Taken June 10th with Mom's iPhone - last documented belly shot!
It has taken me two months to write this story. I have been busy, ya know, keeping little humans alive, but also I think I have been worried about doing the whole thing justice. This story is one of the most spiritual experiences of my life, and I have been praying for God’s words in hopes that this story serves as a testimony to others of His neverending faithfulness.
With Travis, I had been praying for a baby and struggling to get pregnant for over a year. I was so thankful for him and was so worried about his safety (due to all of my early complications) that my prayers were very centered on getting him here safely and that he be healthy. With Maryn, I hadn't really been praying for another baby per se, but rather was comfortable turning the timetable over to the Lord. Our super speedy (like Holy Cow what???) conception with Maryn after a long struggle with Travis was just the first step in the spiritual journey of surrendering to Him and seeing God's faithfulness played out. Did I mention that we found out we were pregnant two days after we signed the papers to sell our house?? God was just asking me once again ... Do you trust me??
I had always been a little disappointed that I had to have a c-section with Travis. For no other reason than pride I think. I knew that I was a mother no matter the method of delivery and that no gold stars are handed out based on how they came out of you, but still, was just one of those things in life that I wanted to experience. A common defense mechanism I use in life is humor. If I'm nervous or scared, then I just turn on the witty charm to get myself through it. I think fear of a failed vaginal delivery again made me comment about how cool c-sections would be the second time around. I actually had an appointment at my hair place to get a blow out the morning of the scheduled c-section. “Might as well look good” is what I would say when asked about scheduling a c-section.
As my pregnancy continued and I had already surrendered our housing situation over to the Lord, I began to think more about trying for a vaginal birth after c-section (vbac). I can't remember the first time that I really brought it up to Brandon, but, at that time, he didn't seem to care one way or the other. I think we were about halfway along when we first asked our doctor about it. She said that she was ok with me trying it but that she wasn't optimistic about my chances given that Travis couldn't fit under my pelvic bone because of his head size. I was just glad that she (and the practice she was a part of) was ok to let me try. As our compromise, we scheduled Maryn’s c-section date at 40 weeks 3 days to give my body time to go into labor on its own if it was going to (and also to minimize apartment life as a family of four). Even after we got the vbac attempt sign off, I waivered many, many times. The scheduling and certainty of the c-section is appealing to us type-A personalities, and Brandon and I were both afraid of the scenario we encountered with Travis where I labored, pushed for almost 3 hours, and still had to have the c-section. As time went on and delivery became nearer, I began reaching out to my closest girlfriends to learn more about their deliveries and more importantly to seek their spiritual advice and prayers. Let me tell ya - it is a little weird asking people to pray for anything that has to do with your vagina, but I did it. I also knew that if we were really going to try to do this I needed Brandon's support and approval. We had several good conversations about it, and while he was nervous about possible complications, he definitely agreed that life would be easier without a c-section recovery. I prayed that God would give me the strength to follow Brandon, if he changed his mind, against my own heart's desire (definitely a lesson in husband/wife roles in a Christian marriage). I needed the vbac to be something we were both on board with, and I had to be willing to bail if Brandon told me to. Brandon and I prayed together about it many times, and felt confident in agreeing to let God’s plan play out and to let time tell the tale.
After a few false labor spells over the course of the last two weeks of my pregnancy, I'm pretty sure Brandon thought that we would be going in for a c-section. As of June 9th, I really thought so too. The Thursday before my due date (and my last pre-baby accountability group meeting) was when I finally came to terms with having a c-section. I had been keeping a prayer journal over the last month of my pregnancy outlining scripture, fears, praises, etc. with regard to the birth of Maryn. The first page read like a "choose your own" storybook. Specifically, it reads: “First Hurdle – going into labor on own. If this happens, view it as encouragement that body is ready and that VBAC is viable, doable, and more importantly blessed by God who caused labor to start. If this doesn’t happen, do not be discouraged as VBAC was not in His plan. Praise Him for healthy and safe delivery and peace about situation.“ That Thursday I finally came to grips with the likelihood of option #2 and really felt peace about the whole journey. I had prayed that this journey be a testimony about: faith, prayer, strength & patience, "Jesus friends", and submission & obedience. Regardless of the outcome – the journey had already been each of those things and so much more. I had prayed for God's will and if a c-section was it, then I was fine with it and would be wholeheartedly praising Him for this baby no matter how she got here. I think this recognition was key and was another test of my willingness to fully surrender to Him. The next morning was when I scheduled my pre c-section hair appointment. I was totally surrendered and preparing to look good.
