A Doula’s Lesson in Surrender

Miss Fallon Brielle was born in April 2016. Yes, we’re just now publishing her birth story because between myself and Jamilla, there are two 4-year olds, a 2-year old and a baby who insists on getting teeth and crawling in her sleep. A brief history – I am Meredith, one of the co-owners/founders of The Labor Ladies, LLC. My oldest daughter, Gia, was born at Forsyth Medical Center, four years before the birth of my youngest, Fallon.

With Gia, I had an uncomplicated, unmedicated, natural hospital birth.  It was very nearly everything I wanted at the time.  I had prepared (I thought) and was not afraid.  I knew I could do it.  I relied on me…my will power, my stubbornness, my pride if I’m honest.  My husband was with me and was as helpful as I’d allow him to be.  My mom was there too and was also as helpful as she could be.  At the end of it all I felt like it was all up to me though.  I needed to do it because I said I would.  Then after I did do it I felt like I could do anything because of how strong and awesome I was.  Pride.  God has a funny way of reminding me to rely on Him.  After the first week or so postpartum set in and I realized I actually couldn’t do anything.  Natural birth or not I could barely make a sandwich.  Goodbye, Pride.  Thanks for nothing.

After three and a half years Seth and I decided to grow our family once more.  It wasn’t an easy decision.  I’m not a very gracious pregnant lady.  I’m hard on myself for gaining weight, I’m exhausted which makes me whine, and I really felt like I had a handle on the mom thing with my one little perfect preschooler.  (Remember me saying I’ve got issues with pride?)  After much prayer, discussion, and wise council we decided to give it a try and see if I got pregnant easily.  (Read that as I said I’d give it one try, thinking it would take longer.)

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Mother’s Day 2015 with my happy little tribe

I got pregnant the first month.  At this point I’d been a doula for about two years.  I had seen numerous births, I had been teaching The Labor Ladies’ Guide to Childbirth, and I was mentoring new doulas.  I had a greater experience base than I had when I was pregnant the first time.  I planned another natural birth but knew I didn’t want it to be at the hospital.  I also didn’t feel led to have a homebirth.  We visited Natural Beginnings Birth Center in Statesville, NC, a little less than halfway through my pregnancy and I immediately knew that was where I needed to be.

Does everyone have that one friend who knows what you need when you don’t even know you need it?  If you don’t, find one.  It’s the best.

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Last full day of my pregnancy

The Walkers and Tanners have a Christmas Eve brunch tradition.  At this point I was six-ish months pregnant at Christmas 2015, when sweet Jamilla gave me a beautifully wrapped package.  Inside was the best thing that could have happened to my pregnancy and birth.  She had created for me a pregnancy journal.  It was divided into sections with different writing prompts instructing me to think through my pregnancy and birth with Gia, what role everybody played, what my first postpartum time was like, what my prayers were for this pregnancy and birth, how I envisioned my birth strengthening my marriage and my relationship with Gia.  It was literally invaluable.  I would spend my mornings while Gia was at preschool working through each section.  It was through these writings that I realized what God was calling me to for this birth.  See, I really really really believe that birth is a spiritual thing and that God has something to say about the way you give birth.  And I don’t think He says the same thing to everyone, but I do think He has plenty to say.  I actually think he really cares about the way you give birth.  His Son didn’t just appear, He was born.   It was orchestrated.  Birth has been part of the Story since the Story began.  So He began to whisper to me, ever so gently because that is just the kind of Dad He is to me.  He began to call to me to use this birth to strengthen my marriage, to rely on my husband.  If you know me you know how stubborn I can be.  I like to be both taken care of and independent – a tricky combination for a Godly marriage.  As a girl I was raised to rely on God rather than a guy for my identity.  That translated, as I grew up and got married, into relying on God but not really letting my husband help me with much of anything.  Like Gia’s birth.  I knew I could do it.  Because God told me to have a natural birth so I knew I could.  It had nothing to do with Seth.  This time was going to be different.  Jesus was telling me to learn to need my husband and to use this birth as the catalyst for that.  We took a class.  You: Wait, don’t you teach the class? Me: Yup.  I do.  So that’s how I knew we needed a class.  Jamilla came over and we talked through comfort measures and what Seth could do to help me.  I knew what I needed, but I needed him to know because I needed to need him, and needed to be confident that he was ready to be needed.  Confused?  It’s okay…hang in there.

