It has taken me a while to find the time and energy to sit down and write about our birth story, but here I finally am. To tell you the truth, this recounting is really for me to look back on and see God’s faithfulness. It is also for other moms and moms-to-be who are interested. I found that birth stories were especially helpful to me in my pregnancy as I looked forward to my own experience.
I also want to preface my writing with the warning that as a new mom I don’t seem to be writing as succinctly or coherently as I used to. So bear with me.
Our son’s due date was November 27th, Thanksgiving Day. We celebrated the holiday with the Francis’ and Mother Teresa. No baby, just lots of food and fellowship.
The following Monday we met with Cindie, our midwife. I was all around feeling very good. I was looking forward to the birth, but didn’t feel particularly anxious about it happening on the due date. I knew that was just an estimate and that Baby H would come when he was good and ready.
During that appointment Cindie had to go through the routine procedure of telling me about all the increased risk of various complications after a baby’s due date. I know she was not concerned at all about these happening, but I guess I wasn’t really expecting to hear them. She said she’d like us to come in on Thursday to do some fetal monitoring. She also gave us the option of going in and having an ultrasound done to make sure everything was okay.
The next day was a rough one for me. Now with all the possible risks presented I felt more of a sense of urgency, even though I told myself everything was just fine. Also, I wasn’t very fond of the idea of having to do the monitoring or deciding about the ultrasound. I just wanted to leave Baby H alone and let him come in his time. I was emotional all day. Because of this we decided we weren’t going to go to Community Group that night.
That decision was very much God’s grace to me because at 8:30pm my water broke. I was fine with dirtying my own kitchen floor with the mess, but I would not have been okay with it happening at the Watson’s house. We’re all family, but not that close.
When it did happen, Jason & I just looked at each other dumbfounded. This was actually happening. I could tell Jason was excited as we cleaned up the house a bit for our midwife & doula, did some last minute laundry, and got ready for bed.
By 10:30pm the contractions started to come. People say that at that point it’s a good idea to watch a movie or do something to distract yourself. That wasn’t possible for me because the contractions were quite strong right from the start.
I labored for the next four hours at home. I spent that time in bed, a bit in the bath tub, and leaning over a birth ball on the floor. At the point where I started to feel like I really needed help getting through the contractions (2:30am) our doula, Eliza, showed up. She was so great, applying pressure in just the right places on my lower back when the strongest part of each contraction would come. When she wasn’t doing that, she was feeding me scrambled eggs, toast, water, and shot blocks.
Jason & I had talked beforehand about having our baby at home and we had decided to leave it as Plan B. Plan A was to go to the birth center in Kirkland. But by the time Cindie arrived I was at 7cm and it seemed like a no-brainer that we would have the baby at home. I felt comfortable there, was making progress, and did not want to endure the car ride across the water.
Although Jason was a bit hesitant through the pregnancy about having a home birth, at the point of decision he was fine with it. And in the end I think he was glad it turned out that way. Through the rest of active labor and transition he helped Cindie bring in her supplies and set up for the birth.
The funny thing is, I really thought I would want him by my side for every contraction but it didn’t turn out that way. Eliza was so helpful and encouraging to me and I actually preferred that Jason busy himself with setting up. I really think the presence of a woman (and a woman who had also given birth at that) was what I needed. I think Jason was also glad for this because he set his mind on the practical things that needed to happen and felt very much like he was contributing.
Once active labor was underway I decided to get in the bath tub and ended up staying there through transition. What I didn’t know at the time was that we were out of hot water and so Jason had scrounged up a bunch of pots and was boiling water full blast on the stove to pour into the tub. What a blessing that was to me, though I didn’t know he was going to all the effort at the time.
When I did get in the tub, Eliza was there by my side, holding my hand and pouring water over my belly. Although the pain grew more intense, I was not afraid or felt like I wanted to give up. Rather, I felt encouraged that things were going so well and empowered knowing I was making progress.
When the contractions became the most intense I started to feel overwhelmed and was having difficulty breathing and relaxing through the most painful parts. That’s when Cindie came in and suggested a breathing technique (“hee hee who”) that was a lifesaver. Eliza remained there with me and I tried as hard as I could to focus on her face as I breathed through the pain.
As I lay there in tub, I began to feel a sense of peace and euphoria. It was very strange since the pain hadn’t gone away. I also remember noticing that the dark bathroom was now starting to fill with light as the morning came. The time was passing much quicker than I thought it would.
At 7:30am Cindie checked me and I was at 9cm. The progress made me feel even more encouraged. At around that time I started to feel a slight sensation to push and decided I wanted to get out of the tub. I remember thinking that I had gotten past the toughest part, which really hadn’t been bad at all. All I had to do was push and it would be over.
What I didn’t know was that it wouldn’t be over for another almost four hours. This is one of those situations where I’m glad God doesn’t allow us to see into the future. If I would’ve known it would take that long and how hard it would be, I probably would’ve mentally given up right then and there.
