The Birth Story of Estes Carlisle | Denton Birth Photographer
Birth Story written by Lauren, the amazing Mother of Estes
Have you ever seen a Facebook post about a Mom who went into labor so quickly that she had the baby at home or in the car or in the checkout line at Walmart (ewwww!) and you wondered, “How the heck did she not make it to the hospital?” That would have been me about 2 years ago. And then I had my middle son. At home. On accident. Because when your water breaks over your toilet and he arrives less than 10 minutes later, you have no time to get to the hospital.
So, when Cooper and I found out we were pregnant with Baby #3, I knew right away I did not want a hospital birth. I’d given birth at home accidentally already, so the idea of a home birth was so intriguing. But, being the good husband he is, Cooper had some reservations:
One, I am 38…so according to most OBGYN’s, I am definitely “Advanced Maternal Age”. While I already had two very successful pregnancies and labors, according to some, I am WAY over the hill to have a baby, especially outside of a hospital.
Two, what if something goes wrong? What if I’m in distress or the baby needs medical attention? (or HE faints at the sight of blood and needs medical attention! ha)
All really good concerns. As Cooper put it, “This isn’t just about you, Lauren, it affects our whole family.” And he was right. (as he sometimes is.) But, I knew if we got some more information about home births or even birth center births, he’d realize for a healthy, normal pregnancy, it can be just as safe as having a baby in a hospital.
I loved my OBGYN that watched over Potter’s pregnancy. She’s amazing. So, we went to see her for our 9 week appointment to confirm the pregnancy. Before we really explored the idea of home birth, I wanted to make sure the baby was healthy. I’d suffered a miscarriage at 10 weeks with my first child, so those first appointments naturally always give me some anxiety. We go to our appointment, and there is a healthy little baby on the sonogram. Cooper and I expect to see a little gummy bear on the screen, but we quickly realize this little gummy bear has full-on arms and legs and a big ol’ head. Come to find out, somehow we weren’t 9 weeks along, but almost 15 weeks! (And, yes, I know how making a baby happens…but I had no clue I was already past my first trimester! This math teacher got her math really messed up this time) But, baby was healthy, so when we got home, I brought up the idea of a home birth to Cooper again. He was still hesitant, but I realized we had to find a midwife quickly since this baby was going to arrive sooner than expected!
Our doula, Rebekah (you remember her, she’s the one who delivered Potter!) gave me some recommendations on midwives in our area. I told Cooper I wanted to at least meet with a midwife who specialized in home births to get some questions answered. I also told him he could pick any midwife on the list and if we didn’t like her, we’d keep looking.
The first person he chose was Dr. Teri Mitchell with BundleBorn Midwifery. He said he picked her because she had the most credentials of anyone he researched and because she was a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife), meaning she has more medical background than some midwives. We send her an email, and amazingly she has one available spot for an August due date. Cooper and I (and our boys!) meet with her and bring along our long, huge list of questions about home births. As we interviewed Teri, she calmly and thoroughly answered each one of our questions. After chatting for at least an hour, we wrap up, tell her we need to discuss it, and will let her know what we decide.
The four of us leave our meeting, we buckle our kids into their car seats, and even before Cooper and I hop into the front seat, he looks at me and says, “Let’s do it. Let’s have a home birth!” (*the exclamation point at the end is added by me. When I heard him say this, I was super excited and confident in our decision. I’m sure if this were Cooper writing, he’d have written it, “Let’s do it. Let’s have a home birth??” I think he was happy with our choice, but likely still a bit hesitant.)
So, we start seeing Teri after 20 weeks along. Every appointment lasts over an hour, and it feels more like having coffee with a friend than going to a doctor. While she is still very diligent about checking on me and the baby, the atmosphere during our visits was much more relaxed and comfortable than what I’m used to.
Fast forward to my (unknowingly) last prenatal appointment. It was a Thursday, and I had the very first appointment of the day (since none of us thought I’d make it to 39 weeks + 6 days I had to be added to the schedule first thing in the morning!). I had the boys with me as well, which always makes for an interesting visit…even when there is a whole play fort in the BundleBorn office.
Ashley, the student midwife, checked my vitals and went through the normal questions and I’d let them know I’d felt as if the baby had been really low lately. I’d also been having slight contractions on and off for a while now. Knowing that I generally have very fast labors, Teri and I discussed if I was pretty dilated, when I did go into labor, if it was as fast at Potter’s delivery, she was concerned people may not make it to our house on time. (When we originally met with Teri, we told her our birth plan consisted of one thing: everyone make it to our house on time.) Knowing that, she went ahead and checked to see if I was dilated at all. (Which, contrary to what OBGYN’s normally do, midwives don’t often (or ever) check if you are dilated since that isn’t usually a good indication on when you will go into labor). She checks, and I expect to be at a 2 or 3 cm. Nope. 5 cm. 50% effaced. No wonder he felt low. While she’s at it, she does strip my membranes a bit too. Not normally something I’d request, but since I was this far along already and been having contractions, I was ready to meet this baby!