Mom and Kelly came in from Lubbock on Friday since we were all expecting Maryn to arrive on the 14th just as we had scheduled many months ago. We woke up Saturday morning (her due date) with a full list of stuff to do before we had a baby on Tuesday and moved into our new house the following weekend. (Insert "she must be crazy" comments here.) Remember where I had surrendered the housing situation long ago... :) Brandon, Travis, Lovey, and I met Trent (Brandon’s BFF) at MiMi's for a pre-Little Gym breakfast. I got plenty of side eye glances and a couple of "when are you due" comments. I gleefully told them TODAY! Mom and I just sipped coffee because we were meeting Amy and Julie (two of my besties that live in Fort Worth) for Ol' South Pancake House and pedicures. Brandon and “Uncle” Trent were in charge of Travis for the morning. I had breakfast and pedicures (painting my toes blue of course) with Amy and Julie the Saturday before I had Travis so I thought it was a tradition worth continuing. We had a delicious breakfast and I got my toes painted pretty pink in anticipation of my baby girl’s arrival on Tuesday. In my head, she was still definitely coming on Tuesday. After I kissed two of my very best friends good bye, Mom and I headed back to the apartment. We got back around lunch time. I think I was having mild contractions at this point but couldn’t differentiate them from the general "40 weeks pregnant, gained 50 lbs, and chasing a toddler" pains that I'd been feeling the past couple of weeks. Travis went down for a nap and we (by we, I mean Lovey) packed a couple more apartment boxes. Brandon was watching the NCAA track and field championships on the tv, and we all stopped to watch when it came down to the final few events. Our beloved Texas A&M Aggies were trying to accomplish the unheard of triple double (Men’s and Women’s championships three years in a row). It was tense. When we won, we totally whooped and hollered. I'm pretty sure it was the 4x400 relay that sent me into full fledged labor! I hadn't let on to anyone in the room that I was feeling anything at this point. We sent Lovey to check on Pop and the RV with plans to meet up later for dinner. After Lovey left, I told Brandon about the contractions that I'd been having for a couple hours and we started timing them. Love the contraction app on the iPhone! I think they were about 8-10 minutes apart. Not terribly painful, but definitely noticeable. I took a quick siesta on the couch before Travis woke up.
When T got up, we met Lovey and Pop at Spaghetti Warehouse for dinner. I was going to eat as much eggplant as I could in an attempt to keep things moving per Kimberly's (Houston-area bff) recommendation. I still hadn't told Mom that I was having contractions (she excites easily – HA!), but she definitely figured it out during dinner. Again they weren’t really painful, but I had to stop talking and focus through them. I’m sure I looked totally bizarre if someone was watching me. I was still in a bit of denial and fully expected them to peter out at any minute so we had dinner and then headed to the new house. I knew I was going be laid up during the walk thru the following week so I wanted to check things out and give my two cents worth where I could. It was hot and I vividly remember glaring at Brandon asking if he would hold our 28 lb. toddler so, you know, I could have contractions in peace. LOL!
We all went back to the apartment and got Travis bathed and ready for bed. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, Brandon almost always put him to bed. I was generally pooped and/or it took an act of congress for me to hoist him into his crib with this enormous belly I was sporting. Not this night. It was like Travis sensed that something was up and he only wanted his mama. I think he could sense that I was in pain and that scared him. I took him to his room and, like all the nights before, we snuggled and swayed and sang Jesus Loves Me. I knew, and I think he knew, that this was the last night that he would be an only child. I couldn't hold back the tears and was overcome with emotion: love, fear, sadness that this chapter as a family of 3 was closing, and excitement as life as a family of four became imminent. By that time, it was after 8, and we sent Lovey to the RV. She was tempted to stay, but I wanted her to get some rest just in case it turned out to be the real deal. In my heart, I knew it was, but I don't think my head was so sure. After the fact, she confessed that she knew she would be back that night too. I think it was around 9 that I decided to hop in the bath hoping that the warm water would be relaxing and that I had long enough between contractions to shave my legs. At this point they are 6-8 minutes apart and lasting about a minute. I was out of the tub by 9:45.
Krista, who is one of my dearest friends and was going to be serving as my doula, was thankfully already on her way home from the lake without me knowing. (I wasn't confident enough that this was it to ask her to cut her trip short and I didn't want her driving at night.) Praise the Lord that her mother-in-law encouraged her and Micah to head home when I first mentioned that this “might” be it. Another of the Lord's many blessings. I think I called my dad around this time too to let him know that I was most definitely having contractions, that I didn’t want him driving in the middle of the night either, but that he might want to hop a flight in the morning. Little did I know that he filled Uncle Mickey in and they both surprised us around lunch the next day (with Arby's no less)!
