Perfect Birth, Part 2: It’s Personal

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my heart about an issue that I know plagues expectant mothers everywhere: what does it take to have a perfect birth?

I touched on the fact that while childbirth education is imperative, and support during labor is helpful, we still don’t know how any woman will react to the labor process until she is already in the moment. I made the point that all births, no matter what they look like, are victories to be celebrated. And I mean that. All births are their own brand of perfect. But sometimes, for some women, the truth is this:

Even perfect birth can be traumatic.

I would be foolish not to acknowledge that some women have frightening or even life-threatening births and are forced to come to terms with their experience. For one reason or another, the process simply doesn’t “work” in some situations. For some of these women, my testimony about my disappointing birth experience and my injured feelings of self-worth might be exactly what they need. But for others, well… maybe not so much.

Beyond our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies, we are each also composed of our own complicated list of experiences. We have a mind, which we discuss in class, but we also have a subconscious mind, which we couldn’t even begin to cover: immature in its ability to make sense of our experiences, and endlessly vulnerable to the hoaxes of the enemy (again: see the Devotional). Working quietly behind the scenes, beneath our cool, collected exterior, it shapes our reactions to every one of our life experiences.

It’s personal.

In the five years since starting my childbirth services company, I have had no choice but to grow as an individual. I have been brought to my knees by some of my own life experiences. Shaken to the core of my beliefs. The shaping of my character as an adult has been arduous, and I have fought hard to find—and hold on to—what is true. In the process, I have also come to see some of that which is not.

I have learned something very important: We are each fighting our own battles. Maybe that sounds cliché, but this is relevant in all areas of life – including the quest for a great birth. For me to come alongside a woman and preach “worth,” when her own personal life experiences have shaped her to need a message of “safety” (for example), would mean that I have missed her altogether.

But how can I help? How do I know what someone needs, when it is beyond their own understanding? How do I discern the tune of their song, unless they themselves can sing it to me?

It’s possible.

The message I offer in my classes about worth and birth idolatry and relationship problems is—in all humility—good. It is quality stuff, and I will continue to teach it. But if I am to partner with God in caring for souls, then I must work from the heart with all of the skill allotted to me. There is more I can offer on an individual basis, seeking hearts and re-adjoining them to God’s in a way that is so much bigger, so much more personal, than the quest for the perfect birth.

It’s time to integrate more. Eden’s Promise is ready to offer you – each mother, father, and child- more than I ever dreamed possible. Click here to find out more!

Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner  Colorado Springs Doula and Childbirth Educator.She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and the creator of the Expectant Parents Workshop childbirth preparation class. Jennifer was the 3-time doula to Suzanne Hadley Gosselin (esteemed author of Expectant Parentsa pregnancy/childbirth/parenting book by Focus on the Family). In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching and Splankna Therapy Colorado Springs. Jennifer is a featured blogger for My719Moms.com. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com.

Perfect Birth, Part One: This Doula’s Perspective

I attended a perfect birth yesterday.

I mean it. It was everything the couple I was working with had ever dreamed of.

I texted my husband to tell him I’d be home soon, and he responded, “Congrats!” – referring to the great birth. Suddenly, after 5 years in the business, I had a revelation that rather shook me:

I couldn’t take credit.

It’s true. I did the same things I always do. I applied essential oils. I gauged my client’s need for touch vs. space. I helped her change positions, and I coached her husband to ensure that he would be the person she remembered supporting her the most. And there it was: the perfect birth.

What struck me was this question:

Why, among all of the couples I work with, who follow and implement the same “formula” that I offer, do some couples have a “perfect” birth, while others don’t?

I know some might say it’s all about the right doctor, or the right birth plan, or even – let’s be honest – the right doula. But if that were the case, then why have I seen such vastly different births among healthy women who have the same doctors, the same hospitals, and the same birth plans?

Could it go beyond Clary Sage and Pelvic Tilts?

I once read a fellow doula’s comment on a social networking site that read, “Well , you can’t win them all . . .”

We all knew what it meant. Lots of other doulas on the page even “liked” it, presumably out of pity. She clearly had attended an ‘imperfect’ birth, and she felt like a failure. As if the brand new life she had witnessed emerging was somehow less because of how it had entered into the world. Or, more accurately (and sadly), as if it was a loss.

