Welcoming Ethan David

(Though I plan to write out the longer story of our wait for Ethan and the Lord’s words and promises in that process of waiting, for now I can at least share the story of his birth)

Ethan David

Born Tuesday, August 18th
2:05 a.m.
7 lbs. 2 oz.
20.5 inches long

EthanDavid_081815-150

Name Meaning

When we found out that we were having a boy, it took us a while to settle on a name. There were plenty of names that we liked, but we really wanted it to be the right name. As we searched through name books and lists online, I kept coming back to the name Ethan. I liked the simplicity of it and that it was a biblical name. Even more than that, though, I liked the meaning of the name, which fit with the words about faithfulness that God had spoken over Ethan before he was even conceived. When I mentioned it to Derek, though, he said, “Eh, it’s okay…” but wasn’t too excited about it. So I set it aside, but still couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the right name for our son.

Then one night, back in April, Derek had a dream about our son, where the Lord spoke a prophetic word over him. As Derek woke up from the dream, he heard the name “Ethan David.” That was all the convincing that Derek needed and we decided that day that his name would be Ethan David.

Ethan means “Strong, solid, enduring, constant, and ever-flowing”.
David means “Beloved”.

There are several men named Ethan in the bible, but the most well-known of them is the writer of Psalm 89, which is an ode to God’s faithfulness, particularly His faithfulness to David.

(We particularly appreciated this explanation of the entomology of the name Ethan: http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Ethan.html#.VeImdfRkEQ0)

Birth Story

Throughout my pregnancy, when people would ask me when I was due, I would tell them the date, but usually qualified it by saying that I expected that I would probably go past then. I had read enough articles about how first babies are often late that it felt safer to assume that our little guy would be as well. So when I started my maternity leave, just slightly less than two weeks before my due date, I knew that technically Ethan could arrive at any point, but I still felt like it would be a while yet. I hadn’t had any Braxton Hicks or any other signs that my body was preparing for labor. Honestly, though, I wasn’t really in a hurry. I still had a list of things I wanted to do before he arrived (food to prepare, important info to assemble for Derek, things to deep clean, a few nursery decorations to finish, etc.). And after working nearly full-time throughout the summer, I actually hoped for a little time to rest, to perhaps emotionally connect a little more with this huge transition happening in my life. Even by the end of my first two weeks of maternity leave, when I’d crossed off most of the items on my to-do list and felt more ready, I didn’t really feel desperate for him to arrive. I never really reached that “I’m so uncomfortable that I can’t stand to be pregnant another day” sort of ready.

That Saturday, two days past my due date, Derek finally roasted his “birth coffee” (a pound of coffee he had set aside to brew for everyone at the birth in anticipation of a long night of labor). We joked that, with the coffee ready, Ethan could come anytime.

I was up often in the night that night and woke up early Sunday morning (about 5:00 a.m.), feeling crampy. I hadn’t had any sort of cramps since right before we found out we were pregnant, so I immediately wondered if something was starting to happen and spend the next hour and a half googling “what do contractions feel like?” – haha! – before heading back to bed. When I woke up again a couple hours later, the crampy feelings continued to come and go, but were still mild. I casually mentioned them to Derek and decided to stay home from church that morning to relax. I made sure I ate a full, protein-packed breakfast in anticipation that I would need to keep up my strength later. After Derek came home from the Boiler Room, we took a walk together, talking about how we might have a baby that night.

By the time we arrived home from our walk, the crampy feelings were more clearly identifiable as contractions, coming in regular patterns and getting increasingly uncomfortable. I ate some lunch and then texted our midwife, Debbie, and doula, Rachel (as well as Erin, who was going to photograph the birth) to give them a heads up that things seemed to be starting. Then I settled myself in the living room on the birthing ball and started timing contractions (this was about 12:30 p.m.). For the next hour and a half, I timed the contractions as coming every 2-4 minutes, but they were still only 30-40 seconds long and pretty easy to manage. I began losing my mucus plug, though, and felt the contractions getting longer and closer together over the course of just one hour, so I felt excited that things seemed to be progressing forward pretty quickly. After timing the contractions for an hour and a half, I texted Debbie and Rachel again to update them. They encouraged me to stop timing the contractions until they got hard to walk and talk through and to rest as much as possible.

