Joys are always on their way to us. They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming. ~Amy Carmichael

Dear Micah,

It is fitting that you came to us this Advent season through the darkness of the night. Weeks of preterm contractions led up to your birth, and I was prepared for what I thought would probably be a fast labor. I imagined an intense, but peaceful day. I’ve been a doula for too long to not know that birth is unpredictable, but I still never expected the wildness of the hours that would bring you into my arms. But here you rest. Wrapped to my body right now in peaceful slumber. You are okay. Perfect, even. And the world is a better place for your arrival. IMG_9144.JPG

micah_birth_126.jpgIf Advent is the expectant waiting, then birth is the pinnacle of travail, tears, and battle that brings such fragile beauty in its wake.

Such raw power.

Such broken hallelujahs murmured between the waves of contractions. 

But such joy.

I press my lips to your dewy soft forehead and stare into the depths of your eyes and know that it was all worth it. You have been my warrior – my Little Lion Baby – from the day of your conception. How could I picture your birth as anything less?

Micah David Hasz.

Born at 7:16 am on December 8. 7 pounds, 10.2 ounces. 20.25 inches long. IMG_9137.JPG

micah_birth_104.jpgNo matter how the rest of the telling goes of your birth story, I am empowered by the long hours. The arms of your Daddy holding me up. The touch of my doula and dear friend Karina calming quivering muscles. The eyes of my sister soul friend and birth photographer Rachael locking on mine in love and strength. The power of my midwife Tracy and the understanding of my midwife Ellen. The deep sounds of the laboring mother next door.

I was never alone.

Never.

And in birth, that changes everything.

~~~

{The rest of this post shares my heart – and intimate, but perhaps graphic, details – of Micah’s birth. Please don’t read on if you would prefer to not know these moments. But the telling – yes, the actual writing – of this story is for me. My healing. My heart. My memory. My community of birth professionals and passionate mamas who wish to change the face of maternity care. These details are for us, for them, for our the generation that will come after us and who should expect birth to empower no matter how it progresses.}

~~~

My water breaking at 10 pm on the evening of December 7 woke me up from a deep sleep. After a quick text to my midwife, I vacillated between going to bed and waiting to see if labor was going to kick in. At 10:07 pm the first strong contraction began, and very quickly I was having to concentrate, moan, and change positions with each one. Still, I didn’t want to arrive at the birth center too soon, so I tried to get dressed and braid my hair between contractions. By about 10:20 I knew I was going to need to wake your Daddy. Contractions were hard and already 5-7 minutes apart. Your daddy was in a much bigger hurry than I was (thankfully), and we were in the car by 10:40 pm. On the way, contractions were 4-5 minutes apart and made me want to force your dad to break a few traffic laws to get us to our destination faster. (Alas, that’s not his personality.) But, with great calm, he steadied me, and Tracy met us outside of Baby and Company birth center.

Settling into the beautiful Mama Bear room at the center, candles aglow and bath tub filling, I remember my midwife Tracy Ryan telling me that “It would be soon” based on her exam. I didn’t need to know more than that, but focused on those words in the coming hours. The force of 3-5 minute apart contractions took every ounce of concentration and will power to simply survive. “Surely, you would make your entrance soon,” I believed. IMG_9135.JPG

micah_birth_129.jpgmicah_birth_133.jpgWater was gently poured over my back in a gentle stream. Flooding. Dripping. Easing.

Your Daddy held my hand as I hung over the birth bath tub’s white rim. Gripping. Strengthening. Believing.

The hand held fetal heart doppler regularly declared your heart steady and strong. 130 BPM. 135 BPM. 130 BPM. 

Beating in rhythm for both of us. Our two hearts beating as one. Sharing the intensity of the night. Waiting for morning’s joy.

Surviving.

