I originally typed this up at my midwife, Marilyn’s, request, to be put on her website, but, not much to my surprise after I saw the finished length, it’s too long! So, with my wonderful husband’s help, I’m going to work on editing it and whittling it down a bit (or a lot!). However, I thought I’d post the original here for those of you (like me) who love birth stories. Those of you who read my post “When His grace was enough” might notice that I copied and pasted some bits near the end from that post…but considering that I wrote that too, I figured it’s not really plagiarism!
On the morning of December 19th, 2009, I woke up much earlier than I wanted to. Around 5:30 or so, I was awakened by some strange hip pain. At first I attributed this to sleeping in some weird position somehow comfortable to my eight-months-pregnant self, but after awhile I realised that the pain was coming in waves, accompanied by lower back pain of a similar nature. I remembered one of my friends telling me that she felt a lot of her contractions in her hips when she was in labour, and as I could feel my uterus contracting, I concluded I must be having some false labour. False because it was still four weeks until my due date, and with all of the contractions, I could feel that the top of my uterus was still soft, and as such I concluded that my entire uterus wasn’t contracting and therefore wasn’t “doing anything”. Reassured, I tried to fall back asleep, but could only doze off and on from the pain.
My husband, Aaron, and I got up about an hour later with a dilemma on our hands. That day was the day of the annual progressive Christmas dinner that Aaron’s family and some of his relatives put on. We had been preparing for it for awhile, but it was in San Jose, three hours away, and we would be gone all of a very long day. I was still having a lot of contractions and didn’t relish the thought of a three-hour car ride and then trying to be social. After much discussion, we decided we would stay home…we were disappointed to miss it, but knew it was the right decision. After sending our gifts and homemade baklava Christmas plates with Aaron’s family, I headed back to bed, hoping that the contractions would stop.
The contractions continued off and on all morning. We called Marilyn, who was several hours away at a family function, and she recommended soaking in a warm bath to try to stop them. The travel trailer that we were living in while Aaron was building our house had a tiny tub and only a six gallon water heater, so we headed up to Aaron’s parents’ house, right next door. His parents have a soaker tub, so I tried that for awhile, and though it seemed to slow the contractions some, I couldn’t get comfortable.
Throughout the day, we tried that and other methods that Marilyn recommended to us to stop the contractions, but they kept coming back and getting more frequent and more intense (both in length and in pain level). Marilyn got back from her family function late that night and came over at around 11:30 to check me. I was already dilated five centimeters. She finished checking me and then looked at me and said “You’re going to have your baby tonight!”. I was shocked. Tonight?! But…but…I still have four weeks to go! She seemed calm about it all so I took my cue from her and we started figuring out what needed to be done.
We had planned on having a water birth in our almost-finished new house…Aaron had bought all the bathroom fixtures the day before. However, with this new development of the baby coming four weeks early, we needed to move to Plan B, Aaron’s parents’ guest room. His family had gotten back from San Jose about a half hour before so we called them and told them the situation. We gathered together the birthing kit, sheets, etc. from the trailer and headed up to Aaron’s parents’ house. Most of Aaron’s siblings (he’s the oldest of eight) were already asleep, but two of his sisters were up along with his parents. While everyone else set up the guest room and guest bathroom, I paced the living room through my contractions. It felt so good to be walking! I had been lying down most of the day in an effort to stop the contractions, but now I finally had the go-ahead to move around and since that helped the pain, I moved!
After about a half an hour or so, the contractions were getting so strong that I didn’t want to move around anymore. I came into the guest room and lay on my side on the bed, watching Aaron set up the birthing pool (an inflatable kiddie pool that we had bought online). Marilyn was concerned that we wouldn’t get the pool filled in time, but they did and I was able to get into it when I was around eight centimeters or so.
The pool was such a relief! I lay back, slightly reclined, with Aaron kneeling behind me outside the pool. After awhile, I started to get really hot so he would fan me with a wet washcloth and then lay the cooled cloth on my head….it helped. I started feeling the urge to push, but even though I was almost completely dilated, there was still a lip of cervix in the way. It wasn’t moving, but then Marilyn (or her assistant, Jenny…I can’t remember who) held it out of the way while I pushed a couple times – pretty much the most uncomfortable thing ever! – and we were good to go.
