A Decoupage Birth Story, Part III

If you missed Part I, click here.
For Part II, click here.

The sleeping medicine takes effect quickly.

After some time, I wake up slightly – but only because I’m experiencing extremely intense contractions. It’s involuntary, but I can feel my body trying to escape, attempting to leave itself behind on the bed and get somewhere safe. 

As soon as the contraction ends, I’m completely knocked out again. 

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Unbeknownst to me in Ambien-land, the following takes place: 

Within just a few hours, I go from hardly 3 cm dilated to a full 6 cm. They order my epidural and Brandon texts my mom to alert her that labor is picking up, and she heads back to the hospital. It’s my assumption that the medication caused my body to relax so much that labor was able to progress very fast.

I am so out of it from the sleeping medication that I am utterly unaware of getting my first epidural. (I hope that conveys my level of “unconsciousness”!) It takes a team to hold me in place: Brandon, my mom, and a nurse while the anesthesiologist works in between my wake ups and contractions. Contractions are only minutes apart at this time.

I’m getting no relief from the back-to-back contractions. It’s apparent the epidural has not been effective (something that also happened during my son’s birth…whhyyyy??) So, they quickly get me back in position, remove the original epidural, and place the second epidural between my wake-ups.

It’s now in the 2:00 am hour.

I finally relax and they can tell the epidural is working. A short time later, maybe half an hour, my OB comes in to check on me and begins to palpate my belly but is unable to locate the baby’s head. She grabs the ultrasound probe and searches. . . 

Breech

Baby girl is breech. Head is up under my chest, feet and bottom are at my cervix. Somehow, this baby has completely flipped upside down again during active labor.

She checks my cervix and finds I’m a full 10 cm – complete. 

It’s important to note here — most OB’s do not perform vaginal breech deliveries due to the risks involved. It’s either head-down or a c-section.

Quickly and expertly, my doctor makes an attempt at a second external cephalic version right then and there. It’s what I would have asked for had I been awake. Baby doesn’t budge, but my water breaks. She stops and checks my cervix again and the baby’s foot is presenting. This baby is coming.

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I jolt awake enough to vividly recall my obstetrician looking deep into my eyes, nope – past my eyes and straight into my soul – her own eyes overflowing with concern and care, and I hear the words, “Shanna, we’ve done everything, you’re going to need a C-section.” 

I nod in agreement. I’m disappointed but trust her completely.

Lights out again. 

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Unbeknownst to me: 
As my doctor begins giving the nursing staff instructions, the fetal heart rate monitor sounds an alarm. 

Everyone stops and checks the reading: 70 beats per minute. It should be between 120-160 bpm.

My OB grabs the monitor off of my belly, swiftly turns me on my left side, and begins searching for the heart rate herself. Nothing higher than 70-80 bpm is coming up. She tells the staff to get me to the OR right that minute, and controlled chaos ensues. She instructs Brandon to come hold me on my side and to not to let go of me until someone relieves him. 

Someone pushes the emergency alarm and nurses swarm the room, everyone working as quickly and efficiently as possible to get me and this baby to the operating room. Someone relieves Brandon and takes over holding me in place.

Brandon stands in shock watching the situation escalate. Someone tells him they aren’t sure yet if he will be able to come into the OR since I may need general anesthesia. My mom speaks up and tells the staff he should be in the room if at all possible. She says it’s what I would want, and she couldn’t be more right.

My eyes blink open. I’m in the operating room. 

I don’t remember being wheeled here, prepped, or moved onto the table. 

I’m confronted by a blue drape so close to my face it feels like I’m going to suffocate. My arms feel strange and when I look side to side I can see that they are tied down, restraining me. 

I can’t move. 

I look around and cannot find a single face. No one is within my field of view. Panic begins to build but then against my will I’m out again. 

Meanwhile, the chaos has calmed back in the delivery room, as most of the staff is with me in the OR. Brandon is finally tossed a set of scrubs to put on, which he does frantically and then follows the nurse quickly down the hall. 

