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February 24, 2020

Shepherd Daniel Middlebrooks | A Birth Story

One thing that you hear others say about pregnancy and motherhood is that everyone’s experience is different. I have to admit that before becoming pregnant, I was skeptical of that statement. I thought that if I read all the blogs, and watched videos and read books that I could get a pretty good understanding of the way things would go, that I would know what to expect. And while I feel like I did read plenty of blogs and watch countless hours of videos, in the end, I have to agree with all the other mothers that have gone before me – that everyone’s experience is different.

My pregnancy was pretty uneventful, except for some intense back pain one weekend, I was pretty lucky and missed a lot of the typical pregnancy symptoms. All of my doctors visits were normal and we enjoyed counting down the weeks until we would meet Shepherd. At my 38 week appointment, I had my first check and my doctor said that I was 2cm dilated, but didn’t seem to be concerned and kept reminding me that most first time moms go 40.5 weeks with their first pregnancies. I was convinced that I would have him early and was secretly hoping for a November birthday. Would he come on my brother Grayson’s birthday, November 21, or my Mom’s birthday, November 24, or on Thanksgiving, November 28? Every time I called anyone that week they would answer the phone by saying “Are you in labor?”

At night, I would do squats and bounce on my birthing ball, all in hopes of getting Shep in the right position and ready to come out. At 36 weeks you definitely start feeling the weight of the baby pulling on your back, and skin. Rolling over was A LOT harder and getting off a couch is pretty much impossible without a little help.

Walker started a bet with a few of his friends from work on when Shep would come. Our friend John thought it would be December 7, a few people guessed late November. We had a gallon of milk that expired on December 5 – so Walker decided to bet on a milk carton baby – and I just hoped he was wrong.

I decided not to get checked at my 39-week appointment and that week went by pretty fast because it was Thanksgiving. We did not go home because it was too close to the due date and spent Thanksgiving with our friends and their family. Thanksgiving came and went, and still no baby. By November 30, I accepted that I would probably go past my due date and decided to trust in the Lord’s timing rather than try and control the birth myself. While I do think squats and birthing balls can help, ultimately you can’t make a baby come out and in my experience it was just frustrating to try.

On November 30, we offered to pick up a friend from the airport. It was a rainy and wet day but we thought it would be good to get out of the house for a little while. On the way, we were rear-ended on the interstate. We did two spins across two lanes of traffic and thankfully by the grace of God and Walker’s driving skills we made it to the side of the road without any injuries. Walker and I had both never been in a car accident, and being 40 weeks pregnant, it’s definitely an experience I won’t forget.

Throughout your life you meet a lot of people and realize that almost everyone has suffered from loss. For me, it has helped me to see that ultimately we are not in control of our lives and that unexpected things happen all the time without warning or reason. For some this causes fear and anxiety – and it has for me too – but ultimately I have been comforted by knowing that the Lord is in control and that all things work together (good and bad) for the good of those who believe. I am so thankful that the Lord protected us from major injury on that day. That I was wearing my seat belt and that Shep was protected in my belly instead of in his new car seat we had just installed in the back seat. I am thankful he didn’t come early and that ultimately the Lord’s plan for his birth was far better than the one I had planned.

After the wreck we went to the hospital for monitoring, just to make sure Shep was okay. Up until this point I hadn’t felt any contractions (even Braxton Hicks) but when they started the monitoring I started to feel mild contractions. After a few hours of monitoring they said Shep was okay, so we went home and tried to relax.

They next week we went on lots of walks, and I did lots of squats. It’s pretty funny when someone asks when you are due on your due date and you get to very excitedly say, “Today!”

I went to the doctor on December 2, my original due date, and I was 4 cm dilated which was encouraging. Still no contractions but my body was preparing so Walker and I tried to be patient as we waited. Walker went back to work and one by one the dates his friends had bet one came and went. All that was left was the milk carton date or John’s date of December 7.

On December 4 we went to bed and I woke up around 1:30 with a very intense contraction. It felt different and harder than the few I felt before so I started tracking them on my phone.

