Maeve’s Birth Story
There’s nothing quite like childbirth to remind us of God’s sovereignty and providence. With each of my children, the days leading up to their births have been uncertain. We spend so much time trying to be in control of things, but birth is one of the many things in life that can rarely be controlled.
God is always in control, and
I prayed for God’s timing.
And God always answers prayers.
I cried when I found out I was pregnant again. Not out of joy… out of fear and uncertainty. My first three children hadn’t brought this sense of apprehension, what was different with this one? We had talked about having more children, but somehow the idea of parenting FOUR seemed like more than I could handle as a work-at-home mom, as a wife, as a person. The reality of what it would mean to give even more of our time, energy, finances, and more…to add another child to our family was daunting. And I firmly believe that’s why God gave us Maeve. To teach us, to grow us, and give us hope.
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
It’s about HIS joy, His purpose — and that is what gives us strength.
(or The Cough and the Chiropracter)
I remember coming home from a board meeting on a Wednesday night in mid-February and I could barely stand up straight, my lower back hurt so badly. It had been a busy week and I had been pushing hard, trying to get a lot of things done in preparation for when the baby would arrive. As I leaned over the couch, I told Patrick this might be early labor, remembering how my lower back had hurt similarly the night before Reagan arrived. Looking back, it was probably a sign of my immune system giving in to attack… by Friday of that week, I was laid up in bed with a fever, body aches and extreme fatigue that left me feeling like I couldn’t move. I prayed that the baby wouldn’t come then, I just knew my body couldn’t physically handle it. For the next few weeks (pretty much up until Maeve arrived), I was sick with a really bad cough that kept me awake at night with horrible, relentless hacking. It kept up for more than 3 weeks, even on a steady diet of midwife-approved Robitussin, and I couldn’t kick the feeling of constant exhaustion.
Being nearly at the end of my pregnancy, I was concerned about the state of my body and immune system — I knew that I couldn’t go into labor feeling this way, but it also felt like I would never recover. It felt very similar to the sensation I had at the beginning of this pregnancy with constant nausea, like I would never feel like myself again! On the Tuesday before Maeve arrived, I woke up with a sharp pain in my left side, excruciating pain every time I tried to take in a breath. I had never felt anything like it and I was in tears thinking that I would have to go on like that through the day — how could I even move with pain every time I breathed?? I thought it might be a rib (or two) out of place, and Patrick encouraged me to call his chiropractor for an appointment that same day. I had always been hesitant to visit a chiropractor because I didn’t want to start a trend I couldn’t afford, but I knew I needed help. I also had a midwife appointment that morning, and I’m sure I looked pretty pitiful coughing, sniffling, and whining my way through each breath.
The chiropractor appointment itself was pretty interesting, joined by Reagan who flirted with the doctor the whole time. A few cracks later, I was feeling better but still sore. I felt like I might be able to at least get through the next few days, even though I was still coughing and the pain wasn’t completely gone. I was praying harder than ever that my body would fully recover before I went into labor… I just didn’t feel like I could possibly sustain the physical demands of birthing a baby when I was already so broken down!
But God had other plans…
That same week on Wednesday night, after getting the children to bed, I climbed in my own bed to watch Outlander, which I had been watching (read: falling asleep to) the last several weeks. But for some reason, on this night, I ended up still awake around midnight before I finally turned off the TV, realizing I needed to get some sleep.
Around 12:45am, still not quite asleep, I started feeling some crampiness in my lower abdomen. Not anything unusual, though, so I tried going back to sleep and changing positions to see if it would go away. It didn’t go away and seemed to become more regular, so by 1:45 I started timing. AFTER having to go through the hassle of resetting my Apple ID password just to download a contraction timer app (I knew I should have done that sooner, but at least it distracted me for a few minutes!). The contractions varied a bit from 30-45 seconds long and anywhere from 3 minutes to 6 minutes apart — which seemed quite close — but didn’t feel very painful or intense yet. And I still couldn’t fall asleep. The soreness in my side from the displaced ribs was still there, even after Tuesday’s chiropractor appointment, but it seemed to fade away as the contractions grew more insistent. I got up to use the bathroom and walked around a little bit to see if that changed things. For some reason, I was worried this might be false labor. It was still 12 days before my due date and even with a history of babies arriving early, I was still in doubt that this was the real deal.
By 3:45am, things were still relatively consistent, so I woke Patrick to tell him I was having contractions but we didn’t need to go anywhere yet. I had a feeling this labor might take a while… or at least we longer than my last labor. I started slowly moving around, adding things to my birth bag (like newborn clothes!) and started a load of laundry. I was still walking fine through contractions, didn’t have to stop and breathe, so I felt they still weren’t that intense. I called my mother, who was planning to drive up a week later, to let her know baby was arriving today. I don’t know what it is about my babies arriving before they’re supposed to… but I’ll go back to my intro about God’s timing. He has a reason!
At some point I decided to get in the shower to relax, I shaved my legs (now that’s a good way to stimulate labor, HA!) but didn’t wash my hair. Figured I would have time for that after baby arrived! I put on my “birthing clothes” and sat down at my laptop check email and get a few things done. This was around 5:30am and I was actually able to get a few small projects completed.
