Written by Audrey to Eliza
The Story of Your Birth
We were starting to think you would never come. Throughout my pregnancy I was convinced that you would be born before your due date. I should have known that meant you would be late: I had also been convinced first that I wasn’t pregnant and then that you were a boy. Obviously my intuition was off.
On October 22, your Granny and Gramps drove up from Tennessee and moved into a house down the road that they had rented for a month. They took good care of us the last month that I carried you. Your daddy and I were so anxious for you to get here. I walked miles almost every day hoping that the exercise would start labor. Even though it was late fall here in the mountains, most days were very warm, and we spent many of them at Valle Crucis park. Your Granny and Gramps would walk with me. Your brother Chase rode his three wheeler and played in the sand. Sometimes your cousin Grayson was with us, and I pushed him in the stroller. We watched men fly fishing in the river, watched the remaining leaves fall off of the trees, watched as people bundled up a little warmer, and still you didn’t come.
You were due on October 30th, and I was hoping that you would be born on Halloween. On the 29th your daddy and I took Chase to Blowing Rock’s Halloween festival. On the 31st your Granny and I took him trick or treating on King Street. Everyone asked when you were due. I said “yesterday.”
Because you were due any day, I started going to visit my midwives, Lisa and Carrington, several times a week. They put a monitor on my belly so they could record your movements and heartbeat, and make sure that you were growing and healthy. This is called a non stress test. We had four before you were born. After our first non stress test, I was told that I would need an ultrasound the next week so that my midwives could make sure you were growing and safe. Your daddy and your Granny came to the ultrasound with me. You were so big in my tummy that we couldn’t see much of you. Lisa did the ultrasound and measured the amount of amniotic fluid you were floating in. There was plenty, so we kept waiting for you to decide when you would be born.
As the days and the visits to our midwives continued to pass, we made a plan: if labor hadn’t begun on it’s own by Friday, November 11, Carrington would sweep my membranes in order to induce labor naturally. Your daddy and I hoped you would come on your own; if you didn’t, then we hoped the membrane sweep would work. If labor did not begin in the 24 hours after my membrane sweep, I was scheduled to begin a Pitocin drip in the hospital on Saturday morning. My goal throughout my entire pregnancy was the deliver you without induction, intervention, or pain medicine, so I was adamant that you MUST come before Saturday morning.
On the morning of Friday the 10th of November, your daddy and I dropped Chase off with your Granny and Grandpa and headed to Harmony for our appointment with Carrington. We stopped at Stick Boy Bread Company on the way, and I had a blueberry scone and some water. Your daddy had a mocha and a chocolate chip cookie.
When we got back in the examining room, Carrington walked through the plan with us: I was 2 days shy of 42 weeks pregnant, and they were worried that my placenta might not be supplying you with all the oxygen and nutrients you needed to thrive. Carrington would sweep my membranes that morning. I would begin taking Evening Primrose Oil to soften my cervix for you to be born. Your daddy and I would walk and walk and walk and hope to start labor. If not, it would be Pitocin in the morning.
Carrington had me lie back on the table and examined me to see how far I had progressed. I was 1 centimeter dilated and 80% effaced. Before I knew it, she said “and here’s the sweep,” and had begun moving her fingers in a circular motion inside my cervix to loosen the membranes around your head. When she finished, she told me that I was now a loose 2 centimeters dilated. There was a lot of bloody show, and Carrington was confident the sweep would put me into labor sometime that day. I got up to begin getting dressed and could almost immediately tell a difference – I was having gentle contractions. Hooray!
Your daddy and I headed to the health food store to buy Evening Primrose Oil, and I took my first two pills just before we began walking in the mall. I wanted to walk outside, but it was very cold and damp. After a few laps in the mall, we headed to the hospital where your Memaw was having rotator cuff surgery. We walked the halls and visited with your Nana, Pawpaw James, Uncle Darren, and Aunt Renada. While we were there, we visited the birthing center and had a nurse show us the rooms. She offered to let us choose the room where you would be born – I chose room #8, a huge room in the corner of the birthing center. Next, we went downstairs and preregistered so we wouldn’t have to bother with paperwork when it was time for you to be born. While we were at the hospital, my contractions continued to increase in strength, but still didn’t hurt. From the hospital, we drove down King Street and parked and walked to the ASU campus. We walked to my old office in Sanford Hall, and then walked the staircases in the library. After a little while we decided it was time to go home.