Going into labor I knew I wanted to have an unmedicated delivery (if I could handle it) and knew that it would be better if I could stay at home as long as possible. I tried to go back to sleep in between each contraction, but they were happening every 6 minutes so I couldn’t really sleep. They didn’t hurt that bad, so my goal was to make it through the night without waking Walker up and we could evaluate where we were in the morning.

After 30 minutes of contractions, the app I was using alerted that I should notify my doctor and get ready to go to hospital. I was not expecting it to go that fast so I decided to wake up Walker and let him know what was going on. We still had a few things to pack in our hospital bag and needed to let the dogs out before we had to leave. I told him not to rush or panic, but just to get ready.

As he was getting our bags and loading the car, I was going to try and take a shower. I went to the bathroom before getting in the shower and a few steps out of the bathroom my water broke and it felt like I had peed all over myself. Walker had just come back inside and I said, “Babe, you need to finish getting ready, we need to go soon because my water just broke.” He responded with, “How do you know?” He walked into our room and could very clearly see how I knew and I think that is when he realized that it was really happening.

He got the rest of the bags ready as I was walking around trying to breathe through my contractions. They were 3 minutes apart at this point and getting stronger. I was nervous about having to sit in the car while having contractions, but Walker did a great job of driving and considering it was around 2:30 in the morning we got to the hospital pretty quickly. The speed bumps in the parking deck were no joke though.

While I was preparing for labor, I found a birthing technique called Hypnobirthing that is used for natural deliveries. I bought a course and ready half the PDF and listened to a few of the audio tracks and watched lots and lots of YouTube videos of other women explaining what their experience was like using Hypnobirthing. I definitely didn’t feel completely prepared but knew from the course and from other women’s testimonies that if I wanted to get through the process without medication, I would have to remain calm and focus on my breathing.

As we walked into the hospital, I was still pretty calm and still focused on my breathing – the contractions were uncomfortable but instead of thinking about that, I just thought about taking breaths in and out until the contraction was over. I was still walking and talking in between so I think our nurse was pretty surprised when she checked me and I was already at 6cm.

I requested a room with a tub because warm water had helped with pain before so she walked us to the delivery room and got us set up. I asked if they could start filling up the tub as soon as I got in the room. They told me they had to take my vitals first and that they didn’t want the water to get cold. If you’ve never seen a birthing tub, they are pretty large and I felt like it would take a while to fill and I was just so confused why they weren’t making the tub a priority.

After asking a few times about the tub (that was the next step in my birth plan) our sweet nurse finally told me that my blood pressure was a little high and that I couldn’t get in the tub while being monitored but that I was already at 8 cms and that I couldn’t get in the tub that far along anyway. While that should have been good news, I felt so disappointed because that was the next step and it felt like my plan was being thrown off. She brought me a medicine ball, so I bounced on that and held on to Walker when contractions would come. Bouncing, walking and moving are really helpful at getting your mind off of the contractions. While all I could do was bounce on the ball because of the monitors – I’m very thankful I didn’t just have to lay in the bed for whole time.

One of the things I read about was making it through transition, which for a lot of women is one of the hardest parts of labor. The contractions were pretty intense and I remember thinking, if this isn’t transition, I don’t think I can do it. I asked our nurse when she came in if she thought I was in transition and I remember feeling so relieved when she was like, yes you are definitely in transition, you are almost there. That was around the shift change for the nurses which was hard because I liked the nurse I had. The new nurse came in and introduced herself around 7:30 in the morning and checked on me. She said I was at 9cm and that they would call the doctor to come check-in.

I remember being really relieved that I was almost there. After an hour they let me know my doctor was taking her kids to school and wouldn’t be there so they introduced me to the midwife. She checked me and I was still at 9cm. My blood pressure was still high, which she thought was because of the pain and she recommended that I use nitrous gas to relieve some of the pain and help me breathe. I had stalled at 9 cms so the nurse came in and recommended that I lay on my side to shift Shep into the right position. It was definitely more uncomfortable to lay down but I wanted to get things moving again so I laid on my side with a peanut ball between my knees. After an hour, the nurse came in and told me to switch sides and that I was almost at 10cms but that the baby needed to shift a little to the other side.

