Musings from the Threshold

Category Archives: Birth story

The First Four Months

A look back at our first four (and a half) months with precious Andrew Caden…

If you click on the first picture in the gallery, it will come up in a larger size, with a thumbnail of the next in the series at the bottom. I like this WP feature, now that I’ve figured out how it works!

The Power of a Picture

Today, I read a beautiful and touching story of a mother’s first hours and days with her newborn daughter Nella, whom she immediately recognized as having Down’s Syndrome. A beautiful testament to unconditional love. I expected to be emotionally moved by the story, but I wasn’t expecting the emotional journey-in-time I encountered.

Nine years ago this summer, our precious Kate was born. I told her birth story a while back (in six parts, starting here). My unexpected emotional journey-in-time was sparked by this simple picture, borrowed from Nella’s birth story:

While I had somehow refrained from crying as I read this lovely birth story, when my eyes absorbed this picture, the tears started falling. I wanted to weep. I sputtered out something to Jonathan … what I would have given to have had a setup like that when Kate was back in the hospital. He gently reminded me … Babe, it’s been eight years.

My head knew it was eight years ago, that time heals and God is good. But my heart was suddenly there again…

* Our first (and only, to date) hospital birth.
* The miraculous victory of the vaginal delivery of our transverse-to-breech baby … in St. Louis.
* The illogic of the gestational age misdiagnosis (“The reason her hips are so loose is because she was a frank breech. We’re only judging her to be 34 weeks gestation because her hips are so loose. Everything else looks like a 37 week gestation baby.”)
* The successful manipulation by the hospital staff, particularly the pediatrician, to get us to to agree to what they thought was best, despite the fact that everything in us was screaming they were wrong.
* The extra days in the first hospital … the loneliness of being stuck in a hospital room alone while my baby was alone in the nursery, of Jonathan needing to be gone taking care of our other Blessings, of longing for my newborn daughter in my arms and for the arms of my Mama around us both.

And then, the return to the hospital after a week at home, just hours after Jonathan had departed for a business trip…
* The kindness (and yet loneliness) of a friend I barely knew taking Kate and I to the hospital and dropping us off at the door… because there was no one else to do it.
* The bili-bed the nurses were so excited to see in use for the first time; the bed Kate and I hated.
* The hours of trying to find a comfortable position on the hospital bed that would allow me to at least touch my baby as she lay in the bili-bed.
* The CD the kind nurses brought in of music with a heartbeat in the background to try to soothe my baby… when what she needed to hear was my heart.
* The countless tears of longing and loneliness that Katie and I both cried through those two eternal days

There was also good in those days – the kindness of the hospital to provide cafeteria tickets for a mama who arrived in haste, with no money in her purse; the arrival of my Papa and Mama from Kansas on Sunday, just in time to take Kate and I back home; the faithfulness and unceasing love of my Heavenly Father; the eventual homecoming and health of our sweet baby. I don’t mean to seem ungrateful for these blessings.

But as I looked at this picture and thought of how different the whole experience would have been if I could have only held my precious baby under the bili-lights, I was once again that lonely and hurting new mother.

If you’ve stuck with me through my need to re-process this experience, thank you. The suddenness and intensity of my emotions today makes me more understanding of how things that happened years ago and that have been “dealt with” can come rushing in on someone.

God is good, and He is the great Healer. Even of wounds that get ripped open when you least expect it.

Katie’s Birth Story –
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, The Power of a Picture

Grace’s Birth – Part II – Happy Birthday, Grace!

Part I here

(Note – One of the wonderful things about my midwives is that they have given me copies of their detailed notes from my births. I love looking back through them and get another perspective, especially regarding time. Once I get in the zone, I lose track of time, so until I can find Grace’s birth records, her birth story will have little in the way of time references.)

Although I missed my family like crazy, I had a wonderful week working in the kitchen at camp during Leadership Training Camp. I even got to do devotions with the girls one night. It was a true joy and blessing to be able to invest in God’s work at KBC while I awaited the beginnings of labor.

Friday night, I started feeling less and less comfortable. As I stood in the camp kitchen working on something for Saturday, I realized that I was having steady, but spaced out, contractions. I sat down to work, but the contractions didn’t fade. After a while, I went to lay down in the nurse’s room, and borrowed a cell phone on which to call Jonathan and say, “Drive, Babe, drive!”

My dear friend and second mom, Cheryl, drove me down to the Birth Inn that night, where I promptly got in bed to get as much rest as I could. Jonathan arrived early in the morning, and we both went to sleep after he arrived. My contractions had faded through the night, and we were both glad for the extra rest.

