Friday, July 21, 2017
Ellis' birth story.
The final two weeks before Ellis' birth were grueling. For days on end, I contracted every 15 minutes or so, even through the night. This phenomenon has a name -- prodromal labor -- and it's depleting in every way. At my 37-week appointment, I was 3cm dilated and 60% effaced. It was encouraging to know that these contractions were doing something. Still, I knew of other moms who had walked around at 3cm dilated for weeks, so I wasn't hopeful he was coming soon.
On Sunday (the day before he was born), the kids and I stayed home from church because I could barely function. I was 37 weeks pregnant and had hit a wall. After cramping and contracting off and on for 24 hours, I told Shawn through tears, "I think I'd rather die than give birth." In reality, the only thing that would bring relief would be to give birth. But I couldn't think or see clearly at that point. Shawn's mom was able to jump in and help with the big kids while I limped around contracting all day. I was a miserable sight, I'm sure.
That night, I texted my sister and parents and a few close friends and emailed the pastors' wives at our church just begging for prayers for mercy on me. I was discouraged and afraid that I wouldn't be able to make it to the hospital in time for pain relief... or possibly worse, that I would be pregnant for weeks more. I spent some time in the Word and read through positive birth affirmations, asking the Lord to reset my outlook and give me strength for labor and delivery. Honestly, my expectations for a positive birth experience were very low and I needed my family and my Jesus to remind me to keep my head up and finish strong.
The following morning, exactly two weeks before my due date, a strong contraction startled me awake. I focused on my breathing because this one felt different - lower, stronger, longer. A few minutes later, another one came. Though it felt powerful, nothing was really that different from previous days when I'd been contracting consistently for hours. When I stood up to get out of bed, I felt a small gush of fluid. Shawn and I had prayed specifically for my water to break at the beginning of labor (in order to know for sure I was in labor and head to the hospital in time), but I still didn't really believe it would actually happen that way. I texted my OB to let him know about my water possibly breaking, and he told me I could come into the office for a labor check.
As I was getting ready, though, I had doubts. The contractions had stopped, and no more fluid was leaking out at all. It wouldn't hurt to check, though. We brought our half-packed hospital bag in the car just in case, but I wasn't feeling very hopeful that this was it.
Once arriving to the office, I still wasn't contracting, but was examined anyway. Surprisingly, my doctor tested the fluid and yes, it was my bag of waters that had started to leak. And yes, I was at least 4cm dilated and 80% effaced. Hearing those words was a game changer for me. We were directly admitted to the hospital to bypass triage (where I had given birth to Lanie) and our doctor congratulated us on having a baby... today! I still didn't quite believe it as I wasn't having any contractions, and felt nervous that going straight to the hospital would commence a string of interventions if I wasn't progressing (i.e. Pitocin, C-section, etc.). I asked if I could go walk around the mall for a bit before heading to the hospital, but my doctor was adamant that we get to the hospital soon, reminding me, "You know your body... you can progress from 4cm to 9cm really fast."
Amazingly, the moment we checked into the hospital, the contractions started with a vengeance. They were every two minutes and powerful. It's as if my mind told my body, "You made it here and it's a safe place to give birth... now go!" The nurse brought us to our room and made quick work of drawing labs and paging the anesthesiologist because I knew I wanted an epidural this time around. Within 20 minutes, the epidural was in. I was so impressed and so, so grateful for their expediency. Soon, though, I started feeling anxious and shaky, probably a combination of the epidural and dilating quickly. Shawn turned on Fernando Ortega music on my phone and read the first three chapters of Ephesians to me while I sipped apple juice and munched on an orange popsicle. Nurses came in and out of the room and were confused at just how peaceful it felt. We knew God's presence was there.
An hour into my hospital stay, around 12pm, I was checked and found to be 7cm dilated. About 30 minutes later, my contractions were slowing a bit, so I was checked again. 8cm. A few minutes after that, I felt strong pressure and knew I was complete. The epidural was working, but I had asked for the smallest dosage available, so I felt each contraction and the undeniable pressure to push. The nurse and the doctor came a few minutes later, set up the room, turned on the warming table, and helped me put my legs up. As soon as I felt a contraction, I pushed a few times, felt the ring of fire, and gave birth to his head. One more strong push and he was out. 12:57pm. 2.5 hours of active labor, one contraction-worth of pushes. My most peaceful labor and delivery yet, by far.
Beautiful baby Ellis was placed on my chest and immediately began to pink up and cry. He was exactly the same weight as Lanie was, and his face looked identical to Liam's as a newborn, dimples and all. He had a head full of auburn hair, wide glittering eyes, and such a peaceful demeanor.
I don't think I realized just how much trauma was still lingering in my heart from Lanie's whirlwind, out-of-control birth experience in triage two years ago until the final days leading up to Ellis' birth. I felt so helpless in the face of a mountain of fear. Shawn helped me to pray specific, bold prayers to the Lord surrounding his birth - but I have to admit, I didn't really believe that He would answer them. In a haze of fear and doubt, I believed that fast, chaotic, wildly painful labors were just my lot in life and I would just have to get through it somehow. It wasn't a faith-filled response, but it's how I processed it. So for the Lord to choose to answer my faithless prayers in ways I couldn't have even imagined just undid me in the best way. I never imagined this would be my smoothest, even enjoyable birth; that at the end, I would say "I could do that again tomorrow!" Our God is so kind, so much more than I deserve - not only to give us a perfectly healthy boy, but to bless me with such a redeeming birth experience.