“God has already written her birth story” sang the gentle chorus of her voice over the low, slow a capella of my groans. This was the soundtrack of the day. It was truth repeated to my needy ears and heart as pain and doubt increased. When it began I felt sure, excited, but then it didn't go as I had planned…
At 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant, I was done. So, when greeted at 2am by the tightness of true contractions - rather than the continued taunting of Braxton Hicks - I was glad and they were welcome. Laboring at home was distracted by Netflix while my husband slept in intervals, only waking to make sure that I was not in need. After my first shower we started timing. Sporadic quickly turned to regular intervals and we (read: husband) prepared to leave.
While our older children waited to be picked up by a friend, I was offered companionship to help with my obvious pain. Standing in my second warm shower, my doula, Jessica, arrived. Around 8am she insisted we leave; I didn't want to get out of the shower. But my contractions, hovering around 3 minutes apart, gave clear signs to head to the hospital.
At the hospital, an optimistic and high energy nurse checked my cervix. As the statement, “one to two centimeters” came out of her mouth, tears simultaneously left my eyes. Another contraction followed closely behind. Less than an hour later, the doctor came to check me again. My spirits lifted when he said, “six centimeters.” The voice inside my head confirmed, “you can do this.”
After having the nurse turn off the sound on the heart rate monitor - my heart wanted to race with hers - we continued to move around the room. The support of my husband's strong arms and the reassurance and encouraging words from Jessica convinced me over and over that I could continue. That it was worth it. That I was not alone. That God is faithful. He had already written her birth story.
The doctor returned to check my cervix. Nine centimeters. Praise the Lord! Some cervical swelling. What did that mean? The music muted monetarily as the volume of my internal dialogue increased. “Should I be worried? Afraid? No! Stop. Remember the truth!” And I leaned into husband once more.
At nine centimeters, my water had not broken. Jessica talked me through moving around to try to get it to break naturally to no avail. The doctor entered again. He broke my water and everything escalated - except my daughter's descent. I moved around the room and I rocked on the peanut ball. I stood and I kneeled. I was in and out of the bathroom. I did all the things that I knew to do and that were suggested to me.
Then in came the doctor again. My cervical swelling was not decreasing and I had only dilated another half centimeter.
What came next was unexpected. Panic. My internal dialogue could no longer be tamed. I had what I thought was a 10 minute long contraction that was double any pain I'd had previously. And I gave up. I wailed and cried and begged for help. I no longer felt strong or able. I felt helpless and like a failure. At 9.5 centimeters, I asked for an epidural.
Another doctor came. Husband, Jessica, and the optimistic nurse helped me relax as I received the medicine. My mind calmed along with my body. When the room was no longer full of people, I turned to Jessica and asked the question that had been running through my mind since I asked for medicine, “Am I a failure? I really tried.”
The look on her face let me know that I couldn't trust my own thoughts. She pulled up a chair next to my bed and explained to me what had happened. “About 10% of the births I'm at need an epidural. This was one of them. It is an important tool that will help you relax and your swelling go down.” I didn't understand it all at first, but this was the only way I was going to have a vaginal birth.
In came the doctor again. He checked my cervix and I finally got to start pushing. Another road block was awaiting me. My daughter was comfortably on her side. No amount of effort would make her come out.
I'm so tired.
The doctor offered to help me get her out by using a little vacuum. But he lets me know before we begin, “if this doesn't work, you'll need a C-section.” More tears. I looked at Jessica. Husband held my hand and rubbed my shoulder.
The doctor set up. I got a little rest as I waited. That dang internal dialogue. The music changed. Anxiety mixed with anticipation was my new background music. I didn't know how to change it.
One contraction. Gave it all I had. With a tiny, crooked cone in her head, she came out in three more pushes. I couldn't control any more of my thoughts or feelings. No more trying to process. Sobbing cries took over as I saw my daughter for the first time. I cut her cord. And they put her on my chest.
“God has already written her birth story.” And the story He had written brought me my perfect, beautiful baby girl. Her name means “grace” and it could not be more appropriate for her entrance into the world.