a pre-birth story

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(image by Meghan Rose Photography)

As I sit here at 5am, nursing Clark and thinking about where to begin with his birth story, my mind flashes back to the night before Jeremy’s graduation. I had just taken a positive pregnancy test and we decided that, since all four of our parents were there, we’d share the happy news with them over dessert. Everyone was of course elated, and as we began our move across the country, my mind filled with happy day dreams as a mom of three. A few short weeks later and those dreams came to an abrupt halt as we experienced our third miscarriage. It’s strange to think of those losses with a perfect, tiny, gently breathing rainbow in your arms. Of course my heart will always ache for who might have joined our family last January, and it still catches me off guard to meet a baby that age, but all of my children are rainbow babies, each coming after a loss, and without those losses these three brightly beaming babes wouldn’t be here. In the initial days and weeks and months after a miscarriage, it’s hard to think of that dark pain lessening. The thought of finding happiness again can feel like a betrayal. Time, however, has a way of making things right, and bringing peace to fill the cracks of despair in your heart.

Pretty soon after the miscarriage we were ready to try again. We’ve never had any trouble conceiving before, so we assumed we’d be able to plan on an early spring baby. Month after month passed, and each time my period returned. You people who have gone through infertility, I stand in awe of you.

When I think about this miraculous journey we’ve been on, the word that comes to mind is patience. Patience in waiting for a positive test, patience in pregnancy, patience in being 11 days late. Now as I look at my soft and squishy body, with my tender breasts and bags under my eyes, I’m constantly trying to remind myself that patience will be needed in this new phase, too. Patience with my body as is heals and finds a new rhythm. Patience with my older two as they experience all these changes. Patience as we settle into our new house and city.  (A lot of patience there….)

But this blog post isn’t about my current physical or emotional state, thank goodness! It’s about a beautiful baby boy and how he came into this world.

A year and a half ago while in Palmyra with my family, I let my sisters, Hannah and Rachel, know that if they ever wanted to attend a birth they were welcome to come for our third baby’s birth. We weren’t expecting yet, but we had plans to start trying after our trip to the Dominican Republic. I don’t think they were too interested at the time ;) But towards the beginning of Clark’s pregnancy they let me know they would like to be there for the birth. Hannah, especially wanted to be there. She made plans to be here for two weeks and we hoped and prayed the baby (we still didn’t know it was a boy!) would come by then. She would have planned to stay longer, but had another commitment she needed to be home for.

Days went by. Then more days passed. Still no baby.

I was beginning to feel stressed about “needing” to have the baby before she left and so sick and tired of people asking me “when’s that baby coming??!” (“I DON’T KNOW!”).

At the same time, however, I really, REALLY didn’t want to be induced. The contrast between Madeline and Luke’s births was night and day. I loved and trusted the midwives I was seeing and the thought of being stuck in a bed through labor, left to trust a doctor I didn’t know was both stressful and terrifying. I knew how much I needed to be able to move and I wanted to be able to push on my knees. I  wanted to feel each contraction, no matter how painful, and know this baby was coming closer to my arms. I wanted to experience the pain so I could have the euphoric moment I experienced when Luke was born.

In addition to all of that, Madeline wanted to come with us to the hospital and I was so looking forward to sharing the birth with her. I was afraid pitocin would be too much for me to bear without an epidural, and that wasn’t the kind of birth I wanted her to experience.

I felt so much peace and assurance that I would go into labor on my own. It was just a matter of waiting.

So wait we did.

Hannah’s commitment ended up being cancelled, so my wonderful parents switched her flight and let her stay with us the extra 10 days Rachel would be with us. That took so much weight off my shoulders I thought for sure I’d go into labor that night! But no.

Time continued to tick by.

I’d like to clarify that I was certainly doing everything in my power to get labor going. Long walks, red raspberry leaf tea, primrose oil, pumping, pineapple, spicy food, scary movies… you name it, I was doing it. I’d even had my membranes stripped. Twice.

Being induced still wasn’t an option for me, though people asked me about it on the daily. I really appreciated that at my 41 week appointment we didn’t discuss induction. They didn’t bring it up and I wasn’t ready to talk about it.

At my 41.5 appointment, baby’s fluid and heart rate continued to measure well. I was progressing and for the third week in a row my cervix felt “ready”. Why wasn’t I in labor?!

