I woke up early the morning of Eva Caroline’s birth feeling mildly uncomfortable; the sensations I felt were different than the endless string of Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d had for weeks leading up to my due date, different from the false alarms that had kept me on high alert and my emergency contacts on call. But these were not coming at consistent intervals, so I was still skeptical that this was true labor. Nevertheless, I asked my husband to stay home from work just in case, and I asked my in-laws, who were planning to come that afternoon to keep the boys for my doctor’s appointment the next day, if they could go ahead and come early.
While I was intentional during my pregnancy to remain emotionally at peace and to eliminate fear surrounding my third and final childbirth, there were several factors that had me holding my breath, several things I really wanted to happen this time around:
First, I wanted to go into labor on my own, without any medical intervention. This was true of my first two labors, so I knew my body was capable, but when I passed my due date, the anxiety threatened to creep in, along with the endless string of texts from people asking me when I would induce.
Secondly, I wanted to realize that I was in labor early enough to make it to the hospital in plenty of time to deliver, without rushing in a swirl of chaos. I almost birthed my second baby in the front seat of my car on the Interstate, speeding our way to the hospital. I had to be wheeled into labor and delivery in a chair, and there was no time to even sign an admission form before I started pushing. It was so stressful that I abandoned the Hypnobirthing techniques I had practiced at home and hyperventilated. When my son was born, he was limp and silent, and the nurses whisked him away without an explanation, delaying the opportunity for me to have skin-to-skin contact with him. Not something I wanted to repeat. It was my desire to create as serene an environment as possible.
Third, I didn’t want to worry about who would come keep our boys, or have to wait a long time for childcare to show up. And I didn’t want to have to take them to the hospital with us (for obvious reasons).
Fourth, I wanted a completely natural, unmedicated, noninterventional childbirth. No needles, no surgery, no jump-starts, emergencies, or drama. I just wanted to bring my baby into the world according to my Maker’s perfect design.
Fifth, I wanted my OB to be present and deliver our baby. This didn’t happen with either of our first two babies. With our oldest, my OB got caught in a flash flood and made it just in time to cut the umbilical cord. With our second, the on-call OB arrived after a nurse was already in position and the baby was crowning, so he didn’t interfere. Kelley and I had become really fond of our current doctor, who was completely supportive of, and even excited about, our natural childbirth plan, and we wanted him to be part of the birth process.
I believe in the power of our words, and how God gives us authority to speak life over our circumstances, but even while I was careful how I spoke about the birthing process, I still wondered whether God would give me the desires of my heart, or if He would allow me to experience a C-section or induction to teach me a thing or two about relinquishing control. In some small part of my mind, I wondered whether God’s heart toward me was good or harsh.
It wasn’t until Kelley and I were on our way to the hospital, as I was listening to worship music and praying that my doctor would confirm I was in real labor after several tiresome false alarms, that I simply just let go and whispered, “God, I trust You.” I knew His heart toward me was good, and that He loves to give good gifts to His children. He would take care of me.
Eva’s birth story was beautifully scripted, more composed like a song, music and lyrics dancing together in complete harmony. Every single desire of my heart was met by the Lord with a resounding “yes and amen.” My labor progressed at just the right speed, allowing me time to make all necessary preparations with little discomfort, but quick enough not to drag its feet. I spent the morning in early labor resting, taking little naps and practicing Hypnobirthing breathing and relaxation techniques, fueling my body and staying hydrated. Five minutes before my in-laws arrived at our house, the contractions picked up and maintained a consistent rhythm, still manageable but strong enough to let me know that this was real. When they arrived, we headed to the car and left, contractions still far enough apart that my husband could drive the speed limit to the hospital. When we arrived, my doctor confirmed that I was in active labor: 5 centimeters, completely effaced.
I had requested to labor in a birthing pool, so the staff worked quickly to get it ready for me. I was able to wear my own bathing suit and maintain some level of modesty, drink water, dim the lights, and play worship music in my birthing suite. Even my worship playlist met every stage of labor with the perfect lyrics to strengthen my soul, and I could feel God’s presence so strongly every step of the way.
The birthing pool eased the intensity of each contraction, so much so that I was relatively comfortable until I started feeling a subtle urge to push. My husband and doulas helped me out of the birthing pool, into my swimsuit cover-up, and into a more comfortable position on the bed, with the use of a birthing bar. My husband sat behind me and I used him for stability as I breathed slowly through each contraction.
Eva was born exactly 13 minutes before the end of my doctor’s workday. As soon as I asked, the nurses paged him, and he came immediately to provide direction during the transition and birthing phases of labor. Eva’s arrival was quick but gentle; it just couldn’t have been more perfect. I attribute part of it to the HypnoBirthing techniques I used, but God’s hand and His presence were an undeniably dominant part of Eva’s birth story.
Immediately, my doctor handed her to me, and I cradled her against my chest. But after a moment, he gently said that they were probably going to need to take her to the NICU. Snapping to attention, I asked why, and he mentioned cautiously that she wasn’t really breathing. (I later learned from one of my doulas that the umbilical cord had been wrapped around Eva's neck, though the medical staff had remained completely calm about it.) I hadn’t even noticed! I looked down at her slightly purple face and immediately instructed her to breathe, holding her closer against my skin and making eye contact with her. She obeyed and instantly let out a cry before the pediatric nurse reached for her. No intervention was needed!
I am in complete awe and wonder of the majesty and the goodness of God, and the miracle of childbirth! It’s hard to even talk about the experience without becoming tongue-tied, as this has been such a healing process for me. God has revealed even more about His heart toward me as His daughter, and what that means to Him. I have grown to love my body and what it was created to do. I’ve never felt stronger or more confident than I did birthing Eva. I met with the Lord, and I am forever changed. And my prayer is that Eva will be aware of the presence of God in her life from even in the womb, that she will never lose the wonder of His love.
I also pray for you ladies out there who long for the day you can hold your child in your arms, who have experienced loss, infertility, or who are waiting to bring a child home through adoption. My prayer for you is that you will be encouraged by His promises and strengthened by His love. We waited two long years and were about to start fertility treatments when I finally learned I was pregnant with our first. Our second child was a COMPLETE surprise and came at what seemed like an inopportune time. (His timing couldn't have been more divine, as it turned out.) We lost our third child early on in the pregnancy after praying fervently and "trying" everything by the book for months to conceive, and then I got pregnant with Eva three months later when I finally stopped trying to force it to happen. I know how your heart aches. I know the forced smiles when everyone else around you is having babies. I know the feelings of failure, and the fear that something is wrong with you. The feeling of being betrayed by your own body. The strain on a marriage. The longing. Don't give up, friends! God is the author of life, and His timing is perfect. He sets the lonely in families, and He is writing the perfect story for your family. He is forever trustworthy and entirely faithful!