Graysen Joy’s Birth Story
Today I'm sharing the sweet story of new life! It's an honor to tell you about the days leading up to and a few days after the birth of our first baby, Graysen Joy. I hope you enjoy.
In my 7+ years of blogging, this post officially wins the award for the most procrastinated ever.
I put off sharing Gray's birth story for a few reasons. First, I really just wanted to focus on LIVING the start of our lives together vs. reflecting on them. I hope that makes sense. This feeling makes me think back on an old(ish) John Mayer song, “3×5” …
Didn't have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes
Maybe I will tell you all about it when
I'm in the mood to lose my way
The 2nd reason I put off sharing her birth story is because I wasn't quite ready to invite feedback (or opinions) on our personal decisions. Pregnancy, birth, and child rearing are all exceptionally CHARGED topics. There are quality + well-meaning STRONG opinions on every drastically different end of the spectrum. The decisions we made as a family are personal and I OWN THEM. If I had to re-live everything over again, I wouldn't change a single thing. Know that there's a good chance you'll read something in this post that you disagree with …and that is OKAY. Regardless of our personal prevailing opinions, I think that we can all agree that pregnancy, birth, and parenting is PERSONAL. Suum cuique – to each his (or her) own. #latinnerd
Quick observation: the need to disclaim the conventional medical decisions we made as a family is so interesting to me. I'm still chewing on this. In our health-is-best world (which I'm proud to be a part of), I find that the landscape often becomes a competition for who can “natural” best. No real thought here, just a half-formed observation.
In summary: I hope you can read our story with an open mind. These details are not an invitation for you to share judgement or advice. OR, as Amy Poehler says, “good for you, not for me.”
Now that we have those pesky notes out of the way, I think it's appropriate to set the stage for the current setting BEFORE I jump into this story of new life! I'm currently sitting in a coffee shop, next to a (glorious) HOT cappuccino, ignoring my massive unread inbox, while Graysen is at home with my hubby. She's
4 months + 2 weeks 5 months + 2 weeks old and thinking of her gummy smile and chubby legs makes my heart flutter. Austin (my husband) and I have told her birth story to close friends + family members so many times now, that we've got the “routine” down. You know the routine? It's probably the way YOUR parents tell YOU about the day you were born. The less fun details are lost with time and instead, you get to enjoy the exciting movie trailer version of how you came into the world.
My goal with this post is to give a mix between the gritty truth and the glamorous movie trailer.
Here we go…
The Days Before Her Birth
Like all birth stories, Gray's started coming together long before her actual arrival. Her due date was January 13, 2018, which came and went in the blink of an eye. I felt great and our sweet baby was still enjoying her snuggly home inside my belly. Winter weather + flu season were in full swing; I couldn't blame her for wanting to wait it out a little longer in her safe, cozy home. I had a very easy pregnancy (for which, I'm beyond thankful) and even with careful monitoring by our team of medical professionals, nobody was really concerned by the pregnancy running long. When I was at about 39 weeks pregnant, our doctor (who we trust) asked us when we'd like to schedule our induction if she didn't make her arrival “on time.” Our response was, “well, we'd really prefer to wait as long as we can …as long as there are no health concerns.” I trusted my body, trusted our baby, and trusted that our medical professionals will keep us alerted to any relevant complications.
Long story short, we were complication-free, but decided that we'd schedule an induction on our 12th day “overdue.” Though our past-due sonograms all showed that she had PLENTY of amniotic fluid (it can start to decrease the longer a pregnancy goes) and that the placenta looked to be in great health, we still decided to schedule. As much as I believe in trusting my body + nature + God's design, I also trust solid data. The data we reviewed when making our decision to induce included a sharp decline in placental health at 42 weeks pregnant. Austin and I didn't want to toy with where we may fall on the spectrum, so we scheduled our induction for just shy of 42 weeks.
Little did I know, I'd show up at the hospital on the day of my induction already in early labor.
Are you thinking that our due date may have been inaccurate? The thought crossed all our minds but I still firmly believe that if anything, her true due date was sooner, not later.
