Monday, June 24, 2013

Birth Story

Our beautiful Elena is here. She is perfect. We are so happy. I wanted to share my birth story for anyone who is interested.

In addition to telling the story of the birth I want to acknowledge how we saw God’s hand in the labor and delivery process. I also want to express how grateful I am for modern medicine and medical professionals.

Just the right time

I think there is always some anxiety towards the end of a pregnancy, knowing that the birth is coming soon but not knowing when and having virtually no control over it. You have mixed feelings – you’re excited to meet your precious child, you’re really looking forward to not being pregnant any more as things are getting more uncomfortable. You’re also nervous for going through the pain of giving birth as well as the huge responsibility of taking care of a child.

We felt all of these things. We also were trying to plan a lot of family events and travels around this birth. We really didn’t know when would be best and of course we couldn’t control it anyway. So over the past few weeks we had been praying that she would come at the right time for her, for us, and for our family.

This week I had pretty much accepted that she wouldn’t come yet. Her due date was Monday June 24 and based on my lack of progression my doctor didn’t think she would come early. I felt prompted to make plans and stay busy. This made sense to me because if I had been waking up every day thinking, “it could be today!” I would just end up being nervous, anxious and depressed with the disappointment and anticipation. So I am happy to say I made plans and had a good week.

Here maybe I’ll add a few details about the birth story timeline. Monday night I had a lot of contractions during the night. It was a little hard for me, I was used to sleeping pretty well and only getting up a time or two to use the restroom. At one point I think I had three contractions in one hour. This was hard not just because it was a bit painful, but because it got my mind in labor mode. I was visualizing the contractions getting worse and us going to the hospital. So it was a mental shift when in the morning it seemed clear that wasn’t going to happen. I went on a walk and went about my day accomplishing things.

This is why I was grateful that I had felt prompted to make plans. I had contractions every night that week. And while it made for rough nights, I was really grateful to be able to move on in the morning and have a good day. I continued going on my daily walks all week. I think exercising really helped my pregnancy, birth and recovery process, by the way.

Back to the timing: we thought it would be nice if she was born on a weekend so Jeff wouldn’t have to miss work to be there at the birth and help me adjust to the change in the following days and nights. I wasn’t counting on it though because she was due on Monday. We also thought it would be nice if I wasn’t during the night because Jeff doesn’t do well staying up….

We got one of those wishes, not the other, and also a surprise – she was born on our Anniversary!

She was born on the weekend – Saturday morning. Jeff doesn’t work on Fridays so he was there that day too.

I was in labor all night so Jeff didn’t get his wish there. But God made up for that in other ways. Thursday night Jeff was so tired he actually went to bed at 6 pm…and slept until 6 am. That was the night I had the worst contractions, so he was up with me a bit to offer comfort and support, but there wasn’t much he could do, so mostly he slept. Also, Thursday was the one day I didn’t make any plans, and I ended up taking two naps that day instead of one. I think that was good preparation for being in labor all night the next day.


Thursday night was pretty hard. My contractions were painful, and they were happening almost every 5 to 10 minutes. Definitely kept me from sleeping. And yet they weren’t close enough together to merit going to the hospital. I went back and forth between laying in bed trying to bear it and getting up and walking around. I eventually resorted to playing games on the computer between contractions. By 4 in the morning I was so tired, and would almost fall asleep, but a contraction would come again without fail. This was all very discouraging.

By Friday morning the contractions were almost always 5 minutes apart, so I felt like that was close enough to the recommended 3-5 minutes; plus they were just so consistent. So we decided to go to the hospital. They let us in for a labor check. I’m really glad they do that. It’s actually nice to be able to be in the labor and delivery unit and get a feel for what it’s like before you actually go into labor. So anyway, they had me sit there for an hour so see if I progressed at all during that time.

I sat in a chair and breathed through each contraction. The time actually passed pretty quickly. I got better at embracing the contractions. Instead of breathing in a tense, glottal kind of way and griping the chair I was sitting in, I tried breathing smoothly through my nose and focusing on the pain in order to kind of accept it and let it pass instead of fighting it.

At the end of the hour I had not progressed. Then they gave me the option of walking around for an hour. So I gave that a try. I also stopped in my room a few times to try having a contraction with one leg up on the bed in order to encourage progression. But maybe that doesn’t work unless you’re actually in labor. Because it turned out I didn’t progress so I wasn’t really in labor.

Then they gave me the welcome option of having a morphine shot in my hip. I liked this idea because it would give me relief from the contractions I’d been having all night and allow me to sleep a little! If I did go into labor later that day I thought it would be really difficult without having got any sleep the night before. I will probably say this again, but I am so grateful for drugs! That shot really helped my day. I got a four hour nap. I still had some contractions, but they were not as frequent and not as bad.


This is the least fun part of the whole experience. But I got through it. Friday I did feel some anxiety because I felt it was likely that I would go into labor, and that was scary! But I also wasn’t sure.

