Charley’s Birth Story – “In an Instant”

Isn’t it amazing how one small choice – one moment in time – can change everything?

We often hear the phrase that life as we know it “can change in an instant” in reference to the traumatic times in life, but what about the best ones?
Sometimes our blessings come when we least expect them.

In 2013, I was single, living in Haiti as a missionary, and wondering if I’d ever meet my future husband. Scrolling through my Twitter feed one day, I saw an interesting (and very cute!) guy.
*click*
Followed.
In an instant, my life was forever changed.
Unbeknownst to me, I had just followed my future husband.

Last summer, Chris and I had been married for 8 months and had faced 8 cycles of negative pregnancy tests. On the day I was supposed to start my 9th period since our wedding day, I left Chris sleeping in bed and got up to take a pregnancy test. After so many months of negative tests, I had resolved in my mind that it might be a while before we’d get a positive, and that this one would most likely be negative, too. I carried the test to the kitchen and placed it on the counter while I waited. As I drank a glass of orange juice, I prayed & told God I would trust Him with either outcome. I had been trying to let go, to relax, to let it just happen, and had been doing better at that the past couple of months, but I still couldn’t help but be disappointed each month when I knew the sweet baby I dreamed of was at least another month plus nine away. In an instant however – as I let my eyes wander over the to the counter where that little plastic test lay – my life changed.

“PREGNANT.”

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After two brutal months of morning sickness – when I spent nearly all day every day throwing up and in the bed, pregnancy became much more enjoyable. Chris and I documented the growth of my bump each week and looked forward to each prenatal appointment like children on Christmas Eve. We adored the midwives at the Birth and Wellness Center and looked forward to having our baby in the peaceful, home-like environment of the Center. We dreamed often about our plans for our baby’s birthday, such as how we’d like to labor in the water and have Chris catch the baby. We trusted the midwives and felt safe and secure at the Center, knowing that their maternal care and birth-related values were similar to ours. We wanted the birth of our child to be as natural and intervention-free as possible, and knew that we would be supported in those decisions in the hands of these ladies.

We were so proud during our anatomy scan as we learned that our sweet baby was growing right on track (and even had longer-than-average femurs – like her momma)! And we were elated to find out shortly afterward – as we opened a package on our wedding anniversary – that we were having a girl! What a blast we had decorating her nursery and picking out clothes for her! Everything was going so well, much to my surprise. I suppose after so many disappointments in life, I often expect hardship and struggle. But our pregnancy was proving my pessimism wrong, and I started to relax.

At our 35-week appointment, however, I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. We were informed that because my blood pressure had been borderline high and was rising, we would need to consider delivering at the hospital so that I could receive IV blood pressure medication during delivery. I suppose now, looking back, and perhaps from the outside, it doesn’t seem as devastating a blow as it was to me at the time. But that day, I absolutely lost it. I’m talking full-blown panic-attack, ugly sobs right there in the Birth Center. My weekly bump photo that day showed no trace of make-up on my face, as I had cried it all off.

At our initial prenatal visit, we had been told by our midwife – who knows my abuse history – that for a sexual abuse survivor, birth can sometimes be traumatic. Knowing this throughout the duration of our pregnancy had allowed me to be proactive and build a sense of trust with those who would be caring for me, as well as mentally and emotionally prepare for what I was going to face and how I would best face it. The Birth Center as well as the midwives who would be caring for me felt safe to me.

The prospect of having to abandon this sense of safety I’d built over the past 8 months, along with my imaginings of being completely vulnerable and on display for a slew of strangers – with no control or say over my body or how my daughter was brought into the world – was enough to spark this panic in me that boiled over into terrified sobs.
“I’ll just stay home. I am NOT delivering in a hospital.”
I meant it.

Over the next couple weeks, in conversations with my husband, midwife, and friends and family, I came to terms with this new plan. Knowing our midwife would be present, along with her reassurances that it would only be her and a couple of nurses in the room helped to put my mind at ease about delivering in the hospital. I still didn’t like the concept of being confined to a bed thanks to an IV and monitors, but I knew I had to do what was best to keep my little girl safe.

With our birth plan fresh out of the printer, we repacked our bags for the hospital – which required a much longer stay than the Birth Center – and continued the wait for our daughter.

