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Monday, September 2, 2013

Baby Grace

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

I woke up at 5:30am on August 22, 2013 praying that it would be the day I would meet my daughter. I was 41 weeks and 4 days pregnant and running up against the dreaded 42 week "PAST DUE" mark, the generic expiration date for pregnancies in the U.S. The previous week had been spent trying to initiate labor. Long walks around the National Mall, acupuncture, cervadil and a Cook's catheter (look it up if you aren't familiar, eeek), followed by castor oil and much intestinal protest. That day I would face another round of cervadil if nothing happened on its own. 

From the day I found out I was pregnant, I felt compelled to have as close to a natural birth as possible. I researched and planned and read birth stories and watched documentaries and just knew that a home birth was the route that I should take. Mr. B and I took classes on natural childbirth. I studied self hypnosis for pain management. For nine months I treated my pregnancy and upcoming labor as a job and did everything I could to prepare for the the perfect home birth.

As I lay in bed that morning praying for God to grant me my wish and start my labor, I felt my daughter jolt twice. Not only did I feel it but I thought I HEARD it. That was odd but it was early in the morning and I could have just imagined hearing it. A few minutes later I knew it wasn't my imagination. I rolled over and felt the "gush" I'd heard so much about. My water had broken!!! "This is it! Praise God!!" I pretty much squealed. He had answered my prayer so definitively I couldn't believe it happened just like that!  I woke up Mr. B with the good news and we waited for labor to begin.

Anticipating the beginning of the end of my pregnancy!
We waited, and we waited, and we waited. By noon, contractions still hadn't begun. I called my midwives who suggested I come in to be checked and possibly start the cervadil after all. We arrived at the birth center around 4pm. I was dilated to 3cm, which was where I had been since the Cook's catheter two days earlier. Since my water had now been broken for almost 12 hours, the midwives wanted to start the cervadil to get things going. If you aren't familiar with how all this works, once your water breaks, you need to be in active labor and progressing well by 24 hours or your risk for infection becomes a big issue. After a couple hours of being monitored at the birth center, they sent us home to wait for labor to begin. The cervadil kicked in and I began to have regular contractions. They weren't terribly strong but they were happening and I was excited.

My mom helping me work through a contraction before the midwife arrived
Around 11 pm, I decided to call the midwife to see if she would come over.  Interestingly, at 10pm the midwives had changed shifts and the midwife who was now on call was the midwife I had been praying would attend my birth. She said she would be over shortly to check me, even though I didn't feel like I was in "active" labor yet. She wanted to see if the now six hours on cervadil had helped me to progress beyond 3cm. We called the birth assistant and my bestie, Mrs. S, to let them know the midwife was on her way. About an hour later everyone descended on our place. The midwife promptly ushered me into our bedroom for the moment of truth.

NOTHING, nothing had changed. I was still a 3 and my water had been broken for 17 hours! In an instance my hopes for a tranquil, candle-lit, water birth were gone. I would need to transfer to the hospital. The midwife made no bones about it, I was not progressing and would need something stronger, pitocin. I know it sounds silly but that word broke my heart. My entire pregnancy I had focused on avoiding medical augmentation to escape the dreaded "cascade of interventions" that so many women become caught up in and too often wind up with a cesarean.  I could no longer hold back my tears. I lost it. So much for being calm and composed. Everything became a blur. The midwife on the phone with the hospital, my husband frantically trying to pack the bag we were so sure we wouldn't need. Mrs. S directing us on what we would need and helping to keep my mom focused and calm. I sat on the bed stunned, crying. I was a mess.

Finding humor through all the craziness
By the time we were admitted to our room it was after 1 am. 21 hours since my water broke but since we were now in the hospital and in a "sterile" environment, the pressure to be delivered by 24 hours was not as urgent anymore. The interventions began. First with an IV. It took FIVE tries to insert my IV! My arms are still black and blue. Then they began Pitocin. They were only able to take it up to a level 2 before the baby started to show decelerations, aka her heart rate was dropping during the contractions. They stopped the pit to give us both a rest. I was exhausted. It had been over 24 hours since I slept and creeping up on 12 hours since I last ate. The best I could do was sneak in a few bites of granola bar here and there. As the morning wore on, I resigned myself to the inevitable. I was going to have a c-section. Then something great happened. The doctors changed shifts and two new physicians came to meet me.

I have to add in here that I was blown away by hospital staff. I was terrified that I would be treated poorly because I had transferred in at the last minute having never seen a doctor there or even taken a hospital tour. What I found was the opposite. The entire staff was so kind, compassionate and helpful. They took copies of my birth plan (or what remained of it) and really tried to adhere to it. They showed us respect for trying to have a home birth and sympathy that the plan had not worked. That was definitely a pleasant and welcome surprise. The new doctors were no exception. After I was checked again and still at 3cm, I just KNEW they were going to call it. I told the doctor "ok, I'm ready, let's just get on with it." He actually told me no. I was floored. He said your birth plan is to have a vaginal birth and I'm going to do everything I can to get you that.

The next plan of action was to get an epidural (hey, at this point, WHY NOT?!?) and try the pitocin one more time.  An hour later I was feeling good, baby girl was doing great and my contractions were ROCKING off the monitor and coming every two and half minutes. We were in business, things were going great. I might avoid the cesarean after all! Mrs. S and Mr. B kept me company and we even managed to have some fun during this time. Mostly joking about me sneaking food and being delirious from lack of sleep.

