Johannah Bethlehem just turned 4 months old.
I am just getting her birth story on the blog.
I can't help but totally impress.
Part of me even thought I'd just forget it but that's the very reason why I did it.
Because I don't want to forget it.
Most of our lives will remain undocumented.
But some stories insist on having a mark in your families history.
There are many stories still floating around in my head and heart, and perhaps one day I will put them "on paper."
Perhaps they will die with me.
But for now, here's one more making it's way into our history.
I prayed and I prepped.
More than ever before, I would say.
Spent the first trimester with the flu, the second trimester climbing hills in the Dominican, and the third with whooping cough that put my ribs out of place.
And finally, the day had come.
I had a couple due dates-October 29th and November 2nd.
There were multiple dates that would have been neat to have as a birthday for this child.
First there was October 29th. This is my niece, who shares my name and is my dear sister's first-born daughter's birthday.Whew,that was a mouthful.
Then there was Halloween. This was one birthday I did NOT want my child to have. I love Halloween as much as the next person but...spooky.
Then there was 11/1/12 or 11/2/12 which just looks cool OR
my own 30th birthday...11/5/12.
After that it wouldn't have mattered cause baby would be overdue and the next significant date would be Thanksgiving.Right.
That week, we went to church on Sunday as usual. The boys and I took a picture just in case it was baby's last Sunday. I had a feeling it would be but I don't trust those feelings too well. Baby's are born when God wants them born. I don't care if you walk around dilated to a 10 for a month or you're tight as a drum till an hour before giving birth. No.one.knows.
So I tried to just chill and wait and see.
But I had a feeling it was going to be soon.
Hurricane Sandy was coming in the next day. Barometric pressure. Full moon and all of that.
We went about our Sunday as usual.
We also went to Red Robin that evening with all of my family and laughed about how my sister had been eating Red Robin when she went into labor with Shalom almost exactly one year earlier. Wouldn't it be funny if I did the same thing?!
Yet I finished my Bonzai burger with no bonzai action and went on home.
I awoke Monday morning thinking that this was THE day and my body was giving me some pretty substantial signs. I already had a planned chiropractic appointment so I went ahead and went. She noted that my ligaments were like "butter," which I figured was either a good sign that my body was preparing for birth or just her way of saying she wanted to eat my ligaments with toast. Today was my nieces birthday. Fun! I came home and watched the news to see what Hurricane Sandy was doing and I waited, and waited, and waited. There was a peaceful, expectant feel to those days but things just never really picked up beyond the early signs of labor I was having. There was a stormy calm that rested on everything. A sense of anticipation and excitement in the air. I've always loved storms and unpredictable weather so it was the perfect tone to do the waiting in. I did the things I knew to do, thinking I was on the brink of labor (walking,etc.) but mostly just went about the day with the fam. Noah had taken the week off of work in anticipation of the delivery.
We had been trying to take the kids to the park and get some walking in that week.
With this delivery, I really felt the tension of wanting to walk to move the baby into position but wanting to preserve my energy for my typical long labor where fatigue has been my worst enemy.
So I just chilled and enjoyed family time and then went to my sister's house that evening for Shalom's birthday cake and dinner with my side of the family. The evening was a bit of a fog as I started to get really sleepy. Again, wanting to preserve energy above all else, we didn't hang out long before heading home to get me in bed early. At least if I was going to go into labour in the middle of the night, I could have a handful of hours of rest under me. I went to bed sore and tired and a bit surprised that I hadn't gone into labour.
At around 3am, I began to notice in my half sleep state that my contractions were intense enough to have to breath through. I was still laying there with my eyes closed but I was having to focus on relaxation throughout the contraction and they were coming consistently. Still I tried to sleep.
I made myself lay there and attempt sleep in between contractions. I promised myself I wouldn't actually get out of bed until I could tell my contractions were at least 5 minutes apart. Then I would allow the timing of them and perhaps a warm shower.