Because I had no signs of impending labor, and because this was my first baby, I was full prepared to go well beyond my 40 week “due date.” I had read, afterall, that the average gestational age at delivery for first time moms in good health is 41 weeks +1 day. My family made guesses on when they thought the baby would arrive, and even the earliest guess – March 7th – was still 3 days after our due date.

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EVENING.

On February 23rd, I was 38 weeks and 4 days. Chris and I were enjoying a relaxed evening at home, and I had assumed the position I had been encouraged to take since that 35 week visit with the blood pressure concern – on the couch, with my feet up. I had been having some severe neck pain for several days, and had been alternating ice and heat. I’m still not sure why, but even though I had been quite relaxed I felt impressed to take my blood pressure. I got up from the couch and went upstairs to our room where my monitor was.

Little did I know, but this was our moment that changed everything.

My blood pressure was not good.
In fact, it was even higher than it had been in days past, and I had been relaxing just prior to taking it!
173/96.
Since I had gone up the stairs to take my blood pressure, I thought maybe it would go down significantly if I waited a few minutes, relaxed, and took it again.
I did… but it didn’t.
Mid 150’s over mid 90’s.
I called out to Chris and told him the numbers, sharing that I thought I might need to call our midwife to let her know.

I knew this wouldn’t be a phone call taken lightly.
“Babe… there’s a chance that if I call her and let her know, she’ll send us to the hospital.”
We agreed we had no choice but to call, as the safety of our daughter was at stake.

Over the phone, Jessica, our midwife, suggested that my blood pressure might be high due to the severe neck pain I had been having over the previous several days. She recommended I take 600mg of Ibuprofen, see if the pain got any better, and then recheck my blood pressure an hour later. Her reasoning was that if my blood pressure was high due to the pain and we got the pain to decrease, that the blood pressure might decrease as well.
She asked us to call her back in an hour for an update.

An hour and two FRIENDS episodes on the couch later, I braced myself to check my blood pressure again.
166/99.
It was even worse than it had been.

I called Jessica back to share the news.

Just as I had thought, she recommended that we head to the hospital – at the least for monitoring. As it was so close to my due date, however, she warned us that the next likely step would be induction.

Oh My Lord.
“This could be IT!”

Our normal evening at home took a crazy shift.
It’s funny to think about it… after all that waiting, wondering, checking for a lost mucus plug, Googling early labor symptoms, inspecting my belly to see if it had dropped… and suddenly we were heading to the hospital not because my water had broken, or because I was having contractions… but because I had taken my blood pressure!

“Holy CRAP, we could have a baby soon!”

We arrived at the hospital late Tuesday night and checked in to be monitored. Sure enough, my blood pressure was elevated and was not planning to come down any time soon. 140’s and 150’s over 105. And although all of my labs during pregnancy had been clear with no signs of preeclampsia, labs at the hospital this evening revealed that I was starting to have protein in my urine. Not good.

I texted my midwife to update her.
She stated that with my blood pressure as high as it was, the risk of staying pregnant was higher than the risk of inducing.

It looked like I would be staying in the hospital and having a baby!

We made a plan for her to come see, in her words, “what my cervix was up to,” and go from there. When she got to the hospital, I had been moved to a Labor and Delivery room.
It was getting real.

I’m guessing that by the results of my cervical check, that had my blood pressure not been an issue, I may have gone way over my due date (which was just 9 days away). Not only was my cervix still pointed at my back (it moves to point towards the vaginal opening when the body is preparing for birth), it was completely closed and not effaced at all.
Great, I thought. This induction thing just got more difficult. My body isn’t ready.

They decided to begin the induction process by giving me an oral medication (Cytotec) that would begin ripening my cervix. It wasn’t even open enough to place a Foley Bulb (a tube placed in the opening of the cervix and then blown up like a balloon to force the cervix open), so the medicine would be a starting point.

I took the medication, along with blood pressure medication and a sleep aid (thank God for that) and we settled in to try and get some sleep despite a night full of blood pressure checks.

2/24/2016
7AM.

In the morning, my cervix was checked again to see what progress was made overnight. The moment of truth…
I was up to a whopping 1cm dilated!
I couldn’t help but feel a little bummed. All night long and this was as far as I got. This surely was going to be a long and arduous journey.

