Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Serene's joyous birth

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It shall be three weeks since Serene Joy's birth tomorrow, and I realized I've yet to write her birth story, which began exactly three weeks ago today:

I was 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 when I went in for my 38 week doctor's appointment. My doctor had predicted after a cervical exam at my 36 week appointment that the baby would come at 38 weeks. Though I hoped it were true and though I felt so ready for her to come into this world, I knew that she could also arrive later, according to God's timing. That afternoon, my doctor told me after the cervical exam that I was in early labor, 2 cm dilated, and that he didn't think I would still be pregnant by the weekend, especially since I was having faint contractions at that very moment. My body had been undergoing early labor for the past few weeks, which I did not regard as particularly noteworthy since I was aware women could be in early labor for weeks before they deliver.

After the doctor's appointment, I went about my normal routine that day. Alex and I took a walk around the neighborhood that evening, which we attempted to do every day to spend quality time together (and to help with impending labor and delivery). We went to bed at around 11:00pm per usual, and I was feeling what I perceived were Braxton Hicks contractions. I had been having these fairly intense practice contractions since month 8, and they usually lasted for about 2 hours from 11:00pm to 1:00am at about 5 minutes apart, but did not get stronger over time, so I thought I was having the habitual practice contractions once again that night. I tried to sleep them off like all the previous times, but by 1:00am, they started to feel different. They hurt more, and I was having more difficulty breathing normally. Alex stirred from his sleep, noticed that my breathing patterns were different, and asked if I was okay. "It hurts," I said, wincing. He got up in a flash and started tossing toiletries into our half-packed hospital bag. "We're going to the hospital," he insisted. "But what if they're just false contractions?" I asked. "I don't want to get there and have them send me home." As I was saying that, I felt more intense cramps, and thought, Oh my, this might be it!

Fortunately, we live less than 5 minutes away from the hospital. Thank the Lord, because by the time we got there at around 1:10am, I could not walk without limping from the rising pain. After we checked in, a nurse brought me into a room, gave me a cup to pee in and a hospital gown to change into, and left for 15 minutes so that I could settle in. I could hardly pee in the cup and change my clothes because the contractions were escalating so that I couldn't stand long enough to do so. When the nurse finally came back, she leisurely made small talk, asked me initial questions, and prepared to check my dilation. I was scrunched up in a fetal position on the bed by then, and my contractions were a tad more severe than they were when I was at home, but still manageable. "Wow, you're 5 cm," she said after she performed a quick cervical exam. By now, it got even harder to breathe and the pressure was intensifying. "It hurts," I told her feebly, squeezing my eyes shut and gasping as a contraction hit.

"Do you want an epidural?" she asked. "Yes," I nodded vigorously. "Yes, please." The plan was always to get an epidural. I was glad and thankful to welcome medical interventions to combat the forthcoming labor pains. We didn't take birthing classes and never finished watching the online childbirth class video because we figured I would be getting an epidural anyhow. "Okay, let me see if I can get you the epidural soon," the nurse said as she wheeled me to a different room and continued asking me check-in questions. Contractions deepened, and I was whimpering and writhing on the bed. "Take 2 short breaths and 1 long breath during your contractions," she instructed me.

We were in a delivery room now, and several other nurses hooked me up to an IV, a fetal heart monitor, and other contraptions that I can't now recall because I was yelping through my contractions now. "You're 7 cm now," a nurse said briskly after another dilation check. "You're going to have this baby soon." They called Alex in, and as soon as he appeared by my side, I grabbed his hand, squeezed hard, and asked him to pray for me. "This is a result of the Fall!" I exclaimed as another contraction hit with full force. It was about 1:40am by then, and my contractions were 2 minutes apart and intense, like no pain I had ever experienced before. I couldn't help but yell through them now. I kept begging the nurses for an epidural. "We have to get your Groub B Strep test done first," the nurses said. After they administered that, I pleaded again for an epidural. "We need to get your lab work done, and then you can have your epidural," they said. As they drew my blood in the midst of a contraction, I heard them whisper to each other, "She has no time for an epidural; she's progressing too quickly." "Please, I want some medication. PLEASE," I implored. "Okay, honey, it's coming," the nurses lied. "You just keep breathing." After checking the monitors, a nurse informed us, "Your labor is fast and furious.You're an exception in first-time moms. The next time you're in labor, you need to come to the hospital when your contractions start. Otherwise, you're going to have your next baby in the car."

