Caroline's Birth Story

As most of you know, our sweet girl Abi Kate was born Thursday morning, January 27. It was such a life changing day-- words don’t do it justice. I decided to write her birth story for two reasons. One, it speaks to the greatness and faithfulness of a perfect God with a perfect plan. Tommy and I have been overwhelmed when we look back at the events of that morning to see how Christ perfected every moment of the day. Second, while I was pregnant, I got so sick of hearing about everyone’s traumatic birth experiences. It seems that most women suddenly become martyrs once they’ve had a baby-- and they want to tell you how awful it is. Most of these unfortunate interactions were always met with a “Good luck with that” or “I said that too” or “You just wait and see” or “Why would you want to do that?!” whenever the topic of our desire to have a natural delivery arose. For this reason, I did not tell people what our plans were unless specifically asked. I would like to say that most people were encouraging, but the truth is, very few were. So, I felt that in order to protect my mind from hearing and possibly believing all the terrible stories, it was best if I just kept some things a secret. My birth story is nothing like those dramatic stories I heard over and over again. And after laboring and delivering our child without any medical intervention of any type, I hope to encourage other women that it IS possible to have a natural delivery. It is not quite the life-ending situation that you see on “A Baby Story” and it’s not what many people say. I, in NO way, believe that this is the only right way to deliver a child. I do NOT think that people who had an epidural, an induction, C-section, or any other intervention made a wrong choice or didn’t birth their child correctly. I believe that every woman should own every choice that is made regarding her child’s delivery-- whatever that entails. I think most women have been made to feel that they don’t have any choices-- it’s the doctor’s choice. I hope that when my friends walk away from their delivery room they can feel like I did and say, “That is EXACTLY what I wanted,” that they didn’t feel bullied into doing something they didn’t want. So with all of the “precautions” out of the way-- here it goes…

Wednesday started the same as any day. It was the day before her due date. I was on maternity leave just waiting for our little girl. My midwife had mentioned that because I began progressing so early on, she thought Abi Kate would come early and that I would not make it to my due date. Let me just say, when your doctor/midwife tells you this, they have just guaranteed that you will, in fact, make it to your due date! Every day I would wake up and think, “Is this it?!” and it wasn’t…a bit discouraging, but I believed that Abi Kate would come when she was ready- whether that meant 2 weeks early or 2 weeks late. I had contractions off and on all day, which was nothing new since I began contracting at 35 weeks. They weren’t intense and were extremely irregular. They came at random intervals and then I wouldn’t have them again for several hours. Sometime around 4, the intensity of the contractions picked up a bit, so I texted our doula, Gaylea, who advised me to go to bed early just in case. I did go to bed early, and by the time I got in bed, the contractions had stopped completely. I woke up at 12:45 to go to the bathroom (because you know I had to go every hour!) and when I got back in bed, my water broke. Tommy was still awake so I called to him from the bedroom and told him that my water had just broken, and he ran back to the room totally stoked. It was funny. :) We called Gaylea to give her a heads up as we planned to labor at home for the majority and she would be joining us at our home.

After my water broke, nothing exciting happened. I had a few contractions afterwards, but they were extremely irregular. I knew that if my labor began with my water breaking this could be the case. However, an hour later without contractions, I was beginning to get a little nervous. I knew that I really only had 24-48 hours for my water to be broken and not begin making progress before interventions would be encouraged and possibly necessary. I asked Tommy to pray over me that labor would begin on its own and soon. Tommy and I got back in bed to try to get some rest-- we knew it could be the last rest we might get for awhile and I knew that if I was indeed going into labor, I was about to embark on some pretty physically intense hours and needed energy. At 3 in the morning, about an hour after Tommy had prayed over me, I woke up with contractions-- very timeable and very intense. It seemed that I had done all of my “early labor” in the previous weeks and jumped right into active labor, something we also had prayed would happen.

Much of this next time period is a bit fuzzy for me… My contractions continued to pick up in intensity and length so Tommy called Gaylea to let her know she could head our way. Tommy was unbelievable during this time. I could NEVER have made it through each contraction without him. He used counterpressure on my back as the contractions strengthened, helped me find comfortable positions, breathed with me through contractions, and reminded me to drink after each contraction. He prayed over me while I labored and constantly told me how great I was doing. I know lots of women feel fear when they labor, but I have probably never felt so at peace in the midst of pain and uncertainty. He created an environment of safety, strength, and reassurance (like we learned in our class). Even in my moments when I began to feel out of control, he never once acted nervous or unsure. I was one of the lucky people to throw up during labor (which really is only appropriate since I threw up for the better part of my pregnancy haha)… so he also had the awesome job of “vomit catcher.”

