Alternatively Titled, “Why There is an Adult Diaper in My Car”
Also Alternatively Titled, “So THAT is What Kegels Are For?!”
There is no real way to write this birth story in a discreet, dignified manner. SO, if you are not sure that reading it is for you, here is what I recommend: check out Egan’s birth story. If you read that and thought, “That was WAY too much information!” OR you thought, “That was just about the right amount of information,” then this birth story is not for you. If you thought “That story was NOT GROSS ENOUGH!” then this birth story MIGHT be for you!
Oh, and this is a picture-less post. I know having pictures would be ideal, but truth be told, if I waited to have everything, this post would never get written!
And forgive typographical and grammatical errors, pretty please. Again, if I had time for intensive proofreading, this would never get written.
SO, without further ado, (and yes, you will totally imagine Bob Saget reading this even though it makes NO SENSE for him to be telling a birth story in first person), I present…
How I Had Your Brother
Kids, I can’t help but noticing that you seem to be a little annoyed by your brother Arrow. I’m not sure if it’s his habit of leaving his sweaty football jersey in the bathroom sink, or if it’s his tendency to drink straight from the milk carton and then put it back in the fridge, but somewhere along the way you’ve started to treat him with a little less than respect. It’s times like these that I think it might be good for us to look back and be reminded of what a miracle life really is. Particularly, your brother’s life. Oh, and you will want to take a seat. We will be here for a while.
Kids, it was the summer of 2014. Ava, you were just starting to transition from calling us “Mama and Daddy” to “Mom and Dad,” and it took everything within me to not get you in trouble for growing up. Israel, you had decided it was your destiny to run an art store in the summers to help fund your scientific exploration the rest of the year. And Egan, you were so fearless and compulsive, it was truly a miracle that we were able to keep you alive. But you all had one thing in common: you were looking forward to the birth of your fourth sibling.
I was due on July 12th. This was the last day of camp, and you guys KNOW how much I love camp, so I had arranged for you to spend the week at your grandparents so that you could attend. On July 4th, Gramma and Pa came to spend the day with us. They took the three of you back home with them. Looking at a full week without kids ahead, and no baby until the end of the week, I had great plans of catching up on some cleaning around the house, making last minute cloth diaper preparations, and selecting and ordering our homeschool curriculum. I also planned that, once I was in labor, it would be a fast one, because it was a fourth baby and all of the fourth babies I knew had simply walked out when they were ready. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you to know that your brother had different plans than EVERYONE else, right from the womb!
On Sunday, July 6th, I was particularly uncomfortable. I had firm (but not painful) contractions all day. We went to church and later to a party as we had planned, but I can’t say my heart was in the process. Your Daddy was a little worried, but I tried to not think too much about being in pre-labor because there is nothing more inconvenient than a false alarm. Not to mention, my Glorious Plan! It did NOT involve a baby early in the week.
That night, I had taken the luxury of sitting up in bed and reading. I was really enjoying my book and knew I was probably too uncomfortable to sleep, anyway, so I made the call to stay up and finish my book and then sleep in the next morning to make up for it. Because, had I mentioned? There were no children in my house to get me up early in the morning!
I remember feeling all day that your brother was jabbing at me – like he was TRYING to pop the balloon he was in! WELL, at 2:00 AM, he succeeded, and my water broke. Now, kids, it is really not painful when this happens. However, I had never experienced it on my own before, so it was a little startling. OK, very startling. I woke your Daddy up and we knew that it was time to get the show on the row.
Kids, I don’t expect you to remember this, but this was the pregnancy that your mother’s Hippy Side won out over her Conventional Side. So instead of using a hospital to have your brother, we had decided to use a birthing center. It’s not open 24 hours a day, and since it was the middle of the night, I had to…wait for it…CALL THE MIDWIFE.
(Oh, right, you wouldn’t get that. Call the Midwife was a delightful BBC production that I used to watch while I was working. Do NOT roll your eyes when I mention BBC!)
