If you’re reading this, thanks already.
But first, let’s make sure you’re caught up on this story before you venture any further:
And if you’ve gotten this far, please know I am incredibly grateful for your support in joining me through my story of self expression.
And if you wish to listen to this current blog via audio instead of the written format below, you can do so by clicking HERE
Now, let the journey continue…
It was now about 9:30AM and I was running on adrenaline and about 3 hours of sleep: I began mentally preparing for one of the most rewarding and physically demanding days of my life.
“I’m nervous babe” I expressed to my husband. Albeit mentally prepared, I found myself anxious about what was to come.
“So” the nurse began, “there’s meconium in your water”.
Basically, my kid had shit in the womb and it was leaking onto the table. Real “crappy”, but also, potentially dangerous.
“When baby is born there will be a NICU team in the room with you, just in case baby inhales her feces” she confirmed.
It was hard to think much of it as the pain progressed and we proceeded to our labour and delivery suite.
My angel-of-a-human nurse arrived and introduced herself as she simultaneously hooked a heart rate monitor to my belly.
“I need to get in the shower” I stated as I dropped down to nothing but nude while my husband started the water. This would be our home for the next 7 hours. Me, my supportive husband, life-altering pain, and a nurse who continued to root me on and proclaim, “you’re doing so good Ashlyn”.
As someone who thrives on positive verbal reinforcement- her words of encouragement gave me strength.
Contractions continued to increase in intensity, each running into the next with no “nothingness” now in between. I would grab the shower head, press it against my tightening uterus and surrender into the pain- lowering my moans to the deepest octave imaginable- “OHMMMMMMMM” – I would groan- mouth wide open as if I was ready to bite someone’s head off- my hands clawing at the tiled shower as I tried everything in my power not to let the pain spiral me out of my own control.
My husband supported my bent posture with his hands on my lower back with each contraction, more verbal praise of my strength was on repeat in addition to the birth playlist I had put together months before.
My mind continued to collect itself with birth affirmations on repeat,
“One more contraction closer to baby”…
“Your body would never produce pain it cannot handle itself” ….
“I am in control of my body”…
As hours passed in that shower- contractions escalated with no break, my breathing patterns became less controlled, my bodies tension causing moments of blackness and dizziness, my anxiety heightening to match the pain.
I retreated from the shower as the nurse again hooked up my big belly to a monitor- each time, leaving the room and returning with another nurse for clarification. I could sense the vibe that something was up.
“So babies heart rate is not as variable as we would like, we just need to keep monitoring you more closely” she stated- again, heightening the anxiety that the pain had already produced. My dampened and semi-straightened blond curls were now a representation of how well I was holding myself together at this point.
My mind was beginning to get the best of me. Meconium in my water, non-variable heart rate, escalating pain, moments of blackness and now 7cm dilated- I decided to ask the question I initially told the nurse NOT to ask me.
“Don’t dangle the carrot of pain management” I stated hours prior- if I want it, let me ask for it.
“So, what are my options for pain management?” I questioned as my contractions continued to set the monitor off the charts.
“If you’re wanting an epidural, we need to decide RIGHT NOW- your 7cm dilated, it is a Saturday and our anesthesiologist is on call- it could be up to an hour before he gets here”
Although previously believing that the answer to this would be a difficult one- it wasn’t. I decided I didn’t need a hero cookie. I needed relief.
“Call him” I replied back almost instantaneously.
I now knew I had a timeline for relief. In 60min the drugs would come rescue me. I could do anything for 60min. And ANYTHING now included the fiercest and deepest pains of my life.
I went from 7 to 8cm dilated in that hour- my husband noticing that the collected OHHHMMMMS of my 6cm cervix was now producing OHHHHMM… FUUUUUCCCCK at 8cm. I had now been labouring for about 10 hours and was beyond ready for any amount of solitude.
The anesthesiologist entered the room- casually wearing jeans and sneaks as if I had just interrupted his Saturday stroll at the farmers market. I sat on the edge of the hospital bed, sweaty palms slipping against my trembling thighs, my husbands hands grasping mine for moral support.
“It is VERY important you remain still” I was warned as the most excruciating pain of my life ran rampant through my body like lightning strikes.
I had always heard people talk about the pain of an epidural as a stand-out piece of their birth story- for me, truthfully, I don’t even remember it. The contractions were so intense in comparison, that an epidural felt like nothing but a flu shot to the vertebrae.
This moment right here is one I’ll never forget. The hardest contraction of the day hit me as the epidural simultaneously slid into my spinal column. My brain zoning in so fucking hard, I really recognize my own greatness in that moment. I didn’t flinch. I squeezed Robbie’s fingers so strongly he had permanent ring marks and claw patterns on his hands for the next 24 hours. Unable to OHMMM or move my way through the pain made these contractions some of the most memorable.
