This is the story of the events leading up to Harper’s birth and the day she came into this world, making us a family of four. You can read Landon’s birth story here.
When I was 37 weeks pregnant, I spent a few hours in triage because my blood pressure was a little high and my swelling (pitting edema on my feet, ankles, and legs) was really, really bad. They ended up sending me home a little after midnight, as opposed to when I had to be induced with Landon at 37 weeks. I was thankful on one hand, because I was not dilated at all at that point and my experience of being induced (with a foley bulb) with Landon from 0cm was so painful and just overall not a good experience. But on the other hand, I was so miserable and swollen and just wanted to meet our baby girl so bad. Of course, first and foremost is the well-being of the baby, not my own comfort, but preeclampsia is scary and can creep up so fast at the end, so that fear was in the back of my mind. My Mama came to get Landon so he didn’t have to sit in the tiny triage room with us (and it was way past his bedtime) but before she left, she held my hand and prayed the sweetest prayer over me, asking Jesus to give me peace and calm my spirit and be in the center of every detail of my delivery, no matter when it happened. I love her and I’ll never forget that. Landon was so precious that night. I think he was a little worried about his Mama, seeing me on the hospital bed all hooked up to the monitors, and he crawled up on my lap and gave me the sweetest, longest hug – I’ll love Grayson forever for capturing that moment with him.
The next few weeks were LONG. I never thought I would carry Harper longer than I carried Landon. Pregnancy is so hard at the end – the swelling, the aches and pains, the exhaustion, the worry of not knowing when or how everything will happen, and just the general feeling of being massive and people making comments about your size everywhere you go. Most people don’t mean any harm, but it’s hard not to be over sensitive and let it bother you, especially when you’re already overwhelmed and exhausted. I missed my ankles, being able to wear shoes other than foam flip flops, being able to bend over, sleeping longer than 30 minutes at a time, and being able to stand up without feeling like a bowling ball was going to fall right through me. It sounds dramatic, but if you’ve been there – you know exactly what I mean.
I really struggled with feeling miserable and having the urge to just complain all the time, and knowing in the deepest part of my heart what an honor it had been for the last nine months to carry this miracle inside of me. I think about women (I know so many personally) who may never get to experience the privilege of carrying a child, and I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that Jesus has entrusted me with another precious little life. I knew that every contraction brought me closer to meeting her, every pain and sleepless night was worth it, but it was still hard – physically and emotionally.
There were several nights that I had pretty intense contractions and we would time them. They went from 10 minutes apart to about 7 minutes apart and then just stopped altogether. I remember wishing that my water would just break, so I didn’t have to play the guessing game of timing contractions and could just go to the hospital without the fear that they’d send me home. With Landon, I never even had Braxton Hicks – my contractions with him were caused from the pitocin and foley bulb, which I had pain medicine for and it was just an entirely different situation.
At my 38 week appointment, I was 3cm dilated and 70% effaced. I was so encouraged to hear that because I at least knew my contractions were doing something and if I did end up having to be induced, it wouldn’t be as bad as last time because I wouldn’t be starting from 0cm. It’s funny, when you’re at that point, because people are either super encouraging (saying things like, “oh 3cm? that’s fantastic, you’re 1/3 of the way there – it won’t be long now!”) or they say things that make you just want to dig a hole and crawl inside (like, “well don’t get your hopes up, you’ll probably go overdue… I walked around at 3cm for a month.”). Again, I realize nobody means any harm when they offer their advice or opinions or their own personal experiences – it’s just what you do, because what else are you going to say? but it’s just hard when you’re scared about how things are going to go and physically so worn down.
In the last weeks, I went back and forth between sleeping every chance I got and watching movies over and over with Landon to feeling so determined to “get the baby out” that I’d walk all over our little town with one foot up on the curb (people claim this helps lower the baby into the birth canal). My feet were so swollen that I couldn’t tell if the walking helped or hurt, but everyone said to walk, walk, walk, so every time I could muster up enough energy, that’s what we did.
After expressing my concerns of delivering a potentially 9 or 10 pound baby at my 39 week appointment (at which I was 4cm dilated), my midwife had me go for an ultrasound to try and get a better estimate of how much Harper weighed (with the intention of making a decision to induce or schedule a c section based off of what the ultrasound estimated). Since my ultrasound at 35 weeks estimated she already weighed about 6lbs 3oz, I knew she was going to be bigger than Landon at birth (he was 6lbs 15oz at 37 weeks) because babies can gain anywhere from a half of a pound to a whole pound a week during the last few weeks. The ultrasound tech wasn’t able to get very accurate measurements because the baby was so big and already pretty far down into the birth canal, but the next day, my midwife called to schedule my induction for Thursday, May 10th at 7:30am.
