Such an inspiring birth story we are sharing today. Sarah, her husband Zane, and their entire birth team worked so beautifully together to bring baby Ellis earth-side. Enjoy!
The Birth of Ellis Perry
By Sarah Perry
I can still remember the moment I found out I was pregnant. I hadn’t been on birth control for a month and had a gut feeling when I woke up that I should take an at home pregnancy test. I took the test, and put it to the back of my mind as I continued getting ready for work. As I turned off my blow-dryer and glanced at the test, I was in complete shock! The test was positive. Thousands of emotions whirled through my head all at once…feelings of excitement, worry, gratefulness, and fear to name a few. It just so happened that I had a follow up appointment with my doctor later that day. There had been some concerns prior to me becoming pregnant because I had not had a menstrual cycle for over 5 months. The appointment had been set so that my doctor could run a few tests to be sure nothing else was wrong. Obviously the worry had been for nothing in previous months, as she confirmed at the appointment that I was 4 weeks pregnant.
I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Hypermobility Type) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, so in order to take precautions, my doctor set me up with a high risk specialist. Oftentimes people with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome have cervical incompetence, and the cervix shortens – leading to early deliveries. Although it was a scary thought to think I could deliver early, it was fun getting to see and hear our baby’s heartbeat more often.
Morning sickness kicked in for me at about 5 weeks and lasted from 5 weeks until around my 25th week of pregnancy. It was rough… I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and had to go the hospital four different times because of dehydration. I lost between 11 and 14 pounds in the first two months. You name it, I tried everything possible to take away the nausea and vomiting. Finally with the combination of Zofran and Diclegis, the morning sickness became bearable and I was able to start enjoying food again around my 25th week of pregnancy.
I remember when I started craving Cinnamon Chex. I ate them at least 3 times a day. I can still remember the day I called my husband, Zane, in a panic. I went to the cabinet to get a bowl of Chex, and they were gone! I couldn’t find them anywhere. Zane answered the phone and when I asked where the Cinnamon Chex were he told me that he had eaten the last bowl before work. The water works started soon after…. I cried and cried because I was so sad he had eaten the last Chex and didn’t leave any for me! I can remember thinking it was crazy that I was crying over cereal, but I couldn’t help myself. Zane said he was so sorry and that he would make it all better and buy 3 new boxes on his way home. A couple of weeks later, my cravings for pinto beans and watermelon began! We had watermelon daily from my 28th week of pregnancy up until the day of delivery.
My husband and I discussed the idea of having a doula. I did some research, and loved the thought of having someone to advocate for you during such an important time. Throughout my pregnancy, I received chiropractic care from Dr. Peter Camiolo at Revolution Health Center. He had so much helpful advice during my pregnancy, and when I asked if he had a reference for a doula, he sent me Whitney Cantrell’s contact information. We met Whitney at Starbucks soon after, and my first impression of her was that she was sweet and very passionate about what she did. I knew right away she would be the perfect fit in guiding me through the rest of my pregnancy and my delivery.
We had a few scares along the way, but thankfully Ellis was okay. By 39 weeks, I was more than ready for his sweet face to grace our presence. Each day felt like it was dragging on for decades. I went to see Dr. Redden when I was 40 weeks and 4 days. We went over our birth plan again, and discussed that she would give me I.V. fluids as soon as I got to the hospital to help with my genetic condition. (I become dehydrated very easily, and need the extra fluids to help keep my blood pressure stable. I met with my Cardiologist at Vanderbilt before our meeting, and these were his suggestions to try and keep my condition stable during labor.) Dr. Redden offered to “strip my membranes” which can induce labor, but I had decided prior to my appointment that although I wanted Ellis to come, I would let me body do its thing and just wait it out. I appreciated her being very supportive of my decision, and for always being so understanding of any of the choices I was planning to make.
