This was one of my favorite moments shortly after Zoe was born. It was about 6:30 in the morning, two hours after her arrival, and we were "kangarooing" on the hospital bed, while Daddy was asleep on the couch. I thought I would sleep after being exhausted from laboring/delivering through the night, but I had so much adrenaline and emotion, I just sat there, with tears rolling down my face. I didn't have my bible or journal or anything near me, (and I wasn't exactly able to just hop up and get it, if you know what I mean;). Kevin was asleep on the couch in the room and I didn't want to wake him, so I just held my baby girl, thanking God for her delivery, overwhelmed by the whole experience. So surreal.
I went all natural for Zoe's birth. Like no medication at all. It was crazy. Crazy hard. So hard that Kevin or I neither one could think about it or talk about it without getting so emotional those first days. I mean seriously...if you're looking for a way to be forced to get outside yourself and depend fiercely on God, this is one good way to do that. :)
I mentioned with Selah's birth that Kevin and I had really prepared to give the natural experience a try. But if you read her "three day induction" story, you know that wasn't happening after being induced. And while I didn't like any of the effects of the epidural, I admittedly loved the whole birth experience, and had fun going through it. When I got pregnant with Zoe, it surprised me how many people asked if I was going to go natural. It caught me off guard because I really wasn't necessarily planning on it or even determined to give it a try. I just knew I really wanted to enjoy my second birth experience too. Well, the doctors even started asking, and being really encouraging about me being able to do it. It's funny how much it meant to me that they were so positive. (both my dr. and the dr. who delivered Selah when mine was on vacation.) So I started saying if I had to be induced then no way I would even attempt it. Because in my opinion being induced is like being set on fire...at least that's what it felt like to me after 30 hrs., before the epidural;) Having done it the other way, I can confirm it to be true...induced contractions feel much crazier and unnatural - really hard to find any sort of rhythm or relief through.
Kevin and I did start reviewing all we had learned, praying and preparing for the possibility, and I started saying if we went into labor on our own, if the baby was in a good place and it wasn't terribly long, then I definitely wanted to see how we could do. Having an epidural last time wasn't my favorite, with the paralyzed legs and how sick it made me. So that just added to my motivation to see how it might go.
We prayed many times to go into labor on our own, and prayed some very specific prayers over the whole process. We had no idea what it would be like for that experience, especially since the last time we were so overdue and it was really different.
So around 37 weeks I started doing the thing where the increasing braxton hicks contractions make you think you're going to go into labor anytime. Also, Zoe always sat really low, especially after she flipped from being in a breech position, around 34 weeks. So the end felt a lot different. That at least threw us into gear and we spent 3 solid weeks being way more productive and prepared than usual. (I was packed by 38 weeks, I actually checked everything off my list (wow), and my nesting of choice was sewing...more on those projects later!)
Basically for the next few weeks every night was about the same once I laid down, feeling a little different, increasing contraction like symptoms. At my week appt. I was 4 cm dilated, which I was SO excited about. I thought for sure I would go early. (Just because I felt different than last time) My sciatic was really messed up though, so those last weeks were tough...so it was probably wishful thinking that she'd come soon. 40 weeks came and went on April 11th, and we just started taking it day by day.
Friday night we went to a church staff get together, which was one of those bonus things when you're overdue. :) That night while I was talking to someone I would randomly get these weird bursts in my back, different but not exactly painful, more like I thought it was funny because they would catch me so off guard. Saturday night was kind of the same, maybe a few more. I definitely kept feeling like there was an increasing sort of "churning" in there. Then, at 2:30 Sunday morning, I had a contraction that hurt enough to wake me up. One of those quick waves. But I thought I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep, as 30 min. later I had another. I made myself relax and thankfully did go to sleep. All day Sunday I would have another one of those contractions, and they remained 30 min. apart. And my nesting was crazy. I was moving around the house, making sure everything was in order, laundry was done, bags were packed and double checked, Selah's stuff was prepared...oh, and I made a crib sheet I had been planning on since I had Selah. Ha. By mid afternoon, during Selah's nap and when I was at the part of feeding the elastic through the sheet, I was laying in bed working on it, because my contractions were more painful and I was starting to really time them/pay attention to the intensity.
