If you’ve been following me much on Instagram lately you’ve probably noticed that we’ve added a new addition to our little family! Sweet little Banks Jackson was born on December 26, 2016 one week before his due date. Being a mama has added a whole new element to my life. I not only have a love so strong that I never knew I had for this tiny person, but I’m adjusting to our life as a family. Birth is a truly personal topic and while I don’t share much on here from my personal life, I hope I can inspire at least a few mamas-to-be out there who may be on this journey or hope to be in the future.
As most people know, whether you’re engaged and planning a wedding or are pregnant and planning for a baby, you will field tons of advice. Tons of questions came my way upon announcing my pregnancy – “Will you have an epidural?”, “What hospital will you give birth at?”, “Midwives or OBs?”, and many, many more. At first I didn’t realize there were so many options out there. I thought that you were just supposed to show up at the hospital and everything was taken care of for you. Boy was I wrong. Upon entering the rabbit hole of information pertaining to birth on the internet, I realized I had TONS of options. I could take the OB/GYN route, or I could simply visit a midwife and even birth my baby in the comfort of my own home (and yes, I did consider this!) Something I knew that I wanted in my birth was no medications, including the epidural. I won’t go into detail on this as there’s plenty of research out there to show why this can be a healthy (and also very empowering!) option for anyone really wanting to get the full experience out of their birth. Due to this desire, my husband and I signed up for Bradley Method classes, aka Husband-Coached Childbirth. I loved the idea that David would be there by my side, acting as a cheerleader for me. The class itself was amazing. We took it through Lauren Pineda, a doula located in Ballard. We learned about everything from pregnancy nutrition to birth complications to how to get off to a good start with breastfeeding our baby. If you’re considering a class at all I highly recommend it! After all 12 weeks had passed and it was early December, all we could do was anxiously await the arrival of our little one.
I’ll begin by saying that my pregnancy was amazing. Not to say I loved being pregnant or that I would do it again in a heartbeat, but I had none of the annoying complications that come with being pregnant. It was like the unicorn of pregnancies. I didn’t have any weird cravings, I wasn’t sick, I took forever to even sport a baby bump, and all tests for any problems came back negative. Other than the occasional sore back and lack of sleep when baby would kick at night, I was good to go and felt so confident that we would be able to accomplish our goal of an all-natural birth. I dreamed about laboring for a long time in our home with a doula, breathing and relaxing through the contractions until I was in full labor and ready to head to the hospital. We had chosen Northwest Hospital and the midwife team, which just so happen to be less than a mile from our house. I felt like we had done everything we could to set ourselves up for success. That was, until, December 22 rolled around and I had my 38 week prenatal appointment. It was that day that one of the midwives announced that our little boy was breech. No!!! How could this be??! I had done everything right. Yoga, exercise, walking, eating well, the works. How could he be facing the wrong way? If you aren’t familiar with breech, it means that the baby’s head is facing up toward your ribs instead of down towards the birth canal. There is only one doctor in all of Washington and a handful of home-birth midwives who will deliver a baby this way without a cesarean. I was completely crushed. Teary-eyed and defeated, I waited for David to pick me up from the clinic and we started going through our options. While it wasn’t likely, there was a chance that he could turn the right way on his own or we could attempt some DIY techniques to make it happen. If he didn’t turn, a cesarean delivery was our only option.
First, I went in to a local acupuncturist who was recommended by the doula we had hired. He tried some Chinese medicine techniques on me. While it didn’t end up working, it at least got me into a relaxed state of mind. That same night, December 23, we went in for a procedure called external cephalic version (also known as version). Basically, an OB and a midwife pressed on my stomach in an attempt to physically turn our little guy from the outside. This was most definitely painful and actually gave me a chance to practice a lot of the relaxation techniques I learned in our Bradley Method class. While this also didn’t work, I was at least happy that we had given it a chance. Otherwise I would have always wondered “what if”.
Sore and disappointed, I woke up on Christmas Eve with a clear mind. A cesarean was everything I didn’t want about my birth process and I’d never even had a major surgery before, but I had no other choice but to move forward and accept it. We spent a quiet Christmas Eve with David’s family and even treated ourselves to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, a tradition that I’d had with my family as a kid. Little did we know this would be our last dinner out as a family of two.