As they approach the operating room, from the other side of the doors, they hear a sound. A beautiful, tiny cry. It’s our daughter’s first cry. Any parent will tell you it’s the most glorious sound in the world, no contest.

Mere seconds kept him from witnessing our baby’s birth. Even the nurses at the desk are shocked at how fast she was delivered.

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I, too, hear the tiny cry. It sounds far away but it’s only on the other side of the obnoxious blue drape.

I can barely hear it in my head now but it’s there. Bless the Lord, it’s there. Gripping that memory with all I’ve got.

Then, lights out again. 

When I wake up again, I finally see Brandon’s face. I sob and sob. He says he’s never seen me cry so hard before. 

For Part IV (the final birth story post), CLICK HERE

A Decoupage Birth Story, Part II

If you missed Part I, click here.

Our third baby, a girl, yet unnamed, had been in a transverse (sideways) position for much of my pregnancy. In response, I ventured out to chiropractic appointments multiple times a week, utilizing a specific type of chiropractic care called Webster’s technique. I was familiar with Webster’s because it had been successful with Finn, my second baby, who was breech for almost the entire pregnancy.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about this baby’s positioning; it was the main subject of so many of my prayers. I even recruited my close friends and family to make it a matter of their prayers, too. I felt mostly sure that she would end up head-down, allowing for a typical vaginal delivery just like I had with my other babies.

Our last photo as a family of four!

May 21, 2019. It’s the day of my induction, four days past my due date. Every last one of my babies have had to be evicted…they just get way too cozy in there. My doctor has been out of town but is now back, so it’s time to get this baby out! I sneak in a last minute chiropractic appointment (baby is head-down, best we can tell), then I rest for the remainder of the day in the living room chair I’ve claimed for the majority of this pregnancy. Soon we kiss our babies and make our way to the hospital. 

Third baby, yet it’s every bit as surreal as the first go around. 

We are delivering at a different hospital this time, much smaller than our previous births. It’s a hospital I actually worked at in the beginning of my ultrasound career, so the halls and rooms (and many faces!) are familiar which is comforting. We park and unload our bags and pillows – yep, it’s an absolute requirement of mine to bring my own pillow – and we head up to the labor and delivery floor.

We get settled in and then due to the baby’s fondness for changing positions so frequently, an ultrasound is ordered. The Sonographer puts the probe down on my belly and we’re all shocked to discover that her head is not down in my pelvis as we thought, but instead is located high in my right upper quadrant. They immediately halt all induction measures. We’ll see our doctor in the morning to discuss how to move forward, and we decide to remain at the hospital overnight to keep things simple.

May 22, 2019. 

Several conversations with doctors and ultrasounds later, we choose to attempt an external cephalic version (ECV), in which the doctor uses her hands on the outside of the mother’s belly to attempt to manually turn the baby into a head-down position. It has risks and complications so it’s not something we sign on for lightly. If you know my obstetrician you understand how we are able to trust her so implicitly for this type of procedure. Ultrasound suggests that I have low amniotic fluid, which is not ideal for an ECV. However, we know for sure that this baby is a gymnast and has been performing all manner of acrobatics in my womb, even in the last 24 hours. She doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo that she is overdue and shouldn’t have very much wiggle room. We ask our doctor to simply try coaxing her down, nothing forced, only encouraging her to move gently into position. If she resists, we will leave well enough alone and then make the next right decision. 

I’m given a shot of something to relax my uterus and they prep me for a c-section, just in case anything goes wrong and we need urgent surgical intervention. My OB dons her gloves, squirts gel liberally around my belly, and after seeing the baby’s position with ultrasound, she places her hands strategically on my abdomen. She gently but firmly moves her hands in a clockwise position and I feel a significant shift. The room is quiet and we all stop – it had only been seconds – was she already head-down? Sure enough, the ultrasound screen confirms it: head down. We all look at each other in amazement and breathe out a brief prayer, thanking God for this small miracle. Our nurse even says in awe, “Wow, we should have recorded that. It couldn’t have gone any better!” Truly, it had been so easy. Too easy?