Layla, our midwife, seemed to have been sleeping, for some reason, at 2:00 AM. I told her what had happened, and she asked if my contractions were timeable. Well…no, I had not really waited long enough to have any contractions. She then suggested that I contact her again around 7:00, and if they weren’t timeable by then we would…try to make them happen. To which I had to ask…”What about the antibiotics I’m supposed to be on for being positive for strep?” To which she replied dolefully…”Oh yeah…that changes everything.”
We agreed to meet at the Birth Cottage in an hour for my first round of antibiotics. We might as well have, because about 30 seconds after getting off the phone, the first hard contraction hit. When we got in the car, I started to time them, and they were 2 minutes apart. This seemed to be a good sign for the fast labor that I had planned! While we waited in the Birth Cottage parking lot (who knew that going in the middle of the night would shave 10 minutes off the travel time?!), your Daddy found a Contraction Timer app for my phone, because he knew that my memory couldn’t handle more than it already needed to.
This is, perhaps, the key to our marital success.
When Layla and her student midwife, Peachy, arrived, they took my vitals and had me shower (because I was not smart enough to do that at home!), gave me a round of IV antibiotics, and then left us in one of the birthing rooms…basically telling us they would be back in 4 hours for more antibiotics unless we needed something. I think the expectation was for me to sleep before labor got too intense. I know there are women out there who sleep through contractions…but I am not one of them. For a while I sat and read between contractions. (Because, remember? I was supposed to finish my book that night!) After a while, I decided sitting was for the birds and started to pace the little room. I was still pretty consistently having contractions every 2 minutes.
At some point (was it 4 AM? 5 AM? 6 AM?) I felt a definite change in labor. I got extremely nauseous. I felt a change in the contractions and started to feel a lot of pressure in my lower back that I hadn’t felt before. This seemed to be going along nicely with my plan for a fast labor, so your Daddy went to get Peachy so that I could ask to be checked. She did…and I was at a whopping 4 centimeters.
Around 7:00, Gramma and Aunt Cynthia arrived at the Birth Cottage. I wish that I could give you accurate times for the rest of this story, but the truth is, most of this day was a blur and there are whole hours during which I have no idea what happened. I do know that the pain was getting very intense, but I was also very exhausted since I had not slept the night before at all. At one point, I was sitting on the birthing ball, but that didn’t last long because I was literally falling asleep between the contractions, and some people seem to think that that’s not safe while sitting on a rolling object.
When the midwives went to give me the second round of antibiotics, they had trouble threading the needle into my baby veins. After several unsuccessful attempts, they gave me the option of washing every four hours with a super strong soap that is used in Europe to treat for strep. To which I said, “yes please!” No more needles for me! Or so I thought.
Now kids, I have heard that this doesn’t always happen, but in every labor that I’ve had, the back labor has been extreme. This labor was no exception. And if you have ever wondered what back labor feels like, the lipstick taser is the best example I can come up with:
To go along with the normal major back pain, I continued to have pressure in my lower back. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was the baby or…something else. And, for whatever reason, this really, really bothered me, although I was assured that BOTH things needed to come on out.
Kids, I don’t know how else to say it, but your mother was constipated, and a baby squishing the intestines was not helping the matter.
Since I didn’t seem capable of passing what was bothering me on my own, Layla told me I was welcome to try castor oil or an enema. Well, I didn’t know much about enemas, but I had heard about castor oil…so I opted for the enema! Aunt Cynthia went to the drug store to get one for me..and if that doesn’t seal her into The Annals of Forever Friendship, I don’t know what will!
