The longest week of my life.

This is the story of the birth of Moses Jacob Maurer. It’s not for the fainthearted or for anyone who doesn’t really want to hear about labor and delivery. It is for those who’ve asked and for me to remember. You’ve been warned.

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Five days. Five days of on-again-off-again prodromal labor. It started on Sunday, the 20th– my due date. Around 3:00 AM. Regular contractions growing increasingly more painful, lasting longer, and more frequent. I get to juuuuuuuust before what my midwives deem time-to-go-to-the-hospital…. and then they just start tapering off. 4 mins apart moves to 5, then 6, then 7, and then they’re totally sporadic, but insanely painful. After five days of this, my body is utterly exhausted, my spirit is pretty much crushed, and my poor uterus is crying for it all to just stop. My mind is stuck in a perpetual cycle of “Come on, Moses, just come out already” and “Oh God, no, please no more pain!” I fight the latter because they tell me it puts the brakes on labor. I’m trying.

As the sun set on day four, I found myself looking at my birth plan and convinced that it was written by a psychopath. Natural, unmedicated childbirth. What the hell was I thinking. Drugs? Sign me up. Scheduling a C-section? Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Even the episiotomy doesn’t sound so bad if it’ll just get this kid out of me. Just. get. him. out. of. me. Get him out NOW.

And my faith? Oh, where is my faith? So weak. So tired. Is He still good? Is He still faithful? Does He still know best? Do I still trust Him? I have to preach it because I know it’s true, although right now my heart doesn’t really want to hear it.

Yes, He’s still good. This baby is a precious gift. I know that none of this will matter once I get to hold my son.
Yes, He’s still faithful. He hasn’t abandoned me. He’s with me, sustaining me. He must be, I’m surely not holding myself together.
Yes, He knows best. This one is the hardest. I expect He knew I couldn’t handle it, that after four days of intensive labor that wouldn’t progress beyond 5 cm, I needed to rest and finally push on day five.

And He gave me Aaron. Oh God, what a precious gift. My wonderful, wonderful husband who has never been known for being a terribly empathetic person has been the most precious gift of all in those five super intense days. He gave up a week of his paternity leave to support me while we waited for my labor to progress. Part of my heart is jealous to have that week back– I so wanted us to have those two weeks all to ourselves. Just the three of us, resting, recuperating, bonding, adjusting. God had other plans. He’s no less good or trustworthy. He knew I couldn’t do it without him.

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At 1:00 AM on Thursday the 24th, for some reason, I started to panic. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t stand the pain any more, none of the labor positions I’d been using were working any more, there wasn’t anything I could do to cope with the pain of the contractions except cry and pray it would be over soon. I called the midwife and explained and although my contractions still weren’t progressing beyond 5 mins apart, she told us to come to the hospital. (We weren’t allowed to deliver at the birth center because of my low iron levels.)

Five centimeters. It was three on Monday. They explained that since it had taken me this long to get to just five, it could take another four or five days to finally progress to ten–  I knew I couldn’t handle that. They suggested that I consider pain management so I could rest and have energy to push. I refused the epidural, but agreed to a mild narcotic that only lasts a short time and still allows me to feel contractions, but takes the edge off so I could sleep. At 6:00 AM, against everything I thought I wanted or believed in, we started the pitocin. Slowly at first, then increasing every 45 mins, to try to help me finally progress. The contractions began slowly increasing in frequency and intensity and after a while, it was all kind of a blur. Our amazing doula was there, Aaron was there, some nurses… all offering me water or food or juice or hospital clothes, wanting me in different positions. The baby was head down, but facing slightly in the wrong direction. I don’t remember much beyond that until the pain got so bad that I completely lost control of my body. They kept telling me not to push, but I couldn’t help it. My body was pushing whether I wanted it to or not and no amount of “blowing it away” was going to help. So they called the midwife and we tried pushing… for an hour. No dice. No more cervix but no more progression either. I was exhausted.

Finally, they offered the epidural again. I didn’t want it, but I did. They explained that I needed energy to push and I’d been laboring for days and pushing for an hour and I just didn’t have any energy. It was the last possible hope of having a vaginal birth (which I cared about less and less every moment). So, I agreed. Take the epidural, get some sleep, resume pushing.

The relief was almost instant. I hated being tied to the bed– I knew that in labor gravity was my friend, but I so needed rest. I remember feeling only three things after getting the epidural: 1) Freezing cold. Aaron had about 14 blankets on me and I still couldn’t stop shivering. 2) The weirdo position they had me in hurt way less. 3) Moses digging into my rib cage. Thanks a lot, kid.

After a few hours, it was time to push. I pushed for four more hours. I could feel the epidural wearing off with each contraction, but I knew I needed to be able to feel the pain to be able to push and I didn’t want any more interventions. The mirror helped at first, but then only discouraged me with each contraction I couldn’t manage to push his head out. Then came the ring of fire. Lord have mercy, no one had to explain that term to me, I instantly knew what it meant. For a while, I kept waiting for the pain to subside– like maybe with each contraction and attempt to push that I didn’t manage to actually push him out, I might at least stretch a little. When it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, I just accepted that like everything else in labor, nothing was going to happen on my terms.

Finally, at 6:42 pm, he came. My sweet, 7 lb 15 oz and very long baby finally made it out. They took him immediately– apparently there was a small amount of meconium fluid and while that meant I didn’t get to have immediate skin-to-skin contact, breastfeed, or delayed cord clamping, I was just thankful it was over and that I could hear my son yelling (not crying, yelling) on the warming table as the nurses tended to him.

At last. No more pregnancy, no more prodromal labor, no more pushing, no more heartburn or nausea or sleeping on one side or the other. Just a snuggly little boy with an oddly wise look in his stormy grey eyes.

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Almost two weeks later, with my little baby Moses lying beside me, happily listening to Iron & Wine and gazing up at me– I can’t say I’ve forgotten the pain. Or that I want to do it again any time in the foreseeable future. And I never felt like an amazon warrior woman. I never even felt strong. They say you’ll feel all those things in labor, but I didn’t. And not one single thing about my experience in labor and delivery went according to my birth plan. Not. one.

What I did feel most keenly was my desperate need for Jesus. I needed His strength, I had none of my own. I needed His sustaining grace, I was so weary. I needed His presence, I was in such deep despair. I remember people telling me “You can do this!” and me thinking “No, I can’t. I really, really can’t.” I needed Him to deliver me… quite literally. And He did.

Despite all these unmet expectations, I must say I had one thing right. This little guy? SO worth it.

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