My mom was originally going to come on Saturday, but we had pushed it back to Sunday, and she arrived around 5:00. I'm so thankful for the perfect timing of that, because she lives 4 hrs. away and I really didn't want her to miss it. By the time I was rocking Selah before her bedtime, I was having painful enough contractions that I had to stop singing every once in awhile and breathe through it. But they still weren't long. After she went to sleep the real fun began.
I was still busying myself with preparations, while continually saying things to Kevin about being prepared. I think I was getting nervous about how everything was going to go, as it's all just so unpredictable. He started reviewing our notes from the class we had taken, especially about how to help me through contractions and when to go to the hospital. Between 8 and 9 they were getting bad enough that I had a bit of a meltdown at one point until Kevin and I were on the same page, and I had to start vocalizing through them. I tried to get in the tub but I did not like that at all. For some reason every time I had a contraction, (once they were especially painful), I had to stand straight up. I think it was her position or something.
The contractions were lasting at least 30 sec. and were getting closer and closer together. Between 9 and 11 things progressed and changed significantly, as far as my pain level and the consistency. I took a shower to try to relax and be ready in case we were going to be having a baby that night. (Obviously we were, but apparently we like to keep our options open. ;) By 11:00 I was on the floor in the living room with the exercise ball, and we called our amazing friend Holly, (who has 10 children of her own and who helped us during labor last time), to get some advice on what to do. Everything we had learned and read had told us to not rush to the hospital because it was best to get as far along as possible at home in a relaxed environment. (Which I totally agree with, as long as your water doesn't break of course). And the real reason we were unsure was because they were (mostly) consistent at 5 min. apart, but never lasted more than 45 sec. So we were really waiting for them to be a minute long. Well, Kevin was waiting for that. It's so hard on the "coach's" part, because they can't feel the pain or know how intense it is, so he could only go by what we had been told/taught to do. We did learn through this experience that every baby/body is different and following the mom's lead is undoubtedly the best (only!) way to go. :)
The funny part was the fact that my sweet mom had to witness this craziness. She was admittedly starting to get a little scared that we had lost our minds and were going to have a baby in the living room. At one point I guess Kevin went to talk to her about phone numbers and who could come stay with Selah during the night, and he said she was looking up on Web MD what active labor looked like and when to go to the hospital. Ha! She did such a good job of not freaking out or telling us what we should do next.
Let me just say, laboring naturally with people you love around you can be hard. Well, at least for me. Because I might be able to get through a lot of pain, but it's really hard to be extremely nice/loving/respectful through it. It takes so much focus and the littlest thing can make you crazy.
So while Kevin was talking to Holly, asking her what we should do, I had a painful contraction that I was particularly loud through. She asked Kevin, "Is that Page in the background? I think you all should probably go." So apparently when they get that hard and painful you're getting close. ;) Kevin did give me the option of laying on the couch and seeing if they lightened up at all. An option I was not interested in. I'm definitely not the girl looking to deliver my own baby! Ha.
We got in the car around 12am to head to the hospital. I wanted to pop in Selah's room, lay my hand on her and pray over her one more time, and I tried...but barely made it out of her room without "verbalizing," (that means some form of yelling), through another contraction. The drive to the hospital was not particularly pleasant. I kept telling Kevin not to talk and to just turn on the music. It took about 15 min. to get there and when we did I asked Kevin to get me a granola bar we had packed because I knew they wouldn't let me have anything and I wanted to have energy. Then he got out the video camera...which I was not a fan of during active labor, let me just say. But apparently he's really glad he took it now!
