Well today is my birthday. My 29th birthday to be exact. This year has been a whirlwind and I finally got the most precious gift of all. You’ve probably guessed by now that my little Luke has finally arrived! A lot has happened since my last post, and I’ve been very busy acclimating to this new thing called motherhood. I’m sure you’re all very curious to hear about when and how my sweet little boy came to be. So since we’re talking about birthdays, I’ll tell you about Luke’s. Its a very long story but what else would you expect after such a long journey to get our little miracle!
The week before my due date I began experiencing light contractions at night. They lasted for several hours at about 10 minutes apart, but finally subsiding by morning. They were mild and inconsistent but still I wondered if labor was coming soon. In the following days I began taking long walks, eating dates (apparently they are supposed to help bring on labor) and then on my due date, Saturday, October 26, I took a bath with a few drops of Clary Sage oil, and rubbed some of the oil on my ankles, feet, hands and belly. The next morning at 7am I woke up to a stronger contraction than what I had experienced earlier in the week. By 9 am I my husband and I were discussing whether we should stay behind from church. The contractions were steadily coming at about 12 minutes apart and were definitely getting more intense, but were still mild and manageable. I called my midwife and she agreed that I was probably in the early stages of labor. So, Adam and I enjoyed our last morning together just the two of us and had breakfast out on our porch. Adam played “Danny’s Song” for me on the guitar and I couldn’t help but cry because I knew this was it. We were finally going to meet our long awaited son.
This is me about 3 hours into labor.
In the afternoon, after church, my mom and sister arrived at the house to wait things out with us. The women in my family have had notoriously quick and easy births so they didn’t want to miss anything if my labor began to progress quickly. Around 2:30pm I decided to drink the strong RLT brew that I’ve told you about. It turns out it didn’t do much for me. Sorry to disappoint you, I had high hopes for it, but alas it was debunked. By 4pm my contractions had moved to about 7 minutes apart and I began to feel the first signs of back labor. It was getting to where I could no longer hold a conversation, and the only thing that really helped with the pain was for my husband to push hard on my back during each contraction. At 7pm the contractions were about 3 minutes apart, and I started bleeding a little bit. We called my midwife and she said the bleeding was likely due to my cervix dilating and we decided it was time to go to the birthing center. Everything was already packed and ready to go and luckily the birthing center is only about 5 minutes from my house, so I only had to go through one contraction in the car on the way there. One of my midwives, Vicki, was waiting for us when we arrived.
By 8:30 the contractions had really become intense, and the back labor began to get incredibly uncomfortable. The uterine contractions weren’t all that bad, and if I had experienced them alone I think they would have been quite manageable, but it was the back labor that really made things difficult. Vicki felt that the baby was positioned slightly more to my right side than would be optimal for birth so she suggested that we try some “spinning babies” birthing positions to try to get his head to turn a bit. This required some help holding my body in the various positions so Adam brought my mom in from the waiting room to help. At some point, Angela, my incredible birth photographer (and doula, friend, prayer warrior, and all around amazing support!) showed up as well. This was when things began to get blurry for me. I don’t remember any more of the timing from this point on because the pain from the back labor became so intense for the rest of what would become a 30 hour labor. I don’t know what planet I was on, but it was certainly not this one. My body took over and my mind just sort of went to another place to cope with the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’ve spoken with several other moms who went through back labor and none of us can come up with the words to describe how painful it really is.
My amazing husband pushed on my back for hours and hours until finally he was so exhausted that my mom and the midwife begged him to take a rest. By this point my sister, and some other nurses had come in the birthing room to support me. Some of the girls tried putting pressure on my back, but I needed it to be extremely hard to even begin to help alleviate the pressure that was pushing out from the inside. So my sister had the idea to bring in my dad from the waiting room. My dad was seriously amazing. I was not at all expecting him to be okay with being in the birthing room, but he was so awesome and helpful. He ended up being in the room with us the whole time, and he was right by my side when Luke was born.
Between my dad and my husband, the two of them provided constant pressure on my back, which was the only thing that kept me going when I felt like my back was literally going to break in half.
When I watched the birth video, there is footage of my sister holding my right hand, my mother holding my left hand, Adam rubbing my dad’s back and shoulders while my dad was putting pressure on my back, all while the midwife, my birth photographer and birth assistants were giving me verbal encouragement.
The amount of support I had from my entire family and friends was absolutely inspiring. I don’t remember it, but my mom told me that there were several times where everyone stopped and just prayed over me. What a wonderful environment to bring this baby into!
Eventually the contractions got so intense that I was really feeling like I couldn’t take any more. It never occurred to me to think about going to the hospital, or to get an epidural (although I did tell my sister, who was 30 weeks pregnant at the time, to get the dang epidural! I promised her I would NOT judge.) but I definitely needed some reprieve because the back labor was non-stop. I was beginning to have back to back contractions with no break. At one point I had 4 contractions in a row, lasting about 15 minutes. I prayed, “Jesus, please help me. Please give me the strength to do this.” That was when Vicki asked if I wanted to try to Nitrous Oxide they had available and also something called a Sterile Water Injection that involved 4 shots of sterile water drops into my back. People who know me well, know that I HATE needles. Its one of the reasons why I did not want to have an epidural in the first place. So the fact that I was open to having 4 shot in my back is a testament to how severe the back labor really was. My whole family was shocked that I agreed to it. The shots stung like the dickens but really did take the edge off of the back labor. It was still very painful, but even just a tiny bit of relief was welcomed. The Nitrous helped me relax a bit. It didn’t do anything at all for the pain, it just helped me to give in to the contractions more instead of fighting them. It did give me horrible acid reflux though, but thankfully my dad always has Tums in his pocket. Sometimes the Lord gives us help in ways we don’t expect.
