(I will try and share to the best of my ability. I knew having a baby would be an emotional event, but nothing could prepare me for the day of September 24, 2013.)
The week of my due date, I was showing all the signs of labor, and was sure our little one would make her debut. Every morning, I would wake up and tell Levi "today is the day", and each day, nothing. I tried to keep my spirits up, but my body was getting uncomfortable, and we were antsy to meet our little girl.
I packed my 'birthing center bag' with all of my essentials. Change of clothes, swimsuit for the birth pool, peppermint oil (I was obsessed with this during pregnancy), snacks, coconut water for hydration, toiletries, birthing ball, iPAD with loaded playlist. I had checklists for my checklists, and was beyond prepared for when the time came. Diaper bag was packed, the car was being filled up with gas daily, and every 'baby essential to do list' that I could find online was fulfilled.
After a week of false labor signs, I stopped waking up saying "today is the day". I accepted the idea that I would remain pregnant forever. My hips would hurt for 9 more months. I would pee my pants for the rest of my life, and cry uncontrollably when Subway got my sandwich order wrong. This was my fate.
The evening of the 23rd, as Levi and I were lying in bed, I turned to him and said "tomorrow afternoon I am going into labor". He smirked and agreed. Since this was the 100th time he had heard this proclamation, I knew his agreement was just to humor me. I said it differently this time, though. It wasn't a guess, or even a hopeful statement. It was a demand. More of a "I swear to God, Uterus, if you don't get this baby out of me…" type statement. The threat worked.
At 6:30 a.m. the next morning, I woke up to excruciating stomach pain. I laid there seeing if it would go away, but it stayed. I rolled myself off the bed, (gracefully sitting up out of bed was so 3 months ago), and walked to the bathroom. I thought for sure this wasn't a contraction. Those things are supposed to stop and start, right? I leaned over the bathroom counter for a good 10 minutes trying to get this thing to go away. It started to subside a little, but I was still very much aware of it.
I'm a pretty dramatic person, which is why I think most of my family/friends thought I could never handle childbirth. Being that dramatic person, I thought for sure these weren't contractions, but a heart attack, or an appendix attack. I mean, I'm 41 weeks pregnant, surely an appendix attack is more of an appropriate response to stomach pain.
I climbed into the shower, and tried to get the pain to disappear altogether with the hot water. I had read in one of my childbirth books, that in the first stages of labor one can be in denial that it's finally happening. I was in full blown stage one: DENIAL.
Along with my dramatic antics, once I think something, it takes a LOT to convince me otherwise. Since the Lord knows this, and was aware that I was convinced I was having an appendix attack, took the opportunity to get me in check. Standing in the shower, I heard His voice SO clearly say: "Get out of the shower, get Levi, you are in labor". A rush of urgency came over me, and I followed commands.
As Levi called my midwife, and packed the car, I sat on my birth ball, trying to relax between contractions. They were about 8 minutes apart at this point, but interestingly enough were manageable, now that I knew what they were.
Sidenote: I had a 'birth binder' that I was obsessed with the last month of pregnancy. I was keeping everything important in it: a very detailed birth plan, insurance documents, numbers for everyone involved, printed out plans and reminders for Levi categorized by each stage of labor. Yes, I'm a bit out of control. I whipped it out daily to go over. What was the one thing I forgot as I got in the car to head to the birthing center? The binder. God was apparently in the car when I found out, because I didn't cry or rip Levi's head off. I had that thing memorized. Crisis averted.
By the time we were in the car, driving towards the highway, it was 8:00 am. It hit both of us at the same time. We were in full blown labor in the middle of 8 o' clock Houston traffic. My birthing center was 45 minutes away on a day without traffic. This could take hours. I tried to remain calm, but my contractions were getting much stronger and closer together, and the car was not making it easy to endure. Levi was not taking my suggestions on driving 90mph on the shoulder of the interstate, or calling 911 for an escort. I tried my breathing techniques, but nothing could really get me out of how uncomfortable that front seat was making me.