I leaned against our birth ball on my knees for lots of the contractions-- that felt the best. I walked through some of them, leaned on the wall, and hung on to Tommy. I tried to remain as mobile as possible. During my pregnancy, I had done a lot of spiritual preparation for labor. Several weeks before, I had made scripture cards that I felt would be encouraging and keep me focused on the purpose. We had also made 2 labor relaxation CDs with worship music. He turned on the music and read me scripture during contractions and in-between them. It was such an encouragement and brought the peace of Christ into our home during some intense moments-- something that no position, breathing method, or person could provide. I really felt the Lord’s presence in our home during this time and so I had no fear of what would happen. I knew He was in control and had been in control for the previous 9 months. I remember hearing “Praise the King” a few times while laboring. That song has new meaning for me now. :)

Contractions got to a point that I could no longer speak, even speaking between them was difficult. Tommy says at this point I was “somewhere else” mentally. I remember when Gaylea walked in I felt so relieved-- it almost felt like a fresh start because it was a change. What I remember most was that when she arrived, I started to get sick and she grabbed her peppermint oil and a wet washcloth and that helped me so much with the nausea. It also felt really good as I was extremely hot. I don’t remember too much in between this time. I know that she helped me move positions, which was very hard. I remember standing and leaning on Tommy and swaying with him while she massaged my back and hips. This was probably the hardest position because it brought lots of pressure, but looking back, it was probably the most effective position! Around 6:30, she encouraged me to move to the couch to lay down so that I could rest in between contractions. I remember being surprised at how tired I felt in between. I laid down for a minute or so (time is pretty spotty in my memory), and suddenly was overwhelmed with the urge to push. It scared me and it was probably one of the only times during the process that I felt out of control. Baby Story is TOTALLY fake with all that screaming and carrying on. It’s not like that. It was very quiet in our home during labor. Gaylea said since I was feeling “pushy” we probably needed to consider heading to the hospital.

Let me preface this part-- Tommy and I opted to labor at home for the majority. Ideally, we wanted to labor at home and basically arrive at the hospital to push. We did not want to labor in the hospital for more than an hour. Because of that, this is exactly how we prayed in the previous weeks. I believed I would be much more comfortable laboring at home in a place I knew and with people that I trusted deeply, without the distraction of nurses coming in and out and in an unfamiliar environment. I knew the latter would throw me off and that I would be surrounded by the temptation for medication-- which we did not want.

I remember during this time telling Gaylea, “I don’t think I can do this. I suck at this!! Do other people suck at this too?” She later told me she knew I was in transition when I started talking about how I sucked.. haha :) Tommy went ahead and made the decision to leave for the hospital. Before leaving, I heard Gaylea tell Tommy that we may need to go to Stonecrest instead of Vanderbilt if I continued to feel the need to push and that she would follow us. She also said if we got on the interstate to Vanderbilt and we really felt that the baby was coming, to pull over and call 911.

