Every pregnancy the Lord permits a particular challenge to enter my life. This one was no different. With Addie, we moved to a new state at 37 weeks along. With Eva, Josh lost his job when I was 7 months pregnant. And with Van, Josh resigned his job, unwillingly and due to difficult circumstances, three months before I was due. Having been through major life events during pregnancy three times, I can only believe God uses a season which can be incredibly anxiety-inducing on its own to further increase my dependence on Him. And while I wouldn’t choose the difficulty we’ve faced during pregnancy, I can say that incredible sweetness has come out of it as well.
Perhaps one of the strangest side effects is how the trials of my pregnancies – both our circumstances and my autoimmune disease, which thankfully was in remission during Van’s gestation – prepare me for birth. As I wrote to my Instagram community:
Birth is a picture of the gospel. There’s a reason the gospels use the term “born again”. In Christ we are delivered into a new life! And throughout the Old Testament, God actually used midwifery terms for Himself.
Having babies has changed my view of the term “Deliverer”. I used to think it meant being taken out of a situation. Now I see it as being taken *through*. Just as a baby is delivered through the hard work of its mama into the waiting & wise hands of a midwife, so are we delivered through our trials and pain into the waiting and wise hands of our God.
Being pregnant through 2020 has rooted this image in my heart. So many of us are going through trials, and if we think deliverance means being taken out, we may miss the beauty of being taken through. Birthing books will tell you that the process of a baby’s birth actually equips it to breathe, gives it healthy bacteria to fight illness, and more. To take it out early is necessary sometimes, but often comes with side effects – one of which is weakness.
The trial God is bringing you through may feel like a “painful labor”, but I promise you: He is waiting on the other side. He is the Deliverer, watching, ready, for what is born through adversity. As I preach to myself: All of Him, for all of us.
I prayed some very specific things over Van’s birth: for safety (no transfer), for labor to progress, for the midwives to make it (I have fast births!), and for minimal after pains (I have them extremely bad). They say every baby is different, and the third in particular can throw you for a loop. I would have to agree! Van’s birth story is so different from the girls’ – both slower and faster in its own way. If you’re new, this is my third home birth, and second underwater birth. (You can read Adeline’s story here and Geneva’s here).
Contractions had been on and off for about two weeks prior to delivery day. I had this kind of prodromal labor with Eva for six weeks before she was born, and her actual birth was only four hours long, so we were on high alert for Van’s delivery. We also had a very busy final month of pregnancy: company visiting for two weeks (my 36th and 37th weeks), making freezer meals, prepping the business for my maternity leave, gathering home birth supplies, setting up the guest room/nursery, etc. I was a little concerned I wouldn’t get it all done in time.
I consider it a “little grace” that all these things (and more) were finished prior to labor. The morning he was born, I had contractions that woke me up at 2 AM. I called my midwife and she said to see if they continued, got stronger, and call again. I fell asleep and at 5 AM, woke again with strong contractions – but 10-15 minutes apart. Both my previous births were instantly 2-5 minutes apart, so this was strange! I laid there for bit, then got up, showered, and walked around the house to see if the waves continued. They kept going, so I called the midwife again at around 7 AM. They decided to come out to the house, and arrived around 8:00.
I’ll confess I was nervous they would have to go home. With Eva, I had a false start and failed castor oil induction a week before she was born. It was so disappointing to have the midwives come to the house only to go home! But better safe than sorry: They arrived, set up the supplies, and Josh began filling the birth tub. Meanwhile, my contractions were still 8 minutes apart and while uncomfortable, definitely not what I would call active labor. My sister, husband and midwives were having coffee and cookies at the dining room table while I made a grocery delivery list to bide the time!
Around 11 AM (I think; I’ve had to refer to my labor record to figure out when things happened, it was slow and fast at the same time) the midwives checked me; I was 6 cm dilated! As they checked, the water broke – which made me realize this is really happening. What a relief. They wouldn’t be going home after all!
