Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Candace's Birth Story!

Well I have a fresh ice pack, just popped a Norco, baby is fed and napping, and I am in bed with my water bottle and laptop. Time to get this birth story written down.

A brief background - Claire was born via c-section in March 2013 due to failure to progress. I was in labor with her for 21 hours (epidural after 10hrs) and never dilated beyond 4 cm. Her heart rate was concerning throughout my labor and when she was born her head was turned sideways with the cord wrapped tightly around her neck twice. But she was healthy and beautiful and I had no regrets! That said, I felt like my body never got a chance to truly labor and I didn't find out what my body was capable of doing. I was stuck in triage for half my labor lying flat on my back having back labor with no coping techniques for the pain, and that's just impossible to endure! I was totally at the mercy of the medical staff, I knew nothing except that I was in pain and didn't understand any of my options. I knew if we had another baby that I wanted to find out what I could really do, so I began to plan for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Fast forward through six clomid cycles, a miscarriage, a letrozole/IUI cycle, a straight up miracle, a shocking positive pregnancy test after moving across the country, and nine months later…

(Funny story - the digital test that I took to find out I was pregnant kept a clear result on it my whole pregnancy, then when it finally went blank, I was in labor within the hour!)

My due date was August 2 for my second daughter and I was attempting a VBAC.  I hired two doulas, took lamaze class, practiced mindfulness, and found a doctor I trusted.  My family history suggested I would have very long labor, but I hoped that wouldn’t be the case. I had prodromal/early labor on and off since July 23, but fully went into labor on Sunday evening, August 9.  The contractions were regular and intense, and quickly increasing in intensity.  By 2am, I called my friends and brought Claire over to their house.  I called my doulas and one of them met us back at the house where I labored for a few more hours before going to the hospital.  The contractions were right on top of each other in the lobby of the ER, I had been in labor for 10 hours at that point.  By the time we got to triage I was checked and told I was only at 2cm, no change from my prenatal appointment a week prior.  I was so upset, this was just deja vu to my inability to progress in my labor with Claire.  I wanted to leave, but they made me stay until they could get a steady strip of the baby’s heart rate without any concerning decelerations.  It took five hours, but they finally cleared me to leave.  Before I left I made the doctor swear to me that he was confident in the baby’s health if I continued to labor at home.  He said he was completely comfortable, so we went back home to endure another day and night of contractions.

Tuesday morning I went in and the doctor stripped my membranes (I was 3cm).  He recommended breaking my water sometime in the next day or so since baby was already engaged, but I wasn’t comfortable about being “on the clock” when I knew we had a long way to go.  I take after my grandma and she warned me that all her labors were 3-5 days long, so I knew I had to endure.  Contractions were still about every five minutes, but I went home again and continued to labor.  I ate and rested between contractions to keep up my stamina.  I said a lot of prayers and felt a great deal of heavenly intervention, but it was definitely taking everything I had to get from moment to moment. I was grateful to feel angels attending me throughout my labor, it was a beautiful experience.

I kept this visual of Christ in my mind often throughout my labor

That night I texted my doctor and told him I couldn’t continue to labor like this and was ready for him to break my water.  He notified L&D and told me to try to get through the night and come in at 5am.  After a very painful, difficult night, I met my doulas and doctor at the hospital in the morning.  They said I was 3.5cm, even after 56 hours of labor.  I refused to even internalize that information, I had to stay hopeful and focused.  They weren’t able to get to my water with the hook so the doctor placed an internal monitor on the baby and ran the monitor through my water when he placed it.  So it had a very slow leak over the next several hours, rather than a gush at any point.  We didn’t do any pitocin or additional induction, just wanted to see what breaking the water would do.  

I labored in the hospital for a while and began to feel in awe of what my body was enduring for so long.  I could hardly believe how many hours it had been.  The only way I was getting through it was to choose to embrace the pain and allow it to happen in my body without tensing against it.  I tried to just let the contraction happen and relax my body around it.  It took absolutely all the mental focus I had to allow myself to relax around the unbelievable pain coursing through my body, but it made all the difference.  I found I didn’t care about switching up positions or moving through the contractions, it was all a mental challenge for me and I needed to rest my body in between to survive.  There were 4-5 contractions when I remember opening my eyes afterwards and being genuinely surprised that I was still alive after that kind of pain.  

