The Birth of Olesia Elizabeth
The birth journey of my third child begins shortly after my second. The birth of my daughter was amazing and perfect and I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. However, now having felt as though I conquered natural birth, I wanted to experience it differently. With the birth of my daughter, it had been in the winter and it had been dark out. For my next birth, I wanted to be outside in the light of either the sun or the moon. I wanted to feel the breeze.
Over the next four years, God began arranging things in my life to allow me to have a birth according to my vision. We moved across the country to sunny Arizona. We lived two years holed up in a tiny 800 square foot apartment with two kids until God brought the perfect house with the backyard I had been dreaming of. I planted plants to fill the backyard with life. We bought a cheap hot tub that I planned to give birth in. We hung beautiful wind chimes and patio lights. It was all coming together, though I wasn’t even pregnant.
Finally, in May of 2012, we began trying for a baby. On October 3rd, my husband’s birthday, we found out little Raspberry was on the way. We nicknamed the baby Raspberry because that was the size of the baby when we found out we were expecting.
As thrilled as I was to be having a baby and as sure as I was that this was the Lord’s timing, I struggled with emotions during this pregnancy. For two years prior to conceiving, I felt the Lord calling us to have more children. I continued to delay conception because I wanted my husband to have a good job first. I wanted to be in a stable situation because I believed you don’t bring children into the world unless you can afford them. I continued to say no to God. Finally, I felt Him saying to me, “Look, you’re going to have to trust me to provide for these kids for the rest of their lives. These are my kids, my responsibility.” I told God okay; I would do it.
When the baby was officially on the way, however, I continued to struggle with the joy of having a baby, balanced with the struggle of a meager income. My husband was working 80-100 hours a week. The bills were piling up. I was stuck on the couch with nausea.
In January, once the holidays had passed, I began a huge job search for my husband. I spent hours every day applying him everywhere. I balanced that with beginning to knit for the baby.
At the very end of January, I got a cold that stuffed up my nose. One night, I awoke in a panic attack, my adrenaline flowing. I had issues with not being able to breathe. I had experienced this after I had my daughter, but eventually it subsided. Now it was back. I thought it would go away, yet it didn’t. I didn’t feel right lying my head down. Every time I did lie down, my head would feel stuffed up andcrazy and I would have to sit up. If I did lay down, my body would jolt awake just as I was about to sleep. I got to the point of sleeping only 1-2 hours a day. I would sit up on the couch to sleep with the T.V. on. I would have to go outside often to not feel claustrophobic. I would pace my house and take frequent walks because I couldn’t relax. I was exhausted, though it got to the point that I got all day anxiety and couldn’t even sit on the couch.
One night, I had a panic attack that didn’t end. It went all night long. My husband and I were driving up and down the street trying to calm me. I was vomiting. The next day, I decided I was never going to experience that again. Luckily, we had a midwife appointment that morning. I broke down crying while there. My midwife got me in to see the O.B. she collaborates with. He prescribed things for anxiety and to help me sleep. It was a blessing. I had been so against medication of any kind, even Tylenol, but I felt God saying to me, “Don’t limit the ways in which I choose to help you. It was no accident that you live in this time and this country in a city with available pharmacies and that you got in to see the doctor today.” I felt humbled.
Things slowly got better. I began sleeping again. I started being able to sit on the couch. I started being able to connect with life again. I began to prepare for the baby and feel excited. I wanted to have a 3D ultrasound so I could connect with the baby. It was a magical experience at 34 weeks and started the debate of whether we were having a boy or girl. It would remain a surprise just as we had the first two times.
As much as I hate to admit it, I felt conflicted about the pregnancy from the majority of the time. However, I was working on a special project for my kids. I was making belly casts with a special verse of it for each of them. I began praying about which verse should be for which child. For this baby I got, Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart.” Shortly after receiving this verse (about a week or two), our pastor gave a sermon on being anointed; what it was, the significance. We got an alter call to go forward if we wanted to be anointed. I definitely wanted to. The whole sermon had been about being “set apart.” Once up at the front, I told God no funny business. I wanted to get through the whole process in a composed manner. I didn’t want to show emotion in front of the whole church. God told me too bad. All the sudden, I felt God. My entire body down to my toes got warm and tingly. It didn’t hurt at all, but was definitely a distinct sensation. I felt God say to me, “This is love. This is only a small tiny part of what I feel for this child and I’m letting you feel it.” I broke down and sobbed. I felt as though I was up front there for the baby. God loves His children and sets them apart. I needed to experience this during this pregnancy. It was what I needed to make peace with my feelings and uncertainties.
