I wrote down all the details of my sweet boy’s labor and birth shortly after we got home from the hospital so that I wouldn’t forget anything. It wasn’t long after this that I found out that all of my torturous itching during the end of the pregnancy and postpartum was due to cancer. The lens that I viewed my son and his story through was completely different upon hearing this news. It brought up a lot of emotion in me reading the words written during this time, having no idea that deadly cells were taking over my body. The whole thing is still so surreal and my boy is such a miracle and priceless gift to me every day.
I have never been more anxious to birth a baby in my entire life and at the same time dreaded the whole thing more than I ever had. My last birth (Ellie, #3) had been the hardest and left me feeling very uneasy to do it again. My pregnancy with Wesley had been the hardest one. My immune system seemed to be struggling (hmm) and about 3 months before Wesley was due, I started getting extremely itchy. The itchiness slowly intensified until my feet and legs were covered in scabs from digging into my skin. The last month or so before he was born, I wasn’t sleeping well at all. The last few weeks, I wasn’t getting to sleep until 3 a.m. and that was with the help of medication. I have no doubt that the grace of God got me through that difficult time. I would be up all night cleaning and organizing, keeping myself as busy as possible. The energy to do this could have only come from my gracious Father. Staying on my feet and distracted was the only thing that seemed to help me not itch, but I had some rough “back to reality” days where my body couldn’t do anymore. (There was that one day when I had a complete meltdown at the chiropractor’s office…) I was very hopeful that as soon as Wesley arrived, my itching would magically disappear and I was so incredibly desperate for that sweet relief, but also had a lot of anxiety over the birth and not having adequate rest to be able to handle it all!
So Wesley was born at 4:32 a.m. on Wednesday morning (March 22nd), but the whole thing officially started on Monday evening. The theme for this labor story would be “Brittany is in denial”. I didn’t want to say I was 100% sure I was in labor because I had been having so many Braxton hicks contractions during this pregnancy, that it wasn’t until it changed slightly that I started questioning. These contractions were lower down and felt a tad more intense than Braxton hicks, but it was just pre-labor and easy to ignore. I went ahead and gave my mom and Brianne a head’s up and they both decided to head this way. I was still scarred just thinking about how long it was last time and was torn on when to tell them to come because I didn’t want them to be here forever waiting. It was a different labor in that I hadn’t been able to get adequate rest thanks to the itching, so I was forced to be up all night thinking about labor instead of laboring in my sleep and getting the rest I needed. It was also hard that everyone else was asleep and I was alone with my delirious, negative labor thoughts. Because I had help the next day, I was able to sleep in, which was so incredibly helpful! I am so grateful that Bri was able to be here! Trey is amazing for being willing to keep Brinlee just so she could come support me, not even knowing if she’d get to stay for the actual birth. We cried laughing that night looking at some of Lily’s new people drawings and enjoyed just talking and helping Jim with some business flyers. I got to watch some of “Planet Earth” with the girls for the first time before they went to bed, which was special and calming. I finished writing some updates on each of the girls that I really wanted to get done before Wes arrived. After falling sleep, I didn’t wake up to any worsening pain like I expected I might, but it was probably within an hour of waking up from sleeping in again (Hallelujah!!) that the mild contractions started back up. I tried my best to just “ignore them until I couldn’t anymore”. BEST LABOR ADVICE EVER from my wise doula friend Joan. That worked part of the time because I have three other distracting, tiny people in my life with so many needs, but you are also anxious for the baby to come asap. I had trouble not entertaining the lie that if I didn’t concentrate on progressing the labor, that it might stop all together and I couldn’t bear that thought. I entertained WAY TOO MANY fears and negative thoughts, but God proved his unconditional love and grace once again despite my lack of faith and fears. Finally I had some “bloody show” when I went to the bathroom… another good sign that things were progressing!! I had my 39 week appointment with one of the midwives that afternoon around 2, where I was absolutely going to have her strip my membranes and even discuss whether it would be reasonable to break my water to get things moving faster, etc. (can you tell I was getting desperate?? I never would have considered this with my other 3) She said I was dilatated 3-4 cms, which should have been very encouraging news, but I refused to get my hopes up and I don’t think she wanted to get my hopes up either way as far as how long she thought it would take. Every labor is truly so different and impossible to predict. I would imagine being in labor for days and being sent home multiple times for not progressing (Thanks Sadie, Ellie…) and at the same time, picturing it progressing so fast that Jim would have to catch the baby in our bathroom or car (Thanks Lil…). It’s so hard when you’ve had such different experiences! She went ahead and stripped my membranes. It wasn’t fun, but not the worst thing in the world… Jim made the moment extra memorable when “In the arms of the angel” happened to be playing and he started singing along with his beautiful soprano voice. So that was hysterical. She thought we should wait at least another 24 hours before considering breaking my water. (boohoo) When we got home, Mom had arrived from the hotel and had made all of my girl’s dreams come true with her presence! I was starting to feel antsy about things progressing and Bri mentioned that she had some errands that she could run if I was interested. At first I was feeling lazy like I just wanted to sit around feeling sorry for myself, but mom encouraged me to go and I finally decided that would probably be a really good distraction and fun to have some girl time. First stops- SUSHI and then Panera for a coffee and treat.
