It’s a story about timing and provision, about God’s love for us present in the tiniest of details. The birth part is just the icing on the cake.
Disclaimer: This is not a graphic birth story. No gory descriptions or pictures. There is a beautiful video put together of still photos of our labor and delivery, none of them that should upset even the most sensitive of sensibilities. However, if the mention of words like “cervix” or “placenta” freak you out, you can always come back another day. But come on, we’re all grownups here. Even my kids can say those words without flinching. Just sayin'.
I still don’t think it’s a contest. I don’t think it’s wrong to give birth with the help of drugs or other medical interventions. I don’t think having repeat Cesareans is necessarily a good or bad thing. I just knew that this time, for a plethora of reasons, I hoped to be free of all that. Before, I had felt pressured to change my plan at a time when I wasn’t really up for arguing; “It doesn’t have to hurt,” one nurse had told me while I labored with Mirabella. I knew if I hoped to have any success this time, I needed a team around me that supported my goal.
One of my favorite people in life, Amber, lives about 2 hours from our new home and offered to take our kids for a weekend if we thought it might help us prepare. We met at a Chick-fil-A halfway between us on Friday, January 3rd and my kids-- whom I’d feared would be nervous—were so excited they forgot to tell me goodbye. I headed home with no carseats feeling strange but free.
On my way home, I stopped at a store unaccompanied. The sense that opportunities like these would not come again for a long time pervaded our weekend. That night, Daniel and I went on a date to a foodie restaurant that does not have a kids’ menu. We watched a grown-up movie on the couch. We slept in and went out to breakfast. We worked all day sorting and putting away, then ordered takeout and watched the Saints game. Sunday we ventured to three different grocery stores to stock our pantry and freezer for whenever the baby came. He wasn’t due for another two weeks, but I wanted to be prepared and that kind of shopping is far easier without children in tow. As we walked through the crowded stores, I’d stop here and there to breathe through a contraction. They were steady but far apart, and I fully expected them to dissipate once I got home and rested. We joked about how convenient it would be for be for our baby to come that weekend, since we wouldn’t have to worry about who would take the kids. “That’s how you know it won’t happen,” Daniel said, “it’s far too convenient.”
As Daniel put the groceries away, I rested and the contractions eased. Just before 9:30, Daniel began vacuuming and I retreated to the couch, contracting strongly. After one particularly strong contraction, I felt my water break. “DANIEL!” I screamed over the vacuum cleaner, “MY WATER BROKE!” We texted Sara Beth and I took a long shower then labored on the ball for a while. Daniel was ready for Sara Beth to come over right away; he didn’t know what to do, so he turned on the labor and delivery playlist I’d created and finished vacuuming and loaded the car and brought me coconut water and wiped down bathroom counters and texted family members and kept nervously saying, “I’m texting Sara Beth and telling her she should come now.”
When my contractions were about 2 minutes apart and very strong, I decided I wanted to brave the 20-minute ride to the hospital. It was not an enjoyable ride.
Once there, one of the nurses thought it best to disregard the completed paperwork I handed her and ask me questions about my previous pregnancies, my insurance coverage, and my pediatrician while I contracted. I was not pleased, and also probably not pleasant.
Daniel was strong and steady. Always by my side, hands on my back, or with a cool washcloth on my face. He was wonderful. So many times I thought for sure I couldn’t do it and said as much. So many times Sara Beth, my midwife and the nurses reminded me that I could-- that I already was.
Our girls loved watching a friend's lovely birth video over and over, and I mentioned it to Sara Beth. "We'll have to make sure they get a video of their own," she had said, and put together this beautiful video for us. (The song in this video, "Oh How I Need You," is by the fantastic band, All Sons and Daughters. They were the worship leaders at our church in Tennessee. We do not own any rights to this song, but encourage you to purchase it-- and pretty much all the rest of their songs while you're at it!)
We later learned that I had what’s called vasa previa. The veins that carried blood to the umbilical cord were on the outside of the placenta. It’s rare and can be very serious, even causing infant death. My midwife was in awe and said it was so important that my water had broken on its own—a point I had previously been disappointed about—because if they’d tried to break my water they could have caused irreparable harm to our baby.
Supported by my amazing team, I had the birth I planned, longed and hoped for, and I learned once and for all that the female body-- yes, even my body-- is amazing. Deacon, for whom we prayed and hoped and waited, is beautiful, healthy and growing. His first week was a happy blur of family, as my parents came and helped with our girls, cooking and even laundry. We have welcomed more family every weekend…by my estimate we will have a steady stream of company until the end of February at least. Deacon is fortunate—like the rest of us—to have so many that love him. Daniel was home that first week, but then right back to work, much to my dismay. We are taking it one day at a time. We are tired and scattered and often overwhelmed, but incredibly blessed.