  • With two nights of no sleep I was extremely tired.
  • Since I had mainly been up and at 'em the whole time we were there and was throwing up, I had no energy. They tried to get me to do some squats in the shower while holding onto the bar, but I could NOT do it.

Throughout all this, Judah's heartbeat was fine, praise the Lord. But I know that my high blood pressure was disconcerting to them. They kept checking it and giving each other a look of "not good". They weren't saying that to me but I could tell that it wasn't good. And I was desperately wanting to know what I needed to do to get to the point of getting him out. So Luanne said that she thought it was time for her to break my water and for them to give me an IV of fluids for energy. I whined to Jordan (in slurred, sleepy language) that I didn't want an IV, but I didn't even remember them putting it in. (I didn't want it because I'm scared of even getting my finger pricked and am prone to fainting.) I absolutely needed it though especially for what they were about to make me do.

When she broke my water (this was uncomfortable, but again, I was in a fog) she felt Judah and said that we need to do some different things to get him to move. She told me that if I didn't, we'd have to start talking about going to the hospital. I should mention that in that moment in my head I was absolutely certain that I'd be transferred and have a c-section and I was okay with that. I was thinking, "He's not coming out. He needs to come out. They can cut him out. That is fine." I didn't think that anything I could do would get him in a better spot. Especially when they told me it was time to do some lunges. Yes, lunges. I told them I couldn't. They told me I had to. Well, Luanne told me I had to. Tracy told me I was beautiful and wonderful and capable and to let my body do it. I thought she was going to break out in song. She was like a Disney princess nurse.

It was at this time that I told them if only I could go to bed and try again tomorrow I thought I could do it. 

Since this was not an option, I remember telling Jordan that he needed to tell me I could do it. He did. He was awesome. He encouraged me (but not too much to where it sounded fake), he read my Scripture cards to me, he rubbed my back when I needed it. And when he rubbed my back he did slow circles around where the pressure was. I remember Luanne stepping in to actually push hard on my back to try to relieve it with counter pressure, and it did NOT feel good. All I could do was mutter, "no". Haha. Jordan's way was the best. 

So somehow, I did what they said and leaned on the birthing ball on the bed, put one leg up on the bed, and did angled lunges. This is the last thing I imagined myself doing while giving birth. I mean seriously, in no way did I associate Jillian Michaels exercises with having this baby. But at least she wasn't there yelling at me or telling me how she could use another good chest fly in her life.

I had wondered beforehand whether I'd be one to yell or grunt or get angry when it came down to it. It was at this time that my noise level did increase, but my speech was very limited as I was just so physically out of it. Throughout the night I had been softly moaning in low tones during contractions, but now they were much louder. This was also when I started repeating, "Help me, God," and, "the Lord is my helper," over and over. I could NOT continue in my own strength that was for sure. 

During the lunges they tried a TENS unit on my back which is electrical nerve stimulation. Basically they placed electrodes on my back that buzzed and shocked me to distract from the pain. It helped very slightly for a few minutes but wasn't so great for me. Then Tracy wrapped a rebozo wrap around my middle and used it to squeeze my hips for counter pressure. That actually did help more throughout the lunges. It also helped me to count through them mentally and time my counting with my breathing.

I had no idea if I was making any progress, had no pushing urges, and was still mentally set on a transfer. When what seemed like a long time had gone by (I have no idea), after each contraction and set of lunges I would tell them that I didn't think I could do another one. Or at least I would try to tell them that, I was hardly speaking English at this point. It probably sounded like, "Mm back.....can't do 'nother.....can't do it....God help...." and so forth. Luanne told me, "Because you're saying you can't do it I know you're near the end!" which I thought was pure ridiculousness but kept going anyway.

Meanwhile Chris Martin was still singing loud and clear. There are only a few Coldplay songs that I would rather not hear and I hadn't taken them off my playlist. So I remember being in the heat of all this and when one of them came on, I pointed to my phone and said, "Song!" which translated from labor talk to English means, "Jordan, will you please change it to the next song?" He was definitely skilled in the art of this translation.

Finally they told me I could stop lunging. I don't know if they just wanted to try something else or if they were afraid I would start falling over from exhaustion. But they told me to lay down on the bed on my side which was the LAST thing I wanted to do. I hated doing that with the manageable contractions, much less these intense ones. I kept telling myself, "Luanne knows what she's doing. She's done this for 30 years and a thousand times. Do what she says." So I did. I laid on my left side with my bottom, left leg straight as they put what felt like 24 pillows in between my legs and bent my right leg forward. That probably doesn't make sense, it barely even makes sense to me but I was in mental crazytown and kept my eyes closed so I don't know. Jordan laid to my left to face me and continued to encourage me.

