Warning: This is a birth story. I will be discussing birth. Words and images associated with birth are to be expected. If you get squeamish thinking about a cervix, you probably should skip this one! (Also, if you’re wanting to get to the ‘good stuff’, skip down to Afternoon.)
*Update* Read a different perspective of our birth story at RedeemingChildbirth.com! That post is called Natural Childbirth: Empowering & Humbling.
Welcome, Carson Anne!
The Weeks Before
The weeks leading up to Carson’s arrival were full of expectation, nerves, and a bit of frustration. I was 3-4 centimeters dilated, 80% effaced, and had several strong Braxton Hicks contractions for several weeks before she was born. Though being dilated and effaced doesn’t tell you anything about the time your baby will be born – other than your body is indeed preparing for labor – it seemed that everyone around me was on the edge of their seats waiting for me to drop a baby any day! (Carson happens to be the first grandchild on both sides of the family, so the anticipation was coming from all sides.) Looking back on those weeks, it was a wonderful time to practice waiting on the Lord and trusting in His timing.
The Night Before
The night I went into labor, a Tuesday, Ben and I watched a phenomenal sermon from J. D. Greear on parenting. God so providentially orchestrated that evening! The sermon text was Psalm 127 and there were two big ideas that I have carried with me since: 1) unless the Lord builds our home, we labor in vain and 2) our child is an arrow in our quiver, ultimately sent to us to be sent on God’s mission. Profound thoughts to take with us as we entered parenthood.
Around 10pm, I began to have contractions and around 11pm we realized they weren’t going away. Could this be it!? We used the Bradley Method to prepare for natural labor and Bradley recommends that moms try to get some rest when they realize they could be in labor. I tried my best to lay down and relax through the contractions, but sleep wouldn’t come. Also, because of Carson’s posterior position, I experienced back labor almost the entire time. Back Labor + Laying Down = No Can Do. Being the case I tried to eat and drink as much as I could, moving through each contraction, to prepare for the work ahead.
Around 3am on Wednesday morning I gave our midwife a call and after answering a few questions she asked us to come on to the hospital, just under an hour away, and get checked out. If needed, we would go back home. The drive was so calm and peaceful, just Ben and I coasting down the interstate under a huge winter sky, anticipating finally being able to meet our baby girl. Arriving at the hospital, though, was surreal. I couldn’t believe the questions that a laboring woman has to answer to get admitted. What’s my social? Where do I work? And how do you spell your name again? Questions that are certainly hard to answer during a contraction!
Finally we got to a labor and delivery room. I was so looking forward to wearing my ‘Pretty Pushers’ gown that Ben bought for me, but the hospital staff said they preferred me to wear their gown so the front could open completely. It was the first of the little hospital routines that I hated, but tried to be a good sport. A nurse checked and said I was 6cms dilated and 100% effaced. It was go time!
The morning went along pretty smoothly. Ben made all the “baby on the way” phone calls and our immediate family began to head to the hospital.
Though the hospital doesn’t really allow women to eat during labor (a totally non-evidence based practice!) our midwife said it was fine and I snacked on protein bars through the morning. Another hospital routine I found difficult to stomach was the intermittent fetal monitoring. Thankfully, I was able to choose intermittent rather than continuous monitoring, but being tethered to the bed every 30 mins was torture! In between checks from the nurses, Ben and I walked around the hallways and that seemed to help take care of some of the back labor I was experiencing.
Our doula arrived around 11am, which gave Ben a nice break to go and say hi to our family in the waiting room. Anna actually is a sweet friend of ours from church who’s a senior nursing student. She’s really interested in natural labor and was a great advocate and encouragement. She and Ben took turns applying counter pressure to my back, suggesting differing positions I might try, and giving me the support I needed to do the work ahead. At some point in the morning, the nurses gave me a saline IV. Because I hadn’t slept or eaten substantially in several hours, I was getting drained. The fluids really helped to restore stamina, but I was not a fan of keeping the IV port in my hand (another hospital practice I didn’t anticipate, but tried to handle well.)