I finally began to feel my focus crack.  When they told me I was at 6cm, I should have been happy, but I couldn’t help but focus on how much further I still had to go.  And I was truly exhausted.  It was much harder to labor at the hospital than at home because I didn’t feel like I could mentally replenish in between contractions, so I was wearing down quickly.  I explained to my birth team that I still had a long way to go and I was going to need a break if I was going to endure it.  After 64 hours of labor, it was time for an epidural.

The epidural was placed by 1pm and I couldn’t help laughing at the anesthesiologist for warning me about the “pain” I would feel with the large needle.  That was a welcome distraction compared to the pain I was feeling.  I got to peek at the needle too, it was pretty cool.  I couldn’t rest afterwards like I thought I might be able to, there was no turning my mind off after all I’d just been through.  I was able to sneak a couple bites of applesauce which was really helpful, and my doulas were amazing about turning me every once in a while and rubbing my legs constantly to keep up circulation.  After a couple hours I was at 7cm so we decided to start pitocin very conservatively.  We started at 1 and would only increase by 1 every hour.  (Typically pit is started at least at 2 and increased by 2 every half hour, but with a VBAC they want to be careful not to over-contract the uterus and risk rupture).

The nurses were rushing in to our room every few minutes when the baby would have late decelerations during a few of my contractions.  I was on and off oxygen, and every time there was a particularly concerned “late”, the doctor would either cut back on the pitocin or turn it off completely, then slowly start it up at 1 again.  We figured out the baby did best with me on my right side, so I spent most of my time in that position.  The lates became so frequent that the nurse came in and explained to us that we were most likely going to end up with a c-section and we should mentally prepare for that.  My birth team crowded around expecting to need to reassure me, but I was actually completely fine.  I thought I’d be devastated, but my only birth goals were to give my body a chance to fully labor and see what it was capable of doing, and to have a healthy baby.  I really felt like we’d already accomplished the first goal and I’d definitely given my all to give my body the best chance to labor to completion, and now I just wanted that healthy baby however necessary.  It was a wonderful sense of peace.  But when the doctor came in he said we could keep going because the baby recovered really well every time so it wasn’t concerning enough to call it yet.  He said I had to understand that if the heart rate didn’t go back up right away, he would pull me immediately for an emergency c-section, but for now I could continue to labor if I wanted.   I made him look me in the eyes and assure me that he felt confident with the baby’s health if I continued.  He said he was absolutely fine with it and my mommy instincts agreed, so I continued.   

The doctor stayed with us through the night, and after I’d been at 9 cm for a couple hours and the lates started increasing in frequency, he decided it was time to make things happen so that we didn’t come so far just to go to c-section.  The pitocin was up to about a 6 at that point.  He raised the pitocin, turned off my epidural, and had me start pushing while he used his hands to guide my cervix around the last bit of the baby’s head and push me to 10 cm.  It took about twenty tedious minutes, but he was finally successful and I was complete!  I was the only one on the floor that was in labor at that point, so my room filled with nurses as I pushed for the next hour.  I was doing great with pushing until about halfway through when I completely doubted myself.  Having my epidural wear off, feeling all my contractions come back, and using all my strength to push a baby out of me after already being worn down from 80 hours of labor, was absolutely the most I’ve ever been through in every sense of the word.  I truly thought there was no way I could do it.  I said to the nurses about half way through that I wasn’t going to be able to push with those insane contractions, it was just too much pain.  I was throwing up and shaking uncontrollably. They didn’t say anything, and I realized it was because there was nothing they could say.  I realized I had to do it, so I did it!  After my brief lapse of confidence, I found determination and empowerment and I gave it my all.  They counted to ten, but I pushed for twelve.  They asked for three sets of pushes, I would say, “one more!” and do another set.  I was determined to see it through and get my daughter into my arms and so I pushed longer than they told me to and harder than I thought I could.  It was so surreal and I felt like superwoman doing the impossible!