And then it was as if someone hit pause on my labour- my unimaginable pain became manageable and my legs began to feel like concrete. After 3 hours of sleep and 10 hours of labour- my entire being melted into that hospital bed. I had been rescued.
I laid there in absolute disbelief that I had waited so long for that SOS call, in pure glory that my day had now seemed to turn around in a matter of minutes. I rested as nurses zoomed in and out of my room, continually checking on the status of my soon-to-be Earth-side kid. One nurse would enter, leave, and come back with a second nurse. Then a third. Then, a doctor.
The doctor on call that day, to my memory, could not have been much taller than 5 feet. She had a beautiful smile, tanned skin, and definitely could have passed for a 20-something-year-old. She approached my bed with a sheepish but rather collected demeanour.
“So Ashlyn, we’re still noticing babies heart rate is not quite as variable as we would like it. We are going to continue to monitor the both of you, but I want you to know that the chance of taking you for a c-section at this point is proving a little higher than typical”
“I really don’t want that” I shook my head from left to right as my heart rate escalated. “That’s last-case-scenario for me” I continued.
“Well, we don’t have to make that call right now, but I just wanted you to be aware of what is happening” she spoke softly and confidently.
She continued to introduce herself, shake our hands and exit the room.
I’m sure I did not progress from 8 to 10cm instantly, but from my memory, when the pain had dissipated and no drama had yet to ensue, I can’t fathom this took much more than 45 minutes.
My nurse checked my cervix and proclaimed- “OK, you’re 10cm- we can begin to push if you’re ready”
READY? What? I was just getting relaxed. I couldn’t wrap my head around how it had taken 7 hours of excruciating pain to progress 3cm and now, within moments, it was time for the grand finale.
The nurse left and re entered the room with a popsicle.
“Eat this” she said as she handed me a lime flavoured popsicle as if I had just had a routine visit as a toddler. “Once you’re done your popsicle, we will begin with some practice pushes”
I ate that popsicle so slowly it began to melt down my wrist. Each lick and drip bringing me closer to the moment I had thought about since I knew how babies were born. I had known clearly, at least for the last 9 months, that a baby was going to exit my vagina- and that was terrifying. You can do all the meditations, all the pre natal classes, all the Hypnobirthing techniques- but the thought of a full-sized child leaving your body through a hole the size of a pencil eraser is still a hard concept to wrap your head around.
The nurse prepped me in a pushing posture (spread eagle on my back with my feet in the holsters as one might predict) and she asked me to bear down as if I was taking a shit.
Robbie perched himself at the end of the bed, front row to the action before the pushing even began.
“Babe, you don’t need to look yet” I told him. There was nothing to see down there yet but hell would freeze over before I’d convince that man to step back from the action.
So, I gave the first push my best effort and stopped fussing about Robs interest.
I quickly saw the nurse remove tissue paper from under my ass and toss it.
“What was that?” I asked my husband genuinely curious. “What is she doing?”
“Just a little poop babe, it’s all good” my amazing husband spoke as if it was no biggie. He just had front-row action to his wife shitting on a table and he really tried his best to reassure me it was nothing but a nugget.
Too concentrated for concern, we continued with the next push.
I could see the nurse and my husband with their gaze to the monitor on my right with each push- both fake-smiling at me as if everything was kosher.
Fact was, it wasn’t kosher.
The nurse exited the room and returned with another of her colleagues who supported me through 3-4 more pushes before leaving the room and gathering a third.
Considering the COVID regulations placed an emphasis on complete minimalism in these environments, I knew the spectator show was for more than moral support.
After an hour+ of pushing, multiple sets of eyes on the heart rate monitor located to my right, a lot less verbal encouragement and zero indication that we had made progress, my tiny hero of a doctor entered the room with an update.
“So babies heart rate isn’t tolerating the pushes” she began. “I am here to coach you through a few pushes and see what is going on” she continued like she had given this spiel hundreds of times in her less-than-30 years of life.
The spectator show continued as three nurses, my husband, and a doctor young enough to be a star on Teen Mom all gathered around my vagina, my concrete legs sprawled full eagle for them all. My passive doctor turned straight Drill Sargent as she spoke to me sternly- “Push. Push. Push. Push. Push” she chanted. Another 3-4 pushes. Then, the room breathed in unison.
OK, stop. She held her hand to motion the pause like a traffic cop.
Now, almost 2 hours deep into the pushing game and 12 hours since my water broke, the climax of my days work came down to this.
“I think we may have to prep the OR for a c-section” my mini doctor continued her traffic control motions as she directed her hand to the outskirts of the labouring suite.
“Babies heart rate still is not tolerating your pushing” she reinforced the same message I’d received hours prior. My brain raced with terror. This wasn’t the plan- and I like following the plan.
