“I am walking into this labor differently than I ever have before. I am walking into it with a spirit of fight. Not just trying to keep my peace, not just trying to stay calm, not just surviving and getting to the other side. I am walking into this labor with the desire to put an absolute end to fear–to trust more completely than ever that God is with me, that He is giving me grace for each moment as it comes. As I deliver this child, I am praying that God will deliver me from my fears.
I am tired of being afraid.
This labor is my battle against fear. It is my celebration of life.”
These are closing lines of my last post, written six days before the birth of our son, Rune O’Carolan Chester. My heart is overflowing with the goodness of God. This is the story of his incredible birth, which has changed my life forever.
I began my labor on Monday evening around 10:00 with contractions that lasted all night long. They were mild and spaced about 10 minutes apart, so I rested as much as possible, waking often to the question of when I should go on in to the hospital. I am used to hard and fast labors, and all the luxury of time in between contractions gave me lots of time to think. I remember being amazed that I was not afraid. I felt like God had given me a gift of peace, and I was holding it in my lap. I had plenty of time to freak out all night long. So much empty, quiet space to do it. But I didn’t. I rested, I prayed, I slept.
The contractions continued through the busy morning of little ones waking and breakfast. My sister came to stay with the kids so Randy could take me to my previously scheduled appointment with my midwife. She checked me. I was 4 cm. A good sign. We stopped in town on the way home and took a short walk. We laughed about how it could be the very day that we were going to see our baby boy’s face.
We went home, made lunch, tucked the little ones in for a nap. I tried to sleep sandwiched between my four-year-old and my two-year-old, but the contractions were getting stronger. They were still spaced about 10-15 minutes apart, which confused me. I tried to look at it as grace. It is a great way to labor–slow and easy. But I was getting tired and feeling like another night of this would be hard to endure. I prayed that the baby would be born that day. That we could come home the next evening and not have to be away from our children for two nights. I prayed that God would let me know when I needed to go in to the hospital.
After naps, we got up and went outside. I took the little girls up the road and back for a short walk. We went in the backyard and I sat under the maple tree while the girls played on the swingset. We went down to the basement and spent a little time.
Around 4:30, my water broke. I was so happy. That was the sign I needed. I told Randy it was time to go. I called my friend who was coming to stay, I called my doula who was meeting us at the hospital, and we told the kids we were leaving. We were all so happy. I was able to explain that we were leaving and tell everyone goodbye. We arrived at the hospital at about 5:00.
My midwife wasn’t on call, but she told me to call her when I went in. She met us at the hospital and said she would be there for me. We checked in, answered all the questions, got set up for an IV if one should be necessary, monitored the baby for over an hour. All the while, I was experiencing moderate contractions that were getting closer together, but not intensifying in strength very much. It was like God was helping me get through all of the hospital checklists in early labor so that I could get up and do the hard work without the distraction. I was aware of this kindness.
Randy got my playlist going. I chose about 7 songs that reminded me of the battle I was fighting. I wanted to go into this labor differently. I wanted to go in with a spirit of praise and a real sense of worship. I wanted to remember the awe that I felt that this child was coming. The joy that this was a living, healthy child and I would see his face. I wanted to remember how close we came to letting our fears rob us of this child five years ago when I came one split-second pre-operation appointment away from shutting the door permanently on my womb. Because I was too afraid of this moment that I was now about to experience. I started to listen to the music.
Our baby’s name is Rune O’Carolan. I knew that music was going to be a huge part of my labor this time. It felt poetic because the meaning of his name is Secret of the Joyful Song. I always listen to music during my labors. But I usually choose music that makes me feel calm and peaceful, music that reminds me of God’s love and that He is going to get me through. This time, I chose music that reminded me that God is fighting my battles.
