What better way to kick off our blog’s first post than telling the story of our beautiful son’s birth! Holden Elliot Inman was born November 5th, 2022 at 10:08pm! He was 9 pounds 8 ounces and the most beautiful blessing!
I had to write this slowly and gradually over the course of the last 2 months, filling in details here and there. It is a lot to re-live, but as time has gone on, the memories have softened and stopped playing like a horror movie in my head – I would do it all again tomorrow if it meant I got to have him in my arms! He was worth every single minute.
To preface the story, we had planned a wonderful low-intervention, medication-free birth with West End Midwifery at Henrico Doctors Hospital. Low intervention birth means what it sounds like – as few medical interventions as possible (induction, C-section, epidural, continuous fetal monitoring, Pitocin, forceps, episiotomy, etc.) In our childbirth classes pre-labor, I decided I was determined (on a 9 out of 10 scale) to go natural and not get an epidural, given that you have to 1, have an IV, 2, big needle in your back, 3, catheter, 4, can’t move around anymore, etc etc etc. I didn’t want any of those things (afraid of needles, hi!) and so I was pretty resolved to go natural with everything, including holding out on induction until 42 weeks when it becomes more medically necessary.
In true first-time-mom fashion, my due date, October 24th, came and went. Every night starting October 25th I was CONVINCED I was going into active labor – stronger contractions than Braxton Hicks, pretty regularly spaced, but nothing progressing. Every single night for almost 2 weeks! We held out as long as we could, but had to schedule an induction for November 7th as I would be 42 weeks and the risk of stillbirth increases slightly after that point. I was really discouraged since I was so resolved to go natural, and induction would mean a lot of things I didn’t want for labor and delivery.
On November 4th, I was 41 weeks + 4 days pregnant when we went into the hospital at 6pm thinking my water might have broken – surprise, it had not! I was still 2 cm dilated like I had been at my previous appointment. I got a membrane sweep and called it a night, and we went home. I started feeling crampy shortly after we left, but nothing worse than what I’d already been experiencing every night for 2 weeks so I didn’t think much of it.
Well, 2AM came and I woke up with STRONG contractions and I knew this was really it (trust me pregnant people, when they say “You’ll know when you’re in active labor”… YOU’LL KNOW haha!) I woke up Camden at 2:30 after timing a few of them and told him “IT’S HAPPENING!” I don’t think he believed me because he went right back to sleep. I tried to keep sleeping and got a few more hours of dozing.
Come 4AM, they were still getting stronger and were about 5 minutes apart, so I called Melanie, my doula, to let her know things were progressing, then I tried to continue resting. Come 5AM, I was starting to be in real pain and couldn’t really talk through them, so I got out of bed and told her I needed some tools to really start managing the pain. For the next 5 hours, I went from the bath, to bouncing on my yoga ball, to side-lying in bed, to the toilet, back in the bath, repeat repeat repeat, working through those contractions. I had a grilled cheese at 6AM from my wonderful Chef Camden (the last thing I ate before he was born at 10PM!)
At 10AM, I texted Melanie, “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I want to go to the hospital and get an epidural.” She said we could either meet at the hospital or she could come to our house and try some new positions — I said hospital it is, see you there! We live about 5 minutes from the hospital so I waited for a contraction to pass, beelined it for the car (our Ring doorbell caught it all), and told Camden to drive as fast as possible so I wouldn’t have to contract while in the car hahaha. It worked, we made it there and I waddled into L&D and picked up the phone to tell them I was there and immediately contracted. I ended up squatting on the floor of the lobby by the phone waiting for it to pass – some lady came up and asked if I was okay… I was like ummm, I’m squatting on the floor groaning in pain outside labor & delivery, what do you think??
They took us back and I met my midwife Ashlie and my doula Melanie there at 11AM. I was super blessed because the student midwife Leneka was on call with Ashlie, so I pretty much got 2 doctors instead of 1! She checked me and I was 5cm dilated when we arrived. A contraction started to come, and at this point they were so painful and in my mind, I was going to have to get an epidural to make it through. BUT, Leneka immediately gave me a hip squeeze when it started and all of a sudden RELIEF! Because of that pressure, my mindset totally shifted and I said I don’t need an epidural if I can keep getting those squeezes! Little did Camden know he’d be doing a hip squeeze Every. Single. Contraction. for the next 12 hours!
And thus, active labor really kicked in. Everything is definitely a blur and I don’t remember all of what happened, but my midwives and doula had me all over the room and bathroom in every position you could think of, trying to get this big boy descending. Melanie and my midwives were SO in sync with each other all day long, and I truly had the ultimate birth team in the room with me. We fit a birth ball in the bathtub and I spent about 3 hours there, the hot water was such a relief and Camden got in the most uncomfortable position to to hip squeeze me the entire time!
I think I asked for an epidural about 10 times, and I got an IV to get prepped for one, but Camden and Melanie constantly supported and encouraged me, reminding me of my desires that I had expressed before I went into labor to go natural. Every time I asked they’d say “Well, it’s going to take about an hour to feel any relief anyways, it won’t be immediate!” and I committed to go a little longer each time. When I thought I finally reached my limit and couldn’t go any farther, Melanie and Ashlie had another tool to help me get through just a little bit more. There were positions that were relieving and positions that were excruciating – lying on my side on the bed with my top leg hanging off was definitely the most painful. The hardest phrase I heard while in labor was “Ashley, the positions that hurt the worst are doing the most – comfort isn’t what we need to get him out right now”.
