My Birth Story, Part II: Labor and Delivery

If you missed part I, go read it first!

The best way I can describe what a natural birth without pain medications felt like to me is a marathon. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know what a muscle cramp feels like, and that you can’t think “I can’t do this” or overthink about the numbers. You know what “the wall” is and learn to climb it. You know to rest but not to quit. And you get hooked on the finish line. It means much more to you to cross it than to the person who didn’t run the course and feel the hills themselves.

I had run exactly 3 marathons before pregnancy. I knew my body was strong and healthy. I knew the pain of a cramp and I expected that much, even though I prayed for a pain-free birth.

Contractions to me felt like very very strong cramps. Technically that’s what it is, but if you’ve ever had a running leg cramp, that. Over and over, it’d squeeze and release. After a while, I got used to it. I learned not to flinch and to relax as much as possible, and that helped.

What I didn’t expect was for my labor to start on a Sunday and end on a Wednesday. Yep. That’s one whole day, two whole days, three whole days, and some change.

Prodromal labor is the name of the game. It wasn’t false labor, but it was erratic. Contractions weren’t stronger, longer, closer together. More like 7 minutes then 3 then 5 then 2 then 14 minutes apart. Enough to mess with my head but not to get me to the birth center. Sunday night, I called the midwife line and was very gently told that my contractions didn’t sound strong enough yet, aka I’m breathing through it and still able to talk. That was the first day. I tried to sleep and managed to snooze a bit. Contractions didn’t stop.

On day two, Monday afternoon, my doula came over to work with me. We were hopeful that maybe baby just needed to move a little, and then labor would pick up the pace. By evening, we drove to the birth center to see if I was progressing. It had been almost two full days of stop and go, and I was tired.

We arrived and I was 80% effaced and 3 centimeters. Face palm. They walked me next door to get a chiropractic adjustment, just in case my pelvis was being unsportsmanlike. They decided to give me “therapeutic rest” aka a strong sleeping medicine so I could rest for a little while since my uterus was apparently dancing to jazz and techno. I barely made it to the car before passing out hard for about 4 hours.

Woke up while it was still considered Monday, proceeded to get very little sleep into Tuesday, and that’s when the real deal started.

I was IN LABOR.

I’ll tell you what I remember about laboring at home: Buddy looking shook, calling the doula and the midwife line. I was dropping into squat reps when the contractions hit, because it felt good to move down as they tightened. I started getting vocal. Loud noises and bright lights freaked me out. Buddy couldn’t touch me, but at this point our doula Mary still could. Buddy packing snacks and putting our bags in the car. Buddy trying to get me to eat and nothing sounded good at all. Me drinking at least 2 liters of coconut water, and attempting to eat apple slices. Us walking to the car, me with combs in my hands to squeeze during contractions in the car. Me basically forgetting about my phone and that I hadn’t told my Brazilian family the punchline: oh, it’s happening now.

We arrived at Atlanta Birth Center just after 4pm on Tuesday. We got the Water Room, the one I liked the most. I was the only one there in labor.

Then it all went foggy.

I went to another planet with God. I had coherent thoughts but I didn’t verbalize. I lost track of time and what day it was. I had to ask for the birth details because my eyes were shut almost the whole time.

I remember walking the halls through contractions, and it hurt. I remember telling my midwife that I felt like I was peeing but I knew I wasn’t peeing, so that was my water breaking, clear, thank God. I remember the rests between contractions were peaceful for me, there was no pain between contractions.

I remember at one point nobody could touch me. I was offered to labor in a tub but I said no (I wish I had at least tried it). I felt like this primal beast, spooked but in charge somehow. In my mind, I was praying, no longer for no pain, but for God to help me make space for this baby.

At one point, the midwives switched shifts. With this switch came a fresh energy and determination to get this baby out. Also, I’m sure I looked beyond exhausted and they knew the baby needed to come sooner than later so I could push. I was asked to crawl (yep) on all fours and when a contraction hit, to get into child’s pose. So I crawled, and this really was a turning point. I felt like the baby was really moving down. I don’t remember much in between this and starting to push, but pushing was amazing. I don’t know why movies paint it to be the worst part, it was so exciting for me!

One thing to mention before we get to the grand finale is that mentally I did not break. I didn’t say “I can’t do this” or ask for meds. I didn’t cuss out my husband. I said I was tired, and usually that meant to take a break from whatever inversion or crawl I was doing at the time haha. I did not question whether or not it would be possible, nor whether the baby was okay. This whole time her heart rate was perfect. No distress for her, no doubt for me. This, I believe, was not my mental strength but God’s kindness to help guard my thoughts. I firmly believe it was the Holy Spirit filling my mind with scriptures and positive words, like only He could do.

Pushing phase: I did some pushing on the bed, dangling off (innovative haha) and some squatting. My midwife spoke up about tearing being likely in squat position, and I decided I wanted to have the baby in a side-lying position on the bed. My doula and I had talked about this before, and it was the moment of truth: I had the choice of what position I wanted to have my baby. This should be every mother’s choice, and thankfully I chose a birth center that let this be my choice!

