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Our birth story: introducing Tatum Duke

It's crazy to think that a week after I did my "What's in my hospital bag?" post, I went into labor. I knew without a doubt that I would be giving birth at some point in July, but baby girl had other plans. I was reluctant to share our birth story because I know every birth is unique and different and no one will have a labor that is exactly like mine. But as a first time mom (FTM), even with all the reading and research I did, things happened that I had no clue about. I was also very, very anxious about labor and giving birth so I hope that sharing my story will help other expecting mamas feel at ease or learn something they didn't know was part of the process. And if you aren't an expecting mom, hopefully you just enjoy hearing how our sweet Tatum came into the world. As always, if you have questions about our story, please don't hesitate to reach out! I'm very open about sharing my experience.

All my love,


On Saturday, June 27, Duke and I were eating dinner when I started to feel more frequent tightening in my stomach. Up until this point, I thought all of my previous contractions had been Braxton Hicks contractions. I didn't think much of it but there were a few contractions that made me stand up from the table because I was so uncomfortable. After about an hour of experiencing this pain, I decided I'd start timing them. My doctor advised me to follow the 5-1-1 rule - contractions five minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute and consistent for one hour. I had a contraction timing app downloaded and ready to go and once I started timing them, I realized they were pretty consistent, but they were not lasting for a minute. Below is the screenshot I sent my mom when I was trying to decide whether or not I should call the doctor.

Because each of them were only about 30 seconds long, I wasn't sure what to do. I decided to time them longer than an hour to see if they persisted. I drank water, got up and walked around, and did other things to see if they would go away. After they had been occurring for over two hours, I decided it was time to call my doctor. They advised I go to the hospital to get checked. We arrived at the hospital around 10pm and they got me up to triage. Once I was hooked up, the nurse checked my vitals, baby's heart rate, and asked me several screening questions. The doctor came in and checked my cervix and to my dismay, I was only 1cm dilated. I felt so silly and kept apologizing for wasting their time. They were so nice and reassured me that I did the right thing. They said I could either stay and walk around for a couple hours to see if I progressed or go home. I chose to go home because the doctor said that while I was indeed having contractions, she couldn't tell if it was actual labor or false labor. They advised I come back when the contractions were so bad that I couldn't talk through them/I had to brace myself for each one.

Well Saturday night was just awful. Even though I was glad I was in the comfort of our home, I didn't sleep a single minute because my contractions kept coming every 5 minutes. I walked around our room, walked around downstairs, sat downstairs, watched TV, any and everything to keep my mind off of it. I finally called Duke downstairs at 6am to keep me company. The rest of the morning we continued to try to occupy ourselves - we attempted to go on a walk (which resulted in us walking around our backyard), ate some breakfast, and went back and forth as to whether or not we should go back in. At around 11am, the contractions got to the point where it only helped if I stood and leaned over during them and I didn't feel like chatting through them anymore.

At this point, I was so scared to go back in just to be sent home again. I didn't want to waste anyone's time or get my hopes up. However, something inside me told me it was time to go to the hospital. Even though I wasn't in writhing pain it was a feeling I couldn't quite shake. So Duke and I got back in the car and headed to the hospital around 1pm. (Tip: EAT SOMETHING BEFORE YOU GO. I didn't eat lunch and really wish I would have.) We didn't even tell anyone we were going because I thought we might be sent home again. Back up in triage, the doctor checked me and as I was waiting for her to say something like only 2cm, she looked at me and said "good job mama, 5cm you're in active labor." Duke and I were both in shock. I think the whole rest of the day I was in disbelief because I just could not believe it was actually happening, I was about to become a mom. Immediately so many thoughts started rushing through my head, I hadn't wrapped up everything at work (I thought I still had at least a week), I didn't tell my parents we were there, I hadn't really researched labor that much (again I thought I'd have at least a week), did we have everything we need for baby, IS THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENING TODAY?! All the thoughts. All I can say about this part is listen to your body. If you think you should get checked, go. You won't be wasting anyone's time and it's better to be safe. I am SO glad we went when we did.

Once I was moved from triage to labor and delivery, it took quite some time to get settled. I felt like I was answering questions for hours. Duke went to get our bags from the car and was also given the task to call our family and let them know - bless him. By the time we were all admitted and settled, it was about 3pm.