When I shifted to my left side – the contractions were the most intense I had felt and I was very uncomfortable. I remember thinking, I’ve made a mistake – I can’t do this – I should have gotten an epidural and I started crying in-between contractions and lost control of my breathing. The nurse was very straight forward and just said, you’re almost there – you have to finish, just keep breathing. She was not very sympathetic which kind of made me mad in the moment – but it also made me think that if she wasn’t panicked then I shouldn’t be either. I tried to calm myself and focus on my breathing. A few contractions later – I was still a little panicky during the contractions but could calm down after they were over.

I started to feel the need to push during contractions, but not all the time – and our nurse said to call her when I felt the need to push all the time. A few contractions went by and we called her back in. Her and another nurse got the room set up to push and they coached me through what to do. The first few pushes, I didn’t really time them right and I felt like I was fighting my body. I tried to relax through the contraction and push towards the last half and I felt like that was working. After a few more pushes they said, okay, stop pushing – we have to wait for the doctor. After the first contraction of no pushing I just remember very loudly asking, “Where is she?!”

My doctor arrived before the next contraction and talked me through what to do. There was just so much pressure and it didn’t feel like I was making any progress when I would push. In the middle of the last push, I remember my doctor telling me, “Okay, relax.” like the contraction was over and I just felt like if I pushed really hard I would be done so I kept pushing and all at once his head and then his whole body were out! It was the hardest I’ve ever worked and I remember screaming a few choice words during that last push. They placed him on my chest, which was the best feeling in the whole world – relief and exhaustion and amazement that this tiny human that I somehow made was now lying on my chest.

Shepherd Daniel Middlebrooks was born on December 5, 2019 at 10:40 am (The milk carton date – thanks Walker). He was 8lbs 1oz and 19.5 inches long.

They cut his cord and took him to clean him up and weigh him while they did the post-labor things with me. My blood pressure was still really high and they thought I might have preeclampsia, which can develop during pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after delivery. They had to put me on medicine that made me very tired and achy and I couldn’t eat, drink or get out of bed for 24 hours while they monitored my blood pressure. Walker and I were both thankful that the preeclampsia presented itself while we were in the hospital because if left untreated can lead to seizures – and we were glad to have someone there if something happened.

Jacob and Caroline were our first visitors and brought Walker a chicken biscuit and my mom and brother and Walker’s mom arrived soon after.

I couldn’t get out of bed, or be left alone with Shep for those 24 hours and it was so cool to see Walker step up and take care of Shep from the very start. He learned how to swaddle him, changed every diaper and when Shep would cry, Walker had to be the one to get up and get him. He was a great dad from the very start and took care of us both.

After 24 hours, I could eat and drink but I was still on bed rest until my blood pressure was back to normal. They moved us to a different floor with the best nurses and a big room so we were happy to stay as long as we needed to. Walker laughed at me because I tried to implement the sleep routines from Little Z Sleep from the very start (I was very committed to getting on a good sleep schedule – which doesn’t really exist for a newborn, but I didn’t know that). We mostly tried to rest – but really enjoyed having visitors and watching the SEC Championship. Even though the dawgs lost we were all decked out in Georgia gear and enjoyed cheering on our team.

We got to go home after 3 days in the hospital and it was so nice to sleep in our own bed and get settled into our new routine at home. We cannot thank the Lord enough for his provision and protection the last few weeks of pregnancy and the first few days of Shep’s life. He is so good and we could not be more excited about this new chapter of life.

If you make it all the way to the end, whoa – thanks for following along. If you’re pregnant and have any questions, please let me know. I love being a resource for others and try to be completely honest with the good and the bad! I am so thankful for my community that helped me and answered all of my questions! It’s so true when they say, you can’t do it alone!

Shep’s newborn photos were taken by Becca with The Journalistic Jardine.
Nursery Photos were taken by me.

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