I am writing this weeks after Azalea was born, and it reminds me of the way you feel the next morning after waking up from a nightmare. In the middle of the night, a dream can feel so terrifying. Your heart is pounding. You felt that it was so real. The next morning, when you are talking about it over breakfast, you realize it wasn’t that scary after all and that it was actually ridiculous for you to be so terrified of it all in the middle of the night. I am so thankful for God’s mercy through the life of this child. She has taught me to be more courageous and to surrender more fully to the work that I know God has called me to in this life. This is the (very long and drawn out) story of her birth:
When I wrote my last post the day before my due date, I never dreamed it would be 23 more days until I saw our baby’s face. These were some of the most trying weeks of my life. I am so relieved and thankful to be on the other side. Here is the story of Azalea’s coming into this world.
If you have ready my previous blog entries about this pregnancy, (Moving Through Fear, The Best Day of My Life) you know that this child has had a remarkable impact on my life already. We came very close to closing the chapter on having children after our fifth daughter was born almost 2 years ago. After agonizing over it and praying desperately about it, even though every practical reason was yes–you should be done–, at the last minute we cancelled the appointment for this reason: I had an image in my mind of seeing the face of our next child the moment she was born. And I couldn’t go through with it. I knew I would always wonder if we should have had another child. And I didn’t want to miss the joy of that moment. Randy was in agreement with me. Through this baby’s presence in my body, I have come to a new trust in God’s love and mercy, and I have truly worked through some incredible fears that I have had about walking through the process of childbirth again. I haven’t mentioned this before in a post, but I was truly able to lay something very heavy down this time around. I didn’t even know how deeply-rooted the fear of dying in childbirth was in my heart until I wrote it down on paper. I now realize it has been under the surface all these years of having children. I can honestly say that through this baby’s life, I have let that fear go. I felt sincerely that God was assuring me that He is in control of my life, the life of this new baby, and the lives of my husband and children. If I died, he would care for them better than I could. Their lives are in his hands. I told very few people about this during my pregnancy, and I didn’t even share it with Randy until after Azalea was born. And I just sat there on the hospital bed, only hours after her labor was over, crying my eyes out and telling him that God had helped me to let that fear go. And I was so happy that he let me live through her birth, that she is healthy and beautiful and pink and perfect. And that we would be going home soon.
There was some confusion about my due date throughout the pregnancy. At one point, it was Oct. 15, then moved to Oct. 27, then back to the 15th, where it stayed. The first date came and passed. No sign of baby. About a week later, I thought I was in labor. I called my parents to come and stay with the kids, who were fast asleep in their bed. I called my doula, who was there in a few minutes, and we were on our way to the hospital. When I got there, I was 3-4 cm dilated, and they started setting up the tub for my water birth. For the next 3 hours or so, I was gearing myself up for labor. I had about an hour of pretty intense contractions, where I just sat and read scripture out loud to my body. My doula was ever-present, keeping up with my contractions, being mindful of where I was in my labor. Randy was rushing around getting our things in, expecting a fast, hard labor like several of the others.
I felt that I was about 60% through with my labor. I decided to get in the tub, because usually things progress really fast for me once I’m in the water. I got in and waited. And nothing happened. My contractions totally stopped. I sat there for a while until I got too hot to stand it and got back out and laid down on the bed. That was when my mind started racing. My labor had stopped. Was I even in labor? Was I going to have to do all of this again? Were we going to have to go home without the baby being born? As I was laying there, I tried to sleep. I knew that the whole lesson of this pregnancy and labor was not to fear what was coming. Just to take each breath as it comes. But here I was, with so much time to panic. I fought it as best as I could and tried to sleep until morning. Around 6 a.m., I got back up and tried to get the contractions going again. Nothing worked. And the doctor came in and told me I wasn’t in labor, there had been no change in my dilation, and that I should go home.
We had to make the call to my parents (and our kids) that the baby wasn’t born and that we were going home. They offered to keep the kids at their house so we could get some rest. We went home and tried to sleep. On top of being completely exhausted, I was suddenly very afraid of birth again. I had been praying all along that God would help me never to reach a point of panic in this labor, and I was suddenly panicking about the whole process before it even happened. I lost all of my resolve to have the baby. I just wanted to run away. The only comfort I had was thinking that something would be just wrong enough that they would have to cut me open and take the baby out before labor ever started. Or that I would go in and get an epidural before I ever felt the first contraction. All of the peace that I had was gone. In the middle of the night, I sat up in bed and just cried like a baby. Telling Randy how I felt didn’t comfort me at all, because I knew there was nothing he could do to save me from it. I think it was the worst day of my entire life.
I knew I needed something to hang onto. I finally started saying over and over to myself, “It won’t last long, and God is with me.” I repeated this over and over, crowding out any other thoughts, and finally went to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I felt brave again. It was like God really spoke that to my heart while I was sleeping and was giving me the courage I needed to do this.
The next day we went to spend time with the kids. We went to the park and took a long walk. We had dinner out in the garden and got them tucked at Mama and Daddy’s, in case I went into labor in the night. They had all of their stuff there, and it was just easier for everyone if they stayed. Randy and I went home and got some rest. This same thing happened for a couple of days–we saw the kids in the day and they stayed with Grandma and Granddad at night. It just made me so sad to keep leaving them, especially not knowing when everything was going to happen and how long we would be away. Finally, the kids came home. I was so happy to have everyone there that I totally forgot about “nesting.” The house was a wreck and I didn’t really care. We played Uno and drew and I tried to really connect with each one of the kids. It was a really sweet reminder to me of how much I love them, how they give a real purpose to my life.
