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 Rhyder (2nd Child, VBAC, Totally Natural)

The Birth Story of Rhyder

            I first met Danielle and Matt when they moved in two doors down. Our interactions with each other mostly involved chatting briefly while heading to the mailbox or watching our children play out front. When Danielle told me she was pregnant, I could have asked if she was going to have a doula, told her that I happen to be one. But, I didn’t want to be like that. When I ran into Danielle at the park during a play date with friends, it was actually a friend of mine who spilled the beans. The next thing I knew, Danielle was asking about my services and we were scheduling our first meeting.

I liked being at Danielle and Matt’s house. Danielle is so friendly and easy to talk to, and Matt is upbeat and funny. And little Weston, always with something new to show me (like a floor filled with balloons or a tent set up in the living room) was just as cute as could be. We had three prenatal meetings, and as we covered the necessary information, I found myself also sharing about what was going on in my own life, and even asking for prayer. I suppose that’s just the kind of people they are. As I aimed to support them, I became grateful for the support they offered in return.

On the morning of May 21, Danielle texted to tell me she had been having contractions since 5:30 a.m. They stayed a consistent 8-10 minutes apart throughout the morning, but Danielle dutifully maintained regular activity just like she was supposed to. We texted back and forth all morning, with her giving me updates and me giving ideas and advice—while she got ready for the day, ate, and even went to Target.

Around 11:30, her contractions moved closer to 6-7 minutes apart. She called Dr. Yarrow* to inform him of her progress while I took my son to kindergarten. At 1:00 p.m. she texted to tell me the contractions were ‘feeling closer’ and that she was going to try to rest. I had to stop myself from texting her twice while she was trying to sleep. My own eagerness reminded me to tell her to be patient.

At 2:50 when I heard from her again, it was to learn that she was experiencing signs of cervical dilation. Her contractions were still around 6-8 minutes apart. To try to get the contractions in a more “active” pattern, I gave a few tips for helping increase the release of Oxytocin (the contraction-causing hormone) and encouraged her to go for a walk. I saw Danielle and Matt outside upon their return, around 4:00, and was a little surprised to see how happy and upbeat she still was. I had been hoping to find her more serious, which would indicate that labor was progressing. I told my husband, “It might be a while. She’s too happy.”

At 4:30, Danielle texted to tell me the walk must have worked, because her contractions were now 3-4 minutes apart and very strong. I got my things ready and arrived at their house around 5:00. Matt was still able to make Danielle laugh between contractions, but her overall countenance had changed to serious concentration. Her contractions were very frequent, and were obviously stronger than they had been just one hour before. We decided to head to the hospital. Just to be on the safe side, I reminded Danielle that we could get there and learn that her cervix wasn’t dilated at all yet. She accepted the possibility with a resolute nod—and we were off to the hospital.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalms 139:12

 At 6:00, Danielle and Matt were checked into the birth center triage. Danielle was checked by the nurse, and measured at 3.5 cm dilated. Not bad! The nurse placed the belly monitors and watched Danielle’s contractions and the baby’s heart rate. The pattern of the contractions had slowed (probably due to the excitement of getting to the hospital; adrenaline blocks oxytocin’s receptor cells). So, at 6:30, Danielle and Matt were told to walk around, and we began a routine of hourly potty breaks, walking, and position changes—starting with a nice dose of aromatherapy, along with reflexology and some scripture for Danielle to read. Matt did a great job of leading Danielle in prayer, and provided a source of strength for her to lean on (literally and figuratively) as we slowly made our way up and down the halls.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, him whose mind is stayed on you.” Isaiah 26:3

 At 7:30, Danielle was checked again and was already at 5-6 cm. Things were moving right along! Our new nurse, Teresa*, admitted Danielle to her room, which happened to be the same room she and Matt had been shown when they toured the hospital. (I consider this a Godsend, because it meant that so far everything looked just like they expected. How helpful that is, when encountering a new experience!)

Because Danielle was aiming for VBAC, it was hospital policy that she be monitored continuously with the belly monitors. While some nurses are willing to bend a little bit, and use their own judgment alongside or even instead of hospital policy, nurse Teresa was adamant that Danielle not do anything that would require her to be off the monitors. This included taking a bath, which was something Danielle had originally thought she would like to try.