I finally was able to get up off the monitor. I think it was around 6:30. The nurses were in and out, my midwife was attentive but letting me do my thing, so it was mostly just Randy, Kori (my doula), and me in the room. I told Randy to turn up the music. I walked around the room, singing. I had an impression that I should try to sing through my contractions, instead of just breathing through them. So I did it and was surprised that I was able to sing through the entire duration. I continued to walk around the room, singing. About the second or third contraction after this decision to sing, I realized something incredible was happening. The contractions were intensifying. They started down low, grabbing at me. When I normally would have done everything to stop and focus on my breathing and just endure the pain, I pressed in with my song. And I could actually feel the contraction back off. I was still experiencing it. It was still difficult to endure, but singing into the contraction was taking the edge off of the pain.
I continued to sing. Every time a contraction would come, I would press into it. It was like I would feel the wave rising up from the very depths of the ocean inside me, and the song would give me a place to stand. Like I was pressing in and being carried to the top of the wave until it subsided. That was the impression that I had in my mind while I was experiencing it. Randy said later it was like I was walking on water.
I continued like this. In between contractions I was clear and coherent. I was not afraid of what was coming. I wondered how far along I was. I hit a point where I could not stop singing. When I stopped, the contractions became too much for me to bear. I decided to get in the shower and labor there. I told my midwife I was getting in. We had agreed that I would not deliver the baby in that shower (the same one I delivered Heidi in 4 years ago!), that when it was time to push I would get out and deliver in the room. I labored for a few more songs in the shower, singing, apologizing at some point to my midwife, saying, “I’m sorry. I can’t stop singing. It is really helping me.” I started to feel like it was almost time to push. I told my midwife I was testing it out, feeling like it might be time. After a few more contractions, singing my heart out, I said I was going to get out.
I walked out to the room and got onto the floor and started to push. I was uncomfortable, and couldn’t find a position that would allow me to really push like I needed to. I couldn’t sing during the pushing contractions. But I continued to sing in between them. At the end of every contraction, I would move to another position. I was aware of being almost done with my labor. I was beyond ready to be done. The physical sensations were overwhelming. But I was not afraid. I never said, “I can’t do this anymore.” Not even in my mind. I didn’t panic. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find the right position. But I was not in terror. I was not afraid.
I finally found a position that felt right, and he began to move down. A few pushes, and all the people who were gathered around told me he was coming. I gave it everything I had and more, feeling that superhuman strength that comes when you know that you are almost done with the hardest work you will ever have to do in life. And he was born.
The best moment of my entire life.
Every experience and trial, every question, every prayer in my entire life so far was leading me up to the joy of that moment. Knowing that I did what I was meant to do. Knowing that I walked through an entire pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and I did not give myself over for one second to fear. Knowing that this was my purpose and calling and that I walked in it and God saw me through.
The next morning, one of my nurses came in the room and told me that my birth was amazing. That they had been talking about it to the other nurses who weren’t at the delivery. She told them, “She sang her baby out.” “What do you mean, she sang her baby out?” they asked. One of the other nurses who attended the birth said, “Like this…” and she just calmly sang a song. My nurse looked at me and said she had never seen anything like it. That it was nothing for me to deliver that baby. I wished that she could read everything I have ever written about birth and see how much God had done for me in that moment to get me through, singing. It was as if the song of praise was a secret weapon that I never knew I had. It was like a sword that separated the surrender to God through a difficult experience from the terror that I have often associated with living through childbirth. It changed my experience from one of just trying to stay alive, to an exercise where I was opening my heart and worshipping God with everything that was inside me. This birth will serve as a metaphor for every difficult season in my life from here forward. Let everything within me bless His holy name.
Our little boy’s face is beautiful. I have been longing to see it. I have been aching to see this vision revealed in our family. I am grateful to this little child, who through the very seed of his name, has taught me a deeper level of trust in God. I feel that he taught me his secret, even before I ever saw his face. He taught me the secret of the joyful song. That when we are fighting for our lives, we are not defenseless. We do not have to merely surrender to the waves, knowing that eventually they will bring us, half-dead to the shore. When we press in with praise, he gives us a way to rise above the waves. He gives us the faith to walk on water.