I wasn't totally sure how much of Elijah's birth story I wanted to share here. Like I said in his announcement, I have had to filter through so many different emotions in the days following his birth. I honestly was not prepared for how it went. It wasn't at all what I was expecting and definitely not what I had hoped for. But it's our story. And I know the Lord wants to use it. I trust that He wrote it and was with me in the midst of it. And because of that, I want to share it with you.
Elijah was born in the wee hours of Saturday, November 17th. 4:23 am to be exact. He wasn't late, and he wasn't early. He was right on time.
I had been having braxton hicks contractions for about a week leading up to actual labor. I would have a few in the middle of the night and get somewhat excited. But they never got stronger and closer together. So we would go for long walks and I would drink raspberry tea. And wait.
Friday morning, I began having consistent contractions. Finally! They were about 6 minutes apart and 30-45 seconds long. I started timing them at 6am. And they kept coming, just not closer together and not stronger. And they kept coming, all. day. long.
You know how they say that labor goes quicker with every subsequent pregnancy? Hah.
I stayed busy all day, mostly watching Isaac and making sure I had all my things together for when it was time to head to the birth center. I baked brownies. I ate lunch. I called Ben to come home early from work because it could be "any time now". And we waited.
At about 7:30 that night we decided to drive to the birth center. My contractions were about 5 minutes apart but weren't quite 1 minute long. But we figured we'd get there and get settled and fill the tub. I called my midwife and she guessed things would get going around 9. And she was almost spot on. In the mean time, we unpacked and hung out.
As each contraction came I found it most comfortable to lean over on something tall (like my bathroom counter or the dresser in the bedroom at the birth center). I crossed my arms and rested my head. That way I could squat and breath through each one.
My midwife arrived around 9 o'clock. By this point my contractions had gotten a whole lot stronger and closer together. And now that the tub was full I was able to get in and labor for a little while. It did, as they say, "take the edge off" during each contraction. But I decided not to stay in. I got out for a little while and layed in the bed on my side. Ben laid next to me and held my hands during each contraction. Around 11 o'clock, while my midwife was monitoring Eli's heart rate, my water broke.
And then my contractions got really intense (as they usually do once your water breaks).
Almost immediately I was feeling the need to push. So I did. And I got back in the tub and labored for a while longer. My midwife noticed almost immediately that with each contraction I was arching my back in pain. At that point she suggested she check me to see what was going on. And she found the same thing that had happened while I was laboring with Isaac (my now 2 year old). There was a lip of my cervix in the way, so I wasn't quite at 10 cm. During my next contraction, she was able to push it back behind Elijah's head. And immediately there was relief. Well, at least when I pushed during each contraction, I wasn't in pain anymore.
I stayed in the tub for a little while longer. I labored forward, holding on to Ben and I turned and labored the other way around with my arms around the side of the tub (and oh man did my arm and chest muscles ache a couple days later!!). I pushed and pushed and Eli was definitely working his way down the birth canal. But when things didn't progress much for a while, my midwife suggested I get out and lie on the floor. So I did.
And things still weren't progressing very much. I would push, push, push with each contraction and I could feel him moving down. And then as soon as I stopped, I could feel him slip back. Oh. My. Goodness. That is discouraging. I kept praying for the Lord's strength. I needed it. By now I had been pushing for a couple hours.
So we tried a few more things. I labored on the floor. I labored on the bed. I labored on my back. I labored on my side. I labored on my other side. I labored on all fours. I labored in the tub. I labored on the toilet. I labored squatting while someone held me up. You name it, I did it.
And still, almost no progress. I could still feel him slipping back as each contraction faded. By this point, I don't even think I was still in the room. There comes a point when you are so exhausted from laboring and pushing as hard as you can, that it feels like you aren't the one doing it anymore. You just check out. And I did.
I got into the bed and breathed through my contractions rather than pushing, to give my body a bit of rest. Although, that is not as easy as it sounds. They also gave me oxygen. I was looking at Ben saying, "I can't do this anymore. I just can't." And it was the truth. I had been in labor close to 21 hours, pushing for over 4 and he had been crowning almost 3 hours. Ben discussed with my midwife what the next step would be at this point. She said she would call the OB she works with to meet us at the hospital. He would need to use the vacuum to get Elijah out.
She got me up out of the bed and had me try squatting for a little bit longer as a last ditch effort. But things didn't change. His shoulders were caught because he was posterior (actually turned sideways). He couldn't get past my pelvis.
