Last week, I shared Madeleine's birth story. This week, I'm sharing Frances' story! Fair warning: it is a little bit lengthy and I thought about sharing it in segments, but I figure you can always read it in segments even if I post it all here!
photo by Sarah Culver
One week ago today... she was born. Although my doula recommended that I rest and nurse and not try to do much else, writing this down has been like breathing and resting for me. I didn't want to wait longer than a week because I didn't want to forget anything.
All week I had said, "She can come Friday (October 1). I have too much to do before then." Thursday we went to Sams and stocked up on diapers and granola bars and everything else to be able to not leave the house for a month. Friday morning I had an appointment with my OB. I learned that I was 3cm. We picked up some milk at Trader Joe's and headed home to get some cleaning done. I mopped the floors, vacuumed, cleaned the oven, wiped the baseboards and the spindles on our stairwell. When Molly woke up we went for a walk and even while I pushed Molly on the swing I shifted my weight like I was walking. I wanted to be on my feet all day to see if I couldn't induce labor.
I made and ate a HUGE plate of Pasta Carbonara for dinner. God knew I would need the carb energy. At around 8:30 pm, I started feeling a little funny. Molly watched a ballet movie and following along with the steps. She was acting like such a big girl, and I started crying watching her, thinking about her as the older sister and how much this baby was about to change her life.
On my walk with Molly, my feet had gotten very dirty on the muddy playground in my chacos, so I asked Stephen if he would wash my feet so that I could lay on the bed without getting it dirty. When he started, Molly got very excited and so he had to wash her feet too. That turned out to be symbolic of his servanthood to his wife and daughters throughout the night and into the next morning.
It started out with feeling a little nauseous and tired, then I started to have mild contractions once every ten minutes around 10 pm. They were bearable and Stephen and I became excited and giddy thinking that this might be it- she might be here by tomorrow! So after we put Molly down, we went into “labor mode.” We had planned for this moment for weeks- and thought about it for nine months- so we were ready and excited. The hospital bags were packed, the house was clean, Molly's pack n play and diaper bag were ready to go. I had spent time during the past week making a playlist of relaxing music and worship music. I love these sorts of details so I wrote out the playlist in its final form.(* see below.)
We lit candles and I talked to my sister on the phone. Mostly we just listened to music and talked, Stephen had a beer, and whenever a contraction would come, I would close my eyes and breathe through it. Around midnight we were both getting sleepy, so we decided to get some rest. I was amazingly relaxed but I had a hard time getting comfortable to actually fall asleep. I may have dozed off a time or two but every ten minutes a contraction would wake me up. The night before, we had read scripture – a sheet called “Verses for Labor” I do not own a copy of translation so it was refreshingly unfamiliar. One of my favorites is this translation of Isaiah 41:10:
“Don't panic. I'm with you.
There's no need to fear for I'm your God.
I'll give you strength. I'll help you.” -the message
There's no need to fear for I'm your God.
I'll give you strength. I'll help you.” -the message
I had also written out my birth plan along with some encouraging quotes and things that Stephen could say to me during labor that I thought would encourage me.
I found a great resource online that I thought of throughout labor that really helped me mentally-BirthingNaturally.net. One of the things on there was about dealing with your fears. I loved how the site put it: “What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid?” I read the latter question in the tone, “Why would you be afraid when there is nothing to be afraid of?"
I found courage during this labor by reminding myself that my body knows what to do, and since I am a woman, I am made to give birth. God would not give me more than I can handle, so there is no need to panic at any time for any reason. It also helped for me to visualize what was happening during each contraction. With Molly, I was imagining all kinds of crazy impossible things that my body had to do, and the complexity of the baby travelling down through the pelvis, and possible complications during that process, really scared me. But this time I just thought about the simple fact of the cervix dilating so that the baby's head could come through. That was all that was happening during each contraction- otherwise the baby was positioned and ready to be born. She was right there, so close to being here, and the contractions were simply helping to let her out.This thought process greatly helped me mentally. And having contractions 10 minutes apart really helped the time go by quickly. I would just read or rest in between and before I knew it the night was passing me by.
Around 3am, I had a contraction that was so painful I could no longer lay down. I got up and took a bath with eucaplyptus essential oil and lavender oil, and I ate a clementine and some graham crackers. After the bath and after walking up and down the hall, several of my contractions were getting to be about six minutes apart. Some were bad, some were pretty mild. I was able to close my eyes and breathe through them, and I just took them one at a time.
All throughout my labor I did not think about the past except to say, “Look at how long I have been doing this- I can keep going.” And I did not think about the future, except to say, “Frances, I can't wait to meet you.” Otherwise I focused on keeping my mind in the present, being creative to cope with the pain, and leaning on Stephen for support. At around 5:00am we called our doula Cheryl and our neighbor and dear friend Sarah who came to pick up Molly and they both arrived at about the same time. Stephen got Molly all ready to go. He was doing so much, running this way and that. Contractions were getting much more intense, but I held it together until a little while after Molly left. I kept thinking about the endorphins that accompanied the pain and the verse, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” I thought about “laborland” and how you really are in a different world – focused on what you are doing- when you are in the peak of labor. These things kept me going.
Cheryl first tried to have me lie down to rest, as she was concerned that I hadn't gotten much if any sleep all night. As soon as she had gotten me comfortable with a pillows to support me, I had a very strong contraction and I realized my water had broken. With Molly's birth, this happened unnaturally and contractions became much more painful after that cushioning bag of waters was gone. But Cheryl helped me to relax my shoulders and not panic despite more intense contractions. She was a calming presence, saying "Good job" after each contraction.
