Monday, July 15, 2013

Singing a New Song

Ava's birth story. Part VI of my story about birth and mothering. I had planned to write this a week ago, so it is overdue in true Ava fashion!

I was surprised at how ready David was when I got out of the shower. "Still coming?" "Oh yes! This is it." I found something to wear (not hard since I was down to two shirts that fit), got my iPod, grabbed a reference book. Now I was having to pause and bend over with the rushes. David rubbed my back for me. I could already sense that we were working together as a team. He was taking care of logistics and supporting me. I felt secure. He had made me a breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese and blueberries. I ate it all. I was hungry and I knew I would need the energy.

I called Mom again on the way. I had to pause during the conversation. The closer we got to our destination, the more intense things became. I felt I was in active labor. David wanted to know if we should skip the hotel and head for the hospital. I said no. We stopped at 4 hotels. They were all full! No room in the inn due to the holiday weekend. The last option had one room available. We set up camp. Immediately upon arrival the contractions lost their intensity. I knew this was normal for the new location and what not. I stayed on my feet, emptied my bladder, used accupressure points and did anything else I could think of to encourage things along. The rushes were still steady, just not strong enough. I again reviewed how to help a posterior baby turn during labor.

David and I were both hungry. We headed out to find food. We timed our route to the hospital. 12 minutes. I ate curly fries but didn't feel like anything heavier. Back at the hotel, I found myself still able to talk through contractions. I laid down to just rest and got on the internet for a bit. I sat with David and we kissed for a while. I cried because I was so frustrated that things were not intense enough. We prayed for things to pick up and asked God to go before us.

David told me to find my shoes. He said I needed a change of scenery and a place to walk. I said no to Wal-Mart and Lowe's but half-heartedly agreed to Michael's. We got there about 3:30 pm. I could feel the rushes intensify after walking around for just a few minutes. I tried to not give them any notice but it wasn't long before I was finding a secluded spot to hold David's neck and slow dance with each wave. He timed them instinctively and told me they were moving from 4 to 3 minutes apart. It was when I had to find the restroom that I knew my body was finally in active labor.

Now I was moaning with each wave. We picked up a kit to help me learn to knit, some yarn, a tap measure, and some pens for writing in the baby book. I told David we needed to go. The line looked too long. I went outside to call the midwife. My phone said 4:41 pm. Helen said she had been waiting for my call all weekend. She told me she was there all night and there was coverage the next day too. She didn't want me to worry or be in a hurry. I told her a short summary of my labor so far. We talked 8 minutes and I had only 1 contraction. She said to wait, just to make sure it wasn't too soon. She suggested I go back to the hotel to shower and call her back when I needed to. I agreed.

David wasn't so sure. Now I was beating the car door rhythmically with each wave. Things were finally picking up! I felt calm and confident, thankful for our answered prayer. David reluctantly drove back to the hotel. The rushes were close together again. Once we got in the room, I stood over the bathroom counter and dropped to a squat with a contraction, just like in my dream from the night before. David was VERY concerned. "It is time, Rebekah. I think your body may tell you to push soon. I'm going to pull the car around." I told him I wanted to lie down long enough to get my focus. He said to be ready when he got back.

In the car at 5:30 pm, I called Helen again. I hurriedly said things were moving along and we were on the way. She said to come through the ER entrance and she would be waiting in L&D. I called my family and told them to hit the road. David and I realized we didn't really know how to get to the ER entrance. We had planned to go straight to L&D but this was the weekend so things were different. We parked and made our way through some bushes and back parking lots. It was really quite a trek. I had to stop every 2 minutes, grab a concrete post, and bend over. You should've seen the looks from bystanders. I thought the baby may fall out in the parking lot and I guess they thought the same. As soon as a rush was over, I would look at David and say, "Let's go!" We would run (literally) to the next post, where I would stop and get through another one. (Looking back at this I can giggle.)

