The Day a Miracle Happened

Birth stories are not for everyone, and that is totally okay. However, many of you have asked for details about how labor and delivery happened for me, Andrew, and our little Caleb, and I thought I would share our story here. It is truly a miracle, as every single birth story is. All glory to God for His incredible design. Please be warned that some of this may be medically graphic; read with caution. =)

One more note: I want to make it clear that I do not think epidurals are sinful, foolish, selfish, or any other such thing. It is quite possible that I will opt for one in future deliveries. Please do not read into any of my decisions as being convictions I think other people should maintain. 

On Friday morning, November 14, I went to a routine doctor’s appointment. I was excited to be 3cm dilated and 70% effaced already! But I also learned that my blood pressure was high for the second appointment in a row, and this time it was worse and it wasn’t coming down with repeated tests. My doctor sent me to labor and delivery so they could monitor it over a few hours. Andrew left work immediately and stopped by the house to get our bags in case I went into labor before heading my way.

After a few hours of having my blood pressure taken every 10 minutes, the doctor came in and gave us news we did not expect: she was concerned about my levels and wanted to induce me. I was really nervous at this point. I knew that induced labors usually meant stronger contractions, and I was so wanting to have a natural birth. But I was also excited–we were going to meet our baby! Naively I thought it would probably be that night, especially given the progress I had already made without any real labor!

We were moved to our delivery room around 4:30. Andrew brought us take out and we enjoyed the incredible view of the Hollywood sign and LA hills before they started pitocin at about 5:15. My wonderful doula, Rachel, had also joined us by this time. For a few hours, we all chatted between my mild contractions. At about 9:00 PM, in the middle of visiting, I heard and felt an intense “pop” inside me.

“Wow,” I said to Rachel and Andrew, “Something just popped inside me!”

“It was probably your water!” Rachel said optimistically.

Next thing I knew, water was literally gushing onto the bed. We’re talking what felt and looked like gallons. I’m not kidding. I started laughing uncontrollably as the nurses came and began cleaning up while the water continued to spill out in heavy bursts. I was crying, I was laughing so hard!

And then it hit me. The first real contraction. And that was the last time I laughed or smiled until 4:06 PM the next day. My doula later told me that she had never in almost 200 births seen such dramatic water breakage and such a sudden onset of hard contractions.

What ensued was hours and hours and hours of intense back labor. Yes, the dreaded back labor I had read about and wanted so much to avoid was unfortunately my lot. Caleb was in a posterior position, meaning his back was against my back, and thus, the greatest intensity of the contractions was in my back and not my abdomen.

This meant that the comfort measures we had learned did not work because they were based on counter pressure. Andrew had planned to rub my back and put pressure on my hips and back to counter my abdominal pain, but since my contractions were in my back, trying these techniques just increased the already excruciating pain.

One of the worst things about back labor for me was the insanely intense pressure on my tailbone and rectum, which gave me the strong urge to push from 5cm on and also made it entirely impossible to sit down. I can’t describe how hard it was to labor with the constant urge to push but know that my body was nowhere near being ready to do so.

I spent hours upon hours in the shower, on all fours over my exercise ball, while Andrew ran alternating hot and cold water over my back. With every contraction, I took a sip of water when it was over from a straw he always had ready right in front of me. I dozed off in 60ish second intervals between the contractions. (Getting awoken by a new wave of a contraction is the worst thing in the world.)

If I had to guess, I would say that I had my eyes closed for about 90% of labor. I also had zero sense of time. All I knew for sure is that I was in misery, that I was going to meet our baby eventually, and that Andrew never left me.

After what felt like forever in excruciating pain, the nurse midwife on call (who was horrible) checked me and reported that I was 4cm. I was devastated. After my first round of throwing up, I had been sure that I was in transition and must be at least 8cm. I can’t even describe how discouraging it was to know I had gone through all that for one stinking centimeter and no change in the baby’s station (position). Andrew and Rachel were incredibly positive, insisting that I was amazing and that my progress was wonderful! So I kept going.

Slowly, one centimeter at a time, I progressed. The snail-pace progress brought me down every time I was checked. But each time Andrew kept telling me how amazing I was and that he knew I could do it. And he stayed by me, holding me, comforting me, coaching me, and soothing me every second. I threw up only four times during labor, and each time I literally enjoyed it because it was such an incredible break from the back pain. I looked forward to the heaves. But each time I also thought surely I must be in transition.

