When I found out I was pregnant with Luna, my husband and I were over the moon with excitement. We’d wanted another baby from the second that Summer arrived but had to wait at least a year before trying to conceive due to my c-section. Seeing that big fat positive on my pregnancy test couldn’t have been a happier moment for our little family, and I knew our life would be even more exciting once she arrived.
While my heart was overwhelmed with joy, my brain was buzzing with plans about my pregnancy and delivery. I had a wonderful pregnancy with Summer and was blessed with a healthy baby and complication-free postpartum recovery; however, her delivery was less than ideal. I’ll be publishing her full birth story soon, but in short, the experience caused me to schedule Luna’s delivery at a different hospital. After a year of contemplating what went wrong the first time around, I knew I wanted a different experience with my second pregnancy – and thankfully, I got it!
While I wanted a more positive experience for myself, I also wanted to help others moms have a positive pregnancy and birth experience too. I know firsthand how overwhelming the process can be, so I wanted to take you along with all of my preparations to hopefully make everything less stressful for you. Together we’ve taken a tour of the AdventHealth for Women hospital in Orlando, talked about exactly what to expect during your labor and delivery stay, and learned all about VBACs with a board-certified OB-GYN. We even met with my Birth Experience Coordinator to learn what you do and don’t need to pack in your hospital bag and discussed the best pregnancy and parent education classes to take before and after your baby arrives. I have learned SO much over the past year, and now that little Luna has finally made her debut, I want to share exactly how all of that preparation changed my delivery experience.
Luna’s Birth Story: A Positive VBAC Birth ExperienceToday I’m sharing every little detail of Luna’s birth story with you. Spoiler alert: it’s really, really long, so grab a coffee before you get started haha! I had an extremely positive birth experience, and I will be sharing as many details as I can remember to hopefully help other moms. Whether you’re a first-time mom or an experienced mama who’s hoping for a VBAC, I hope this post gives you hope and useful information to help you prepare for your labor and delivery. If you’re a fellow Orlando mama, I’ll also share tidbits of my experience at AdventHealth for Women Orlando, so that you can choose the best hospital for your delivery.
My Birth PlanWhen I was pregnant with Summer, I was honestly kind of anti-birth plan. I knew that anything/everything can change once labor actually begins, so I didn’t understand the need to plan out every detail. While I was trying to be calm and go-with-the-flow, I was honestly just underprepared. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I didn’t know how to advocate for myself. With this pregnancy, I knew I would do things differently. I made a clear birth plan and communicated my wishes with my medical team at AdventHealth Medical Group OB GYN at Orlando from the very beginning of my prenatal care to the very end of my hospital stay.
If you’re expecting a baby, I’d highly recommend having your birth plan clearly communicated to your medical team throughout your care and seek out an OB GYN practice and hospital that’s receptive to that plan. If someone suggests something different, it’s ok to advocate for yourself, and it’s ok to ask for another opinion.
If you’re curious, here were the items on my birth plan: I did not want another c-section unless absolutely medically necessary, and I wanted to attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). I wanted to be able to breastfeed (and have lactation help) and have skin-to-skin time with my daughter as soon as medically possible, and I did not want to be separated from my daughter. I also knew that I’d probably want an epidural but would be open to feedback from the medical team. I also wanted access to top-notch doctors and a Level 3 NICU just in case since I’d had an emergency c-section with Summer. While I truly wanted all of these things, my primary concern is always to make sure my baby and I remain in good health, so all of these items would be flexible if medically necessary.
When I took a tour of AdventHealth for Women Orlando, I spoke to my Birth Experience Coordinator about my wishes, and I was thrilled to learn that they were all standard procedure at the hospital. Even so, I still made an effort to kindly let all of my nurses, midwives, and doctors know my birth plan when asked just so that we’d all be on the same page.
What Actually Happened During My LaborI started having contractions the morning of August 19th, but they were short and sporadic until I was on the way to my dad’s birthday dinner. My contractions started coming six minutes apart like clockwork for the entire drive to the party, so I went back to my house and skipped the dinner just in case. Of course my contractions started getting less consistent as soon as I got home, but I knew things were getting serious.
