A set of numbers that will forever be branded on my heart, as they mark the beginning of our beautiful daughter’s life. Our hope and promise awaited, finally realized, and finally in our arms. Nothing, no words can fully describe the joy, the love, or the fulfillment that has completely overtaken my world since that day. It was, and is, incomparably, the best day of my life. Here’s the story…
River was due on March 7th, and it didn’t take long after her due date for my midwives to begin discussing induction.
Of course, I wanted her delivery to begin naturally...and like many first time moms, I imagined my water breaking in a dramatic fashion and and being rushed to the hospital at a perfect 9 cm. Haha! Thankfully, I had my Mom’s many birth experiences, and my doula, Bridget, to help give me a more realistic picture of early labor. Though I felt initially discouraged about our plan to be induced, I knew and believed that God was in charge, and I was ready to stop waiting!
Prior to our due date, I spent a lot of time praying, planning, and thinking about River’s birth.
I listened to podcasts, read books, made a worship playlist for labor, wrote encouraging reminders and verses down on notecards, and met with my doula to discuss additional ways to labor the way we wanted to. My hope was to deliver vaginally without any medication. In preparation for this, Bridget coached Reed and I through varying positions and methods to offset the pain and get through contractions peacefully. I prayed that God would use Reed and I to be a blessing and testimony to our medical staff, and daily offered up our birth plan with open hands, surrendering what we wanted for whatever his best would be.
We were induced on the 14th and arrived at the hospital at 9pm that night. We were still waiting for my bag of waters to break and I was at about 3 cm. In order to get contractions going, I agreed to a small dose of pitocin and early labor began at around 11pm, which is when we called Bridget to join us. Let me stop right here to make a PSA. All of my soon-to-be mommys who are in the Bay Area...move heaven and earth to have Bridget by your side. (And if you don’t live in the Bay, look for a doula near you!) During my pregnancy, Reed and I originally agreed we wanted it to be just us in the delivery room. I have a big family, and we have the most incredible support system, but we wanted to experience labor and delivery as a couple, especially knowing how overwhelming this first time would already be. But when the opportunity came for us to have Bridget as additional support, I knew the Lord was giving us a gift.
Looking back, it’s so clear God knew just what our experience would be, and how desperately we would need the expertise, peaceful presence, reassurance, and strength Bridget brought to our labor.
Reed and I can both honestly say there is no way we could have managed the following 18+ hours of labor without her. Her ability to remain alert and attentive to my every need, her positivity in the unexpected, and the way she coached Reed through it all, were what we needed when it felt like our baby would never come. Whether you plan to have a natural birth, c-section, home birth, whatever...hiring a doula to be a part of your experience is something you won’t regret! This is not an ad! Just trust me! As I labored through the night, my contractions grew closer together and more painful. I was dilating at an extremely slow pace and there was still no sign of broken water. After what felt like endless hours of very arduous labor, my medical team grew concerned about progress.
At this point, when interventions began to happen, and fear threatened our experience, I truly felt the Lord meet me. Bridget began reading my verses out loud and we turned our worship music on. I was so tired from the contractions, I was struggling to stay awake...but I just kept battling one moment at a time. I remember praying in my heart, “Lord, help me breathe. Help me go on. Be my strength where mine is giving out.” And just as he always has, he gave me the ability to keep going beyond what I thought was possible, and to remain optimistic when I felt stuck.
My midwife eventually had to break my bag of waters, and after that, our situation progressed quickly, but in an unexpected direction.
Despite their encouragement to take the epidural, I wanted to hold out and see if I could transition from 7.5 cm to pushing, but then our baby’s blood pressure began to plummet. My contractions were at their most painful and basically on top of each other, making it hard to move, but my support team helped me get on all fours to hopefully reposition baby. I was given an oxygen mask, yet nothing was stabilizing. My midwives calmly communicated that we would require an emergency c-section in order for our baby to be born safely. At this stage, we knew there was no other option, and despite our disappointment, our concern was no longer “the plan” but the safety of our baby.
In what felt like a split-second, I was being rolled out of my room, away from Bridget and Reed, and placed on an operating table.
