Aven Harper {a birth story}

I loved reading birth stories when I was pregnant. Something about hearing so many different scenarios helped calm some of my fears, not to mention I just love a good story. I knew I would want to write Aven’s down so I would always remember all the details that become blurry with time, but the birthing experience is a lot to process! So I’ve been working on this one for a while and I finally feel like I’m ready to share it.

{Also…it’s kind of long. That’s what 30 hours of labor will get you.}

{January 28, 2014}

It was my due date. I left an uneventful OB appointment and was greeted by little snow flurries on the way home. We knew to expect some snow, but “nothing ever sticks around here.”  (LIES).  Brandon got stuck in terrible traffic on the way home from work, and we soon learned this same scenario was playing out all over the state. Due to unprepped roads and gridlock traffic, eventually people were forced to either abandon their cars and walk home, or spend the night in their vehicles. What. A. Nightmare. We just prayed that our girl would stay put until the weather passed. Brandon did not want to deliver his daughter himself and I knew I was gonna need that epidural. AMEN.


Well she must be a good listener, because stay put she did. 


The days slowly ticked by. With each one, the number of “is she here yet?” texts seemed to increase, as well as our medical bills thanks to an OB appointment every couple of days to check on the baby and my progress. Each doctor visit was the same – very minimal progress. Clearly, she was quite content in there. I guess I’m glad at least one of us was comfortable at this point.

I remember actually laughing when this calendar alert popped up on my phone. It was both terrifying and reassuring to be reminded that she couldn’t stay there forever. 

{February 5, 2014}

I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant.
I had a non-stress test and an ultrasound, which measured our girl at almost 8 lbs. Being a Sonographer myself, I’m well aware that late-term ultrasounds are not especially accurate when predicting weight so I rounded up, figuring she would be about 8 1/2 pounds. Yikes.

But judging by this belly……sounded about right.

At this appointment, my usually laid-back and funny doctor took on a more serious tone and discussed an induction with me. My doctors had been patient with me, knowing I wanted to give my baby as much of a chance as possible to come on her own, but it was time to move things along. Part of me felt relieved that this waiting and discomfort I was feeling was almost over, and the other part felt defeated that my body wasn’t cooperating. We agreed to start the Cervadil that night to prep my cervix and the Pitocin to start contractions the following morning. 

Before leaving my appointment, my doctor was able to strip my membranes, even though I was only dilated one measly centimeter, in hopes of jump-starting my labor. One last ditch effort to force this baby out. (Ps. No one warned me that this was super painful. So hey, head’s up….it’s painful.) 

At home, I piled up on the couch with my puppies for one more snuggle session while I ate lunch and ran over my perpetual to-do list in my head. I noticed that I kept feeling “crampy” but by the time you’re 8 days overdue, you aren’t really sure what’s normal anymore. I was trying to finish little things around the house and get my bags together (nesting is real, y’all) but those annoying cramps were interrupting my progress. Then it got to the point where I needed to sit down during them.

At some point, it finally dawned on me. 
These were contractions. 
And they were real.
 There was no flashing neon sign shouting “YOU’RE IN LABOR!” and I’m not sure why I expected to see one.

We were scheduled to be at the hospital at 5pm, so off we went.

Bags and nerves packed.
This would be our last drive as a twosome. The next time we climbed back in this white Chevy, we would have our mini buckled snugly in the backseat. If that’s not an overwhelming thought, I don’t know what is.

We were excited. Anxious. Ready. (As ready as you can be). 

blurry photo, but this was the last smile for a whiiiile.

After having the Cervadil placed (also pretty darn uncomfortable, by the way), my pain really kicked up. They went ahead and gave me IV medications to give me some relief. It made a huge difference and I was able to sleep. Around midnight my nurse checked me and I was 90% effaced, but still only about 2-3 cm dilated. My body was so tense and I was shaking uncontrollably, I think from the medication. My body could not relax, which was interfering with me progressing.