We picked up Chase and made ham sandwiches for lunch. Aside from the minor contractions, it felt like a very normal day. After Chase went down to nap, I took a walk on the gravel road behind our house. Later that afternoon, I took another. Though contractions weren’t picking up, I was hopeful. Your Daddy left to take Chase to your Nana and Pawpaw George’s house to spend the night, and I went to visit with your Granny, Gramps, and Aunt Megan. After a short visit, I was tired and decided to head home for a nap. Because I was having a little back pain, I decided to draw myself a warm bubble bath and settle down with a book before my nap. I sat down, began reading one of your Daddy’s Louis Lamour books – and realized I was having contractions! I sent your daddy a text, then grabbed a piece of paper and a pen to record to length and time of my contractions. I continued reading in the tub, but was interrupted every few minutes by a contraction – I would stop reading, count how long it lasted, then jot this and how strong it was down on my paper. Then I would begin reading again.
I got out of the tub when your Daddy got home. We were both very excited. I bounced on my birthing ball, recorded contractions, and talked to your Daddy. I bustled about the house making sure everything was packed for the trip to the hospital. My contractions had never been longer than a couple minutes apart, but as the evening progressed they became stronger. Our plan was to stay home as long as possible.
Around 9PM, while pressing my head into the door frame of my closet during a particularly strong contraction, I realized that I didn’t want to wait so long to go to the hospital that I was unable to get familiar with my hospital room. Daddy and I left the house a little after nine so that I could unpack my pillows, blanket, and nightgown,and make myself comfortable for your arrival. Since I hadn’t eaten dinner, and since I wouldn’t be allowed to eat once I checked in to the hospital, we knew that I should get a bite to eat on the way. After much deliberation I decided on a (not very healthy) meal of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, a biscuit, and sweet tea from Bojangles. I ate it in the parking lot of the hospital, then we checked in.
A nice nurse named Shiloh took us up to the room where you would be born. She understood that I didn’t want to be hooked up to medical equipment throughout my labor, but explained that I needed to be monitored for a few moments to make sure that you and I were both healthy. She hooked up a monitor to my belly to measure your heartbeat and the strength of my contractions. She took my blood pressure and temperature. Weeks earlier I had tested positive for Beta Strep, so she started an IV and I began getting antibiotics. At first, I was afraid contractions had slowed or stopped because of the excitement of checking into the hospital. However, as soon as I settled down and began answering questions for Shiloh, contractions began again. I was fascinated to watch them increase in strength and duration on the monitor. Soon, though, the monitoring time was over and I was released to bounce on my birth ball and walk the halls of the birthing center.
We let all of your grandparents know that I was at the hospital in labor, and your daddy left to get himself something to eat. I continued walking the halls while he was gone, noticing that my contractions were getting stronger and stronger. I kept thinking about a story people quote that I found on the internet the last week before you were born – “She softened gradually, melting in the light of the sun, all the while thinking, O, this is what it’s like to be a planet & suddenly it was over & the universe expanded by one.”
Just before midnight, the nurses let your Daddy and I out into the waiting area so that we could visit with your Granny, Gramps, and Aunt Megan. We talked for about thirty minutes, long enough that the nurses came looking for us. By the time we got back to our room my contractions had become strong enough that they were beginning to require all of my concentration. Your Daddy helped me by encouraging me to blow raspberries and reminding me to keep all of my noises in a deep pitch. The books I read explained that doing this would keep me calm and focused. It worked! Your Daddy blew raspberries through the contractions with me as I bounced on the birth ball. He got me cool cloths to put on my forehead, and I discovered that biting on a washcloth helped me focus through contractions. I spent the rest of labor and delivery with a washcloth in my mouth and another on my forehead. Your Daddy gave me fresh washcloths between contractions. We turned on Bob Dylan’s soundtrack to Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, and I lay down in the bed to rest my legs. While I was lying there on my side listening to the music I heard a POP, and suddenly there was water gushing everywhere! It felt like it was never going to stop. I told your Daddy that my water had broken, and he went to get the nurses. They helped me change out of my polka dot pajama pants and into some hospital undies.
