Elliotte’s Birth Story

Well, it only took me 4 weeks, but I finally documented our birth story. Granted, life is bit hectic these days. I totally underestimated what life would be like with a newborn. These first weeks with our baby girl have been the best weeks of our lives, hands down. But they’ve also been difficult! Thankfully it’s been more a physical battle than an emotional one, as I just wasn’t prepared to sacrifice my arms for 24 hours to day to hold a crying baby. Elliotte is far from an “easy baby” but she’s definitely still quite a loveable one! I’m just going to see this as the Lord preparing me for the challenging yet rewarding role that is parenthood. We’re just getting in some good practice :). She’s still as sweet as can be and we wouldn’t trade these moments for anything!

Oh, and just to spice things up, we made things a little more exciting. We moved! We wouldn’t want life to get boring or anything ;). Dustin got a new job at a church in Mount Pleasant, SC and we moved about a week and a half ago and are now officially settling in to our new home! While we (well… I) haven’t ventured out into public very much, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed even our short time here and we’re so looking forward to calling this new place home. Anyhow, you’ll have to forgive me for my belated birth story post. I’m proud it didn’t take me even longer!

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Before I start, be warned that this is probably the longest post I have ever written. I hope you’ve got some time! I wanted to try to include as many details as possible, for my own documentation purposes. I’m so glad I was able to keep track of my entire pregnancy and Elliotte’s birth and I’d love to also blog about Elliotte as she grows, but that will likely depend on what life looks like, so we’ll see.

(Side note: excuse the blurry photos – I brought my nice camera, but naturally the iPhone was what got used!)


I’m not really even sure where to start. Even though it’s taken me longer than expected, I really wanted to have her birth story documented before I forget anything. Plus, I really love reading these stories from other moms and I know so many of you have faithfully followed along with my pregnancy so it only seems fair to also give you the happy ending of the story as well! So 4 weeks later.. Elliotte’s birth story!

As you might know, my due date was May 12th. Throughout my pregnancy, I had always assumed I would go “late”. I didn’t have any real reasoning except just knowing how my body tends to work.. a sort of intuition I guess? I just had a hunch that this time turned out to be right! Luckily it wasn’t TOO late, but because I had no idea when baby girl would actually come, once my due date got close we were pulling out all the stops. Walking (seriously – 3 miles a day!), pineapple, squatting, pressure points, nipple stimulation, bumpy car rides, etc. etc… Not to mention there was a full moon the night of the 14th that we were putting lots of hope in! We went out and walked on the beach and sat out in the moonlight for awhile, but honestly in the end I don’t think what’s put me labor. Regardless! I went to bed on the 14th crossing my fingers, but still very doubtful that anything would happen.

At 2:30 AM Thursday morning (the 15th) I woke up with contractions. I’d had Braxton Hicks contractions before that were intense – lots of pressure and very uncomfortable, but never painful and I could always fall back asleep. These were different. They weren’t extremely painful, but painful enough that I couldn’t sleep through them – which was my first cue that this was it. I was in labor. Just to be sure though, I didn’t wake up Dustin. I went out into the living room, sat on my birthing ball and started timing them while I read birth stories I had bookmarked on my computer (nothing like a little pre-labor encouragement!). They were at 8 minutes apart when I started timing them, and I was surprised at how consistent they seemed to be! This was really happening! But I noticed pretty early that they seemed to move quick. Before too long they were 5 minutes apart.. then 3 to 4 minutes. Now it was around 6:00 AM and I had been laboring and timing contractions for about 3.5 hours. But because they had been less than 5 minutes apart for over an hour, which is when our Dr.’s had told us to go ahead and head to the hospital, I figured I should go ahead and wake Dustin up. I went back into the bedroom and quietly told him that I was in labor, had been timing my contractions for a few hours and that we should probably head to the hospital in the next couple hours. He had a small freak out before asking if he had time to shower, and scurrying around getting bags in the car and getting everything ready.

At this point, I really thought I would have gone to the hospital hours ago. I mean.. some of my contractions were only a couple minutes apart!!! I thought that didn’t happen until you were QUITE far into labor and in much more pain than I was feeling. I mean don’t get me wrong.. my contractions were intense and every 3 or 4 I had to close my eyes and just breath through them – definitely couldn’t talk through them at that point. But I had always pictured rushing to the hospital in serious pain – moaning and breathing and unable to do anything but focus on pain management. And I was not there at all. Between the tough contractions I was okay! I could walk and talk and rationalize and pack last minute things. So it didn’t feel like we should be going to the hospital yet! However, at this point it was around 7 AM and I was a) really worried about morning traffic getting to the hospital (the road we had to take is notoriously busy, especially this time of year and I was terrified of having a baby in the car due to bad traffic) and b) the fact that my contractions were so close together. I thought if they keep speeding up like this, we are going to have a baby SOON! – so we decided it was time to go ahead and go.

