I have always wanted to share Wisdom's birth story, but every time I would think about it, it felt so daunting and inappropriate to put on a photography blog so I never did. All these years later, it the one thing I wish I had done. As years go by, the details get so foggy and you are left with the bits and pieces of a story and that is not something I wanted to see happen twice.
My labors are tough. I had no way of knowing that would be the case the second time around but I had enough intel from the first time to know that the potential for me to have a quick, fast and easy delivery was highly unlikely. Because of this, I went into my pregnancy knowing my labor was likely to be painful and long, so instead of day dreaming about quick and fast, I thought about all the ways that I could bring joy into my experience in the midst of pain.
I think as women, we look to the act of labor as this scary and difficult thing and although those realities exist, labor has the ability to be an act of joy even while pain is happening and I wanted to frame it that way from beginning to end.
37 Weeks, 5 Days Pregnant
At 37 weeks pregnant, I started to swell up pretty badly. I understand that this is the norm for a lot of women by this point, but this wasn't something I had experienced with Wisdom and the swelling didn't behave in a way that would indicate it was related to the last few weeks of pregnancy. I was swollen and tight and it was painful. I remember looking at my aunt (who came to be with me for 6 weeks) and saying "something's not right." She was convinced I was just swelling from the end, but I just could tell there was more to the story. I had Braxton Hicks contractions but they were so disjointed and so it was hard for me to tell if they were real or fake. It was a Sunday night, there was an impending snow storm and I couldn't find an ounce of rest because I knew that something was off and I had no peace. The next morning, the moment I could call my OB, I did and asked if I could come in for a blood pressure check. Two years prior, I had gotten sick with the flu, developed Pneumonia and went into Congestive Heart Failure. Memories from that sickness haunted me as I thought about how I was feeling in that moment. When I went to the hospital with the flu, it was after weeks of being sick and having to advocate for myself - it was trusting my instincts that had saved my life back then, so I led with that information and moved in the same way with these feelings. When I arrived to the doctor, they took my blood pressure, looked at me and said, "Your blood pressure is through the roof and we need to take that baby today."
I was overwhelmed and scared and nervous. I knew something was wrong but didn't want it to be true. You know that moment where what you think and what's real line up and collide and it's the worst possible news? He thanked me for coming in and trusting my instincts because I likely would have not have made it to my check up scheduled for later in the week without major pregnancy complications and that was a huge sigh of relief. The doctor I saw told me how perfect the timing was because my OB was on call and would be waiting for me in the hospital. So here's the deal, I wasn't prepared to go into labor. I didn't have a hospital bag packed. My birth photographer lived in another country 3 hours away. Nothing about this fit in my plan, but it ended up being such a beautiful experience and I was able to KINDA get ready.
I went home, took a shower, put on makeup (to feel better about myself), called my Doula, called my photographer, called my birth coach/friend and packed a bag to head to the hospital.
I had very specific plans and ideas for how I wanted to carry out my labor, and up until the point when I realized something wasn't quite right, I was on track. I had grand visions of a celebration around my labor. Instead of quietly grunted and struggling through contractions, I wanted to be surrounded in community, playing games, drinking wine (them, not me) and watching movies, praying and really joyfully moving through the labor process until it was time to go to the hospital and do the work. I had anticipated that my labor would be long and welcomed the distraction of food, friends and fun. Although my surprise induction didn't lend itself to this Labor Party idea, I still stick close to the concept and think with the right group of people, it could be really fun. I knew, I needed the experience to be light and fun and because of the nature of how my labor came about and the snow storm it wasn't a concept I could carry out, but I am so thankful that I shared the idea because when it came time time for me to go to the hospital, my friends rose to the occasion and did their best to get as close to my wishes as possible, so charcuterie, board games and music happened and it was a really special and fun experience.
My photographer lives in Canada and had planned to travel down a few days before my labor. That morning, when I found out I would need to go in, I called her and she got to work on finding a way down. It took her 7 different flight cancellations to finally make it on one that landed in Seattle. At 9:00p at night, she finally got here and called and asked if I was still pregnant and hurried down the freeway. I am so thankful for Jenna, my photographer, Kate my doula and Molly, my friend who prayed me through labor. They all gave up three days of their life to be in this induction process with me and I will always be so thankful and never forget their sacrifice.
Hospital Bag Checklist for the Minimalist: What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
As I mentioned above, I was NOT prepared to go into labor early or to be induced, so I didn't have a packed bag. What that experience quickly taught me is that we put way too much into this and bring way more to the hospital than we even need. I was able to throw the following items in my bag and it was all I needed:
A robe to labor in
Comfortable Clothes to wear home
A long cell phone cord
A body pillow
Bottles (if you plan to formula feed)
A Unisex Going Home Outfit (we didn't know gender)
A Unisex First Born Outfit (same as above)
Portable Bluetooth Speaker
a journal and 3x5 cards with scriptures on them
This was a very minimal list of things to bring to the hospital for labor. Most everything you need the hospital will provide or you won't really need or use until you get home, so don't get caught up lugging all of the things to the hospital because less is more. Someone has to keep up with all of that stuff and it has to be carried away and really the joy is you and your baby, everything else is extra.
