Saturday, August 23, 2014

God is in Every Birth

If there is one thing I see in every birth story I read, it is that God is in it. From my best to my worst, the one common thread is seeing God's hand moving in me. I shared awhile ago that this birth was much harder than I expected. But what I have learned most from this is that God was still there. Emotionally speaking, He was the only one there with me. The nurse He gave me that day was wonderful and really helped me as I struggled through intense pain like I have never experienced before. She was God's voice to me, telling me that I was doing well and encouraging me to persevere.

God was there! 

I think back to my other births and I see the weaving of God's story in the middle of all of them. Without God, I would not even have birth stories to share. He is the Creator of all life and nothing has breath apart from Him. God is in every birth.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mind, Body and Spirit

Since the birth of my 5th child, my life has been a little chaotic and I have struggled to write on this blog that I have desired to have for quite sometime. Even know I struggle to write, but this is a ministry that God has given me and I need to move forward, even if it is slowly. So today, I'm going to share what I have been learning so much recently, especially with this last birth.

Our mind, body and spirit are all connected.

This may not sound like an earth shattering revelation, but it plays a huge part in giving birth. Whether you desire to have a completely natural birth or one that is medicated in every way but a c-section, if there is trouble in one of these areas, it makes giving birth that much harder. A lot of things have come to light since giving birth to Samuel, and I realized how much I was struggling mentally and emotionally during his birth. Because my heart and mind were troubled, it was that much harder to give birth. I cried out to God for help and strength to persevere, which He readily gave, but it was still a challenge because things were not right. My heart and mind were strained because of a strained relationship, and without reconciliation, it was almost unbearable to give birth. I know I have spoken of some of these things before, but I want to reiterate them again to you because I never knew how much sin has effected giving birth.

It is part of the curse. "To the woman He said, 'I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.'" Genesis 3:16a. Sin does this! And when there is sin among God's people it is multiplied.

This does not mean if there is no sin among you you will have a pain free birth. It also doesn't mean that if there is sin your birth will be terrible. It's just clear from Scripture that sin has brought about pain in giving birth, and in my current experience, sin greatly multiplied my pain in childbirth and almost made it impossible.

My challenge to you: Always seek God, seek to weed out sin and seek to reconcile, because our mind, body and spirit are connected. It will not make your birth perfect, but it will help you to overcome no matter what happens during it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cyprian's Birth

