Since I am currently pregnant with another sweet baby girl, I have been trying to prepare mentally for the upcoming labor, and as such I thought it would be fun to share the birth story of our first daughter, Josephine.
Josie’s story begins way before I actually went into labor. In the 9 years that my husband and I have been married, we have never done anything to prevent pregnancy, but we have had a very hard time getting pregnant. (At least, up until recently, when we were surprised to find out we are pregnant with our second daughter.)
After we had our son in 2011, we had a strong desire to see our family continue to grow, but nothing was happening. I began trying multiple home remedies for fertility over the next few years, to no avail. Then we began seeing doctors. I had multiple tests run, and my husband had multiple tests run. I took various prescribed medications, and I went through several rounds of bio-identical hormone injections.
Then we went to an endocrinologist and, on top of my previous diagnosis of hypothyroidism, he diagnosed me with PCOS and a low AMH level (which the doctor explained to me as basically having no eggs left and, at the age of 35, being in a state of pre-menopause). He delivered the news that we would never be able to get pregnant again. He even said that if we came back into his office and told him I was pregnant, he would fall off of his chair in shock. We were so incredibly devastated. He said he thought our only hope of me being able to carry a baby was if we had IVF with a donor egg. He referred us to an IVF specialist. We didn’t really see the point in going since we knew we would much rather adopt than do IVF with a donor egg, but he encouraged us to go just to hear about the process and our options. So we went. But we came away feeling more certain in our decision not to move forward with IVF.
When we first got married, we both dreamed of a house full of little ones. Now that we had our son, we really didn’t want him to grow up as an only child, and we both desired to have a daughter someday. I desperately wanted the joy of being pregnant again. I wanted to feel a baby kick inside of my tummy again and, I wanted to give birth to our own child again. We cried out to God and asked him to give us the desire of our hearts and bless us with another precious baby. We had many friends and family members that joined with us in prayer and fasting.
We KNEW that God could perform a miracle, that HE is the Author of life, and that HE is the One who opens and closes the womb. We knew that He could do this for us. Even if I didn’t have any eggs left, He could create something out of nothing, and He could create a baby in my womb. We also knew that God could heal my body. We asked one of the pastors from our church to lay hands on me, anoint me with oil, and pray for me to be healed and able to conceive.
Almost exactly 4 months to the day after we had received the devastating news and diagnosis, we found out I was pregnant!!! We had been trying to get pregnant again for over 5 years at this point. I was over a week past when my cycle should have started so I took a home pregnancy test and got a very faint line. We had had many months over the prior few years where I thought, “Maybe this is the month!”, only to have my hopes dashed so I was apprehensive to get my hopes up. I texted my husband, Zac, and told him I thought I might be pregnant. He encouraged me to get into an OB’s office right away and get a blood draw done to confirm. I was able to get in within a day, and their test confirmed that I was indeed pregnant!
My pregnancy with Josie was blissful and also laborious. Even though I didn’t have any complications and was healthy throughout the pregnancy, it was a harder pregnancy for me than my previous one with our son, Hayden. Still I was relishing every moment, so thankful to be carrying this tiny little human inside of me. I was thankful to be able to feel her kicks and her hiccups, thankful to see her little profile, her tiny fingers, and her heart beating on the ultrasound screen, thankful to feel her growing bigger and stronger inside of me week by week. She was truly such a blessing from our heavenly Father.
As her estimated due date came and passed, it was almost inevitable that I became anxious, try as I might not to be. I had been induced with our son, and I really did not want to end up being induced again. We had decided to give birth this time at a birth center where we could have midwifery care and avoid all of the unnecessary interventions, where I would be allowed to labor and birth our baby naturally without having to fight for it like I had to at the hospital during our son’s birth. But the midwives were only able to allow me to go two weeks past my estimated due date (by Texas law) before I would have to be transferred into the care of their collaborating OB and deliver at a hospital.
Once my estimated due date arrived, each day made me more anxious, although I tried to stay at peace. I went for walks with a friend, attempted to rest, and did many exercises to try to get baby Josie in the right position. (Up to that point, she had not been very cooperative with getting in the right position for birth. She was breech for quite awhile; then she was sunny side up.) I read through the birth stories in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth to try to get myself in the right frame of mind. And I prayed. A lot. I prayed over our precious girl, prayed for the birth, prayed for peace, prayed to go into labor on my own without intervention. And God answered all of those prayers.
