Our son, Judah Guyton Quarles, was born on October 16, 2018 at 8:21pm. He was 10lb 3oz and 21.5” long. We are completely smitten by this little bundle, and it’s still hard to believe he is ours! The labor and delivery was a whirlwind—about five hours start to finish.
Before too much time passes and my memory fades on all the details of his arrival, I wanted to write and share his birth story for any of you who are interested! I see God’s faithfulness through every step of my pregnancy, labor and delivery. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I look back now with so much joy!
My due date was October 25, and everyone kept telling me that first babies tend to come late, so I had resigned myself to the fact that little man would most likely be coming on my due date or later.
Two weeks before he was due, my parents flew into town from Tampa for five days to help finish the basement, get the house organized and prep the nursery. The Tuesday before they came, my chiropractor commented that she didn’t know if I was going to make it through the weekend before having the baby. I tried to shrug it off, but I also told my parents to be prepared to stay a little longer if little man made his arrival while they were in town.
I stayed really physically active my entire pregnancy, and those few days with my parents were no different. I was painting walls, cleaning house, and working hard to finish up some projects with clients. Even still, I had no labor signs whatsoever. Other than swelling and general third trimester discomfort, everything felt normal and baby seemed comfortable in place.
On Tuesday morning, October 16, I got up at 4:45am to take my parents to the Nashville airport for a 6:15am flight. There were no signs of labor, so I sent them off and told them to prepare to drive back to meet the baby in a week or two.
I came home, ate a bowl of Chex, and snuggled back in bed next to Jeremy for a few more hours of beauty sleep. Our birth center, Baby&Co, asked if I would be a test subject for a new ultrasound machine that they were using to train the midwives, so we had an appointment to visit the birth center at noon for a final preview of our baby before we saw him in the real world.
We indulged and slept until around 10:30, made a quick smoothie and toast, and headed to the birth center. As we pulled into the parking garage, one of the nurses stopped me and said, “You aren’t in labor, are you?” “Nope. Definitely not in labor,” I laughed. We saw our baby on the screen, but once again, I had no labor signs (or indication that he was bigger than normal). He just looked like a cute, full term baby.
With no major plans for the day, we left the birth center and enjoyed a quick coffee shop date before a hair appointment for Jeremy to get a fresh trim.
At around 2:15pm, while at the hair salon, I went to the bathroom and noticed that I lost my mucus plug. This is an indicator that labor is coming, but it often happens days (even weeks) before labor starts. Jeremy and I stared wide-eyed at each other as it started to sink in that my body was preparing for baby to come soon (although we imagined we still had several days to prepare).
Our next stop was Buffalo Exchange, a consignment store downtown, where Jeremy planned on dropping off some old clothes. As we stood in line, at around 2:45pm, I had a feeling that my water broke. “Remain calm,” I thought. “Most likely, your water won’t break before labor starts. This is probably a false alarm.”
The black fabric hid the wet spot on my leggings as I feigned nonchalance and said to Jeremy, “I think my water just broke. Let’s forget about consigning the clothes and go home.”
I wasn’t having any contractions, but I knew that if my water was broken, the midwives at Baby&Co would want to help me get into active labor sometime in the next 24 hours. I couldn’t be sure my water had broken until I could check at home, so we made the 25 minute drive to our house (past the birth center) and distracted ourselves with conversations about work and upcoming plans. I was in denial that I was in labor. I was texting clients and making notes on my to-do list!
Once at home, I went to the bathroom and confirmed that it seemed my water was broken. I started to have cramps that felt like menstrual cramps and pulled out my Mama Natural book to see if this was how contractions felt. “Early labor sign,” I told Jeremy. “I’ll call the midwives, but this is just very early labor.”
I texted my doula, Anna, and said, “I think my water broke but not in labor yet. I’ll keep you posted!”
The Baby&Co midwife on call, Liza, instructed us to make our way back to the birth center just to be sure that my water had broken and come up with a plan for the next 24 hours. She calmly reassured me that I would most likely be back home to labor for a while that evening, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go ahead and bring my labor bag with me just in case. We didn’t feel rushed, so we took our time getting things ready and in the car. Jeremy ate a bowl of soup, and we decided to make a stop at the Juice Bar on the way so that I could get a quick jolt of energy since I hadn’t had a full meal all day.
Once we left the house, I was beginning to time my “cramps”, and it seemed like they were coming every two minutes or so. I was in denial. I thought, surely, these couldn’t be contractions because they were coming TOO FAST. I had to focus, but I could still talk through each contraction. We headed toward the birth center through rush hour traffic and made a smoothie pit stop. I had two or three contractions in the Juice Bar, but I kept a stiff upper lip and barreled through in denial.
We got to the birth center at around 5pm, and as I stepped out of the car, I had such a strong contraction that I couldn’t walk inside. Once it was over, I took a deep breath and waddled in, greeted my favorite receptionist, Keeli, and was led to an exam room. During the quick exam, the rest of my water broke (in a gush), we learned I was 6cm dilated, and I had three contractions. They were coming so quickly, and I was no longer able to talk through them.
