My mom was sitting on the floor painting my toe nails and we were watching a movie together when it first started. She had just arrived, a few days prior, to help us celebrate the birth of our baby. We spent the earlier part of that day hiking through Jerusalem's Old City with Devin's mom, and I was feeling good, but tired, after a long day of walking.
At first, I thought the tightening of my stomach was normal Braxton Hicks, but after an hour of watching the clock, and noticing that they were coming regularly, I wasn't so sure. It was now close to 10 pm on a Thrusday evening.
"Mama, I've been having Braxton Hicks at five minute intervals for the last hour."
"Hmmm... try laying on your side to see if they change." My mom replied. A mother of five - all natural births - I figured she knew a thing or two, so I rolled over.
No change. They just kept coming.
Sarah had advised us to "live in denial." One of the biggest mistakes first time moms make is rushing to the hospital too soon - before active labor has actually started. All of the excitement and adrenaline, combined with a change in environment can actually slow labor down, so its better to wait until its undeniable that active labor has been established.
With that in mind, I wasn't willing to let myself believe the labor had started until I was sure!
As the movie progressed, so did the tightening in my stomach. Still coming about five minutes a part, the feeling moved from the top of my belly, down to the bottom. Now my mom and I were pretty sure I was feeling contractions.
We had known of women who labored for days, so we still remained calm.
Devin arrived home from a meeting and I shared the news with him. We chatted for a minute about whether or not he should cancel his morning plans, but decided we'd just wait and see how things progressed. He went off to bed, and I went into the bathroom to do my pre-sleep beauty ritual. It was then that I noticed I had lost my mucus plug - more evidence that the baby was on the way!
With giggles and excitement I announced the news to Devin, who then called Sarah, and canceled his plans. Sarah encouraged me to sleep if I could, but to call if things started speeding up.
I went to bed and did actually sleep through most of the night, with light but regular contractions and hopeful expectations of holding my baby sometime that weekend.
The next morning, I woke up a little before 7 am. My contractions were still coming but they were more irregular than the night before. My mom made a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, grits and toast, and I took a shower to get ready for the big day. After about an hour, the contractions regulated again, at about 5 minutes apart. I labored using some of the methods Sarah taught us for about an hour before she arrived, around 9 am.
With my forehead pressed up against a column in our kitchen, I swayed my hips in a figure eight formation as the contractions would come on. Devin sat close by and shared sweet love stories with me.
"The first time we met, one of the first things I noticed about you was your beautiful long eyelashes..."
He had never told me that before. I felt so loved.
At this point, my mom excused herself to her bedroom because she said this seemed like such an intimate time for us.
After each contraction (which only lasts about a minute), I was at rest - a deep and peaceful rest.
Through our pre-natal appointments with Sarah, and some reading I had been doing in The Christian Childbirth Handbook (Jennifer van der Laan) I had learned that fear and anxiety makes a woman's body tense, causing contractions to be more painful, even slowing labor. And this is not just psychological - a real physical response takes place.
The adrenaline released from being afraid causes the direction of contraction to change from "top to bottom" to "around the sides" and can lead to the cervix closing. The amount of pain experienced during labor varies from woman to woman, and besides fear, is also related to other biological factors outside of her control, such as the position of the baby, or how the bag of waters is putting pressure on the cervix. Its a great mystery in so many ways.
Since I had heard the word of the Lord, "I have something special for you," and I had seen Him move financial mountains, blessing us through our wonderful friends, I had the faith to trust him to the end. I had reason to believe.
"For we who have believed enter that rest..." says Hebrews 4:3, and "the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His." (v. 10)
As much as being "unafraid" was up to me, I was choosing to trust. It also helped to have the support of my husband and our wonderful Doula. I felt very cared for, loved, and safe through out all stages of the labor. I was thankful that I felt such peace and rest, and I do believe this minimized the amount of pain I was feeling as I worked through each surge.
As the intensity of the contractions increased, Sarah helped me find positions to keep comfortable. We tried laboring on my knees backwards on a chair, rolling on my ottomans, and hanging and stretching on Devin, who continued to share sweet stories and offer encouragement. Sarah also brought a TENS machine - which I really enjoyed. This small device has little sticky pads that sent a light vibration into my back. I simply turned it up a little as a contraction was coming on, then turned it back down after the contraction was over.
I experienced a few contractions that nearly brought me to tears.
"That one made me want to cry." I remember saying to Devin with his arms around me during one of the times of rest in between. But the peace and calm continued.
Around this time, Sarah suggested that I sit in the shower for awhile. My mom brought in a plastic chair, and there I sat, letting the water run down my back. It was so relaxing and warm. Of all crazy thoughts, I remember wondering if the humidity was going to make my hair out of control looking in any photos taken, but then decided it was worth it!