A little while later, Brandon and I begin walking the halls together to settle the baby into position and encourage labor. We are beaming and in such high spirits, knowing we’re well on our way to meeting our daughter, and feeling so grateful for the successful ECV. 

My nurse keeps having to corral me back in the delivery room to hook me up to the monitor and check the baby’s heart rate since the portable monitor is not consistent. 

It’s proving difficult to get a good reading, and when she does obtain one, it’s high in the 180s, so our nurse has me lay down on the bed slightly on my left side. Immediately, I feel a shift in my belly. A sinking feeling sets in and I tell Brandon I’m pretty certain she has shifted again. When my doctor comes back to check on me, she’s able to feel that the baby is not perfectly engaged in my pelvis anymore, but she feels sure that once labor ramps up, the baby should shift back into position.

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Next, my doctor places the Cervidil (medicine to soften the cervix) to officially start the induction. Whew. It’s already felt like such a long road and yet we’re just getting started. It doesn’t take long for me to begin experiencing decent contractions. But oddly, my cervix is only dilating partially – externally, not internally – so it seems we are only in the very early stages of labor with a long night and probably the day ahead to go. I was somewhat prepared for this news: my two previous labors had lasted around 30 hours and 14 hours

It’s about 9pm. My parents leave after joining us for dinner, and my nurse suggests that if I want anything to help me sleep (Ambien) I would need to get it on board soon, before it got too late. 

After a few more contractions, I know I won’t be able to sleep — I’m running on fumes, having been in the hospital for 24 hours already. I want to be as rested and ready as possible for the big day ahead, and since I had followed this same protocol with my first birth, I don’t hesitate. Sleeping meds: sign me up!

CLICK HERE to read Part III

5am.

It’s 5am.

We see this hour together often, and I know: it could be worse. Much worse. I whisper a quiet “thank you” to you for letting me catch up on some sleep. I think sleep might be my love language.

Finn-32You’re wide awake. I’m half-asleep. I go through the motions: I nurse you and burp you, then swaddle you back up tightly, because you are without a doubt the busiest-bodied baby with the strongest startle reflex I’ve ever seen. (God? Please bless the inventor of the swaddle, especially the Velcro ones. Amen.)

You stop squirming for a second and lay completely still. With my lamp glowing in the dark, I see you look right at me. We lock eyes, and in that instant, my mechanical mommy autopilot is switched off and I’m human again. I smile silently at you, because I can’t not, and you grin back. Baby gums, dimples, squinty eyes and all.

My eyes are still tired, but now they’re alive. Bright.

I dogear that moment purposefully.

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t h r e e

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Aven turned three years old just ten days before we welcomed her brother. I no longer do update or milestone posts, but I want to always remember the little things about her at each age. So here is my random, stream-of-consciousness, Things I Love About Aven Harper, Age Three, along with some of my favorite photos from the last few months.

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My sweet Aven,

You are three! “Fwee”, as you would say. We registered you for three-year-old preschool recently, and ohh myyy. I’ve had to keep my emotions in check over that one. (It’s only 9 hours a week, I keep telling myself. And it doesn’t even start till the fall, so I have time to prepare myself.)

I know you’re going to love it.

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the year of surrender

I don’t always create resolutions or “find my word” when the new year comes around. Some years I’ll feel drawn toward a specific theme or prayer but it’s not something I’m particularly diligent about. Especially this year — in the midst of baby prep and my toddler’s third birthday happening right around my due date — I’ve got a lot on my mind and lists of to do’s written e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e., so the new year came and went without much of a signal on my radar.

The funny thing is, I didn’t set out to find my theme for the year, but I’m pretty certain it found me.

When I think back, it actually began pursuing me at the last bit of 2016. I’m currently expecting baby #2 and things are altogether different this go-around. Nothing major, so please don’t hear me complaining, just different.

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From the beginning of my pregnancy, I kept feeling like the Lord was asking me to surrender myself to this pregnancy. Now, let’s be real a second and acknowledge that surrender is an inherent part of pregnancy – we give over our actual bodies for nearly a year’s time, so there’s that. But this calling was deeper; more toward a yielding in my spirit rather than just my physical body.