            Sunday evening, March 23, I was having some contractions and feeling uncomfortable, but I couldn’t really tell if this was any different than usual. After we got Lilias into bed, James and I watched a movie, and I remember being glad when it was over (even though I liked it) because I felt really ready to lie down and try to get comfortable. For the first half of the night, I was waking up and going to the bathroom a lot, more than usual, and noticing the contractions, but was still not sure if I was in labor. This was two weeks before my due date, so I was feeling kind of surprised, and honestly a little scared that this could actually be it. I tried relaxing through the contractions, and was able to get a little sleep until about 3 or 4 a.m. I texted Jenny and told her that I thought I could be in labor. Around 4 a.m., I was sure I was in labor, and when I went to the bathroom, I noticed some discharge. I woke up James during some of the more intense contractions and he rubbed my back and tried to help me relax. We both woke around 6 and began to prepare for the day and for having this baby!
            As soon as I got up and moving around, I felt the contractions get more intense. I texted our friends who were going to watch Lilias, and our friend who was taking us to the hospital. Lilias woke up and came in bed with us to snuggie, and we told her we were going to have the baby today! She did great and was really helpful in getting herself ready, eating breakfast on her own, and watching shows until it was time for her to go hang out with Ben and Jill and Abby. I wanted to eat some breakfast because I wasn’t sure what they would let me do at the hospital, but the contractions were getting so intense, I wasn’t able to. I decided to try to take a shower and slow things down. The shower had the opposite effect, however, and I told James that Lilias needed to get to the Gantts’ immediately, and we needed Amanda to come pick us up. I made it back to bed and tried to lay down and relax. James was getting Lilias’ things together, and then, because we weren’t expecting this to be happening so early, James had to run to the bank to get out the rest of the money for the clinic. I called Shelly and she talked me through the contractions, which were getting closer together and stronger.
            James made it back to the house with the money, and as I was talking to Shelly, I heard Ben arrive to pick up Lilias. She came in and kissed me goodbye, and I heard Amanda arrive as well. James came back to our room after he had taken our hospital bags to Amanda’s car, and helped me get out of bed. I wanted to go to the bathroom before we left, so he helped with that. At this point, I couldn’t really move during contractions, so we were going a little ways, then stopping for the contraction, then continuing on our way. We made it downstairs and into Amanda’s car. The drive to the hospital was uncomfortable, but there was very little traffic and it was quick. James called our doctor on the way and he headed to the hospital as well. Amanda pulled up in front of the hospital and James helped me out, and we decided to let Amanda bring up our bags. I remember feeling a little self conscious and feeling like everyone was staring at us as we tried to make it into the hospital.
            As soon as we were in the building, a man who worked there brought a wheelchair and had me sit down in it. I was thankful for this and James held on to me as he pushed us towards maternity. Unfortunately, they were not very prepared for a woman this far along in labor, and we spent some time going up and down the hallway of the maternity ward while they debated on where I should go. Finally, the head mid-wife directed us to the delivery bloc. At first she didn’t want James to go with me but he insisted and I held a death grip on his arm, so she relented. We went to a room and she helped me changed into a delivery gown. Again, there was some debate about James staying with me, but he insisted, and they gave him some things to wear over his clothes. They also asked for our letter from the doctor (in our bags, in the car! Ooops!), and they really wanted James to go downstairs and pay. All I remember is him insisting that he was not going to leave my side (my hero J )
            In the delivery room I got up on the bed, and the midwives began to do the checks. I remember hearing “complet” in French, and James asking how far dialated I was – 10 centimeters! After the midwives had gotten my iv in, and checked me, and asked James another couple times for the letter that we didn’t have, everyone seemed to clear out of the way as they got the rest of the room ready for the delivery. We decided that James should try to venture back to the waiting room and see if Amanda was there with our bags, so that he could get that all important letter from the doctor that the midwives wanted. While he was gone, the doctor arrived and checked me as well. He also broke my water. I remember feeling pretty nervous because everyone was speaking in French or Arabic and no one told me anything that they were doing before they did it. I was very relieved to see James walk back through the door. There was also a period after he returned, that it seemed like he and I were in the room all by ourselves. I was laying on my side, and starting to feel the need to push, and I remember at one point looking up at James and asking, “who is going to help me? Why aren’t they helping me?!”
            I started to really feel the need to push, and there was still no one around. My belly started to shake with every contraction I wanted to push so bad, so I told James and he told a passing midwife. I think at this point, it seemed like everyone came back into the room, along with the doctor. I was really feeling overwhelmed and I think I told James I didn’t know if I could do this. The midwives got me on my back and put my legs way up high in stirrups (not comfortable!) and the doctor started saying something about how I needed to push down low, but up in my chest?! On the next contraction, I gave a push, but not throughout the whole contraction, and he started lecturing me (in French or Arabic I think) about how I needed to push for the whole contraction. So the next one I gave a good push and screamed a lot (I think I scared everyone in the room). Also the head midwife tried to get up on top of me and push on my stomach, so I screamed at her and hit her arm away. Again I think we scared them a little. In between contractions this time, the doctor did an episiotomy (without anesthesia!) and I screamed because I could feel everything. I pushed again during the next contraction, and told James I couldn’t do it, but he said I was almost there. I remember being super confused because with Lilias I pushed for 1 ½ hours, and it had only been 5 or 10 minutes. As it turns out, he had seen Cyprian’s head so he knew I was close. With the next push, he came out! They immediately put him on my chest, and I remember feeling so happy and relieved that he was here, as well as a little shocked since we had only been at the hospital for about an hour. I got to snuggle with him for an hour or more before they took him to get his bath and warm up. I continue to be thankful to the Lord who helped us in every step of this birth overseas. J

~shared by Heather K.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Levi's Birth