In the early morning hours of May 10th, 2016, I woke to what I knew was a “real” contraction. I looked at the clock. It was 3:30 am. I had had some Braxton Hicks contractions for a few days, but this was different. This felt more intense. I laid there for about 45 minutes to an hour and timed the contractions. They were approximately every 5 minutes apart. I couldn’t believe it was finally happening! I was 10 days past my estimated due date. After about an hour, I was so excited and couldn’t wait any longer so I woke my husband up and told him I thought I was really in labor and he needed to stay home from work that day. He was excited too, and neither one of us could go back to sleep even though we tried.
Around 6 am we got up with our son, and I called the midwife on call at the birth center to let her know what was going on. Since I already had an appointment scheduled that day, I wasn’t sure if they would want me to come in immediately or wait until things got more intense. They said to come in at my appointment time, which was at 9:30 am. We called our birth team in order to update them– our doula, Kristyn; our babysitter for our son; our friend Jessica, who was an extra support person during our birth as well as a doula in training; and a young girl from our church who took pictures for us during the birth and wants to train to be a midwife someday.
After informing out team, I took a shower, ate a light breakfast, and we headed to the birth center. Within that time frame, my contractions began to spread out and were only coming about every 15 minutes. I started to feel a little discouraged but still believed that this was real labor. At the birth center, the midwife checked to see if I was dilated, and I was surprised to find out I was already 4cm!
Then we decided to go ahead and strip my membranes, and she also inserted evening primrose oil and clary sage essential oil to help ripen and soften my cervix, which seemed to help keep things moving.
The midwives advised us to go for a walk, then head home to do more exercises to help Josie get into the right position and engaged in the pelvis. We did just that! My contractions were still spaced out, but they kept coming. I decided to try to lie down and rest for a little bit so that I would have the strength I needed when things got more intense later. I lied down for about an hour, and then the contractions became more regular, more intense, and closer together again!
During my pregnancy, I had heard so many stories of women who were up walking around during labor, being active, doing squats and such, and how that helped their contractions become more regular and more intense. However, in my case, I was surprised to find that resting and lying down was what did the trick and got things to progress.
The contractions had been approximately 4 minutes apart for about an hour so I decided to take another shower to freshen up and drink a smoothie before it was time to head to the birth center. My friend, Jessica, came over and was tending to me, and our babysitter, Beth, came over to be with Hayden, our son. After awhile, Jessica felt pretty sure, based on the consistency of the contractions, that we should head to the birth center so we didn’t run the risk of getting caught in Houston rush hour traffic with me in transition. We left our house around 4:30 pm and arrived to the birth center around 5:00. Our doula, Kristyn, and our photographer, Joanna met us there.
In the process of taking another shower, getting loaded up, and driving to the birth center, my contractions had spaced out again. I was slightly annoyed but not discouraged. Everyone got busy getting set up – low lighting, essential oils diffusing, worship music play list going. They helped create my ideal environment for bringing our baby girl into the world.
Once we got settled in at the birth center the midwife, Jami, rubbed some essential oils on my belly to help things progress. Jessica rubbed clary sage essential oil on my inner ankles and applied pressure at pressure points that were supposed to help things keep moving along. Kristyn massaged my back and feet during contractions. My husband, Zac, massaged my back as well and talked to my belly, telling Josie to come out so we could meet her. Joanna took photos. Everyone brought me water as I needed it. Everything ticked along like a well oiled machine.
About an hour after we had gotten to the birth center, I decided to try using my breast pump for nipple stimulation to see if that would help things get moving along faster. After 15 minutes of using the breast pump, my contractions really intensified and were about 3 minutes apart. Sitting on the bed, I suddenly heard and felt a “pop” in my lower abdomen. Zac, who was sitting right behind me, said he heard it, too. I thought my waters had broken and expected amniotic fluid to start gushing, but nothing came out. A few minutes later, I felt I needed to pee and stood up. Suddenly everything started leaking out! The way I had been sitting was holding it all in, but when I stood up the floodgates opened. Ha!
From that point on things were much more intense. I had clearly moved on from “early labor” to “active labor,” and the contractions consistently stayed at about 3 minutes apart. I don’t remember how long we waited, but eventually the midwife filled up the birthing tub so that I could get in the water. That helped tremendously with the pain of the contractions. My husband used a pitcher to pour water over my belly during each rush, which was very soothing and helped a lot.
