I am writing this in the thick of it (so forgive any typos and incomplete thoughts!). I was finally able to finish writing this thanks to many nursing sessions and the WordPress app for iPhone. We are still in newborn survival mode, so not sleeping a whole lot, but it’s making us pray and rely on God more. He provides just what we need in His timing. Maternity leave may be a piece of cake for some, but for us it has been a mess at times. More to come in my next post about life with two littles and what’s been happening here lately (and about our upcoming adoption), but I just wanted to share that for any other mamas out there who may be feeling like they are the only ones who have experienced days where you get nothing done—even the simplest things—and it’s okay : ) Showering for more than three minutes is a big win around here! While I don’t have postpartum depression like I had with Grace (praise the Lord), adjusting to these sleepless days is something we take day by day. It’s wonderful and messy and hard and joyful and quiet and humbling all wrapped in one. But everyday I wake up and whether I got three hours of sleep or four, I am grateful for my children. Typing “children” is surreal still. I sincerely don’t deserve them. Little J is sweet, always hungry, always wants to see a smiling face near him, grunts like an old man, and laughs like a little boy. And he has a lot of hair : ) We are slowly adjusting and getting to know each other.
Okay, on to the birth. I wrote many of these birth day notes on my phone while we were still in the hospital so that I wouldn’t forget (highly recommend doing this as you will likely forget). I also tried to include as many details here as possible because it was very helpful for me to read other birth stories.
Joshua’s birth was far different than Grace’s, but they shared one thing in common: waiting.
I thought for sure he would come early or right on time. Grace came nine days after her due date, and I figured God would give me a different experience for having gone through that once already. Ha! I was wrong.
I was so grateful for my Write the Word journal (sold out, but Volume 2 is coming in October) during those weeks. It kept me in the Word and praying.
We waited to get pregnant and weathered a miscarriage in between. You would think waiting on a past-due baby a seemingly short few days would be nothing compared to that. I can’t compare the two though. Both were for a reason. Both were refining and good in the end.
Being past due is a unique experience. Time slows to a crawl. Every feeling and symptom throws you into “maybe this is it” mode. You make no plans and don’t go anywhere because the baby could come any time. All the waiting gives you way too much time in your head, wondering what story God is writing, wondering at times if something is wrong, begging Him for a healthy baby, and hoping for this to be the day. The family members waiting with you are also feeling this. They get tired of sitting around the house. Tired of hearing about your contractions, although that’s their most frequent inquiry. They are tired of passing the time. You are just plain tired. After one week of being past-due, the questions from neighbors and friends start to wear you down. After two weeks, it makes you throw your hands up in the air and surrender to the freeing truth that God is in control and you have to let go. Letting go of control, I believe, is exactly where God wants us in order to bring new life.
God’s three answers to prayer:
I have something better in mind.
There were better things hiding in the waiting.
Every day, God revealed a reason for “not yet.” Little moments with Grace, conversations and dinners with my mom, prayers, closeness with the Lord, deeper closeness with Ari. Too many things to name.
I was due Friday, July 31.
The following Monday, I went in for a non-stress test (NST). I was 4cm dilated. To try to help move things along, I had my membranes stripped and the doc assured me I would have a baby within 72 hours. Yet, nothing happened.
We waited some more. I went in for another NST at 41 weeks. Everything looked great, but since I’m over 35, and because of the risks of waiting too long, they wanted to schedule an induction. I had my membranes done again. A different doc assured me I would have a baby within 48 hours. Again, nothing happened. I just had a lot of cramps.
Another doc (at UNC you see the doc that is available that day and there are about 15 of them) recommended I come in to labor and delivery that night to get my water levels checked, and if things didn’t look good, she wanted to induce me that night. I went in, another NST, water levels were fine but she said they were reducing. Though she wanted me to stay, I chose to go home and wait some more.