Our son, Levi Hudson, was born 3.5 weeks early on December 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm. I had been having painful contractions the entire week leading up to his birth and had called my doctor numerous times, wondering if I should go to the hospital. She told me if they were not regularly 5 minutes apart or less and if my water had not broken, that there was no need to go to the hospital just yet–that it was just my body preparing for labor.
I had a doctor’s appointment the day I was 36 weeks along. My doctor checked my cervix and found that I was already 3 cm dilated, 90% effaced, and Levi was already extremely low. This was crazy, but exciting news! Especially to know that I hadn’t been in pain the past week for nothing :) She sent me home to wait out the labor process.
Brian and I (at 36 weeks) “waiting out the labor process” on Thanksgiving Day!
Three days later, I was at work and I had to walk across the street to our other building to drop something off. On the way back to my building, I suddenly felt as if I was leaking. I wondered if my water had broken, but it wasn’t a large “gush” or anything like I had been expecting, so I had my doubts. I went inside and immediately found one of my older co-workers who I knew would give me some sound advice. She was eating lunch at the time–great lunchtime discussion right? “So when your water broke, what did it feel like? A gush or a trickle?” Hah! She told me she was pretty sure my water broke and that I should head for the hospital; it was about 1 PM at the time. The only problem: Brian wasn’t supposed to get off work until 3:30 PM. He had just started working at Starbucks the month before, so I wasn’t sure if he was even able to leave early like that (Starbucks is very strict about their scheduling).
I texted Brian and told him to call me as soon as he possibly could. About 5 minutes later, I spoke with him and he told me I needed to head to the hospital and that he wouldn’t be too far behind me–maybe an hour. An hour?! Levi could be here in an hour! Haha, little did I know…
I stalled at work a bit longer. My phone was nearly dead, so I was charging it there a bit before I left. I was also making my rounds and saying goodbye to all of my co-workers. It was a surreal feeling as I suddenly realized that it was my last day–November 31st, 2012. I made sure the two girls in the office (one of which would be taking over my job) didn’t have any last minute questions..all the while they reassured me that they were fine and they urged me to go. So finally I did (my contractions were not bad at all at that point, so I was easily able to drive).
I pulled into the valet parking area at Norton Suburban Hospital around 2:30 PM. The valet asked how I was doing that day and I said, “Well, my water just broke.” The look on his face was priceless. I’m sure he doesn’t see women in labor driving themselves to the hospital very often. He was so nice and helped me carry my bag up to the labor and delivery triage, where they did a few preliminary tests to make sure I was actually in labor. It turns out that only one of my “bags” of fluid had actually ruptured…and even that “rupture” was the size of a needlepoint. It took the nurse three tests to even confirmed I was leaking amniotic fluid–I’m sure she thought I was crazy. But I knew. I certainly hadn’t peed! Once she was actually able to confirm that, I could be admitted. Luckily, Brian showed up within the hour as well! It was time to have our Levi…or so we thought… :)
Around 6 PM I was upstairs and settled in a room. A nurse came in to check my cervix and I was about 4 cm dilated at that point. I was told that I could only have popsicles from that point until the baby was born. Popsicles?! Had I known that bit of information, I certainly would’ve stopped at Wendy’s on my way to the hospital! I was already starving for dinner! Our friends, Anna and Ethan, came to visit after they both got off work. Anna had been telling the baby he had to come a couple of weeks early (because they were travelling home for Christmas) and on a weekend (because she worked full-time, like me), so that they could be there for his birth. Looks like he was listening!
The doctor started me on Pitocin a few hours later once they had checked my cervix several times and was still only 4 cm. It wasn’t ideal–I would’ve liked to progress naturally–but it was necessary. Because my water broke earlier that afternoon, it was getting more and more risky the longer I wasn’t progressing. The baby was at risk for infection. The Pitocin was definitely kicking in and I was definitely starting to feel the contractions. I gave the word that I was ready for my epidural. Around midnight, my anesthesiologist was ready to administer that and Ethan and Anna headed home for the night.
From that point, I slept a solid 9 hours comfortably. 9 hours! It was fantastic. I woke that morning and I was refreshed and excited and ready to meet my Levi! Another nurse came in around that time and checked my cervix again. “4-5 cm.” Seriously?! The doctor advised breaking my water “fully” to hopefully speed things along (at that point, I was still only “leaking”). I agreed. She came in around 10:30 AM to break it and told Brian, Ethan and Anna (who had returned early that morning), that they needed to leave the room for a bit. They decided that they were hungry anyway, so they were going to get some breakfast from Panera (yea, and I’m stuck with popsicles). It was totally fine with me–I was resting and watching the cable TV I didn’t have at home :)
My nurse came to check my cervix again around noon, just as Brian and the Crowders were returning from breakfast. “Alright, are you ready to have this baby?” she said. Well, yes, of course, I’ve been ready for 21 hours now. Wait, what does she mean by that?! “How many centimeters am I now?” I asked her. “You’re 10! It’s time!” Looks like breaking my water did help to speed things along, because in a matter of 1.5 hours, I went from 4-10 cm. Holy cow.
Brian, Ethan and Anna came back in the room and I told them they were getting things ready for me to push. I’m pretty sure neither of them could believe it either! Ethan said, “wait, so you were 4 cm for the past day and now all of the sudden you’re 10?!” Hah! Brian and I were alone in the room shortly after that and all I could do was cry. All of the sudden, this was really happening and we were about to have a baby! Plus, I didn’t realize until that moment how sad I was that our families weren’t there to celebrate in person. I was an emotional wreck! But, I made all the last minute phone calls and sent all the “it’s time” texts and pulled myself together. Time to get this Levi out of my belly!
So my delivery room was hot. And Brian had only drank Dr. Pepper for the past two days. And we’re pretty sure he has some blood sugar disorder or something, because he nearly past out once I started pushing. He swears it wasn’t the fact that he was about to have a son–he just got really dizzy. To the point where my doctor actually made him sit down with a cold wash cloth on his head, while she fanned him. I have to admit, it was a pretty funny sight. Once “my team” got all of the supplies set up and situated, I started pushing around 12:40 PM. It was hard work! But I was expecting that. At 1:38 PM, Levi Hudson Mathews (5 lb, 15 oz and 20 inches) was here.
I have to admit, I was just so anxious for Levi to get here (and for the painful contractions to cease), that I wasn’t extremely nervous about the fact that he was only 36.5 weeks gestation. I hadn’t even prepared myself for the idea that he might have breathing difficulties or have to stay in the NICU for several days. But after 21 hours of labor and anticipation, when Levi finally arrived, he was having trouble. His breathing was extremely shallow–so much so that he could only make small whimpering noises instead of fully crying. Once they cleaned him up, weighed, and assessed him, they laid him on my chest for 5 minutes to see if that would help him. When they saw that it didn’t, they quickly took him to the NICU to be put on oxygen. To say that that was an emotional experience would be an understatement!
Levi spent 5 days in the NICU while he continued to gain strength, learn to breathe on his own, and combat jaundice. It was an extremely difficult few days as I was discharged from the hospital and Brian went straight back to work. My mom and I would visit him in the mornings and afternoons, and Brian and I were able to spend good time with him in the evenings. On December 6, Levi was discharged from the NICU and joined us at home–and our lives have been forever changed!!