We spent a full day in the hospital about a week after the false alarm, monitoring the baby’s heartbeat. I spent the morning sure they would send me out for a c-section, and the afternoon sure they would not let me go home without inducing me. But by God’s grace, we avoided both scenarios and went home for the evening. At my next checkup, two days later, the midwife said she felt I needed to be induced, since for all practical purposes, I was 3 weeks overdue based on my first due date, and 1 week overdue based on my second. All tests and ultrasounds looked great, but she wanted to go ahead and schedule it. I asked when she wanted to do it, and she said either Friday or Monday. I explained my reasons for not wanting to be induced but admitted that it had been a strange few weeks and that I was willing to do it if it seemed in the best interest of the baby. We decided on Monday, and I was fervently hoping that she would be born before then on her own.
The next three days were very uncomfortable. The baby’s movement inside of me felt so earth-shaking that I sometimes wondered if she was stuck or 12 pounds or something was just wrong. I could barely stand or walk for more than a few minutes at a time. Randy was there with me all of the time, taking care of me and the kids. On Sunday afternoon, I suddenly had a feeling that everything was well, that the baby was in a better position, that things were going to be ok. That night, we had all the kids pray for us, that Azalea would be born that night. They went to bed. So did I.
At 10:00, I got up to go to the bathroom. When I got back in bed, my water broke. I jumped up and ran back to the bathroom. I was so happy that this labor was finally starting! After waiting so long, and after imagining so many possible outcomes, I knew that I was in labor and that we would be finally seeing this baby’s face. And that we would be able to make the phone call and tell all of the kids that they had a new baby sister. I was so happy and so full of joy.
My parents came over. My doula came over too. Randy drove me to the hospital. We walked in, and everything started happening very slowly. They had brought in the tub but hadn’t started filling it. I tried to explain that my labors sometimes go very fast once they get started. They checked me and I was 2-3 cm, having some irregular contractions that weren’t very strong. They did all the little things they do–putting me on the monitor, sticking me with a needle, getting things ready, etc. Randy, who had had practice 2 weeks ago, got everything ready quickly. He had essential oils in the diffuser, my spotify playlist going, all my pillows in and all our stuff ready to go. Andrea, my doula, was watching me closely, paying attention to my face and my breathing, anticipating things I needed before I knew I needed them. I tried not to think about what was coming. I tried to just take one contraction at a time.
About an hour or so after we got there, the nurse came in and said, “I have some bad news. The doctor on call tonight doesn’t do water birth.” That was a moment when I could have totally panicked. But I surprised myself. All of my children have been born in the water. I really didn’t even know how you would do it out of the water. The doctor wanted me to be monitored every two hours.
For the next hour and a half or so, I was up and down, in different positions. When I would stand, the contractions would get stronger and closer together. When I laid down, they would still be strong but much farther apart. I asked the nurse if she could go ahead and monitor me while I was on the bed and my contractions were far apart. She did. I didn’t want to be bothered with monitors when things really started picking up. My contractions were about 8 minutes apart. As soon as the 30 minutes of monitoring passed, I got up and really hoped I could get things going fast enough that the next 2 hour check-in didn’t happen. I stood, I squatted, I sat on the birth ball, I hugged Randy and looked into his eyes when I felt lost in it all. I was very calm, and even though it was intensifying, God was really helping me to stay focused on each breath, not looking ahead to the next contraction.
When it started to be very difficult to breathe through them, I decided to go into the bathroom and sit in the tub. I love water. I love what it does for me in labor. As soon as I sat down, I felt instant relief. My whole body was beginning to really relax. The contractions got stronger and more intense very quickly. I told Andrea I felt pressure, and she said that that was a good sign. I started to feel like I should push. I tried a little and wasn’t sure if I should. I got on all fours in the water and waited for the next contraction and pushed. And that was the moment I panicked. I had the same feeling that I had when I was in labor with Remy (who was my biggest baby and my hardest deliver) . It felt like I was injuring myself to push. I felt like my hips were going to break open. I had a contraction that was terrifying, where I couldn’t breathe through and I couldn’t push. I was in the position that had worked for my last two deliveries, but it didn’t seem like it was right for this one. I told Andrea that I felt like I was breaking. She asked me if I wanted her to go get the nurse. I said no, because I knew they would make me get out, and the hot water was my only coping mechanism at that moment. I spun around in the water and got in a different position, half-standing, holding onto the bars of the tub. With the next contraction, I felt that I could push. I started pushing. It seemed like the longest contraction of any labor I have ever had. The nurse came in at that moment and said, “Okay, honey. Don’t push. Don’t push.” To which I responded, “I can’t NOT PUSH!” She said, well, when this contraction is over, we’ve got to get you out and get you on the bed. I said okay and continued to push with all my might. When the contraction was over, I reached down and felt the crowned head of my sweet child, and I knew it was going to be okay. I said, “I’m ready,” and the nurses, Randy, and Andrea caravanned me out of the bathroom and onto the bed. One contraction more, one push, and she was born. And it was over. And there was so much relief and joy.
And I saw the face of the child that I almost never knew. And the vision I had a year earlier came to pass. I was so thankful to be on the other side. And for what God taught me through her pregnancy and birth.
All of my worries and all of my fears. And it was literally unbearable for all of about 15 minutes.
God was so merciful to me through this birth. I know that he has used the life of this child to show me that so much of the battle is in my mind. When I choose to trust him, instead of being afraid, I can walk through labor and life with peace.