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Eliana Joy’s Birth

On Tuesday morning, November 10th, I went to our last Precepts class on Joshua with my parents. I never imagined I would make it through all 7 weeks of the class. I noticed that I was having trouble sitting still and being comfortable during class, but my discomfort had been increasing over the last few days. The night before I had experienced more contractions than ever, but I still wasn’t sure if the day had finally come. When we went out to lunch after class, however, the discomfort continued. Coincidentally, we ate at Spin! Pizza, and my mom ate pizza right before delivering her firstborn.

When my parents dropped me off at the apartment after lunch, I decided to go for a walk. Bradley recommends eating, drinking, walking, showering, and resting when you’re trying to determine whether you’re really in labor. I had the eating and drinking covered, so a walk was next. Plus, I had been walking an hour a day for several weeks, and I hadn’t walked yet. As I walked our loop at Antioch Park, just talking to the L-rd, I began having noticeable contractions. It was more comfortable to stop walking while the contraction lasted, but then I could continue on with no problems.

When I finished walking, I went home to take a nap. But when I lay down, the contractions felt more intense. I decided to time them. At first they were 10 minutes apart, but then they were only 8. Eric was working in Paola, which is an hour away. I called him, because I had no idea how fast (or slow) the labor would progress. He knew the call was a possibility, because I had mentioned in the morning that my contractions during the night had increased. Our conversation was very short, and I could practically hear him packing up his computer right then. That was around 2:30 p.m. I also called Cami Nettekoven, our doula, just to give her a heads-up that our baby was finally coming.

When Eric got home, there was a lot of rushing around the apartment to make sure everything was ready. All of our bags were packed, the apartment was picked up, the dishes were done, etc. Then the waiting began. My contractions were closer together when I was up and moving around, sometimes only 4 minutes apart. But they were bearable, especially if I sat on the birthing ball and rocked my hips. Around 5:30 p.m. we began calling our family to let them know the good news. My mom was taking nap, so Dad woke her up. Several of my siblings didn’t answer their phones, which was funny since they’d been sleeping by them for over a week. We talked to Cami again, and she said to give her a call when I was having trouble handling the contractions on my own.

Around 8:30 p.m. we decided it was time to call Cami. She recommended that I get in the shower, so we did that while we waited for her to arrive. The shower was great. At some point we watched Persuasion, maybe before Cami got there. When she came, we started Pride and Prejudice. When I lay down, my contractions would space out to about 10 minutes apart. But then when they came, they were much more intense. I didn’t like lying down, but Eric and Cami were encouraging me to rest while I could. The night dragged on and on.

We did the shower again until the hot water ran out. We waited for the hot water heater to refill and then repeated the shower, since it was giving me the most relief. As I stood in that third shower, I puked. Usually puking is a sign that you’ve entered transition, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Around 3:30 a.m. as I stood in the shower, I asked Eric if he really thought I could do it. He said yes, and I believed him. No questions asked. Evidently it was good that I trusted him without question, because he was “completely unsure” if I really could do it, to quote him. We were both puzzled by how long labor had already been going, since it had been 13 hours. Weeks earlier someone had suggested to me that my labors might be similar to my mom’s, and my mom only had 6-8 hour labors for all of her kids. From that perspective, things were not going according to the plan.

I puked again after the shower, losing the yogurt I had eaten earlier. Sometime after that, Cami recommended hanging from Eric’s pull-up bar during contractions. I tried it, with Eric squeezing my hips together to help the back pain. It made things bearable. My contractions were coming in clusters – two or three very close together, then a long break. We tried to sleep during the long break, and then Eric and I would quickly wake up and go to the pull-up bar. Eric encouraged Cami to catch some sleep on the couch.

Around 5:30 a.m. I couldn’t handle it anymore; I was getting concerned about the baby. My contractions weren’t getting any closer together, and we had been laboring for a long time. Sleeping during the long break had restored some of my energy, but the back labor was still exhausting. Eric made the executive decision that we would go to the hospital. He packed up the car while Cami stayed to help me through the contractions. It was only a two-minute drive, so we were hoping to make the transfer without a contraction. We almost made it, with only one contraction out of the cluster of three coming during the drive. Eric dropped me off at the door, and Cami went in with me. I had another contraction while we stopped at the nurses’ station to fill out some paperwork.

