As I was flying through the Gospel of John (maybe it's just me, but the New Testament is riveting), I came upon a passage in Chapter 16 that caught me by surprise. It's a topic that I've discussed a lot of times with various friends. Most of them agree. There are few dissenters, but I tend to put most of them in the categories of "Dramatic" and "Wimpy" (of course, I say that in jest, but behind every joke, there's a little bit of truth - am I right?) with a few exceptions, of course.
The context of the passage is Jesus telling his disciples not to be sorrowful about his death, knowing that they would be sad, but reassuring them that the sorrow would turn to joy because He would defeat death, then their joy could never be taken away from them. Just like Jesus does, so often, he provided an analogy - that of a woman who has just given birth to a child.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. John 16:21I maintain that childbirth is designed this way. It's supposed to hurt. God promised it would. But the truly miraculous part is how quickly we forget that pain. We can't re-manufacture the pain of childbirth with just our memory. That's awesome. At least, I think it is. I know others contend that they vividly remember childbirth and it's accompanying pain. The thing is, I remember that it hurt, but that's such minutiae compared to the joy of a brand new baby. And that is what I remember.
So thinking back on childbirth, and how I haven't done a Flashback Friday in ages, and how I actually started this blog after Sarah was born, I hereby declare this Birth Story Weekend. I typed Sarah's up within a week of her birth, while it was fresh on my mind. I wrote both Ben's and Abby's in February of 2008, 4.5 and 2 years, respectively, after their births, mainly out of guilt that I hadn't recorded their precious entrances into the world for posterity.
I'm going to remedy that now. With all the gory details.
First, my most recent, and therefore most detailed birth story - of my sweet and sometimes sour Sarah.
I got up and ready for what I hoped would be my final OB appointment on May 13, 2009. After dropping Ben off at school, I headed for the doctor's office with Abby in tow. I had already resorted to bribing her with a trip to Walmart for some flip flops after we went to Mommy’s doctor if she was a good girl. She obliged. To my surprise, Sam showed up a few minutes after I checked in to help with lil’ miss, and I was SO relieved. I really wasn’t expecting him, and it was great he was there because (of course) the doctor was running late…even for her first appointment of the day. When I got back to the room, she checked me and was having a really hard time reaching my cervix. I was dilated to 4cm and was about 60% effaced, but the baby was still way high. Then she looked at me and said, “Do you want to have this baby today?” I was so caught off guard. I absolutely, in no way, had considered that she might send me to the hospital that day. We’d discussed waiting on induction until week 41, so it wasn’t even on my mind. Sam had just finished telling me a few nights earlier that the sooner I had the baby, the better. He was slated to go to Oklahoma for a work trip the first week of June, and the older the baby was when he left, the more comfortable he would be leaving us.
My mind was totally racing. I was conflicted. I had been dead set against induction, but now that it was facing me, it was so tempting. I weighed the pros and cons. Doing it that day was appealing because we could give Mrs. Lisa (my mother-in-law) enough notice to come on over. (The planner in me was going crazy, after not knowing the gender, not having a nursery, not knowing what kind of clothes to buy, it was hard sitting and waiting for labor to happen, especially with our closest help being 2.5 hours away.) My parents were flying to Scotland that night for my dad’s singing trip around 8pm, and it was killing me to think about how hard it would be to get in touch with them over there to share the news. I was hoping that if we went ahead with the induction that I’d be able to reach them on their cell phone before they took off.
The major con was that I was planning on a natural child birth, and I knew (from personal experience) that pitocin-induced contractions were way more intense than natural labor contractions. In the end, we decided to go ahead with the induction. In retrospect, I realize that I was putting other people ahead of my own desires, but after the way things turned out I am convinced that I made the right decision. As many of us who have experienced childbirth (or parenting) find out, things don’t always (or hardly ever) go the way that we plan.
When I left the doctor's office, it was around 10am. I was all kind of emotional, tears streaming down my face for a million different reasons. I was so ready to have the baby, but I suddenly felt so unprepared. From the backseat of the van, Abby looked at me and said, “We go to Walmart, Mommy?” And at that point, I just lost it. It was all so real, and I was suddenly mourning the promotion of Abby from “baby girl” to “big sister”. The flip flops were going to have to wait, and that killed me.
We called Mrs. Lisa, who was called in from the field trip bus by the elementary school secretary who had received Sam’s call. I called my sister and my parents to let them know we might have a baby today, so don’t stray too far from the phone. Sam went back to work to officially check out for the day. On his way home, he picked up Ben from school and we did a whirlwind cleaning of the house before we went to the hospital.