Andrew and I prayed out loud throughout labor and I tried to hold onto knowing that God was in control of my baby’s well being and my body’s ability to bring the baby into the world. During some contractions, I transported my thoughts to holding my baby or being at the beach with Andrew. For a few seconds I could sometimes feel a little removed from the pain.

Sometime in the morning on Saturday, my doctor came in. She explained that I had been 8cm for several hours, that I wasn’t progressing, and that my contractions were starting to get more spaced apart. She told me that she was concerned that the baby was big and I wouldn’t be able to deliver him vaginally without an epidural, and she also said that I needed to restart the pitocin to get my contractions to pick up again. She said that if I didn’t do the epidrual, I would likely end up with a C-section. (Also, with back labor, babies’ heads are not positioned ideally for the birth canal, making the fit bad and vaginal delivery less successful.)

I began bawling and pieced something like the following together between sobs. “I am already in so much pain, I literally cannot imagine how these contractions could be any more intense. I just don’t think I can take any more pain and I don’t see how pitocin is going to work.”

Andrew held my hand. “I think we need to do the pitocin,” he said gently. “It’s going to help the baby get here. You can get the epidural if you want to, and then you could rest. There is no wrong decision here. It is totally up to you and I will support you no matter what you decide. But I know you can do it without if that’s what you want to do!”

An epidural sounded beyond amazing at this point. The thought of being able to rest while my body worked to fully dilate and then having energy to push was so appealing. Instant relief was within my reach. All I had to do was say the word.

But somehow the words that came out were, “I don’t want the epidural. I know I can do this. Let’s start the pitocin.”

During the next several hours, my delivery team helped me get into positions on the bed to try to make the baby turn and get me out of back labor. Somehow these positions made the contractions I already thought were unbearable even worse. I tried to squelch my writhing to keep from getting out of position, but it didn’t’ always work.

At some point during this time, I called my mom and whispered between contractions that I was doing okay and that I was going to be able to have the baby. I felt so bad that she was waiting out in the waiting room all these hours. She encouraged me and said she knew I could do it and that she was praying.

Around noon, the doctor returned and checked me. “You’re 10cm!” she announced.

No words had ever sounded so amazing. I began sobbing tears of joy and relief. I had made it to 10cm! It was time to start pushing! We were almost there!

For the next three hours and 45ish minutes (I can’t remember the exact total my doula recorded), I pushed with every contraction. I’m sure the entire hospital could hear me yelling/groaning/grunting with every push, and I couldn’t have cared less. It was utterly exhausting and really painful, but I felt more in control than I had when I just had to wait out the contractions.

Eventually, I got the exciting news that the doctor could see our baby’s head. And guess what…he had hair!

With each contraction, I always gave one more push than I thought I could. I would push until I thought I surely couldn’t give one more, and then I would muster everything in me and push one more time. In my head, I thought, “This will get me there a little bit faster.”

After each contraction, I would groan, “I can’t do this anymore,” and Andrew would respond, “Yes you can! He’s almost here!” Andrew held my hand and was my biggest cheerleader the entire time I pushed. He was so thrilled to see the baby’s head and all the hair. He kept telling me Caleb was almost here.

Added later: I forgot to mention that at the last minute, while in the birth canal, the baby turned so that he was not born sunny side up! This is a miracle in my mind!

photo (1) And then it happened. I felt the ring of fire. An intense, crazy, burning sensation and tightness and pain. And I knew, “My baby is coming out!” It felt like it lasted maybe about 30 seconds. Then I felt a sudden relief as his head slipped through and my doctor said, “He’s here, take him!” and I reached down and pulled my squirming, gray, slippery baby the rest of the way out and drew him onto my chest.