I think it was around 1:00 PM that I started to feel “pushy” at the end of each contraction. The thing is (and kids, this is not how I want you to think about me, but I can’t really leave it out without changing the story,) what I was pushing out for the first hour or so was NOT a baby. Remember, the enema? HOWEVER, at this point my back labor was at the extreme. I overheard people saying that there was a visible bulge in my back where the baby’s head was (or was the head pushing my pelvis to make the bulge?) I was feeling ALL of the contraction pain in my back, which I didn’t even know was possible. Layla (or Peachy?) had me up on all fours hugging a beanbag chair (I can’t make this stuff up!) to use gravity to help alleviate the pressure as much as possible. The LAST place I wanted to be was sitting on a toilet, so you can imagine what people were having to do for me after each “push.” Let’s just say I owe these people approximately 5 trillion dollars!!
Oh, and they had to deal with noise, too. I didn’t think I was a verbal pain person. In past labors, I’ve been able to internalize pain and not let the world in on it. Of course, in past labors, I’ve asked for an epidural when I couldn’t keep it in any longer. Apparently, when it comes down to it, I’m a screamer. At one point Layla had to teach me how to control the noises I was making to somehow help with the contractions. Or maybe she was just tired of hearing that ear-splitting pitch. And God bless the people who had to hear me wail, “Why does my back hurt so bad?” 1,893 times.
But around 2:00 PM, Josh informed me, “Look, she’s getting blankets out, you’re about to have a baby!” Sure enough, Peachy was making obvious baby preparations. I felt so relieved. I MEAN, I had not planned on a LABOR lasting that long, but we were obviously almost done! I pushed both boys out, with epidurals, in about 15 minutes, so a med free delivery was going to probably take half that time! Peachy then said, “Don’t push again until Layla gets back in here!” and she was already talking to Josh about getting ready to catch (which is not a conversation he expected to have!) All good signs, all good signs!
Your brother. Yep, he’s always been a game changer.
We pushed. We pushed, and we pushed, and we pushed. I’m not going to lie, there was vomit and probably more poo and A LOT more screaming and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I’m pretty sure I almost squeezed Gramma’s hands clean off because she literally kept me from flying off that bed for a long time.
Most of the pushing process was an extreme blur, but I do distinctly remember Layla asking, “Does it normally take this long for you to push out a baby?” And then, sometime later, “This is Layla, do you mind if I check you?” At that checking, there was a sad report that I was not actually fully dialated between contractions. The baby was also a little crooked, which was not helpful for the descent into the birth canal. She suggested that I NOT push through some contractions so that last little bit of cervix could recede.
Which is when I entered some of the scariest minutes of my life. First of all, despite me trying with everything in me not to push, there was no NOT pushing during these contractions. I felt like I had completely lost control in that respect. I started to worry that I was going to harm the baby by pushing when he wasn’t ready to come out. I also let myself get fearful that, despite our best efforts, I was destined to end up in the hospital, maybe even with a cesarean.
Now, kids, I am not proud that I let this fear creep in, and I wish that I could just skip that part of the story. You know, that if anyone, anyone, knows better than allowing fear to get the best of her, it’s me. I had you guys memorize 2 Timothy 1:7 when you were just wee ones: “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and a sound mind.” But I have to be honest, I was allowing myself to fall into a very ungodly fear during this time. To the point that I finally asked Peachy when a transfer to the hospital would be made.
In hindsight, I was actually in very good hands. The midwives were constantly monitoring my blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate. If the situation had become something that they could not handle, they would have moved me immediately.
I, honestly, also was feeling I had finally reached my pain threshold. I really didn’t feel that I could continue going on like this for hours…especially if I would end up with a cesarean regardless. (See how quickly my mind goes worst-case scenario?! I’m so glad God is bigger!)
Peachy talked to Layla and she finally said, “OK, let’s get you to the toilet.” It was, after all, the best place for a conference!
I wish I could say I expressed my concerns in a calm and dignified manner, but I think the gist of what I was able to say was “I can’t do this anymore,” (which Gramma claims I said all day!) and “I HAVE to get some relief.” Layla, ever so patiently, agreed that this was a hard labor and things weren’t progressing like she would like. And then she said, “OK, let’s make a deal. It’s 4:30 now. If the baby’s not born by 5:00, we’ll transfer you!”
