Well, moral of the story in trying to write this story is: don’t wait three and a half weeks. So, note to self, the next time I give birth at home to Samuel, I’ll be sure to blog immediately. Because all of his milestones, and our milestones together, will obviously be able to be relived at any point I desire.
He’s already so big. He looks so old to me. And Monday night he got a runny nose. I thought my heart had sunk to the bottom of my feet. And at times like that, and during times of baby blue despair, I remember my cousin and her son (click for their story, and pray). And I pick up my baby and I kiss him. And I pray for renewed joy. And I remember that runny noses aren’t so bad. They just sound like the world is going to end. But it doesn’t, and it won’t, and he still cries lots and lots and I still can’t comfort him lots and lots and he still wants to nurse lots and lots and I still don’t go anywhere because we’re nursing lots and lots and crying lots and lots and sleeping in between. Which is not lots and lots.
But he’s here. And he’s ours. And he’s the greatest blessing we have ever known. And the enemy is super crafty with new moms. And I know that. And I know this too shall pass, but I know I don’t really want it to pass because that will mean that he’s growing up. And I haven’t taken enough pictures or video or written enough down for him to do that yet. But he does it everyday. Every stinkin’ day.
Anyway, back to the point. Birth story part two…and I’ll try to break it up again with a few photos. Photos of labor and non-intrusive photos of birth :) Paige came in the afternoon for a few shots and then came back when it was much later in the day and go time.
Again, I’m fuzzy with times and details. So we left off in the bathroom. Which is a funny sentence to write. The bathroom was my favorite place to labor. I have no idea why. And I’m not really sure why I’m admitting it. But it was. And around 5ish or so, there sat me and Johnny and Bethany. And Bethany was giving me what I like to call her ‘momma face’ and she meant business. We were at a point when I thought I might as well throw in the towel and go get this baby cut out of me. And I think every natural birthing woman who is not lucky enough to experience the pain-free short labor gets to this point. For me, it was 17ish hours in. You get stuck between a rock and a hard place. You’re in so much pain, you’re so tired, but your baby is still in there. So what is there to do about it? Nothing. You’re either going to stay in that pain forever, or you’re going to do everything you have to do to get that baby out.
And this was when I lost sight of the end. Labor is totally and completely a mental game. I had been looking at the clock all day—knowing in the back of my mind that average labor for a first time mom is 12-14 hours. I knew that Sam’s position was a problem and I knew that we still hadn’t fixed it and I knew that I was dilating like 1 cm every 100 hours, or so it seemed. So I needed Bethany’s momma face. And boy did she give it to me. I think she said something like: “Look at me. No, (grabbing my face) look at me. Sam is coming. This pain is good. Don’t shake your head no. Shake your head yes. You can do this.” And when I wouldn’t shake my head yes, I’m pretty sure she did it for me. And then she probably read out of Isaiah or something, I don’t know, I was too busy breathing to pay attention to much anything else..
By the way, natural birthing friends, that’s a good trick to keep in the back of your mind. Don’t let the pain make your head shake ‘no’, keep it going forward and backward in a ‘yes’ mentality.
Okay, back to the bathroom. We’re all still there. After the side to side lunging, after the 5 throw-up sessions, after our midwife started to move Sam’s head back and around (or something like that), and after 18 hours of contractions 3-5 minutes apart. At some point our midwife encouraged us to go lay down and let our (mine and John Paul’s) bodies rest. I hated laying down, the contractions were so much more painful that way. But I knew we needed to get off our feet. So we go lay down and we both literally fall asleep in between contractions. I would have to scream the word PUSH for John Paul to wake up and remember to rub my back through the pain. Then, we’d fall back asleep for 2 minutes and repeat. Time for a new position. Walk the hall, maybe? I remember there was one point when John Paul needed to go to the bathroom and tried to get his mom to take over. I thought I was going to die. No one was able to push my back like him. It was all that was keeping me from losing my mind. I thought I was going to be able to be super ‘Bradley Method’ woman and be quiet, relaxed and able to visualize the process to help mange the pain…but no. I was a just have to breath, y’all have to pray (and pray hard), and someone has to push their fist with everything they have into my lower back every 3-5 minutes or this was never going to end kind of woman. Not relaxed, quiet or peaceful. Oops.
I think at this point it was time to get checked again? I don’t remember. All I remember was at one of the last checks, I was told that I was fully dilated on one side, but not on the other. And again she felt all around up in me during a few contractions to see how my cervix was reacting and what Sam was doing. I don’t know if it was at this point or another that it was decided his head had begun to cooperate and we had released whatever was keeping him from not tucking his chin. But at some point, around then, that was decided. Though I hadn’t really believed it. I just assumed we were in this for many more hours without an end in sight. Next we were encouraged to do three contractions lying on my back, three on my right side, then three lying on my left side and repeat in order to get my cervix fully rounded out and completely dilated. And let me tell you what, I despised this routine. It was the most difficult way to labor by far. But, it worked!