I was super tired and could only do about 3 pushes at a time. But I could feel her moving down! Buddy was behind me on the bed, seeing it all. I had my eyes firmly shut.

I pushed for about 2 hours, and with ever increasing cheering by the birth center staff and my doula, the baby’s head came out and… drumroll… her hand came out on her cheek!

Compound presentation baby, no wonder my labor was intense!

To top it off, her cord was around the back of her neck, so her hand kept the cord from squeezing all around. Talk about a blessing in disguise!

In a flash, the whole baby was placed on me, wet and big and mine. 10:40am on the first day of Spring.

The pain ended. There was no tearing, even with her hand making its surprising appearance. I did pray for that during the pushing haha.

The first thing my sweet angel child did was take the hugest dump on me, right on my belly. Nice to meet you too, baby girl.

They showed me my placenta and it was nasty. I could have probably gone without seeing it. My bleeding was normal, baby’s apgar was 9. She weighed 7lbs 10oz and was 20.5 inches long.

After birth, I was able to walk to the bathroom, deal with the hot mess that was all over me, and put on my pretty robe. I had a strong waddle walk and wobbly legs, and I got really wired. It lasted a few days before I could actually come off of the hormonal high that was birth.

I did feel pain but I didn’t feel abandoned by God. I knew He did what was best for me and Emília Grace, every minute of that experience. I felt like many, many parts of this labor and birth were supernatural, especially the way He guarded my mind (I did not have negative thoughts!), kept baby steady throughout the long labor, and then made recovery simple with no stitches. God is faithful!

I am so grateful to the Lord for the safe arrival of our little girl, and for entrusting Buddy and I to be her parents.

There will be a part 3, about postpartum!

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Recommendations:

Doula: Mary Hanks (the best best best) if you want a peaceful, motherly, Godly, knowledgeable doula, she’s it. Best decision we made, she took care of Buddy as well, making sure he ate and didn’t end up too traumatized haha!

Birth Place: Atlanta Birth Center I’m confident I would have had interventions at a hospital. The way the staff at ABC had faith in me and in birth was outstanding. They never gave up on me. I’d have 1000 babies there if I had to have 1000 babies.

Book: Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize- This book changed the way I saw birth altogether.

Affirmations (just have some, read through pregnancy especially!): My Pinterest board

Don’t Lose the Fire

Fireball over here has a confession: my Fire started to wane.

Blame it on Ministry School being done for now. Blame it on life transitions eating up my time. Blame it on me not getting any new leaders for Phylla House and feeling like a plastic bag about that… I understood the Katy Perry song lyric for the first time.

Do you ever feel… like a plastic bag… ?

Yep.

Fireball felt like a plastic bag. It doesn’t take long to drift. And I praise God, it doesn’t take long to anchor, either.

Today I woke up determined to be a super productive adult who follows through. Follows through with people, emails, banks, and laundry. And in it, I prayed. I got excited. I had setbacks but it all got done today. And then I had one phone call scheduled for 6pm, with an OUTSTANDING woman of God.

Charity is her name. And today she sharpened me. She reminded me of what Phylla House is about, as I heard her little kids’ voices in the background, as she raises them bravely as a widow, and as she reminds me that we need people who have been through the fire, and we need structure. Structure! Ahh. The thing I’ve been fighting. The thing that I always think would hinder the spontaneous growth of Holy Spirit work. But it’s needed. We set deadlines. She brought her fire over to mine and it sparked brighter.

Sometimes it’s easier to go where the fruit is, and I’ve been taught this, too. Go where the fruit is! But sometimes we have to stick it out, and fast, and endure. We have to hold tight to dormant dreams, to the ideas that don’t seem to be catching as quickly as we’d hoped. And we hold them, even then. Even still. We take them to the Lord, sometimes in our frustration, and He passes by in a quiet whisper to remind us He is still very much Sovereign.

Multiply the crumbs, Lord. Nourish the sparks into a mighty flame for You. Don’t let us give up on dreams that You put in our hearts.

All in all to say, the #ATLdevo is coming back. It might be a little different, too. I get to dream again, and ask the Lord just how He wants His fire disbursed.

Fight to keep your fire. What’s the dream in your heart that tends to wane in times of hardship? That. I pray a blessing over what that is for you. All to Jesus we surrender, and yes, that includes our doubts, our timing, our expectations, our judgments, and our past frustrations. And we exchange those for a fresh fire and a fresh hope, with a double scoop of unrealistic, and sprinkles of the impossible.

This song says it all: You’re unrelenting, with passion and mercy. Unstoppable love that never ends.

If Love is for us, who can be against us?

Contempt and Contentment

My thoughts have been circling around the subject of contempt for about a week. What does it mean?

