I’ve been trying to sit down and write this for two weeks now. But each time I do, I start and stop.
Partly because I practically have no time as we transition to four young kids. And also because birth is just too real, too raw to put into words sometimes. I’m in a mix of both still.
I love reading birth stories, but it’s easy for me to gloss over the heart of what takes place. Once the chubby cheek face shows up, it’s all too easy to forget the incredible journey that baby and mother just went through together and the family that surrounded such an incredible event. But it’s all important and valuable.
So here’s my birth story – it’s got some of the fun stuff but I also wanted to share some of the heart stuff too. I pray it blesses you in some way.
THE BIRTH OF BABY NUMBER 4
“No … no no no no no no.” The words that involuntarily slipped out of my mouth as I saw the pink lines pop up on the pregnancy test. I had just a couple cycles at that point and was finally starting to feel like myself again after our third (born just a little over a year before).
I would say I’m not proud of my response, but I think it’s important to remember what I always tell my kids: it’s okay to have strong emotions, what makes us holy or not is how we respond to them.
In this case, the emotion wasn’t the greatest (fear, not wanting to do this again, doubt, and more). But when we said “I do”, we said yes to all the children God would send us, even if it would be hard. We chose to love this little one from the start even if our emotions were overwhelmed with other feelings.
The pregnancy was tough – probably my hardest one yet. I was overall very healthy, but there were just so many more difficult spots than the others that made a lot of days really a challenge to get through. Throughout the pregnancy we prayed and trusted, knowing that somehow God had a plan bigger than we could see at the moment. That prayer didn’t make it feel any easier, but it gave purpose to the suffering as we united everything to the cross and the good of our family.
When December came, we began preparing for the inevitable: labor and delivery. While excited to meet her, there will always be a bit of fear and trepidation leading up to birth knowing how hard things can be (more on that another day when I find time to share our other birth stories.)
Our due date came and went, and while I’m a strong advocate of it being a guess date, mentally I wasn’t enjoying it. I had never gone past my due date before, so it felt a little strange to still be pregnant past 40 weeks. To top it off, I’d been having on and off contractions for a couple weeks that were definitely not Braxton-Hicks yet definitely not real labor. I was tired on all levels.
The night after my 31st birthday, I began having the typical contractions I’d been having on and off for a couple weeks. Only this time, they weren’t going away and started waking me up rather than going away by morning. So you know, I was kind of in this mode that night wondering if true labor was really happening…
Of course being the “wise” fourth time mama I am, I didn’t take a single one seriously since they were anywhere from 6 to 20 minutes apart and not even a minute long. I was totally fine during them as well. They were painful, but not screaming-like-a-truck-is-driving-over-my-foot painful.
It didn’t take much to get through them either. I didn’t even wake up Jake. I just prayed and placed myself before the crucifix, imagining I was holding the battered face of Jesus trying to love Him through each one. It was almost like a mini-retreat as I prepared and slowly started to accept real labor may be here soon since they weren’t going away.
At my last birth, the stronger contractions (though very much spaced far apart) lasted several hours before anything really truly real-labor-feeling happened so I figured I had some time. And these I could still breath and relax through so I wasn’t considering them anything too impending-laborish yet.
I got a few hours of sleep between them and then in the morning tried to eat but didn’t feel hungry, didn’t touch my coffee (maybe that was my sign??), and was just a tad grumpy. I finally decided to text my midwife for a heads up so she would be ready a few hours later when things picked up.
About an hour later contractions were still sporadic and not very long, but I felt better being away from the kids and wanted some emotional support so I told my midwife she should head our way when she could. I kind of felt silly since I didn’t think anything big was happening soon, but I figured it was fine if she slowly started making her way to us so if labor picked up she’d be in the area.
Let’s be clear, if we had been planning a hospital birth, I would NOT have grabbed my bag or even dropped kids off at a friend’s yet at this point. I was totally taking advantage of the luxury of having a midwife on call for me. I was very much unconvinced this baby would arrive any time before lunch, but happy I could call someone in when I felt like I needed the support.
