“Pain is only pain; unless we resist it, then it becomes torment.”
I haven’t talked a lot about pain in my previous birth stories because I have always understood that the pain is truly secondary to the fact that a new life is born into the world. Yes, it’s present, but it doesn’t have to be the focus. There are a myriad of ways to work with the pain, to accept it and embrace it and overcome it. Pain never has affected me as deeply as it did with this baby. Never before this birth did I feel that my pain was out of control or that I was unable to stay ahead of it. In fact, I’ve often been able to get all the way to 8-9 cm without even calling it “pain” and then talk myself through those last 10 contractions or so until time to push. Literally, I could always look at the clock when transition seemed to be starting and tell myself that I was going to be meeting my baby in about 30 minutes because that’s how it has always gone. I know how my body works and I’ve trusted the process completely. I wouldn’t say there is a “magical” formula to birthing this way. What I would say is that it all comes down to perspective. How do I as a mother enter my labor? Do I start labor from a place of trust, peace, and surrender or fear, anxiety, and tension?
If we are not careful, exerting diligence in something has a way of training us to expect a certain outcome. I love pursuing diligence and excellence in my life, and I believe the Lord is pleased by an attitude of chipping away at something until we see the desired result. Holy Spirit is constantly beside us working the flesh out of our lives and working His unction into us. The downside is when we create expectations that may or may not be met and base our success on the fact that we’ve been diligent, not considering that God might have a purpose for us outside the realm of our expectations. I think that I fell into this trap during my pregnancy. I expected much of the methods I used throughout pregnancy to get baby into a good position for birth and to train my body for the marathon of labor. But what do you say when you’ve done everything “right” and still don’t get the perfectly desired result? In the case of this birth, I wanted a baby in optimal fetal position ready to be born in a straightforward way without any hassle. What do you say when eating well, exercising, chiropractic care, relaxation, red raspberry leaf, proper posture, and all the supplements don’t seem to bring about what you think they should? I was diligent during this pregnancy. With God as my witness, I did not even lean back on a couch or chair after 28 weeks. There are two ways I can look at the way I prepared. I can say it was worth the effort in retrospect because I could have had a much more difficult experience, or I can say it was a total waste of time and let resentment color the memory of the birth. I do believe that my diligence paid off, but I trusted more in the methods than in the fact that God is the One who delivers during birth no matter the circumstances. I didn’t start labor from a place of peace and trust but rather in forced confidence in something that ended up not being what delivered me anyway.
Tirzah was head down but ROT for most of the third trimester. This isn’t a problem usually because babies turn during labor anyway and will find the right way to get through the pelvis, especially with mothers who have labored successfully. A baby might turn posterior or anterior, but she will find a way through most of the time. Since I’ve been so obsessive about avoiding a posterior baby (I’ve had two who turned during labor, which isn’t very much fun) I did a lot of floor work and positioning to keep her back towards my front, and it worked for the most part. I started to sense something was different in the last month of pregnancy, however, when her body turned more into what looked to the midwives like a slight oblique lie, even though her head was really low. I had at least two to three weeks of nights of laboring contractions that did not seem to be leading to labor. The strong contractions would get close together, but then taper off without moving forward. They did not feel the same as my pre-labor nights with previous pregnancies, when I could feel my cervix being opened. I entered real labor completely exhausted, not trusting myself, not trusting the process, not trusting God, and anxious about how all the uncertainty leading up to birth day was going to affect Tirzah’s entry. She started labor dilating my cervix towards my hip due to being somewhat sideways, not down and out through my pelvis. I found that I had to be much more active during this labor and was unable to rest through early contractions. They started strong and stayed strong. Her head was slightly asynclitic all the way through 8 cm and my midwife could feel her head moving around and around trying to wiggle her way down. Struggling to find her way out, my poor baby was moving her head into ligament and bone. Fortunately, my water did not break even with this strange positioning so her head was cushioned. Pete read Scriptures to me and I listened to Fernando Ortega and Young Oceans, which are forever ingrained in my mind as the music of overcoming now. My midwives were praying and speaking to the baby to get herself aligned. Wisely, they did not tell me all that was going on while I was in the midst of the labor or I would have lost faith entirely. They didn’t say until later that they expected several more hours of labor until the cervix ridge was softened and moved. We used gravity in all positioning until it simply hurt too much and I had to lie down. I couldn’t get ahead of my emotions and cried through most of the transition. I have never asked to be transported to the hospital so I could get an epidural, but I did this time. I told Pete I was finished. I remember the moment I gave up the willingness to see this through. I no longer cared about being strong, I simply didn’t want to feel any more pain. And that was when it became unbearable to even consider going through one more contraction. They were so much harder than they had ever been before in any of my labors. I was at the end of myself utterly and completely. It was a confirmation of the picture the Lord had given me in the last few weeks of pregnancy as I was exhaustedly slogging my way through each day after nights of contractions. I saw myself as though I were dust, swept out in such a fine layer that it couldn’t be spread any further. He said He was bringing me to the end of my own capacity and desired that I would press even beyond the impossible boundaries of being completely spent. He wanted to bring me to the end of myself, where I can find Him and His strength. It was right around that moment that things started to turn around. It was just then that I moved beyond my capacity into God carrying me completely. My cervix had finally aligned with my pelvis and she was on her way. At first, I thought the second stage would move really quickly along. But because of Tirzah’s tipped position, pushing was much harder than usual. I was expecting two or three pushes and she would be out like all my other babies (even my 9 lb 12 oz fatty came out in three or four pushes), but the back of her head was presenting, not the crown of her head and her chin was tucked almost too deeply. It was the strangest sensation as I couldn’t tell what was head and what was body – it just felt like this gigantic creature inside me pressing out on all sides. I was positioned almost straight up for delivery and even with gravity working with me it still took everything in me to get her out. I cannot even describe the bliss of relief when she finally slid out onto the bed. There is nothing more euphoric than taking that first deep breath and realizing you haven’t even been able to take a deep breath for months with the baby jammed into your ribs.
This is one of those times when I see how much of a benefit home birth can be in a non-textbook birth. Had I not been able to eat and move around, I can’t imagine how I could have lasted as long as I needed to. I can’t imagine not being able to deliver in the position I needed to be in for her to come out. I’m glad that I didn’t have access to an epidural because it likely would have slowed things down or perhaps even stalled them all together even if it offered temporary relief. Gravity was a stronger force for me this time as it needed to be. I am so grateful for the home births I had that weren’t as painful and difficult, but seeing how the freedom to birth despite difficult odds this time has given me a new appreciation for midwifery. The fact is, birth is difficult. I’m hardly the only woman who ever had a baby in a non-ideal position in labor. I’ve added my story to the wisdom and experience of the millions of women who have gone before me and that feels like a great accomplishment. I feel strong, not because I overcame but because God overcame through me. He brought me over the finish line in His way. Why things had to work out the way they did is up to Him, not me, but knowing I can trust Him and that He protected me through this valley is profoundly comforting.
Tirzah Love is my rainbow baby. A rainbow baby is the one that comes after a loss. When I look at the difficulty I had to press through to bring Tirzah forth, I am reminded of how often there is darkness before a storm is past. Emotionally, the pregnancy was difficult and there were many moments of fragility as I pondered the loss of a son and bringing to birth a daughter whose life would simply not be if Joshua had not left us before it was time. She is a special and beautiful promise – one that is destined to live and has a purpose beyond imagination. She is a precious gift that I appreciate with every fiber of my being. I’ve learned much about the nature of God in His faithfulness and mercy towards me in the midst of not knowing exactly how He will reveal His promises in my life. All I need to know is that He will. What a treasure He has given me.