That Friday I had my membranes stripped for the third time, and this doctor (after 40 weeks you’re required to see a doctor instead of a midwife) really stripped them, but she also put a lot of pressure on me to schedule an induction for Tuesday morning. That would be the 42 week mark, but it was also the morning my sisters were flying home. I didn’t know what to do. My mind was racing. A nurse came out to tell me before I left that the doctor had scheduled me for Tuesday morning. I was pretty stinkin’ sure I hadn’t said that was what I wanted, that I had made it clear I was going to decide and get back to them. I’m sure she didn’t mean to make me feel trapped, but having a decision like that made for me, REALLY didn’t sit well with me. In fact it reminded me of everything I hated about Madeline’s birth. I was officially in full blown panic mode.

‘Had I gone almost two weeks over only to be induced? If I had to be induced anyway, why did I wait so long?! Hannah and Rachel could have spent so much more time with us after the baby instead of before. Should I be induced Monday morning instead? But Luke had come just hours before my scheduled induction. I could easily go into labor Monday night and avoid a Tuesday induction.’

I was so certain that the peace and patience I’d felt the past weeks, months even, was God’s way of telling me He would answer my prayer for a natural birth where I was in control and surrounded by people who were willing to let me lead. But maybe I had made all that up?! Who was I to expect God to give me the birth I wanted? Hadn’t He already answered the bigger prayer by giving me the baby I wanted?

I barely made it to the car before the tears started. I was at an absolute loss and nobody could tell me what to do. I poured my heart out to God and then I turned on “Be Still My Soul”. I must have listened to it five times on the drive home, sobbing all the way.

By the time I reached home I still didn’t know what to do, but I trusted whatever did happen would be okay. I was ready to move through the weekend as though we weren’t anxiously waiting for labor and face Monday when it came.

That night my sisters were kind enough to watch Madeline and Luke while Jeremy and I went out for dinner. I found myself grateful we were moving the next week. It gave us something to talk about that wasn’t baby related. I didn’t tell Jeremy, but I started having a few, small, but regular contractions during dinner. They reminded me of the contractions I had the night before Luke was born, but I didn’t dare hope something was starting to happen, which was good because they reduced to nothing by the time we got home. We went to bed and I slept as well as I had the past few months.

The next morning we got up. Jeremy went for a run, I decided to make bread. I went to the store for the yeast we were out of. Came home and realized I didn’t have enough flour either…. After two trips to the store and 10 minutes of kneading, I was worn out. I took a shower and planned to take a nap, but after showering I discovered bloody show! This was at about 11am. Never have I been so excited to see something so gross!

I decided that in leu of a nap I’d do a little more pumping. That was the only thing that had ever gotten contractions going, they just always fizzled out. Towards the end of an hour of pumping the contractions started. They were every 3 minutes on the dot, and quickly picking up in intensity. Each contraction felt like a wave, and every time I found comfort in squatting, supporting myself with the nearest piece of furniture. I’d close my eyes and visualize waves. I’d imagine them washing over me, pouring through me. They were so real I could hear them, feel them.  I particularly visualized Brynn Casey’s waves. (I’ve followed her on instagram for a while and wish I could justify buying on of her originals ;)  hopefully someday!) Isn’t that interesting? I had no intention of using the ocean as a tool for labor, but it was all I could think about each time.

I certainly couldn’t walk/talk during contractions, but once they had passed I felt fine again, (for two minutes until the next one). I felt so silly, I was in pain one minute, then had a slap happy grin on my face the next, because I WAS ACTUALLY HAVING MY OWN CONTRACTIONS!!!!

After an hour of consistent contractions, I texted my friend Emily to give her the heads up that we may need her to watch Luke that afternoon. Bless her for being on call so long!

We continued going about our day, had lunch, I finished getting ready and after two hours we decided we should probably pack for the hospital. (It gets my hopes up too much to do it before I know a baby is coming ;) Plus you still need half of the stuff you want to bring. I make a list in the weeks leading up to the due date so I remember what I want to pack.) All the while my contractions continued to be three minutes apart.

After three full hours we called the birth center. Of course another contraction came right as the phone was answered. Jeremy took over and told her about the past few hours. The woman on the line asked if I was sure I was in labor (third baby lady! 11 days overdue. This is it!) We told her we’d get there in the next 45 minutes.

We dropped Luke off at 3:15. He was so exited to play with his friends. I really worried that he’d feel left out with the rest of us (Jeremy, Madeline, Hannah and Rachel) all going to the hospital, but he didn’t seem bothered at all.

Before we left home, I tried to draw a heart on his hand and one on mine so he’d remember I was thinking about him and that I loved him. He didn’t like that and insisted I take it off immediately…. Pretty sure I cried then decided to be grateful he didn’t care that he was being left behind.

We got to the birth center/hospital right about 4pm.

Annnnnndddd……. they were out of rooms. “There is no room at the Inn” will forever hold a deeper meaning to me.

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