I generally have really long labors so I never go into them thinking "This is it!!" I just think "This is the beginning of something..."
Around 5am, I was able to fall back asleep and slept till about 7am. I got up to watch the news again and snuggle with the boys on the couch. When I got out of bed and was moving around, I totally expected for my contractions to start to intensify and get closer together. But even as I was up and around, they felt so much further apart than when I was laying down. In reality, they had stayed about 10-12 minutes apart the whole time but being up and around and distracted made them seem very manageable. When you're in bed, it seems you only sleep and breath through contractions which gives them the feeling of being much closer together.
This was our first out of hospital birth so the plan for the birth center had been to call them when I thought I was in labor and to head in when they were about 5 minutes apart. Even though I felt confident I was in early labor, I was so comfortable I decided to just wait until they opened at 8am instead of bothering with an on-call midwife. Noah went and got Main Street Grill's fruit salad, yogurt and granola for me.
I texted my girls who were going to be at the labor and let them know that we were in the early stages but that my contractions weren't nearly close enough together to do anything yet. I'd be in touch.
Meanwhile, my sisters planned for childcare and my parents came to get the boys and take them out to breakfast. I got in touch with the midwife on-call when they opened at 8am. It happened to be one of my favorites, Kate. I described my contractions and other things to her and she was a bit confused that they weren't getting closer together, especially with this being my 4th child. She suggested I take a warm bath and see what things did. It was about 10am before I could get the boys off and into a bath. The bath made the contractions spread out a little and I was able to really relax. I was still very comfortable at this point. Having contractions for 45 seconds every 10-15 minutes isn't bad at all. Especially because I spent a substantial amount of time learning some new breathing techniques and actually practicing relaxation exercises this time around. I even still had some of my appetite. I called my midwife after the bath and told her that nothing had changed. Still more perplexed, she told me to try to get a nap in and call her when I woke up. If nothing had changed by then, she'd have me come in just to check my cervix and see why things were not progressing faster.
Instead of enjoying my long breaks in between contractions...I began to stress. My sisters had already either dropped their kids off with friends or called husbands home from work and...NOTHING IS HAPPENING. Noah offered that perhaps God was just being gracious to me,letting me rest for long amounts of time in between contractions. I scoffed. "Nice thought, but that is NOT how baby's get born, sugar."
Nothing like the pressure of others waiting on you. Well, other than the pressure of a baby on your cervix, but I digress.
I started to worry that the baby was perhaps in a weird position or something else that was going to make this a long, complicated labor. My sister's daughter was sunny side up and it took along time for things to progress, also making the pushing phase very difficult. I dreaded anything that might make the journey more difficult. Kate suggested wrapping my stomach which just means that we used a sheet and wrapped it tightly around my lower stomach to lift the baby up and into position if they weren't already.
I went to take a nap and slept soundly for 2 hours. I awoke with a strong contraction but don't recall having them during my nap until then. I called back the midwife to say that nothing had changed and we went forward with the plan to head into the birth center so she could put her eyes on me and see if we could get any clues as to why things weren't "picking up."
In my previous labors, they were slow but very steady and strong. Generally, I would have minute and a half contractions every 2 minutes and still be in "early labor." Yowzas. So this was weeeeeeird.
Still pretty comfortable, and the boys still with mom and dad, Noah and I headed into Chapel Hill. We stopped and got some Chick-fil-a on the way. Kate had a meeting and we had a little time to kill so we also stopped by Home Goods, one of my favorite stores on the way to Chapel Hill. My sisters and mom were heading that way too but I just told them to go hang at the nearby mall until after my exam. I anticipated them sending me home to labor and I figured we could meet them at the mall and walk after the appointment.
While at Home Goods, my contractions were getting closer together (6-9 minutes apart) and I was trying to act like a normal person flipping through hand towels and admiring bottle openers instead of a person whose body was preparing to birth a watermelon. I'd try to crouch behind stuff to get through contractions but by the time we were checking out, I was caught in the middle of a contraction and the lady checking us out assured us that I was having a boy.