When I had prayed for Danielle earlier in the day, God had given me the word, “Listen.” Although I try to never force any certain birth plan upon my clients and their medical providers, this word served as an extra dose of caution for me as I conversed with Teresa about the bath. She heatedly explained that allowing Danielle into the tub would put her license on the line, and honestly, she seemed a little surprised when I didn’t argue with her. I think she had been expecting a fight. But the word “Listen” held heavy in my heart, so I dropped the matter. It wasn’t my decision to make. Dr. Yarrow had already told them that he would be comfortable with them signing the consent form to waive continuous monitoring. It would be up to them.

Thankfully, my conversation with Teresa occurred while Danielle was still out in the hall. She heard none of it; felt none of its tension. And, praise be to God, when I presented Danielle and Matt with their options, Danielle decided she didn’t really want a bath anyway. I wondered at how God, with His word of caution to me, had worked everything out so peacefully ahead of time. He knew Danielle wouldn’t want a bath, and had protected me from pushing too hard for what I thought she would want. In a birthing environment, teamwork is of the utmost importance. I praise Him for confiding in me so that I wouldn’t stir up issues where there would otherwise be none.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped; therefore, my heart exalts, and with my song I shall thank him.” Psalms 28:7

After deciding against the bath, Danielle sat on the birth ball and labored while Matt watched for areas of tension in her body and coached her through contractions. He prayed over her more, and new scriptures were provided to help keep Danielle’s mind fresh and her spirit grounded. The intensity of her contractions continued to increase, but Danielle never complained once. She vocalized her contractions well, remained focused, and even seemed grateful for the experience.

At 8:15, before Teresa placed the belly monitors again, I suggested another quick potty break even though it hadn’t been a full hour. (I just didn’t want her to have to do it all over again in a few minutes.) Because potty breaks tend to increase the frequency and intensity of contractions, they can take a while. While Danielle and Matt labored in the bathroom with the door closed, Teresa confided that her sister had a very scary VBAC experience. She told me what happened, and in that moment, I came to see where Teresa was coming from. She was a caring, diligent nurse. She just wanted to be ready if Danielle needed her. I wanted that, too. I praised God for bringing us together, for uniting us in our sincere care for Danielle.

When they came out, Danielle mentioned feeling like she wanted to push. She leaned on the bed while Matt soothed and coached her, and she mentioned again that she wanted to push. We all agreed that it might be good to at least get into bed. Teresa checked her again, and she was at 9 cm. (Incredible!) We placed the “peanut” (a ball shaped like a peanut) between Danielle’s knees while she lay on her side. The idea with this little trick is to use gravity to apply pressure to the cervix at a different angle, so mothers can rest as they complete dilation. By 8:40, Danielle’s water broke on its own and her body began pushing naturally as she lay on her side.

Matt, sitting next to the bed, had cradled Danielle’s head in his arm and was stroking her hair, praying over her, and softly encouraging her to breathe. Danielle was very much in another state of consciousness, but still accepted Matt’s words of encouragement. They were in it together. As Teresa and I stood back and allowed them their space, I thought about how beautiful it was. How great they are together. How honored I felt to even be allowed in such an intimate moment. That very moment, when they no longer need me at all, is why I do what I do. I pray they remember that moment forever; just the two of them and God, awaiting His precious gift to them.

 “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a child…” Genesis 4:1

 Dr. Kreg* arrived at 9:15. The baby’s heart rate had started to drop a little bit during contractions, so as Danielle moved to her back to deliver, he started to say something— but never finished the sentence. At 9:16, Rhyder Finn was born. “I was going to tell you to give it all you had, but you really gave it all you had!” Dr. Kreg mused. He had literally only been there for a minute.

Rhyder weighed in at a healthy 6 lbs. 12 oz. Almost the same as Weston. “It’s supposed to hurt, right?” Danielle asked as she came to realize she was done. We all laughed.

