I wanted to get the words on the page while this experience was still fresh in my mind! I will likely come back in a few weeks and make some updates, but for now enjoy the rawness of the story. (11/5)
The weeks leading up to Nora’s birth were an intense mental, emotional, and spiritual battle. As I wrote a few weeks ago, this pregnancy has been a stretching one. The Lord used my last trimester as an intense pruning time. I imagine I’ll be writing on what He led me through in the months to come. Shortly, two of the biggest lessons were learning to wait on His timing and trust that He is good.
I didn’t share this publicly, but an abnormality with my bloodwork presented itself a couple months before I delivered. My blood platelet count was discovered to be low, and going lower. Blood platelets help your blood to clot and, as you can imagine, childbirth is an event with a potential for blood loss. Thanks to our vigilant midwives, my platelet count was monitored via blood draws each week and I began a dose of steroids at 36 weeks gestation.
I had an incredibly hard time overcoming this complication, albeit a fairly minor one. I was afraid of the birth going awry. I was afraid of the steroids hurting my unborn daughter. It sounds dramatic, but I was honestly afraid of dying. Pregnancy and infant loss affected five of my dear friends during the course of this pregnancy; two of the losses in particular I have grieved especially hard. There’s no other way to say it, but I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was waiting for our tragedy to strike.
God was asking me if I truly believed His promises. If I truly believed that being in Christ means anything that happens to me is for His glory and my good.
Elisabeth Elliot said in her book Passion and Purity, “I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.” ••• I so often want to glimpse the end of my life’s story; to know how everything is going to turn out. But that is not how the Lord desires to sanctify us. Because in the unknown and frightening, faith grows. Because if we knew the end of the day, we might not get out of bed in the morning. Because His glory always equals our good. As you learn to truly pray as Christ did, “Thy will be done,” may you be comforted that we do know the ultimate end of The Story: King Jesus coming to ransom His captive people, to make all things right, and to command our praise and worship forever. Praise God for lovingly leading us to the end. // via Daughter Of Delight
Also, the waiting for labor to begin seemed harder this second time around. You could cut the anticipation in our home with a knife! As my due date drew near, I hourly had to remind myself to wait on the Lord. As with Carson, I had weeks of intermittent prelabor contractions. At least once I was fairly confident that labor was surely beginning, only to have the sensations peter out. To help remind myself that waiting was a good and necessary part of the birth process, multiple times a day I would rub my swollen belly and tell Nora we were excited to meet her, that she has a loving home, and that we were waiting until she was ready.
The day before my due date, I was tweeting with my doula trainer and pregnancy expert Robin Elise Weiss. She knew my struggles with anxiously awaiting labor and told me that she wrote a letter called Dear Pregnant Mom on Your Due Date while thinking of me.
Well, it worked.
Five minutes later I had my first contraction. Then, ten minutes later, another.
Carson was napping so I decided that, if this was indeed labor, I should get some rest. I laid in bed and watched Netflix, rocking back and forth on my hands and knees during contractions trying to make sure Nora was in a good position. When I noticed some bloody show I decided to call Ben home from work. He was beyond excited to finally get ‘the call’, though I’m not sure if he was excited because I was in labor or because he got to leave work at 2pm on Friday afternoon.
The best advice is to ignore early labor as long as possible. I think we did a pretty good job, considering! I continued resting in bed. Ben, Carson and I walked around outside, enjoying the gorgeous fall weather. That evening, we had already planned for Carson to spend the night at her grandparents house. (Convenient, right!?) Around dinner Ben drove her across town. When he got back, we ate dinner and Ben turned on the World Series. Turns out if you let an avid baseball fan watch the game during labor, he’s a very happy camper!
Though my contractions were undeniably coming at regular intervals, getting closer together, I found it hard to believe that I could actually be in labor. Ben patiently pointed out, “Your contractions were ten minutes apart, then seven, and now they’re five. Babe, I think we’re in labor.”
Bring it on.
Around 7:30pm my contractions had found a steady pace of coming every five minutes apart. They were becoming more intense, to the point that I couldn’t lay down during them. Like with Carson’s birth, the most manageable way to deal with contractions was either standing up rocking on my hands and knees.
Though I still was afraid of my contractions stopping as they had done for weeks (laboring women aren’t the most rational), we made the head’s up call to our doula and birth photographer. Everything was getting so real! I decided to take a bath while Ben got a bit of rest. With only a candle and my Spotify birth playlist, I labored in our tub. Just like the pioneers. I think Ben said something about my ‘inner emo’ coming out, which made me giggle. The mood of this entire labor and birth really was relaxed. We cracked so many jokes in between contractions. It helped me relax and take things one contraction at a time.
Around midnight our doula, Kendra, arrived at our house. Actually, we technically hired Kendra as a monitrice. The best way to think of this role is like having a personal labor and delivery nurse. She is qualified to do cervical checks and monitor the baby’s heart rate. Having that reassurance was so wonderful and allowed us to labor at home as long as we did. I could sing Kendra’s praises forever. Honestly. She’s a godly woman and is truly passionate about supporting women in birth. She mentioned that she’s attended over 2,000 births in her years of practice as both a certified professional midwife and a doula.