The ER staff wasted no time. I was on my way to L&D in less than 2 minutes. They got me to the door in a wheelchair. Just as they called the desk to get the door open, I jumped out of the wheelchair and said, "Sorry! Can't sit there any longer!" The escort seemed so relieved she could leave me. I think she was envisioning a birth on the elevator. The L&D unit was really quiet, what with it being Sunday afternoon. We were greeted with warm smiles. "So you're contracting, right?" "Uh, yeah!" Things were getting more and more intense, and fast. I was coping. Here things start to blur.

I do remember that I never had to tell anyone that I was hoping for a natural birth or anything about our birth plan. I knew I would have continuous monitoring. That was the first thing to do. Baby was great. I wanted IV access but no fluids. They were on the same page. I was in the bed long enough for a baseline monitoring strip, vitals, IV access, and a cervical check. 6 cm, 100% effaced, baby at 0 station. David and I high fived. We had accomplished a big goal of ours: staying out of the hospital until well into active labor. Helen felt my belly and said she thought the baby would weigh about 7 pounds. She told me to get out of the bed and move about. I enthusiastically agreed with her suggestion.

It was about 6:15 pm. I asked for a birth ball and moved to the side of the bed. I answered admission questions and signed all kinds of consents. I felt nauseous and shaky. I knew it was transition because the rushes were very strong and right on top of each other. Still, I was coping. David was right by my side. He was amazing. Helen and the staff were all so impressed with him.

In walked a CRNA with the apparent goal of convincing me I was stupid for not wanting an epidural. I will skip the details here, but this conversation ended with me asking to have a spinal if I did have to go to the OR, to which he responded, "Oh, if you have a C-section, it will be an emergency and you WILL be under general anesthesia and this guy (David) won't be in the room." I was shaking even more now. I signed a consent to have no anesthesia and he began to walk away. This was a serious blow to my confidence and I began to feel panicky.

Helen walked in immediately. David says she made a comment about standing up to the guy. I didn't hear her. The pain was getting to me. I was losing my focus and losing my ability to cope. I was also angry and tense. I became vocal with each contraction. A staff member walked in right away. "She sounds complete." Helen wanted to check again. 9 cm. I stood on my knees and held onto the back of the bed, rocking my hips and groaning (this word sounds nicer than yelling) with each wave. I wanted to vomit so badly, but I just couldn't.  Someone asked if I wanted my mother. "Yes. Send my mom!" I kept my eyes closed for the most part.

Mom was shocked because she had no idea that I was THIS much in labor. She stood by me as I hummed the Marine Corps anthem. "Rebekah, what are you singing?" "I don't know, Mom, just whatever I can think of." "Is it, um, patriotic?" "It's 'From the Halls of Montezuma." "That's what I thought." I could feel my baby moving down with every rush. It was so intense. I began to feel disconnected from all that was going on. When I heard people talk, it was like I was dreaming. "She's pushing!" "Is everything ready?" "Do what you need to do."

I could no longer cope on my knees. I got on my right side. Helen broke my water and I immediately had to push. I vocalized every thought I had. Loudly. I didn't mean to. I just did. I heard, "Oh, she's right there!" "We see her head!" "She has dark hair!" While these things were meant to be encouraging in response to my cries of "I can't do this!" they instead sent up red flags. "I don't believe you," I sobbed. Puzzled looks spread across the room. My mom leaned in closer. "That's what they said with Nora, Mom." She hurriedly explained to everyone what I meant. My midwife spoke. "We do not lie. She is right here. She is coming." David was to my right. He looked at me intently. "Rebekah, everything about this is different."

Someone walked in with a mirror and I demanded that they take the thing away immediately. But before they could I realized that my baby was indeed coming. She was crowning. Someone set up a fan to blow on me, since I had yelled that I felt like I was suffocating. I saw the OB walk in. She had a strange look, arms crossed. I remember saying, "I don't want this anymore."

