Since even before our little guy was born, people have been asking me: “Will you share your birth story?!” I know how much I love reading people’s birth stories, and subsequently usually would sob (once while watching a video folding laundry in our closet) at all the details. There is something incredibly powerful about pregnancy, giving birth, and the miracle of life. While hoping and praying for a baby and during our journey to pregnancy and through infertility, there were moments we didn’t know if we’d ever be able to experience it all. Those moments were tough. The announcements of pregnancies of other friends, birth stories, and more made some of those days very painful. But for me, those stories and announcements also brought hope – that one day we would be on the other side of the story – whether that would be for our own biological child or for the joy of welcoming a little to our family through the blessing of adoption. There was a part of me that was hesitant to share our birth story in fear of hurting those in waiting, so let me begin this all by saying: if that is you, we love you and are praying for your heart and mind and family. You are not alone, and there is a beautiful hope for you and future to come, regardless of what unfolds. However, after reminding myself of the beauty of all stories and how He writes them, I am so honored to share Oliver Barrett Carnes’ birth story… what a joy-filled and miraculous one it is!
If you’d asked me the thing I was most nervous about for our birth (and people did… and I told them this): yes, of course pain, what to expect in general, etc… but I’d also say: that I didn’t want to deliver while traveling to North Carolina to speak at Creative at Heart Conference. I’d be turning 36 weeks while at the conference, and had this weird gut fear of going into labor & my water breaking while keynoting on stage. What a keynote that would have been! My doctor advises against travel after 36 weeks, and against air travel even before that, so we were a bit touch & go about whether or not I’d be able to go in the first place. Early on I shared the incredible news about Baby C with the Creative team – Kat was THRILLED of course, and 100% understanding of anything we needed to do for our little guy. We determined we’d wait until we got closer, seeing how the pregnancy was progressing, and that my doctor could check me before the conference to make sure I was ok to travel (I’d be riding as a passenger in the car with my girl Megan Martin, eliminating the fear of me driving solo and laboring in the car 4 hours from home!). I prerecorded my talk in the event we’d need it, fully believing we wouldn’t. But still, there was a little inkling of “what if” in my brain.
My appointment the week before came… on pins & needles, not knowing what to expect, my wonderful doctor did the check… to discover that at 35 weeks I was already 2 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. Now, let’s be honest, at 35 weeks, that came as quite a surprise for us all. We had checked to get a good solid confirmation that I could travel without a doubt… but this definitely left me with some doubts (and nerves!). My doctor told me that as long as I did not experience a increase in frequency or severity of contraction then I should be good to go! The funny thing is is that up until this point I didn’t even know that I have been having contractions! Truth be told I just thought that that is what pregnancy felt like, a tightening in a belly or a little bit of pain here and there… because you are growing a human! Right?! Call me crazy? Still, my body was obviously preparing for labor… and I didn’t even know it.
After being advised to lay low and take it easy for the next week prior to the conference to give myself the best chance of attending AND keeping that baby cooking I spent the majority of the week in the bed and took many a nap instead of tackling all the work and nesting! I knew that if I had any hope of being able to travel that I needed to take her advice seriously and let my body rest. And more than anything, the baby’s safety was our number 1 priority! However, because my doctor felt comfortable… I felt comfortable… well: as comfortable as one can who is worried she could have a baby prematurely at any minute! 😉 However, I DID hear from multiple people who said they were dilated/effaced early and still had to be induced at 41 weeks, so who even knows! As with all of pregnancy: “everyone is different!”
At this point I, of course, was on high alert and started noticing what I now know to be contractions! They were varied without any specific pattern in timing but once I finally was just sitting, I understood what it was that people had been describing to me prior… that I never took the time to notice because I am always on the go! After much prayer and many conversations with Chip and others I made the decision to trust that I would be able to travel successfully without having a baby in North Carolina. Megan & our fabulous group of ladies in the car picked me up & we made our way up to Creative at Heart Conference for an incredible week with amazing creatives from throughout the country! I was so honored to have the opportunity to speak and didn’t want to let fear be the reason that I backed out! And by the grace of God, I didn’t feel hardly any contractions on the day I spoke… and the rest of the time, I propped my feet up on the couch in the back, while everyone was so kind & constantly checking on me (thank you all… truly so grateful for the grace & love that week!).