Saturday morning, we enjoyed making ourselves at home at the Birth Inn. It’s not a birth center, but a real home with a terrific birthing room (with toilet, sink, couch that could be made into a bed, and huge jetted tub!). There is a beautiful family bedroom with an heirloom cradle, a couple of extra bedrooms for family or midwives, a comfortable and lovely living room which they also use for childbirth education classes and such, and a nice kitchen/dining area. It’s intended to be used for one family at a time, and we really felt at home while we were there.

Now that Jonathan had arrived, I was more than ready for my contractions to start up again. Saturday afternoon, we walked and walked, first around the neighborhood, then around the mall, then to Aldi to get some food for our stay. The contractions would come and go, but nothing intense. I was so frustrated!! At the same time, I felt extremely thankful that Jonathan had had plently of time to get to Wichita. I was just hoping that it hadn’t been a completely false alarm, with days (or weeks?) to go before Baby arrived. Kathy’s wonderful assistant, Brenda, was a tremendous help to me with my attitude and perspective.

When Saturday night and Sunday morning passed without any developments, we decided to head back to camp to pick up the rest of my luggage. I had left with just an overnight bag, and with a new week of camp starting, I needed to move my stuff out of the way. We got to visit for a little while with a good friend of ours and his fiance, then headed for Wichita again.

I wonder if perhaps part of what was holding things up for my labor was a sense of unfinished business having left my stuff at camp, because on the way back to Wichita, my contractions started getting more serious. We called Kathy on the way and asked her to meet us at the Birth Inn.

A check showed that yes, things were starting to move along. I walked around the living room; I sat on the floor and sorted through baby things and chatted with Kathy’s apprentices between contractions; and after a while I started gettng antsy for the tub. Kathy’s general policy is to have moms wait until they’re at least 5 cm before having them get in the tub, but I was sincerely requesting that they start filling it before then, because I could tell things were really starting to move along and I was looking forward to seeing how the water would ease the intensity of my labor.

I had never had the opportunity to labor in the water before, but had read a lot about it. I knew as soon as my feet hit the tub that I had found heaven on earth (at least for labor!). The water embraced and cushioned me. It muted the many incoming sensory messages, and allowed my body to focus on the business at hand. I could feel my uterus working, my cervix expanding, and yet I was amazingly comfortable.

The lights in the birthing room were dim; music I loved was playing on the CD player; Jonathan was sitting against the tub rubbing my back and neck, and chatting with me when I didn’t need to focus on the contractions. I wish that I could find the word pictures to describe the warmth and comfort of that time in my labor. When I think about Grace’s birth, I see/hear/feel the comfort of dim lights, the flow of water, my man next to me, calming music… It truly is one of the high points in my life. Bliss.

After a time, I needed to get up and use the toilet they had so wisely installed right next to the tub. I mentioned in passing to Jonathan that I was starting to feel a little bit “pushy,” but I didn’t think anything was “imminent.” Jonathan was wise enough to go give our midwifery crew an update, and they came in to see how things were going. If I recall correctly, it was around 11.30, and I remember someone commenting that it looked like this baby wasn’t going to make it in time to arrive on June 1st. It was only a few minutes since I had said nothing was imminent, but when I heard that comment I thought to myself, “Don’t count on it.” My “pushy-ness” was intensifying quickly!

Sure enough, around 11.50, my body hit a “gotta push!!” contraction. It’s amazing how much can happen in one contraction. I had a split second of panic, not sure that it was really time, and I don’t know if the words “oh no!” were spoken out loud or only internally. The moment of panic quickly passed and I surrendered to the knowledge that my body had been made for the task at hand. My water broke and Grace’s head was born, all in that same contraction. The rest of her followed quickly.

It was such a unique experience, actually giving birth in the water. Grace was so calm and quiet, and everything had a surreal feel. After we had had a few minutes to get to know each other, I got out of the tub (love that shower head with flexible hose!) and moved to the couch. We enjoyed bonding and getting to know Grace (who was a great nurser from the beginning), and eventually moving to the bedroom to get some rest. After pictures!

Jonathan, Grace, and I with our midwifery team:

We stayed at the Birth Inn for a couple nights, so that Kathy could check on Grace and I a few more times before we headed back to Missouri on Tuesday. Kathy was actually in the St. Louis area for Grace’s two week check, which was a special treat.

I was so blessed to work with Kathy and Brenda for Grace’s birth. They are a terrific team, whose strengths compliment each other perfectly. Kathy had asked what they could do to make this my best birth, and they did it. It was a wonderful experience, and made us sure that we had made the right choice to travel eight hours to work with a legal midwife in a home setting.