We got to our room, and the nurse hooked me up to the EFM. She wouldn’t let me move at all, making the next contractions very difficult. But the baby was doing great. She also checked and said I was about 80% effaced and dilated to a 1 or 2. That was what the doctors had said at my last several visits as well. I had been in labor for over 12 hours, and I hadn’t “progressed” at all. I was devastated. It was 6:15 a.m.

But we were at the hospital, which has an endless hot water supply, so I got in the tub. Water always felt good, and it was the only relief to counter the discouraging news. Everyone else was wondering if I would run out of energy by the time I had to push, requiring me to have a C-section. Eric tells this part best:

After being up all night, my decision-making ability was getting foggy. I too didn’t want her to have C-section, but it was hard to take seeing her go through so much. I didn’t know if I should encourage her to get an epidural or not, because knowing her personality she wouldn’t fight too hard for what she felt she needed. Partially in the need to do something to keep me busy, and partially in hope that it would change things, I turned on the iPod and started the playlist we created for this occasion. Selah was the first group on there, and it instantly began to clear out the heaviness we all felt. Susan’s mom asked if I was going to pray over the place, which fully woke me up out my foggy reluctance, reminding me of what we know but often forget: the circumstances and atmosphere are subject to the spiritual. So I prayed over the room, anointing it with some olive oil we bought in Shiloh on our trip to Israel the previous summer, cleared it out of everything evil, and invited the L-rd in to be with us. Within an hour, we met the doctor who would be attending the delivery (Dr. Matthews, one of Dr. Giedt’s associates) and had a new nurse come in, who was just filling in for our nurse. She was incredibly refreshing in her demeanor and was very on board with the Bradley approach we were using. This was key, as we hadn’t clicked with the first nurse (though she did point out that Susan’s irregular contraction patterns probably meant the baby wasn’t in the right position, which proved to be very helpful advice).

So as a result of the first nurse’s advice, Cami suggested being on my hands and knees and rocking my hips, which I did in between contractions while I sat in the tub.

Then at 7:30 a.m. Dr. Matthews checked me, and I had dilated to a 5! That was great progress in only an hour and fifteen minutes. My hope surged, and I knew we could do it. I sat in the tub again, then took a walk around the halls. Eric and I debated whether or not to have another exam. If I hadn’t progressed, it would be discouraging. But if I had, I would get another energy boost. Plus, there is always a chance of your water breaking during an exam, and our nurse didn’t want to interfere with our decision to go naturally. She left the decision to us. I prayed and felt like it was okay to go for it. As Lisanne checked me, my water broke. She said I was at an 8 or a 9. Due to the water breaking (and perhaps going into transition), my contractions got much harder. I was having trouble making it through them until Eric suggested I change positions and squat over a metal bar. Cami pushed on my back while Eric pushed on my knees so I would stay centered. Eric’s mom got behind him to prevent his chair from sliding.

At one point they had me almost lying on my stomach on the bed, to help with the positioning of the baby or the cervix or something. Those contractions were the worst. But soon it was time to push. I didn’t experience an overwhelming urge to push, but it did feel better to push than not to push. Second stage lasted for 45 minutes. Eric says I had been in a zone for several hours, but as the head came out they encouraged me to touch it. Beforehand I didn’t think I wanted to touch the head, but I went ahead and tried it. My eyes popped open, and I looked around in surprise and wonder. That was my baby’s head!

After one last push, the baby came out and Eric announced, “It’s a . . .it’s a girl!” They placed her on my chest, and she cried for the next hour. But she was healthy and beautiful, with more hair than any of us ever expected. Her head was 14½ inches around, and she weighed 8 pounds and 1 or 2 ounces, depending on who you ask. She was 19 inches long.