Labor of Love

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In honor of cesarean awareness month, I decided to share my birth story. To do so I need to take you back to when I was in high school. I did not struggle with fertility like many women do, nor like many others did pregnancy come easy for me. In fact, I was told at the age of 15 that I would most likely never conceive, and if I did, that the pregnancy would end in a miscarriage around or before the seven week mark.

This news was heartbreaking for me! I was not born with any condition that would have prevented me from having children. I should have been able to have children, however at a routine checkup about 6 mos. earlier that year I was given a “dirty” hepatitis vaccine. I would not have even known that I was now ‘infertile’ at that point in my life had I not seen the short story on the local news late one night, in which the Hepatitis vaccine was being recalled. Those who received the HEP B vaccine in certain regions during certain dates were told to go to their doctor for a blood test to see if they were infected. I just knew I had been infected…I can’t explain it, I just knew. So after pestering my mother for several days, she made an appointment to take me to our family physician. Sure enough I had received one of the ‘dirty vaccines’ containing an antibody which caused infertility.

Not only was I heartbroken…I was devastated. All I ever wanted to be was a mother. This is what I aspired to be from a very young age. I never wanted a career, I wanted to be a mom! In school whenever they would ask ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’, my answer was a mom. And I wanted six children, yes six! I even had names picked out, three boys, and three girls. (Like I could choose the gender of my children even if I could pop out babies left and right!) But that was my dream, and then it was over, just like that.

Years passed, I grew up, went to college, met and married my first husband. The first years following my marriage, age 21 to almost 26 were tough; some of the hardest for me. This is when many of our friends, family and co-workers also got married and started families. Babies were everywhere! If a friend from high school or college contacted me…it was to announce a pregnancy. I did not have the ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ problem, mine was a ‘throwing a baby shower, never a mom’ problem.’ Each time an announcement was made all the emotions that I had pushed away years ago came back up to the surface. While I was truly happy and rejoicing for all my friends who were having babies, I was also hurting. A pain I cannot even describe.

Two years into our marriage my husband wanted me to see a fertility specialist, thinking something could be done. I didn’t want to go, I did not want to hear ‘no’…I was not sure I could handle it. I just wanted to start the adoption process and skip this step all together. But eventually I agreed and we went to see one of the best fertility specialists in the nation. The tests came back…I had the antibody and high levels of it. My chances of conceiving and keeping a pregnancy were slim to none. However they were starting a drug trial at this time that I qualified for. I opted out…I wanted a child more than anything. But even with the drugs the doctors told me it was highly unlikely I would have success. Not to mention the fact that this was a trial. They had no idea what, if any, side effects there would be to me long or short-term. Or to the child, if in fact it worked.

So that was that…back to adoption…which is a story for another time. However it happened, and in May of 2005 I brought home my beautiful daughter! Years passed…life happened. My first marriage ended in divorce. In 2012 I met my current husband and we were married in 2013. When we met I told him I could not have children, and he said he was ok with that. If children were a top priority then he would have gotten married years earlier. (He is much older than I). That he was happy with our family, just the way it was.

Well…God with his sense of humor, had other plans!  March of 2014 we went on vacation. Towards the end I was not feeling well. When we got home, I was definitely sick, spending the next several days in front of the porcelain throne. I figured I had picked up a bug while we were on vacation. One morning while at the toilet once again, my husband informed me that he made an appointment to take me to the doctors for a pregnancy test. I remember thinking he was crazy! He knew I could not have children, why did he set up an appointment for a pregnancy test? I did not want to go, but after being very sick for over a week now I figured I would go. The doctor could do the silly pregnancy test and then when it came back negative he could write me a prescription for some drugs to help me get over this stomach bug.

The test came back positive. Of course I figured they messed up somehow, I still was not convinced that I was pregnant. Because of my condition I was immediately sent the following day, to the very same fertility specialists I had seen years earlier with my first husband. They did a round of tests and they were baffled…how was I pregnant? I had high levels of this antibody that causes infertility and miscarriage coursing through by blood and I was twelve weeks pregnant! I left that office, once again in denial. Part of the denial was to protect myself from heartache. For this was not my first pregnancy…I had been pregnant 3 times in the past. Once with my ex and twice with my husband. But just like the doctors had warned me, all three were lost between five and seven weeks. Each time, I had been so excited…only to be devastated and heartbroken when I lost my babies. I could not handle loosing another baby. Each time the loss became harder and harder to deal with.

This pregnancy continued. I was monitored closely, put on the high risk list, but other than severe, severe, severe, morning sickness that lasted most of my pregnancy, all went well. Better than well. Besides the morning sickness, I had no complications and my baby was growing and healthy. Only after I began to show at about four months, did I even believe I was pregnant. (Up until then, I was still in denial).