~Shared by Ashley M.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Eliana's Birth

Our precious darling girl entered the world on Saturday, September 22nd at 12:36 pm and forever changed our lives.  Here is the story of her birth:

Eliana was due on Tuesday, September 18th; Tuesday came and went without any sign of our baby girl, but I wasn’t too worried.  In fact, I was fully expecting her to be at least eight days late since this was my first pregnancy and late babies tend to run in my family.  I had an appointment on Thursday, the 20th with one of the midwives; I had refrained from ‘getting checked’ until then but thought it might be a good idea to see if I was dilated or effaced at all since we were officially past our due date.  The midwife Sarah asked if I wanted her to strip my membranes; my answer was an emphatic no at that point; I anticipated Sarah telling us we were going to have to wait a while longer, but after she checked me, she said we were 2-3 centimeters dilated and about 80% effaced and that it could be ‘any day now’.  The reality that we were going to become parents soon (and very soon) hit me like a ton of bricks that morning.

The next day was an absolutely gorgeous Friday; I remember hoping our baby girl might make her appearance that day since I was born on a Friday, but even though Mom and I went for a nice long walk after lunch, there was absolutely no indication that Eliana would be joining us anytime soon.  I was having Braxton Hicks contractions throughout the day; Mom kept telling me I would know when the real contractions began, that the true contractions were much different than Braxton Hicks.

Isaac, Mom, and I decided to go out for a nice meal on Friday night.  We chose Thai food, and I issued Eliana her official eviction notice at the restaurant.  I still only ordered very little spice in my dinner because I was terrified of the heartburn that would result if I ordered my food very spicy as an effort to induce labor.  Yes, I wanted my baby girl in my arms sooner rather than later, but I did not want to deal with another night of constant heartburn.  When we got home, Mom and I went for another walk around the neighborhood, but still nothing seemed to develop.   

We decided to watch one of our favorite movies that night: the classic John Cusack 80s movie of Better Off Dead (it is hilarious- go watch it now if you’ve never seen it).  About 10:30, I got up to go use the bathroom when I felt a contraction that was different than any other Braxton Hicks I felt before, and I discovered Mom was right after all- I could definitely tell that contraction was a bit more serious than what I had been experiencing over the past several weeks with the Braxton Hicks. 

And then I felt my waters begin to leak.  It wasn’t a big gush, but it was noticeable.  When I went to the bathroom, I saw some bloody show.  I knew exactly what it was, but I called my mom to come and look at it anyway.  I will never forget when she said, “Yeah, you’re starting labor baby.”  It was a very defining moment of my life.  

Isaac and I decided to try to get some sleep.  Throughout the night, I woke up to a few contractions; they were uncomfortable and slightly painful, but they weren’t regular by any means.  I did wake up in the peak of one contraction; I think it was at this point I began a conversation with Jesus about how I know He knows all our pain, but that since He was man, He had never been in labor and given birth before and therefore couldn’t know the pain I was in at that moment.  Of course, a few seconds later when the contraction was over, I realized that being crucified was probably more painful than giving birth; I apologized to Jesus for my earlier rationale.  I think God just kind of chuckled at me at that point. 

I got up around 6:30 Saturday morning and took a hot shower to help with some of the contractions, which still weren’t regular.  I called my midwife Alison about 9:00 am and told her I had started leaking fluid and was having very irregular contractions.  She suggested I go for a walk and do other labor-stimulating activities to help speed the process along; she also said if within 18 hours of my waters breaking I wasn’t progressing, I needed to come to the hospital to start antibiotics.  Isaac, Mom, and I went for a walk around the neighborhood, stopping for each contraction with Mom timing them on her recently-purchased contraction app.  We came home, and Isaac headed to work for a little bit since things seemed to be progressing rather slowly.  When he left, I was sitting on the birthing ball, breathing through contractions, but still able to hold a conversation. 

About thirty minutes later, I asked Mom to call him and tell him to come home.  My contractions had progressed rapidly, and when he walked in the door, I was now leaning over the birthing ball (thank God for that birthing ball), moaning and humming through the contractions while Mom rubbed my lower back and applied some counter pressure.  I was trying every position Angela (our fabulous birth class instructor) had taught us over our seven week class with her; I even used my aromatherapy comfort measure for a few contractions (thank you dear Angela for giving me that Aveda spray), but I was rapidly becoming very uncomfortable.

After a few contractions, Isaac asked me if we needed to go to the hospital.  I said I didn’t know; he asked how far apart the contractions were coming.  Mom looked at her phone and told him every three and a half to four minutes or so.  He immediately said, “We need to go.”  Mom agreed, we packed up the car, and headed to the hospital.  Before I got in the car, I asked no one in particular to make sure I didn’t have a contraction for the ten-minute ride to the hospital.  Mom said she didn’t think that was going to happen.  Apparently, I had three contractions during the drive.