We nested for weeks with every imaginable project. I finished my knitting and sewing a blanket for the baby. We organized every nook and cranny of the house. We got out all the baby stuff, sold things around the house we didn’t need, did yard work, and readied the birthing supplies. It took weekend after weekend for several months.
Finally, around 39 weeks, I was nearing a finish. I could no longer sleep well, though 39 weeks was pretty good I knew comfort-wise. The only thing we didn’t have done was the hot tub. My husband had been trying to get the heater element to work for weeks. It just wasn’t coming along.
I decided I was going to have to go into labor soon though because the temperature was starting to get into the 110’s. I wanted my due date because it was a break from some clouds and chance of rain (which is rare in the desert) and it was supposed to be around 90 degrees F. I got my wish.
At 40 weeks, exactly on my due date, I awoke at 8:00 a.m. with mild contractions. I knew right away labor would be kicking in at some point soon as these were different from what I had been feeling. Throughout the day, the contractions slowed just as they had done with my last birth. I figured they would pick up again at night. I spent the day cleaning bathrooms, dusting, doing laundry, and vacuuming. My husband came home for an hour in the middle of his work day just to clean the kitchen.
That night around 12:00 a.m., I was still up dusting and running around to finish preparing things while my husband worked feverishly to fix that darn hot tub and fill it. Finally, at 1:00 a.m., I laid down in the bed determined to sleep. I wasn’t contracting much. Well, 1:00 a.m. seems to be a good time for me because labor began to pick up again just as it had at the same time with my daughter. By 2:00 a.m., I had had enough strong contractions that I was no longer comfortable lying down. And by enough, I mean about four. I came out into the living room and tried out different positions. I leaned over the back of the couch, tried hands and knees, the birthing ball, and finally I settled on leaning over the island counter in the kitchen because it was the perfect height for comfort. We put a purple towel on the floor so it wasn’t so hard on my feet and there I labored, standing as I had during my second birth. I called my husband each time a wave came so he could push on my back. I did not have back labor, but the pushing helped numb the front pain, providing a counter-balance. The waves were very low this time, unlike how they’d been with my daughter and I wasn’t as prepared to handle the sensation there. The waves were also stronger quicker and stronger than even my strongest wave had been with my last labor. I complained the whole time that I didn’t want to do this; that I wanted to be done.
Several nights before labor, I was complaining to my husband about labor. “Who would sign up for this?” I complained. “What a dumb design by God! Why would anyone agree to go through this event that they didn’t know when it would begin or how long it would be, but they knew it would cause pain and change their life forever.” Who would agree to that?”
God replied to me in His gentle, quiet voice, “I did.” I stopped, frozen into silence.
“God, what do you mean?” He gave me a verse.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken form me. Yet not as I will, but you will.” Mathew 26:38-40
I was reminded that what Jesus suffered was far worse than what I was going to go through. I often overlook His sacrifice because I mean He’s God! But He was also completely human. And He didn’t feel ready for what He was going to go through either. He wanted more time just like I did. He was so nervous, He was sweating blood. Then He chose to surrender. He went willingly. He was beaten nearly to the point of death, mocked, ridiculed, and drug through the streets until His very life was taken. I sat there quietly just to absorb that. Jesus wasn’t asking me to do anything He hadn’t already done. He had done more.
I tried to surrender into my labor. I still complained, but I choose to let it happen and go with it.
“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” John 16:21
I realized I was getting an actual baby! I was going to get joy for my suffering.
As I labored, my husband got the hot tub working, attached a hose to the hot water heater, and filled the hot tub in between pushing on my back. Somewhere in hour 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., my husband began to insist that we call the midwife. I still didn’t believe this was it. I thought I had hours left. “I just don’t want her to get here and tell me we have hours left,” I said. “I can’t handle that.” My husband insisted this was it. Finally, after deliberating for an hour, I left him call her. She was on her way. In between a wave, I texted my photographer friend who was also going to be coming. Okay! Everyone was on their way.
Sometime after 5:00 a.m., the midwife arrived. I got in the hot tub in the backyard. It began to get light out. The sun shone on my face. The midwife’s assistant arrived. They continued to heat water in the microwave and fill the hot tub. I felt a little cold from the water, though it was warm out. My friend arrived and began snapping pictures. My husband continued pushing on my back during waves.
