10:56pm, Saturday, September 22, 2018, I was laying in bed with our sweet one-year-old who doesn’t like to sleep alone. As I dozed off into a light sleep, instant, intense pain raged throughout my abdomen. My heart raced as I tried to stand to my feet to seek relief. I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant with our son. As the pain subsided, I was trying to keep calm. Many women experience false labor, and I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, but this was different.
I remember the entire day leading up to this moment. Trey had been working on some plumbing issues we were having with our downstairs bathroom, and by working on, I mean he (with the help of his father) had spent the entire day from 8am to about 7pm tearing the bathroom apart. Pipes were exposed, tools were displaced, a dusty mess was spilling out of the bathroom. I had spent the day taking care of Eliza, keeping her occupied and out of the bathroom mess. We played, cuddled, read, and I tended to my normal household chores. I was also working on making matching outfits for Eliza and her baby brother who was soon to join us. When I found the time throughout the day, I was ironing, measuring, and sewing a sweet newborn outfit for our little man. I distinctly remember a calm that I was experiencing throughout the day. What better time for our baby to come join us than the day that Trey decides to tear about the bathroom, I thought. This wasn’t in an irritated spirit, I should mention, merely an observation. I remember laying with Eliza at nap time that day. I couldn’t stop staring at her sweet face, chubby fingers, and long eyelashes. She was perfect. And she was going to be an amazing big sister. Soon.
When my first contraction came to an end, I walked out of Eliza’s room to find Trey at the top of the stairs, heading to bed. I told him that I had just had a contraction that felt different, and I asked him to go lay down with Eliza for a bit because I had gotten up abruptly and I didn’t know if she was in a deep sleep yet. I went downstairs to get a drink and try to calm down. My adrenaline was high. My heart rate had yet to calm. I walked, drank some water, looked at pictures on my phone, and simply waited. About thirty minutes later, then came the second contraction. Just like the first, only a little stronger. I started timing them on an app on my phone. I knew that labor could start very slowly and irregularly, so I told myself that they could easily be far about all night long. What I really needed was rest. It was late, and IF this was truly labor beginning, then I would need to try to sleep some before things intensified. I headed up to bed, and ten minutes after my second contraction, came my third. Much closer than the first and second. My goal was to remain calm, and desperately try to sleep. I tossed and turned in bed, but every ten minutes, there came a contraction. I was surprised at how severe the pain was. With Eliza I wasn’t able to experience going into labor naturally because I was induced, so this was all new to me, and I honestly didn’t know if the severity and consistency was normal. For about two hours I tried to rest as best as I could, but laying down made the pain worse when it came. I tried standing, walking, sitting on an exercise ball, etc. These were all better options than laying down, but it was impossible for me to truly rest this way.
Around 2:30am I texted my doula, “no chance you’re awake is there?” Note the time… Nevertheless, within minutes she responded. I told her what had been going on and that my contractions were consistently 5 to 10 minutes apart, and had been for a few hours. She texted me a few different positions I could try to find relief from the contractions, and she asked if I had spoken to my midwife yet. I had not, and I expressed to her my fear of having her and my midwife drive all the way to my house (they both lived about an hour away) just to find that my labor stopped. However, she offered me words of affirmation and comfort, and she even offered to go ahead and call Sue to see what she thought. After talking to my midwife, she told me they were both getting ready to head my way. Around 3:30am, the pain had intensified so much that I needed Trey. I wasn’t sure why I needed him, I just knew that I needed him to be with me. I quietly woke him up where he was still sleeping with Eliza, and asked him to come into the hallway to talk to me. I told him that I was in labor, and I needed him. His presence helped me. He later told me he felt bad because when he talked to me before he went to lay with Eliza, he didn’t realize I was in labor. Looking back, I was glad that he didn’t because he was able to rest for a few hours, and I know that helped him help me through the long hours that were to come.
