If birth details are not your thing, feel free to skip this post! But I wanted to record the memories while they were still fresh, as birth is a beautiful, painful, and faith-building process. God's grace in birth is amazing! And yes, the story is long... It's hard for me to be brief, and for things like this I want to remember every detail.
|40 weeks pregnant and very "due!"|
The Birth Story of Eliana Grace
November 4th came. After all the “what-if’s” of going into labor early with all the traveling we did in the 3rd trimester, we had made it to the due date. Well, technically the “due date” could have been calculated for a week before (as I was measuring early), but I wouldn’t let myself think it until this later date. Much as I know that it’s just an arbitrary date, I get antsy when it rolls around with no baby!
The day was like many before it. I played with Hadassah outside in the morning, and went on a fast walk to the mailbox (30 minutes round trip) by myself, in hopes that maybe that would start something. Braxton Hicks contractions had been going on pretty regularly for the past few weeks, and while it seemed like I was having more on this particular day, I didn’t let myself read too much into them. I sewed that afternoon, working on little Ellie’s Easter dress, thankful that with her delay in arriving I at least had more time to get things done!
By evening, I was definitely more uncomfortable. Just making supper and getting Hadassah to bed left me exhausted. And these seemed to be more regular contractions, and more “feely” ones too. Could it be? Ryan told me “not tonight – let’s wait ‘til morning!” which mirrored what he’d said the night I’d gone into labor the first time around, so I laughed, wondering if this really was for real. Not wanting to leave the house a mess, I took extra time to straighten up that night, and even put away my sewing supplies. A pretty big step in thinking this was it!
But, I decided to lay down, just in case they’d stop. Even if they didn’t, I knew I’d probably be in labor for a long time, and knew how much I needed rest. I was smarter this time around, or maybe just more tired with a toddler too! So we went to bed early, and I actually slept for about two hours. Pain in my back woke me around 11:15 PM though. This was definitely it.
We ate breakfast around midnight, as I was a little hungry and knew I’d probably need some fuel for all that was to come…
Ryan knew he needed to conserve his strength and rest while he can, as the pain wasn’t too intense yet, and the contractions were just 6-8 minutes apart. Having gone through always every-3-minutes-or-less contractions with Hadassah’s birth, I was thankful for the longer break between the pain, but also almost a bit bored waiting for things to progress! ;) I sat on the exercise ball quite a bit, pulling out the verses I’d written on index cards. Once again, the Word of God proved such a comfort and encouraging during the increasing pain. In my back, yet again. As much as I’d tried to encourage this baby to be in the ideal, anterior position through exercises for that purpose, it seemed I was birthing a posterior baby again. While I was disappointed, I knew God would get me through, as He faithfully did before.
Ryan checked in with me periodically during the night, as I labored and tried to rest as I could. Laying down again proved fruitless and way too painful, so I walked some and stayed on the ball mostly. A heating pad on my back helped some as the pain grew, but by 4 AM I needed pressure to be applied most of all. Ryan got up then, to give stronger pressure, and we discussed calling the midwife. Remembering that she’d told me before she had a 4:30 AM alarm, we decided to call around 5 AM.
Of course, cell phone service down in the valley is pretty terrible, so after the phone cutting in and out, Ryan went down to my parents’ house to make the call. When trying to look up my parents’ home phone number to tell the midwife, he accidentally called their home phone. My mom picked up right away – “Is Anna in labor?” I think she was even more excited than we were. J
The midwife wanted to talk to me, to assess if she should come or not. By that point I definitely couldn’t easily talk through the peak of the contractions, but we didn’t feel like we needed her right then, so she said she’d be on call.
Ryan ran around between pressing on my back, blowing up the birthing pool and getting things for it situated with my dad’s help. Soon Dad left for the airport to pick up my sister Lydia, Hadassah woke up, and I was able to hug her quickly before Ryan took her to my parent’s house. It was so nice having them just down the hill from us! I told Hadassah that this was the day baby Eliana was going to come out, and she seemed to understand… I’d talked to her before a few times about how when baby Ellie came, Mama would be sick for a while, as it hurt a little bit for a baby to come out. She made no protest as she left for Grandma’s.
A bit later, mom sent up some scrambled eggs and bagels. Grateful that Ryan had some food for him as the contractions were closer together now, I could only stomach one bite of each. Well, I was definitely in the “can’t think of eating now!” stage of labor, which was a good sign, as it meant things were progressing!
