My body changed slowly, but surely. In the first few months I often wondered if people thought I was just chubby or had eaten a really large meal. It wasn't until month six when my belly shot out. Yay, I finally looked pregnant! I LOVED being pregnant. Despite the morning sickness, tiredness, and the low sex drive (yup, I said it), pregnancy was a blast! I found a deep love for naps and the couch became a good friend of mine. Red meat became a new staple in my diet, which was probably Daniel's favorite part about my pregnancy. (Once a week burger dates are still ongoing) Pregnancy changes your life on many levels.
Everyday I would ponder the gift of life and stored treasured revelation away in my heart. It was hard to believe there was a tiny human living inside of me. I was her comfort, her growing place, her home. We went everywhere together. I would sing to her, pray over her, and tell her stories. I longed to meet her and hold her in my arms. I dreamed of her face and her laugh. I felt like I knew her already. With every kick, I knew her spunk. With every somersault I could envision the years to come of adventurous bliss alongside my sweet girl. She would be my right-hand girl, my song bird, my friend. She would be everything I dreamed of and more. And she is.
Fast forward to the last trimester, I was 39 weeks pregnant and looking more and more like I swallowed a beach ball. My hips were achey and I was SO ready to not be pregnant anymore. I knew I would be giving birth on February 5th. God told me so. I questioned him at first, but then I remembered the countless times he has proven to be accurate when he speaks. He knew the exact moment our girl would take her first breath.
I went into early labor on February 5th. The sun wasn't up yet, but I was. Annoying, sharp pains woke me up every hour. Thankfully I was able to go back to sleep, getting the much needed rest for the hard work ahead. I thought I was having Braxton Hicks (pre-term contractions that prepare the uterus for labor), but in reality I was beginning the long process of labor.
I was ready. Well, as ready as I could be. The fridge was stocked with coconut water and peanut butter energy balls (http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/no-bake-energy-bites/) I had been going to the gym weekly to prepare my body. I prayed over my body and my baby girl everyday, asking God to free me from fear and give me a peaceful labor. Zoe had two parents that loved her, clothes, a bed, and a bath. What more could a girl want? I prepared myself in the ways I knew how, but really only Jesus could prepare me for what was to come. My life was about to get turned upside down.
I woke Daniel up around 8 am and told him I thought I was in labor. The contractions were very mild, but still uncomfortable. I was able to go about my morning without thinking about them too much. Daniel decided to call his boss and take the day off work just in case things progressed. Daniel suggested taking a walk to take my mind off things and spend some time together.
Sitting at Starbucks the contractions came with greater intensity and frequency. I wanted to go home. I knew labor was advancing and I wanted to be in the comfort and familiarity of our house. As we ventured home I was having difficulty walking. We had to stop a few times so I could breath through the contractions and gain my composure again.
Arriving home, the contractions were even closer together. I could no longer focus on anything else but my body and remaining peaceful. Just to be sure I was in labor I asked God to give me a sign. I asked him to either allow my water to break or make my mucous plug come out, and about ten minutes later I lost my mucous plug. Daniel called our doula, updated her on my status, and she was on her way.
When Rebekah (my doula) arrived I was still doing pretty well. I was coherent and still in a relaxed mood. Rebekah informed me that labor would progress and come in waves. Each stage would bring more intensity, like climbing stairs. She encouraged me to eat something to boost my energy and walk around so labor would gain momentum. Daniel and I took a walk around our apartment building, but soon after leaving I needed to go back. Labor was progressing quickly.
Looking back, everything is a blur to me. Between the time Rebekah arrived and we left for the birth center I'm still confused about the order of events. I do remember the contractions building in intensity, but very slowly over time. Labor felt like it lasted a lifetime. I remember moving around a lot, trying different positions, crying, throwing up, and being afraid. I coped the best on all fours and found that swaying my hips back and forth helped ease the pain, a little. I didn't really know beforehand what I would be like during labor, but now I know that intense pain turns me inward. I spoke very little and focused all my attention and energy on getting through each contraction.
Daniel did an amazing job encouraging me and letting me know he was near. Rebekah would read scripture over me when the pain was too much to bear, and they both prayed me through my labor. I couldn't have done it without them by my side.
