Joel’s Birth Story
Disclaimer: This story contains details that might be too much information for some. Read at your own risk!
On Wednesday October 6, I had my 39 week prenatal appointment and decided I would let the doctor check my cervix; they had been offering for the past few weeks and I kept declining as I felt it was too early and not important. He ended up stripping my membranes and telling me I was one to two centimeters, 80 percent effaced, and the baby was head down and coming down nicely. This was exciting news!
After that appointment, I lost my mucous plug, which was also encouraging as it indicated something might be brewing! I was super emotional on Wednesday night, and despite that, Jay and I went to our new church home group. It was a huge blessing to worship with our new friends and they ended the night by praying over us for Joel’s delivery.
After just a few hours of fragmented pregnant sleep, I woke up at 4 am on Thursday morning (October 7). I was having painful contractions, so I got out of bed and went to work on the labor projects I had arranged, including art projects and baking. After attempting to get started, I realized I could not work through the contractions and had to stop, lean on the kitchen counter, and breathe through each one. This was not in my plan! I was thinking early labor would begin with less frequent, easier contractions. Around 5:30 that morning, I woke Jay because I needed help to focus through the contractions.
We started walking around our neighborhood and it was a really sweet time. The stars were bright and the air was cool and crisp. We talked and cried tears of joy over the upcoming birth of our little guy. While I had to stop and lean on Jay during contractions every two to three minutes, we were able to pray and worship during that time. Around 7 am the contractions were still two to three minutes apart and getting stronger. We continued to walk and called our wonderful doula, Nicole. Our plans were to labor at home with her as long as possible.
When Nicole arrived, I was already in the tub. My back was really starting to hurt during contractions and the shower seemed to make it more bearable. We labored a while longer then decided to go into the doctor’s office to check and see where we were, as my contraction pattern suggested I was in active labor. The car ride there was intense, and we freaked out a few people between the parking lot and elevators with my breathing and leaning on walls for support. The doctor checked me and said that I was now two centimeters. This was disappointing news, but we took it in stride and headed home. I knew that first labors can last for days, so we continued to do what we were doing. Meanwhile, my mom jumped on a plane from
to make it here for the birth. Atlanta
All afternoon and evening on Thursday Jay, Nicole, and I used every technique we knew to labor at home. We walked in our back yard, squatted, used the birth ball, hands and knees, leaning, rocking, slow dancing…anything we could think of. The back pain was intense and the only way I endured the contractions was tons of counter pressure and the hip squeeze. Mom arrived somewhere in the middle of all this and jumped in. We now had a birth team of four, and this was vital! I was unable to eat anything or lie down for more than a few minutes during this time, so as the night went on, I became more and more exhausted.
Around 3 am we decided that I had been at this for nearly 24 hours, and I needed a change of scenery. I was getting discouraged, so we headed into the hospital. On arrival, I was still two centimeters. Emotionally, I was discouraged to say the least. I knew what I was feeling and it did not match up with that cervical exam. While at the hospital, I gained new energy and motivation to speed things along, so my team took turns resting and walking/squatting with me in the halls. Providentially, we ran into a good friend in the halls whose wife had just delivered by Cesarean that night. He was discouraged with the outcome of a surgical birth and reminded me that medical intervention is not without consequences. This was exactly the reminder I needed in that moment.
When the doctor arrived around 8 am to re-check me, I had a renewed focus and determination to labor as naturally as possible. He said I was two to three centimeters and that I could stay in the hospital and get some pain medication, but we opted to go home. He encouraged me to take something to help me rest and see if the contractions could space out enough to re-energize me. Meanwhile, our doula Nicole did some research and learned that having one’s membranes stripped can often cause a dysfunctional, false labor. Having that information, we headed home and I took a large dose of Tylenol PM. (It’s funny the things you do in certain circumstances; I would not have believed that I would take sleeping pills while pregnant!) I had the best three hours sleep of my life that morning/afternoon, and woke with a spaced out contraction pattern. I was disappointed and embarrassed that the events of the day before did not result in a baby, but mostly relieved for a break. The Lord provided exactly what I needed in that moment.