We finish up the appointment, knowing that this baby would be here pretty soon. The boys and I leave, and head to the splash pad down the street. I call Cooper and let him know my status. He, of course, is questioning my choice to be at the splash pad 45 minutes away from home rather than heading straight to our house in case I go into labor soon. (I am not sure I told him, but I was having fairly regular contractions at this point). The kids play for a few hours and we pack up and head home around lunchtime. My mom has decided to meet me at our house just in case I am actually in labor she doesn’t want me to be alone!
As I pull into our driveway, I unplug my phone that is playing the coveted Moana soundtrack, and my radio defaults to 94.9. The song that’s on is The Lion and the Lamb. Funny thing about that song: when I was unknowingly in labor with Potter, we were sitting at church during worship. The Lion and the Lamb was the last song I remember singing that day, so every time I hear it, I think of Potter’s birth. I had jokingly told Cooper that if we were sitting in church one Sunday and randomly sang that same song, I would know it was God’s way of telling me I was in labor. So, as I hear that song on the radio, I unmistakably know I was going to have a baby that day.
We meet Mom at our house and I put the boys down for a nap. My contractions are fairly regular, every 6-10 minutes apart and lasting about 45 seconds. I decide to vacuum and clean the house (because when you have a home birth, you know you’ll have a handful of people in your house and I certainly didn’t want to be distracted by my dirty laundry pile on the floor while in labor!) while I wait to see if they get even more consistent. Cooper decides to come home early, and gets there about 2:00. My mom heads back to her house and tells me to keep her updated.
About 4:00, the boys are up from naps and since it’s about 100 degrees outside, we decide to walk around at Target to get this baby out! (I don’t even think I bought anything!) I text Teri and let her know my contractions are probably at a 3 or 4 pain-wise (on scale of 0-10) and about 8 minutes apart while walking around. She tells me to head home and keep her updated. We get home, and when I am moving around, contractions are still picking up. Teri tells me she will start to head my way, especially since I am Group B Strep positive and I need a dose of antibiotics first.
Cooper and I get supper ready, give the kids a bath, and get them ready for bed. It’s about 7:00 now and contractions are about 3-4 minutes apart but aren’t super uncomfortable. Conway and Potter go right to sleep with no problem. Usually at least one of them wants one more book or water or something before they actually fall asleep. But not tonight…they both go down so incredibly easily.
Funny thing, for months I’d told people that one of the things I was most worried about during labor is the boys… who would watch them, would they be okay while I was in labor. So, I had been praying for a while that if it was possible, I would love for them to just sleep through my whole labor. Then, I wouldn’t have to worry about them and could focus on the baby and myself. I love that God listens. I know that my prayers helped our boys that night, and therefore Estes and I. I could not have planned it better.
The boys are both asleep by 7:15, and right at that time, Teri arrives at our house. The rest of the birth team will be there soon, and she gives me the antibiotics and checks me again to see if I’ve progressed since our morning appointment. By now, I am at least 7 cm dilated. As soon as she’s done checking me, my contractions go from a 3-4 on the pain scale to full on 6, 7, 8! Almost immediately I have to get on all fours to make it through a contraction (which is the exact same position I was in during Potter’s labor). Soon after, Rebekah arrives and she and Cooper tend to me in the living room while Teri gets her things ready.
This is the point where stuff gets fuzzy. I only remember snippets of the rest of my labor because the contractions were so strong. I know that once my contractions really got going, I told Rebekah and Cooper that I didn’t want them touching me anymore and I moved from the living room floor on all fours to my bedroom floor. It’s probably 8:15 by now, and the rest of the birth team has arrived. I try to use the birthing ball to help me through each contraction, but it doesn’t help. Back to all fours it is. Cooper and Rebekah fan me the whole time because I am ridiculously warm. At one embarrassing point, I do remember saying (Cooper says I yelled it), “My butt feels like it’s going to explode!” (sorry, TMI…) I am not sure if these contractions were much more painful than Potter’s, or if I was in such shock during Potter’s labor that I don’t even recall how tough they were. But, man, these contractions were vicious. There was so much pressure during each one, I could not believe this baby was not here yet.
About 9:00ish, my water breaks. Not to be overly dramatic, but Cooper (who is very dramatic when it comes to birth and needles and medical stuff) describes my water breaking like someone dumped a whole bucket of water all over the sidewalk. I just know there was a lot of pain right before it broke and I also know that meant this baby would be here soon.
