Although there are a lot of Birth Testimonies being shared that don’t go according to plan, this is an amazing reminder to us that God uses these times. The times when plans change and birth plays out differently than we expected. He uses these times to draw us near Him, to be our refuge and comfort. All photography done by Doula Shannon Bacus.
My labor journey started early Monday morning, December 15th, 4 days after my estimated due date. I woke up to a contraction that felt different than the Braxton Hicks I had been feeling for the last month or so. I stayed awake for a while to really test whether this was the real deal. I had been losing bits of my mucus plug for the last 10 days with random contractions here and there, but no consistency, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. When I noticed that the contractions were starting to come consistently 10 minutes apart, I thought, “This could be it.” I tried to lay back down to rest, since I knew we had a long way to go potentially. That only lasted for an hour or so. I got up around 4 or 5 am to sit on my birth ball, eat a little, and just walk around the apartment.
Around 7am, my husband, Chris, woke up to get ready for work. I gave him an update and we decided it would be best if he stayed home. Contractions continued to come 7-10 minutes apart, 1 minute long. I took a nap around 8 am, hoping that might get me through some of this waiting period. I woke up an hour and a half later to 10 min contractions still. Around lunchtime, we went to the mall to walk around. I didn’t last long because I wasn’t feeling well. I was fighting a cold on top of labor, so we headed back home. Around 5 pm, I tried using the breast pump to get contractions closer together. I then walked our apartment complex stairwells. At that point, I had them coming 6-8 minutes apart.
Unfortunately, as soon as I stopped walking, they moved back to 10 minutes apart. I decided it was time to lay down for the night, since I was starting to wear myself out. I slept the whole night, only waking a few times for contractions. When I woke up Tuesday morning, my emotions really hit me. I was discouraged and my sore throat and cough had gotten worse on top of it. The contractions also had all but disappeared entirely. My precious husband spent some time lifting me up and praying over me. I had a doctor appointment at 8:30 am and hoped we would hear some good news about my progress.
After an AWFUL, PAINFUL cervical check, we found out I was 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. It encouraged me to know my body was making SOME progress! The cervical check definitely stirred up my insides because from that point on, contractions became much more painful and were coming 7 minutes apart. I was actually having to pause to breathe through them. The day continued on at that pace and intensity. Chris was an incredible support each time one hit, rubbing my back and speaking words of encouragement. My go-to position was hands and knees, rocking side to side. I was so thankful for our birth classes to prepare me for the proper breathing and positions to labor in. To pass some time between contractions, Chris and I played a game of Phase 10. It was hilarious to be in the middle of making a move and just silently move to my hands and knees, with no warning for Chris.
Intense contractions continued into the night and around 5 am I had Chris call our doula to come help me labor. I was running on very little sleep at this point and felt I needed that extra support. When she arrived, she had us try a few techniques to get the baby flipped from posterior, which is what we were thinking was stalling my labor. It was beautiful watching my doula instruct Chris in how to support me and having him jump in head first. He was tender and comforting through the pain.
I had a chiropractor appointment scheduled that day and we decided I should go to try to get things moving along. He specialized in the Webster Technique, which is used during pregnancy to get babies in the most ideal position. After the adjustment, I was still at 7 minute apart contractions. I continued laboring at home until around 2 o’clock when my doula suggested going to the hospital (which later we will see was a complete Holy Spirit-led suggestion). The contractions were still at the same intervals, but she could tell the intensity was increasing, and I was honestly ready to see where I was. I didn’t want continual cervical checks once at the hospital, since that can lead to an increased risk of infection and premature water rupture, but I was antsy for some idea of where I was.
Once we were at the hospital, we were taken back to triage and I was asked to change and lay down in the recliner to be monitored and checked. Contractions in the laying down position were excruciating! (Another reason why it baffles me that hospitals still have women lay down to labor. It slows the labor and is WAY more painful than moving around!) Once I was hooked up, an intense contraction hit and I had to sit up and shift, causing the monitor to move. The nurse lost the baby’s heart rate and was struggling to find it again. I assumed it was just because I had moved around.
All of the sudden, however, the nurse began moving quickly to press a button on the wall. Immediately, 3 or 4 nurses came rushing in to my tiny triage room. One put an oxygen mask on me, one flipped me over on my side, and one quickly checked my cervix (cervical checks are never fun, but one done in a massive hurry is HORRIBLE). The baby’s heart rate had dropped to 86 and was not jumping back up. As I lie there on my side, facing my doula and husband, I just stared into their eyes, as they calming spoke to me to just breathe deeply. I had a mix of emotions.
For one, I was discouraged because I heard them mention I was only 3 cm and very posterior. I had been laboring for 2 1/2 days, passing a lot of bloody mucus, so I expected to be further along. For two, I felt at peace. I had heard of the monitors often doing this, where there are false alarms with the heart rate. I didn’t think much of it. After the oxygen was on for a minute or so, baby’s heart rate jumped back up. More than anything, I just wanted them to get this monitoring done so I could move freely during contractions. “That was quite a contraction,” one of the nurses joked. I heard the head nurse talking to Dr. Dalton, my OB, on the phone, discussing how they would monitor the heart rate for a while longer but if I didn’t dilate anymore, I could go back home.
