Jessica Hickerson Photography » Blog

Our little bean is finally here! Dylan Bailey Hickerson was born on June 13th at 5:27am, exactly 37 weeks. She is an itty bitty 6lbs 4oz and 17 inches long with brown hair and dark blue eyes, and we are in LOVE.

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We’ve been soaking up every moment of our first week together. Dylan has already been to the beach three times, attended a family barbecue, and of course snuggled by her adoring grandparents and great grandma. Sam and I spend most of our time just holding her and wondering how in the world we ended up with such a perfect baby.

Throughout my pregnancy I was pretty sure I wouldn’t share my birth story. It felt strange to me, even though I loved reading other mama’s accounts. But as soon as I was diagnosed with cholestasis, I was truly scared for my pregnancy and knew that getting to give birth to our baby girl would be a huge victory. It was powerful, terrifying, amazing, and so hard, but I would do it a thousand more times for her. So here is our story…

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Our induction was scheduled for Sunday at 6pm. It was such a strange feeling, knowing exactly when we would walk through those hospital doors and have a baby. There would be no laboring at home, no counting contractions, or rushing to the hospital when my water broke. It was so… casual. The doctor said the process would most likely last 3 days so I should eat before we came in. Sam and I shared our “last meal” of In n’ Out in the parking lot. Then we grabbed our bags, signed in, and slowly walked back to our room in L&D. It was eerily quiet.

After running some tests and hooking my belly up to fetal monitoring, the nurse determined that I was “closed for business” and mentioned again the length of our stay: long. We began the induction process with a 12 hour dose of Cervadil that was intended to soften my cervix and hopefully get it to start dilating before they started pitocin. The goal was to make it to 2cm, but if we didn’t I would to do another 12 hours of Cervadil. So we settled in for the night with Netflix and ice chips.

I wasn’t able to get much sleep between the nurses coming to run tests every hour and a lower back pain that felt like strong menstrual cramps. My ribs were also causing me some severe pain (another symptom of my cholestatsis/ an enlarged liver.) But the waiting was the hardest part; and the one thing that got me through the night was knowing that pain meant the medicine was working.

At 7:45am Monday, the nurse removed the Cervadil and determined I was only 1cm with a medium-soft cervix. She says she will give me an hour to have breakfast but then I would need to do another 12 hour dose. We were so discouraged, but at least I made some progress and got to eat! As we had breakfast, I was feeling some contractions and we watched them get a little stronger on the monitor. My OB stopped by and decided to do another check just in case, and she determined that I was closer to 2cm and 80% effaced. She starts to say that she wanted to wait on the pitocin since I wasn’t feeling the contractions, but the next wave came on the monitor and I assured here I was feeling every single one. My pain was only a 2/10, but it was there.

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So we started pitocin. Slowly. If you are not familiar, pitocin is an IV drip of synthetic oxytocin, which is the hormone your body naturally produces to induce contractions. It basically makes labor start hard and fast. Because my body was so resistant to start labor, the nurse started the IV at a 2 (out of 20) and increased it a level every hour or so. At 1:30pm I was only 2.5cm dilated and the pain from the contractions was around a 4. They offered me the epidural over and over again, but I refused wanting to get out of bed instead of being stuck there for potentially 2-3 more days. Sam played music and I swayed through each contraction. Because of all the machines I was hooked up to, I could only stand about two feet away from the bed; but believe me when I say I paced over every inch of that space.

I hadn’t eaten or slept in hours so they brought me broth and sorbet along with my endless stream of ice chips. Our families visited and we talked about the process and practicing patience, something I’ve never been very good at. And through it all I swayed, and swayed, and swayed, until they made me get back into bed because I was slowing down my contractions by being too comfortable. They said I was smiling too much.

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At 7am and 7pm every day there was a shift change. Every nurse so far had a different plan for me, and the one that started at 7pm Monday night was by far the most aggressive. She comes in to the room, sees my pitocin is only at an 9, and immediately bumps it up to 12. She says, “you are going to have this baby TONIGHT!” My husband, mother in law and I looked at each other and laughed with a little bit of relief and a lot of fear. Was she serious? I was still considered to be in early labor. There was just no way.

Around 8pm the nurse came in and checked me again. I was only 2cm. Everyone else had said at that point we would need to take alternative measures, whether it be another method of induction or possibly start talking about a c-section. But again the nurses had different plans that they did not communicate with one another, so it was determined I would continue pitocin with the “wait and see what happens” method. In my mind the pitocin felt like poison running through my blood. I had never made a Birth Plan, but the one thing I really wanted was to avoid taking pitocin. When we had to induce that was no longer an option and I had no more control or right to an option. The more those numbers climbed the more I felt like I was loosing a battle with my own body.

Sam and I were completely alone for the first time that day and I broke down. I told him this wasn’t going to work. I was in pain and afraid that my body had stopped responding. The only relief in sight was the epidural, which I still wasn’t emotionally ready for because I had 8cm left and it felt too soon. Through tears I admitted I was strongly considering a c-section. I was failing and in my mind there was no other option. He held me, gave me water, and reminded me that at the end of all of this we get to meet our baby girl. It doesn’t matter how we get there as long as she and I were healthy.

