Caroline Ann // A Birth Story

I was certain I wouldn’t make it to my April 14th induction date. When I was about 32 weeks, I just knew that this babe would come any day. I felt absolutely awful and my ultrasound told the story of why: Caroline was breech and I had high fluid that was measuring me weeks ahead. Luckily, by the 36 week ultrasound, she had flipped to the head down position, my fluid was still high, but nothing too alarming and by week 38, I started feeling good like I was back in my second trimester.  Jimmy took night duty for big sister for the week leading up to D-Day so I could catch up on some sleep (I wish I could say the two year old slept all night, but alas, she does not). So, when induction day came around, I was feeling pretty invincible. I had the same birthing team lined up that helped me deliver Evelyn two years ago: my sweet husband, my mother in law and my best friend. I had my same room, same doctor and even the same super-hero nurse who helped guide and support me through Evelyn’s four-hour natural childbirth.

For some reason, having everything the same was so important to me. If I’m being honest, it’s because I felt so connected to Evelyn and our birthing experience that I yearned to feel that same connection with this baby. My entire pregnancy, I felt almost a disconnect from this baby. I worked hard for her, fought for her, kept myself healthy and yet, I still felt a distance between myself and my unborn child. With Evelyn, I was so enamored with everything about pregnancy and her growth. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t new. Maybe it’s because I had been in so much pain this pregnancy. Whatever it was, I had it in my head that if everything was the same, then everything would be okay.

We arrived at the hospital a few minutes after 5:30 in the morning to get it all started. The plan was to start pitocin around 7:30 and for the doctor to come in after her scheduled C-section and break my water around 9, if it hadn’t already broken. My MIL took Evelyn to my other best friend’s house for care that day and met us a few hours later at the hospital. Laura had already arrived and surprised me with the same vision board that we used for Evelyn’s labor! I was so happy that so many things were lining up the same as Evelyn’s delivery! We started placing our bets for baby time. How long would it be? We all thought we would be meeting Caroline no later than 11 a.m. Jimmy called her his ‘brunch baby’ — and I was ready for brunch already! But, by 7:30, it was starting to become clear that we were not going to stick to the schedule. My doctor stopped in and announced she was breaking my water before her C-section and not putting me on pit until after she was finished and I was to walk the halls to try to get labor started on my own. She checked me — a good 2+ cm dilated and 50% effaced. So, she put a ‘pin-hole’ in my fluid sac and sent me on my way to walk the halls with my mesh panty diaper on. Laura and I roamed the three (very short) halls that is the Birthing Center at DCH. I love that woman. She is such an amazing and calming force in my life. Her insights on life, her ideas and her sweet, old soul bring such peace to me. We talked about everything from simple daily routines, laughable moments and some real life serious subjects. She looked up the moon phases as we joked about it being a full moon this week. Today’s moon was a gibbous and the moon meaning was “Release and Receive” — fitting we said! I remember there were donuts everywhere I looked — at the nurse’s station and in two separate rooms. She pulled me away from practically licking the glass at one point. It was 9:30 by now and I was a starving, leaking, 39 weeks pregnant lady. I came back to the room shortly after, ate some Popsicles, rolled around on the birthing ball and got hooked back up to monitor the baby. Still no real contractions happening and baby was doing great. The nurses had been running in and out of the room getting supplies from my closet. Our little hospital sees, on average, one birth a day. On this day, Good Friday, they had multiple mommas having their babies simultaneously — and complications with the deliveries on top of that. So, team Horn sat with our Popsicles among good company and in good health and patiently waited our turn. Now, waiting wasn’t easy, but when I knew that other mommas or babies were fighting for a healthy delivery, I was happy to take a side-seat for a few hours.

Pitocin started around 10:15 and I was ready to jump for joy!

Admittedly, my nerves started around the same time. ‘Will I be able to do this? Well, there’s no turning back now. Would I be able to have this baby without pain medication also? Could I take it? Will my baby be healthy?’ My mind started silently racing with a million questions just as my grandma came in with my great-auntie. We were all gabbing in the room, laughing and eagerly awaiting things to start progressing. Every few minutes, someone would say are you feeling anything?” and my answer was ‘not really’. This was a great distraction for me as I continued to roll around on the birthing ball and try to ignore the giant mess my broken water was making below me. Trust me, there’s nothing quite like having a conversation with your grandma across the room and feeling fluid leaking out of you with each contraction. My nurse, Belinda, came in to check on me periodically and increase my pitocin. Around noon, I told her I’d like to try to use the restroom and that I was finally starting to feel the contractions. She unhooked my monitors and accompanied me to the restroom. I sat, much like my two-year-old daughter, on the toilet and waited to pee. And waited. And Belinda ran water and looked away and really tried everything to help me, but nothing was happening. Then, we both laughed. You see, Belinda and I were in this same bathroom almost 2.5 years ago having this same conversation. I had to pee and couldn’t and then my contractions got real in that bathroom. So real, that my first labor I ended up throwing up. This time, I didn’t feel nauseous, but I was certainly feeling like I was in labor. I told her, apparently this bathroom was my labor starting place. She wanted to check me to see if I had dilated any further.

