ANDRIE'S BIRTH STORY
When Joe and I first began talking about starting our family, I thought here and there about how I would want to birth. While I was reading about natural birth I came across a documentary called The Business of Being Born. It opened our eyes to so many things regarding childbirth, and we both agreed I should get in contact with a midwife. A few days later I met with one of the midwives at Mid-City OBGYN, Erin, who graciously and patiently answered all of my questions. At the end of the appointment, I knew I wanted to work with these midwives, and I made the switch then and there.
The main reason we decided to go natural was because we simply felt the Lord leading us to it. We just knew that it was right for us because God aligned both of our hearts to feel the same way and he gave us a great peace about it. There are also many sub-reasons why I/we chose to pursue a natural birth, and here are just a few:
I was honestly way more afraid of NOT feeling anything than FEELING everything.
I also WANTED to feel everything. I wanted to know what was happening. I wanted to FEEL and FULLY EXPERIENCE this baby descending and entering the world. I wanted to FEEL my body working to let me meet my baby. I wanted to FEEL my baby working with my body to meet me. I wanted to FEEL the progress. I wanted to FEEL the miracle. I wanted to FEEL how powerful my body is.
I wanted to be fully present and alert when I got to meet my baby for the very first time - and I wanted my baby to be fully alert as she took her first breath, let out her first cry, looked at her mama and daddy, and nursed for the first time. I didn’t want medication to alter that experience - even if it would have just been a little drowsiness.
I have become very passionate about this: Society has made birth out to be something that should be feared. It has made birth a medical procedure instead of a natural, miraculous experience. And I wanted an EXPERIENCE, not a procedure. I wanted to be excited to birth my baby, not terrified of it. And our culture and all of its movies tell us that birth is excruciating, that it is something to be numbed, and that we will be miserable. And I decided that would NOT be MY birth. And it wasn’t!
From the moment we decided to go natural I blocked out anything negative about birth. I had realistic expectations, but I chose not to read about birth horror stories or listen to anyone who doubted natural birth. I knew that my mind was a major player in the game and if my mind was positive and focused on the Lord, I would be just fine. One way I helped prepare my mind was by reading through birth affirmations - encouraging phrases and Bible verses. My word was “surrender” - I chose to surrender to my body, surrender to the process of birth, surrender to the pain, and surrender to the Lord. I literally practiced surrendering to the pain anytime I would get a headache, stomach ache, etc. I would close my eyes, relax my entire body, imagine waves gently crashing over me and surrender to the pain. And it really helped!
Joe and I had talked early on about if we should hire a doula. We were preparing for birth together and reading a great book (The Birth Partner) that helped prepare Joe for how to help me during labor. He felt confident and I was confident in him, so we decided we’d be just fine. Then just before I hit 37 weeks, I started to get this gut feeling (and I know by now that gut feelings are from the Holy Spirit!) that we needed a doula. Joe was still confident in his ability to help me, and I never doubted him either - I just KNEW that for whatever reason, God was telling me we needed to get a doula. And looking back, I know exactly why! We hired a doula with just 2 weeks to spare.
LABOR & BIRTH
On Friday, April 13th, Joe and I went to my prenatal appointment. I was 39 weeks + 2 days. I declined a check because they don’t tell you much anyway, and I didn’t feel anywhere near close to having a baby yet. When we got back from the appointment, Joe did some yard work and I bounced on the exercise ball in the driveway. I was messaging with my doula and she told me to try telling the baby I was ready for the big arrival and that it actually works for many women! So I rubbed my belly and told baby I was ready, that we were so excited to met him or her, and that he or she was welcome to come whenever the time was right.
A little while later, Joe and I went to Oscar’s for supper. While we were waiting for our table, my mom called and told me to try not to have a baby that weekend because there was a potential blizzard and they might not be able to get to town. A friend also asked if I felt like I was getting close to going into labor. I told both of them that I definitely did NOT feel like baby was coming in the next couple of days at all! After Oscar’s, we picked up my biggest pregnancy craving - a Triple Chocolate Meltdown from Applebee’s - and I asked Joe if we could just drive around for awhile. During that drive, I was having TONS of Braxton Hicks - I had many throughout the third trimester, but these ones were almost constant. I started to wonder if my body was kicking things into gear and getting ready for labor. But it really was just a passing thought!