The 1cm was enough, however, for the nurses to place the Foley Bulb (by the fourth try though, NOT FUN!). They placed it at 7:30AM and we anticipated it would take the course of the entire day for my cervix to open the 3-4cm it would take for the bulb to fall out, at which time, they would initiate the next stage of induction.

One hour later at 8:30AM, I was sitting on the toilet and suddenly felt excruciating pain, like my insides were ripping apart. Blood started pouring down the tube coming from the Foley inside me.
“BABE!! GET THE NURSE!”
A pool of blood collected at my feet.
As the nurse rushed in, the Foley Bulb fell out.

…WHAT?!!

That was fast.

3.5cm dilated.

I had a chat with my midwife at this point over the phone to update her. It was a difficult tough-love kind of conversation, as I lamented to her about the fact that over the course of my stay so far, it seemed as if the goal of the hospital was to make sure nothing on my Birth Plan actually happened.

First, I was having to be in the hospital period. The hospital was the last place I had wanted to give birth. I’d have rather given birth in my childhood tree-house.
Secondly, I was having to be induced. There goes the no intervention thing.
Then, I was having to stay in bed due to my blood pressure. So much for laboring freely, up and about.
My sweet midwife explained that when the Labetalol – the medication for my blood pressure – had worn off, my blood pressure skyrocketed high enough to detach my placenta, which could have been fatal to our baby, and this is why they were keeping me in the bed and on monitors at all times. I couldn’t deny that our baby’s safe arrival was way more important than how she arrived, so I checked my attitude and thanked Jessica for looking out for me.

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Speaking of Birth Plans, can we just acknowledge that this is a terrible misnomer?!
It should be called a Birth Wishlist… NOT a plan!
We had only made a Birth Plan after finding out we’d have to deliver at the hospital. Had we been able to deliver at the Birth Center, no such physical list would have been made. The midwives regularly attend natural, intervention-free births, with moms who are up and about during labor, who wish to have their babies placed on their chest immediately and for all newborn checks, who want to delay cord clamping so that their babies get all of their blood, and who decline the eye antibiotics (you know, that ointment that is only placed in the baby’s eyes in case the mother suddenly picked up Chlamydia or Gonorrhea while in her monogamous marriage. Ugh.). They didn’t need me to spell out these wishes on a sheet of paper, as these decisions are their norm.
You can’t plan for how your birth will go. You can only make decisions ahead of time regarding what you’d like to happen for the things you are actually able to control. Everything else is a preference that may sometimes get stomped on by a very heavy reality.

My current reality was so different than my pretty, organized sheet of paper. My wishlist, at this point, may as well have been waded up and thrown away.
I received another dose of the mediation for my blood pressure, and when it was lower, our nurse Paula came in and let us know that they would be starting the Pitocin in an hour.
(Again with crossing items off the Birth Plan – “No Pitocin!”)
She unhooked me from all my lines and helped me to the shower, saying she’d be back in an hour.

This magical hour (that actually turned into 2) from about 9AM until 11AM on Wednesday morning was the most beautiful gift. Up until this point, our unexpected stay in the hospital coupled with very little sleep and the rapid loss of control over our daughter’s birth had resulted in a whirlwind of stress and disappointment. Left alone by hospital staff, Chris and I enjoyed a beautiful, peaceful time in our Labor and Delivery room, and the atmosphere seemed to completely shift as we spent our time showering, worshiping, and praying. I dried and fixed my hair, and even put on make-up. (All you women out there know how much better make-up makes you feel! It’s magic!)

When Paula checked back in, the feeling in the room was completely different, and most of the tension in my heart had melted away. I felt ready.


11AM.
Pitocin.
This drug I had studied for months, hated, and refused for this birth (as highlighted in red on my birth plan, lol) began to drip into my bloodstream.
I knew how rare it is for women who are induced with Pitocin to still give birth naturally. The contractions are stronger and longer, and for this reason, most end up abandoning their natural plan and asking for pain medication if not whisked off to have a C-section because of fetal distress (often caused by the longer and stronger contractions thanks to the Pitocin. Ugh. Beat my head against the wall).
Somehow, I maintained my “I’m going to kick labor’s ass” attitude, and held out hope that I would be one of the few that would battle through this drug and give birth without pain medication (something else I had studied thoroughly and felt strongly against).