What if there’s more to it than that? What if we are muddying the waters in an already beautiful journey by always aiming, either inwardly or outwardly, for that ‘perfect’ outcome; by calling ‘imperfect’ birth a loss when it is obviously a valiant and triumphant win? What if we are stirring the pot of disappointment and depression when we should be aiming for balance and gratitude?

Every birth is a win. Every birth is perfect.

I’ve fought hard in the past to protect my clients from the aftermath of a disappointing birthing experience. In my humblest opinion, I work harder than most to set realistic expectations and to help train hearts—along with minds—to be prepared for whatever is to come.

But am I, as a doula, willing to admit that my worth is not wrapped up in the outcome of a birth, any more than a mother’s should be? Am I willing to see an imperfect birth as its own brand of perfection, without second-guessing my own work?

The perfect birth I attended yesterday wasn’t more. And neither am I.

I’m good at my job. I like what I do, and I know that my presence and skills can bring great comfort and guidance to expectant parents. But I have to be willing to admit that imperfect births aren’t shameful. Not for the mother, which I already knew, but not for me, either. With this new revelation, I am even more free. I can love more fully and offer more of myself, knowing that my presence matters, but probably not in the ways that I think. My support can be truly unconditional, and I can come alongside new parents to celebrate every birth – no matter what it looks like – as a victory.

That is what a perfect birth looks like.

Jennifer DeBrito, CSP, CCLD, CCBE is a Master Splankna Practitioner, Doula, and Childbirth Educator in Colorado Springs. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and the creator of the Expectant Parents Workshop childbirth preparation class. Jennifer was the 3-time doula to Suzanne Hadley Gosselin (esteemed author of Expectant Parentsa pregnancy/childbirth/parenting book by Focus on the Family). In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching and Splankna Therapy Colorado Springs. Jennifer is a featured blogger for My719Moms.com. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com.

The Birth Story of Evan (First Child, Induction, epidural)

The Birth Story of Evan Russell Short

Born December 24, 2013 at 4:28 a.m.

            Evan Russell Short was a Christmas surprise. Born about a month early, he is a perfect example of the way that God can weave unexpected circumstances into healing, faith-building experiences.

When I met with Rachael and Daron for the first time on the patio at Starbucks, Evan was barely even a bump in Rachael’s belly. As they listened intently to my presentation, they made me think of a quote by Emily Bronte that says, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” They both seem to possess something in their character, a steadfastness or unassuming gentleness or patience or faith, that lends them a deep connection to one another. At least, that was my first impression of them, and now that I’ve known them a bit longer I still see it (although I still can’t quite put my finger on it).

Over the course of our three prenatal meetings in their (immaculate!) home, I eventually got used the knowing glances the two of them would sometimes share with each other as I spoke. I learned to take those looks as encouragement, knowing that their closeness would serve as a huge asset during childbirth, and that whatever they were exchanging looks about would hopefully serve as good conversation for them after I left.

We covered a lot of information in order to get the two of them prepared for childbirth. Ultimately, our focus was on seeing God’s hand in everything, from science to the deepest matters of our hearts. Neither of them asked a lot of questions. Instead, both offered a quiet acceptance of the information, along with nods of understanding. When asked directly, they were willing to share their thoughts, but for the most part, they were both just incredible listeners. As I spoke, I prayed for the Holy Spirit teach them wherever I was falling short. I believe God presented Himself in many ways throughout their preparation and childbirth experience.

One way the Spirit presented Himself was as their Guide and Comforter during Rachael’s prenatal appointments. While a mild disdain for needles is fairly common among many people, the severity of Rachael’s aversion to having her blood drawn was fairly acute. And, of course, blood draws are a routine part of prenatal appointments, so they found themselves dealing with the issue often. When they were discussing the topic of glucose testing with me, it was Darron’s unwavering support of Rachael that caught my attention; it was then that I realized how deeply protective and completely “on her side” he was on the matter. I found their side-by-side stance encouraging, but I did wonder how they would navigate the numerous tests offered and/or recommended by their doctor.

Together, they managed their way through it, by asking for prayer and seeking God’s discernment and strength. They carefully weighed the importance of each blood draw, and got through each of them one at a time. Every report of a successful ‘poke’ was proof to me that God was at work. Additionally, God provided them with His divine discernment regarding which tests to go through with, and which ones would be unnecessary for them. By standing together and seeking God’s guidance, Rachael and Daron handled the issue beautifully.