I was still walking and talking through contractions (but drinking fluids and peeing what felt like every 10 minutes) by the time my 3 older children were up and ready for breakfast. I wasn’t in the mood to cook, so they got cereal and I even managed to pack their lunches and help them get dressed before it felt like I really needed to get things moving and head to the birth center. I had called the midwife earlier (around 4am) and she said to wait and see how things went, then call back around 7am when the next midwife came on call. By that time, I was feeling anxious about getting to the birth center before the baby arrived (no car births for me, thank you!). My last labor was only 4 hours and the midwife didn’t make it in time for Reagan’s birth. So, I paged the midwife via the hospital at the same time she was calling me, and we agreed to meet at the birth center at 7:45am. Patrick called his parents to come over but it seemed like it took forever for them to arrive.
We finally got into his car and started the 20-minute drive to the birth center. And, all of the sudden, it felt like the contractions STOPPED. Maybe it was the way I was sitting or maybe it was anxiety about having a baby in the car, but I only had 2 mild contractions on the drive there and I was again worried about false labor or not being very dilated.
When we got to the birth center, the midwife hadn’t quite arrived and we sat waiting for a few moments. Certain parts of birth are very clear and sharp, while some moments feel more foggy or surreal. This was that surreal moment (is this really happening?!? Even on my 4th labor, it still feels incredible that a baby is in your body and it’s about to come OUT) …before super focus sinks in.
When we got inside the birth center, we were the only ones there and it was so quiet. We got settled into a room (the only one I hadn’t used in my other two births there) and waited while the midwife did basic checks (temp, blood pressure). I was 5/6 dilated and 100% effaced. Definitely active labor, which was a relief… but no telling how much longer it would last.
Since I was GBS positive again with this pregnancy, the midwife started an antibiotic IV (hate those things) and I walked around the room through contractions while it dripped in, listening to music (this was a first — I never really had time or inclination to listen to music in my previous labors). I still felt like the contractions were not intense enough to bring the baby and like they might even stop if I sat still too long. We walked through the various rooms of the birth center, I leaned on a birthing ball, and kept timing contractions. I mentioned that I felt like it was taking too long (HA) and the midwife suggested doing stair lunges to help things along. This definitely encouraged some more intense contractions and after several sets, I decided I was ready to get in the birthing tub which, thankfully, the nurse had ready to go. We moved back to the room and I got into the water but couldn’t seem to find a comfortable position.
In my head, I was feeling frustrated by the apparent lack of progress and uncertainty about how long it would take… this felt unlike my other births as far as timing and progression of contractions, so I wasn’t sure how to gauge what stage of labor I was in. But, at some point while in the birthing tub, I decided I might have to be more proactive in laboring. I was ready to have this baby and I figured my body needed a little convincing. I didn’t necessarily feel the urge to push yet, but with the next few contractions I started pushing into them, allowing the feeling of the contraction to become an active choice to bear down. The midwife, observing, asked at one point if I had caught my babies before and I affirmed that yes, I had, and felt comfortable doing so again.
I’m should note here that I’m SO grateful for the freedom the midwife and nurse gave me to work through the process on my own and stand by with encouragement as I tried to follow my body’s cues. Using a birth center has been such an incredible experience for me, and I wish I could pass on my experience to every laboring mom!
A Swift Arrival
But, back to the tub… I was on my hands and knees for the most part and, after a few contractions while “bearing down” I began to feel the baby’s progress through the birth canal, and my water broke at some point during those pushes. I reached down at one point and felt the top of her head coming down and I remember saying “…baby’s coming!” I think there was a bit of a flurry at that point as the nurse and midwife made final prep for arrival, but the 2 or 3 more contractions it took to bring her out were very intense. I could feel her head literally sitting right there but tried to wait for the contractions to help me push her out. It hurt!! Those few pushes felt like they lasted forever but, in reality, happened very quickly. Within the space of a minute, her head was out and I was able to bring the rest of her out easily and into my arms. The cord was wrapped around her neck so the midwife reached over to help unwind it, and in a split second there she was, red-faced and crying in my arms. She was working out a fair amount of amniotic fluid since she hadn’t been in the birth canal long enough to expel it and continued to cry intermittently for what felt like the next hour as she cleared out her lungs.
Disbelief and relief comingle in those first moments of meeting — comprehending the arrival of a brand new face, the culmination of many months of prayers, and a few hours of pain. Birth is beautiful, humbling, awe-inspiring. And completely part of God’s timing.
The immediate aftermath of birth is relatively unimportant — it’s a welcome blur of joy and admiration of a sweet new face. We immediately restarted the conversation of what her name would be… but that took another 48 hours, so will have to be another post.
The View from Here
Looking back at the last month, now that we’ve been in “house arrest” due to the outbreak of COVID-19, I can see at least one major reason why God brought her almost 2 weeks early. Everything started shutting down mere days after she arrived, but I was able to give birth without fear or apprehension before that started happening AND my mother was able to travel safely to be with us a week later. Hindsight is 20/20 and it is precious to look back and see God’s hand guiding every aspect of our lives — from adding a fourth child to our family, and bringing her birth at the right time, and even causing a global pandemic in the early weeks of her birth. This is not an easy time — just like giving birth to a child is not easy — but the result is well worth it. Perseverance in suffering always brings hope.
…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5