As I pushed for the final time, I felt her come out of me and saw her enter the world.  I couldn’t breathe and felt my whole soul fill with euphoria - it was amazing!  I pulled her to me and couldn’t believe she was here!  I don’t know how else to describe it, I just couldn’t catch my breath, it was amazing.  The nurses took her away within a few seconds because she wasn’t as responsive as they would have liked, but I knew she was fine.  She was taken to the warming table while they sucked out her lungs, put her on oxygen, and got her to cry.  The cord had been wrapped around her neck twice, just like Claire’s had been apparently.  But I wasn’t worried, I just knew she was here to stay.  She was back in my arms soon and I was in another world of happiness with her. I had done it!!!  Eleven days late, eighty hours of labor, but at long last she was here!  She was all mine and it was so worth it.  
"I did it!  She's here."

I had been back and forth on a name for this little girl, but as soon as I saw her face I knew she was my little Candace.  I’m not sure how to explain it, it was like she introduced herself to me.  She was definitely Candace!  Her middle name was chosen the next day, after my great-great-great-grandmother Ellis Reynolds Shipp, one of the first female obstetricians in her state and one of my personal heroines.

Candace Ellis Robinson
August 13, 2015, 2:42am
7lbs 5 oz, 21.5” long

A brief word on postpartum - I was a bit traumatized to discover that the pain doesn’t just end as soon as the baby comes.  The contractions continued (hadn’t I been through enough?!) and the constant shaking was disconcerting.  About four hours after the birth they tried to move me to a recovery room, but I took two steps and the next thing I knew someone was shouting my name from far away I caught a huge whiff of ammonia.  Apparently I’d passed out for about a minute from blood loss.  I ended up passing a clot that was larger than both my fists put together, it was so huge!  Apparently it was just from my uterus being too tired to contract enough to stop the bleeding, so it pooled into a clot, not a huge deal.  I recovered quickly.  I barely had a first degree tear, so besides a ridiculous amount of swelling and exhaustion, I was good to go.  Candace was in perfect health and we were discharged 36 hours after the birth with zero issues.  My milk came in half the time than it did after my c-section and Candace hardly lost any weight, as opposed to Claire who lost so much we almost couldn’t take her home.  It was amazing to me that the factors of their births were almost exactly the same (cords around their necks, slow progression, etc.), but with more education on birth, determination to succeed, coping skills for pain, a stronger birth team, and, most importantly, an amazing, patient, dedicated, determined doctor, I had two completely different birth experiences.  And now I have two beautiful, perfect daughters!  Candace’s birth was the most spiritual, traumatizing, empowering experience of my life. I'm so grateful for the incredible experience.
Our amazing doctor

My girls

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Another Miracle!

As many of you know, it took us four years to get Claire to our family, and I miscarried a sweet baby in the process.  So I started fertility treatments again when Claire was still brand new, not knowing how long it would take this time.  I was devastated to send a second unborn baby to heaven at Christmastime in 2013, and then we had to continue more treatments. After a straight year of various doctors and specialists, and what felt like endless failed treatment cycles and tests, I learned we would be moving to Arkansas where I would be pretty far away from any fertility clinics.  I did one last desperate attempt with a letrozole/IUI round in the midst of the moving process (I don't recommend house hunting on fertility drugs, and having a friend give me a shot in the stomach in a public bathroom was a unique experience).  I was devastated when it failed, but we packed up and moved to Arkansas. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I gave up hope at that point. It was a tough move for me, I was pretty broken after such a long year.

So you can imagine my shock when two days after moving into our new house, I got a positive pregnancy test!! Positive!!! I was STUNNED!!! I still can hardly believe I'm PREGNANT!!!  I just started my second trimester!  I'm still shocked, but so thrilled to announce the pending arrival of a new little miracle, due August 2 :D

So far the baby has been very healthy, though I feel like I've been hit by a truck ;) It's been amazing to see our sweet little baby grow and wiggle since we get to peek at him/her every three weeks (one of the only benefits to being on the high risk list I guess!).