In fact, when she got here a little after 9am, labor stuff still hadn’t picked up much and I apologized that I had probably called her over too soon. She mentioned I looked “labory” and a few other things, but I took them as mindless encouragement so I didn’t feel bad about calling her in too soon. Because practically, I noticed no one was really getting stuff ready for a baby to be born soon.
Someone asked me last week when I hit transition and I honestly have no clue when or if I did. It was all a strange mix of discomfort, waiting for the “real thing”, and then bam: at around 10:10am my water broke. So only then I was finally like…
The midwives were calm, I was a little panicky since it always makes things hurt a heck of a lot more, and the general feel in the room was “okay this will be happening in the near future – let’s slowly start getting things ready.” Jake even stepped out to go check on the boys in the other room (like I said, nothing was taken seriously and no friends were called to help yet).
And just like that, she was being born. Like right now, fast and furious, no big warning except the water breaking and a sudden intensity of a freight train coming over me. Five minutes after my water breaking, she was in my arms. Not even an hour after my midwife arrived.
I prayed almost daily that this birth would be painless (I know, I know, laugh away) – then logically knew that probably wouldn’t happen, so submitted myself to praying that the pushing would be super fast so at least the worst part didn’t last so long. PRAYER GRANTED.
The contractions leading up weren’t painless, but they were so manageable that I didn’t even think I was having a baby any time soon. And while the pushing was crazy intense, it was so fast I couldn’t even think about things and my body just took over. It was pretty incredible (looking back on it – during it all was a miserable experience.)
She was beautiful … and big. 9lbs, 12oz, 20″ long, and 14.5″ head with a hand on the face. Amazingly, there was just a tiny tear and we were both completely fine. After the placenta came, there was a bit more bleeding than hoped for so I received some herbs and Pitocin as a precaution and they worked beautifully.
The very hardest part was the mental part. Going from “hmm, I’m not quite sure if this is happening anytime soon” to “there’s the head!” in just minutes is a huge shock to the system (did I mention Jake almost missed the birth because of this swiftness? It was insane.)
I was out of commission the entire day and Jake did most of the baby holding as I just processed and recovered. I kept feeling still pregnant and not convinced I had just done it.
I was also so thankful we had seriously prayed and discerned where to have this baby and were led in the right direction. Looking back, there is no possible way we would have made it to a hospital in time.
The first couple weeks were a hard transition to a family of 6. All three of my boys conveniently got colds the day she was born. So while it was wonderful to heal and recover in my own room, it was hard to literally be quarantined to it with the baby so she wouldn’t catch anything. Jake took care of all of us (a saint!) and we just trudged through those first days the best we could.
I’m so grateful to be here – past the pregnancy and birth and see this unrepeatable gift God had in store for our family. The journey was hard but I can’t imagine her little life not being a part of our family. I can’t imagine her not existing because we felt we weren’t ready. I praise God He had bigger plans for our family. It all taught me a new kind of love that flourishes in hard times despite our aversion to the circumstances.
In some ways, I think birth prepares us for our journey home to heaven – we prep, we pray, we wait, we make it through the suffering, and all that has worth and value because of the life waiting on the other side.
It’s deeply beautiful, it is also deeply awakening and difficult. Like the Resurrection, the profound glory has meaning because of the cross it came from.
So to all the families out there, let it be known, if you’ve ever dreaded a positive pregnancy test, you’re not alone, even among faithful Catholics. It’s what you do with the emotions that counts.
(And if you’re still suffering after the baby has arrived, you’re slow recovering, or things still seem hard, it’s okay. You’re not alone in that either. I’m right there with you. It’s all a process and there is help if you need it. You are loved. Check out this Catholic mama’s awesome blog for help and resources postpartum. And dads, you’re not alone either. I wish there was a blog I could link you to, but reach out to us if you need a friend.)