Trying to enjoy the situation
Mrs. S analyzing my contractions
I spent around four hours with the epidural and pitocin before the doctor checked me again. I just knew I would be at a 7 or maybe even an 8 by the way the contractions were coming. The look on his face said it all. I had only progressed to a FOUR and to make matters worse, the baby's head was not in the right position. My body wasn't opening. Failure to progress. My water had been broken for almost 30 hours. We had tried cervadil, pitocin, an epidural and time. We had run out of options. I was going to have a c-section. I could tell you that I was strong, that I knew everything was going to be ok but that would be a lie. I was scared. I was exhausted. I was hungry. I was mentally and emotionally drained unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had no choice but to pray and ask for God's protection for my child and me and for wisdom and skill for the surgeons. There was a flurry of activity as they prepped me for surgery, I zoned out. I felt numb, and then I REALLY felt numb as they increased the medication and my body lost feeling.

Prepped and waiting
Once I was in the operating room, I focused all my energy into staying calm and trying to enjoy the fact that this would all be over soon and in a few precious moments, I would see my daughter. Mr. B was ushered in the room and the surgery began. It was fast but it felt like an eternity. I kept waiting to hear her cry and not to think about what was being done to my body on the other side of the blue tarp. I quietly sang the chorus to "How Great Thou Art" and squeezed my husband's hand to keep from crying. There was no pain but there was incredible pressure, at one point I really thought the doctor was going to crack one of my ribs. Then, all at once, there was a collective sigh in the room and a strong, healthy wail of new life! She was here!!! She was crying!!! She was ok!!! This was the most bittersweet moment of my life, my daughter was born but I couldn't hold her, I couldn't even see her. She was being held and cleaned and toweled off by strangers across the room. I would never have that moment again, never have the experience of being the first person to hold her.

My "short" baby girl
Mr. B was able to be with her, though. I could hear him tell me with an emotion filled voice that she was perfect. After what felt like an eternity, he brought her over to me. She was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I tried to kiss her but there was too much equipment in the way, all I could manage was a numb hand brushing against her cheek. Waiting for the surgery to be complete was torture, at one point, the anesthesia began to creep up my chest and I felt like I couldn't breathe. It was a horrific feeling. I tried not to panic. Thankfully, the anesthesiologist only had to raise my head up slightly and soon the feeling faded but my arm stayed numb for at least an hour. This is NOT ok when you're left handed and all you want in the whole world is to hold your new daughter. That was it, it was finished. After the surgery was complete, I was wheeled to recovery with Mr. B and baby Grace by my side. I am eternally grateful that they kept her with me the entire time, I couldn't have handled them taking her from me after all that!

Finally able to hold my daughter. The best moment of my life.

I don't tell this as a "horror" birth story. It wasn't. Extremely disappointing, nerve wracking, and exhausting? Yes, but neither of us were ever in an emergency situation. Although I experienced the exact opposite birth of what I had wanted, I know that God had his hand in it all. How do I know this you might ask? This is why. After the surgery, the doctor came into my recovery room to tell me that he now knew the reason my labor wouldn't progress. Baby Grace had moved into a position where her head was presenting on its side, meaning the top of her head was not pushing on my cervix to open it up. The reason why she couldn't get her head in the right position was that her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck TWICE and was too short to allow for her to descend. She was literally suspended in the womb and would never have been able to be born vaginally. Had my water not broken and put us on a timeline and the midwife not been wise and proactively sent me to the hospital, things could have been bad. There most likely would have been a true emergency.  I grieved the loss of my ideal birth. The day after we got home I had a good long cry. It still breaks my heart that I was unable to give birth naturally BUT nothing can take away from the fact that the most angelic face is staring up at me from her sling as I'm writing this. My daughter is healthy. I am recovering. This is the happy ending. This is what matters. This is what I choose to focus on. There was a lesson to be learned. 

I can make my plans but ultimately I am not in charge of my future. The only thing I had left to hold on to through all of this was faith that the Lord would see us safely through to the other side. 

Recovery has been hard but made much easier because my Gracie is here. She is already the joy of my life. I can't stand how much I love her. She is the biggest blessing I have ever received.

My IV battle wounds

Getting ready to go home. BIG YAWN!

First family photo! Um, it's cruel what three days of IV fluids will do to your face, HELLO PUFFY!

Finally going home!

Baby Grace was born on August 23 at 4:35pm. She weighed a "whopping" 6lbs 15oz and was 20 3/4" long.


Mrs. B


  1. She is beautiful! I am sorry that things did not go as you had planned, but I am so glad that you are both okay. I am touched by your faith and moved by the power of God you have witnessed in your life. Such a wonderful blessing.

    1. Thank you so much, KamiIla! Your kind words mean a lot. Xoxo

  2. I'm so sorry things did not work out as planned, but definitely grateful all went well and you all are healthy!!! You are inspirational!!! So happy you shared this story! <3 Grace is absolutely PERFECT and a wonderful blessing!!!

  3. What a beautiful story of anticipation mixed with a little anxiety but remedied by Gods Grace and your constant desire to be surrendered to his perfect will. All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose Romans 8:28