Finally around 7 AM, we told the midwife she might want to start heading this way, as it was a 45 minute drive. I was getting some contractions that double-peaked, and the pain was less and less bearable. I moved downstairs as Ryan started filling the pool. It took a while to get the hose set up right, and where it was screwed in outside there happened to be a huge bed of fire ants! So each trip to adjust something ended with him running in and pulling off his socks as fast as he could before getting bit by ants. Comical looking back on, but not fun to experience! Those contractions where he wasn’t there to press on my back were definitely hard, but I had hot water in the pool to look forward to!
Unfortunately, once everything was in place and the midwife had arrived and checked baby’s heartbeat (“good and strong!”), we checked the water filling the pool and discovered we had too quickly run out of the hot water. The pool was 1/3 full of cold water. So our amazing midwife went to work, boiling water on the stove, over and over and over again, pouring it in and hoping for the water to warm up. I appreciated her staying in the background, and not checking me other than for the baby’s heartbeat periodically. She gave me the time I needed without any pressure.
By this point, even sitting on the ball was painful. I stood mostly, my arms around my amazingly strong husband’s neck, leaning into him and almost hanging on him as the pain radiated, mostly in my back but also in front. I started groaning, prayed a lot, and was so thankful for the music playing in the background. Making a playlist of well-known relaxing, encouraging, and uplifting worship music had been so worth it. And Ryan was my rock. I was amazed at his strength in supporting me, and couldn’t imagine laboring without him.
As the pain grew and contractions came closer together, I could feel baby moving down. Were we getting closer? At least I knew that by standing up I was giving gravity opportunity to work, but I also really really really wanted to get in the water, knowing what a relief the warmth and weightlessness would be. But the water still wasn’t quite warm enough… I started bearing down a little, wondering if this baby would just drop out on the floor while I stood up! But I also tried not to push too much, not wanting to push too soon like last time, knowing I’d need to save strength. Finally the midwife declared, probably around 10 AM, that the pool was okay. I didn’t waste a minute in getting in.
And what a relief… The contractions were still very painful, but being able to squat and sit without having to put much weight on my legs was so helpful. I was given more juice to keep my blood sugar up, and started pushing more in earnest, accompanied by sounds I never knew I was capable of making outside of giving birth!
Feeling more and more like pushing, I also told the midwife she could call my mom to come up. While I’m not one to want extra people around – even the midwife hung out on the porch most of the morning to give us privacy – I knew my mom would be so blessed to be at the birth of a grandchild. Especially when it had been her dream since my dad built this guest house to have a baby born in it one day… A dream I’d laughed at before, wondering how that would ever happen, only to come to this point and be the one birthing here. I wanted to give her this gift too, since she had been the one to set the example and give the encouragement to try home birth in the first place.
When the tension in my back eased a bit (while still quite painful!), I knew baby had worked her way down past that point and that delivery was closer. I pushed even more, dreading the feel of the head crowning, but knowing what to work for. Having given birth once before, I knew what to push for (and also how painful it would be!), and just wanted to hold my baby and have these labor pains be over! With one big push I felt a gush and realized my water had broken. Progress!!
As my vocalization increased, my midwife helpfully instructed me that I was pushing too much out of my mouth and not enough down below. She told me to stop making noise, and instead focus on pushing more down. It was hard to do, but so helpful! As “Rock of Ages” played in the background, I heard the words “through the water and the blood” and knew the pain would be worth it. I pushed with all I could, and felt the sensation – the head had crowned!
Ryan had gotten in the pool with me to be ready to catch the baby, and he was able to see the head be delivered. But, just as had happened with my first baby, the next pushes, hard as I gave them, didn’t produce the body. Suddenly the midwife jumped in the pool, giving no thought to her clothes. She instructed me to lean back and reached down to grab the baby. A shoulder was stuck. It seemed like an eternity of “tug of war” as she yelled for me to push with all I had (which, in my exhausted state felt like I had nothing… but God gave strength I didn’t know I had!). She twisted and pulled (“like a cork off of a bottle” she later said) and I pushed, praying with all my might, and hearing Ryan pray, “Lord, please save Eliana.” The thought occurred – what if something’s wrong? – but I didn’t let myself dwell on it, instead focusing on trying to push, though I felt I had nothing left. I was also thankful to know my mom was praying in the background too. I knew that God was in control.