(Of course, we are thrilled that if we are blessed with another baby, there are now legal home birth midwives in Missouri, and more working towards their Certified Professional Midwife credential even as I type.)

Here’s a picture of Grace with J’s Grandma Hall, so you can see what she actually looked like as a newborn.

Happy Birthday, sweet Grace! You are such a living token of God’s undeserved favor, and a beautiful reminder that through HIS grace we can have victory. We love you and are so very thankful that you are our precious daughter!

Grace’s Birth Story – Part I

Six years ago this coming Monday, Victoria Grace arrived in our arms. In honor of Grace’s birthday, I’d like to share her birth story. As I’ve worked on writing it, I’ve realized that it’s going to be a two-parter. So I thought I’d share Part I today, just to tease you. I mean, give you an appetizer. Or something.

Last summer, I managed to get Kate’s birth story written down. It’s quite long, because there were so many extra factors surrounding Kate’s birth, and it starts here if you’d like to read it. I mention Kate’s story because it is the backdrop to why, at 37 weeks into my sixth pregnancy, I bid Jonathan and the Blessings farewell as they headed back to Missouri from Kansas, where I would be staying until the Baby arrived.

Here’s a quote from Katie’s story – “I suppose the most glaring result of our hospital experience (with Kate) is the fact that we have since returned home to Kansas for the births of our subsequent babies in order to have the attendance of a legal midwife. Within a couple of weeks after Katie’s birth, we were firm in our conviction that we would not subject another of our children to birth in a hospital setting unless there were a legitimate medical reason to do so.”

When we discovered in late 2002 that we were expecting another Blessing, along with the excitement came a lot of questions. The biggest one was, “Where and with whom is this baby going to be born?” We talked about quite a few options… a birth center in Missouri, unassisted birth, working with our former midwife in KS, etc. None of those seemed to be our answer.

Then one day when I was talking with Shawna by phone, she mentioned that Kathy, a wonderful midwife in Wichita, with whom we had met in the past, had a great option available. They had taken a house and transformed it into The Birth Inn, where folks like me could come and have a home away from home while using Kathy’s midwifery services. Several phone calls later, we had a plan! I would get pre-natal care with a supportive OB in St. Louis, and would travel to Kansas for the birth.

My average “bake time” for babies is 38 weeks. Thankfully, Grace’s expected arrival time meshed well with the beginning of the camp season. For those of you who didn’t grow up with me, Kansas Bible Camp has been a huge part of my life since I was a youngster. I staffed there every summer from 1986-1995 and lived at the camp a couple of different times. Both Jonathan and I are both very tied to the ministry there, and would love to be able to be more involved. Living eight hours away makes that difficult, though! As we made plans, we realized that I would have an opportunity to work for a week or so at camp while waiting for Baby. Bonus!!

37 weeks was our target date for heading to Kansas, as anything that happened before then wouldn’t be handled by a midwife anyway, and it would likely put me close to Kathy within a week of giving birth. Our whole family drove to Kansas for a Memorial Day Weekend family reunion, then Jonathan, the Blessings, and Jonathan’s parents headed back to Missouri. Jonathan’s parents were gracious enough to come and stay at our house during this time, caring for the other Blessings so that Jonathan could continue to work while I was in Kansas.

Before Jonathan left for Missouri, we had an appointment with Kathy and took all our birth and baby stuff to the Birth Inn (which is about 45 minutes from Hutchinson, where KBC is). I had kept in contact with Kathy by phone and email, and she had my records from the OB in St. Louis, so it was very natural and comfortable to be preparing to birth with her.

As we sat chatting during that appointment, she asked a question that I will never forget. She looked in my eyes, and with an intense attentiveness, asked me, “What can we do to make this your best birth?”

Wow. After my hospital experience, this was a wonderful reminder and affirmation of one reason I had wanted to go back to midwifery care in a home setting!

I had given a lot of thought to what I wanted this birth to be. My experience with Katie’s birth had given me a huge boost in my belief and confidence that God had made my body to do what needed to be done. If Jonathan had been willing, we quite possbily would have had an unassisted birth at our home in Missouri. I knew I could birth this baby, and part of me wanted to do so alone with my man. At the same time, I loved knowing that someone with training and expertice would be close by should anything unexpected happen.