Another way that God’s hand was evident in their experience was with how Rachael’s water broke. Four days after our last prenatal meeting, as Rachael perused the childbirth book I had left with her, she learned about the different ways that the amniotic sac can rupture. After learning that it is sometimes just a slow trickle, she was able to identify when her own water broke the following morning. There was no way she would have suspected it otherwise, an entire month before her due date. But this little coincidence, which was truly a ‘nod from God,’ ensured that Rachael was in the hospital and in the care of excellent professionals when Evan was born. Without that little clue from God, who knows where Rachael would have been when she finally realized she was in labor. And considering how quickly her active labor progressed, God’s protective planning becomes particularly evident.

Rachael had always emailed before, so I knew something was up when my phone rang. It was the day before Christmas Eve, and I was standing outside watching my breath as my children played when I learned that Rachael’s water had broken. She had spent much of the day suspecting that this was the case based on what she had read the day before, and Dr. Baer had just confirmed it. She and Daron were headed to the hospital, struck by the sudden revelation that they were going to have a baby by Christmas!

I arrived at the hospital around 5:30 p.m. to find a very calm Rachael, despite the I.V. that had just been placed in her hand. I brought Daron some little sandwiches to snack on while we waited to find out what the plan was. We soon learned that Rachael was already dilated to 2 cm and her cervix was very soft, so all she needed was a little Pitocin. (Apparently, the back pain she had mentioned during our meeting a few days prior had actually been a symptom of very early labor. It is amazing how everyone truly is different!)

Of course, it took a while for the Pitocin to be administered, then even more time for it to kick in. We spent some time watching T.V. and just hanging out. We all ate some snacks, and they debated some about whether to put a post on Facebook now, or to wait until after the baby was born. (It was also somewhere around that time that they accidentally let Evan’s name slip—which I was pretty excited about.) We started trying out labor positions, even though Rachael wasn’t actually “in labor” yet. Rachael’s cheeks were flushed a pretty pink, and I figured that even if she didn’t realize things were happening, her body did—and we might as well help it along.

We had a couple of nurse changes occur over the next few hours, from nurse Jen to nurse Jan, and then back to nurse Jen again. The charge nurse, Julie, stepped in a couple of times, as well. All of them had to battle with the monitors, because we were changing positions and making it hard for them to read the baby’s heartbeat. They were each kind and understanding, and regardless of who we had, it was obvious that Rachael was in good hands.

At 8:30, the Pitocin dosage was increased again, to 10mu/hr. That was the one that did it. Rachael has a quiet strength to her countenance, and she did not change much in personality when the contractions came. She did, however, ask calmly about those “breaks” I had told her about that were supposed to come in between contractions. She wasn’t getting any of those. The nurse took that as a sign that she could turn the Pitocin off, which was now coupling with Rachael’s Oxytocin and causing one big contraction. Rachael labored the rest of the time on her own Oxytocin, but she still never really experienced the “waves” of contractions that she had been expecting. Instead, she was experiencing what is called “back labor,” a constant pain in the lower back caused by the baby being positioned up against the back of the pelvis.

At 10:00, the nurse checked Rachael and found her to be only 2 ½ cm dilated. The nurses were having a hard time monitoring the baby due to our frequent position changes, but we kept rotating through them, anyway. I applied some aromatherapy to Rachael’s feet, and later, her back, and also applied ‘grounding’ acupressure, in an effort to ease Rachael’s discomfort and help the baby to move down.

Around 11:15, nurse Jan came in to recommend the use of an internal monitor in order to get a continuous read on the baby’s heart rate. Feeling unsure about the implications of that particular intervention, Rachael and Daron prayed about it. As they prayed, a few questions came to mind for them to ask the nurse, and upon asking them, they were able to decide not to proceed with the monitor. God was so faithful to be present with them during that moment of decision!

At 12:00, Rachael learned that she was still only 3cm dilated. I reminded her that if labor had started on its own, chances were she would just now be coming into the hospital to find out if she was “in labor.” I was trying to help her to orient herself on the timeline I had previously explained to her, but she just stated plainly, “that’s not very encouraging.” I smiled and wondered, as we entered the morning of Christmas Eve, where Mary was when she was at 3 cm dilated with Jesus. Was she at the Inn yet? Or were they still outside of town? I didn’t share the thought, but now I rather wish I had. Perhaps Rachael would have appreciated the poetry of it, as I did.

