Today is the day my son was supposed to be born. He entered this world 6 weeks early and began his life in the NICU before coming home. His birth story has completely broken me down and built me back up at the same time. I am sharing his birth story to heal and remember. To heal from the birth story that didn’t happen. To remember the need I had for the Lord. The need for strength, peace, and perseverance. To remember how the Lord remained faithful.
It started on Monday evening, December 5th. I was making some chicken potpies for some families at our church when I started to have what I thought were some strong Braxton Hicks contractions. We had an appointment with our midwife the night before and I knew I was dehydrated, which can cause more Braxton Hicks. I continued cooking and eventually laid down and asked my husband, Josh, to finish assembling the rest of the pies. The contractions continued through the night and got stronger. I fell asleep only to be woken up to each contraction every 10 minutes. Since I thought my dehydration was causing the intensity, I ate some Pedialyte popsicles while pushing through each contraction. I didn’t wake Josh up because he had to work and I wanted to make sure he was rested.
In the morning I asked Josh to take a half-day in case we needed to go to the hospital. I asked for the day off and laid in bed waiting for the contractions to tone down. They didn’t. I still thought it was intense Braxton Hicks. I thought if this isn’t labor, real labor is going to be way more painful and intense than I imagined. I talked to my midwife and she asked that we get checked at the hospital to rule out preterm labor. She recommended Loma Linda University Hospital in Murrieta because they were great with mamas and babies. Josh got home early and we packed a small backpack with our iPads and chargers and headed to the hospital.
The drive took forever! My contractions were every 6-8 minutes and each bump in the road made them more intense. We checked in at the ER and they wheeled me to Labor and Delivery. The nurse had me change into a gown and she hooked me up to check our son’s heart rate and my contractions. His heart rate was perfect and my contractions were every 4-6 minutes. She checked to see how dilated I was, she gasped and said, “Ooh, you’re a 5 honey and your water bag is bulging, baby is coming, we have to admit you.” Instant tears. This is not supposed to happen, this is not how we planned. We planned to have a peaceful home birth in water. I did not want to have the baby at the hospital. We didn’t have a going home outfit; we didn’t even have a car seat yet.
The nurses hooked me up to an IV and gave me a steroid shot for our son’s lungs. Since I was only 33 weeks and 4 days, they were concerned about his lung development. They rushed me to a room and we waited for the OB to come and speak with us about a plan. I nicknamed her Dr. Mean Asian. I was panicking and her cold bedside manner did not help. She wasn’t warm and fuzzy about the fact that I had a midwife and didn’t get blood tested for certain things I already knew I didn’t have. She informed me they were going to start a strong medication, magnesium sulfate, to slow down, and hopefully stop my contractions until they could give me a second steroid shot for our son in 24 hours. Due to his gestational age he would have to be transferred to the NICU at Loma Linda University Hospital in Redlands (Main Campus) after delivery since they did not have a NICU. I asked if I could be transported to Main Campus right away so I could be near the baby and she said “No, it is too dangerous and no hospital will accept you.” The Dr. said in the morning if I didn’t progress they would consider transporting me.
At this point a group text with most of the ladies at our church had begun with updates for prayer. Knowing that our church was praying for us during this time encouraged and sustained us. God used our church to show me what love and unity was and my love for our church grew deeper. Despite the chaos we never feared. We never thought our son’s or my health was at risk. The Lord protected our minds and hearts.
The next morning, Wednesday, a new OB nicknamed Dr. Happy came to check in and go over the plan again. If I didn’t progress, I could be transferred. I was an 8. I went from 5 to 8 overnight. The medicine was working in slowing down but not stopping my contractions. I felt every single one of them all through the night. Tears again. I had to stay, and our son would leave. Wednesday was the toughest day mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Due to the strong side effects of magnesium sulfate, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was groggy and constantly on fire. I was placed on a liquid diet because I could choke on or throw up my food due to the side effects. I was placed on bed rest and had to get a catheter inserted. Later that afternoon they placed compression stockings that plugged into a pump on my legs to prevent blood clots. I had an IV with meds on my right arm. I had a blood pressure cuff that took my pressure every 30 minutes on my left. My blood was drawn every 6 hours. I didn’t feel human. I felt strapped down. We had family and some friends come visit, which helped break up the day. Josh would read the Bible to me and I continued to pray and speak to our son.
A Neonatologist came and spoke with us about the plan for our son. She also changed our birth plan. At this point they were waiting till I got my second steroid shot at 4:30 pm, then I would deliver. But she advocated for the baby and now the plan was to keep him inside till he was 34 weeks and maybe till he was full term. I thought, “Lady, that’s nice and all, but I am already an 8 and I am losing it already. I can’t do this for 6 more weeks.”
I continued having strong contractions throughout the night. On Thursday morning, Dr. Mean Asian was back but she became my favorite because she allowed me to have solids. I continued to process everything that was happening and had a feeling our son would be coming tomorrow. I was nervous and excited. I accepted all that was happening and knew that there was a great purpose. I didn’t know what the Lord was teaching me, and I think I am still learning from everything that happened. I could already see how this brought Josh and I closer. I didn’t know I could love and appreciate him more than I already did. We became a better team. That evening my best friends came down and decorated the hospital room. I had a vision for our birthing room at home and they made it come to life in the hospital.