I had eaten jalapeños with every meal except breakfast. Ari and Grace had done approximately 80 puzzles. I had read countless articles on labor signs. I had done a ton of walking to try to get baby boy to come. I logged over twenty miles that week. I had no appetite. I had been having regular mild contractions for several days, but nothing that felt like active labor. I knew what active labor felt like from Grace, and this wasn’t it. I had strong Braxton Hicks contractions—some made me have to pause and breathe a little more intentionally–but nothing painful.
My official induction date crept closer and fear took hold of me. I did not want to be induced for many reasons. If you are a redhead, maybe you know what I’m about to say: every doc I’ve seen has told me that redheads bleed more and feel more pain. I’m not sure if there is an official study about this, but when ten docs (and labor nurses) echo the same words, you wonder if it’s true. From my experience with Grace’s birth, I believe it is. I didn’t want to get induced with Pitocin and potentially feel more pain because of it. More so, I wanted Joshua to come on his own, and I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed.
But, the induction day came. I prayed so hard up to that point and all that morning. I cried a lot. Ari and I packed our bags though, and headed back to labor and delivery. One of the fellows came in and checked me before getting started. I was 5cm. I expressed to her how I felt about not wanting to be induced. She was great and told us it was fine to go home and wait, but that I absolutely could not go past 42 weeks. She did my membranes again (third time by then). That was Tuesday. We re-scheduled induction for that Thursday. Two more days to see if he would come on his own—I was elated and so grateful!
But… he stayed cozy in my belly.
We woke up on August 13th and the weather was cool and crisp for once—a refreshing break from the opressive heat of summer. I went on a walk with Gracie and Grama Celia (who had already been waiting with us for three weeks by that point!) through the neighborhood and all around the park by our house.
We were set to go in at 9am for induction. I had cleaned every bit of the house by that point. I curled my hair (somehow this was soothing) and got dressed. I prayed with Grace, hugged her tight, hugged my mom and Rhiannon and off we went. I had prayed all night and prayed so much in the car on the way over for a miracle–that I wouldn’t have to be induced. I so wanted labor to start on its own in the Lord’s timing. Even though there were a mere ten minutes before we would arrive at the hospital, I fully believed that God could do anything. I knew He was listening to my prayers and had done greater things in my life before.
9:15am. We took the car to the hospital valet and walked in. I had prepared a big basket of goodies for the docs and nurses. Rather than the expected basket of cookies or edibles, I decided to gift them with encouragement – prints, books, and gifts from the shop.
I sat down to register and there was nurse Tori, who helped deliver Grace! I smiled so big and felt God was with us. I smiled at her and she smiled back at me like she remembered me. Tori was working with another delivery, so Shannon took us to our labor room and we waited on the doc to come. While we waited, I had to get an IV placed. Shannon tried three times and couldn’t get it to thread. Ari joked with her about my sensitive vaso-vagal response (I passed out a few times before) and I laughed and told her, “Oh, I’ll be fine!” Then I looked down and saw my hand covered in blood, got lightheaded, had to lay down and lost hearing in both ears for a bit. After ten years together, my husband knows me well : )
Then! Guess who came in to try to get my IV working? Nurse Tori! It was wonderful. The Lord is so good. It was a gift to talk to her and feel the comfort of a familiar face in the room. We chatted about Grace’s birth which was so sweet. She quickly got my IV in, signed it, and wished us well. What a treat and gift of comfort from the Lord.
10:00am. Ari made some patient calls (I think this was soothing for him!). We read some of You and Me Forever. I ate a turkey bacon and egg sandwich. I was super hungry all day and the docs said it was fine for me to eat, so I did!
11:00am. Dr. Steube and a resident came in to talk to me about induction options. The resident examined me. I thought for sure I was going to be getting pitocin, but they said I was 5-6 cm and Dr. Steube enthusiastically said I should walk around for a couple hours and labor on my own. “I’m a midwife trapped in an OB’s body. I didn’t want to be induced with my kids either. Go! Walk around for a couple hours and let’s have a baby!” No pitocin! You guys. I cried. This was the last thing I expected. She said if I didn’t progress in a couple hours that we could just try breaking my water. Can you tell I was excited!?