Rachael and Daron continued our established routine. Hourly (or more frequent) potty breaks, meditating on scripture, prayer, and changing positions between hands & knees on the bed, sitting on the birthing ball, and slow dancing were all utilized as comfort and labor progression techniques. At 1:25, Rachael’s water broke a little more while she was on the birthing ball, which nurse Jen and I celebrated. We knew it indicated more change and more progress to come.

I mentioned before that Rachael had been experiencing an intense pain in her lower back. She described it as “searing” and “hot.” The constant pain, however, was still difficult to see for those of us supporting her. Rachael was inwardly focused as she tried to accept what she was feeling, even though she was finding no relief. It was her words alone that gave a clue as to how she was feeling; she was otherwise quite stoic. I gave her some peppermint and lemon whiffs, to try to boost her energy and spirits some, and nurse Jen got her a heating pad. Still, the pain was constant—and based on how quickly everything went next, I can only imagine how incredibly intense it must have been for her. In hindsight, the level of pain tolerance she exhibited was quite remarkable, as the entirety of her “active labor” and “transition” phases barely even totaled two hours long!

At 2:00 a.m. we learned that Rachael had progressed to 4 cm, a measurement I knew was disappointing for her to hear. To me, it signaled the official start of “active labor,” which I found encouraging. I kept hearing signs of the first—or was it the second?—“Pillar of Parturition,” which I had taught them about in our meetings. (These are words and attitudes that accompany certain progress points during labor, which indicate an upcoming release of pain-relieving, mood-enhancing endorphins). I truly felt that things would be speeding up soon—but I also know better than to make such promises. As someone who has experienced labor myself, I know that no “soon” is ever soon enough! I simply tried to remind Rachael and Daron that labor wouldn’t last forever.

Daron was incredible at supporting Rachael through labor. He was calm and comforting, remaining totally present as he massaged her back, prayed for her, and “danced” with her. He also got the task of untangling the monitor and IV cords down to an art! He made sure Rachael knew that they were in it together. It was difficult for him to coach her through contractions, because Rachael’s were presenting as a constant back pain, but he continued to apply warm pressure to her back, encourage her, and most importantly, listen to her. Daron never left her side, and never wavered as a source of support for her. As she leaned on him, he reminded her of who her true Source of Strength is. Together, they sought the Lord’s strength and together, I know they received it.

After that last cervical check, the plan was for Rachael to labor for another hour and half, and to be checked again at 3:30. At 2:30, she mentioned the idea of an epidural. While we had discussed previously that Rachael was open to whatever needed to happen during labor, it was also generally understood that the likelihood of Rachael requesting a needle of any kind was extremely low. I honestly went in expecting that she would not ask for an epidural, because of her fear of needles. Also, because many laboring women like to complain about wanting an epidural even though they don’t actually want one, I encouraged her to just get through one contraction at a time. Still, I felt for Rachael in that she simply was not getting any kind of break. For her, “one contraction at a time” probably sounded lot like “just keep enduring the unending pain.”

The next 30 minutes went very slowly. During that time, Rachael discussed with Daron that she really wanted to enjoy this amazing experience with him, and that she was serious about the epidural. Of course, Rachael herself could have pushed the button for the nurse at any time, but she didn’t. It is understandable that she needed support from her husband; she needed help making the decision because with an epidural comes a new set of unknowns. In Rachael’s case, she had never had the staunch desire for an “all-natural” birth, but as one of her supporters, it was still hard to know whether it was what she really wanted. (It’s always hard to tell.)

I could see that Daron was trying to weigh it carefully in his heart, not wanting to agree too early or too late. While that was occurring, I tried to distract Rachael with more position changes, and even prayer. I prayed for God to provide Rachael with a sense of peace, and some relief from the pain. I believe the Spirit provided these things immediately, by simply confirming for Daron the truth of Rachael’s request. Finally, with his arms around her as she leaned on his chest, he looked at me and said, “I honestly think she means it. For her to ask for a needle…”

Nurse Jen came in just as I was walking out to get her. I quickly explained Rachael’s decision about the epidural. Due to my previous experiences with other nurses, I had assumed that a cervical check would have to take place first, and I was trying to get Rachael to that 3:30 goal in hopes of getting her the most encouraging measurement possible. (Often times, just knowing whether or not they have progressed any further helps women to decide for sure about an epidural, and I have seen them change their mind upon learning they were close to delivery—which I had a feeling Rachael was. And it’s my job to make sure she’s sure!) Nurse Jen said that no cervical check was necessary, but offered it to Rachael anyway. It was when Rachael refused the cervical check that I finally believed she was sure about the epidural. And as long as she was sure, then so was I.