Contempt is a feeling that someone or something is not worthy of any respect or approval. Contempt that I’ve seen rises up when I feel like someone is not doing their best, especially on purpose. I have a high value for passion and intention, and when those things aren’t present in a lifestyle, I have to fight to respect that person. I struggle to respect people who avoid their problems or cover them. I’ve also felt contempt when I saw dishonesty, denial, and self-destructive patterns. It’s almost natural for people to feel contempt for others who repeatedly make choices we don’t know how to respect and wouldn’t make for ourselves. How can we approve of them when they make terrible choices? I think Contempt is best buddies with Arrogance, too. They hang out on Saturdays. Contempt says “ew” and Arrogance says “you’re better than that” and together they laugh and laugh. You don’t want to hang out with these two, because they’re super obnoxious. Also, they’ll ruin you.

fakesmile

I think Contempt and Grace have one thing in common: they assume, which means to think that something is true or probably true without knowing that it is true. Contempt assumes the worst of people, and assumes that they’re guilty. Grace assumes the best of people, and assumes that they’re innocent.

This is the classic case of the half-filled cup, whether it is half-full or half-empty. Truth is that we do not know the matters of the heart, only God does. We don’t know if someone is bent for evil or if they’re actually a great person in there, banging on the walls, trying to get out of their mistakes prison.

Contempt is quick to put people on a scale, like Willy Wonka, and call them bad eggs. Contempt wants you to make a judgment, which is really, really, really not our job. We are poorly equipped to make a judgment. We have been judged inadequate to judge, but we have been encouraged to assume the best.

I started a new job in the last 3 months, and let me tell you that there is a certain coworker for whom I was beginning to feel contempt. This person didn’t work very hard and left me hanging. I’d point out an issue and this person would laugh and express how much they did not care. “OH NO YOU DID NOT” I would scream from the inside. Apathy, if you can’t already tell, is my sweet trigger of contempt.

Then I realized that I only care because I have been given the tools and the flame to care. This person did not have the equipment to care. They were trying to hike my rainy mountain of I CARE while barefoot and naked. They didn’t have it, and it was unfair for me to assume the worst of them when they were not equipped.

I felt relief wash over me when I changed my perspective. I began to assume the best for this person. I assumed that they were manifesting on the outside what was going on inside, and it activated me to pray.  I assumed that this person was so tired, that they’d cared for so long and began to burn out. I assumed that they built walls of apathy so that they could keep disappointment out, and how that had failed. I started to pray for their walls of apathy to come down, and for bravery to rise up to forgive whoever disappointed them. I told myself that this person was working as hard as they could, and so that I needed to pray for strength, so that I could keep up. Funny thing that happened was that strength elevated in me and I no longer felt overwhelmed, but worked diligently, quickly, and with more joy than before. I realized that I needed to encourage this person, and to tell them the things they are doing well. I began to do that and saw a change. The next time I worked with that person, they worked much harder.

Had I given up, snitched to the boss, and lost my patience, I would have gotten this person in trouble. I would have been like anybody else. I would have left work feeling like I had done the right thing, but also feeling like a giant jerk. Instead, I chose to assume with grace that this person was doing their very best, and sure, it wasn’t much, but it was all they could do. I honored that. I prayed. I spoke into it.

I became content with someone’s decision that I would have never made. Take that one in. I’m gonna write it one more time: I became content with someone’s decision that I would have never made.

I said to myself “that’s the best they’ve got right now” and I approved, and I moved on with ALL my peace, and I adjusted my circumstances to pray and overcome the hurdle before us. God is and will always be faithful. If we dare to assume the best of people, over and over, and affirm them for what they do well, to appreciate them for even the tiniest of sliver of good they can bring to the table, guess who benefits the most? We do. We become more loving, more pleasant. That helps.

I sigh less. I roll my eyes less. I feel the need to complain less. I feel contempt less. I feel arrogant less. Instead I feel more compassion. More grace. I think you can bring this into your difficult relationships, and into every kind of exchange you have to make with people who you struggle to respect. We put our toy gavels down, and grab hold of Contentment. Peace comes along. Grace shows up and makes it a party. It’s more fun to hang out with those three, any day of the week. They prosper you.

This. Just this.

What I have is enough.

This. Just this.

Not enough for tomorrow, but for this moment.

This. Just this.

I don’t need anything else.

This. Just this.

I have access to Your promises.

This. Just this.

I have glimpsed my inheritance.

This. Just this.

I know what You say is true.

This. Just this.

I know my days are like a vapor.

This. Just this.

I know this life is full of affliction.

This. Just this.

I know I have power to bring healing.

This. Just this.

Let me not be found seeking another purpose.

This. Just this.

Today, I’m not a mom, not a wife.

This. Just this.

If You’re okay with this, I’m okay with this.

This. Just this.

I will carry and love what You’ve given me.

This. Just this.

I will honor You with what You’ve entrusted me.

This. Just this.

I will not ask for more today.

This. Just this.

I will set my face like flint and endure.

This. Just this.

You withhold no good thing from me.

This. Just this.

You will release what is mine.

This. Just this.

I find my delight is in You.

This. Just this.

You are the joy and the strength of my heart.

This. Just this.

My portion is You.

This. Only this.