Before I could even think about it more, I started shaking. At first I thought it was fear, but then I noticed our nurse had upped the pitocin to 14/20 without telling me. The contractions went from a level 5 to an 8 instantly. My entire body was quivering with less than two minutes of relief between each contraction.  All of a sudden I felt like I was peeing the bed. I stood up and tried walking to the bathroom. It was only a few feet away but I had to pause for two contractions before I made it in there. I opened my legs and yelled “Sam I’m leaking! Oh my God I think my water broke!” He smiled and celebrated saying “This is it! This is the progress we were waiting for!” And while I wanted to be happy with him, all I could do was beg for an epidural.

I was lost in that pain for the next hour as we waited for the anesthesiologist. It was by far the worst thing I had felt in my life. Pitocin makes contractions much stronger than in natural labor and for me it made them closer together as well. When the epidural finally arrived I could barely speak (and I’m the kind of person that awkwardly jokes with every nurse when the enter a room). I sat up in the bed with Sam holding the majority of my weight as we waiting for the temporary break in my shaking so he could insert the needles. When it was done he promised relief within the next three contractions. I felt the third… then the fourth… then the fifth. I told the nurse it didn’t work and she called him back into the room. He came in without a word and shot two more syringes filled with magic into my spine.

Sweet, sweet relief. Being on the epidural gave me a sort of high. I was still shaking but felt good and couldn’t get over how hilarious my legs felt. Yes, I was laughing about my legs!

A couple hours passed and soon it was 1am and time for another check. 6cm and head at 0%, aka she was coming soon. I had started to feel the contractions again but only at a level 2. However, an hour later the pain was so strong that I was asking for another shot of magic. The nurse gave me a small dose and said she wanted me to feel the contractions so that I would be able to push. (Looking back I should have demanded more, but I had no idea what I was in for.)

At 2:45am I was in even more pain and finally at 9cm. They started prepping the room early since there were six women currently trying to deliver babies on the floor and only one doctor on call. The doctor and my nurse made the decision to have me “labor down” which basically meant lying on my side with the urge to push but not giving in. This allows the baby to make her way through the birth canal so that when I do push the process is quicker. The pain was almost back to the level it was before the epidural and my shaking started to get stronger. Waiting was the hardest part. Through each contraction I fought the urge to push and told Sam over and over it was happening sooner than the nurses were ready for.

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At 4:20am Sam called our families with a quick “it’s time.”

At 4:40am the nurse said I could get on my back and get ready to push. I threw up.

At 4:45am I started pushing. My eyes were closed and the room was completely lost to me. Our moms, doctors, and nurses entered the room and I didn’t see a single one of them. Going internal was the only way I could focus on getting this baby out. I had been in the hospital laboring for almost 36 hours and genuinely wasn’t sure I had the energy left. But with each contraction I pushed with every ounce of my being.

Then finally at 5:27am it was all over. This little baby let out a single cry and was placed on my chest. She looked up at me and then Sam said “hi baby!” through his tears and her face turned towards him. She knew us. She was ours. The nurses rubbed her and poked her, trying to make her cry more before giving up and saying she was just a happy baby from the start. Sam and I looked at each other in disbelief that she was finally here. Healthy, and beautiful, and ours. The sun rose at that exact moment. Our sunshine.

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She laid on my chest for an hour and we talked about her name. Out of our many options, I decided we should go with her daddy’s favorite: Dylan Bailey Hickerson. Dylan meaning “of the sea” and Bailey after the beautiful place where we got married. They weighed her, measured her, and made sure she passed the Apgar test. Although a tiny 37 weeker, she was perfectly healthy. Then Sam held her for the first time and I got to witness a whole new kind of love. Something I will never forget and hopefully be lost in forever. In her first week earthside Dylan has already changed our lives so much. I’m so happy to be her mama.

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P.s. thanks to my mom for shooting these incredible birth photos through the tears and chaos. I didn’t expect to want + love them as much as I do.

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A whole lot of proud grandparents. Dylan is a lucky girl.

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And what our life looks like now that we are home:
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If you’ve been reading my Baby Diaries posts, you might have thought this was a post to announce our new baby girl… Gotcha! But I do want to introduce our other new “baby:”

Meet Lucille the Shasta!

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I have a pretty serious obsession with vintage trailers and VW vans. So much that every time I see one for sale, I insist on pulling over to look at it even though I know I can’t afford it. Well a couple weeks ago the stars aligned and Sam came across this beauty on a Facebook garage sale site. He sent it to me and I, of course, respond that we should get it. (That’s almost become a joke because I say that about all the pretty things and like pretending bank accounts don’t matter 😉 ) Well it turns out the I knew family selling this trailer and they lived right down the street from my parents house. So we decided to take a look. What could it hurt right?! And a few hours my parents had fallen in love, made a deal with the seller, and we were trailering her home… Whoops!:)Now the plan is for the four of us to share sweet Lucille and make her into the best travel companion.  Currently we have only worked on the boring “safety” stuff (brakes, electrical, etc.), and then I get to go crazy renovating the interior. I. can’t. wait!!