We walked back out to the car and by then the Chick-fil-a smell in the car was bothering me. We drove the 15 more minutes to the birth center and when we got there, I had to stop in the doorway to have a contraction before heading in.
I heard a nurse coming through the door while I was having a contraction say,"Kate. Stephanie's here." Meanwhile, I crouched and held Noah's neck to get through the contraction. I stood back up and went into the birth center.
They told me later that the next day, a woman had given birth kneeling in the parking lot.
I went in and within a few minutes Kate had checked my cervix and told me the great news that I was already 5cm. I was ecstatic! 5 cm had NEVER snuck up on me in the past. It was always the opposite. More like, surprise, your only a 1!!! after hours of intense labor.
Here I was having smoothly made it halfway already. I guess it's a good think I didn't wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart to make the hour drive to the birth center.
We settled in for our stay and I couldn't have been more encouraged.
It was around 3:15pm.
I had no idea how long the next 5 cm was going to take but I settled in and tried to prepare myself for another long labor. I had decided in my labor preparations this time that the best thing I could do was to stay present. Like any other trial God brings into our lives, I knew the only way I could keep from being overwhelmed was to focus on the present. In THIS contraction in THIS moment, God has given me what I need. I even told them as part of my birth plan that I didn't want my cervix checked again after my inital check-in assessment. Wether I was a 9 or a 1 didn't ultimately tell me anything. This journey of delivering this child was going to look like what God wanted it to look like. With my first child, I was in transition for 9 hours and transition is supposed to be the shortest part. I have heard plenty of times about women going from a 5-10 in a matter of minutes. The bottom line was that these "markers,"though helpful on some levels would only cause me to expect a certain outcome that no one has any control over. I just wanted to worship God in each moment I was given and keep doing it over and over again and over again until 2 or 12 or 24 hours had passed.
The first hour I was there, I just laid in bed with Noah and tried to rest. I hadn't successfully been able to relax to that point when I was in my other deliveries. I knew I needed to relax and tried to but the effort of battling pain felt like an intense,consuming act. But this time, I truly felt relaxed and peaceful.
As I said earlier, I had been practicing relaxing a lot and learned some new breathing techniques that helped IMMENSELY. I also worked on some very practical visualizations that I had been going over in my mind during my pregnancy. What I mean by this is that instead of just trying to "relax." I would imagine during a contraction that I could picture the long muscles of my uterus pulling up like long,soft,blue ribbons and the lower,circular muscles that dilated and effaced were being opened as the long,blue ribbons lifted up. May sound wacky. Ok it totally sounds wacky, but it was immensely helpful for focusing. It also made me feel that I was actively working WITH my body during contractions instead of simply trying to survive my body during contractions.
When you think about God's design of our brains, there is a direct connection to our thought life and our actions. Therefore, it made sense to me to try, in this labor to honor God with all of my "heart,soul, mind and strength."(Mark 12:29-31)
I summarize my thoughts this way. I am going to have to run a marathon. No matter how you shake it down, I am looking at 26.2 miles. So I can go in without a day of training and STILL have to get through each mile. I'll get through but chances are good it's going to brutal.
OR I can spend time preparing my heart (to be hopeful about the kindness God will show to me) , my soul(to trust God with all the unknowns and believe he will be with me each moment) my mind (disciplining my thoughts to focus on relaxing and on helping my body and on worshipping God in the moment) and my strength (preparing my body through exercise and stretches, along with nutrition,etc.)
I found it VERY beneficial to spend some time "training" for the marathon this time around. I had done natural birthing classes with my first and had a natural birth but found it much harder to relax. I had an epidural with my other 2 hospital births and loved every moment of them. Let's just be clear on that.
With that being said, I always seek to have a drug free birth for a number of reasons but I have NO hate for those powerful women out there rockin' the drugs.