Around 10, I told Brandon that we should try to get some rest. I lasted laying in the bed until the first contraction hit - being in bed was the most uncomfortable spot so I headed into the living room. My sweet hubby of course had already drifted off to sleepy land. I tried sitting on the ball and laying my head on the couch. The ball felt nice until a contraction hit and then you couldn't get me off of it fast enough (which I'm guessing would have been hysterical to watch). The contractions were every 4-5 minutes and definitely getting stronger. I labored by myself for an hour and a half or so… praying, texting Krista, praying with Joyce on the phone, and trying not to make much noise since I didn't want to wake either of my boys from their slumber. I was snacking and drinking tons of water since I knew they wouldn't let me have anything once I got to the hospital. I clued Mom in at this point that I was contemplating going to the hospital within an hour or so and was glad when Krista said she couldn’t sleep and was on her way. God knew who and what I needed and when I needed it throughout the whole process!
When attempting a vbac in a hospital, they definitely encourage you to get to the hospital sooner rather than later for proper monitoring. I was trying to balance this with my goal to progress as far as I could at home and with no epidural. I definitely didn't want to birth a baby in the car, so I was cool erring on the side of caution. Mom showed up and then Krista was there about five minutes later. At that point, it was midnight and I woke Brandon up. Contractions were 4 minutes apart, and I was having to moan and breathe through them. He literally had the crazy “what in the world is going on?” look and reaction. I gently reminded him that we were having a baby and that I was ready to head to the hospital. The frequency and pain had steadily increased while he had been snoozing so I am not sure he was really aware of what was happening. Loved the look of surprise and happiness when I think it all sunk in!
Krista grabbed a towel in case my water broke en route and we each grabbed a bag. I gave kisses to Lovey and away we went. B and I were in his truck; I didn't realize how bad the shocks were until that night! Krista was in her car following us. I think we got to the hospital about 12:30 and after one pause for a contraction we strolled into the emergency room entrance. The lady asked what we needed and I'm pretty sure I say “I'm here to birth a baby!” I got chuckles from everyone… that’s just how I roll. They put me in the most bizarre looking wheelchair and wheeled me off to triage. Triage is a minuscule little room with four beds so Krista had to wait for us outside. We got to triage and announced to the nurse that I was having contractions, would like to have a vbac, etc. I spent the time between contractions listening to the two girls in the beds next to me and across from me. Their husbands, boyfriends, sperm donors, etc. were not with them and they were just generally clueless about birth, babies, and I'm guessing, life. I lifted them up in prayer, so grateful for my amazing husband and family of support, and continued my running prayer commentary with the Lord. I was so at peace at this point that it was kind of strange and most obviously God-induced. The British triage nurse (weird place to hear an accent!) checked me and told me I was a “stretchy 5”, which I think means that she had to stretch a little to get a 5, but it most definitely meant that I was checking in to have a baby! Woo hoo! The triage nurse had my practice’s on-call doctor (coincidentally, I think not, the same one who did my c-section with Travis) come and talk to me about how she handles vbacs and I had to sign a bunch of releases specific to vbacs. I don’t know how a woman with no faith could ever get past the releases – they basically boiled down to “you may die and you may kill your kid in the process.” The doctor also had to find my file with Travis so she knew exactly how the c-section went down and the location of the internal scar, etc. before she was comfortable signing off on the vbac attempt. When you mention vbac in the hospital, you kind of get some random looks and you get the feeling that they are sizing up your mental capacity. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a psych consult would have been ordered. It's not so much that they are against it, but just more like that it is such a rarity that they just don’t generally encounter.
God's faithfulness continued as He surrounded me with all the right hospital personnel that night! When we got to a room and Krista joined us, we met my labor and delivery nurse, Amy. She was young, had a pierced nose, and was crunchy enough to totally be supportive of the vbac. She really helped set the stage for success and was definitely heaven-sent. The doctor came in to confirm I was dilated to a 5 and broke my water to keep things progressing. Pitocin can't really be used during a vbac attempt so if labor stalled it was going to likely mean a c-section. I had NO desire to have a natural birth, but I wanted to labor as long as possible without an epidural. I just felt like no drugs for as long as I could handle it would better Maryn’s chances of getting in the right spot. It was about 2 am at that point. Once my water was broken, the contractions really started coming! Krista's experience really came to the rescue during the next 3 hours and 2 centimeters. Brandon was so great and supportive during this time, but he is definitely more of the strong silent type. I think there is something tough about seeing your partner in pain and not being able to do anything, but Brandon was awesome. Brandon was so quick to hold my hand and put pressure on my hips. His hand holding alternated between sweet, young love hand holds and firm squeezes used to offset the pain of the contractions. His gentle touches spoke volumes and his peaceful and calm demeanor was a welcomed focal point for me. His big cheesy smile (in response to him being freezing cold) made my heart laugh! Your spouse obviously is super important to have by your side, but I would highly suggest having an additional labor support person (preferably one who has birthed babies) who can help verbalize your feelings and who can help talk you through the contractions. Krista was able to help me keep focused and relax through the contractions. My instinct was to clinch (shoulders, jaw, hands), but it totally makes sense that relaxation would make for more productive contractions. I must say that it is easier said than done. Krista was the queen of saying "open jaw open cervix". Kind of makes me laugh now, well, it kind of made me laugh then too, which also helped me relax!