I hit transition (8 1/2-9 cm) at 8pm sometime during the laying on one side, laying on the other routine, and I could feel my body start to push. I was not pushing, my body was pushing. It was the weirdest of all the weirdest feelings ever. I kept screaming to our midwife in the other room “Hey, I think I’m pushing! I’m not trying to, what do I do?” She calmly said, just let your body do it’s own thing for awhile…and I wanted to say, hey! It wants to push! I want to push! Let’s push! This hurts woman! Make it stop already!
But I did like I was told like a good little girl and we lay there, not pushing, but still pushing. And then I threw up again. During a not push-push. Worst feeling ever. Not only am I feeling the push, and the intense transition-type contraction, but my stomach is contracting like crazy to throw up again (for the 6th time). Yikes, that was bad.
And some point during this or after this or before this, I tried to walk to the bathroom and apparently all the color drained from my face and I just kept telling everyone how tingly I felt…that sent alarm to everyone except our midwife. She knew what to do. Put a towel over her face! Okay, what? Breathe through the towel…you might be hyperventilating. Okay. Then she checked my blood pressure and all was well. Just a quick hitch, but we got through it.
Maybe this is a good point to clarify that planned homebirths have emergency plans in place. For example, I think we had four different ’emergency’ plans all written down, agreed upon, signed and specific to many different needs. We were ready for whatever, should we have needed to be. And ps—for a midwife who has delivered over 300 babies, she has had very, very few transfers which were all for very, very small reasons. Nothing ever super serious. Just precautionary. Cause what do you know? Turns out giving birth now is just as natural and healthy as it was hundreds of years ago when the human population survived and thrived without medical intervention. Who knew?
I can’t remember what else happened…but at some point our midwife went to her car to get her birthing stool and, from being at Bethany’s birth a month earlier, I knew what that meant! It was go time! Whoop! I had always imagined I would want to push standing up or kind of squatting, it just sort of felt right to me. But it was very quickly decided that after the many hours that had passed, that I was too weak to stand or move to the stool. So there I went, back on the bed. And we got that baby boy out! Hallelujah!
My mom was to my left, Johnny was to my right, Bethany moved all around lots of places helping the midwife out, I could hear Paige clicking away (taking pics) in the background and I think I kind of saw my sweet mother-in-law’s face from time to time. Then, I heard our midwife say, “Okay, with the next contraction, I want you to push. Just push however you feel like pushing.”
And then power came. Like the supernatural presence of God. For real y’all. I remember saying over and over again, “really? I can really push now?” I was thinking: Really Lord? I can really have and hold my baby now? Like this is happening? Are you sure? You’re really giving this to me? Okay. Let’s go.
I pushed, and I screamed, and I arched my back and threw my head back. And as much as it hurt, it felt so good. It finally felt like progress, like I could fight the pain. Like I had some control back. Like I could feel the grace of God physically in my body. And then, I was told to hold my legs, tuck in my chin and not to scream for the next push. And just to keep pushing. As long and as much as I could through each contraction. Well, I did. When you feel where that baby is in a place where something that big should not be, you know how to push it out. It was the best part. And having been to a birth, I know that it’s the scariest part for everyone else. Cause babies seem to crown a really long time, and you think all kinds of scary thoughts and you feel like he should be out by now and you just keep willing and almost yelling “come on! Come on! Push! He’s almost here! Push!” And now having been the person pushing the other person out, I know that we took exactly the right amount of time for us. Cause I gave him all I had and he knew what he was doing. And even though he gave us a scare (don’t want to talk about that :), 23 minutes later, my midwife told me to get ready to pull my baby out…and Sam was here! And the first hands he felt were mine. And the first skin he touched was mine. And all the pain in the world will never take that moment away, nor the moments that followed. And y’all, the Lord was there. You could feel the weight of His presence. He was welcomed by everyone in that room. He was called on by everyone in that room. And He was faithful. So, so faithful. And He gave me the desire of my heart. A healthy baby boy.
He was not whisked away, cut from me, and washed and weighed and stuck with needles. He was with me. He stayed attached to me. He looked around at his daddy and grandmas. He never had that icky eye goop put on him (why? Cause I don’t have an std, therefore, my baby does not need to be protected from it, thankyouverymuch) or had a mean old bath right away. He was warm, held and surrounded by people who adored him from the very first moment he left the womb and entered the world. And for that, I would definitely do all of this all over again. A million times yes.
And why was my labor so long? Well little Sam showed us! He came out with his left arm wrapped around the right side of his face. It was his stinking left hand he must have been holding underneath his chin (which he still does every day, all the time) that kept him from progressing (tucking his chin) and that made his mother and midwife do lots of fun things to help release. Though, he didn’t really release, he just appeased us by wrapping it around his face. The boy loves his hands! But hey, whatever works.
(daddy holding Sam for the first time and later weighing him in a sling scale)
And little did I know then, but my amazing father-in-law had been with us the whole time—outside, in the heat, praying without ceasing. Lots of things happened at Sam’s birth that I don’t have the words for. I just can’t explain it. Something happened at our home that day. Of course there was miracle after miracle keeping Sam’s heartbeat strong and keeping his momma going. But something else happened too. I don’t know what it was and I probably never really will. But the Lord did something. Something for us, something that needed to happen, something that needed to break, something that needed to be restored. Or maybe it was something for someone else. I don’t know. All I know is there was lots of spiritual battles taking place that day and we were not overcome. And it wasn’t just about giving birth, there was something more. Something bigger and greater. Wow, is He is good.