My answer to Kathy summed up those feelings first. I then shared that I would like for Jonathan and I to be alone as much as possible for the labor, and that there be minimal assistance with the delivery. Kathy and Brenda listened with attentiveness and respect, and I knew that they would honor the space I was requesting while being readily available with their expertice. After this talk, I was looking forward to this birth more than ever!

I was going to post some of the pictures we took of our family before the crew left to go back to Missouri, but I can’t find them anywhere. So here is one of the Hall crew at the family reunion:

(Part II here)

Katie’s Birth Story – Part 6

The final installment in the saga of our dear Katie’s birth. We are so very thankful for God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.

Part 6 – Looking back

In retrospect, having researched and studied the issues involved, we do not believe that Katie was in any real danger. We think that if we had taken her home at one day old, she would have healthy and happy.

Here are two huge reasons why:
1) The only reason her bilirubin counts were alarming was that she was labeled a preemie. But she wasn’t truly a preemie. 37 weeks gestation is not premature. And remember, the one reason they rated her at 34 weeks was because of her loose hips, which were only loose because she was frank breech. We believe she would have been fine going home and bathing in sunshine and soaking up love from her parents and siblings, instead of being stuck in a hospital incubator under artificial lights, away from the loving arms of her family.

2) The other panic factor for the hospital staff was the threat of Group B Strep. We had not studied up on this well enough, and did not know enough to protect our baby from necessary antibiotic use.

As mentioned earlier, we were told that an infant who contracts Group B strep from his or her mother is dealing with a fast-acting, life-threatening infection, though the bacteria is harmless to the mother. However, several months later, we learned from a leading maternal-fetal specialist that the significant risk of transfer of Group B strep occurs when the amniotic sac is broken for at least 18 hours before the birth of the baby. When the window of possible exposure is smaller than 18 hours, risk of transfer is very minimal. Remember the story of Katie’s arrival? Her window of exposure was probably less than two seconds. And yes, we think someone should have been knowledgeable enough and honest enough to share this critical information with us.

So What?
The effects of the whole experience surrounding Katie’s birth have been significant. I’ll touch on a few of them.

Birth Plans
I suppose the most glaring result of our hospital experience is the fact that we have since returned home to Kansas for the births of our subsequent babies in order to have the attendance of a legal midwife. If the Lord blesses us with any more while we are in Missouri, we of course look forward to having a baby in our own home once again with a legal CPM! But for Grace’s and Stephen’s births, this was not a legal option. Within a couple of weeks after Katie’s birth, we were firm in our conviction that we would not subject another of our children to birth in a hospital setting unless there were a legitimate medical reason to do so.

We became involved with Friends of Missouri Midwives within a couple months of our move to the state, and have been actively involved ever since. However, our experience following Katie’s birth strengthened our commitment to helping legalize midwives in Missouri. This, coupled with the challenges of having to leave the state to have our babies, has helped us to press on with the efforts of our amazing midwifery advocacy community in Missouri.

Lessons Learned
It is not uncommon for the Lord to allow us experience things to give us the opportunity to become more understanding of those with whom we come in contact. Before our experience following Katie’s birth, I tended to be judgmental of folks whom I saw as kowtowing to the medical profession and accepting what doctors said at face value without bothering to do their own research, ask lots of questions, etc. I am more firmly convinced than ever of the importance of being a well-informed consumer, and of remembering that the medical industry’s proper role is to provide a service to consumers instead of dictating to them. But I know now from personal experience how gut-wrenching it is when they play the “your loved one could die/suffer irreparable damage if you don’t do what we say” card. I know the questioning, the self-doubt, the sense of helplessness to educate yourself adequately under pressure. And I find myself much more understanding of folks who don’t do things the way I would do them.

As with all things in life, I pray that the Lord will use this experience as He works to conform us to the image of Christ, and, ultimately more important, to bring glory to Himself.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Katie’s Birth Story –
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, The Power of a Picture

Katie’s Birth Story – Part 5

I was planning to wait until tomorrow to post this portion of Katie’s birth story… draw out the suspense for you and all. But I’m just not patient enough! So here you go. I’ll just warn you, though… if I’ve done a halfway decent job of painting the picture for you, this will be a gut-wrencher. It was certainly gut-wrenching to live it. Writing it out has been quite a process – a helpful and healing one, I think.

Part 5 – After birth

Dr. Pyle (and the rest of the L&D and pediatric contingent) arrived in our room within moments of Elizabeth Katherine’s birth. Having arrived a few days shy of 37 weeks gestation, she was a little thing, but oh so perfect! Five pounds and three ounces of preciousness. She was healthy in her tininess and was judged to be at 37 weeks gestation by all tests but one. More on that in a bit.