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Well, we actually made good time and were at the hospital by 7:30 AM. But in my head I still wasn’t ready to go in. I still wasn’t in as much pain as I thought I should be, and I was so scared that they’d want to induce me, or make me lay down in the hospital bed (which would have made my contractions SO much more painful). So I did what any normal laboring woman would do…. I labored in the parking lot for a good hour and half (no? just me?…). Yep. I opened the door and bent over the passenger seat and swayed back and forth through contractions. I think Dustin felt a little awkward at this point, but he totally went with it. Eventually though it started to rain and I relented and told Dustin we should just go in. Naturally, the second we stepped through the hospital doors, my contractions slowed way down. Of course! Also, I had assumed that when a woman walks through the door with overnight bags, a look of pain on her face and tells you she’s in labor.. that the receptionists would act a little more.. I don’t know.. hurried? The ladies were totally like, “Oh ok.. well just go stand over there for a second, we’ll be right with you”. REALLY?! I’m in labor!! Get me upstairs, woman! Our hospital doesn’t let you pre-register (whhhyyy?) so we had to sit down and register when we got there. But luckily since my contractions had bizarrely slowed down, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

They brought me up to the triage room to check me and get some paperwork filled out and informed me I was about 4 cm dilated and 90% effaced and that I would be admitted. This seemed about right to me based on my pain level. The anesthesia guy also came in and told me he knew I wanted to do a drug free labor, but he would just give me the 411 on my anesthesia options should I change my mind, which I was totally cool with.

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After admitting me, our Dr. asked what our birth plan was. At our Dr.’s office there are 4 doctors. Luckily, while I do have my favorite, I liked all of them. However, there was 1 in particular that I was told was likely to be more pushy with medical interventions than the rest of them. This was the Dr. who was on call that day, so I was a bit worried about our birth plan and what she would say. We offered her my typed up version, but she asked us just to give her a spoken summary (so much for all those birth plan copies!) so Dustin told her what my most important desires were – essentially that I preferred no drugs, that I wanted to be able to move around (not hooked up to an IV or in the bed) and that I wanted my baby with me as much as possible following delivery. To my surprise, she was SO accommodating and said that none of that should be an issue. Hallelujah! So they set me up in my room, gave me the IV lock and just left us alone while I continued to labor on the birthing ball. Originally I had planned to walk the halls, which they said would be fine, but honestly any position except sitting on the ball felt 10 times more painful, so I was prepared to bounce my heart out all night if that’s what it took. For roughly 2 hours I bounced and rocked and listened to music while I worked through contractions which were definitely getting more intense. For most of them I would stop, lean forward and breath as deeply as I could, trying to focus on the purpose of the pain (bringing our baby into the world!). At this point my pain level was probably at an 8 or so, but I felt like I could handle it in the moment. Dustin was super supportive and just sat with me and timed my contractions and encouraged me as things got more real. There were a couple contractions where some tears flowed and I began to doubt if I could really do this, telling Dustin I wasn’t sure how much longer I could take this. But I wasn’t ready to give in just yet.

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(clearly still somewhat composed..)

About that time we got a surprise visit from my favorite Dr. at our office (midwife actually). She was in her street clothes but I assume she was already at the hospital for some reason and heard I was in labor and came in to see me – seriously, she was the best. She asked how I was doing and we told her how I was feeling – in pain, but working through it okay! At this point my water still hadn’t broken, and since it had been a couple hours, she offered to check me and see if I’d made any progress. I agreed, and she checked and told us I was almost 5 cm dilated and 100% (I think?) effaced. Not much progress but it was something! Since my water still hadn’t broken, she offered to come back in an hour and check on me. If my water still hadn’t broken she said she would break it if I wanted to, but we would see how I was feeling then. Sounds good to me.

