Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How She Came

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice. Psalm 55:17

Baby CJ (yes, she's named now) at about 3 minutes old

So, I used the above scripture partly in seriousness and also a little tongue in cheek...it was the verse that came to mind when I thought of sharing about Baby's birth. You see, if natural childbirth advocates were looking for a laboring woman to use as an example to promote their cause, I would not be a good choice. What I mean is, I am not one of these stalwart, graceful laboring ladies you see on those documentaries about childbirth. Evening, morning, and noon I cried out in distress!

I knew what it would probably be like - at least the pain part. My first two girls were born without my getting an epidural. With numbers three and four, I said, "hook me up to the meds!"

Anyway, our decision to have the baby at a birthing center meant pain medication of any kind would not be an option. We chose a non-hospital birth in an effort to enjoy more personal care. More personal care (which we did get!) just happened to mean signing up for a natural childbirth.

The last photo of me pregnant, surrounded by my "pillow fort." BB said it was the "Beth Cave" (instead of the bat-cave). In spite of my good intentions to get those last minute belly shots during labor, we both forgot, so this is it. I was actually not having contractions in this photo...they were still a good half hour apart, so was just trying to rest.

On with the birth story! I had my 40 week prenatal visit last Wednesday at 10 am. I'd been having scattered, mild contractions since 1am. She checked me (for the first time in the pregnancy) and found I was only at 1cm but very effaced. Her feeling was that this was labor, but that Baby probably wouldn't be coming that day. Recommendation: go home and sleep, because the labor will likely ramp up in the night.

So, CA and I came on home - she went with me to more prenatals than the other girls. Her favorite part was always hearing the heartbeat, and sometimes, when the midwife was feeling my belly for Baby's size and position, CA would jump up from her seat and come put a hand on me, too. Sweet.

I tried for that recommended nap, which was interrupted by several contractions, so I eventually got up. BB was able to sign off work early and just be available. Everyone began to get excited - imagine the energy level around here, with all five of the big girls charged up, knowing Baby might come in the night or morning! BB, who did so many thoughtful, wise, kind things for me throughout the labor, found some episodes of Twilight Zone for all of us to watch. It's a bizarre tradition we have - watching that show while I'm in labor. I don't remember which child it began with, but with one of them there was a Twilight Zone marathon on tv. I love the show and it proved to be a pleasant distraction back then and this time around, too. And, is labor itself not a bit like being in a strange twilight zone? It is for me, anyway.

Around supper time I retreated upstairs to our bedroom in an attempt to rest again (see the pillow fort photo :-), and that's the time I consider to be the real beginning of labor, because from that point on, the contractions became timeable and consistently stronger. They began at about 30 minutes apart. BB got the kids down to bed. Bless his heart, not an easy task on such a night. Then he came to me in our room and we just hung out together, waiting for contractions. He could see that I was overly focused on anticipating the next one, so he suggested more Twilight Zone, and then set that up for me to watch on the laptop as a distraction. After about two and a half episodes - with him pausing it during each contraction - I realized I couldn't remember what we'd been watching - a sure sign that the labor was taking over!

My great friend Mrs. M got the picture of the three of us - thanks, Mrs M! 
Bottom photo: me, tired and happy!

Around midnight, BB felt it was time to move downstairs...neither of us wanted me to try navigating our 87, I mean, 17 stairs once contractions became really close and intense. So I hobbled downstairs and we set up my pillow fort again, this time on the couch.

By 1am, each wave of pain was coming about every 10-15 minutes. I was definitely in the moaning mode at this point, and thankful that the children were all asleep. BB is the best labor coach - he stays very calm, appreciates the pain I'm feeling, but isn't sappy and overly sympathetic (in other words, I do better with someone who will encourage me on and not feel sorry for me, and he does that perfectly). He kept timing contractions all this time - I'd started noting them on a list in my phone and he continued that once I was past being able to think of such things...

Two of the midwives I've seen had told us to call (and probably come in) once my contractions were 10 minutes apart, because they were concerned that the labor might really pick up speed after that point. I was getting antsy and restless and so I asked BB to call the midwife not long after 1am. The one who was on call said she felt we should wait till contractions were 5-7 minutes apart. Bummer. So, we settled back in to wait.

BB started out lying on the floor next to couch, covered up with a quilt, but then he migrated to our big, fat chair-and-a-half and amazingly, both of us fell asleep between almost every contraction! I didn't think this was possible. But seriously, even with them coming 10 minutes apart, give or take, we both would doze off each time! One of God's many, many mercies in the course of the labor. Sometimes my poor, tired guy was so asleep (he'd had to pull an all-nighter for work just the night before!) he didn't hear me making my groany moany noises.

Much to our surprise, the contractions stayed at 10-12 minutes apart for THREE HOURS. Ugh. Not that I had any concept of the passage of time or even how many moments were passing between each pain - I kept having to ask BB how long since the last one?

