Through the Deep Waters

This is the birth story of my friend, Christy. I love that she sang while laboring, and I love how encouraging her husband and doula were, and I love the role her momma played in her darkest hour… Enjoy! -Lani

I spent the weeks leading up to my due date focusing on faith. I’d made all the necessary preparations for a natural birth – chosen a supportive obstetrician and hospital, hired a doula, studied the Bradley Method. I never did get very good at my pregnancy exercises, but other than that I felt pretty well-prepared, physically and mentally. As the time grew nearer, I worked on preparing myself spiritually. I knew it was going to be hard and that I would want to give up. I also knew that my body was designed by a wise Heavenly Father, that the process of birth is normal, and that He would help me through it. Beau and I had lots of long talks. We read scriptures together, and discovered this one, which became my pregnancy favorite:

“For it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto [wo]men.” (Moroni 7)

I told Beau that I wouldn’t be able to do it without him. “There will come a time when I’ll think I can’t do it anymore. I will want to give up and get an epidural. Please remind me over and over that that isn’t what I really want. Don’t let me quit.” He agreed to this, somewhat nervously.

I prayed hard to be fearless, and it worked. I approached Vivi’s birth feeling strong and filled with faith, knowing that while it would be hard, I could do it. I believed that I would be strengthened and comforted.

My due date was Tuesday, March 9th. It came and went without incident. The next day, Wednesday, I posted about the girl baby still being on the inside. Within minutes of hitting “publish,” at about 3:00 p.m., I felt a crampy sensation in my uterus. I was emailing my mother at the time, and I told her about it. “All my labors started out feeling crampy,” she said. “I think you’re going to have a baby soon.”

I thought so too. While I tried to remain casual and not get everybody’s hopes up, including mine, something told me that this was it. Beau was at work, and I was home alone. I walked around getting last-minute things ready, putting stuff in the hospital bag, straightening up. Then I sat down at the piano to play and sing. Music has always been my favorite way to relax and feel the Spirit. I played “How Firm a Foundation” several times, especially loving this verse:

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

The hour or so I spent playing the piano was the first of my favorite four moments during the labor and birth process. It was so peaceful and left me feeling calm and ready.

Beau got home at 5:30. I told him I’d been having mild contractions for the last couple of hours and that I thought tonight might be the night. He got excited and decided to channel his emotions into installing the carseat.

At 7:00, we ate dinner – small steaks, baked potatoes, and green beans. The contractions were getting a little more intense but were still quite mild. I was enjoying them. I took a shower and called Aimee, our doula, to tell her what was going on. She advised me to rest until things picked up, so I put on my pajamas and climbed in bed around 8:30. I tried to get Beau to come to bed with me, but he was a little too worked up. He cleaned the bathtub and watched TV while I lay there and timed contractions – because really, I was too worked up to fall asleep myself.

At 10:30, I had the most intense contraction yet … and my water broke. That was the second of my favorite four moments. It was one of the most interesting sensations I’ve ever felt – I heard and felt a little pop, like a water balloon, and then warm water came gushing out. It was also the game-changing moment. Things really picked up after that. The contractions got stronger and closer together. The water made me cold and shaky, and I never really warmed up again.

I called my mom and Aimee to let them know about the new development. My mom told me to keep her posted – “even if it’s the middle of the night!” – and Aimee said she’d head over. She arrived at about 11:00. Beau and I were wandering the house aimlessly, not sure what to do. She had brought her small Doppler machine so that we could hear the baby’s heartbeat, which sounded good. She also took over the timing of contractions. As they got stronger, she advised me to take another shower, so I did. The warm water hitting my belly felt great; I cannot recommend showering during labor enough.

Finally the contractions got intense enough that I felt like lying down, which is the Bradley-recommended position for labor. The idea is to competely relax your entire body so that only the uterus is working. I lay in bed, covered with a blanket because I was freezing and shivering, and Beau and Aimee talked to me through the contractions. Beau kept telling me to relax my face – that was apparently what stood out the most to him in the Bradley book. Aimee rubbed my legs and told me I was doing great.

Then the baby moved. I’m not entirely sure what she did, but it was the hugest movement I’d ever felt from her, and it HURT. I believe she was turning and sinking lower into my pelvis at the same time, getting ready to come out. She did it just as a contraction started, and it made the contraction twice as long and twice as painful. For the first time, I lost control and started writhing and gasping. It seemed to go on forever, and when it went away it took all of my carefully-cultivated faith with it.