My midwife looked at Jeremy and I and said, calmly but firmly, “This baby is coming soon. You’re not going home.”
Jeremy and I looked at each other in shock and tried to process how quickly things were happening. We texted our doula to come as soon as possible, and she made her way to us in rush hour traffic. I put on the gown I had packed and slowly walked to the labor suite while Jeremy frantically informed our parents and a few other folks that I was in active labor and this baby was coming quickly! My parents had only been back home for a few hours, but we told them to pack up the car and make the 12 hour drive back to us!
By this point, my contractions were intense and so close together that I could barely string a few sentences together before the next would start. I wanted Jeremy right by my side for each one, and he comforted me and coached me through contractions like an old pro.
The midwives scrambled to fill the tub and to get me properly admitted while helping to coach me through each contraction.
The next few hours were intense and overwhelming, but also some of the most empowering of my life. I pretty much skipped early labor and went straight into active labor and quickly into transition. I expected a long early labor and the chance to gather myself mentally in between contractions; however, by the time I realized that I was truly in labor, contractions were coming so quickly that I could barely take a sip of water or form a coherent thought before the next wave would begin. I kept my eyes closed most of the time and moved from laboring on the toilet (oh that wonderful heated bidet!) to laboring in the tub.
As I focused and barreled my way through, two thoughts filled my mind.
This is way harder than I expected.
I feel so loved and supported right now.
Jeremy was at my back rubbing my shoulders and speaking encouragement, our wonderful doula was rubbing essential oils on my neck, offering me water and quoting scripture right when I needed it, and the midwives were taking care of all things medical while coaching me through breathing and cheering me on with “You can do this. You’re doing an amazing job. You’ve got this.”
There was a time when I yelled, “That pressure, not pain, stuff is crap!” in response to the times I had been told during birth classes to think of it as “pressure, not pain.” It definitely felt like pain to me! I handled some contractions with more stamina than others, but in the midst of the intensity, the exhaustion and the feeling that I so badly wanted just a short break to breathe, I felt so empowered by the team of people around me. There were moments I felt like I couldn’t do it, but I knew that there was no turning back. This baby was coming!
After about 2 hours of labor, I was ready to push. The midwives were struggling to find the baby’s heartbeat when I was in the tub, so they asked me to move to the bed for pushing. I pushed for 50 minutes, and it was HARD WORK, but baby boy made progress with each push, and when he came out screaming at 8:21pm—a little over five hours from the moment my water broke—every moment of hard work was worth it.
Jeremy was holding my left leg during pushing and watched the whole thing (he was also the recipient of all the birth fluid when baby came out), and his first response was “Wow. That baby is a lot bigger than I expected.” The midwives remarked the same. This was a BIG baby!
10lb 3oz of chubby newborn goodness. Jeremy and I held him tight and reveled in those first moments as a family of three. I so wanted to have an unmediated birth, and as we looked at each other and at our new little bundle, I couldn’t stop thinking, “We did it.” It truly was a WE. Jeremy was my biggest supporter and a top notch coach and cheerleader through every moment of pregnancy and labor. I couldn’t have done it without him.
As a result of Judah’s big size, his shoulders tore me pretty badly when they made their way out. First and second degree tears can be repaired at Baby&Co, but my tear was a third degree and it was severe enough to require an anesthesiologist and surgical team, so I prepared to be transferred to Vanderbilt Hospital for a postpartum repair and recovery. An EMS team loaded me onto a stretcher and took me on the five minute ride in the ambulance while Jeremy quickly assumed Dad mode and loaded Judah into his car seat to make the trip to Vandy (all while still wearing his outfit that was covered in every manner of birth fluid. Pro Dad move, right there).
I was taken to labor and delivery and introduced to my new team of nurses, and Jeremy, Judah, our Doula, and our Midwife met me in the room a few minutes later.
The next few hours were a blur. I met my new nurse, the baby’s nurses, the anesthesiology team who were going to give me a spinal tap for my repair, and an OB team who would perform the repair. It took several hours to get organized for the surgery, and in the meantime, I hemorrhaged and nearly fainted. That was possibly the scariest moment of the whole process!
Once I was given the spinal tap, the repair took about 45 minutes. I couldn’t feel a thing below my waist, and I was able to snuggle Judah the whole time. I was determined not to have medication during labor, but once that baby was out, I happily took that anesthesia! The actual repair was the easiest part of the process!
My doula, Anna, was an invaluable part of those postpartum hours. She held my hand when I almost fainted, helped rub coconut oil and eucalyptus on my back when I had an adverse reaction to the narcotics in my spinal tap, and was a sweet presence through the evening.
We stayed at Vandy for about 36 hours. Despite the fact that a hospital transfer was not what we hoped for in the process, we were so grateful for every doctor and nurse who cared for me and Judah. We felt so well taken care of!