“We can continue trying to push” she hesitated in her spiel, “but I cannot guarantee that an emergency c-section won’t result” she spewed words that petrified me but she held it all together.
This doctor was an absolute Angel- she wanted for me what she knew all moms want- a healthy baby and a healthy mom.
I had dreamed of the moment my daughter would be placed on my chest for years. Every birthday candle wish, every 11:11 universal plea, it always came with the clear vision of that skin-to-skin moment of finally holding my baby: an emergency c-section with the potential of being placed under anesthesia and missing that: it crushed me.
Best case scenario- vaginal birth.
Second case scenario- c-section: awake and coherent.
Third case scenario- I keep pushing, baby is in distress, I get placed under anesthesia, I wake up to find my daughter swaddled in the arms of her daddy. I miss it.
Worse case scenario- I barely let my mind go there. But, we all know the deep rooted fear of the absolute worst case scenario, and that just couldn’t be my story.
My brain began to spiral with what ifs and can I’s and should I’s. The decision for most may have been clear- take the doctors orders- but no matter how hard I attempted to verbalize that I was ready for surgery and convince myself it was the right call: my gut screamed “no way”.
“In 15 minutes we can have your baby here” the doctor continued to slightly persuade. “A sunroof exit” she smirked.
I wasn’t smirking.
A large digital clock hung in front of me. 5:34PM it read. Hypothetically speaking, if baby was here in 15min- she would be born at 5:49PM. The exact time of my step father death the year prior. My whole body tingled. The universe wasn’t clear on what this sign meant- but I felt it meant something.
My brain, now filled with 100 open browser windows, 1 frozen and 3 loading: I asked questions.
“Is baby OK when I’m NOT pushing?” was my first inclination.
Looking to my right, my husbands eyes confirmed a solid 155bpm heart rate. Stable and strong.
I then recalled an acronym learnt in our prenatal classes that outlined options when in these situations: the final letter of the acronym noted a D, D for: “do nothing”. In this moment, I could choose to… do nothing.
“Can you leave the room and give us 10 minutes?” I now took control of the traffic signals as my hands ushered the nursing conference out of the room. “I just need time to think”.
Rob and I remained in the room alone to discuss our options. Gamble the pushing game with the chance of missing my daughters birth OR negate my gut instinct and take my doctors advice: no decision felt right.
“This is the first decision I’m making as a mom and I’m already being selfish” my eyes welled with dinosaur sized tears as a set of scrubs for my husband was placed across the room. “I want to keep trying to push, they haven’t even let me move” I continued to convince myself and my husband that I could do this.
In that moment, I wanted to want the C-section. So, I called in reinforcement.
“I want to call my mom”- I laid there, 10cm dilated, motioning for my cell phone. My mom, a champ of a woman, had delivered all four of us kids via c-section and I knew she’d be the realism I needed in that moment.
Robbie flipped open my perfectly packed purple suitcase which was sitting pretty next to my hospital bed- as the front half of the bag opened to reveal my cell phone- it also revealed a small velvet bag, about the size of my palm, embroidered with some fancy font: Stu.
A wave of support washed over me. I called my mom.
And it was if she had felt my distress in her bones, she picked up on the first ring. In similar fashion to a two year old with a skinned knee, I heard my moms voice and crippled into tears. My Mommy. A 29 year old woman, soon-to-be mother myself, needed her mom in this moment- and she delivered.
“You’ll recover so fast” she reassured me. “We will all support you Ash, you just want a healthy baby- that is all that matters”… “it really isn’t bad” she then spoke to my vanity without any communication being reciprocated on my end: “the scar is tiny and so low and you’ll never see it” she continued to fill me with reassurance to listen to my doctor.
I hung up the phone.
As per the majority of my life, I leaned on my moms support when things got heavy- and also, as per the majority of my life: I didn’t listen.
I hung up the phone with no change to my internal compass.
“I think you can do it, babe” my God send of a husband stated seemingly out-of-the-blue. He could pick up the cues that I wasn’t ready for an O.R. visit- and with his most important godly gift on the line: he told me I could do it.
He believed in me. He believed in my body.
And what timing for the doctor to re-enter the scene.
My moms voice and my gut instinct played ping pong in my head- literally the same “do it“ and “don’t do it” dichotomy I’ve wrestled with since 16. Then, with a look of belief only confirmed by my husband, I made a decision.
“I’m going to keep pushing” I spoke sternly as if commanding attention.
The doctor nodded, albeit potentially surprised, but accepting of my request.
“I need to get off my back” I explained as my legs hung paralyzed- attempting to move myself from spread eagle and into a solid cat-cow: my husband now supporting my stems at the bottom of the bed.