I was told Reed might be able to join me, but that would depend on whether or not I would receive a numbing agent and remain awake, or if they would need to put me under. This was scary. I would be lying to say it was anything else. I was sitting in what I had previously described as my “worst case scenario.” As far as I was concerned, c-section was the last thing I wanted and the thing I feared the most. I had heard horror stories about recovery, and imagined something very different for myself. I quite literally prayed that I would not have one!
But let me tell you this: there, on that table, with tears streaming down my face, I felt the comfort and divine strength of God wash over me in the most tangible way I ever have.
As I had to release control and the delivery I wanted for myself, I experienced the God of the Universe carry me, and he used the doctors and midwives around me to show me his kindness. Women with masks and gloves on, stroked my hair, whispered encouragement in my ear, told me I was beautiful and brave, and held my hand. I never, not even for a moment, felt alone.
In those hurried moments of preparing my body for surgery, I utilized every tool Bridget had given me for breathing through the fear, and remembering my “why.” Physical labor was over, but I went into a fierce mental labor that really was a testament to how strong I had become. Then, I looked over and Reed was walking through the door in his scrubs. I sobbed at the sight of him, and felt so grateful to be able to witness our child coming into the world with him holding my hand. In his peaceful, “Reed way,” he told me, “I am so proud of you. We are almost done. In just a few moments, we will have our baby.”
He was right. Soon they announced, “It’s a girl!” and we heard that first cry.
Love took over my whole being. I bawled uncontrollably at the sight of her, the most perfect little thing I had ever seen, the one I had been waiting for...the one I had been fighting for. They brought her over to us, and I have never felt more complete, or a greater joy. We named her River Grace, her name story is here, and I couldn’t stop kissing that hairy head of hers! As far as unexpected turns go, this was yet another one. Throughout my entire pregnancy both Reed and I were SURE it was a boy. So much so, that we tirelessly talked about boy names, didn’t buy a single bow, and even occasionally referred to our baby using male pronouns! Yet again, God had something else in mind and gifted us with the girl of our dreams!
The minute she was in my arms, it no longer mattered how she got there.
Though my c-section was scary, I could not help but feel deeply grateful they were able to intervene and save our baby. As they performed the surgery, they confirmed that my umbilical cord had wrapped around River’s neck, potentially suffocating her, and causing her blood pressure to drop. No matter how my labor was progressing, or what my body had done, this was an emergency no one saw coming! Thankfully, my doctor stepped in and we had no reason to fear. Every turn was a step towards her, so a step worth taking. The following two nights at the hospital were a blur, and though the initial recovery was extremely painful, I knew then what I didn’t know before: I could endure. Whatever felt impossible really wasn’t, and every ounce of pain or discomfort paled in comparison to the joy of having our girl.
I remember these days with a smile on my face, because I now know what God was teaching me.
From having Bridget with us, to being induced, all the way to requiring a c-section...the Lord showed me how beautiful it is to need people. How important it is to need Him. There, in my neediness, in the partnership of others, and in his strength through my weakness, intimacy grew. I see this lesson in Reed holding my hands while Bridget rubbed my back. I see it in the team of powerful and gentle women who operated on me and brought River into the world. I see it in my mom’s packed bag and comforting voice as she helped me overnight in the hospital. I see it in the kind man who wheeled me out of my room and helped me into my car. I see it in the meals dropped on our doorstep, and the texts/calls that came pouring in.
When I wanted to be Superwoman, God wanted instead for me to be like the lame man lowered through the ceiling by his friends...ready and desperate for a touch from Jesus.
In my immobility, in my neediness, and in the newness of being River’s mother, I was healed of my pride and desire to prove something. God knew where my real affliction was, and set me free so that I could truly embrace the humbling and often hidden role of motherhood. So when I wake in the middle of the night to feed River, or when she is crying in her crib, I marvel and delight at how innately and intimately she needs me. And there in those moments, I realize that’s right where God wants me too.
Reed and I want to thank every one of you, for how you have prayed for us, believed for this miracle with us, and for how you have supported us - both near and far. River will know every day of her life what it means to belong to one another because of how you have surrounded us, and we are so grateful.
She is doing fantastic and I am recovering more and more every day! She’s nearly a month old and how that is possible I will never know! Time is flying by. This life with her is beyond our wildest dreams. Our eyes are tired but our hearts are bursting. Love describes it but doesn’t seem to cover it. All is well.
PS - If you’re interested in learning more about Bridget and her doula services, check out her website and follow her on Instagram.