Our Gianna Rose Ocello was born at 2:35 PM on Saturday, June 15th (my grandmother’s birthday!) weighing 8.7 lbs and measuring 21 inches. We are so grateful to God for the most precious gift we’ve ever received. I’d like to tell you a little bit more about how she came into this world. Gianna was born in a natural, unmedicated childbirth, and though it was difficult and even scary in some moments, it was also the most incredible and beautiful experience I’ve ever had.
Leading up to her birth date I had been feeling slightly more uncomfortable than usual, and I found out I was slightly dilated at my doctor’s appointment, but I had yet to feel any real contractions or experience any real progression. I had stopped working a couple of weeks prior and I was starting to get a little antsy waiting for this baby to arrive. On June 14th, Dom and I went to his parents house for dinner and flag cake to celebrate Flag Day (it’s also President Trump’s birthday — I actually was really hoping she’d be born this day for a patriotic birthday). We went home and went to sleep, and I woke up a little after midnight to my water breaking. After questioning if I had peed myself for a few minutes, we figured my water broke, and called the doctor. They said since I hadn’t felt any intense contractions yet I could stay home for a few hours and try to sleep. Well, soon after this conversation I wasn’t able to sleep through the contractions anymore as they were picking up severity and coming closer together. I wanted to let Dom sleep a bit longer, so I ended up on a birthing ball watching the episode of The Office where Pam gives birth. Dom woke up shortly after and we began timing my contractions. We prayed, I took a shower, had a snack, and we got all our things together and left for the hospital around 5:00 AM.
When we got to the hospital we had to go through the ER because the main entrance was not open yet. Luckily our birthing class had told us this so we knew exactly where to go! They wheeled me upstairs and we checked in to the labor & delivery unit. The doctor on call told me I was 3 cm dilated and Dom and I braced ourselves for a long road ahead. They admitted me, and we went to a delivery room. By this point, my contractions were intense, consistent, and close together. The nurse asked if I’d be getting an epidural, to which I said “I don’t think so!” The thing is, I don’t have a particularly strong feeling for or against epidurals, although they do scare me. I also knew that I wanted to offer up my suffering for a special intention, so I intended to fully experience all the pain I could bear. I really didn’t have a birth plan, I tend to be a planner — but since I really didn’t know what to expect I tried my best not to plan. I didn’t want to be stuck in a certain mindset, so I simply offered it up in prayer and asked that God’s will, not mine, be done.
As the morning went on and the sun came up, I continued to breathe through my contractions and savor the slightly more peaceful moments in between. I was leaning over a birthing ball, rocking back and forth because that was the most comfortable position I could find. I had put on my scapular and we had a crucifix and rosary laid out on the small table next to the bed to bring comfort, and to be a reminder that there is beauty in suffering and a resurrection moment of meeting our child awaiting us at the end of all this. At this point I was actually confused because I was experiencing more pain in my back than anywhere else. This is an important piece of information and it makes sense later! Anyways, Dom was coaching me through the breaths and he was being a rockstar of a husband as usual. He was encouraging, calm, and not too chatty. He was estimating where we were in the labor process based on how I was feeling and the timeline we had learned in our birthing class. Dom’s conservative estimates made me feel like we still had a very long way to go, but when the doctor came in and checked me again at 9:00 AM I was 8 cm dilated and progressing nicely. She even said we may be close to pushing soon!
I’d also like to say that the doctor who came in to check me this time was my favorite of all the doctors in my practice! I had actually prayed she’d be on call the day we gave birth, and it was so comforting to know she’d be the one delivering our baby. I also loved our nurse, she was an angel and was encouraging to us throughout the entire process. Our nurse had told me earlier that I could use the tub during labor, and I asked her if it would be OK to use it now. She told us sure, but if I felt the urge to push that we needed to call her immediately to get out and return to our room. At this point Dom and I thought things were moving super quickly, so I was a little anxious about being in the tub. I will say though, it was so much better laboring in the tub. When I started to feel like things might be moving along we got out and returned to our room, only to find out I was still only 8 cm and hadn’t really progressed at all.
So, feeling slightly discouraged we tried a few different positions to help move things along and to feel more comfortable. As I said before, I was offering up my labor for one special intention in particular, and so I continued to think about this intention through the immense pain I felt with every contraction. I had been praying Hail Marys throughout my labor and asking God for strength, but at this point the only words I could utter were, “Jesus, I trust in You.” At this time the nurse told me I could go back in the tub if I wanted, and I immediately said yes because it had helped manage the pain earlier. So, I got back in the tub and Dom and I prayed a rosary together. To be honest, Dom mostly prayed the rosary out loud and I did my best to follow along in my head, as my contractions felt much more intense now and were coming nearly back to back every minute.
Shortly after we finished our rosary I got out of the tub and returned back to the room to be checked. At this point we learned that I was slightly more dilated at 9 cm but my cervical lip would not retract. This is what hThe doctor was able to lift it over the baby so that we could begin pushing. At this point I was thinking it would all be over soon, and I was so excited to meet our baby. Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and I ended up pushing for over an hour and a half. I kept thanking Dom for giving me ice chips, and I kept apologizing to our nurse for every push that didn’t result in a baby. She would laugh and remind me that I didn’t need to apologize or even talk to her at all!
It wasn’t until the very end that they had realized our baby was sunny side up, and that is why she was having such a difficult time coming out. It’s also why I was experiencing such intense back labor pains! At one point, we got very close, but suddenly our baby was under distress. The next few moments were a blur, the doctor told me she’d have to perform an episiotomy, and once she did, Gianna entered the world! I honestly didn’t feel the pain of the episiotomy or the stitches after all of this, I was just so happy our baby was born. Since she had a bowel movement during birth, they had to make sure she hadn’t inhaled any meconium. They quickly cleaned her up and put her back on my chest, and suddenly the past several hours faded away as Dom and I looked at our baby girl.
Giving birth has been the most meaningful experience of my life. Although it was filled with moments of frustration and terror, there was also a presence of deep peace and joy I felt throughout the entire process. Offering up my pain, uniting it to Christ’s pain for us on the cross, brought so much grace during this time. The nurse and doctor both commented on how they had never seen someone smile so much during birth, and Dom pointed out that I had managed to labor in a joyful manner. This was purely by the grace of God, I’d like to point out. It’s funny because the one scripture I kept reflecting on during my pregnancy was “The joy of the Lord is my strength” Nehemiah 8:10. As I said earlier, I was only able to do any of this purely by the grace of God, and I felt His hand on me through every moment. We found it amazing that the nurses and doctors were able to see and feel a tangible joy, and we’ve been praying that our family can be a witness to Christ’s love and joy to those we encounter.
I’m so grateful for God’s grace, and I pray that He uses my earthly suffering for His greater good. If you were praying for us during this time, thank you so much. I truly felt every prayer give me the strength and grace to continue on in the more difficult moments.