Let's start off by being real. This has been a very intimidating post for me to write. Partly because I want every emotion and every occurrence to be recorded perfectly and partly because we're getting down to the nitty gritty in this entry. We're talkin' hold nothing back sort of deal. You've been warned. I told myself that if I was going to write this down, then I would be 100% honest with myself and others because I really don't want it any other way. I don't even think I even realized all of the charged and powerful emotions that are associated with that day until I sat down and really thought through that day. I've always been hesitant to tell Reese's birth story because it was such an emotionally and physically (duh) exhausting experience for me and totally not what I expected. In the slightest. But I want it to be recorded for her and for me. Because maybe one day she'll experience similar feelings and will need to know that she wasn't the only one.
What actually sparked me writing this post was talking with my sister-in-laws at a girls' over-nighter to Park City last weekend. All of Todd's sisters are in town, and they wanted to to have girl's night to gab, relax, and just take a break. We were doing our nails (because what girls' night is complete without doing your nails?), and we got on the topic of labor. Everyone was sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly about their various pregnancies. From epidurals to pushing to natural births, we covered just about everything. I found myself getting very anxious. I found myself thinking about how if I wanted more children (which I do) I would have to go through that again. And that's when I had a little panic attack. Was I capable of that? Could I go through something like that again? I felt myself getting nervous and sweaty. It was weird. But that forced me to come to terms with the fact that it would happen again. Because I really do genuinely and desperately want more children. I thought about the day Reese was born and for the first time ever, I really worked through the feelings I had that day. It was amazing and incredibly...spiritual. I feel silly using that word, but it's the perfect fit for how I was feeling that night.
So there's a little precursor to Reese's birth story and how I ended up here, on this blog, finally recording the day our baby girl came into our world...and how she totally rocked it.
I remember waking up that morning very, very calm. Our bags were packed, and all we had to do was shower and get ready. We were supposed to call when we woke up to make sure that it was time for us to come in. I called at , and they said it would be a couple more hours. Todd went back to sleep, but there was no way in he*& that was happening for me. I showered and got ready, curls and all (ha! so not worth it for next time). By the time I was done, I called the hospital, and they gave us the okay. We were on our way!
When we got there, we rolled in with our bags, totally oblivous to what was about to happen. But seriously. When I think about walking into the hospital it was so incredibly surreal and unbelievably insane that next time we walked through those doors together, we'd have a baby. A baby, folks. A LIVING, BREATHING CHILD. Say what?
When we got to the room, the nurse set me up, and honestly I don't even remember what they give you, but I was given some sort of medication to help bring on the contractions. That was around . At some point within the next hour or so, the doctor came in and broke my water.
That kind of rocked my world and was like here we go, I'm having a baby. It was like a switch went off in my head telling me that this was real. Heeeey there Ash, you're on your way to giving birth! Yikes. At that point though, I was surprisingly still very calm. Todd was being a champ, and we were learning things together as we went (because guess who didn't read any books, make a birthing plan, or take a class? THESE YOUNG BUCKS.) Everything was like, what's that, how does that work, is that procedure, does everyone else do it? We were very much band-wagoners that day.
Right after the doctor broke my water, I wanted the epidural, and I wanted it fast. No pain for this chick. NO THANK YOU. I'll take that epidural and I'll take it now.
"Just sit very still in an extremely uncomfortable curl with your back sticking out so I can stick a needle the size of an AK-47 in your spine. And if you move...well, it's not good, so just don't," said the anesthesiologist.
Needless to say, I didn't move a muscle.
Once that was over though, most of the day part was kind of a blur. I didn't feel any contractions, Todd's family was at the hospital visiting, the nurse kept checking me to see how far along I was, and everything was pretty peachy. I was low stress and feeling very peaceful.
And then I starting feeling them. Mild at first. Piercing later. Yep. Contractions. Todd called for the nurse, and she told me to press the button. They had given me this button to push when I felt like I was having contractions that upped the epi. I was pressin' that dang thing ALL. DAY. LONG. When the nurse told me to press it, I did as I was told and waited it out.
I could still feel contractions. Not horribly but enough to make me worried about what was ahead.
Pretty soon the nurse came in and told me I was 8 cm dilated. A lot of Todd's family was there at that point, and the nurse said I wasn't quite ready to push or anything yet, but she would tell them when they should leave. Todd and I decided that we just wanted it to be him and I in the room to usher in our baby girl.
At this point, I was really worried my parents, mostly my momma, wouldn't make it in time. They were flying into the Salt Lake City airport that afternoon. I was praying that Reese would hold off until she was able to make it to the hospital. I really wanted and needed to see her before Reese came. Their flight was delayed that morning, and I was trying to accept the fact that I wouldn't see her before.
The nurse came to check me again, and I had dilated to 8.5 cm. At this point, I got a phone call from my mom, saying that they were about a half hour away. Maybe she would make it!
