I am so excited to be sharing with y’all my birth story finally! It’s taken me awhile to get into a routine that allows for time to type this out for y’all but here we go!
August 12th- It started out as a normal Wednesday. I went to see my OB early that morning and I was already dilated to almost a 4. She stripped my membranes and told me if I was near labor that it might work and might not! It’s pretty much a 50/50, I left there hopeful but not super hopeful because it had never worked for me before! I’ve had it done with 3 of my previous babies so I knew the chances were low!
I went about my day like normal and didn’t have anything out of the ordinary. I had been having contractions off and on for the last 2 weeks so any contractions I had that day were just like any other contraction! There was nothing consistent or super painful!
We were hopeful that I would have the baby before the kids started back to school on 8/17 because I wanted a few days at home with all of them before the chaos of school began. I had also told my family that I would love to have a baby on 8/12/20 because it adds up so when I got home that night from running errands, which included picking up a yoga ball to start bouncing on to get this baby out, I was kinda sad that I wasn’t getting my 8/12/20 baby! We got the kids to bed and I went to take my bath like I did every night, while in the bath I started having a few contractions but they were erratic so I didn’t think much about it! I got out of the shower and figured I might as well sit on my yoga ball and try it out since I had just aired it up!
I started timing my contractions after the bath at 9:36 and they were between 40-60 seconds in length but they weren’t painful enough to not being able to talk or walk through so I watched some Family Feud and sat on my ball! I didn’t say anything to Matt because I wanted to be sure before I got him all worked up! I knew I needed to text my mom and sister to let them know so I sent a text. “No one freak out but I’ve been having contractions for about an hr and they aren’t going away” Of course they immediately texted back low key freaking out and asking if I wanted my mom to come now! I said not yet that I wasn’t 100% certain yet that it was actual LABOR but to be on stand by!
As my contractions continued I began to realize this was it….I knew this baby was coming! For some unknown reason we hadn’t even eaten dinner this night so Matt had Door Dashed Wendy’s to the house and while we were waiting on it I told him “I’m pretty sure I’m in labor and his exact response was “Oh gosh no babe, I’m too tired tonight” HA! Of course he was kidding but not kidding ya know?! We had said how much we both hoped this baby would come during the day because we for sure wanted to labor during the day when we were well rested! Well THAT was out the window now! So he ate Wendy’s while I frantically threw the last few things in my hospital bag and got everything ready by the door! The contractions were gaining intensity and I knew they were only gonna get stronger soon! I tried to eat but soon after got the shakes so bad so I didn’t really eat because the contractions at this point were between 2-5 minutes apart!
My mom got there just as Matt was finishing his dinner and packing his few things in a bag, ya know like a few t-shirts and some shorts…that’s it! #men We loaded our stuff in the car quickly realizing we hadn’t even taken the car seat out of the box in the garage so my mom & Matt frantically did that while I stood outside the car having contractions!
I hugged my mama bye and we got in the car. That was extremely hard to do because this would be the first birth she hasn’t been able to be present and this is her last grand baby so I felt all the feels over that! #ThanksCOVID I was so sad for my mom and sister and wanted them there with us to experience the last birth but knew I couldn’t get too worked up about it and just started thinking of how we were about to meet our new baby soon!
We drove to the hospital and got there around 12:35! I had been texting my OB as well as Ashley, my doula/photographer letting them know the updates so when we pulled up Ashley was in the parking lot waiting for us! We all walked in together to check in and after checking our temperatures Matt & I headed back to triage to get me checked to see if this was actual labor!
They got me in a triage room and I changed into a gown in the bathroom and when I went to the bathroom I had blood so that was my final confirmation that I wouldn’t be leaving here without a baby! The nurse then checked me and I was for sure in labor, dilated to a 7-8 and having contractions every 2-5 minutes still!
They got us in a room and hooked up to monitors and then Ashley was able to come in the room! I know most of you are probably wondering how I was able to have a birth photographer in the room with the 1 visitor rule at the hospitals. Well to answer that, Ashley is a fully trained doula & a photographer. Covenant allows private doulas in the room which allows her to act as both the doula and the photographer! I knew I wanted my last birth documented so it was a done deal for me to deliver at Covenant eventhough I could have chosen because my OB has privileges at both! All of my other babies I had at UMC and love that hospital as well!
Once I was all hooked up they started asking me if I wanted an epidural and telling me that I needed to make up my mind quickly because of how dilated I already was. They knew if I processed from a 7/8 to a 10 quickly that I might now have much more time! I had been contemplating this since I found out I was pregnant last December.
