i write this as my vintage-looking kitchen clock peacefully ticks time away, a golden table lamp infuses warmth throughout my cozy living room, and the rather arrhythmic breathing of a little soul fresh from heaven lulls me into my happy place: 'writerland' (kinda like 'wonderland' for those of us who love to 'do life' through the medium of a pen & paper...or a laptop keyboard, in my case).
let me set a disclaimer for this post: my story here is simply a personal journey that i would like to share with anyone interested in reading. it's not meant to be read as a persuasive argument for the benefits of natural birth or a post on how to labor the 'Bradley Way' or why i think modern-day hospitals with all their rules & regulations can actually be a very possible venue for a gentle, natural birth with a little know-how and homework. the fact is, every expectant mother has to find her own 'comfort zone' when it comes to birthing her precious children. Some of you bring forth your children strictly in the comfort of your own home, some of you birth at a birthing center or midwifery wing attached to a hospital, and some of you decide that the mainstream hospital delivery room is the best route. Some of you have epidurals, some of you don't. Those personal preferences are just that - personal. In sharing with you my birthing experience (the first of many to come, Lordwilling!) I want you to know that I am simply doing so out of a heart to recount the story of my precious daughter coming into the world and how the Lord was magnified in the process. That said, let's get to it! here goes...
all along, I thought my due date was February 26th. that's what i was told at both of my ultrasounds and never really heard anything different until my regular OB appt on Thursday, 2/23 when the nurse assistant casually commented, "It looks like all systems go for your big day next Sunday, March 4!" I was initially taken aback but then actually relieved that my due date was moved back instead of up. She also casually mentioned that my main doctor was out of town until sometime in early March and a doctor from an entirely different practice (whom I had never met) was on call in her place during that time. Cassandra, my midwife, would be available for deliveries during her regular days ~ Tuesday & Thursday. I left feeling a bit out of sorts and tempted to be anxious, envisioning my baby being born under the care of a doctor I didn't know from Adam much less one who had no idea of my strong desire to experience a natural birth (also one that was as "medically-noninvasive-as-possible").
Luke & I prayed for wisdom and gave it up to the Lord. I had a few specific prayer requests along in my pregnancy: 1) that Cassandra my midwife would be on call when I went into labor 2) that I could get the delivery room with the tub 3) that I wouldn't tear 4) that my Bradley Class Instructor, Kristina, would be available to be our doula. in light of prayer request #1, I decided to begin taking evening primrose oil (upon Cassandra's recommendation) 3x's a day orally to begin gently preparing my body for labor. Unlike castor oil (which I was not against trying but was going to make it my very LAST resort before artificial inducement was imminent), evening primrose oil does not 'put' a woman into labor but instead helps augment the preparation process for the cervix that leads to onset of labor. I took the evening primrose for about four days with no visible changes. I had been having a good amount of Braxton-Hicks and the beginnings of the 'real' contractions for a few days leading up to Labor Day but didn't think anything of it, really. on Wednesday, 2/29, Luke took off work and we had a lovely day together ~ taking a walk, reading together, just being together. We attended our church community group that evening @ Panera with friends and I felt great. As we parted ways after the meeting was over, one of our friends said, "See you Sunday! on second thought, no we won't because you're gonna have this baby!" I laughed and didn't think much of it. I just felt like I was going to be pregnant forever - moms, you can relate to this feeling, I'm sure! haha!
I had not been sleeping much in the weeks leading up to delivery due to so much pressure on my bladder from Little Girl Grant's presence. Hence, I was visiting the bathroom for what seemed like every 20 minutes throughout the night! That Wednesday night was no different. I came home, took a shower, and was in bed by 11:00. Didn't fall alseep until 1:30 and at 2:45, I woke up to what I can only describe as a 'warm gush'. Thankfully, I had heeded the advice of friends and placed a chuck's pad under my fitted sheet. it worked great! my bag of waters was perfectly clear (no meconium) and I was Group B strep negative, so no need to rush off to the hospital. at this point, a sudden mix of emotions swirled in my gut - excitement, bittersweet realization that life was about to change drastically and never be the same again, a tinge of nervousness, anticipation, joy, tender nostalgia at the thought of my belly going away and no longer being able to feel all those delightful 'squirms' every evening and early morning (baby's most active times within the womb). Since my water broke, I also realized with thankfulness that it was Thursday - the day Cassandra was on call for deliveries! (answered prayer #1).