The hospital staff was actually pretty cooperative with our desire to have mom and baby together as much as possible immediately following her birth. They took her off to the side to weigh her and such, but we got to breastfeed and have bonding time right away, and I think they truly made an effort to get her back in my arms as soon as possible.

Everyone there was in high alert mode because Elizabeth Katherine had decided to join us a bit earlier than is usual. The in house pediatrician had been in while I was laboring to discuss things with us briefly, and the peds department swooped in in full force as soon as she was born. The following days would give us a much more intimate view than we had ever desired of the intense pressure that a hospital staff can put on parents to get them to cooperate.

As Jonathan watched over Kate’s newborn examination, he had an interesting discussion with the nurse. She explained to him that the reason that Kate’s hips were so loose was because she was born frank breech (bottom first, basically folded in half). In the next breath, she told him that despite the fact that Kate rated a 37 weeks gestation on all other counts, the reason she was going to give her a 34 week gestation rating was because her hips were so loose. How is that for excellent logic?

Now, at last, they had achieved a crisis, because with that little piece of twisted logic, they suddenly had a preemie on their hands!

Katie was born around 11.30pm. Some friends had come up to visit me in labor and instead had to wait for everyone to finish up their post-birth duties and clear out of the room. We were thankful to see them so quickly after the birth, though – thanks Liz and Jeannette!

The next few days are, to be totally frank, a blur of awfulness. The highlights shine through, of course… nursing sweet Kate, enjoying her precious newness. But really, it was a constant fight for what we believed to be best for our much loved baby, and seven years later, I still tear up at what they put her through. Though we had prepared intensively for labor and delivery in the hospital, and felt blessed and thankful for how cooperative folks were during L&D, nothing had prepared us for the degree to which the hospital staff would consider our baby their own once she was born.

Because they had labeled her a preemie, every thing was a big thing. And we gained a whole new understanding of how parents can let doctors and nurses do things to their babies/family members that they don’t believe are best. The “your baby might die/be permanently damaged if you don’t do what we tell you” card is incredibly powerful. Matters were further complicated by the fact that the pediatrician we had chosen for follow-up care did not have privileges at the hospital where Kate was born. So we dealt with multiple pediatricians, none of whom actually knew us.

Over the course of the next few days, Katie was subjected to untold poking and prodding. She spent most of her time in the hospital nursery in an incubator with “bili lights.” We were also bullied into letting them give her antibiotics because of their fear about Group B strep infection. We saw negative effects from those antibiotics for several years… which would have been worth it if they had been truly necessary. More on that in another post.

Little details from the blur…Kate was not released from the hospital until Wednesday or Thursday (having been born on Saturday night). I would have to walk down the hall to the (freezing cold) nursery to visit, nurse, and hold her. The first few days, it was all I could do to make it down there, from the emotional and physical exhaustion. Jonathan was back and forth from the hospital (an hour away from home, remember?) to take care of our other four children. We had friends who could watch the children part of the time during the day, but after that first night, he went home every night and for many hours of each day to care for them. The hours that he was gone were the worst. I remember one afternoon just sobbing from the exhaustion, the loneliness, the frustration of having to fight for our daughter every step of the way. I very much needed to nurse Kate, and yet I was far too tired to make it to the nursery by myself. I felt so very alone, and cried and cried… for my baby, and for my Mama.

Some happy highlights from our stay at the hospital: 1) Our nurse midwife was wonderful to us and brought us terrific home cooked meals. 2) The hospital provided a “hospitality room” for us to stay in after I was released, just down the hall from where they were (from my perspective) keeping our baby hostage. I was so thankful that I did not have to stay at a motel. 3) God is faithful. Even when times are dark and we cannot see His plans, we can trust His heart.

We finally got to take Katie home with us (equipped with a bili-blanket in which to wrap her most of the time). I was so very glad to be home and in the same room with my precious baby!

Poor Katie’s poking and prodding wasn’t over yet, though. We had to go to our pediatrician’s office every weekday to have her bilirubin levels checked. On Friday morning, July 6, Jonathan left for a business conference in Tennessee, taking the older children with him (his parents were going to meet up with him and watch the children, then come back with them to help us out at home). About a half hour after they left, the pediatrician’s office called. Katie’s levels from the day before had him concerned, and he wanted her at the hospital for a couple more days of intense light therapy. I wasn’t supposed to be driving yet, and called someone from church to see if she would take Katie and I to the hospital. She kindly did, and dropped us off at the door (her own baby was only a few weeks old).

