On March 11, 2020, our lives were forever changed when Collins Elisabeth Drake came into the world. A day that for so long felt so far out of reach, yet one that will live in our memory as the most special day of our lives. It’s the day we welcomed our daughter into the world and began our new journey as mom and dad! The emotions and experiences of that day are hard to put into words and why it has taken me nearly six months to share our story! There is truly nothing that parallels to giving birth and bringing another life into this world; an indescribable moment that I had to go through to fully understand. On March 11, 2020 I experienced that indescribable kind of love, a mother’s love, when I first laid eyes on Collins and felt her skin against mine.
A Late Little Collins…
To tell you about the day she was born, we must first revisit the final weeks of my pregnancy. As the weeks preceding her birth are just as relative as the hours leading up to her arrival.
At my 38-week appointment we found out I was 0CM dilated, 0% effaced. The doctor set real expectations, letting us know that an induction was a very likely possibility. In a few words, things were closed for business down there! My 39-week appointment rolled around and there was still no measurable change. It was at that appointment that we scheduled an induction for March 11th at 7:30PM (six days following my due date of March 5th). I left feeling very discouraged, as I naïvely spent my entire pregnancy imagining my labor would progress naturally.
The following week we continued to play the waiting game. We filled our days trying to stay busy and in the evenings would stroll the neighborhood and talk about all the things we were looking forward to. Like what traditions we wanted to start with her, who we thought she would take after and what we were most excited about in this new role. Her due date, March 5, 2020, arrived and she still showed no sign that she was ready to make her grand debut. So I sat back, diffused my clary sage, sipped my raspberry leaf tea and spoke words of affirmation. I kept telling myself she will arrive when she’s ready. After all, there was an end date in sight with my induction being less than one week away.
I had my final doctors appointment on Tuesday, March 10th, at 9:00AM, so we were up early and ready to go. Once there, we were placed in a room where I was strapped to an NST monitor. We hadn’t been in the room five minutes when the nurse came in and asked, “Do you want to have a baby today?” To which I did respond, “No one’s ever asked me that before, but YES!” I can’t tell you the excitement Justin and I were feeling! If you’re thinking my body had progressed, it hadn’t! Come to find out, labor and delivery happened to have an opening that day for an 11:30AM induction. The nurse further explained that all inductions are tentative based on room availability. That even though we were on the schedule for tomorrow it wasn’t a guarantee that we would be admitted. “Today’s the day,” she said, “I’ll put in the call to let them know you’re coming.”
We left the doctors’ office around 10:00AM with less than an hour to get home and gather our things. I’m laughing out loud right now at how Justin championed the whole situation, cautiously passing cars, flashing his lights, honking his horn and taking back roads in an attempt to avoid traffic on the highway. I’m sure we were a spectacle! One would have thought I was in active labor. Somehow we managed to temporarily close his business, drop Millie off at a friend’s house, shower, pack the car with our things and make it back to Uptown Charlotte all by 11:30AM.
After being admitted to our labor and delivery room, we paused to reflect on our whirlwind of a morning and what we were about to experience. Justin and I both kept looking at each other with a light in our eyes like, “this is happening; we’re having a baby!” We were giddy with excitement!
Shortly thereafter, we texted our families and told them it was time to meet our little girl. I am emotional, just writing this.
The doctor arrived to examine me within an hour of being admitted. At 40 weeks and 5 days I was still 0CM dilated, 0% effaced.
Over the next 37 hours, I would receive Cervidil to ripen my cervix (medical terms, I promise!), Cytotec to stimulate contractions, a Foley bulb to encourage dilation, Pitocin to start labor and two epidurals at both 6CM and 8CM dilated. Unbeknown at the time, we were in for a very long and arduous induction!
My induction began around 1:00PM with Cervidil, a vaginal insert with time-released medication to help my cervix gradually dilate. “This will stay in place for 12-hours,” the nurse said. At roughly 1:30AM, the Cervidil was removed and I was still 0CM dilated. Certainly not the news we hoped to hear! I would be remiss if I failed to mention how discouraged I felt in that moment. After a much-needed pep talk the nurse instructed I get some rest, as tomorrow was “going to be a big day!” And it was…
The following morning, March 11th, I woke up feeling very optimistic. It was a beautiful spring day, the sun pouring through our window. I ate a big breakfast, gave myself a sponge bath and got somewhat ready. It was a good day to have a baby!
When the doctor arrived to examine me around 9:00AM, I was still 0CM dilated. Therefore, the plan moving forward was to dilate my cervix as little as 1CM. “I just need a tiny opening so that I can insert a Foley bulb,” a small inflatable ballon that is filled with saline water to widen the cervix. “Hopefully as much as 5CM,” she said. Well, a dose of Cytotec was all it took! I was barely 1CM, but it was enough to push forward with our plan.
It was now mid-afternoon and the Foley had been in place for several hours. I was experiencing mild contractions at this point. Baby was moving around between each contraction, so I held my belly and cherished these last moments with my pregnant body that I came to love so much.
When the doctor came in to remove the Foley catheter she said I was a little over 5CM dilated. Just as we had hoped! It was several seconds into that exam that the unexpected happened. All of a sudden we heard what sounded like a loud gush of water as if someone had taken a pin to a giant water balloon. Sure enough, the doctor confirmed what we were thinking when she said, “well, your water just broke.”
At that point, I was in true labor. Experiencing mild, yet sequenced contractions.