It’s funny how you can be so ready for something like giving birth, but then when it’s scheduled for the next day, you’re like WAIT! I’M NOT READY!
I spent that last morning with Landon snuggled up, studying his blonde hair and blue eyes, holding his little hands, giving him one last sink bath, playing with his favorite toys, and reading all his favorite books. I cried every time I thought about the fact that it would never be just me and my boy again, but at the same time was so excited to give him a sister and knowing my heart would somehow double in size within just 24 hours. Grayson’s boss sent him home at noon, telling him to enjoy his last afternoon with just me and Landon (so thoughtful and sweet!) and so we went to one of our favorite BBQ places for lunch and then met Grayson’s Mama and Daddy with Landon that evening. We thought since we had to try and get some rest that night and be at the hospital so early the next morning, it would be best for him to go ahead and stay with them. Driving away from my first baby, knowing his life was about to change forever, was harder than I expected – I was a wreck, but still so excited for all that was to come.
The next morning, we went to Chick-fil-A for breakfast on our way to the hospital. I wasn’t sure if I should eat or not, because I remembered throwing up a lot during labor with Landon, but I also knew if I didn’t eat I would be starving and who knows how long an induction can take. Grayson prayed the sweetest prayer that morning over chicken minis and my favorite crushed ice. I’ll always remember the way his hand felt in mine across the table as he asked Jesus to calm my spirit and be in the midst of every detail of the day. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I felt so overwhelmingly thankful. I’m so glad I married my best friend.
We got to the Birthplace at Gaston Memorial Hospital at 7:30am and after getting checked in, all the paperwork finalized, and settled into our room, they started me on an IV of pitocin at about 8:30am. Since I was already 4cm dilated, I was expecting to have our baby in my arms by about 2:00pm. Ha! Boy, was I in for a surprise!
The sweet nurse came in every 30 minutes to turn the pitocin up, and although I was having some mild contractions, they were very bearable and not in any kind of regular pattern. At noon, they brought me some chicken broth and jello and then the midwife came by to check my cervix. I just knew I would be progressing, but I was still at 4cm – after four hours on pitocin. I was discouraged, but decided to ask for a birthing ball to bounce on, with hopes that it would help speed things along, and also because it is hard for me to sit still in a hospital bed for too long.
Grayson, my Mama, and my aunt Rhonda were there to distract me and keep me company, and some of my cousins came by to see me, too. Around 3:00pm, the nurse checked my cervix again and I was beyond frustrated to hear that I had not progressed and was still at 4cm. She said that what they would probably do is check one more time around supper time, and if I had not progressed, they would just turn off the pitocin, let me eat a normal meal for dinner (you can not have any solid foods during an induction) and shower, do cervadil overnight, and then start pitocin again the next morning. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. I was not happy. I had been laying there all day on pitocin and I did not like the way things were dragging on. I just wanted it to be over, and I was so confused as to why the pitocin didn’t seem to be working.
They came back around 5:00pm and sure enough, I was still at 4cm dilated, even though the pitocin had been turned up as high as it would go for hours. How had I not progressed any, after almost nine hours on pitocin?! I was starting to panic. I didn’t want to go through a long night (everything seems harder at night, for some reason) and another day of induction. I begged her to come back and check just one more time, so she agreed to come back around 6:30pm, saying that if I was still at 4cm, they would have to turn the pitocin off and do cervadil overnight.
At 6:30pm, she came back as I had asked her to check my cervix and I heard her say, “hand me the hook.” She broke my water and said, “you are at 6cm!” This is when everything really started. I don’t have any problem getting shots, finger pricks, IV’s inserted… it just doesn’t bother me anymore. But, anything down there… and I lose it. I have no pain tolerance when it comes to cervix checks, pap smears… anything like that, and I just go all to pieces… I don’t know how I’ve birthed two babies now. It is so painful, and I tense up no matter how hard I try not to, which just makes it even worse. So, when she checked my cervix, I was already tensed up and almost in tears from the pain, then when she broke my water, I wasn’t expecting it (she did it without telling me while she was already in the process of checking so that she wouldn’t have to put me through that again) and it shocked me, so I started crying, then, I heard her say, “oh, there’s meconium in the amniotic fluid,” which I knew could be very dangerous if the baby had ingested any, and I panicked… and then I started hyperventilating. It was just so much all in about a 45 second time frame, and I could not pull myself together. That’s when Kelly reached out and took my hand and said, “Katie, you are surrounded by believers. It’s going to be okay.”
