Once we found out the news, there were thousands of emotions that began swirling their way into our hearts and minds. We were going to be parents. We couldn’t escape the undeniable feeling of finally being adults. We’d reached the final step in “growing up” if you will and we were pretty terrified.
The first thing I did was go to the library to fish for pregnancy books and shortly after I’d signed up for every baby email subscription I could find. It wasn’t a difficult pregnancy, but it was no walk in the park (even though I tried to walk as much as possible). Once I had adjusted to the idea of being pregnant, I’d set my mind on doing the best I could with the information given to me.
I wanted an all natural birth, one that was most effective and healthy for both mom and baby. I read and read and read. I researched and researched and researched. And I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. My prayer was never once for an “easy” or “painless” labor, but a labor that was significant for me and somehow brought glory to the Lord, as that is (supposed to always be) my goal and desire in life. I prayed that my heart would become one of a mother and that I would do all that was in my limited power to protect and care for the child God had entrusted to us.
Zac was by my side every moment, for every heave and ache, for every change my body went through and every tear my eyes cried. We are a team and pregnancy was our game and we trusted that God would continue to be our coach through labor, birth, and, ultimately, parenthood.
We hired a doula named Melanie (who should really just be titled Life-giver & saver) and then we waited.
Watched for signs.
. . . 9 months is a long time when you know the end will bring complete life change.
Cue due date, December 29th, 9:45pm: I spent the whole day previous folding laundry and watching Netflix movies and shows on our exercise ball. Now, when I say all day, I mean all day. I went to sleep that night with a sore core and thighs and butt. I wanted my baby out!
We didn’t sleep very long. About a half hour after we fell asleep, 9:45pm, I awoke to stomach pains. I didn’t wake Zac right away, but instead I drew a bath and soaked. They began to come in waves and they weren’t getting calmer, so I yelled to Zac from the bathtub and he stumbled into the bathroom half asleep and worried.
I reassured him that all was okay, but that I thought that I might be in labor. He grabbed a pen and paper and began timing the pain I was having. 2 minutes apart consistently. And it stayed like this for the entire labor.
‘Okay, wait!’ I remember thinking, I’ve read all kinds of labor stories and NOBODY starts out at 2 minutes consistently. 2 minutes means you need to get to the hospital in most cases. But no, I had to have a labor that I had no clue about because that’s just how God works in my life. I’m a preparer, and no matter how well I prepare and sound like I know what I’m talking about, God throws me some gargantuan curve ball.
Little did I know that the curve ball He threw this time would bring so much glory on Him that I couldn’t have argued a better way.
We (and when I say we, I mean we) labored at home with our doula until about 3am and the contractions were feeling worse. We decided to go to the hospital to see how far I was. Guilty first-time mom over here was bummed when they sent me home at 1 cm and 80% effacement.
We came back home and I was able to sleep and Melanie was able to run home and fetch more supplies. We called her back at about 8am and she brought a TENS unit with her. By this time, the contractions had moved to my back and were getting really uncomfortable. A TENS unit stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and it’s forged in Heaven. It’s basically a machine that has electrodes that attach to your back (and various other places) that interrupts the pain signal to your brain.
With the TENS, I was able to get into a rhythm and really embrace the pain. in labor, there is nothing else to do but focus on the pain. Anything other than focus and relaxation is counterproductive and increases labor time. And with the family history I have, anything that decreases labor time is super helpful. (Just an example, my sister 39 hours, my aunt 50. Yow!)
Anyways, after a few more signs and signals from my body, we decided it was time to go the hospital for real. It was about noon at this point. Now, one of the most fantastic things about living in a small town is that half the staff of the hospital either goes to your church or knows your Nana. So we walked in and greeted our friends (the nurses) and got all checked in.
Kathy was my nurse first and she was an angel. I had written a birth plan that I sent ahead with my doctor and every nurse that worked with us had read it and knew exactly what I wanted. She had me all settled in and checked within 15 minutes and I was able to relax and move around before I knew it. I had progressed to a 3 and was about 90% effaced. Progress was good. 1-3 centimeters in 4 hours was enough to keep me encouraged, praise the Lord!
One thing that struck me during labor was how quickly time passed. I’d look at the clock one minute and what seemed like a minute later was actually a few hours.
During each contraction either Zac or Melanie would push on my low back to act as a counter pressure and it helped so tremendously! They helped me get out of bed (physically and mentally) and we took a walk around the hospital. I was still able to talk fairly well through the whole labor and we chatted and laughed and stopped to lean on the wall when a contraction was peaking. At one point I stopped in front of a picture frame and held onto the railing and proceeded to bang my head against the wall, mostly to be funny, but somewhat as a distraction. They laughed and made me stop and I yanked the hair out that got stuck between the glass and frame. At one point during a contraction on the walk I actually felt Fletcher move down and it was the most amazing encouragement. At which point also, the pain moved into my tailbone, where it stayed, for the rest of the labor. Fun.