Roughly 2 seconds after the door shut behind her on her way out, my water broke. I knew instantly what had happened. Most women say it feels like you’re peeing yourself, but I have never peed that much at once in my entire life. To me it felt like someone popped a water balloon inside of me and water came gushing out by the bucket – sorry if that’s a little graphic for you :) This is when things got real. Y’all. Seconds after my water broke, my pain level went from an 8 to roughly 1,000 on a scale of 1 to 10. If you haven’t had kids yet and are planning on a natural child birth, you may want to skip this next bit, as I don’t want to discourage anyone or scare you regarding child birth. And every woman truly has such a different experience. But for me – there were no words for the pain that ensued. Obviously I’ve never been stabbed, but I had to compare it to something that’s what I would say. Or being ripped apart by an animal with very sharp teeth. I felt like I was trapped inside my own body, unable to escape, writhing in unbearable pain. Haha – It all sounds so dramatic now, but I haven’t forgotten my feelings during those 20 or 30 excruciating minutes before I was rescued by the anesthesiologist. It took me probably 60 seconds before I was crying and screaming and begging Dustin to go let the nurses know I wanted an epidural – stat. Even in the midst of my pain I couldn’t help but think that anyone within ear shot was probably wondering what the heck was going on in the room down the hall. While previously, laying down had made the contractions much more painful, now that my water had broken and that cushioning was gone, sitting UP was excruciating. The anesthesiologist had me sit up on the bed and hug a pillow to round out my back. But as soon as a contraction came, I began to crumble. I remember laying down sideways on the bed and telling him through my sobs “I can’t do it – I can’t sit up, it hurts too much”. Of course they told me I couldn’t have the epidural until I sat up so I waited for the contraction to pass, sat up and begged him to move quickly. I think the worst part was how abruptly the pain came on. I didn’t have a chance to prepare or build up to it at all. It hit me like a wall, smack in the face. I had to bear probably 5 horrible contractions while the epidural was being prepared and set up – what was probably 20 minutes felt like a lifetime, but I’ve never been so thankful for the relief that followed. I don’t regret that epidural for a second.

Once the pain had subsided, and I was able to calm down and think, everything started to sort of sink in. Dustin and I talked about how thankful we were for modern medicine but how weird it was to just be sitting around waiting on a baby.

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After about two hours had passed, I started feeling a little bit of pressure. I said to Dustin “I wonder when they’ll come back in to check me. It’s been awhile right? I feel like I’m starting to feel some pressure to push..” – Although at this point I thought maybe I’m just getting close, since I can’t possibly be ready to push already.

Not long after that, the nurse came back in. She checked me and to everyone’s surprised announced, “Wow. You are done – we’re ready to push!”

“You mean I’m 10 cm???” This was happening.. we were about to have a baby. She confirmed and told the other nurse to go get the Dr. In only two hours I had progressed 5 cm and was feeling the pressure to push! Dr. Washington came in, cheery as can be, checked me again and was just as shocked as we were to discover that I had progressed so quickly. As one of the nurses (there was two who stayed with us throughout the pushing process) watched the monitor I began pushing during contractions. They told me I was a “great pusher” but strangely my contractions had started to slow waaaaaay down and so opportunities to push were spaced out too much for me to gain much progress in getting her down the birth canal.

After probably 30 minutes of very few contractions, the nurse started me on a low Pitocin drip to speed up contractions to help me push. This worked pretty well and within minutes I was pushing again. At times there was no still no contractions showing up on the monitor, but I still felt the urge to push so I was just told to push when I felt pressure. This part of labor was the strangest to me, since it’s just not at ALL how I pictured – yelling, crying, in pain, lots of noise and people, etc. Instead, it was just Dustin and I and the two nurses and in between pushes we were calmly talking and sharing baby stories. Ha! Not like what you see in the movies, and in some ways I feel like I “cheated” because labor seemed too easy once I got an epidural. But truthfully I’m just thankful that we got to really enjoy the labor process and that everyone was healthy and it went so smoothly! After an hour of pushing Elliotte Claire was born!

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They immediately placed her on my chest and I couldn’t help but cry tears of joy. All around me the nurses and Dr. were scurrying around the bed and checking me and checking her, but to me time just seemed to slow down. She was all I could see. I could not believe that she was here, and she was ours! What a gift, Lord!

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Dustin cut the cord and we just sat there in awe for a few minutes soaking up our baby girl. She weighed 8 lbs., 8 oz. and was 20 inches long. She came out looking a lot like her daddy, but now she seems to have turned into a pretty even mix between Dustin and I. Even now I can’t help but just stare at her – awake, asleep or crying, somehow she never ceases to be unbelievably cute. I wonder if I’ll still be saying that when she’s a toddler throwing a tantrum at my feet.. ;)

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While I have an INSANE amount of respect for women that can give birth drug-free, I know now that had I personally gone without that epidural, my birth experience would have been a much more traumatic memory, instead of simply a happy one. Of course, having Elliotte in my arms would have made it all worth it no matter what, but I think I could easily have suffered from post traumatic stress or a different hormonal recovery had I endured hours of the pain I experienced for just a few minutes. That sounds so dramatic reading it back, but I wanted to write honestly! It’s funny how much more open minded you become once you’ve experienced something like labor or even parenting. So many things I thought I knew are slowly changing. I clearly see the Lord doing a daily work in me through this little life. Regardless of the type of labor though, everyone’s experiences are beautifully different and I’m thankful for the one the Lord gave us.

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So that’s her story! Took me long enough, I know. Thank you to all of you faithful readers who have been following along during my entire pregnancy! All of your prayers, kind words and advice have been so tremendously appreciated, and I’m humbled to know you have all taken such an interest in our family. So thank you! If I can find the time, I’d like to continue to update the blog, but honestly it will just depend on what life looks like as we learn how to do this whole parenting thing :). Time will tell!

