Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gabe's Birth Story

I didn’t fully realize what a life changing experience Gabe’s birth would be. His birth story was nothing like we expected, but looking back on everything now, I’m so glad things didn’t go according to “plan.” Throughout my pregnancy, I had to continually surrender my plans and fears to the Lord, and I learned to surrender to him in a very real way during Gabe’s birth.

Gabe's birth story actually begins 3 days prior at my 38 weeks appointment. My doctor did the usual cervical exam, and I was expecting to hear I was 2 cm dilated, maybe 3 at the most. Needless to say, when my doctor said I was 4 cm dilated and 80-90% effaced, we were definitely shocked. My doctor immediately looked at me and asked, “Are you sure you’re feeling ok? You’re still walking around and smiling right now?” I hadn’t felt any real contractions at that point, only a few sharp pains and a little pelvic pressure. Most women are at least in early labor at that those numbers, but apparently not me.

From there Kyle and I had a million questions. Should we go to the hospital now? If not, should we come in sooner than when contractions are 5 minutes apart since we live 45 minutes away? Do you think I’ll have time for an epidural once I go into labor? We weren’t sent to the hospital that day since the non-stress test they had me on earlier didn’t show any regular contractions, and I was still only 38 weeks. The doctor said things would progress quickly once I did go into labor, and advised us to come in once contractions were 10 minutes apart, or if my water broke. She added that she would be surprised if Gabe didn't come within the next week, so to be prepared at any moment. After the appointment, knowing the progress I had already made, I began to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of not having time for an epidural. I told myself to let go of the expectation of a medicated birth, but I still clung to a little bit of hope. After all, we had heard of some women who walked around at 4 cm for weeks, so it was possible things would not go as quickly as we thought.

We went home and not much changed over the next couple of days. I still was having Braxton Hicks contractions and lots of pelvic pressure. On Friday, July 29, I woke up at 6 am feeling restless. After I ate a quick bite to eat, I decided to go on a walk around our neighborhood to calm my thoughts. I listened to worship music on my phone as I walked, and it was a really sweet time with the Lord. An overwhelming peace came over me, and it was like a small part of me knew. Today was probably going to be the day.

I came back to the house with the intention of sitting down to read my Bible, but as soon as I sat down on the couch, it hit me. I was SO tired. I hadn't felt this tired my entire pregnancy, so I immediately laid down to take a nap (little did I know my body was getting ready to do the work of labor and delivery later that night!). After I woke up from my nap, I got some work done, and then decided to go eat lunch at my mom and dad’s house. After we finished eating, mom showed me the decorations for my sister, Ashley’s, 30th birthday party they and my brother-in-law, Alan, had set up the night before in their finished basement. Alan had put so much thought into planning a celebration for my sister, and everything looked great. I was really looking forward to the party later that night, and I wouldn't dream of missing it.

After I got back from my parents’ house, I got some more work done, and then had to take another nap before I started getting ready for Ashley’s party. I had just finished curling my hair around 5:25 p.m. when I suddenly felt a warm gush of liquid run down my leg. At first I didn't think anything of it, because honestly, bladder control is something you really don't have when you're pregnant, especially in the third trimester. But then something about it felt different, and I wanted to call my doctor and make sure it wasn't my water breaking. After I described what happened on the phone, she asked if I was having any contractions, and I told her that I wasn't. Since she suspected that my water possibly broke, she told me to come to the hospital anyway to get checked out.

Right when I hung up the phone, I heard our garage door opening, which meant Kyle had just gotten home from work. I went straight to the garage and told him that we needed to go to the hospital. As I began to describe what happened to him, and that I still wasn’t having any contractions, we started to second guess it was my water breaking and thought that I was overthinking things. So we started to load up the hospital bags in the car with the intention of still going to my sister’s party, but we would have everything we needed in case things changed and we had to head to the hospital.

And that's when it happened--my first real contraction. This was definitely more intense than any of the Braxton Hicks I had felt before, and it was like my entire stomach was hardening. I rushed to our bedroom where Kyle was changing and told him we had to go to the hospital NOW. We quickly finished loading everything up in the car and started the 45 minute drive. Let me tell y’all, this was the most intense car ride of my life. I’ll never forget it. We had just turned out of the neighborhood when I felt the whoosh of my water really breaking. It was so gross. Thankfully we already had a towel on the passenger seat of the car for this very scenario (though I’m pretty sure it was soaked through in minutes). Kyle had me call my mom to tell her we weren't going to make it to my sister’s party after all, but after that, I couldn't talk to anyone else. The contractions were coming fast and I was already having to breathe through them. Kyle made the rest of the phone calls, and paused when he was talking to his mom to ask me how far apart my contractions were. I was timing them on an app on my phone since I knew the nurses would ask once I got to the hospital, and between the first two they were 4 minutes apart. But for the rest of the drive, they were much closer together: 

I didn’t clue Kyle in to this fact since I wanted him to focus on getting us to the hospital safely and not about not getting there in time. We were given a small mercy by coming up on a group of cars going 80 mph down Highway 78, and Kyle just stayed in the middle of that group of cars, which made the longest stretch of our drive much less stressful since we were able to go faster than normal. Meanwhile, not too long into the car ride, I started shaking real bad. Thankfully Kyle reassured me it was just a response to the pain, and that it was ok. I don't know what I would've done without Kyle there to talk me through everything. With his knowledge as a physical therapist, I trusted every word he said. As I breathed through every contraction, he held my hand and told me I was doing great.