12:00 pm. So, we walked. And sweet Nancy Ray showed up right about then and walked the halls with me too. What a gift it was to have her there. She had been such an incredible support to me during Grace’s birth (she literally held my left leg as Grace was making her way into the world!).
My contractions (strong tightening but not painful still) were 5-8 min apart and then slowed to about 8-10. Ari and I walked the halls some more, and ran into our friend Amir in the hallway. Amir’s wife is a photographer here and he and Ari had met at one of my launch parties a couple years ago. Running into him was a huge answered prayer! Ari wanted to wait to circumcise Joshua till the 8th day, as it is written in the Bible, but this had proved a bit of a challenge. The only mohel in the area was in New York that week and we couldn’t find anyone else who would do it. But, God knew the plan. We chatted with Amir and he set the whole thing up at UNC. Amazing! Again, we felt God strongly with us.
And then… now I’m getting teary writing this. My labor nurse. Eeva. She was from Finland and had a thick beautiful accent and a voice that made me feel calm and like she had everything under control. Everything. She talked about pickled herring with Ari (his favorite) as she whisked around the room getting things all ready and perfectly set as they monitored the little guy and my contractions again for 30 minutes. She told us about how in Finland, that midwives did everything from start to finish with births and doctors were only there for surgeries or complications, which rarely happened. She helped bring thousands of babies into the world. She was so experienced, and you can just feel when someone knows their stuff. It felt good to be in her care.
My contractions were now back to 5 minutes apart and starting to be mildly painful. Something was happening!
2pm. But, after my two hours of walking and intermittent monitoring, the resident checked me again and said I hadn’t progressed. This was really surprising considering what I was starting to feel. So, they wanted to break my water to get things moving. I was scared of this. With Grace, my water broke in transition and it was a loud violent burst, not a slow trickle of water like you sometimes see in movies. It was rather traumatic honestly. And I feared not progressing even with my water broken. I feared Joshua not responding well. But, I had to put fear aside and have faith.
Nancy put on music–her own labor playlist on Spotify. It was instantly calming. We prayed. I was scared but ready. We FaceTimed with Grace, who was happily eating a snack with Grama Celia and baking oatmeal almond cookies (which I later devoured an entire bag of). I missed her so much.
Anesthesiology came in while we waited on my water to be broken. I wanted to have a natural birth like I had with Grace, but Ari wanted me to at least listen to the anesthesiology options. A new thing at UNC is nitrous oxide (laughing gas). They give very low doses to take the edge off of during contractions. I knew I didn’t want an epidural, but I said it was fine for them to bring the nitrous tank in just in case. I didn’t plan to use it, but I trusted Ari and he felt I should have it there in case I changed my mind. Remember that thing about him knowing me well after ten years?
3:15pm. A special lady came in to break my water because she had the “longest hands,” according to the resident. She had brown sleek hair and beautiful posture, like a dancer. I expected immediate pain and a big gush, but it was nothing like that. I was a slow pour of tons and tons of warm water. So much water. I kept asking for more towels because it just kept going. There was much anticipation at that point, but nothing happened for about thirty minutes.
3:45pm. Then the contractions started. Real contractions. I was SO grateful! I had craved them so much. I actually laughed and smiled as the contractions started. That’s what waiting does—it makes you want the pain and all the feelings. Up till the weeks of waiting, I was afraid of labor and didn’t want to experience it again. God had a plan. I couldn’t wait to meet our little guy! I craved finally holding him and I was ready to labor.
4:15pm. And then, very shortly after, active labor began. It was all very fast.
I remember not being able to get comfortable. Suddenly, I felt severe lower back pain, which I hadn’t experienced with Grace.