12PM.
An hour after the Pitocin began, I was contracting every 6-7 minutes.
They increased the Pitocin.

1PM.
I was contracting every 4-5 minutes.

1:45PM
They increased the Pitocin again.

I wrote in my journal, “Feeling contractions, but still pretty comfortable. More pressure down low.”

I had been kept in the bed the majority of the day, but laughed to myself as I wrote in my journal that each time I was allowed up to pee, I did squats in the bathroom before returning to bed.

2PM.
I wrote, “Currently waiting until contractions are more ‘regular’ before nurse will let me out of bed to move.
Mom & Dad coming up to visit a bit.
Rylie already came by to get some ‘before’ photos.

Waiting…

Nervous…

Can’t believe this is it!

Cannot wait to see her face!”


I was informed that I would not be allowed to labor in a pool as I had been previously promised. For some reason, those on Pitocin aren’t given this opportunity.
I felt like everything was being stripped away.

Thankfully, my midwife encouraged me over the phone and reminded me of the ultimate goal of a healthy baby. I knew this was my ultimate goal of course, but a gentle word can sometimes help squash disappointment and discouragement at its roots. I was allowed out of bed briefly by my nurse, Paula, who gave me a birthing ball to labor on, and encouraged me to sit on it facing my bed.
I endured one contraction on the ball.
ONE.
Absolutely brutal pain in my back.
I had to get up from the ball, as I couldn’t take the pain.

An earlier ultrasound had revealed that although baby was head-down, she was in a posterior position (facing upwards, or “sunny-side up”), not an optimal position for delivery, and a sure bet for back labor. First, the Pitocin, then the stripping away of my ability to move around or use a pool for pain relief, and now – a poorly positioned baby. It seemed the odds were stacked against me, but I refused to let it defeat me.

I’m STILL going to kick labor’s ass.

With help from my midwife over the phone, I began trying positions to help rotate baby girl. She encouraged me to spend time on my hands and knees, rocking back and forth. She explained I was to lean way forward, almost into a Cobra position (like in Yoga), then way back, like Child’s Pose, where my butt would touch my heels.

She gave me a great visual.
“It’s like wiggling a ring off your finger. Your pelvis is the ring, you want to wiggle it back and forth around baby girl’s head.”

Got it.

I spent time trying these movements, as well as a lot of time in the hands and knees position, doing pelvic tilts with each contraction. I continued to squat each time I was allowed to use the bathroom, as, at this time, I was confined to my bed yet again.

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At some point during the day, Chris’ phone dinged, and he laughed as he shared with me that his phone calendar was alerting him that this day – 2/24 – was the birthday of Chick-fil-A.
We went to Chick-fil-A together on our first date, and ever since, the trips there together have never slowed down. Whether it’s a typical day out or even to mark special occasions (such as the first meal after we got back from our honeymoon, or the day we bought our first house), we love it and visit often. We started laughing at how funny it would be if we had a “Chick-fil-A baby” considering how sentimental this restaurant had been to us in our relationship. I knew the odds were slim, however. Progress seemed slow, and at last check, I was just 3.5cm.

The Chick-fil-A joke continued throughout the afternoon, and our midwife even joined in, texting me later in the day that since we brought it up, she couldn’t stop thinking about Chick-fil-A! She even joked she might sneak me in a waffle fry.

The hospital had informed me I wasn’t allowed to eat anything except jello or smoothies, but I was starving. Chris and I had come equipped with snacks in our labor bag, but when Rylie, our photographer, offered to run out to Trader Joe’s to get us a few things, we accepted! I hate to admit it, but whenever someone wasn’t in the room checking on me, I was sneaking snacks such as granola bars and chips, celery and peanut butter to help me get through the day.

(I understand the precautions, but what kind of genius thinks it’s a good idea for a woman to face the most significant physical challenge of her life WITHOUT ANY SUSTENANCE?! How rude. Regardless, this decision came back to bite me in the butt later on.)

