Lessons in Life & Birth
Each birth has a way of teaching us something important. In order for Cecelia’s birth story to have the full impact, we must begin before conception. Yes, there will be some “personal details”, but I think it’s important to share some of these things instead of perpetuating the mysteries of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and womanhood on a whole. To be honest, this isn’t really even a birth story… It’s a story of God’s providence. It is the story of God working an “everyday miracle” in my life that I didn’t think I was deserving of. To be honest, I’m hesitant to even share this story because it feels like bragging. Some of you may read this and think, “Good for her. She got lucky.” or “It must be nice to have it easy”. But as easy as many parts of this story were, many parts were not easy… especially maintaining a sense of faith throughout. It’s hard, too, because I know there are many very faithful women who innately trust God’s will and end up with heartache, trauma, or tragedy. I don’t know why God allows some people to experience heartache while others experience pure joy and perfection, so I don’t want this to be discouraging to women of faith who have difficult pregnancies or traumatic births. What I do know is that God put things in place along the way that seemed like hurdles and challenges, but turned out to be little blessings in disguise, to ensure this birth played ou the way it needed to.
Here is the story of Cecelia Marguerite:
As a mom of four, birth doula, and lactation consultant trying to finally ease into the next chapter of motherhood, we honestly were not planning for another baby. After weaning Kolbe, my cycle was challenging to track, to say the least, so the time came that we took the approach of the “calculated risk” and trust God’s plan. At one point I remember saying something along the lines of, “I’d gladly have one more baby if I could guarantee a sister for Amelia. And since we can’t guarantee that… I won’t try for it.” We were using the Marquette Method of NFP but stopped due to my cycles being very confusing and the sticks being very expensive. I was relying on my tempdrop which decided to act up resulting in misunderstood data that recalibrated after decisions had been made (if you know what I mean). When we realized our “mistake” in interpreting the chart, I knew in my heart another baby was on the way. That week we attended Aiden’s basketball practice and a nearby park where the other kids were playing had the name Cecelia written in huge chalk letters. Nothing else. Just Cecelia. Cecelia was the name we had chosen for if Kolbe was a girl, so it felt like a sign. I pointed it out and told Sebastian it’d be really crazy if I actually WAS pregnant and it WAS a girl… because that’s the coincidence of all coincidences… unless of course you believe in signs from Heaven. 2 weeks later I took a pregnancy test that was negative. So we moved on… but the Monday after Thanksgiving I realized I still hadn’t started my cycle and took another test….. At 5 am I stood in the bathroom repeating “What the fuck” over and over and over and Sebastian came in all bleary eyed, to see what was going on and honestly we both just reacted with shock and fear. I’ll admit I cried. I cried and prayed because I was not ready for this. I did not want to endure another difficult pregnancy… while my pregnancies have all been healthy from a medical standpoint, my mental health and physical pain level is extraordinary during pregnancy. I’m miserable on every level and I didn’t want to do it again. I remember sitting in my bedroom, praying and crying. I remember saying, “God, I’m trying to accept your will here, but it’s hard. Please shed your mercy on me. Please let this be an easy pregnancy, quick and “painless” birth, and a sister for Amelia.” As my pregnancy progressed, I felt great, aside from the fact that pregnancy hormones + my Covid related smell and taste loss resulted in a condition called parsomia where everything I ate and smelled tasted and smelled like DEATH. Thankfully mid second trimester this condition resolved, and I could actually smell and taste my food at probably 80% normal for the first time in over a year. I suspected this baby might be a girl as I felt similar to my pregnancy with Amelia early on: energized and only craving healthy food. I know the old wive’s tales say “Girls steal your beauty” but my entire pregnancy I felt more confident and radiant than ever. It wasn’t until late third trimester I really began feeling inhibited and truly pregnant, and that was after a weird month long sickness that took me out completely in May. Recovering from that was rough.. But up until around 37 weeks I was feeling great. Even as I turned the corner of 39 weeks I was feeling better than that point in ANY of my previous pregnancies. I was so grateful. I was able to wear my rings up to the birth for the first time ever, and while that’s such a small thing, it was so symbolic for me of how healthy and easy this pregnancy was. Toward the end of my pregnancy I heard a quote that said something along the lines of “We don’t experience every day miracles because we don’t actually believe God can perform miracles. If we believe He can, He will”. I countered this in my heart with, “I fully believe God CAN work miracles, I just have no reason to believe He WILL work a miracle for me. I’m not worthy. There are so many others who need a bigger miracle than what I’m asking for” But alas, I prayed again in Thanks for my easy pregnancy and begged God for one of those quick “painless” births (I didn’t really expect painless, just not horrendously painful either).