After I got out of the shower, I noticed a little bit of a blood tinged drip. This is the only time while laboring at home that I felt anxious. Sarah assessed the situation and as soon as she confirmed that it was totally normal and just another indication that my labor was progressing as it should, I was able to be at peace again. It turns out that my waters had broken in the shower! Had I not had her expertise and confidence, I might not have remained so calm!
At this point, I noticed a change in the contractions. They were coming on stronger and much closer together. I got dressed and Devin loaded up the car with my mom and our friend, Jesse. Jesse, a trained EMT and Ambulance driver offered to drive us to the hospital several weeks before. He did a great job getting us there in record time!
Sarah suggested riding to the hospital backwards facing on my knees so I could move through the contractions. They were quite close together at this point, as I was experiencing transitional labor.
With the increased intensity, I wondered if I could make it. I wasn't sure anymore. Then I remembered that those very thoughts are common during transition and an indication that time for pushing is near.
"Devin, give me something..."
I wasn't asking for pain relief, but rather emotional relief.
"I didn't understand why it was so important for things in the house to match until I started watching you paint. Then I realized this was something deep in your heart as an artist....."
His words brought a sense of calm to my being.
A minute of rest, then one powerful contraction. Sarah offered some encouragement, "That contraction has come and gone. You never have to feel it again."
I took a deep breath, and just as she had explained about my body's ability to cope, the next one was much easier.
We arrived at the hospital around 11 am. Getting out of the car and onto the hospital bed that they wheeled me in on was a little difficult. The times of rest were so short that it was hard to move.
I rode into the exam room on my knees, where I was checked by a midwife and found to be 10 centimeters dilated! We were all surprised that my labor had progressed so quickly, but excited that we would soon be meeting our baby!
In the delivery room, it was standard procedure to connect me to an IV. My veins are small, so the nurse had some trouble. She apologized for hurting me to which I giggled, "Its Ok, its not the worst thing I've felt today!"
Then my delivery room doctor and midwife arrived.
In Sarah's words,
They are both so impressed with how Callie is coping, staying on top of powerful surges and seeming to enjoy herself in the experience too! She keeps her sense of humor and there's a lovely atmosphere in the room. Everyone who walks in the room enjoys being there, and some midwives come just for a look at this amazingly calm mother and her unmedicated, first birth.
It blessed me to read that when Sarah first sent her version of our birth story. I felt so much of the Lord's presence with me while I labored, and it encourages me to know that that peace wasn't just my hormones or imagination, but it really did set Aviel's birth apart in a way that was a noticeable blessing to others.
I was given an hour to "wait the baby down" before I began pushing.
During that time, I did some light exhale pushing as my body was indicating. It was incredible to feel the baby moving down. Sometimes it was uncomfortable, which Devin was aware of because he said my eyes would get "really big!" That discomfort was easily relieved through pushing. At this point I knew it was worth it to have made it through without pain medication. I was at work, I could feel what I was doing, and it was productive!
Some women are able to push the baby out fairly quickly. My own experience was much more slow. The hospital had a policy to only allow laboring mothers to push for two hours before having an assisted delivery with suction. For two hours, I pushed and pushed. My contractions were actually slowing down, but my doctor had confidence that I could do it. He didn't want me to have an "operative birth" (with suction) so he suggested giving me a low dose of pitocin to increase the intensity of the contractions again.
In hindsight, I probably should have tried changing positions, but I had so much peace at the time that I was just sort of going with the flow of things. After the pitocin kicked in, I was able to work with my contractions again and push the baby with more force.
As the baby was crowing, my midwife made an observation!
"He's a gingy with curly hair."
Watching in a mirror, I could see his head emerging, but I couldn't tell what color his hair was! Nor did I understand how she could either!
The doctor was concerned for some molding to his head since he had been in the birth canal for quite some time. I wasn't quite getting the stretch to push him out, so he gave me a small incision (later only requiring two stitches). On the next push, the baby's head emerged and he slid right out!
There he was, our little Aviel, ginger hair and all! His little arms flew open wide and his legs tucked in a froggy position. He let out a small cry and they laid him on my stomach.
He was (and still is) the most beautiful little person I had ever seen in my entire life.
We requested that the cord finish pulsating before it was clamped to allow the oxygen rich blood that was squeezed into the placenta during the birthing process to be pumped back into his body - a practice known as delayed cord clamping. This is a fairly new (yet ancient) practice in newborn care, but one that we felt very peaceful about after researching and praying through which procedures we desired for the baby. It also seemed like a much more organic alternative to cord blood banking. The pulsating only took about five minutes, then Devin cut the cord.