And God delivered, through the hands of an amazing, knowledgeable midwife. This amazing woman had delivered my younger sister 20 years ago, so she’s seen a lot of babies. My baby was a little blue, and didn’t cry right away as I snuggled her to my chest, thanking God and telling her to breathe. Ryan asked if everything was okay, and the midwife told us not to worry as she suctioned her throat a bit. And seconds later, she coughed and cried a little, and began to pink up. She was okay! And she was perfect. I noticed her hands right away – long fingers! :)
My mom noted the time on that November 5th day: 11:20 AM. All in all, my painful labor had been about 12 hours. Not the “lots shorter” labor so many said they had for their second birth, but still 5 hours less than labor with Hadassah, so I was thankful. And she did look to be about 41 weeks gestation. But I was still glad I’d had that later due date in my head! ;)
When the midwife said “he” for the second time, I asked if we really had a girl. Turns out the midwife hadn’t looked, so we checked, and we were really holding a girl, our second daughter! Our Eliana Grace. Our God had truly answered with grace, as her name implies.
We bonded for quite a while in the pool, before the midwife said I should move to the bed as she preferred to deliver the placenta out of the water. So I reclined and nursed Ellie for the first time. It’s amazing how babies are born knowing what to do! The placenta still hadn’t come, so Ryan got some skin-to-skin bonding with Ellie while I moved to the toilet to try and get the placenta to come. The midwife prepared a shot of Pitocin, but I pushed and prayed for the placenta… I was in enough pain with the contractions there were that I really didn’t want any stronger contractions! Finally, the placenta dropped out without Pitocin. And I was amazed at its size - how it and my baby fit inside me I do not know!
Especially when we weighed Eliana… As the midwife got her ready to be put in the sling, she said, “Any guesses?” I had gained a little less weight this pregnancy, but I guessed she was still over 8 lbs. The midwife said, “I think 8.2” and then gasped: 10.1 lbs!! I was amazed. Guess all the dire predictions the doctor in Shanghai had given me about having a big baby had come to pass. But, other than the shoulder dystocia (which I had with Hadassah as well, though she was just 8.8 lbs), Ellie was born without complication, and I didn’t even tear this time around, despite her largeness! That has made healing so so SO much faster and everything just less painful!
And I was so grateful God had allowed us to come back for this birth. I know the pressure from the doctor in China would have been strong to induce and/or go for a c-section when they saw how big baby was looking on the ultrasound. When pushing took a while, that could have also called for a c-section. And I just couldn’t imagine laboring in a hospital room… I really enjoy the peaceful environment of home and the freedom it allowed me to move around and do whatever I wanted without pressure or too much monitoring. Add to that the birthing pool; I really don’t know if I could have lasted and made it through without it. So God knew what He was doing to allow things to work out for us to come home for the birth.
In addition to her 10.1 lbs, Eliana Grace measured 21 inches long and was strong and healthy. She took to nursing right away, too. She somewhat concerned me that first day though, after nursing twice fairly close together, she slept for 7 hours straight, despite my best efforts to get her to wake up and nurse. I needn’t have worried… That night she woke every 2 hours on the dot!
My sister Lydia arrived home with my dad from the airport, having flown in from Eastern Europe, 20 minutes before Eliana was born. So it was quite the exciting morning! After getting cleaned up and Ellie dressed, we had our first visitors. My sis-in-law Megan had come over that morning to help watch Hadassah, who had a blast with her and told me all about it later! My brother Elijah had joined everyone for lunch, so he and Megan came up to meet Ellie, followed by Lydia. My mom came up for some Grandma snuggles soon after, and dad came once he returned from a meeting. They brought Hadassah up to us after she woke up from her nap, and we enjoyed some bonding time as a family of four. I’d thought months ago about how I wanted to introduce Hadassah to her sister. I didn’t want her to show up after a day of not seeing mommy and suddenly see a new baby in my arms. So we put Eliana in her cradle, and I got to snuggle my first baby with a big hug. Then, I took her over to meet her sister, and she was instantly enthralled. She wanted to hold her and we kept pointing out her cute little fingers and nose. We now had TWO girls!
God is good. He gives grace upon grace, and we are so thankful for His blessing of new life!