I spent a lot of time laboring in the tub, and my mom said she counted 17 different laboring positions throughout the night. In the wee hours of the morning Vicki’s shift had ended and one of the other young midwives, Everly, took over, and also Mary, my sweet friend and one of the birthing assitant’s came as well. By this point the urge to push had started to come on. I began pushing in the tub and really wasn’t sure exactly what to do. Looking back, I think I expected that once I started to push I would feel a baby start to emerge pretty quickly. So I was a bit surprised when I started pushing and it didn’t feel like much was happening. It was Mary who helped me understand that I needed to be less vocal and focus the energy I was using to grunt and moan, downward to get that baby out.
Angela continued to remind me to keep focusing my energy down, and to relax my neck and shoulders, and my mom was an awesome coach saying, “push, push, push, push, push! Good girl!” over and over again. All the coaching from everyone really helped me a lot. My mind was so fried from the intense physical demand on my body, that I honestly couldn’t remember all the things I was taught to do. I really needed the constant reminders.
After about 2.5 hours of pushing in the tub I was becoming exhausted. The sun had risen on October 28th, and I had been laboring throughout the night. Everly told me to feel inside the birth canal, and I could feel something like a water balloon. She said it was my baby’s head. My water had not yet broken, and he was still in the amniotic sack. So I was feeling his water bag. At one point I said, “This baby better do something impressive, like be born ‘en caul’ after putting me through all this!” In the tub I was having to hold my body up to squat and push. My legs were cramping and all my muscles were trembling. Although the baby’s head had begun to emerge, true crowning had not happened yet, and I was getting very tired. Everly was having a hard time seeing what was going on down there so she recommended I get out of the tub and move to the bed. She knew I wanted to have a water birth, but she told me that I needed to be able to lay back and rest between contractions and that I wouldn’t be mad at her later when the baby was born. She was right.
By the time I got to the bed the baby had moved off of my spine enough to relieve some of the back labor, and laying back was a welcomed rest from the physically demanding positions I’d been in all night. My eyes were closed most of the time, but at one point I opened my eyes to see a big crowd of people. As Monday morning business began at the birthing center many of the staff began to file into the birth room to witness the arrival one of their most prayed over and long awaited babies yet. The room was full of loving friends, family, midwives, nurses and even the administrative staff! Everyone was so excited and there were lots of encouraging words as little Luke’s head became more and more visible. My mom was on the bed next to me, my sweet husband was at the end of the bed, and my dad somehow got roped into holding my leg back while I pushed. He was such a trooper! He even took the cues of the ladies in the room and began coaching me himself. It was his direction for me to focus my energy downward that really helped me in those last few pushes. That last 30 minutes or so was becoming a little discouraging. He had truly crowned and his head just seemed stuck. I felt like I was working so hard and he just wasn’t coming out. His heart rate began to drop a little bit so they gave me oxygen.
After 3.5 hours of pushing, I felt the infamous ring of fire. I knew this was it, so I focused and pushed as hard as I could. His head was out! Everyone in the room (which was about 15 people at this point) cheered! My belly was still very big, and I couldn’t really see over it. I didn’t know it yet, but my baby boy was en caul! Everly asked Adam if he wanted to catch him, and Adam attempted but seemed like he wasn’t sure what to do. At the time I didn’t know why he looked so confused, but later when I saw the video, Luke did look pretty strange still in his sack.
Everly told me to push one more time. I rested for what seemed like a very long time, and still seemed long when I watched it back on the video. You would think that I would have been so ready to get this baby out but I seriously had nothing left in me. Everyone waited patiently while I mustered up the strength for one last push. At last I found one small piece of energy and pushed like I hadn’t pushed before, and out came my precious boy behind the veil! The shoulders were a breeze and it felt so good to finally have him out. I felt a gush of water between my legs after he was out, which I found out later was the bag being broken open by Everly. She opened the bag and pulled it over his face, then immediately put him up on my tummy. The crowd cheered again, and suddenly I returned from whatever planet I had been on for the last 18 hours. It was like the second she placed him on me, my eyes opened and I woke up from the longest dream.
So this is my birth story. I can say now that natural birth was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I know not everyone’s experience is as challenging as mine was, but then again most people haven’t been on the journey that I’ve been on either. I can’t say I’m surprised that it ended up this way. The whole path to meeting Luke has been arduous and incredibly demanding of my strength. The strength that I found in labor was completely rooted in what Christ has done in me over the last few years. He has taught me to trust in Him, to be patient, to listen and learn from others, and to persevere even when I’m not sure what the outcome will be. It was a long road to get here, but it was my road, and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
Luke Samuel Talley was born October 28, 2013 at 1:43pm. 8Lbs 10oz. 20.5 inches. He is named for Luke in the Bible, and for Samuel whose mother Hannah struggled with infertility and God answered her prayer for a son.
Photo by Niko Williams
“I asked the LORD to give me this boy, and he has granted my request.”- 1 Samuel 1:27
“People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one, And we’ve only just begun. Think I’m gonna have a son. He will be like she and me, as free as a dove, Conceived in love. Sun is gonna shine above. Now I see a family where the once was none. Now we’ve just begun.”-Danny’s Song