Christmas Day was oh-so-fun and relaxing. We spent it with David’s family in Bellevue. It was a happy day! We hung around in comfy clothes, opening presents, eating festive food, decorating cookies, and laughing a lot. We went for a walk around the lake nearby and enjoyed the sunshine and cold, clear weather. The festivities continued into the night and we ended the evening watching home movies of David and his siblings. At around 10:30 when the movies were almost over and we were about to leave, I felt a strange pop in my abdomen. It wasn’t like a strong kick or anything I’d felt before and I had a sense that my water had broken. I whispered to David that we should probably make a quick exit and we headed home shortly after.
On the way home I was having some mild, continuous cramps and started to wonder if this was actually the real thing. When we got home, I decided to take a shower to make sure that I was actually in labor. The Bradley Method encourages you to go about your normal activities in case you are just experiencing false labor. If after you walk, eat something, drink something, shower, and rest your contractions get stronger, you are in real labor. While showering, I started to realize that my contractions were really starting to take off. I didn’t want to get to the hospital too early even though I knew I was having a cesarean delivery, but I also started to worry in case we got there too late. They say the average labor lasts 12-15 hours but some can be really fast and of course some can take longer. I called our midwife and doula to let them know this was it and that we would be headed to the hospital soon. Our doula happened to be at another birth so she called her backup to join us at the hospital.
By the time we left, I could barely make it to the car. David carried everything out for me while I just put the seat as far back as it would go and tried to relax through the contractions I was having. They were getting closer together and very strong. At the hospital, I decided to ride a wheelchair back to our suite as I didn’t think I’d physically be able to walk there. Upon arriving in our birth suite, they double checked to make sure that baby was still upside down and did a check to see how far along I was. They were shocked to see that I was already at 8cm (10 means it’s time to push) and it had only been 2 hours since we had left David’s parents’ house!! Things moved really quickly from that point on so they could get me into surgery before baby decided to come out on his own. Most of this time is really a blur to me as I was in a ton of pain from the contractions. All I remember is that there were lots of people around and I had to sign some consent forms and could barely write. Thankfully David was by my side the whole time to help me relax.
I soon went in to see the anesthesiologist who administered the epidural so I wouldn’t feel surgery. I can’t even believe what a turnaround that was for me. I went from having extremely intense pain to absolutely nothing. David walked into the OR and I was smiling and commenting on how excited I was to meet our baby. He said it was pretty funny how night-and-day it was. Soon after, surgery began. A few minutes later, our baby boy was out and I heard the sweetness of his first cry. 12/26/16 at 1:56 am. While it took a little longer than I would have liked for the nurses to hand him over to me, I was elated when I finally got to hold my baby boy. He had the fullest head of hair, the cutest nose, and the tiniest little fingers and toes. Sweet Banks Jackson. We were so relieved and excited that he was finally here!
The next few days were a complete blur between night and day at the hospital. I didn’t sleep at all after he was born. All I could do was hold him close and stare at him. It was simply magical to lay there in the quiet of the night and listen to his sweet little breaths. Family came and went and we spent as much time as we could learning from the nurses how to take care of and feed our little guy. Anesthesia finally wore off and I began walking around again (yep, they make you walk the day after surgery). It was real – we were parents!
Now, Banks is five weeks old. I sit here and type this while he quietly naps in my Moby wrap. It still is a little bit unreal to me that this little life has begun and that we are in charge of raising him. We have a love for him so strong that it’s impossible to describe. I look back on my birth experience and there’s no doubt that I feel a bit of lingering grief. Like many say, write your birth plan. But then, crumple it up and throw it in the trash because birth is spontaneous and raw and unexpected. You can’t paint a perfect picture of what you want and expect it to go as planned. I definitely learned that for real. That being said, I’m beyond thankful that it resulted in a healthy baby and a healthy me. That, in the end, is what’s most important.
Below are some of my favorite photos from his first month of life. The first set is from our Fresh48 and Newborn Lifestyle Session with Meg Newton Photography. We love you so much, Banks!