Unlike most birth stories ours did not begin only 9 months prior. It began 9 years prior! On our 2nd wedding anniversary my husband and I blissfully decided to throw birth control out the window and start the next chapter of our marriage. As a type A planner I was certain I’d be expecting by September. Well, soon September came and went and I started to have the feeling that “something” was wrong. My doctor told me I had to wait a year until I could do further testing. Countless friends told me to “just relax”. We celebrated our 3rd anniversary with a trip to the doctor’s office and started our brutal journey into the world of infertility. The following year was spent trying to get help from my OB. When that didn’t work we started seeing a fertility specialist to celebrate our 4th anniversary. Countless tests and 6 or 8 intrauterine inseminations (IUIs) later we were still childless.
We started seeing a new fertility specialist who quickly realized that IUI’s were not going to work for our particular fertility challenges. He quickly recommended In-vitro Fertilization (IVF). After some fancy financing we had our first round. I was SURE this was it – that my baby would soon be on his or her way –but sadly, I was disappointed just as I had been for the previous 5 years. IVF treatments consumed our next 4 years, our emotions, our marriage, and our bank account. In June 2016 we celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. Our anniversary had become a bittersweet event for me because it was the official mark of being childless for yet another year.
I was DONE. I couldn’t take any more emotionally, physically, or financially. I was ready to accept my lot in life to be an auntie and never a Mom. My husband begged me NOT to give up. He acknowledged that the decision was mine as I was the one going through the brunt of the shots, mood swings, time off from work, and disappointment. I told him I’d do one more round –our 7th – but that was IT! We got our schedule and I saw our “gotcha day” (or implantation day) was set for the final day of the bible school program I was leading. I immediately told my husband and my nurse that this schedule simply wouldn’t work for me. But that was it – I could take it or leave it – or we could postpone (and save) to start another round. I informed them both very matter of factly that this round would NOT work and I simply went through the motions. On our gotcha day we drove to Fairfax and had 2 embryos implanted. I drove home and conducted my bible school graduation program complete with LOTS of dancing, despite orders for 48 hours of bed rest. 2 weeks later I went for bloodwork and waited for the nurse to call and tell me the results were negative.
That single phone call changed the course of my life forever! The results were NOT negative. We had a great number which indicated a viable pregnancy. After LOTS of ultrasounds and sleepless nights we gave our family the surprise of a lifetime when we announced at 12 weeks that we were expecting a little girl on April 20th. My pregnancy was fairly uneventful despite having gestational diabetes, which I easily controlled with diet. At 39 weeks my doctor told me that she wanted to induce because of my age and diabetes. I was staunchly opposed. Everyone who I know that had been induced had horror stories of long labors and ultimately C-sections. I had done everything to prepare for natural childbirth and I didn’t want this intervention. I went home to think about it and finally decided to consent to being induced, although it wasn’t what was in my heart. I felt like the birth would be a struggle just as the conception was.
On Easter Sunday, April 16th we checked into the hospital. My doctor wanted me there the night before in order to administer cervadil to soften my cervix as I had made NO progress on my own when checked in the office a couple days prior. I was shocked when the nurse checked me and told me I had started to dilate on my own. I was still only 1 cm, so I wasn’t getting too excited. The nurse came in around 8pm and informed me I’d be taking a medication under my tongue instead of the cervadil in an attempt to soften my cervix. Only a couple hours into my hospital stay and I felt like things weren’t going my way – the plan was already changing and I didn’t have control. A colleague of my doctor came in and gave me the pros of the course of action she had chosen and soon the 1st of 6 doses was under my tongue. I sent my husband home around 9pm to get some rest because I figured the following day would be a LONG one.
I was due around midnight for my 2nd dose of medicine. The nurse came in and said that the doctor was going to “skip” the dose. I immediately got upset. I knew I was headed for a C-section at a rapid rate and I wasn’t advocating for myself the way I wanted to. I regretted consenting to the induction at all. I asked why I wouldn’t be receiving the dose and she pointed to the monitor and said “because you are in active labor”. I was FLOORED! It wasn’t at all what I expected….and I felt stupid! Despite birth classes and as much preparation as I could do – I didn’t even know I was in labor. Labor continued through the night getting a bit more intense, but bearable. I was excited to see my husband and surprise him that we were in labor! At 8am I was 3cm dilated. My mom and sister-in-law were planning to be with me for our daughter’s birth. I talked to both of them and told them to go to work, that we were likely in for a LONG day and possibly night. I told them to plan on being off the following day because I was pretty certain that our little girl would make her appearance late that evening or early the next morning. During our infertility journey my favorite saying became “We plan, God laughs” and this should have been my mantra for labor as well.
My husband got back to the hospital around 8 am. I was looking forward to trying some positions on the birthing ball and getting a much anticipated back rub! By 9 am my contractions had increased substantially. The nurse checked me and I was at 4.5cm. High five to myself – I was moving right along. By 9:30 am contractions were strong, frequent, and unbearable. I went into labor with the attitude that I wanted to experience labor before deciding on an epidural. By 9:30 I had experienced it and decided the epidural was the way to go – especially since I THOUGHT I had many more hours to go! I asked for an epidural and waited anxiously for some pain relief. By 10am the nurse said she needed to check me again because she felt like I was progressing quickly. I was at 7cm! Holy cow! “Text my mom and sister-in-law and tell them to head this way if they want to see her born” I told my husband.
The next 24 minutes are really a blur! The pressure was becoming unbearable and there was hardly any time between contractions. I was praying for a relief from the pressure when suddenly there was a gush! My water had broken! The nurse came in and started to ready the room for delivery. Suddenly the pressure had returned and it was more than I thought I could stand (WHERE OH WHERE WAS THAT EPIDURAL). The nurse apologized but said she had to check me again – 10cm and ready to push! She started RUSHING around the room. In came my doctor followed by the man with the epidural cart – boy was I happy to see him…..until the doctor told him it was too late. I told her I “needed” the epidural and couldn’t do this without one. She matter of factly told me I WAS going to do it without one and I was going to do it NOW. I closed my eyes and my body took over! I wish I could remember a lot about what I was thinking or feeling during that time – but I don’t. I was on auto pilot. 3 pushes later my daughter was on my chest and I saw the beautiful miracle we had so long for. Within minutes we were skin to skin and she was nursing….and the shock was finally starting to wear off. We had done it! Annaliese Brooke Bartley joined our family at 10:24 am and now just 11 weeks later we can’t imagine those 3,323 days without her!
Thank you Erin Bartley, for sharing your beautiful journey with us!