Since I was already 5cm, I was able to get an epidural right away so I actually didn't deal with many painful contractions while I was at the hospital. I was really worried the epidural would hurt but I honestly don't really remember it. The two things I remember most is having to sit on the edge of the bed and slouch over and the amount of tape the anesthesiologist put on my back. She taped that thing on GOOD. Taking all the tape off after labor hurt worse than the actual epidural itself.

I knew once I got the epidural, I wouldn't be able to get out of bed, but one thing I didn't know is that once you get the epidural, you have to lay on your side the rest of labor. The nurse would come in every hour to flip me over and I had a peanut ball in between my legs the entire time. I also didn't realize the nurse would have to drain my urine for me every so often - I guess I didn't even think about how I'd go to the bathroom with an epidural. Don't worry all your modesty goes out the window when you're in labor.

Once I got my epidural, things were pretty uneventful for awhile. We FaceTimed my parents, some family members and some friends. We also played music, watched TV and hung out with one another. Duke loved watching my contractions on the monitor as they became stronger and closer together. He would read the monitor to me and let me know how baby was doing too.

After a few hours, I was laying in bed and all the sudden I felt like I was peeing in bed. I looked at Duke and was like "I'm peeing, I'm peeing!". We called the nurse in and she let me know that it was actually my water breaking. One thing I didn't realize though is that you can gush water several times it's not always one big gush. An hour or so later I felt another warm gush and this time I heard water hitting the floor. I was so embarrassed and Duke was cracking up at me. It also made me realize that TV shows and movies are pretty inaccurate because they always show someone's "water breaking" and act like that's the start of labor and you never see any of the mess that your water breaking actually causes or the fact that you can be in active labor long before your water breaks.

A couple more hours passed and at this point it was a little after 10pm and my progression had slowed down. I had been stuck at 7cm dilated for a couple hours. The nurse came in to check my dilation and while she was checking, we heard a loud pop. I literally felt it pop in my body. It scared me so badly because right after the pop all this water came rushing out and baby's heart rate completely stopped on the monitor. Thankfully, her heart rate started back up just a second later but it was the longest second of my life. Basically what happened was the rest of my water actually hadn't broken and had created a seal blocking baby girl from coming down. Once the final part of my water had broken, things progressed so quickly.

I dilated from 7cm to 10cm in about an hour. My nurse told me that I would start to feel perineal pressure and to call her back to the room when I did. That part made me anxious, I was so worried I wouldn't know what this "pressure" felt like. Well no need to worry because I could definitely feel the pressure when it came. Essentially you feel like you have to poop (sorry if that's TMI) but that's the exact feeling you start to get.

The nurse came in and said it was time to start pushing. I felt a wave of nerves rush over me. Pushing was the thing I was most worried about. At this point, we thought she was going to be a June 29th baby because it was 11:20pm on the 28th and I knew pushing could take awhile especially for FTM. I didn't realize when you start pushing, you actually start with "practice pushes" with just the nurse. She had one leg and Duke had the other but I too was told to pull my legs back while I was pushing. I did several practice pushes and the nurse could start to see baby's head so she went and got the doctor - essentially the doctor was only in there for the last few pushes.

The reason I was so worried about pushing is because during my research about labor and delivery, I couldn't really find anything about pushing and how to do it. I was worried I'd be bad at it or wouldn't be able to get her out. One thing I had read is that when you're pushing find something in the room to focus on. For me, I chose to look at the board that had her name up there. It helped to motivate me during the pushes knowing I was so close to meeting our baby girl. Every time I pushed it was a set of three 10-second pushes followed by a break until the next contraction (I'm not sure if it's like that for everyone). By the end of the third push I'd be pretty exhausted especially because I was pushing in a mask. It was so hard to breathe. In terms of how to push, it is really hard to describe so I guess that's why there isn't much out there about it. These are the few tips I had read prior to labor and I actively remember thinking about during pushing:

  • Focus on something in the room while you're pushing (like I mentioned above)

  • Concentrate all your energy to the place where you're feeling pressure

  • Relax the rest of your body (don't strain your face too hard, and breathe through your pushes)

After 33 minutes of pushing, little Miss Tatum was born at 11:55pm on Sunday, June 28th. She weighed 8 lbs. 3 oz. and was 20.5 inches long. It was one of the best moments of my life. I honestly can't even describe the feeling when she was put onto my chest after she came out. Duke and I were (and still are) so in awe of her. Duke was able to cut the umbilical cord and we did skin-to-skin for the first hour of her life.