The next morning, I went to my scheduled 39-week appointment, and my doctor said I was 3cm dilated and around 85% effaced. After stripping my membranes, she said I’d stretched to around 4-5cm dilated and joked that she might see me at the hospital that evening. I went home and didn’t have any consistent contractions throughout the day until 5pm rolled around. My contractions were five to six minutes apart and lasting around one minute, so I called Ryan and told him that we needed to pack our bags and contact family to babysit Summer ASAP.
We got all of our bags packed (you can see everything I packed in my pregnancy Instagram highlight), and my contractions started getting way more intense and closer together. My doctor had recommended that I head to the hospital when my contractions were consistently five minutes apart lasting one minute for one hour, but when I reached that point, I just didn’t feel as uncomfortable as I did with Summer. I checked in with the on-call doctor on the phone, and she agreed it was OK for me to labor at home for a while longer – but only until my contractions were four minutes apart.
I went to sleep with my phone next to me and kept track of my contractions all night long. Again, they started coming at inconsistent intervals, but the intensity was out of control all night long. By around 7:00 am, the contractions were consistently four minutes apart, so we headed to the hospital to get checked.
When we arrived at the hospital on the morning of August 21st, I instantly felt at peace walking through the doors of AdventHealth for Women Orlando. Unlike my labor with Summer, I’d toured the hospital this time around, knew my doctors were on the same page as me, and felt confident with the hospital’s standard procedures. The hospital was calm since it was first thing in the morning, and everything just seemed so quiet and peaceful. I said a quick little prayer as I walked in and breathed a sigh of relief because I knew that I was in good hands.
I checked in, and the kindest nurse took all of my stats and brought in the on-call midwife. The midwife confirmed I was 7cm dilated and ready to be checked in. She asked if I wanted an epidural, and I said yes, but only at a time when it wouldn’t affect the progression of my labor. She said since this was my second baby, I may not even have time for an epidural since I was already 7cm, but they would be happy to get things started just in case. She said it shouldn’t affect the progression of my labor, so I agreed and jumped in the wheelchair and headed to the labor and delivery floor.
Before I finish the story, let me take a moment to say that I had THE MOST AWESOME labor and delivery nurse of all time. Lauren, you are truly a rockstar! Lauren’s kindness, energy, optimism, and enthusiasm for her job made my entire labor such a joy. Trust me – being surrounded by positive people makes a HUGE difference, and I hit the jackpot with Lauren!
As soon as I got into my hospital gown, Lauren was on the phone asking the anesthesiologist to come to my room ASAP since I had already progressed so far. My anesthesiologist Christy got my epidural started quickly, and I’ll admit I was super excited to get a break from my contractions. If you’re nervous about IVs, epidurals, and all of the scary medical stuff – don’t be. Believe me, I was absolutely terrified of all of those things before I had Summer. In fact, I literally hadn’t gotten my blood drawn for TEN YEARS before I got pregnant the first time due to anxiety. Now it’s really not a big deal to me. Here’s a trick that I’ve learned: let your nurse know that you have anxiety surrounding the process. They’ll distract you, help you breathe, and talk you through the procedure. Talk about your baby, your partner, your family – anything that makes you happy, and BREATHE. It will be over faster than you know it.
And while everyone has a different experience with epidurals, I’ve honestly always had a positive experience. It’s a big pinch with a sort of burning sensation, and then you feel like someone hit your funny bone with a little bit of pressure. And then it’s over! This time, my epidural started kicking in on the left side first, so I just kept letting my nurse know about where I was still feeling pain. She helped me move into positions that would help the anesthesia spread to the right side and stayed in touch with my anesthesiologist to get everything adjusted properly. In the end, I pretty much had a perfect epidural. I was comfortable enough to relax without pain, but I could feel a light pressure with my contractions when it was time to push.