On the way home from Creative I can only describe my feeling as the total relief and being so proud that I had made it through the week without having a baby. 😂 My next appointment was the following day (Friday). My normal doctor didn’t have clinic that day, but with Thanksgiving right around the corner, they wanted to get me in, so I actually saw the same doctor who did our first appointment of the pregnancy when we confirmed via ultrasound that we were in fact pregnant! It still makes me giggle that he was the first and last appointment of this pregnancy: bookends, if you will!
He wasn’t initially intending to check me, but after hearing about the current situation and me interested to know if I had progressed more, we checked… Now at 2 centimeters dilated and 75% effaced, & he told me that the baby’s head was incredibly low. Immediately I wondered (probably out loud) what that meant… other than my husband’s giant test the following day, we were in the clear for “events” – but my goal was to at least make it to my 30th birthday (November 26)…
He said he did not think that I would make it to my due date (December 12)… meaning, I could go… tomorrow… or not tomorrow at all and still have weeks left. An interesting feeling for a first time mom who likes to plan all the things and still had quite a bit to accomplish before the baby arrived! Instead of diving into trying to predict something totally unpredictable, we spent our time chatting about what to do if in fact I did deliver the week of Thanksgiving (which was that upcoming week while my normal doctor would be out of town traveling with family!). I felt encouraged and a bit in disbelief that he could come at any moment…
Mind you… at this point we have not washed hardly any baby clothes, set up the nursery properly, installed the car seat, packed a hospital bag… none of it. I only just received books about labor in the mail the day before… and Chip hadn’t even ordered the book he wanted to read about parenting. All of those were to happen after our final big week of work events! 😉 What we weren’t expecting is that they would almost all happened the morning of Sunday, November 18 after waking up to contractions at about 4am!
Like I previously mentioned… contractions up until the point of actually trying to pay attention for them were something just “part of pregnancy” to me. They were a part of the day to day, and weren’t incredibly painful. However, at about 4am on November 18, 2018, just days after I returned from Creative at Heart on Thursday and Chip finished his giant yearly test on Saturday, things changed. Chip told me: “You know what I can’t wait for tomorrow? To sleep in.” Ha, joke’s on you, bud. Our little man had different plans, just preparing us for the rest of life to come. 😉
With that desire for sleeping in in mind, I tried to keep myself dozing in between contractions, thinking they were just Braxton Hicks… I mean there was no way this was the real deal, right?! In fact, we spent most of that morning debating whether or not it was actually the real deal. Around 6am, Chip woke up (which actually is totally sleeping in for him… #ResidencyLife)… and I immediately told him that I’d been having contractions. They were different than the norm. In fact, I’d never been awoken by them previously… and I had been tracking them in my Ovia Pregnancy app… and sure enough, they were coming semi often… for about a minute long each time. We still weren’t convinced. And truthfully, I was pretty nervous – we were 36 weeks and 4 days, so he’d arrive very early if he came that day (and plus, let’s be real, having a baby is nerve-wrecking in general!)! We would love him to keep baking, but if he didn’t, we needed to be prepared! As a result, I figured… better pack a bag anyway. If I didn’t need it that day, I’d need it soon enough. To Instagram Stories I went, asking for “must-haves” in the hospital bag. Thankfully many people were quick to respond because I NEEDED those suggestions… among others about creating a birth preference sheet, and more. Once again IG Stories comes in handy!
