This is the story of a beautiful water birth at Baby + Co Birth Center. This mother truly got her reward at the end of her long “warming up” phase of labor. Welcome earth-side, Baby Haven Elyse!
The Birth of Haven Elyse
By Chaslynn Garrett
Haven’s birth was kind of abnormal. You could say it was extremely long or extremely short, depending on how you look at it. In one sense, it was very long because I started early labor about 10 days before she was born. In another sense, it was very short because she was born only 5 hours after my first true active labor contraction. Regardless, I am so thankful to say that I would not have changed one thing, which is such an amazing blessing.
On August 31st, I remember not feeling well that evening, having contractions that were about a minute long that came every 6-12 minutes, and throwing up in the middle of the night. We had been told that you could start feeling sick during early labor, so this was my first sign that we were probably moving in that direction. The next day (a Thursday), my contractions were lasting a minute each and coming every 3 minutes. These were a bit more intense than the previous Braxton Hicks I had been having throughout my pregnancy. I called Baby + Company to tell them what was happening, but they just said` to rest as much as possible because it sounded like “false labor,” but things may possibly pick up. I was still able to walk around and go about my day. I ran a ton of errands and filled our fridge because I was so sure that I was going to go into labor that weekend. Little did I know that it would be 10 more days of early labor! I tried to relax and got a manicure/pedicure with my mom that night despite not feeling well at all.
Looking back, I remember being frustrated that every time I called Baby + Company over those 10 days, they just kept saying that I wasn’t in active labor and that I s11hould rest as much as possible until I couldn’t ignore the contractions any longer. As a 39 week pregnant woman, trying to relax when you are so ready to meet your baby and not be pregnant any longer is easier said than done. Now that I know what true contractions feel like, I know not to call so much next time! My early labor contractions were nothing compared to those contractions I felt on Haven’s birthday. They were just preparing my body for what was to come.
I spent the next 10 days basically doing the same thing. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. On September 7th, we went in for our 39 week check up, and I was 3 cm dilated. This was super encouraging! I finally felt like I could see the fruit of my labor (pun intended). I started doing everything I could to speed up the labor process. I walked, did tons of squats, drank Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, diffused Clary Sage oil, etc. I knew that she wouldn’t come unless she was ready, so I wasn’t worried about trying some natural approaches. I was just so ready to meet our sweet baby!
Looking back, I was so frustrated and emotionally exhausted over those 10 days. That was honestly probably the hardest part of labor for me in a way. I just kept feeling like my contractions would pick up at any moment, but they didn’t. I never had any contractions during that time that stopped me from going on with my day. I now know that my body was just doing the majority of the work on the front end of things, slow and steady. I’m so thankful for that because it made my active labor so much shorter and easier to work through.
Haven Elyse was due on September 11th. I never thought she would come on her due date, and to be totally honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted her to be born on that day because of the events that are still so raw and real to those of us who watched them happen. Now, I can see that the Lord gave her to us on that day for a reason. She is a reminder of the redemption we have in Him. The Lord had been saying to us all along how she was going to be one who draws others in, makes people feel safe and welcome, and unifies them. She could not have been born on a more perfect day to show us that He will fulfill this promise.
In the early morning hours of September 11th, I was woken up by a contraction at 2:30 AM, which had never happened before. Through my whole pregnancy, she never woke me up. I think she has always had her days and nights straight. I had experienced contractions previously that I went to bed with, but they always stopped when I fell asleep. These were different. I got up and used the restroom, walked around a minute, and laid back down. I thought it was a fluke. I had been asleep for no more than 5 minutes before another contraction woke me up. I checked my phone, thinking that I should time them just in case. Sure enough, another came 5 minutes later. At that point, I knew these were different contractions than what I had felt before, but I wasn’t convinced I was in active labor yet. I woke Todd up and told him how I was feeling. I decided to take a bath in our jacuzzi, thinking that could slow them down. Over the next hour, I labored in the tub and started to feel like this was true labor. I couldn’t slow the contractions down. They were actually starting to get more intense and harder to work through. I had to make low pitched groans and wanted the jets to hit my lower back. I had to keep changing positions in the water because I could never really get comfortable. Todd came to check on me, and I told him to make sure he was ready because this was it. We were having a baby today. After getting out of the tub, I tried to lay back down and get some sleep, but things began to pick up even more. I started throwing up and having to really focus to get through my contractions. It was evident these were not Braxton Hicks.
