For the final post in our Tales from the Birthing Center series, sponsored by St. Luke’s, we decided to skip the interview with mom, Anna, and let her share her birth story in its entirety. She learns that there is beauty in every birth, even when delivery deviates from the birth plan.
“There is no chance I am going late this time,” the line I kept telling myself throughout the grueling long weeks of waiting for our third baby. I was certain that this baby would come earlier than the rest. My daughter, our first born, was a whopping two weeks late but my water broke on my due date for our second. The trend was moving ever in my favor. If all went as I had planned ( I see all you mamas laughing saying “nothing ever goes as planned sweetheart- and you are right) our sweet little love would be joining our growing crew the early weeks of July. Slowly but surely I found myself passing that ever anticipated due date with no signs of baby.
You can bet that the final week before anticipated delivery, and as my due date became a day of the past, I did everything in my power to naturally induce this baby. My bags were packed, my nursery was set, my work caught up, and my house was mostly clean. Operation let’s have this baby commenced. I don’t know if I’ve ever done more squats in my life. My membranes had been swept- twice. I ate all the foods with a kick, and was bouncing marathons on my exercise ball in hopes of shaking things up. All the hard work to no avail and, after exhausting my efforts, an induction date was finally set.
July 25th at 5am my husband and I would head to the hospital and they would break my water and wait for the contractions to begin. Or so we thought. The night before we grabbed Blackwoods take out, got a bottle of sparkling cider, and pints of ice cream to celebrate our last night as a family of 4. It was going to be perfect. Sitting under our twinkling patio lights, enjoying the sweet final moments before showering and curling my hair for the day ahead of me. Before we even started eating, I realized our 2.5 year old son, who had not been acting like himself throughout the day, was burning up. I took him inside to lay down and took his temp. It read: 104.5. I broke into tears; I couldn’t fathom leaving him in the morning without knowing he was okay. He was lethargic and complaining of pain in his stomach. So we shoved our take out in the fridge, dropped off our daughter while I sobbed hysterically at nana’s house, and headed to the St. Luke’s emergency room.
As my sweet boy lay on the ultrasound table to check for appendicitis, my contractions came on with a vengeance. I was singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to my son and nodding to my husband David when a contraction came on strong. Eight minutes apart. Six minutes apart. Four minutes apart. I asked the emergency room staff to call up 5 floors to the birthing center, and let them know I may be coming up. A couple minutes later, I kissed my baby boy and husband and walked myself upstairs to the St. Luke’s birthing center. The girls at the desk at the desk greeted me warmly, “You must be Anna. We heard you may be coming and got a room all ready for you. I’m sure this isn’t what you expected, but we will take good care of you.”
A short walk down the hallway and I was in my room— a room I lovingly refer to as the “Ritz Carlton” of labor and delivery rooms. It was big and clean and stunningly beautiful. It had a giant tub that I had planned on making good use of. The nurse asked me my birth plan after I got settled in and I jokingly said, “Well it sure wasn’t going into labor with my son in the ER- but that’s life sometimes, am I right?” I then shared of how I planned to use nitrous oxide when I wasn’t laboring in the tub. I wanted to avoid having an epidural, and I wanted to walk and move as much as possible.
I quickly realized my birth plan was going out the window as I started to feel the back labor I was experiencing in full force. With my two previous deliveries, I hadn’t experienced anything like this and I was incredibly thankful to see my husband walk into the room to encourage me. My mom had gotten there to sit with our son in the ER while they waited for results, which relieved my husband to be by my side. He was the best cheerleader, ice chip feeder, and back rubber. He made me feel brave and beautiful when I felt anything but. And he served me, loved me, and encouraged me through every contraction and every moment in between. He checked in with texts and phone calls downstairs to my mom, and I was greatly relieved when he relayed the message that our Raleigh was heading home without major concerns.
I ended up making full use of the delivery room. I started on the ball with the nitrous oxide, and then moved to the shower. I sprayed my face and my hips during intense contractions, and even brought the exercise ball in the shower with me. I then moved to the tub, which I lovingly refer to as the liquid epidural. Seriously, the tub was a God-send. By this point I was in crazy amounts of pain and couldn’t have made it this far along without the relief of the tub. I asked for an epidural, or more like begged for one at this point. I was emotionally and physically weary and I was ready for a bit of reprieve.