Finally! 40 weeks pregnant...
As my due date came and went I was fine because I was expecting to go to 40+5 like I did with all my others (except first… scheduled c-section). But when THAT day came and went, I lost it. I was devastated. During all my previous pregnancies I had weeks of prodromal labor (except Amelia’s it was just one week, every night from 10p - 6am). At that point I had only had a few random bouts of contractions, that all ended up fizzling out and not going anywhere. Nothing like the previous pregnancies though. Friday, August 11th, I took a longggggg bath and listened to some hypno birth tracks. Specifically I listened to one that focused on telling my baby I’m ready to meet him/her. I also spent some time in prayer listening to the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Sebastian came home from work and told me that was his last day. He was not going back to work before the baby came. He knew I needed to know he’d be home as I had a ton of stress around calling him from work in labor (or a false alarm). This relieved me so much, but I also knew I had another deadline breathing down my neck… My mom was in town to help but had to leave Saturday Aug 12th around 7am. My mother in law would be coming that afternoon. But we’d have a gap of time where we didn’t have anyone home with the kids if I went into labor. My mom was concerned about this as well and chose to postpone her flight by a day. So Friday night we decided to have some fun. We went out for Mexican, came home and put the kids to bed, then randomly decided to go night-shopping at walmart and buy a TV for our room… so random but we have never been the type to have a TV in our room but over the last week kept wanting one, so then we did it. It was silly and simple, but felt sooooo luxurious to watch a movie in bed!!!! For the first time in weeks I was living in the moment, relaxed, and not focused on when the baby would or wouldn’t come. I should mention, while we were at Walmart I had a few mild contractions but nothing that made me think labor was any more imminent than before. At 1 am my mom brought Kolbe into my room because he was crying and wouldn’t settle. Once he was asleep I got up to use the bathroom and realized I was having quick, intense contractions, but they were short. I took a bath to see if that would help and they stopped so I went back to bed listening to Gregorian Chant Latin Rosary to help me relax and center. When my mind is going too fast to sleep, this specific music helps me to go into a trance like relaxed state. I half woke up with a few niggles of a contraction a handful of times but again, nothing that really said “Labor is starting”.
Daisy Dog got a Birthday Buddy
At 6am I got up to pee again and had a really strong contraction. I figured it was related to my bladder being full so I ignored it. Then I had another and figured, I just have to poop… (I’ve had that happen a few times by this point. Cramps I hoped were labor just being poop) A few minutes later I realized these were probably real contractions. It was just after 6am and I wanted to walk a bit before it got hot out, so I woke Sebastian up to walk with me in case this was finally the real thing and I could get things moving a bit. So 6am is when I mark the start of timeable contractions signaling me to labor being imminent. During our walk we went around the corner… seriously not far at all, in a very short time and I had about 6 really “good” contractions. We got back to the house and I said, “Okay, I’m calling the midwives. I’ll let them know I’m going to eat breakfast, take a bath and see if that stops things again, and if it doesn’t head into the birth center” — This is an important place to stop and discuss something else about this birth…
After 2 homebirths I was pretty devastated to be going to the birth center instead of staying home, if I’m honest. The closest homebirth midwife was an hour or so away which I was okay with because I always had long labors (though Kolbe’s was weird and I didn’t really accept I was in labor until an hour before he was born), but unfortunately Sebastian’s truck died the same week we needed to commit to paying for our midwife, and ironically the cost of the repair was the same as the homebirth fee… Ultimately we decided we would have to replace the truck outright, but still tapped into our savings too much to be able to manage both expenses. I would have to use an insurance covered option. So I was grateful to have the birth center option. But part of my hope was that things would happen so fast I would just stay home, and after my weird labor with Kolbe, I felt it was a likely reality that I may not realize (or accept) i’m in labor til too late. My last week of pregnancy my prayer changed a bit… I asked God, “If it is safe, please let this baby come at home. If it won’t be safe, please make sure I make it to the birth center”. – Now back to the story —
My midwife texted back to just let her know and she will head to the birth center. My next contraction was really strong and I said “i have to poop” and Sebastian got wide-eyed knowing that probably meant the baby was coming… I laughed and said “No I actually have to poop…I haven’t had any bloody show, I haven’t leaked any fluid, no plug loss… I’m certain it’s just poop” But let me tell you… pooping with labor contractions at the same time is a bit intense… And then it happened… There was bloody show… We looked at each other and agreed on a change of plans… eat breakfast and go to birth center… no more “let’s see how this goes”.