At 5am I asked Trey to call my mom. My midwife and doula were on their way, and I was desperately hoping that with them would come some type of relief. I didn’t want Eliza to wake up alone and come out of her room to find her house full of people, so when my mom arrived I asked her to lay with Eliza until she woke up. By 5:30am, my midwife and doula arrived at our house. Trey started setting up the birth pool, and Sue (my midwife) was getting all her supplies laid out and accessible. Immediately upon her arrival, Leigh-Ann (my doula) put counter pressure on my lower back during every contraction. This helped me to manage the pain. Sue checked to see how dilated I was. I was ecstatic to hear that I was already at 8 centimeters. I had labored all the way to 8 centimeters on my own! (Looking back, I realize that while he may have not played an active role during this, Trey helped me get to that point a lot. I can’t express how much his presence helped me through each contraction.) With that number being said, I thought that perhaps this would be a surprisingly quick birth. Oh, but little did I know.
Time went on, but that was the only thing that seemed to progress. When the pool was filled up, I got in to hopefully find some more relief. While it did relieve some of the pain, every time I was in the water, my labor slowed. This was extremely unfortunate because the water was one place I was finding significant relief. We were constantly trying to find a better position to help me work through these contractions.
Midmorning , we turned all the lights out, lit some candles, closed all the curtains, and Trey sat with me in the dark as I laid on the bed trying to find rest and calm. With each contraction he would attentively hold my hand. Between contractions, he sat with his head down resting while I closed my eyes. I could hear him quietly praying as we waited in the dark. My contractions slowed during this time. I don’t remember how much time passed exactly, but I remember praying silently, asking God for help. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, but I truly believed that He had created me for this.
After little to no progression, my team seemed to think that if we could get my water to break things would speed up. Sue offered to break my water, but I really didn’t want to interfere with the natural process that my body was going through. However, I was feeling desperate. Hours were passing with no change. We tried different positions to work through contractions that might add extra pressure and in turn break my waters. Finally, with the help of my midwife, doula, and husband, my water broke. I remember that pain vividly, but I also remember the hope that I felt in that moment. Things were going to progress now. I was going to be holding my baby soon.
To my dismay, nothing sped up. I continued to labor long and hard, with no end in sight. I was stuck at about 9 centimeters (exactly where I was stuck with Eliza before her heart rate began to drop repeatedly, followed by an emergency c-section). Hours continued to pass. My birth team took turns resting and refueling as they were able. I wanted to labor in the pool for relief, but had to keep getting out because of how my body responded to the water. I remember asking Trey why I couldn’t do it, what was wrong with my body that it couldn’t birth our babies. I was broken.
After very little change, we decided that it was time to start pushing. This seemed like a promising step to take. With each contraction that came, I exerted all of my energy into pushing. This continued for hours. I heard the silence from my midwife and doula, and I knew what they were thinking – the words that they didn’t want to say to me. I knew they were going to tell me we were going to have to transfer to the hospital. In the piercing silence between these contractions, I tried to figure out what my response was going to be when they told me we should transfer. I didn’t have a response. God created me for this, so why was I failing? I didn’t know what else to do but keep trying. I saw no other option. With Trey by my side every moment, I continued to push. Somewhere inside of Trey he had a glimmer of hope, and I caught the tiniest glimpse of it when I realized that he hadn’t given up on me. Looking back at those moments, I know that’s why I didn’t give up when I thought my body had failed me.
Suddenly, my baby began to move. My entire birth team saw the hope, and I could hear it in their voices. With each contraction, he was moving, ever so slightly. When I heard that they could see his head, I remember wanting to cry, but not having the time or energy to produce tears. I distinctly remember the enthusiasm in Trey’s voice when he said, “you’re doing it Hannah! He’s coming!” He faithfully remained by my side, holding my hand, being my encourager, through each and every moment when I honestly didn’t have the strength to continue. These were some of my favorite moments with Trey – times that I have genuinely never felt so close or loved by him. He never gave up on me.
After 17 hours of active labor, followed by 4.5 hours of pushing alone, Oliver Jude blessed us with his presence at 8:36pm on September 23, 2018. He was an image of grace, redemption, and the promises of God.
Moments later, Nana brought Eliza Jane upstairs to meet her long-awaited baby brother. Some of my most cherished memories are of these moments when Eliza was realizing that her baby was finally here. Since that day, it is difficult to remember a time when Oliver wasn’t a part of our life. He is so loved.