FYI - For this baby we are making monthly videos instead of writing weekly letters, so no letters this time, sorry!  I started the videos before I was pregnant and talked to the baby about the treatments we were going through to get him/her here.  I will try to post occasional updates, but I don't plan to post the videos.

If you struggle with infertility, you are not alone and you can reach out to me anytime.

Miracles happen, and we're so excited about ours!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013


I've been really wanting to write a blog entry about how being a full time mom is so much more demanding than being a full time employee.  But in the last eight months I haven't had the time to do it.  So...I guess that fact alone about sums it up.  :)

Quick addition - pretty sure my baby is the greatest little person who ever existed!  I can't get enough of her!  I could hold her and kiss her all day long and it would just never be enough.  I can't stop telling her how much I love her even though she probably doesn't understand yet.  So even though it's the hardest thing I've ever done (I had no idea just how hard being a mom would be), my daughter is the most amazing blessing of my life.  I seriously cannot get over how wonderful she is!  I love my sweet little family :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Photos of Claire - First Month

Here are some photos from Claire's first month!  She's growing fast.  LOVE her!!!  Motherhood is AMAZING, to say the least!  I couldn't be happier.  She's such a beautiful miracle :)

And one of my favorites...

Aaron doesn't want her to look at screens so I positioned her facing away from the screen while I was watching my Netflix show, but when I looked down I caught her doing this!! Sneaky.. I guess she's too much like her Dad - loves screens!  :)  This photo just cracks me up!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Final letter - Birth!

     Hello Claire!!  You’re here!!!  On Sunday we had your Dad’s birthday dinner, then I wrote my last letter to you, and your Dad went to take a nap while I worked on sewing a ladybug hooded towel for you.  Once your Dad woke up, we had cake and ice cream and presents for his birthday.  I was having really bad heartburn as usual and went to take some Tums – and there were only two left.  I told your Dad, “Well, we have to have the baby now because I’m all out of Tums!” and two hours later, I went into labor!  Your Dad noticed I was in labor before I would admit it.  I told him I was just cringing from the pain of you moving around, but he said I was “cringing on a schedule” and kept a close eye on me.  I ate a big bowl of popcorn and then tried to go to bed, but there was no ignoring those contractions.  

      I went into labor at 9pm and by 2am I finally let your Dad take me to the hospital.  Since it was the middle of the night, all the lights in town were blinking yellow, so we didn’t have to worry about any red lights, which was nice.  We went into the Emergency Room entrance and told them we needed to go to the Birth Center.  Someone brought me a wheelchair and I signed a couple of papers.  The girl who wheeled me to the Birth Center was a very nice, young girl and she asked us lots of questions about what your nursery looked like and how excited we were.  She seemed nervous and told me to tell her if I felt you coming out because she could always start running if she had to, haha, little did she know… we still had 21 hours of labor ahead of us!  Yikes!  The doctors and nurses kept a very close eye on your heart rate all throughout those hours of labor because there was no variation and they said that meant you needed to come out very soon.  Around 5pm that night the doctor said your heart rate was dropping and they weren’t sure what was wrong but they thought you might have a knot in your umbilical cord.  They said they could let me keep laboring if I still wanted to try to have you naturally, but they strongly recommended against it because I wasn’t progressing and you seemed to be in distress.  I looked at your Dad and we communicated without even speaking – we both wanted to get you here safely and we didn’t care about anything else.  I told them to go ahead and do the c-section they were recommending.  The doctor looked very relieved when I gave her the green light and she hurried out of the room to get things going.  

