I absolutely love when women share their birth stories. They are so empowering. We are amazing – God designed us to bring human life into the world! He uses our bodies to do His miraculous work.
The last few days before Della arrived, I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror. Studying my body and soaking in just how beautiful my big belly actually was. The due date came and went with no signs of her arrival. I was big and slow and uncomfortable, but I think I was more patient waiting for her arrival than I was with Owen. Those were my last days as just Owen’s mama and I wanted to savor those moments as much as I possibly could. It was the easiest my life would be for a while and my mind and body were aware of that.
With my parents here, I was finally feeling more than ready for her arrival. We walked at least 4 miles a day trying to coax her out and I spent a lot of time doing the hula on a medicine ball trying to get her into a better position (she was head down, but on her side). Keep in mind we still didn’t know she was a she, so on top of it all, I was getting more and more anxious to meet this little life inside of me.
Monday and Tuesday had me completely exhausted around the clock and thanks to insomnia I was a total zombie. With Owen, I had a burst of energy the day before he was born and decorated the entire house for Christmas. That gave me a feeling that nothing was happening anytime soon. I was already past my due date, which we all know is just a guesstimate anyway, but still. If you’ve ever carried a child past the due date, you might understand.
On Tuesday night the 12th of January, I went to a spouses’ coffee (the spouses in our squadron get together once a month for food and drinks (generally we skip the coffee and just drink wine), to socialize, and discuss any business/happenings/events in the squadron). Owen was already in bed when I got home so I went and got myself ready for bed and hung out on the couch. We all called it a night at 10:30 and just before we went to bed, I told Alex that despite the lack of energy, I suddenly had a hunch it was going to happen soon. I even thought about double checking the go-bag and setting out some clothes to change into in case we needed to go in the middle of the night. We went to bed but just as I suspected, my burst of energy hit and I was all too aware of it. I couldn’t sleep for the life of me. Around 1 am, I started to feel tiny little twinges in my belly. They were very irregular and very mild. I was too excited to sleep, so I got up and showered. I snapped a belly picture (I was way too perky for 2 in the morning) just in case this was the real thing.
I woke Alex up and said it was time to go. My contractions were still very mild but starting to get more intense. We agreed we didn’t want to hesitate since the drive to the birthing center can often take an hour or more with the horrible daytime traffic so we wanted to get there before things got busy. I notified my midwife that I was coming in and called Sarah, my doula. She sleepily agreed it was a good idea to go in so we loaded the car and went to pick her up. My mom took this picture of Alex and I before we left shortly after 3 am.
We got Sarah and had one of the easiest drives to Mediflower (the birthing center) we’ve ever had. We had the entire road to ourselves minus a few trucks. What a blessing that was. I prayed and prayed and prayed for labor to begin at night so we wouldn’t have to sit in traffic on the way there. God answered. The only downside to that was that I wouldn’t have a good night sleep under my belt, but it was better than being stopped in traffic in active labor. Oy. On the way, contractions were infrequent and still pretty mild. Sarah’s incredibly calming presence was enough to reassure me that everything was progressing just as it should.
We got to the birthing center at 4 am and I was greeted by Joy, my midwife, with a huge smile. She may have even hugged me as she helped me change into slippers (Koreans don’t wear shoes inside). The birthing center was warm, dimly lit, and comforting – I was so thankful we were there. She monitored the baby’s heartbeat and my contractions for a few minutes and then led us into a quiet labor and delivery room with a bed, plenty of pillows, peaceful music, and a birthing ball. I all but got laid down on the bed when I noticed the contractions had come to a complete stop. I was devastated and convinced that it was false labor.
Sarah said that a change of scenery like that can delay labor, which made me want to cry. She massaged my back and suggested I try to rest. I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep, but decided maybe she was right and caught a few winks. I think she and Alex did as well. When I woke up around 6:30, I checked my phone to see that my mom had sent a few pictures of Owen. I missed him tremendously. I didn’t even get to see him before he went to bed the night before, and it made me smile to see the pictures.
My phone says I received this picture at exactly 6:26 am. That was when contractions started again and grew with intensity exponentially. I messaged back and forth with my mom for a few minutes to let her know they were taking good care of me. I remember when she sent another picture at 7:02 am but by that point, the contractions were so strong, I wasn’t able to reply.
It became quickly clear that Della had not rotated into the proper birthing position and was still on her side. This meant back labor, extreme searing back pain with every contraction due to her little head putting pressure on the nerves in my lower spine and tailbone. The back labor caught me by surprise. I was not prepared for the excruciating back labor pain. With the height of every contraction, the pain was grueling to the point where I wasn’t sure how much more I could handle.
Sarah worked her magic with massage and applied pressure in all the right places that helped ease the pain. She helped me breathe through each painful contraction. I envisioned each one as a mountain I had to hurdle and reminded myself it would be over soon and I’d get a few minutes to rest. I clung onto those moments of rest to reset and prepare my body for the next one. I knew at the rate things were going, I would be holding my baby very soon and that encouraged me. Sarah and Alex took turns pressing on my hips during each contraction to allow Della room to move down into position which also provided me a great deal of relief from the pain.