 

So, surrender.

 

Even from the start, this pregnancy has been much more draining and taxing on me than my first ever was – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

 

At 35 weeks along, my doctor began my check-up with me laying flat on my back and her hands pressing into my belly feeling for my little boy’s position. She thought out loud, “where is his head??” as she searched and pressed.  I had been taking some peeks of him at work (I’m a sonographer), so I knew he had been breech for at least the past few weeks.

I hadn’t been concerned about it. Like, at all.
Until that moment.

Having a breech baby wasn’t something I had ever considered or expected, and I had no idea how much it affected, from a medical standpoint. My doctor briefly discussed some options if he stayed in that position, and none of them sounded especially appealing to me. A couple of them even scared me, if I’m being honest.

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With this news, I began to pray that he would turn, along with some of our friends and family. A coworker even said a prayer with me right in the middle of the hospital cafe one day. I also went to see a chiropractor who specializes in Webster’s technique – a way to open up the mom’s pelvis hopefully enough for the baby to switch positions.

After all of that, I knew I needed to accept the fact that if this baby stayed breech, there was a reason for it. A plan. A purpose. And I would just have to get over my personal preferences and fears.

 

Again, surrender.

 

I would like to tell you that I had complete trust and zero anxiety about the outcome from that point forward. But that would be a total lie.

As my next OB appointment crept closer, I started to notice my stress level rising. Questions swirled in my head, fear of the unknown settled in my heart, and lots of opinions began flying my way. I was feeling for his head all throughout the day, and I had been researching natural ways to help the baby turn. Did you know there are entire websites devoted to “flipping techniques”? It was all becoming too much.

I reminded myself that I had a healthy baby inside of me – something so many long for – and however he needed to be brought earthside would be just fine.

My prayer changed from please, Lord, let this baby turn, to me asking Him for a surrendered spirit again.

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When I signed in at the doctor’s office for my 36 week check-up, I was still convinced he was breech (although I purposely hadn’t felt of him to confirm that), and I was becoming resolved to the fact that he would likely stay that way. 

I came prepared with a list of questions for my OB regarding external cephalic versions, c-sections, risks and statistics – except these questions weren’t coming from a place of fear so much as they were to help me mentally prepare. I was ready to start firing them off when my doctor basically told me to hold my horses and let her check his position first. 

Oh, right. That is actually a brilliant idea.

I laid back on the table and she began to feel around my belly. First up high, she said slowly, “I think that’s a butt…..,” and then feeling down lower in my pelvis, “….and pretty sure that’s a head.” My mouth dropped open.

What? Had he really turned?

I was positive he was still breech. So sure.

But no, an ultrasound confirmed that I was so wrong, and I’ve probably never been happier to be wrong.

I did a happy dance with my doctor, tucked away my list of questions I’d prepared, and as I stepped onto that creaky old elevator down to the parking lot, I felt lighter. I just kept thanking the Lord for this sweet change, this sweet unexpected answer to prayer.

My Father didn’t have to do that. But he did. (And let me just say, even if he hadn’t, he would still be good and faithful.)

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee anything. This baby could shock us all by turning back around, or my labor could still end in a c-section due to a variety of reasons. But we have a shot at a natural delivery, and that was my hope all along.

So, surrender. Here we are again, old friend.

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I think it’s important that you know this surrender I’m talking about wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t quick or painless, and it wasn’t seamless. Much like motherhood, I do not have this completely figured out. (Um, not even close.) It’s a process. Even as I write this, I’m 38 weeks pregnant and I’m having to surrender my ideal timeline, because quite honestly, I want this baby out. Like, yesterday. I’m slowly and hesitantly handing over my questions, worries, anxiety, and stress to the Lord – one piece at a time. And many times, out of fear or habit or who knows what else, I still find myself reaching back for a piece I had already given over. (Feeling very grateful for a patient Father). The decision to surrender is just the first step in a long walk of following through and letting go. And then letting go again. And again. 

