Its now been 3 whole weeks since Reign entered this world and its honestly so crazy to remember a time when she wasn’t part of our family. Given our public following and the fact that so many people seemed so interested and had so many questions about my pregnancy and then about my birth – I wanted to put together something to explain how our perfect daughter entered this world. Then, I didn’t want to. I felt that in telling our story – people might compare or try and draw similarities (good or bad) from their experiences and that is not at all my intention in detailing her birth story. Quite the opposite.
I finally decided to do this because if I write this all down, in detail, as its fresh in my mind – I will always have it. I can share it with Reign later on, I can always go back to those few moments before I met her, the moments I waited SO LONG for. I can relive over and over again in detail what my body went through and the effort, faith, and determination it took to get her earthside with us.
If you are reading this – please read it as a story that is totally separate of anything you have experienced or are going to experience. Just as every pregnancy is unique, every baby is unique, and every mother and family is unique – so is every birth story.
Here is ours.
SETTING THE STAGE
I want to give you just a quick recap to set the stage, and add some drama to the whole thing. I had a really “easy” and low risk pregnancy. Everything was as it should be. I stayed active, and was confident my body would know what to do when it was time. After all, I WAS CREATED FOR THIS. I talked to my doctor about wanting to deliver with as little intervention as possible. I wanted to be able to move around freely in labor and I had no intention of getting an epidural or having them use instruments unless anything was medically nessecary. I wanted my body to be able to do as much as it could on its own – uninterrupted. She was on board and suggested I work with a doula who could help me with some pain management techniques when the time came as well as helping to kickstart labor when it came time. I took her advice and we prepared for Reign’s birth as a team of 4 – my OBGYN, my doula, my husband, and myself. I had my last doctors appointment on my due date (Friday, Sept 13th). At that appointment, my doctor checked my progress and said she was pretty confident we would not see a baby that weekend. She scheduled an induction for the following Friday (the 41 week mark). I was pretty bummed with this and I remember being near tears in the shower that night over it (LOL hormones). I wanted so badly for our baby to come when she was ready and when my body was ready. I was even plotting how I was going to beg the doc for more time if Thursday night came and I was still pregnant. However, in all of that, I just kept praying. I kept praying that whatever God had planned to bring our baby into this world I was going to accept and trust that he would protect us and we would both be healthy in the end. That had been my prayer since the day of conception and it was crazy to me that 9 months later on my very due date, I was saying the same prayer. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Between that appointment and Reign’s arrival I made it my sole mission to focus all my efforts on helping my body progress as much as it could. I felt that if I got to induction day, I wanted to know I did everything I possibly could have to go into labor naturally. I went to the gym and exercised (some stair master, elliptical, walking, and squats). I took hot baths with calry sage oil, and slept with some diffused into my pillowcase. I continued to drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea and eat pineapples. I used a breast pump for nipple stimulation. I bounced on an exercise ball every chance I got. I am not sure if any of these methods helped – but they sure didn’t hurt. I was giving it my all.
EARLY LABOR (Sunday, Sept. 15th)
We had people over Saturday night. I felt really crappy all day – something was different and I had NO appetite. I didn’t want to jinx it though and I just kept thinking “its just in your head, you’ve felt this way all week”. I went to bed early and said the same prayer I said every night since the 39 week mark haha “Please God, wake me up in labor”. Sure enough my prayers were answered that night (however, I was still afraid to jinx it). At 1:00 am I woke up to really intense back pain – I checked my watch out of habit and then all of a sudden, as quick as it came, it disappeared. I decided to check my watch again, just in case – it was 2 minutes later. I fell back asleep, only to wake up to another surge of back pain about 20 minutes later. Again, I checked my watch and then checked again when it stopped. Again, 2 minutes. After this happened about 3x, almost exactly 20 minutes apart I remember thinking “THIS IS IT!” and then another voice in my head said “your back hurts silly, labor comes from your abdomen – you’re just having back pain, probably from sleeping so uncomfortably”. So, I kind of shrugged it off even though this lasted until about 5:00 am. After that one, I didn’t wake up until around 7:00 am. My husband was playing golf early that Sunday and I woke up to him getting ready. I didn’t say anything to him, again not wanting to jinx it. I figured I would let him go play golf and tell him later if it was the real thing. I mean, I hadn’t felt anything from 5-7am anyway, so it probably was nothing. I got up and went about my morning routine. I did some computer work from the exercise ball and texted my good friend Jenny (who happens to be a doctor) as well as my doula, and sister in law (who is a mom of 4) for their thoughts. They all agreed it sounded like something was happening and encouraged I move around a bit.
