I’ve heard people talk my whole life about the “love of a parent,” and if you had asked me before she was born if I loved the baby growing inside of me, I would have told you without hesitation, “Yes!” But nothing truly prepared me for the feelings that would envelop this little being that Gerrit and I created in the days and weeks that have passed. Never have I felt so much peace and the rush of emotions that come by just looking at her little face. This is truly the role that God prepared for me. This is the story of her birth.
On the morning of February 2, 2015, I awoke around 4am. I’d been battling insomnia quite regularly during my pregnancy, and this day was no exception. I followed my normal nightly routine of laying in bed for about a half an hour and finally succumbed to the couch. A change of scenery normally helped to relax me and put me back to sleep. But this morning, I was especially restless.
I’d been working on a special project for my friend, Jay, who was battling cancer. I’d been asked to help with a prayer card to remind people to pray for him and his family. He was going in for his third surgery to remove tumors on February 3. He and his wife (my BFF) were heavy on my heart that morning, so after tossing and turning on the couch, I finally got up and headed to the computer to finish the card.
Nearly as soon as I stood up, I felt a small contraction. I wasn’t too concerned as I’d been having pre-labor contractions off and on since my baby shower on January 18. So I headed to the computer and put the finishing touches on the prayer card. Sitting there, I realized that I was having contractions fairly regularly, so I decided to go lay down back in bed.
The contractions weren’t that intense…at least not what I thought real labor should feel like. They were very manageable, and as I lay in bed, I worked through them quite easily. I’m not sure how long I was there before it dawned on me that the contractions were coming much more often than I’d experienced in the past. I started timing them and saw that they were 5 minutes apart. I was somewhat alarmed at this point, mainly because they weren’t very intense. I also knew that I was supposed to head to the hospital at 5 minutes apart. Nurse Gayle in my OB’s office had told me to get in the bathtub, and if contractions continued, it was real labor. If they stopped, it was Braxton Hicks.
So I drew a bath and got in. The contractions slowed to about 7 minutes apart. My belly was huge and didn’t fit under the water, so I got very cold quickly and decided I should probably get in the shower instead.
As soon as I got up, I had another contraction, and it doubled me over the bathroom sink. I knew then that we’d be meeting our baby that day!
I woke up Gerrit and got in the shower. The water felt so good on my back and belly. The contractions were still coming regularly, and by the time I got out, Gerrit asked if I should call our doula and doctor.
I called the after hours number for my doctor, and the on call physician called me back. She listened to me work through a contraction on the phone and confirmed I should go in soon. I texted our doula, Jesse, who called back and also said, “I think it’s real labor!”
But I knew we could be in for a long day. My hair was still wet from the shower, and I certainly didn’t want to be sent home from the hospital with a false alarm. So I planned to take my time getting ready before we left. I packed a few final things in my overnight bag and did my hair and makeup. (I was going to look good when I gave birth!)
In between my activities, I’d stop and work through contractions at the foot of our bed. It was the perfect height to lean on. Gerrit came behind me and put pressure on my sacrum to open up the pelvis. That felt amazing! The contractions were getting more and more intense. I was definitely uncomfortable by this point.
By 8:30am, we were ready to leave.
I was filled with so many emotions at this point. I was so excited, but overwhelmed with fear. This was the moment we’d been preparing for, and suddenly I wasn’t ready. I began to cry. Gerrit opened his arms to hold me and said, “Just think when we get home, we’ll be a family!” I busted into tears and said, “This is the last time we’ll ever be just a family of two!” The thought of what was to come was a little overwhelming. I was scared of change, and what was to come.
On the way out the door, my husband brought out his camera and started filming me. I was pretty irritated with the thought of video capturing how I looked at the moment. I told him, “NO VIDEO!” So he walked back into the house, closed the door, and opened the door again with the camera still rolling. My FACE! I was so not happy with him! I just wanted to go to the hospital!! It’s funny now, and I’m glad he captured that moment, but ooooooh, I could have killed him then!
At the end of our driveway, Gerrit stopped the car and asked if he could pray for us. He prayed for me, and for our baby and for the family of three that we would become. I cried again, but felt so much better afterward. I had peace and was ready to bring this baby into the world.
The drive to the hospital was IN-TENSE…to say the least. I had the seat reclined, but no matter what position I tried, I could not get comfortable. The contractions were coming fast and furious. I hung onto the door handle like it was a lifeline. And it was rush hour, so it felt like an eternity. I couldn’t see out of the car (and my eyes were closed) but I knew that we were moving slowing. I finally begged Gerrit, “Please! Just go!”
He went into racecar driver mode (unbeknownst to me!), put on the four-way flashers, and started weaving in and out of traffic. At one point he drove along the shoulder, past the line of cars on their way to work. I’m sure he got a number of dirty looks from people!
We arrived at the hospital around 9 am. I tried to get out of the car, but couldn’t walk. Gerrit ran in and got me a wheelchair. I tried to act nonchalant as people stared at the pregnant lady being wheeled in. I’m not sure why I was self-conscious…we were having a baby!
We got checked into our room, and the only thing I could think of was getting settled into the Jacuzzi tub. Little did I know, twenty-six women would check into the hospital that morning. So the labor and delivery staff was a little short handed. As a result, I got a nurse that I REALLY didn’t care for. She couldn’t hear what I was saying, and seemed disinterested in my pain.