During my labor I had some of my favorite peaceful, inspirational music playing in the background. The words in the songs lifted me out of darkness in moments of fear. I was desperate for God's presence knowing that without him I wouldn't make it through another contraction. I felt weak and spent, but my body knew exactly what it was doing, even as it screamed defeat. In between contractions I would rest and open my mouth knowing Daniel would be there with a sip of water.
I never actually thought that I couldn't do it. I knew I was going to meet my little girl. The enemy tried to steal my hope, but he did not succeed. My trust was in the Lord. His peace was covering me. He was my strength when I felt weak and close to me every step of the way. I've never known his presence and strength in such a tangible way as I did then.
Just when I thought the pain couldn't get any worse, it increased. I couldn't handle it any more, letting Daniel know I was ready to leave for the birth center. I labored for close to 9 hours in our apartment before Rebekah made the final call that it was transition time. Pushing was on the horizon.
Looking back I find myself laughing at how dramatic I am when I'm exhausted. During one specific contraction Selena Gomez happened to pop up on my birth playlist. I still don't know how that got on there. I was in the zone and hearing some song about kissing boys totally ruined my groove. I think I actually got frustrated and reached for my phone to change the song. Atmosphere was everything.
Getting to the car was also a funny sight. I forgot to put on a bra, didn't even care to slip on my shoes, and I left the house without Daniel and Rebekah. At this point I was in a bit of a panic and wasn't thinking logically. I was in survival mode. My goal: get to the car without dying. I was desperate to leave and dreading the walk to the elevator and through the garage to our car. The hallway looked as if it was three times in length. I had around four very painful, full-body contractions before making it to the car, and one more kneeling down on the cement by the passenger side. I cared nothing about how I looked or the absurd noises I was making. All I wanted was to see the familiar faces of the midwives who would help get my baby out.
The seven minute car ride to the birth center was the worst. I thought I was going to explode. Her head was coming out and I had to force myself not to push. We pulled into the parking lot and I
It was business time. I don't even remember saying "hi" to the midwives or even acknowledging them. I walked in the door, got on the bed in a position I knew well, and continued to labor. I told the midwives I wanted to push and they gave me permission. I was fully dilated and very ready to birth my baby. They coached me through different pushing techniques and with each push I gained confidence that I was almost to the finish line.
Two hours of pushing later I wasn't feeling as confident. I was defeated. They told me they could see her head, but I didn't care. I think someone even reached my hand down to touch it, but it only grossed me out. I was exhausted and wanted it to be over. Daniel was by my side every moment and even then his presence didn't give me the strength I needed to press on. That strength would need to come from somewhere else.
In between contractions I cried out asking how much longer it would be until she was born. My midwife, Callie, gently but firmly assured me that it was up to me. If I pushed with vigor and courage she would come out faster.
I love a challenge. It was exactly what I needed to hear to bear down and push with all my might. I gritted my teeth, pulled my knee up to my chin, took a deep breath, and pushed. I sounded like I was dying, but the dramatic noises were working. I would hear muffled voices telling me that I was doing amazing and she was almost out. Her head felt stuck and the burning was beyond anything I can explain. I was covered in sweat and in disbelief that the insane burning sensation was actually my daughters head. I couldn't think about it or I would have passed out. I gave about four mamma grizzly pushes and she was born! Relief hit me like a ton of bricks. I did it!
I had my eyes closed most of my labor and when I finally opened them it was to see my daughter being placed on my chest. A flood of emotions overcame me. I was in complete shock. The moment didn't feel real. My tiny daughter looked up into my eyes and I was forever changed. Daniel and I looked at each other in amazement. It's beautiful what our eyes can reveal. We were proud parents. Labor was over and our daughter was permanently part of us.
Our daughter, Zoe Josephine Ma was born at 11:42 pm. She was nineteen inches long and weighed seven pounds, one ounce. She was positively perfect. We brought her home around 3am and slept like bears in hibernation.
Our daughter's name fits her quite well. Zoe means "life" and Josephine means "the Lord increases". She is ever increasing in life and joy! She really does light up a room with her smile and has contagious joy bursts at the seams.
I wouldn't change anything about my birth story. Becoming a mom is better than I expected and harder than I imagined. The love that I feel for Zoe is powerful. I think the hardest part about being a mom so far is being confronted with my own selfishness. Thankfully God is patient and willing to take me around the mountain time and time again, teaching me the same lessons.
I have been trying to think of a way to end this post, but I'm finding it hard to close a story that is still being written. So, there you have it. My birth story. Now everyone go give birth. It's fun.