Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Elijah's Debut Story

As this was my first experience with homebirth, I wanted to make sure I documented this wonderful testimony of God’s faithfulness, love, and perfect timing. I know I will tell this story a hundred times and I’m not likely to forget it, but I still want it in writing, to share with others or to read over myself, and be reminded again and again of how God has blessed and cared for us. Now where do I begin? 

I found out this little bundle was arriving at the end of March. I somehow convinced myself I was further along than I was with Chloe, so when we settled on a due date of November 23rd, based on the EDD chart, I just told myself it would be sooner. We had also opted out of ultrasounds for this pregnancy, and so I never got that early “sneak peak”. But again, this didn’t matter to me because I was “sure” that this child was coming when I wanted him or her to come. Even though I have been pregnant before and know how unpredictable it can be, I still wanted to plan and be in control. And yet on the other hand, we made a very deliberate choice to be as natural as possible with this pregnancy and birth. We began seeing a wonderful midwife and planning a home water birth. We were thrilled to have an alternative to all of the invasiveness and “control” that the medical world offers. It has become so standard and normal, but we wanted to leave as much up to God as possible. It was a wonderful feeling. A very easy, laid back, and healthy pregnancy ensued. I really enjoy being pregnant and now I can say with confidence, after having two children, I would be overjoyed to do it all again! I also loved the anticipation and excitement that came along with not knowing the gender and now I know that from this point on, we will never “find out” before hand. It is just way too awesome of a feeling to experience right at the moment of birth, I never want to miss out on that again!

It only got tough towards the end, because as I said before, I did think my due date was a little off and that I would have this baby early. I am blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful group of women who have had lots of babies, most of which had come early, that I convinced myself I wanted to be part of the “early baby” club. I never really conversed with God about this but it was in my head and my heart, I would hit that lovely 37 week mark and then BOOM, the baby would appear and all would be right with the world! 

So God taught me a lesson, in both patience and trust. Each day that got closer to my due date, I started to feel like my body was less and less ready to give birth. The baby just seemed at home in there. I was still feeling great and active, so it wasn’t a huge deal. Then my due date came and went, and that’s when the agonizingly long days started. I began to realize that I had been right about my due date being a bit off, but just in the opposite direction. There had been signs, but I had ignored them because I had trusted in my own wisdom and understanding and “knew” how it would all play out. The “10 day overdue” mark arrived and on December 2nd, my midwife set up an ultrasound just to make sure all was well. I felt like each day was lasting a week and my mind was growing weary of all the questions (both from myself and others) and wondering. At this point, the ultrasound was the best thing that could have happened to me. Even though we wanted to avoid them, we know they can be very useful tools and this was one of those times where it was really helpful. So we took that LONG drive to Littleton (It felt very long, trust me), and I cried and prayed the whole way. I was convinced that this baby would never come out on its own. I was SURE that I’d end up having a hospital birth after all this time. Once again, I started telling God what was going to happen. I was terrified. And then the most beautiful thing happened…..that baby popped up on the screen in the ultrasound room and everything was….PERFECT. Not a single thing wrong. Absolutely normal. Not even showing signs of being “overdue”! That day, we left pretty convinced that the baby was right around 40 weeks. It was a moment of elation for me. I finally was able to let go of my fears and rest in the God who had created both me and the little wonder inside of me. He had orchestrated it all, and He would continue to do so. 