The last thing I remember at the birth center is my midwife and her intern rushing to get me out as quickly as possible. Ben threw a pair of his shorts on me, put a jacket over my shoulders and grabbed my flip flops. My midwife drove her car around, and her intern got in the back seat with me. Meanwhile, Ben followed them in our car. I layed in the back seat, oxygen up my nose trying not to push through each contraction. Oh man, is that painful!! They kept telling me, "breath through your nose. breath through each contraction. don't push. get oxygen to your baby." And while I know my midwife drove as fast as she could, that was the longest 20 or 30 minutes of my life! And the longest 3 contractions I had ever experienced (at least I'm pretty sure I only had 3 contractions, but who really knows?)
We got to the hospital, where my midwife dropped me and her intern off at the ER entrance. Ben got there right behind us. He stood there with me while I was hobbled over on him, wearing his basketball shorts, a sports bra, a jacket, and barefoot as I breathed through each contraction. I'm sure it was quite a sight. They came out with a wheel chair for me and rushed me upstairs to L&D into room #1.
I got in the bed and all the nurses (there were alot!) rushed around getting everything together. That is when I lost it and became belligerent. I was done. I had expected the doctor to be there to get Elijah out immediately. But it didn't go like that. Instead they were treating me as if I was only a few cm dilated and checking in at the beginning of my labor. One nurse came over and asked if she could check me. My response? [insert sarcastic, rude tone]: "Sure! But there's nothing to check! His head is right there!"
I was lying on my side because it was the most comfortable and with each contraction, I couldn't help but push. I mean, I had my knee up, leg in the air, pushing. And they kept telling me to stop! But that wasn't going to happen. In between contractions I was yelling, "Where is Dr. ______?!!?"
Finally the doctor arrived and within just a few minutes he had Elijah out. In the mean time, a nurse was attempting to put at heplock in my arm for an IV. To which I kept thinking, "why is she even trying?" But I was shaking so much that she was unsuccessful. But she did leave 2 lovely bruises. My husband later told me that it took 3 attempts with the vacuum to get the baby out successfully. During that time I had no idea what was going on. I was just pushing when I was told to push and praying that Elijah was safe and healthy.
I remember tearing my hospital gown off as fast as I could so they could lay him on my tummy (I don't remember them putting the gown on, though). I looked down at him and was so relieved that it was finally over. He was here. And he was beautiful.
Elijah Patrick weighed 8lbs 4oz and was 19 inches long.
Of course they wouldn't allow him to stay with me for long. The nurse grabbed him and took him over to the baby station (I don't know the technical name for it). They weighed him, and used the bulb thingy to suck the meconium out of his lungs. I was yelling across the room not to give him any shots. To which my husband laughed at me because he was already over there, on the spot, watching them like a hawk, telling them what they couldn't do. I love that man.
After what felt like hours, he was finally given back to me. And he nursed, very well on both sides.
I couldn't believe how much he looked like his older brother. And boy was he cute!! I fell in love all over again.
So, that's how I remember everything happening. Things are still a little bit hazy from that morning. I was high on adrenaline and exhausted from 22 hours of labor and 5 hours of pushing. But as they say, it comes to an end eventually. And for that I am extremely thankful!
That day and that week, I was really disappointed. There was no way I thought I would be writing this story. I had expected to write about how quickly things went and that we were able to rest and recover at the birth center, but head home the same day. I was hoping to write about how God gave me the strength and ability to push him out on my own. I wanted to tell you about Elijah's incredible homebirth.
But that wasn't how it went. That wasn't the plan.
Now, 2 weeks removed from this story, I am no longer disappointed. I know that the Lord was with me through my entire labor. I know He never left my side. And I know, as things seem to always work their way out in my life, that His plan was not my plan. This was yet another experience that God is using to teach me that lesson. And it's okay. He kept me safe. He kept Elijah safe. He had a purpose for my labor and He will use our story for His glory. I am sure of that.
I just wanted it to be noted that at no time during my labor were either Elijah or I in danger. My midwife did an amazing job of monitoring his heart rate the entire time and making sure I was drinking water and had enough oxygen. If we had been in danger she would have transported us right away. I am grateful for the chance to labor as long as I did in an effort to deliver Eli of my own strength. When the time came that I didn't feel I go do it anymore, then we made the difficult decision to head to the hospital.