That night we went to bed early because I was feeling pretty tired. Right around 10:30 I had a stronger contraction, but I had a few of those throughout the week so I didn’t give it another thought and went to sleep. At 11:52 I woke up with another one - definitely the strongest I had felt - and timed it JUST in case. When it was over I went to the bathroom and noticed I was bleeding. My first thought was that it was my bloody show and I thought, “Not tonight! I’m not ready!” not because I wasn’t ready - I just think I was surprised! But I soon realized it wasn’t exactly what a bloody show would be like and got nervous, so I called the midwife who was on call. After chatting she assured me I had nothing to worry about and said to call back if I have more contractions that were 4 minutes apart. I went back to bed and fell right asleep.
I woke up again at 12:01 and had 5 contractions at random intervals until 12:40, and then slept until the next one at 2:58. Sometime around then I called the midwife back because I had gone back to the bathroom and was still bleeding. She assured me it was fine, and that she had to go to a delivery and again said to call back when contractions were 4 minutes apart. Between 2:58 and 3:48, I had 6 contractions that were anywhere from 7-9 minutes apart. At 3:41 I texted my doula, Aly, to let her know I was having random but decently close contractions and that I was slightly nauseous and shaky after them. She said to rest as much as possible and let her know when I needed hands on support. I then had a long break for almost 1.5 hours. Then from 5:07-7:33 I had several contractions with breaks anywhere from 3 to 11 minutes apart. Since they were all over the place, I didn’t think I was anywhere near having this baby. But the intensity was definitely ramping up. I thought that maybe by the following evening we'd meet our baby. I mentally prepared to be in labor for quite awhile.
When I felt a contraction coming on, I would get on my hands and knees, and when it passed I would flop down on my left side and try to sleep, even for just a couple of minutes. Laboring was intense and exhausting! Joe did whatever I asked and didn’t get offended when I pushed his hand off of my back...ha! He was great at remembering labor techniques and I was so impressed. He held the trash can when I got sick at one point when the contractions moved to my back - that was definitely the most intense part. I wouldn’t even call labor painful - just REALLY, REALLY, REALLY intense. I don’t know how else to describe it! I had three thoughts in my mind as I labored - one was my word “surrender”, another was “women have been doing this for ages, and right now there are women all over the world birthing with me” and once the contractions became stronger, my thought was just “Jesus”. I knew the Spirit would intercede on my behalf to give words to my simple prayer.
At 7:35 Joe texted the doula from my phone saying we needed support. He let her know where the contractions were at and that I was breathing and moaning through them, couldn’t talk and had an internal rhythm down. She said she would get ready to head over. At 7:53 my contractions suddenly all dropped to 3 minute intervals - keep in mind that right before this I was having up to 9 minute breaks between many of them! I was not getting rest between them as the “break” was just the intensity moving to my back. So much for “longer, stronger, closer together” all the books talk about....I just went from random contractions to transition! Aly showed up at 8:15, got a cold washcloth and did some other laboring techniques. At this point I was feeling a pushing pressure but didn’t think I could possibly be anywhere close to pushing - I figured I still had hours and hours to go! I remember thinking “I think I’m in transition!” And immediately after thinking “There’s no way I’m in transition already!”
Aly soon said it was probably time to go to the hospital. I got up, made it maybe 7 steps out of the bedroom into the hallway and got down on the floor with a contraction. I needed to push, but Aly told me not to and I tried with all my might to resist. I knew at that point that we had to hurry. Once the contraction passed I went as fast as I possibly could to the garage and made it right by the car and got down on the garage floor and labored through another contraction, trying not to push and thinking “I can’t believe I’m on the garage floor!” as I stared at a leaf, haha. But the cool concrete felt good. When it passed, Aly helped me in the back seat and told Joe she’d meet us there. I quickly said “NO! PLEASE COME WITH US!” and she didn’t argue! I sat in the middle back seat, between Aly and the car seat, on my knees with my arms hanging over the back of the seat. I remember thinking it was probably going to feel like a century before we got to the hospital, so I decided to try to keep my eyes closed the whole time. Aly told me to do horse lips and moan really deeply, and I didn’t hesitate to do exactly what she said, and it did help. At one point I looked up to see a pickup behind us and wondered if they could see in and realize there was a crazy lady in labor! It felt like only a blink of an eye later when I heard Joe on the phone with my mom. I looked up and realized we were taking the exit right by the hospital, and I couldn’t believe we were already there! Right about then I had an intense urge to push and I exclaimed, “BABY’S COMING!” Aly told me “Don’t push! Don’t push!” I trusted her and pushed only a tiny bit - just enough to get some relief.