Again, it could have been minutes, hours, days, in this position, I have no clue. But eventually after more contractions and more "help me, Lord"s I felt a new sensation in the baby exit region. "I think I'm feeling something!!" I told them. They probably had to resist the urge to pop champagne right then and there but there was still a baby to push out. So they situated me on my back and put my left knee in my left hand. Tracy handed Jordan a juice box to make me drink and I gulped it down pretty quickly.

It was then that the feelings of fear started to come back. I was shocked that we actually made it to this point and that I was going to have to push. I thought they might give me some coaching on pushing before I had to do it for real, but nope. They told me to let them know when the next contraction started and they would tell me when to push. "What??" I thought to myself, "I don't know how to push. Maybe I just won't tell them when the contraction comes. I'll just pretend it's not happening." As you can imagine, I couldn't do that. It was pretty clear when the contraction came. 
Luanne told me to take a deep breath and push. I breathed in and pushed as hard as I could until she told me to let out my breath. Again, and again. She said she wanted me to do it three times each contraction. The next contraction I did the same thing, only she never actually said when to let out my breath and so I held it as long as I could. The next time this happened Jordan said, "BREATHE!!" and I did. He later told me that he thought my ears were going to pop off or that my head would explode and yes, that's exactly what it felt like. I told them that I needed them to tell me when to breathe, otherwise I would keep holding it. I guess they were focused on the baby coming out because this happened a few more times, luckily my head and ears stayed in tact.

Now this might sound really weird, and I don't even know how to explain it. But to keep pushing as hard as I could and especially when I started to feel the pressure of his head, I had to mentally remove myself from the present situation. I guess this was one of those out-of-body experience type things. I had heard that it helps to picture meeting your baby but when I did that it brought me back to the fact that he needed to come out and it was up to me. So in my mind, I was with Jordan dancing at our wedding, I was at the beach with family, I was NOT on that bed pushing out a baby. And then I don't remember where in the world I was mentally because Jordan said I kept softly repeating, "It's just me and You, God," over and over. Where was I with God? No clue. But I am eternally grateful for Him being with me.

Throughout the pregnancy one of our songs for Judah was Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay (of course). When Judah was close, Jordan turned it to this song so I could hear it and it could be his birth song. This was so special and now I can't hear the song without tears in my eyes.

I asked them if I could hold my other knee because it was really helping to brace myself, so they helped me do that. Judah's head was RIGHT there which was the craziest feeling. My feet were kicking as I was trying not to push when I wasn't supposed to and trying to go at the pace she wanted me to (to avoid lots of tearing). Jordan seemed to be getting really emotional and kept saying, "You're doing it, babe, you're doing it! It's happening! He's coming! I'm so proud of you, you're doing it!" which was music to my ears. 

Every push I gave 100%. We had worked so hard to get him at that spot, so since he was finally there I wanted him OUT. It took five contractions, three pushes each, and then I felt the strongest feeling of relief ever as Judah came out at 5:07am. I opened my eyes as he made a couple tiny "eeh!" sounds when they placed him on my chest. It was hard to find words, but Jordan accidentally filmed this part with the phone laying on the bed so here are some direct quotes.

"'re made it....I can't believe happened....thank, You, Lord....hi, Judah....hi, he cute?"

"Yes, he's very cute." -- Jordan

"Hi,'re in the world now...thank you for coming're here and I love you...hi, buddy..."

Jordan got to hold him a little bit as I delivered the placenta, and somehow I took some pictures with my phone as my arm was shaking like crazy. They also gave me a shot of something as I was losing a good amount of blood, but it's hard to remember.

After Jordan held him for a minute, he gave him back to me to breastfeed and Judah latched right on. He was so alert and calm. He seemed legitimately happy to be out of the womb and with us, of which I was glad. 

People have asked if I felt an overwhelming love as soon as they placed Judah on my chest. I loved him, yes, but I love him so much more each day. At that time I think the main feelings were relief and thankfulness. And I was just in shock.