And then she suggested ooooone last position. Now kids, I haven’t tried to describe all the positions I had taken in the last 13 hours, but that is because I honestly can’t remember them all. But let’s just say, if you can think of it, I probably did it. This non-flexible, jogging-is-my-only-form-of-exercise-EVER kind of gal had become Yoga Master for a Day. (Not always willingly, but that’s a small detail.) But this last position Layla suggested I thought was going to be truly impossible. She wanted me to come to the bathroom sink, and lean on it to rest between contractions. Then she wanted me to drop down during contractions, hanging onto the sink in a squatting position, and to “shoot the baby towards the sink.”
Somehow despite all my protests, my village managed to get me to the sink. And somehow, still despite all my protests, I actually followed instructions. And as crazy as that plan sounded, my midwife knew what she was talking about…
because your brother was born at 4:40.
Of course my first question was, “Is it a boy or a girl?”
I probably shouldn’t have had to ask that, but he was laying on his side below me on the bathroom floor (on an sanitary pad, my goodness, people!), and although I thought I had caught a glimpse of something, I couldn’t be sure.
Layla, however, was not going to make it easy for me, so I don’t think it was until I was able to pick him up that I was sure. And then I croaked out the name that no one except your Daddy and brother and I knew about until that moment. “This is Arrow.”
I wish I could say that, after that, everything was easy. But, as I tried to hold this large and slippery baby while in a position that, on a good day, would be extremely uncomfortable, I started to hear words like “lost a lot of blood.” It felt like ages that I was in that awful squatting position, although in truth I’m sure it was just a few minutes, and your Daddy was literally holding me up by that time. Finally, I was cleared to get up and move back to the bed, but it was a slow and arduous process. Once finally there, the placenta was delivered. Then I was examined to see if I would need to be sutured at all.
It turns out that I had a third degree tear, which was beyond what Layla was comfortable fixing. So it was looking like we would be taking a trip to the hospital, after all. However, Arrow seemed to be doing great. He weighed in at 9 pounds, 6 ounces, which sort of helped me understand what I had just experienced! Layla also graciously showed and explained the placenta to us, which is something no one has taken the time to do before!
I will have to make a long story short at this point, which I know makes you very sad! We did make a trip to the hospital, which we had been hoping to avoid, so that I could be sutured up properly. However, Arrow was not admitted to the hospital and we only spent one night there, and we were honestly so exhausted that we didn’t really care where we spent that night.
Thanks to the tear, my recovery was not the quick, painless process I had hoped for. (Or planned on, remember the wonderful plans I had made?) So it took a few days before I really could bring myself to reflect on the birth process. But once I was able to, the one word that summed it up was:
It was amazing to be in the midst of a camaraderie of wonderful women, all of whom were singly focused on bringing new life into the world.
It was an amazing amount of pain! It is true!
It was amazing to feel like I was truly and completely a part of the process that women have been going through for thousands of years.
And the spiritual implications of natural childbirth are also amazing.
You see, natural childbirth is painful for a reason. Because of our sin (Genesis 3:16). And yet, when Jesus came to this earth, he didn’t descend in light and glory.
He came through a natural childbirth.
And, despite how our pretty little Nativity set would make it appear, it was not pretty. It was painful and bloody. There were no sanitary pads, and we don’t even know that there was a patient midwife there to help guide him onto the ground. That’s how He came.
Through the very symbol of our sin.
Kids, life is a miracle. Your brother, he’s a miracle, sweaty jersey and all. And YOU. You may have come in a very different way, but YOU are a miracle. Your Daddy and I, we are just so honored to have gotten to play a part in that process. We love each of you, and your individual quirks, more than life itself.
So be kind to your brother. And each other. And bring glory to the One who came…through the same means that you did…so that you could experience the miracle of life.