I had been preparing for months. I attended hypnobirthing classes, created my labor playlists, listened to my birth affirmations and practiced my relaxation techniques. I addressed fears and doubts as they surfaced and laid them before the Lord, determined to birth without fear. I assembled my “birth team”, equipped with a great team of midwives, a doula and the best birth companion a girl could as for. My weekly visits to the prenatal chiropractor and an active yoga lifestyle all told me that my body was ready to birth, naturally and without intervention. My hospital bag was packed with essential oils, massagers, and homeopathic remedies to assist in the laboring process and my perfectly-named “clover green” pretty pushers gown. While I was definitely still nervous about what labor would be like, I was as ready as I could ever be to have a natural, unmedicated birth. But, with all things in life, I knew that ultimately God was sovereign over Clover’s birth and He would have it go exactly as it should. Even if that looked different than my plan.
Waiting for Clover
Through my childbirth classes and my team of birth professionals, I knew not to be discouraged if I were to go past 40 weeks as it is very common for a first pregnancy. Still, each day that went by after my “due date” felt like I was a little closer to something I didn’t want: induction. I did everything I could to try to get labor started; brisk walks around the neighborhood, lots of yoga, evening primrose oil, clary sage on my ankles. I may or may not have even stood outside under the full moon on March 23rd! But baby girl was staying put.
Early in the pregnancy I had a very vivid pregnancy dream that involved the number 27. At times God has used dreams to guide me and this was one that I held on to. Not to mention, the 26th was my last day of my 40 days of worship AND the 27th was Easter Sunday. It seemed like the perfect day. I started to wonder if the 27th would be the day. It seemedI was scheduled for a 41 week ultrasound on the 28th to discuss an induction and I was praying that I wouldn’t have to keep that appointment. Sure enough, labor began on Easter Sunday, March 27th!
The day it began
Bella had been counting down the days until Easter, so I wanted to make it really special for her. We spent the morning hunting for Easter eggs, enjoying a yummy breakfast and then headed off to church in our Sunday best. While at church, tears ran down my cheeks as we sang worship songs and I felt my baby moving inside me. Throughout the service I started to feel some cramping, similar to period cramps so I laid down for a nap as soon as we got home. During my “nap”, the cramps started feeling…different. Like a wave of pressure. I was having a contraction! I started to see if they were time able and sure enough, they were coming every 5-6 minutes. I began to go into my relaxation mode and breathed through each one. I still wasn’t sure this was “it”, but Joe wanted to be safe than sorry; especially since we live about 30 minutes from the hospital. So we headed out around 5pm, just as my sister’s family was arriving for Easter dinner at our house. I hugged Bella goodbye and off we went! Sidenote: I really was bummed about missing out on my mom’s ham Easter dinner. Thankfully she saved me some leftovers!
Hospital Bound Take 1
Arriving at the hospital was surreal. We had done the hospital tour the month before, but now I was there to actually have my baby! I listened to my hypnobirthing scripts on the drive there and while Joe got me checked in and then we were off to triage. I got changed into a hospital gown (totally not my favorite thing) and hooked up to the machines and sure enough, I was having contractions. I had never had any cervical checks throughout my prenatal care, so this was the first time I was going to get my baseline. I was hoping to be at least a 3, but unfortunately I was only 1 cm/90% effaced. The nurse suggested we walk the halls for an hour or so to see if I dilate anymore. Unfortunately, before we got to that, my blood pressure spiked and they needed to monitor me for preeclampsia. Now I was stuck sitting in the uncomfortable triage bed with 3 min apart contractions, hooked up to a machine for 3 hours. Thankfully, I tested negative for preeclampsia, but when they checked my cervix again, I was only at a 1 1/2. Even though I was contracting regularly and strongly, I wasn’t making enough progress to be considered in “active labor”, so they sent me home and told me to keep my 8am midwife appointment the next morning. I was so discouraged. I sure felt like I was in active labor and couldn’t imagine showing up to an appointment 12 hours from then as if I wasn’t experiencing intense contractions.
Didn’t make the cut
I did my best to stay positive, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit defeated. The contractions I was experiencing were intense, but to be told I’m not in “active labor” was hard on me mentally. Once I arrived home, things really started picking up. Contractions started coming every 2-3 minutes and were lasting 45 seconds. I labored in the shower, on my birth ball and on my bed from 8am-4am, the contractions coming consistently that whole time. Joe and my mom were there to help me breathe through them and apply counterpressure when necessary. It was hard to know to go back in to the hospital. The last thing I wanted was to get sent home again, but we also didn’t want to wait too long. At 4am, we headed back to the hospital, now 16 hours into labor.
Hospital Bound Take 2
Here we go again. Back at the hospital. Back in the hospital gown. Back on the machines. I prayed that this time, I would get to stay. The cervical check showed that I had made some good progress at home and was now 4cm/90% effaced. Hooray…I could stay! I was admitted at 5am and in my delivery room by 6am. One of the reasons I was super excited about Mercy Gilbert hospital was because they had a large tub I could labor in. Unfortunately, the on call midwife wouldn’t let me labor in there until I was at least 6cm. Bummer! I settled for the shower and LOVED it. I sat on my birth ball with water beating on my back and another shower head on my belly. Joe got my music bumping and helped me breathe through each surge as it came. By this time, I was starting to feel the exhaustion of labor, but I was determined to keep going strong. I labored in the shower until about 8am but unfortunately was not making much progress, so it was time to start moving. I dreaded leaving the safety of my birth ball and hot water, but I knew I needed to get things going. We started walking the halls and I tried different hip-opening positions. The pain was definitely getting in my head and I was starting to lose my drive. Joe was such an amazing supporter of my desire to go all-natural, but watching me labor in pain for 20 hours at this point was weighing on him. We both really started to struggle at this point. Thankfully, help was on the way.
