Thursday, February 22, 2018

marie's birth story.

In some ways, I can't tell Marie's birth story without telling Eva's as well.

My first pregnancy was defined by an all consuming need to prepare for all. the. things. My first birth was marked by the reality that you can't prepare for all the things and just like that, I was a mom who had to let go of some control.

My second pregnancy was spent deep in introspection and I was determined not to get snared by the old traps of anxiety and control. The catch is, that this time around, I was trying for a VBAC. I spent much of my pregnancy carefully walking the balance between research and expectation and the reminder that things still may not go the way I want when it came time to deliver my baby.

So there was no birth plan, no childbirth classes, no stacks of books this time. There was prayer, lots of hopeful prayers whispered while my hands ran across my growing belly, and there were frank conversations about contingency plans in the case that our VBAC wouldn't be possible. And there was trust that whatever happened, our daughter would come into the world the way she was meant to.

The whole week before her due date, I was having contractions on and off. I started to try a few low-key home induction methods- clary sage baths, acupressure, and lots of very uncomfortable walks with the dog around the block. On her due date, I could feel the contractions picking up in intensity and the continued through the afternoon and evening. We decided to go to the hospital around 2AM, only to be told I wasn't far enough along to admit just yet. The nurses suggested we walk around the hospital a bit and come back when contractions were three minutes apart. I felt like I could probably rest through some more contractions, so we decided to go back home and get some sleep.

What happened next is the beginning of how God answered so many prayers for that day, a testament to what can happen when I let go of my desperate need for control and yield.

R was able to get a few hours of sleep, a big concern of his because of how long my labor was with Eva. I was able to rest well in between contractions and when they came, I was able to breathe through them in the calm, dark comfort of our room instead of being in a hospital bed. Then Eva woke up in the morning, and while my Mom and R slept, she and I had a quiet breakfast and snuggled on the couch together, all while I labored through more and more contractions. I get teary as I write this, because I prayed towards the end of my pregnancy that I wouldn't let one-on-one moments with Eva slip by as our time of just the two of us was winding down. And here I was, knowing it was my last morning as a mother of one, and I was being given the sweet gift of a slow, quiet morning with my girl. When it came time to leave, we explained that it was time to go have the baby and she sent us off with hugs and kisses while she stayed with Nana.

When we got to the hospital around 10AM, we headed up to Labor and Delivery to check in. Contractions were still five minutes apart and, in a show of trust in my own body and instincts, we decided on the way up there to just let them know we were here at the hospital, but that we were going to walk awhile instead of get settled into a room. This ended up being an important decision because the restriction of being in a room, being monitored continually (a contingency of VBAC patients at our hospital), and being under the watching gaze of nurses and staff, I'm fairly convinced my labor would have been a lot more drawn out. Instead, we did laps around the first floor of the hospital for an hour and a half or so until my contractions were about three minutes apart and too intense to walk through anymore.

(Also, for all you folks wondering about a little taste of military life- there is nothing quite like laboring through the lobby of an Army hospital. As we walked the long hallways, it was clear we were the only ones there not in uniform that day. I got lots of "Ma'am, are you okay? Do you need anything?" from young, concerned looking soldiers and even a, "You got this, Mama!" from a fatigue-clad woman who didn't even need to ask to know why I was walking so slowly with tears in my eyes.)

When we got back up to L&D, I didn't even make it to triage before my water broke and they were ushering me into a room. From there, things moved so fast I needed R to debrief me after the fact. It felt like moments later, I was holding my baby. In reality, in the span of about two hours, I got to my room, got checked to see how far along I was (9cm!), had a few powerful contractions, told them I was ready to push, got checked again (complete!), and started pushing.

I'll spare every intimate detail- you'll have to get a drink with me if you want to hear all the good stuff- but I will say that the pushing stage of labor was simultaneously the hardest and most incredible thing my body has ever accomplished. And with my husband by my side, encouraging me through every tearful moment when I thought I couldn't do it, it was a sacred moment in our marriage.

Just when I thought I really could not push through the pain any longer, an incredible thing happened. The midwife said, "Okay, she's almost here! After you deliver her head, do you want to reach down and pull her out the rest of the way by yourself?" I knew this was it. I was going to meet my daughter and I had brought her into the world by the power of my own body. I was instantly motivated and deeply at peace. Every birth is beautiful, but if you have ever felt the sting of disappointment from having had a birth not go according to your plan, this feeling was like a salve on an old wound. I could feel the beauty in it even through the pain.

The midwife guided my hands down to my baby and with one mighty push, I brought her into the world. And with a loud cry, our Marie made herself known.

My recovery has been much more straightforward compared to my cesarian recovery. Marie is, so far, a calm, easy baby who is affording us a gentle transition into being a family of four. I'm choosing to approach these first hard postpartum weeks with the same yielded heart and big picture perspective that I lacked with Eva. I have next to nothing figured out still, but I'm trying to right some of my old mistakes and lean in to this messy, beautiful season in a way that I didn't before and it's making all the difference.

[If you have any questions about the specifics of my VBAC or want any encouragement as you plan and think about your own VBAC, I would love to connect with you! Send me a message on Instagram.]

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