Our early Christmas present: Grant Hamilton Shackelford was born on December 3rd 2015, at 4:02am at Piedmont Hospital in downtown Atlanta! Arriving two weeks early, he weighed 6 pounds 2 ounces and was 18 3/8th inches long. Both mama and baby are healthy and doing well. We are so in love!
First of all, I want to thank our friends and family for the prayers and support as we headed to the hospital last Tuesday evening. Grant’s birth story is one that was written in community, and we felt the grace surrounding us as we went through what turned out to be a volatile 20+ hours of labor.
This birth story is long as I want to capture all of the ups and down and ultimately God’s incredible work to bring us our sweet baby boy. John and I wrote it together, and so here it goes… (Click any of the photos to view them larger and fair warning that it gets detailed and maybe TMI at points but I wanted to remember everything as it happened):
The birth process began in earnest on November 27th, when during a routine 37 week appointment, Steph was told by her doctor that she needed to be induced that day. Apparently, Grant was measuring small, and the doctors were concerned that his growth over the past few weeks had tailed off, which could be a symptom of “intra utero growth restriction.” In essence, doctors were worried that Grant may be no longer getting the nourishment he needed from the placenta, so their recommendation was to induce Steph immediately to get Grant out safely.
Thankfully, when all of this arose, Steph asked to see the perinatal specialist so that they could at least confirm the doctor’s recommendation. Steph immediately walked over the perinatal office, and John joined her in that office shortly after she arrived. At the perinatal specialist, they affirmed Steph’s doctor’s thoughts that Grant’s growth had significantly slowed down, but disagreed with the urgency of having to induce. Since blood flow and Grant’s activity levels all seemed to be healthy and normal, they recommended for us to induce during week 38, the following week. After the specialist spoke with Steph’s doctor, they all agreed that the best course of action would be to induce in week 38. We were given the choice of day, so we chose the day that our favorite doctor, Dr. Dozier, would be the doctor on call. The date was set for a “cervical ripening” procedure to start at 7:30pm on December 1st, and then Steph would be induced with Pitocin at 8am the next morning.
The decision to induce was a hard one for us to swallow, as our hope and desire throughout the pregnancy would be for Grant to be birthed naturally without the use of any drugs. However, after processing what the doctors told us, over the next few days, God gave us great peace about the decision to induce, believing it was sign from Him that Grant’s time had come.
After settling on a date for the induction, we were able to enjoy Thanksgiving at home in Atlanta, and Steph’s parents joined us. They were so gracious to help us prepare for Grant’s arrival, as little things around the house still needed to be done, including decorating for Christmas.
The week leading up to the induction dragged on as our emotions ranged from excitement and anticipation to anxiety and fear. We spent a lot of time in prayer, with some tears, and were surrounded by our community joining us in prayer too. Tuesday evening before heading to the hospital we went out for (gluten free) pizza with Steph’s parents, wondering what awaited in the coming days.
Upon checking into Piedmont Hospital, we were immediately put at ease with the care from the nurses and staff. Our entire experience at Piedmont from start to finish was incredible, and we were so blessed by the nurses who came alongside of us during labor, delivery, and recovery. Because the blinds in the first hospital room we were put it were broken, we were moved to a huge hospital room, which ended up being nice since we spent so much time there. Steph was administered Cervadil to start the dilation process since there were no signs yet of labor. We were able to sleep for four hours before being checked by Dr. Dozier who informed us that there was no real progress. Around 8am, Steph was started on the Pitocin to begin contractions. In the beginning, contractions were very mild, so we read Harry Potter together, watched Gilmore Girls, and both our parents came to visit in the room. Our parents stayed the remainder of the labor process in the waiting room, unaware of the long day and night ahead.
Around 2:30pm, hard labor began as the Pitocin dose increased. 24 is the highest dosage amount without special consent from the doctor, and Steph was at dose 22. By 3:30pm Steph was bent over on a birthing ball with hard contractions. Around 5pm Steph was in between 3-4 centimeters dilated. From then until 7:30pm, she experienced really hard contractions, and John sat behind her rubbing her back.
Around 6:45pm, Steph voiced that she needed an epidural, as contractions were very intense and right on top of one another, not spaced out at all as is normal with Pitocin. Given this, we decided to go with an epidural, which was administered. Right after the epidural was given around 7:30pm, Grant’s heartrate skyrocketed and Steph’s blood pressure plummeted, alerting all of the nurses. Within minutes, over 6 nurses and doctors were in the room working to stabilize both Grant’s heartrate and Steph’s blood pressure. Steph was on the bed confused about what was going on and scared as John was holding her hand and assuring her everything would be okay. As all of this was happening, the head nurse checked her and reported that she was fully dilated. However, Dr. Dozier came in and checked her and reported that she was actually only 6-7 centimeters dilated, but it was easy to misread because of Grant’s head positioning in utero.
Steph had to be put on blood pressure medications to regulate her blood pressure, and Pitocin was taken off because Grant didn’t react well to it, and we waited and waited as contractions seemed to go away. The epidural worked in the sense that it took the edge off of the contractions, but Steph maintained feeling and control of legs and feet, which was great. From roughly 8pm until 1am, Steph “rested” while the nurses tried to reintroduce Pitocin, but every time they did, Grant’s heartrate would spike and then drop outside of the normal range.
At 1am we met with Dr. Dozier, who suggested a “last ditch” effort to avoid a C-section. We need to get clarity on the procedure, but from what we understood, since Steph’s water had broken hours earlier, she pumped fluids back into her uterus to cushion the umbilical cord. However, Dr. Dozier said at some point Steph would be considered “failure to progress” and a C-section would be necessary. We talked through what a C-section would entail, and we were very disappointed that this outcome was eminent, given that we had wanted an all natural birth in the first place. After processing everything and praying together, we felt at peace that God would deliver our baby boy through whatever way was needed. Again, we are so thankful for the Piedmont staff and Dr. Dozier who were so patient, caring, and really worked with us on our birth preferences.
After trying to rest some more in preparation for the C-section, around 3am Steph told John that she thought she felt the urge to push. We called in our nurse who checked Steph and thought she was at 10 cm – fully dilated. Since the last exam had been inaccurate, she called in another nurse who also confirmed that Steph was ready to push. At this point, only one nurse and John were in the room, helping Steph push. After a few pushes, the nurse called in Dr. Dozier because Grant was on the way. After only 35 minutes of pushing, Grant was born! John got to cut the umbilical cord and we had 90 minutes of bonding time before they did the newborn procedures. Our parents came in at this point and got to see his first bath, measurements etc. We were all so overjoyed and couldn’t believe God’s grace and the story He had written!