Around 4:30PM I was finally 10cm dilated, but a lip of cervix was caught by baby’s head that needed to get out of the way before I could truly push him out. I pushed for the next 4 hours to move that lip of cervix, making no progress on actually pushing the baby out. By far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The mental exhaustion plus the physical exhaustion of pushing, plus the fact that I’d been awake since 2am and in active labor with no epidural, in between every contraction I was crying “I just want to take a nap, I just want to take a nap”. I remember being on the birth stool they had and thinking I just could not do it anymore, and looking at Ashlie and saying “Okay, what can we do because I can’t do it, what do I do?” It’s a weird feeling to feel so strongly like you need to give up and can’t go any more, but you really don’t have that option (unless I was throwing in the towel and getting a C-section).
Unbeknownst to me, Camden had texted my mom that I might need a little pep talk, so she popped her head in and the nurse told me she was here, and I said, “Here like in here right now? She can come in but just for a few minutes,” right then another contraction came and she put her hand on my head and started praying, and for the first time while in labor I started crying – I’d done a lot of screaming and groaning and grunting but this was the only time real tears started running down my face. I don’t remember what she said or what she did but I remember feeling a new wave of peace and confidence come over me, and a second wind of energy kick in. Mom stepped back, and Melanie and the midwives both said, “Stay in here”. She tucked herself in the corner by the bed and prayed and kept telling me I could do it the rest of labor (and was also at some point handed a camera to film because duh, it’s us haha).
I kept saying “I can’t do it! How much longer? Is he close? Like 5 more minutes?” Melanie nodded and smiled and said “Yep, maybe!” for about 6 hours haha. When that little lip of cervix finally moved and freed his head around 8:30PM, the moment of relief was so great – but short. I wasn’t done yet, now it was time for more pushing to really get him out.
I pretty much stayed on the bed on my back for the rest of labor – I couldn’t hold myself up any longer because of the exhaustion. I tried to counter-pull on my legs but kept tensing up, so Melanie got a scarf out and held the two ends while I pulled on the middle of it (really gave her a workout, and I couldn’t move my upper body for 3 days afterwards because of how insanely hard I was pulling). I remember staring SO HARD into her eyes focusing and pushing as hard as I could – the face I made was apparently pretty intense – they all said “oh dang, she is STARING me down!”
At one point, my contractions started to slow down, so they were going to give me Pitocin – I got a little rest in while they gave me IV fluids. But shortly after they started it, my IV fell out and blood sprayed all over camden’s shoes (now named the “Nike Pegasus Special Push Edition” since they’re permanently stained).
They put a mirror up once you could see his head to motivate me – having it there that early was tough because it took another good hour or two before he actually arrived, so every time I could see his head it would disappear again and it just felt like it would never end. But at the end, being able to see him come farther and farther out was the extra nudge that I needed to get those last few huge pushes out. Towards the end, as he was close to coming out, his heart rate kept dropping every time I pushed. If the fetal heart rate drops below 60, that’s when they have to do a C-section – but his stayed RIGHT above 60 the whole time, such a blessing. Every time it dropped I begged the nurse to tell me he was okay, she reassured me he’s fine and to focus on pushing.
Each part of labor felt like the worst pain I’ve ever been in, then the next phase would start and be even worse. The ring of fire was the worst by far, because there’s 1, pain of contractions, 2, exhaustion of pushing, 3, the pain of everything stretching so hard, PLUS, pushing makes that pain worse and thus you don’t want to push, but you have to push as hard as you possibly can to get him out and you don’t have a choice but to exert that pain on yourself so it felt like this massive internal mental war.
I’ll never forget that last push that brought him into the world – EVERYONE in the room yelling “YES ASHLEY JUST LIKE THAT GO GO GO!”, the feeling of sudden total relief as he was born, Camden crying “You did it Ashley, you did it!” I remember asking toward the end of pushing “what happens once his head is out”, Melanie said “contractions will slow down, we’ll take a break and then push his body out”… not at all what happened, as soon as that head popped out, I was pushing so hard that the rest of his body rocketed out along with it. Camden said it looked like popping a pimple – “He just kept coming out, more and more of him, he was so huge!”
I remember so vividly them laying him on my chest, I immediately wrapped my arms around him so tight – he was so warm and so purple, he cried immediately, right after I yelled “EW HE’S SO SLIMY!” I just kept saying “I got you baby, hi Holden, mama’s got you” while Camden cried overtop of us. I couldn’t even cry, I was just so elated and happy – my face hurt so bad from smiling so hard!
My MASSIVE 2-inch-thick placenta “looked like a horse’s heart” (Camden’s words), no wonder we couldn’t feel him kicking at all in the middle of my stomach! All the nurses said it was definitely one of the massive ones they’d seen! I had a second degree tear that they stitched up and then left us in the room to love on Holden. He had a low pulse-ox at the beginning and so they closely monitored him for a while but he ended up a-okay and we were moved to the postpartum floor.
It was such a wild experience – I seriously blacked out most of the day and had to fill this story in with my mom and Camden’s help. I’ve been told that if I had been with any other provider OR gotten an epidural, I would have had to have a C-section – no OB would have let me push that long and hard (5 hours!), and an epidural would have made it impossible to push as hard as I had to to get him out. I’m SO thankful to Ashlie, Leneka, and Melanie who were behind me every step of the way even when I myself was going back on what pre-labor Ashley said she wanted!
If you got all the way through this, thank you for reading our story! The entire thing was so evident of God’s goodness to us and everything happening exactly how He planned it!