Cold chills. I had never met the midwife on call that day. Her name was Kelly and she was kind and calming, but straightforward. I could tell I liked her, but I had no idea how Jesus had orchestrated the whole thing at that point. I couldn’t believe she had just been that bold about her faith. I found out later that when I went for my 39 week appointment that Monday before, the midwife I saw that day went to Kelly and said, “I have a patient who is nervous about her delivery, we think the baby is going to be pretty large, and we’ve never talked about it, but I think she’s a Christian and I think you would be a really good fit for her. Do you mind if I schedule her induction during your shift?” I don’t know how she was able to have such discernment and see the love for the Lord in my spirit, but I’m so thankful she did because Kelly was truly a perfect fit for me and I’m so thankful she was the one on call that day. You could feel the presence of the Lord and it was just unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
Within five minutes of having my water broken, the most intense contractions I’ve ever felt in my entire life started. I couldn’t talk through them, I couldn’t breathe through them, and there’s just no way to explain that kind of pain unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. Grayson was right by my side, holding my hand, watching the monitor, telling me when another one was starting and trying his best to keep me calm. He’s so good with me – such a steady, unwavering rock in the midst of the chaos. I couldn’t have done it without him.
The anesthesiologist was there quickly and I don’t know why it struck me so funny, but he looked just like Steve Carell from the Office (and of course, in true Katie-fashion, I told him so in between contractions) and he was wearing a Star Wars du-rag with his scrubs. The stuff you remember from labor is hilarious! The nurse raised the bed all the way up, I sat on the edge, leaned over holding Grayson’s shoulders, and the anesthesiologist talked through everything he was doing. I felt the cold, scratchy soap, the numbing shot that feels like a bee sting, the plastic sheet, and then I didn’t feel anything else… then he was done. I swear, if I didn’t already have a husband, I would have married him. He was like an angel, Star Wars du-rag and all.
It took about 10-15 minutes for the epidural to start working and the contractions were unbearable until then. As soon as it took effect, though… oh, praise Jesus. It was amazing. The monitor showed contractions so big, they were off the paper, but I couldn’t feel anything. Around 8:00pm the nurse checked and told me that I was at 10cm, and to just let her know when I felt the urge to push. I didn’t feel anything. Around 9:00pm, she came back and asked if I felt like I wanted to try some “practice pushes” just to see if I was ready, and after only one, she said, “oh my goodness this baby has a lot of hair!” I started crying again, surprise surprise. I was so excited and I knew it was showtime. We were going to have a baby that day, after all, even though only a few hours before, we were having the conversation about turning off the pitocin and trying again the next day. Nope.
You don’t really know how bad an epidural is, until you have a really good epidural. Once you have one that works like it’s supposed to, you wonder how you ever survived childbirth with one that didn’t really work… or why on God’s green earth anyone would elect not to have one. I’ll never understand that. My epidural with Landon did not work well, and although I couldn’t move my legs at all, I felt the crowning, the tearing… and it was terrible. This time, the epidural worked LIKE A CHARM thanks to Mr. Star Wars du-rag and I couldn’t believe the difference. Pushing felt like I was just holding my breath and leaning forward. Unlike at Presbyterian Hospital (where I delivered Landon), everything is done in the same room at Gaston Memorial. You never change rooms, they just bring in the equipment for childbirth, quickly clean everything up, and then you stay there until you go home, which is really nice. I hadn’t even noticed all the equipment that had been brought in, and all the nurses that were suddenly there helping the midwife. Everyone was telling me I was doing a great job and Grayson kept saying how proud he was of me. After only 26 minutes of pushing, Harper Gray Bedenbaugh was placed in my arms at 9:47pm and I will NEVER forget that moment as long as I live. The weight of her little body against my chest, my tears falling all over her, looking up into Grayson’s eyes that were filled with tears too, and saying over and over again, “I did it, she’s here!” Grayson cut the cord, I held her and studied her little body, and it was just the sweetest, most perfect delivery. I couldn’t have asked for a better epidural, a better midwife and team of nurses, or a more encouraging, supportive husband. I was so glad he and I got to experience such an intimate, sacred moment again, just the two of us.
