Our sweet baby boy, Elijah Glidden, came into the world on March 26th at 12:50pm. His birth was a complete whirlwind and such an amazing reminder of God’s perfect provision and grace in the midst of the storm. Let me start from the beginning. They say labor is unpredictable and I was truly trying not to hold on to a plan too strongly, but I just had no idea the curve ball that was going to be thrown our way. During my entire pregnancy, I spent a lot of time researching and learning about labor. To be honest, part of me was sincerely excited about it. Matt and I took an incredible, in-depth birthing class and we felt ready. We knew the stages of labor, what to expect, how to prepare for it. Before I even got pregnant I had already decided I didn’t want to give birth at a hospital unless I absolutely had to. I don’t have anything against hospitals, I just would rather give birth in a place that feels more inviting and where I feel more comfortable. Early on we had decided on the Del Mar Birth Center in Pasadena. Everything was going great. My pregnancy, though hard at the beginning, was not too bad at the end. I had energy until the last week and there weren’t any major discomforts going on.
However, the last few weeks of it, Matt started to get really sick. We went to the doctor multiple times but we were told, time and time again, that it was just bronchitis and it would go away on its own. However, Matt started losing weight rapidly (about 10 pounds in 2 weeks). If you know my husband, you know he didn’t really have 10 pounds to lose. He was also having trouble walking due to his difficulty breathing and we were barely sleeping at night because of all the coughing. It was rough. Finally, on March 25th at 1am, my mother-in-law took him to the emergency room and insisted they do more thorough testing. Turns out he had an atypical case of pneumonia and got admitted that day to the hospital. I went to spend the afternoon with him at the hospital and was planning to spend the night, until I started spotting. Of course I would start spotting then. I decided not to freak out. My midwives had warned me this could happen early on so that didn’t really mean I would be going in labor any time soon. I decided to go home anyways and try to get some rest since I had gotten so little sleep that entire week. I am so glad I went home.
At around 4:30am, contractions woke me up. They felt like strong period cramps. I called my friend, birth photographer and doula, Lauren just to check in with her. She told me to take a shower and try to get some sleep. So I did. However, by 6am the contractions were coming every 3 minutes and they were so intense. My father-in-law and little brother were sleeping in the other rooms but I didn’t want to wake them. I tend to find that women are more helpful when it comes to the whole labor thing. I called my friend Kelly and Lauren and they both told me they were on their way. I also let my mother-in-law know I was in early labor at that point (I was actually in active labor but I was in a bit of denial). I had promised my little brother I would take him to watch Zootopia so I decided to look for early showings. After all, I was told you’re supposed to distract yourself during early labor. Again, I was clueless. It wasn’t until I called my midwife that it finally hit me that I was actually in active labor and I wouldn’t be going to the movies that day. This is also when I found out my perfect plan of delivering at the birth center was not going to happen. They would not let Matt leave the hospital and I refused to give birth without him. My mother-in-law was at the hospital trying to see if he would even be allowed in the labor and delivery room. Meanwhile, I was at home trying to labor in the bathtub (which I didn’t think I would like, but actually felt so nice) while also trying to figure out what was going on with Matt. Not really the kind of thing you want to be figuring out while having really really strong contractions. Did I mention Matt was sound asleep through this whole thing? Finally, we got the okay for him to go to the room (thank you Jesus!) and so it was decided I would go to Huntington Hospital. My contractions were so intense but bearable as long as I was in the tub or standing up. Sitting down felt horrible. I hated the car ride to the hospital, and then sitting on the wheelchair after we got to the ER. I would rather walk miles while having contractions than having to sit.
By the time we got to the hospital it was 10:20am and I was at 10 cm already. They got me in the room, finally Matt got there on his little wheelchair and I was ready to push. Some women love pushing. I learned that I am not one of those women. I actually enjoyed going through active labor. I found the contractions to be a bit of a game. The pushing was a different story. It was physically exhausting, and like I mentioned before, my body was pretty exhausted already from the lack of sleep. That hour and a half of pushing felt like an eternity and I was so thankful when he finally came out. They allowed Matt to stay in the room for a few minutes, before they wheeled him back to his room. During the delivery, we had matching saline locks, hospital bands and we both shared the oxygen mask. He needed it more than me. Overall, it was wild and fast and before we could even catch our breath, we were parents.
Part of me is still sad for what pneumonia took away from us. We couldn’t labor together, we couldn’t deliver at the birth center, Matt couldn’t come home with us and he couldn’t really enjoy much of his one week of paternity leave. It was mostly spent trying to get him back to normal. But I am so grateful he is healthy and his sickness was caught when it was. I am so thankful my delivery was fast and uneventful (except for the whole bringing a baby into the world part) and that Elijah was perfectly healthy.
Learning about labor was one of the most fascinating things to me. I saw my mom give birth to my little brother when I was 14 and she was a total champ. She had no drugs or interventions and I remember thinking that’s how birth was supposed to be. The more I read about it during my pregnancy, the more I realized the flaws in our system. There is nothing wrong with interventions being available to women, but they are used and abused. Women aren’t really told they can do this, that labor can be an empowering thing. Rather, they are scared to death with the hollywood picture of what labor looks like. Every time someone asked me if I was planning to get an epidural and I said no, I could see eyes rolling and was always told “good luck,” as if I was trying to do the impossible. I bit my tongue every time because I hadn’t experienced labor and I didn’t want to talk about something I hadn’t experienced myself. However, I can now tell you that it is not only possible, it is way more doable than most people make it sound. Yes, it is painful and crazy intense, but our bodies were made for this. The more fear we have, the worse it will be. There are 2 things I told myself over and over again during every contraction – this pain won’t kill me and once it is gone, it is gone. And it was true, after every contraction, I was back to my old self. I had to take it one contraction at a time. I say all this not to make anyone feel bad if they didn’t experience their ideal birth, which I know it’s true for so many women, but rather to encourage those women who are about to go through labor. Trust your body! You can do this. I would also recommend reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Also, if you are anywhere near the Pasadena area, I highly recommend Kathy Killebrew’s birthing class – Imagine Your Birth. And I can’t say enough about how much I loved being under the care of the midwives at the Del Mar Birth Center. Even though we couldn’t labor there, I felt like they truly prepared us for labor. Margo, one of the midwives, even came to the delivery and I loved having her there. Finally, I cannot thank my friend Lauren Guilford enough for laboring with me and capturing this crazy day so beautifully. I couldn’t have done it without her. After labor was over I started wondering if she had captured much of the birth because I felt her so present as a doula. I was amazed when I got the photos back and realized she was doing both jobs so so well.
Photos by Lauren Guilford