We then headed to Hobby Lobby, where we literally got to walk down every aisle of the store with no rush and no kids, which was wonderful. I had to take a potty break about halfway through and after walking down a GOOD number of aisles, my hand grazed something unexpected behind me… I had a long toilet paper tail hanging out of the back of my pants!!! BAHAHAHA. Brianne and I were crying/snorting laughing. How she didn’t notice my toilet paper tail before then is still under question. Good times. We then headed to Target and browsed the entire the clothing section and I even bought myself a few things for post baby. It was there that the contractions started getting more intense and I would actually find myself having to concentrate on breathing more through them and feeling a little self-conscious being in public, even though nobody had any idea. That little outing was just about the best thing we could have done to distract me and get things moving. We got home and the contractions continued to be more intense. At some point, Mom and Jim decided to head to bed to rest up because they had both gotten limited sleep the night before. I made sure to keep drinking tons of water and ended up on the toilet a lot, which always makes the contractions stronger. It’s kind of hard to ever get up after you get stuck there haha. After a while, Bri suggested I try to lay down and see if I could get any rest and she was going to get a nap in too. It was a relief to lay down and relax for a little bit, but the time between my contractions slowed down, even though they continued to be intense, if not more intense. It’s at this point that I wish I would have just trusted my body, which means I can’t really ever pay attention to how far apart the contractions are because I’ve always had them randomly timed even right up to the end of each labor. So as relaxed as I felt laying there, I couldn’t help but feel paranoid that things were suddenly going to slow down because I was resting. This kind of began the dark period of the labor for me. Everyone was asleep with me left awake alone, which was something that I had been experiencing throughout the end of the pregnancy, feeling lonely at night by myself. I couldn’t sleep or get involved in some project and was left alone with my negative thoughts and should have just woken someone up then, but for some reason I was obsessed with not having everyone waiting around for the baby to get here. I was at war with myself during this labor a lot. I wanted it to feel like my last two labors when I was able to go to bed and wake up in active labor and labored by myself with my relaxing music for a good few hours before I woke anyone else. This labor was different and I DID need some support right now. I kept being fearful that he wasn’t going to come tonight and I was going to have to go through another day of this like last time and I especially didn’t want to go to the birth center and be disappointed at my lack of progress and be sent home. At the same time, this whole pregnancy, I had visions of being in denial and waiting too long and having the baby at home unexpectedly… don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of home birth when it’s PLANNED. Bri woke up to me rolling around on my birth ball. I was a mess. I opened up about all of my fears, not wanting to go through the pain again, feeling like I couldn’t do it, that my lack of willingness/enthusiasm was going to stall the labor forever, guilt about not trusting God to get me through this again. I even had been entertaining the lie that because of my lack of faith, God was probably going to punish me with the worst birth ever. NOT TRUE. And he proves to me again and again how his love for me doesn’t change based on my flaws and failures. (hold that thought) So I decided to call the midwife to get her thoughts on what my next move should be. I just didn’t know when I should head to the birth center and was scared I was going to wait until I was pushing him out ha! I opened up about being at war with myself and how far along I felt like I might be and she suggested taking a bath and seeing how I felt. I was truthfully a little nervous about doing this because when I was in labor with Lil, the water sped things up VERY quickly, but of course I wasn’t that far along yet anyways, right?! After talking to Bri, we both agreed that it would probably be best for me to just get to the birth center and be able to labor in peace without worrying about whether I would make it in time or wondering how far along I really was, etc. She kept trying to convince me that I was probably very far along and should probably go. I got the water running and woke Jim up. When he was present with me, I realized how much I desperately needed him there with me. He had been doing a ton of last minute business things the whole day/night before and I was fine with it (mostly