We miraculously got the birth center a little after 9:00. My midwife wasn't convinced I was in labor when Levi called her. I was still walking and talking during contractions at home when Levi called, but claiming my pain was intense. She told him to still bring me in, and would send me home if I wasn't far enough along. She smiled as I walked in the door, and joked that I couldn't be in labor because she just saw me fixing my hair in the car mirror before coming inside.
We walked back to where I have my prenatal appointments (looks just like a doctors office), so she could check to see if I was dilated. Before she could ever start, I had another contraction. This one was way stronger. I jumped off the table and leaned over her counter. She rubbed my back the whole time, and once it was over said "how about we move on over to the birthing room".
The birthing room looks like a hotel suite. There is a big bed, sitting area with a fireplace, an attached room with a birthing tub, and shower. She lowered the lights, started filling up the birth tub, and called the other midwives. After another contraction, she asked me to lay down so that she could finally check my dilation. Never once was I told how far dilated or effaced I was. I asked a few times during labor how much longer I had, but was never told. This is to keep out any fear. If you are in excruciating pain, and are told you are only 3cm dilated, you are going to stress out, and tense your body up.
I now know that I was 5cm when she first checked me at 9:30.
I paced around the room for the next 30 minutes, waiting on the birth tub. I sat on my birth ball during contractions, and tried to rest in between. One of my favorite quotes was printed on the wall, and I tried to focus my mind and energy on it.
"You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think".
Thank you, Christopher Robin, for the pep talk during labor. Finally, I got in the tub, to try and relieve some of the tension. My midwife (Alison) who was actually delivering the baby arrived, along with the center's doula. These three were at all of my appointments, and I felt a little calmer finally having everyone in the room.
Levi began making the "phone tree" calls. He contacted my mom (who was waiting for the call to get on a plane), my dad, brothers and sisters, and friends. Only a few people were forgotten, but given the circumstances, I think we did a pretty good job.
He then came inside and turned on the labor playlist and sat down by the edge of the tub. He was such an excellent coach, reminding me to breathe, and reaffirming me that I was doing a wonderful job.
The next 2 1/2 hours are a blur. I remained in the tub for most of my contractions. The water took away so much of the pain. Everyone kept reminding me to rest between contractions, but it took me a few tries to get into the swing of things. Once I got into a groove, I was actually falling asleep in the water between a few them. Levi would follow me around the tub, and hold my head above water while I rested/slept. Every 30 minutes or so, I would stand up out of the tub, so that they could check the babies heart rate.
I had one really intense contraction around 11:30 that the water wasn't helping, and decided to get out. I walked to my birth ball in the other room, but it only made things worse. My doula put me on my hands and knees for my next contraction, where she applied pressure to my lower back. This is when things got crazy, and I entered into 'transition' phase.
I started feeling very nauseous at this point, and told everyone I thought I was going to throw up. Next things I knew, there was a trash can in my face, and all modesty was out the window. I heard my doula whisper to Levi "this is a very good sign; this is what we want to see towards the end." The END. Overhearing these words gave me so much hope.
I made my way back to the birthing tub where I endured my transition phase. This is the hardest part of labor, but was the shortest. Mine lasted about 30 minutes, with contractions coming every 2 minutes, lasting about a minute each. I don't remember a lot from this stage (I actually didn't remember vomiting, until Levi reminded me the next day). All techniques we had rehearsed completely disappeared. I don't remember the music playing, I could car less that the lights were dimmed, and I sure as heck didn't remember how to do the relaxation/breathing methods I had practiced daily for the past few months. I remember sitting up in the tub, with Levi leaning over the edge. WIth every contraction, I would grab his shirt, our faces inches apart, and I would just cry that I couldn't do it anymore. He would graciously remind me that it was almost over, and that I was doing a great job. He even told me how beautiful I looked, which helped a little, considering I was red faced and soaking wet, and I knew only he could think of me like that in the current circumstance.
There was no way for me to get comfortable in this stage. I moved all around the tub during contractions. This is where the 'F' words come into the story. I went back and forth between Alison and Levi, getting right in their faces saying "I can't do it anymore, I can't do it anymore."
