Allegra shared the beautiful and redemptive story of her second birth in our last birth story post that you can read here. Today she's sharing about her next birth and her switch to home!
I always thought I had a grasp on what it meant to surrender, but I quickly have learned over the last year and a half that my concept of surrender was nothing compared to what the Lord needed of me. This story starts about 18 months ago when my husband, Tom, and I began trying to get pregnant with our 3 rd child shortly after our daughter turned 1. We quickly discovered that getting pregnant this time was not going to happen as swiftly as it had with our first two children. This was the beginning of my journey into discovering how deeply I needed to learn how to surrender. After a few months of trying we decided to stop actively trying, as it was starting to wear on me mentally and physically. I had my NaPro trained primary care physician run some blood work and she started me on Progesterone in the second half of my cycle due to low levels.
I felt so much more like myself with this little change, and we continued to just focus on our two toddlers for the time being, surrending to God that if it be His will we would expand our family in His time. I was cooking dinner a few months later and my 3 year old son says to me very matter of factually, “Mommy you have a baby in your belly.” I didn’t think much of it until a week later when I realized my period was a few days late. I took a test the next day and sure enough I was pregnant! We were so thankful and so very excited that our family would be growing.
This was my hardest pregnancy, and throughout it I found myself coming back to God and surrendering it all to Him. The awful food aversions, complete lack of energy, and horrible aches and pains that made it hard to keep up with my 2 other children some days. I gave it all to Him and continued to go back to the foot of the Cross frequently to give some more. Towards the end of my pregnancy I started thinking it’s got to get easier, but it didn’t and God asked me to keep surrendering more. Terrible heartburn, anxiety, swelling, and those last few weeks of 100-degree weather combined with prodromal labor. If I sat quietly in prayer I could hear him saying, “Surrender it all to me, Allegra”. Not only was He asking me to surrender all of the things I mentioned above, but He was also asking me to surrender how I would bring this baby into the world.
I had a traumatic vaginal hospital birth with my son, a redeeming natural hospital birth with my daughter, and yet the story for this baby would be entirely different. I have worked in healthcare my whole career, so having your baby in the hospital was just what you did. Certainly being in the hospital was your safest option, right? I never would have thought myself to question this, but I found that I was. Even though I had successfully had a natural hospital birth, when I really started to reflect on it I found myself feeling unsatisfied with certain aspects of it. Confounded by the fact that the amazing Christian doula I had during the birth of my daughter was now a homebirth midwife, I seriously began contemplating birthing this baby at home.
My husband was so incredibly supportive, and after meeting with the midwives about halfway through my pregnancy he was all on board for a homebirth. I still had my reservations and continued to see my OB until I was almost 34 weeks pregnant. I really did love my OB and appreciated her approach to birth, but I still knew how the cascade of interventions can so easily play out in the hospital. At this point I knew I needed to decide what I was going to do. I was scared to be at home in case something went wrong, but at the same time I couldn’t imagine having my baby without the midwife, who previously was my doula. I knew she’d take the best possible care of my baby and I during labor and birth. So again, I went to God in prayer and he told me to surrender to Him, to trust that this was in His hands. So we began preparing for a birth at home. I chose not to tell anyone our plan ahead of time, except my Mom who would be helping with our two older kids. I did this mostly because I knew I couldn’t handle the unsolicited advice or opinions of others at this state in my pregnancy.
As I said earlier this was my hardest pregnancy, physically and mentally. The last few weeks were so tough on me, I wasn’t sure I’d maintain my sanity until the end. I started having prodromal labor at about 36 weeks. I’d have some days were I’d even start having patterning to my contractions to the point where I’d started to get hope that I would definitely be having this baby early. I felt pretty helpless when each week passed, with more prodromal labor and no sign that baby was actually coming early. My midwife thought that baby had its hand up by its face, making me more prone to contractions as my body was trying to get baby into a better position to deliver. I did all of the stretches, spinning baby exercises, and inversions to try to get that hand to move out of the way, but regardless of what I tried I continued to feel that little hand right down by my pelvis.
At 38 weeks and a few days I experienced 2.5 days of decent contractions. By the end of the first day I was sure I was in labor and even called the midwives to come, only to learn that it was all still prodromal and I was only dilated 1cm. I cried, and I cried some more after that evening. I was starting to feel mentally exhausted that I kept having so much prodromal labor, yet no sign of baby.
“Surrender, Allegra. Surrender, Allegra.”
Okay, fine I’ll surrender some more. On my due date we were leaving church and I felt a small gush of fluid. I immediately got excited that my water had broken and I was finally going to have this baby. It turned out not to be my water breaking and after another day of strong prodromal contractions I succumbed to more surrendering that the baby would not be arriving on its due date. I had never had a pregnancy go past 39 weeks, so this passing the due date thing was new territory for me. And once again, I found myself having to dig into that surrender.