I stood up and pressed all my weight into Ari. I began to get the shakes and more pain–couldn’t-talk-through-it kind of pain. Ari could tell this wasn’t normal to feel this much this fast and he offered me the nitrous. I didn’t want it but after he offered several more times I decided to try it. It helped a little but not enough to continue using it. The pain was just too intense at the point.
The resident checked me again and said I was still 5cm. This blew my mind. How could I not be progressing but feeling all these things!? Eeva and Ari looked at each other perplexed too. That’s when I knew it was time to wave my white flag. If I was only 5cm dilated, and feeling all of this pain, there was NO WAY I was going to get to 10cm. No way. I couldn’t stop shaking. My teeth chattered as I asked for the anesthesiologist and then the major pain came on like a tidal wave. In 30 minutes I went from nothing to the worst pain I’ve every experienced.
Contractions were now coming every two minutes and all in my lower back. I moaned and yelled for help and called upon the Lord and told Ari to make the anesthesiologist hurry many times. They finally came as my contractions were peaking. I was afraid of the epidural, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. Labor is humbling.
5:00pm. In between one of the intense contractions, I asked Nancy to play Selah. This song. Every birth is different, but I encourage you to play meaningful music if you can. Hearing this song in the background, with all the pain, feeling helpless, and in hearing these lyrics, I was reminded of the bigger picture. No matter what I was feeling, the Lord was with us. It gave me peace. Our son was on his way. The pain wouldn’t last forever.
I thought about Jesus dying for me. Taking on all my sin. Experiencing unfathomable pain for me–a sinner who completely didn’t deserve that kind of love. I kept thinking about “sharing in Christ’s sufferings.” What I was feeling was so small compared to what He experienced, and yet my pain was connecting me to Him. This gave me comfort.
6:00pm. I was screaming at this point as they had me sit up and lean over the bed into Ari, holding as still as possible, to place the epidural. I felt two sets of hand working on my back and Eeva with a fetal monitor pressed into my stomach to be sure Joshua was okay. I kept asking if he was alright as Ari and Eeva were glued to the monitor. Ari doesn’t flinch under pressure, but I could tell they were slightly concerned.
I begged the anesthesiologists to hurry. They didn’t tell me till they got the needle in that it would take another 10-15 minutes for it to begin working. I cried. It took about 8-10 more contractions for it to kick in, but something wasn’t right. I felt a little numb on my right side, but suddenly the pain was worse on my left side. I was weak by that point from shaking and shaking uncontrollably.
I cried and told them it wasn’t working. It felt like a knife was in my left side. There were many people in the room at that point, trying to figure out how to help me. I couldn’t stop shaking.
6:15pm. Until Nancy handed Ari scriptures to read me.
I had printed out several verses that my friend Val had given me for Grace’s birth. Ari calmly began reading the words, slowly and tenderly, close to my ear.
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I stopped shaking.
For a moment.
It was probably 15 seconds, but it felt like I was floating. Nancy prayed over me. Sweet relief.
Nancy and Ari were so encouraging. Ari was steadfast in his calm. And Nancy kept telling me I was doing so well and coaching me: Relax your forehead. You can do this. Breathe through it. Ari and I hadn’t taken a birthing class before but I knew Nancy had done the Bradley classes. They were both so wonderful.
Another contraction began to peak. Ari held my hand, let me press into his chest, and squeeze his hand tightly. I felt Joshua descend lower and the pain intensified even more.
6:30pm. The anesthesiologist brought in ice chips to test the pain. I was indeed still feeling everything on my left side. (Side note: For me, I felt my legs and could still move with the epidural. All it did was numb me a bit, not totally block feeling.) They were prepping to adjust my epidural to fix it, but instead it fell out. So, they were going to completely replace it…
Then I felt something warm just as they were about to place another epidural catheter. Eeva got this look in her eyes like something was up. (I didn’t know it at the time, but I was bleeding a lot.) She said “Hold on let me check her.” Everything got quiet. “Well, it’s time for you to push this baby out! You are fully dilated!” Oh my stars! What a turn of events. I was SO HAPPY and so grateful. I laughed and cheered and was overwhelmed with joy.