The next chunk of time was focused on trying to rest between contractions. First I tried to lay down to nap, but lying down made the contractions much more painful and harder to relax through, I think because I had less options for moving around during each one. I struggle through them for a couple hours before asking Debbie and Rachel for some suggestions for how to rest with contractions. They both gave a few suggestions and I re-settled myself in the living room, sitting on the birthing ball and resting my head on a tall stack of pillows balanced on the arm of the couch, with a heating pad balanced on my back (Derek napped on the couch next to me). Not entirely comfortable, but enough that I was able to sleep between contractions (which were still coming in 5-6 minute intervals at that point). This was about 5 p.m., 12 hours after those first crampy contractions started. I honestly don’t remember how long I rested like that, but eventually I moved back to the bedroom and tried to rest kneeling on the floor and leaning over the ball. That position helped make the contractions more bearable, but made sleep pretty impossible. It wasn’t long before I moved back to the bed again, bringing the heating pad with me since it had been soothing while resting on the birthing ball. Contractions became more painful again as soon as I lay down, but slowed down to 6-7 minutes apart, which allowed me to actually sleep between them.

Somewhere in there, the “bloody show” arrived, so much so that I checked in to make sure that much blood was okay (Debbie assured me that it was normal and actually a good sign because it meant that my cervix was stretching and thinning).

Around 10:00 p.m., I checked in with Rachel and Debbie again, asking if I should keep trying to rest (which seemed to slow things down) or get up and move around (which seemed to increase contractions again). I talked to Rachel on the phone for a bit and she shared that if lying down slowed things down, it was unfortunately a sign that I was probably still in early labor and that once labor was really progressing, the contractions would stay pretty steady no matter what position I was in. Not exactly what I wanted to hear at that point! Debbie encouraged me to take a warm bath or shower, so after I got off the phone with Rachel, I tried that. The warm water finally helped me relax a bit, which made the contractions more manageable. Then I headed back to bed.

For the next four-ish hours, I continued to try to sleep between contractions, but they were getting increasingly painful and I was feeling pretty discouraged that they were so painful while at the same time didn’t seem to be increasing in frequency. Shortly before 3:00 a.m., I talked on the phone with Rachel again and she encouraged and prayed with me. Then it was back to bed again.

By morning, I was grumpy and more than a little discouraged. When contractions started on Sunday, I had been so sure that by Monday morning at least Ethan would be there. But here it was, more than 24 hours later, and I felt like I had barely progressed. Contractions were still coming regularly (every 5-7 minutes) and lasting for a painful 45-50 seconds, but still weren’t getting any more frequent and my bleeding had slowed down. Around 7:00 a.m., both Rachel and Debbie checked in with me to see how I was doing. I talked on the phone with Debbie for a while and shared how discouraged I was. She encouraged me that while these long early labors are hard, often the later portion of labor goes much quicker once it finally arrives. She also reminded me that even the most painful contraction only lasts about a minute, so I could remind myself of that in the midst of it. She instructed me to really focus on relaxing through the contractions, especially relaxing my shoulders and neck because holding tension there (which I had been) was causing the contractions to be more painful, especially in my back. And once again, she encouraged me to go back to bed and rest as much as I could. She did offer to check me if I wanted to come see her that morning. I wasn’t sure about the idea of a car ride at that point, though, and decided to eat a little breakfast (peanut butter toast and a glass of juice) and try resting before checking back in with her. Although it didn’t change where I was in labor, somehow talking to Debbie was the encouragement I needed in that moment to keep persevering.

So after breakfast, I went back to bed and napped again for the rest of the morning, with Derek applying counter pressure on my back and hips during the contractions for a while to help ease some of the pain. Eventually the contraction slowed down significantly, only coming every 10-15 minutes, which meant that I was able to sleep fairly well between them.

Since things had slowed down so much, I contacted Debbie around noon to see if I could come see her (the 25 minute car ride sounded a little more doable at that point) and we set up an appointment for 2:00 p.m. During the car ride down to Grandview, I only had two contractions. With how much everything had slowed down, I was a little apprehensive that when Debbie checked me, I would discover that I was only dilated to 2 cm. or something similarly early in the process. Much to my surprise – and Debbie’s –she discovered that I was dilated to at least 6 cm., close to 7 cm., was 80% effaced, and that the baby’s head was engaged! (that explained why it was so uncomfortable to sit on Debbie’s couch while I waited!) I was so relieved and encouraged! Hearing that things had progressed that far reassured me that my long day (and even longer night) of labor hadn’t been fruitless after all but had indeed been preparing the way for this baby to come. We all felt hopeful, in light of that, that labor would kick into higher gear that night. After checking that the baby’s heartbeat and my blood pressure were both still looking good (they were), Derek and I headed home.

Contractions began picking up again before I even left Debbie’s and were coming every five minutes or so on the way home. By the time we arrived at home and started timing the contractions again, they were coming 2-4 minutes apart and lasting nearly a minute long. I ate a bowl of granola and raw milk and then, once again, tried to lay down to rest, this time in the sunroom. (I had heard that the biggest reason first-time moms transfer to the hospital is because of sheer exhaustion, so I knew that eating and resting during labor was important, especially if it was going to go on for a while). Derek applied pressure on my back during each contraction again, which helped make them more manageable. I wasn’t able to stay lying down as long this time, though. By around 5 p.m., the contractions were lasting a minute or longer and I was up and moving around again, timing the contractions off and on (though not always consistently because it became a little annoying to carry my phone around with me). Shortly after 6:00 p.m., I told Derek I thought it was time to call Rachel and have her come because the contractions were intensifying and I felt ready for some additional support to help me work through them.