I’ve seen such clear evidence that the Lord is using this to draw me in closer to Him, however small it might actually be in the grand scheme of things. Because, no doubt, there are much bigger things happening in other people’s worlds than upside-down babies or pregnancy timelines. But I’m appreciative that the Lord is faithful to use what’s relevant to us – right now – to bring us close, test us, and teach us.

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Maybe your “right now” is something completely different. Maybe it seems too big and scary or too small and insignificant to submit to Him. But I promise, He can use it. And you know what?  You can surrender scared. In fact, that’s kind of the point. It gives our trust room to grow and mature. 

Our family pastor at church often says it like this in prayer, “Lord, we agree with you for the plans you have.” And I think that’s really what it comes down to: acknowledging that His plans are greater and that we want to be part of the story, not in opposition to it.

So, my answer is yes, Lord. I agree with you for the plans you have  – for me, this baby, and our story. 

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Tell me: what are you being called to surrender to right now? Or what is your word/theme for 2017?

 

 

Music to a Mama’s Ears

I’m a word person, no surprise there. But even if affirming words aren’t your “love language,” everyone can use an uplifting word now and then. And I’ve found that sometimes all it takes is a small piece of encouragement to refocus my perspective on how this whole motherhood thing is going.

So many times I feel ill-equipped for this huge task of raising a daughter, but thankfully this truth never changes: when I am weak, HE is strong in me. 

That’s some good news. 

So we can rest in the fact that we were perfectly chosen and have been perfectly positioned to raise our babies. Enough of this doubting and guilt and worrying. 

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So, two things I’d like for you to do:

  1. Find the phrase below that means the most to you. Write it somewhere you’ll see it today – your hand, your phone, your kid’s chalkboard…whatever works.
  2. Find a mom to pass them on to. Send out a quick text, comment on an Instagram photo, or tell them to your friend at the playdate today. Be the one singing the praises of moms in your circle, or the moms you pass in the grocery store. 

“You’re a good mom.”

“You are doing immeasurably better than you give yourself credit for.”

“You’re not in this alone.” (*Catch – you have to help them not be in this alone.)

“Motherhood looks good on you.”

“You were made to mother.”

“You inspire me.”

“You’re doing a great job.”

“Wanna make a Target run?…By yourself?” (*Must be prepared to catch baby mid air as mom makes a mad dash for the car)

“Hey, I could use some parenting advice… “

“Your babies are blessed to have you.”

“Tomorrow’s a new day!”

“___ year old’s are hard. But you’ve got this.”

“You are SUPERMOM.”

I sincerely pray some of these words put a smile on your face, hope in your heart, and buoy you up today as you walk confidently in your ability to mother well.

Moms: you are needed, cherished, loved, seen, and so so appreciated. Parenting is challenging, but no doubt – you can handle it.

So let this music of encouragement play in your ears over and over, until it sinks deep into your heart like a song you can’t stop singing. ❤

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S.

 

The Motherhood Spectrum


It was around 1:00 a.m., and I had been called into work for an exam. Still trying to wake up, I grabbed my badge and my keys and headed to the hospital.
 
After asking the standard questions while I set up my ultrasound machine, I wasn’t especially concerned. But as soon as I put the probe down, everything changed. Even at first glance I knew it wasn’t good, and that night I had the unfortunate duty of confirming to a hopeful mama that yet another one of her babies wasn’t going to make it. 
 
It’s the worst. The absolute hardest part of my job.
 
I left her room quickly, wanting to give her some privacy, but not before hugging her. As I pushed my machine down the ER hallway, I could feel the tears stinging my eyes just thinking about her broken mama heart. 
 
Before becoming a mom myself, I may have thought or even told this woman, “you’ll make a great mother some day.” But now I recognize her spirit and know for certain, she already is one. I saw it in her eyes. She already knows the fierce love, the ache, and the yearning to protect – all familiar ground for a mother. She already has that uncanny maternal instinct of knowing something is wrong, despite prior reassurance from medical professionals. She might not have any babies on this side of heaven, but she is no less a mother than I am. 
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Rather than a binary system – you are or you’re not – I’m finding that motherhood is really more of a spectrum. 

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