Once we arrived at the hospital, Kyle had to drop me off at the ER entrance since it was after normal business hours and the main registration desk was closed. I hobbled into the ER with the towel between my legs, trying to keep fluid from getting everywhere, though it was probably pretty useless at this point. Since we had already pre-registered (and I had been admitted earlier in my pregnancy for a high blood pressure check), all I had to do was sign a few forms and wait for them to print out my admission bracelet before they took me upstairs to labor and delivery. The ER nurse took me to the third floor in a wheelchair since walking at this point was not going to happen, and thankfully she used a shortcut only accessible to medical personnel to get us up there faster.

Once I got to triage I changed into a hospital gown and laid down on the bed for the nurse to start my IV. They asked if I wanted an epidural, and told me that I would have to finish the entire first bag of fluid and be starting on the second in order to get one, and that usually took about an hour. While another nurse was drawing my blood to send to the lab, Kyle was telling jokes to distract me from all the needles and the pain from the contractions (if you know Kyle, you know how “funny” his jokes are lol). The nurses botched my first IV, so they tried a second one. When that one didn't work and they had to try for a third, that’s when I knew I wasn’t going to have time for an epidural. It was hard to come to terms with initially, and I let myself feel the fear of what was ahead. We hadn’t taken any of the weeks-long natural childbirth classes like Bradley Method or Lamaze to prepare, and it made me nervous that I didn't know what I was doing. But I knew God had brought me to this moment to face the fear head on, and he would give me the strength I needed to get through it. It was time to put my big girl pants on and do whatever I needed to do in order to get Gabe here safely.

Finally the third IV worked, and the nurse said she needed to check me in order to move me to a delivery room. This was pretty painful, but I was glad to hear I had made good progress and was 7 cm dilated. We were in the triage room for a few more minutes before they moved me, and I remember writhing on the bed, trying to find a more comfortable position. I tried to remember the pain coping mechanisms we learned in our brief childbirth class, and the only thing that helped me was to pick an object to focus on and to breath in and out really strongly. Thank goodness for the small grace God gives us with the break in between contractions. I’m pretty sure birth would be physically impossible without them! 

Once we got to the delivery room, I tried to get in the most comfortable position possible, and ended up squatting on the edge of the bed. I was leaning on Kyle through the excruciating pain and said, “I need you to tell me I can do this.” He looked at me and confidently said, “If anyone can do it, you can.” The nurse told me to let her know when I felt the need to push, and they would call the doctor in. About two contractions went by when the urge came over me--I was ready to push this baby out. The nurse quickly checked me again and I was fully dilated. They called the doctor on call, and since this was my first baby, she said she would be there in about an hour. But thankfully the nurses told her how quickly things were progressing, and that she needed to be there in 10 minutes.

The nurses started prepping all the equipment needed for Gabe to be born, and told me to not push if possible to give the doctor time to get there. I don’t know why they even bother telling women this. Once you feel the urge to push, there’s no stopping that train. I did my best to not do anything, but with each contraction, I couldn’t help it. Before I knew it, my doctor was there, they were putting my feet in the stirrups, the curtain up, and more nurses came flooding in the room. As soon as I made the decision to embrace the pain no matter what happened, I felt peace and determination like never before. It was go time. Every ounce of strength I had left, I gave to pushing. After two or three contractions, Gabe’s heart rate began to drop, and it became obvious we needed to get him out quickly. The nurse on my left told me I needed to change the way I was pushing, and I started holding my breath and pulling on the handle bars on the side of the bed. And I was squeezing the heck out of Kyle’s hand and arm. And let me tell you, the pressure you feel while pushing is the most bizarre thing. I pushed for about twenty more minutes (it’s hard to really know how long in the moment), and Gabe was here!

Gabriel Kyle Fenton was born at 8:09 p.m on July 29, 2016. 

I’ll never forget the moment I first saw him, and the tremendous relief I felt. Meeting my baby boy was one of the sweetest, most incredible moments of my life. They wiped him off a little before they laid him on my chest, and it was the most amazing feeling to hold him for the first time. The miracle of life gets me every time. What a privilege it is that we get to participate in bringing God’s creation into the world. And I’m so thankful it wasn’t the perfect birth I had planned out in my head. There was no birth photographer to capture every moment, and our families weren't even waiting outside the delivery room door because he came so stinking fast (but they came later that night to meet him of course!). God had better things in mind, and I learned that He certainly does give us more than we can handle. But He is faithful to never leave us and gives us the exact strength needed for the moment. Thank you, Jesus, for this precious gift of life. We feel unworthy, but oh so grateful.