"Rebekah! Rebekah!" "What?" I looked up to see my husband donning a gown and gloves, hands held up in front of his face. "I'm gonna catch her!" "I DON'T CARE!" I wish I hadn't said that. I did care. David took it in stride. The OB came over to my right, where David had been. "You want motivation? I've got motivation. I can do your C-section right now." I didn't know how to take that. A threat? I didn't have much time to process it. A rush...I closed my eyes and let go, pushing with all my might. Something changed dramatically. "What was that? Her head?" I looked up at the doctor who had just pushed me to finish my task. "Oh my gosh!" "You have to get the rest of her out!" I pushed a little and felt my baby being born.

7:50 pm. "Praise God! "Praise God! Praise God!" My husbands heart poured out of his mouth as he caught his brand new daughter and lifted her onto my abdomen. In an instant some switch deep inside my innermost being flipped. This was out of this world. This was my baby, hot, wet, squishy, lying on my abdomen, looking up at me. My fear and pain had melted into love and awe. I could not bask in the beauty enough. Everyone in the room surrendered to the joy.

"That was amazing! I did it, Mom!" Later that night, as I sat in our dark, peaceful room and quietly studied my baby, it all came crashing down on me. I didn't do this. I had done nothing! God did this thing! Oh, praise God! Praise God! Praise God!

Praise the God who hears!

Praise the God who cares!

Praise the God who heals!

"I waited patiently for the Lord; 
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit,
Out of the miry clay.

He set my feet upon a rock,
He established my steps.

He has put a new song in my mouth-
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord."
(Psalm 40:1-3)

Sunday, July 14, 2013


This post is Part V in my story about birth and mothering.

After weeks of prodromal labor, starting and stopping and starting again, I thought my "labor engine starter" might be broken. I was getting no updates on my cervix from my midwives, and I think that helped me stay somewhat sane. The date I had guessed came and went...and went further. A week after this date I went in for my weekly appointment. David came with me since I was (once again) having contractions I could time.

The midwife did offer an update on my cervix this time, and also offered to sweep my membranes. I consented. With Nora I would have refused this procedure, but I had been subtly warned that I was on a tight time table to avoid pressure to schedule a repeat C-section. There would be midwifery call starting the next morning at 8 AM. (This was a stressful issue for us as the midwife I had sought out had moved out of state as I neared term. Now the practice was short, and the midwives couldn't cover call 24/7.) My midwife said she would see me back in five days and would have to do an ultrasound to check fluid levels then. I think she saw the look on my face, and on her way out the door she said, "I feel sure you will..." her voice trailed off but her experienced and slightly reassuring tone gave me hope.

Friday morning David decided to stay home from work. That day we did all we could to encourage labor. It was so hot out, we decided to go to Lowe's to walk briskly. I had every sign of labor. I was just waiting on a contraction to stop me in my tracks. I knew the start and stop labor pattern was most likely due the baby's position. She seemed to be lying in my womb the same way her sister had, and my midwife had agreed with my assessment. I prayed she would turn.

Saturday morning I woke up still pregnant. We had plans to spend the day with my family as my brother was home. I appreciated distraction, but I was battling with discouragement. It was looking like I might make it to that next appointment, where I would have to fight for things. David and I walked in the yard and prayed. "God, go before us. Make the path straight. This is our request, Lord. We give it to You."  I had begun feeling contractions again. I decided to do my best to go about my business and not despair.

David and I decided to make plans to go to his sister's house the next day. We thought the pool would be a great distraction. That night we drove to town. I found a bathing suit top that fit my 10 month pregnant belly. David bought a road map to have just in case. His sister's house was about an hour away from the hospital if we knew the back roads. Everyone thought we had lost it, but we packed everything just case labor showed. According to my guess date I was now 41 weeks and 3 days. I figured labor may never come anyway!