Friday morning came and they took me off the magnesium sulfate. My contractions were already strong, but they became stronger and closer together as the day continued. Our birth team, my best friend Ruth our Doula, Lisa our Midwife, and Richard our support all arrived by the afternoon. Lisa moved my bed so I could be in a more comfortable laboring position, but the nurse came in and made me lay back down. They did not want my water to break, even though they were going to break it later. So I labored lying down, holding Josh’s hands. I usually don’t sweat, but I was sweating everywhere. I couldn’t feel my hands or arms. The pain was manageable if it happened a handful of times, but what made it difficult was the frequency. Before we even got pregnant I told myself getting pain meds or an epidural would not be an option. I wanted to get a complete experience. Since I blocked that option, it never came to my mind during the whole labor. These are some of the thoughts that came to my mind:
- I can’t do this anymore
- I don’t know how I’ll have energy to push him out
- This will be our only child because I don’t want to do this again
- Ruth said going from 7 to 10 is the fastest part of labor, why is this taking forever
There was one point where I felt like giving up, and I got a bit dramatic. I couldn’t feel my hands or arms even though I was shaking them. I was looking into Josh’s eyes and accepted the fact that I was dying. I thought, “Goodbye Josh, I am sorry. This is it.” I closed my eyes thinking I was dying, and then I woke up because I had another contraction. “Oh man, I guess I am not dying.” And it continued.
I was fully dilated and began to get frustrated. My bag wasn’t breaking and I wanted it to break, but the OB had to do it. Looking back, I wish I didn’t have the doctor break my water, but I was so tired. I needed to push, but my nurse said I had to wait for the OB to get there. I thought she was on her way, but then an hour later the nurse says, “I’m going to call her to come.” WHAT. I didn’t care if she was there or not, my midwife could deliver the baby, and I trusted my nurse who had tons of experience. I asked if she was here yet, and they said no she’s on her way in traffic. WHAT. Why isn’t she already at the hospital? Where does she live, Chicago? Again, is she here yet? No, she is parking. WHAT. Why don’t the doctors have valet service? The OB, nicknamed Dr. Sweet Little Lady, arrived gowned head to toe and sparkly star earrings and all. Ok, show time. NOT. We have to wait for the Neonatologist for the baby. She arrived introduced herself and the team. I continued to labor, push, and moan while these doctors just stood there. My midwife sensed my frustration and she helped calm me by encouraging me to hush out all the extra noise and people. To allow them to be a part of the process and story. OK, accept it, move forward. What are we waiting for now? The respiratory doctor for the baby. WHAT. I can’t wait.
Lights came on, it was time. FINALLY. Ruth held my left leg up and Lisa held my right. Dr. Sweet Little Lady broke my water and began perinea massages. I did not like her fingers all up in my business, but I was too distracted to ask her to stop. I asked for a mirror to see everything and Ruth asked if I could see. “NO, THE DOCTOR IS BLOCKING ME.” She moved. I wish I said it more nicely, but I was distracted and wasn’t thinking about other people at this point. Dr. Sweet Little Lady said in her soft voice, “You know, if you focus your energy not on making sounds but on pushing, you will get a better push.” I replied, “That’s nice but I am going to keep doing this.” Moaning was the only way I could get through pushing without holding my breath. He began to crown and come out, and this was the easiest part about this whole process. His cry. They let me hold him for a brief second but had to take him from me to check him. Josh stayed with him. It didn’t hit me this all happened and he was here. I didn’t cry or accept that he was born until I was reunited with him the next day at the NICU. I asked to see my placenta, so cool, and we took selfies with it. After they checked him they brought him to me to hold. Josh and I began to sing hymns praising God.
After 96 hours of labor, our son, 5 pounds 4.5 ounces, 19 inches, was born at 8:11 pm on Friday, December 9th, 2016. We began to pray over him and asked the Lord to guide us in naming him. We decided when we found out we were having a boy to wait till we met him to name him.
My heart had already been prepared to saying good-bye to him as I had to stay and he had to be transported. I was at complete peace knowing he was leaving to go to place where he could be taken care of and grow. I will share his NICU story and all that the Lord taught us during those 12 days in another post. I stayed at the hospital one more night while Josh followed the ambulance our son was transported in. Before I got discharged in the morning we had to pick a name for his birth certificate. Josh and I agreed Matthew Aaron was perfect. Matthew meaning gift from God and Aaron, Josh’s middle name, meaning exalted mountain.
His birth story was not how I imagined, but it was perfect. The past 6 weeks I have been processing through his story, allowing myself to feel every feeling. I have struggled with the fact that I was supposed to be pregnant still. There are so many things I wish happened differently but then I wouldn’t be where I am. Josh and I wouldn’t be the great team we have grown into. Matthew welcomed us into parenthood in the most humbling way with complete reliance on the Lord. The Lord remained faithful in protecting our health. He revealed his goodness and power through our son’s birth. The Lord is continuing to build me back up, healing me, and reminding me who is in complete control. I am a momma to a strong son who is teaching me to look to Christ.