birth and rebirth

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I can’t think of many other scenarios in life where one can go from what seems like complete hell to total heaven in the space of a second.

But that is childbirth. Or at least my experience with it.

The following is Isaac’s birth story…but it’s also very much my birth story as well. In a different way than Isaac. It’s the day he was physically born but it’s the day I was reborn in so many ways.

The story is long. I couldn’t bear to cut anything out. I won’t blame you if you don’t make it to the end. Here goes…

I knew a lot about labor and delivery going into the process. I had read books for months. I understood the stages of labor, that labor was, well, labor and that a first time mom usually has a harder, longer labor. I knew this in my head.

But nothing can actually prepare you for labor except labor itself.

I had a false alarm on the 4th & the 5th. The contractions came and then went and stayed away. I prepared myself that Isaac might go a week or two past due. But – right on time – the contractions returned on his due date, February 13th. They stayed the entire day, but I tried not to get my hopes up.

That evening the midwife came and confirmed I was in early labor but said it might be a few days or even a week. I took measures to help my body relax, but that night the only sleep I got was in between the contractions that came every 10 minutes. These contractions were on a whole new level and everyone who said “don’t worry, you’ll know” was proven right.

The next morning the midwife came again and this time confirmed I was heading quickly towards active labor. I was excited. I was ready. I wanted to meet my baby.

The day progressed; I progressed. It was slow but it was steady. At first I could talk between contractions, even joke or laugh. I could eat little bits here and there, drink, relax. The mood was light. Matt was there…Mom…my sister.

Time passed. The afternoon came and went. The contractions – much like the “step ups” of an earthquake – steadily built. I was surprised to find that they had aftershocks that were often worse than the actual contraction. And soon all I could do was focus, control my breathing and rest in between.

I’m not sure at what point I lost track of time. But I do know I wanted to. I didn’t want to know how long it had been. I was aware that the contractions were only the first phase. The pushing and actual delivery were yet to come. I tried not to let that thought cross my mind. I knew I just had to keep going.

And that is the first paradox of childbirth that I had not anticipated. That overwhelming desire to curl up in a fetal position and sleep for a week, sleep until it’s all over. That matched with the realization that I had no choice but to keep going.

At some point I was aware that it had become dark outside. I was aware that the room was lit only with candles and that the fan made it feel nice and cool. It’s here that I really don’t know what to write. Time was non-existent. All I knew were the pushing urges and the deep rests in between. I was aware that my mom and Matt where there, along with the midwives. They were helping me, cheering me on, coaching me, telling me I was doing great.

This went on for quite a while. Two hours I learned later, but it felt like five minutes to me. I just kept going somehow, even though each new urge seemed impossible to meet. I remember praying out loud for strength. I remember asking if I was doing a good job. I remember saying that I just wanted to meet my baby.

Each time I pushed I would think, This is it. This time I meet my baby. Each time I was disappointed. I could feel my strength waning and the disappointment  growing. They had seen his hair…his beautiful head of hair. He was so close and I ached with every part of me to see him too.

I was pushing one minute and the next I heard the midwife say, Ok. Let’s call an ambulance. She was calm, controlled, but the words sank in deep. The lights came on, I lay in shock. I thought I had been doing well. I was trying so hard. I looked over and saw Matt’s face through the haze I was in. I’ve never seen that look in his eyes before. But I only saw it for a second. In the next his eyes were locked to mine and he was telling me everything was okay, to just breath.

In the background of the rush of thoughts racing through my mind, I heard the midwife say, She’s fine, just a small internal tear and the baby’s head is cocked to the side.

Then I heard a sound that I first heard months and months before in the doctor’s office in Stuttgart, Germany. A heartbeat. Strong and steady. My baby. Isaac was doing just fine.

That sound carried me through. It carried me through the firemen arriving, the IV being slipped into my arm, being carried down the stairs in a tarp to the waiting ambulance on a chilly February night. It carried me through a bumpy ambulance ride while pushing urges hit me in wave after wave…a ride that seemed to take forever.

It carried me through the endless minutes that seemed to lay between me and meeting my baby. Minutes filled with trying to breath, trying to stay on top of the pushing urges, nurses surrounding us, monitors being strapped on, being lifted and moved, being poked and prodded, being asked questions like my height and weight when I could barely manage to talk.

Finally the doctor was there, I was prepped and I heard him say, Wow, he’s right there. Why, yes. Yes, I know. A pushing urge hit and I pushed with all my might but with the same result as before. The doctor gave me a couple of options that would help Isaac come faster and I agreed. I was exhausted and – as hard as it was to let even more of my “birth plan” go – I just wanted my baby safe in my arms.

A couple more pushing urges and Isaac was born. The second they placed him on my chest, his cord still pulsing, still wet from the womb was the second my world shifted. The hell was forgotten; heaven was taking his first crying breaths in my arms.

He was so perfect. So beautiful. Matt cut the cord and they whisked Isaac away for a brief moment before he was safe in my arms. And then I didn’t sleep for hours. I couldn’t stop staring at my angel baby. So surreal. To be holding him in my belly one moment and holding him in my arms the next. I couldn’t (still really can’t) wrap my mind around the fact that I have a baby. A tiny baby boy.

He is here. And he is amazing.

As I think back on labor and delivery I can’t help but thank the Lord for His provision and blessing and protection. My midwives were absolutely amazing. I was so thankful to labor at home. Isaac really wanted an exciting birth story…and his own day (he missed being a  Valentine’s Day baby by just barely two hours). I was only the 2nd transfer out of 900 home births for the midwives. Haha. I guess I just had to be one of the statistics. The doctor said if Isaac’s head hadn’t been turned he would have come just fine.

Isaac’s arrival has changed our lives forever. So many things that used to matter don’t matter as much anymore. My perspective has been altered; I hold in my arms a child with an eternal soul. He is God’s gift to us, to love and protect and raise up. That’s huge. Also, I have spent a lot of my life wondering if I could be really brave. If I could really do the hard thing…the painful thing…and not give up or give in when it mattered the most. Giving birth to Isaac made me realize that, by God’s grace and with His strength, I can be brave.

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