I was a little bummed to still only be dilated to a 2, but was thankful Ellis was still doing well. To cheer me up, my husband took me to Sopapilla’s to eat some “spicy Mexican food”, and later that afternoon I lost my mucus plug (whoop-whoop!). By around 5:30AM, I felt some weird pains that woke me up, but nothing too serious. I had a gut feeling that today was the day we would finally meet baby Ellis. I went back to sleep for a few hours, and woke up again at 7:30. The pains still weren’t super intense, so I waited to wake my husband and tried to rest a little more. I eventually got up and went to the shower to see if it caused the contractions to stop, and when they continued, and I woke him and had him start timing them so we could get an idea of if this was real labor.
My contractions were all over the place for most of the day. When my husband started timing them, they were 7 minutes apart for 45 minutes straight. My back was really starting to bother me, and the shower didn’t alleviate the pain. We stopped timing them, and I tried ignoring my back, but it continued to bother me. I talked to Whitney, and she sent me some exercises for Zane to help me with since back labor is usually an indicator that the baby is facing out instead of towards your spine. We did the abdominal lift for 10 contractions. During one of the contractions, we had gone out into our garden to see what new plants were ready to be picked. When the next contraction came, we stopped in the middle of our yard and Zane helped me do the abdominal lift. Looking back, I definitely wasn’t laughing but I can only imagine that our neighbors probably thought we were completely loony!!!! My contractions were now every 4 minutes for 55-60 seconds. Whitney suggested we stop and rest for a little bit since my back was still really bothering me, and I tried laying on my side with a heating pad.
A couple of hours passed, and my contractions had spread out a little more. Sometimes they would be 7 minutes apart, other times they would be 2 minutes apart. My back pain continued to get worse, and I felt like nothing Zane tried helped. It didn’t feel like the contractions were super painful at that point, it was really just the continual pain in my back (very similar to kidney stone pains that I have had in the past). I could feel myself losing the ability to breathe through them, and so Zane called Whitney, and she headed to our house for some reinforcements. When she arrived, we tried multiple positions to help ease the back labor. Some gave me a little relief, but as the contractions picked up and became stronger, my back pain became more and more intense. Using the restroom was a nightmare because of the pain in my back when I sat down. Whitney helped me get to a comfortable position straddling a chair and laying my head on our bed while Zane applied counter pressure to my back. I started to doze off in that position, and was finally able to get a little relief. Whitney headed out and told us to call her if anything changed, and that she would meet us to the hospital.
Shortly after I could feel myself getting dizzy and my blood pressure dropping (this happens a lot with my condition, and I become dehydrated very quickly). Zane and Whitney talked on the phone and decided it might be best to head to the hospital to get I.V. fluids started. We waited to call any family members until I was admitted to the hospital because I had a fear that everyone would show up, and I wouldn’t be in true labor, or I wouldn’t be far enough along. I didn’t want to set myself up to feel embarrassed about this (even thought I shouldn’t), so we stuck with the plan and waited until after we arrived and were admitted to call family members.
We had to drive from Murfreesboro to Franklin, and it felt like the LONGEST ride of my life. I was in the backseat, and felt most comfortable straddling my pregnancy pillow while pulling up on the grab handles during contractions. We arrived at the hospital around 6:30, and everything became pretty hazy after we arrived at the hospital. I was scared to death to have any other doctor other than Dr. Redden, but Dr. Eia was on call, and as soon as I met her I knew my baby would be in good hands. Once I was in the room and they checked me, I was dilated to a 4.5. I had hoped I would have been further along, but I couldn’t even focus on the number with the amount of back pain I was having. At some point, I fainted on the toilet with Whitney holding my head, and my husband said they had to put me in a wheel chair and used ammonium to wake me. I started begging for some type of relief, and just knew I was going to vomit from the nauseousness my back pain was causing me. At one point, I literally felt I couldn’t go any further, and Whitney reminded me of my plan and how great I was progressing. My husband was such an awesome cheerleader as well. After much debate, I decided to take a narcotic (one they said takes the edge off, and stays in your system for 30 minutes)… and to this day, I think it was one of the best decisions I could have made at that point. In the length of time I took it, I dilated from a 4.5 to a 9.5. I think my body really just needed a break. Once I woke up from taking the medicine, I felt like a whole new person, like I had finally had some fight in me.
