Cora’s Birth Story

Week 39: The doctor asks if I want my membranes sweeped  (A procedure where the health care provider puts her or his finger into the cervix and uses the finger to gently separate the bag of water from the side of the uterus near the cervix).  Jon and I talk it over for a few minutes and decide to decline.  With Cameron, I did the sweeping and it was successful in kick starting labor, but only after two days of painful cramping.  So this time around I decided to hold out to see if baby girl would come on her own.

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Spent the rest of the week staring at the clock.

40 week appointment/2 days before my due date: Decided to go ahead and do the membrane sweeping.  Why?  Because I was already uncomfortable and miserable so I figured that even if it got worse for a little while, I would rather just get on with having this baby.  So the doctor did the sweep (around noon) and I went home to rest as much as possible.

Once Cameron awoke from his afternoon nap we hung out around the house since it was in the upper nineties outside.  Blah.  After a while though I could tell that Cameron was getting restless, so I offered to take him to the park at the elementary school down the street.  He scootered to the park and I walked behind him as quickly as I could.  Once there, he played on the playground and ran around a wide open grassy area.  I snapped this photo of him running away.

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When we returned home, we found that Jon was home from work.  Jon and Cameron played football for a while in the backyard and I found myself back on the couch.  I kept a heating pad on my belly to help with the cramping and only had some very mild bleeding.  I couldn’t stop wondering if the sweep was going to work or if I had another week of pregnancy ahead of me.

Once it started to get dark I asked Cameron if he wanted to make popcorn and watch a movie – one of his favorite things to do.  I purchased The Land Before Time on Amazon Instant Video because I really wanted to make the night enjoyable and special instead of just constantly thinking about not wanting to be pregnant anymore.

After the movie, I discovered a text from one of my best friends telling me to call her if I wasn’t in labor yet.  We connected with her and her husband on Face Time and got to celebrate their happy news – that she was pregnant with her first child!  We all stayed on Face Time until about 10 pm.  After hanging up, we quickly put Cameron to bed and we rushed to get ready for bed since we were all up much later than usual.  Especially if labor was around the corner I needed to get some good sleep.

Just before 11 p.m.: Finished brushing my teeth and washing my face.  I chatted with Jon as I picked up a few things in our room.  He was already lying in bed and I could tell he was getting ready to drift off in the middle of one of my sentences (that happens pretty often…okay, very often).

It was then that I noticed myself having some increasingly painful cramping in my abdomen.  I asked Jon if he had packed his hospital bag yet.  He said no, so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind throwing a few things together quickly.  He looked at me reluctantly since he was already half asleep.  I told him that I thought there was a chance that we may need to go to the hospital before morning.  He again, looked at me reluctantly and told me he really didn’t think that was going to happen.  I told him I thought there was a chance so that if he could pack his bag that would be really great.  He quickly packed some basics and crawled back into bed saying, “Well I better get some shut eye if I’m going to have an early morning.”

At this point, some instinct must have kicked in because I suddenly felt more revved up than tired.  Weird.

By ten minutes later I was having what I thought were contractions.  They were painful enough that I was leaning over to brace myself on the bed at times.  At this point I also texted Pam, a friend who was planning on watching Cameron whenever I went into labor to tell her that we may need her to come over sometime during the night, just so she could be ready.  I wanted to give her a heads up, just in case.

I told Jon that maybe we should time my contractions.  Reluctantly, (theme word here?) because he still kept trying to drift off to sleep, he sat up and pulled out his phone to use the stopwatch feature.  At this point I could tell he thought I was overreacting because just a very short time ago I was completely fine and nothing was happening.  But sure enough, it seemed that these pains I was having were five minutes apart and lasting for about a minute each.  Those numbers sounded familiar, but we couldn’t remember what numbers like that meant so we Googled it.  According to whatever source we found on Google, it was definitely time to go to the hospital.  Five minutes apart and lasting a minute are when first time mothers are supposed to go to the hospital.  For second time mothers, it is recommended to go even earlier at seven minutes apart since second labors tend to go much quicker.  Considering that we had a forty minute drive to the hospital I knew I didn’t want to stay at home too long.