I thought my broken water would mean instant active labor, like with Adeline’s birth. Not so. Another hour or so went by with my 7-8 minute contractions. I laid on my birthing ball to finish On Writing by Stephen King. LOL! Looking back, all this slow labor was such a gift. Only the day before, at my midwife appointment, Van was anterior (the ideal way babies should face during birth). But when they checked me the next day, he had flipped back to posterior (he spent most of the pregnancy posterior, but he flipped all over the place. A big reason I saw the chiropractor my entire pregnancy!). I labored on hands and knees on the ball, or leaning on the table, to give him room to turn.
A little before noon my midwife suggested I try sitting on the toilet for a bit.
“I’ll be right outside the door,” She assured me. I remember thinking, I don’t think anything that happens in here will be THAT urgent… Just goes to show why she’s the midwife, and not me! I sat through four contractions in the bathroom, and they were all two minutes apart. The last one was intense and I felt slight need to push. Good thing my midwife was right outside the door!
I got in the birthing tub around 12:02. Contractions were intense, and I could feel how low the baby was. I breathed through each surge while my birth playlist played some of my favorite worship songs and Josh sat next to me rubbing my back.
This was my second water birth, but with a different tub – it had nice handles to hold onto as I worked through each contraction. The waves were very intense and distinct, lasting a full minute (or so it felt). I particularly remember at one point waiting for the next contraction to come, starting to get a little panicky at how fast it was going. Each surge felt slow, but also extremely quick, as if time was escaping me and my mind couldn’t catch up.
At that point the song Even Unto Death by Audrey Assad broke through my thoughts:
In my darkest hour
I will wait for You
I am not forsaken
Oh, I lose my life
Oh, my breath be taken
I will wait for You
I am not forsaken
One thing I desire
To see You in Your beauty.
I’ve shared often about reframing our view of birth, how going into it empowered by the presence of God makes all the difference. In that moment, God reminded me of those very words. As I thought, I can’t do this anymore! He spoke to my heart: “I went through great difficulty to bring forth life, too.” It was one of those moments where you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is speaking directly to your spirit with the truth you need.
At 12:39 I started pushing. I had a hard time focusing my breath downward, and my midwives and Josh had to coach me. Delivering this baby felt very different than both Eva and Adeline, and I found out why soon after. The only comfortable position was a “running start” – on one knee with my other leg stretched behind me, because it felt like he was coming out sideways (surprise! He kind of was. LOL). After a few focused pushes, at 12:50 PM (11 minutes), Ivan Philip was born!
Those were some crazy eleven minutes: He came out with his hand by his face, then spun his body as he emerged. This is why he felt much bigger than he was (7 lbs 12 ounces; Eva was 8 lbs 8 ounces!). Josh was able to catch him in the water, which was special, and my sister cut the cord.
We chuckle because we are TOTAL girl parents and definitely had a learning curve already with a boy! Including diapers! But we love this little boy so much already. He is very serious – we call him our little “grumpy cat” because he has a perpetual scowl at the world (hey, it IS 2020! I don’t blame him!). But I’ve caught a few smiles and I look forward to many more!
Midway through September I got out my prayer journal and looked over the requests I’d prayed. Every one was answered, with the exception of my specific request for “minimal afterpains” (I had 24 hours of intense pain). But as I wrote out prayers of gratitude for his birth, I realized that while my pains were worse than with Eva, they lasted only a third as long – with her, they had lasted three days, not one. So in a sense, that prayer was answered too. This reminded me just how important it is to not only pray specifically, but to keep a record of what I ask. It helps me to see God’s faithfulness playing out in unique ways – even in ways that were difficult.
Van’s birth was full of “little graces”, from being able to complete the tasks before my maternity leave, to health for our family, to a beautiful birth and recovery – which I haven’t always experienced. I am filled with gratitude.
Watch the birth video here!
Thank you for all your prayers and thoughts with our family for the birth and this new season. It means the world!