Sphoto (2)obs. Joy. Relief. Love. The strongest emotions I have ever felt in my entire life. Andrew standing over me crying and looking at our baby’s face. Nineteen hours of active back labor over. The pain I was feeling faded into the background as I clung to my baby boy. I couldn’t see him, but I could feel him snuggled against my skin and I knew he was mine.

photo (4)That day, a miracle happened. A new little life came into the world and I got to be a part of making it happen. I know I never could have survived labor without God’s amazing grace, Andrew’s constant, undying support and encouragement, and the prayers of so many friends and family. The prize I got after all the pain was worth every second of it, 100 times over.

photo (3)

{My Pregnancy Journal} 37 Weeks

photo (2)This is a late update but the picture is from Sunday, when I hit full term! It felt amazing to finally be into the “safe zone” for labor. I’m so thankful to report that Caleb’s head has stayed down. I thought he might have gone breech again on Sunday, but Monday’s ultrasound confirmed that he was still head down. It is a huge blessing and mental relief not to be anticipating a probably C-section, although of course that could still happen for other reasons.

I won’t write much about symptoms, except to say that I am very much feeling done being pregnant! =) Most of what I’ve written about is still there and most of it is worse…but one thing that I realized is gone is the bruising! Maybe as Caleb’s positions have changed he’s less prone to digging into my rib cage? Also my sciatica is gone and has been replaced with more general joint pain/looseness.

In all my labor and baby dreams, I hadn’t pictured Caleb’s face until a few days ago. For the first time I actually saw a little face in my dream. He had green eyes and a little bit of light brown hair. I am dying of curiosity…what does this little person inside me look like?

I would write more but it would technically be updates from this week, which should go into this Sunday’s post. I hope that I only have one more pregnancy update for you! We are really hoping Caleb is born not this weekend but the next, when Andrew’s extended Thanksgiving break begins! =) Babies rarely come when we want them, especially if it’s early, but one can dream.

We are continuing to pack in the little dates and adventures as we can. Yesterday I got my first red cup from Starbucks of the season! Little things like this together are so precious. Andrew has been amazing about dropping homework to spend time with me.

Praise the Lord for bringing our little boy to full term and continuing to grow and fashion him inside me. We can’t wait for that process to continue outside the womb!

{My Pregnancy Journal} 36 Weeks

10628128_10152873656408109_6019270894316985376_nOh. My. Goodness. Are we really almost full term!? I am starting to get giddy with excitement over the imminent arrival of this little guy. Granted, he could still be six weeks out…but even that isn’t very far away! =)

It was a fairly exciting week. I spent a lot of time upside down, in pools doing summersaults, on my exercise ball, using hot packs and cold packs, at the chiropractor, and doing various other tricks to try to get this baby to go head down. He did so three different times but always returned to a breech position. This morning he was still head down on the ultrasound, but afternoon hiccups indicated that he is back in a sideways position…which is certainly much better than breech, but I’m concerned he may snuggle his head back up under my ribs where he seems to like it best. I’m very thankful to know that he still has the room to rearrange himself, however, and hope he settles head down when he gets too big to keep flipping. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I can to encourage an upside down position!

photoWednesday night felt kind of exciting, as my Braxton Hicks picked up like never before. I ended up timing them for a couple of hours because I was beginning to wonder if they were real contractions. They weren’t painful, although some were accompanied with mild low back cramping. They came every 6-7 minutes and lasted a minute each. In the morning I checked in with my doctor, who said this can be very normal for this stage of pregnancy and not to worry. But it was fun to get a tiny sense of what the beginning stages of labor might feel like, with the excitement of having something to time! =)

As far as symptoms go, can I just say “large”? Andrew gets a kick out of watching me try to put on my jeans. I usually can’t stand on on leg anymore without holding onto something. I have mid-back pain almost 24/7 and I just started having swelling in my legs, feet, and hands as of yesterday. All of these things just point to a due date that’s getting closer and closer! =)

Latest “baby brain” fail? I only shaved one leg today and didn’t realize until hours later. Looked down and thought, “Oh I missed a spot. Oh…I missed a leg.”

I have everything for Andrew’s and my hospital bags and just need to pack them. Caleb’s pack-n-play mattress has a water proof protector and jersey knit sheet on it, ready to go in his “crib” when we set it up. The carseat is by the door awaiting installment. I still have a few baby gift thank you notes to write and a few other odds and ends, but if Caleb came really early I think we are pretty much ready for him! =) In the meantime, I’m also trying to finish our Christmas shopping. The house is decorated and just waiting for a tree, which we will pick out with Caleb after he arrives.

