The little girl cooing in the bassinet joined us only four weeks ago, but with each passing day we love her more than the one before. Geneva Anne joined us on October 21st. She took her time getting here, and judging by her personality so far, that will be par for the course (unlike her sister Adeline, who had to be two weeks early and continues to operate on a packed social schedule and abundant extroversion). As I finally sit down to share her birth story, I see the grace of God for her specific entry into the world – the same way Adeline’s birth was the grace we needed for that season.
Both of these births challenged me, albeit in different ways. With Adeline, I had an unexpected, fast (7-hour) birth and a rough postpartum. With Geneva, hers was the birth that “wasn’t” – at least for several weeks.
The Due Date That Wasn’t
Halfway through my pregnancy I informed my midwives I’d given them the wrong dates of my last period. Adjusting the dates bumped my due date three weeks earlier – from October 20th to October 1st. Since Adeline was also due on October 1st and born September 20th, we were on high alert when September arrived, guarding against preterm labor.
Around my 35 week mark, I started to have minor contractions. I had had NO contractions prior to active labor with Adeline (my water broke and labor started) so I didn’t know much about early labor this time around. At 37 weeks I was put on a minor bed rest – laying down for two hours a day, no sex, no walking, no lifting. This lasted about two weeks. Once I reached 39 weeks, I was free to go back to normal – but contractions continued to start and stop.
And they did this for three more weeks.
My due date passed. Then it was long past. I had no plans of inducing early (40 weeks) so continued to wait, going from 41 weeks to 42, then rapidly approaching 43 (all according to my dates, mind you). I struggled mentally and emotionally in ways I had never experienced (which I shared in this post.) I felt stupid and silly about my due date, even though my dates were accurate and I had no control over when the baby would arrive. It was a humbling experience – and about to become more humbling when I thought I went into labor “for real”.
A False Start
Early on Friday, October 13th, I started to have stronger contractions than usual. I timed them, and they continued at about the same level (4-5 for difficulty) for several hours, varying between 6-10 minutes apart. I called my midwife, and since my labor with Adeline had been so fast, they decided to come in. We began filling the birth tub (which had been staring at us from our bedroom for the last four weeks) and I sat on my exercise ball, trying to keep the contractions going. They were about a 4 for intensity; I was talking and laughing with Josh between them.
The midwives arrived. They set up the house. The tub was filled. The contractions stayed consistent and even got stronger when I was sitting still or laying down, but as soon as I got up to walk they spaced out. This had been happening for the last two weeks, and I was extremely frustrated to have it happening now.
I have always struggled with feeling like a burden or inconvenience to others. I have to tell myself to receive gifts without guilt, to accept help when I need it. Sitting in my home watching Call the Midwife with my midwives when they could be sleeping made me feel like the burden of the century. I am sure they would say, “It’s all part of the job!” and “Better safe than sorry!” but I felt ridiculous.
I was dilated to about 5 cm at this point and 100% effaced (I had been 4 cm just from walking around contracting the last few weeks). My midwife suggested taking castor oil on Saturday morning to see if it could kickstart my labor. If you’re not familiar with castor oil, it’s a laxative. A major laxative.
If I felt ridiculous before, I really felt ridiculous now. I might blog about sex, but there is one thing I am extremely uncomfortable discussing: Bathroom “stuff”. It took a year for me to call a poopy diaper a poopy diaper, and I still usually say “She went to the bathroom in her pants” (which makes perfect logical sense…). Drinking castor oil was not on my bucket list and it is an experience I hope never to repeat, but it intensified my contractions.
Josh was wonderful through this whole process. During my pregnancy with Adeline we took a Bradley birthing class, which focuses on training husbands to support their wives in labor. Josh embraced everything he learned and is excellent under pressure. He takes an interest in the birth process and is hyper aware of what I am going through each moment, which makes him an excellent support. He was with me during the entire labor process – both my false start and the real deal.
The contractions got much stronger and closer together. I labored like this for a few hours with no progress, until my midwife suggested I finally try to sleep. Sleep I did – and when I woke up, my staff decided to leave. I just wasn’t progressing, and if I WAS ready, the castor oil would have worked. When they left, I cried. I felt humiliated in front of Josh and my sister and my midwives (of course none of them judged me at all, I was just struggling emotionally). I felt like my body wasn’t working and the beautiful, progressive birth I prayed for was not going to happen. Most of all, I was terrified of being transferred to the hospital. Though I was perfectly on board with the idea if the baby or I was in danger, it was my last resort.
A Beautiful Surrender
When my contractions stopped that weekend, they stopped. I didn’t have another contraction for almost a week. The following Saturday, October 21st, I was sitting at home thinking about how I was technically 43 weeks pregnant. People were pressuring me to go to the hospital and get induced, asking me “Any baby yet?”, but all my levels were fine, the baby’s movements were frequent and her heart rate was great.
