I seriously don’t even know where to start in writing this. We were incredibly blessed to have a smooth pregnancy, labor, and delivery of our firstborn little peach, Sylvia Rae!
Maybe one of the biggest blessings about our birth was the presence of our dearest friend Keri throughout the weeks leading up to, during, and after the birth. Keri and I met in college, were roommates, and have been best friends for a number of years now. For the past two years, she has been training to become a Midwife in the Philippines. She flew all the way back here to be present and aid in our labor and birth! I can’t say enough how big of a help it was to have our own personal midwife , Youtube Queen, and best friend living with us during this time.
Our due date was on July 18th and we gave birth to lil’ Syl on the 25th. After our due date passed, I got more and more nervous each day that I would have to be induced and switch my care provider from the Midwife group to the Doctors at the hospital. Our goal for our birth was to have a relaxed, spontaneous, all natural experience with as little intervention as possible. We had taken a Bradley Method birth class and I was talking to Keri almost every day for a good chunk of third trimester in order to prepare mentally and physically for what was to come. Having anxiety disorder, I knew labor would be a huge battle not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.
This is where husbands are the best. One of the most encouraging things I treasured in my heart in my last weeks of pregnancy was something Sam pointed out to me again and again each time fear would come and haunt me. He prayed I would see the beauty in the laboring process. That I would see the parallels in labor and pain in giving birth to new life for what they are–a glimpse of the way in which Christ will return! Right now we live in a time of groaning and labor pains that will one day shake the skies and give birth to our full salvation and our Savior’s return! I held onto this tightly before and during my labor with Sylvia.
As more and more days ticked past my due date we consulted some natural labor inducing methods. Who knows if these actually contributed to my induction, but this is what we did: took lots of walks, inserted Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) to help with effacement, and ate a hefty amount of spicy food.
I went into labor at 3am on July 24th (following a day of indian food, and a fun night of watching The Prestige and making SO MUCH chicken parmesan with Sam and Keri). I woke up to what felt like waves of period cramps that lasted about 20-30 seconds or so. I woke up Sam and told him what was going on..maybe this is labor? I was then able to sleep in between those early contractions until around 7am. We both got up and went downstairs to wake Keri. After feeling my stomach and confirming that yep, we indeed were in labor, the three of us ate a full breakfast at the Drake Diner and then Sam went to work. We knew I could be sitting in this early phase of labor for maybe days, so with Keri at home Sam was able to work until I absolutely needed him (thus maximizing the time off he would get for baby).
The rest of that morning was a mix of trying to rest on the couch, talking to Keri, wincing, pacing, squatting, trying to stay nourished and hydrated, and we watched The Imitation Game on Netflix. At a certain point Keri wanted ice cream so we drove to Hyvee and came back. Sometime around 2 or so I felt things starting to get harder. My contractions were lasting longer and it took a lot more effort to maintain my sense of humor. Apparently I have a good poker face though because Keri was convinced I was likely still only a couple cm dilated and in early labor. At any rate, I was feeling the power of the uterus crank up a couple notches. So after angry dancing to ABBA over the speaker system and eating some ice cream, I sat in the bathtub for an hour or so to try and relax. This helped SO MUCH. The warm water was so comforting on my muscles and it made contractions more bearable.
When I got out of the bath things started hurting worse again, and it took me what felt like forever to get dressed because contractions kept punching me in the stomach. I called Sam and told him to hurry cuz mother nature is taking her course and baby is getting anxious to make her entrance. Once home, the three of us sat on the floor of Sam and I’s bedroom listening to me wince in pain and complain about how labor was not fun anymore. Sam and Keri still worried I was maybe wearing out too fast and that I was likely still in the early stages. I remember Sam starting to talk about his plan for when we needed to get ready to go to the hospital later that night (HA!). Despite the risk of being disappointed, I asked Keri to check my cervix so I could mentally grasp how much farther I needed to progress. It was at this point that Sam stopped making plans and started executing because WHAT I was at a 6 or 7cm to everyone’s shock!