It didn’t take long for Rachel to arrive, along with Sarah (one of Debbie’s apprentices). They encouraged Derek to start inflating the birthing pool, so it would be ready whenever we needed it (it takes a little while to set up). Meanwhile, I moved to the bedroom again. I sat on the birthing ball and chatted with Rachel and Sarah in between contractions, jumping up to lean on the dresser whenever one rolled in (there was too much pressure when I stayed on the ball during the contractions). During each contraction, Rachel pushed on my back and reminded me to breathe deeply, make low sounds, relax my shoulders, and bend my legs a bit. In between contractions, she gave me a foot and back rub with lavender oil (the smell of lavender reminds me of birth now) and applied a heating pad to my back. While she did, Sarah took care of keeping a cool washcloth on my neck. Their support at that point made a huge difference in my ability to focus and cope with the contractions. Even though contractions were getting increasingly longer and harder, I feel like labor actually felt easier at that point.

(I set aside my phone when Rachel and Sarah arrived, so my sense of time kind of disappeared from that point on, which was perhaps just what I needed).

While I was laboring in the bedroom, I suggested that Derek should probably contact Erin and she arrived not long after that to begin photographing the birth process.

After laboring for a little while back in the bedroom, Rachel suggested walking around a bit since the contractions were coming close enough together that I would barely sit back down on the ball before I’d be jumping back up for another one. So I paced up and down in the living room and dining room, stopping to lean on the back of a chair or on the table or against a wall whenever a contraction came (I definitely preferred leaning forward on something during contractions). After a little while of this, as the contractions were clearly getting closer together and more intense, Rachel called Debbie so she could listen to a couple contractions to help gauge how far along I might be. Then they had me sit on the toilet and coached me to reach up to see if I could feel the baby’s head yet. I was entirely sure what I was feeling for, but after a little bit of awkwardly poking around in there thought I could feel something like they were describing.

By that point, Derek and Sarah had gotten the pool mostly filled with water so I got into it and began laboring there for a while. The warm water was relaxing and slowed down the contractions a little, but only briefly. I labored in a variety of positions in the pool – on my knees, kneeling with one leg up, then the other – often sitting back against the side of the pool to rest between each contraction.

Eventually Debbie arrived, along with the other Sarah (another apprentice, nearing the end of her apprenticeship). After checking in, Debbie told me that I needed to get out of the water and reset since I had been laboring in there for a couple hours already. She and Sarah helped me sit backwards on the toilet (which took some adjusting in our little bitty bathroom) with my head resting on a stack of pillows on the back. I continued laboring there for a bit as they coached me to make low noises and exhale slowly. Near the end of my time in that position, I heard a small but distinct popping noise. When I stood up shortly after that, I could feel a bit of fluid trickling down my legs, and commented, “Uh, I think my water may have broken on there…” (Derek tells me that this was around 11:00 p.m.).

When I left the bathroom, I lay down on the bed in the sunroom so Debbie could check my progress. She found that Ethan’s head was caught on a bit of my pelvis and coached me to push while she helped ease it out of the way. It took me a few tries to figure out how to push, because I didn’t necessarily feel the urge to yet.

After that, I got back into the pool and started to push in earnest. I pushed in a variety of positions – kneeling by the side of the pool with one leg propped up, then crouching leaned back against the side of the pool with Derek helping hold me up on one side and Rachel holding me up on the other (the bottom of the tub was a little slippery, so it was hard to keep my balance like that), and then eventually down on all fours, my face so close to the water that I sometimes accidentally blew bubbles as I pushed. As I pushed, Debbie encouraged me to reach down so I could feel his head coming. I did and it felt strange at first, but it soon became encouraging, too, to be able to feel his head come to the surface a bit with each push, even though I could also feel it recede again when I stopped pushing. For a while it was hard to imagine how that head was possibly going to fit through, but at the same time I was aware that each push was stretching things a little more so I didn’t have to rush anything and could just take it one push at a time.

Eventually (after a couple hours of pushing, apparently, though it didn’t feel that long to me), Debbie had me step out of the pool again (Derek told me later that there was some blood in the pool then, which worried him, but I wasn’t aware of it). I pushed standing up for a few minutes, because the urge to push continued (and they had encouraged me to listen to my body). During a brief lull in the pushes, they helped me lay down on the bed on my back (not something they normally do, but Debbie wanted to help my perineum stretch so I wouldn’t tear). I pushed for a while like that, as Debbie helped with the stretching. The plan was for me to go back into the pool to finish pushing, but I ended up staying on the bed because I was (relatively) comfortable there and the idea of moving again at that point wasn’t very appealing.