And so this is how it happened…

I was given a due date of April 15th.   Gia was born 3 days before her due date so obviously this baby would be born at least 3 days early.  Probably sooner.  (It’s okay, you can laugh at me if you’d like).  My pregnancy was uneventful minus a few positioning hiccups.  Fallon stayed head up until around 32 weeks when I finally stopped wearing my skinny jeans and gave her some space to fit her head down there.  (Vanity.  Another one of my vices.  Pride and vanity.  I can be honest here, right?) The week before my due date we determined that Fallon was posterior.  I told my chiropractor, he did the Webster technique and sent me on my way.  3 days before my due date I had some definite pre-labor signs.   I knew I’d have her that day.  And then I didn’t.  I went to bed that night a little (lot) grumpy because I was still pregnant but I knew I’d wake up that night with contractions.  And I did!  Two of them.  I woke up Thursday morning and told Seth I was having some contractions.  He contemplated staying home but they were really far apart.  After dropping Gia off for preschool I came home and began sobbing because I missed her…even though I had just left her and would be picking her back up in 2 hours.  Hi, hormones!!  The day went on as usual and contractions stayed spaced out.  I went to bed that night mad about still being pregnant.   Tomorrow was my due date and I was supposed to have her early!  I woke up on the morning of April 15th, my due date, mad as could be.  I got out of bed and stomped downstairs to make coffee.  Seth asked if I was ok and I snapped “Yes!  I’m OBVIOUSLY FINE! AND STILL PREGNANT!”  I grabbed my phone to text Jamilla.  I have two friends I can be painfully honest with.  One of them happens to be my business partner and birth guru so she was the unfortunate recipient of my daggers.  And like any good friend would, she told me to get my cries out, put on my big girl panties, and get on with life.  The baby would come when she’s ready.  Sigh.  Thank, Jam.  I had an appointment that morning at the Birth Center.   It was the appointment I told them I wouldn’t be at because I’d definitely have my baby by then.  Uh huh.  That’s the one I was getting ready for.  So my little family of three loaded up in the car and began the hour long drive to Statesville.  On the way there I had 2 contractions.  TWO CONTRACTIONS.  In an hour.  To say that the look on my face made me unapproachable would be an understatement.  At the appointment they determined that Fallon was head down, but transverse.  As a result of the previous week’s Webster she was just taking her time getting into position.  She had wiggled from facing the front of me, to facing my side.  So we got back in the car and drove another hour home.   As soon as we got home I started the Miles Circuit.  If you don’t know what it is, Google it!  It’s a dream maker for baby positioning.  A series of three “exercises,” by the last one I was having more regular contractions.  They didn’t hurt, and I didn’t have to focus, but I did notice them.  They were about 7 minutes apart.  I called Jamilla, who had already been at a birth all day, to let her know that even though I was certain I’d be pregnant FOREVER and this baby would NEVER come out, I was having somewhat of patterned contractions.  I called my parents and asked if they’d come get Gia and bring her to my nephew’s soccer game so I could focus and see if these contractions would intensify.  Once she left my contractions all but stopped.   I had about 3 in the hour she was gone.  So rude.  They came back to the house and everybody was in the living room talking to each other which all of a sudden became incredibly annoying.  I announced that I’d be upstairs showering since I wasn’t having a baby anytime soon.  I texted Jamilla to update her that nothing was happening, I’m 7 minutes apart still, and everybody is annoying.  Once I got upstairs I turned on the shower, got undressed, and suddenly had an incredibly hard contraction.  I called Seth upstairs right away and told him we needed to leave soon, called my mom upstairs to ask her to quickly devise a plan to get Gia to willingly leave the house with her, and called Jamilla.  All I could get out of my mouth was a very tiny, pitiful, and whiney “can you just come over please?”  I didn’t wait for 5 minutes apart.  I didn’t wait for anything.  I just knew this was it.

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My dad drove, as fast as possible despite us all telling him I was ok

So off we went, Dad driving as one would expect, occasionally threatening to “turn on the flashers” to get away from traffic, Jamilla in the front (because “what if Fallon shoots out on highway 40?!?“), with Seth and I in the back.

