On Sunday, July 29th, 2018 our son Owen Isaiah Wolfe, was born. I had joked to Ryan the week before that since he was named after a Puritan theologian (John Owen) and a Biblical prophet (Isaiah), it would be fitting if he was born on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day! And though he didn’t come that day like I’d hoped, he was indeed born on a Sunday the following week…
He was my third birth – my sweet promise of new life after a miscarriage. And, though my past births had involved longer labors, I had hopes for a shorter, smoother delivery. It seemed everyone I talked to said their third was early and easier, and I took steps to aid toward that. I went to a physical therapist to improve back aches and posture with various exercises, and saw a chiropractor weekly in the final weeks of pregnancy, to try to be in the best alignment possible. I faithfully walked every weekday morning before the girls were awake, and tried to avoid sweets and eat healthy overall.
But birth is unpredictable. Birth is messy. Birth doesn't usually follow your plans.
After all of my hopes for a baby born BEFORE due date were extinguished, we made it to the due date, Saturday, July 28th. We went for a 2 ½ mile walk around the lake the night before, and there was a full moon, so I had hope that something would happen soon! First thing in the morning I lost my mucus plug, and soon after light contractions began. I’d been having Braxton Hicks for weeks, but they never started this early, and these “felt” more, so I had hopes it was the real thing.
But I tried not to read too much into it, and did normal morning chores, puttering around cleaning up, and pushing the girls on the swing as I texted my midwife – “there’s the good possibility something will happen today.” By 10 AM, I was distracted enough that dealing with normal kid squabbles just felt harder. My thoughts and emotions were elsewhere. The contractions continued, though still very light. But I told my parents what was going on, and they decided to take the kids out for a day of fun: a visit to the local kids museum and eating out with their cousins. After all, this was my third. Things could progress quickly – right?
Not really… I went around the house tidying things up – for who knew when I’d be up to cleaning again? – and Ryan tackled the final two things we wanted to complete on our room before the baby was born: hanging decorative hooks for our robes and putting a Scripture decal on the wall. Our beautiful room was finally done, and just in time! I’d be spending a lot of time back there with a baby, and it would be a beautiful retreat.
It felt really quiet around the house, with the girls gone. We wondered if maybe we shouldn’t have sent them away for the day, and told my parents things weren’t really progressing and they could bring them home if they wanted. But they were busy having fun, and so we enjoyed a time of rest. We took a nap (as best as I could with the distraction of some contractions), went for walks… I wrote a letter and did a few more tasks. Waiting, hoping. It so weird when you’re hoping for pain, but I really wanted this baby to come! I received news that a friend had given birth to her son that morning, and thought how cool it would be if our sons shared a birth date! But… nothing to report, though the contractions felt harder.
My parents brought the girls came home, we put them to bed, and tried to settle down ourselves. I knew from past labors the importance of getting rest when you can, so though by this time my back hurt enough to use a heated rice pack on it, I laid down and tried to sleep.
I got about 1 ½ hours before intense pain woke me around midnight. These were definitely real. I couldn’t stand laying down anymore, so warmed up the heating pad, got my Scripture verse cards to meditate on, and sat on the exercise ball to time contractions. They were about two minutes apart, a minute long, and very intense. At least things hadn’t fizzled out! Maybe we would have a baby soon! Ryan woke and saw me sitting on the ball – my common labor position – and instructed me to call the midwife right away. She had to drive an hour, and he wanted to make sure she came in time.
Before long it was to the Ryan-push-on-my-back stage with contractions, and I read and prayed through Scripture to get through each one. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…” (Romans 8:18) and “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:29) Each time I’ve been in labor, the verses I memorized as I teen and wrote on notecards as labor aids have never ceased to be both applicable and life giving.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Hebrews 12:2) With labor pain, meditating on the much MORE intense pain Christ went through on the cross is always so amazing. He went through that for me… I can endure this for His glory, in His strength. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) We also had my labor playlist playing in the background, so words from songs gave me truth to meditate on as well. What a blessing music is!
My midwife, her assistant, and her trainee arrived around 2 AM. They took the baby’s heartbeat – very strong! – and though we told them to settle in for sleep in the guest room if they wanted, they stayed close by in the living room. They told us later that, with the intensity of pain they saw I was going through and the contractions about a minute apart, that they expected things to happen quickly.
Those minute on – minute off contractions, with intense back pain, are always so hard to endure. It never really gets easier, even third time around. I felt bad for Ryan too (though he always told me I was silly for even thinking that!), as he was tired, and battling a sore throat on top of it all. He had a minute of pressing as hard as he could on my back, then a minute to collapse exhausted or run to the bathroom or to microwave the rice pack yet again before I was calling out – “another one!” just 60 seconds later. Thankfully the midwives were wonderful, and stepped in for Ryan a few times so he could eat or have a tad longer break. But no one’s hands were quite as strong as my husbands, and I appreciated how selflessly he used them to help me.