And sure enough, at 9 cm dilated, she walked through our door! I was overwhelmed, and the tears started pouring. I was so happy she was there. My dad and brother Hunter were there too. It was so comforting.
Throughout the whole day, Todd was such a champ. I just remember being so grateful that he was there. He seemed so calm. He was always asking how I was doing and what I needed. Such a sweetheart.
The next part was a big blur. All of a sudden the nurse came in and was like it's time to push! I was like, SAY WHAT? You mean this really ends with me pushing a baby out?
The nurse asked everyone to leave, and as everyone corralled out, they gave us hugs and told us they loved us. I felt so loved and proud to be a part of such a great fam. I remember specifically though and will never forget my sweet sister-in-law Natalie coming up and giving me the biggest hug. She started tearing up and told me how much she loved me. I remember that meant so much to me because she had just had Dylan two months before, and it was almost like a subliminal "If I made it, you'll make it. You got this!"
Once they left, the nurse came in with the doctor, and he said that Reese was facing the opposite direction she was supposed to be (aka if she was facing down, she needed to be up or if she was up she needed to be down). He said the nurse was going to push with me and try to turn the head up herself and that he would come back in a little bit. During that time, I was definitely feeling contractions more than I wanted to and would be lying if I was having second thoughts about this whole baby thing.
The nurse kept telling me that I couldn't let out any air or talk when I pushed, and I had to push for 10 seconds. Say what?! But in all the movies, the woman scream and yell and grunt, why couldn't I?! Remember when I said we didn't take any classes? Yeeeeahhhhhh. And the first time Todd tried to give me coaching advice, I don't even remember what he said, but he said to pretend like I was doing _insert some sort of activity here_ and that might help. The nurse was so quick to shoot that down. She was like, "No! Don't do that. It's nothing like that." Haha, that provided some comic relief for both of us, and we were both laughing hysterically.
Someone told me once that pushing was like taking a big #2 (there's a dose of TMI for ya), so there I was pushing my heart out and giving it my all, only to have the nurse tell me that I needed to push harder and pretend like I was squeezing a melon out down there. She kept telling me to focus. LIKE I WAS FOCUSING ON ANYTHING ELSE. But actually I really loved this nurse. She had a thick southern accent, and I felt like God made her my nurse on purpose. Tender mercies y'all.
Todd throughout this whole ordeal held my hand and kept telling me I could do it. And every time I looked at him, I really believed I could. Love my man.
At this point I was starting to feel the contractions more and more, so I kept pressing the button. I wasn't sure if this was normal or how much pain I was supposed to feeling. After about 45 minutes, the nurse said that she wasn't turning, so she went to get Dr. Judd. Then Dr. Judd proceeded to try to turn little Reese as I pushed.
Folks, at this point I was beyond hot mess. All filters were down, and I was in serious pain. I kept looking at Todd and saying, "I can't do this!" I was in a state of panic. It felt like I was pushing out a bowling ball, and sharp pains were slaughtering my lower back. What kept me going was that Dr. Judd told Todd to come look and sure enough Todd said, "I see her hair!" He was wide-eyed and all smiles. I could see the combo of "My daughter!" and "This is crazy and weird and wild and SO REAL!" written all over his face.
Another half hour or so later, he said she still wasn't turning. He gave me two options. I could either keep pushing, and it could be another hour or so before she came out, or he could use forceps to turn her and get her out within five minutes. I didn't know diddly-squat about forceps, but getting her out in five minutes was all I heard. I asked what they were, and he told me he'd used them millions of times in his 43 years of birthing babies. So I said, "Here we go!"
And that my friends is when ish got really real. Any pain I thought I was experiencing before was nothing compared to the pain from forceps. HOLY CRAP.
Dr. Judd was confused that I was feeling so much pain (that made two of us!) because I did have an epidural. He finally asked me if I wanted the anesthesiologist to come in and top off the dose. I was all, "YES, YES, YES!" Once he topped it off, he said to wait for 10 minutes for it to take effect if it would even do anything at all because I was at "the point of no return" (my words not his). Five minutes into the wait, I told Dr. Judd there was no change at all. SUPER. He said we could wait the five more minutes, or I could just push and get this baby girl out. So I put my game face on, Dr. Judd put the forceps back in, and we pushed.
I pushed for what felt like forever. I don't even really remember much after that point, just that I was so physically exhausted that I hoped Reese just walked the rest of the way out because I really didn't think I had it in me. All I remember was Todd at that point. I just kept looking to him for comfort and coaching. He was such a champ. Really calm and super supportive. Sweet merciful, I was glad he was there.
At this point Todd was watching the birth, and he kept telling me that he could see her! I kept thinking, "Great, but I want to be able to see her to 'cause that'll mean she's out!!" Haha.
And then I felt a huge wave of relief wash over my body. Oh sweet relief. She was out!
Dr. Judd held her up, and it was so surreal! I seriously think that I was so loopy that I was semi-delusional. Todd cut the umbilical cord, held her for a second, but they had to rush her over to clean her lungs out because when the doctor broke my water, he could see that she had Meconium (when the baby's first poo is inside the womb, so the baby is inhaling it...thumbs up for more TMI).