I left the room at 3:15 so that the epidural could be placed. At 3:45, I re-entered the room to learn that immediately after the placement, Rachael’s water had broken the rest of the way with a great big gush, possibly due to the relief of the epidural allowing Rachael to relax. They had experienced a little scare with the baby’s heart rate dropping from that huge change in his environment, so there were lots of nurses in the room. Rachael was wearing an oxygen mask, but everything was fine. I asked if she was feeling any better yet, and she breathed a relieved and emphatic, “Yes!” Nurse Jen informed me that Rachael was ready to push except for a little lip in her cervix. Praise God for that HUGE development! The nurses were still watching the baby’s heart rate closely, so we rolled Rachael to her left side until it was time to push.

At 4:00, it was time. Rachael did an amazing job of figuring out how to push. Nurse Jen did end up talking Rachael into letting her go get a mirror, but I don’t know if Rachael ever used it. I do know she hadn’t necessarily wanted to. Daron was incredible at counting with her, standing at her left side and helping her to make the most of every contraction.

Dr. B* arrived just in time for delivery. He was in a serious state due to his concern about the baby’s heart rate, which was continuing to drop after each contraction. Understanding the urgency of getting the baby out quickly, I tried to remain quiet to ensure that Dr. B’s instructions would be heard. He was very clear and direct, and Rachael was quick to comply. At 4:28 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Evan Russell Short was born!

Daron and Rachael were both filled with such obvious awe and wonder at the sight of their baby boy. Evan’s first cries filled the room, bringing forth tears of joy from both of his parents (and their doula). He was placed on Rachael’s stomach and Dr. Baer waited for the cord to stop pulsing before clamping it. A couple of minutes later, Daron was given the honor of cutting it. Because Evan had scared them a bit before delivery, he was taken to the warming bed for a quick exam. Dr. Baer reminded Daron that he should probably be taking pictures, since they wouldn’t be doing any of this again tomorrow. His dry humor broke the haze of amazement, and Daron jumped to action.

It was only a matter of minutes before everyone in the room had finished their job, cleaned up, and left. It struck me as I watched them finish up, how very good they all are at what they do. Imagine the combined years of education and experience that had just filled that room. Praise God for every single one of those people! May none of them be taken for granted, and may the acceptance of their incredible care never be viewed as personal weakness or failure. How blessed we are to live in this time and place. God’s hand was on each of those people that morning as they ensured the safe delivery and follow-up care of baby Evan and his Mommy.

Later, Rachael mused about how apparently, she is pretty much over her fear of needles. She recounted how in the hospital, her I.V. placement had been “messy,” and then she had gotten an epidural—and how neither one bothered her. We talked about how God’s timing for Evan’s birth played a huge role in that, bringing him early so that Rachael wouldn’t have time to think too much into it and psyche herself out. God had walked her through the baby steps of routine blood draws, given her exactly what she needed to know (when her water broke), and then hoisted her right through to the other side of both childbirth and her fear of needles!

To be crippled by a fear of any kind is a form a bondage from the enemy. And I believe that on the day Rachael delivered Evan, God delivered her. Rachael, can you see how the fact that you got an epidural is greater proof of God’s provision and care for you, than if you had gone without? Daron, can you see how God confided in you, confirming His plan for Rachael in your heart? This is wisdom, this is discernment: to seek God’s hand in everything. Do not discount this amazing show of God’s presence in your experience! He coached you through every single step of your childbirth experience, bringing you a healthy baby boy an entire month early. And weaving the experience with perfect sovereignty, He even threw in the bonus of severing the grip of fear that the enemy had over you! What an amazing testimony!

Baby Evan, your birth brought the searing heat of faith-filled courage to your mother’s spine. May you grow up in the knowledge that as long as you trust in the Lord and seek His hand in everything, He will weave together amazing feats of healing and courage and wonder, giving exactly what you need, when you need it—just like He did for your parents on the day you were born. It was a pleasure to know your mom and dad as they planned for your birth, and to witness the joy and amazement they feel because of you. Evan, they have loved you since before you ever “did” anything. They love you because you are you. May you always know their heart for you, as well as God’s.