When planning (or rather, preparing for) our birth, I started taking stock of all the “I wish I had…” sentiments I'd ever encountered with regard to birthing babies. The most common regrets I encountered had NOTHING to do with intervention do's/don't's, doulas or midwives present/not-present, essential oils used/not used, etc. Nope, the overwhelmingly most common “regret” I encountered was “it didn't go as planned.” These sweet, sweet mamas made their Birth Plan (like we feel we're supposed to), dotted their I's, crossed their T's, relayed their plan to the entire birthing team, and then …you-know-what hit the fan. Because of unpredictable circumstances, they were left feeling out of control and outside the margins of THE PLAN. Even though they had perfectly healthy, happy, vibrant babies and their health was also beautifully in-tact, they still felt like they had somehow failed. They failed their birth plan because the real events didn't follow their expectations.
I took this to heart and used it as fuel for my own “plan.” My own plan was instead to have a set of wishes (to read: our preferences), but ultimately, healthy baby + healthy mamma are priority over all others. Here's how our wishes read in order of priority:
- Healthy baby + healthy mamma.
- As little worry or stress as possible for everyone involved (as in: it was important for me that my husband also have a good experience). In the event of a stressful situation, we will rely on: our faith, the team of vetted/trusted medical professionals, and our parents for perspective.
- The other wishes included things like: when we want to bathe our baby, what kind of intervention we want and when, the diapers we prefer, cord clamping preferences, etc. If you'd like to see our detailed “birth wishes” (as in, the actual sheet we shared with family + our birthing team), please let me know! I can possibly share it in another post.
What Actually Happened
Now for the story!
I spent the days before Gray's birthday (January 25, 2018) drinking buckets of red raspberry leaf tea, eating dates, and doing my “get the baby into position” movements with the birthing ball. I have vivid memories of sitting/leaning on that birthing ball for hours in our living room, next to a plate of dates (+peanut butter, honey, and sea salt) and a big cup of tea, as I started watching Grey's Anatomy (I'm SO late to the party). My mindset at the time was: “babies are born on their birthday.” I was more comfortable than I would have expected and in NO rush to meet her. That being said, I still wanted to do my part to help get my body ready for her arrival.
The calendar started ticking away. About 4 days before her birth, I remember reaching the end of my “before baby” to-do list (I never actually thought I'd get to the bottom of that list). Not having a lot to do made me feel a little uncomfortable, because I'm most comfortable when being productive, but I realized that this quiet time was getting a head start on molding my heart for the quiet, sweet moments to come.
The night before our scheduled induction, my Mom and Dad (who live just 10 minutes from us), invited us over for dinner. My Dad broke out a bottle of lovely champaign (sparking grape juice for me) and my whole family raised a glass to Graysen Joy, the first in this next generation of the Garcia family. We gave thanks for her health, my health, and for the untold blessings to come.
That memory of sweet, anticipatory celebration is forever engrained in my memory. Sitting there with a giant belly, giggling with my family, and being the first to wish her a happy early birthday. Gosh, it was so special. I made the decision to “go dark” on social media that night because (again, like John Mayer), I wanted to experience our story before I told it. You all were so kind, gracious, and respectful of that. I can't thank you enough for giving us that precious space.
That night, I showered, blew out my hair, laid out my clothes for the hospital, and fell asleep holding my husband's hand over my belly. Soon. We get to meet her so, so soon.
If you want to know what I brought to the hospital, click HERE for the clothing, technology, snacks, etc. that I packed.
My alarm went off at at 6:30 the morning of January 25 (Thursday). Austin was already up and had cooked us up a wonderful breakfast (he even made me lemony kale, my favorite!). The whole morning happened in slow motion. I remember settling on an extra swipe of mascara because I thought that I may wear it for a few days – which I did! We climbed in the car, took our place in a bit of traffic, and were completely at peace. There are about 6 different ways we could have navigated to the hospital and Austin, like a good Dad-to-be, had scouted out his favorite/speediest path. Settling into the downhill slide to Gray's birth felt like we were able to finally sit back and enjoy all our preparations. We had our birth wishes, our bags were carefully packed, our prayers said, our families all looped-in, a healthy home waiting, and a healthy body (mine + her's) cared-for. It was time to hand all our careful work over to God. He's in charge from here out and I was honored to be along for the ride.