The next hours became a testimony of sheer survival. I could barely moan deep and low much less stifle the screams that wanted to escape. My doula’s background told me not to waste energy in yelling, but my mama’s body didn’t care. “I just want to be done,” I told Tracy. “I just want to hold Micah.” And while I began pushing intermittently somewhere in the 2 am hour, you kept descending and then disappearing. Nearly crowning and then gone. The moments were agonizing. img_9136

IMG_9224.JPGmicah_birth_178.jpgWe pushed in every position. In the birth tub. On all fours. In a lunge position on the yoga bars. Seated on the birth stool. Laying on the bed on both my back and side. Tracy used a finger forceps technique to aid my pelvis for several of the hours. Karina calmed and steadied me, using pressure points, essential oils, fans, and affirmations. Your Daddy supported me through position changes. My body straining. Deep belly breathing you down. Every ounce of energy poured into moving you down. Over and over again.

Until it was finally enough. And we knew that you needed more help to be born. And it is at this point that I can’t say enough about our transfer process from the birth center to Lutheran hospital. As center manager of Baby+Co, I always rave about the seamless transition, but I was truly overwhelmed by the continuity of care throughout the long night. And for my midwife team. Ellen kept calm even in the midst of my obvious distress. She often just sat quietly, holding the space. And Tracy was my rock. She sat near me for hours, held my body as I pushed, didn’t let me quit, always gave me choices, and orchestrated a transfer to the hospital just as I was nearly spent. “Lauren,” she said after about 4 hours of pushing, “baby needs a little bit more help. You are a powerful pusher, and he is just stuck. There is nothing more we can do here.”

Dawn was just breaking. It was in the late 6 am hour. I yelled and cried and pushed and simply survived as we made the 0.2 mile drive to the hospital, Tracy in the back of the car for support. I remember my body writhing on the seat and the seconds feeling like an eternity. As I look back now on those dark hours, the sun just barely peeking over the horizon, I never want to return to that emotional or physical space. The despair. The pain. The knowledge that the journey was not over until it was over. I had no control over the pace or the place or the coming minutes.

But, that is where miracles happen.

In that place where you lose control.

In that time of desperation.

When we aren’t alone.

As Ann Voskamp writes, That is always the secret to the abundant life: to believe that God is where you doubt He can be.

When we arrived on the labor and delivery floor, a nurse quickly ushered us into Room 1 where a team was already prepared for me thanks to the report that Tracy had called in ahead of time. I was a mess. Covered in bodily fluids. Beyond exhausted. Hours and hours of pushing already in the bag. My face so swollen that my nose had almost disappeared. The blood vessels around my eyes and in my eyes had ruptured and were already red  and swollen. Everyone who saw me in the coming days commented that I looked like I had been in a fight.

Well, I had.

A fight for my your life, my Little Lion Baby.

A fight for my own heart.

A fight to voice as many of my original birth wishes in the face of rapid interventions needed to keep you safe.

And, as I have processed what came next, that is the conclusion that I have arrived at. The interventions were NEEDED, life-saving, life-giving, and not chosen hastily. I replay the room’s scene in my mind. Karina, my doula, right by my side. Tracy acting as nurse and helping me speak my wishes. My dearest friend and photographer Rachael respectfully putting her camera down and simply holding the space. Crying with my husband. David, standing strong, but also breaking with the yearning and the hoping and the fear.

After rushing into the room, I found myself kneeling on the hospital floor. IV being placed. Blood drawn. Nurses introducing themselves. A big white fluffy bath robe from the birth center still wrapped around my shoulders. Gripping the hospital bed, as I bent over it. And still the contractions would not stop coming. The pushing would not stop. The bright florescent lights of the room filled my senses in stark contrast to the dimly lit birth room from which I had come.

And then the OB commented that I was doing a great job pushing and questioned”Did I just want to push for a while longer before trying anything else?”. I nearly cursed. It had been over four hours of pushing and it was not more time that was needed to help you into this world. I knew it. Deep down. Tracy knew it. Something else was going on. And then the doctor also saw what we had been experiencing through the long night: you, Micah, crowning and then re-entering the birth canal back to a +2 or+3 station. He offered me three contractions with a vacuum assist before we immediately moved to a Cesarean.