I also tried to imagine holding my baby at Christmas time, next to the xmas tree,a fire crackling in the fireplace. And snuggling small kittens. OK, not the kittens. That's ridiculous. I am such a dork. But I LOVE Christmas...and babies...and fires.
I was able to kind of nap through that first hour and then I moved to the tub. They let me know I could use the bouncy ball and the birthing stool and I could walk. There were multiple tools available to me and I figured I'd use all of them at some time or another but I expected to be there a while so I just tried to chill. In the past, I had been much more "active" in my labors, feeling the need to walk a lot. But this time, I felt the freedom to just relax and do whatever felt good to save my energy for the delivery. I and my team of caretakers trusted my body to deliver my baby so I didn't feel like I had to do all kinds of things to "make it happen." Instead of thinking about certain things I "should do," I just tried to listen to my body and do what felt right. At the time, that was just to relax and listen to music that relaxed me and kept me in the moment.
Noah just stayed by my side and would occasionally use physical touch to remind me to relax. For instance, if I started to wrinkle my face up in pain during a contraction,he would lightly swipe my forehead and press the wrinkled back out,reminding me not to gather tension there. At one point,my sister rubbed my feet while I slept. Noah often just supported my body so that I could give everything I had to the contractions. My mom and other sisters just hung out quietly in the corner of the room. I had wanted so badly for them to be a part of this journey and simultaneously wanted the intimate journey to feel like all Noah's and mine, uninterrupted.
It felt EXACTLY that way, a huge matter of prayer for me leading up to the birth.
He always blows me away during deliveries. He's a complete rock star. He's nurse,doctor,midwife,husband,lover, and best friend al at the same time. I have never felt less alone than in the birth of our children. The poor man hardly even takes a pee break.
I got back out of the tub to get comfortable under the covers again.
My sis-in-law whose a duola and had attended births at the center previously had told me to brig my own towels if I wanted something soft and luxurious because theirs were a bit worn. As I got out of the tub, I asked for one of our towels, knowing we had brought some. Noah scuffled through our bag and handed me the towel. It was probably 15 years old with shredded pieces hanging off. I commented on how glad I was that we'd brought our own towels cause I heard theirs were pretty knappy. We laughed so hard. Apparently the "just in case we have a baby in the car" towels had been grabbed instead of the "feel like a queen while delivering" towels.
Though the contractions were strong and closer together, I was still not consumed by the process and able to maintain a sense of humor.
The mid-wife left to rest for awhile since I was doing fine and didn't want her to check me.
I relaxed in bed for the next hour or so battling the temperature changes that come with transition. I would have them turn up the heat and then open the door to outside. Over and over again, hot then cold. Hot then cold. I also was batttling some nausea in between contractions. I knew this was a sign of transition but refused to let the midwife check me or dare hope I was already at the end. I remembered what the end felt like with my others and this was not it. My duola sister in law sat in the corner knowing I was close. She suggested I get checked and I blew it off. I was not going to accidentally have a baby. I'd let them know when I wanted to push. She settled with suggesting that I empty my bladder. Alright. Why not?
Once there, I was so comfortable, I didn't want to leave. I was still having temperature trouble and I had Noah get me my favorite bamboo blanket to put on my lap while I trembled with cold, which were actually my hormonal changes. I mentioned to him how over the past hour or so, I had felt intuitively that my breath needed to breath down instead of out (I know.Laugh it up). He looked me square in the eye and reminded me not to deliver our baby on a toilet in that frantic way only a husband can.
I assured him that wasn't going to happen.
I was so cold and my contractions were much closer together. My sis in law said they'd been like 2 minutes apart for a little while but I couldn't tell, because I was so focused on relaxing. As I sat there,on the toilet, with my favorite blanket,shivering with cold and trying to relax through contractions, I could hear a faint musical noise making it's way into the bathroom.
"Sitting by the dock of the bay" by Otis Redding, ususally one of my favorites, was playing and all I could hear was high pitched whistling...