After a bit of lounging, I finally convinced Chip that it might actually be the real deal and that it was time to put together the car seat. While he worked on that, I made myself some avocado toast with an egg on top thinking: “I MIGHT NOT GET TO EAT AGAIN SOON!” So typical that I am concerned about good toasts in the middle of labor. Meanwhile, I bounced on my exercise ball, danced around the living room to Guardians of the Galaxy radio on Pandora (try it, it’s the best station IMHO!), and even worked on a client’s wedding album. Honestly, I was just trying to distract myself at that point, wondering how long this would all last. Contractions began to get more frequent & a bit more painful, and Chip offered to make me a chicken caesar salad. I had a full day’s worth of meals planned and was so excited to whip them up on a day together at home… ha, joke’s on me this time! 😉
Finally, around 3pm, I noticed that the contractions had gotten to anywhere from 3 minutes apart to 8 minutes apart. Knowing the concept of: wait until 4-1-1 (4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour), I fully believed at this point that we’d be having a baby semi-soon. Since I was at 36 weeks and 4 days, that was a bit unnerving, but also very exciting! ALL THE FEELS!
I called the OBGYN triage line… just to find out if they thought I should come in. My water hadn’t broken, but it was starting to get real… and I was definitely not feeling awesome during contractions. I asked the woman on the other line what she thought and her response (in the nicest way possible) was: “Honey, I don’t me to be offensive, but you’re way too chipper to be in labor.” Ha. I laughed. I told her generally I am a pretty chipper person, but I totally understood, and appreciated her advice to keep waiting if I wanted to have an unmedicated birth – which was my desire if possible. She also said we’d KNOW when it was time… and with that advice, we waited!
I take the caveat here that, Lord willing, I did indeed want to have an unmedicated vaginal delivery if possible. After much research, encouragement from others, and going through a birth class at the hospital, I felt as though that was the best case scenario for me and our delivery. However, my ultimate goal was Healthy Baby, Healthy Mama, fully believing in the power of medical intervention if necessary. I say that knowing that sometimes an unmedicated vaginal birth is just simply not possible. And let’s be real: I had never had a baby before or been through labor, and also don’t really know my pain threshold. Pair that with potential for unexpected complications, and I’m reminded that birth and labor and delivery (and motherhood!) are things we truly are not in control of and have to surrender to the Lord!
Whenever people asked me about my “Birth Plan” I would always laugh a bit, and even shy away from that concept. For a girl who is quite Type A, loves control, and can beat herself up in crazy ways for “failing,” a Birth Plan sounded like I was setting myself up for failure. Instead, our birth class instructor calls them “Birth Preference Sheets.” I quite liked that concept – and it made it feel like I could share my hopes and dreams for our birth with our team, without the expectation that it would all go according to “plan.” My other goal for the birth experience is that it would be a peaceful and joyful one… and I knew that could only be possible by surrendering it to whatever He had in store for our birth.
I also say this all firmly believing there is no right or wrong way to have a baby! The Lord is so good in creating our bodies to do what they need to do, and also creating modern medicine to help make it possible. I’m so grateful for both of those options and to live in a world where they exist. I also believe that everyone should do what works best for THEM and their experience. For us, an unmedicated vaginal delivery was the dream, and I’m very thankful it became a reality. Mamas are superheroes regardless of how they bring a baby into the world. No matter the manner: pregnancy, labor, delivery, and motherhood is ALL a miracle, and I believe that more and more every day. Ok, caveat over. 🙂
After finishing the phone call with the OBGYN nurse, I pulled out the stops for pain management we learned in the birth class & labored in the shower for an hour or two, breathing through contractions & being so thankful for Chip helping me through it all. They say water can be a huge helper in pain management for labor, and that extendable shower head proved to be key for those couple hours! It was also during this time I told Chip: “I’m scared… I don’t know if I can do this.” To which he swiftly responded, that I totally could do this, and was doing this… and that he was here to help in any way he could. Bless him. Birth partners are also superheroes.