Mom very quietly checked in on us from time to time through the night. I think she got some sleep, though certainly not a full night's.

During those three hours, some of my moans became prayers: "God, help me persevere!" and things like that. I tried to remember that He is Emmanuel, God With Us. I remembered that God has great purpose in allowing me to experience pain and suffering. Doesn't mean I enjoyed that part of it, of course, but for as long as I had my wits about me, I tried to think on True things.

Close to 4:30am, I had a contraction that included that telltale feeling of pressure and this freaked me out - and, thankfully, the intervals had just dropped below the 10 minute gaps. I demanded to call the midwife. I did not want to have another contraction like that at home or in the car...just didn't know how much time I had before birth was imminent. Talked to the midwife who said, "Come on in!" BB began gathering our stuff, which took about 2 hours. No, not really. He was fast, things were mostly ready to go. I was just a tad impatient and began bossing him to hurry up!

 Here you can see all the sweet ones who met CJ a few minutes after she arrived. From the left: my niece (MB), CA, EG, LC, my mom (MaMa), MK, our friends M, E, and Mrs. M.

I'll insert a couple of answered prayers here. Before that big contraction at 4:30am, I'd begun to get nervous that if labor continued to drag on without much progress that the girls would begin awakening for the day, and I just did not want to be in hard labor with the children watching (for my sake and for theirs). Leaving at close to 5am meant that the children were all still sound asleep and had all gotten a full night's sleep, too, which was a blessing. The other prayer I cried out to God was that I would not have another contraction that included pressure while still at home or in the car. Praise God for His mercy: I had two more at home and two in the car, but neither was intense!

I was also relieved to drive to the birthing center in the quiet darkness and arrive there when the rest of the world was still asleep. It was just BB, me, and the midwife. She had set up things for us in the Southwestern-themed birthing room.

The midwife (who is originally from Germany, and has a lovely and still rather heavy accent) checked me and said I was at 8cm and that it wouldn't be long. Hooray! Now, we all know that the 8-10cm stage of labor, a.k.a. transition, sometimes results in the mama acting a little, shall we say, crazy. My version of crazy was all my whining: I need a break! I don't WANT to have another contraction like that! I don't want to do this anymore! Told you I wasn't a brave and stalwart example for aspiring natural childbirth women to follow! BB took it in stride, because these are all the same things I've said in my other no-pain-medication births. Just my coping mechanism, I suppose. He and the midwife just kept telling me I was doing fine, that it would not be much longer, and so on.

The contractions came at 5 minutes apart for about 45 minutes. BB had called my mom and Mrs. M already and they were all on the way, so they could meet Baby as soon as she was born. Pretty soon there was more pressure and the midwife said I could push. I did just that through about 3 contractions, gave a few loud cries, which happily were overshadowed by some tiny cries from another little person...

After that wonderful first shower, soaking up my new girl
CJ on her ride home from the Center, 6 hours old

Happy relief, Baby is here! The midwife put the screeching thing on my stomach and let us discover her sex on our own. I love that we got to know FIRST! Little girl number five is here! Oh, and y'all - the first thing I noticed about her: DIMPLES. Deep, delicious dimples in her fat, round cheeks. I'm in love.

My mom, all the girls, Mrs. M and her two children came in almost right away and we made them guess if it was a girl or a boy. They were all giddy with delight. CA climbed right up on the bed beside me immediately. Everyone was so happy, all of us. Praise God that all is well!

The rest of the morning was filled with everyone having a turn to hold Baby, the baby having a bath and footprints, us calling and emailing and text messaging the news. And then there was just the three of us again - BB, me, and Baby - all quiet in the room, only interrupted by the super-sweet birthing assistant who was in and out taking our vital signs each hour and just generally taking care of us.

And we drove away at about 12:30pm, and took our daughter home!


  1. Look at those cheeks! I bet they make for amazing snuggles. Thanks for sharing your story Beth. I love your pillow fort pic, I (vaguely) remember how hard it is to get comfy with a massive belly. The birth centre looks like a great place to birth.

  2. Such a beautiful story and baby CJ!! Those cheeks-I could just eat her up :)

    I love the photo of all the big girls looking at CJ-their expressions are priceless.

    Love to you sweet friend!

  3. Beautiful! So wonderful to read the details of the night I spent praying for you.

  4. What a beautiful birth story!!! I understand, I am not the best natural birther either. Sarah on the other hand is a gentle, quiet, easy natural birther. You did a great job no matter how you handled it! God his merciful!

  5. oh I just got goosebumps and tears - thank you for telling your story! Brings back such memories, too.
    Your pillow fort is a great idea - I don't think I need a pregnancy to reconstruct that. It looks comfy!
    So glad to know how God was with you, so tangibly, the whole way. And girl, that was a long labor for a 5th baby (my sis was a labor and delivery nurse for several years and I heard lots of stories).