ETA is 27 days from today!

{My Pregnancy Journal} 35 Weeks

35 weeksAt 34 weeks 5 days, we hit our first bump in the road of this pregnancy. I feel incredibly blessed and thankful to be able to say that. What a smooth, safe 8 months it has been! There are so many moms dealing with really scary things and big unknowns for their unborn babies, but I have had nothing out of the ordinary to be concerned about and I am so grateful! At our Friday ultrasound, we learned that Caleb is breech, meaning head up instead of down.

At first, I wasn’t really that concerned. I told my doctor that he is really active and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’s still summersaulting regularly in there. Many of his movements feel so big. But today is the beginning of day five trying various things to encourage him to flip, and since becoming aware of his position, I can tell that it has not changed.

This coming Monday we will have another ultrasound. If he hasn’t flipped, we will schedule an aversion, probably for the following Monday when I am full term. Aversions can be quite painful…my doctor said a lot of her patients get epidurals for them. I would certainly love to avoid this procedure, so please pray that Caleb decides he wants to be upside down before then! It sounds crazy, but the thought of two doctors putting pressure on my belly to turn the baby scares me more than labor at this point! If the aversion doesn’t work, we would do a C-section if Caleb still hasn’t changed positions when I go into labor. I am so thankful that God is in 100% control of all the details of Caleb’s arrival, and will work it out for our very best.

In other news, I am crawling to the bathroom at night now. A couple of nights ago I went to get out of bed and literally, physically could not walk. It was like my joints had just disappeared and they refused to move or support me. I can only imagine how pathetic this little ordeal would look if caught on camera! I’m also having a lot of mid-back pain and some shooting muscle spasms in my low back/butt. I can tell everything is loosening up, which is great, but inconvenient in the meantime! =)

So these days, if you were to walk into my apartment, you’d likely find me rotating on an exercise ball, lying upside down on the ironing board slanted off the couch, holding a hot pack at the bottom of my stomach and a cold pack at the top, prodding my baby’s head while talking to him, burning moxa by my pinky toe, or doing cat/cow stretches in my living room. The things we do for our children before they are even here…

Oh, and by the way, every pregnant woman (and maybe a lot of other people) needs a stability exercise ball. These things are amazing! With sand in the bottom, there’s no worry about losing your balance, and it has relieved some of my back pain. Super comfy.

Andrew and I are growing more and more aware of how quickly our time as just the two of us is dwindling. What an incredible, wonderful adventure it has been and we are sad to see an amazing chapter of our lives coming to a close. We’re trying to squeeze in wild and crazy last minute adventures while we can! Since I am very pregnant, our “wild and crazy” adventures look like a board game date at the donut shop or a stop by the nearby arcade for air hockey. We is CRAZY! ;) Hopefully more about marriage and this chapter of life in another post…

Caleb’s hospital bag is all packed, with several outfits, socks, hats, blankets, diapers, etc. Time to get mine and Andrew’s ready!

{My Pregnancy Journal} 33 & 34 Weeks

unnamed (1)Well, as you may have noticed, I missed my 33 week update! All week long I kept thinking, “I should have Andrew take a picture of me” but it always sounded like too much work to get up from wherever I was and walk to the wall for a photo. I guess that tells you a little bit about my energy level these days! =) So here’s a picture that was still technically 33 weeks, and a 34 week photo the day after. ;)

Weeks 32 and 33 were uneventful, wonderful, and uncomfortable. Our baby continues to kick and squirm with seemingly endless energy. One night he played for almost two solid hours. Andrew spent much of that time with his hand on my tummy following Caleb’s feet around as they wiggled away. The next morning Caleb didn’t make a peep until about 11:00 AM. =)

Getting out of bed or off the couch is more difficult by the day it seems! If Andrew is nearby or awake I always recruit his help and he never complains. I am pretty sure I’m just days away from crawling to the bathroom at night instead of walking. I can barely make it there, between the extremely strong Braxton Hicks I always get, mild sciatica, and very unstable/painful joints. I don’t know what it is about the middle of the night, but it’s like my body falls apart. By morning I’m back to normal. Weird. I also have to get up 3-4 times now which is a little annoying. I love it when baby stirs while I am falling back asleep. It reminds me that these tiny annoyances are soooo worth the gift I am carrying around with me!

unnamed (2)My Braxton Hicks seemed to be getting stronger and more consistent week before last, and my doctor was a little concerned. Turns out the heat wave (in the 100’s) probably led me to mild dehydration which can cause stronger contractions, so I’ve been making sure I drink lots of water and they’ve stayed at safe levels/frequency since then. I am so thankful that everything is looking on track and there is no cause for alarm. God is gracious!