6:45pm. I heartily agreed to push instead of waiting to get a new epidural placed, even though they said my current epidural would wear off soon and the pain was so intense. Eeva made a phone call and suddenly there were ten people pouring into the room all at once, turning machines on and getting into position.
As my contractions continued, Ari kept telling me all the things they were doing to get ready for us to meet our baby. Table ready. Baby catching things ready! Baby warmer on! A sweet blonde resident appeared below me, ready to deliver him. I kept crying and laughing and saying “God is so good!” There had been no laughing in my last birth experience. This was such redemption.
7:00pm. Eeva took charge and got very close to my ear. “Lara, I need you to listen to every word I say.” Okay! Anything you say. I felt confident with her there. It was time to push. Intense bearing down. I was motivated wanting to see him and working against the clock with my epidural. Five women surrounded me, coaching me on. I felt like I was trying to lift a car!
Somewhat miraculously, just as they said they could see his head, all my pain left me.
I couldn’t feel the contractions coming on so I listened to my body as much as I could, and waited for Eeva to tell me what to do.
I had a moment of pure emotion in between a contraction, realizing our lives were about to change. Grace wasn’t going to be my baby anymore. I told Ari in that moment that I missed Grace and couldn’t wait to see her and for her to meet her brother.
They coached me and cheered me on. I could hear so much in their voices when to really keep going or not. I worked so hard, grabbed my legs and curled myself around him.
The delivery resident said, “Well he has lots of hair!” That was so exciting to hear! He was right there.
More pushing. And pushing. And silence and stillness between. Then there was one round that seemed to last forever and I got worried that things were slowing down. I rested for a moment and then another contraction came. I pushed again.
Ari said something about our baby’s head being there and then he said, “They are getting the baby catching things out! I see him!”
7:17pm. One last push with all my might and he made his way into the world. And now I’m crying typing this.
9 lbs, 3 oz, 21.5 inches long. 13 days after his expected due date, but right on time : )
He came out facing up to the stars, which explained the intense back labor.
They put him on my chest and I was elated. I couldn’t stop laughing and crying and praising God! “It’s a person!” I cried. “God is so good!” He was so calm on my chest and barely cried. So relaxed and calm. I couldn’t stop crying happy tears.
And then someone in the room said, “Look at all that red hair!” You guys. He was a redhead! That blew me away. I still can’t get over it! A redhead!
I couldn’t get over the fact that he has red hair! That was the last thing I expected! : )
Only Grace knew his name before he was born, and it was a joy to finally share it with our family and friends.
Ari held the phone to my ear so I could say hello to his mom and dad : )
The room ever so slowly got quiet as people left, and left us to skin to skin. It was magical.
This man. He is a great daddy.
I had a permasmile as they wheeled us to our room.
This photo above melts my soul.
I heard the sweetest little voice as they opened the doors to the recovery wing: “Mommy!!!” Grace was beaming with excitement as she rushed to us to see her little brother. That is a moment I won’t forget.
My mom and Grace greeted him with joy and we piled into our room for the first time as a family of four.
And this really is just the beginning. The beginning of the best and hardest changes. The beginning of a new life. I have so much more to share next.
Till then, here is a peek at the little man today…
6 weeks old, and a whopping 16.5lbs (I told you he likes to eat. This is a 6 month onesie!).
I love him. And his daddy. And his sister. And all the friends who have prayed for us during this time. And the God who made them all.
Up next: The first days with a newborn, recovery, these first weeks, things I would do again, things I would do differently, and a whole lot more.
In case you missed it: Sharing the news that we were unexpectedly expecting and choosing his name. Also: Nancy’s post and perspective on Joshua’s birth.
Birth day photographs by the truly incredible Nancy Ray.