I called the midwife (just 10 minutes after acting like it’s no big deal) and told her the change of plans. Sebastian went to make breakfast. At that point I was starting to vocalize and squat during contractions. My mom woke up and said, “Oh my gosh are you in labor?!!?” The kids came out asking why I was yelling and got excited when they realized the baby was finally coming. I ate and suddenly started freaking out saying “We need to go NOW”. It was just before 7am when we left. The contractions sucked sitting in the truck but Sebastian turned on the heated seat and it helped a TON. As we arrived downtown I realized it was Farmers Market day and we needed milk. The market wasn’t open yet but some vendors were setting up so I told Sebastian to go see if the milk people were there yet so we could get our milk and put it in the fridge at the birth center. That way we don’t forget our milk. Of course they weren’t there yet, so I messaged them asking to hold our milk. I was soooo focused on the dang milk. We got to the birth center around 7:!5 and I got int the tub maybe 7:30… But I quickly couldn’t tolerate the water. I worked through some contractions on the toilet then they brought in the birth swing (best thing ever!!! I always wanted it at my other births and it was amazing to have). But things ramped up FAST. This is where things get pretty blurry. I remember screaming and cussing and feeling like the baby was trying to move down but couldn’t or wouldn’t. I lost my mind because I wanted to be home. I wanted the pain to go away. Something felt “wrong”.
I will say I am DRAMATIC during birth. But this was the worst. Sebastian said I screamed louder than he ever heard me scream before and I shouted “FUCK” more than I ever had before. I cursed Adam and Eve as per my tradition, then scream-begged for God to have mercy on me and end my suffering. (Yes. Dramatic. I know). The sensations I felt were so different from my last two births. I can’t describe what it was but it was horrendous, mostly because I thought I would have to work through more intense contractions for another few hours. At one point I threw myself to the ground and screamed “I’m going to die. This is it. I’m going to die.” I felt so extremely helpless at the thought I was going to have to do this for HOURS longer. Of course everyone around me knew what I knew deep down… this baby was about to be here any minute. Finally on the floor in a sidelying position I had the most intense contraction and screamed like I never had before… I knew her head was coming. I screamed not to let me tear… as if anyone had control over that… Finally a sense of relief for a brief moment. I reached down and felt something huge and slimy. I was so confused… they told me it was her head but it didn't feel like my other babies’ heads…. I didn’t realize my water still hadn’t broken and the membranes were intact around her head and face.
Then my contractions stopped. I couldn’t push any more and didn’t have another contraction.
I quickly grew concerned…. “Put me on hands and knees. I need to be on my hands and knees”. My team stayed calm and encouraged me to just wait a moment and see what happens. Then moments later I heard a bit of concern in their voices as they said we’re getting on hands and knees and everyone helped me turn over. I looked down and saw the amniotic sac hanging. I was so confused at that point and asked what on earth that was… when they told me and I realized what was happening I finally understood why her head felt so weird! Then the bag splattered on the floor and her shoulders emerged, the rest of her finally sliding out. Time: 8:22am I was in labor for a whopping 2 hours and 22 minutes. I thought it was HOURS UPON HOURS. The most amazing thing about an uninhibited birth is how you go from wild animal with no sense of reality to totally calm and aware within seconds. I realized it was a girl and was sooooo shocked and excited! But we also realized she was a little limp and her color was off. I felt straight fear at this moment as I realized the reality of what would have happened if I was anywhere but where I was in that moment…. But we kept her attached to her cord, the midwife stimulated her while the birth assistant got oxygen just in case. Thankfully with some stim and gentle suctioning she quickly perked up. I easily stood up and moved to the bed where I birthed the biggest placenta I’ve ever seen. I sat down in bed with my baby and the midwives kept checking her and stimulating her to cry and clear her lungs.