This is when I got to see prayer after prayer answered. I had written in my journal about how I wanted this birth to be a worshipful experience.  I had a playlist full of worship songs for Gia’s birth but couldn’t bear to listen to anything at all.  For this birth, I wanted to labor in His presence.  I wanted Fallon to come into the world with words of worship being sung over her.  Once we started down the road Seth turned on the playlist we had created and I began to pray and sing over her quietly, to myself.  My contractions were intense but they didn’t hurt like I remember Gia’s hurting.  I wasn’t too uncomfortable.  I was just really working.  I’d prayed that I’d need Seth during my labor.  During each contraction Seth would rub my back or hold my hand and I actually welcomed his support.  We believe that the husband wife relationship is a direct model of our relationship with Christ so I really wanted to rely on Seth as a testimony of that.  mt-hands

When we finally pulled into the Birth Center, they were waiting for me at the door. I was so worried they’d send me home, but when the student midwife checked me, I was already 8cm. Thank you, Jesus!! I continued laboring in the room, worship music playing, surrounded by Jesus and my husband, Jamilla prayerfully in the background snapping pictures.  When I think back to being there, in labor, the thought that continually comes to mind is “it just really wasn’t bad!”  I honestly felt pretty good! It

was work, but it was not this intense, maddening, cringe-worthy pain that my first labor had been.  I was able to talk and cut up a little in between contractions.   Each time I felt one coming I grabbed onto Seth’s hands, let my shoulders drop to release any tension, let my jaw relax, closed my eyes and breathed while focusing on the music. img_3537

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At one point, probably an hour in I casually mentioned that I didn’t “feel transition-y.”  I was supposedly 8cm but just didn’t feel like it.  Shortly after making that statement things began to change.  I went from loosely holding Seth’s hands to gripping his pockets and burying my head in his chest, but focusing on letting the words in the songs wash over me.

What became the song of my Fallon’s birth – the best song ever did the best job of keeping me relaxed:

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Holy Spirit, you are welcome here

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere

Your glory Lord is what our hearts long for

To be overwhelmed by Your presence, Lord.

Let us become more aware of your presence

Let us experience the glory of Your goodness.

A.Men. If you’ve never labored with Jesus by your side I highly recommend it.  It was such a tangible answer to prayer to be standing there, in His presence, holding the hands of my husband, relying on his presence just as much, as my baby prepared to make her entrance.  If I could do it again I would.  A million times over.  I would absolutely experience every moment of that labor again.  Jesus cares about your birth.  I believe it with all I am.

Let’s continue.  Kudos to you for reading this long!  I knew I wanted to birth in the water.  I had no dreamy visions of a beautiful labor in water, but I did want to birth in water.  So I waited.  I waited until I felt that tell-tale pressure and then I stepped into glory.  And by glory I mean a tub full of the warmest of warm water.  Then glory went away, replaced by ALL THE PRESSURE and I immediately began pushing.  I distinctly remembered the
pressure and the pushing from Gia’s birth 4 years ago.  I wasn’t afraid of it, I just very much remembered it and how intense it was.  I knew it was coming so I just powered through it.  Seth was kneeling in front of me.  I remember thinking what a picture of Jesus that was.  My support, the one I was relying on and working through this with was kneeling. Kneeling is a sign of servitude.  The strong one, in that moment, was taking the form of servitude.  Just like Jesus does.  Birth, y’all.  Birth is so spiritual.

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Knowing how I remembered pushing with Gia, Jamilla asked how I was feeling emotionally.  This is typically a time in birth when emotional issues can be a stumbling block.  Thanks to the pre-birth work I had done I was good to go.  I replied that I was just tired.  (Great sign of the right hormones at work to birth this baby!)  She suggested I turn to more of a sitting position and when I did it was really game on.  I pushed three times, through two contractions.  Two. Contractions.  And my sweet Fallon was born.  It was just that simple.  She was born into clean water (another answer to prayer as that’s not usually the case with waterbirths) and I put her on my chest amazed that just like that I was a mommy of two.  I had two little girls now.  Phew!  I still can’t believe it.

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There are several morals to this story.  First is to pray.  I mean really pray about the birth you want.  I wrote down the most minor of details regarding my birth from the time of day it would occur to the day of the week to who would be where and more.  He won’t always say yes but He’ll never get mad at you for asking.  Next is that God really does care about your birth.  He has a plan for your birth.  He wants to be involved in your birth!  Maybe joining you in your birth reminds Him of the night He got to watch His Son be born!  Invite Him, welcome Him.  You won’t be disappointed that you did.  And finally, husbands rock.  In a day and age where dads are labeled the “other kid” in a family, let me just say that a
supportive, Godly husband is the jam.  Ladies, I think that when you make space for your husband to be needed nine times out of ten – he will gladly and confidently step into that space.  My marriage isn’t perfect just because I needed Seth at Fallon’s birth.  But I will never look back at this labor and birth and not be reminded of who and what he was for me that night.  I will never be able to retell this story without seeing him as my steady hand, my champion.

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