The Birth Story of Elsa Bennett


The final uniform
Save for the three grainy iPhone captures at the beginning, the photos of our dear Elsa's debut were taken by my talented friend Melissa. We go to church together. You know how you can just tell you'll be friends with a person? It was like that. We'd made mention of grabbing coffee several times before - but never got around to it. I'd asked her to take newborn photos for us once the time came, and she agreed and offered to take photos of the labor & delivery as well, if we were interested.

Her Instagram always makes me swoon - she captures the simple moments of life every day so beautifully and though I hadn't thought of having someone there to photograph everything, I can't imagine her not being there now. Plus, nothing says "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you" like inviting someone to document the baby explosion of your lady parts! (Don't worry, I've spared you all of those gems). 

I won't apologize for how long this is. I just won't. 


About ten days past my due date,  my body was still not giving the slightest indication that my baby had any intention of coming out. The employees at Target were probably feeling really sorry for me when they saw the super pregnant girl in the striped dress with swollen feet wandering aimlessly through the aisles once more to pass the time.

My pregnancy app actually gave up on me. A notification popped up on my phone that basically said, "You're in your 42nd week. If your baby isn't out by now, it has to come out soon. Good luck and be sure to rate this app in the App Store!"

To which I replied, "It's just you and me now, kid."

My OB appointments were weekly at that point. We had to do a non-stress test each time and had a couple growth scans to see how we were both doing. I LOVE the practice we chose. I would have babies every nine months if it meant getting to visit them. They were so patient, respectful of what kind of birth experience we wanted, and really laid back. As long as all was well - I did not want to be induced.

When I first got pregnant, my only birth plan was to get the baby out. Which, is basically the only birth plan necessary, right? Like many before me, the more I read and learned - I was really fascinated by the way God made a woman's body to give birth. I wanted to give birth naturally - but what was most important to me was figuring out a way to mentally commit to going natural, but also holding it all loosely enough so as not to be devastated if it didn't go the way I pictured it. It's a tremendous blessing to carry a healthy baby to term and I kept that at the forefront of my mind as what was most important instead of being fixated on whether or not I could push the baby out on all fours or moan like a cow in a hot bath.

Sitting on a bean bag chair in Target and praying
my water breaks all over it

Every book I read - regardless of method - explained that fear is a woman's greatest enemy during birth. So, more than learning techniques of breathing or visualizing (as helpful as that is), I focused on a lot of Scripture about fear and tried to learn as much as possible and focus on how it was not scary, but beautiful aaand super common. Isn't it weird to think that every human on the earth right now came from a woman's body? ANYWAY.

In my last futile attempt to induce labor myself, I got a prenatal massage in the morning before my doctor's appointment. My mom came with me that day, and one of the nurse practitioners finally broke the news that I was still a mere 2 centimeters, and my blood pressure kept getting higher (no bueno), and that my body was worn out and it was time to induce. Did I mention that I reeeaally didn't want to be induced? I kept hoping and thinking that things would start on their own, but - no dice. I figured they'd set a date to induce in a day or so, but instead she said, "Tonight." I waited for her to leave the room to make arrangements with the hospital before I cried. Big rolling tears that my mom has seen since I was very small and always knows how to ease. My mom kissed me on the forehead and we were both quiet as I tried to process everything. Of all the things I tried to prepare myself for mentally, pitocin wasn't really one of them.

"You're going to meet your baby girl tomorrow!" She finally said, and the nature of my tears changed to joy and tired relief that I didn't have to wait for things to start happening anymore.

I called Bryan at work and told him the news. When he got home from work, we finished packing our hospital bags and decided to go out to eat for a nice dinner. I painted my nails (PRIORITIES) and watched some of Dancing with the Stars (because I am actually an old woman at heart), and we headed to the hospital.

We got the last room in the Labor & Delivery wing. I met my nurse for the night - her name was Stephanie. I liked her immediately. My induction started with cervadil - which is basically like a tampon that has medicine to thin your cervix and you have to lay there like a hot dog for a few hours for it to activate and you have to wear it for twelve hours. No one informed me that when they'd take it out later it would feel like a GIANT INTERNAL PAPERCUT, but I digress. I still kept hoping that cervadil would do the trick and I wouldn't have to join the pitocin party later. Bryan tried (laughably) to fall asleep on a recliner next to my bed, and we tried to sleep for the long road ahead. Instead, the cervadil started contractions and I was awake all night.

Morning finally came and I had progressed to 3 centimeters overnight. JUST THREE. I ate some breakfast and had some coffee, and my mom and mother-in-law showed up. Around noon, they started the pitocin. I was still focused and mobile and did not anticipate them increasing the pitocin every half hour, so the contractions came on strong and fast. I tried sitting in a rocking chair. I held on to Bryan and we pretended to slow dance, I listened to music on my headphones, and I just tried to distract myself. It all felt manageable until I sat on the birthing ball and what felt like a rubber band in my uterus snapped any my water broke all over me. Then THE PARTY STARTED.

The combination of my water breaking and the nonstop pitocin flow started to send me over the edge. The contractions at that point were just barely a minute apart, and I had a hard time catching up between them. I was up and moving around but felt like I might fall down when they would peak. Bryan was amazing, and helped me to remember how to breathe. They told me that as much as I wanted to be up and moving, my blood pressure was elevated every time and the best route at that point was to lay down in my bed. My sweet nurse Kim checked me and I was 5 centimeters. At that point, I'd have considered persevering if I still had the choice to be mobile, but I was not trying to be a hero and I asked for the epidural.