See… here’s the thing… In the hospital, this birth would’ve gone very differently. They likely wouldn’t have supported me in the positions I needed which likely would have resulted in injury to one or both of us. The amniotic sac was FULL of meconium. They would’ve immediately taken her from me, and likely taken her to the NICU before I even got to see her or touch her or look in her eyes. As a precaution. I was GBS+ and opted out of antibiotics, so that would’ve been an extra “strike against me” resulting in forced interventions. And she was 10lb 5oz which would have resulted in pressure for blood sugar checks, which the birth center did recommend but also respected my decision to wait and watch a bit longer, which resulted in no need for a blood sugar check. At the birth center it was all handled safely, calmly, and skillfully, without causing trauma to either of us. Knowing she was struggling to breathe, I was ready to transfer if it was necessary, but it wasn’t necessary. We were never separated… Cecelia was kept attached to the pulsing umbilical cord which meant her oxygen supply was never cut off. These two factors are a game changer in managing neonatal emergencies at birth. And while contact with mom and staying connected to the cord isn’t always sufficient, it does often make a difference. If I had stayed home without a midwife, one or both of us may not have made it. I believe that in my soul. If I had planned a homebirth with a midwife, the likelihood she would’ve made it in time considering when I realized the whole thing was real and her distance from me is low… meaning I wouldn’t have had skilled support when we needed it. God showed His mercy and blessed us with a truly perfect birth experience. While it was physically the hardest birth I’ve had, the quick labor and easy pregnancy was AMAZING, and my recovery has been nothing short of a breeze, all things considered. Despite being severely anemic 6 weeks prior, I did not suffer from bleeding like I have during previous births. In fact my overall blood loss has been less than any other birth I’ve had. Some people who experience precipitous labor have expressed a sense of trauma from not being able to process the swiftness of the events… and while I totally understand that (it was super scary thinking I had another 8 hours of top level contractions left…but I also knew in my heart that I was in transition and didn’t actually have long to go). I did think I was in labor for like 5 hours, so being told it was less than 3 was mind blowing.
An hour before she was born I was concerned about the fact we didn’t get milk at the farmer’s market...
But I got everything I asked for (except for the whole painless thing… but that was a long shot! hahah).
I got an easy preganncy.
I got a safe and quick birth.
I got another little girl. I even got an encaul baby which I never outwardly asked for but always kind of hoped for.
God made sure I was surrounded by the right team of professionals to ensure both skilled care and compassionate care. Andddd I didn’t have serious blood loss or need any stitches.
And just a few hours later we were home.
I do not feel one ounce of trauma. And it’s amazing. Breastfeeding has been tough, because as expected, she has oral restrictions that we are working through. But aside from that, she’s a dream baby, and I had an (almost) dream birth experience. I still havent had the water birth I dream of but I just have to accept thats not in the cards for me… for my little body to birth these big babies I need to be “on land”. I walked away from this birth learning so much… not about birth. And not even about myself. But about God and His merciful providence… that He does answer prayers… and sometimes his “no” is a better answer than our “yes”. I knew what I wanted but didn’t know what I needed. He did. And when I finally released control and trusted in Him and His will, amazing things happened. It’s still a little scary to think about everything that could have been… If I was in a hospital or if I had been home without a midwife (intentionally or accidentally). But I can’t focus on what could have been, I have to focus on the blessing that was.
I also know that some of this story sounds dramatic and maybe scary for someone who hasn’t experienced natural birth... but I share those details not to scare you, just to let you know that while the beautiful, calm, “pain free” birth experience that is marketed to so many CAN happen and is amazing when it does... birth can have pain and be “scary” but so empowering and beautiful at the same time. It can be raw and intense and not-so-marketable and still be amazing. Painful and hard and challenging and dramatic doesn’t have to be traumatic. It’s a special kind of release that I think some women need to experience in order to bring their baby earth side. I love witnessing a calm, magical, peaceful, birth... but crazy birth is beautiful too.
Oh! And yes, we got our milk… After we were settled in for a bit, I sent Sebastian around the corner to grab our milk before the Market closed. Thankfully our dairy farmer got my message and set milk aside from us… though I think she thought I was crazy so worried about my milk while I was trying to get a baby out… Guess that’s what happens when it's your 5th kid!!! I had 4 other kids I needed to worry about too!