And so the night wore on… As expected, with how long it took things to progress the day before and the intense back pain, whenever the midwife felt baby’s position, she would feel parts in front, indicating an OP position. “Sunny side up” again. Despite all of my walking, exercises, chiropractor… It was a bit disheartening that ALL of my babies turned out OP. But I had birthed two others. This one would come…
It just takes time. By 6 AM I was ready for her to do a cervix check. As terrible as it felt to lay on my back for a few minutes, I was aching for news that it was almost over… But while I was dilated to a 7 or 8, she said baby’s head was pretty high, and that he was still OP.
Throughout the night and into the morning, we tried many things to get the baby to turn. Side lying with my legs propped, using a rebozo, standing, swaying, lifting one leg, anything to get him to just turn around! I changed birth positions many times, from the ball to leaning against a couch or the wall, to the toilet to walking. I went outside on the porch to get sunshine, tried relaxing in our huge tub in warm water. Anything I could do, we tried. And we prayed. “Lord, bring Owen. Make him come, Lord!”
I felt completely drained, too. This wasn’t longer than my other labors, but it felt like it. And the pain became even more intense, continuing across my back and spreading in the front as well. For a while I had two people on me at all times, one squeezing my hips to relieve the back pain and another holding the heated rice pack in front. And I began to get discouraged.
“You aren’t made to birth babies” – the thought kept coming. I resisted the lies of the enemy, knowing God had made me able to give birth before. But with no visible progress, and thinking back on the stories of friends who gave birth in just a few hours, I felt so just bad at this. Crazy, because I know there really wasn’t anything else I could have done. Hard, long labors must be my cross to bear. I resisted, but the tempter knew my moment of weakness and kept whispering it to me. I had reached my pain threshold, my energy was depleted, and instead of working through the contractions, meditating on Scripture, I just endured them, and somewhat fought against them, which didn’t help at all. I even contemplated this baby just having to be my last one, because I didn’t know if I could go through this again. Anyone who knows me knows my life-long dream is to have a large family, so this shows how intense things were!
Finally, around 10 AM, I asked to be checked again. Surely there had to be some progress? But no – if anything I had regressed. I was more of a 6 now, my cervix was thickening, and the baby’s head was even higher. Nooo…. I sank back on the bed, and moaned. Defeated. We began to seriously consider transporting to the hospital. Even a c-section seemed better than continuing to endure this pain for who knows how long. Because, based on past births, once I was fully dilated and the baby’s head finally did engage (and this baby showed no signs of doing that!), there were still hours of pushing ahead. And I just didn’t know if I could last even another hour.
Ryan texted both sets of parents that we were considering a hospital transport. And people began praying. There were already some praying, but I know the prayers got kicked into higher gear.
But baby’s heartbeat was still strong, so at least there wasn’t any rush to do anything fast. If baby showed distress, we would have gone, no question. But with the intensity of pain, and sitting still being one of the WORST positions for me to deal with it, I also didn’t want to sit in the car for 20 minutes in order to get to the hospital. But, if we had been there, believe me, I would have considered an epidural! Again, not characteristic of me. But I was so so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. Curling up on the bed looked so nice, but then if I tried, the pain soon got me up again…
My midwife suggested going for a walk up and down the driveway, so I did with Ryan and L, her trainee. While out there I finally brought myself around to doing the last thing my midwife had suggested: an enema. I was feeling a tad constipated which increased back pain, and she said the enema could bring on harder contractions, which might bring baby’s head down. While any increase in the level of pain sounded like something to avoid, and an enema sounded like the most gross and uncomfortable thing ever, I was desperate, and wanted to try anything we could before going to the hospital.
So the midwife prepared a coffee enema. As I’ve never ever liked coffee, Ryan joked after the birth that I would never be able to say anything bad about coffee again. 😉 They administered it, I lay on my side for as long as I could, and then went to the bathroom. And Ryan started praying out loud. Strong prayers. Prayers full of hope. Something I could cling to as my brain just wouldn’t function anymore.
I also suddenly thought of chocolate ice cream. They had been trying to get me to eat to keep my strength up, but while I dutifully drank water with some electrolytes mixed in, and managed to get down some refuel drink, eating was really hard. I had choked down half a piece of zucchini bread at midnight, and had almost thrown up when they tried to get me to eat plain honey. I could only manage two raisins at a time, and chewing those took forever. But suddenly, chocolate ice cream sounded appetizing, so L ran to bring me a bowl and fed me a few bites.
Suddenly, my water broke! This was progress! It meant baby’s head had engaged! My water had always broken before when I started pushing. And as Ryan started praying, “Yes, Lord, give her another strong push, another contraction that does something” – I realized I WAS pushing. I was PUSHING! Maybe the end was in sight!