We got in the car to leave at 7, and I immediately had a contraction which was pretty terrible in the car. You can’t move through it, etc. I told Tommy I didn’t know how I was going to make it anywhere. I sat on my left hip in the car and he prayed outloud over me as he drove asking Jesus to please sustain me, to help us arrive in time, and to give me strength. I knew that if Abi Kate came on the side of the road, it was God’s plan for her all along and that He wouldn’t be surprised by it--so neither should I. At this point, I could not stop myself from pushing anymore. I trusted that my body knew what it was supposed to do, so I did what felt right. Looking back, I am so grateful that I transitioned in the car. I know that sounds crazy to anyone who has labored naturally since transition is by far the most difficult part. It allowed me to focus on the end goal instead of on the pain. I was able to look at the exits and think, 2 more exits til 440, one more exit til 21st avenue. There’s no doubt in my mind that transition would’ve been harder in the hospital than in the car. It was just another point that I can look back and see the Lord orchestrating each moment, knowing what I would need individually to make it. We arrived at Vanderbilt a few minutes after 8:00. Tommy raced me inside and God was so good because I don’t remember contracting during that wheelchair ride. I remember going past lots of people and thinking that I looked a hot mess but not really caring. (I think I picked the ugliest clothes possible to labor in haha). As soon as we made it to the 4th floor, we stopped at the sign in desk-- we had called ahead. And they started to give Tommy paperwork to fill out, but one of the nurses came sweeping by-- literally she was an angel because I was thinking, REALLY?! PAPERWORK?!-- and she said, “Nope we don’t have time for that.” She said we were heading to room 9, which is the room Tommy and I had prayed for since it is reserved specifically for midwife patients and has a labor tub. Jesus made sure that room was wide open. As we got into the room, the nurse asked if I wanted to get into the tub and I said, “Yes, I do, but I’ve needed to push for an hour now.” She was so sweet and calm and said, “Oh ok, well you just get on the bed and I’ll check you.” I know someone must’ve helped me put on a gown because there’s pictures of me in one but I have no clue when that happened! I just remember getting on the bed and her telling me that I was complete and I could push whenever I felt like it. And I just wanted to shout “HALLELUJAH!” As soon as she said that, I had a contraction and started to push and she said, “Oh wait, wait! You’re crowning! Let me go to the midwife!” Well, there was no waiting, but our midwife arrived just in time to catch our sweet girl 11 minutes after we arrived at the hospital-- exactly what we prayed for! Seeing her for the first time was completely surreal. There were no shouts of pain or chaos in our delivery room, it was a gentle, sweet birth. I was relieved because pushing felt great and I knew she was coming soon. I had Tommy beside me encouraging me and Gaylea beside me helping me push… I think I felt most in control at this point. I was able to talk while delivering and remember saying, “That hurts a little bit” (So many people had told me delivery was just awful, so I was surprised when the pain was more mild than I anticipated). My mom and sister arrived about 3 minutes after Abi Kate did. I remember telling them I was sorry that I couldn’t hold her in until they arrived haha!

Tommy and I took a childbirth class that Gaylea teaches called Alpha Christian Childbirth (if you’re pregnant, you need to take it!). We learned a lot about spiritual preparation for labor and delivery, and as a result, we prayed VERY specific things. We prayed my labor would be around 4 hours-- it was 5.5 hours. (And an hour and a half of that was laboring down in the car and pushing). We prayed that there wouldn’t be shoulder dystocia, that there wouldn’t be a nuchal cord, that she would breathe immediately, that there would be no meconium when my water broke. We prayed that we would be able to arrive at the hospital and just push and avoid being hooked up to a heart monitor for 20 minutes (which is required). We prayed that He would sustain me through delivery. I could probably type 10 pages of the prayers we prayed and how we watched the Lord answer each one of them. He truly orchestrated every moment to give us a beautiful birth experience. I felt FABULOUS afterwards (no joke). I got up and walked myself to the bathroom a few minutes after delivering her, she nursed easily, I felt alert and was in no pain.

So, for the few who asked, “Why would you ever want to do that?!” -- Tommy and I began preparing for the type of birth we wanted as soon as we found out we were pregnant. He and I both believe that pregnancy is a natural process that was designed in perfection by the hand of a perfect and sovereign Creator, not a medical situation that needs to be “treated.” That’s why I chose to see a midwife for a few years before we ever even tried to conceive. We both believe that His plan for birth is not flawed but perfect-- so there is no need for me to intervene in it. If God felt that it was a good enough way to bring His own Son into the world, then it’s good enough for me to bring my child into the world. (We both, of course, believe that interventions are sometimes necessary-- and thank goodness for them as they have saved many lives!! But in general, for a healthy pregnancy, we didn’t feel that we needed to alter His plan. Again, this is OUR view for OURSELVES-- not an idea that we expect others to live by or abide by. Everyone’s birth choices are personal and this was ours.) This is why we chose to have a natural delivery.

After looking back, it was such a testament to the faithfulness of our Savior. I truly felt that I got to watch from the sidelines and see Him lay everything out. It certainly stretched and grew my faith-- from the beginning of pregnancy to the delivery of our daughter. And while yes, it does give you some pride in saying, “Yes I did it!!” I know that it could not have been done without Christ or without the excellent supportive team that surrounded me. Giving birth to Abi Kate was the hardest thing I have ever done, but there was purpose in the pain, and I would do it again the exact same way with the exact same decisions. I think the scripture that sums it all up--

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” Psalm 34:8