After a few more rounds of contractions I realized that the intensity of the contractions was escalating very quickly.  This was very surprising considering that I’d only been having contractions for about twenty minutes now.

Ten minutes later Jon called Pam to tell her to come over. I worked through contractions while Jon hustled around to pack up the rest of his things and the last minute items on my list.

Pam arrived and we chatted for a few minutes.  She prayed for us and off we went.  As soon as I got into the car I realized that I was hungry so I had Jon run back inside to grab me a to-go bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats so I wouldn’t feel queasy on the drive.  It’s a good thing too because at that time I wasn’t even thinking about how once you arrive at the hospital they don’t let you eat or drink anything other than ice chips until you give birth.  So looking back I am reaaaallly glad I had that last minute bowl of mini wheats.

It was midnight when we drove away from our house.  The ironic thing was that multiple times over the weeks leading up to that day I had told friends, “I just hope my labor doesn’t start at 11 p.m.  I want to wake up in the morning, after a good night’s rest, drink a cup of coffee and then realize that my labor is starting.”

So off we drove into the night to the hospital, exactly what I hoped WOULDN’T happen.  However, even though leading up to that point I had hoped it would happen differently, in the moment I was feeling incredibly thankful that all this was happening while Cameron was soundly sleeping in his bed, not having to deal with any kind of stressful transition as we headed off to the hospital.

Just as we left Rio Vista we were greeted by a man holding a STOP sign on the highway.  Construction had been going on all summer long on the highway out of town and at night they switched over to one-lane traffic.  After a minute of waiting I was wondering how long we were going to be stuck.  The contractions were strong at this point and I was needing grip onto something during each one.  I asked Jon to ask the construction worker how long it was going to be.  “Three minutes,” he replied.  This was reasonable enough that I wasn’t going to make Jon insist that we get to go any sooner.

Shortly after we started driving again I felt the urge to start groaning through the contractions.  I wanted to listen to something that would hopefully distract me during the drive.  Out of all things, Jon turned on a motivational high school graduation speech that he’d stumbled across earlier that day.  So random.  So during the drive we listened to a military officer talk about doing something meaningful with your life.  I remember trying to listen for the first ten minutes or so and then just blocking it out.

It was a very peaceful drive to the hospital.  Not the contraction part, but otherwise.  I think we passed only a couple cars the entire way.  The drive to Vacaville is a two-lane highway that runs through miles and miles of fields home to herds of sheep and cattle.  I remember the moon being bright and it feeling like we were the only people out after midnight on a Tuesday…probably because we were.

By the time we arrived at the hospital, the contractions were starting to undo me a bit.  We hurried from the car in through the spinning glass doors, now stopping each time that I had a contraction.  When we arrived at Labor and Delivery it was a bit like checking into a hotel.  Whatever man was behind the desk calmly asked for my ID and my medical insurance card.  He slowly typed information into the computer and looked unphased as I doubled over groaning now once every few minutes.  After what seemed like a rather long check in process, a nurse escorted me and Jon into a room with a hospital bed and a machine used to monitor contractions.

Once I was in the room my contractions escalated to yet another level and felt incredibly thankful that we had left the house when we did.  I couldn’t imagine getting through contractions that strong while still having to sit in the car.  At this point, I was in the rocking-through-contractions phase and I asked for an epidural.  Right before I did I second guessed the decision.  Nobody had even asked me yet if I wanted one.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to be the person who walked in the doors and instantly asked for an epidural.  However, after one more contraction I realized that I was already approaching my breaking point so I put in the request.  The nurse told me I was at a 6, which was encouraging, but I still wanted the epidural.

In my labor with Cameron I made it 23 hours before I agreed to an epidural, but it was a much more slow and steady build of contractions.  I labored for 12 hours at home and then 12 more at the hospital.  I had gone into my first labor so sure that I would have a natural childbirth.  After 23 hours I was still only dilated to a 4 and having almost no break between contractions…at which point I broke down and got the epidural.  After receiving it I gave birth to Cameron 15 minutes later.  The epidural relaxed my body and boda-bing boda-boom.

