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The Birth of Louis James | A Birth Photographer’s Birth Story

*Disclaimer*: this post contains raw birth images. I understand this is not everyone’s cup of tea. If this isn’t your thing, this is your warning to stop scrolling. These are very vulnerable and intimate moments I’m sharing because I believe it’s important for all types of birth stories to be told. I share to help rid people of shame around birth.

The pictures in this blog were not taken BY me since they are pictures OF me. My fellow birth photographer and friend, Dana Jacobs, took these absolutely amazing pictures of Louis’ birth. She’s incredibly talented as you will see and I’m extremely grateful for her presence on my birth team!

Louis’ birth story started much earlier than the day I went into labor. In many ways the entire pregnancy was a labor of love. Carrying that sweet little boy were some of the most difficult 9 months I’ve ever been through. The first trimester was filled with days consumed my nausea that drove me to spend most of my time on the couch or in bed. Between the change in hormones and never ending sickness, I ended up getting prenatal depression. I’ve never felt so low, discouraged, and sad in all my life. Thankfully, the fog began to lift as my nausea started to subside and I started taking an antidepressant (what a gift that little blue pill was!). As I entered summer and the second trimester, God began to renew the joy inside me and I actually started looking forward to this new life growing inside me. Third trimester started with the season of fall and what started of the months of pain. I ended up getting SPD which made every step I took extremely painful. I gained almost 60 lbs with this pregnancy and I felt every pound of it. It seemed that my entire body ached all day and all night. You could say I was a *little* eager to go into labor by the end of my pregnancy. 

It was determined at my 40 week appointment that I would be induced starting with a membrane sweep at 41 weeks to avoid shoulder dystocia like I had with Grady’s birth. I was hoping my body would go into labor naturally before my membranes were swept. Thankfully, an hour before my appointment on December 9th, I went to the bathroom and noticed I had lost my mucus plug! I was so freaking excited and happy that my body was showing it was ready for labor.

When I went into my appointment, I was 2 cm dilated and Dr. Proffitt did the membrane sweep. That afternoon, I started to get some achy cramps, but tried to ignore them all day. As the evening went on, they slowly started to pick up. 

When we went to bed around 9:30 PM, I had difficulty sleeping because I was getting pretty uncomfortable. At 11:30 PM, I started to notice my contractions had a wave like pattern. They were bearable, but I had to work to relax while I listened to my birth affirmations. It was around midnight that I finally woke Josh up to tell him I thought I was in early labor. We decided that I should try to relax and ignore them as long as possible until things started to get more intense. I did this for about an hour and a half until at around 1:30 AM I felt a pop sensation during a contraction and then felt the gush of fluid. I yelled, “My water just broke!” Josh popped up in bed and said “Wow! This is really happening?!” and I replied, “YES! This is actually happening!”. 

Almost immediately, my contractions changed. It was like night and day. I was shocked how they grew in power after my water broke. Josh called everyone on our birth team to give them an update on what was going on (contractions were coming every 3 minutes and lasting 1 minute). It wasn’t long after that, that we decided to head in to the hospital. The car ride was crazy. All the movement made contractions more painful, but I worshiped the Lord through that car ride and leaned on Him for strength. 

We finally made it to the hospital around 2:30 AM. When we stepped outside, it was so freaking cold. It was the type of wind that absolutely takes your breath away. I had three contractions between leaving the car and entering the hospital. Once we stepped inside, we were enveloped in warmth and I remember saying out loud “Ohhh the warmth feels so good”. 

We got upstairs and the women at the desk asked Josh some intake questions. She called one of the triage nurses to bring me back and all I kept thinking was “I do not want to have to go sit in triage. I’m clearly in labor, just bring us to the regular room.” Thankfully, the nurse quickly realized I was in labor and told us that we could go to a regular L&D room. YAY! Even though the nurses were asking me a bunch of questions during admittance, I was able to keep my focus on the Lord, worship, and pray through the contractions.

One of the worst parts about labor was getting the hep lock in. They poked and prodded me and when they finally did get one in, the pain was so bad, I couldn’t use my arm the entire labor. They also checked my dilation during admittance. I was 3cm, but didn’t find out at that time. Soon my doula, Emily, and my birth photographer, Dana, arrived to the hospital which put me at ease because I was worried they wouldn’t make it. 

I worked through some contractions standing up and sitting down but eventually settled down in the tub around 4:00 am. I felt the intensity of everything building there. Every contraction was stronger than the next. After about an hour of being in the tub, a nurse came in, knelt down beside me and said, “Just to let you know, you can’t labor in the tub once you are past 7 cm because we don’t want an accidental water birth. And we need to check you soon so we know where you are at.” I then decided to get out of the tub for a change of scenery. 

At that point, I did not want to do a natural birth anymore. I thought, “This is the worst pain ever. I am so miserable. I don’t want this. I don’t know why I even wanted a natural labor so badly. I know now that when I was checked I wasn’t anywhere near 7 cm because of what that nurse just told me.” With this train of thought,  I really wanted to find out how far dilated I was. When the nurse checked me, I was at 6 cm. Even though this was good in a way because I went from 3cm to 6cm in two hours, all I was thinking was, “These are CRAZY INSANE contractions at 6 cm. I don’t even want to know what contractions at 10 cm are going to be like and I definitely don’t want to know what pushing a baby out feels like because the pressure already feels unbearable.” 