And then I met my AMAZING OB GYN, Dr. Crider. He checked to see where I was at with dilation, and I was still at 7cm. He asked again about my birth plan, and when I said I’d like to attempt a VBAC, he was extremely positive and supportive. He said he’d let Lauren work her magic with the peanut ball and give me as much time as I needed to progress with dilation naturally. This simple conversation may have been standard protocol for him, but it meant so much to me to know that I wouldn’t be rushed.
My nurse helped me position the peanut ball between my knees to help me dilate a bit more, and we kept switching sides until I was 8cm dilated. The epidural slowed down my contractions and dilation slightly, so when the doctor came to examine me, he suggested breaking my water to see if that would help me progress. After breaking my water, my mucus plug popped out (thank goodness I didn’t see it because YUCK), and I went back on the peanut ball. Both the doctor and nurses said to rest and relax, so I hung out with Ryan and tried to get a little bit of sleep.
When Lauren came to check on me about an hour or two later, her exact words were “do you want to have a baby in 30 minutes, 15 minutes, or right now – because you’re 10cm, the baby is low, and you’re READY.” I said let’s go, so we started pushing and she paged the doctor. When Dr. Crider came in, the baby was low, my pushing was productive, but the baby wasn’t moving down as much as necessary. Instead of rushing things, he simply suggested waiting and letting the baby move down on her own naturally. I was FLOORED with gratitude and happiness at his patience. I definitely didn’t have this type of experience with Summer’s delivery, and again, I was just so grateful to not feel rushed or have unnecessary interventions.
I think another hour or two went by, and we decided to try to push. I have to mention again that the epidural was pretty great. I had high energy the entire delivery and was able to think clearly and be fully present in the room without pain. While I couldn’t feel the pain of the contractions or pushing, I did feel a bit of pressure and was able to tell when I was having a contraction. After pushing for 30-45 minutes, Luna was here at 5:45 pm! She was as healthy as can be, and everyone was talking about how much bigger she was than they’d thought. She was eight pounds eight ounces, 21″ long, and full of spirit. As soon as she was examined, we had skin-to-skin time, and I was able to hold her and attempt to feed her. I was SO happy to have a healthy baby and a successful VBAC without complications. I honestly couldn’t stop smiling.
Dr. Crider let me know I’d torn slightly in two places (2nd-degree tear and a small external stretch/tear higher up) and quickly talked me through his thoughts on the proper stitching for the situation and what the recovery would be like. My epidural was still going strong after the baby was out, so I didn’t feel any pain during the stitching or delivery of the placenta. As I mentioned earlier, I’m truly so grateful for the team in the room. Everyone was so professional, upbeat, positive, kind… I could go on and on!
I’m still kind of in shock that everything went according to plan. I’d prepared myself for all of the worst case scenarios, but everything was smooth sailing. SUCH a relief after the stress and frustration I felt during Summer’s delivery. I know I keep mentioning this topic, but I really have to reiterate the kindness and patience of AdventHealth for Women Orlando’s staff. I was asked what I wanted to do every step of the way, and my requests were met with positivity and without judgment. I never once felt rushed, and the goal of the entire medical team was to have a healthy mom and baby with the least amount of interventions possible. The entire tone of the day was COMPLETELY different from Summer’s delivery at a different hospital, where I felt rushed, talked down to, and had my worries basically brushed aside. The hospital you choose to deliver at can make a HUGE difference!
After Delivery + AdventHealth for Women Orlando Hospital StayAfter everything was over, my nurse helped me clean up and gave me the 411 on postpartum care. She took me up to the room where we’d stay and introduced me to our incredible night nurse Megan, who was honestly such a blessing to us. Full of knowledge, super supportive, and like all of the staff who helped us – so kind! Ryan went to grab us some food, and as I sat in our room alone with Luna by my bedside, I burst into tears.