6:45PM
I continued to labor in bed. The contractions were steady every few minutes, but not causing a lot of pain, just increased focus and intentional breathing. I had not been allowed out of bed except to briefly sit on the labor ball and to use the bathroom.
My parents had come to visit for a few hours during the afternoon, and had left again to go get dinner. Rylie had also left for the evening, stating she’d be back whenever we gave her the notice that things were progressing.
As I sat in bed, I had one huge contraction.
Suddenly, it was as if some pressure was relieved, and I felt a warm trickle of water begin to rush out of me.

My water!
My water broke!
…Did my water break??
I think my water broke!!

My disbelief that my water had broken on its own eventually gave way to the excitement that my body was doing what it was supposed to!
The contractions immediately became more intense.
My parents got back to the hospital shortly afterward, my mom stating she wanted to stop in and say goodnight before heading home.

7:00PM
Text from my midwife – “I just checked in with Paula, she says you are 4 and leaking – active labor here we come! She says you’re still smiling. I’m glad to hear that. And especially that your blood pressure is great now that you’re in your groove! Just call me whenever you need something tonight… she also said it seems the yoga worked. 🙂 

With the 7:00 hour came a shift change and a nurse that didn’t mind to let me out of bed – something I’d been waiting and asking to do all day. Megan immediately let me take a walk in the hall. Pushing my IV pole clad with my beloved Pitocin, I walked the halls as far as I was allowed and continued to work through contractions as they came.

During our hospital tour a couple weeks prior, I had asked if I would be allowed to walk the halls while in labor, and the response I got was a blank stare, followed by the tour guide/nurse responding that nearly everyone gets an epidural, so they never really see anyone outside their rooms walking.

It had to be an odd sight, then, as I labored in the halls – suddenly stopping every couple of minutes mid-sentence, squatting to the ground and breathing through each contraction. It felt amazing to walk and even more amazing to move my body the way I felt it needed to with each wave of contraction, which mostly for me was to squat.
I felt really good… like I was kicking butt and on top of things, kind of like when you get in a groove of a really great workout.

On the way back to my room, the contractions became even more intense, and I sank to the ground on my hands and knees to ride one out.
As I breathed through it, the door next to where I was on the floor opened, and two of our friends from church stepped out! HA!
“Oh hi! Don’t mind me… just havin’ a baby outside your relative’s hospital room…”
We laughed and quickly said our hellos and goodbyes.

I decided to go back to my room and rest in the bed as a precaution knowing my blood pressure got high with any activity. I told my nurse and Chris that I’d rest for a bit before going back out for another walk. (That never happened.)
My parents headed home, and we decided to settle in for what promised to be a long night.

8:30PM
“Babe… what time is it?”
“8:30.”
“Dang…I only have 3 and a half hours left. I guess we’re not having our Chick-fil-A baby after all.”

I continued to labor in the bed, riding out each contraction on my hands and knees, or standing up from the edge of the bed as each contraction began, my arms around Chris’ neck as I squatted down with the pressure coming from within me.

Most of my labor is a blur and a fog and it’s difficult to recall (which, aside from a baby nursing around the clock, is the reason it’s taken me so long to write this story)! But I remember clear as day, that at one point around this time, Chris said, “Babe! Maybe you’re in transition!”
I laughed. “Babe, when I’m in transition, I’ll be out of my mind.”
Oh, he was so cute. He had read books and watched birth documentaries with me. He had attended birth class with me.
But I laughed and told him I wasn’t even close.

I was wrong.

9:00PM
I decided it might feel good to get in the shower and let the hot water hit my belly. I could only imagine the hot water would feel similar to my contractions the way that a hot bath feels to period cramps.
Chris suggested we call Jessica, my midwife, to let her know things were getting more intense. I remember thinking that it seemed too soon for her to come… I didn’t want to waste her time and have her come to the hospital if we were just going to be up all night laboring. She had said, however, to let her know when thing were getting more intense so that she could come help offer new ideas for labor positions, maybe rub my back, etc.
Before they got off the phone, she suggested I get in the shower for a bit.
Check!

I stripped down to my bra, sat down on the bench, and adjusted the handheld shower so that it hit low, where I was feeling my contractions. Chris sat at my side to my right, reaching in the shower to offer counter pressure on my back during each contraction in the places we’d already determined felt best to me.

