Of Miracles and Grace: Theodore’s Birth Story
I’ve never been a “birth story” kinda gal. Only a couple times have I found myself reading one. In fact, birth stories made me anxious. They caused me to fear the discomfort and pain that accompany ushering a child into the world.
Then, as I walked through loss after loss, birth stories reminded me of delivering the three babies I desperately longed to meet but never got to. They made me long for a different story than the one God had ordained for my life—one where babies don’t die in utero and mamas don’t have to live with an ache so deep. So I began to avoid birth stories in an effort to keep my mind fixed on Jesus and content with the lot he had given me.
Honestly, I find it weird that I’m sitting on my couch, staring at my computer and writing this today. But as I ponder what took place just a few weeks ago, I’m left in awe of God. Maybe sharing the story of how God brought our little (big) miracle into the world would lead others to be amazed by him like I am? If so, it’s worth taking the time.
Flashbacks and Fight or Flight
“Honey, you need to sign up for a birth class.” my sweet husband prompted me while awaiting our 20-week ultrasound. We were halfway through the pregnancy and I found myself avoiding the reality that this baby had to come out somehow and I should probably know what to expect. But inside I doubted we’d make it to a birth class and signing up seemed pointless. More than that, the trauma of my first miscarriage had left me with a deeply ingrained fear of labor. Flashbacks of writhing in pain on the floor while hyperventilating resurfaced in my mind often. Reminders of contractions (which I now know truly were contractions) that didn’t end in the joy of a baby on my chest haunted me. Pair that with the normal fears of uncertainty many women experience and you have a woman whose fight or flight instinct kicks in at the sight of a simple video about labor.
At some point, I succumbed to the fact that whether my baby was okay or not, I’d have to go through labor and delivery. So I attended the birth classes, asked my doula questions, and listened to the stories of friends who had experienced both miscarriages and live births. Slowly, the hair on my neck didn’t stand up at the thought of labor and I developed a “birth plan.”
Open-Handed Birth Plan
I’m not always a rebellious person but can I be honest? The conversation around natural birth has many times provoked me to annoyance. I don’t have much tolerance for pride regarding an event that we have little to no control over. Babies are created, sustained, and birthed by the grace of God alone. Women are merely a vessel. The push toward laboring naturally because it’s “better” almost pushed me to get an epidural immediately and be done with it. But I wanted to do what was best for me and my baby. So, I prayerfully wrote out my birth plan and committed to holding it loosely.
Firstly, I hoped to avoid getting induced. I also wanted to labor naturally for as long as possible and hoped to make it to seven centimeters before deciding on the epidural. Strange as it may seem, I desired to feel the labor pains that end in joy. I imagined it would be redemptive in an earthly sort of way. But I also wanted the moments before his arrival into the world to be marked by peace and not fear. And since what I most feared was transition, I decided to consider an epidural once I made it to that point. I strove to be open-handed with these desires.
I later realized that in all of these “plans”, I was trying to protect myself from extra discomfort. But God wanted to protect me from my love of comfort.
The Lord began chipping away at my worship of comfort through both our fertility struggles and pregnancy. It seems obvious to me now that he would continue to do so in the labor and delivery room.
You see, I was afraid of everything from the IV, to Pitocin, to possibly throwing up, to blood draws, to maybe tearing, to pretty much every single part of birthing a child.
After waiting 41 weeks and 5 days for little Theodore to come on his own, we made the hard decision to start the induction process—something I’d hoped to avoid since I’d heard the horror stories of Pitocin births. My Doctor, known for his low intervention rates, scheduled us for a Foley Bulb Catheter Induction which has been known to trigger a woman’s body to go into labor.
On September 17th at 8am, we arrived at the hospital to have the Foley Bulb inserted. I was a nervous wreck. I knew it was going to hurt and I was dreading it with all my being. And wow. Such pain. But I was amazed at how God strengthened me through it. It also helped to have a sweet husband to hang on to. We headed home hoping labor would finally progress and I began cramping almost immediately.
I continued to have inconsistent contractions the rest of the day but around 6pm they came to a halt. It was time to go back to the hospital for a full-blown induction. I was slightly disappointed but in good spirits. I had imagined myself being filled with anxiety at that point but I was about to meet this little person I’d already grown to love so much, and somehow I was filled with peace.
I was surprised by this peace. So many anxious tears fell from my eyes in the months and weeks leading up to labor. But that evening, I walked into the hospital, checked in for my induction, put on my nightgown, and waited on the Lord with a calm heart.
Fear Upon Fear, Grace Upon Grace
Like I said, I was very fearful of almost every aspect of labor. I’ve never handled blood draws well and I nearly passed out the first time I received an IV. You’d think after all the blood draws for our fertility struggles and the countless blood thinner shots during pregnancy would have broken me of this, but fears run deep don’t they? I was planning to have a hep-lock so I could be more comfortable but inductions don’t allow for that. I noticed that many of the “safeguards” I had sought to put in place were being stripped away.
Go into labor naturally. Avoid intervention. No Pitocin, please. Hep-Lock instead of an IV. No Antibiotics. (Unfortunately, I tested positive for Group B Strep.)
And then there was that dreaded Foley Bulb Catheter that I’d hoped would’ve fallen out by then. I was uncomfortable, but I was okay. It wasn’t how I’d hoped things would go but I knew it was all happening exactly as a good God had planned.
But as they prepared to put my IV in, fear rose up within again. My husband held my hand and I breathed through it. Then it was over. I didn’t pass out as I’d feared. God met me again. I’m thankful that he carries us through even the smallest of fears.
They began the Pitocin and we began waiting.