I knew that if there were more contractions like that, I couldn’t do it. For the first time, I was afraid … and that changed everything. The next contractions, while not as painful as that one, were much worse for me because I had lost my sense of peace and focus. All I could think was, “I can’t keep doing this. When is it going to stop?”

We decided to go to the hospital. Aimee recognized the signs of transition and I was too terrified to consider any other possibility but that the baby was about to be born.

The contractions let up some during the 15-minute car ride, but they were still pretty hard. When we got to the hospital, we found the main admittance doors were locked, so we walked through the parking lot to the emergency entrance. I was stopping about every 30 seconds for a contraction. It was 2:00 a.m.

The only person in the emergency room reception area was a security guard who took one look at me and said “You’re in labor!” I wonder if he’d ever seen a woman come in the doors in hard labor before. He didn’t act like it. He got me a wheelchair, which I initially refused until two contractions later when I realized at the rate I was going I’d never make it to the labor and delivery room. I hated riding in the chair, because the contractions hurt so much worse when I was sitting down.

We made it to L&D and the nurses, like the security guy, reacted with some alarm. They did all their checking-in stuff and got us into a room, where the first two items of business were a dilation check and hooking me up to an IV for antibiotics (because I was Strep B positive). I enjoyed these two things about an equal amount, which was not at all. Having the IV meant I had to lie in bed, which made the contractions almost unbearable, but that wasn’t as bad as the words “six centimeters.” I had been hanging on to the hope that it was almost time, that I was either fully or almost-fully dilated. Finding out I was only a little more than halfway there crushed me. Again I thought, “I can’t do this.”

We asked the nurse how long it would take for me to receive the dose of antibiotic, and she said twenty minutes. Then they could unplug me and I could move around. Those twenty minutes were agony, but I kept telling myself that if I could just make it through them and get out of bed, things would be better. When the twenty minutes were up, Beau went looking for a nurse, who told him they hadn’t even started the antibiotic drip yet. That was when I started to cry.

I don’t remember much from the next twenty minutes, except that at one point I took matters into my own hands and stood up anyway. I leaked amniotic fluid onto the floor, which made the nurses fussy. Finally the antibiotic was done and I got into the shower. It had helped so much at home, but it didn’t do much for me at the hospital. I was freezing and the water wasn’t hot enough, and the contractions were so hard by then that I wasn’t conscious of much else. I leaned on the shower wall and cried, noisily. And then I gave up.

Beau had been out in the room for the first few minutes of my shower, and when he came in to the bathroom I told him, “I can’t do this. I need help.” He knew what I meant, even though I couldn’t bring myself to say the word. He told me later that this was the beginning of some of the hardest moments of his life – he was torn between the pain he could see I was in, and the promises he had made me earlier.

“You’re doing great,” he said over and over. “You can do this.”

“I can’t!” I yelled.

“You ARE. You’re doing it right now.”

I asked over and over, as I got out of the shower and dried off and got dressed and went back into the room. I stayed standing but leaned over the bed, putting my weight on my arms, as the contractions got harder and faster. “It’s my choice,” I told him. “Please, this is what I want. Please help me. Please let me choose.”

“Honey, you’re so close. You’re doing this. Just hang on to me, you’re doing such a great job.”

Aimee was encouraging me too. She said she could tell I was moving fast, and that it wouldn’t last much longer. She reminded me that even if they called the anesthesiologist, he wouldn’t make it to the room for at least another half hour or so, which just made me feel worse. At that point I started yelling through the contractions, and a thousand miles away my mom woke up with a start, thinking about me. We talked about it later and were amazed that at the exact moment I hit my lowest point, she was jolted out of sleep.

At about 3:30, they checked me again. I was pretty far gone at that point, still begging for help, still saying “I can’t do this” over and over. Beau says he could see panic in my eyes then, and it was ripping him up inside to turn me down. The nurse said, “She only has a tiny lip of cervix left, and it’s stretchy!”

Aimee turned to me and said, “See? You just made it four centimeters in under an hour and a half!” and I was immediately hit with a feeling of serious pressure in my bottom.

“I need to push!”

And so we started pushing.