Suddenly, I was in a daze.
The contractions were coming one after the other, and I felt like I couldn’t get on top of them the way I was able to earlier in labor, like when I felt great battling the contractions in the hallway with each squat. My mind was swirling with attempts to gain control of my thoughts, my breathing, and the way I was coping with the pain.
But I felt like I was losing this battle.

There’s no way I can do this all night.

Time and time again as each contraction rose, I took a deep breath, pushed my feet into the wall of the shower in front of me, and grasped the bar, leaning my forehead against the cool metal as the pain surged through my insides.
I screamed.

Like the ocean when the water is rough and you’re out too far, the waves hit me over and over again. I was drowning and didn’t have enough of a break from the waves smashing into my face and leaving me breathless to dig my feet in the sand and gain some footing.

I cried out over and over again.
“I can’t do this!”

A vague thought passed through my mind that the other women in the hospital could probably hear my screams. Sorry, ladies.
I had another thought – how amazing would a cold sweet tea be right now?!

As the contractions surged through my body, I vomited all over the shower.
I regretted those chips I had been sneaking. I now had to deal with the awful stench of my breath and the sight of chunks at my feet.
Chris fetched a large container and caught the next wave of vomit.
He was amazing, responding to all my needs as they arose, encouraging me periodically, but mostly staying quiet and letting me go to battle. When I asked for water, he immediately responded. (I got frustrated at one point, because he placed the straw either just out of my reach, or too high, where I felt like it was ramming down my throat, haha!) Even though the shower put him in a difficult position to be able to help me, he stayed right by my side, pushing from the side into my back with all of his strength to help me through each powerful contraction.

Up until this point, it had been just Chris and me riding out these contractions, but suddenly through the fog, I heard a new voice.
My midwife Jessica was talking, although I couldn’t open my eyes long enough to allow them to focus on her or to respond coherently to what she was saying.

“I CAN’T DO THIS!” I yelled.
“Yes you can,” she responded in the most gentle voice. ”Elizabeth, this is what you wanted.”
Just as everything did at this point, what she said infuriated me. In my head, I screamed, NO IT’S NOT!!

When I was able to speak again, I begged, “Please make them turn down the Pitocin! Turn it down!! Please!!”
I knew my body was doing what it was supposed to, and felt like the Pitocin was just making everything more painful. I hated it with a fury. I felt mental relief hearing Jessica say they were turning it down, but the waves roared on.

Before I understood what was happening, I was semi-squatting, and hovering above the shower seat. I just couldn’t sit anymore. It was too painful.
And then… I was pushing.
I couldn’t stop it.
My body needed to push.

I screamed out as I joined my body in the effort, feeling in between my legs with my hand my baby’s head begin to descend.
With the next contraction, I pushed again, yelling out like an uninhibited primal woman. There was no stopping this…

Our baby was coming.

Jessica had summoned the nurses, who I could vaguely hear in my room scrambling to getting things ready. Everything was still completely foggy to me, but I recall her stating that we needed to get out of the shower, or else it would be really hard for her to help me deliver this baby.

I knew I wanted to try to get out. But the contractions were so close together, it felt like they never stopped, and I dreaded leaving the comfort of the hot water.
How can I leave this?! It will be so painful!
I have no memory of it, but somehow, I made it from the shower into the bed, in which I immediately assumed a kneeling position.

My hero Chris turned on our video camera, and somehow – with one hand still on my back – also managed to text our photographer Rylie, who, because we thought labor would last all night, hadn’t been back for any of my active labor.
Thank goodness for his efforts, or we’d have no documentation of baby’s arrival.
Fortunately, we have both video and Rylie’s beautiful photos!

As I knelt on the bed, I couldn’t help but keep my hand between my legs, feeling my descending baby.
I could feel her head, just inside the opening. I pushed, but I was also afraid.
I pushed because I had to – it was what my body was telling me to do.
But I didn’t want to face the pain that came with each push.

It was such a predicament.

I wanted to push to relieve the pressure, because I wanted to meet my baby, but I could also feel the size of her head, and how small my opening felt in comparison.
How will I ever do this?!

I cried out with each contraction as I battled through this predicament.