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I photographed a wedding in Big Bear over Memorial Day Weekend, so Sam and I decided tot take her on her maiden voyage. It was a huge success! The only down side is that her door doesn’t close all the way and it was a bit chilly at night. But we learned so much and are already looking forward to many weekends with Lucille!

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Maria and Alex decided to do something a little non-traditional for their wedding day. In their three years together they always knew they wanted to get married. Something from their very start told them “this is it.” There was never a proposal and they never attempted to plan a big wedding, since neither of those traditions made sense for them. Instead they decided to go to the local courthouse on their three year anniversary. Surrounded by just a few friends and family members, they exchanged rings and officially became husband & wife.

Later that day I met up with them at Terranea resort in Palos Verdes. Their ceremony had been short and sweet, and they wanted to take some time to celebrate their marriage and read their vows on the cliffside. We roamed the property and the two of them flirted endlessly. You could tell they were just filled with butterflies and anticipation for the amazing adventure they were starting.

I loved every moment I got to spend with these two, it was such a treat! Here are a few favorites from their elopement session:

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Last Friday looked a little something like this…

I had been up in the middle of the night with incredibly itchy skin. My feet in particular had been bothering me for the past week or so but I didn’t think anything of it. However, when I got up that morning something told me to google “itchy feet during pregnancy.” A bunch of different results and remedies popped up, some of which were scary enough that I thought I should call my doctor just in case. Within an hour of leaving them a message, I received a call back saying “Go straight to labor and delivery.”

Um, WHAT?

I called Sam and was crying as I told him he needed to come home from work to take me to the hospital. While I waited for him, I did everything I could to keep calm. I did the dishes, made the bed, took a shower, packed the hospital bag and put the car seat by the door (we so weren’t ready yet!) I even took a couple of pictures of my belly thinking this might be my last day with it. Sam, being the ultimate saint in a crisis, comes home with only positive things to say. “Oh let’s install the carseat now- it’ll be easy!” and “Worst case scenario, we get to meet our baby girl a few weeks early!”

That second one was comforting and yet so scary at the same time. I was only 35 weeks along. Its too early.

We pull up to the hospital. A place we have never been before because our tour is scheduled for two weeks from now (oops.)

“Hi, where is labor and delivery?”
“Oh, who are you here to see?”
“Its for me. My skin is itchy and my doctor told me to come in immediately.”
“….Um, okay. Follow me…”

Itchy skin. Thats what ended my almost-perfect pregnancy and put me in L&D 4.5 weeks before my due date. They put me in an oversized hospital gown, took some blood, and strapped up my belly to fetal monitors. And then we waited… and waited… The first results came back and the doctor was afraid it may be toxemia which would mean delivering that day. We would need to wait another hour for more blood tests to confirm.

Sam managed to share his positivity with me. We kept the thought of “maybe we get to meet our baby girl today” running through our minds.  We had just done our 35 week ultrasound and knew she was strong, weighing in at almost 6 lbs! Everything was going to be okay. We passed time by playing with the stirrups on the bed and raising it as high and as low as it would go.

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Then the news came that it wasn’t toxemia (thank goodness) and they decided to start treatment for something called cholestasis or ICP. It’s a pretty unusual disorder that means I have elevated liver enzymes and potentially increased bile acid in my blood. We were sent home for now, and are waiting on a second round of blood test results that will tell us how quickly we need to induce. Most likely that will be around the 37 week mark. WHICH IS NINE DAYS FROM RIGHT NOW.

Right now my heart breaks a little thinking that anything is wrong, and my body could put our baby girl in danger. I was really looking forward to experiencing naturally going into labor. Would it be like the movies where my water breaks in the middle of the night and we rush to the hospital? What would the pain really feel like? But as disappointed as I am, I’m also incredibly grateful for this diagnosis. Cholestasis greatly increases the risk of stillbirth if it goes undetected. Something told me that my itchy skin wasn’t normal and I called the doctor to ask about it even though it felt silly.

So here we go. Non-stress tests and fetal monitoring every other day and playing the waiting game until we get my blood test results. We could use all the prayers and good vibes you have to give! Baby Hickerson is coming soon <3

 

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Holly and Butch had one of the most unique weddings I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of. The two of them have made a home on a little island called Catalina off the coast of Los Angeles. This past December, their family traveled from all over the country to their home to spend the weekend celebrating their wedding, and my husband Sam and I got to tag along for the adventure. We left on a boat Friday afternoon and were greeted by a pizza party. Holly and Butch reserved a group of USC camp dorms outside of Two Harbors so we were truly in the middle of nowhere! Any moment you could walk along the coast to watch a pod of dolphins, cross paths with a fox, or scan the cliffs for some wild bison. We ate meals together in the cafeteria and went for a lot of freezing cold walks around the island.

Saturday the wedding preparations began and every one there was happy to lend a hand. One of their closest friends on the island officiated the ceremony, and their family helped move furniture and turn the quiet rural spot into a wedding venue. Holly and Butch couldn’t help but smile all day long; they were surrounded by so much love. The evening ended in the courtyard, sharing the most amazing meal and dancing in the ocean mist. It was truly the best weekend.

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