This Friday is our 34 week and final ultrasound! We are only 3 weeks away from full term today, and 6 weeks away from our due date! Caleb’s arrival feels just around the corner!

I would appreciate prayer that apartment work would slow down (it looks like it should, our last of eight vacancies is just about rented) so that I have time and energy left over to get some things together before labor! Lately the job has been sucking most of my time and when I’m done with it, I just don’t have the energy or motivation to work on the projects I’m so much wanting to. Thank you, friends! =)

{Recipe} Homemade Bean, Rice, & Cheese Freezer Burritos

dsc_0099This is a repost of a “recipe” I make for Andrew with some changes I implemented this past time.

Andrew loves frozen bean and cheese burritos. He could eat them pretty much every day for lunch. So a couple of years ago, I decided to try making them myself to save money and add some nutrition.

Each time I’ve made them I’ve tried revisions. This weekend, I cooked a bunch of pinto beans and black beans on high in a crock pot for about six hours until soft through. Without rinsing or draining them, I used a slotted spoon to add them and some of the liquid to my Ninja Professional Blender. I threw in a bunch of Pace Picante Sauce (any salsa will do) from Costco. Then I dumped in a generous portion of salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and crushed red pepper flakes and blended. Wa-la. Refried beans that taste awesome and are actually good for you!

The amounts of all the spices and salsa are entirely to-taste. You can’t really go wrong. These were the most flavorful refried beans I’ve made yet and I loved the pinto/black bean combination.

I slather the beans onto large tortillas, add handfuls of cooked brown rice, top it all off with grated Mexican blend cheese, and roll them up. They’re all happily packaged in foil and stacked in ziplock freezer bags ready for consumption. Hooray!

 

As a recap, here’s what you’ll need: 

  • A bunch of pinto and/or black beans that are cooked until they’re soft
  • Any kind(s) of salsa you like
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Chili powder
  • Cooked white or brown rice
  • Grated cheese
  • A blender
  • Tortillas
  • Tin foil
  • Ziplock bags

{My Pregnancy Journal} 32 Weeks

10407645_10152799805448109_6979953161873937340_nIt was an adventurous week with new changes and many special memories! My mom came for the weekend to spend time with me, help me with some freezer meals and baby clothes sorting, and to enjoy the beautiful shower that my friends Julia and Jenny threw for me. I felt so very loved and supported by the church and seminary family I have here in LA and I came home with loads of adorable baby boy clothes! I think I am completely set clothes-wise for the first 6 months! It was really special to hang out with my mom, and we talked baby stuff a lot of the weekend. She has just a little bit of experience in that department. ;)

As to new pregnancy experiences, Caleb gave me a good hard bruise last week that is still quite painful now. I felt a jabbing pain in the bottom of my rib cage one day, and from then on that area was incredibly tender, so much that it kept me up a lot one night and hurts like crazy when I’m changing positions during the night. I called and described the sensation to my doctor, who assured me that it sounded like bruising and was nothing to worry about. It should have healed by now, but he keeps bumping/kicking it. I am thankful that I have a baby who is strong and growing…bruises are a small price to pay for a healthy little boy!

10635971_10152798006288109_3822903380426430666_nMy fatigue feels like it increases by the day. I’ve made it for over a week without a nap but I think I may buckle in the next day or two. =) The hiccups continue, usually 3-4 times a day. And the braxton hicks have been more frequent as well. I learned that my doctor will be out of town from the day before my due date to a week after, which was really disappointing. Makes me want Caleb to come early all the more!

Another highlight of the week was meeting with my doula. Andrew and I talked with her for two hours and she took notes so that she can write our birth plan. We are both confident that she is just the right fit for us and our labor, and I am so thankful that God provided her! I am getting really excited for the day we have to call her!