The main doors were locked, so we had to walk to another exit, then a nice man with a wheelchair loaded me up and took us up the elevator. All the while I'm getting through these contractions. When we got up there we probably waited 5 min. for the nurses to come, (and I apologized for taking them from their break - ha.) They asked me if I was going to get an epidural and I said it depended on what they checked me at. So we went in the triage room, and she checked me...I was a 7!!! In my mind, from everything I'd heard and read, 7-8 cm. is transition. And I had told myself if I could make it that far, I knew the baby shouldn't be too far away so I was definitely going to try. Kevin was obviously nervous about this....he asked the nurse how far in I could still get the epidural. She said all the way up until the baby crowns. (Who knew??)
I had strep B, and the worst part of that beginning process was getting through these painful contractions while they tried to get an IV in, start the penicillin, (which burns like crazy! really didn't like that), and asked me a million questions. Literally...it felt like a million. I was still sitting in that bed which was tough, and that whole thing was a blur because it was several nurses, lots of talking, and a painful thing in my arm. They wheeled us to the room, and said they'd call our doctor. Once we got in there Kevin made sure the lights were low, and we just kept getting through one contraction at a time. Shortly after we got in there I felt sick and threw up that granola bar I had eaten so quickly in the car. That was no fun. My doctor came really quickly and waited until we were between contractions to check on me and see how I was doing. I asked her how long it usually took and she said about 1 cm. every hr. In my mind I thought there was no way I could do that kind of laboring for 6 hrs. She said she was going to go get some sleep, and they'd get her when it was time.
Then it was just Kevin and me. I'm telling you, I just teared up writing that sentence. That was the moment of entering one of the most sacred, painful, intense experiences of my life. It is so, so difficult to even know how to describe it...because to me it was so extremely internal and deep and focused....and so hard. Every time I had a contraction I would stand straight up, clench my legs together, sometimes get on my tip toes, and grab Kevin's shoulders really tightly. Sometimes would try to get a rhythm of swaying, or going up and down on my tip toes. In hindsight, its funny that everytime Kevin thought something would help me because I started doing it, he would try to initiate and I'd bluntly say, "Stop, don't do that!" I really wondered if we would be able to get through it without help or a doula, and now I think it was best to just have Kevin there because he's the only one whose feelings I didn't have to worry about hurting. It would have been hard for me to be in so much pain and be potentially rude to someone else had they been there. I would have worried about it and felt badly. He understood and knew he just needed to follow my lead and get me through. And he was amazing.
Music is so incredibly powerful to me, so like last time, we had it ready to go. Earlier in the day, when I had showered I had sang the song, "Love Came Down," (the Bryan Johnson version), and practiced relaxing through it. So I asked him to play it. That was one of those sweet and powerful moments of the night. I absolutely love that song and needed every word of it in those moments. I remember listening to that and Bebo Norman, and know we played more of my 'labor playlist,' and it was so helpful, just to help me stay focused on God's strength and not freak out at the pain. I think it was during that song that Kevin almost started to tear up and get emotional, and I said something to the extent of 'no way hosea.' I needed him to be sturdy and help me through each contraction. Only one of us was allowed to be on an emotional roller coaster. ;) I also really relied on my index cards with scriptures on them. That was something I didn't have done yet, so while I had been laboring at home earlier in the day I'd given my journal to my mom so she could copy some verses down that I had chosen.
The one thing I was able to tell him to do that didn't make me crazy was to tell me at the beginning of a contraction that it was almost over. It was amazing what that did for me mentally. Sometimes I had to remind him during my breaks to say it right away. (Even if it wasn't exactly true.) I could tell he didn't want to tell me something that wasn't accurate at first, but I assured him that's what I needed to hear! I'm telling you, even as I write this I can remember those huge waves as they built and peaked. And let me tell you, through every single one I thought, 'There's no way I can do that again. I'm going to get the epidural. Then somewhere in my mind I'd be thinking I'm so close, just one more contraction. Then I'd think, that whole epidural thing would just take time, slow me down, be annoying, and make me have to get a catheter. (which caused annoying problems after they took it out with my first baby.) That was all taking place somewhere in my mind, all while I was processing the pain.