Throughout that night I dreamed very vividly. Oddly, at some random points, I would see myself in my dream, dropping to a squat in the peak of a contraction. I woke to go the bathroom at about 5 AM. I thought it might have been just after a rush. I was able to go right back to sleep. Sometime around 7:30, Nora kicked me and I woke in the peak of a rush.

I knew it was labor but tried to stay prepared for the possibility that it may fizzle out again. I told David. We timed them at 4 minutes apart. I called Mom to catch her before she left for church. I called Grandma too. We made plans to get Nora to them before they left the house. I was hurried to get her ready. Contractions were still coming, even stronger. I was convinced this was the day! I watched Nora toddle over next door. She was holding her daddy's hand, Susie doll in the other. She was my heart. I felt a tear surface as I lost sight of her pink plaid dress, pink bow, pink shoes. "God, help her with the adjustment. Don't let her feel that I don't love her." Peace washed over me. I was ready.

Friday, July 5, 2013


This is part IV of my story on birth and mothering. I journaled this on June 25, 2012, at 39 weeks pregnant with our second baby.

I want control of this situation.

No words I could speak or write would convince you of the importance of this matter to me.

I WANT a healing birth.

I have spent the last year preparing for this experience, now a matter of days or even hours away.

I have dug deep, I have searched and researched implemented and prepared.

I have worried and lost sleep and stressed.

Now I feel one thing, because I have come to the realization that I am not the one in control.

I am scared.

I am not in control.

Is there something more I should do?

Have I missed some preparation?

What will happen?

How will I respond?

I am scared.

Who is in control?

I feel anxiety growing stronger.

Where do I turn.

Oh, Lord, YOU are in control.

You are in control.

I am sorry for holding onto this for so long.

Tears fill my eyes as I surrender.

Take this from me, Lord.

It is too much for me.

But in Your hands, it is a tiny matter.

"No mountain, no valley, no gain or loss we know
Could keep us from your love...

How high, how wide
No matter where I am
Healing is in Your hands
How deep, how strong
Now by Your grace I stand
Healing is in Your hands."


This is part III of my story about birth and mothering. 

One day in October 2011, I came home from what I would still call the worst day I have ever had at work. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. David and I were supposed to be leaving Nora with my mom the next day. We were headed to a Zac Brown Band concert in Charleston. I was so looking forward to having a date with my husband. Despite the fact that I had blown through approximately 27 pregnancy tests (can you say money money money?) in the last month or so, David suggested I take a pregnancy test. "Okay, whatever. It will be negative like the rest of them." But in the face of my pessimism, the line turned pink and my frown turned upside down!

I called my old OB office with the news. I had labs done and filled out the paperwork. One day before my first appointment, I called David on the phone. "What am I doing? It is crazy to think that I can repeat the same "experiment" and expect a different outcome." We had to have a conversation about money, since changing place of birth and care provider meant more money for insurance deductibles, co-pays, gas, etc. The conversation wasn't very long, because we talked about the impact that having a couple more c-sections would have on our finances. David and I were in agreement. Things had to be different this go-round if the outcome was to change. So the search began. I felt like I was back at square one, only this time I had experiences and a scar to guide me. I set out on a mission, like a mad woman, to learn as much as I could about natural birth and to surround myself with people who would support me.

I found myself at the doors of Covenant Birth Center, accompanied by my husband and 16 month old. I knew I was not a candidate to birth with these midwives. I knew DHEC regulations. But I didn't know where else to turn, and a "You have not because you ask not" glimmer of hope guided me to this place. I opened the doors, and there stood both of the midwives. I had come unannounced. They were busy preparing for a photo shoot, yet they welcomed us into their beautiful facility, even as my toddler cried and whined to be put down for a nap.