At around 9:00am I went out on a walk with my dog, Biggie Smalls. We walked the same 1.5 mile course we had been walking for weeks now. We did it at a pace that was almost 10 minutes slower than normal (which I didn’t realize until after I gave birth and looked back on the Fitbit data!). About half way into the walk, the back pain I felt the night before came back. This time, it was around 12-15 minute intervals, still lasting about 2:00. This is when I started tracking it on my app. Jenny had mentioned something about “back labor” and so I figured this is how it was going to be for me – I would simply feel contractions in my back instead of my abdomen (maaaannnn I had NO IDEA what I was in for with this!). By the time I was approaching my driveway at the end of the walk, I was wincing in pain – it felt like someone was starting to hammer on my tailbone and I knew all I wanted to do was take a hot shower and try to lay down.
Before getting in the shower, I noticed some discharge I knew meant baby was on its way. However, I still wasn’t sure HOW SOON that would mean, I just was pretty confident it was the real thing at this point. I laid down and tried to take a nap, thinking I was likely in for a pretty long night ahead and then weeks and months of little sleep when Reign came. It seemed like the best idea in the moment, however the back pain was getting worse and worse, and closer and closer together (now about 8:00 apart consistently) so falling asleep never happened. I finally texted my husband at this point (probably around 1-2pm) and said something like “Hey, pretty sure well see a baby here within the next day”. He responded something like “okay, should I come home now?” and I assured him he didn’t have to rush, he was fine to finish playing and head home – but when you get here, its going to get real.
LABORING AT HOME (Sunday, Sept 15th)
I spent the rest of the day walking around my house doing last minute things. Making sure the dishwasher was loaded and running, doing laundry, answering as many client check ins as I could, sweeping our house, loving on our dogs, making sure I had everything in my hospital bag, getting my paperwork together. At one point, Brenton asked me something like “Are you walking around non-stop to try and break your water or something?!”. “Not at all” was my answer – “my back just hurts way too bad to sit or lay down”. The ONLY position that felt comfortable, the position I would be in until about 2am that night was walking, swaying, or standing leaned over on a counter or bed or chair. Being upright on my feet was my best bet and sitting or lying down was almost out of the question already.
At about 5pm Brenton and I had the REAL conversation “Okay, so when are we going to go in?”. We decided I would stay home as long as I could tolerate it (we live a mile from the hospital). He finished watching the Sunday night football game, showered, packed, and got us some dinner. We fed and took care of the dogs for the night, packed the car, loaded the car seat, and were ready to go. I barely got down half the sandwich he got for me and really only did so because I honestly didn’t know when my next meal would be. At this point, my back contractions were about 3 minutes apart and were still lasting about 90 seconds. I was in a good amount of pain and was honestly worried if we waited much longer the – although short – drive to the hospital was going to be way more painful than it needed to be. So, instead of going to bed Sunday night, we left for the hospital shortly after 9pm. The drive to the hospital was one of the most surreal and exciting drives of my life. Its like the thing you have been wondering about for MONTHS now is only hours away. I said more prayers, promised it was all in God’s hands, and got excited for everything that was about to happen. I could not believe we were finally going to meet her.
ARRIVAL AT THE HOSPITAL (Sunday, Sept. 15th)
We get to the hospital, they check us in and put me in a small holding room. While we are waiting, I tell Brenton “with how close these are and how painful they are already, I wouldnt be surprised if I am already at a 6-7”. LOL.
The doctor working checks me and says “Ehh about a 3, but I can feel her head right there”. She THEN tells me “We are going to give you an hour to progress and if we don’t see much progress we will send you home and you can come back when you are closer”. At this point I CANNOT sit down and its painful to even lie down for her to check me. She leaves and I tell Brenton there is no chance I am going back home tonight. Minutes later, my OBGYN walks in the door! She said she was on call that night and saw we checked in. (I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Jessica Standeford – she was amazing from start to finish.) She sees the state of pain I am in and that I can’t sit down. I explain everything, how long this has been going, how its progressed, etc. She agrees there is no need for me to go back home and would talk to them and explain. She comes back a bit later with the news that “they agreed, but you have to walk the halls for an hour before going up to your room” – she also came in with the ultrasound machine as protocol to check baby and make sure she wasn’t breech. As soon as the wand touched the top of my pelvis – we saw my daughter’s cute little nose facing up! The doctor looks at me and says “THIS is why your back hurts so much – she’s what we call ‘Sunny Side Up’ and her skull is rubbing along your tailbone as shes coming down”. “AWESOME” I thought, “Reign isn’t going to make this easy”. My doctor then looks me in the eye and says “I know the epidural isnt in your plan and we have you in a low intervention room, but know that if you feel you need it, all you have to do is ask.” She said it so reassuring and positive in a way that didn’t make me feel like she thought I COULDN’T get through this without it. Instead it actually gave me more confidence that no matter what happens tonight – this was all going to be okay.