We were ready for anything and (I really mean this) knowing that the day could have gone in 1,000 different directions, I felt no entitlement to any one path. I was just excited to see how our joined story would unfold.
Arriving at the hospital, Austin offered to drop me off at the door, but I told him I'd rather walk with him into the building. We parked in the nearby garage, stepped out into the breezy 50 degree F morning, and held hands on our way in. We navigated to Labor & Delivery, gave a cheerful “good morning!” to the nursing staff, Austin cracked a joke about trading some baked goods for their best room, and we were ushered to the room where we'd meet Gray. Not wasting any time, the nurse handed me my gown + slippers and I got dressed. Feeling REALLY great (no pain), Austin and I settled into the massive room. The staff came over to check my progress and noted that, though my water hadn't broken, I was actually already in labor! HA! I giggled and appreciated the small “you're right where you need to be” wink from God.
The contractions were pretty mild and, though I'd noted some discomfort that morning, I chalked it up to just being enormously pregnant.
Gray's heart rate was in good shape, my BP in a nice range, and all other signs pointed to “let's do this.” Because contractions were pretty mild, we decided to go-ahead with the planned pitocin drip to help strengthen the process. Contractions continued to be relatively mild and I felt great. My Mom and Dad arrived at the hospital mid-morning and we all settled in for some fun chit-chat in-between checks. Though we'd decided to be pro-intervention (epidural), I really wanted to experience some labor pains first. At around 11:00 a.m. that morning, we decided with our doctor to break the water ….and THAT is when it all really-really started.
Note: overshare-adverse, PROCEED WITH CAUTION (you've been warned).
First of all, I had no idea what to expect when they broke my water. Would it be painful? Would there be a tidal wave? A tiny dribble? How much water are we talking? Turns out, it was a more of a modest “leak.” The nurses gave me a towel to sit on which we changed about every 45 minutes. I remember thinking, “well that's a polite amount of water.” I now understand that there was a heck of a lot more in there, baby girl's head was just plugging the hole.
Due to the pitocin and my own natural labor progressing (pretty quickly), contractions started coming on HARD AND FAST. They were no joke. I remember my sweet Dad sitting in the room, after my 1st painful contraction, asking “was that an ouchie?” The memory of his sweet, oozing with Dad-love question still makes me smile. Yep, that was an ouchie. After about 10 more, I was ready to call the doctor. I wanted to take my place on the waitlist for an epidural.
We waited for 45 minutes before the doctor could come by to administer the epidural. In that time, GOODNESS, those were intense contractions (the pitocin made things more painful). I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, breathing through each one (per my preparation), holding both of Austin's hands (white knuckles), and tapping into a deep “I'm made to do this” belief. It was pretty darn neat (in retrospect) but also NO JOKE in the moment. The Anesthesiologist came in and told me (scolded me?) that I needed to “HOLD STILL.” Of course, I logically understood the importance of this, but YOU DON'T FEEL WHAT I FEEL. I managed to hold it together while he inserted the needle, tube, then medicine. Glorious relief swept over me and I said a prayer of thanks for modern medicine.
After a little time, the nurses came in to re-check Gray's heart rate. It was slightly concerning so they wanted to make sure they had a really good read. Because the belly strap wasn't holding still very well, we decided to implant a monitor in her head. NOTE: this whole thing really freaked me out, but I had peace around wanting to make sure she was A-okay. The monitor is actually fixed via a teeny-tiny screw (I must have asked my husband 27 times to describe the screw when he saw them pull it out of the package) to the top of her head. Though it sounds freaky, this secures it in the top of her head via just a few layers of skin so that they can keep track of her. They kept me turned on different sides to help her little ticker and then took me OFF pitocin while also giving me Terbutaline, the antidote to pitocin. Apparently, my own labor + the pitocin caused everything to come on WAY too strong and too fast for me and baby. After the medicines cancelled each other out, my natural hormones took control and we slid into our last wait for baby girl.
I was exhausted from the intense (too much pitocin) contractions and was advised by our awesome Labor + Delivery Nurses to sleep (“if you can”). I closed my eyes and took steady breaths through all contractions. Though I did have an epidural, it was mild enough so that I could still feel her move and feel my body adjust. I wanted to know where she was.