I’ll have to remember to ask Him about that one day :)
My fear in writing this was that I would glorify the pain more than I would glorify the Lord. And in re-reading this post, I know I did just that. But I didn’t mean to. I hope you all know my heart is not to portray myself as some kind of super woman who needs everyone to tell her how awesome she is and all that stuff…my heart is tell you all the story of the battle we have fought this past year. And to document it for ourselves—pain and all. July of 2011 I lost a baby, and I lost hope. I lost lots of hope. And I lost a certain innocence of faith. It’s not a story different from many women, but it was a hard year for me. I had to gain a real faith. I had to find out for myself why and how the Lord was good and faithful amongst death and pain and loss. And July 29, 2012, I battled the worst physical pain I have ever known…but The Lord used that to renew His promise to me, to our home and to our family. And really, that’s why we chose to have a homebirth. The Lord led us that way because He needed us (well, me especially) to relinquish control to Him. Sure you can completely do that in the hospital with an induction and an epidural—that’s not what I’m saying. That’s just not how He wanted us to do it. He needed to grow and stretch my faith. He needed me to experience the pain in order to experience the joy. He needed me to give up my fear of losing Samuel and lay it down. He needed Him to be more important than Sam.
But He’s faithful, and He gave us our Sam. Thank you Father. You alone are good. And you alone are worthy.
And now, click here for a slideshow thanks to the incredible Paige Reaux (click for her photography website). Her friendship is beyond amazing. I’m sad I can’t show y’all all the pics, cause I’m a lady ;) but that’s a quick glimpse into Sam’s birthday. Sam’s very long, very hard, yet joy abounding birthday. And below is a quick note from John Paul…I couldn’t let this story go without his voice. He is Sam’s daddy after all :)
“Birth…from the other end”—by John Paul
It’s not often you get woken up at 3am with, “Johnny, I want to have a home birth.” But I did. Let me first of all say that my wife is an excellent conversationalist… at all hours between 11pm and 4am. Surprisingly, I engaged in this conversation. I was never really skeptical, simply because I know my wife, and I know that she usually has great taste in food, clothing, lack of jewelry and people. In this case, the object of good taste was Midwife Colleen. And, this was the first time that Rachel’s excellent taste was actually more financially pleasing than the alternative.
Apart from her love for the Lord, what I loved about Midwife Colleen is that she treated my son as though he could fight back. It wasn’t all about guarding from risks and protecting him, as if he had no chance if we didn’t take every precaution available. Sam was a person to her, created by God to survive and thrive. She knew he was tough, and I loved it!
I was never really worried about Sam anyway. I didn’t know him yet. I knew Rachel. So all my worries were centered on her. Oh, how little I knew about my wife before that day. I knew she had fight in her (usually against getting out of bed to get ready for church), but I didn’t know what a warrior I had on my hands. 22 hours… with contractions every 3-5 minutes… without any break in action. She never mentioned going to the hospital (although we both thought of it at that 7-1/2 centimeter mark).
The day was nothing like I expected. Honestly, I thought we’d be watching football. I thought Rach would be in some pain in the other room, while the rest of us watched football and ate snacks until things got serious. I did not consider that there is no football in July. It just seemed right. This did not happen. I was with Rachel the whole time, and there was no football. My mother had to feed me granola as I held Rachel up. There was just no time for anything but tending to her. At one point I figured to break away unnoticed between contractions to use the restroom. As soon as I reached the toilet my abandonment was discovered, and I heard a violent decree of rebellion that went through all the land. There was no leaving my wife, and I really would not have had it any other way.
We were constantly seeking the Lord for strength throughout the entire day. In the middle of the hardest part, I was thinking, “Lord, we are seeking You, but it seems like You’re not helping us.” I was emotionally and physically exhausted and feared the soreness and weariness of the next day… if we made it to the next day. But the Lord was, in fact, strengthening me the whole time. The following day, the day after the most intense physical workout of my life, I had absolutely no soreness or weariness or any resemblance of pain or weakness in the muscles that I had used for 22 hours to support and “push on” my wife. It was undoubtedly the supernatural supply of strength from the Lord to uphold my wife, literally.
Back to Rachel: I haven’t told her this, nor have I really realized it myself until now, but her perseverance throughout the whole day is what kept me encouraged to finish. I wish all women could see the fight that she exhibited. What a champion! She was a superhero, and has forever changed my view of who she is. I cannot describe how enriching it is to go through something as intense as that day with the woman I love, for the little man that I love, in the supernatural provision and strength of the God that I love. It was extreme fullness of life like I’ve never known. God is a God of life to the fullest.
When Sam was born, I saw the truth of John 16:21. The joy that came to my home after such a long day of pain and difficulty was unexplainable. I believe I’ll quote my wife in her last post, “
The most incredible day will never be taken away by the most incredible pain.”