Birth Story: Austyn Grey Harrison

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Beautiful (seriously beautiful) Austyn Grey took her first breath at 12:31am June 30, 2017. She was 7 pounds 3 ounces, 20 inches long, and the spitting image of her maternal grandfather. This is her birth story:

Monday morning, June 26th, Nate and I attended our 38-week appointment. Because Austyn is our first child and I wasn’t complaining of any contraction pains, my doctor almost didn’t check my cervix. This explains the surprise in her voice when she uttered these words,

“You’re 4 centimeters and 60% effaced. I think we’ll be seeing you later tonight.”

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I’m a girl who loves efficiency (and chivalry) so when she offered to strip my membranes, I agreed. While Nate and I were extremely excited at the prospect of meeting our little girl, we also grew worrisome. If I couldn’t feel my contractions, how would we know when to come back to the hospital?

While driving to our apartment in Westminster, our anxiety began to climb. We made the decision to pack up our car and head toward labor and delivery with the goal of learning how to recognize contractions.

Once in the New Life Center, we explained the situation and were sent to triage for monitoring. About four hours later, my cervix was dilated to 5 centimeters but the progress was too slow to admit us. We were instructed to head home and come back when my contractions were regular. Still, I could not recognize when I was having a contraction. Crazy, right?

The next morning, my parents arrived in Colorado and my mom and I went straight to attempting contraction measurements. With her help, I was able to recognize a contraction by placing my hands on the outside of my abdomen and focusing on the hardness of my belly. When they were coming every 2 to 3 minutes, we went back to triage at the hospital for instructions. Again, we were monitored and sent home. The nurses did give me a favorite new nickname, though: Unicorn. There were whispers of “silent dilators” and then the subject was quickly cast aside because of the rarity of such a condition.

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After another night of 6 bathroom trips due to Austyn’s growing, stretching body, I awoke to the same lack of excitement. With the goal of speeding up the labor process (lover of efficiency, remember?), I spent the daytime hours bouncing on a birth ball, climbing dozens of staircases at the mall, and enjoying my parents’ company.

Around 10pm, I was taking a shower and began shaking from nervousness. Alone with my thoughts, I was fearful of going from zero pain to threat level midnight while 20 minutes away from the hospital and with various epidural hurdles in place. I tried to lay down and relax, but to no avail. After a bathroom trip which bred looser stools than usual, I made the decision to head back to the hospital. Perhaps what I was experiencing was nerves; perhaps it was hormones gearing up to push out a 7-pounder.

In triage again, where everybody knows my name, we met our favorite nurse, Kristi. She explained my cervix was open 6 centimeters and 80% effaced. For the third time in two days, Nate and I took an hour-long walk around the unit to entice baby girl downward. As we walked, we prayed for Austyn to show up soon.

Back in triage, Kristi checked my cervix again and rendezvoused with the doctor to determine next steps. Surprisingly, he left the decision up to me. I asked to be admitted to the hospital. Nate and I were finally given our own room and instructed to get some rest as it was around 12:45am.

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The sun rose and so did my hospital bed. However, it felt like I was slowly leaking some kind of fluid. Kristi gave me a quick swab and determined my bag of waters must have broken during the night. FINALLY, a sign of impending labor.

Nate and I spent the next several hours alternating moments of rest and hip-widening exercises. By the way, I still was feeling no pain at all. Do all the mamas in the world hate me?

Around 1:30pm, the Pitocin drip began. By 8:00pm, I could finally feel contractions but they did not inflict pain. Because I had been on the medicine for several hours, my doctor gave me permission to take a break. I ate dinner and spent about half an hour outdoors before settling in for a half-hour nap. When the nurse returned to my room, we amped up the Pitocin again and Nate and I both fell asleep.

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At 10:45pm, Nate and I awoke to a very tense atmosphere. The nurse was staring at monitors, calling doctors in OR, and stretching an oxygen mask over my face. Austyn’s heartbeat had suddenly doubled with no clear reason why. During the next bit of time (I have no idea how long because I was too terrified to count minutes), doctors and nurses explained risks and procedures of a C-section and I signed several waivers. A nurse shaved and sterilized my stomach. My body shook from nervousness as I gave Nate a thumbs-up to try to communicate I felt calmer (although super concerned) than I looked.

Minutes into surgery, the doctors pulled Austyn from my womb and her heart rate returned to normal. Apparently keen on a June 30th birthday, our gorgeous, healthy girl had arrived!

Although Austyn didn’t show up according to our plans, she made her debut in typical Harrison fashion— on her own time. Nate and I absolutely adore our favorite little girl and crave discovering more and more of her personality daily. To ruin a John Green quote for you, Austyn was born the way you fall asleep: slowly and then all at once. Thankfully, my body has recovered at an exceptional rate and we praise God daily for our little miracle!

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Photos by Anna Boardman, the most lovable, down-to-earth photographer in Denver.

Kelsey Harrison