I think it’s important that I pause here to reflect on my birth plan. Which simply put was: have a hospital birth, get an epidural and deliver a healthy baby however that may happen (though deep down I really wanted to experience a vaginal birth)! I really loved our team of doctors and the hospital we chose, and I completely trusted them to do what was best for myself and baby.
It was around 3:00PM and my body was doing what it was supposed to do in response to the medication! I was having consistent contractions, but they just weren’t speeding up!
That’s when the doctor came in, sat down by my side and explained the sequence of everything that was about to go down. At this point, it was time to speed things along with Pitocin and an epidural. Collins’ heart rate was all over the place and the opportunity for a vaginal birth was expiring. The doctor asked me if I was ready for the anesthesiologist to come with the epidural, I said I was.
An hour had passed, and I was completely conscious but unable to communicate, simply due to the intensity of my contractions. My knuckles were white from gripping Justin’s hand, and cat-cow positions were the only way for me to relieve even the slightest bit of the pain. I had moments of doubt, tears streaming down my face. Beside my bed was a remote that allowed me to “control” the flow of my epidural with the simple push of a button. I held tight to the remote with no sense of pain relief.
By now, it was around 7:00PM and I was roughly 8CM along. It was concluded that my first epidural did not work. I was at a crucial point where I was still eligible for another epidural, but I had to get it now.
About the time I got my second epidural I was exhausted- mentally, emotionally and physically. I remember Justin sitting in front of me in a chair, holding my legs, tears welling in his eyes. We were in this together, but I could see in his face a certain helplessness. After ten years together, these were indeed our most intimate moments together.
This is where things get a little blurry! It seemingly all happened so fast!
I was finally feeling some relief after the second epidural. I was taking a much needed nap when, like a switch turning on, my body’s natural instincts took over. I was awakened by a new call to push. Almost instantly, the now-familiar pain from the hours of labor gave way to this pressure, and Justin and I shared a moment where we both realized it was time.
He was so ready to go, asking me what I needed, getting me prepped mentally and physically. Setting up our room so that I felt most “at-home.” We were a team ready to take on this labor with an insane amount of excitement and confidence. With our worship music playing, and Justin (literally) at my side, we worked through each contraction. The nurses showed him how to read the monitor so he’d tell me when a contraction was coming on, helping me breathe through them each time the wave hit.
The doctor came in to examine me, and sure enough, I was 10CM dilated and ready to go. Her words to me were, “Taylor-Rae, tell me when you feel like you have to push.” When I felt that moment come, my doctor, nurse, and Justin stepped into action as if we’d practiced this a million times before. It was anything but chaotic! Almost in direct opposition of what I assumed delivery to be.
The doctor told me to grab behind my knees, with my elbows wide. Justin and the nurse were holding my feet. “Ok, Taylor-Rae, with the next contraction, you’re going to take a deep breath, lean into the wave and push while I count down from 10. We’re going to do this three times during each contraction. Remember to push through your bottom. Okay?” In unison, I heard them all start counting down.
For the next hour and a half I focused on breathing and pushing through the contractions. It was the most empowering feeling, knowing that I was delivering new life into this world. Despite feeling physically drained from laboring nearly 24-hours, the thought of soon meeting my daughter carried me through the last leg of this journey. I do recall Justin enthusiastically saying, “I can see her! You’ve got this, TR!” The doctor would excitedly let me know when real progress was made, too. It gave me so much more confidence to keep pushing. Pushing with every single thing I had left inside of my bones.
Three more strong pushes and I was rewarded with the sweet sound of hearing her cry for the first time. Seconds later I held her tight to my chest, sobbing with happiness. Justin and I kissed one another and marveled over this tiny miracle that we had prayed over for so long! She was even more perfect than we ever thought she could be. I remember Justin whispered, “How on earth do we deserve the incredible honor of raising this perfect and innocent human?” She was here and she was ours! Collins was born on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at 10:29PM weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces and 19.5 inches long. Tears are pooling in my eyes right now as I write this, I never ever want to forget this feeling. It was the most profound moment of my entire life!
I have no words powerful enough to describe the last six months and the love we have for our daughter. She’s just the sweetest and I’m so thankful for this wave of calmness that has come over me. I’m truly soaking up every moment with her, leaving laundry in the basket, lunch in the sink, dust on furniture and pink blankets scattered throughout the house. It’s bliss. A love like I’ve never known before!
I thank God every day for the medical advancements that allowed us the choice to be the mother and father we always dreamt of being. It’s not lost on me that He answered our hearts cry!
To be transparent, this post is one I’ve debated sharing as it is so deeply personal- as all birth stories are. My hopes in sharing my birthing experience is to provide a glimpse into how intensely beautiful and powerful it is to bring a baby into this world. And ultimately be a voice of encouragement for anyone preparing to start this journey themselves. As I found myself reading through other birth stories and preparing for Collins’ arrival, I couldn’t help but imagine how my own labor experience would play out. Sitting here now, I have a whole new appreciation for just how powerful the female body is- creating life, bringing it into the world, and nourishing a tiny human. It truly takes a team to make this all possible, and I have to admit that the doctors, nurses, and staff were really what made my experience so wonderful. I will be forever grateful to them for taking such good care of my new little family of three. I’ll cherish the memories of our few days in the hospital forever and look forward to spending the rest of my life with this beautiful girl!