In that moment, I couldn’t help but think about Eve. Childbirth wasn’t actually supposed to hurt. According to scripture, God helped Eve when she was the one in labor, experiencing pain He never intended for her to feel. Imagine the deep emotion it must have evoked in Him to see her in that state, forced from the Garden where He would have been able to physically touch her and tangibly tend to her. But just because they weren’t in the Garden anymore, didn’t mean He didn’t care. In Spirit, He was still there with her. In Spirit, He still tended to her.

In my heart I praised Him for sending His Spirit to help Danielle, too. Her short, peaceful labor and safe delivery are such a testimony of God’s merciful character, and of His love and empathy for laboring women.

Matt took pictures as they marveled at the fact that it was already over. They had only been at the hospital a few hours, and their little Rhyder was here! Once they were settled and ready to just be a family, I gathered my things and headed out.

As I left, Teresa hugged me. “That was a really great birth,” she said. “I really do love natural births.” I thanked God for giving us a great nurse—and for giving Teresa a great VBAC to witness. This birth would, without a doubt, add a new hopefulness to her cautious diligence. She really was a great nurse. But I think God used Rhyder to make her even better.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you…” Numbers 6:24

Danielle and Matt, thank you for including me in your childbirth experience. May you never forget who you are together, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, working as a team and leaning on each other. You are great together. If you didn’t have one before, you now have an incredible testimony of how God can protect you and cover you with His peace. For a while there, you were unknowingly threatened by tension and disagreement in your midst, but God kept you from it. In fact, sheltering you under His sovereign will, He used your birth story to heal the fear hidden deep in someone else’s heart. Think about that—it is amazing! Praise the Lord!

And baby Rhyder, may you always know that God was present the day you were born, arranging ahead of time for peace to surround you. May you grow up to be an example of the peace and sheltering strength that God displayed that day. May you learn well the sound of His voice, and may you grow to love and trust it—and, when you hear His voice, may you always choose to “Listen.”

Sincerely, Jen DeBrito (your doula)

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE  is a doula and childbirth educator in Colorado Springs. She is author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional and owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC. She is married with two children (and two birth stories) of her own.

*Some names changed for privacy. True names used by permission only.

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.

The Birth Story of Anna* (2nd Child, VBAC, Induction, No Pain Meds)

The Birth Story of Anna*

*names changed for client privacy

I started meeting with Dana and Ben in their home during their second trimester of pregnancy. Each time we met it always amazed me, just as it had when Dana was pregnant with Carson, how pretty and comfortable she looked. Most women aren’t so lucky. Ben has a relaxed, gentle way about him and a remarkable ability to make Dana laugh. I always felt comfortable in their home, and little Carson’s sweet (and smart) interactions with me only made spending time with them that much more enjoyable.

Dr. Baine* had done a good job of tracking Dana’s progress, and reports always indicated that the baby was strong and healthy. Everything was obviously fine, but a good doctor knows when to take precautions. As Dana approached her due date with no sign of cervical dilation, Dr. Baine went ahead and made the call to have Dana induced just to make sure everything stayed fine.

At 8 p.m. on April ** (which was Dana’s actual due date), she and Ben checked into the hospital to begin the induction. Various factors had ruled out the use of Cytotec as a cervical dilation medication, so Dr. Baine chose to go with a more natural method for stimulating Dana into labor. An over-inflated Foley catheter was used to apply pressure to the cervix (similar to how a baby’s head would, helping to soften and flatten out the cervix and causing dilation), and a low dose of Pitocin was given over the course of the night. The plan was for Dana and Ben to get some sleep, and I was going to come in once she was actually in labor.

Around 6 a.m. the following morning, I got a text from Dana asking me to come in. She said her contractions were getting more regular. I bought some breakfast & coffee for Ben and arrived at the hospital at 7:20 a.m., just after the nurses’ shift change had taken place. When I entered the room, I noticed that the daytime nurse, named Elaine*, was the same nurse I had just worked with a few weeks prior at another hospital. I was excited to see her. She was a joy to work with the previous time; she was knowledgeable, caring, and very much on board with ‘natural’ childbirth. While I don’t know that she is a believer along with us, I still think her presence was a gift from God.