We made it back to the room and moved the TENS unit down more on my back and I continued to shimmy and move and squat and make man noises.
During some contractions, I’d just stare at Zac’s face and focus on his eyes until it was over. He is such a comfort to me.
I began to break down around 16 hours and, after deciding that I wasn’t a super hero, finally asked for something to take the edge off. I was at 5 centimeters and close to transition. The pain had moved so far down into my tailbone that the TENS wouldn’t touch it and my back had become so tense that I couldn’t relax it enough for Fletcher’s head to make his way down.
We decided on Fetenol, which is a miracle narcotic that works instantly and only lasts for 30 minutes, therefore it’s easy to control and fiddle with. As soon as that medicine hit my blood stream I actually started laughing and said, “whoo hoo!” I began talking to my mom (who had showed up a little before the meds, yay!) and I gave her a big smile because I was so excited (1) to see her and (2) to almost be done. I was able to sleep through contractions and let my body do the work instead of my mind. I dreamed really weird things and woke up asking Zac about the ingredients in salad dressing. While I was relaxed and tripping, when I was awake, I was still able to move around and rock and remain present and in control. Towards the end, Melanie asked us to tell her our love story. I love our love story and reveled in hearing it from Zac’s perspective as we worked together to birth our little man.
We had the lights dimmed and Zac had put on a Pandora Spa channel. We were all enjoying each other’s company and working as a team. It was such a cool moment, especially because we knew he was coming soon. My other primary nurse during labor was Becky and she was also amazing along with Kathy. They were both able to be present during birth (even though Kathy’s shift was over) and were so encouraging and wonderful! I was on the Fentenol for about 4 hours total.
21 hours into labor, I felt it. And let me tell you, there is no stopping it. The need to push baby out. It literally feels like there’s an involuntary muscle pushing a baby head through your body, which is exactly what it is. But it’s actually relieving, and mostly just pressure, not pain. We’d stopped the meds a half hour before so that the baby wouldn’t have them in his system when he was born and I began to feel things stretching. You can’t make it stop, so I said exactly that, “I can’t not push!” and, as Zac neared the end of telling our love story, Melanie said, “If you guys want to be married by the time this baby comes, you better hurry up the story!” My lovely doctor came in at that point and got ready to catch him!
There is an amazing process that happens to the human body when faced with physical pain. Our focus becomes laser thin and we forge out a spot in our brain that is used solely for this purpose. Adrenaline then feeds our focus and we’re inhumanly able to pull through and accomplish the thing we desire, regardless of our fears. Maybe this is the image of God inside of us. It’s that part of us that perseveres so incredibly well that no flesh could be the cause. The part that grits it’s teeth and drives home it’s purpose and accomplishes what needs to be done. It sounds like a shade of how Jesus was able to endure the cross. What a privilege it was to endure such a challenge and understand even a simple shadow of Christ’s sacrifice!
He was crowning. I was growling, trying to keep my voice low and relaxed. Zac was crying, so excited to become a father. My mom was on the edge of her chair. And my doctor looked me straight in the eye and told me when to push and when to breathe. I pushed for about 25 minutes, but it felt like 5. The sensation was unexplainable, but oddly manageable. I was able to move into different positions to get his head around my tailbone. Our doctor watched his heart rate and made sure it never dropped too low during pushes, remaining amazingly calm while moving about the room with intelligence and ease.
When he finally popped out, the relief and wonder I felt was overwhelming. Floods of hormones and sensations swept over me and I reached down and screamed (apparently pretty adamantly, which I don’t remember) “give me my baby!” I watched him fade from purple to pink to bright red and I felt his warm skin on my chest and I knew in that moment, without a doubt, that God knew so much better than I did.
No amount of travel, exploring, taste, or experience could even come close to matching what it felt like the hold my son in my arms. No drug or rush could meet it.
I looked to his daddy, my husband and best friend and asked what his name was. Fletcher Theophilus Higgins, he said. (More on the name in a future post!)
I said before birth that I was excited to have a birth story to share and so there it is. I love it more than any story I’ve ever had the privilege to be apart of and I think it’s the most glorious, heavenly, God-ordained sequel to the love story that God blessed Zac and I with.
Those sensations I felt at birth come back to me in the little moments when I count my son’s toes and rub his warm back or catch a glimpse of his dad in his little face. His tiny life is mine to hold, even for this short moment, and I couldn’t be more blessed and honored to be apart of God’s plans for him.
Thanks to you all for your prayers and support. Fletcher, Zac, and I felt them all and we appreciate them like nothing else!
Thanks for reading and sharing in the joy of our son!