So while part of me still wanted to try for a natural childbirth this time around, I had promised myself that I would not let myself get to my breaking point before asking for an epidural again.  With Cameron, I waited until I felt I could not handle even one more contraction before I asked for it.  Then the anesthesiologist still had to be called and had to ride his bike to the hospital.  In the meantime, I started hyperventilating and they had to put an oxygen mask on me.  I felt like I was dying and it wasn’t a pretty picture.

So I asked for the epidural and I was still amazed at how long it took from the time I asked for it to the time I actually got it.  Much too long, let me tell you.

They moved me into a delivery room and started to go through the routine procedures of putting an IV into my wrist and getting everything prepped.  It was about an hour and a half from the time I asked for an epidural to the time that I got any relief.  I actually had to have it done twice because after receiving the first one everything still felt the same.  So the anesthesiologist said she’d try it again.

Once the epidural kicked in and the nurse administered a narcotic pain killer I went from experiencing some of the worst pain of my life to just chillin in my double wide hospital bed.  It was so incredibly wonderful to have the nurse tell me that I was actually in the middle of a contraction and not be able to feel it at all.  The nurse turned down the lights in the room, Jon took a nap, and I tried to nap, but found myself unable to really sleep.  I wanted to sleep, but even though I couldn’t feel the pain anymore I was still wildly aware that I was about to have a baby and therefore, couldn’t turn my brain off enough to sleep.  I talked to God for a while and got incredibly emotional at one point over the fact that I was about to meet my daughter.  I also kept checking Facebook because I was bored, but there was not a lot happening on there at 3 a.m.

Around 4:45 a.m. the nurse came in to check on me.  She found that I was a 10 and that my water had broken sometime since the last check.  She told me that she would get everything ready, but that I should be careful not to sneeze or cough very hard or the baby might just pop out.  At first I thought she was kidding, but when I realized she was serious I made myself very careful not to do either of those things.  At this point I started telling Jon to wake up.

About an hour later it seemed that everything and everyone was ready.  Nobody was in a hurry and I wasn’t either since I was just enjoying not being able to feel my toes.  A smiley, bright eyed medical student was also present.  Apparently this was the first birth he had witnessed.  Having him there was amusing because the whole time he looked very amazed slightly shocked at what was happening.

I had the midwife set up the mirror so I could watch the birth.  She told me to do a few quick very small pushes.  I did this a few times and before I knew it I was holding my daughter, Cora Bethany.

From the first contraction until I met her was 6 hours.  Cora was born before Cameron even woke up that morning and realized we were missing.

It was one day before my due date, September 23rd, at 5:49 a.m.  She weighed 6 lbs, 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long.  She was perfect and healthy and beautiful.

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Becoming A Mom: The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Me

Cameron’s Birth Story:

Not my baby bump.  Found the pic here.

There isn’t really very much I enjoyed about being pregnant.

I enjoyed the anticipation of what was to come.

I looked forward to doctor’s visits where I would learn more valuable information about the little life growing inside of me.

I have fond memories of spending evenings reclining on the couch with my husband, staring at my belly, waiting to see the baby move.

I did enjoy birth class because it always felt surreal just being there.

And I liked dreaming about Cameron’s life and future.

However, pregnancy, while full of whimsical moments here and there, was caught up within a larger shell called “enduring.”  I don’t think most women float through pregnancy.  Maybe a lucky few do.  But for most women, I think the nine months feels a lot more like enduring a very tough, very uncomfortable challenge.  One that’s very worth it in the end, of course.  But nonetheless, a challenge.

For this reason, I had a good amount of worry about what would happen once the baby actually arrived.  Sleepless nights, emotional roller coasters and the fear of experiencing Post-Partum Depression all looming in the back, or sometimes in the front of my mind.  I also worried about how my relationship with my husband would change.  Would we still have time for one another?  Would him watching me give birth ruin my feminine mystique, as one co-worker shared with him?  Would I have what it takes to be a good mom?  I think the fear of not being a good mom is what plagued me the most.

When the time came for Cameron to be born, I realized that labor wasn’t quite what I had imagined it to be.  The picture I had in my mind was of a somewhat peaceful, meditative state.  I would give birth “naturally” without any kind of drugs or intervention unless absolutely necessary.  I even remember praying, “Lord, I want to feel the intensity and significance of this event in my life.”  This is a statement I later wished to retract.