I said a few choice words and wondered out loud who thought that was a good idea.
Noah said it was then that he knew I was about to have a baby.
I was so cold, all I could think of was getting in a warm bath so I had them run the water.
I had been in the bathroom maybe a total of 15 minutes,but it's hard to say becuase I wasn't super aware of times passing.
Noah helped me slowly up and and into the bath.
As I lowered into the tub, my body took over and I started to push.
I had no choice in the matter.
Noah held me to help me stabilize while I pushed.
My sister ran to get the midwife who had just left to rest.
She ran in and asked for the "big gloves." This was code for the giant,plastic gloves that go up the the shoulders, used for water births.
Turns out I was gonna have a water birth.
She got down at my level and said she was gonna check me to be sure I was dilated before I began to push and then straight to "never mind...there's a head."
Told you I wouldn't have a a baby on accident.
Here's where it got wild for about 60 seconds.
If you're squeamish...skip.
The short of it.
I am involuntarily pushing our baby out while simultaneously having overwhelming nausea. I make myslef throw up which then makes Noah want to throw up and start dry heaving. I am thinking. "I love you but if you throw up on me right now, we are not gonna be cool. Only one of us allowed to be messy today. And it aint you."
What? You didn't think it was going to be all roses and incense did you?
What? You didn't think it was going to be all roses and incense did you?
this all happens in a matter of seconds and the midwife looks me in the eyes and says that I need to change postions so I can deliver the baby underwater.
Things return to calm.
I mean INTENSE,PRIMAL,BRINGING A HUMAN INTO THE WORLD kinda calm.
But no ones throwing up.
2 or maybe 3 pushes later, Johannah Bethlehem Joyner joined us in this terrible,beautiful world. where she will live out the life God has made her for.
I have no idea how it will look but I know that God brought much grace on the day of her arrival.
HE WAS THERE.
And I am confident HE will be with her forever, able to meet her every need, as He did that day.
For her and for us all.
It wasn't for some time that we found out she was a girl.
I had wanted Noah to tell me and then we could tell everyone else, even though they were all crowded around the tub.
She was SO calm, as babies often are in water births. I was actually allowed to assist in her delivery at the last push and pull her up on to my chest,which was amazing.
But because it was so calm, she was still all scrunched into a little ball and no one could tell if she was a boy or girl. The midwfie was way more concerned with getting her to cry and take a breath, and could have cared less the gender. But I kept asking Noah.
I love surprises.
Finally, Noah told me we had a girl and we all rejoiced.
I had been SURE we were having another boy.
Even when the ultrasound tech slipped and called the baby "her" at the last ultrasound, I refused to believe she meant it. She was probably just throwing stuff out there.
We didn't have a girl name until a few weeks before the delivery. It was then that Noah started to change his mind and think it was a girl. It was then that I let my momma buy some baby girl clothes but keep the tags on;)
I had a daughter.
I know this picture looks like I am miserable, but I am saying over and over again, "I am just so grateful..."
Noah held his first little girl to his bare skin and we all marveled at what had just taken place.
That smoothly? That peacefully? She was here?
I was completely overwhlemed with Thanks and gratefulness.
My mom was so excited that I finally gave her a granddaughter.
My only complaint about the birth center...they gave me a blue baby blanket for her.
I have 3 boys and you give me a blue blanket for my first daughter.
Joey was 7lbs 1oz and 18 1/4 inches but she seemed even smaller. They even re-weighed her because she was such a peanut.
I got into my fancy pajamas that I always purchase before a delivery. If I'm gonna be wearing pjs for the next couple of months,they can at least be pretty. She went straight to nursing. My sister's got my favorite dinner, Chipotle, and we rested for the next couple of hours before going home.
As we drove home around midnight, I was in shock.
I had left home just hours before sure that I wasn't going to have a baby for a while and here I was driving home with my daughter, the very same day.
And that's what it was, and that's how she's been.