Carter Lee Duncan | A Birth Story
It was the middle of the night.
Just like in the movies.
The halls were a ghost town. No one in sight. I looked down one hallway. Then the other. Not a soul to be found. Then another contraction came over me. I braced myself on the desk. Cory rushed in after parking the car. Thankfully he was coherent enough to read the sign that said, “if in labor, proceed to the 5th floor” So to the 5th floor we went.
“They will give her some fluids. Then we will go home.” These thoughts were going through Cory’s head at that time. I had done such a good job of telling him, “This baby isn’t coming until way after his due date. I’m fashionably late to everything. I just have a feeling.”
Turns out my “feeling” was wrong!
Our son likes to be early (like his daddy) and we got to meet our sweet boy on June 15th, 2018.
I had been having cramps every couple minutes for the last day and a half. Braxton Hicks. I had been to my 39 week appointment Thursday morning. 39 weeks and 5 days. In my mind, he wasn’t coming until AT LEAST 41 weeks. That darn “feeling” again.
Cory went back to work and I went to meet my mom for brunch.
First Watch had finally opened and because avocado toast sounded delicious.
The cramps kept coming and going. I had planned to do some other errands while I was out but decided to go home for a nap. This was possibly the best life decision I have ever made.
The rest of that afternoon is a blur. My sisters came over at some point and were there when Cory got home from work. He walked into the house to me sitting hunched over in a chair. One sister scratching my back. One sister brushing my hair. Little did any of us know, I was in early labor.
I remember Cory stopped at the grocery to bring food home for dinner. I remember telling him he had to get something frozen because I wasn’t doing any dishes. The twins apparently had requested pizza and chicken pot pie. I remember being irritated at the smell of the food. So I went to take a shower.
Contractions were still coming 5-6 minutes apart. But still only lasting 20-30 seconds. My sweet midwife’s words played over and over in my head, “Start timing them when you cannot ignore them anymore. You won’t sleep through labor. I promise.” Cory encouraged me to get some sleep.
So we got into bed for what was going to be just a short nap.
I quietly got out of bed somewhere around 11pm. I sat on the yoga ball. I tried to relax and breathe. I went on like this for a couple hours. I definitely couldn't sleep through them.
Things were definitely more intense. Another contraction. Definitely stronger. A little closer together.
Right around 2am was at this moment I realized I hadn’t been able to keep ANY food or drink down since breakfast the day before.
I started to panic. I knew being dehydrated and hungry was NOT how I wanted to enter labor.
I shook Cory awake and told him I needed him to call the hospital. Would they send us home? Was it just me being dehydrated? At this point, I couldn’t talk through the contractions. After we talked to the midwife on call, we had that moment. THE moment. The, “honey, get the bags, it’s time to go,” moment.
It only took us 12 minutes to get to the hospital. You don’t have to fight traffic at 3am.
By the time we got up to the labor & delivery floor, it was nearly 3:30am. Our sweet nurse, Jenny, took such good care of us. I explained to her about not being able to keep any food or water down. Jenny checked to see if I had progressed and was only 2cm dilated. Contractions were coming closer together 2-3 minutes but never more than 45 seconds long (Cory told me later that he was sure they were going to send us home) and got me water and crackers and said she would watch me for an hour and see if I had progressed. The water she had given me to drink and the graham crackers she had given me to eat didn’t stay down long. That hour went by quickly. When Jenny returned, Cory was ready for us to be sent home.
We were staying. We were going to meet our son that day.
I don’t remember most of what I said to that sweet Jenny, but I was sad she wasn’t going to be with me through the rest of labor. Jenny, thank you for taking such good care of Cory & I. Getting me throw up bags because I left my throw up bowl at home ;)
We got to our room just after 5am. I got an IV of sugar water (I still hadn’t been able to keep anything down) and let me tell you, I felt like a whole new woman. All I wanted to do was get into the bathtub. It was about that time when I told Cory he needed to text my boss and let her know I wasn't going to be making it into work that day.
Jenny brought us our new nurse, Jen, and between the contractions and deep concentration, I knew I recognized her. I couldn’t forget her face. She is one of the most gorgeous people I have ever seen. She had the most beautiful red curly hair and smile that literally lights up a room.
Jen had been in charge of a class I had helped out with a few weeks prior. At 34 weeks, our baby was still in transverse position. So one of the midwives, Beth, recommended doing some exercises to help encourage baby to move. Jen was hosting a class called Spinning Babies that weekend and they needed a “model” that was 34-35 weeks pregnant with a transverse baby. TA DA! Me! I got to be the guinea pig for this class and the best part of all is that the exercises they did worked! Carter had finally flipped and I was going to be able to attempt to deliver him naturally.
I labored in the bathtub most of the time. Jen brought me all the banana popsicles she could find. She brought Cory coffee, which I promptly required him to drink outside of the vicinity of my smell (poor guy had to leave the bathroom every time he needed a sip of coffee). Contractions were a little longer, up to about a minute in length but still only a couple minutes apart.
Cory was my rock. Thinking back, I guess he was sitting on the floor by the tub. Timing contractions. Playing music. Praying over me and the baby. I had spent the last 9 months curating a specific playlist of worship music for labor. We would listen to it together at home. In the car. Mentally preparing for labor was a huge focus for me during the pregnancy. I had a lot of fears associated with childbirth.
