Monday, May 19, 2014

How the Lord orchestrated the birth of Brielle Julianne Tack

Jonathan and I quickly realized how much of this birth story was really about how the Lord answered prayer after prayer the entire way through my pregnancy, and specifically through labor and delivery. This is not my birth story, this is God’s birth story for our little girl. All of your prayers played a key role in this story, too! A true and precious gift to us. I hope you will be encouraged by our testimony to His goodness.

In case you need the back story to why Brielle’s birth is so different and exciting for me, read about our son Judah’s birth story (which is a miracle in itself!), and also about my feelings of being ‘cheated’ out of the birth that I desired.

Many of you know how strongly I desired to delivery naturally via VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) this pregnancy. I wanted nothing to do with a repeat cesarean or a medicated birth, which I am convinced can often lead to a downward cycle of unnecessary medical interventions.
Doctors and other well-meaning people warned me of the ‘dangers’ of having a VBAC, throwing out numbers and statistics and telling me not to get my hopes up. At the time, I wasn’t even sure I’d carry my baby to full term, so it was hard to focus on the end when you’ve grown accustomed to just hoping to make it to the next day and next week in your pregnancy. However, it was difficult to not let those fears consume me. I had to constantly renew my mind with positive stories, statistics, and information about natural birth.

Fortunately, this little girl stayed in until 39 weeks and 1 day. A stark contrast to her brother’s mere 25 weeks and 5 days. Now I was getting nervous she wouldn’t come out, I would go overdue, and be pressured to have a cesarean (because induction was not an option due to increased risk of uterine rupture). I quickly started shifting gears mentally from “stay in baby” to, “come out baby!” at around the 36-37 week mark.

We semi-selfishly prayed that we would have her before the end of the year. We didn’t want to have to meet a new insurance deductible if she arrived after January 1st. Pregnancies for us are already expensive! And I didn’t want to have to fight doctors to let me go to 42 weeks before scheduling a c-section.

To help prepare and/or encourage labor, I started drinking red raspberry leaf tea almost daily, as well as taking baths almost every night (mostly due to difficulty sleeping). We had intercourse several times after 36 weeks, after the cerclage was removed and the doctors took me off any restrictions.

The night I went into labor we also had intercourse and I took a bath at about 11pm before going to bed. I slept well for about 3 hours, then woke up around 3am feeling like I had some constipation so I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet for a while trying to pass a bowel movement when I realized my ‘gas pains’ were forming a pattern and quickly became intense enough that I started timing them. After about 15 minutes I realized that my ‘gas pains’ were 2-3 minutes apart! Holy moly I think I’m in labor! I woke up Jonathan at around 3:30am and calmly told him, “I don’t want to panic but I am pretty sure I'm in labor and contractions are really close together so we probably need to leave soon”. I was already getting to the point where I had to stop whatever I was doing and breathe through contractions as we were packing the car. I was very unprepared emotionally for labor to get so intense immediately. I was certain I would labor at home for a while, and expected a few false alarms. For me to wake up out of a dead sleep and be in active labor was a bit of a shock and it was hard for me to transition mentally into managing pain and breathing techniques.
We called the hospital, a bit concerned that we should even make the 45 minute drive. We had switched hospitals/practices at around 33 weeks so I could deliver with a midwife, and so we could financially save hundreds of dollars by not being charged an hourly ‘doctor standby fee’ during labor. That meant a longer drive outside of town, as opposed to the ten-minute drive to our local hospital. We took the risk of making the drive, praying the whole way that we would make it in time. All I kept thinking about was stories (including one from my friend, on the same day our son Judah was born) about delivering on the side of the road or in the car!

With it being Christmas Eve morning, many of our ‘standby babysitters’ were out of town, so we reluctantly had to take our son Judah with us, praying that someone would come available while we waited for Jonathan’s mom, Mary, to drive up from North Carolina, expecting to arrive at about 10am.

We made it to the hospital at about 5:30am and the midwife on call, Mary, arrived within minutes of my arrival. She immediately read over my birth plan and chatted with me. Another small answer to prayer… this hospital/practice was much more open to birth plans than the other one. I was never questioned or belittled when noting my preferences (minus a random insensitive nurse), and they honored every one of them for both the baby and myself.

Shortly after arriving, they hooked me up to a monitor. Another thing I was really hoping for was being about to walk around and be mobile during labor. Being a VBAC, I was required to be consistently monitored, which I understood… but the hospital was being stricter on VBAC patients for some reason, not even allowing them to use the wireless telemetry unit. I was warned by the midwives that it may not be available to me. I fully expected to have to negotiate and be a difficult patient in attempt to have more freedoms during labor.
When I asked if I could move around a bit more, even though the nurse sounded crabby, no one said a word in opposition as they switched me over to the ONLY telemetry unit the hospital owned!
Ironically, contractions were getting a bit more intense, and I had little time to even know what positions felt better than others, so I just leaned over the bed most of the time and breathed through them. I had no desire to walk, squat, or stand. I ended up not even wanting/needing wireless monitoring.
When Mary checked me after being admitted, I was already 7.5cm and 100% effaced! I couldn’t believe I was already that far along. Jonathan held half-asleep and confused Judah while she rubbed my back through contractions, which is exactly what I needed and felt good. She was very ‘hands-off’ and respectful about my labor, gently offering suggestions and being present and available, but not wanting to take over in any way. Out of the four midwives available, I am certain the Lord picked the one that fit my personality and needs the best. My only experiences of hospital staff in the past has usually been one of intrusiveness, so to have someone come in that is there to assist me personally, and direct gently and patiently was a breath of fresh air.