I’ve never felt so much happiness and gratitude at one time, and I was honestly overwhelmed with my emotions. Our little Luna was here. She was healthy. Summer was healthy. I was healthy. I’d gotten my VBAC, and as I’ll show you in the photos below, our room was FILLED with the most thoughtful gifts from the AdventHealth team. In that moment, I sobbed uncontrollably with joy and gratitude, held my baby tightly in my arms, and thanked God for so many blessings. Thank YOU for all of your kind words on the post I shared that evening. Your support means more than you’ll ever know.
Shortly after we were settled in our room, a lactation consultant came to help me get Luna latched. I’d already latched her several times, but her expert assistance really helped me ensure she had the perfect deep latch. I had SO much trouble breastfeeding Summer at the beginning, so it was a huge priority for me to get a better start with Luna. We had several other visits with different lactation consultants throughout our stay, and their help was truly amazing. I also have to the mention that the nurses were also awesome with lactation support. They took my concerns seriously and helped me monitor that the baby was staying properly hydrated throughout the stay. Thanks to all of this support, we were able to develop a strong breastfeeding routine, and Luna has been exclusively breastfeeding without complication AND gaining weight like a champ!
Ideas to Make Your Hospital Stay More ComfortableWe were SO spoiled by the AdventHealth team with thoughtful gifts for our entire family, and I wanted to share them with you because many of these items are available for purchase with the hospital’s concierge department or from the hospital gift shop. If you have a loved one delivering at one of AdventHealth for Women’s campuses, these items are such a thoughtful gift idea. Walking into the room and being greeted by beautiful flowers, yummy snacks (I TOTALLY broke into the candy the second I got into the room haha), and cute toys for Summer took my breath away. Such a fun way to treat a new mom AND their family!
One of the gifts that I thought was so cute was a basket filled with sparkling cider and two champagne glasses to toast to our new addition. Another thing that I completely forgot to take photos of was a basket filled with soft blankets, pillows, towels, and the most luxurious robes. While the AdventHealth for Women Orlando hospital rooms are honestly beautiful and brand new, the upgraded linens made the experience even more comfortable. Ryan was staying with me at the hospital, and he also appreciated the soft blankets and pillows too! While it’s easy to think of flowers or trinkets, I guarantee you a new mama will LOVE being spoiled with a cozy robe, blanket, or super soft towels after ten months of pregnancy!
Another amenity that we LOVED was the on-site photography. I was in such a haze after Summer’s delivery that I didn’t really capture any photos, and I’m so sad that we don’t have that experience documented. This time, I scheduled photos with the hospital’s photographer right away for Fresh 48 photos, and I’m SO glad I did. It took away the pressure of capturing the perfect photo on my own and let me spend a little extra time relaxing. You can see the precious photos sprinkled throughout today’s post any time you see a photo credited to Baby Face Portraits.
I am so incredibly grateful for such a positive VBAC experience, and honestly, I’m so grateful for this pregnancy. I didn’t realize how much sadness and anxiety I still had from Summer’s delivery and my initial struggles with breastfeeding until I started my journey with this pregnancy. Every step along the way has been so healing and made me feel more confident in myself and in motherhood.
If you’re a fellow c-section mama or maybe just a mom who had a less-than-ideal experience with their first delivery, I want you to know that you don’t have to feel that way every time! Their is so much hope and so much room for joy and healing. I encourage you to choose a medical team and hospital that are compassionate and aligned with your birth plan (if medically possible). I will forever recommend AdventHealth for Women to all my fellow central Florida moms because their support has been absolutely incredible throughout every step of my pregnancy, prenatal care, delivery, and now my postpartum care.
If you made it to the end of this post, you deserve a medal for patience haha! But in all seriousness, I hope I gave you all of the details you might need to help you plan for your own delivery. If you have any questions or just want to chat, always feel free to reach out to me on Instagram at @ashleybrookenicholas. We’re all in this together!
You Might Also Be Interested In:
What to Expect During Your Labor and Delivery Stay
Tour of AdventHealth for Women Orlando Hospital
What You Do And Don’t Need to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
Everything About VBACs: Q&A with A Board-Certified OB GYN
The Best Parent Education Classes to Take During And After Your Pregnancy