LABOR (Sunday, Sept. 15th)
I did as I was asked and walked the halls for an hour. The entire time my doula and I were trying to rotate Reign so that she turned facing my back (an anterior lie) to relieve the back labor. I had done this numerous times throughout late pregnancy when I could feel her back to back (a posterior lie) with me. However, NOTHING seemed to work likely due to the fact that she was already wedged in the birth canal or at least close and turning her through movement at this point was almost impossible.
This is where it got pretty bad. My team and I worked together to manage pain as best we could in the hallways. I just remember walking and stopping every few steps – leaning against the wall and focusing on my breath. At one point, I had to stop and puke in the janitors cart because the back pain was so intense. Still, I would just focus on making it through one contraction at a time. I had prepared for some pain and discomfort and just kept focusing on breath work and trusting my body. Eventually, I told them “okay I am done walking around like this, I need to get to my room”.
We finally got upstairs into a room and I was SO EXCITED to get into the jacuzzi. The low intervention room had a nice large tub with jacuzzi jets and I had been thinking about this for the past hour and how it would help. I thought for sure getting in there with the jets on my back would be of some relief and I couldn’t wait to try it. Joke was on me though, as even in the tub I couldn’t sit down without making the pain much worse. I opted for this wide squat stance leaning over the side of the tub. It helped for just a bit. Brenton put some worship music on and honestly conversations that I had while in the tub are the last real conversations I remember having with anyone in the room until after 2am. Things started to build while I was in there and eventually I needed to get out and stand, leaning over something again, as that was still my most bearable position.
From the time I got out of the tub until about 2am is a blur – I have no idea how long it actually was. I remember leaning over the side of the bed as things escalated. Brenton was rubbing my back as the contraction came for some counter pressure. But when the contraction would leave, I would still be left with excruciating back pain until the next one came again. I remember a few things during this time: I remember repeating over and over again that I just NEEDED A REST, I remember my legs shaking from standing for so long at this point, and I remember praying over and over that this wouldn’t last for much longer. I then remember nearly crying through two contractions in a row despite all of my effort to stay calm and breath through the pain. I remember looking down at the heart rate recorded on my watch and seeing numbers between 150-160 bpm – my thoughts immediately shifted from dealing with my pain to realizing what my body was actually going through and remembering my daughter was inside, trying to make her exit. I think that’s when it all came to me – this was not a workout I had to be tough in, this was not a score on a leader board I was fighting for, this wasn’t a championship game I needed to grind in – I WAS HELPING ANOTHER HUMAN INTO THE WORLD.
Instantly, my first motherly protective instinct kicked in and I knew that if I “toughed this out” for much longer – my baby would run the risk of being in distress and it would likely mean an emergency to get her out. Maybe that wouldn’t of happened – but in the moment, I wasn’t going to run that risk to prove anything. This wasn’t about me. On the third contraction that nearly brought me to tears – I finally looked at the nurse in charge and said “GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL”, without hesitation she started making moves to make that happen.
I then looked at Brenton saying “I want the epidural” affirmatively, almost looking for acceptance from him. I remember feeling guilty over it. Guilty that I somehow failed my husband and my child for asking for the drug. Guilty that I didn’t stick to my plan, or do what I said I was going to do in not using interventions. Before that guilt could last any longer, my husband – just being himself – said something along the lines of “okay, that’s your call!” with the very assuring attitude of “I trust you.” Instantly the needless guilt disappeared. I asked the nurse if she could check me one more time. I thought to myself “Okay – if I am at an 8 or higher I will just make it through without the drug, it won’t be much longer”. She checked and I was still only 6cm dilated! (Contractions with back labor come closer together and more intense so it sort of gives the illusion you are further along in labor than you actually are.) I confirmed with her that I wanted the epidural and before I knew it the anesthesiologist was in to administer it.
