I am so grateful to this little sweet baby for what she has done for me. This is the story of how Heidi Wren came into our world five weeks ago. We rearranged the house most of the day, except for when Randy took Rosie and Paloma to Babyland General for a birthday party to see a Cabbage Patch baby be born right out a head of cabbage. Randy tucked the kids in while I finished tidying up the house, getting everything in order. We sat down on the couch and started an episode of The Andy Griffith show.
I started having contractions that felt “real.” They were coming about every six minutes or so. We started another episode–the one where Barney gets a side car. About ten minutes into that one, I told Randy I thought this was it. He started getting some things together, and I called my friend, Doreen, who is a midwife and was going to be my doula at the hospital. I said, “Doreen, I am pretty sure this is it. They’re coming about every six minutes but they are pretty strong. I’m trying to decide if I should go on in to the hospital or wait a while.” She said that with my history of fast labors, and because the midwife at the hospital had told me to come in early so they could set up the tub for a water birth, we probably ought to head on over. She said she would meet us there. We called my Mom and Dad, who hopped into their shoes and hurried out the door to our house so they could stay with our four sleeping children.
I got ready to go to the hospital. I went to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror. I got a flash of panic remembering what birth feels like, knowing this was it and that there was no stopping it from happening. Randy saw my face, and he said, “Don’t worry honey. You’ve done this before.” I told him not to tell me that. I said, “Tell me God is merciful.” I didn’t want to experience what I had experienced before. I was hoping and praying for more of God’s mercy than I had ever known before.
I called the hospital and told them that this was my fifth baby, that I was having a water birth, and that my midwife had said I should call when I knew I was in labor so they could start getting things set up for me. My parents arrived, I hugged my mom and thanked her for going through this nine times (I was the ninth baby in our family), and Randy and I walked out to the car and drove to the hospital. Doreen got there right after we walked in, so she met us in the room. It was 11:30 p.m. I was still walking around, stopping to breathe during contractions. The nurse had us in a room and said they couldn’t start setting up the tub until they were sure I was staying. She checked me and I was 4-5 centimeters. I told her that I had gone from 4 centimeters to having a baby in 45 minutes before, so I wasn’t discouraged. She said she would have to call the midwife and find out what we did next. She left the room, and Randy, Doreen, and I laughed that it was really happening.
The nurse reappeared and said that she had talked to the midwife, and that she wanted me to walk for two hours, then they would recheck me and see if I had progressed. If I had, then they would set up the tub. If I hadn’t seen the look on the nurse’s face, I would have assumed this was a joke. But she was serious. I told her I would be happy to walk. The last thing I wanted was to lay down on this bed. I tried to explain to her that I didn’t think two hours was going to happen, and that I really needed the water–that was the whole reason I had come to this hospital in the first place. Doreen respectfully but firmly advocated for me, asking if we could negotiate that. Could we go ahead and set up the tub and recheck in maybe an hour, etc. The nurse kindly offered to call the midwife again and left the room. Randy went out to get our things and came back in with my music. I had a playlist of songs that really ministered to me and helped me to focus on the beauty of the experience and the mercy and faithfulness of God. He pushed play and changed the atmosphere of the sterile hospital room. I also flipped through a little journal I had made, reminding me of all the things I wanted to think about in labor–the feeling of having her resting on my heart, the look on the girls’ faces when they would see their baby sister, Bible verses about not being afraid handwritten for me by a dear friend…
The nurse came back in and said that the midwife had given her the ok to go ahead and set up the tub, so they were going to get started on that. By this time, the contractions were getting stronger and closer together. I asked if I could get in the shower, and the nurse said yes. I got in and realized that it was a bathtub/shower combo. It didn’t have a way of stopping up, so Doreen stuck a rubber glove and a washcloth in the drain so I could sit in the lukewarm water, which was better than nothing. She and Randy took turns putting the shower head on my back during contractions. At this point, it was all I could do to breathe and take them one at a time. It was incredibly intense, but I felt so safe in the dark bathroom in the water, listening to music, with Randy, who loves me more than anyone else in the world, and Doreen, who is a home birth midwife with training that no doctor or midwife in this facility could rival. I had so much peace. I sat in the tub for about 30-45 minutes (time is so hard to recall during labor!) when it started to become almost more than I could bear. I remembered this feeling, and was sincerely hoping it was almost time to push. About that time, when the contractions were coming on so long and fast that all I could do was survive them, the nurse came back in and said something that was nearly verbatim to this: “Okay, we’ve got the tub set up. We made the water too hot, and now we are cooling it down. But before we can get you in the tub, I am going to need you to sign a water birth consent form.” I asked if she could bring it in the bathroom so I could sign it. She said she could. And then she said that before I could get in the tub, I would have to get out of the bathtub, get on the bed, let them recheck me, and then lay down while they monitored the baby for 20 minutes. I don’t think anyone in the world has ever been as terrified of the words “lay down on the bed for 20 minutes” as I was at that moment. It did not seem humanly possible to lay down during this kind of intense pain. 20 minutes seemed like the end of the world. I know I had a crazy look on my face when she walked out of the room to get the form. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to do it. I moved onto all fours as the next contraction came over me. And I pushed. And in one contraction, before the nurse came back with the form, Heidi was born. Doreen was right there, reached down, gently and lovingly lifted her out of the hospital bathtub and put her on my chest. She proclaimed, “We have a baby!” and the nurse came running in. I was so happy and relieved and amazed. It was the very happiest surprise of my entire life. I felt God’s mercy in a very real, sweet, tender way. I had been really scared about going through labor again after a difficult previous birth. I had prayed for mercy repeatedly. I said it over and over while I was in labor, when it was getting overwhelming. I needed that word to hold onto. It was my anchor. It was the only thing that could keep me calm when my whole being wanted to panic. And I am amazed at the mercy that was poured out upon me during this delivery. I truly felt that God delivered Heidi Wren. Just like Doreen had reminded me when we were sitting upstairs in my house a week before she was born. God was going to do the work for me. All I had to do was breathe.