I will confess I lost my temper that night. I did something my blog readers may have a hard time imagining: I swore at Josh. And threw a pillow. And cried my eyes out.
After repenting of my little tirade (God and Josh are so patient) I was praying about the pregnancy. I surrendered my situation, my pregnancy, my baby, my birth – to the Lord. I told Him how I was trying to trust but felt like I didn’t have the strength anymore, that I was completely incapable of doing anything – being a good wife, being a present mom, running my home, getting a baby out of my body. I felt alone, misunderstood, stupid, and weak. At some point I probably was all those things, but the beauty of serving Jesus Christ is that He overcomes every single one.
Then contractions started. It was about 6 PM.
At first, I ignored them. I ignored them for about two hours, actually – and they were five to seven minutes apart. There was a bit of faithlessness at the root of that; I didn’t actually think it was labor. But at 8 PM I called my midwife, and she suggested I get in my tub (the regular one, not birthing) and see if the contractions stopped or increased. I got in the tub and the contractions immediately went to 2-3 minutes apart and doubled in intensity. At 8:30 PM I called my midwife back and she decided to drive up, which takes her about an hour and her assistants about 20-30 minutes.
I laid on my side for a bit, which helped me breathe through each surge (which at this point was probably an 8 for intensity). I wanted to be on my hands and knees, but when I went into that position the contractions were stronger and closer together, so I stayed on my side to slow them down. By the time my midwife’s apprentice arrived, it was about 9:15 PM. She set up quickly and checked me around 9:45 or so. I was dilated to almost 10 cm.
Josh had the foresight to start filling the birth tub, so around 10 PM I was able to get in. At this point, my mind was having a hard time catching up with my body. Though my body was ready, my mind was still in “this isn’t happening” mode. Mentally I was prepared for many more hours of labor, despite the fact my labors are fast.
As I labored in the tub, my sister put on the birth playlist I had created. I distinctly remember during transition – the phase right before you feel the urge to push – Kari Jobe’s voice singing, “You are not alone/You are not alone/You will go before me/You will never leave me”. There are not words to express the holiness of that moment. As Josh supported me, my Christian midwife helped me, and my Jesus-following sister stood next to me, I felt God’s presence in that room. I was not alone. I had never been alone, even when I felt like it. And as I faced each contraction with all the strength within me, I was supported by the overcoming strength of God.
In transition, I began to shake all over and get very hot. I asked Josh to stop talking so I could focus.
My lead midwife arrived around 10:15 PM. At this point the contractions were at maximum intensity, and I started to feel the urge to push – but again, my mind kept telling me not to while my body was ready to go! It took my midwife telling me, “Breathe, or push! One or the other!” to help me make the choice.
I pushed for about 15 minutes and at 10:32 PM, Geneva Anne was born: 8 lbs, 8 ounces, 20 1/4″ long. In total, my labor was four and a half hours long.
Geneva was over a pound bigger than Adeline was at birth, a healthy little darling who simply took all her time to make her debut. And as my mother in law says, “Babies give you amnesia.” The difficulty and waiting of the last six weeks was completely absorbed by Eva’s presence.
She was completely worth the wait.
In the end, she was born almost on my original due date – and judging by her size, I was probably due sometime between the 14th and when she was actually born, despite the fact my dates were correct. I most likely ovulated late, which would throw off the numbers a bit. I am so glad I trusted my midwives and my body so Eva had all the time she needed to grow! As hard as it was emotionally, mentally, and physically to go so far “past due”, it was the best thing for both of us.
All the preparation I did in September may have been unnecessary, but I learned more about the Lord and His intentions in this season and through this birth than I would have otherwise. Just as I had to lean on Him through each contraction, I had to lean on Him through each day and sleepless night.
Just as I had to trust His overcoming strength to deliver Eva earthside, I’d had to trust the strength of His love when I felt alone.
Just as I turned my heart to Him when my body was shaking, I’d had to turn my heart to Him when my plans fell apart.
Birth is a hard and holy thing. Through it we partner with God in a way men never get to experience. We echo the Father in our ability to sustain and deliver life. And just as Jesus suffered pain to bring new life to us, we pass through great difficulty to bring new life to each child born into this world. Mothers are overcomers.
Each time we usher a soul into this world, a new image-bearer of the Divine, we declare God’s glory in this fallen world.
If you struggle to see birth positively or want more resources on this topic, read these posts and download my free ebook:
- What the Bible Really Says About Eve’s Curse
- Natural Birth for the Pain Intolerant
- Adeline’s Birth Story
- Why the Christian Perspective of Labor and Birth Needs to Change
- 10 Things I Did Differently in my Second Pregnancy
- 4 Things Christian Women Can Stop Saying About Pregnancy and Birth