This is probably the point of labor I was most proud of and thankful for my husband. Without him, I am not so sure the epidural would have been possible. Remember, it is incredibly painful for me to even sit down at this point. So, needing to sit still for long enough to get large needles in a specific place in my spine was for sure not easy. They raised the table up getting my feet were off the ground so I wouldn’t instinctively try to get up. Brenton stood in front of me as I squeezed him SO HARD as each contraction came. He was scrubbed up so really all I could see of his face was his bright blue eyes which were HUGE at this point. I just remember staring into them and squeezing as I prayed through each contraction. I’m sure it was pretty quick but I promise it felt like the longest minutes of labor. However, within seconds of them completing the procedure, it was instant relief throughout my body.
The mood in the room changed 100%. I could finally hold a conversation and think about something else besides my back pain. They laid me down comfortably, dimmed the lights, sat my husband next to me and around 2:00 am, Brenton and I finally got some rest. We both fell asleep (FINALLY some rest!) and woke around 4:00 am to the nurse who came in to check progress. As she was getting setup, my mind was racing. I was so worried I may have stalled labor with the epidural and that I wouldn’t have progressed. Turns out, just the opposite happened and she told me I was now at an 8. In that moment I knew I had made the right call for my family and I knew God was laughing like “Dang, I TOLD YOU I GOT YOU!” Another hour later, shortly after 5:00 am, my OBGYN came in and checked me again. She said “You’re about a 9.5 right now. How about we break your water and have this baby?!” Brenton and I both looked at each like like – okay, HERE WE GO.
DELIVERY (Monday, Sept 16th)
After my water was broken, it was time to start pushing. It was now right around 5:30am on Monday morning. I think this was the part of it all that I was MOST unprepared for. Pushing was way harder than I thought! I knew first time moms usually push for longer (especially with an epidural). However I guess I really didn’t know all that actually entailed. About 10-15 minutes into pushing, our good friend and resident doctor Karissa Merritt (now Connolly) entered the L&D room and took the hands on lead delivering Reign as my OBGYN sat behind her and guided her. I trust Karissa SO MUCH and it was such a sense of security having her hands on my daughters head helping her enter this world. Because my contractions were long, I was able to get 4 pushes per contraction (instead of the usual 3). They set up a mirror for me (I highly recommend this!) to be able to watch Reign making her way out. It helped me focus my pushing efforts in the right area and also served as encouragement as I could see the progress she was making with each push.
I pushed for what felt like FOREVER. I would spend my time between contractions breathing, regaining strength, and zoning in on Reign’s heart rate that I could hear on the monitor. At one point, I knew I had been pushing for over an hour and that my baby had been mushed in the birth canal for that long. There were so many nurses and doctors in the L&D room talking, but all I could hear was her heart rate as I prayed it would stay strong and consistent. The last thing I wanted after all of that, was her heart rate to drop and they have to emergency her out. With my husband at my head and shoulders helping me push – FINALLY after almost 2 hours of doing so, at 7:07am on September 16th, Reign Marie joined us weighing 7lb 12oz and measuring 20.5 inches long. My husband, the Patriots fan from Nebraska, will tell you about how she was first conceived in Boston and how she was then born to Tom Brady highlights as ESPN was on in the background and that it was all perfectly meant to be. I will just tell you of a sweet little baby that brought her brand new mama to tears – even after a painful and drama filled labor and delivery failed to do so. Yep, I cried when she was laid on me.
I cried because all the things I had worried about happening leading up to and through delivery – I didn’t have to worry about anymore. I cried because every prayer I had through the entire process had been strategically answered one by one. I cried because I knew all the places this could have gone wrong and didn’t. I cried because my husband got to finally meet and feel his daughter after I carried her for 9 months. I cried because my baby’s screams were SO LOUD I knew she was so stinkin’ strong and just as relieved as I was for it all to be over. It was total relief the second I saw her, and I honestly was on such a high from it. I was so proud of myself for making decisions along the way to get her here safely. I knew more than ever that God has a strong hand on my family and we are loved and protected.
This is OUR story and one that I will cherish forever. I was encouraged by some moms to make sure I recorded it while it was fresh in my mind and man I am SO GLAD I did. If you are pregnant, or a new mom, seriously think about documenting your birth story. As I said before, each one is incredibly unique and special.
Reign’s mama, Nicole.