Jami, Kristyn, and Jessica were amazing at providing support as well. They massaged me, spoke encouraging words to me, and put cool washcloths on my forehead and the back of my neck. When I started throwing up, they brought peppermint essential oil for me to smell, which helped with the nausea. I remember Kristyn reading out Scripture cards at one point, giving me a fresh focus and helping me remember that God was with me every step of the way. I started making low moaning sounds during each contraction and focused on trying to keep my throat open to help my cervix open like I had read about in Ina May’s book. That technique helped me a lot to keep the noises low and to breathe deeply during contractions.
The nurse came in and wanted me to get out of the tub to see if that would help me dilate any further, but that was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do—I didn’t want to move at all! But I was able to make my way out of the water and over to the toilet to pee, and I sat there for a few contractions. They were much more painful outside of the water, and I was starting to get really fatigued. I felt so weak that I started crying. My poor husband told me later he had to leave the room for a moment because he was having a hard time seeing me in so much pain and not being able to do anything about it.
I remember feeling like I couldn’t take one more contraction. I just wanted it all to be over. I also remember feeling like a freight train was ripping through my abdomen. While rocking back and forth, I started crying out, “Oh Jesus! Please help me! Please make the baby come soon!” Kristyn was right beside me to lay hands on me. She started praying as well, praying for God to bring the baby quickly. I think she could tell I was feeling “done.” I found out later that Kristyn and Jessica both thought I had probably been stuck at the “transition” stage of labor for awhile at this point, which explained why I was getting so tired. I had wanted to push for quite some time, but that feeling was getting more intense so I got back in the water.
The midwife checked me. I was stuck at 9cm, and I had a lip of cervix that was not budging. The exact same thing had happened to me during my son’s labor, but I hadn’t thought to tell the midwife about it ahead of time and I wasn’t in the frame of mind at that moment to be able to communicate that to her. She asked me if I would like her to try to push back the lip of cervix during contractions. I said, “Yes please!” At this point I was ready to just be done and have my baby in my arms. I started pushing with each contraction, and the midwife pushed the lip of cervix back as I pushed. It worked!
Soon I was fully dilated, and it was actually time to push our girl out! I gave it my all, and after a few minutes of pushing (Maybe 20 minutes? I’m not sure. I lost all sense of time at this point), everyone started saying they could see her head! I reached down and felt her, which gave me more motivation to keep pushing. A few contractions and a few good pushes later, she shot out!
Everyone was surprised at how quickly she came out. Once her head was out, the rest of her body came out rapidly. The nurse said she had never seen a baby shoot out that fast! My husband had planned on being the one to catch her, but he couldn’t get a grip on her right away. (Thank God we were in the water, and she had a cushion.) After a few seconds, he was able to get a hold of her, and he lifted her up. She was beautiful! All 7 lbs. 1 oz of her! She gave a sweet little cry and he put her on my chest and I snuggled her.
The midwife covered her with a warm towel, and we rested there for a few moments while we waited for the placenta to come. She nursed for the first time, latching on really well, which I was thankful for. My husband was able to cut the cord, and then he got his snuggles with Josie while I delivered the placenta and the midwife checked me out. I was so thankful to find out I hadn’t torn at all! What a blessing.
The nurse helped me clean up, and then Josie, Zac, and I moved to the bed where she nursed again. After awhile, the midwife prepared an herbal bath for Josie and me, so we got in the water and relaxed for a bit while Zac napped. It was after 2:00 am on May 11th, and I’m pretty sure he had been awake since 4:30 am the day before, so he was exhausted. When he woke up, we ate breakfast, rested some more and snuggled for a few hours. Since Josie and I were both looking great, the midwife said we could go home if we wanted or we could stay awhile longer. I was ready to get home. I knew our son would be waking up soon, anxious to meet his baby sister, so we decided to head home. It was so precious being at home all together—our family of 4.
We are so thankful God saw fit to bless us with Josephine Joy. Her name means “Jehovah has added,” which He has definitely done for us. He has added joy and blessing and love to our home through this sweet girl. I thank Him for her and for His goodness and kindness to us every day. He is the Miracle Worker, my Healer, and the Giver of Life! We are so thankful for the miracle of Josie!
Josie was born on May 11th, 2016, at Nativiti Birth Center in The Woodlands, TX, attended by midwife Jami Hain. Birth assistants were my wonderful husband, Zachary, doula Kristyn Cuevas, friend and doula-in-training Jessica Gardner, and photographer and aspiring midwife Joanna Zimmermann.