The next 30 min or so was basically me processing with my birth team about whether to get an epidural or not. My birth team handled my crisis very well. They reminded me of my goals and reminded me of why I wanted what I wanted. Emily did an amazing job of keeping me in the present moment and walking me through the contractions as we tried to talk about the next steps. She would say things like “At this point, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed about what contractions might feel like later. The Lord just wants you to trust Him with this next one. You will gain strength as you get closer to those bigger contractions at the end. The contractions grow stronger, but so do you. Your body can handle these. You are doing such an amazing job.” She said the most perfect things to say to a laboring mom, but I was having none of it. I kept saying, “I KNOW I’M DOING AN AMAZING JOB! I DON’T WANT THIS! WHAT CAN I DO TO CONVINCE YOU THAT I WANT AN EPIDURAL? I FEEL LIKE YOU ARE NOT LISTENING TO ME!” They responded saying, “No, we are listening to you and we hear that’s what you want right now. We just want to make sure the things you wanted before labor, the things you want right now, and the things that you wish you would have wanted after labor are all aligned and that you won’t have any regrets.” The conversation was so intense and felt like an emotional roller coaster as I tried to figure out what I REALLY wanted. That was the hardest part. Every time there was a lull in between contractions and we talked a bit, I’d think “Maybe I should just keep going through the pain,” but most of me kept thinking, “I just don’t want this! I don’t know what I was thinking the entire pregnancy?! This is not what I desire. I just want a break. I’m so tired.” Eventually, I said out loud, “I feel like the only thing keeping me from getting an epidural are other people’s opinions.” Josh replied, “No, we support you 100%. This isn’t about anyone else. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.” I got so caught up in my thoughts. I had worked so hard and so long to prepare for this labor. I had so many conversations about what I wanted for this labor and had so many people praying for this birth. And to change my mind, it felt like I was going to be a disappointment and that all the hard work I had put in was going to go to waste. Emily kept reminding me, “You are a child of God and He just delights in you. He cherishes you. This decision to get an epidural or not does not change that. You have freedom in your choice.” It was then that Lord started to break down some sort of bondage I had with this desire to have a natural birth. I wanted to trust Him with the pain. I wanted to experience Him in a new way as my faith grew in Him through labor. In my mind, the only way to do that was to go through with a drug free labor. But God showed me that He is bigger than that. The Lord delights in me. In any decision I made here, His love for me would not waver. There wasn’t a “right or wrong” decision. And it was liberating to realize that an epidural was indeed what I wanted. And that it was okay my desires changed from the drug free labor I prepared for. What mattered most to me was that we were going to meet our baby soon. 

Finally, the decision was made to get an epidural. The nurses started to get everything ready and soon the anesthesiologist came in around 5:30 AM. Unfortunately, this was my least favorite epidural out of all my labors because it didn’t take the pain completely away. Thankfully, it took enough of the edge off that I was able to close my eyes and get some much needed rest. It was soon after the epidural that my sister, Claire, made it to the hospital, which was the biggest and BEST surprise because we didn’t know if she was going to be able to come. Dr. Proffitt also came to the hospital soon after I got my epidural which meant my entire birth team had all made it! Everyone was so happy to see me and no one was disappointed I got an epidural 🙂 .

Around 6:30 AM, my nurse checked me and I was still at 6 cm. I had to constantly switch positions because Louis’ heart rate kept dropping during contractions. Eventually, I had to get oxygen to help keep his heart rate steady. It was about 7:30 AM that Dr. Proffitt checked me and said “Oh you are a stretchy 9! I bet if you bear down I can get you to a 10!”. So I gave a tiny push and she said “Oh you are complete!” I couldn’t believe it! 

Everyone got into place and I lay on my side to start pushing. I gave one big push and could feel him move down. He moved from -1 station to +1 station (basically over my pelvic bone) and everyone said they could start to see his head. As soon as they said that, I lost it and started crying out of excitement. I could not believe that we were finally going to meet our baby and that this tough journey was actually going to end. With the next contraction, I was able to push his head out, but he ended up getting shoulder dystocia (a very serious issue where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind mom’s pelvic bone) like his brother. Dr. Proffitt had me roll to my back and pull my knees against my chest. As I pushed with all my might, the lyrics of a song sang, “Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble. Jesus, Jesus, You silence fear. Jesus, Jesus, Your name is a light that the shadows can’t deny. Your name cannot be overcome. Your name is alive forever lifted high. Your name cannot be overcome.” These words flooded over me and gave me such peace during such an intense couple of minutes. Dr. Proffitt was finally able to get her fingers under the shoulder that wasn’t stuck behind my pelvic bone and while I pushed with all my might, Louis came flying out. I could tell he was healthy almost immediately because he started moving and crying. 

It’s hard to put into words just how amazing it was to have him here. It was one of the highest joys I’ve ever experienced. To see him and to find out he was a boy and to hold him on my chest and to hear him cry and to see his face and to finally be done with the really long, hard journey of pregnancy. It was pure ecstasy. I soaked up all the snuggles and cried and cried and cried and was so happy and thankful that we did it! I got to announce his name for the first time, “This is Louis James!” It was all so perfect. I was able to feel his umbilical cord pulse (as well as Josh, Claire, and Dana!) and then I got to cut it. I also got to touch and feel the placenta.

This labor and birth was so different than what I had hoped and dreamed for the entire pregnancy, but after he was there, I was extremely proud of myself and so pleased with how everything unfolded. I look back on Louis’ birth story and see the hand of a faithful God written all over it.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God.”

– Isaiah 43:1b-3a

Like I mentioned at the beginning, these pictures of my son’s birth were taken by the amazing, Dana Jacobs. You can view more of her work at: https://www.danajacobsphotography.com/

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Gretchen Day Photography

St. Louis maternity, birth, fresh 48, newborn, & family photographer

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