I remember Kevin left two times for some reason, I think to talk to our families, maybe go to the bathroom. But those two times he wasn't there it was SO much harder to get through the contractions. I had to be careful not to panic. But I did use those two times to be much more out loud verbal and vulnerable with the Lord, which was good for me. I read my verses out loud, claiming them with my whole heart, and one time I said as surely as I knew how that I was claiming God's favor and calling on the Spirit in the name of Jesus, and asking for his angel armies to surround me and help. Looking back those moments were powerful and awesome parts of the night.
Our sweet nurse Michelle came in every once in awhile, having me on the monitor for one stretch just to check on the baby, and to tell me if anything felt different to let her know. I felt like I was definitely moving towards something and the pain was increasing steadily. And I kept feeling like I had to go the bathroom, so I would continue to try. We had gotten in the room between 12:45 and 1, so at 2:00 or a little after I asked her to check me. I think that time was in hopes that progress would be motivating. She normally would have waited another hour, but she did...and I was at 8cm! That was seriously what I needed. So we kept going, and that next hour or so was crazy. It was still quiet and dark, and we had actually gotten into quite a rhythm. But I don't think we played music anymore after that...all I remember is the pain, the focus to get through, and the breaks. OH my goodness the breaks.
If pain in labor/childbearing is a result of the curse, then the breaks in the middle of contractions through natural labor are the demonstration of God's grace. Seriously. Getting through natural childbirth is only made possible by these incredible chunks of time where your body literally relaxes so deeply from exhaustion that you can fall asleep. I kid you not. Every time I would make it through another contraction, right when it was over I would sit back down on the bed, positioning myself in the same way every time, with one leg on the bed, I guess because it was comfortable with my still sensitive and searing sciatic problem. Then I would close my eyes, breathe, and gently sway back and forth. At least a couple of times I would jerk awake from almost being out. It's funny because even though I couldn't verbalize it I thought, "I wonder if Kevin knows I almost fell over?" Ha. Apparently it wasn't as dramatic as it felt. But those moments were SO peaceful and SO amazingly awesome. And it felt like they lasted 10 min. each. Apparently they were only 2 or 3 min. long though, sometimes a minute and a half, according to Kevin.
Then when that precious break was over and the fire in my belly started up again, I'd stand quickly, grab onto Kevin, stand on my tip toes, and squeeze my legs together, trying to breathe, relax, and believe it would be over soon. My screaming during the contraction started turning into me saying, "Owww, owww," kind of rhythmically, I guess because it felt better for me to be honest that it hurt! Those contractions ended with a sort of sob too. Then it got crazy. Let me just say, transition is not when you know "the baby's almost here." It's when your screaming goes up an entire octave and the breaks get shorter and shorter, less and less. I remember specifically when I started sounding different and feeling like something was violently trying to get out of my body, and Michelle came in and said, "Are you okay?" At the time I thought she'd lost her mind because it seemed clear that I was not. :) But once I told her "something had changed," and she checked me to find I was 9 cm, I realized she had asked because it was sooner than she expected and I was sounding like someone does when the baby is about to come!
At 9 cm there were no more glorious breaks, no more rhythmic swaying or even any thinking clearly. And I was just so incredibly tired. (This all happened between 1:00 am and 4:11 in the morning.) I crawled on the bed and screamed into the pillow for each one, and they came really pretty close. I remember still thinking, "I can't do this, I'm going to get the epidural." Then I'd go through that whole process in my mind again of how that would all just take too much time and I was almost there. The room started getting a little crazy as nurses started prepping. By this time I was biting the pillow with each contraction, accompanied by a pretty high pitched scream. Mentally what honestly helped me the most was telling myself, "You will not break. You are created to do this, this will not break you, it just hurts. Because you just have to find a way to not completely tense up and try to protect yourself from the pain. It's much better to lean into it and get through, if that makes sense.