We called Baby + Company around 5:00 AM, and the midwife listened to me work through a contraction and told us that she thought we were in early labor or moving towards active labor. I just kept thinking that if this was early labor, I wouldn’t make it. The contractions were very intense at that point. She advised us to stay and labor at home as long as possible. We agreed that was the best plan, but I just had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that I needed to get there soon. I knew it was progressing quickly, but I didn’t know how quickly. I spent that time walking around and trying to get last minute things together. When a contraction would come, I would have to lean on whatever was in front of me, sway back and forth, and let out low pitched groans. It’s amazing what your body instinctually tells you to do. We had been given so many pain coping techniques to try during labor, but I never once thought about them. I just did what I felt was right. Our bodies are truly amazing. We are meant to give birth, and we know how to without ever having practiced before. God designed us so perfectly.
About 45 minutes later, I was laying on the bed, and I looked at Todd after a contraction and told him that I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew I couldn’t make it through a natural birth if this was early labor. It was so intense. We had learned in our birth classes that when a woman says this, she is probably in transition and will be ready to push soon. We called Baby + Company again (it was 5:45 AM at this point), and he told the midwife that we needed to come in. She advised using the restroom and eating before coming in. I definitely didn’t get to eat because the contractions were less than a minute apart at that point. I used the restroom, and Todd tried so hard to get me in the car. I had 4 contractions from our bathroom to the car, which was just about every 30 seconds. Things were escalating quickly. Through the chaos, I remember telling Todd that he needed to calm down. He was stressing me out by running around, gathering our things and talking in a panicked voice. I needed him to be calm to help me stay calm. My sweet husband was just trying to get me to the birthing center so that we didn’t have a home birth, but I obviously was a bit preoccupied! He was so supportive the entire time, and I’m so thankful he was by my side. He took everything in stride and supported me exactly how I needed to be supported the entire time. He was a rockstar!
After finally making it to the car, we booked it to the birthing center. Todd told me later that in the car, I was contracting more than I was resting. I just remember keeping my eyes closed the entire time and having to hold my weight up with my arms as I made low pitched groans to work through the contractions. On the way there, Todd called our family, doula, and photographer and told them we were on our way and things were moving fast. Thankfully, at 6:00 AM on a Sunday, there is no traffic going into Nashville. This little detail is just another testament to the Lord being a part of every step of my labor. I remember starting to feel the head really move down as we got onto I-440. I felt like she was about to just fall out of me if we didn’t get there soon.
When we arrived at the birth center, our doula, Jessica, and one of the midwives met us in the parking garage and helped me get inside. When she checked me, I was fully dilated and ready to push. I was shocked and completely overwhelmed. I was so thankful that it was time to push because I just kept thinking that if I was still only 3-4 cm dilated, I would never be able to have a natural birth. As they filled the tub up, I stood up and continued to work through contractions, leaning over the end table, swaying back and forth, and making low pitched groans. I kept saying that I felt like I had to poop (sorry – probably TMI), but they just kept saying that was normal and that my body knew it was time to push. They were right. I started having the urge to push, and I couldn’t stop it.
I got in the bathtub and started pushing. I kept my arms on top of the tub and held my weight up as each contraction came over me. I tried to push with each one to help her move down and tried to rest between them. Todd sat behind me, and I held his hand and squeezed it as hard as I could every time I felt a new contraction. I remember hearing Page, our friend and photographer, come in a few minutes after I got in the tub. I was so thankful she made it in time to photograph our birth. They told me that Haven was still in the sac, which was really neat! I could feel the sac as a bubble starting to come out. It was such a crazy feeling, and I got even more excited to finally meet our sweet baby. Because we did not know the gender, it gave me even more motivation to push and get her out. I was so ready to meet our little one! At one point, I remember saying that I just needed 5 minutes of rest. Just 5 minutes. I was so tired because it all happened so fast. Haven couldn’t wait five minutes though. She was ready to meet us!
