Charlotte Grace | Birth Story
It all started on Tuesday, November 28th. I went to my 39-week appointment in the morning and almost asked the midwife to check and see if I was dilated yet. I was beginning to get anxious for the arrival of our sweet girl, but for whatever reason, once I was in the room, I was at peace with not knowing. After all, dilation means jack squat unless you’re in active labor. Women can walk around for weeks being 5 centimeters without a baby in sight.
That evening, after running around the house working on my to-do list for the business, I was having some pressure in my lower belly. Very nonchalantly, I told Josh that we were going to have a baby this coming weekend. Don’t ask me why I said this, or if I ever truly believed it. But the words came out of my mouth. I thought there were zero signs that this girl was going to make her arrival anytime soon, really making me believe she would, in fact, be a 42-weeker.
I spent all day Wednesday continuing my crazy nesting streak. The house was cleaned from top to bottom, I ran and got groceries, most of them being easy snacks for our long days spent nursing. I spent about twice the amount on groceries that I have the previous two months because of those snacks! I’m talking A LOT of extra snacks! And then that night, I slept ten hours of sound and refreshing sleep. The sleep was so deep that I don’t remember Josh’s alarm going off for work. Which has only happened a handful of times since he went to days.
The sleep was so welcoming that on Thursday I kept up with my crazy running around. If you would have seen me, you wouldn’t have been able to guess that I was 39 weeks pregnant and just hours from going into labor. I even had a friend ask how I was feeling with the guess date looming right around the corner. My response was “that I shouldn’t be getting ready to have a baby in four days!” I felt SO good. No aches or pains that so many women at nine months complain about. If you want my honest opinion, feeling so great at 39 weeks is all because of the chiropractic care I have received since I was 18 weeks pregnant. Thanks, Dr. Brechbill!
I continued rocking out my “Before Baby” todo list, accomplishing almost everything before Josh got home from work. Once he was home, we made dinner together. I had not only one bowl of delicious goulash, but two. I was starving and couldn’t seem to get enough. You can’t have a yummy meal without following it up with ice cream, right?! So at 7 pm, my loving husband drives his very pregnant wife to Dairy Queen for a cookie dough blizzard.
Where’s the Gush?
Once home, I’m standing at the kitchen table getting ready to give the dogs their ice cream when I suddenly feel like I’m peeing my pants. But I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was NOT. I go to the bathroom and nervously tell Josh that I think I’m leaking fluid. Looking at the floor from the table to the bathroom, he says “I don’t see anything on the floor.” Hollywood has a wonderful way of portraying a woman’s water breaking, when in reality, it’s nothing like the movies.
So all this time I thought I was having no signs of labor when in reality I was having numerous. A restful night of sleep. Nesting like crazy. The extra serving of dinner.
I text a friend who has been my go-to this pregnancy for all my crazy first-time mom questions. She had a natural birth 18 months ago and has been such a huge support person, always encouraging me and reminding me that it was in fact very possible to work through contractions and birth my baby naturally. I wanted Brittany’s opinion on leaking fluids and whether or not she would call the midwife. She told me exactly what I wanted to hear – wait it out.
I then spent the next twenty minutes texting my doula – Katie, our birth photographer – Mari, and calling my mom, letting these three ladies know that I think my water is leaking and here’s your heads up that we may be close to Charlotte’s birthday. Everyone asked if I was having contractions yet, which I wasn’t. As a first time mom, I was borderline concerned that my water may be leaking, but I wasn’t having contractions. Was this really the real deal? Would I have to be induced if contractions didn’t start since I was already “on the clock?” Lots of thoughts were starting to go through my mind. After all, for the last nine months, I was preparing my mind and body for a natural labor and delivery. Being induced would throw a wrench into those plans.
A shower and an hour and a half later, I’m still leaking fluid. Not huge gushes at a time, but enough to know that it’s there. At nine pm, Josh and I make a quick Target run for pet pads. The last thing I wanted to do was lay in bed and experience the “Hollywood Gush” of fluids – ruining my bed. While walking to the checkout line, I remember telling Josh that “this could be our last Target trip just us!” Good lord, what a terrifying thought that was in the moment. For the last decade, it had just been the two of us. And as excited as I was to hold our daughter in my arms, I was equally terrified. Still no signs of contractions, I was beginning to wonder if we still had time just the two of us before we became a family of three.