My first labor the epidural was absolutely delightful, couldn’t feel a thing and it was perfect! The next 3 were rough to say the least, they didn’t work on one entire side of my body and I could move my one leg all over, feel the catheter, and they really didn’t provide that much relief, or so I thought! ha ha! I had talked to Matt and my family and thought I wanted to try it without an epidural this time! The thought of being able to walk around, move, go to the bathroom on my own etc sounded really nice. Then the nurse said “our best anethesiologist is on tonight and he is excellent at making sure they work” and I was almost swayed at that moment to just get it…but my stubborn self thought “I wanna see if I can do this” so I declined and set it in my head that I was having this baby pain med free!
The contractions at this point were gaining intensity but the frequency was all over the board. They weren’t coming super close together so the nurse was like this could take awhile. This is where Ashley really became such an asset, like an actual game changer, in the room. She began telling me different techniques, showing Matt how to help me, and advocating for me in ways I wouldn’t have known about because I had never gone without being tied down to the bed with an epidural! She asked the nurses for things for me to use, such as the birth chair, got me wireless monitors so I could move around freely, got my IV to be on an IV flush lock so I didn’t have to walk around with that IV pole everywhere…just lots of little things that made HUGE differences in my comfort level! I played my labor playlist music while I labored through contractions for the next 3 hrs! I really thought I would give birth quicker than I did but after they checked me two times within those 3 hrs I was like a 9 and then later a 9 with a lip. They were keeping Dr. Loveless in the loop and she was going to head up once I was ready to push.
Well about 10 minutes after my last check still being a 9 I felt intense pressure and was telling everyone I was feeling the urge to push, without my doctor even being on her way! Holy panic moment lol They checked me again and I was fully dilated (or so they thought) and the nurse went to call Dr. Loveless. When the nurse came back in she said “she’ll be here in 15 minutes” um…..that’s basically a freaking year when you feel like your about to pop out a baby any moment and feeling pressure like you’ve never felt! I’m pretty sure in that moment I cried.
This part of my birth becomes super foggy because the pain was very intense, like my face and hands went numb and tingly and I felt like I was holding the baby inside and trying to squeeze him/her back inside with every contraction!
Then Dr. Loveless got there and I was never so happy to see her in all my life, yet I couldn’t help but feel guilty that the poor lady probably just wanted to be sleeping and not up at 4 am with a labor! I’m going to take this moment to say how thankful I am for Dr. Loveless and everything she has been for me over the last 10 years delivering all 5 of my babies! She has been there for every birth and has jumped through hoops for me to be there whenever I needed her. I know plenty of girls who’s doctors would have let them deliver with someone else if they weren’t on call but Dr. Loveless has always been there. I am so thankful for her knowledge, her friendship and her being there for all of my babies!! She is a true gem of a doctor and I recommend her to everyone!
She got there and checked me and I STILL wasn’t complete like the nurses thought and when she said that I died inside! I couldn’t imagine not pushing through the next contraction so I told her I needed to push anyway and was hopeful to just push past it. Thankfully I was able to start pushing! Like I said my hands were tingling and numb so Matt was able to help hold the oxygen mask between contractions and that helped some but goodness they don’t lie when they call it the “ring of fire”. I specifically remember in the moment after pushing two or three times looking at Matt and saying “I CAN’T DO THIS” and I’m pretty sure him and Dr. Loveless laughed and said “Well you ARE doing this” so keep going! I pushed for about 15 minutes or a little less and at 4:15am August 13th baby C was here! Matt looked down at the baby and came in close to my face and said “it’s another baby boy!” We both had talked the day before and just knew it was another boy!!
Oh the sweet relief of knowing my baby boy was here safe & sound. He was crying and looked pink and wonderful! He had the BIGGEST umbilical cord and everyone was in shock at how big it was! lol They laid him on my chest and I was in HEAVEN! All the pain quickly left my head and honestly I would do it all again 100 times over for this baby boy! He was perfect and everything we ever imagined! Looked just like his brothers and we were SO IN LOVE!
Unfortunately after our hour of snuggling we noticed he was grunting a lot and when they came to do his newborn assessment his oxygen saturations were 50-60 when they should be high 90s so he was given oxygen by mask in the room with us for about 10 minutes before they called in respiortory and NICU to come assess him! After no improvement him and Matt left with the nurses to go to NICU to get checked out. I was devastated. Like typing this out my eyes are full of tears. Absolutely gut wrenching to know your baby is leaving you and you have no idea what’s going on or what’s causing him to have breathing issues. I wanted so badly to be discharged after 24 hrs and go home to show my other babies their new brother but I knew that dream was being ripped away.
I texted Matt quickly after they got settled in NICU and he said he had been put on CPAP to help him breathe easier and that they were going to start running tests etc to find out what the issue was! They finally weighed and measured him in NICU and he was 8lb9oz and 21.5′ long! A typical big Castleberry baby! They started him on an IV, put in a feeding tube, hooked him up to oxygen & heart monitors and ordered X-rays and labs on him! His blood sugar was also extremely low because when I tried to nurse him during our skin to skin he latched for only a few seconds which I’m sure was due to not getting enough oxygen!
