Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Other Side of Labor

So who remembers the creepy, graphic video that we all had to watch (well, most of us probably had to watch) in high school health class of a baby being born? Shudder. No amount of soap in the eyes could erase that... it was awful! So imagine my surprise when I enthusiastically said "YES!" when a my friend Chelsea, whose husband is deployed, asked me if I would be in the room with her when her baby decided to make its debut. There was no hesitation on my part and I gladly accepted, not really thinking about that video or what my eyes might possibly see again.

A couple of Fridays ago I was doing some work and I got a text message. My water broke. Seriously, that's all it said. No sense of urgency- not even an exclamation mark! I had to read it twice for it to sink in and then I ran around my house, much like a nervous dad might do, throwing items at random into a bag. Josh was at the gym so I frantically dialed his number to let him know that if he didn't get home soon, our child would be left unattended while I rushed to the Quad Cities to coach a new baby into this world. (Disclaimer: I would never leave our child unattended. At least not until he is able to make himself something to eat.) Once my hubby was back home, I kissed him goodbye and rushed out the door. This would be Chelsea's fourth baby, so in my mind it might just fall out without notice. That sounded logical to me. I had about a forty-five minute drive and I pretty much spent the whole time trying to convince myself that I could handle this, even if I saw blood, which sometimes makes me queasy. I said a few prayers for Chelsea, her husband Joe, and that sweet baby of theirs, and then I said a few for myself, too, asking God to make sure that I didn't pass out.

When I arrived to her room, there was very little activity. In fact, she wasn't even having contractions, much to her chagrin. So we just sat and talked... and talked... and talked some more. Her mother-in-law stopped by, I ran out to get some dinner, we watched part of a movie, we talked some more, and still there was nothing. She was told that if there was no action by the morning they would start her on Pitocin... not the news that she wanted to hear.

After a very interrupted night of sleep (which I cannot complain about since my mattress was very cushy and I got way more than she did!) the nurse came in the next morning and administered the medication. What she did not tell us was that she needed to go through a certain number of saline bags as well before she could get an epidural. Chelsea had made it clear from the start that she's very pro-epidural, but not until she really needs it. So when she got to the point that she really needed it, we still had to get through another bag and a half. Her contractions were coming on pretty strong and it was a long forty-five minutes (well, an hour and a half really by the time the epidural was administered and kicked in) to endure. I pretty much just took orders, getting her ice chips and wet wash cloths, just trying to be as supportive as I could be. Then she told me that something was happening and I needed to get the nurse right now. I flew out of that room and the nurse and the doctor quickly followed. And as a mother of four would know, it was time.

Let me just say that the next hour was probably one of the most amazing, awe inspiring hours of my life. If I hadn't been through birth myself, there is no way that I would've appreciated the experience, or even agreed to it for that matter. I stood up by her head as she pushed, and after pushing through three (yes, only three... which she later told me was the longest she ever pushed for any of her kids, at which point I tried not to tell her that I hated her) the head was out and the doctor was able to ease the baby out from there. I hadn't really planned on watching this part, but I couldn't help it... my eyes were drawn to that baby. As the doctor turned it over and I saw it's little face, I was overcome with wonder at what a miracle it truly is. The night before, Chelsea and I talked about how we both felt birth was more like something from a sci-fi movie, like an alien being extracted from you. That's definitely how it feels anyway when it's happening to you. But as a witness, I quickly changed my mind. Seeing a new life come into the world changed me somehow. In that moment, it's not that I understood God because nobody actually can, but I was struck at how only He could administer a process like this. I have said before that childbirth is the closest I had ever been to God and this only reaffirmed that feeling. In that moment, I could feel Him. His hands took over the doctor's hands and He guided that sweet little girl into the world. I felt as if time stood still and the room was just filled with overwhelming love, which is what God feels for us. In a word, it was incredible, but even that does not do it justice.

I never really thought that witnessing a baby's birth would ever be on the list of things that I wanted to do, but now I'm gladly adding it (and crossing it off) my bucket list. I firmly believe that it's something that every woman who has already been through it themselves should have the opportunity to be a part of. The more I read about Biblical times, back when men were not allowed and midwives delivered babies, the more I understand why they did it that way. Don't get me wrong... having my husband in the room for the birth of our son is not something I would ever do differently, but as a woman, witnessing another woman going through labor and having felt that same pain to produce the same results was both endearing and empowering. And seeing the instant love of a mother as she held her baby for the first time will forever leave a mark on my soul. Some women wonder why God made labor such a painful process, but now I realize just how remarkable it is. The pain is worth it. The work is more than worth it. And in the end, the pain and work make it even more special. Perhaps that's why mothers instantaneously nurture... the greater the pain, the greater the love. God knew that, too, when He sent his only son to die for us. Witnessing that had to have been the greatest pain any man could ever know, but that's how much He loves us... the greater the pain, the greater the love. How anyone could ever witness birth and not believe in God is beyond me. No amount of science, no big bang or evolution theory could ever convince me that it's anything other than a miracle. And I am honored that a friend thought of me of all people to be with her and be a part of it.

Oh and the baby? Yeah, she's a doll. Even though most of my readers don't know Chelsea, everyone loves a baby, right? So to my Mauneyland readers I introduce Charley Lilyanna:

When I returned home, Josh asked me if I ever wanted to go through childbirth again having now seen it from another point of view. I just laughed and told him that she made it look way too easy, even though I know that there were a couple of rough hours right before Charley made her debut. And even though I'll never go as far as to say that the "coach's" job is even close to being as difficult as the mother's, I will say that next time I'll have a bit more sympathy for my husband. It's a very helpless place to be at some points and watching someone else in pain is almost heartbreaking. But if he pouts or complains at any point next time we go through it, I'm going to take that last statement back. :)

Thank you, Chelsea, for letting me be a part of an incredibly special day in your family's life. It was an honor to be asked and I love that you felt like we are close enough friends to ask. Being there for Charley's birth is a memory that I will always cherish and remember as being nothing short of amazing. And watching her grow up is going to be even more special knowing that I was one of the first people who ever saw or got to hold her. And an even bigger thank you to your husband, Joe, for sacrificing so much to be overseas fighting for our country. You have a very strong and special wife who is doing an unbelievable job under the circumstances. I am proud to just get to be friends with you both. And Chelsea, as promised, now that you've "shown me yours" I'll gladly have you in the room to "show you mine" whenever our next little one decides to come along! But consider it carefully, because you won't only have to put up with me, but with Josh as well! That just might make things a little bit interesting!


  1. This is why I want to be a midwife. :)

    That is so awesome, and it brought tears to my eyes. You should be a doula! You have a gift for it!

    Congratulations, Chelsea! She's beautiful!

  2. And I bet you'd make a great one! You're doing doula training, aren't you?