A couple more texts with Katie after our Target run and she was starting to think that maybe this could be more than just pre-labor signals, and more like a slow leak of fluids. She encouraged me to get some rest. Things could ramp up in the middle of the night.
The First Contraction
Then it happened. 10:10 pm and I had a cramp in my stomach. Ten minutes later, a second cramp. I immediately reached for my phone to let Katie know that contractions started. I would lay in bed with a racing mind, wondering what the next several hours would bring. Finally, around 11 pm I fell asleep. December 1st, 12 am, I woke up with a contraction that I could not sleep through. And so it started. I tried sleeping between contractions, after all, they were roughly 10-7 minutes apart that first hour or two.
At 3 am, contractions averaged 5 to 3 minutes apart, and I could no longer continue laying in bed. A hot shower brought some relief, but the worse part of the shower was knowing I would eventually run out of hot water. It only took about 30 minutes before I was starting to feel my hot water turn cold.
I kept watching the clock thinking that at the start of the new hour I would wake Josh. Then at the half hour, I would wake him so he could help me through the contractions. Finally at 5:30 I was working through contractions that I just couldn’t keep quiet with. The moaning woke both him and Canon. And from that point on, our sweet lovable Rottweiler never left my side.
At this point in the morning, things start to move quickly. Josh woke up and began encouraging me through the contractions. Shortly after that, I text Katie. By 6:00 am, I decided I couldn’t wait for the 3-1-1 rule, and it was time to start getting ready to leave for the hospital. I prayed that we weren’t leaving too early. The last thing I wanted was to get to the hospital and be told I was only a centimeter dilated! I labored one more time in the shower while Josh was loading all the hospital bags into the Jeep. At 6:30 am, I buckled into the Jeep, dreading the drive to Orrville. Four contractions, broken speed limits, plenty of high beams being flashed, we pulled into Aultman Orrville prepared to walk in as a family of two, but leave as a family of three.
One last walk as a family of two
Katie met us at the front doors, as did two very concerned Aultman employees at registration. They must have thought I was going to deliver Charlotte in the Lobby by the concerned look on their faces.
Thanks to a lack of communication from the on-call center at my doctor’s office, the nurses at Labor and Delivery had no idea we were on our way. Their only warning was the registration desk calling up. Not only were they caught off guard, but we arrived at shift change. Those poor nurses at Orrville! But they’re pros at what they do, and the transition from the night shift nurse, Karen, to our day shift nurse, Sarah, went flawlessly. And quite frankly, pretty unnoticed by me.
I don’t remember many details from this point on. I can tell you about the big picture moments, but the finer details are a complete blur.
Once in our room, I stepped out of my clothes and into the ever fashionable hospital gown. I was checked and told I was already at 5 centimeters dilated! PRAISE JESUS! The nurses then asked me to labor in the bed for the first 20 minutes so they could monitor the baby and make sure she was looking good. 20 minutes felt like an eternity when laboring laying down was borderline torture.
Due to Charlotte’s heart rate dipping with each contraction, I wasn’t able to get into the birthing tub. Instead, I stood in the shower with an endless supply of hot water! I have no idea how long I was in the shower, but I know that I hit transition there. At this point, I started quietly questioning WHY I wanted to give birth with no pain meds. Why in the world did I want to go through this pain? Why would any woman want to do this was beyond me at that point. A telltale sign that the end was near and it wouldn’t be long until I was holding my baby!
It was during this time that my nurse began to get rather concerned about Charlotte’s heart rate. I initially thought it was just because I was in the shower. But looking back now, I know it’s because the umbilical cord was wrapped around our girl’s neck. In the moment, Katie kept things so calm for me. I remember hearing Katie repeat “She’s looking good. She’s recovering nicely.” after each contraction. She was a true blessing during my labor.
I no sooner got out of the shower, and Katie whispered in my ear “My very favorite midwife just walked into the room. We’re in good hands now!” Since the call center at my office dropped the ball when Josh called at 6:00 am, the on-call midwife was there from a different office to deliver our girl. This was the best “not part of the birth plan” mishap of the day. And because things went so well with Richele, I wouldn’t even call it a mishap.