On my back with my legs up in stirrups barely able to see out of the slits of my swollen eyes, I no longer cared how you arrived. Who delivered you. Whether I was on the birth stool or in the birth tub. I just wanted to hold you to my shaking body. Meet you. Know you were safe. And so I pushed. Again. And with just one vacuum-assisted contraction, your head emerged in an acynclitic position.

My son.

But there was no sound. 

Other than the palpable panic of the nurses and OB in the room.

Immediately, a flurry of activity ensued. I continued to push. Nurses literally put their weight on top of me, using their hands on my belly to assist. The OB expertly inserted his hand around your body to dislodge your shoulder from under my pubic bone and untagle your arms from their twisted position behind your own back.

And in the urgency of those moments, God was still there. I didn’t see His presence then, but I realize it looking back. He was there in the care of an excellent, well-trained hospital staff. He was there in my cries and my husband’s prayers. He was there in the strength of my midwife. I was never alone. You were never alone.

I remember seeing the sun tinge the sky pink outside my hospital room window.

I remember the touch of people who loved me.

The powerful burn of your bluish-toned head and body wedged.

The instants of sheer terror when I wasn’t sure if  you were going to be okay. IMG_9223.JPG

Curled up pushing, I saw you emerge. Your face turn pink. Your first – and instantaneous – cry. It sounded more like “Ma Ma” than any cry I have ever heard. And, I gave thanks. Shaking uncontrollably, my arms received you to my chest and warm blankets covered us.

I was so cold.

So weary.

So done.

The next minutes were a blur. But, I do remember realizing that my body had immediately stopped contracting and the placenta was also stuck. Several different medications were administered including pitocin to no avail. The cord broke and more help was needed.

img_9141img_9142IMG_9143.JPGYou went with your daddy and a nurse to the warmer and the scale, so I could focus. I was given the option of pain medications, but if I accepted, then it would most likely be hours before I would wake up and be able to snuggle you. While I did briefly try nitrous oxide for the second time that night (the gas seems to have no affect on me at all), I refused other pain medications. I had gone without so far, and I would continue without drugs if possible. I might have changed my mind if I knew the pain of a manual placenta extraction. But, thankfully, the doctor was very skilled and fast and the excruciating pain was probably over in 5-7 minutes. I screamed into the nitrous oxide gas mask.

And then you returned to my chest. And we cried and shook and met this great big world together. You, a newborn. Me, also reborn. Cherishing a greater love than I imagined possible. You were worth every moment of that long night. IMG_9140.JPG

We are both healing. More slowly than I had expected prior to your birth, but healing nonetheless. Your broken clavicle should heal in 2-4 weeks. My body is losing its swollen appearance and all but the blood vessels in my eyes have returned to a more normal color. Miraculously, I didn’t tear (I’m chalking that up to all of the essential oils and perineum massage I used in the months leading up to your due date, as well as the collagen I regularly added to drinks/foods) – though I think that miracle also goes way beyond supplements. More importantly, my heart is healing. The trauma is fading. I’ve re-entered the birth center space and cried. Had a massage in one of the birth rooms. Scheduled an appointment with craniosacral therapist for both of us and worked through some of the painful images. In the coming weeks, I plan on taking a postpartum herbal bath with you in one of the big birth center tubs and re-living some of the moments that I missed in the hospital.

Resting. Eating. Nursing. Breathing. Staring at you. Snuggling your sister.

Enjoying the final days of Advent as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth. IMG_9134.JPG

I am not victimized by your birth story. No, not at all. Rather, empowered. Birth was hard and agonizing, but also tangible grace. In the bright light of the hospital. In the vulnerability of those final moments. In our mingled weeping tears.

You came, and I did it.

And, I love you. More than words can say. I love you.

{All photos credit to Rachael Hope of Haven, Life & Photo}

Some women fear the fire. Some women simply become it. ~ R.H. Sin

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