And just for fun.. a few pictures from Elliotte’s first 4 weeks of life! It’s amazing the changes you can see in such a short time. They TRULY do grow so fast!

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Just keepin it real..

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(Just in case you thought Elliotte was the only one who got her picture taken while sleeping)

That’s it! I’m seriously impressed if you made it this far. Thanks for reading!

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Introducing Elliotte Claire!

Hi friends! Well – as you may have guessed from my lack of updates… I had a baby! Elliotte Claire Raley has arrived!

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(there’s a weird filter on Dustin’s phone – she wasn’t really this pale!)

Elliotte was born on May 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm, making her one week old today! She was 8 lbs., 8 oz. 20 inches long and pretty as can be. We are thankful to say we had a great delivery experience with a completely healthy mamma and baby. Thank you everyone for your prayers and kind words! We are thrilled to be parents and could not love our little bundle of joy any more!

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I am currently working on writing her birth story and hope to share that as I have time. Thanks for being patient while we adjust to this whole new life with a baby!

“Our mouths were filled with laughter then, and our tongues with shouts of joy. Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’. The Lord had done great things for us; we were joyful.” – So very, very joyful! (Psalm 126:2-3)

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My Pregnancy: 39 week update

I can’t lie. These updates only get harder and harder to write! I take back what I said before – I have definitely hit “the wall”. I’m…so…over…pregnancy. I’m convinced this baby is coming late, despite all my efforts to encourage her along! It seems every day just revolves around waiting for her to arrive, and therefore every day seems like an eternity. I’m still doing my best to distract myself though – hoping anything will keep my mind off the waiting!

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(Can you tell I’m over the fruit comparisons? – If you’re interested I think she’s a watermelon!)

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My camera is packed in my hospital bag, so it’s iPhone pictures for us this week!

Nothing much has changed except for labor signs so I’ll just focus on that. Braxton Hicks have definitely picked up and they’ve gotten so much more INTENSE! I find that if I’m sitting down and one comes, I have to stay seated until it passes because it’s rather painful to try to stand up during one. They tend to come back to back really quickly, but then after 2 or 3, they usually go away again. So while they’re close together, they never stay very long. Pressure seems to be on and off. I feel lots of pressure if I’m up walking around for awhile, or if we’re on a long beach walk (which we’re trying to do every day this week!). But if I sit down, she seems to slide right back up into my ribs – ugh. So again, inconsistent! The newest (and worst!) symptom so far is this really strange sharp pain that hits right between my leg and my torso on my left side (sort of right on the bikini line) but it’s an inner muscular pain, what feels like the bottom of my uterus probably. I’ve gotten it while walking but I notice it usually happens when I’m lying down (on either side). Only on my left side though, which is weird. It’s SOOO painful! It literally stops me in my tracks and makes me cry out in pain. It will last for a couple minutes and then usually fades away. Changing positions (like getting up and walking around) seems to help. But it’s so strange?!! Has anyone else experienced this? I plan to ask my Dr. about it in the morning, but I am not enjoying that symptom. In my mind if I’m going to endure that much pain before labor even starts, it better be helping me dilate and doing something purposeful!

Another new thing? Stretch marks. *Sigh*. It seems like cruel and unusual punishment to make it to 39 weeks and all of a sudden get all these stretch marks! It’s not so bad really. I just got some new ones on both sides of my hips, none on the belly though which I’m thankful for!! (Although I don’t wanna jinx it). Oh well. Ultimately I’d rather have stretch marks and a big healthy baby than no stretch marks and no baby! :)

It’s so crazy now when people ask me what my due date is, to just able to say, “It’s Monday”. Haha! The looks I get are funny. Yes! May 12th – less than a week away! Although I still don’t see any signs that tell me she’ll come before then. I’ve had many people tell me to watch out for the full moon on the 14th! Even the nurse on our hospital tour told us she sees over and over again that the labor and delivery floor doubles in patients on nights with a full moon! There’s not a whole lot of science behind it, but so many nurses swear by it, so we’ll see! I will gladly welcome all the help I can get :)

I have my last scheduled Dr.’s appointment tomorrow morning and I assume at this point I will have to be talked to about what happens if I do go so far past my due date. I am really, really hoping that induction is not part of baby girl’s birth, but if it’s the Lord’s will, I can come to terms with it. Ultimately it’s not something I can control (as much as I’d love to!) and at the end of the day, I do think it’s a safer option (in MY opinion) than going 2 weeks over my due date, should that be the case. Hopefully little girl will decide she’s ready soon. Until then, we will be praying for a healthy baby and a safe delivery, whatever that looks like!

Thanks for reading friends. I may or may not have an update for next week, so thanks again for following along in this journey with us! Prayers for a healthy baby are always appreciated! :)

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