At 8 a.m., a cervical check showed that Dana was already measuring between 4-5 cm. I think we were all pleasantly surprised. Dana was definitely in a good labor pattern and had to focus through contractions, but it still felt like everything was just getting started—and yet here she was, more than halfway done already. Dana utilized the birth ball, while I offered a few suggestions for coping with the labor pains. I applied aromatherapy to Dana’s feet, and wrote some scripture on the dry-erase board: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14). Ben prayed over Dana and put in some Bebo Norman. They were both in a relaxed state, smiling and joking with each other between contractions. Even though we were sitting in a hospital room, I could easily imagine that the morning was probably similar to any Saturday morning at their house. The two are great together.

The time between when I got there and when the baby was born was a whopping 2 ½ hours. Changes occurred in Dana and she progressed very quickly. Never, however, did she lose her composure. The two of them labored beautifully together. In the hour following Ben’s prayer over Dana, the two of them ‘slow danced’ to Sinatra (this is technically a ‘labor’ position), turned on ‘Justin’ (their favorite Saturday cartoon), went to the restroom (which takes a while), and then decided to rest a little.

As the intensity of the contractions built, they found a rhythm together and went with it, with Dana’s hand thumping the ‘peanut’ ball between her knees as she lay on her side in bed, and their voices raising and lowering together in a kind of patterned song as they focused together on each contraction. As they did I found myself reveling in why I love doing what I do. That moment when I realize they don’t need me—it’s exactly why I’m there.

Around 10 a.m., Dr. Baine stopped by to check Dana’s progress and found her at 6 cm. She decided to keep the Pitocin at the same level (as opposed to turning it up) because things were progressing nicely. There was a good labor pattern and Dana and Ben were coping together very well. I could see she was encouraged. None of us, however, expected the changes that happened next.

A mere 10 minutes later, at around 10:20 a.m., during Dana’s routine potty break, her water broke. Thankfully, Elaine was in the room when it occurred, as we all knew exactly what Dana meant when she expressed a desire to push. Elaine sent Danielle directly back to bed (which took a few more minutes because the contractions were strong and very frequent). Ben was right there with her the entire time, supporting her and helping her to focus on relaxing and vocalizing properly as she made her way back.

At 10:30 a.m., Elaine checked Dana again and found her dilation to be complete. I must admit, I was amazed. It was already time to push. Ben prayed over Dana as we waited for Dr. Baine to return and as he did, I could feel God’s presence in the room. He was there, and He was responding with mercy and loving kindness. He had brought Dana hurdling past the Transition Phase, the most difficult phase of labor. Meanwhile, Dana had remained grateful for the ability to just know the experience. All of it, every last contraction, was such an answer to prayer. God is so very good.

Dr. Baine arrived at 10:40 a.m. Ben looked Dana in the eye right as it was time to begin pushing and reminded her, “I can do all things through Christ…” (Philippians 4:13). She nodded, and between her contractions and pushing, Dana prayed out loud for Jesus to help her. And as she did, I found myself praying silently for Dr. Baine and Elaine, praying for God to show Himself to them; to come and get His glory through the answer of Dana’s prayers. It occurred to me then that maybe Elaine’s presence wasn’t just a gift to us, but a gift to her as well. She’s His child, too. He wants her to know Him. I pray she caught a glimpse of Him that day.

At 10:52 a.m., baby Anna was born via successful VBAC. She weighed in at a healthy, yet petite, 6 lbs. 0 oz. Dana’s words to me then will always remain with me: “It was everything I hoped it would be.” Her daughter was beautiful, healthy and strong. And just as God had been present for the birth of their son, He had also been here for their daughter’s. With Carson, He had confided in them. With Anna, He delivered.

Dana and Ben, thank you for including me—again—in your amazing birth story. May your children always serve as a reminder to you of the way God works: He confides in those who fear Him (Psalm 25:14) and He delivers those who call on Him (Psalm 50:15). Anna, may you always know that God was present on the day of your birth, providing peace and showing mercy and kindness. May you learn His traits well, and call upon them when your own time comes. And may your presence in this world always bring Him glory, just as it did the day you were born. It was an honor to serve you.

Sincerely,

Jen DeBrito (Your Doula)

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