When we pulled up to the entrance, I thought “there’s no way I can walk or sit in a wheelchair going up to the second floor. I HAVE to be on my hands and knees and there’s only one way that can happen…” so I firmly exclaimed “I NEED A F***ING STRETCHER!!!!” It’s true that women in labor have no filter!! It was 9:10. Aly came out with a large wheelchair which I made do with by riding on my knees and leaning over the back. Frustratingly enough the buttons for the doors weren’t working and Joe had to manually open them while pushing me since Aly went to park the car. When we made it inside I thought, “I wonder what everyone is thinking”, but I had no idea the lobby was actually empty. I had my eyes closed the entire time - I was in my zone. But I knew I probably looked like a hot mess!
Next thing I knew, we were on the second floor (after another door didn’t open and Joe had to maneuver me in while opening it himself). I didn’t remember this until later when I asked Joe, but the nurses took over and rushed me into the delivery room. Deep down I knew this baby was coming but in my mind I couldn’t fathom that it was happening so quickly, but I saw them getting the trays out with all the tools and knew that this was the real deal! The nurses got me sideways on the bed and my midwife, Marilyn, lifted my left leg to check me. Her finger went in and I felt a HUGE pop. My water literally shot out and exploded all over her! I remember her saying, “WOAH! Okay Jamie you’re going to give me 3 pushes and we’re going to have a baby!” and I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! I was complete, 10 centimeters!!
(The following is the exact play-by-play thanks to Aly taking a video!) They got me on the bed and put a monitor on to check on baby. It felt SO GOOD to finally push - very relieving. When the contractions passed I felt so much more relief than I had for a long time! I was able to actually relax between them. After the first push, I knew that there was no way the nurses were going to pull out my birth plan to read it over, so I quickly said the things that were most important to me: “I want Joe to help me catch it” and “Nobody tell me the gender, I wanna look!” Then Marilyn told me she had been working with somebody else that had been trying for a long time and here I walk in and we’re having a baby! I said, “I can’t believe it!” I was shaking a ton and then another contraction came. When it was over I looked deep into Joe’s eyes as I breathed it out. At that point the nurse said we need oxygen and Marilyn calmly but confidently told me we needed a long, steady push. She said babe was a little shell shocked with everything that was happening. I didn’t know it at the time but her heart rate had dropped to 60. Marilyn did a great job of letting me know this next push was urgent without scaring me. I knew I had a job to do. I had a long, silent push. When that contraction passed, they gave me some oxygen. At this point in the video you can hear that baby’s heart rate slow down even more. As the next contraction came on, Marilyn said we really needed a long, steady push and that we need to get this baby out. I pushed as hard as I possibly could and baby crowned. I remember thinking “this must be the ring of fire” but it honestly didn’t hurt - it just felt like stretching. I was not in any discomfort at this point, I was just pushing as hard as I possibly could, and it was a lot of work! At this point a male doctor came in, which I was unaware of until I heard Joe say, “Sorry sir, she doesn’t want any males in here” and Marilyn said, “he’s my backup” and a nurse said, “he’s here for safety”. I really didn’t care - it wasn’t that I was against a necessary male doctor, I just didn’t want males who weren’t absolutely needed to be in the room. But I was SO PROUD of Joe for remembering that preference and advocating for me! I pushed again and Marilyn snipped me to help move things along. At this point on the video you cannot hear a heartbeat, so I am confident the episiotomy was necessary and I am thankful that Marilyn did what she had to do. I had no idea it even happened until Aly told me later! Marilyn made one more cut to get that baby out and her head popped all the way out, and Joe and I reached down to catch our baby. It was 9:24am. I started screaming quick screams (I just couldn’t believe I was actually meeting my baby!!) and once she was on my chest I screamed “My baby! My baby! Oh God, my baby!” over and over. The nurses started rubbing her down to get her breathing going and I asked, “Don’t tell me what it is but is it okay?” The nurse replied, “We just need a deep breath” and Marilyn said, “Baby’s kind of had a little bit of a stun." I said, “Hi baby!” and she started crying. Marilyn asked, “Do you want to see what type of baby you got there?” I had forgotten all about the gender for a minute! And as I looked I asked, “What is it? Is it a girl?!” (I thought so but wanted to be absolutely sure! Ha! And I was expecting a boy just because I wanted a girl so bad!) And one of the nurses confirmed, “It’s a girl!” And I screamed, “ANDRIE!” And she really started crying. Joe was crying too! Andrie was all tangled in her umbilical cord - I couldn’t believe how long it was - it was around her neck and arms and everything. I was in a state of euphoria. I remember telling Joe, “I did it!” I’ve never felt so proud, so empowered, and so in awe.