We later found out he had fluid on his lungs and what they called infant respiratory distress. They also started a 5 day dose of antibiotics just in case there was an infection that they didn’t know about without having the labs yet! His labs ended up being totally normal and they just told us he would need some time for his lungs to heal so that was our ultimate goal, for him to rest, take feeds and for his oxygen levels to continue to go up as they decreased his oxygen support.
Honestly the next 6 days were the hardest of my life. I was a numb person to be honest, I cried uncontrollably several times and had major pity parties for myself because I was getting robbed of my babies first week of life! If you’ve ever been in the NICU then you understand those feelings. At any given moment you are so thankful they are there healing but then the next so incredibly pissed that this is happening. I felt it ALL!
We were able to stay a few extra nights in the hospital so we could be close to Waiks, which by the way didn’t have a name until he 2 days old! lol We couldn’t decide between our two names! Matt & I both picked a name and we told each other once we saw him we would decide! Then we couldn’t even see his face really with all the tubes so we waited! Our other name because I’m sure all of you will ask was “Axe” but when you say that with our last name we decided in the hospital it sounded like “a$$” so that was a no!
We also didn’t tell the kids what the baby was, we just called him “Baby C” when we sent pictures or FaceTimed them. That was also incredibly hard! Every time I called Greleigh she would bawl on the phone and tell me how much she just wanted us home and wanted to meet her new baby! That coupled with post partum hormones was just almost more than I could take!
As far as my recovery goes my body felt amazing! Recovery immediately following a pain med free birth was incredible! I was up moving and honestly felt totally normal pretty much instantly and that was so nice seeing as I was going back and forth to NICU several times a day to hold him/take him pumped milk for his tube feeds! When we finally got discharged on Sunday the 16th we went home and got all the family together to tell them it was a boy and to tell them his name! My sister & mom however already knew the gender because my sister is a detective and zoomed in on one of this pictures we sent to his armband which said “BB Castleberry” lol They still didn’t know the name yet though so I still had some element of surprise! We videoed the kids and all of them guessed boy except Greleigh, she was still holding strong for that girl lol Once we told them, she said “I was sad for a second because I wanted a sister but mom just get that baby home to me so I can hold him” She then didn’t miss a beat about having another brother and honestly she makes the best big sissy to those boys! We showed them the name announcement picture and they all melted and fell instantly in love!
We spent the next few days starting school and spending our every free moment in NICU with our boy! It was a rough few days but he was getting stronger and passing all the tests he needed to and we knew we were getting close to discharge. Without going into tons of detail the end of our NICU stay got rocky and we had to be an advocate for our baby boy to get him out of there and home with us. Never be afraid to use your voice when you think things aren’t going as they should!! I’m beyond thankful that I have a strong husband who isn’t afraid to speak up to anyone if he feels things are not being handled in the way they should! Especially when your hormones are all over the place and you don’t even know which way is up!
On Wednesday the 19th after a great day with no oxygen issues, all great BS levels, jaundice levels down we FINALLY got the green light to go home! We kept it a secret from the kids and orchestrated a surprise homecoming. My mom, sister and grandma knew we were coming but we didn’t tell the kids or the cousins. I’ll leave the video here for y’all to watch but this is most definitely my favorite video maybe of all time….all my babies meeting for the first time! I can’t watch this without tears flowing every dang time!
Overall my birth was amazing, the nurses were great and had things not gone downhill the hour following his birth it would have been the perfect ending. However everything in life isn’t perfect, we can only take what we are given, learn to adapt and have faith that everything happens for a reason and that was all part of our story! <3
I wanna talk a little bit more about Ashley for those of you who are looking at giving birth during these uncertain times and for those of you lucky enough to NOT give birth in these crazy months! I can not sing her praises more!! You guys this girl knows her stuff. She was a voice for me when I didn’t know what to say or ask. She rubbed my back, gave me space when I needed it, offered ideas, tips etc and helped my husband learn ways to support me during contractions (even though he says “dang I didn’t know I’d be working during labor HA) Her pictures speak for themself and her talent, passion and heart are beyond what I could dream up for a doula/photographer! She was so present yet I didn’t even know she was there if that makes sense. I knew if anything was needed to be asked or said she would be there to support me and help guide my birth into a space it needed to go! If you are looking for a doula and/or a birth photographer I highly recommend you speak with Ashley. A true breath of fresh air and honestly I attribute gaining strength to go on during labor to her! You can find all of her information at https://www.ashblythephotography.com Tell her I sent ya over!