“God, please use this birth to strengthen my faith.”
That was the prayer God put on my heart early in my pregnancy. And He had the answers all lined up.
The faith lessons had started in the six months we tried to get pregnant. God used that brief time of infertility to convict me of some pride in my own heart, and He also re-emphasized to me the truth that He is the God of life. He really is personally involved in becoming pregnant, each time, no matter how easy or hard it seems.
This pregnancy saw probably the most stressful time period of my life. Andre was conceived in July. In October, our church started a rehabilitation center in our village house, and Vitaliy went there every Sunday through Wednesday. Single parenting is hard, especially because Vitaliy is really, really involved in our family life. Then in December, our Ukrainian nephew came to live with us after he was removed from his home. His mom went to a rehab center, and he came to live with us temporarily. He’s three, and we learned that he has cerebral palsy. He can’t walk normally—his leg muscles are deformed—and he can speak only very little.
I’m glad we took him. It was hard, hard, hard for me, with Vitaliy being gone and winter upon us making it hard to go anywhere—and having three kids and being very big pregnant with a fourth made it hard to go anywhere, too. . . . I think I cried a lot. And I was a little depressed sometimes.
I stopped taking doula clients because my emotions and energy were so consumed by the kids and my own needs that I couldn’t make commitments to others.
Stressful as it was, I’m so thankful and glad I had these trials in my life. God was disciplining me, the way an athlete disciplines himself. He wants to make me stronger and purer. His Word became very real to me. I would read it and cry often. I would go to church and cry during the singing because I was living the truth of the words we were singing about God. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps 73:26) My heart and my flesh failed. They were exhausted and perishing. So God was there to be my strength and my portion.
I sinned a lot, I failed a lot, I was a good mom; I was a bad mom. But it was a good exercise for me in general–experiences that are painful to endure but that strengthen.
We were told we needed to move. We hunted for a new apartment. We moved. Extremely stressful events took place in the church.
Our church was also lovely about supporting us, bringing food, babysitting, helping us move.
About a week before our due date, we sent our nephew to live with his mom in the rehab center, and Vitaliy started staying home more. Spring came!
The birth: This was another stressful-but-good thing. We birthed at home with a midwife the first two births. But this time, we aimed for an unattended birth. I was always open to inviting a midwife, but in end, it was always preferable to me just to birth ourselves this time. However, responsibility is responsibility.
And especially because this was the first time we’d made this choice, it was rather stressful. I had to choose what level of prenatal testing I wanted. It was stressful making those choices for myself. (But I’m glad I did it.)
And I really wanted someone to pay attention to this pregnancy because I felt like I hardly had time to think about it with all that was going on. I actually really missed having a midwife to drive to for prenatal visits who would sit and talk to me for an hour about the pregnancy, listen to what I was experiencing, help me focus on the baby, etc.
It was also very stressful because I was afraid to talk about it and be happy about the birth. No one was happy for me, for wanting to birth unattended. And that is exactly how I would’ve responded just a little bit ago. But now? . . . If someone shares that they plan to birth unattended, I will just gush on and on about how exciting it is. They need that support 🙂
Towards the end, I started telling people who asked our birth plans that they had to be happy for me when they heard my plans because I couldn’t handle any more stress, and so they lovingly obliged. I’m thankful for those friends. My mom was really great about it, and that helped. But still, most people didn’t know.
The pregnancy and birth weren’t entirely unassisted. I hired a very knowledgeable “friend” in the States whom I could call or email with my questions, and we did that several times. She was also available during the birth. She constantly pointed me toward faith in God and helping me discern whether or not I was truly sensing a problem, or if I was just being plagued by unhealthy fears.
For this birth, here’s what I was imagining: We’d have this fairly short, romantic birth. It would be lovely and quiet. I had candles, music, scents all ready. It would be so special. . . .
But . . .
HAH!!! . . . . HAH, HAH, HAH TO YOU, ANNE SOKOL!!! (Remember, when you pray about faith, the answer probably will be hard, hard, hard. But very good for you.)
The birth itself was the most painful birth of the three I’ve had. The active labor was 14 hours. (Early labor was about 17 hours before that.) Nothing helped with the pain of the contractions. Not bath or shower, not positions, not massage. I was in a dark place mentally. I kept wanting an epidural, a c-section, to die. (And this is ME, the die-hard, all-natural, doula girl!!) I kept imagining getting to the birth house and trying to get one or more of those things. . . . Good thing I couldn’t figure out a way 🙂
I guess if I could change one thing, I would just want a voice telling me that this was absolutely normal, that everything was just great. I needed a positive voice in my dark, negative place. Vitaliy kept saying it, but I didn’t believe him (because how many births has HE seen??). Contractions were very intense, like transition, most of the time, and I felt like pushing a lot. The baby was extremely low and probably posterior. This probably accounts for why this labor seemed so painful compared with the others.
About half way through, I was really confused so we called our friend in the States. I explained that I was having transition-like contractions, feeling pushing-like contractions, but no baby was coming out. She said that women can seem like in transition but not be; she said I need to discern if I’m just confused or if I’m really sensing a problem. And I knew immediately there was no problem, I was just confused.
Back to the birth (as if we could leave that, hee hee): So much for the quiet romance. I power-yelled through all the contractions. I pushed for about 3 hours. It was a lot of power-yelling. Vitaliy is glad no one called the police (we live in a large apartment complex).
We didn’t know if Andre was a boy or a girl. Vitaliy was pretty sure we were having a boy. It was his faith between him and God. I had no idea. When he came out, it was, of course, wonderful. It was all more than worth it. I was on my hands and knees, and Vitaliy caught him and held him. After his body came out, meconium splatted out onto the chux pad. But he was crying, pink, and breathing.
My constant fear for this birth was shoulder dystocia—that the shoulders would get stuck and he wouldn’t be able to get out. As usual, God delivers me from all my fears. His body slid right out with his head.
Vitaliy gave him to me through my legs and I put him on the bed and started rubbing him—I just did this naturally because he was covered in vernix. I was talking happy talk and noticed right away that we had a boy! We called the girls in quickly—they’d been playing in the living room the whole time.
One thing about natural birth—the greatest hormone-induced “high” is actually just after the birth. I just love that high. I felt so good, so happy, so rewarded. It lasts for weeks.
Vitaliy, poor man, he had all the hard work after the birth. But he did it so tenderly, so thoroughly. He ended up going to the pharmacy several times and all in all, he bought NO LESS THAN 50 CHUX PADS (those are the cotton-on-one-side-plastic-on-the-other square things). He would staple them together to cover the mattresses. . . . It’s a guy thing.
He brought me fruit, flowers, juice, took a bazillion pictures, fed us all for a few days, and generally was awesome. And every hour or so he would come to me and touch me and say, “Wow, honey, you’re amazing—you did it!”
After this birth, unlike the first two, I wasn’t immediately ready to have another baby. Oh, the pain. . . . Although now that I’m 5 weeks postpartum, and I’m so enjoying the baby high, the lovely squishy-ness and cuddly floppiness of a newborn . . . well, sure, I could do it all. over. again. It’s so worth it.