I hadn’t ever warmed up, so Beau had turned the thermostat in the room to 85 degrees. Each new person who came in said, “It’s HOT in here!” And a nurse would reply, “That’s how she wants it.” That was another thing that surprised me – most women seem to be hot during labor and birth, but I was cold the whole time. I think I was in shock.

I pushed through a few contractions and then my doctor arrived. The rest is a blur of pushing and yelling. At one point a nurse asked me if I thought my baby had hair.

“What?” I said. I couldn’t understand why she would want to talk about the baby’s hair at that point. She told me that she could see my baby’s head, and that it was covered with dark hair. I think she thought that would encourage me a little, but I could barely pay attention to her. The pushing was taking everything I had.

Aimee was holding back my left leg and Beau had my right. They, and the nurses, told me over and over what a great job I was doing, and I kept saying “No, I’m not!” I felt so helpless and lost and scared. I was sure the baby would never come out, that I would just lie there and push and scream for the rest of my life. I could feel her kicking at the top as her head squeezed down the canal. She wanted to come out just as badly as I wanted her to, but it seemed impossible to me.

I pushed the hardest I possibly could, for as long as I could, and felt her head come out. There was some burning and stinging, but nothing that really stood out above the overall pressure. I don’t remember a “ring of fire”. I did manage to stop pushing after her head came out, and then I pushed once more for her shoulders and felt the most intense, fantastic relief. I had pushed for 45 minutes and now she was OUT.

I could have passed out right then but the doctor said “Christy! Reach down here and get your baby!” That gave me the little shot of energy I needed to sit up enough to grab the baby and pull her onto my stomach. The nurses were all clustered around, rubbing her with a towel, and she was crying and growling and sucking on her hand, and I was just staring into her face and wailing.

I would give anything for video footage of that moment. It was, obviously, number three of my four favorites. Beau says he had never heard anything like the noise I was making – I was sobbing, but it was a loud, keening kind of sob. I’ve already forgotten what it sounded like, but I remember the feeling of making the sound. I’ll never forget the incredible relief and release and overwhelming joy and terror of that moment. It was what made everything else worthwhile. I looked up at one point and saw Beau’s face as he leaned over us – he was crying, but grinning from ear to ear.

With my first look at my baby, I thought, “I know you!” She looked exactly like my brother Rob to me. I was so surprised and excited to recognize her. I stared into her face and felt like I’d known her forever.

Afterward, they did all the usual stuff. Beau cut the cord, and I delivered the placenta. That was favorite moment number four – it felt amazing. So warm and smooth, and it came out so easily compared to the baby. The doctor showed us the placenta later, and it was completely awesome. Beau and I both highly recommend that you take any opportunity you get to have an in-depth look at a placenta.

The doctor stitched me up. I had a tiny tear because Vivi came down the birth canal with her hand up by her face – the girl is a born hand-sucker. Her arm being bent that way made her shoulders wider, which caused me to tear, but not badly. It healed quickly and hasn’t bothered me much.

Viv was a model of perfection from the very beginning. She came out alert and lively and ready to eat – we nursed within an hour of her birth and she’s been a champion eater ever since. She started making faces at us right away. And, obviously, we loved her right away.

For the first day or so, I was pretty traumatized by the birth. I want to be honest about that, for you and for me. I said before that it was simultaneously the worst and best day of my life, and that’s true. I have never been so exhausted, never worked so hard, never experienced so much pain and fear. I wish I had been able to keep the fear out – that will be my focus for next time. I truly believe that it made all the difference. If I hadn’t let myself get so scared, it wouldn’t have been so hard and I’d have felt the ecstasy of birth sooner. As it was, it took me until late the following day to feel the sheer joy and pride of her birth.

When I finally DID feel it, I loved it. I loved my experience and am so glad that we did it the way we did. Natural birth is hard, yes, but it can be done, and if it’s what you want, it is worth doing. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.

I’ve never been so grateful for Beau, or more sure of the importance of partnership. When I gave up, he was strong. He did exactly what I wanted and needed him to do, and got me through something I could never have done by myself. He is my hero.

2 thoughts on “Through the Deep Waters”

  1. I love how united you were as a couple preparing for and birthing your baby. Great thoughts about faith vs. fear. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for this post – I appreciate the fact that you were honest about the fact that it is HARD but WORTH IT. I think sometimes when I try to explain WHY I give birth without drugs that people just can’t get that part. This was really nicely written 🙂

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