I'd initially not wanted the epidural because all I'd heard were horror stories of how they slowed things down, how they'd increase pitocin and then cause the baby to be in distress and then have to do a c-section. I'd heard of the epidural not working for some people - of it working on one side and not the other. I'd heard of it making breastfeeding more difficult once the little babe came out because they were so sleepy from the drugs. I was just praying the whole time I'd made the right decision. 

Bryan could not even bear to watch when they put the IV in my arm, so imagine my surprise when the anesthesiologist rolled in and Bryan decided to stay in the room. He sat at the other end of the room behind a cart so he couldn't see anything. I was trying not to die when they told me to try and sit my 8,000 pound pregnant body indian style on the hospital bed as the blood pressure cuff intermittently cut off my circulation and they told me to be very still through contractions. It was SUPER fun when the anesthesiologist walked around the bed with blood all over his gloves and stood beside me asking the nurse, "Could you go get Trish to come help me out? I just keep hitting bone." I tried not to cry and immediately assume I was now paralyzed for the rest of my life.

Another anesthesiologist came in and informed me that I had a slight curvature to my spine. She slipped in the goods and within about ten or so minutes it felt like my legs were warm and fuzzy. I could still feel the pressure of contractions without pain, and I could still move my legs without any issue - they just felt a little heavier. I was covered in blankets and moved into a position to help me dilate, and I was ready to party. Seriously - I was happy as a clam and cracking jokes and relaxed enough to nap or just chat with everyone. 

I didn't regret my decision. I felt maybe for a split second that I was disappointed but quickly got over it because the thought of making it through transition just laying on my back attached to the IV was not worth it. Also - I really felt like by the end I wanted to be full of joy and excited to meet her and not just exhausted and relieved to be emptied.

The ONLY negative I had about the epidural was that I was so full of fluid that I look at these photos and think, "Is that the mom from What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" and Bryan and I laugh because my face looked enormous slash unrecognizable. My best friends showed up later and politely told me the next day "...Yeah, you didn't really look like yourself."

For the next few hours, we had a steady stream of loved ones in and out of the room. My progress slowed a bit from 5-7 centimeters, but once I was about 7-8, things were progressing and my epidural began to wear off. I started ralphing pretty violently for a minute (you know how brave I feel when I do that) It was bearable, until I was about 9cm and it felt like everything inside my body was about to fall out my butt. My nurse said, "Whatever you do, you CANNOT PUSH," and she offered to have the epidural re-dosed. At that point I didn't want to slow anything down or not be able to feel the contractions to know when to push - but I also didn't really feel like rupturing my cervix would have been very fun either. So, MORE EPIDURAL! I fell asleep for another half hour and she woke me up and told me I was complete. 10 CENTIMETERS, PRAISE THE LORD. She propped my bed up into an upright position and I was the spitting image of Jabba the Hutt. Everyone in the room was so excited and said, "You get to push soon!"

My nurse told me to not get too excited because sometimes it can take up to three hours to push - in which I replied in my mind with an "Oh, hell no."

I was sleepy and my mouth tasted like metal and they would only let me have ice chips, so I felt a little sassy in that moment and just said, "IF I PUSH HER OUT, WILL YOU GUYS AT LEAST LET ME DRINK SOME WATER?" and everyone promised me all the beverages my heart desired.

My OB got there a little after midnight. The room was dim and he didn't make me put my legs in stirrups. They explained to me how to push and I tried it twice and it felt like I didn't do ANYTHING, so I informed everyone that I didn't feel like doing it and I quit. Apparently they don't let you quit, though, and once I finally got the hang of it and felt the pressure of her crowning, I was determined.

The moms peeking at the baby head. Ask me how much I cared at that point ;) 

I didn't want a mirror, but having Bryan next to me and hearing how excited everyone was and seeing my mom start to cry when her head was out was everything I needed to keep going.

My nurse and doctor cheered me on as I pushed her body out and he handed me my baby girl. Everyone was crying - no one harder than I was. I grabbed her slippery body to my chest and her eyes were wide open when we made eye contact for the first time. All of the air escaped me - I couldn't control my tears and I couldn't believe it was her the whole time. I couldn't believe I was holding her and that she was ours and that she felt so familiar to me and at the same time like I'd been waiting to meet her my whole life. She was breathtaking.

At 1:04am, our Elsa girl made us a family of three at eight pounds and ten ounces. She came out with long legs that brought her height to twenty-two inches. We're pretty sure she stayed in the womb an extra eleven days to grow her beautiful long eyelashes. She looks just like her daddy - and I pray she has the same tender heart that he does (maybe that's why I had the dream about the chicken tender heart?)

Though we didn't know it when we chose her names, Elsa means "joyful," and Bennett means "little blessed one." She is our joyful little blessed one, and we are so thankful God would trust us with her precious life.

My family has joked that Bryan has been a dad all his life. When we were dating I think falling in love with him was accelerated by how evident it was that he was going to be an amazing father. Seeing his eyes fill with tears when he met our girl just sent me over the edge with gratitude and awe. It was such a holy moment I will always cherish.

Whenever my mom told me about when I was born, she told me she was nineteen years old and in a bad place in her life. But she said when she held me for the first time she it was a moment when she knew without a doubt that God was real because she'd never experienced something so magnificent. I get that now. It's why Victor Hugo said that to love another person is to see the face of God. 

The birth of my daughter wasn't what I expected - in all ways, it was better. I wrote an amazing birth plan that I didn't follow, I read a lot of birth stories, I hoped and prayed for things to go a certain way - but our sweet girl just had her own story instead. I'm glad, because God is a much better storyteller than I ever could aspire to be.

Welcome to the world, Elsa Bennett - you were worth every second of the waiting.