She did a dilation check (the MOST PAINFUL one I’ve ever had!) and said I was dilated to 1cm (where I’d been for the past three weeks.) She then brought over the dilation chart to show me what a 1 looked like, and how much further I needed to go to deliver. Yeah. That was NOT HELPFUL.
I got in the Jacuzzi tub, Gerrit started the birth playlist that we’d created, and that felt amazing. But I got very hot very quickly and my contractions were getting very intense. Gerrit helped me out and lead me to the bed. I tried to sit on a birthing ball, but the only comfortable position was on my side.
It was around 10:30am when Dr. Nakamura came to see me. He performed a check and I was dilated to 5cm! It was also around this time that I got a new nurse, Angela. I liked her immediately. What a relief!
The contractions were beyond intense at this point. I had started groaning during each one. I was feeling very out of control, and labor wasn’t what I had envisioned. I really thought I’d be able to move around and work through the contractions, but I’d been reduced to no movement and eyes closed.
At 11:15, my water broke with a splash! Gerrit said it was just like you see in the movies. There was relief that came and a whole new wave of intensity in the contractions. I didn’t think I could do it anymore and asked for an epidural.
I knew going into this labor that my veins are very small and tend to roll. I’d included that in my birth plan and had asked for special help in any blood draws. Needless to say, to give me an epidural meant doing lab work, which included a blood draw and IV. Nurse Angela was amazing, but she quickly broke the blood vessel in my hand and failed to be able to find any other vein to poke. She called for backup…meanwhile the contractions continued. Little did I know that there would be no time for an epidural, as much as I longed for relief.
By this point, I was pushing involuntarily with each contraction. I also was getting the urge to BITE Gerrit’s hands! My head knew that was a bad idea, but my body kept wanting to chomp down! But my husband was amazing. He kept holding my hands and telling me how great I was doing. I loved him so much.
I went from wanting to be touched to quickly announcing, “No touching!” within seconds. I kept my poor doulas, Jesse and Beth, guessing for sure!
I tried holding onto the bed and laboring on my knees, but within a few minutes I had no strength to hold myself upright. I moved back onto my side with a pillow propped between my legs.
I felt something moving down into my vagina…the baby was crowning! I said to Angela, “The baby is right there!” Dr. Nakamura was not in the room, and I read the look on her face loud and clear. She thought she would be delivering the baby! She quickly made a phone call to get him there. He walked in the room about 3 minutes before the birth. I could see that he was panicked too. No instruments were set up and the baby’s warming table wasn’t ready. People started scurrying around the room like mad!
He told me to push with the next contraction and then quickly told me to slow down…that was like trying to hold back a freight train! I’d always heard about “the ring of fire” and was anticipating the worst as she crowned, but remarkably, there was such a relief in this stage. I knew I was almost done!
At 12:59pm and with three small pushes, the baby came out!
Very quickly a team of nurses descended on the baby…wiping, checking, looking. She was lying on my stomach at this point. Something was preventing the umbilical cord from coming all the way out, so I couldn’t pull her to my chest.
Our birth plan had been very specific that Gerrit would be the one to announce the sex of the baby. During the chaos, one of the nurses commented, “I’ll just wipe him down.”
“So it’s a boy!” I thought, but shortly thereafter, Gerrit picked up the baby and exclaimed, “It’s a girl!” Apparently it was protocol to call a baby “him” until the sex was revealed. What a crazy surprise!
I was FLOORED. I’d been convinced (as had everyone else!) that we were having a boy. A girl! All things pink, soft and frilly were waiting. I was literally giddy with excitement.
Relief from the intensity of labor and this incredible love for my husband and baby flooded over me. I had never been so happy.
After 5 minutes of delayed cord clamping, Gerrit cut the cord and I was finally able to bring my sweet girl to my chest. She rooted and latched on my breast like she’d done it a thousand times. I loved her. She was so soft and warm against me. I took those moments to breathe her in and memorize her features. Gerrit’s eyes and nose, and a perfect heart shaped mouth. I could not believe that she was here and she was mine.
I like to say that God knew exactly what I needed to have a natural delivery. Of the 26 women that checked in to the hospital that morning, 21 stayed and delivered that day! (Yes, it was a full moon!) Because I checked in dilated at 1, I was given a low priority for the anesthesiologist. So many other factors were at play too… the burst blood vessel, lab delays, and extremely fast labor. And I’m SO THANKFUL now, knowing how the story turned out, that I didn’t get the epidural. I was up walking around in a couple of hours, and my recovery was really easy.
Dr. Nakamura told me that less that 0.5% of first time mothers deliver as quickly as I did. Active labor (from 5cm to 10cm) took me under four hours! Dr. Nakamura had left the hospital after my 10am check, thinking I had several hours to go. When Angela gave him the 911 page, he flew back to the hospital, running two red lights in the process!
Pearl Anna Laura, named for several generations of incredible women, is truly a blessing in our lives. We waited so long to meet her, to become her parents, and to love her.
Our friend Jay also put together a video of the events after Pearl's birth. You can view that at the end.
Photos by Lindsey Williams Photography.