I’m not even sure where to start, and I’m even less sure of where this will end, but this is my story.
What you read in quotes is from our amazing friend Christa, who supported us in this whole birth journey and was there to pray, capture moments and stand with us during one of the most challenging and intimate moments of our lives. Thank you Christa. Words could never.
July 6th 0730pm
I arrive to a welcome from your mom, ushering me into the house. I look up the stairs at you and instantly notice your face is different. You have the look of a mother who is in labor. You are glowing, your face is so soft, your cheeks are flush and your eyes are sparkling.
At this point my contractions are regular, and we are so excited to finally end the wait. It’s been a full 24 hours since contractions started, and we were up all last night. At a week overdue, and what felt like the biggest fight against the medical system, God was faithful, and kept our baby safe and gave us strength to advocate for him/her until s/he was ready. And here baby is … ready.
Lucas, myself and Christa start out with a walk to help move baby down; I want to labour outside and the weather couldn’t be more perfect to take my mind off the pain, which I have such a tough time accepting and instead find myself fighting. By the time we get back to the house my contractions are 8 minutes apart and getting stronger.
It’s midnight; we’ve gone for another walk and we’re back home and my contractions have shown up strong. I’ve had back labour for almost a full 24 hours at this point and I can barely stand I’m so tired that I fall asleep sitting upright on my living room floor only to wake up for contractions, and fall back asleep. The heat and intensity of the pain in my back is like nothing I’d ever experienced and I find myself scared, but determined.
Instead of prepping my mind for the inevitable, I brace and prayed the next wouldn’t come, but of course it did. Things are gearing up, and it’s time. We are heading to the hospital now, and I am kneeled in the middle seat, breathing and groaning through the pain. Luc reaches back and holds my low back during a contraction while Christa coaches me to lower my voice and focus; they both keep me strong and calm. Immediately when it’s done I fall asleep.
We arrive at the hospital and you’ve had four contractions walking in. You are moaning, rocking, swaying and calling for Luc. You are in triage now. The hallway out here is quiet, all I can hear is the chatter of the nurses and your voice behind the wall. “Oh, there’s another one.” I think to myself.
I hear them tell you that you are only 1-2cm dilated. You are discouraged, and tired. You want to go home – and even though they want to keep you there – you trust your body and your mind is made up. This is YOUR journey. We leave the hospital to labor at home. I drop you and Luc off at your house and go back to my house, it is almost 5am.
Again I am encouraged to be induced. Again I am told I am leaving the hospital against medical advice. Again, I’m being told it’s just not happening. I am starting to lose faith. How can I be in so much pain, and have such regular contractions so close together, and be so far from my baby? We leave as we need time to sleep, to pray and to process.
I doze in and out of sleep and contractions all morning. Asher is still at Nana’s and Lucas is asking me to go for a walk to get coffee, but it’s too light out. I feel too vulnerable here; I don’t want to have contractions with anyone around. I want to be alone, so we drive for coffee and park; we sit here in silence while I continue to fall in and out of sleep and contractions.
“We should go to the abandoned golf course outside of Christa’s house and you can be alone there, but outdoors and we can talk.” He’s so perfect. He knows me so well and has been such a strong rock for me to lean on.
By 10:30 AM we are in an open green space; the same one we had maternity photos done with our first son, Asher. It’s sunny and peaceful, and completely quiet. Here I can think. Here I can labour.
It’s day 3. I have had back labour through the night and day for nearly 50 hours. I’m so tired, I feel like I can’t think. We talk and talk. You listen. More contractions follow and you scoop me up in your incredibly strong arms and hold me; sway with me. I think to myself … I’ve never been more in love.
It’s time. We’ve decided. I want to have my water broken and to have this baby. I root myself in prayer, because I am the only one who can fully make this decision, and I need to love myself through it. I need to be able to handle looking back and seeing that things could have been different, but be ok anyways. I don’t want to fight Dr’s and contractions anymore. I’ve fought long and hard and we want to end the fight and fill our family. I’m ready to do this.
You and Luc enter the unit and I sit in the waiting room. Shortly after I discover they have instantly put you into the Labor and Delivery room, and promptly broke your water at your request. I am called in to the room and things have already changed- dramatically.