Rachael and Daron, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your birthing experience. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to peek in on your glimpses of God! I cannot explain to you how just being there with you has refreshed my vision of our Mighty Savior. If it is true that with any good deed there is an angle, well, then that is mine. Thank you, and God bless your family!

To God Be The Glory,

Jen DeBrito

*Name changed

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a Doula and Childbirth Educator in Colorado Springs. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional. In addition to coaching expectant parents through Christ-centered childbirth, Jennifer also offers prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching for the entire family

The Birth Story of Cami* (2nd child, induction, no pain meds)

The Birth Story of Cami*

*identifying information changed, for client privacy 

 Tuesday was a great day for the Moore* family. Just one week prior, Elizabeth* and Mark* had returned home from their doctor’s appointment, disappointed with the news that their baby would not be induced that day as they had hoped. Cami’s small ultrasound measurements had kept Dr. Hingle* on her toes for several weeks, as she tried to decide when would be the best time for Cami to be born. While technically it was good news that the induction could wait, because it meant that Cami was healthy in the womb and could be allowed to grow in there a little longer, it still made for a long week as they waited for the time they could hold their baby in their arms.

The following Tuesday, the induction time was set for 5:30 a.m.Elizabeth sent me a text to inform me of the plan: start Pitocin at 5:30, possibly get an epidural, get water broken at 7 a.m. I met them at the hospital as they were getting settled in. The three of us chatted with Sarah*, the nurse who had attended to Elizabeth while she was in labor with Eliot. Seeing a familiar face was comforting to all of us. To me, it felt like a nice reminder of how God had come through for us with the birth of Eliot—and how He would do it again.

Because Dr. Hingle was already at the hospital at 6 a.m., things were done in a different order than we had been expecting. Instead of starting Pitocin, Dr. Hingle broke Elizabeth’s water (or, at least, thought she did). As a supporter of Elizabeth’s birth plan, Dr. Hingle hoped that this would cause Elizabeth to go into labor on her own, without the use of Pitocin. She told Elizabeth that if she wasn’t in labor after a few hours, then she would recommend Cytotec to soften the cervix, and if necessary, follow it up with Pitocin to start contractions. An epidural would probably have been placed coinciding the use of Pitocin, but as it turned out, neither was necessary for little Cami to be born.

Mark, Elizabeth, and I walked around the Birthing Center, waiting for contractions to start. Elizabeth did feel a few light contractions, but as her nurse, Elaine explained, we knew she wasn’t in labor yet because she still looked beautiful. What Elizabeth was experiencing was early labor symptoms, like she experienced at home before she went into labor with Eliot.

Because Elizabeth had not yet fallen into a labor pattern, one dose of Cytotec was administered around 9:30 a.m. The three of us relaxed in the hospital room for the next hour, chatting and snacking on hospital food, and once Elizabeth was allowed to get out of bed again, we resumed our alternating pattern of walking, birth ball, monitoring, and restroom breaks. It was during one of these  breaks , around 10:30 a.m., that Elizabeth’s water finally broke. Movement continued to encourage release of the fluid, so we just kept on moving.

Dr. Hingle was due to return to the hospital around 12:30 to check on Elizabeth and decide whether or not to start Pitocin. I think we were all prepared for this course of action, yet were still pleasantly surprised when Dr. Hingle opted not to start Pitocin after all. With Elizabeth still only at 3 cm dilated, Dr. Hingle really could have gone either way on that decision—but the fact that she was encouraged, was encouraging to us as well.

By this point, Elizabeth had started to grow more serious and was falling into more of an active labor pattern. To encourage full-blown labor, Mark helped her with taking a warm shower to relax and stimulate Oxytocin release. It worked. By 2:00 p.m., Elizabeth was in full-blown labor.

Having been up most of the night before and not having been allowed to eat anything of substance all day, Elizabeth grew tired quickly. (Also, having been in the same room for so long, and thinking of herself as “in labor” since 5:30 a.m. probably didn’t help her mindset.) To freshen up the environment, we changed the lighting and the music, applied some aromatherapy, read scripture and prayed.

Elaine, Elizabeth’s nurse, came in frequently to assess our progress and joined in as a both a coach and team member. She was a Godsend, applying pressure to Elizabeth’s sore back and offering her knowledge and words of encouragement. Mark stayed with Elizabeth the whole time, getting her through each contraction. Elizabeth would often signal the beginning of a contraction by saying, “Mark, I need you.” He would then hold her hands and look into her eyes, coaching and encouraging her, one contraction at a time. I told them then, and I’ll say it again now: they are a great team.