20 minutes later and only 30 minutes after the midwife began keeping notes, I couldn’t take the pain anymore. With my first natural birth, I didn’t want to call it pain or admit it was pain. “It’s just intense,” I said. Yeah, it’s pain. I wanted to crawl up a wall. Something fascinating happened though. I actually decided I couldn’t take the feeling anymore and I started to actively try to relax my entire vaginal area and bottom half of my body during a wave. I had been focusing on the pain and must have been clenching that area or at least not relaxing. Once I relaxed that area, it was like I rose above the pain. It was hard to do and took every ounce of my focus and many times, I faltered and succumbed to the pain again. But I kept trying. For several contractions, this is what I did. With that area relaxed, I felt no pain. Sitting in the hot tub or leaning forward was very helpful to do this. I was at the time and have been since, fascinated by being able to do this however. I chose to relax and I chose to birth my baby.
“Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. Isaiah 66:9
Suddenly, I felt the baby drop down in a rush to crowing. My water broke, though I wasn’t aware at the time. I let out a large toot. With my daughter, I felt each sensation one at a time, first pushes in the butt, then her head moved lower, pushes in the vagina, then the ring of fire, and finally her sliding out. This time, I felt everything all at once, a head in my butt and vagina and partially sticking out and a burning sensation. I thought with one little push, the baby would just slide out, but it didn’t. I pushed, and didn’t feel anything happen. I started to feel desperate and done. I continued to bear down and push. The only way these feelings would be over was to get the baby out.
“Breathe, pant, go slowly,” my midwife and her assistant said.
I couldn’t. I had to be done. I pushed about four or five times in a rapid succession. I don’t even think I was pushing with a contraction. The first few pushes didn’t feel like they had done anything. I let out some screams with the next pushes. I had to scream because I had to muster every ounce of strength within my body to push that baby out and screaming was the only way to do it. I was surprised because I had been quiet with my daughter. Finally, the baby popped out.
I had my eyes closed because I was working so hard. I had heard my midwife ask my husband if he was catching. I was aware of where my husband was standing and where my midwife was, which was behind my husband and to the side of me. My husband responded that he couldn’t because I wouldn’t let him. I was then aware that I was holding his hand back and pushing against it with my own. “Who’s getting the baby?” I thought. I peeked my eyes open for one tiny second, to see the baby under the water right in front of me. I scooped it up into my arms and held on tight and squeezed my eyes shut again. The pictures from the birth show me crying and very emotional during this time, but I don’t remember that. All I remember was holding the baby. The birth had gone so quick, we didn’t even get the video camera set up.
Everyone began asking if the baby was a boy or girl. “Hold on, I’m not ready yet,” I said. I had to catch my breathe. I asked my friend with some urgency to go wake up my oldest two kids. They had wanted to be at the birth. I had assumed they would wake up before the baby came. They came out several minutes later, bleary eyed. I asked if anyone could tell by the baby’s face what gender we had. We couldn’t tell. I slowly looked and let everyone else look before saying, “It’s a girl!” It was relieving to know and exciting at the same time. I felt joy for my daughter who had really wanted a girl. I felt sadness for my son who had really wanted a brother. He turned away disappointed for a moment. He hadn’t even been prepared to come outside. It was quite a way to wake up.
We cut the cord, wrapped the baby in towels, and she went inside to get warmed up. The water was not quite warm enough.
I held the cord to the placenta without applying any traction. I just wanted to know where it was. I began pushing slightly. Finally, it came out slowly and I pulled it up out of the water cradling it in my hands. I stared at it and inspected it, amazed. Now, I encapsulate placentas for a living, so this was somewhat normal for me and not at all gross. My midwife was amazed I had “delivered” my own placenta. We put it in my designated placenta bowl. I didn’t know how much time had passed, but it all seemed so quick.
My midwife and husband helped me out of the hot tub and into the living room where the couch awaited me all nicely made up. I held the baby skin to skin before breastfeeding and then getting cleaned up. The baby got weighed (7lb 8oz), measured (19.5 inches) and assessed. She checked out just fine. After what seemed like just a short time, the midwife and her assistant left and my friend left shortly after. We were home with our new baby and it was over!
“There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
The night before, shortly before labor had picked up, I thought to myself,” Why do I do this at home? Why don’t I just go to the hospital and get an epidural like normal women? Why do I make myself do this?” As soon as the baby came and I was home and comfortable and no one was there to bother us and I had had a beautiful experience, I realized why I do this.
For the first day after the birth, I never wanted to do it again. It had been miserable. The day after that, I wanted to do it again and again. Babies are amazing, especially when they’re your own!