The next part is the part of Reese's birth story that always made me hesitant to record it and share it. I guess I was always a little embarrassed about it. But cheers to honestly and navigating motherly emotions. Here goes...
I remember when Reese was being washed off, she was clearing out those lungs and crying her little heart out. I remember being overwhelmed by that cry. I remember thinking that she was here, we were parents, and there was no going back! I actually mostly remember keeping my eyes on Todd because first of all, he was all smiles and so incredibly tender with Reese. He immediately was talking to her like he had known her forever, comforting her while she was crying. That in and of itself brought me the greatest comfort because I knew I wouldn't be doing it alone. I also kept my eyes on him though because it was almost like I was trying to live vicariously through him, soaking in that sweet moment because I wasn't feeling any sweetness over on my end. I was only feeling exhaustion.
After they wiped her off a little bit and cleared her lungs, they brought her over to me. And this is where I'm a little embarrassed to say that I really wasn't into holding her at that point. She was crying on my chest, and I couldn't seem to comfort her at first. I started crying. I was so overwhelmed by this little being that was now my responsibility. Then I remember Todd and my family came in to welcome Reese to the world, and don't get me wrong I had told them they could be there and even asked Todd's sister Katie to take some pictures (HA! That was a big H-E-!-@ NO). But when they all walked in, I was so out of it and so not up for small talk, I felt so bad! Thankfully my mom came over gave me a kiss and suggested they all vacate and let us rest. Gotta love that woman.
And y'all...that's really all I remember from that night! I don't even remember when they took her away, the process of moving to another room, or even what really happened period! All I remember is that we tried breastfeeding and that it was hard at first but finally worked itself out. Then I remember seeing Todd holding her on the couch in our room. He was staring at her with the sweetest stare. I remember again being more infatuated with Todd than I was with Reese.
I'm embarrassed to say, but I never really had that magical moment with Reese right after she was born where it was like, "Here you are my angel, I've loved you for so long, and now you're finally here!" It was more like, "You're here, this is real, and you're depending on me." I loved her, please don't get me wrong, but I was just so overwhelmed and exhausted. My life had just taken a complete 180, and I didn't know how I felt about it. The next couple of days consisted of a lot of weird bodily things, but it was so great to have nurses, Todd, and my mom helping me. The nurses would also take Reese to nursery in between feeding so I could rest and that was awesome. I had no problem letting them take her to the nursery.
Then before we knew it, it was time to take her home. It was time to take our daughter to our home. A home that would no longer just be Todd and I, but would now be Todd, Reese, and I. WOAH #3.
I'll never forget that first day that we brought her home. Todd and I came in, sat down, and stared at Reese. We both looked at each other and just started crying. We were so overwhelmed! I think bringing her home, just hit us both so hard. Really hard. We were so overwhelmed with this life-changing thing. This "no-going-back" change.
After the tears, we laughed. We laughed at how totally incapable we felt as parents but that sure enough we were parents, so here we go!
Our catch phrase for what felt like forever was, "This is crazy." When people would ask how we were doing or what it was like, we would always respond, "It's crazy." Because it really was. Our minds didn't wrap around it for what felt like forever. We were so incredibly in love with our baby girl, but at the same time, we were such learners. Just when we felt like we had something down, something else would pop up that threw us for a loop.
Everyone kept telling us that we wouldn't remember what life was like without her, and I can honestly say that I truly do feel that way now, but for the first few months of Reese's life, I could totally remember what life was like without her. We got sleep, we spent quality time together without worrying about her, we didn't get so upset at each other trying to navigate the whole parenting thing, and we certainly didn't have to worry about anyone else but each other.
But then something happened...I don't know when it changed. All of a sudden things just got easier. All of a sudden, the questions as to how to help her or what to do with her weren't so stressful. All of a sudden, we had a routine, but it was okay if it changed. All of a sudden, we understood more of what each other was going through as new parents. All of a sudden, we developed this connection with Reese. This deep love that we had never experienced before. And all of a sudden, we really couldn't imagine life without our beautiful Reese Lynn Barrett.
To all you mommas who are navigating a new baby, whether it's your first, second, third, or twentieth...be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Understand that you don't have to have all the answers. But know that you are that baby's momma, and you are entitled to all the knowledge you need to care for him or her. If there's one thing I wish someone would have told me, it is that the bottom line is that you are that baby's momma, and you have the intuition to care for it whether you know it or not. And maybe someone did tell me that...I probably just didn't believe them. But if I could go back, I would believe them. Because I know now with all my heart that it's true. I am Reese's momma, and as long as I love her unconditionally, I will always be doing my job.
Moms>> You're doing better than you think.
I hope I haven't terrified any moms-to-be with Reese's birth story but had to record it because it happened, and no matter how hard it was, I would do it a million times over if it meant I got my Roni in the end.
XO, Ashton Tilton