I vividly remember when my body went through transition (the last stage). My family was having a conversation in the room and I braced myself, eyes closed, laying on my side. It was (even with an epidural) intense. I had to breathe through each contraction and couldn't find the energy to call Austin over for a hand.
After my body went through transition, she was finally in position and I felt MUCH better. The nurses came in and confirmed!
Then …it was show time.
I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous in that moment. I was. Again, even though I had so much TRUST, I still kept thinking “oh my goodness, a giant baby is about to COME OUT OF ME!?!” So many things were flying through my mind, but what I found ultimately comforting was the thought that millions upon millions of women have been here before …they've done this. I can do this, too.
Our nursing staff popped in to say that I was pretty close and that my neighbor there in the hospital (who they were also caring for) was in my exact same stage of labor. They told me that, because this was her 3rd baby, she'll likely need less time than me – so they were going to go deliver her first, then come back for us. My amazing (strong, fearless, no-fuss) Mom instructed them, “don't go far! Us Garcia women do NOT need long.”
…she was right.
Our interim nurse asked for a “practice push,” and then yelled, “STOP PUSHING! I need to call your doctor right now.”
My Mom smirked, “I told you.”
My incredible Ob GYN actually has an office in our hospital, so she walked in a few minutes later with our L&D nurses. They all giggled that they were wrong about the timing. Everyone donned their gowns (which my husband describes as the hospital equivalent of fishing waders), got me into a high-knee position (which felt natural for me), and prepared to welcome our sweet girl into the world.
That's when I started shaking …almost uncontrollably. Was I cold? My Mom kept covering me with blanket after blanket, but the shaking continued. I think it was adrenalin. I was at the starting blocks, waiting to hear the gun fire, ready to listen to my coach and book it down this sprint (maybe marathon?) of meeting baby.
My doctor took her seat and said, “okay, Cassy! Let's meet this sweet girl! I want you to take a deep breath, then give me one BIG push.”
I took a big breath, centered, tapped into my going-for-a-deadlift-PR roots, and pushed with all my might.
Everyone wow'ed, cheered, and told me that I'd done a fantastic job! I soaked up every encouraging word (#wordsofaffirmation), re-centered, and when she told me to push (at my next contraction), I gave it my all …again.
“She's so close, Cassy! You're doing SO WELL!” – my doctor
“You're doing so great, babe. You got this.” – Austin
“You can do this, Cassy.” – my Mom
The next contraction rounded and my doctor said, “here we go! give this one a really big push……… keep pushing! ………she's almost there! ………her shoulders are almost through! ………don't stop!”
I heard my doctor (a mother of 4 herself) say a sweet, smiley, “well hello there.”
After one of the greatest physical efforts of my life, where I gave my all …and then gave even more, I felt her lifted from my body.
She was born! Nurses rushed over, my doctor said “look down, Cassy! It's your baby girl!”
I couldn't look down. I couldn't lift myself. I REALLY gave that last push everything I had, so my husband pushed up my shoulders and I peeked down to see her. Her first experience with air, her scrunched face, wet hair, tiny hands …oh my God, it's her!
She was quickly placed on my chest (after we removed the pile of blankets) and I couldn't believe it. She was so wet, covered in white vernix, and immediately calmed when she nestled into my bare chest. We waited a few minutes before clamping her cord, then Austin performed his Dad honor of cutting it (which, he said, was more like cutting a spongy rope than clipping a straw). I just held and marveled at her while the team finished up their duties.
The rest of what happened was a blur, but Austin happily retold every detail when I was ready to hear it (11 whole days later). He joked that there were 3 real births: Graysen, the wall of water, and then the placenta. He said that after Gray came out, a “tidal wave” followed. He couldn't believe that so much water was in there and that he then understood the waders. I remember there being a moment, when Gray was on my chest, that I felt a tug followed by a good amount of pressure. I can't remember if I pushed or not (it really was a blur), but the placenta was delivered and that hurt coming out more than I expected! The way Austin tells it, the placenta was surprisingly MASSIVE. He jokes that “they pulled out this tiny silver bowl to put the placenta in and that sucker didn't fit! I told them that they were going to need a bigger bin!”