{February 6, 2014}

My sweet nurse was a great patient advocate and support to me. It was maybe 2:00 am, and the Anesthesiologist was already called in to L&D for another patient. So with my nurse’s urging to go ahead and get the epidural placed even though it was a touch early, I agreed. I was terrified that it would wear off before my labor was over, but I trusted her advice.
Bless her, because it made all the difference in the world. I didn’t feel anything when they were placing the epidural. Brandon was able to stay with me and try to hold me still because I was shaking so badly. It took effect pretty quickly and my body instantly relaxed. I was even able to sleep some more to recharge my batteries, which was a huge blessing for what ended up being a long labor.

My doctor checked on me around lunchtime (I was about 6-7 cm dilated) and broke my water to help me continue progressing.

{Sidenote:} Induction, stripping my membranes, and now breaking my water – all things I thought I didn’t want done, as I was hoping for no intervention except for an epidural. Just goes to show how not in control you are and when the time comes you will do whatever it takes to get your baby out swiftly and safely. I learned quickly not to be too married to an idea of how things will or should go. When things don’t go as planned (as if we can “plan” how this all will go down – laughable) you will be disappointed and frustrated and there is no room for that in the delivery room. There is enough emotion, uncertainty, and potential for anxiety without adding in unrealistic expectations. We have to keep an open mind for this birthing business because, really, we’re just along for the ride. Once we submit to that and trust God to take care of everything, it will be far less stressful. What matters is that the baby arrives in a way that’s as safe as possible for mom and baby. That’s all that matters.}
Okay. Moving on.


At one point in the afternoon, I was sleeping on my side and suddenly woke up to a hot, searing pain in back and right hip that escalated FAST. We soon figured out that my epidural had drained completely to my left side. Who knew this was even possible? It caught me off guard and there was no slow acclimation to the pain to help me prepare. Let’s just say it solidified my everlasting love for an epidural and heightened my already intense respect for those who brave this without one. You are superheroes. But that is not a badge this girl has ever aspired to. I didn’t want to suffer if I didn’t have to, and I wanted to reserve some energy for pushing later. That was the worst moment of my entire labor and I just pray-cried my way through it until the Anesthesiologist (a.k.a. angel in scrubs) came and re-administered some of my medicine.
It was now late afternoon. We were over 24 hours into my labor when my wonderful day shift nurse got pulled to the postpartum floor and a younger, snottier nurse took her place, seemingly annoyed to have an extra patient to deal with. She distractedly explained what it would be like when I’m ready to push and then she was gone. 
Once she left the room, it wasn’t long before I really started to feel like I could push. So, following her instructions, I paged for her.
She didn’t come.
Several more pages… 
No nurse.
Once she finally made her way into my room, she scolded me for paging her every time I felt the need to push. I was spent, and being reprimanded was more than I could take and the tears began to fall. When she finally listened and agreed to check me, I was 9, almost 10, cm dilated – close enough to get ready to push! I was so happy about this news I didn’t even feel the need to say I told you so.

In just moments the entire delivery room transformed. The ceiling above my bed opened up and a gigantic, intimidating light came down.  A surgical table and lots of sharp objects appeared….I didn’t look too closely at those….ignorance is 100% bliss in this case. The portable baby bassinet was prepped and ready for our baby. Those words, our baby, finally felt real in that momentMore nurses came filing in. Someone kept bumping up the thermostat – I was literally ROASTING and asking for a cold washcloth every two minutes but everyone else was freezing. The end of the bed was dropped down and the leg supports came up. It was time. 
Holy crap, it was time.

I pushed for about an eternity forty minutes. I honestly couldn’t have told you if it was ten minutes or two hours. I was focused on the task at hand and time felt suspended; both fast-moving and slow-motion all at once. Soon my doctor arrived – totally calm, in control, and just her typical humorous self. (Without a doubt, God knew exactly the type of doctor I would need for this moment. This life-changing moment – and she was it. Yes, God cares about the little things.)