Stephen was awesome encouraging me, giving me spoonfuls of honey and pieces of clementine and lighting candles. I had to lean against the wall every time a contraction came. They were about 3 minutes apart at this point and soon coming back to back. I told them I thought we needed to go to the hospital. I think we must have left for the hospital around 6:30 or 6:45 am.
To be continued...
Death Cab for Cutie- Marching Bands of ManhattanEnter the Worship Circle- You're the One
Sigur Ros- Samsketyti
Jon Foreman- The Cure for Pain
Hem- An Easy One
Amy Grant- That's What Love is For
The Album Leaf- Streamside
Enter the Worship Circle- Bright and Beautiful
Enya- Only Time
Patti Griffin- Rain
Blind Pilot- 3 Rounds and a Sound
Rosie Thomas- Since You've Been Around
Henryk Gorecki- Lento Cantabile Semplice
Damien Jurado- Ohio
Neil Young- Harvest
Leo Kottke- Bigger Situation
Chicago- You're the Inspiration
Over the Rhine- Born
Bon Iver- Flume
Sixpence None the Richer- Trust
photo by Sarah Culver
...Looking back, I am sure I was in transition on the stairs. At least we had a goal to take my mind off of it: get down the stairs and get to the hospital before I am ready to push.
As we were going down the stairs, Cheryl asked me if there was a verse that I wanted to think about, and I quoted Proverbs 3:4-5. I have to laugh now that despite being able to barely speak, I quickly quoted the entire verse to her: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.” We live on the third floor so we have to walk down 43 stairs to get to our car on the street. It must have taken us almost ten minutes to get down the stairs because I had to stop every few steps to breathe through a contraction and say “Trust in the Lord." They were very intense and it would be an understatement to say it was an uncomfortable ride over to the hospital.
Stephen pulled up to the front entrance and just left the car, hoping valet would take it. No one came for it so it just stayed there at the front entrance until after Frances was born when a nurse came in and told him to move our car. I LOVE him for that!!!
Cheryl and Stephen walked me down the endless hallway from the entrance to the elevator to Labor and Delivery. They were practically carrying me. Literally, fifteen people asked “Do you need a wheelchair?” One guy asked, “Have you been to the ER yet?” (I don't think he realized I was in labor because I was hunched over with a coat on... that's why we were headed in the opposite direction of the ER). I refused the wheelchairs because I knew walking would help bring her out, and it would have been too painful to sit down. We made it up the elevator and I certainly made quite the scene when we got to L&D. It felt like a TV show for a minute. The nurses were in between shifts so there was double the necessary amount present, and about ten people came into the delivery room with us. A big nurse was barking at me and so Stephen started answering her questions for me: How long has she been in labor? When did the water break? Is this her first? Etc. Meanwhile, nothing was penetrating my zone and remembering the next thirty minutes is like a blur. I was yelling “Lord have mercy!” because I had started to feel the urge to push as we were walking down that hall to the elevator, contractions were getting very strong, and by the time we got to the Delivery room, I knew the baby was coming soon.
The contractions were changing from one on top of the other, to breaks for several minutes in between, with a strong urge to bear down and push. But after the pushing, I would have another calm break and just wait for the intensity to wash over me again. These contractions were the most painful of all, but I got the biggest break in between each one. Yes it was probably the hardest work I have ever done in my life, but by God's grace, never unbearable.
They checked me and I was 9cm. My doula really helped to defend my birth plan, and they dimmed the lights. When they checked me, they realized I had a cervical lip, or a part of the cervix that was in the way of the head. Cheryl told me to try an optimal position that would solve this problem.
Despite several people trying to change positions, I kept my eyes and ears on my doula. And although my memory of the last moments of labor are a blurry chaos, one thing did not feel chaotic. The connection with my doula. I have since developed a new respect for doulas and midwives. I trusted her, and I knew she was there to defend the sacredness of the space where my daughter would come into the world. It was as if she and me and Stephen were the only ones in the room that realized this moment was about the birth of our daughter. I think it was in that moment, for me, that thoughts of miracles, heroes, angels, and the supernatural came crashing into the room. Later I found out that the Lord prompted my Mom and Dad to pray together for the birth, not knowing it was at almost the exact time Frances was born.
Those last contractions were painful but by that time I was not talking, I was not listening. I had moved past laborland and into babyland. I just kept saying, “Baby, I'm ready for you to come out.”
Sweet Frances was born after about 20 minutes of pushing, at 7:43 am.
A few minutes later we were getting to know her. I was eating a nice big breakfast of eggs, bacon, muffin, juice, and even had a cup of coffee that didn't give me heartburn for the first time in nine months. Coffee had never, ever tasted soo good. Then we watched MASH in our hospital room and beheld God's gift to us.And thankfully I quickly overcame my late-pregnancy fears that I had forgotten how to care for a newborn!
Our good friend Lisa brought Molly to visit that afternoon around 4pm. When she met Frances, Molly had a great look on her face- surprised, happy, and pleasantly joyful. Molly seems to have been born knowing how to be an amazing big sister.
I have a new love in my life that casts a new glow over everything I do. This love. Everything in our home is warmed by this glow of love in all of our hearts.
Colossians 1:11-12 “As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.”
Big Girl Frances is 2 1/2! :)