I have felt so blessed that this first pregnancy was such a beautiful experience! We waited so long for these moments and I just wanted to soak them all in. I knew that I wanted my birth experience to be just as enjoyable as my pregnancy had been and after talking about it with a couple trusted women and lots of prayer, I felt really strongly that I wanted to have a natural, unmedicated birth with the help of a midwife. Bryan's one request was that I give birth in a hospital (and not in a blow-up pool in the living room like I had originally wanted lol) and I have to admit, it was the best option for all of us.
It's been exactly 3 weeks to the day that I gave birth to Aurea and it's taken me this long to even start to process the experience. I decided to share it now along with our AMAZING birth story pictures, captured by Kenzie Tibbitts (@kenzietttt). She's seriously magical and captured our experience perfectly.
For two days straight, I had the most annoying contractions; they kept me awake at night and distracted me throughout the day so I knew that the big day was coming really soon. I woke up the morning of the 13th after a long night of sporadic contractions and realized that I was also spotting. I called up my mom, who was at Disneyland with my sister for her birthday, and told her what I was feeling. My parents and sister were supposed to drive in to Utah on the 13th, but they rearranged their schedule and pushed their travel back a day. Big mistake. My mom checked in with me throughout the day to see how I was feeling and decided to leave late after Disneyland (*eye roll*) and drive through the night.
As we got ready for bed that night, my intuition told me I was only going to get a few hours of sleep and then it would be time. I was right! I didn't get very restful sleep because the contractions were waking me up and around 3 in the morning, I couldn't sleep through them anymore. I downloaded a contraction timer on my phone and started mapping them out. They weren't too bad, mostly just uncomfortable, annoying, and getting closer together, but I didn't want to wake up Bryan just in case this wasn't the real deal, so I stayed in bed and dozed in between. Around 4:30am, I felt a contraction come on that I couldn't just wait to pass and I jumped out of bed breathing heavily, waking up Bryan. He followed me into the bathroom where I calmly told him to pack his hospital bag (he still hadn't packed it *eye roll again*) while I jumped in the shower. Don't ask me why a shower felt so important at the moment, it just did.
Around 5:30am, we had finally gotten all of our stuff together and were headed to the hospital. I called my mom and told her we were on our way. She proceeded to panic, of course, because at that point they still had about 5 hours to go. When we got to the hospital, I was dilated to 5cm so I immediately got admitted and they called my midwife, Paula.
I very specifically wanted to labor for a little while in the bathtub, so as soon as Paula got there, I stripped down and soaked in the hot water for a while. It was so soothing and so helpful!
I have to give a special shout out to Bryan. I get so teary eyed looking at these photos and thinking about what these moments were like. I had been a little concerned in the weeks before my due date that Bryan wouldn't be mentally prepared enough to help me through this experience. It didn't help that we had totally dropped the ball and forgotten to go to birthing classes like we had planned. But he was my rock the entire time. He held me through the contractions, learned from Paula how to counteract the pain by pushing my pressure points, held my hand while I got my cervix checked (EXCRUCIATING), and only made a few dad jokes which earned him some stern looks from Paula. She didn't think he was funny which just made it even more funny. I picked the best partner and baby daddy in the whole world.
Paula checked my cervix again and I was at 9 cm! My water still hadn't broken and she felt enough of a bubble of amniotic fluid to finally break it for me. Bryan called my mom to see where she was at and sent her into such a panic she (and I quote) "thought she was going to have a stroke". She told us that she was in Mona, UT and only 30 mins away. For the record, Mona is NOT 30 mins away. I definitely thought she wasn't going to make it, but I couldn't focus on that right then.
Baby girl must have known that I needed my mom there because I got stuck at 9 cm for two excruciating hours. Mom came bursting into the hospital room right as I was starting another contraction. She had a crazed look in her eyes, but she made it and that's all that mattered!
At this point, I had been laboring at a 9 for two very long hours and the pain was relentless. Where there should have been a little lull between contractions, I felt constant pain in my lower back. Baby girl was turned the wrong way and it was causing the horrible back labor and the pause in my progression. After one particularly painful contraction, Paula came to me and told me that I should get the epidural. When I asked her why, she explained that at this point I was in so much pain that I was no longer able to relax and breathe through it, I was enduring and tensing even if it wasn't intentional. Most babies that are flipped the way mine was end up having to get c-sectioned and she thought that if I could just relax, baby could flip on her own and I would be able to still have her the way that I wanted to. I knew that Paula would never suggest an epidural unless it was the best option so I took her advice and got the epidural.
I truly believe that Paula was heaven-sent because it ended up being the best decision for us! I was able to relax, baby flipped over by herself, and I got to push my baby out the way that I wanted to...for a whole hour.
She was the most beautiful little conehead alien baby I had ever seen. I was ugly crying, Bryan had the biggest smile on his face, and my mom was basically jumping up and down next to me.
Unfortunately, this was a little short-lived. As they put Aurea on my chest to do skin-to-skin, the nurse said that she wasn't crying like she was supposed to. She was grunting, but wouldn't let out a good long cry. They let me hold her for just a few short minutes before moving her to the table to work on her while Paula took care of me. The table they moved her to was only a few feet away but it felt like much further. Bryan told me that they pumped her little stomach and lungs and pulled out tons of amniotic fluid, but she still wasn't breathing properly. Tons of nurses and NICU doctors moved in to give her x-rays and run all sorts of tests while I was stuck helpless in the bed, my legs still numb from the epidural so I couldn't even get closer to her.
They told us that she had a pneumothorax on her right side. Basically, she had a tiny hole in her chest cavity that allowed air in and caused her lung to collapse a little bit. Apparently it's fairly common and the hole will usually close up by itself, but they decided to move her to the NICU so that they could monitor her oxygen and run some more tests. Before they took her away, Bryan got the chance to give her a blessing with the help of his dad, my dad, and my grandpa. The Spirit in the room was incredible and I felt completely at peace that she was going to be okay. They gave her to me so I could hold her and kiss her before they whisked her away, Bryan following close behind.
The next few hours were awful. I felt completely disconnected and empty inside. They moved me to my room, which was on a completely different floor from the NICU. We had only gotten a few minutes of skin-to-skin and I hadn't even gotten the chance to breastfeed her. After my nurses ran their tests on me, I insisted they take me upstairs to her.
We stayed in the NICU for 4 1/2 LONG days, but she was such a strong little trooper and knowing she was okay was worth it. Even though my birth experience was kind of a wild ride, it was the most beautiful, empowering thing I've ever done! My body grew and labored for this tiny little miracle and she has brought so much love into our lives. I'm so happy with my birthing experience and these pictures have become treasures to us.
WE LOVE YOU FOREVER, AUREA MAKANAMAIKALANI HARDISTY!
*If you are thinking of going natural for your birth, I highly recommend it! My midwife was also completely amazing! Her name is Paula Thacker and she works with Riverton Women's Health practice. If you are looking for a midwife, all three at that practice are phenomenal and offer a more personal birthing experience than an OBGYN. Smaller patient load = more one on one time and more of a chance that they will be the one delivering your baby, not a random on-call doctor. They will also advocate for you while you're in the hospital and make sure that you don't receive any unnecessary procedures. Also, if you are interested in placenta encapsulation services, I used Ashlie from Beehive Birthcare. If that sounds like the weirdest/grossest thing to you, that's totally fine, but I've loved the effects of my placenta pills and it's worth a little research. If you have any questions about it, feel free to contact me through Instagram or email!*