So Katie and I spent two nights alone at another hospital. This time, she at least got to be in the same room as me. We were actually in the pediatric ward, so I got the hospital bed, and she got the latest arrival at the hospital – the bili-bed. It was a rolling cart that had a photo-therapy light under the clear surface of the “bed.” A special blanket reflected the light to the “up” side of the baby. We stayed there Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday. Katie hated the bili-bed, and I did my best to cuddle her while she lay there. I wanted to nurse her constantly, just so I could hold her, but knew that we would be allowed to leave sooner if I let the lights do their job. Those two days are very vague… I don’t even know what or how I ate! At last, Sunday morning arrived, and with it came two wonderful gifts – Papa and Mama Byrd’s arrival from Kansas, and Katie’s release from the hospital. Praises!

Thankfully, after Katie’s second release from the hospital, life settled into a sense of normalcy. We at last got to enjoy seeing our children all together and being as normal a family as our crazy bunch ever manages to be! My next (and last) post in this series will be a reflective look back… why we believe Katie was perfectly healthy at birth, what I’ve learned from the experience, and good stuff like that.

Katie’s Birth Story –
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, The Power of a Picture

Katie’s Birth Story – Part 4

Part 4 – The Gentle Giant
In time, Dr. Pyle arrived. He was huge. Not overweight, but tall and strong. I don’t have any legitimate assessment of how tall he was, but he seemed enormous. His hands looked like he could have palmed a basketball without effort. And yet, this huge man was one of the most gentle people I have ever encountered.

One of the first things out of Dr Pyle’s mouth was the statement, “I love breech births.” Having spent months researching our childbirth options in the St. Louis area, this comment dropped our jaws. What a reminder of God’s sovereignty. He brought us the only doctor we know of in St. Louis who would actually welcome a breech presentation!

Dr. Pyle very respectfully prepared me for an internal exam to see what he could learn about how and what Baby was doing. Ever so gently, he checked for a presenting part (what part of the baby’s body is closest to the cervix) and waited through the next contraction to see how Baby was handling things. This confirmed that Baby’s bottom was coming down during contractions to help the cervix open. He could feel the umbilical cord before the contraction, but not during, and Baby’s heartones were fine during contractions, so it was evident that the cord was being pushed safely out of the way with each contraction.

This gentle giant of a man had obviously been prepared for us. He knew that our desire was to birth this baby vaginally. We talked for several minutes about the possibilities… that if we attempted a vaginal delivery and had a complication, I would have to go under general anesthesia instead of local, because time would be of the essence. I agreed that I was willing to go that route if needed. My comfort is nothing to me in the face of the safety of my child. He assured us that the team would be ready at a moment’s notice if they were needed, but strongly impressed on us his belief that we could do this. He obviously respected us as parents and was eager to support us however he could.

Dr. Pyle left the room to give us privacy, and simply asked Cindy to buzz him when she needed him. As he walked out, he noticed my verses on the TV monitor and remarked on how much he liked them. What a blessing. And what a needed reminder at that moment… “In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” God was making it abundantly clear that He was faithful. How could I do anything other than continue to trust?

I think Dr. Pyle must have given the rest of the staff the signal that we were to be left alone. I don’t remember anyone else entering the room until we called for them.

So it was down to business. The plan was simple. Wait, breathe, let my body and Baby do the work. Pray. Wait and breathe past my former definition of “have to push.” Pray. Wait. Breathe. Be thankful beyond measure for my wonderful husband, doula, and midwife. Wait. Breathe. Pray. Repeat until there was no possible way to not push.

I don’t know how long this stage lasted. Time was irrelevant. The waves came and went. Embrace them… then let them go. Almost like a dance. A very intense, hardworking dance.

I begin to know, and think I stated out loud, that it wouldn’t be long. Cindy decided she needed to check on Baby. In the midst of a contraction, she lifted my leg. My concentration broken, I could no longer resist the urge to push. Pop! The amniotic sack burst… all over. Cindy turned to hit the buzzer for Dr. Pyle, (another irresistible push from me) and turned back to see Baby on the bed. Elizabeth Katherine had decided it was time for her arrival, and her birth was one of the most empowering/trust building events in my life.

And I would need all the faith available for the events of the next couple weeks…

Katie’s Birth Story –
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, The Power of a Picture

Katie’s Birth Story – Part 3

I began to post Katie’s birth story the night of her birthday… almost two weeks ago. Exciting things broke the next day (the Supreme Court ruling), and I’ve been distracted ever since. Tonight, I finally have had the opportunity to get the next section ready. And whether this is a warning or a promise depends on how you feel about birth stories, but Katie’s will be by far the longest. At least, as best as I can guess!