We grabbed a bunch of stuff and it was hidey hoe (is that a phrase?) to Methodist Downtown. Car contractions were awful. Incredibly uncomfortable and I swear the stoplight in front of Smokey Row took YEARS to change. Once parked, we trudged our way down the ridiculously long hallway to the labor and delivery unit and checked in. I think the nurses behind the desk thought I was being dramatic when we told them I was at a 6 or 7 already. They ushered us to a room and tried to put a hep lock in 3 times before they gave up and decided that if i were to need medicine it was going to have to happen through an injection in my leg (apparently my veins aren’t the best). It was now about 6pm on the 24th.
Our labor and delivery nurses were incredible. They let us do our thing and gave us plenty of space and privacy to labor together with just the three of us. Once in the hospital I used the birthing ball, squatting, the whirlpool tub, and countless hip massages during contractions to progress through labor…
So then I started to get, “pushy”. And from this point on all I can recall is the feeling of needing to have the most intense toilet experience of all time. It was almost like all of the Indian food I ate to try to induce labor was just churning and churning and churning in my stomach like it was friggin’ Edy’s ice cream. I continued to muster as much strength as I could with each contraction, but my bag of waters was still intact and I seemed to be stuck at the 9.5cm mark. At that point my midwife, Justine, presented the option of rupturing my bag of waters to get things finished off. I told her I wanted to try getting through a couple more contractions and think about it. And at the very next contraction on the squatting bar, I huge GUSH of fluid, wet socks, and a wave of relief! It broke!
I think the rest of labor and pushing lasted about 45 minutes after that. My legs gave out from squatting so much the past 20 hours , so I ended up laying on my side. With every contraction I would yell, “Legs!”, because I could NOT hold them up on my own anymore and needed Keri and Samuel to hold them so I could put as much energy and focus into effective pushing as possible. This was the hardest part of labor. I felt like it took me a long time to figure out how to listen to my body and push effectively with each contraction. I had to remember that the pain was the sheer power of my uterus, and the contractions were something meant to usher out our lil’ peach into the world, and were giving me a boost to do so. Seriously, contractions are CRAZY. At that point, you can’t HELP but to just tense up and push.
The last 10 or so minutes are a bit of a focused blur (an oxymoron, I know). One of the nurses thought if I watched the progress I was making in a mirror I could adjust my pushing as necessary. I was a little too in focused labor land at that point. I closed my eyes with every contraction and just asked Jesus to continue to be with me and rule over my body, keeping me calm when I was tempted to let my mind run to anxious thoughts and panic. He was faithful.
At 12:25am on July 25th, Justine gave Sam a pair of gloves to catch Sylvia, only to have Sylvia burst out into the world before her Daddy could get gloves on. The seconds leading up to and following that last push I will forever remember and savor and hang on to. So much effort, and a HUGE wave of relief followed by the biggest high of happy teary feelings I could ever imagine. They put our baby on my chest, and just like that, we were three!
I always thought that the minutes after birth and tearing and getting stitched back up down there would be so painful and hard, but all I could do was stare at the baby who pooped all over my chest while I cried tears of joy and squeezed Sam’s hand so hard over and over and over again.
We were falling in love with a little human that for nine months, was knit together inside of my womb. Sam cut the cord, Keri snapped pictures for us to keep forever, nurses bustled around the room following standard procedure, and finally around 2am all was quiet. Sylvia Rae was bundled up sleeping, we were diffusing lavender while napping until the sun rose, when we would begin to tell the world that little peach was HERE!
After that, you KNOW I savored the hospital stay. Mediocre food whenever you want it? People to tuck you into bed before you start tucking your daughter into bed for the rest of your life? Loved it. I don’t know how to end a birth story without just rambling on and on about all of the minor details, so we’ll leave it at this: Labor was always something that I thought was meant to be feared, something that our culture had trained me into expecting nothing but pain and hard work and tears. But it was actually the most empowering experience I have had. The presence of Christ, a loving husband, a best friend, and supportive labor nurses and our midwife gave me the encouragement I needed. The Spirit gave me strength I didn’t know I had in me, and I would absolutely do it all over again. I can honestly say it was FUN. And HARD. And so, SO worth it.