The rest of labor was hazy. I never got an epidural. I did a ton of hollering (so much so that I apologized to my doctor and the nurses profusely after Serene's birth). Alex had tried to convince me in the weeks beforehand to ask a mama friend to help me through labor and delivery, but I was hesitant to do so because I just didn't know what to expect. At the end of it all, I am glad I didn't ask someone else to be there; I screamed so much that I probably would have lost friends if they were present. Alex was a bunch of nerves in the weeks leading up to labor, but he was amazingly calm and offered such incredible support that night. He never left my side and suffered the wrath of my nails because I gripped his hands so hard through the contractions. The contractions struck so speedily, one after another. My water broke, and then I felt the irrepressible urge to push, like I needed to expel the most colossal poop of my life. "You want to push, don't you, honey?" a nurse asked sympathetically, patting me on my arm. "Don't push, okay? The doctor isn't here yet."

Are you kidding me?! How are you going to tell a woman in labor not to push when her body is ready to push? Though that was what I was thinking, I didn't say it. I couldn't; the contractions left me breathless. They strapped an oxygen mask on me to regulate my breathing, but I kept pushing it off. Sometime in the next few minutes, I got to 10 cm, and I knew the baby was coming so soon. I felt all-consuming fiery lava down there and tried not to push, but my body did otherwise. My doctor finally arrived, and within minutes of him getting there, I involuntarily pushed once or twice, and Serene Joy popped out in a jiffy with the aid of an episiotomy (which I did not know I received until hours afterward) at 2:43am on Thursday,October 3, 2013 at 38 weeks and 3 days. She weighed 6 lbs, 9 oz and was 19 inches long.

I never ever imagined I'd give birth naturally, or so quickly. Serene arrived an hour and a half upon our arrival to the hospital, and although I'm grateful labor and delivery went by so swiftly, I don't think I'd give birth again without an epidural if I can help it (and I applaud all the women of centuries past who had no choice but to do it naturally). Nevertheless, it is true what mamas say: giving birth is absolutely worth the sweet babies God graciously gives us. The first time we saw her, held her, and heard her cry, we fell in love and have been swooning over her since (as evidenced by my Instagram feed). We are in absolute awe of how God knit this teeny person in my womb and are so thankful to the Lord that Serene Joy is here!

I documented Serene's birth for our family's memory's sake, but thank you for reading if you have made it this far. Oh, and many thanks to dear Ruby for snapping the above photos for us, which were taken a day after Serene's birth once I got to wash my face, take my hair out of a bun, and look as composed as possible in my utterly fetching hospital garb.


  1. I love your story. I've had an epidural all seven times. That said, with William I was at nine centimeters when they gave me an epidural and it was mainly due to the fact that he was coming so early. They didn't want there to be any more trauma than need be. At nine centimeters I wondered if I should have gotten it at all, but I know about transition, and that is probably when you really started screaming. Ha! All is well, though, and she is an absolute miracle, and a celebration of your love and commitment to each other. It's wonderful. Thinking of you,

    Shauna xo

  2. That was exactly me with my second child. I had a very different experience my 1st child as my pain was intense at 1cm because I had back labor, and I had a normal 10 hour labor with epidural. My 2nd child ctx started and pain wasn't as intense, then when it started getting a little more difficult I headed to the hospital. Turns out I was already at EIGHT cm. When my water broke that's when it started to feel like an out of body experience and I started screaming my head off. In between contractions, I would apologize to the staff, so I know where you're coming from. I felt absolutely psycho but couldn't help it. But what felt like ages was probably only 10 minutes. I checked in the hospital at 2:15, was in my room at probably 2:45, and my son was born at 3:03.
    I am pregnant with my 3rd and I am very nervous about having a baby in the car. I don't care how many times I might go in for false labor but I'm going to do it. Not so much because I want an epidural, but because if something goes wrong I want a competent medical staff to be there to help. I also had a complication after my oldest was born which had the NICU staff of 20 rushing into the delivery room right after he was born. Because of that scare I am absolutely terrified of giving birth anywhere else outside of a hospital.
    Congratulations on your girl! And I know it was ridiculously painful, but consider yourself lucky that it was quick!

  3. I can honestly feel the love and peace through the photos. Congratulations on the new addition to your wonderful family! Although I will admit that your story is making me super nervous and scared for future motherhood, haha.

  4. This is amazingly beautiful!!! Love the stories and the pictures.. you are a stunningly beautiful mama!! Sooooo excited to follow your new adventures with this darling little one.


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