Friday evening I was able to eat a hamburger (the first meal since dinner on Wednesday), watched TV with Mom and Jay, and took some warm baths. Everyone went to bed early that night and I took more Tylenol and attempted to rest. But around 10 pm, my contractions started gaining intensity. Looking back I see the grace of the Lord to give me the wonderful break of Friday morning into that evening. I know I could not have made it through without! I stayed up Friday night into early Saturday morning watching TV to distract me and using the birth ball to endure contractions that went from 10-15 minute intervals down to about 5 minutes by 4 am. The back pain was intense and I got into bed with my mom and Jay at different points in the early morning hours so someone could provide counter pressure on my back. A little after 4 am on Saturday morning, (October 9), I woke up Jay and we started again.
We walked around our neighborhood (once more) in the early morning hours and looked at the stars. However, I was not in a joyful place at this time around, and had to cry out to the Lord with each contraction for strength. Despite my asking him not to, Jay called our doula back around 9 am that day as contractions came down to three to four minute intervals and maintained intensity. This morning was the low point for us. Jay and I were both emotionally and physically exhausted. He was overwhelmed with the amount of pain I was still experiencing, and I couldn’t help but wonder if anything was changing. One distinct moment stands out where we ended up sobbing in each others’ arms through a contraction. This was not what I envisioned labor would look like, but in the end brought extreme intimacy and spiritual need for the Lord.
The back labor continued and I knew this meant Joel was in a strange or Occiput Posterior position. Nicole arrived mid-morning and saved the day, once more. This morning is a blur, but involved more hip squeezing, hands and knees positioning, and walking in the back yard and leaning on a chain-link fence during contractions. By this point, I know our neighbors think we are insane. They’ve seen us walking for two full days, and one even offered to call an ambulance at one point!
By noon, I hit rock bottom emotionally. I was convinced I could not labor much longer, and we all agreed it was time to go back to the hospital. The car ride there was difficult as I wrestled with the possibility of remaining two to three centimeters dilated. All along, I struggled with feelings of embarrassment. How could a labor and delivery nurse continue to show up only two centimeters dilated? Why was my labor pattern so intense without resulting in normal progression? I knew my contractions were acting like active labor, but why could I not get there?
Once more, we arrived and settled in at the hospital around 1 pm. The only doctor I had not met from my practice was on call and he arrived to check me right away. I was overjoyed to hear that I was now five centimeters dilated. I remember asking “You are not making this up, are you? Are you sure?” Everyone at the hospital was wonderful and they let me get into the whirlpool tub immediately.
It’s a bit of a blur, but I was in that tub for about five or six hours. We had my labor mix of music going the whole time and while the contractions grew stronger, I look back on this time as joyful work. I had a renewed sense of encouragement and drive to meet my baby. One of my favorite labor memories is being in the tub on my hands and knees and swaying to the music of Third Day’s Offerings album. I felt so grateful that the Lord had answered my prayers and let my labor progress. Jay, Nicole, and my mom continued to serve me well by providing counter pressure and hip squeezes in the tub as my back grew more and more uncomfortable. It was quite a sight, I’m sure! Our nurse was great and came in to listen to Joel every 30 minutes while I stayed in the water, and he continued to have accelerations of his heart rate, which was music to my ears.
At some point that afternoon, I asked to be checked and I had progressed to seven centimeters quickly. Joel continued to be at a minus one station, which was a bit discouraging to hear, but I remained positive and continued to work through each contraction. Transition came while I was in the tub, and I was suddenly extremely hot. I remember Nicole adding a bucket of ice to the tub to cool me down! My nurse kept telling me that I was “so close” and asked about an urge to push. While I wanted to push and finish, I couldn’t feel anything but lots of pressure and back pain.
