I got Ashley’s permission to post my version of her birth story which occurred over Memorial Day weekend, which I wanted to post because it is just about the most amazing birth story ever. And I consider myself blessed to actually have played a little role in it. I’m just going to say it: childbirth is a religious experience for me. I really think God wants to teach us something about Himself with our births and I think this one really demonstrates this.
Sometime during the day I read on facebook that my friend Ashley was in labor. So excited. I knew she was planning for a natural birth, so I’ve tried to support her in this throughout her pregnancy. I texted her that I was praying and that she should contact me if there was anything I could do for her. I think I threw in a couple of pain management tips as well.
At 8:45 pm I get a text from her. “They want to break my water. it’s either that or pitocin. What should I do?” Now I don’t know her medical situation so I definitely don’t know what to do. I do know that even a minor intervention like the artificial rupture of membranes (aka the doc breaking the water instead of waiting for it to happen naturally) can often lead to other bigger interventions. And pitocin sucks. She’s already been in labor for 8 or 9 hours. I pick up the phone and call her. While on the phone I listen to her go through about 4 contractions. They were coming about 5-7 min apart and she could not talk through them. She was breathing and relaxing and just sounding like she was managing them really well. Turns out it was the nurse, not the doctor who was putting pressure on her. I offered words of encouragement and told her it sounded like she was heading into late first-stage labor. She was concerned that she wasn’t dilating fast enough. I told her about the natural alignment plateau and that she may dilate quickly later even though she has plateaued right now. Mostly I just tried to encourage her. She was doing a really great job and her hubby was supporting her and they made a great team. But the hospital environment wasn’t doing all they could to support her. Although, she had heard that one of the doctors on call (a female one) had recently given birth naturally, in water. That was hopeful news. (from now on I think I’ll call this doc Dr Natural)
2:12 am. I get a call. They want to put her on pitocin. Doc says she should be dilating 1cm per hour. It’s now been 15 hours and she’s only dilated 1cm past when she was admitted. (She’s now at 5cm btw). Again, I don’t know her whole medical situation so I can’t advise. But she definitely doesn’t want the pitocin. First I prayed for her. Then, together we talked through the pros and cons of all her options. The good news is that baby’s heartrate is good and Ashley seems to be doing well also. Labor seems to have stalled completely. She did not contract while I was on the phone with her this time. When I hung up she still hadn’t decided whether or not to do the pitocin or go home and wait it out. She was planning to discuss with Dr. Natural the idea of going home and get her opinion on that. I told her to pray for wisdom and then just do what she thinks is best.
5:52 am. Ashley posts this on facebook (which I read at a more godly hour when I woke up):
So…I am all ripe and ready, contracting along my merry way, when I am told I have only dilated 1 cm in 15 hours!!! They wanted me to take pitocin but I declined…my body knows when it’s ready and baby Hannah will come out when she is ready, and not because of some protocol. Even the doc said I made a good choice to go home and wait it out!
I was glad. That was a bold move. It required a lot of courage and faith. And I was so glad that she did it with the approval of Dr. Natural. BTW, I’d like to take a moment to discuss momentous occurances in childbirth. Because I felt that I also had a pivotal moment in my first birth where a big decision had to be made. One that would have ultimately determined the course of the rest of my labor and birth. This was it for Ashley. I’m so impressed with her ability to listen to God’s guidance and listen to her body. Well done.
7:30 pm. I called to see how she was doing and spoke with her husband. Still in labor. Over 32 hours now. She is now at the hospital around the corner from her house. (the previous hospital, the one she had planned to birth at, was about an hour from home) They seem to be much more comfortable in this hospital than the last one. Ashley has now started to have very painful back labor, and decided to manage her pain with an epidural. Mind you, this is the first intervention of this entire labor. This woman has gone over 30 hours completely natural. And she’s only dilated to 7 cm. Not done yet. Not even ready to push yet. I told her husband to please tell her that I thought the epidural was a good idea and that she should try to get some rest. And that’s not lip service. I’m all for natural birth, but getting an epi after 30 hours of hard labor sounds like a good way to stave off maternal fatigue, and hopefully prevent a c-section. I don’t blame her one bit.
I start to wonder a few things. Because this is a super long labor. And now back labor. I wonder if her baby was posterior. I make a mental list of questions to ask her after this is all over. Posterior labors are known to be long and hard because mom’s body has to turn the baby all the way around. They often end in c-section because it’s very hard to get through the birth canal when the baby is faced the wrong direction. Or sometimes the birth attendants are simply impatient and won’t allow a mom to labor as long as Ashley did!
I’m checking my phone constantly for texts or pictures of the baby. I’m checking facebook all the time to see if she has posted anything. There are a couple of posts from her and hubby that make it look like she’s still in labor. Crazy. We go to church. She’s still on my heart. Thinking, praying, wondering if she had her baby yet. I started to think that maybe she hasn’t announced the birth yet because it was c-sec and she is in recovery. After all, something must be going wrong to have a labor this long, right? Oh Me of Little Faith!
3:20 pm I finally get a call from her. Little Hannah Rose was born at 11:20 (ish) am. I am so happy. And guess what? It was completely vaginal! Ashley’s daughter was born just about 48 hours after labor began and she still had a vaginal birth. And almost a completely natural one at that. The long and short of the rest of the birth story is that after a few refills of the epidural she finally started pushing. Pushed for about 45 minutes when baby’s heart rate dipped a little too low. Doc told her she need to push her baby out now and well, she did. Ashley told me that she got really scared and just pushed with all her might. One more push and it was done. Wow.
After talking to her, it’s my educated (albeit un-professional) guess that this baby was posterior. All signs just point to it. She had the soft front to her belly, the long labor, the eventual back pain. Just all makes sense. Her body took 2 days to do it, but turned that baby allllll the way around so it could be born normally. Wow. Good thing she didn’t let them break her water at the first hospital. Good thing she refused pitocin. Her body wasn’t dilating NOT because it was broken. Oh no. Just the opposite– her body was turning a baby around 180 degrees, preparing it for a normal and safe birth. God knows what He’s doing.
This is why I see birth as a spiritual, religious event. I see God working in a marvelous, mighty way in childbirth. Ashley wanted a natural birth and in so doing, opened the door for God to do something really amazing in her life. She put her trust in God instead of men, and seized the opportunity to witness how great God is. If she had bowed to the pressure of the interventions early on, she would have never got to see her body do this incredible work. God really showed up this weekend. And I am so amazed at the work of His hand!
Doctors who say it doesn’t matter how a baby is born, just that it is born healthy– well, those people are wrong. This baby and mom were saved from a surgery, from massive amounts of drugs and other unnecessary interventions all because mom had faith, patience, and courage. Baby and mom are way healthier because of it and the spiritual benefit of birthing in this way is even greater.
Thank you Ashley and Kevin for letting me in on your birth experience. I was so blessed by it. Baby Hannah is one lucky kid to have you two for her parents.