Membrane stripping lead to two full days of cramping before my labor actually began.  However, it did work to kick start my labor so it’s still up in the air about whether that was a good choice or not.  It was Saturday, January 14th, four days before my due date.  Jon and I decided to go get coffee at my favorite place in Shell Beach called Seaside Cafe.  I got a decaf vanilla whole milk latte, extra hot, as usual, and we walked around the Dinosaur Caves Park that overlooks the ocean.  We stopped to take a picture, then realized that we’d forgotten the memory card for the camera at home.  A few minutes later I told Jon that I thought I was experiencing contractions.  He didn’t really take me seriously, but that’s exactly what I was experiencing.

Jon and I were planning on going to a local sports bar with friends to watch the 49ers play the Saints, a game he had been looking forward to for weeks now.  I told Jon that he should go watch the game as planned, but that I would go sit on the couch and watch the game from home.  I felt funny imagining myself sitting in a loud, crowded sports bar with male sports fans all around me while I quietly snacked on french fries and secretly had contractions.

At half time Jon came home to join me.  He wanted to come home sooner but I kept telling him through texting that I preferred to be alone.  I wanted some time to just reflect and be quiet before the labor really got going.  I spent most of the second half bouncing on an exercise ball and pacing around our living room.  On commercial breaks I’d head to the kitchen to bake banana bread for the hospital nurses as my doula had suggested.

The 49ers beat the Saints that day in the last three seconds of playing time, securing their place in the Championship Game.  This made for one very happy husband – thankfully, because I don’t know how I would have felt about having a depressed husband support me through labor.

After the game was over, Jon asked me if I had felt Cameron move very much throughout the day.  I honestly couldn’t remember.  So just to be safe, we headed over to the hospital to have things checked out.  It was around 7:00pm by this time, so the hospital felt quiet and peaceful.  I laid down in a hospital bed and a nurse hooked me up to a machine that monitored my contractions and Cameron’s heart rate.

After a while, the nurse informed me that Cameron seemed fine and that I was in fact in labor.  But she suggested that at this point I return home where I’d be more comfortable and come back only when I felt it was necessary.  So we went back home, but returned to the hospital only three hours later.

My labor felt like it went from zero to sixty in the course of one hour.  It became so intense so quickly, that by the time I got to the hospital I was sure that I’d be giving birth at any moment.  However, when the nurse informed me that it was still very early on in my labor, I knew I had a long night ahead of me.

I did a bunch of standing, sitting and breathing.  Later on I would use the tub for three hours straight.  By the time my midwife arrived at the hospital at 7:00am I was nearing the end of my ability to hang on.  Up until that point I had remained calm and extremely focused.  My doula prayed for me, read me some scriptures I had picked out ahead of time and encouraged me to keep relaxing and imagining the baby moving down through the birth canal.

But at 7:00am the midwife informed me that over the course of the last eight hours I had only managed to progress by one centimeter…and that’s when all hell broke loose inside me emotionally.  I broke down into tears and started begging Jon and my doula to help me and make it all stop.

I hung on another couple hours before the idea of some relief from a painkiller seemed worth it.  The drug would allow me to relax more between contractions, but it wouldn’t take the edge off  the contractions themselves.  I appreciated the drug for what it did, but resented it for not doing more for me at the same time.  After two rounds of the drug, I knew I wasn’t allowed any more.  At this point I had been in labor for twenty three hours, and in intense labor for eleven.

The midwife checked me again and informed me that I was still at a four.  I endured a few more contractions before I reached my breaking point and asked for an epidural.  Going into labor, I was convinced that I did not want or need an epidural, so I hadn’t even signed the necessary paperwork to get one.  I had told the first nurse who first tended to me that I didn’t want to have a back up plan.

So now, in a moment of pure frenzy, I pretended to read over the paperwork and quickly scribbled my signature on the dotted line.

The next thirty minutes were the most unfortunate of my labor.  I had waited to to ask for the epidural until I felt like I could not possibly endure even one more contraction.  However, the anesthesiologist still had to be called and he would still have to ride his bike to the hospital.  I started panicking and the nurse gave me an oxygen mask to place over my mouth and nose and she kept telling me to breathe deep.