Kendra gave Ben a welcome rest and really coached us both through labor. I felt so loved and supported by these two! She also brought a bag of tricks with her. Clary sage oil to help the contractions come closer together, and this amazing frozen rolling pin thing that felt absolutely wonderful on my back. I remember feeling really bad that neither Ben nor Kendra were going to get a good night’s sleep. (Again, laboring women aren’t especially rational.)
Around 3:30am I really was anxious to get to the hospital. Not because I enjoyed being in the hospital (not at all!) but because I had my sights set on getting into the labor and delivery room with the tub! We called our midwife and loaded up the car. Ben drove while Kendra sat with me in the back seat. Actually, it was more like Kendra cuddled with me in the backseat! We grabbed a blanket since the night air had gotten very chilly and she would apply counter pressure when a contraction hit. I’m pretty convinced that those handles above car windows were created for women in labor. I mean, what else would they be for?
We got to the hospital and I had four contractions walking up to the Labor and Delivery floor. Pro tip: if you can manage to have a contraction while you’re at the front desk, you get admitted in a jiffy!
One of the hardest parts of labor came when our nurse came into the room. She had a very abrasive attitude and got frustrated with us because we hadn’t already signed and dated some hospital forms, which we were told not to do originally. Then she used some very fear-based language to, what felt like, manipulate me into signing the forms quickly. I didn’t necessarily have a hard time with signing the consent forms; I understand that hospitals need to run on protocols. But the nurse’s lack of compassion is what upset me. We asked for a different nurse, which felt scary to do in the moment but I’m so glad we did. I liked the feeling of standing up for myself and my baby. The head of the L & D nurses took over, who we later found out was a retired midwife. Nora ended up having three midwives attend her birth!
Our birth team quickly prepared the room: starting water in the tub, stringing Christmas lights around, and finding some peaceful background music. After a cervical check I was found to be 5 cm and our midwife, also named Kendra (confusing, I know!), said it would be a perfect time to get in the tub.
As with Carson, I hit transition in the tub. Something about being in water really progresses my labors. I started vocalizing much more loudly in the tub, and found it difficult to cope with some of the contractions.
Ben pulled out our labor ‘cue cards’, as he called them, and held them up for me on the edge of the tub. I loved this touch. It was great to be in the middle of an intense contraction and read the comforting words. (Things like: “Open”, “Breathe”, “Your body is not broken”, and “All for God’s glory.”) At my baby shower, my sisters-in-law had the guests write notes of encouragement. It was great to hear those little notes read over me.
Nora sat very low the final weeks of my pregnancy (-1 station, if that means anything to you!) and in labor her head was incredibly low. In fact, cervical checks were difficult because the opening to my cervix was still behind her head. She was just trying to barrel her way out! Multiple times, someone would comment, “Mmm, she looks very low. Are you feeling lots of pressure?” And I would think, “YES I AM FEELING ALL THE PRESSURES!!!!!” The heat of the tub did help to manage this pressure, but eventually even the tub couldn’t work its magic.
I got out of the tub to use the restroom. And when I came out, I said I thought it was time to push.
And it was.
Pushing was the hardest part of Carson’s birth, and so this one. Because I was so afraid of the pain, I know I held back. Though I only pushed for 30 minutes (only!?) the work was much more intense. As it turns out, Nora weighed a whole 9 ounces larger and measured a whole inch longer than Carson – so that explains the intensity! I remember thinking, “I wish they could just get her out of me.” I tried pushing on my own time, but just wasn’t finding the force I needed. We ended up directed pushing, which means that someone would count to 10 and I would push the entire time. A few pushes like that and Nora was born!
October 31, 2015
This birth was truly amazing. I have told several people it felt like a home birth in a hospital. The moment Nora was born I felt this amazing rush of oxytocin. I also loved being surrounded by an incredible birth team to share the experience. Something about marveling over birth in the presence of those who ‘get it’ is really special. We sat in that rush of emotions for quite a while. I was just amazed at how abundantly God provided during this labor. This birth was truly a powerful experience, and better than I thought it would be.
I think because the birth was so wonderful, the fact that I did experience a postpartum hemorrhage doesn’t seem as big and scary as it did at the beginning. Our midwife stayed incredibly calm when she discovered I was bleeding out and efficiently dealt with the complication. It wasn’t fun, and I’ll spare you those gory details. I’m beyond grateful that a blood transfusion was not needed and that I rebounded well. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
As I write Nora’s story, as she sweetly sleeps on my chest, my heart is truly overflowing with thankfulness. I’m thankful to God for providing safety and protection. Thankful for the beautiful, natural birth we had. Thankful that my husband and I were brought closer together. Thankful for all the details I shared and those I haven’t found the words to share. Thankful for the strength that comes from being well supported. Thankful to God for His creation of birth and the ability to have such an active role in it.