As the evening wore on my contractions started getting steadier again. They weren’t quite a close together as they were before. But I remember when I got out of the shower I just did not feel good. I felt kind of achy. I really wanted to go to the hospital. Soon enough my contractions got more intense and I felt my whole uterus spasming. I got the shakes. I couldn’t really relax through it any more. I threw up for the first time in months. I felt a little scared and out of control. So we got in the car once again, this time I felt a lot more distressed but way more confident I would be admitted.

I was admitted. This was between 6 and 7 pm.  For a while I continued to feel out of control. I wanted pain meds! My nurse was so great and made me feel like I wasn’t a baby. I couldn’t have meds yet though, because they had to see if I was progressing, or in other words, in active labor. But it’s funny I remember all of a sudden I was so tired I just closed my eyes and kept breathing. I felt relaxed. When the nurse came back and asked how I was doing I said, “I’m about to fall asleep!” She was like, “How?” The out of control girl she just met was no longer there. So that was interesting.

I think I just kept breathing through as I progressed from a 3 to a 5. I tried getting a narcotic drip in my IV. Made me feel really relaxed…but didn’t really help the contractions fell any better. They were getting worse. The nurse assured me in honesty that they would get even worse. That’s when I decided to get an epidural.

A note about my “birth plan.” Around 6 months pregnant I started researching this like crazy. I looked into hypnobirthing, looked up pre-natal classes, read and listened to other birth stories. I felt that a natural birth seemed ideal, but I just couldn’t foresee how labor would be for me—I’d never done it before! I felt the most peace when I gave myself permission to get an epidural. I felt that the anxiety of trying not to get one would probably make the whole labor experience worse. My doctor assured me that I didn’t need to decide beforehand. So that’s where I left it.

So I got my epidural. I was told I lucked out and got the best anesthesiologist. It went fine. I appreciated not feeling the contractions. What surprised me is how much it bothered me that I couldn’t feel my legs. It actually made me pretty anxious. I guess it gave me a slight loss of control, which I don’t enjoy. But I just kept praying that I would be patient. Now that I couldn’t feel contractions, it was just a waiting game. I was just happy I made it till 1:30 am, dilated to a 5 before getting the epidural. I would recommend waiting as long as possible – because I hated not being able to feel and move my legs, and they just got more and more numb as time went on.

Finally around 6 in the morning when I was dilated to an 8 I remember I fell asleep. I asked the nurse if it was bad and she encouraged me to get some rest. I just thought it was so weird to be having such intense contractions (over a minute long and like 2 minutes apart) without feeling them.

Jeff was there with me the whole time by the way. Sometimes he would hold my hand. Sometimes he and I would both doze off. The sun came up on our anniversary and I was getting closer and closer to being able to push.


It was around 7 am when I was fully dilated and the nurse said we were going to start pushing. Once again, very strange to be entering into such an intense physical process with no feeling in my lower body. But I was very grateful I couldn’t feel. The nurse guided my pushing. She and Jeff held my legs close to my chest – they felt like lead to me. She had Jeff count and I gradually figured out how to push productively despite not being able to feel. Eventually they got me a mirror so I could see. She kept telling me I was doing beautifully. She had the doctor come in to receive the baby. He explained that when I stop to take a breath I need to not let go of the pressure so we don’t loose what we’ve gained. That made sense. I did that and things got closer. As I watched that head crown and the doctor decided to give me an episiotomy I was so grateful I couldn’t feel. That made pushing pretty easy.


I pushed for under an hour. I remember seeing the head coming out and hearing a nurse say, “You’re going to have a baby!” After that it was really fast. Out she came, all bloody, and crying! Besides being healthy, that cry just made me realize how alive she was. This baby that had been in my dark uterus, unknown by me, had a living soul! She had just had a traumatic experience and now she was here with us. My heart went out to her as my eyes followed her. She had to be checked by the NICU team first because there was light meconium in my water. She was fine though.

Jeff got to hold her hand and talk to her while she was cleaned up and weighed. It took longer than I would have liked for them to give me the baby. But it was really special to watch Jeff hold her because she just looked right up into his eyes and locked her gaze there. She knew her daddy’s voice.

I quickly became convinced of how perfect she is! As I watched them clean her off I thought she looked like the perfect size. She was 8 lbs. Not too big (my sisters and I were all well over 9 lbs, so I was nervous) and not too small. She has beautiful blue eyes, brown hair, and CHUBBY CHEEKS! This is following after the Bement pattern.

So it was an exciting moment. I could talk all about recovery and learning to breastfeed...but maybe we'll save that for another time. I just wanted to add again how grateful I am for hospitals, for pain relieving medicine, for helpful nurses. Labor is pretty intense but the whole process went pretty smoothly. I was really well taken care of afterwards too. They have it down to a system!

Best Anniversary gift ever! (the baby in the background...the flowers from Jeff were nice too)