The anesthesiologist finally arrived.  He casually walked into the room, made some small talk and joked around with the nurses.  It took all the self control I had left in my being not to yell at him to hurry up.  He administered the epidural and while I was waiting for it to kick in I asked Jon if he could get my mom on the phone.  I spoke briefly to my mom, tearfully telling her I loved her and that I wished she could be there with me.

The epidural took effect and the sensation of not being able to feel the lower half of my body was the most welcomed relief of my life.  The nurses told me that I was likely to fall asleep for a couple hours and that they would check my progress once I woke up.  But fifteen minutes later they informed me that I was at a ten and ready to have a baby.  In my case, the epidural had been the perfect choice at the time because it allowed my body to relax, and when that happened, everything moved along very quickly.

So I pushed for thirty minutes, making every sit up I’d ever done worth it, and in the blink of an eye my baby was placed on my chest.  I did my best to take a mental photograph of the moment and soak up the incredible, indescribable, amazingness of it all.  I held Cameron for two hours before I decided I could let him go for a moment so Jon could help the nurse give him his first bath.

And in the blink of an eye, the same instincts that mothers have had since humans were created, seemed to be imparted to me.  Moms never have all the answers and they don’t do everything right, but somehow they just know how to love their babies the moment they meet them.

Becoming a mom is the best thing to ever happen to me.  Of course, marrying my dream guy was the best thing to ever happen to me too.  But having a baby has been this amazing gift that my husband and I have been given together.  Instead of our love just existing for each other, we now have the joy of investing our love into this little person who resulted from our relationship.

I’m not saying that the past six months have been easy at every moment.  In fact, in the past six months I lost my job and my family got thrown into financial turmoil, my relationship with my husband felt unfamiliar at times and some days I just felt so darn tired.  But despite all of that, the past six months have been, hands down, the best six months of my life so far.

I feel like it’s important to share this because it seems like my generation believes that having children is the death of all things fun and worthwhile in life.  People wait until they’ve chased all their dreams, traveled the world and attained success in the business world before they decide to settle down and have kids.  Having kids is like the inevitable next step when you become too old to be considered cool hanging out at hip bars and nightclubs.

I get that having kids is a BIG change and that it is sometimes easier to face the endeavor when certain aspects of life and finances are secure.  But I’m addressing the underlying lie that kids are little sea urchins that suck the life out of you and your social life and your marriage.

On the flight back to the US from our honeymoon in Mexico, parents of a family with three children warned my husband and I to not be in any rush to have kids.  Right in front of their own children, the parents shared the many reasons why having kids was hard and tiring and inconvenient and basically lame.  I felt sorry for those kids who were old enough to understand the things their parents were sharing with strangers.

1 Timothy 2:15 says, “But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”  When taken in context, this verse means that “women will find true fulfillment through childbearing.  Paul is saying that God calls women to be faithful, helpful wives, raising children to love and worship God and managing the household wisely” (source).

When I say that becoming a mom is the best thing that ever happened to me, I mean it.  Although I have to add that the ultimate best thing to ever happen to me was having an encounter with Jesus.  Every good thing that has happened in my life or been given to me has only been so good because Jesus continues to rescue me out of my sin, heal me from my problems and lead me in a better way than I can lead myself.  Without all that, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the gift of motherhood because only I know how deep my problems run and the many things, that without Jesus, would conquer me and leave me stuck in my depression, diseases and chains.

But because of Jesus, being a mom is incredible.  It’s the first job I’ve ever had that feels like a perfect fit.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun.  And I get a lot of affirmation in the form of smiles, giggles and playfulness from the happiest six month old I know.  I can’t tell you how much I love walking into Cameron’s room in the morning or at the end of one of his naps and being greeted by his sweet, smiley face.

It’s also nice to work for someone who doesn’t care if my hair is combed or if I’m wearing the same shorts and t-shirt I wore yesterday.

In only six short months I’ve learned to embrace the little things more, to get back in touch with my goofy side, to live in the moment, to care more about relationship than productivity, to be more consistent and faithful, to go with the flow and embrace change, and to give more of myself to those around me.

Thank God I have a lifetime left of being a mom and being transformed.  It really is the best thing ever.