It's hard to remember the order of events after this, but I know that when my mom and mother-in-law heard that first little cry from down the hall, they came sprinting to our door and waited outside of it. Such grandmas they are. :) Before I had started pushing I told Tracy to go tell them all to pray. They had been praying for me and thought that it could possibly take another hour or so after that, so they were shocked when they heard that cry right after they finished praying! So after I fed him, the family came in to meet him. They had been eager to find out his name, so I waited until they were all in the room and said, "This is Judah William Shelley!" They cheered and were so happy and full of love. 
One special moment that I'll never forget was my dad coming over to me, holding my hand, kissing my cheek, and saying, "You're so brave, I'm SO proud of you," with tears in his eyes.

They left the room after a few minutes of time with Judah so Luanne could stitch me up. Remember my huge fear of tearing? It happened, and I still don't know how many stitches I got, but I didn't even feel the actual tearing. People had told me that it could be like that, and I didn't believe them (I'm talking about you, Sydney!) but they were right. Maybe if I would have had an easier time leading up to the pushing it would have been worse, but the end happened so fast and there was so much going on with my body that I didn't even feel it. 

I did feel the stitching up part though. Ouch. One of my least favorite parts for sure.

They helped me into a wonderfully warm shower and Jordan spent some time with Judah. I think after I got out was when they weighed and measured him. 6 lbs. 10 oz., 20.5 inches long. The cutest little guy ever.

We were both ravenous and Jordan was feeling like he could actually eat some food and keep it down, so my parents went and got us some McDonald's sausage and egg biscuits and orange juice. YUM. One amazing thing about the birth was that when Judah and placenta left my body, my hyperemesis also left immediately! I felt a huge difference right away and didn't have to think twice about eating that biscuit. Even though my sickness was much worse through the first half of pregnancy, I hadn't realized how badly I had still been feeling until it was gone. Praise the Lord!
Jordan's side of the family went back to our house to get some sleep. We said our goodbyes and thank yous to Luanne and Tracy as a new nurse Kara came in to take care of us. My parents stayed at the birth center for a while which was nice because my mom held Judah while Jordan and I took an amazing nap. I don't know if I've ever been so confused when I woke up. Where am I....what's going on....I'm still so tired....there's a's my baby. Woah.

After I woke up I fed him again and my parents headed back to their house. Jordan's mom came back to the birth center and helped get Judah cleaned up and dressed for the first time. We started the discharge process as Kara made sure I was good to go, checking up on my body and answering all my questions, giving lots of instructions. She was amazing, too. We really had the most wonderful team throughout this whole time.

Jordan put him in his car seat and we went home sometime around 11:45am. It was a beautiful day for a birthday. I had been a little apprehensive about leaving the birth center so soon, but it was really great. I felt like I had just the right amount of time there. We got to rest at home with lots of help from both sides of our family. They made a huge, delicious meal and we had a birthday party for Judah out on our deck. That evening I kept thinking how weird it was that I had birthed a baby earlier that morning.

What a weekend. It is still so surreal to think that it all actually happened. It was SO not my strength, but the Lord's strength in me. That's the only way I can explain it. I cried out to Him for help, and He absolutely helped me. 

"Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free."
-- Psalm 118:5

All glory, honor, and praise be to the Lord. Most of all for redeeming us through His Son Jesus and for giving us new life. The name Judah means "praise", and our prayer is that his life will be a sacrifice of praise to Him.


  1. Simply beautiful, Ashley. Thank you so much for sharing your special day.

  2. Amazing birth story!! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thank you for sharing, Ashley! I've followed your pregnancy on IG and your blog for quite awhile. I'm due June 21st and we're delivering as well with a midwife in a tub room (located in the best hospital around) and we're just finishing up Bradley Method classes end of this month. Reading your story is very helpful! I wanted to thank you for taking the time to share it with us! I know you can never predict, but I can see my birth story having lots of similarities. Honestly, you made me less anxious! That is a beautiful thing :) So thank you!! Congratulations!

  4. Aww your story is so encouraging!!! I'm 34 weeks with our first and we've just decided to use our birthing center here so I'm really excited! :)

  5. Accidentally came across your blog and after reading Im so thankful to have come across your blog

    Jesus' love is so glaringly evident in every line, every word you shared. The whole time I was reading, couldn't help thinking how awesome it would be if every child was joyfully anticipated, prayed for and celebrated like your little Judah. Indeed, God has abundantly blessed you both for sure.

    Thank you for sharing!!


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