One procedure we had an option to refuse by Israeli law is Prophylactic Eye Treatment. This is eye drops administered to prevent the spread of infections from the mother that could cause blindness. Its wonderful that we have this technology; however, the infections that this treatment prevents against are mostly STDs. Being committed to sexual purity and remaining virgins until marriage, the irritation and blurred vision accompanying the eye drops seemed unnecessary for our little one. *
After the cord was cute, Devin accompanied the baby and midwife to the other side of the room for weight and measurements. Meanwhile, the doctor delivered the placenta and gave me a few stitches. Aviel scored 9 and 10 on his APGAR and weighed in at 3.295 kilos or about 7lbs 4 oz. Excellent stats for any baby, much less one whose mother developed Gestation Diabetes.
Devin brought the baby over to me saying, "I told you you'd have have my head! My big old head. I'm sorry, it's my fault it was so long, Sweetie. You did so well! I was like, 'Oh look at that little head (because of the molding) but then the rest came out and I was like, 'Woah! How did that fit in there?'"
We celebrated with chocolate croissants and sweet tea, two treats I had been fasting during the last trimester to help regulate my sugar, while we cuddled with the baby who was making his first attempts at nursing.
Sarah left us to bond with our baby, thanking us for a allowing her to be part of a "particularly beautiful birth." Then the Grandmas came in to visit. They met their new grandson with joy.
After they left, I took a shower in the delivery room while Devin held little Aviel. We then headed to the recovery room, just in time for shabbat, where we blessed to be able to room in with Aviel. He never left my side the entire time we were in the hospital. All blood work, screening tests, and injections were administered in our room. It was such a blessing to have him with me. Devin and I changed all of his diapers, I nursed when he seemed hungry (though it too a few weeks to figure out to feed him!), and we were always present for any procedures administer.**
Since I had Gestational Diabetes, Aviel had regular sugar tests while we recovered. After one of the tests, our nurse commented, "Are you sure you even had diabetes? His sugar is perfect." Praise the Lord!
The next morning I woke up feeling so sore from all the pushing! My back, arms, and thighs ached, but I also had this incredible feeling of "I can do anything now!" This surge of confidence that greatly contributed to a wonderful postpartum recovery, is something I might have missed out on if I would have chosen an epidural, which blocks so many of the good hormones a women experiences during a natural birth. No women should ever feel guilty or condemned for going that route by choice or necessity, but I can't testify enough to how incredible it was to make it through the birth without it!
We spent one more night in the hospital before bringing our sweet bundle of joy to his new home, and embarking on the wonderful journey of parenthood!
When I think back to that day, words come to mind such as joy, peace, trust, confidence, sweet, romantic, strength, support, rest..... And often when sharing the story, I always find myself saying, "It was one of the sweetest days of my life!"
Childbirth is an incredible experience. On Sarah's blog she states:
First babies, babies after a traumatic previous experience, home births, epidural births, quick births, long drawn out births and cesareans- all births can be a beautiful event when the mother and father feel safe and supported, and have the knowledge to understand their own specific miracle.
Its not about a text book perfect natural birth. My own birth was in a hosptial, and not 100% intervention free (remember my small episiotomy and low dose of pitocin) but it was still one of the most amazing days of my life. I believe so much of it had to do with the tremendous support I felt, going in knowledgeable, and the tons of prayer surrounding the day.
If you are an expecting mother reading this, I have such a huge heart to encourage you to know that your experience of childbirth can be just as blessed for you - and even more so! Your story will not be like mine, but the Lord will be with you and He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask for think. (Eph 3:20).
The Lord really did give me something special. He gave me a romantic day with my husband, and a beautiful memory of childbirth. But the most special gift of all, He gave me my precious baby who has taught me more about His unconditional love than I've ever known, Aviel David Mitchell.
Lord, thank you for giving me something so special. Thank you for my beautiful family, Devin and Aviel, and the sweet day of our little one's birth. Thank you for being a promise keeping God for your own name's sake. I ask that you would bless each woman who reads this with an anointing to bring forth life as you intended. I ask that You would open closed wombs, bring bodies into proper order for healthy pregnancies and childbirths, and that You would speak courage, rest and perfect love in to fearful hearts. May the day of childbirth be one full joy and shalom. B'Shem Yeshua (In Jesus Name).
*Neither Devin nor I are healthcare professionals. We made our own personal choices about newborn care based on prayerfully discerning the information we gathered, along with our own medical histories. Please only let this be a starting point for investigating these options with your healthcare provider on your own! And don't forget that if you can't refuse a procedure, you might be able to delay it for several hours!
**In the case that rooming in was not available, or if the baby needed to be removed from my room for procedures, we had an option to request that Devin accompany the baby into the nursery. This was never necessary for us, but it is something expecting moms can investigate!
Take some time to read Sarah's blog post Don't Bathe that New Born!, where she makes a case for delaying the baby's first bath. This is something we discussed, but in the end decided to bathe him because of visitors! Since there could be some real benefits in the delay, I thought I'd pass on the info!
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