Thankfully, our friend, Mary, who was on our babysitter call list returned my call at about 7am and graciously offered to drive down and pick up Judah. We were starting to get concerned that he would be with us for all of my labor, and a few nurses started telling us, “you know he can’t be here during delivery”, as if we had a choice in the matter!
From the time I arrived at the hospital, until I started pushing, time seemed to blur together. It certainly didn’t feel like I was in labor for over 2 hours before I started pushing.
I labored on hands and knees on the bed for quite a while, moaning through the contractions the way I had been reading and learning from birthing classes and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. It did help during that phase. Not once during labor did I even think about the risk of uterine rupture or the possibility of having a c-section. I had peace that there would be no complications. I reminded myself often to breathe deep to make sure the baby was getting enough oxygen, too.
At one point a nurse asked me THE stupid question, “on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain right now?” and I replied, “I would prefer not to answer that!” Several people chuckled and my midwife said, “yeah we don’t like that question around here.”
After that two hour period, I was on my back for most of the rest of labor and delivery, which I was certain would be the last position I’d ever choose, but I was getting tired and no other position felt comfortable, even though they would have allowed me to push/deliver the baby in any position I wanted. I was getting increasingly uncomfortable, and in my mind I often was frantically searching for that ‘happy place’ I could go to in order to manage pain better. Like I said earlier, I was not mentally prepared to progress so quickly, and therefore was not handling contractions as effectively as I think I could have.
At one point, shortly before the pushing phase, I started losing energy and I told the midwife I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do this. She responded with, “That’s called transition.” I immediately perked up and regained motivation, realizing I was nearing the finish line, and Mary could see the end was near.
After dealing with an anterior lip in the cervix, which Mary graciously (yet painfully) helped resolve, she told me I could start pushing. Now, in my mind, pushing meant the baby was almost here, ready to crown, and I just had to give a good 10-20 minutes of pushing or so in order to deliver the baby. I was not mentally prepared to push longer than that. I’m not sure why I had that in my mind. I guess the way everyone kept encouraging me with ‘you’re doing great, she’s almost here, you’re so close’… made me think she was really just on the verge of being born. Though I am thankful for the way Jonathan and Mary did keep my morale up with that encouragement, it really was the motivation I needed to keep going.
About 20 minutes in to my pushing, Jonathan had to take Judah down to be picked up by Mary…
Side note: By the way, did you notice a trend there? How sweet and ironic that on Christmas Eve, three very key people present to help with our daughter’s arrival were named Mary.

While Jonathan was away for that 10-minute period, I got very nervous I would deliver the baby without him. Some of the nurses thought I slowed down just to make sure he made it back in time. But little did I know it would be another 30 minutes or so before she was born. When he returned, I started losing concentration and control. I found myself, after pushing through two contractions, losing control on the third contraction. Not breathing right, not pushing well, feeling panicky, and losing motivation, screaming in pain instead of using low guttural groans.

Meanwhile, Jonathan was completely fascinated with the experience. He watched the baby progressing, he kept a cool washcloth available for me, and Mary made sure to keep him involved. He was a wonderful labor partner, even though for the majority of the time there was little he could do to help. Mary coached me on how to push most effectively, which I really appreciate. They noticed that my best progress in bringing the baby down further was pushing three times and then taking the last bit of energy from the contraction and pushing a fourth time. Once they told me how much progress that was doing, it motivated me to put all my effort into that fourth push each time.

The only annoyance I had while pushing was (and this might be TMI), I would poop a little quite frequently during pushes, and the nurse EVERY.SINGLE.TIME would make me raise my butt off the bed to change the pad under me. I could have cared less if I was sitting on or near a little bit of poop to be honest. She was using my precious recovery time in between contractions to make me change the bed pad. I was getting really annoyed with that.

Finally, at 9:01am, I made those last pushes as our baby girl entered the world.

Brielle Julianne Tack joined our family, weighing 6lbs 15oz, 18” long, and 13” head. I’ve already thanked her several times for being a small baby, hah!

As they immediately put her to my chest to bond for a while, I honestly could only think about how much relief it was, physically speaking, to be done with pushing and labor. She was HERE. It wasn’t extremely emotional but it was extremely satisfying and I felt full of gratitude.
Jonathan cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, then I delivered the placenta in two pushes. I wasn’t sure I’d want to see the placenta, but she showed it to us and we were both fascinated by it!
I had a few second-degree superficial tears that needed stitching, and some hemorrhoids, but otherwise no complications. One of the most uncomfortable things was when they would push on my stomach to check for blood clotting.

This was truly a story of emotional healing and redemption for me personally. For all that I missed with my firstborn, I feel the Lord gave me this precious gift with our daughter's birth. As intense as it was, it all happened with such fluidity and calm, that it could only have happened by careful orchestration from our Creator. People ask me if I got the birth I hoped for, and if things happened according to my birth plan. I can honestly say it was above and beyond my expectations. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday for Brielle. The timing, the people involved, the emotional and physical encouragement I received, and especially and most importantly, the outcome of health for everyone and a successful VBAC.
I take no credit, but glorify God for His gift to us, just hours before we celebrate His most precious gift that He gave us by sending His Son, Jesus, that Christmas Day. I also have a whole new outlook and respect for Mary delivering that baby in a stinky stable all by herself. Major props to her! ;)

Meaning of her name:
Brielle is the feminine form of the name Gabriel, one of the angels in the Bible, which means “God is my Might”. Julianne means “Youthful” and “Full of Grace”, and is taken from several family members names: Julia after my Great-Aunt Dorothy Julia, and Ann after Jonathan’s mother’s mother, Ann, and Jonathan’s mother, Mary Annette.

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