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.

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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.