I gave my life to Jesus when I was fifteen…and after a series of events that same year, the infertility included, I pushed God away. In my mind he was an angry God, sitting up in heaven waiting for me to mess up so he could strike me down. It was not until I met and married my second husband that we returned to church. It was at that time, for the first time in my life, I realized just how much God really loved me. I was at a LIFE conference having the chains and bondage of my past broken off me, when I felt my baby move inside me for the very first time. I remember looking down at my small belly…realizing that I was pregnant. There was a life growing inside me. This pregnancy was different, I was not going to lose this baby. God had healed me and my dream of birthing a child was coming true.

I say birthing, not becoming a mother, because remember I had adopted my daughter years earlier. And it was her that God used to make me a mom, to fulfill my dream of becoming a mother. And while having her filled that void of being a mother, in my heart, as a woman I still did not feel whole, complete. I felt broken…I could not fulfill the purpose God created me for. I could not go forth and multiply. I would never know what if felt like to carry a child inside my womb, to go through the pain of childbirth or nurse a child at my breast. It was not about having a child that was mine by blood. I have to remind myself that my daughter was not born from me, SHE IS MINE. I love her just as much as I love my son. Her story of how she came to be mine is just as amazing. My longing was for the actual birth experience. It was for my daughter as well. She would never have any siblings. Nor would she be able call me when she was grown, married and expecting. If she had questions about pregnancy and birth she would have to call her mother in law…and selfishly, I wanted her to be able to call me.

But…I was pregnant…God had given me this desire to experience birth and now he was fulfilling it! All those years I had believed the lies of the enemy, that I could not have children. Yet here I was, pregnant. I had believed the enemy over God. No more, I decided! I was no longer going t0 believe the lies of the enemy. I was going to believe in the promises of God. From that point on I was excited. I began watching birthing videos, researching births and my options, taking classes. I decided early on I wanted a natural birth, no drugs, no intervention. If I was going to do this, I was going all in. We hired a doula and found a OBGYN who worked with midwives.

When we found out we were having a son, we purchased all the items we would need, set up his nursery and waited. Waited….waited…waited….I thought perhaps he would never arrive. He was 18 days overdue. And while that does not seem like a lot, at the end of your third trimester you are ready for the baby to evacuate!

On top of my son deciding he was very comfortable and was not in any rush to leave the comforts of my womb, my midwife took a position in another state, leaving just three days before my due date. I could not blame her, it was a career opportunity she could not pass up…still I wanted to keep her in town until after my son was born. I meet the other midwives and I just was not at all comfortable with them…we did not connect. So I thought, alright…we go with the doctor. I had seen him a few times over the course of my pregnancy. But…as Thanksgiving was here, my doctor was on leave. Now I was panicking…now I WANTED my son to stay inside. I did not want to have him until my doctor came back on duty. Problem was, he was out for a couple of weeks and because I was so late, the hospital was pushing for me to schedule a cesarean. NO, NO CESAREAN. I had done enough research to know I did not want a cesarean if at all possible.

Thankfully my doula had some connections and last-minute she got me connected with a doctor who was willing to take me on this late in the game. He was two and a half hours away, but as he and the hospital he worked with pushed natural births I was all about it. So we packed up, and went on a baby- cation. Tuesday of that week, I had a five p.m. appointment with the new OBGYN. We talked and he examined me. And we decided to induce. This was something I was not looking forward to! I really wanted to have a natural birth and I heard that the Pitocin made the pains unbearable. He told me once the contractions began, they would cut off the Pitocin, so I agreed. The induction was scheduled for 10 am the following morning. After the appointment, we went out to dinner…our last dinner as a family of three.

Ten p.m. that night my contractions started. They were bearable, so I did not say anything to my husband as I wanted him to sleep. I however did not get much sleep, maybe four hours, as the contractions got stronger and more frequent throughout the night. Around 8 a.m. the next morning my husband found me in the bathroom of the bed and breakfast where we were staying, bent over in pain. He wanted to call the doctor…I said no, not yet. It is way too early…you don’t go in until your contractions take your breath away and I was still coherent…could carry on a conversation. So he waited, but not long. While we were having breakfast with the family who ran the B&B the contractions really ramped up. So just before 10 am that Wednesday morning, we were on our way to the hospital.

I was immediately placed in a room, which I was thankful for, as the lobby through which we entered was full of people, and after having two rounds of contractions in front of them, I was ready for some privacy. I had an option for water labor, so I took it. I could not wait to get into the warm bath for by now the labor pains were crazy hurting. Not long after I entered the tub, I remember hearing a couple of nurses whispering with my doula and husband saying that this labor was going to be fast, that by lunch we should have a baby. I was 8 1/2 cm dilated at this point. A 2 hour labor…I could handle that. Oh how wrong they were!