I had thought that once the baby crowned, you just had to push a couple more times and he would be out. Well, that was definitely not the case! According to Marilyn, my pushing labour really wasn’t that long compared to most women’s, but it seemed to take forever. At one point, I started to feel light-headed and then someone got me a paper bag to breathe into for awhile and that helped some. Once the baby had crowned, I was so thankful to be in the water as it helped immensely to be able to just float in between contractions, instead of feeling like my weight was pressing on the baby’s head.
Marilyn kept monitoring the baby’s heartbeat every other contraction and at one point, when the baby was almost out, it dropped and as she felt my pushes weren’t going to get the baby out fast enough, she helped by easing his head out. Once his head was out, one more push got the rest of him out…the strangest feeling! Marilyn drew him up out of the water and put him on my chest and it was one of the most amazing moments of my life. He was a little limp, but after several seconds, his tiny limbs start squirming and he let out a few lusty cries. It was 3:16 A.M., December 20th, 2009.
We moved to the bed to deliver the placenta, but it ended up coming out as I was standing up in the water. Marilyn kept monitoring him, and after a couple minutes was concerned that he didn’t seem to be breathing very well. After the first few loud cries, he was just whimpering and it kept sounding like he was trying to catch his breath and couldn’t. Marilyn called the doctor she works with, asked his opinion and they decided our little boy needed to be taken to the local children’s hospital. The ambulance was on its way.
While we waited, I held my little one close, bundled in blankets and holding an oxygen mask to his face, only taking it away to suction his nose and mouth every so often. We announced his name, Cedar Milan, to Aaron’s family who was waiting with us.
When the ambulance finally came, they worked on Cedar on the dining room table, inserting an IV into the back of his tiny hand. We weren’t allowed to come in the ambulance with him, so I kissed him and told him I loved him and then…they took my baby and I didn’t know if he would live until I saw him again.
Due to certain NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) policies, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to see Cedar until a couple hours after he had gotten to the hospital, so after the ambulance left, we stayed at the house for about an hour. We had hopes of possibly catching up a little on some of the sleep we had lost the night before, but I wasn’t able to sleep at all so I just rested on the couch and I think Aaron caught a couple minutes lying on the floor.
We left for the hospital early that morning, and amazingly enough, I had lots of energy and chatted away with Aaron and his mom, going over all the details of the birth. Now, I wonder if I appeared unfeeling, but I actually think it was the Lord’s grace upholding me at that time. If the enormity of what was going on had actually sunk in at the time, I don’t know if I would have been able to hold it together and deal with all that we had to.
We spent the day at the hospital, mostly in the NICU waiting room, trying to doze on the slippery couches, and walking gingerly (on my part anyway) down white corridors whenever we were allowed to see Cedar. He was doing better than they originally thought he would, and he continued to improve all day, but it still was my baby who was under all those tubes and wires. Before giving birth, I had daydreamed often of how wonderful it would be to cuddle my little one against me after the excitement of his arrival died down. Now, all I could do was put my hand through the hole in his isolette and stroke his downy head, watching the fragile up-and-down of his little chest. Yet again, in all this, there was peace and a strength that could only come from the One who had formed every part of my son when he was hidden inside me.
The hardest part of it all came that evening, when we had to drive home for the night, an hour away from our little boy who wasn’t even a day old. People near the hospital offered their homes to us, but we had to go and pull together things we would need when we came back the next morning. We were hoping then to be able to stay at the hospital until Cedar was released, which, we were told, could be anywhere from one to two weeks, at the least, five days. We knew we needed to go, but the doctors had told us that the turning point would come when he was around 24 or so hours old…that night…and there was nothing we could do. So we went home, knowing the best we could do for our son was to be ready for whatever would face us the next day.
I remember many tears in the car that night. Aaron and I held each other and sobbed before we pulled out, and I broke down a few more times on the drive home. We didn’t know what the morning would hold.
But…there was grace. Grace for both of us to be able to sleep soundly that night and awaken to hear that Cedar was doing much better in the morning. Grace for the next four days (much less time than the doctors had originally told us) that we spent in a room in the NICU, trying to catch snatches of rest amidst constant beepings and babies crying and trying to get our little one to eat enough so we could leave. Grace for when Cedar had to spend a day and night under the bilirubin lights and all we could do to calm him was briefly cover him with our hands. Grace for the days finally at home, but wondering if his jaundice would ever get better. Grace for all his problems with learning to nurse and wondering if he’ll gain weight as he should.
And gain weight he did…with a vengeance! And despite our initial troubles with nursing, he’s now a very chubby little baby boy who loves to eat. And it constantly amazes me to think how far our loving Father has brought him…and will continue to.