Around 11am I was 7 centimeters dilated, and had been for a while. My water hadn’t broken yet and it was bulging, making for lots and lots of pressure and a slow labor. Our midwife suggested that she could break my water. Knowing I wanted a natural birth experience, I was really hesitant of any interventions. She sensed my hesitation and offered to let me think it through. I could decide if I wanted my water broken when she came to check on me after lunch. While she was gone I kept praying that my water would break, but nothing happened. Around 1pm when our midwife returned I decided to go ahead and let her break my waters. Though technically having my waters broken counts as an intervention, I believe that God answered my prayer to have my water broken through the midwife.
As soon as my bag broke, I felt relieved. Then the intensity kicked into high gear.
It wasn’t long after my water broke that labor really picked up. Our doula said I was close to transition, if not already there, within an hour or two. The contractions were certainly close together, strong, and long – many were close to 3 minutes! At one point I remember looking at Ben and telling him I didn’t think I could do it. “Yes you can,” he said, “You can do this.” Ben sang Victory in Jesus to me, which were the perfect words to hear. Around 4pm I got into the tub, which was wonderfully soothing after 18 hours of labor. My contractions started to take my entire concentration to get through in the labor tub. I wasn’t able to keep quiet and my deep breathing turned into moaning, which our midwife said is the kinds of noise they like to hear. It was almost time!
Around 5pm I felt the urge to push and made my way out of the tub back to the bed. I got on my knees and hugged the back of the hospital bed. Though I wanted to push, our midwife coached me to wait until that sensation built and built to a climax. Our midwife got right in my face as I was hugging the bed. She began to massage my back and said, “You are a strong woman, Victoria. You are so strong. You can do this, you can push out this baby. She’s almost here.”
Once I felt like I couldn’t do anything but push, I turned around to use the squat bar and began the most challenging hour of my life.
Pushing was by far the hardest part of labor, and the part I felt least prepared to handle. What surprised me about pushing is that you actually have to give into the pain to make it work. I thought “give in” meant something like you try to remove it from your mind. But, no. What people mean when they say give in is that you zero in on the pain, and go there with your whole mind and body. There was such intensity I wanted to run away from, but I had to confront it and push into that sensation. It was crazy.
When the pushing began in earnest, I started to make even more noise. Funnily enough, I started to ‘rawr’. Yes, ‘rawr’. Full on, all out, dinosaur rawrs! It was kind of ridiculous looking back, but you do whatever it takes! I remember praying desperately that our little girl would come quickly. Specifically, I prayed that she would come by dinnertime because I couldn’t imagine being in labor any longer. After 20 hours of labor and 1 of pushing, our beautiful baby girl came into the world at 5:58pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014. Two minutes before dinner.
I felt an overwhelming, amazing sense of accomplishment when I saw our little girl come out. My first reaction was, “I did it!” and my second, “It’s over!” I’ve never been in so much pain, but never received such a precious reward for my troubles.
Though I do feel a bit like I can tackle anything now, I certainly can’t take all the credit for giving birth! I’m so thankful to have had a natural birth experience. I’m so grateful to God for designing the amazing process of birth and for designing a woman’s body to do exactly what it needs to bear children. I’m so grateful to Ben who was my rock, my steady. To our doula who was wise and comforting. To our midwife who had such a calm and reassuring presence about her. To our nurses for wanting the best for me and our baby.
Going through labor, we heard beforehand, gives women the strength to be a mom. And now that I’ve done it, I think that’s true – but with a nuance. Natural labor gave me the strength, if you will, to learn that I must totally and wholly rely on the Lord and to trust Him to work as He does. His creation is amazing and it works amazingly well. We trust, we obey, we work, and we see Him move!
Now I’m off to go steal some newborn baby cuddles.