At around 5pm, the nurse was right… we KNEW it was time to head into the hospital. Contractions were consistently 3-4 minutes apart, for 1 minute each… and we were ready to get this show on the road. We only live about 10 minutes away, so thankfully that ride was short… but not without a couple contractions in the car, and a couple more doubled over the hallway railing leading to the OBGYN ER. I’m sure I looked like a lunatic to those passing by.
We arrived, they asked for my ID, and in my laboring stupor, I totally forgot my wallet. Whoops… of course they were gracious and quickly had me sit down. Well, technically not sit: I could only labor hunched over, on all fours, or standing leaning on Chip… no sitting to be had for this girl. So hunched on a chair, I went!
At the exact moment of a contraction coming on the nurse from the phone call earlier that day walked by and said: “Oh, you must be the girl from earlier! You’re definitely in labor now!” Yes, yes I am. I think I am, at least?! (Still wasn’t fully convinced and wasn’t getting my hopes up until it was officially confirmed that I could check into the hospital!).
They got me back into the triage room, had me change into a gown (they offered me the bathroom, but I mean, we were about to have a baby, so I wasn’t much for modesty at this point…), checked my vitals, and sent in a sweet medical student to gather information. I think I sufficiently freaked her out. Bless. She came in asking how I was doing, what the day was like, etc. all while I am very obviously in pain working through contractions… and Chip immediately politely responded with: “Hey, umm… sorry, who is the resident on call tonight? Can we get them in here?”
Away she scurried & back they came with the resident ready to see how I was progressing. Here, I am PRAYING that I’d progressed enough to be admitted to the hospital. Because honestly, if I hadn’t progressed, there was no way I’d be able to continue laboring at that rate without an epidural. I can’t tell you how grateful I was to hear the resident say: “Well that’s one way to do it if you want to go unmedicated… you’re at 9 centimeters and 90 percent effaced. We need to get you into a room!” OH THE JOY.
I could stay there. I was far along (way farther than I anticipated!). I was having a baby!
Side note: if you don’t know (and I didn’t before this whole process)… you push at 10 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced… so I was very close when I arrived at the hospital!
There have been countless moments leading up to pregnancy, during pregnancy, in L&D, and postpartum that I’ve been blown away by how the Lord surprises and delights us; how he provides perfectly exactly what we need in moments we least expect it. This night was one of those moments. Up until this point we had only told 2 people I was in labor. 1. A sweet friend who was also very pregnant. We have been tracking together on this journey the whole time. and 2. My client whose album I was designing to explain my sense of urgency on a Sunday afternoon. 😉
At this point, we figured we better tell our families. We didn’t want them frantically driving in earlier in the day only to discover it was a false alarm. Needless to say, they were quite surprised and thrilled to hear the news!
The next person we needed to tell? Chip’s OBGYN resident friend who we’d been hoping would be on service when I delivered. See, I love my doctor, and told her at a recent appointment part of the reason I didn’t want to deliver in North Carolina at Creative at Heart (among many!) was that I would love her to deliver my baby! However, I also left that appointment with the side note that I did recognize we’d be getting into the holidays, and if I for some crazy reason delivered while she was out of town, I didn’t want her to stress about it. I’m sure she laughed at me inside, because that’s all totally out of our control, but I just wanted to alleviate that pressure. 😉
Upon arrival to the L&D room, Chip texted his resident friend saying: “Hey do you happen to be on call tonight for L&D?” She responded that her first night of nights on that particular service started at 7pm that evening. Literally, right when we were being admitted. Any earlier, and she wouldn’t have been there. She said: “Lauren needs to wait for me!” Ha, well, I’ll do my best. 😉 However, what a blessing and reminder from the Lord that He already has all of these details planned out: from labor beginning less than 24 hours after our final “events” of the year, to our friend being on call and available to deliver our baby, to an amazing birth experience, we couldn’t have been more grateful.