“I can’t do this very long!”
“You’re not going to, you’re very close,” Jessica encouraged sweetly.
“Promise?”
“Yes, I have my fingertip on her head.”

With each contraction, I pushed again, this time, feeling the top of her head protruding from me, all squished up and wrinkled.
Jessica coached, “Push her right into your hand.”

“Baby! Look!!” I exclaimed breathlessly. I could feel her head crowning, and wanted to make sure he saw her emerging. He did.

“Oh my gosh! She’s got so much hair!” He kissed me on the shoulder. “Keep going baby, you’re so close!”

“I can’t push! Oh, it hurts so bad!!”
I had been on my hands and knees, partially kneeling at times with my butt tucked under me in an effort to decrease the pain.

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Jessica coached, “I want you to go all the way forward on to your hands, okay? Lean way forward… Now bring your butt back towards me… give me a strong push!”

With one hand between my legs, I roared and pushed with all my might.
A high-pitched scream escaped from my mouth as the body of my beautiful daughter slipped quickly from mine.

She cried the sweetest cry.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!” I exclaimed repeatedly.

Sitting back on my knees, I swiftly scooped her up and lifted her to my chest, in complete disbelief and ecstasy. With his arm around me, Chris cried at the sight of our baby girl, burying his face in my cheek and kissing me as we both laughed and cried.
We did it.

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In an instant, our lives were changed as Charlotte Anna Ree entered the world.
(My midwife said she came out “like greased lightning” with that giant final push.)
In that same instant, my pain was gone and replaced with the most wonderful high – a surge of joy, love, and relief.

It took 30 years of my life, 8 months of marriage, and nearly 9 months for her to grow, but at last, the angel I had dreamed about my whole life was here in my arms.
There were so many years, months, and days of waiting… but it took a particular sperm and a particular egg at a particular time in order to have this particular child here with me today.

God had Charley planned for us all along.
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It’s amazing to think that when I was exclaiming, “Our baby is the size of a poppy seed!” or “Our baby is now the size of a blueberry!” that was her. That blueberry-sized creation was our Charley! From two tiny cells joining together in perfect harmony to a completely formed human being, she grew perfectly, beautifully, and just the way she was supposed to. I look at her ultrasound photos now that she’s in my arms and think, Wow… that was her. That was YOU, sweet baby! That whole time… YOU are who was growing inside me. What a beautiful mystery… an amazing miracle. And now I know you… And you know me.

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Baby C (52 of 75)
Thank you God.
Thank you for answered prayers. Like Hannah in the book of 1 Samuel, I will always offer my child back to you, proclaiming, “For this child I prayed.”
Thank you for growing this sweet little perfectly formed person and all of her beautiful parts, from her full and squishy lips to her skinny feet (that look just like mine)! Thank you for those dark blue eyes of hers that are so deep they bring me to tears. I love the way she yawns, and that cute little noise she makes after she sneezes.
I love every inch of her, and all that she is and will be. Thank you.

Thank you that even when nothing goes according to our plan, you are still faithful and good.
Thank you for the staff at the Birth and Wellness Center and all they do, especially Jessica, who has the sweetest and kindest spirit and was a guardian during our whole pregnancy and birth and as our plan changed dramatically.
Thank you for the gift of my husband, who pointed me (and continues to point me) towards you and was the most amazing birth partner and encourager. I adore watching him be a daddy to Charley. I know you taught him and will continue to teach him all he needs to know about fatherhood.

Thank you for meeting us in Labor and Delivery Room 6 and filling it with your presence so that we could have peace in the midst of stress and uncertainty.

And thank you for all of those times when You orchestrate the most beautiful and unexpected moments… because sometimes all it takes to completely change our lives
.
.
.
is an instant.

DSC_8476DSC_8584

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.


I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.


My frame was not hidden from you,
 when I was being made in secret,
 intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
 the days that were formed for me,
 when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13-16

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.
1 Samuel:27-28

Coming soon:
Charley’s Post-Birth Story: From Bliss to Blood

Birth Photography by: Rylie Craft
http://www.ryliecraft.com

Newborn Photography by: Heather Leigh
http://www.byheatherleigh.com

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One thought on “Charley’s Birth Story – “In an Instant”

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