I ended up getting out of the tub around 7 pm at the change of shift. Around this time the doctor returned and told me I was nine centimeters dilated, but baby’s head remained at a minus one station. We decided to walk to try and encourage Joel to come down. For the next four hours, Nicole, Jay and I walked around the room, squatted through contractions, used hands and knees positioning, the toilet, and the birth ball to encourage Joel to rotate and drop. The contractions remained intense and continued in a three to four minute pattern with extreme back pain. I remember hanging off the bed rails and moaning with these contractions and starting to really worry about Joel’s station. I knew he was a big baby, my back labor could not have been worse, and with a station of minus one, I thought we may be in trouble. During this four hour time, the doctor broke my water to try and help me along, and I looked down to see particulate meconium fluid (meaning Joel had a bowel movement inside me). All this worried me, but I continued to pray and remain focused. I begged God to allow me to deliver vaginally.
Sometime around 11 pm, the doctor came in and sat on the end of the bed. In this moment I had surprising clarity. He hi-lighted everything I already knew; I was still nine centimeters and now had some cervical swelling, Joel had not moved from his minus one station, I’d been laboring for days, I had a presumably large baby, and it seemed with my pattern of back labor that he was mal-positioned. He said that we needed to get this baby out and I had two main options: go for a Cesarean now, or try and start Pitocin and get an epidural in hopes of relaxing my body. Both were options I never wanted, but in that moment, I felt extreme peace. I opted for option two; I was not willing to give up on a vaginal birth now!
My dimly lit birthing room with soft music suddenly became bright and full of people bustling around. The epidural process was one of the easiest parts of labor, and I had a great anesthesiologist who gave me the smallest possible dose so I could still feel my contractions. After an hour or so, (now October 10) when I was hooked to all the wires and tubes, they came to check me once more. Sadly, I now had increased swelling, and was only six to seven centimeters as a result. Joel remained high, and at this point, I was convinced I would need a C-Section. Jay and my mom were visibly shaken and upset, but the Lord gave me surprising peace. We all prayed continually that God would do a miracle.
My nurse decided to try some different positions for me to try in the bed in attempts to allow Joel to rotate and decrease my swelling. She brought in another nurse who had been to a conference in
where she learned to use an ice pack on one’s cervix while putting the bed in Trendelenburg position. (This is when the head of the bed is lowered about 30-45 degrees so the feet are above the head). At this point, I was up for trying anything. With the help of two nurses, I sat on my head for about an hour with an ice glove in place. While in this strange and uncomfortable spot, I felt Joel’s head spin. It was the strangest sensation, but I knew exactly what had happened; my baby had turned! California
They re-checked for the last time, and I was 10 centimeters, 100 percent effaced, and now a plus one station! We were all in shock as I began to push. After an hour of pushing, the doctor came in and reported I had not moved my baby much and suggested forceps as an option to aid in delivery. I was afraid. I’ve never seen forceps used and immediately had visions of cerebral palsy. This vision, along with some severe vomiting, gave me the extra force I needed to push in the right direction. Joel started moving and about two hours later, I was delivering! The process of pushing was powerful, uncomfortable, and emotional for all of us. We’d had a long 72 hours, but were re-energized to meet baby Joel!
Pushing Joel out was such a joyful experience. When he was put on my belly, I was immediately overcome with love like I’d never known. He is amazing and I am so grateful for every moment of my labor and delivery, despite the struggle. I’m confident the Lord gave me exactly what I needed and could handle, and that he used the process to draw me to himself and bind Jay and I closer together. I’m reminded of the verse from Matthew where Jesus says:
"…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
I know that God moved the mountains for me during this process! We are so thankful for our birth and healthy baby boy. Joel was born October 10, 2010 (his due date) at 4:51 am. He weighed 9 pounds, 5 ounces and was 21 ½ inches long.
The Double Hip Squeeze saved my life! (This is not me).