My heart sank. I was so tired from being in labor for so long. I just wanted them to admit me so I could feel like things were moving along and so I could use the laboring tub. They finally took the oxygen mask off of me and started a saline lock in case we had another scare with the heart rate and needed to rush to surgery. Then began the never-ending questions they have to ask before admitting patients. I took that time to hand my birth plan to the nurse to look over so she would know I didn’t want extra cervical checks or continuous monitoring once I was admitted, along with instructions for after baby boy was born. Dr. Dalton had already signed off on everything in the plan, but the current staff obviously hadn’t had a chance to read it. I kept having to take breaks from answering questions so I could breathe through a contraction. I only had a few contractions before the baby’s heart rate dropped again, hovering between 86 and 93.
The oxygen was placed back on my face and I took the deepest breaths I could manage. Surely I could boost that heart rate up again! But in came the multiple nurses and off went the head nurse to call Dr. Dalton again. Within a few seconds, my recliner was rushing out the door before I could even glance back at Chris or my doula. Nobody was explaining anything so I had to piece together conversations around me. I had assumed they were wheeling me back to a room to monitor me better, but then I heard someone say anesthesia and I saw the door we were going through. I was heading back for a C-section.
I burst out crying. I was terrified and my husband wasn’t with me. The nurses were trying to soothe my nerves, telling me it would be ok, but it was all so overwhelming and unexpected. There were hospital staff rushing around the surgery room, getting things ready. I found out later that a scheduled C-section had been pushed back for my emergency. I laid there, looking up at the bright lights, paralyzed with fear. Why was this happening? This is not what I expected when we entered the hospital that day. As I searched the room again, I saw my husband had made it. His face was partially covered by a surgery mask, but I could see his smiling eyes and peace slowly started to pour over me. I then saw Dr. Dalton enter the room and I felt even more peace. I had chosen her as our provider because I knew she had a passion for women’s desires in pregnancy and birth. She was also a strong Christian with a calming, compassionate spirit. She came to my side and began to explain why she felt a C-section was necessary.
Our baby’s heart rate was dropping with almost every contraction and being only 3 cm dilated, I was nowhere near the end of labor. She didn’t feel he would be strong enough to keep crashing for hours longer. I trusted our doctor. She knew my desires for a natural birth. She knew how much I had prepared for this “marathon” of labor. She wasn’t making this decision hastily. As they began putting my spinal block in, Dr. Dalton held my hands, stared into my eyes, and explained every step of the process. During the surgery, I held Chris’ hand and wouldn’t take my eyes off of his eyes. He was the calm in the storm of my emotions.
Occasionally, the assistant would dry my tears and take my oxygen mask off to wipe my nose. There was so much kindness in the room. The Holy Spirit was so clearly present. After an uncomfortable tug, I heard our Ethan cry for the first time and he was then placed on a table a few feet away from me. The first thing Chris said was, “Look at all of his hair!” We were unable to do skin to skin right away like I had wanted because Ethan needed to be taken away to be put under an oxygen hood. Chris went with him and I again was alone, silently mourning this turn of events. Dr. Dalton finished stitching me up and came over to my side. She kissed me on the forehead and began praying over me, weeping with me. Such peace poured out in that moment.
As heartbroken as I was, God had a purpose. He had a reason for how my son’s birth turned out. I wasn’t able to see my son for over an hour after he was born. God had a reason. They cut his cord before it was done pulsing. God had a reason. They put the eye ointment in my baby’s eyes without checking my birth plan and he had a bad reaction to it. God had a reason. My placenta wasn’t saved for encapsulation like I had wanted, to help with PPD. God had a reason. My stomach was cut and I will forever bear that scar. God had a reason. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’” God did “prosper” us. Even after separation from my child, I was able to successfully breastfeed.
Ethan has been a rockstar nurser from day one and has gained amazing weight. My bond with my husband increased tenfold as I witnessed him caring for his newborn son and his wife who was recovering from surgery. There is beauty and humility in a husband who will tenderly help his wife shower, ignoring the scarring, the bleeding, and the engorged breasts. The support from my family and friends was more than I ever could have imagined as well. Maybe God allowed this emergency C-section if only to require us to lean into Him more in our brokenness and recognize the blessings He has placed all around us.
A quick addition: People may be thinking, “This is why you shouldn’t spend time preparing for labor. Nothing goes as planned.” We didn’t go into this birth with the notion that everything would go exactly as we envisioned. We did what we could to prepare for the safest birth for our child. Believe me, it would have been much easier to just go through the pregnancy with no care for exercise, nutrition, or evidence-based research on birth interventions. But we were given the task of caring for this child from the moment he was conceived. I feel God was glorified through it all. And I believe we were blessed for our efforts. Should we be given another child in the future, I will again train for our labor and birth journey.