Because she was born at 11:55pm, we didn't get to the mother/baby unit until 2:45 in the morning. Thankfully, Duke had ordered me a Jimmy John's sub before they closed that they kept in the fridge for me. I HIGHLY recommend doing this if you think you're baby is going to make a late night/early morning arrival because the hospital cafeteria will be closed as well as any restaurants you can go get food from. I ate my sub at 3:30 in the morning and it was so delicious. You will be starving after labor.

I feel so blessed that we had such an amazing labor experience. We loved all of our nurses, they were so encouraging and supportive. We were in the hospital for less than 48 hours as we were discharged on the morning of the 30th. I am so thankful that Tatum is here and healthy. We have had two weeks with her and it's been an overwhelming, exciting, wonderful two weeks. It's crazy because at times it feels like she's been apart of our family forever and other times I can't believe it's already been two weeks. Duke has been the best dad already and been so helpful in both taking care of her and in helping me recovery. One thing I will be sharing is my postpartum journey because I don't think it is talked about enough and definitely through me for a loop in our first week home. More to come on that in another post at a later time.

I hope reading our birth story was helpful for any soon-to-be first time mamas. One piece of advice I have that I truly believe really helped us have such a good experience is: maintain a positive attitude and calm atmosphere in your room for your entire labor. Ensure your birth partner is on the same page as well. Duke and I talked beforehand about what was most important to us and positivity always came up in our conversations. He was so positive throughout the entire experience and that helped keep me calm. Whatever you need to do to create a relaxing environment for yourself is key. For me that was music (I made a playlist beforehand) - listening to my favorite songs and singing along really relaxed me. I also love words of affirmation, it's one of my love languages. Duke constantly told me what a good job I was doing and that he was there for anything I needed. That made me feel safe and secure.

Below I answered a few questions I've gotten the most from people since I gave birth. If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out!


-How far along was I when I went into labor?

I started having contractions on 38 weeks 5 days, and Tatum was born at 38 weeks 6 days.

-How did I know I was in labor?

This was one of my biggest worries - not knowing when I was in labor/having contractions. I reached out to a lot of my mom friends and they all said the same thing: when they're real contractions, you will know! Other than that, I really had no idea what to expect/what I should be feeling as you can kind of tell in my story above. I was so unsure if I should go to the hospital or not because I didn't know if it was labor or false labor.

-Was I dilated prior to contractions starting?

At my 37 week appointment, my doctor wasn't even going to check me because I hadn't been feeling any contractions. She ended up checking just to be sure and I was 1cm dilated. I was so excited even though the doctor said it could still be weeks. At my 38 week appointment I had actually been feeling contractions here and there so I thought for sure I had progressed. She checked me and I was still at 1cm. I was a little bummed but at the same time I still thought she wouldn't be here until July. Three days later is when I started having contractions for real. So yes, I was dilated a little but nothing significant before full on contractions started.

-Did I do anything to induce labor?

Not purposefully. I did ironically eat pineapple a day before I started having contractions but I don't think that put me into labor. I also spent a lot of time on my birthing ball the last week or two. I didn't do that with the intention of putting myself into labor, it really just helped with my back pain and I read it helps to loosen your hips for labor so I would spend a portion of each night using it while I watched TV.

-Did I have a birth plan?

I did not have a birth plan. All I told the nurses was that I wanted healthy mom and healthy baby. I knew I wanted an epidural but those were all of the requests I had. I know some people like putting together extensive, detailed birth plans and that's great if that helps you feel prepared! Again, whatever puts you most at ease.

-Was birth different due to Covid-19?

This one is tough for me to answer because I have nothing else to compare it to. We did have to get screened before going into the hospital and were required to wear masks in the halls and when nurses were in our room. The nurses also wore masks any time they were in our room but I believe that's standard regardless of Covid.

-Why do I have a band-aid above my eyebrow? LOL

I had a cut above my eyebrow that had turned into a scab. It itched and because of where it was, I would constantly accidentally hit it/rub my eyes and make it bleed. I didn't want that to happen while I was in labor as I figured I'd have enough going on so I decided to just put a band-aid on to protect it.

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