She arrived, checked in with us a couple times, and let us have our space. And oh thank goodness for our incredible L&D nurses. They were such a blessing to us in letting me labor in whatever way was most comfortable. And thank goodness for cordless monitors. About an hour later, my water STILL had not broken. They checked me… still 9 cm and 90% effaced… and offered to break my water. We held off, believing that it must be close… hoping and praying it would be… because whew, this process is intense. Painful, yes. Of course. But also not just physically intense: mentally, emotionally, all the things. I was in awe of my body and the strength. It was all unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and truly something I’m so grateful to have experienced. It’s powerful and difficult and terribly exhausting and amazing and mind-blowing in a way words can never describe. And all along, so faith-filled. We listened to worship music the entire time in L&D (that playlist I also created mostly that morning ha!), and I vividly remember hands raised worshipping while bouncing on the exercise ball just praying for my water to break… because I knew that when that happened, our sweet boy would arrive soon.
(I’m crying writing this. Oh my goodness.)
It was 8:40pm and finally, my water broke. Such a relief, both physically & emotionally. Let’s get this baby out, people!
They called for our resident friend who arrived in a split second. At 8:44pm, she checked me again. 10 centimeters & 100% effaced. Praise Jesus. She said: “If you’re ready to push, we can give it a try on the next contraction.”
Boy was I ready. And apparently our boy was ready too.
We started pushing, the L&D team coaching me through the process, and at 9:08pm, our precious Oliver Barrett Carnes arrived into the world with cries and pink skin and me sobbing through exclamations of “PRAISE JESUS!” and tears of joy from Chip. It was the best moment of my life.
Immediately I pulled him up to my chest, kissing that sweet face of our precious boy! Oh my goodness, y’all. Words just can’t describe the feeling.
And at that moment, Lauren Daigle’s Love Like This was playing I sang out those amazing lyrics:
What have I done to deserve love like this?
What have I done to deserve love like this?
I cannot earn what You so freely give
What have I done to deserve love like this?
Truly, such sweet, powerful love. I had listened to her album countless times during the pregnancy, resting on the truths in her lyrics, and goodness, it was such a special moment having him here and singing those words.
Following those moments, once again, our L&D team won the day, as they wrapped up a few things in the room, and then let us be.
Just the 3 of us.
Our new little family – for a solid hour or so. This brought an entirely new meaning to the term “Golden Hour” for this photographer here! 😉 It was more than I could have hoped for… those moments are ones I will cherish forever. We snuggled, we finally decided on a name (well… first name… ha! middle we decided later that evening… I told you we weren’t prepared for him to arrive so early!), we nursed, we exclaimed “can you even believe he is ours?!” again and again. He was beautiful.
5 pounds 5 ounces and 19.5 inches of pure sweetness. A healthy baby boy, with no NICU stay for our preemie guy, praise the Lord. (Granted, we did have a little scare landing us in the ER and a night in the hospital a few days later, but that’s a different story!)
And at this point, our families began to arrive, in perfect timing to meet the first grandchild on both sides! We couldn’t have been more proud to introduce our little guy to shocked family members that he had arrived so early! We were all a bit shocked! 😉 But 100% in awe! What special moments… followed by the realization that I was starving and it was about 1am on a Sunday in Augusta, GA… meaning nothing really was open. So I devoured a Cookout hamburger, fries, and milkshake… and snuggled in awe of our little bear.
I don’t think I slept more than a few minutes that night. I was spending every moment just staring at Oliver’s sweet face. It all was truly such a beautiful experience – one that I certainly do not take for granted & am so grateful for.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! – 2 Corinthians 9:15
And now, he’s crying waking up from a nap ready to eat (boy after his mama’s heart!), so I leave you with that story. And if you made it this far, then bless you for caring about our lives and this sweet boy. We are so grateful you’re a part of it all!
And a huge thank you to Annick of Revel Post for snapping a few photos of us three when she and her girl came to visit us in the hospital! She may be a hand letterer, watercolor artist, and designer, but she sure has a knack for photos! 😉