Judah is happy and healthy, and we are so in love with our precious boy.
Now for a few Q&As about our whole experience:
Why the name Judah Guyton Quarles?
Judah means “praise,” and I feel that word so accurately describes the season of spiritual growth Jeremy and I have walked through during the past year of pregnancy. Also, we knew we wanted a “J” name after his daddy and granddaddy—Jeremy Guyton and John Guyton. We loved the biblical references to the “Lion of Judah” (Jesus) as we pray for our boy to be brave like a lion and to love Jesus!
Would you recommend Baby&Co?
Over and over again, yes. If you live in a city with a Baby&Co birth center location, and you’re interested in an alternative to a traditional hospital environment, Baby&Co is truly amazing. From my regular yearly well-woman visits before I got pregnant through every prenatal visit, childbirth class, and the delivery experience, I wholeheartedly recommend Baby&Co. Not only is the peaceful, beautiful facility an ideal environment in which to give birth, but also the entire prenatal process is fabulous. I love the benefits of a highly trained medical staff and close proximity and relationship to the hospital, but with the feeling of a comfortable, friendly environment. I never wait more than a couple of minutes for an appointment, and by the end of my pregnancy, I felt like every appointment was a visit with friends. We were required, as first time parents, to take a 6-week birth class, and we loved it. I felt so well-informed and educated about every step of pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum recovery. Jeremy and I were given all the tools we needed for success. Even though I had to transfer to Vanderbilt directly after labor, the Baby&Co relationship with Vandy is so well-established that the process was smooth and relatively easy.
Would you recommend a doula?
Once again, YES. If you aren’t familiar with the role of a doula, she is basically a labor assistant for the mom. The midwife or OB is there to take care of all things medical and make sure that baby comes into the world safely; the doula is there to make sure mama’s needs are taken care of. A doula isn’t a requirement, and she is hired separately from a midwife or OB. Our doula, Anna Baskin with Nova Birth Services, is an angel and felt like having a friend alongside Jeremy and me during the process. As first time parents, having a doula was such a blessing!
What did you do to prepare for labor and delivery?
I worked really hard during pregnancy to prepare both mentally and physically for labor, delivery and recovery. I exercised (both walking and light weight training at the gym) 3-4x per week throughout pregnancy. I did a lot of pelvic floor strengthening exercises like squats on an upside down bosu ball. I switched from sitting on a desk chair to sitting on an exercise ball. One of the best things I did during my pregnancy was seeing a chiropractor who specializes in Webster Technique (especially designed for pregnant mamas). I can’t say enough good things about prenatal chiropractics! I don’t see a chiropractor normally, but I credit my wonderful chiropractor for helping me with pregnancy aches and pains, helping me recover well from my car accident, and preparing my body for a quick, uncomplicated labor and delivery! She is amazing. If you’re in the Nashville area, check out Dr. Rousseau at KydKyro. She is also incredible for new babies!
Would you do an unmedicated birth again?
Yes. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I will do it again. Jeremy thinks I’m crazy, but I know that the benefits outweigh the negatives for me. I also have postpartum endorphins to thank for my rose colored memories of the process. I look back on it as such a beautiful thing! Now would I willingly do an unmedicated birth in a hospital instead of a birth center? I would rather not. I loved being in an environment where not only is an epidural not an option, but the entire space is designed to be peaceful and to help manage pain in a natural way. The midwives are all trained to help you cope and make it through the process of natural delivery.
That said, the truth of the matter is that there is no easy way to get a baby out. I have so much respect for every woman who gives birth—medicated, unmedicated, or c-section mamas. Everyone deserves a trophy!
How is recovery going?
Because of my third degree tear, my recovery has been a little bit harder than expected, but now (three weeks later), I’m doing really well! I remember thinking in the hospital that I didn’t know if I would ever feel normal again, but I’m feeling more like myself every day! My worst fear going into birth was that I would have a bad tear…and I did, but you know what? I survived!
How is Jeremy doing?
I know I am the one who actually gave birth, but the labor and delivery process was taxing on Jeremy, too! He was such a rock for me, but I know it was hard for him to watch me in pain. Also, the process moved so quickly that he felt really overwhelmed by it all. Not to mention, he had to take the baby to the hospital without me less than an hour after birth! But despite it all, he entered fatherhood like a pro. Watching him become a dad has been one of the sweetest things in the world. I could cry just thinking about it! We keep reminding each other that we are a team. We are in this together. And we need to keep putting each other first (even before our new little guy). Jeremy is so good at putting me first and taking care of his family. Doing this with him is such a joy.
How is Judah doing?
He is the most awesome baby we know. He is laid back like his dad, undeniably adorable, and so much fun to have around already. We have had some eating/weight loss/breastfeeding issues that led to a little procedure for Judah to correct a tongue and lip tie, but we are working through it!
Thanks for reading through all these nitty gritty details!