After I birthed the placenta, I looked down and saw that my doctor had a big hook needle in one hand …I didn't want to know. Before having a baby, the thought of tearing really freaked me out. I wasn't ready to know exactly what happened (hence the 11 days that passed before I would let Austin tell me the full story). Turns out, I had a 2nd degree tear. It made recovery painful, but it healed well without any complication.
After Her Birth
I was going to leave this part out, because I really didn't think it was relevant …but my friend Diane encouraged that I consider sharing this part of the story with the hope that it may comfort anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. If you're there or been there, I really just want you to know that you're not alone. You see, her hours after birth (as I now understand), weren't very typical.
Let's give away the ending first: she was perfectly healthy and had NO REAL ISSUES. All the tests run were negative for complications. (praise)
My first parenting medical experience with Gray earth-side revolved around a few topics.
First, she grunted at birth. Turns out, she's just a very vocal infant, but one less-than-thoughtful nurse warned us (as we were gushing over her little noises) that grunting can be a sign of “congenital heart disease.” When she said that, with my minutes-old infant on my chest, my own heart skipped a beat …and my Mom looked like she might murder the well-meaning woman. Another nurse reassured everyone that all relevant tests would be run, not to worry.
Second, Graysen was born right at 9 pounds …which put her on the risk spectrum for low blood sugar. The way I understand it, bigger babies are suspected of eating really well in the womb, and are potentially at risk for too-low blood sugar once they turn to Mom's milk. So, she needed her blood sugar tested ever 2 hours (after each feeding). Poor angel baby had her heel pricked every 2 hours. From my own research, I understand that newborns aren't very sensitive to pain (a beautiful design because birth can't be very pleasant) …but it was still no fun seeing her pricked. All blood sugar results were in normal range.
Third, Graysen and I BOTH ran a slight fever at her birth. My Mom told me that she actually ran a fever with all three of her girls and that it was likely the exertion. Either way, we needed to rule out infection. A blood culture was in order, which meant that they needed to draw a tiny tube of blood from Gray. THIS part of the story I missed out on, by my husband was there. As I sat in my recovery room, eating the fajitas my sister brought us for dinner, Austin went with Graysen to the nursery for her blood draw. After hearing the story, I'm glad I wasn't there …because I have a feeling I would've been pretty upset. After drawing her first tube of blood, it coagulated before they mixed it properly. So, the nursery nurse on duty had to draw AGAIN. I know things happen like this …but dang, that would've been hard to see.
How was I feeling through all of this? Honestly, we weren't worried. I was thankful that, if there were any complications, we were in the best possible place for speedy help.
We kept Gray in our recovery room, Austin slept on the couch, and we enjoyed our first 2 days as an expanded family. We took advantage of the help/space and, even though I was feeling good about breastfeeding her already, we requested a consultation with the Lactation Specialist on staff (she was WONDERFUL). Her test results trickled in as all negative and our hopes were confirmed. Thank you, God.
My Mom with Gray:
Austin's Mom with Gray:
The last part of our story is the shortest! Like many baby-hopefuls, I've had a long list of names on my phone for a while (since I married Austin). At one point, while I was pregnant with Graysen, Austin and I were in the car on our way to San Angelo to visit his family. It's a 3-hour drive, so the perfect time to start brainstorming baby names. I offered to read a few names off my list and Austin stopped me at the first name, “Graysen.” Though, not necessarily a namesake, we have a friend named Graysen. She goes by Gray and is just a lovely, lovely human. It felt like an old, from the vault name that our daughter could mold in any way she chooses. Austin also loves the name Joy (also my middle name) and really wanted her to have it, too. Though giving her my middle name felt a little Gilmore Girls, I trusted his instinct.
Now that we've gotten to know her (almost 6 months old) I can't imagine her having any other name. She is such a Graysen Joy, such a Gray. She's spunky, has a sense of humor, is more patient than we deserve, and still loves to talk and snuggle.
Graysen Joy, you're a dream come true.
That's the story! Thank you for being a part of it.
With so much love,
Cassy + Family <3