For the first of those four hours, I tried to figure out how to effectively push, which wasn’t as intuitive as I thought it would be. Also, it took me several different positions before I found the one that was allowing me to make the most progress with each push. This was thanks to Mel, the birth assistant who arrived just in time to suggest a position she had seen women in the Philippines use during delivery.
For the next three hours I pushed and pushed. As time passed I grew more and more familiar with the sensation to push and was able to push past the pain during each contraction. At the same time, I was feeling increasingly more emotionally and mentally exhausted. As I doubted my strength to keep going, Cindie, Eliza and Mel kept reminding me that I could do it and that I was making progress. It was also comforting to know that the baby heart rate was fine every time Mel checked it with the doppler.
Jason sat right at my side next to the bed the whole time. He was mostly quiet, always read with water, goos, and a wet washcloth, which I needed in between each contraction. I remember at one point looking over and seeing him leaning his head down on the mattress. I think he didn’t know anything else to do but pray.
I was also praying. I don’t know how many times I cried out “Lord, help me!” as the next round of contraction and pushing would begin. I also remember asking God to make Satan and the lies that I couldn’t do it go away. Cindie prayed against that out loud and Eliza told me not to be afraid. I thought about 1 John 4:18 which says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
I made slow progress with each push. Cindie told me it was taking longer because I have such a strong perineum that would not stretch so easily. Looking back I am glad things happened the way they did. The many pushes stretched this area slowly and even though Ian had a 14-inch head I ended up with only a minor tear that did not require stitches (and an easier recovery!).
Finally, at 11:07am, Baby H was born. They immediately plopped him down on my chest. I felt totally dumbfounded. You spend nine months imagining what your child will be like and then all the sudden he is there. It is such an overwhelming experience. Jason & I were both in tears.
As Baby H lay there wiggling around on my chest quietly Mel suctioned his mouth and finally letting out a little cry. All the while Eliza was snapping photos. I am so glad she was able to capture those moments. Then the cord was cut a few minutes later and he was wrapped in a blanket.
Everything about the labor & birth was very normal up until that point. But then Cindie noticed that I was bleeding more than usual. She asked me to push again a few more times to get the placenta out and after a couple pushes she decided to retrieve it herself. That was an uncomfortable experience to say the least, but she was quick about it, and as gentle as she could be. It turns out that the placenta had only partially removed itself from the uterine wall.
Once Cindie had gotten the placenta out she massaged my uterus and I got a shot of pitocin and an IV bag of fluid. Thankfully that stopped the bleeding very quickly. If it hadn’t, I think I probably would have had to get to the hospital very quickly.
What’s amazing is that through all of this I felt fine. I was tired from the labor & birth, but I did not feel lightheaded or even scared about what was happening. Cindie, Mel and Eliza were very professional about the whole thing and moved quickly to do what was necessary.
All this time Jason was in the other room holding our son and spending some special moments bonding with him. I am so glad they were able to have that time together. He told me later that he asked Baby H “What is your name?” He had two names in mind and when he looked at him he decided his name was Ian. It means “God is gracious.”
When Jason & Ian returned to my side I asked Jason “Have you decided on a name?” He told me and I was so glad. I had prayed that God would show us what our son’s name should be and in my heart I had really settled on that name several months back. Jason wanted me to wait and he would make the final decision when the time came.
A couple hours later I was able to get out of bed and into a bath. When I got into bed again I started nursing for the first time. Cindie did the newborn assessment shortly after and we found out Ian’s weight (8 lbs 5 oz) and length (19.5 in). Shortly after Cindie tucked us three into bed, packed up her stuff and went home.
Jason & Ian fell asleep right away with Ian on Jason’s chest. I don’t blame them since we were up all night laboring. I, on the other hand, lay wide awake. I couldn’t help but run through all the events that happening in the last 24 hours.
In preparation for the birth Jason & I had been memorizing Psalm 46. It seemed kind of strange to me that a psalm about chaos and destruction was what we were focusing on. But now I can see why. God had been my refuge and strength. He helped me when morning literally dawned. In the midst of all the pain, which did feel chaotic at times, He helped me be still and not only take comfort that He was working in the pain, but allowed me even take pleasure in it. And when trouble came, when I started to bleed post-birth, He was there taking care of me.
In daily life I forget quite frequently that God is good. I cease to remember His faithfulness to me and all the miracles He does in my life. I doubt and fret and am far from being still. The labor & birth of our son is one of those extraordinary Ebenezer-type experiences that I am hoping to look back on to remind me of the character of God and His power in my life.
What’s more, I have come to have a new-found respect for my body. It is amazing what it was able to do. I still occasionally struggle at times with my body image, but reminding myself that my body was the dwelling place of our son in utero, that I gave birth and am now able to breastfeed him, is a powerful antidote to the lies.
With all that being said, now we live life with Ian.