My dr. came in shortly after and checked me again and said it was time to push! This all was happening so fast but didn't exactly feel like it at the time. I actually pushed really hard once and she realized I wasn't quite all the way to 10 like she had thought, but I could kind of push my way there. Oh my goodness then the pushing. I don't know if I've ever felt quite like I couldn't do something as much as I did that night. That was the moment I most honestly admitted my absolute inability to do it, and my desperate need for the Lord to do what I couldn't. My dr. was calm and so amazingly incredible the whole time. She apparently is the resident pro at natural deliveries, and I certainly learned why. She said, "Your natural instinct is going to be to scream through the pushing, but the more energy you put into that the less you'll have for the push." Which I didn't love hearing, but I trusted her and gave it a shot. She stayed that calm and so encouraging through the whole process. She even let me put my foot on her leg for support.
I remember during each push my dr. saying, "Push, push, push!" really fast, and Michelle saying, "You're doing great, you're doing such a good job." Kevin would say, "You're doing it, you're doing so good, keep going." Then he would tell me he was so proud of me. But let me tell you, it was crazy hard. Ridiculously hard. My baby girl did not pop right out. I remember looking around the room and there were like 3 or 4 other nurses just waiting. They just stood there watching, as calm as could be, saying nothing, doing nothing, just looking. I remember wondering what they were thinking and how they could be so calm! I also had a preconceived idea that "the ring of fire" was something that would last for seconds, when you pushed the baby out. Well that might be true if your baby comes out with one push! My sweet girl's head finally made an appearance after a crazy hard push, but she was not all the way out. Apparently this was normal because my dr. wasn't freaking out or anything, but it.hurt.like.CRAZY. This was the moment. I was crying, I said to Kevin, "I can't do this," and he said, "You are doing it." Then I was stuck in the fire thinking, "I can't push through this pain...but what's the alternative? She can't go back in and this is the only way out! One other thought in the back of my mind was that my sciatic pain would disappear if I could just get her out. I'm not sure if this is accurate, but it felt like she was half way out and I was stuck in the fire until I did something about it!
So I gave a hard push, then cried out, "Lord Jesus I need you to deliver this baby right now! Please help me!" (seriously - I was screaming this in the room.) I pushed as hard as I could one last time and she came out. And I thought I was going to pass out. It hurt so bad. Not like a shocking hurt, but like a 'this is so crazy, I can't believe I'm enduring this searing pain' hurt. The coolest feeling of not having any medication is feeling the baby go from your belly to out in the world. That really is awesome. Your belly goes from hard to soft in a second. I fell back onto the bed and was shaking, and the dr. handed her to me....still in her bag of waters!!! It was so awesome, I only wish I had been a little less exhausted to really take all that in. To break the water my dr. just gently sliced the bag and it all fell out on top of my chest. Then they wiped the rest off Zoe's face. It was the coolest thing. And I have heard keeping the waters intact can help cushion the contractions, so I choose to believe this was such an answered prayer, and more grace on God's part. Then Zoe gave the passionate little scream she is not known so well for, and she was snuggled close in my arms. (I just sighed heavily thinking about that moment. I still feel relief and joy when I get to this part of the story!) Oh, and since she came about 3 hrs. after they pumped me full of that painful first dose of penicillin, I didn't even get enough rounds to protect her from the strep b....but since she was born in the bag of waters it didn't even matter! Kind of crazy.
I remember kissing her wet little head over and over, talking to her in my mommy voice and telling her I loved her so much. And I looked at Kevin and we both started crying, and I'll never forget saying, "That was so hard." He nodded through his tears and said, "I know." I looked over at my mom, who had come in right before I started pushing, and I said, "That had to be so hard to watch." Then she started crying! It was a little intense if you can't tell. ;) But beautiful babies coming into the world is always so amazing anyway. I will add in for those who have been through a natural delivery or who are curious about it, the part after delivery was extremely unpleasant, not quite worse, but bad in my book. Email me for details. ;) I snuggled baby Zoe under my tank top to get her warm. My brother and Kevin's parents came in to see her, and we were all just exhausted. And so, so thankful. There is nothing like the adrenaline rush and beautiful exhaustion of a baby coming into the world.