An emergency induction was completely beyond anything I expected for myself and every moment of those 2.5 days, I fought hard for. I started pre-contractions on Sunday, February 3rd, went to the hospital on Monday, February 4th at 1:30p and started by induction process around 3p. Courage was born on Wednesday, February 6th at 4:29a. She was due on February 19th.
A few questions I would have loved to have answered before I went into my own induction experience are below and I will do my very best to answer them for others who might find themselves in the same situation:
How to prepare for induction?
There is no way to prepare for an induction. Induction is forced labor. It is manipulating your body to go into labor so that you can pull your baby out before they are ready to come. There is no way to prepare you body for a process that is supposed to happen naturally before it's ready. The only thing you can do to prepare for induction is to be as comfortable and as flexible as possible. Induction is a process and you find yourself walking down many roads to get to the ultimate goal of having your baby in your arms. One thing you can count on is that once you start, you will not quit until a baby is in your arms. Induction will always equal birth, as the end result and birth by any means necessary.
Is it painful to be induced?
I would say there are painful parts of the induction process. Getting a labor going when the body isn't ready to let go of pregnancy is frustrating and moving the body along that process isn't easy. I opted to do my labor with as little assistance as possible until I just couldn't go any longer. So, it was painful, but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle until the end. It is so important to know where your limits are. I ended up getting an epidural on Tuesday evening at 8p. I had gone a long time with very close contractions but very little dilation and I couldn't cope with the pain and relax my body enough to accomplish what needed to happen and I was getting really tired. The epidural, much like my first labor was my saving grace and when I got it, my labor went much more smoothly. Having this happen in my previous birth, in the future I may opt for the drugs much earlier one, but every labor experience is different, so I find it is best to keep an open mind for each situation that you find yourself in .
How long does it take to give birth after being induced?
It took me about 36 hours to deliver after being induced. Some people are quicker and some are longer. I think not putting a time on it is the best way to approach the circumstance. Anticipating the "when" only makes the situation more frustrating and baby's are going to come when they feel like it EVEN if it is in an induction process. Just buckle down and enjoy the ride.
Overcoming Fear of Birth
Although I didn't get to have my Labor Party, I still really focused on overcoming my fear and reminding myself of what our bodies do, who I am and the blessing at the end of the process. I had 2-3 scriptures I meditated on and used as reminders of what I was doing, different statements I said to myself to affirm myself and keep myself focused and I created this playlist of worship song with Courage's labor process specifically in mind. This playlist kept me in perfect peace and really was the foundation for setting the atmosphere in the room. The most special part of my labor is that Courage entered the world with and in worship and it was so sacred and beautiful. I am so thankful for that memory.
Scriptures I meditated on during labor:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”- James 4:8
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”- Philippians 4:13
“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
-2 Chronicles 15:7
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
Meeting The Baby
For 7 years leading up to Courage's birth, much of our life was Ike, Wisdom and I. We have been a team and done everything together. It was desperately important to me that she had a special role in this too. I didn't want her to be introduced to her sibling after the labor had happened - I felt it so important that she be in the room when her life changed too and that it was an experience that we could share as a team for the rest of her life, just like everything else we have done together since she entered our world. I caught a lot of opinions about her ability to comprehend the moment, that it might be too overwhelming or that she might not be mature enough, but when Wisdom was born, my niece Lyric was five year old and was in the room, and she handled that experience so beautifully, and the bond they have is so special, and I knew that I had to give Wisdom that same opportunity.
Having Wisdom in the room, while giving birth, was one of the greatest decisions I could have ever made. She never saw Courage as happening to her, but a gift that we gave her and she treats her as one every single day. Wisdom was also who I chose to hold the baby first, as a way to solidify that this baby of ours was the greatest gift we could give her and seeing her beam with pride is a memory I will never forget.
We chose not to know the gender of the baby prior to delivery and instructed the whole room to allow Ike to announce the gender. Upon first look, he thought we had a boy, and so that is what he announced. What a moment ya'll! Then the doctor told him to come back and look again (because he based his announcement on looking at the baby from the bottom up) and that's when I realized we had another girl and the tears fell so hard. I thought I didn't have a preference about gender, but the joy of hearing that we would be raising sisters just moved me to tears.
The entire birth experience was captured with videos and pictures and they are so cherished. If I could encourage anything at all, it would be to pull out your phone and record and capture your memories. Having a photographer is wonderful if you can afford it, but any stills or motions that you capture just mean so much and you will never regret it.
Wisdom requested that we give the baby a birthday party, so our family baker went to work on the cake the minute she knew the baby was born and we had a special party for Courage when we got home.
“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated... because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”
- Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG
“I want my heart to be the thin place. I don't want to board a plane to feel the kiss of heaven. I want to carry it with me wherever I go. I want my fragile, hurting heart, to recognize fleeting kairos, eternal moments as they pass. I want to be my own mountain and my own retreat.” ― Anna White, Mended: Thoughts on Life, Love, and Leaps of Faith
Naming The Baby
For 9.5 months it was a mystery who God was preparing special just for us (we chose not to find out) so we did nothing to prepare, but enjoy the journey. We settled on names Monday night of labor having never had a conversation about it prior and we are seeing just how gracious God is in all of His timing, even in the unexpected. My goal for labor was to have joy, even in the face of pain. I found myself often chanting over the course of those two days, “I can do hard things,” and reflecting on the journey of the last two years of our family’s life.