I can’t believe I ever worried that I might not feel that instant connection with Harper like I did with Landon. It’s hard to imagine ever loving another baby as much as you love your first baby, but the second you hold them in your arms, your heart really does double in size. As soon as they handed her to me, I wondered how I ever lived without her. She had so much hair and the sweetest, most beautiful little face. We couldn’t believe it when they weighed her and told us she weighed 9 pounds 2 ounces!
I had been shaking a little bit just before pushing, but after I delivered, it became much worse. It was so bad, I couldn’t even hold her, so Grayson did skin to skin with her. It’s the weirdest feeling, shaking violently and having absolutely no control over it. It upset me so much that I started crying, which makes everything worse. I shook after delivering Landon, too, but this was much more intense. They started piling warm blankets over me and the midwife was still working hard. Because I had preeclampsia at the end of my pregnancy with Landon, I had to take a baby asprin every day after 16 weeks during my pregnancy with Harper to help reduce the risk of that happening again. Although I did have bad swelling, it kept my blood pressure at bay for the most part, however, I had terrible blood clotting and the midwife and nurses worked for an hour removing blood clots, trying to get the bleeding to stop, and I eventually had to have a shot to make it stop. I was scared, but they assured me I wasn’t hemorrhaging (it wasn’t quite to that point). I started throwing up, and I threw up on and off for hours, even though I hadn’t eaten anything all day since breakfast, which felt like a week ago. I had second degree tears again, but they were not as deep as they were with Landon, and now that it’s been almost three weeks, I’m amazed at how much easier the healing process has been this time, even though the events after-delivery were pretty horrific.
My Mama came in to meet her first granddaughter as soon as they were done working on me, and it was the sweetest moment. Harper was back in my arms and her eyes were wide open – she was so alert and she looked so intently into my Mama’s eyes as she talked to her. I will never forget that, it was so precious. My aunt Rhonda came in next, and it was just a sweet time, everyone loving on her. She stayed at the hospital with my Mama for over 16 hours that day, and I was so thankful she was there.
That night was a total blur. I felt like I had been run over by a truck and the shaking and throwing up continued for about two hours. It’s fairly normal, as you come off all the medicine, but it’s still scary, and I could tell my Mama was worried about me. I know I’ll be the same way one day when Harper is delivering her own babies. Even though my delivery with Landon was much harder, he was born at 4:45pm and we had about 30 visitors that night. This time, everything was so different, and since she wasn’t born until 9:47pm, we didn’t have any visitors and quite honestly, I was so thankful because I was in no shape for company.
The next day, my friend Meredith came to take pictures of Landon meeting his little sister for the first time. My mother-in-law had got him a special “big brother” smocked outfit and my father-in-law brought flowers. I was so nervous about how he would respond to her, but it was a sweeter moment than I could have ever hoped for. I’m so thankful that we got it all on video and for the priceless pictures that I’ll cherish forever. He was so sweet, kept saying, “my baby,” and wanted to give her all the kisses. I love his sweet, affectionate spirit.
We made sure that she was laying in the bassinet when he came in the room, to introduce Harper to Landon (not the other way around), and we got him a little “big brother” present.
We came home from the hospital late Saturday afternoon and my Mama made spaghetti for dinner. She had our house so clean and everything ready for us, and the prettiest pink hot air balloon announcement sign hanging on our front door. My sister-in-law got us a big, beautiful hanging basket for our porch and my father-in-law had gone out and got pink balloons and a big pink bow for the porch.
We couldn’t wait for Landon to come home (he stayed with Grayson’s parents Wednesday night-Sunday) and to find our “new normal.” For 10 days, we could say we had “two under two!” and now, our big boy is two and our sweet baby girl is almost three weeks old!
Thank you so much to everyone who has called, texted, come to visit, sent gifts, and brought us meals. Grayson and I have felt covered in prayer and we are just so thankful to be surrounded by family and friends who love us so well and have helped welcome our girl!
One last thing – I can’t say enough about how wonderful my experience was at The Birthplace at Gaston Memorial – it was truly a night and day difference from my experience delivering Landon at Presbyterian two years ago. Every single nurse, CNA, tech, and especially the midwife who delivered Harper was AMAZING and so kind, they went above and beyond to make our stay comfortable and helped to make every little detail extra special. They were never “too busy” or made us feel like anything we asked for was an imposition to them – and best of all, they assured me that I was surrounded by believers – and we could truly feel it. When you’re in a place where the people caring for you love their jobs, genuinely care about the experience you’re having, and are bold about their love for the Lord, it makes all the difference in the world.
Thanks to my sweet friend Meredith for the pictures! I’ll cherish them forever!