Twelve hours later and one broken bed… (Yes I broke a bed. I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones who get to experience back labor, and during a really, really painful contraction, I broke the footboard off the bed,) I was begging for pain relief. Now back when I was ‘planning’ my labor, this was a no, no for me. I wrote it down on our birth plan, and had a copy for each nurse. I even made posters to the effect that under no circumstances was I to be given an epidural. But after laboring for 24 hours at this point with little sleep, and no food, I was exhausted! Thankfully my husband, doula and hospital staff ignored my insane request and the drugs were administered.

Oh my…labor without pain…it was wonderful! Now I questioned why I even bothered to try a natural birth! (Though all said and done, I will be going for a natural experience with any future children God blesses us with.) I was able to rest a bit at this point, but not sleep. Then five hours later, after another check from the doctor he sat down with my husband and me. I was still only 8 ½ cm dilated, not progressing. Our son was face up, and estimated to be 10 plus pounds. We could try to push, see what happens, with a possibility of the baby getting stuck in the birth canal, which would end up in an emergency cesarean, and also a big change of broken collar-bone(s) for baby. Or we could just make the choice to do the cesarean while things are still stable; for at this point baby was still doing well on the monitor.

I just looked at my husband and said “let’s get this baby out!” I was exhausted, I had no energy whatsoever to push. And although I wanted to experience a ‘normal’ birth, I was ready to have this baby. So we prayed together, all three of us as the doctor was a believer, and then we called our small group members and the prayer team at our church so that during the surgery I was covered in prayer as well.

This was not how I pictured the birth of my son, this was not my plan. But I also knew that God was with me and that for reasons unknown to me, this was his plan. In that moment when I should have been filled with fear knowing I was about to go through a major surgery, his peace flowed through me. So at 3:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning, I went in for the cesarean. The staff was amazing, our doctor was amazing! My doula was amazing…the entire labor, but especially during the surgery, for she also became babysitter to our daughter. I have to say even though surgery was not the route we wanted, the experience was amazing. The room was calm, peaceful and God’s presence could be felt.

It was such a relief when my son was born to know the labor was over. He was perfect, strong and healthy! And not quite ten pounds, but at 9lbs 7oz he was still a big baby. I meanwhile lost a lot of blood, and the doctor was having a hard time getting the bleeding to stop. I kept hearing him calmly say to his assistants, ‘push more of this medicine (I don’t know the name) the bleeding won’t stop.’ And then he would say to me ‘How are you feeling, are you still with us, don’t nod off, talk to me.’ Well at some point I did fall asleep, for a couple of hours later I woke, still very groggy in the recovery room with my son already nursing. The doctor obviously stopped the bleeding! The next morning, just hours after the surgery the doctor then recommended I have a blood transfusion. I opted out, I did not want one. Yes, I was extremely tired and so very weak, still I had done enough research to know a transfusion was not something I wanted. So I remained in the hospital until 7 p.m. Monday evening. And talk about painful…that ride back home was something else. Every bump or shake in the road was excruciatingly painful! The two and a half hour ride became a four-hour ride as my husband was driving as carefully as he could to make it less painful.

Then came the physical recovery from surgery. That too was long and painful! I don’t know how some women return to work after only 8 wks. for it was a good 18 wks. until my pain was gone. Even then for the next six months or so I sometimes felt sharp pains. The emotional recovery was not as bad as I thought it would be. I had head stories from others that they had regrets. I did not have any regrets. I had given it my all. And though my son’s birth did not go according to what I had planned, in the end we were both healthy. I know that for us the right decision was made. I don’t even mind my scar…in fact I love it! Each time I look in the mirror it reminds me of the miracle my son is, that God took what the world branded a barren woman and did ‘the impossible.’  I even hope that someday when I receive my new body, just like Christ kept the scars from his crucifixion, that I too will be able to keep the scar from my cesarean.

Doctors are still baffled as to why my pregnancy was successful. But I wasn’t…after years of pushing God away, I was now drawing close. When I drew close, blessings were unleashed!

You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. Exodus 23:25-26

Nothing is impossible for out God. (Luke 1:37) And the biggest blessing was God’s timing. Boy was I mad at God years back when I was ready for a baby and could not have one. Even with the adoption, I wanted it on my time schedule! Now knowing what I know, looking back at my past, where I was and where I am now, God’s timing is perfect, and his blessing is complete!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14

I also have peace, knowing that someday I will get to meet the babies that I lost. That right now they are home, with God. And while I don’t fully understand why they were taken, I do know that ultimately God will use their loss for his glory!

And lastly, if you or someone you know is struggling with infertility, mediate of this…

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD! Psalm 113:9

What a beautiful verse and message to women…your bareness is just for a season; God will make the barren woman a joyous mother! He WILL fulfill your desire to become a mother. It may not be the way we expect or want…it will be better! For God made us, and he knows what is best for us. Draw close to him so the blessings he has for you may be released. Don’t trust men over God, believing the lie the enemy is speaking into your life. Remember all things are possible with God! (Matthew 19:26)

 

 

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