Music is playing and your surges are different this time – you can tell your body is working with more purpose. You dance between contractions, you know you must keep moving.
Hours pass as you rock, moan, sway, cry, ache, cringe . . .but eventually you get the hang of it. You listen as we tell you to relax your face, lower your voice, relax into the surge, move as your body needs to move. You are suddenly the poster child for handling the most intense, transition like surges. Everyone is so impressed with you. As time goes on though, you reach a point of exhaustion, you fall in to sleep between almost every single contraction.
I’ve been here for 8 hours; contractions are strong and a minute or less apart. They bring me to my knees; I can feel my back tightening and burning up, it feels like it’s going to break me. I hear words like strong and focused, but I don’t feel it. And yet here I am, faced with my biggest fears, and I have to keep going. I’ve never been one to embrace pain.
I thought my labour would be peaceful; I’d be the poster child of natural birth. Maybe I am; maybe that’s what this is. I’ve never felt so weak and yet here I stand on day 3 of nearly no sleep and I haven’t sat down in over 8 hours. My feet ache, my calves burn from the deep squatting and rocking…I have come into this one woman, and I will leave it another.
I have cried, screamed, thrown up, groaned and prayed.
I have felt the presence of God in a way I haven’t felt Him in a long time as worhsip music plays and pours out over me as I thank Him over and over for giving me this opportunity. For giving me this strength. For allowing me to come into this process my own woman, making my own choices and not backing down for anyone.
His promises are true, in weakness, we can be strong.
The nurse frowns, you are still only 2-3cm. “What?! How?!” you say. Another set of incredibly intense surges overtake you. The nurse encourages you to get on all fours and rest between them. You do. You also move from side to side, begging for relief. You fall asleep again only to be awoken by a surge almost everyone in the room can feel.
My resolve is breaking to maintain through this contraction knowing it’s not doing what I need it to do. It’s 10:30PM. Eight hours with almost no dilation. I can’t cope. I’m too tired, too sore everywhere, I need to sit. I need to rest. My body is fighting this now, and I need to relax. I ask for an epidural. I am proud to have asked. I am proud of myself for enduring what I have, and feel no pride to power through. I have nothing to prove to anyone; this is my journey, and my body needs to rest now.
I’m cross legged on the bed. Sitting down during a contraction is the worst thing imaginable. I’m given a pillow to hold and crush as I need to be completely still during the epidural. I feel it coming, but just knowing relief is on it’s way, I find the strength one last time. It starts; the needle is in my back and I am fighting. I cry, groan and shake but I don’t move.
It’s done. I can feel myself falling asleep as the pain diminishes, and pure exhaustion sweeps over me.
It’s 1 AM. My body needs more sleep than 2 hours, but I woke up anyways. Something deep inside me stirred to let me know it’s time. I get to meet my baby now. This is what it means to be a woman; to know things without being told. To rely on that deep instinct of the Holy Spirit. 10 CM; my heart is racing. We made it; I get to deliver my own baby. I get my VBAC.
I don’t question whether or not I’ll be able to deliver this baby on my own. I hear them talk about baby’s heart decelerations as I push, and as NICU staff come in, but I am at complete and total peace. God has us, we are safe.
Pushing is a relief; I feel such overwhelming joy and peace knowing this is God’s design.
I feel every contraction, I feel every push and suddenly I feel my baby.
I reach down and grab my baby. I’m weeping as I scoop my hands under the armpits and pull to my chest; it’s a boy you tell me, and we both know this is our Niall.
As soon as he is out, you both cry, you weep.
I want to delay cord clamping until all the blood was done pumping through. I want all the best things for our son, and they leave it attached, no fight, no struggle.
Then the Doctor tells me in surprise that the placenta is still intact and ready to be delivered, and I have the hospitals first Lotus Birth. I can feel the culmination of everyone’s prayers in that one moment, and it was beautiful. She pulled out the placenta and it lay beside us delivering everything baby needed until it was done. I never realized how beautiful creation is, even at its messiest.
Surrounded by Christian nurses and staff, we end up having the most beautiful experience imaginable. I can feel the strength of all the prayers that went up for us this week, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am so many people held space for us, and how grateful I am that we serve the God we do.
It’s time to let Asher meet his baby brother.
Niall Gannon Gross, we’ve been waiting.