There are a million and one opinions on natural labor vs. using pain management and this is where I chose to stand: No matter what I chose or needed, I am 100% a brave mom who loves my kids like crazy. No epidural or lack of could ever make me any stronger of a mom or prove my love for them anymore. I had a whole bucket of grace for myself in this area, because I had heard people praise women for natural labor as though they were a different class of mom while judging women who chose to use pain management. I just don’t find any truth in that. I made a promise to myself to not have shame for whatever I needed in the moment. And in the moment, I desperately needed a bit of pain management assistance.
Only an hour after the epidural went in, I found myself feeling more and more pressure once again in my back. After a quick cervical check, it was clear that it was time to push. They prepared the room, and Dr. Johnson made her way in. She had my husband suit up to help deliver the baby, and get ready to cut the cord. My best friend and my mom sat by head, holding my hand and assisting with holding my legs. My worship playlist played in the background as I pushed for the next 35 minutes. The whole team of nurses, doctors, and my support system grade-A superfans. When I felt defeated or wanted to give up, they would cheer me on through the next contraction. Their belief in me empowered me to focus on the moment- reminding me that each push was one closer to meeting my boy.
At 1:21am (4 hours before my induction was set to begin) my Wesley David, in all his 7lb 9oz of glory, was placed into my arms by my husband. The veil between heaven and earth was lifted for a moment and heaven poured into that room as I held him in my arms. I could have thought the world stopped to welcome my son- all seemingly quiet and still as he took his first breaths and cries in the safety of his mama’s arms. He settled down quickly and his eyes met mine. Every ounce of pain that had been felt in the hours before worth it a million times over. Every hope and dream I had of him hadn’t scratched the surface of how beautiful he was here on my chest. Those first moments were tangible joy, sweet peace, and breathtaking beauty. The wait was over, my boy was here, and his story was just beginning.
Our golden hour lasted four precious hours. They placed him skin to skin on me, and he quickly latched and nursed on and off for two hours. We just laid, staring, getting to know one another whose hearts had beat so close for the last 9 months. There wasn’t anywhere in the world to be, or anything in the world to do but be fully present with my son. I cried tears of celebration, we prayed over his life, and I tried to wrap my mind around the privilege of getting to raise another child. The night gave way to morning and I watched the sunrise over Lake Superior from my bed with my babe next to me. As the pinks laced the sky, we all finally gave into our exhaustion and fell fast asleep.
Once we were finally up and moving mid-afternoon, we called and invited our other two children to come meet their little brother. With the somewhat traumatic night they had walked through the night before with all the commotion and ER visit, I was anxious for all my babies to be wrapped in my arms. I could have sworn that both A + R grew up a whole year overnight when they walked through that door. Once again, happy tears ran down my cheeks. They were smitten and so proud. I was thankful for the size of the room that gave space for my kids to be kids, and bond as a family. We put all visitors on hold so we could create margin for just being together. The visitors would come soon enough, but those moments just the five of us were quite sacred.
It’s been three weeks since we went home, and settled into life with our Wesley. That night didn’t follow all of my perfectly thought out birth plan but the story that was written was covered in grace. From the nurses that served us with such compassion and attention to detail to the glorious view of our favorite inland sea from the comfort of my hospital bed- our entire stay from start to finish left us incredibly grateful. Our nurse Syddora forever stealing a place in our heart, as she helped us celebrate our boy’s first moments in this world. Along with the peaceful spirit of Dr. Johnson that helped my heart stay at rest even in the midst of the intensity of labor. As well as Dr. VanStraaten who cared for me throughout all the weekly visits and was always patient to answer my million and one questions. Every worker that walked into our hospital room, whether it be from housekeeping or dining services was professional and carried the Minnesota nice spirit with them. A gigantic thank you to St. Luke’s for your care and service to our entire family over the course of our stay, and for being the backdrop for my sons story to begin. As well as to, Through Lauras Lens Photography, (www.throughlauraslensphotography.com) for capturing these first sacred moments of our family of five.