Joy came in to monitor the baby’s heartbeat and prepare the birthing tub for me to labor in. She then decided to do a cervical check to find I was already at 10 cm. I was in transition at this point and laying on my back the wrong answer. Transition is the phase of labor described as the hardest, most intense, most painful part of labor (although not everyone feels it the same way). I remember clinging onto Alex’s arm telling him that I couldn’t do it anymore (like I really had a choice) and to get me out of there. I couldn’t handle the pain, and it was exceptionally worse laying on my back. Joy asked if I wanted to have a water birth. At this point, I didn’t care. I just wanted the baby OUT. They couldn’t fill that damn tub fast enough. I got into the tub at 8 am and the warm water gave me a weightless feeling relieving so much of the pressure and pain of the contractions. I was only just in the water when I felt the incredibly strong urge to push with the next contraction.
So, my goal for the delivery was not to scream too much – I realize how funny this sounds. We’ve all seen the movies. Childbirth is noisy, disgusting and primal, right? I wasn’t gunning for some crazy silent birth or anything, but when I reflected on Owen’s birth, I realized that I wasted too much energy yelling, and that was a huge factor in why Owen went into distress and required a most hellish intervention via forceps. I told my birth team about this and that I would need a lot of help to focus on keeping my body relaxed, and most importantly, breathing through the pain rather than screaming. My birth team did an awesome job coaching me.
My amazing doctor, Dr. Chung, who is better described as a mid-husband, and Sarah were the only voices I heard in a room full of people. He and Sarah coached me through slowly and calmly pushing by “blowing out the candles, blowing my baby out” and I did everything in my ability to follow their instructions every single time. But having only 2 hours of restless sleep and 90 minutes of extreme back labor, I was running out of steam and grew impatient quickly. I knew Della was close, but I wasn’t pleased with the progress I was making with each contraction. Dr. Chung once told me that the next contraction would be my last one. When I called his bluff two contractions later, he smiled and told me to stop counting. Alex said I got a little snarky in between contractions and made everyone laugh. Well, I don’t seem to remember anything being very funny. 🙂 It seemed to me that pushing was taking an eternity. One of the midwives held a mirror for me to watch the birth which I deliberately avoided looking into until they told me to look down. I expected to be disgusted but instead I was only more motivated. “Ok, baby, let’s do this.”
Dr. Chung’s guidance finally got me through the worst of it with everyone cheering and at 8:49 am, I was holding the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen (besides Owen). I didn’t know she was a girl for the longest time. They were clearing out her nose, or whatever it is they do, while I was holding her to my chest (I didn’t want to move for fear of dropping her in the water) so I couldn’t look for myself. When the midwife peeked and announced “it’s a girl!” I felt my heart expand and explode into a million pieces – a sweet baby girl for all of us to love.
“You’re here. You made it. I love you with every fiber in my body.”
Della was so alert, looking around with enormous big, dark blue eyes. There is no way to describe the way your heart feels when your newborn child opens their eyes for the first time in the world and sees you. It’s a moment with Owen and Della that I will remember vividly all of my life. I felt a whole new kind of unimaginable love in those first few moments with my daughter. They let us sit in the tub with her on my chest until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing. Alex and I were both able to touch the cord and feel the life pulsing from me to moments old Della. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Once the pulsing stopped, Alex cut the cord and carried her on his chest as we moved from the tub to the family room. I had a small tear that they quickly repaired while Della quickly latched on to breastfeed like a champ. She spent the first several hours of her life with us before they came in to weigh her. She never left our side during our entire stay.
I fell in love with Alex all over again. Seeing him with his brand new baby daughter melted my heart into a puddle. There’s something truly magical about seeing the love of your life and best friend become a dad for the second time. She already has him wrapped around her little finger.
Della’s birth was incredibly natural. It was easier, calmer, peaceful and beautiful and I couldn’t have done any of it without Alex, Sarah, and Dr. Chung by my side. I didn’t have a birth plan, but if I did, it would have gone exactly like it did. I prayed and thanked God for the tiny miracle He blessed us with. The birthing center was everything I’d hoped it would be and then some.
We spent the day getting to know Della, she was wide awake and alert for several hours after being born and completely calm and relaxed. Despite having no sleep, I was running on pure adrenaline and was able to thoroughly enjoy the family time. We made a few FaceTime calls to let everyone know she had arrived.
Later that afternoon they came to get us for Della’s first bath which she absolutely loved…until it was over.
Afterward, the midwife swaddled her perfectly, tied on a little bonnet and propped her up with a pillow then said to us, “camera!” I can’t not laugh looking at this picture. She’s just the cutest little baby burrito ever.
Our first night was rough, naturally, but we survived and were very anxious to get the doctor’s approval to go home the next morning to see Owen and my parents. The birthing center’s photographer came in to take a few pictures which I’m thankful for since she spit up all over her sweet pink outfit (the only pink outfit we had!) before I could any pictures myself. Della’s pediatrician and Dr. Chung cleared us off to go home and we were out the door by lunchtime.
I’ll write another post about the homecoming and our first week at home later. There’s just so many pictures to share!
Well, that’s our birth story. The end, and the beginning, at the same time. We are so happy you’re here, Della baby. You are the most perfect addition to our family and we can’t wait to get to know you better. Welcome to the world!