We made it to the hospital about 11:00 or 11:15 am.  Isaac dropped us off and went to park the car as we went to register.  Almost as soon as Mom and I were in the door, I got hit with an extremely intense contraction; I was halfway down the stairs into the lobby when I just stopped and grabbed the railing and breathed through the pain of the contraction.  I’ll never forget that spot in the hospital; I think that was when I truly realized I was going to give birth that day. 
Isaac made it in a few minutes later as his cell phone was exploding with text messages.  The person at registration asked if I could walk up to Labor and Delivery or if I needed a wheelchair.  I told her I could walk, so off we went.  Along the way, I had a few more contractions and was hanging onto walls, railings, and whatever else I could find.    

We made it up to Labor and Delivery and were taken to our room, complete with a tub for laboring (not that I got a chance to make use of it).  We met our super sweet nurse Jodi, who requested my urine sample and that I change into the lovely and oh-so-flattering hospital gown.  Isaac began to pray for us, but I only made it through about half of the prayer before I was leaning over the bed and moaning again. 

At this point, I was really feeling pain and my contractions were very close together; I already felt like I wasn’t getting much of a chance to recover in between each one.  I was asked to lay or sit on the bed so they could hook up the fetal monitoring device for a few minutes to check on the baby.  As the nurse was hooking all of the equipment up, she commented that my belly was very tight.  Hello, I was in the middle of a contraction.  Jodi came in to check me and said, “Well, that changes my plan a little bit.  You’re 100% effaced and at an eight, but I can pretty much flip that cervix back easily.”  She left to go update the midwife and came back a few minutes later. 

Of course, I had no concept of time at this point.  I had no idea how long I’d been in active labor or even at the hospital.  When Jodi told me I was dilated to eight centimeters, I remember thinking, “Not too much longer now then.  Okay, okay, okay…”      

Because I didn’t have the energy to get up and walk around, I just stayed on the bed, flat on my back.  I knew that was not how I wanted to be when it came time to push, but at that moment, it felt good to lay down.  With each contraction Isaac was rubbing my head or wiping my forehead with a cool washcloth (holy heavens, I got so hot so quickly) while my mom was reaching underneath me to rub my lower back through the contraction.  And I was squeezing the heck out of Isaac’s hand while humming and blowing through the contractions. 

Meanwhile, Jodi was trying to get an IV in my arm to get the saline lock in place (which is hospital policy even if the patient is planning on having a natural birth).  After a few failed attempts, she tried the other arm and when that vein blew too, she finally resulted to my hand.  She was so apologetic about not being able to get the IV on the first try; I remember thinking, “You sweet angel woman, that is the absolute least of my worries right now.” 

It wasn’t long after that I declared I felt like I had to push;  my mom got right down into my face and told me I couldn’t- that I needed to blow through it.  I must have looked at her like she was crazy because she stayed in my face and said, “Blow with me now.”  She started blowing while still rubbing my lower back, and I finally nodded my head and started blowing with her.  It helped, but I still wanted to push with every core of my being.  Isaac kept rubbing my head and applying the cool wash cloth.  But in between each contraction, I remember watching him walk from one side of the room to the other to get a tissue to blow his nose.  He was crying because he hates seeing me in pain and because he realized just how close we were to having our baby girl in our arms.

I don’t remember saying much during labor (apparently I was rather nice and didn't say anything too mean), but I do remember saying, “I don’t think I can do this” and was met by my husband, mom, and nurse all telling me I already was doing it.  I looked at my mom at one point and said, “I don’t think this was a very good idea.”  I think she might have laughed a little.  I honestly don’t remember. 

We were still waiting on my midwife to arrive when I asked how much longer she was going to be.  Jodi told me that she was coming soon, but that even if Alison wasn’t there after the next contraction, we were going to try pushing.  I don’t even know the thoughts that went through my head at that point.  I was all business and wanted to do what my body was telling me to do- which was push my baby girl into the world.

When the contraction came, I was still laying on my back.  I pushed and immediately said it wasn’t going to work; gravity was not on my side and I was tired of being on my back.  Jodi and the other nurses quickly pulled up the bed and converted it so that I could squat and lean on the birthing bar in front of me.  My midwife Alison walked in about this time (I was so glad she was on call that weekend); I remember making a quip about how my baby needed to make her appearance before Alison and her family left for Disney World the following weekend; Alison smiled and told me I was right and then reminded me to just do what my body was telling me to do.  She (and the entire staff at the hospital) was so calm and reassuring; her encouragement infused me with confidence.

I started pushing as I was leaning on the birthing bar; sure enough, I felt like I was taking a poo (well, I was- just like every other woman in labor) but even though I knew I was also pushing our baby girl down the birth canal, I didn’t feel like I was making any progress.  I remember thinking the pushing wasn’t nearly as bad as the contractions; I took a short break and thought about changing my position but almost immediately felt the urge to push again.  I leaned forward into the birthing bar and began pushing again and again, all the while hearing my birth team and the hospital staff and our dear friend Julia who was photographing our daughter’s entrance into the world telling me I was doing good and to keep going.

At some point I remember Alison telling me that our baby is starting to crown and that I needed to look at her and listen to what she told me to do to avoid tearing badly.  I pushed once or twice more and I began to feel the infamous ‘ring of fire’ and a split second later, Alison told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head.  I reached down with my left hand and touched her head and could feel the hair on her little head; someone mentioned she had good hair, and I vividly remember thinking, “Yes, she better after that heartburn.”  I brought my hand back up and looked at my fingers which were covered in blood but had just touched my baby’s head.  I pushed and pushed until I finally realized she was out. 