And so, there on the bed, I pushed through that last burning pain (the “ring of fire” that everyone talks about) and then suddenly he was out and they were lifting him up to my chest. This was 2:05 a.m., 45 hours after contractions started and two and a half hours after I started pushing.

It was such a surreal moment, to clutch this little person close, to acknowledge that he was out, that it was finished, that I was done pushing, and that he was here. I think I managed to say something deeply profound (ha!) like, “You’re here! Wow!” but mostly I just hugged him close and looked at him. Behind my head, I could hear Derek crying (which was the sweetest thing to me).

Apparently Ethan was posterior and came out face up (“sunny side up”), which helped the explain the longer labor process (when I looked into posterior labors later, I discovered that the irregular but strong contractions, long early labor, long active labor, and long pushing stage were all fairly common in posterior labors). Amazingly (and, I imagine, thanks in part to Debbie’s help there at the end), I only had one small tear, small enough that Debbie didn’t even end up needing to stitch it.

In the following hour or so, Ethan latched on to nurse for the first time while Debbie and Sarah worked on the other end to help the placenta come out. Then they measured, weighed, and checked Ethan over. I was aware of all this, but in a giddy happy state that I could have cared less what they did at that point, I think! After they did the newborn check, Debbie and Sarah had to leave to head to a second birth that night (they ended up having at least three in about a day and a half, including ours), but Rachel and the other Sarah stayed to finish up. After helping me use the bathroom, they helped get me, Ethan, and Derek settled back in bed in our room and then cooked us breakfast (pancakes, eggs, and sausage) and cleaned up.

The following several days were some of the sweetest in my life, I think, as Derek and I mostly just rested in bed and marveled at this little person. Debbie encourages skin-to-skin contact for the first 72 hours (to help regulate Ethan’s temperature and heart rate and facilitate breastfeeding), so I spent the first few days in almost constant contact with Ethan. We had very few visitors those first few days, which was actually really nice, and Derek took care of the two of us so well. Since then my recovery has been fairly quick, I feel, with only minor discomfort that has lessened as time goes on. I’m nearing the end of the recommended two weeks at home and looking forward to easing back into a new sense of normal now with Ethan.

(The pictures below are thanks to Erin Rufledt, whose presence that night to capture the birth was such a gift to us).

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(At 37 weeks, Derek and I had put together a fairly extensive playlist for the birth, with a variety of worship songs on it. We had it playing for the later part of labor, but most of the time I wasn’t really aware of the music. Except for when this song played. I remember noticing that very last part, “Baby, you’re almost home now/Please don’t quit now/You’re almost home to Me”, as I was pushing. I laughed when I heard it and said something like, “That song is perfect for right now.” When Derek found it and played it for me a couple days later, I cried. Something about it seemed to capture the birthing process for me, that act of willingly pushing through the pain for the sake of bringing our precious, beloved son “home” to us).

“Come Out of Hiding (the Father’s Song)”
(Steffany Gretzinger)

Come out of hiding
You’re safe here with Me
There’s no need to cover
What I already see

You’ve got your reasons
But I hold your peace
You’ve been on lockdown
And I hold the key

‘Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave

Now rid of the shackles, My victory’s yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You’re not far from home

I’ll be your lighthouse
When you’re lost at sea
And I will illuminate
Everything

No need to be frightened
By intimacy
No, just throw off your fear
And come running to Me

‘Cause I loved you before you knew it was love
And I saw it all, still I chose the cross
And you were the one that I was thinking of
When I rose from the grave
Now rid of the shackles, My victory’s yours
I tore the veil for you to come close
There’s no reason to stand at a distance anymore
You’re not far from home
Keep on coming

And oh as you run
What hindered love
Will only become
Part of the story
(4X)

Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to Me
(3X)

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5 Comments

  1. teresa stebbins

     /  August 30, 2015

    So lovely! The birth of a baby is one of life’s greatest miracles and treasures! Reading your story brings back a wash of wonderful memories of our own three birth experiences. You will always remember the day you met little Ethan face to face. Thanks for sharing your story. God bless your new little family!

    Reply
  2. Praise the Lord for his wonders!!! Thank you for sharing your heart about Ethan’s birth!!! God is so faithful! Remarkable birth story!!!! Such an honor to have been apart!

    Reply
  3. Your birth story is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing the detail and emotion of that day(s). Near the end I found myself tearing up, thinking about the nearish arrival of my own baby in just two months. This was inspiring, encouraging, and so touching. 😊

    Reply
    • Somehow I missed your comment! I’m so glad it was encouraging to you! I know I was so encouraged by the birth stories I’ve read over the past couple years. I had hoped that mine could encourage others, too.

      Reply

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