After dilating to a 9.5 and being stuck there for an hour or so, they offered to break my water to help speed the process along. By this point, I was just ready to get Ellis out so I agreed to it. I still couldn’t get past being dilated to a 9.5, and I was beginning to feel like I needed to push. Dr. Eia had to push back the anterior lip of my cervix (which was very uncomfortable).
At around 1:00AM I felt the relentless urge to push. I felt too weak to change positions even though I had planned to try pushing on all fours. My husband climbed in the bed and sat behind me and helped hold my legs while I leaned back on him. After my first push they called the labor and delivery nurse, and I hoped that meant Ellis would come quickly. I remember the dreaded contractions, and looking at Dr. Eia’s face. She would gently say, “Okay, it’s time” as she looked up from my contractions on the screen. I let out some pretty harsh yells while I was pushing, but it felt like a relief and like it was helping me push with all of my might. (My mom told me that she and Zane’s Aunt were standing near our door at some point while I was pushing, and I yelled so loud that she began to cry because she knew the pain I was feeling and wanted so badly to make it all better).
I feel like I had the world’s greatest pep team, with Whitney, Zane, my nurse, and Dr. Eia cheering me on. At one point someone asked me if I wanted to feel the top of Ellis’s head, and for some reason in that moment I could think of nothing more than pushing him out. Zane said he could see the top of Ellis’s head and that it looked like a little peanut (he thought we were going to have a baby with a tiny head, but he was obviously just seeing a very small portion of it haha). After pushing for an hour and fifteen minutes, I was starting to worry he was never coming out. I felt like I had been pushing for hours, but Whitney and Zane kept encouraging me and reassuring me that Ellis was almost here. And sure enough, after a few more big pushes, Ellis was born. My husband claims Ellis “shot out like a rocket”, because he came out so quickly that the doctor was barely able to catch him. He was immediately laid on my chest while they delayed the cord clamping. It was the most amazing and miraculous thing I had ever witnessed in my entire life. This little being that was growing inside me for what seemed like eternity was finally here, resting on my chest. Within just a few minutes, Ellis initiated the breast crawl and began trying to nurse. I just couldn’t believe my eyes…what an extraordinary gift God had given us! We had over an hour of sweet snuggles with Ellis before our family came in to see us. The whole crew had waited from 7:00PM until after 3:30AM to meet him. Ellis weighed in at 8 lbs. 11 oz., and was 20.5 inches long.
We had really sweet staff during our stay. Because I had a couple of fainting episodes before delivering, my doctor did not want me to go to the bathroom or shower without assistance from someone. I was super dizzy anytime I got up, and found out I was extremely anemic after delivery. My milk came in not even a full day after delivery, and it was like the flood gates opened (haha). Ellis was super fussy after his circumcision and we had a very long, rough day trying to get him to nurse. He lost over 10 percent of his birth weight, but it was very evident he was getting food because he was peeing and pooing like a mad man. I do feel like they worried us more than necessary about his weight loss, and no one ever mentioned to us that my I.V. fluids could cause him to weigh more at birth than he really did. As soon as I mentioned his weight loss to Whitney when we were home, she referred me to a source that reassured me right away. I wish I talked with her about it sooner!!
I couldn’t have made it through my 18 plus hour labor without the support of Zane and Whitney. (I hope I didn’t make it sound horrific… I mean labor is tough, not something I want to go through every day haha, but I made it and you can too!!) It still amazes me how in tune Whitney was to what I needed… it was honestly like having my sister by my side while I labored. Whitney helped coach me through my breathing, and helped me stay in a meditative state throughout my labor at the hospital. She also helped remind me of my goals and birth plan, and was an advocate for me when I had no energy to speak up for myself. My husband was the greatest cheerleader ever… I know his back and shoulders had to be killing him from supporting my weight while I pushed, but I really couldn’t have done it without him. When our friends and family came to visit, he sung my praises and told the entire story like he couldn’t have been more proud of me (which was definitely nice to get a pat on the back after pushing out a little human haha).
This whole parenting thing is such a precious gift. Yes there were many MANY nights we were sleep deprived. Yes, there were days I cried not knowing what to do. Yes, there will be more of those days ahead I am sure, but one thing I know is that having Ellis is one of the greatest blessings I will ever know, and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be called his Mommy.