I decided that it would be best not to wake Luke, since one of us needed to be well rested for the adventure ahead! at around 3am, I took a shower and shaved my legs (ahh, felt so good!), did the laundry, finished packing all my bags, paid the bills, dropped off the rent, ran the dishwasher and unloaded it, touched up the house, watered my plants, took a power walk, and made breakfast - all between 3am-7am!! my contractions started at about 5:30ish and were 10 minutes apart. by 8:00ish, they were 7 minutes apart and growing stronger. by 9:30am, they were quite intense/painful and 5 minutes apart. Luke made a healthy lunch of scrambled eggs and apple slices with cheddar cubes. Since my water broke, I drank at least 2 liters of fluids every 2 hours. I labored on a birthing ball graciously lent to me by another Coastie wife. I labored in bed, in the shower, and took a lovely (yet intense!!) walk with Luke to our development's main pool overlooking the Bay when they were about 4 min. apart. I began really crying (sobbing, really) as the hormones coursed through my body, preparing it to bring forth our precious little one. Luke gently rubbed my lower back (I had bad back labor the entire time) while I poured out my soul to the Lord. I was fearful and anxious about not being able to birth my baby within the 'time limit' the hospital sets upon laboring women whose waters have broken (I thought it was 24hrs but came to later find out our hospital has an 18hr policy before they implement a bunch of medical procedures such as a septic work-up for baby). I also just felt so weak and out of control...so utterly dependent upon my Lord. The Holy Spirit really began ministering to me at this point. I dried my eyes, continued to focus of 'riding out' the ever increasing waves of contractions, and relaxed in Luke's strong, tender arms.
At 3:00pm (twelve hours later), Luke calmly announced it was Time. that Time had finally come. I had dreamt of it, dreaded it, and everything in between. It was HERE, staring me in the face. There was no turning back. The time to go to the place where my daughter would be born into this world.
What a thought.
I said I wasn't ready but considering I was contracting every 2-3 minutes, he gently insisted ;) Of course, we hit every - I mean EVERY - red light. and for those who live in this area, don't we all just love the snowbirds who grace our area this time of year with their 'extra cautious' driving habits?! How we managed to get behind what seemed like every single one of those slow-poke snowbirds on McMullen Booth Blvd. was beyond me! we finally arrived and i was triaged - 6cm dilated, 100% effaced. I thought, 'Great! we're gonna have this baby in the next hour or two tops! piece o' cake!!" We were led to our delivery room - an inviting, spacious room and got settled in with our doula, Kristina (answered prayer #2). the next 3 1/2 hours seem like a blur in my memory - i know i labored in the shower, on the bed, even on the floor on all fours. Luke swore he massaged my back for hours on end, but I seriously don't remember that part! haha! I just remember feeling restless, like i couldn't get comfortable. I remember feeling intense pressure down there and feeling like the Lord would bring me to a threshhold of 'pain' only to bring me down again - in other words, He never gave me more than I could handle. I labored hard for 3 hours and then hit transition at around 6:00 with my whole body shaking for about 20 minutes and a few very hard contractions where i felt her head moving down the birth canal. i wouldn't describe it as painful necessarily but very intense!
it was incredible to literally 'obey' my body's cues in telling me what to do to bring forth my precious child. after transition, i just had this overwhelming feeling to get on all fours and bear down to push. the nurse checked me and her head was right there about to crown. I began pushing with my contractions as they washed over me with force every 5 minutes. I think I liked the pushing stage over labor. it just felt like such a surge of relief after every time i pushed. after about an hour of pushing, i suddenly became so weak and exhausted. I had not been sleeping well at all for the weeks leading up to this day and hadn't slept basically at all the three previous nights. i felt like i was running on fumes at this point. i tried a few different positions but nothing felt as comfortable as just being on all fours! ;D after awhile, I just became so discouraged at my apparent lack of progress and my contractions slowed WAY down from 5 minutes apart to 10 minutes apart to 20 minutes and then i lost all urge to push even though her head was 'right there'. it was the craziest thing! I sensed a darkness come over me as i was tempted to feel defeated and just throw in the towel. "After all this, i'm gonna have to give up," i thought. I was tempted toward panic and fear of not being able to push my baby out on my own. On the flip side, I was relieved to have such a loving, supportive birth team in addition to being in a place that had all the necessary equipment and procedures to aid in my efforts, if need be. I couldn't speak more highly of the hospital where Kathryn was born. It's one of a handful of 'baby friendly' hospitals in the nation and it showed. They were so respectful of our birth plan and preferences, supportive, KIND, and overall AMAZING!!
Anyway, I began crying out to God to help me and Luke also laid his hands on me and prayed over me and our child who was about to enter the world. It was truly a holy moment in that delivery room. My wonderful doula and sweet friend, Kristina, also prayed and spoke Scripture over me in my ear. At one point, I heard one of the nurses quietly mention that they were going to get the vacuum ready. That got me going! haha! My contractions returned and the Lord gave me a vision of running a race where He was standing at the finish line, cheering for me! He clearly spoke this scripture to my heart in those vulnerable moments...
my (amazing!) midwife, Cassandra, and our little family
morning after birth
our little beauty, Kathryn Sophia
(more pics to come, promise!)