      I was suddenly so afraid that maybe my worst fears about your safety were coming true and maybe you wouldn’t be alright.  I knew I only had a couple of minutes before everything got started, so I quickly asked your Dad for a Priesthood blessing.  He immediately moved to my side with no hesitation and gave me the exact blessing that I needed.  He blessed me to be calm and for you to be healthy.  I found out later that some of my close friends were praying for the same thing at the same time.  Moments later, the room was filled with people and everyone was hurrying to get ready for your arrival.  Your Dad put on a white full body suit, a blue hair cover and a mask.  They also gave me a hair cover and wheeled me down to the operating room.  They put up a blue sheet and pinched my stomach all over to make sure I couldn’t feel anything.  A few minutes later they got started.  Your Dad was sitting on a chair to my right and held my hand through the whole thing.  I felt surprisingly peaceful and calm through the whole thing and was so glad to be able to hold your Dad’s hand.  The anesthesiologist was so friendly and talked us through the whole procedure.  I was listening closely to the commentary from the doctors as they performed the surgery.  The doctors made a lot of “whoa!” comments as they first saw you because you were twisted sideways and face up and you had the umbilical cord wrapped around your neck.  They said you never would have come out on your own and one doctor said you probably wouldn’t have made it if we had continued to labor for so long with the cord around your neck.  What a relief to know we made the right decision!  
     As soon as I started to hear that they could see you, I began to feel very anxious to see you, I had to know you were really okay!  I remember fixating my eyes on the edge of that blue curtain, anxious to see you come around it.  Your Dad saw my face change and started to try to tell me to relax, but a few seconds later, they brought you around the blue curtain and we could see you!  Your Dad was up in a flash to be close to you and help cut the cord and take pictures.  As soon as I saw you I melted into tears and could not stop crying.  I was so relieved that you were really here and you were okay!  I just cried and cried and stared at you.  You were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  All I can remember thinking at the time was, “I know you.”  It was amazing to me that you were so familiar to me.  You weren’t some random baby that I was seeing, you were mine and I knew you.  We’d spent a lot of time together the last few months and that bond was still there even though you were outside of me now.  I was not expecting that feeling, but it was incredible.  Your Dad brought you over to me after a few minutes and I got to touch your face and kiss you for the first time.  It was such a powerful experience and I will never forget that moment.  I knew in that moment that all our prayers had finally been answered and that all the heartache and pain of the last few years was worth it because our miracle was finally here.  We love you so much and we are beyond thrilled that you’re here!  

Love, Mama

Sunday, March 17, 2013

For Block 5 :)

Claire's got her outfit all ready to go to join Daddy at work ;)

Friday, March 15, 2013

She's here!!!

Claire Irene Robinson 
arrived March 4, 2013 at 6:03pm at 6lb 12oz 20in.  

 She's amazing!!  And she's HERE!!  :)  
I can't get over what a miracle she is and how blessed we are.

Baby Claire arrived via c-section after 21 hours of labor, so it was quite the task to get her here!  My "birth plan" was for the baby to arrive safely and be healthy, so I'm 100% happy with how things turned out!  The baby's heart rate had been a concern the entire time I was in labor, but when it suddenly dropped and became a more serious concern, I thought all my worst fears might be coming true.  So I didn't hesitate when the doctor strongly recommended a c-section, and we had her out within the hour.  It was a good thing too because she was face up and twisted sideways in such a way that they said she never would have come out on her own.  And the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck so continuing to labor would have been dangerous.  Regardless, I was just so thrilled to get her here.  Seeing her for the first time was such an emotional experience for me and I'll never forget that moment.  I couldn't believe she was really here!

Although it sounds fairly awful to go through hours of labor only to have a c-section in the end, I actually had a very positive and wonderful experience and wouldn't change it.  It was insanely painful and I can't put into words how painful contractions are (still in shock over how unbelievably painful that was!!) and c-section recovery is so much harder than I ever anticipated, but the actual experience of laboring with my wonderful husband there to support me, and then having the c-section with my excellent doctors and nurses making it so positive, and then finally seeing Claire for the first time was all just so incredible and the best experience I'll ever have.  I felt so strongly that my Heavenly Father was in every detail of my experience and I'm so happy with how everything turned out.  She's a beautiful baby and Aaron is an amazing dad already - I'm so blessed!  Thanks for sharing in our journey!  I can hardly believe we finally made it and my beautiful daughter is here!!