It’s amazing how fast we went from no hope, around 10 AM with news baby’s head was higher, to starting to push just an hour later, at 11 AM! The prayers of our families, friends, and my husband were making a difference!
The pain wasn’t as bad either – somehow the enema had cleaned me out enough to relax my back a little, and the front wasn’t painful anymore. Pushing started to feel good and I bore down with each contraction. Then, just a few minutes later, “I feel the head!” I yelled, and the two other midwives came running!
They spread things on the floor and yelled “hands and knees!” and I transitioned. Given my two past deliveries, where the girls got slightly stuck with shoulder dystocia, we had discussed birthing out of water this time, to see if that made a difference. That, combined with past experience to know better how and where to push, did seem to make a difference! I started yelling with the pain and exertion as I felt Owen crown. I hated that ring of fire yet again, but it meant he WAS indeed coming, and I WAS going to get him out! Ryan kept praying aloud and within 10-15 minutes on hands and knees, I felt my baby slide completely out. Relief! And no shoulder dystocia!
It’s amazing how quickly my most discouraging, seeming-to-not-progress labor changed into the best delivery I’ve had. I didn’t tear, I didn’t spend hours pushing, and Owen Isaiah, our “noble warrior” who declares “Yahweh is God!” was born safely. I had come to the end of myself, but God showed that He was more than enough. He was faithful to deliver me as we cried to Him for help. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
Now, if I had had to transport, and had ended up with a c-section, God would still get the glory! He often uses those methods to bring babies safely when there is no other option and I am thankful those options are available. We would praise Him still, if that had been the outcome. But, I am relieved that it wasn’t. We made sacrifices and paid out of pocket to use a midwife, and it was so nice that we were able to fully complete with her. With each of my births I would likely have ended up with a c-section had I been in the hospital, so I am thankful for skilled midwives who, while giving us advice on what to do if we decided to transfer, and leaving it up to us without pressure, had so many natural things to try. They continued positively and encouragingly, giving me hope to keep trying. Just seeing that they weren’t worried helped me to persevere. And I am very thankful, with how well I feel one week postpartum, that I avoided the harder recovery a c-section would have entailed.
But back to the birth. 😊 Those precious moments right after baby comes out are amazing. Instantly, all pain is gone, and you have a squishy, beautiful bundle in your arms. Birth is such a miracle. I heard Owen cry almost instantly (he was behind me, so I couldn’t quite see him yet!) and as they brought him through to my arms, I was overjoyed. He was so perfect in every way. He did cough a lot and took a few minutes to fully pink up – they finally suctioned him, which helped – but in no time he was breathing easily, protesting if we moved him too much or got him cold. They threw towels and blankets over us, and just let us enjoy bonding. Ryan came down to our level, and we enjoyed those precious moments.
Once the cord was done pulsating, Ryan cut it and he had a chance to hold Owen while I moved to the toilet to deliver the placenta. Thankfully it came without too much cajoling, and I got to take my celebratory shower. Birth out of water was definitely more messy! But before long, the midwives had that cleaned up, and we were safely ensconced in bed. And Owen started nursing and nursing! It’s amazing how babies are born knowing what to do!
We called and texted our parents the good news, and received relieved and joyful replies. Prayer is powerful. I remained in awe of what God had done as I held my son, born at 11:27 AM! It had been a long trial – 24 hours of labor, 12 of those really hard hours – but he was so worth it.
A weird and random coincidence, we learned later, is that at church that morning, during the final song, the organ hit a note and then cut out, and there was a sudden “pop!” as if something had broken. My brother-in-law whispered to my sister, “I wonder if the baby was just born?” and she looked at her watch. 11:27 AM. Who knows if God made an intentional connection there, but it was quite the interesting coincidence!
We heard the family come home while the midwives measured and weighed Owen. Despite my trying to eat healthy and exercise, Owen weighed in at 10 lbs 2 oz and measured 22 inches long, with a 14 inch head – a big guy, which, combined with the likely shape of my pelvis, explains why he took a while to come. My midwife thinks that when the head floated up, he finally turned to be AP, as he then engaged, came quickly, and was born in the classic position – NOT sunny-side-up. So, God works in mysterious ways. And since my blood sugar measured low during pregnancy, not high, giving no indication of gestational diabetes, it seems that for whatever reason, I just grow big babies. We may try to do a stricter diet next time to see if it helps (and amazingly, I can think of a “next time” now even though the memory of the pain is fresh!), but at least, as my midwife pointed out, I have birthed two 10-lb babies, so my body can do it. It just takes a lot of pain and a lot of time…
And a lot of prayer. But God is faithful. And I am praising Him for another wonderful gift of life.