It took the support of Robs muscles and a bit of hoaning and groaning to prop me a top of the bed as I had wished- a bit of a reverse cowgirl manoeuvre as I clung to the top of the hospital bed which was now raised to nearly 90*, my knees and ass positioned in a triangle beneath me- a sorry looking doggy style attempt that allowed for gravity to become my friend.
Then, we began to push.
I gripped the bed as if I was lat pull-downing my own body weight- white sheets now sandwiched between my clasped fingers- my face drilled into the hospital bed- my prominent forehead vein pulsing through my orbital bone, my pelvis thrusting the bed in an animalistic humping frenzy, the OHMMM low-octave groaning I had lost around 7cm now purring through me once again.
My doctors hands were placed under me in an attempt to regain the the front row spectator show she had in our previous pushing position.
“It’s very difficult for me to see baby” she spoke with discipline as we both took turns commanding the room.
“I know this is what I need” I steered the ship back with my words as I hip-circled in a clockwise fashion between pushes.
The nurses, still buzzing around the room began attaching and detaching the heart rate monitors that were previously positioned on my belly as they flung to the side with my body thrusting the upper half of the hospital bed with each push.
“We cannot tell if we’re getting babies heart rate or moms” I could hear the nurse say as she held wires in front of her.
“We’re going to insert this monitor inside you Ashlyn” the nurse spoke as if to seduce me. “This way we can get an accurate reading of baby”.
As the nurses motioned to my now-left while simultaneously running cords all up in my grill- I faced the barren white walls of the labouring suite,
My husband words, “Oh, sorry” quickly grabbed my attention to the top right of the bed.
Rob had rapidly glanced behind himself to view… absolutely nothing. His palm rested on his own shoulder, neck twisted to his right with his apology sent into the abyss.
I witnessed it all without any thought.
“Babies heart rate is reading well” the nurse now confirmed as I remained on my knees, positioned up against the rear of the bed, looking like an electrical box of cords and wires.
And again, we pushed.
And we pushed.
“Come meet mommy, Blakely” I spoke loudly to my daughter while continuing to thrust my pelvis like a pendulum.
“We can do this, Blakely” I finally spoke her name to existence while cheering her on- something I’d do for the rest of her life.
“Let’s go, Blakely: come on, baby- come see Mommy” – emotional. Raw. Tuned the fuck in. I spoke life to my daughter from the outside-in. Her greatest moment and mine, both intertwined in space-time.
Without any solid reinforcement on our progress, I verbalized my thoughts to the room,
“Give me two more good pushes and if she isn’t changing, we can call the c-section” I said with worry as I was unclear on babies status.
“She’s coming now, no turning back”- the exact words I needed in that moment.
Blakely was coming to meet her Mom.
My first-moment-mom-instincts were tapped in. My body and my brain were hyper connected. Flow state had arisen and my baby was being born.
The NICU Team entered the room as the three nurses turned me from doggy-style and onto my left side. Lucky left.
Robbie grabbed my extended right leg and tucked it like a puzzle piece into my arm pit: a job likely reserved for one of the three nurses assisting the OBGYN- but he was deep in the action and participated fully. Rob rooted me on with his best “Go, go, go, go, go” with each push- grabbing a Yeti Tumbler of Pedilyte for sips in between. He was in a flow state of his own.
After 2 more pushes on my side- the doctor and I made eye contact. She was in charge now. “This is going to be your final push”
My husbands eyes were star-struck by the miracle that was taking place in this moment, and my eyes confirmed “just tell me what to do, doc”.
“I am going to assist you” she held up a baby plunger- a semi-circle suction cup. Baby had to come now.
With my next push, my husbands eyes grew, my doctor got the closest she had been all day to my Earth-side entry space, a room full of people but I didn’t see them, and a wave of warmth washed over me.
Years of what-if-i-cants, months of celebration and hesitation, weeks of milestone growth moments, days of tears and heartache and it all came down to this.
9 months of growth purged from my body at once and in an instant I met a piece of myself that I never knew was missing.
Blakely was born.
I felt unconditional love in a split second, a friendship I’d stay loyal to till death, a type of partnership I’d only dreamt of, a naked angel, 6 lbs and 15oz of stardust placed thrusted perfectly on my chest.
Connection. Affection. The deepest yearning and expression of love- all at once.
My entire being trembled as my husbands hands grazed my body. I shook with maternal power.
And in correlation with gods greatest moment to me, I heard life’s greatest sound.
WAAAAAAAA the lungs of my champion roared through the birthing suite.
I cried in unison with my daughter, Rob’s awestruck demeanour supporting us both.
“Cry for mommy”- I continued to coach her through my own tears as her newborn baby screams reinforced the deepest love I’d ever know.
This was the moment. The cherry of my bucket list. The epitome of the love. The climax of this story.
It was worth it all. It will always be worth it all.