Sharing Our Birth Story


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This last weekend, my husband and I finally welcomed little baby James into the world after a long awaited birth experience. Let me tell you, we are forever changed for the better. There’s nothing quite like becoming a parent, and I’m only just beginning to understand.

James • Francis •Grassel

Weight: 8 lbs, 7.4 oz

Height: 20 inches

DOB: May 20, 2021 at 4:19pm

The Labor of Birth

3:30am, Startled awake by the sound of Isaac’s phone dropping, I started my constant trips to the bathroom. There was a lot of discomfort but nothing I considered a contraction. Of course, I had no idea what a contraction felt like either…

6:30am, I had been up and walking around to try and get comfortable again. Isaac woke up to a phone call from our midwife about booking and insurance at the birth center.

The Original Plan

1. Deliver at Apple Tree Midwifery & Birth Center

2. Water Birth

3. 100% Unmedicated, NO needles (I’m legitimately terrified, I may have a phobia)

4. Immediate Skin-to-Skin

5. Delayed Cord Clamping

7:15am, Isaac and I made the call to skip work because we weren’t quite sure what was going on. We didn’t think I was in labor, but it was clear I had some major discomfort. I was still making constant trips back and forth to the bathroom and the pain felt fairly constant.

8:00am, My pain was not getting any better, so we decided to call the midwives. (We still had no idea what was going to happen at this point – in terms of where I was going to deliver.) Our midwife said that the symptoms Isaac explained correlated with prodromal labor. This is the labor that comes before active labor. It can either go away after relaxing for sometime or it can ramp up and turn into full labor.

When we attended our birthing classes, they taught that we should go by the 4-1-1 or 3-1-1 rules before going to the center to birth. That’s one minute long contractions, every three (or four) minutes, for an hour.

So we waited it out. We were instructed to just turn on a movie, relax, and stay hydrated.

A Little Backstory

Apple Tree Midwifery & Birth Center just opened their doors in South Dakota early this month. That being said, they have not had the conversation with many insurance groups at this point, which would mean most likely that the entire cost of the facility, at least, would be out of pocket. $6500. That’s a big bill to get slapped with.

We had been talking with the midwives that run the center to try and get the proper authorizations for Tricare submitted. Thinking we had everything under wraps, we were actually informed on James’ due date (May 17th) that things were in fact, still awry.

9:00am, You recall, the midwife had been talking to Isaac earlier in the day about billing and insurance, but nothing had been finalized. Isaac was working on calling both my primary and secondary insurances, but none of our questions were being answered. We involved the third-party billing service, but still, no answers. Only more questions.

At this point, I was still in a lot of pain, and after being instructed to simply relax and stay hydrated for the day, we turned to watching Les Miserables. I love musicals. Nothing was helping. I was sipping on water, and I couldn’t keep anything down. I hadn’t eaten since the night before, and all the water I was drinking was coming right back up.

10:30am, We arrived at the hospital. I made the decision to go in to at least make sure that I was staying hydrated. I was concerned that if we were going to be in labor anytime soon, that I would be dehydrated and unable to labor with the most control.

As soon as we arrived, I was wheeled to triage. They confirmed my insurance and had me sign a few consent forms. Before hooking me up to a NST (no-stress test), they wanted to complete a cervix exam. Changing into my hospital gown, I knew that only a few days earlier I was at 2cm and there was no possible way we were ready for labor. Welp, my friends, we were wrong. Shocked, the nurse said, “You’re at 7-8cm!” At least we came prepared with our delivery bags and comfort needs!

11:00am, I was admitted and transferred from triage to labor and delivery. The room was huge, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have any tub for me to labor in. One dream of the plan that was squashed… the other of course was the where. We hadn’t exactly thought I would give birth in the hospital, but we were rolling with the punches at this point.

I finally understood what a contraction felt like though. I also lost all sense of time. The rest of the active labor part is kind of a blur to me. Waiting patiently, contractions came and went in the blink of an eye. I made many trips back and forth to the bathroom, sat in the shower for some time for some pain relief, tried a few different birthing positions, and attempted to rest between contractions to save my energy.

Huge shout-out to all the dads out there. Isaac was so incredible. I was very quiet during most of the labor, but he always new exactly what I needed. I definitely could not have done it without him. He supported me walking, helped open my hips during tough contractions, was my stress ball (which, by the way, we actually had one packed!), took a beating – I bruised his left hand from squeezing so hard (his wedding ring crushed between his fingers), wiped my face with a cold cloth, and whispered words of support and love while encouraging good breathing practices! I can’t say how much I appreciate all of what he did during labor.

The Delivery Itself

After laboring for what seemed like an eternity, the hardest part was just about to begin. Hours of contractions and pain, I was already exhausted. Quite literally, I had fallen asleep a few times during labor (don’t worry, that’s completely normal!). I didn’t think the pain could get any worse, but I was completely wrong.

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate the pain a 20, easily. It was clear when I was supposed to start pushing, my body knew just what to do. Physically. Mentally, I was exhausted, I had prepared myself for labor, but with the intensified pain, I felt like giving up. Repeatedly, I yelled that I couldn’t do it. But, my body never quit. With each new contraction, I gave it my all and little by little, James inched closer.

The last push, the midwives assisted in helping him into the world. Immediately upon his entrance, he was plopped onto me where I was told he pooped four times on me. I couldn’t feel a thing, I was overwhelmed with a beautiful, indescribable emotion while my husband cried tears of joy beside me and we welcomed our son into our hearts and home.

A few short moments later, and he also peed all over me. We were able to do the delayed cord clamping, so after the nutrients were drained from the cord, one of the midwives assisted in clamping, and Isaac cut the cord. It was so great that he got to have a more hands on part of the experience. He doesn’t think he did a whole lot, but as I mentioned earlier, it wouldn’t have been possible without him.

I was able to do the whole thing, about 12 hours, without any medications. To say that still amazes me. I never thought I had a good pain tolerance. I never thought that I would be able to do what I did, but with the right mindset and partner, the birth was beautiful despite the few things in the original plan that I couldn’t have.

The only medication I was given was after the birth. Unfortunately, I had been bleeding quite a bit, so they gave me some Pitocin to help slow that. I also came out with two bilateral labial tears. I hate needles, so at first I declined stitches. The midwife was comfortable sending me home without the, but highly recommended them to prevent the tears from fusing together while healing. So, once again, after being held by dad for a while, James was returned to my arms as a comfort measure while I was numbed and stitched.

4:19pm, The best moment of our entire lives. James made his arrival and officially made Isaac and I parents.

I had no concept of time. I can remember all of the pain and the experience, but I couldn’t really tell you how long it took to get there.

A lot of women say that you forget the experience. That’s why I wanted to write this. Right now, I remember it all. I want it to stay that way. I want to remember all of the pain, because it is 100 percent worth it. Every bit of it. I wouldn’t change anything. Was the pain entirely off the scale? Yes. But seeing the beautiful eyes of my son as he looks up at me and listening to his soft coos makes all of that pain somehow disappear.

Three Reasons to Hire a Birth Story Photographer

  1. All of your loved ones can be 100 percent present in the moment. You and your significant other and family/friends in attendance don’t have to worry about taking photos. They can be there and support you while the professional is at work.
  2. We are not just a photographer. We can be a part of the support team, too! Let us help send texts, get water for you, or anything you need!
  3. Birth deserves to be celebrated. You wait nine months (give or take!), so just like every other milestone, birth story photographers capture the celebration and memories.

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The photos on this blog were taken by Cora Carroll Photography.

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