I fell back into the bed, and Alison and the nurses handed her right to me, placing her on my chest as she wailed at the top of her lungs.  Isaac was bawling and Mom was bawling and Julia was close to bawling, and I remember feeling nothing but sheer joy and contentment as I listened to our baby girl crying.  She had an incessant wail going, but Isaac got down close to her face, and she simply stopped and looked up at him, mesmerized.  It was one of the most precious moments of my life.

As my midwife was cleaning me up and the nurses were going about their duties, Isaac and I just stared at our perfect baby girl.  Our sweet little Eliana Rae had made her appearance at 12:36 pm, less than two hours after checking into the hospital and after what was only about 15 minutes of pushing.  My mom told me later that I had just redeemed myself for almost 30 years of being the family wimp and that she was so very proud of me and impressed that I had given birth naturally, without any medication whatsoever.  It turns out it was a good thing we weren’t counting on an epidural since there would have been no time for it anyway!

We were given some alone time, just our little family of three, before the nurses completed her assessment.  Her Apgar scores were an 8 and 9 and she breastfed within an hour of birth.  During her assessment, the nurse explained everything she was doing.  Our bundle of joy was eight pounds and seven ounces and 21.5 inches long.  When the nurse mentioned something about the baby pinkie, my mom thought something was wrong with her hand until the nurse said, “Yes, you see this little baby pinkie?  She will have you wrapped all the way around it very soon!”  And, indeed, it didn’t take long for that to happen!

There is so much more to her story, from her sudden transport to the children’s hospital on her second day of life to her week-long stay in the NICU to her homecoming to finally be with us.  And even though she is not yet three weeks old, both Isaac and I simply can’t imagine our life without our daughter.  I’ve realized that I am married to the absolute most wonderful man who is the most wonderful father, that being a parent is the most humbling experience of my life, and that even though we love our baby girl more than anything in the world, the Lord still loves her more than Isaac and I would ever be capable. 

~Shared by Jenny J.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Judah's Birth

This is one story I never thought I would be writing.

After almost two years of trying to conceive, my husband, Ben, and I were halfway finished with our home study with Lifeline Children’s Services and ready for the next step in the process of adopting a child (or children) from Peru when we saw those two little lines! In August of 2012, I had been diagnosed with PCOS (a hormonal disorder that causes cysts around the ovaries) after several months of waiting and wondering why I hadn’t gotten pregnant yet. After 5 months of Clomid and Metformin (the typical drugs used to treat PCOS symptoms—not the root cause!!), I decided to do a little research on my own and stop all the pills. I learned that by changing my diet and allowing my body to heal, I could most likely get pregnant without medication! I went on what was basically a paleo/eating clean diet, cutting out all added sugar, greatly reducing my carbs, upping my protein, switching to full fat organic dairy, and eating as much organic foods as we could afford. I exercised 4-5 times a week and also got rid of all the chemically-laden products in our home –many of which are known to affect our reproductive hormones. It was a huge change for both me and my husband, but after about 7 months, I went back to my OB and the 8-9 cysts that showed up previously on the ultrasound has diminished to only 1! Obviously I give all the glory to the Lord for healing my pretty-messed-up body!

Needless to say, we were both absolutely ecstatic to find out I was pregnant in August of 2013. I had been charting my temperature faithfully for almost 2 years and when it didn’t go down 14 days after when I knew I had ovulated, I was really surprised. I had quit taking pregnancy tests long ago, not wanting to put myself through the disappointment that inevitably came each month. But this Saturday morning, I thought I might as well use one of the many I had leftover from a bulk order from Amazon J I actually ended up taking 4 tests that morning—one positive result wasn’t enough for me!

As I began researching pregnancy and childbirth resources, I was really surprised by the c-section rate of the hospital with which my OB group was affiliated. A friend told me about the natural childbirth classes they had taken called the Bradley Method and I looked at her like she was crazy. Doesn’t everyone get an epidural when they have a baby? After spending countless hours reading everything I could get my hands on, I was convinced that I wanted to try and have an unmedicated birth. We signed up for the 12 week class the following week, and it was absolutely the best thing we did to help my husband and I prepare for the upcoming birth of our little boy.  At 20 weeks, I switched care providers to a group with three midwives that are affiliated with a hospital that is known for their support of natural births (and had beautiful birthing rooms with tubs and all kinds of other birthing supports.) Just a few more months to go!