{P.S., this is especially amazing considering I found my OB by looking up several offices online and choosing the group of doctors who looked the most normal. True story.}

 I was still mostly numb from the epidural (thank you Jesus) but I could feel when a contraction came and went so we didn’t have to rely on the monitors much. I pushed hard and long during the contractions and rested in between. Once my doctor could see her head she said “this is not a small baby” and played with Aven’s hair, chatting like we were just meeting for coffee. Ya know, no big deal, just having a baby over here. Brandon and Ginna (who is my cousin and acted as my unofficial “labor coach”) were there right beside me, cheering me on and helping me  literally lift my head for each push. Both of them were so attentive and supportive during my labor, I doubt I could have done it without them. My mom was in the background snapping these pictures.

{February 6, 5:27pm}

My doctor asked me to give one more good push. 

That’s when my big baby finally escaped from her home of the last ten months, with one arm reaching out into the world, crying her little bird cry. Unbeknownst to me, with every push my doctor had been trying to free the umbilical cord that was wrapped around her neck. She kept trying to release it, but it wasn’t coming off. That’s when she asked me for the final push and she pulled her out. 

Safe and sound.

The first thing I felt was an overwhelming sense of relief.
Relief that it was over.
That she was okay. 
That I was okay.

My doctor held her up for a picture and then they laid her right on my chest. She was wet, trembling, and crying, and she pooped on me immediately – apparently that’s the thanks I get for bringing her into the world. Our doctor shoved the hemostats Brandon’s way and he cut the cord, something he wasn’t planning on doing since he’s pretty squeamish, but he went for it and I was so proud. Plus, it only seemed fair after everything I had just been through. 

It felt completely unreal that this little person who was only seconds before inside of me, was now where I could physically see her and touch her – something I had been so anxious to do. I couldn’t keep the tears in. They just flowed.

Meeting your child for the first time is nothing short of magical. I can’t think of any other way to describe it.


Since I was laying flat on my back, I couldn’t see all of her – just her head and face. But the comments about how big she was started immediately, and once they put her on the scale we had proof – she was big. 
9.4 lbs of baby had been inside of me. 
No one saw that coming. Including me, thankfully, or else maybe I would have rethought my feelings on an induction closer to my due date.

Birth is messy. It just is. And I’ve learned that everything that happened in that delivery room is just the first glimpse into what parenthood is really all about. It is messy. It is work. But it’s also breathtakingly beautiful.

They got her all cleaned up and handed her over to Brandon who was completely beaming, studying his daughter. Dark hair, smokey blue eyes. Swollen. I couldn’t get over how perfect she looked and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. There was a familiarity between us that made me feel like I had always been her mom and we had just been waiting 27 years to meet each other.

I will always feel overwhelmed at the thought of how miraculous this whole experience was. What a privilege to be the one chosen to facilitate her coming into the world. And as if that weren’t enough, I get to be her mama – every single day.

Welcome to the world, my sweet girl.

{ her name }

We wanted to wait to name her until we laid eyes on her. We finally settled on Aven Harper. (“Aven” is a type of mountain wildflower and also Irish for “fair radiance.” Harper was a name that we liked with all of our first name choices.)

It certainly seems to fit our beautiful, vibrant, spirited little girl. 
We are so honored to have been made parents because of her.


8 thoughts on “Aven Harper {a birth story}

  1. Anonymous October 4, 2014 / 3:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. Our son is due in 8 days and I too have appreciated reading and hearing others' birth stories. Reading your story helps me feel a little less terrified as my little one's arrival date approaches. Congratulations on your beautiful little girl!


  2. Anonymous October 5, 2014 / 12:19 am

    Awesome story!! I am going to have to sit and wrote Emma's birth story now.
    Lindsay Teitsort


  3. Nina Carter October 5, 2014 / 3:32 am

    Shanna, I know you through church and haven't been around you very much. As I have followed your pictures and comments as a friend of yours on facebook, I feel I have gotten to know you. This story is told so preciously, I feel I was there with you. My children are grown, but your description took me straight back to the days of my deliveries except I was one of those (no epidural women!) I love your heart for the Lord and your child! Thanks for sharing! Nina Carter


  4. Shanna Leigh October 6, 2014 / 9:27 pm

    Thanks for reading! I hope you have a smooth and safe delivery for you and your little man! And don't forget to write down some notes about it so you'll always remember. 🙂


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