And, even after all that, there was still more waiting to do! But it didn’t seem quite so agonizing anymore. The ultrasound was on Monday, and after that I went about my week, stayed busy, and tried to keep up the routine as much as possible. Thankfully, I didn’t need to do this for long! On Wednesday I started feeling lousy and tired. Not labor yet, but just not myself. In the middle of the night (early Thursday morning), I started having regular contractions that lasted several hours...but they were only 10 minutes apart and not that strong, so when we got up that morning, we decided to do our regular thing. Derrick still went to work, and I still watched Evan (though I did send him home early so I could nap in the afternoon). I just didn’t want to get too excited if it was a false alarm. By the end of the school day, my contractions had slowed way down and weren’t very regular. Again, frustration set in. Would I really have to go through another day like this, waiting and wondering? Praise God for the answer to that question! My midwife came to check on me at 9 pm on Thursday and said I was 3 cm dilated, 100% effaced, and ready to go..just needed to dilate more. So she told me to try getting some sleep and see what happens. She left, and I did sleep for about an hour or so...until 11:30 pm and BAM! I woke straight up with a real contraction! I’ve never been so happy to feel pain in my life. 7 minutes later, another one! I got Derrick to wake up because I didn’t think it was fair for him to sleep if I couldn’t. :) This continued for a while, we even tried to sleep some more, but I would doze off between them and then wake up for every one. So eventually I gave up and tried to stay awake. At around 3:30, they were really in full gear, but STILL only 5-7 minutes apart! I thought it was going to be the longest labor of my life. So I asked Derrick to update my midwife and since we all thought there was still plenty of time, we didn’t ask her to rush out. She decided to come anyway and arrived by 5:00 am. I had just taken a shower (not easy with bad contractions, but it did feel great!) and was sitting on an exercise ball which is now my “favorite” laboring position, if there is such a thing! I was pretty comfortable and able to relax between contractions...but they were still like 5 minutes apart, and each one seemed to last such a long time. She checked on the baby and his heart rate was awesome. They set up all the birth things, got water boiling for sterilization, set up the tub for the water birth, and then were just going to lie down and rest a bit and wait for me to progress further. She offered to check me and I gladly accepted! I wanted to know how much longer this was going to take...I was really starting to hit that point of losing my resolve. And wow, was I surprised when she told me I had reached 8 centimeters! The end was in sight, and she wanted to get me in the tub. So they began filling it and getting it the right temperature while I sat back down on the ball to wait. Derrick even got the camera ready! :) Turns out, this little bundle, who had made me wait SO long for his arrival, decided to make a very sudden appearance! After about 2 more contractions, I realized that the sharp pain I was feeling was actually the baby’s head bearing down! So I decided to go with it instead of fighting it and, instantly, my water broke. At the time it was kind of shocking and startling to me and I said “Ow!” only because I had no other word to describe that feeling. So no one knew right away that was what happened, because I thought it was obvious and didn’t require an announcement. Derrick realized it quickly afterwards (because he was wet, haha) and then it became much more urgent to get me in the water. Praise God, it had just finished filling! I protested to moving, because I could feel the baby coming and didn’t think he’d stay in if I got up….so my midwife replied, “Well, then you’re going to birth this baby right here!” And instantly I remembered how MUCH I wanted a water birth and I gathered up the nerve to move (with lots of help, of course!). By the time I got comfortable, the next contraction hit and that was all it took. I don’t remember exactly how many pushes but, I can say with confidence that the entire delivery lasted 1-2 minutes. It was without a doubt, the most intense feeling I’ve ever experienced! I wouldn’t say it was agonizingly painful, but it was overwhelming, to the point where I am amazed I didn’t wake Chloe up with my wailing! And then there he was, in my arms, just as perfect as could be, all nice and cozy and warm in the water and both he and I were totally and instantly relaxed. It even took me a few seconds to ask his gender because, it truly wasn’t even my first thought when he arrived. All I could think of was how happy and overjoyed I was to be holding this amazing little person, who I had waited SOOO long to lay eyes on. I finally said, “Oh, what are you, I didn’t even look!” And of course, as most had suspected and guessed all along, he was a beautiful, strong, healthy, little boy. And I loved him instantly. 

So he arrived at 6:23 am. And even more great and wonderful things came afterwards. Like, only 10-15 minutes after he was born, I was walking to my couch, getting nice and comfortable and holding him. Soft worship music was coming from our tv, Derrick was right here with me, Chloe was still sleeping away upstairs, and the sun was just rising. What an incredible, glorious time to celebrate Elijah’s birth and God’s grace and mercy on us! I was just soaking in each and every wonderful minute as I began nursing him for the first time.. By around 8:30 am, Chloe was out of bed and sitting on the couch with me, watching while they did all the newborn checks, got him weighed and measured, put him in his first diaper (cloth of course!!), dressed him, swaddled him up and laid him back in my arms. And here we were, this new family of four, sitting together in our living room, just 2 hours after Elijah had come into the world! By that point, almost everything had been cleaned up, things looked pretty normal in our house, I was feeling amazing (definitely not like I had just given birth!) and by around 9:00-9:30, my midwife and her assistant left. We had the whole day to just quietly rest, enjoy new babyhood, and reflect on all that God had done. 

Turns out, Elijah probably was a few days “overdue”. We could tell by how super LONG his fingernails were and that most of the vernix babies are born with was already gone! But when we saw how healthy and strong he is, what a good eater and sleeper he is, we knew that God had once again proven Himself to be faithful and sovereign. And I had once again proven myself to be a worrier and untrusting. I have since repented of that and praise God for all that He has taught me through this wonderful experience. It’s still a battle for me to keep trusting Him daily, but I have to remember that He has carried me this far and will continue to do so throughout all of my days, and all of the days that I am caring for these beautiful children. There are probably a whole list of other reasons why Elijah’s birthday, December 6th, 2013, was the most perfect timing, but I won’t bore you with those details. In fact, I am sure I don’t even know all of the reasons why God chose that day, and I’m sure I never will! Elijah’s middle name is “Job”...I wanted this name because it is a reminder to me of all that Job went through and how when he questioned God, he was brought to his knees by the realization that God is completely sovereign, and does not owe any of us an explanation for anything He chooses to do. We can “wonder” all we want about His ways, but in the end, we have no right to question Him. He is our God, our Creator. We are His children, and we can rest in knowing that He will always do what is best. In every situation, no matter how we think things should go, He always knows infinitely more than we ever will. Someday, I will get to teach Elijah about how he got his middle name, and I pray that He will grow up trusting in His sovereign Father in heaven who loves him in a greater way than I could even fathom. Here is a passage in Psalms that brought me comfort as I anxiously awaited Elijah’s arrival, and I will always associate it with the lessons God taught me:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength[b] of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
    you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    that I may tell of all your works.
Psalm 73:23-28