The pain didn't really hit me until I went from a 6 to a 7. It was at this point that I started asking for the epidural man to start making his way. I went a little crazy for a few minutes and my brain started throwing out all of this random medical stuff about like “if I am going have a c-section then I want a spinal and not an epidural”, blah, blah, blah. I can only envision that my head was spinning during this monologue that I'm pretty sure I had intended to only be happening internally. Krista was quick to suggest we pray and seek guidance, so she, Brandon, and I all joined hands in prayer. In just the few seconds that we stopped to pray, I realized how crazy I must have sounded, and we proceeded as planned. God was quick to remind me of how He was providing for me during the journey as I saw all of my prayer requests answered, and I was quick to turn over my anxieties to Him. Doc Holliday (I kid you not) came in to do my epidural. I remember him saying all the legal mumbo jumbo and disclosures, and I was just saying yes, yes, give me the epidural. I was totally cussing stupid lawyers during this time.
The epidural was a breeze (once I wiggled around to get it covering evenly – I was still feeling the contractions in my right thigh at first)! My love for the epidural man continues! We chatted with Doc about being republicans and how we felt about Rick Perry and some other totally random stuff. I was able to rest (not sleep, but rest) with the epidural. During the insertion of the epidural, Krista had to leave the room. When she returned she had Joyce with her. These two had been so inspirational to me during this journey and it was so perfect that they be a part of seeing it to the end. Joyce's first task was locating my mascara!! The epidural took away the pain and my mental checklist took over. I knew that the birth photographer would be there soon and mascara makes a world of difference in pictures! I probably started barking orders and asking about the status of a million things. I wanted my mama to be there when it was time to push so I was worried about who was going to relieve her at the apartment.
Amy, the labor and delivery nurse, suggested I rest. (Read: shut up crazy woman and save your energy - you are gonna need it!) Her demeanor was pretty no-nonsense which I responded to well. I just went to my own little happy prayerful place and was enjoying praising the Lord for the blessings thus far and just seeking strength for what was yet to come. I’m a terrible scripture memory person so I just had all of my key verses into my own paraphrased versions that I could repeat in my head. I loved these two resources: Embracing the Pain and Scriptural Encouragement!
- I particularly loved this statement and it went into my prayer journal verbatim: “This birth is one means of God working to grow me in maturity and endurance. I will be stronger in my faith if I rely completely upon Him to accomplish His good work.”
At one point, Amy checked me and confirmed I was completely dilated. With Travis, they immediately made me start pushing even though my body really wasn't telling me it was time to push. This time she just suggested that I keep resting for a while and she would check back later. Mom and Keri had arrived by then so I was relieved that all the key players were in place! Krista and Joyce were kicked out when it was time to push but there is something so comforting about knowing that incessant prayers are being prayed for you right out the door. My mom wasn't in the room when I was pushing with Travis. I regretted that decision later so I was so glad that she was able to be there this time. Her comforting measures were so important during that time.
I started to push around 6 am. I was excited and a tad nervous. I started having anxiety because the timing of my two labors were becoming eerily similar. I was already dreading a mid-pushing shift change at 7 am (which also happened with Travis), and it was going to be another doctor deliver her as well. I think I freaked a little because it felt like deja vu, groundhog day, etc. I wasn't making progress. Amy was great at letting me try different positions, but I could just tell nothing was really happening. Amy took it upon herself to say that she was turning off the epidural. It was something I had thought about and wanted, but had forgotten about. Totally a God intervention! She said it took about an hour to totally wear off, but I would start getting the feeling back sooner than that. Her turning it off served as a little encouragement, and I remember that the doctor before the shift change said that I had never made it this far with Travis. Another little bit of encouragement that I needed at that time. No doubt that God had that doctor on call because no other doc would have been able to make that comment since she was there for my pushing stage with Travis.