About that same time, my labor playlist on my phone starts to play a Dave Matthews song (I was in high school in the late 90’s, so I was a big Dave Matthews fan…don’t judge…I even snuck into a Dave Matthews concert in Chicago once. Another story for another day). Cooper starts giving me a hard time about my music choices, so I tell Teri to switch to the next song on my playlist. Guess what song comes up? Yup. The Lion and the Lamb. I know it may sound silly, but I think God knew I needed a little sign from Him that it wouldn’t be long and I could do this. Because, guys, it was painful. Never once did I think about wanting an epidural, but goodness I’ve never felt pain and pressure like that. But, I also knew that my body could do it. I could do it. I’d done it before, I’d been preparing my body for this marathon for months. I’d been praying and working out and reading birth books and I could do it because in the end I would get to hold my sweet baby boy. And, at this point, I didn’t have a choice. I had to make it through.
Also interesting to note about home births (or at least my birth team), after every contraction, they would check the baby and make notes about how he was doing and how I was doing. Just like in the hospital. They also checked my blood pressure often too, just like in the hospital.
I was amazed at how my birth team seamlessly worked together. Never once was I concerned that I wasn’t getting the attention or support I needed, and I also felt very safe with all of them. Safe because they were monitoring me and the baby very closely, but also very safe that I was in an environment where I could labor the way I needed to and wouldn’t get judged for it, or be told I wasn’t allowed to be on all fours, or be tethered to an IV pole if I didn’t want to be, or be told when I had to push. It was my birth and they let me do what I needed to do to be comfortable (well, as comfortable as you possibly can be while in labor). It was very freeing and empowering while still safe.
I don’t remember much else about my actual active labor. It was hard and tough and painful and full of vulnerability and emotion. It was also amazing. And empowering. And spiritual. And at 9:29 pm, this perfect baby was in my arms. Looking at the photos from that moment, you can see the overwhelming emotion spread all over my face. At that moment, none of the pain mattered. I’d done it. Well, we’d done it. Little Estes and I, along with my husband and supportive birth team brought him into the world just the way I’d imagined it. (well, it was a little less painful when I’d imagined it…)
After Potter’s birth two years prior, the ambulance arrived 4 minutes after he was born. The EMTs cut his cord, wrapped him in a big piece of foil (no joke), handed him over to Cooper while they put me on a gurney and into the ambulance. It was over an hour and a half until I really got to hold my healthy baby. I am grateful for those EMTs and I know they were just following protocol that night. But, I also realize now that I missed some critical early moments with my middle baby. And, as a result, breastfeeding was a bit more difficult, his blood sugars were low, and I didn’t get some of that early bonding time with him. So, with this pregnancy, I knew I wanted to reclaim some of those moments that I’d missed with Potter. I think Teri knew how important that was to both Cooper and I. And, for Cooper, Potter’s birth was very scary for him. He had to call 911, wasn’t sure if I or the baby would be okay, and he was rightfully a bit traumatized by the experience. So, I think after Estes’ birth, he also go to reclaim some of those feelings.
Estes and I immediately got skin-to-skin time, he started nursing very quickly, and we got to snuggle in our bed and marvel at our new baby boy. Teri and Nikki (the wonderful student midwife there) checked me, checked the baby, and all was good. Rebekah had prepared an herbal bath for Estes and I which was surprisingly restful and peaceful. Some of our family had arrived and they got meet Estes, see me cut the umbilical cord (Cooper was still too freaked out to do it, so I got to!), and witness him getting
weighed and measured. Cooper got some skin-to-skin time with the baby while Laura (the birth assistant) helped me into our bathroom.
A few hours later, our family had gone back home, nursing was going well, the birth team had cleaned up immaculately, and it was time for the birth team to head to their homes to do this all again with another family in the coming days.
Cooper and I got some much-needed sleep that night, Estes slept well the first night (like most babies do the day they were born…the sleepless nights come soon after!), and seeing Conway and Potter’s faces the following morning when they realized Estes was born was priceless.
I’ve done three births three very different ways. An induced hospital birth with an epidural, an unplanned home birth, and a planned home birth. All perfect in their own right. Each birth was amazing and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing about any one of them.
But this birth experience was life-changing. Not just life-changing because our third baby boy was born, but also because it taught me things. Seeing what you and your body are capable of when you think you are pushed to your limit changes you. Trusting people when they see you in your most raw state changes you. Looking at birth and pregnancy and life from a whole different perspective changes you.
As it should.
I’m not quite sure how you put into words one of the most vulnerable, joy-filled, painful, yet empowering experiences of your life. I am sure this lengthy post did not do the experience justice. And, I’m sure if you were to ask my husband, doula, or midwife how Estes’ birth went, they’d all have very different points of view. But, my perspective is my reality. And, the reality is that I am grateful to God for answered prayers and a healthy baby boy who has already opened my eyes about who I am and who God is and who he is. And I am sure he will continue to surprise me and challenge me and change me for years to come.
Estes Carlisle Hilton, born August 23, 2018 at 9:29 pm. 7 lbs, 9 oz and 20 inches
Birth Assistant: Laura Perkins | Student Midwife: Nikki Knowles
Photographer: Lawren Rose Photography
Original blog entry can be found Here!