Part 3 – The Hospital (and Looking Back on Preparation)
As instructed, we entered the hospital via the Emergency Room entrance, something that quite honestly irritated me. I was having a baby, not an emergency. I walked up to the admission desk and informed them that I was there because I was in labor. The woman behind the desk looked at me in astonishment, then announced, “You’re not in labor. You’re way too happy to be in labor!” I assured her that truly, I was in labor, I had a great deal to be happy about, and that I was to meet my midwife at the hospital. She acquiesced and got things in order for me to be taken up to Labor and Delivery.

An orderly brought out a wheelchair, and I about had a fit. I was indignant – I was not sick, and walking is one of the best things for me to do in labor. They were pretty insistent and Jonathan urged me to go ahead and have ride (the whole “pick your battles” business, I think). So we headed upstairs.

I believe Cindy, our CNM, was waiting for us at L&D. I don’t remember being there without her, anyway, for which we were thankful. I don’t remember when Barb (our doula) arrived, but I remember being so thankful to see her face! If I recall correctly, Cindy first checked to see if I was dilating. I was 8 ½ centimeters dilated! I remember thinking, “yep, just what I thought… about 8 cm.” I didn’t have long to glory in my accurate assessment of what my body was doing (or to wish that someone would go tell that woman at the desk in the ER), though. As Cindy checked me, her face mirrored her concern.

The next step was to palpate for Baby’s position. The look of concern increased. I was not surprised when Cindy said that she would like to bring in the ultrasound machine to get a better idea of how Baby was lying. My first ultrasound ever… and sure enough, Baby was lying face up and horizontal across my belly. With contractions, Baby’s hiney would drop down toward my cervix.

Cindy’s agreements with the hospital and her supervising physician required that a doctor be called in at this point. She told us that her supervising doctor was out of town this weekend, and that it was a good thing, because she would have insisted on an immediate C-Section. Since the supervising doc was out of town, her backup was called in.

While we waited for the doctor to arrive, we relaxed and prayed as best with could with all the activity going on around us. It was during this time that I had one of my few testy moments of the evening. There were (what seemed to me) multitudes of people in and out of our room, ob nurses, peds nurses and doctors, etc, etc. We were in a large, very nice room. But as a woman accustomed to the intimate environment of my home (with only attendees I’ve chosen) for the very private matter of birthing my babies, there was probably no room big enough! As the room filled with various people trying to do their jobs, I asked in the sweetest voice I could muster, “Do all of you need to be in here at the same time?” Miraculously, the room emptied! And maintained a wonderfully low population for most of the evening.

While we waited for the doctor, we addressed many issues with and signed any number of forms for the hospital staff. We were well informed parents who had obviously researched the issues, and were willing to discuss things rationally and logically. For the most part, we found our decisions honored, though there were disturbing exceptions we discovered later.

One of the key issues for the hospital staff was the question of Group B strep. It’s the only issue that I’m going to go address specifically, as it relates to the later story. I had actually tested positive for Group B a month or so earlier, though I’m not certain to this day that it was a clean test. Group B strep can cause serious, life threatening complications when it is passed from a mother to a baby. Though we were not sure of the accuracy of my positive Group B test, we agreed to allow the hospital staff to administer antibiotics to me in order to pass that protection on to the baby.

As we waited, I lay on mostly on my side – my best position for maintaining focus. This was somewhat hampered by the IV antibiotics and by the monitors strapped to my belly. Neither of these were part of our plan, but under the circumstances, we didn’t find them wise battles to fight.

One of my preparations for this momentous event was to print out some of my favorite verses to put up in my room. Jonathan taped my verses up for me, and wow, was I thankful for the reminders! God’s Word helped me focus amazingly, and reminded me that I and Baby were safe in His loving hands, no matter what circumstances were to come.

One section of verses I felt the Lord had given me for this birth was posted on the TV screen across the room from the bed in large friendly letters.

This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
In the LORD, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
Psalm 56.9b-11

God’s wisdom and grace in preparing me for this birth astound me till this day.

Remember all that birth story reading I mentioned earlier? I read all kinds of birth stories while I was pregnant. Home births, water births, twin births, breech births, unassisted births, births with midwives, births with doctors, etc. I even read a few hospital birth stories (big grin). My one requirement was that the stories I read reflect a positive outlook on birth, and a belief in the design of the female body for giving birth.