Brandon was doing a great job leading my pushing, and mama was holding up my hair, putting cold rags on me, and holding the pan when I had to puke. 7 am came and went and I got a new nurse. Again, God knew what I needed. I don't really remember her saying anything, but she let us steamroll her when I needed it the most! I was definitely getting nervous after pushing for an hour and still not really feeling like I was making great progress. Keri, the photographer, sensed my discouragement at one point and sent Krista and Joyce in. Joyce suggested that I reach down and feel her head (which I did) and Krista suggested that a mirror might be helpful in my pushing efficiency. I agreed and was expecting a little hand mirror or something. I died laughing when they rolled in this enormous mirror. The look on Brandon's face was priceless! The mirror, although a little bizarre, was actually super helpful. Another God thing! I think it renewed my energy. I put my game face on and told myself that I was doing this! I played Laura Story’s Mighty to Save song over and over in my head. My God is so big that He can move the mountains – surely He can get this baby girl out the ol’ fashioned way!! We were so over our people-in-the-room limit during this part of the pushing, but the nurse didn't say a word about it, instead she said only enough to let my supporters know how to encourage me (A God thing!)! You would have thought Krista and Joyce were toting pom poms and megaphones, and I’m guessing the nurse decided she didn’t dare get in their way! They offered up enthusiastic encouragement and some amazing prayers. I can never recall a time in my life where prayers were being answered almost instantaneously. I'm not sure if the nurses in that room that morning were believers or not, but if not, they had to stop and wonder about the Presence in the room and the medical miracle they were witnessing (my doctor said that medically speaking she did not think I could deliver her vaginally.)
I had totally lost track of time, but it wasn’t long before the nurses kicked Krista and Joyce out and called in the doctor to catch. I get goose bumps just writing it, and it was surreal to experience it. The new doctor on call was one of my good friend's doctor. I had never met him before but knowing how much she loved him definitely helped our rapport. He joked that everybody knew Melanie!! It seemed like he was taking his sweet time getting suited up, gloves on, glasses on, etc. I really, really, REALLY wanted to push. The doctor made me breathe thru three contractions (Krista says it was about 7-10 minutes of me wanting to push and him not letting me since that is how long it was before they got Keri’s text that said “baby” – praise the Lord for the doc making me wait since it allowed for stretching which resulted in no tearing!). Once I got the go ahead to push, I think she made her entrance on my first attempt. She was perfect! The experience was perfect! He was perfect! The intense emotion when I saw her was the same as with Travis, but the physical part was just so much better this time. Obviously the Lord had prepared my body to birth this baby... I even got a compliment on my fabulous perineum! Maryn was beautiful and healthy, and I literally felt on top of the world.
The recovery from a c-section would have made life much harder for everyone, but especially Travis. I am so glad that I was able to lift Travis up and snuggle him so quickly. When my two babies met for the first time, I literally could have just melted.
I prayed that this vbac journey would be a testimony, and He most certainly delivered. God is faithful! He provided: a litany of prayer warriors who started praying about Maryn's birth weeks before it came, open lines of communication between Brandon and I and an amazing supportive husband, a supportive and loving family and a mother who went the extra mile to help me reach the end goal, amazing "Jesus friends" that prayed with me and for me and encouraged me through scripture and love, the absolute perfect hospital personnel hand-picked by Him for my journey, a birth photographer that had the faith and knowledge to know the perfect timing to send in my cheering squad, a cooperative body to birth this baby, and the most perfect baby girl which will forever get to be a part of this testimony.
Postscript – I saw a post on facebook requesting prayers and encouragement for a friend of a friend’s friend (follow that?) who was attempting a VBAC in Las Vegas. I immediately lifted her up praying that she would get to experience the incredible journey that I had been on. I was so happy to hear that all went well and so in awe of her labor story that I had to share parts of it. So beautifully written and spot on! Literally words directly from my heart!!
- "Well honey, that's why it's called labor. But this pain is beautiful Chelsea. God created our bodies to endure this labor for a reason. You're going to look back at this and realize all of the little things he was busy teaching you through your birth.... I promise, you will be addicted to this pain when it's all over." She kept whispering over and over affirmations about who God is and who I am and how capable I am. She'd say, "After this is all over, there will be nothing you can't accomplish." And, "This is going to change you in ways you never imagined it could."
- When everyone left, I told Dustin that I felt like God was shaking his head at me, smiling, saying, "You silly little girl, Chelsea. You thought I wouldn't give you the desires of your heart....I gave you MORE than you ever imagined I would. How dare you doubt me, or doubt my love for you!" That was a humbling moment for me.