After my water broke, my contractions became very strong and time seemed to stop. I was very focused on what my body was doing. I blew raspberries through contractions until they became so strong that I let your Daddy know those didn’t help any more. Then, I started making sounds that I thought sounded kind of like a whale – very low noises. In fact, everything about your labor felt like an ocean. Contractions felt like waves rushing in and out. The room was very quiet and the lights were dimmed. Your Daddy and I were very, very tired. I kept apologizing to him for keeping him up all night, even though I knew I couldn’t help it and knew that he didn’t mind. Your Nana called your Daddy to see if he needed anything – coffee! Both of us were falling asleep between contractions by this point. Your Daddy got his coffee and fixed it with cream and sugar. Then, I had another contraction and began making my whale noises – your Daddy moved so quickly to get back to me that he knocked over his coffee!
My midwife, Lisa, had been in to check on me a few times throughout the night. Around 5:00AM she came in, checked me, and let me know that I could begin pushing whenever I felt like I was ready. I was so excited to begin pushing. During each contraction I would bite on my washcloth and push as hard as I could. I was laying in the bed, and although I knew from my reading that I needed to stand, sit, or squat to help you come down, laying in bed felt the best to me at the time. I pushed without much progress for a while, then Lisa told me that my bladder felt a little full and asked if I wanted to go to the bathroom and try to empty it. I got out of bed and she helped me walk to the bathroom. When I sat down on the toilet I had a strong contraction and Lisa encouraged me to push. This felt different – my body took over and I could actually feel my muscles pushing you down! Lisa held my hand and let me pull on her while I pushed. She asked if I wanted to try a few more pushes on the toilet. Definitely. This worked!
When we walked back to the bed, Lisa and the nurses took the lower part of the bed off so that I could sit up and push with my legs hanging off the foot of the bed. Between contractions I would lean back and fall asleep sitting up. Then, a contraction would begin and I would sit up fast, take Lisa’s hand, brace my feet on her stool, and begin pulling on Lisa and pushing as hard as I could. Your Daddy stayed right next to me and helped me know when I should push. I watched the sky become light while I was pushing. I watched blackbirds fly outside the hospital window. Soon, Lisa said she could see your head. Daddy looked and could see it, too. The nurses wheeled in a mirror so that I could watch as you were born.
I pushed, pushed, pushed, as hard as I could. Your Daddy put on gloves and moved to the foot of the bed so that he could catch you. A few more pushes and Lisa told me that I could feel your head – I reached down and there you were. Still inside of me, but I could touch your head. That was an amazing feeling. After that, I pushed even harder. Your head began to ease out. Daddy got his hands ready. The cord was wrapped around your neck twice, so Lisa eased that off. After four hours of pushing, your Daddy held you as you slipped out of me, then placed you on my belly.
It was 9:11 AM on Saturday, November 12. You were blue and purple and the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The nurses rubbed you with blankets while I counted your fingers and toes. I couldn’t believe how quickly you turned pink. Your head was slightly cone shaped from the pushing, and had a large bruise on the back. Your little nose and mouth were both smooshed towards the right side of your face. Your ears were smooshed to your head. You were perfect. After the cord stopped pulsing your Daddy cut it. Then he went out to the waiting area to let your Granny, Gramps, Aunt Megan, and Nana know that you had been born. They had been waiting all night. While he was gone, you pooped all over my belly. The nurses cleaned it up quickly. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to let go of you for anything. You wanted to nurse right away and latched on without any trouble. I held you until Lisa began cleaning me up, then I passed you to your Daddy. He put your first diaper on you – a mint green cloth diaper.
After I was cleaned up Daddy put you back in my arms. The nurses left and the room was quiet. Your Daddy and I hadn’t told anyone your name before you were born because we wanted you to know it first. We told you your name – Elizabeth Murray Sudderth. Your first name is my middle name, and a family name from my side of the family. Your middle name is your Daddy’s middle name, and a family name from his side of the family. We wanted a strong name that would have meaning for you. Because we both also like old-fashioned names, we decided to call you Eliza.
Your Daddy went to get your Granny, Gramps, Aunt Megan, and Nana. They all thought you were beautiful. Everyone took turns holding you and we took pictures. The nurse weighed you – 7 lbs. 4 oz. She measured you and found out that you were 20 inches long. I was very tired and very happy.
Your birth was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the most enjoyable. I truly loved every moment of walking, monitoring contractions, bouncing on my ball, and pushing through contractions. My body worked perfectly to birth you. I am so happy that I chose to have a natural birth. I was strong and focused throughout labor and delivery, and you were born alert and without any pain medication in your body. The next day, your daddy read you the book The Day You Were Born. The last line of that book expresses exactly how we feel – “We are so glad you’ve come.”