She ushered the onlookers out of the room and checked me. I was at 5 cm! It was an instant mood boost. ‘I’m already halfway there,’ I said to myself. And within a few minutes, I wasn’t able to talk through my contractions anymore. Belinda helped keep me progressing by offering different positions and birthing supports. She asked me one time, just once, if I needed any type of pain management — letting me know that this was my window to ask for it. Belinda knew I wanted to go natural again if I could and she was so supportive and encouraging of it. I could feel each contraction coming. My body knew what to expect. I would close my eyes and inventory my pain piece by piece.

Does my head feel pain? No.

My shoulders? No.

Arms, hands, fingers, chest, legs, feet, toes? No… No…. No.

I would focus on where the pain wasn’t until I could isolate the only place in my body that felt pain. Once I had it all balled together in my abdomen, I pushed the pain out of my body through deep breathing. Each breath bringing me closer to meeting this sweet girl. I wiggled my fingers and my toes and repeated “Release and Receive” over and over through each contraction. I would open my eyes to see the most loving blue eyes looking back at me, whispering sweet words of encouragement to me and I smiled. We had been here before. Neither of us were scared this time. My nerves were gone and I could tell his were too.

About 30 minutes in, Belinda checked me again — 8 cm! Now I was really motivated to push through these contractions.

My inner monologue continued:

Release this pain and receive new life.

Release your fears and receive new life.

Release all doubt and receive new life.

I told her I really felt like I should be pushing. I was leaned over the back of the bed and could really feel my body pressuring me to push. I waited through a few more contractions before moving — she checked again. Almost Complete. The doctor was called in to assess and assist. The baby cart was wheeled over and the lights turned on. The doctor checked me and said she was going to assist in getting me fully dilated during my next contraction. I’d been here before. She did this with Evelyn. I was prepared and comfortable knowing what was happening next. She was gowning up when I felt another one coming. ‘She’s missed her window,’ I thought to myself.

Mid-contraction, she instructed me to lay back and then said “Let’s start pushing” as my legs were grabbed on each side. Let me just stop the story here and say, I was NOT prepared for that statement. Like. At. All.

Belinda started giving me instructions, reminding me of the position for pushing and telling me to push. I looked at her with all confidence and listened. As soon as I started pushing, I knew what I was feeling – this baby was coming. The doctor kept calling out the progress. “Hair. I see hair. She’s crowning. KEEP PUSHING. There’s her head. It’s out. Keep pushing! Don’t stop!” Jimmy was reminding me to breath. Someone was telling me to not drop my legs and I was staring at a leaf on a curtain like it was the last thing I’d ever see in my life.

One giant push (and about a minute) later — and the doctor was putting her on me and stimulating her to cry.

Instinctively, I reached out to hold onto her. She was moving. Her eyes were opening, but she wasn’t breathing. “Breath baby, breath!” I said out loud. The doctor was saying the same thing, only there was no panic in her voice like there was mine. We all stood in silence, waiting for that first breath. I prayed for that sweet cry to happen. What seemed like an eternity later, the littlest cry escaped her lungs, followed by several large wails. I don’t have much memory of what transpired next. I’m sure Jimmy cut the cord. I know I delivered the placenta, I mean, I kinda had to. But the only thing I can tell you from that moment on was that I fell instantly in love. This sweet girl was resting on my bare chest. Breathing. Both of us covered in blood. I had never experienced a more life changing moment. One minute, I’m expecting to push through several contractions before meeting her, literally the next minute I’m praying for her breaths and the minute after that she is in my arms.

At 1:18 p.m., our 8 pound 7 ounce Caroline Ann joined us in this world.

We had skin-to-skin time for nearly two hours. She was ready to nurse almost instantly and despite everyone desperately wanting to hold and meet her (including her daddy), they all waited for us to have our moment. It’s like the universe knew I needed that bonding time with Caroline. To create the bond that I so desperately yearned for while she was inside of me.

Release and Receive.

The rest of our hospital stay was amazing, to say the least. Our hospital Birthing Center is filled with the kindest doctors, nurses and staff. They helped care for Caroline so I could rest and were so wonderful to my entire family. Here are some other photos from after delivery, including when big sister Evelyn met Caroline for the first time.

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