On Thursday of that week, when I was 40+5 weeks, I noticed my contractions getting a little more intense when I was having them. They still didn’t seem to be getting to a consistent pattern, but I definitely felt like they were changing. I tried not to get too excited, because I had been fooled by the prodromal labor before. My husband had taken the kids to his parent’s house for the day, and in the evening I drove to meet them for dinner. On the drive I noticed my contractions were about 10 minutes apart, but again I wasn’t letting myself get too excited. By the time we got home about 9:00 that evening I realized the contractions were picking up. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep because they had started getting intense. I called my doula at about 3 a.m. and asked her to come, and I let the midwives know what was going on.
From 3-5 my contractions really picked up and by 5 I was starting to get frustrated. I had been so hopeful that with my weeks of prodromal labor I’d have a few hours of contractions and then the baby would be here. It seemed like that wasn’t going to be the case, and I just kept worrying that maybe the baby’s hand was preventing things from moving like they should. I got in the tub around 5:15, and the midwife and her birth assistant arrived shortly after that. She could tell that I was getting frustrated, so she suggested I try to go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet for a little bit. I really couldn’t sit long before I started to feel like I wanted to throw up. I remember saying I don’t think I can do this anymore. My midwife asked if I wanted her to check me. I said yes, because at this point I needed to know where I was at, to better prepare myself mentally for what was ahead of me. She checked me, and said I was fully dilated and asked me if I wanted to get back in the tub to push. I said yes, and we moved back to the tub.
After a few pushes in the water I could feel that my water broke. I thought it can’t be much longer, but after a few more pushes still no baby. My midwife suggested we get out of the tub and move to the bed to try more positions since the baby had just had a deep deceleration (with appropriate recovery) with my last push in the water. To add to the chaos, our 2-year old and 4-year old decided to wake up around this time. My Mom was on her way to help with them, but in the mean time my husband was going back and forth between them and me because my daughter was having a hard time not being able to be with mommy.
I had really been hopeful for a brief pushing phase, but once I got to the bed my midwife said it was probably the hand by the head making it harder. We tried multiple different positions and thankfully baby’s heart rate was tolerating much better now. There were still some decelerations though so we knew we needed to get the baby out sooner rather than later. I really had to dig deep into myself and surrender that final bit that I had to get to the finish line. It seemed like hours of pushing, but really was only about 40 minutes. It was hard though, and truly sanctifying work.
Finally with a big push I could feel the baby crowning. I started to push a little more slowly at the encouragement of my midwife and then with the next big push the baby was out. My midwife unwrapped the cord from the neck and then put the baby immediately to my chest. It took a few seconds and then we heard a good cry. I looked to see what the gender was and exclaimed to the room, “I knew you were a girl!”
The next few hours were pure bliss. I loved being in our home on my own bed immediately after birth. I loved that my other children were able to run up and meet their new sister just minutes after she was born.
I had extremely minimal bleeding, without needing additional medications, for the first time after giving birth, likely because I was able to deliver my placenta without any additional pulling or tugging. I also have always had to be catheterized after birth because I can never go to the bathroom right away. This time my midwife had me drink some water and wait a little bit until I felt like I could actually go. I was so thrilled when I could go on my own, because in the hospital I always felt like my body was failing me by not being able to go, when in reality my pelvic floor probably just needed a little more time to relax. I could go on and on about all the things I loved about being at home post delivery. It was nothing I could have imagined prior to the experience.
Our midwife did the newborn exam about an hour and a half after she was born, and we were so surprised that she was 9 lbs. 2 ounces, my biggest baby by a pound! Even with her size and the hand by her head during delivery, I had no tearing. That felt like such a miracle, which I was very thankful for. I was so proud of myself for overcoming my fears of homebirth and for overcoming the challenges I faced during labor. Oh the surrender that it required, but the end result was so sweet.
My midwife came back the next day to check on us and she said she was reflecting on my birth. She said she truly felt like the Lord led me to homebirth, because if I would have been in the hospital they probably would have recommended a C-section or vacuum/forceps delivery with the suboptimal positioning and hand by her face and the decelerations of her heart rate intermittently during pushing. I told her I wondered the same thing.
I then told her how thankful I was that I made that leap of faith and surrendered my pregnancy and birth to the Lord. Although it wasn’t the water birth I had imagined it truly was a birth full of answered prayers. We are so grateful for the gift of our sweet Azélie “Zélie” Marie, named after St. Zélie Martin.
Allegra resides in the Midwest with her husband and three young children. She holds a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and works very part time as a pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She enjoys getting to stay home with her children as her primary vocation.