Fast forward to April 18, 2014…

I started feeling contractions at around midnight on Friday, the day before my actual due date.  I had taught my ESL class that day and had to sit down a few times due to the strong BH contractions (which I had figured out were really BH contractions only a week or so before! I always just thought baby boy was just in a weird position and that’s why my tummy was so tight!)  Ben and I had spent most of Thursday evening walking--first around the neighborhood and then at Lowe's and Target. We were ready to meet our little guy! We learned in our class that when I started feeling contractions, I should first try to go back to sleep (and save my energy), so thankfully I was able to do that. I woke up again with contractions around 2:30am and got up and ate a bowl of cereal and walked around a bit, wondering the whole time if I might be in the beginning stages of labor. I finally woke Ben up at 4:30am and said, "Honey, I think something is happening," to which he replied, "Oh, okay. Well, can I go back to sleep for a little bit?" J To which I replied, “well, I guess we can try.”  I tried to go back to sleep but ended up just resting while he rubbed by back. We called our moms (who live in Knoxville) at 5:00 am and told them to go ahead and start the drive up. We both got up at 6:00am and took showers and cleaned up around the house a little bit. Our moms arrived around 9:45am and by this time, my contractions were about 8 minutes apart. I was able to still walk around a little bit in between, but really had to focus on being still and relaxing during each contraction.

At around 11:30, Ben thought it would be best if we went ahead and left for the hospital (our plan was to labor at home as long as possible).  Thankfully we had preregistered, so the check-in process was super easy! When we got to the triage, the nurse said I was already at 5cm, which was great news to hear--I did not want to be sent back home!  I was transferred to an L&D room at around 12:30pm (but not one with a tub--they were all full!) I labored for about 5 more hours, walking around and constantly changing positions to help baby move down, as we had learned to do in our class. At times though, all I wanted to do was lay in bed and rest, which the nurse encouraged me to do also, so I wouldn’t wear myself out too much! I was surprised that the pain was pretty manageable up until those last couple of hours or so. Ben was such a wonderful coach! My mom was also in the room, and offered great support and comfort. I definitely knew the point when I was in the transition phase and it was intense! My midwife had not been in to check me yet (I later found out she had delivered 6 other babies that afternoon!) so I asked if she would come check me. I needed to know how much longer I had to do this! I was at 7 cm, which was good, but I have to say I was hoping I was a little farther along! They put the monitor on me (I had chosen intermittent monitoring during the labor process) and everything went pretty quickly from then on. I began to feel incredible pressure and the nurse said I’d be ready to push when that pressure was constant. I began pushing around 5pm and about 30 minutes into the pushing process, Judah's heart rate dipped into the 60s, which got everyone a little worried. I looked up and saw that one of the OBs from my group had come in, which I knew wasn’t a good sign (I think my exact words were, “What is HE doing here!?). My midwife advised me to change positions and I was given an oxygen mask and also put on a heart rate monitor. She asked me to try not push so we could focus on getting his heart rate back up, but at that point, I couldn't not push. I heard her mention the forceps and vacuum and I (probably not very politely) asked her to not use either one! She said, “Well, okay...let’s get this little guy out then!” Just when I thought I couldn’t push any more, I heard everyone saying they could see his little head.  The Lord definitely had his hand on our little guy, and at 6:02pm we welcomed him into the world! Judah had a little bit of a hard time breathing on his own at first, but with the help of some vigorous rubbing, he did just fine. I was able to nurse him soon after that and had some great skin to skin time.

About 3 hours after I delivered, we were transferred to the mother/baby floor where we welcomed family and a few friends.  Our first night as a family of 3 was not exactly restful, but that was to be expected! I was so glad the OB gave the OK for me to go home on Saturday as soon as we hit the 24 hour mark.  Other than being sore, I felt fine! We sure were glad to get home!

We are so thankful the Lord chose to bless us with this sweet gift! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

~Shared by Lindsey W.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ellie's Birth