They offered me a quiet place to nurse. The halls were painted with photos-happy photos- of families who had birthed there. I also saw several beautiful plaster forms of pregnant curves hanging on the walls. In the quiet room, there were toys, a Bible, a comfortable chair, a fetoscope, an exam table. Nothing about the room made me feel as though this was a place to handle a medical condition. Instead, there was warmth and joy. I wished I could hide the scar on my torso and be "allowed" to birth here. Regret filled my mind again as I thought back to the phone call I had made to the birth center when I first learned of my pregnancy with Nora. David helped me focus. This was about the future, not the past.

"She was born by Cesarean." Their faces fell. "We cannot. DHEC has said..." "I know. We came here hoping for advice, guidance. Do you have any recommendations?" The initial stiff feel to the conversation gave way to warmth and encouragement as I shared some of my story with these ladies. Out of the blue, one of them explaimed, "Oh! She needs Jennifer!" They wished us well with much sincerity and we were on our way.

Jennifer was a nurse midwife about 45 minutes from my house. According to the licensed midwives I hear about her through, she was very natural birth minded, a professional to whom they referred their mothers who "risked out" during pregnancy. I was able to speak with her on the phone one evening for about half an hour. After listening to my story, she said she believed that I had a great chance of VBAC. I was surprised at how encouraging she was. I felt like I was talking to someone who cared about me and my family. She had faith in me from the get-go. I needed that.

A new place of birth and a new care provider was just the beginning of what was different about this pregnancy. I began reading books. The Birth Partner, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, to name a few. I watched The Business of Being Born. I looked for a comprehensive natural childbirth education class, but didn't find one in the area. I chose to order the Hypnobabies home study course and started working through it at about six months along. I was also seeing a chiropractor certified in Webster on a weekly basis.

I was bursting with new ideas and information, but I still had doubts. After all, it didn't work the first time. Every time I got down about this, David would say, "Rebekah, everything is different this time." But was I doing enough? I felt the weight of every decision I made.


This post is part II of my story about birth and mothering.

When my baby Nora was eight weeks old, a very dear friend of mine passed away suddenly. She was working for the Lord in a children's home in Malaysia at the time. Before she left the country, she had come to see Nora and me in the hospital. I didn't know that would be the last time I would see her. Her birthday was the day we brought the baby home from the hospital. I couldn't make the party, so Joy had tried her best to arrange a time for us to get together before she left. It never worked out because I was too wrapped up in myself and my baby to make time for one last visit. I now live with that regret. But then, in the summer of 2010, I lived in a state of shock and disenchantment. I walked on, but I didn't feel. I didn't stop to think.. I had one more year of nursing school, and I set my eyes on the goal of finishing.

There was a day when I finally sat down and thought. I wrote ferociously. Things didn't necessarily make sense, but at least I was beginning to feel alive again. Joy had been the truest friend I had ever known. She pursued me when I did not want to be pursued. I had chosen not to obey God's Word and had become a mess of a person, but Joy never stopped ministering to me. Even when I tried to keep her at a distance or said hurtful things to her. She lived for eternity. What was I living for?

I had this to ponder. I also struggled moving on from Nora's birth. Another day in February, I began writing again. This time I wrote about birth. I was doing my final clinical rotation in the hospital where Nora was born. Every time I passed by the maternity unit, my heart would beat faster and my palms would get sweaty. I began having flashbacks of the moments just before the c-section, the moments I had experienced my first anxiety attack. I realized that I had things to deal with. Writing it all down was the beginning of the healing process. I still had a long way to go, but I felt ready to move forward.

David and I had always said we wanted a big family. We had never put a number on how many children we hoped to have, but we both felt it would be more than two or three. Because I knew having a cesarean scar on my uterus put a possible limit on the number of children we would be able to have, we didn't spend much time thinking about repeat c-section vs vaginal birth after cesarean. We also knew I was a great candidate for VBAC, especially if we were to wait a little to have another baby. We had plenty to distract us during this wait as I graduated and began learning the ropes of working as a RN. It wasn't long before we were officially hoping to see two pink lines.

I remember this season of my life as a time of questions, a time of searching for answers. I prayed to my God, who works things we can't understand for our good.