Did you notice “breech births” in that list above? For some reason (also known as Providence) I had read a lot of breech birth stories during this pregnancy. Even as we were on the way to the hospital, I realized that I knew what I needed to do to birth this baby (who, I had admitted to myself by that time, was in some sort of breech position). As I breathed my way through the drive to the hospital, I watched in my mind’s eye as my uterus and cervix did their work. I opened myself up to willingly let my body do what God had designed it to do. And I knew that He would help me to be patient and to wait past any point that in previous births I would have labeled as “have to push.” He would help me let my body do its work, and let Baby have the time and opportunity to have the best possible entrance into this world.

As I lay on my left side, breathing and praying, these are the thoughts that went through my head. Jonathan was there praying with me, as was Barb, who was also doing wonderful things with counter-pressure to help relieve my lower back.

Katie’s Birth Story –
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, The Power of a Picture

Katie’s Birth Story – Part 2

Approaching The Time:

As we reached the portion of pregnancy when prenatal visits happen every two weeks, we found that Baby just couldn’t settle down. One week, head down. Next visit, vertex (sideways). Next visit, head down. 36 week visit… I think the head is here… maybe here? Well, there’s time. Baby will settle into a head down position soon.

Three days before the 37 week mark, we enjoyed a leisurely Saturday morning before heading out to Washington, Missouri for a session in a personal growth program with some friends/mentors. The older four children played at another friend’s house. Shortly after five in the evening, I realized that the reason I just couldn’t get comfortable was that I was having regular contractions! We decided to get on home so that I could lay down, so we picked up the other Blessings and headed home. While we sat at our friends house waiting for the children to get ready to go, I was having to breath and focus to get through contractions.

The stated plan was that we were going home to get things slowed down and hopefully stopped. As I breathed my way home (about a 45 minute drive), I was aware of two things that I was unwilling to even think consciously, much less speak out loud. One was that this was serious labor, and our chances of stopping it were slim to none. The second was that our baby was not head down.

Our time at home that evening is a bit of a blur to me. I remember lying on our bed, making phone calls and trying to not be too picky as I gave Jonathan last minute directions about what to pack. By this point, whether by spoken or unspoken communication, we both knew we were not just going up to the hospital “just in case.” The hospital where our midwife had privileges was about an hour from our home, so we (rather, Jonathan) packed as if we were headed there to have a baby. Then we hit the road again and dropped the oldest four off at Uncle Doug and Aunt Joyce’s place on our way to the hospital.

The drive to the hospital was pretty intense. I don’t believe that labor was intended to be dealt with while one is buckled in (or strapped down) and unable to move. I think I was mostly quiet on the way… praying and focusing on working with my body.

Katie’s Birth Story –
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, The Power of a Picture

Katie’s Birth Story – Part 1

One of my goals for birthday season this year was to write up the Blessings’ birth stories and post them on their birthdays. The first three birthdays went by so quickly that I didn’t get to any of them (though I’d still like to get them done this summer). I’ve been working on Katie’s, and though I’m not finished yet, I’ll post the first installment of her story tonight on her birthday.

After a good deal of prayer and seeking counsel, we moved to Missouri in August of 2000. Even before we moved, and before I was pregnant with our fifth child, we began preparing for our first hospital birth. We had no desire to birth in a hospital unless there was a medical need to do so, but because independent midwives (like the certified professional midwives who had assisted with our first four births at home in Kansas) were illegal in Missouri, our options were limited. So the learning process began.

One of my first missions upon moving was to find out exactly what options were available to us in the St. Louis area. It was a long and frustrating process! Along the way, I met some wonderful ladies and got involved in Friends of Missouri Midwives – a life changing development, to say the least. After research, interviews, and countless phone calls, we connected with a neat CNM who had delivery privileges at a local hospital. We also began a lifetime friendship with a wonderful Christian lady who agreed to be our doula.

Throughout my pregnancy, I was in a state of learning. I had depended greatly on my midwife for my first four births, but I had a growing realization that there was much that I needed to learn for myself to prepare for birth in Missouri. I learned about birth, about myself, about hospital tests and procedures, and so much more. I read birth story after birth story online, and found that to be one of the most educational and empowering activities I engaged in while my baby grew.

Jonathan and I studied up on standard hospital protocol. We researched various tests and procedures for their evidence-based worth. We decided where we stood and why about a vast array of issues, and did our utmost to fulfill our responsibility to be well-informed decision makers on behalf of our growing child. This would serve us well during labor and delivery. Our only regret is that we were not better prepared for what would happen after the birth…

Katie’s Birth Story –
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, The Power of a Picture