I'm not exactly sure where to begin here. So here's some background. We married a few months before our 20th birthdays and I was 4 months pregnant. So I was young, fresh out of high school, and for all purposes innocent and naïve. We lived in a 1 bedroom apartment and he worked grave yard shift at ups.
* Fast forward 4.5 months. *
We sat down with our doctor to have the whole "how do you want your delivery to happen" conversation. Philip and I had decided to forgo the birthing classes and just go with an epidural and drugs. Lots of drugs. We assumed the doctor was writing all of this down since it seemed he was taking notes.
   I had a wonderful pregnancy. Until the last month, when serious Braxton hicks kicked in. Starting July 4th, we were at the hospital almost weekly because no one could or would explain to me what a contraction felt like.  One night on my nightly walk around our complex, I felt them. Real contractions.
    This had to be it. I rushed home to call Philip for the 3rd time that month to tell him I think I'm in labor. He came home, contractions were still going strong. Picked me up, and the short but long trip to the hospital began. Over the railroad tracks I once loved to go over now feeling like jarring knives up my spine.
    We arrived at 11 pm on Wednesday night. The doctor decided to keep me at the hospital. I was approximately 3 cm and starting to efface (sp). They sent me for a catheter and an ennema (sp) cleaning everything out from inside me. Back to the room I was sent. To sit in my bed, not able to get out, all night.
    By lunch time Thursday I had only dilated to 5 cm and the doctor ordered pitocin. I had stalled out and hadn't dilated for several hours. I thought ok, here we go this aught to kick things into gear. By 6pm I was being moved into labor and delivery, yippie I was in transition! "May I have my epidural now? "
  I was informed that the nurses could only give me Demerol since there wasn't anything written in my chart about an epidural and they couldn't order it without orders. My eyes about fell out of my head realizing I wouldn't get the relief I though all along I would be getting.
The Demerol had started to kick in so my memory of things are very scattered. I apologize ahead of time.
  My father and step mother showed up. I barely noticed until my stepmother decided to start reading the monitor. Lol.
"A contraction is starting! Oh this is gonna be a big one!" After a couple times of that, I think I told her off. I'm not sure. Maybe I just decided to ignore her. Maybe in the Demerol haze I just truly can't remember. But I think she stopped.
 Next thing I remember is looking at my wonderful husband and how beautiful he looked holding my right hand. And then I looked at my dad holding my left hand. I remember telling myself not to be a typical woman in labor, and did my best not to hurt Philip. So I squeezed daddy's hand. I think I broke something, and whinnied "daddy, it hurts!"
  I don't know how long it took, but I remember I needed to push and the doctor wasn't there. The nurses were delivering my daughter. I was concentrating on trying to breathe. The nurses were yelling at me to stop holding my breath when I pushed. Then the doctor ran into the room stripping his clothes and putting on scrubs. The only thing I remember from that is him saying "sorry I'm late, I lost my keys." And thinking seriously!?!
He came over, grabbed a scalpel and sliced me tip to tail. Next thing I know I'm looking between my legs at a blue.... seriously she was baby blue... Baby. And I said "oh my God she's blue!" After the nurses assured me that was ok, I blacked out. Seriously. I don't remember anything until after midnight. Elizabeth (Ellie) had been born at 7:23 pm on July 23rd in room 223. My step mom still plays those lottery numbers.
  When I awoke from my drug induced black out, I was alone. Philip had gone home to change and sleep, my parents had left to go home. I paged the nurse and asked where my baby was. She brought Ellie to me. I remember nursing her, and just bawling my eyes out.  

~Shared by Barbara V.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Emily's Birth

February 12, 1984 – This was the date doctors had given Ed and me for the birth of our first child.  Having been married 12 years and just a year before been told we would probably never have children of our own, we were awaiting the birth of our first child.  

February 12th was a beautiful winter day; bright and sunny.  This Sunday was no different than any other in our nearly 12 years of marriage.  We arose at our usually time and prepared to go to church.  As I sang in the choir that morning, our baby seemed to move more than usual and I had feelings I had not experienced before. (In hind sight, contractions)  They continued throughout the day, but otherwise the day went as usual.  After the evening service Papaw and Ed had a meeting after church, so I went home with Memaw to wait for Ed to pick me up on his way home.  Memaw and I had our usual after church snacks that included Vienna sausages, pickles, crackers, cheese and an assortment of other snacks.  At this point in my pregnancy, I ate most anything.  Everything looked and tasted good. 

After Ed arrived we stayed a while longer and went home around midnight.  I had already finished my last day of work until after the baby’s birth, so I planned to sleep late the next morning.  This was not to be.  As I sat down on the bed to remove my shoes, my water broke - time to call the doctor.  As we called the doctor we were told to go as soon as possible to the hospital to be checked out.  Due to my age I was considered a high risk pregnancy and my doctors wanted me at the hospital.  After I arrived it was determined that I was in active labor, but had not dilated so I was put in a room to be watched.  One of the first questions that I was asked was what had I eaten in the last 24 hours.  I had to remember all of the things I had eaten at Mamaw’s that evening.  Much of which came back up before the night was over. 

During a previous visited one of the doctors in my group had suggested that I would need to have a C-section.  (He was the only one who had ever said that.)  Because of that I had become set on not having a C-Section delivery.  Throughout the next few hours I napped when I could and had contractions off and on with no regularity and little dilation.  About 7:00 am the doctor decided that he would go ahead and give me the epidural to see if my contractions would become regular and I would dilate.  Even after the epidural I continued to have irregular contraction only now I could not feel them.  Ed monitored our baby’s heartbeat and well as my vitals as I continued to doze.  Ed, being the curious sort, wanted to know everything that was happening.  Therefore, it was no surprise to him when Dr. Blank rushed into my room at 9:00 am saying that the baby’s heart rate had dropped and he would be doing a C-Section immediately.  I was quickly rushed to an ER and at 9:05 our precious baby girl made her appearance into the world and into her lives.  She was beautiful and Ed & I were delighted with this wonderful girl from God.

Although we had waited 12 years for the gift, we were not prepared with a name for a baby girl.  Our families had many male children, but few girls.  We assumed our first child would be a boy.  Being a teacher there were many girl names that were OFF of my list of possible girl names.  Emily Elizabeth was my preferred name for a girl - Clifford, the Big Red Dog, being one of my all-time favorite children’s books.  For that same reason Ed preferred not to name her Emily Elizabeth.  By Wednesday we had decided to name her Emily – a family name, my great aunt.  It wasn’t until Friday when we were told we had to have the birth certificate filled out by noon that we finally decided that Elizabeth (also a family name – Memaw’s name) would be her middle name.  On Saturday, February 18th we took our beautiful daughter home with us.  For 30 years we have treasured that marvelous gift from God.   

~Shared by Teresa C. (My Mom :) )