My doctor was coming over “around lunchtime” to the hospital to break my water, and I was preoccupied with getting there before her, so, unfortunately for Sam, I wasn’t in the best of moods during the cleaning spree. He was trying to kill time for his mom to get here, and really, that was fine. He even washed the car. I'm sorry to say, I wasn't much help.
We arrived at the hospital at 12:51pm. I checked in at the registration desk, and even though I’d pre-registered, it was about 30 minutes before I got called back by a nurse. The nurse who escorted to me to my room was awesome, and I was lucky enough to have her throughout the delivery. I did the urine-sample, change-into-a-gown routine, then she hooked me up to an IV and monitors. I told her that I was going to try to forego using pain meds, and she was supportive, but told me she was at my service, and if I changed my mind to let her know. She started the pitocin around 2pm, which was also about the same time that Dr. Shirley got there to break my water (which, for the first time in my birthing experiences was clear when they broke it…hooray!). I started having regular, fairly painless contractions. When she re-checked me around 4pm, I was at 5cm and about 75% effaced. The baby had dropped some, but not a lot. (I had been counting on the baby dropping way down as soon as my water broke.) I was pretty depressed at this point to have only progressed by a centimeter in 2 hours.
That’s when the contractions started intensifying. The pitocin had been upping itself every hour. I could no longer talk through the contractions, and I felt like they were getting ahold of me. Sam was at my side with a crossword puzzle that I’d packed in my bag trying to distract me, and while I thought it was the sweetest thing in the world, I just couldn’t focus on anything but the pain. I just kept thinking, at an inch every two hours, this was going to end up being a 12 hour labor, and with the contractions getting so much more intense, I didn’t think I could handle it. I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to tell my parents before they left. I was disappointed that I was giving in to the pain. I told Sam how badly it hurt and he looked at me and said, “Jennie, no one is going to think any less of you if you get an epidural.” I said, “I will.” And he said, “You’re the only one.” And he was probably right. He went and got the nurse for me who snagged the CNA on her way to a c-section. She put the epidural in. [A funny aside…while she was about to stick me with the big ol’ needle to get things started, I was breathing through the most intense contraction I’d had yet. The CNA said to me, “You need to relax your shoulders.” Hahahaha. I can’t do that on a normal basis, I certainly couldn’t do it in the middle of a contraction!] The nurse put the catheter in, then she checked me.
That’s when we all got the biggest surprise of the day. By 5:45 pm, I was at 10 centimeters, complete, and ready to push. Needless to say, she pulled the catheter right back out and called the doctor. Within 10 minutes, the delivery equipment was set up, the doctor was in the room, and we were ready to push! Mrs. Lisa, Ben, and Abby walked down the hallway to wish me luck. My sweet doctor lifted each of them up (excepting Mrs. Lisa) to give me a kiss. It was so sweet. By the time the doc was in position, I was at the tail end of a contraction. I was no longer feeling pain (so I guess the epidural was working!!!), but I could still feel pressure. She went ahead and told me to push, but that one didn’t really count. In another minute, I was able to capitalize on the whole contraction and in one push, the head was out! In literally two (and a half) pushes, the baby was here! Sam caught the baby, who was covered up promptly with a blanket for the big reveal. The doctor said, “You ready, Dad?” And she uncovered the legs. Sam said, “It’s a girl!” Then I got to hold her while Sam cut the cord.
Sarah Katherine had arrived at 6:03pm weighing in at 8 pounds exactly and measuring 20 inches long. (Though Sam argues they didn’t measure her right. At her 2-day check up she measured 21.5 inches). She nursed within 15 minutes of birth, and latched right on. She was a nursing champ from the get-go. In the end, I had the epidural for about 15 minutes. I think it covered me for 6 contractions prior to pushing, and then during the pushing stage. Had I known I was *so* close, I know I could have done it, but I truly thought I was going to be there forever. Looking back, it’s so not a big deal. I had the best all-around delivery experience thus far with any of my children. I required no stitches on my lady parts. My total labor from start to finish was about 4 hours long (for an induction, no less! I fear the thought of how quickly I’d have gone if I’d have gone into labor on my own!) The epidural worked just as it was supposed to on the first try. My nurse was amazing! And the most important thing was that we added a perfect, healthy baby girl to the herd.
God is good. And this -
- is joy.