Redemptive Birth Experience

My first labor and delivery was at The Birth Center a little over 4 years ago. I knew I wanted to have a natural childbirth for my son, but I was naive going into it, of just how challenging it would really be (despite taking all the natural childbirth classes). I had all of the head knowledge, but had yet to experience it, so it was somewhat fantasized in my mind (just like much of motherhood was, really). It was by far the hardest thing I had done in my life. As with most first time moms, my labor was very long, and it came with some intense challenges. However, as the hours and days passed, my post-labor endorphins kicked in, and I loved my entire experience, despite the challenges. I had the best birth team - my midwife, René as my doula, my rockstar husband, and incredible momma. I felt like with them by my side, I could do anything I put my mind to.

Fast forward 4 years to present day, I decided to give birth to my second son at Woman’s Hospital with Dr. Dickerson. This was a hard decision for me to make because I adored everything about The Birth Center, but I needed the reassurance of medical interventions should similar challenges arise again. Hiring René as my doula however, was no decision at all. I was certain I didn’t want to do it without her. In fact, I was confident that without her, I would give in too easily to the idea of medical interventions with them now at my fingertips. Once I met with her, we came up with a game plan of how to go into this labor and delivery at Woman’s differently. The main thing I needed to work on - face my fear from my past birth challenges and surrender to the process, trusting that it will go well.

Leading up to my due date was almost more intense than my actual delivery. This pregnancy took its toll on my body pretty early on, and I was constantly fatigued and experienced lower back and hip pain. Regular appointments with the physical therapist, chiropractor, and massage therapist helped, but this was a much harder pregnancy than my last one. By 36 weeks, a cervical exam showed I was 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced. The baby felt so low, and I had so many Braxton Hicks contractions, I was convinced this baby was coming early. (My first son was born at 41+3 weeks after having my membranes stripped.)

So the waiting game began... The longer I waited, the more anxious I got. I did everything I could do to rest and save my energy for labor, but days turned into weeks and mentally took its toll on me. I was fearful that I would not have the energy to make it through labor. After talking to René about my fears and concerns, again, she helped me to get in the right mindset to wait and again, surrender to the process.

At my 39 week appointment, and still no further progress in my cervix, Dr. Dickerson said he believed I would probably go past my due date again. He was also going to be out of town the week of my due date, so I came to terms with the prolonged waiting game. My due date came and went, and Dr. Dickerson was now back in town. At my 41 week checkup, we decided to sweep my membranes 2 days in a row to help kick start labor. After the first sweep, I did have some mild cramping through the night - not true contractions, but enough to keep me up half the night. I went back in again the next morning for a second round of membrane sweep and then went straight home to try to rest. If this didn’t do the trick, I would be induced early the next morning. As much as I didn’t want to be induced, I was at peace about my decision because I feared any longer and my body wouldn’t have the stamina for labor.

Around noon, the cramping/mild contractions began. I was in constant contact with René because she was teaching a class that evening, and we were trying to decide if she would need to postpone the class, or if my labor would hold up a little longer. By 3 p.m., we decided that labor still hadn’t really started, so she would be safe to keep her class scheduled. We hypothetically (& jokingly) planned out the perfect scenario - she would finish teaching her class, and we would meet at the hospital for 9 p.m. as my labor progressed (and bypass my scheduled induction).

Little did we know, this is exactly what would happen. My labor started to progress around 5 p.m. when Rene’s class started. I labored at home, though active labor didn’t begin until 6:30 p.m.. I was in contact with René the whole time, but once she finished her class and called me at 9 p.m.., we decided it was time to head to the hospital, exactly as we had “planned” earlier in the day!

We arrived at Woman’s approximately at 9:30 p.m. and were greeted by René at the Assessment Center. As they wheeled me toward the registration desk a friend of mine, Esther, walks through the doors as the Admissions Nurse. Tears well up in my eyes because I had been anxious and doubting “the wait” and the timing of it all, but in that moment I realized that the Lord was in the details of it all along. I knew I was in His hands and that everything was going to be better than I could have planned.

We quickly get up to our room 2241. My husband knows our labor and delivery nurse as a former co-worker of his, so again, I trust that I’m in good hands. Contractions are coming every 2-3 minutes & I’m already in the zone. Though the check-in process is far more lengthy than the Birth Center, I’m not bothered by this because contractions seem to take most of my attention. My mom arrives to our room by 9:55 p.m. and shortly thereafter the nurse performs a cervical exam on me and lets me know I am 5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Thoughts of doubt immediately begin to race through my mind upon hearing these “stupid numbers”, but René immediately begins to reassure me that as a second-time mom, I’m 3/4 of the way there. Her confident words bring me the assurance I needed. My mom reads Psalm 91 over me which again, brings further assurance I need.

By 10:25 p.m., I begin to push with some of the contractions. Because I had a “premature urge to push” with my first labor, I had some doubt or question in my mind if it was ok to start pushing. Dr. Dickerson arrives by 10:30 p.m. and I tell him “Let’s get this show on the road.” I was ready to have him break my membranes to help things move along. At 10:35 p.m. he breaks my water and checks my cervix - 6 cm dilated, 100% effaced, and baby is at -1 station. By 10:45 p.m. I’m on my hands & knees in bed more aggressively pushing. I state that “I don’t want to do this anymore” because I have no idea how close I am to the end, and the thought of pushing for 2 1/2 hours like my first labor is looming in the back of my mind. At 11:00 p.m. a bit of the baby’s head becomes visible. And on March 12th at 11:06 p.m., at exactly the right time, my son, Camden Lewis, is born.

Such a sense of relief sweeps over my body! Everything I had hoped for and prayed for came to pass. Everything I feared would happen fell by the wayside. My second labor and delivery was nothing like my first. I miraculously had the energy and physical stamina for it. The aches and pains of pregnancy were nonexistent in labor. My body did what it needed to do to properly birth my son. I did not need to be induced. We “beat the clock” by 6 hours! My entire birth team was able to be present - Dr. Dickerson, René, my husband, and my mom. My labor was FAST! Labor was less than 5 hours and only 1 1/2 hours of that at the hospital! My labor was (relatively) easy! There were no complications or challenges this time!

I’m so thankful for such an amazing and redemptive experience. Though no natural labor is easy, it’s worth it all. The miracle that takes place cannot be accurately described with words. The emotions that surge in with the endorphins are unlike any other experience on earth. And I’m confident the Lord is present in the midst of it all, as He is the Giver of Life.

Karly Lewis