Sometimes it seemed like Elizabeth might ask for an epidural. She talked about wanting to be done, or feeling afraid of what she knew was to come. More scripture, more prayer, more aromatherapy, more movement and more encouragement; supporting her through one contraction at a time, we each gave her all we had to offer. Whatever we may have lacked as her support team, I know God provided. Although Elizabeth had been planning to get an epidural this time around, she never did ask for one. I give God the glory for that. Whatever the reason, He wanted Cami to be born without one. So, He got Elizabeth through it.

Hours passed by quickly as we rotated through various positions, hoping to help Elizabeth cope as Cami dropped into position. Around 5:30 p.m., Elaine called Dr. Hingle to give her a progress report, and the two of them tried to decide whether Dr. Hingle would have time to attend her son’s school performance. Elizabeth had spent some time “resting” on her side, and it was clear that it wouldn’t be much longer before she would need to push.

Whether or not she made it to the performance, I don’t know. Dr. Hingle came in around 6:30 and checked Elizabeth, finding her at 7 cm. Dr. Hingle prepared some warm washcloths as compresses,  and just a few contractions later, she told Elizabeth to go ahead and start pushing. It took Elizabeth a few contractions to focus and re-learn “how” to push, but once she got it down, Cami was born quickly. The way Cami was turning as she was delivered explained the back pain that Elizabeth had felt during labor. (Like her brother, Cami had apparently decided to do some last-minute gymnastics before being born.)

Cami was born at 7:30* p.m. She had a strong, healthy cry and seemed happy to be placed on Elizabeth’s chest as she snuggled in for warmth. She was placed quickly on the scale after a few minutes, weighing in at 5 lbs. 7 oz. Little as she was, she was strong and healthy, and learned to nurse after just a few tries.

I went to visit the three of them in the hospital the next day. It was fun to see them with their second child; they were so relaxed and comfortable with their new baby. It’s amazing what a little practice can do! As we reflected on Cami’s birth story, the three of us found ourselves wondering what had happened to the epidural she had been planning to utilize as pain management. The goal had not necessarily been for Elizabeth to have a natural birth; after all, we had gone in thinking the day would start with Pitocin and an epidural. Instead, it took one little dose of Cytotec to get it started, and the rest had happened naturally. No one was holding out on pain management for any particular purpose. None of us really know why it went how it did.

My only thought is that God knows what Cami needs. He also knows what Elizabeth needs. Between the two of them, I know God was caring for one or both of them with how He worked things out. The truth is, God knows what we need even better than we do. And when we place ourselves under His care, He is able to provide what we need—even if we don’t know to ask.

Elizabeth and Mark, I am so glad I was able to be there to support you through Cami’s birth. The way the two of you lean on each other and God, is nothing less than beautiful. Thank you for the honor of inviting me to attend Cami’s birth. Baby Cami, may your birth story always remind you that God knows what you need. It’s not about asking for the “right” thing; it’s about seeking His presence in your life. As long as He is with you, all of your needs, whether spoken or not, will be met in Him. May that truth always be with you.

With love,

Jen DeBrito

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE, is a doula and childbirth educator is Colorado Springs, CO. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.

Loving Yourself Thin

A quick word of encouragement to all the new mamas out there:

Remember to love your body for the miracle it has produced. Honor it and respect it. While your body might not look like it used to, know that you are beautiful. You have a glow of quiet joy that cannot be recreated by going to the gym. Do not postpone acknowledgement of your body’s strength for when it is “back in shape”. Your worth is not found in the size of your clothing. You are a priceless child of God. He would give anything for you, just the way you are–in fact, He already did.

Remember that a healthy weight is a byproduct of healthy living. Treat your body with care and make good choices out of gratitude for the work it has done. Allow your body to rest, to heal, to nurture your child. Be kind to yourself in your thoughts, your words, your actions. Be patient. Treasure this time; do not let a moment of self-loathing steal your joy. Praise God for the work He has done in you and trust your body to repair itself. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE

Jennifer is a Holistic Christian Doula & Childbirth Educator in Colorado Springs. In addition to coaching couples through a Christ-centered childbirth experience, she also specializes in wellness coaching for prenatal and postpartum women and their babies. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop and the proud owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.

To learn more about Jennifer, please visit: www.EdensPromiseLLC.com