hehe), but now that he was present in the moment there with me, I realized how badly I had needed him. While I was in the bathtub, the amount of time in between contractions widened again, but it was definitely more intense. I got a little paranoid after a few mins and decided I should probably get out. I had Jim start loading up the car, which he did much slower than I would have liked. I had to brace myself for every contraction, either grabbing the countertop or holding onto Bri or Jim. I was really having to make noise and concentrate now and prepare myself for the next one. I had also been using the heated rice pack on my back all night, which has always helped with the back labor, which wasn’t too intense this time. TMI: I felt like I had REALLY BAD hemorrhoids, which made it hard for me to not resist my contractions a little bit. I didn’t feel comfortable squatting, etc. They must have just been internal because they told me I didn’t have any when I got to the hospital?? This isn’t the first time I’ve had phantom hemorrhoids haha! So I started getting a little impatient as Jim started peeling a kiwi for “breakfast”… this is a grab and go kind of situation, babe!! I am NOT having another contraction in this kitchen…. LET’S GO. I told Bri that I would let her know when they should come as soon as we got there and I found out how far along I was. Sooo this was probably around 4:00 a.m, keeping in mind I had him at 4:32. To give you an idea of how strange my contractions are, the last two I recorded on our way to the hospital were 7 and 9 minutes apart! I had Jim drop me off at the door and told him to just grab the laundry basket of stuff to bring in after parking. Of course, the male security guy (why did the girl send me with him??) took me back to the dreaded cubicle to “check-in”, get my bracelet, signature, etc… I can’t stand that. I only had to escape around the corner for one contraction before he escorted me to the elevator. He asked if I needed a wheelchair, but I actually felt fine to walk. HA. Once we got up there, I had to go around a corner to suffer through another contraction in a small wait area and he didn’t realize I had disappeared and something like four nurses came looking for me, scared I was having the baby haha. These birth center nurses are AMAZING. It was as if they knew I was going to be having this baby asap and they were all ready for it. I had called earlier in the night to let them know I was in active labor and she had assumed I was headed in and called me a few times to check on me when I didn’t show up, thinking I had the baby on the side of the road. So they were relieved to see me and took me straight to triage because I had, of course, given the midwife the impression that I feared I wasn’t far along enough. For the first time in all my labors, I took the pee cup into the bathroom and SUCCESSFULLY PEED IN IT!! I think I had one not too terrible contraction while in there. When I got back to the little triage room, the next contraction was super intense and made me cry. The sweet nurse was so comforting and wanted to check me real quick because she could tell I was in quite a bit of pain. She had been saying things like “She doesn’t know how I do it” and “You are an expert at this point”. I really wasn’t feeling that way at the moment and was doubting whether I was going to be able to do it. In fact, after one of my contractions, she asked if she could do anything for me, and I said “get me an epidural please!” and she was like “Are you serious? Because we would need to get you there fast!” And I think I knew it wasn’t going to be possible anyways, but it was sure tempting!! I joked about how I was right on time to have him between 6 and 7 a.m., which is when my last 3 have been born. She said “It might be a little sooner than that!” She went ahead and called the birth center to give them a heads up that she thought I would definitely be ready for a room asap and to start getting a tub filled up. I was feeling A LOT of pressure down there, like my water might break pretty soon, which for me has always meant pushing would start pretty quick after that! When she checked me, she said my water was bulging and I was a good 9. The next contraction, I really tried to resist not pushing my water out before we could get to the birth center room around the corner. She started getting the wheelchair ready for me and I asked if Jim was there yet. Meanwhile, Jim had entered the parking garage and sat in the car for a few mins to text my mom and Bri to see if someone would bring him an energy drink because he assumed we still had a while to go hehe. He also decided to bring everything in, not just the laundry basket… I knew this was going to happen haha. So after having everything stacked up just right to carry in, the laundry basket handle breaks on him. It’s pretty comical when you think about how close he