Our Birth Story: He Carried Me Gently {Part 1}

I watched the sun rise from my living room love seat while I dozed between contractions, knowing that I would be meeting my daughter before the day was out. There were several moments I thought I should get up and wake my husband. Then I would think of the poking, prodding hospital scene and just close my eyes, wishing I could just press the fast forward button. Just tell me when to go, Jesus. I'm going to sleep.

I spent the last weeks of my pregnancy dreaming of a home birth. The idea of rushing to the hospital at the last moment and possibly ending up with a highway (or elevator or hallway) delivery filled me with tremendous anxiety. I remembered last time and all I really wanted was to labor (if labor I must) in the calm and comfort and silence of home.

We have never had a home birth and likely never will. My husband is a first responder. A fire chief. He knows how precious a single minute can be when someone's life hangs in the balance and we have needed neonatal intervention on more than one occasion. He could easily deliver a baby under normal conditions but also has a great regard for what emergency medical staff can do when they are needed. And I concur.

Four Days Before Delivery
So I waited a little anxiously through those weeks, balking a bit at the weight of the responsibility of being the only one who knows when to say "It's time" and knowing that it is more of an art than a science, which is why pregnant women seem to give birth in awkward places with some frequency.

We had spoken with the midwife earlier in pregnancy about the possibility of breaking my water to induce as we neared the due date. My body does not seem willing to deliver a baby without my water breaking, but once it does, the baby arrives very rapidly. If we know you're close, she said, I think it is something to consider. Get you settled in and then let the baby come as fast as she likes. I wasn't comfortable with the close margin last time. Yeah. I was pretty uncomfortable with that too. We went from 6cm dilated to baby in about 5 minutes which was physically and emotionally difficult. We all expressed our hopes for a slightly slower and calmer experience for the good of baby and mother.

As a result of odd body signals and an itchy trigger finger, I had three incidents of "false" labor in two weeks this time, during which I was 99% sure that it was time to go. I was wrong... and grateful for the strong hospital aversion that kept me dragging my heels long enough to discover that I was wrong before leaving home. Hospitals make me anxious. Highway deliveries make me anxious. All right, Jesus, it's time to lay it at your feet...

Whatever needs to happen, Lord, just let me know in time. I'll follow your lead. I'll pay attention, you call the shots. If we need to stay home, please make it clear. If we need to go, get me out the door in time.

As our due date grew nearer, I felt an incredible and increasing confidence that the Lord would indeed lead me well. My anxiety stemmed solely from not knowing what that would look like and the loss of personal control (as if I could handle anything better than the good Lord). By the time I started experiencing early signs of labor the day before delivery, I was simply anxious to see what was in store and what my role in the whole thing would need to be.

As I lay in that Thursday morning sunlight, I knew it was almost time. But Wednesday came first... and that's when the sticky art of labor discernment began in earnest. A full day to know and wait and make a conscious effort to meet my daughter with deliberate joy.

On Wednesday, I awakened to contractions. That was nothing new but I was also feeling extremely ill. My body started to clean out (all you labor-experienced moms know what I mean). Pressure increased. These are definitely labor signs. The question is whether they stick this time. My labors do not follow the textbook directions. I do not have regular contractions of any regular duration or any bloody show until my water breaks. By that time... well... by that time, it's TIME. So I just spent the day contracting irregularly and waiting. My appetite was poor. My irritation level was high. I just wanted to lay down in bed and stay there until the baby was born.

Jesus, please just let me stay home in the calm and quiet. The next minute I would remember the wishes of my husband and the medical emergencies of past deliveries... Jesus, please just let me know when it's time to go.

Almost all of my deliveries have happened in the morning and I suspect it is because of the natural hormone surge that happens at that time of day. I thought that I'd go to bed, get some sleep, and likely have a baby by the afternoon. It turns out that this is precisely what happened.

Thursday... Birth Day.
As I lay in the stillness of the early morning, I felt fear settling in and my typical fight or flight response amp up. Escape. Sleep. Ignore. I seem to prefer a semi-conscious state when dealing with stress. I knew it was time to get ready to go but my body screamed STAY.

I began to slowly make plans. Wake up the Chief. Wake up Cookie, my 13-year old daughter who would be there for the birth. I had packed everything the night before. All that was left was to call our midwife and leave.

And then I fell asleep for another couple of hours.

When I woke up, I quickly recalled the situation and also that I had decided to laugh when I went into labor because I wanted to meet my daughter with joy. In fact, I posted it on Facebook to help with accountability. So I laughed. A stage laugh. And I plastic smiled. And then I really giggled at how foolish my fears were, placed it all in God's hands, and grinned with genuine delight. I was going to ignore my inclinations and weak temperament and let God light up the day. Come, Holy Spirit! My real smile came and went but I figured a plastic smile still trumps a frown.

Before leaving the house, I posted a prayer request on Facebook and checked my blog feed to look for updates of Sarah and her twin boys. An update showed that she was in labor so I offered a prayer for her and gave myself a pep talk: She's delivering TWO... I think you can handle one! Pressin' on.

The Ride.
The ride to the hospital was very different from last time. No transitioning in the car, thank God. I was definitely in labor but my water hadn't broken yet so I had the comfort of time. And the discomfort of time. I had time to relax and breathe and time to fret. I also had time to think about the fact that I actually had time for an epidural if I wanted one. Oh, temptation!! I decided to ignore the thought and press on. If I engaged with that emotional issue, I would lose the decision I felt was best to a decision made in a spirit of fear. I'm ignoring you, epidural. You don't exist for me today. Soon. Soon it will be over.

Cookie was quiet as a mouse in the car. She is not a very verbally expressive person so I am accustomed to her silences during significant moments. But I know she was nervous and also that she was wonderful as she geared up for the great unknown. As we drove along, I thought that I could have prepared her better but knew she would be fine... and shortly, I was too consumed with labor to have time to worry.

To be continued.... here.

Posted on July 25, 2013 and filed under "birth story", "childbirth", "labor".