Once things settled down, I put Andrie facedown on my chest and she did the breast crawl. I absolutely melted. I couldn’t believe she was actually doing it. Aly then helped us get a latch, and man, did she have a GREAT first latch! It felt so amazing to nurse her. I couldn’t believe that the baby I grew for nine months - who we talked to and loved but was still a mystery - was in my arms - and that we finally knew her name and had seen her face.
Although there are many reasons I wanted a natural birth and many reasons why I would advocate for others to consider it as well, I always come back to this: the Lord knew exactly how my labor would go, and he knew that things would progress quickly and not according to the book. He knew that we would get to the hospital with just 14 minutes to spare. He knew there wouldn’t be time for an epidural even if I wanted one. So while I wouldn’t change a thing and will definitely always plan to go natural for so many reasons, I believe one reason the Lord put it on our hearts and led us to prepare for a natural birth was because he knew that’s what we’d get either way.
I believe he also led us to hire a doula because had we not had Aly, I would have just listened to my body and pushed when I felt the urge. And that would have been at home, on our bed, with only Joe there. And my water would have broke, Andrie would have descended quickly and her heart rate would have dropped, and we would have had no idea. And things could have gone very differently because we would not know that I needed to push with urgency, and I would not have had the episiotomy to help get her out faster. So, had it not been for Aly being there and telling me not to push until we got to the hospital, we would have had an entirely different birth story. And I am so thankful that the Lord put hiring a doula on my heart, that I listened, and that he led Aly to say exactly what she needed to in order to keep my baby safe.
For a long time I have struggled with truly believing that God wants good things for me. And I think that for many years I have tricked myself into THINKING that I believed that God was for me and wanted to give me good things. During pregnancy I realized how much I still struggle with the truth that God delights in giving us things that bring us joy.
This struggle combined with my long-time struggle with anxiety led me to have a lot of anxiety over getting pregnant, the baby being healthy and surviving life in the womb. I was honestly waiting for something bad to happen because things were just happening too easily - it seemed too good to be true. Because I have a really bad habit of believing that good things always end badly. And when nothing bad happened, my doubt in God moved into believing that BECAUSE I was hoping for a girl, we’d have a boy. Not in the surface-level “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” way, but in a “God’s going to teach me a lesson by not giving me what I want” way. Which is an incorrect mindset to have about our God! Our sins were paid for fully by Jesus. Yes, we face consequences for our sins - but they are just that. Consequences. Not punishment. God does not have any punishment left to pour out on us because it was all poured out on Jesus. And if he did, well, then what was the point of Jesus?
When I delivered our baby and saw that it was a girl, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it. Up until the very moment I looked I was expecting it to be all boy, and I even asked just to be sure! I was so in awe and so in love. In the days that followed, I remember telling Joe something like this… It’s like God has been trying to get my attention. Trying to tell me how much he loves me and wants to give me good things and delights in providing me with great joy! He’s been giving me such good gifts, like letting us conceive, see the baby through delivery, and give us a little girl. And the natural birth I wanted so badly. He gave me everything I wanted and more in this pregnancy, birth and child...as if to say, “Jamie, NOW do you believe that I love you and want to give you good things?” And I remember Joe’s exact words in response: “He has not withheld anything.”
Of course God does not always give us what we want...or what we THINK we want. Of course sometimes he takes away good things he gives us, and he has that right. But good golly, he sure was trying to get my attention to tell me that he loves me a whole lot. And whatever happens from here on out in life, be it good or hard, may I always remember that Andrie is HIS before she is ours. May I always remember that he has abundantly poured out his grace.
He has not withheld anything.