came to missing the birth!! He literally arrived as they were wheeling me out of the triage area with 5 or so mins before Wesley would make his appearance! As they were wheeling me down the hall, another contraction hit and she asked if I wanted her to stop and I really felt like she should probably keep going… “my water just broke… we better keep moving”. As soon as we got into the entrance of the birth center room, I started handing Jim my wallet and phone and asked him to grab my swimsuit out of my bag. The nurses started to quickly help me to get out of the wheelchair and walk straight to the tub that was almost completely filled up. Right after I got out of the wheelchair, I dropped straight down to the floor on all fours for the next contraction and suddenly felt the urge to push. I said “I feel like I need to push!! Somebody better get my pants off!” Jim is pretty sure that he was the one that pulled my pants down and he didn’t even see the birth because he moved up to be closer to my face to comfort me through the pushing (which we both imagined wouldn’t be the only one…) and just like that, ONE HUGE PUSH and he was OUT! I couldn’t believe it. I remember one of the nurses saying “I got him!!” I felt like I was in a dream… could it really be over? Just like that? I think I hear a baby crying, but I can’t believe it… I was still wearing my tunic with my leggings halfway off when they helped me turn around and try to hold him sitting on the nasty wet floor (haha). So the umbilical cord was wrapped around my halfway down pants, which was pretty comical. I couldn’t believe I was holding him. I just kept saying “Thank you God. Thank you Jesus. I can’t believe it!” I was in total shock. Trying to picture it all, it still seems like a dream and the images are foggy.
The midwife walked in right after he was born and jokingly gave me a hard time. I sat there holding him for a few mins before Jim cut the chord and I was able to easily walk to the bed to deliver the placenta. No tearing! I was so overjoyed and relieved. I couldn’t believe it was over! It couldn’t have been any easier. God really is so GOOD and blesses us, ESPECIALLY when we feel we least deserve it. He truly spoke to my heart that day about his unconditional love for me that doesn’t have anything to do with my performance. Even if things had been harder, I would have praised him, because he is always good, but wow, that birth was truly a gift. Thinking through every detail and how differently the whole thing could have happened… I easily could have had him in the kitchen if I had waited ANY longer. I could tell this recovery was going to be SO MUCH BETTER than last time when I was able to easily get off the bed, walk to the bathroom alone, and pee within a few SECONDS of sitting on the toilet! It was amazing. Sitting there holding him was heavenly. He latched on right away and ate for an HOUR AND A HALF!! I felt like I didn’t even get a good look at his face until a few hours after he was born ha! He was my 2nd littlest at 6 lbs 3 ounces. It wasn’t long before Jim ordered me some breakfast and boy did I enjoy that breakfast burrito!! Mom and Bri got to come see him before Bri headed back to Louisville. I am so glad she got to meet him before having to go, even if neither of them got to be at the birth! That was my bad. Jim sent everyone a picture with me looking guilty holding Wes with the caption “Oops” haha. The girls showed up around lunch time and LOVED meeting their new little brother. My tiny Ellie suddenly appeared HUGE to me! She was very thoughtful while sitting on the bed, taking in all of the excitement and gave him kisses when it was her turn to hold him.
A little birth center lunch together.
Unfortunately, my itching didn’t magically go away like I had hoped after Wes was born. I was finally diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma about a month later. After 6 months of chemo, that chapter has come to an end and we are fully enjoying a season of good health. He was truly a bright light during a dark time in our lives. When I first found out I was pregnant with Wes, I was overwhelmed and frustrated because I wanted to have a bigger gap between my last two babies and certainly didn’t want to have a baby right at the beginning of Jim’s potential busy season. Since my diagnosis, I have been more than thankful for God’s perfect timing, as I might have never had my son had it been up to my timing. We all will have so many questions in this life when bad things happen and the timing isn’t what we wanted, but always look for the blessings. There is always something to be thankful for no matter what. I’ve enjoyed every moment with my little man, long nights up with him were a blessing as I cherished the time that I might not have had. He has his mama’s heart and always will. Thank you God for every day I get to spend with my precious, miracle baby boy.