Over the next hour, I continued to work with the contractions to get her out. I think this was a super important switch in my brain. At home, I was trying to work against the contractions. I was trying to stop them in a way. Looking back, I think it was because I subconsciously knew things were moving faster than what I expected, and I didn’t want to have the baby at home. I knew if I got to the birthing center, everything would be okay. I just had to get there. When we got to Baby + Company, I felt so much more at peace knowing that there were people around me that were there to help me. They knew what they were doing. Todd was such an amazing support for me, helping me work through contractions. I knew he was there for me and wasn’t leaving my side, even when we were at home, but let’s be real. Neither one of us wanted him delivering our baby at home! Once I was in the tub, I started embracing the contractions, knowing that each one was one step closer to meeting our baby. I used them to my advantage.
After an hour of pushing, our little girl was born at 7:35 AM at 7 pounds and 2 ounces and 19.25 inches long, still en caul! Our midwife handed her to me, and I got to announce that we had a little girl! I still get teary-eyed thinking about that moment. I pulled her to my chest and hugged her close. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for a healthy baby and also completely shocked that she wasn’t a boy. We did not care if we had a boy or a girl, but I had been so convinced my whole pregnancy that we were having a little boy. Now, I can’t imagine her not being a girl! She was perfect and beautiful in every way. The Lord was so good to us to give this amazing blessing, and I pray that I never take that for granted.
After she was born, I had to be stitched up as I had a second-degree tear, but my tear was on the inside rather than the outside. They call those tears “skid marks.” I don’t know for sure, but I think she probably had her hands by her face, which caused the tears. She has always loved having her hands up close to her face. Because these tears were on the inside, it made it really difficult to see what needed to be stitched. I had a few places that were bleeding pretty badly, and it took almost 30 minutes to stitch me up. During this time, Todd got to hold and snuggle Haven, and our amazing doula, Jessica, stayed by my side. I was so thankful she was there to help me get through that.
After I got stitched up, they tried to get me to the bathroom, and I ended up passing out on the toilet for about 10 minutes and had to have IV fluids. That was not fun. Todd came to help me, and Page got to hold Haven. I was so thankful that it was a change of shifts at 7 AM, so I had multiple midwives and nurses there to help. All in all, it took about an hour from the time I got out of the tub until I could have skin-to-skin time with my girl. I was so grateful when I got her back in my arms.
Over the next hour, Todd and I got to just hold, look at, and love on our sweet angel. We had already chosen her first name but chose her middle name during that hour. Surprisingly, we both had the same middle name in mind. Her name choice is another story for another day, but it is full of words from the Lord about our sweet girl. That hour with my husband and my little girl was one of the best hours of my life, and I will never forget that time. Page captured some of the sweetest pictures of us, and I’m so thankful for those powerful images. I was so overwhelmed and could not believe I was finally holding my baby. It was so surreal. After we had some time with Haven, our family trickled in to get a peek at her. Because I wasn’t able to hold her for the first hour, they wanted her kept skin-to-skin for a while to regulate her body temperature, so nobody got to hold her until later that afternoon. It was so sweet getting to share in the joy of that little miracle with our family. I’m so thankful to have had them there!
We spent the day in bed cuddling our little one, and we got to go home around 4:45 PM that afternoon, which was later than originally planned, but since I had lost so much blood and passed out, they wanted to make sure I could function on my own before I left. We packed up our stuff, put Haven in the car, and took her home. I couldn’t believe that we left that morning, just the two of us, and came home that afternoon with a newborn, a family of 3. God is good. So good. That continued to be the resounding feeling of the day. He is so good.
I am so thankful for our birth story. The Lord was so good to us and truly gave us the best gift in Haven and such an amazing day. I am so grateful and pray that I never take it for granted and can remember every detail. He gave us a day of strength, peace, joy, and love. A day I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life. We have the most beautiful, perfect daughter. She is truly a gift, and we love her to the moon and back!