Help has arrived
Prior to going into labor, I had talked to a wonderful woman named Mary about being my doula. I loved the idea of having a woman by my side who could be an advocate and cheerleader for me. In the midst of the long labor, however, I began to feel very vulnerable and wasn’t sure if I was ready for anyone else to see me like that. Thankfully, Joe encouraged me to have Mary come anyway and I’m SO glad he did. She arrived around 10am and immediately we felt the grace of God. Mary was like a breath of fresh air to our tired minds and bodies. She walked with me up and down the halls and coached my breathing with each surge. Soon she had Joe take over and we felt like we had direction once again. Mary helped me explore different laboring positions and used her expertise to try to get my body to dilate as it should. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t budging past 4cm and I was growing weary. Around noon, 24 hours into labor, I started to wonder how much more I could handle. Joe and Mary encouraged me that no matte what direction this labor took, I was doing a great job and had their support. I knew it was time to ask about pain management. The answer, however, was not what I was expecting.
It took a lot for me to humble myself enough to tell Joe that I thought it was time for an epidural. I knew my body still had a lot of work to do in the pushing phase and at this point I needed some relief and sleep to be able to make it through that. Joe and Mary both agreed that was a wise choice, so Joe quickly grabbed our nurse. We figured it would just be a matter of time before I would be resting comfortably. The midwife, however, did not agree. I had finally gotten into the mindset that I was going to get some relief and the midwife told me she wouldn’t allow me to get the epidural yet. WHAT?! I had been laboring for over 24 hours at this point and contracting every 3 minutes but since I had stayed at 4cm for the past 12 hours, she said my labor wasn’t active enough. I felt so helpless. Her alternative was to give me IV pain medication to give me some relief. Reluctantly, I agreed and was on them from about 1pm-3pm. I still felt each contraction, but it made me super drowsy and loopy, allowing me to rest in a dream-like state. It didn’t take the pain away, but it was quite a relief from the previous 26 hours. And, even better news was on the way. Robin, the midwife I was hoping for, was starting her shift at 1:30! Things were looking up.
Robin was a breath of fresh air. She could tell how hard I had been working over the past day and she empathized with the frustrtion of my lack of progress. She supported my desire to go natural, but advised that it was probably time to help my body along via pitocin. Prior to labor, I told Joe that I did NOT want pitocin so I dreaded hearing this. With the pitocin, they advised getting the epidural as well. Two things I originally wanted to stay far away from. After talking it over with Joe and Mary, I knew I needed to trust the Lord with how the labor was turning and I agreed to both. By 4pm, I was getting the epidural and pitocin shortly after. Not going to lie, it was such a relief once it kicked it. I could still feel the pressure of each surge, but the pain was gone. For the first time in more than I day, I could rest. Thank you, Jesus!
Slow but Sure
At 6:30pm, they checked me again and I was at a 5 1/2. It was progress, but not as much as they were hoping so now they had me sitting straight up in bed. Not the best position for sleeping! At 7pm, things took a bit of a turn. Clover’s heart rate was dropping and I spiked a low-grade fever. If things didn’t improve soon, they were going to have to get baby out ASAP. I prayed and prayed that everything would be okay and soon everything evened out for both me and baby. A couple hours later, at 8:30pm, I was still moving slowly and was 6cm. That’s when Robin advised she break my water (another thing I didn’t originally want). I released my plan once again and agreed.
A Surprising Discovery
While Robin was doing a cervical check, she discovered some scar tissue on my cervix. Since I’ve never had surgery, we’re not sure how it got there, but that could be the culprit that was preventing me from dilating this whole time. She was able to massage it/break it up, broke my water and then things starting moving! Within 20 minutes I went from a 6 to an 8. An hour later, at 10pm, it was time to start pushing.
The Final Stretch
The epidural was set so that I could feel the pressure of each contraction in order to push more effectively (aka I felt a LOT!). Pushing was SO much harder than I thought it would be. I was so exhausted at this point and baby girl was not clearing my pelvis. For an hour and a half, I struggled to get her past my pubic bone. Robin even had to call in the on-call doctor to see if they were going to have to vacuum her out. I prayed with each push that Christ would give me the strength to push her out on my own. I just remember being surrounded by this team of people, all there to support me and bring Clover into the world, cheering me on and telling me I could do it. Through the sea of noise, Joe leaned in close and whispered the perfect encouragement for each push. I never felt so vulnerable yet so protected and loved. I was growing weary with each push, lasting almost 2 hours. I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I prayed in the name of Jesus over and over. And then, in the most miraculous moment, she was out and on my chest!
I could not believe it. I couldn’t even mutter words, just sounds of amazement. My baby was finally here, on my chest. I did it. After 41 weeks and 36 hours of labor, she was here. I had never been so proud, relieved and accomplished. I had birthed my baby, this miracle child, into the world. It went so different than “my plan”, but it went exactly as God intended.
Photos by: Sydney Aylesworth Photography