My sweet midwives actually described this stage to my mom as "cute". They said I was leaned over the edge of the tub, clinging to Levi's shirt, softly saying "I don't know why I thought this would be a good idea". What they didn't know was during this time, I was convinced I could communicate with Levi telepathically, and was telling him to "call 9-1-1, get me out of here, I want the epidural!". When telepathy didn't work, I tried to whisper to him to get me an ambulance, but I couldn't get loud enough for him to hear. I would have said it louder, but I knew the midwives would hear me, and I didn't want to hurt their feelings. I looked over and saw Alison put on gloves, and it was all I needed to know that we were so close to the end.
The contractions suddenly stopped. I got a few minutes in of rest, and then suddenly had the urge to push. I looked at Alison and said "I feel like I want to push". She held up her gloves, and with a smile on her face said "well, push." Surprisingly, pushing was way easier than contractions. Over the next 25 minutes, I gave 4 good pushes. The baby was crowning with the first one, and I began to get nervous that I needed to speed things up and get her out. Alison told me to relax, that tensing up wouldn't help. With the final push, I let out a scream, and felt instant relief. It was the best feeling in the world, that took over my entire body. They say you can reach a natural high while giving birth, and I absolutely agree. That feeling was one I have no words for.
Levi caught the baby, and once his sweet silent sobs stopped, he smiled at me, and the baby let out a good solid cry. She was so beautifully blue and weird looking, and I was instantly in love. He leaned further over the tub with her, and placed her in my arms. Right then and there, I forgot all the contraction pain. She took over every thought and emotion I had.
After a few minutes of crying, laughing, bonding, and more crying, I had to get out of the birth tub. That's the only problem with water births; you have to get out pretty soon after delivering, so you can deliver the placenta. I stood up, and got a wave of dizziness over my body. Everyone had their hands on me and the baby, making sure they would catch me if I fainted. They moved me into the bed where Levi layed down next to me. We just stared at our darling babe, and I delivered my placenta (which I hardly have any memory of).
It's amazing to see how babies respond with an unmedicated birth. She was so alert and responsive. She nursed as soon as we got into the bed. The midwives gave Levi and I a long time by ourselves to bond with the baby. We just laid there and thanked the Lord for her, and cried and laughed some more. Levi thanked me for not killing him during labor, and kept telling me what an incredible job I did.
The midwives came back into the room, and Levi went with them to weigh the baby, and cut the umbilical cord. I love that he was so involved with the entire process. They came and check me out afterwards. I (praise the Lord) didn't need a single stitch, and my only symptom was feeling super faint. Levi fed me Cliff bars and coconut water to get my energy up. I laid there, babe in arms, and couldn't believe I had endured the past 3 hours in the birthing center. There was no reason for me to stay at the birth center over night because I was doing so well. Alison helped me shower, pack my bags, and we were on our way home around 3:30. At the time this didn't seem too insane, but when you tell people, "she arrived at 12:25, and I was in line at chick-fil-A four hours later", you start to question if you really are insane.
From start to final push, I was in labor 6 hours. A completely unmedicated water birth to a very healthy 8 lb. 3.5 ounce baby.
I couldn't have done it without my birth team, and am so grateful for what each one of them offered me. The experience empowered me, strengthened me, and made me fall madly in love all at the same time.
Jerusalem Lillian Grace
A few weeks prior to her arrival, I was sitting in church talking to the Lord. I had my hands on my baby bump, and I heard Him say: "she will be your rest".
Levi had suggested the name Jerusalem in the early stages of pregnancy. The Lord had told him many years ago that his first girl would be name 'Jerusalem'. It's also his favorite place in the world, so that is convenient. I wasn't absolutely sold on the name at first, because I had a dream that her name was something totally different. Once I heard the Lord say "she will be your rest", I immediately thought of the city of peace, and started researching the word. It's an abode a peace, the city where God chose to dwell, reveal himself, and return.
In different seasons of our lives, Song of Solomon has spoken deeply to our hearts. "I am a rose of sharon, a lily of the valleys". We chose Lillian based on this verse, representing beauty and innocence.
Grace. The favor of God. A Blessing. She is just that to us. An undeserved blessing, that we are so in love with.