At 2am, I’d had my fill of the catheter. The contractions were consistent, but not too bad. I was starting to get concerned that this would go on for many more hours. My sweet nurse wiggled the catheter and to our surprise, it came right out! She checked me and I was 5cm dilated. I was so relieved to have it out, I nearly cried. I told her I loved her and boy did I mean it.
Almost immediately, I went into active labor and my contractions were getting more intense. It was familiar pain, though. I had experienced this when I labored my first baby into Heaven. Truly, it was only a touch worse than the physical pain I went through a little over two years before. It was awful, but I surprised myself at how I could laugh and tell stories in between. I didn’t hyperventilate or have a panic attack; I didn’t feel hopeless or helpless. It was night and day. It was healing for me—redemptive even. Finally, after laboring and losing three of my babies, I would (Lord willing) get to behold our miracle baby’s face. I’d get to hold his hand and kiss his feet. Finally, I’d meet one of our babies face to face, holding him in my arms and not just in my heart.
When I pictured myself in labor, I saw an anxious mess of a woman. But that night, by the grace of God alone, I saw someone I never knew lived inside of me. I saw a woman, enabled by God and empowered by his Spirit to face long-held fears with faith. I witnessed from within what a powerful God can do through a very weak woman.
I labored like that until about 5:30am and decided after a few back-to-back contractions, to go ahead with the epidural. I knew I could go through the remainder of labor without it, but I didn’t want to. (Praise the Lord for pain medication! Can I get an amen?!) Another rush of fear struck me, though. I knew I wanted relief but I was also extremely afraid of getting the epidural. But again, God’s provision was evident. My sweet nurse held me still as each contraction hit while it was administered. He provided strength and comfort through her in those moments and it truly was nowhere near as scary as I’d made it up to be in my head.
My plans to make it to 7cm before getting the epidural had long since left the delivery room. So you can imagine how I sensed God’s kindness when she checked me and said, “You’re just under 7cm. Basically there.” I made it. Surprise and thanksgiving filled my heart. My nurse believed I’d be holding my baby that morning.
The epidural took a little while to work but thankfully I was able to rest for an hour or two before pushing. The room was quiet and peaceful. Many of the same songs I clung to as I walked through miscarriage after miscarriage playing in the background. “He will hold me fast.” Those sweet lyrics I needed most. Reminders of God’s sufficient grace and his shepherding love. He had carried me through loss and now he was carrying me through labor. He was good then and he is good now.
“I Never Believed I’d Experience This.”
Shortly after, they checked me and I was very close to 10cm. They called my Doctor and informed me it was almost time to push. I was nervous about pushing—even with the epidural. What if I tear? What if I have to have an emergency c-section? What if something happens to my baby? I submitted these fears to the Lord as I waited to begin the process of partnering with him to usher another soul into the world.
My Doctor arrived and we discovered I was “10 centimeters and then some.” They broke my water and lowered the epidural so I could feel a little more. Around 9:45am, it was time. I was about to meet our sweet baby boy.
Unfortunately, it would take quite a bit longer until he was in my arms. I pushed and I pushed, but his head wouldn’t budge. It was stuck, and it was stuck for a long time. At some point, my epidural wore off and I was back to feeling contractions. I tried to push with the pain but my mind and body weren’t in agreement. After a couple of tries, they upped my epidural so I could keep going. And I pushed some more.
Still, nothing. His head remained lodged under my pubic bone. His heart rate dipped a couple times and we were all getting concerned. After two hours of pushing, my OB made the decision to use the vacuum to assist in delivery. I knew what this meant: an increased chance of tearing. I submitted to God’s will for my birth and recovery and just prayed we could get our little guy out safely.
The room became a bit more chaotic as nurses for me and baby prepared to do their duties. The vacuum was placed on Theodore’s head and I started pushing again. In those moments, it was almost like an out of body experience. I was surrounded by my sweet husband, my doula and friend, my doctor, and multiple nurses, cheering me on. Again, God provided exactly what I needed. I needed to hear my husband’s reassuring voice. I needed that nurse who counted down for me, giving me a goal to reach when I wanted to give up. I needed my friend reminding me that I was almost there. I even needed the frustration I felt that I couldn’t get him out! God used all of these things to give me strength to persevere.
The epidural started to fade again, but this time I wasn’t giving up. I needed to keep going for the safety of my child. I remember in between contractions hearing these precious words from one of my favorite songs: “Your grace is sufficient for me. Your strength is made perfect when I am weak.” What a gift it is to have a God so near.
After 28 hours altogether, with two and a half hours of pushing, on September 18th at 12:18pm, I heard my sweet boy cry for the very first time.
He was 9lbs 5oz. He came out covered in poop and immediately peed all over the place (including on me), but I didn’t care. I was so relieved he was here and he was safe. When I opened my eyes and they placed him on my chest, I praised the God who gives and takes away. The God who this time, chose to give.
Theodore’s name means “God-given.” We didn’t know that until after we chose the name. As I held him in front of me and his eyes opened and locked with mine, tears filled my eyes. “I never believed I’d experience this.” Truly, I was beholding a miracle—God’s gift.
He was here. After years of loss and heartbreak, our prayers were answered. We finally got to meet and hold one of our babies. This doesn’t erase the grief we experienced (and still experience at times), but we are so thankful.
I know many of you may be hoping and praying for a child even still. Some of you have lost babies and others have never experienced life in their womb. I’m so sorry. I know the ache of barrenness and my heart breaks with those who have to carry it. I pray my story would encourage you—not because I received a child this side of Heaven, but because God was faithful and good even when I didn’t.
We must place our hope fully in the Giver and not the gift. We must trust that he knows best whether he gives or withholds. I know it’s hard, please believe me. It’s so, so hard. But I promise he is good, even in our grief.
My losses put feet to my faith. They solidified my trust in God’s goodness. I pray that your grief would do the same. For that is a gift that’s value far surpasses any earthly gift.