Jen came to check on me and I was fully dilated so if I felt pressure, I needed to get out of the tub. A few contractions later, I felt the pressure, (like I needed to poop would be a better description!) Just after 9:00am, Jen and Cory helped me out of the tub. This was not an easy feat. An almost 6 foot tall woman in labor trying to get out of a tub. It was as difficult as it sounds!
I got dried off and on to the bed. Jen coached me that I could get in whatever position felt comfortable. I wanted to get on my hands and knees. I wanted gravity to help me as much as it could. But when I tried that, my upper body was so weak I couldn’t hold myself up. So Jen moved the bed up so I could rest against the bed but still be on my knees. At the next contraction I felt like I could push. By then, my midwife, Nicole, had arrived and let me just tell you- Nicole is like a ray of sunshine- blond hair and full of joy. I was so excited to see her I forgot it meant I was about to push a baby out of my body.
Unfortunately, when Nicole checked my progression, he wasn’t down far enough. I don’t remember what exactly she said but it was something to the effect of I needed to labor a little longer for him to get into position. Nope nope nope I couldn’t do it. I was devastated. I dreaded getting back in the tub. Waiting for warm water to fill up. Getting in the tub. Only to know I’d have to get back out. Again. Nicole told me I could sit backwards on the toilet.
I think I lasted about one contraction on the toilet. I wanted the tub. The water helped me relax. So back into the tub I went. I remember Jen telling me there was a cord and if I felt that pressure again and I couldn’t hold back to pull the cord and she would come check me. (Cory has since corrected me that this was an emergency cord. Jen had said to do the call button if I felt pressure and pull the cord if there was an emergency. My brain didn’t comprehend all of that, so I convinced him he needed to pull it when I felt pressure again) I didn’t want to get out of the tub again until I was SURE it was pressure. Jen came rushing in to find it wasn’t an emergency, just me feeling pressure in the tub. She checked me during that next contraction and (according to Cory) her eyes got big as she calmly said she could feel the head and I needed to get out of the tub again. Somewhere around this time I got to the transition phase of labor. I told Cory I needed a break. I told Jen I was going to keep him in there a little longer because I was tired. But apparently when you're crowning that's not exactly an option 😂
We repeated the whole process of getting me out of the tub (you know how awful it is when you get out of the shower with warm water and step on a cold floor and the air feels cold before you dry off? That feeling during labor is 100000x times worse)
Nicole was back ready to see where I was at and I asked her for a pep talk because I was ready to take a break and told her I couldn’t do it anymore. She chuckled and encouraged me. Bless you, Nicole. My water still hadn’t broken so she asked if I wanted her to break it for me. I vividly remember asking if it would make it go any faster. She broke my water and I was finally ready to push! I don’t remember much about this part of labor because I was so exhausted. I remember Cory putting his hand on mine. I gripped it. Tightly. And pushed. Nicole encouraged me that I was doing a great job (thanks for that pep talk!) and I decided the next push was going to be my best push. My last push. And so I gripped Cory’s hadn’t even tighter. And pushed. And with that push, our son came shooting out into this world. 10:43am.
Nicole caught him. Cory got to see him first. I remember being afraid to turn around, but Jen helped me and within just a few moments, our son was resting on my chest.
This is the moment that you hear a lot of moms talk about. That moment the baby is born and laid on their chest. The heavens open. The birds start singing. I heard a lot of comments like:
"Once they laid that baby on my chest, I couldn't remember life without them!"
"You will be consumed with an overwhelming love that you never knew you could feel!"
But I want to be transparent. Vulnerable. Real.
For me... I didn't have those feelings. And while I "loved" him in the sense that I didn't want anything bad to happen to him, I figured that overwhelming love part would kick in after I I could had some Jimmy Johns and a nice nap!!! This part is to be continued in another blog for another day. But just know, if you are pregnant, that moment when your baby is born, it isn't always sunshines and rainbows when you hold that baby for the first time. There may not be an instant wave of love like you expect because that's only what everyone talks about. They may put that baby on your chest and you may feel shock. Awe. But more like in a "what's happening" kind of way and less of a "my life wasn't complete until you" kind of way. You could be thinking about when you can take a nap and a devour a Turkey Tom.
I was in shock. Cory cried. I apparently was laughing! I think I was in disbelief. I'm not sure if it was that I actually went through childbirth without pain medication or just disbelief that now we were in charge of keeping this tiny human alive. Disbelief it the best word I can find. This picture proves it.
All I could see was the top of his head. Eager to see his face, I asked Cory what he looked like (still nameless at this point) I tried to look down at him and the first thing I saw was his index finger IN. HIS. MOUTH. He came out of the womb, sucking on his finger. The dental professional in me cringed.
As you may know, Carter was nameless up until about 15 minutes after he was born 😂 We had to decide on a name before we could introduce him to anyone! Like any good millennial father, Cory pulled out his phone and googled “middle names that go with Carter”
James came up first. We had talked about James because it is family name on my side I liked that idea and Carter James sounded great! But I worried that he would be nicknamed ‘CJ’ before we left the hospital so James wasn’t an option.
The next name on the list was ‘Lee’ This was perfect. Lee is Cory’s mom’s middle name. Carter Lee. Thanks to a little help from Google, we finally had a name for our son.
Carter Lee Duncan.
Those first minutes with our now family of three were so precious. I will never be able to thank Jen enough for grabbing Cory's phone and taking these photos.
That moment. The first time I held him. It was definitely the beginning of a new season. But we had no clue just how much our lives were going to change. This little tiny life. God entrusted to us. Half Cory. Half me. 100% Carter.