Mari captured a photo of Richele and I’s first conversation. If it wasn’t for this photo, I wouldn’t have remembered it happening. I can’t tell you what Richele said to me, but I can tell you that I was immediately at ease for so many reasons. One being that a midwife was still going to catch my daughter, and the second because Richele has this beautiful calming presence to her.
It’s Baby Time
It wasn’t long after getting out of the shower and back on the bed that my body told me it was time to push. Richele was no longer in the room, so Sarah quickly called for her. She checked me and claimed that I was only nine centimeters dilated and I couldn’t push yet. Funny thing though, the next contraction, Sarah let me push. Looking back, I know that was Sarah’s way of buying Richele some time to get into the room and get ready to catch our baby.
Nearly an hour and twenty minutes of pushing, Charlotte Grace Jackson made her arrival into this world at 10:39 am. 7 pounds 11 ounces, 20 inches long. That time spent pushing was one of the most challenging times of my life. With the encouragement of everyone in the room, and my husband’s touch, I birthed my first born into this world. No pain meds, 100% natural, all me and my body. What an empowering feeling that is!
I’m the first person to give up working out because it gets hard. I’m a quitter when my body starts to ache. Instead of leaning into the pain, I back out. But not with childbirth. With childbirth, I rocked that like someone who had trained for months for a marathon. The high that I felt is unlike anything I have ever felt before! And the most beautiful part of this all, once Charlotte was on my chest, I couldn’t even tell you what the pain felt like. (I’ll spare you the full details of how beautiful childbirth was for me, though)
Charlotte laid on my chest for nearly two hours before I finally gave her up for her exam. My heart ached to give her up, my arms felt so empty like I have held her for years.
After her exam, Charlotte laid on her daddy’s chest for several minutes bonding with him. Mari captured some incredible photos that I will always cherish of Josh and our daughter. I know years down the road Charlotte will look at those photos and know how much her daddy loves her.
My Support Team
I can’t possibly express my gratitude to everyone in my delivery room. Without each of them, my birth story wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is!
Katie – my doula and personal epidural. She advocated for my wants and desires when I was in no state of mind to do it myself.
Sarah – my nurse. She was straightforward with me and didn’t mess around getting to the point. Both during labor and post-birth. We have very similar personalities, so it was welcoming to have someone like me bossing me around!
Aarica – Katie’s shadow for the morning. There’s no better way to learn than to do it first hand. She was a great addition to Katie!
Richele – the woman who caught my baby. Someone who would have been a complete stranger on the street prior to Charlotte’s birth became the best friend I needed during the hardest part of it all.
My Momma – encouraging me from the sidelines and the constant voice in my ear to “Keep pushing! Keep pushing! She’s almost here!”
Mari – our birth photographer. Without her insane talent and eye to capture the most beautiful of moments, Josh and I wouldn’t have these photos to look back on the moment we experienced love at first sight and our hearts forever walking on the outside of our chest.
My Husband. Good lord. My sweet, loving, caring husband. His support through this whole pregnancy has been a God sent, and his support through the labor and birth of a daughter no different. Watching him with our girl has been my favorite part of this season of life!
We’re spending our days now cuddling on the couch with a squishy newborn, and making sure she knows how loved she is. My world has turned upside down in the best way possible. It’s hard not to look at my daughter and get teary eyed thinking about the insane honor it is to be a mother. I pray time stands still, but I also look forward to the years to come watching this little girl grow and become her own person.
The moment I knew Richele would be catching my girl. And stress I had about an OB in my delivery room was immediately gone!
I had TERRIBLE heartburn from 10 weeks on. You can only imagine my relief seeing the head full of hair on my girl!
Charlotte’s life line for nine months
My very alert little girl.
“We have a daughter” was repeated between sobs here! Birth hormones are stronger than pregnancy ones. Let me tell you!
Richele – the amazing Midwife who walked into my delivery room a complete stranger that morning, and left feeling like a best friend! So grateful for her!
At this point, I’m sobbing into my mom’s shoulder repeating “I’m a mommy. I have a daughter.”
Momma’s little peanut at only 7 pounds 11 ounces
My heart. All in one photo!
Mimi’s first grandbaby. I was the first grand child, and now my daughter gets to the first on my side of the family.
A huge thank you to Mari from The Seed Photography for being there to capture the birth of our daughter! We’re so grateful for your talent!!