Titus’ birth story is not one I tell often.
It’s not something people ask about, probably out of fear of bringing up bad memories or causing us emotional pain. And it wasn’t until a couple weeks after Titus’ birth that I realized how awfully sad that is for me. I had to mourn another unexpected “loss” – the loss of the ability to share about my labor with victory and joy. Since I’m not holding a tiny newborn, it feels wrong to be proud of myself for enduring a 9 hour labor without drugs, for birthing a 9 pound baby “sunny-side-up.” I cry thinking about how technically Titus’ birth story isn’t one of “victory” for me. How could I feel victorious, when I didn’t bring home the prize I fought for?
But the thing is I do feel proud of myself…because it’s how I brought my son into the world.
The battle I fought was not my own. Every contraction, every painful push, brought Titus closer to meeting his Maker. What an important role I was able to play in his last moments here on earth.
God used me to usher Titus into heaven.
And that’s a battle I’m more than honored to fight.
. . .
The Wednesday night before Titus was born, we got a phone call from our midwife, Rachael. The results from a urine test I took the week prior were in and they showed abnormally high levels of protein. That, combined with the intense swelling in my feet, ankles, and hands, put me at high risk for preeclampsia. After talking to their consulting OB, Rachael said the best plan of action was to induce labor and get the baby out as soon as possible. She explained a few different methods of induction that I would undergo and then told me to go lay down and take it easy as much as I could.
It was hard not to panic after getting off the phone with her. I was 38 weeks pregnant and only 3 days into maternity leave at that point with so much left to do. We didn’t even have a stroller for goodness sakes! And acupuncture? I’d never done that before. Having my membranes swept? My water broken? All of these things I never even wanted to consider were now very present, looming realities. Not to mention the fear of having preeclampsia.
Kent talked me down, calmed the panic rising in my heart, and we called our families to update them on what was going on. Everyone was concerned, but ultimately excited. “I guess we’re meeting baby bear this week!” they said excitedly, but something in my heart prevented me from fully celebrating. I was scared.
The next morning we called and set up an induction needling with an acupuncturist for Friday morning, which gave us the whole day to get last minute prep done for the baby. We went on Amazon and ordered a bassinet and a stroller. My sister picked up newborn diapers for us. My mom washed all the onsies we had and brought over a changing pad. We packed our diaper bag and Kent deep cleaned our apartment. It was go time.
The next morning Kent drove me to my acupuncture appointment. He sat in the waiting room, while I had my treatment. After an hour and a half, we were off to my next appointment with my midwife to have my membranes swept. By the end of the day I was exhausted. I laid on the couch, watching Kent put together the bassinet, and thought how strange it was to be waiting to be in pain. We knew that if my labor didn’t start by the next morning, we’d have to call Rachael and arrange to go in to have my water broken. She was pretty confident that once my water broke, labor would start.
That night, I had a few small contractions, but nothing was very consistent. So when we woke up in the morning we knew we had to call Rachael. We got ready slowly, packed up the car, and then decided to go out to breakfast before heading to the birthing center. Why not enjoy one last date before meeting our baby? We shared pancakes, scrambled eggs, and steaming hot cups of tea at our favorite breakfast spot on 2nd Street before heading out to Irvine.
On the drive to the birthing center, Kent turned on our “Baby Bear is Coming!” playlist full of worship songs we’d selected for the labor process. I took a few deep breaths, but my heart was pounding in my chest the whole drive. Seeing how excited Kent was to meet our baby eased some of my fears and when we arrived Rachael welcomed us with big hugs. I remember being so thankful for her calm demeanor and sweet smile. She led us into an exam room where I got up onto the table and she explained the process to us, but oh my goodness, I was not prepared for such a strange feeling! I kept telling Kent through giggles, “I feel like I’m peeing myself!” The comedic moment helped me relax and eased some of the fear I felt. After Rachael was done, she told us to go walk around for a couple hours to see if labor would start, but before we’d even left the parking lot I had my first strong contraction…and then another a few minutes later. We tried to walk a bit at a nearby park, but I didn’t get very far. The contractions were strong and close together. We called Rachael and ended up back at the birthing center less than an hour after we’d left. My body was ready to have a baby.
Everything happened so quickly after that. My sisters arrived, then my mom. I said hi to them through the pain, swaying from side to side, my arms around Kent’s neck. I labored sitting backwards on the toilet with someone putting pressure on by back (the back labor was intense!). I labored in a tub, Kent holding my hands and my sisters pouring warm water over my back. With every contraction I begged everyone to, “Breathe with me!” For some reason, it was easier to take deep breaths through the searing pain if I heard them doing it too. That night was such a time warp, but through it all the biggest thing imprinted on my memory is Kent’s presence. He knew what I needed before I asked. He pressed on my back for hours. He looked me in the eyes (when they were open, which wasn’t often) and reminded me to breathe with him. I felt secure because he was with me.
At one point, I remember my sister Jaci leaning down and asking, “Sis, have you been feeling the urge to push?” All I could muster was a nod before she hurried to go tell Rachael.
“You’re complete!” Rachael said after checking me. “It’s time to start pushing!” Kent and my sisters cheered with excitement.
The next four hours were a complete blur.
They counted out each push, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…Great job! Keep going!…6, 7, 8, 9, 10!” and then Rachael’s voice, “Good, Hannah! Quick deep breath and again!”
I’d hear my sister Jaci’s proud cheers, “Yes, Hannah girl, yes!” in between Kent’s excited and awe-filled laughter. I remember my sister Tess’ hand in mine as I pushed, a strong, yet gentle reassurance of her presence, “You’re doing great, Hannie!”
They checked baby’s heart rate. It was good. Another wave of contractions would start and I’d push again.
Finally, they could see the head. “Baby has a lot of hair!” they exclaimed. And the pushing continued.
I changed positions multiple times. Pushed as hard as I could, hour after hour, but he wasn’t coming out.
I can’t push again. I’m so tired. It hurts too much…I thought.
But then, after checking baby’s heart rate one more time, everyone in the room gushed encouragement over me, I gave one last push, and finally our sweet baby entered the world.
I felt a surge of relief. I did it! I made it through labor!
“Thank you for coming out of me.” I murmured as they wiped our little one down.
Then Kent’s voice, “It’s a boy!” he exclaimed. We locked eyes and laughed with joy, shaking our heads in disbelief. We thought for sure we were having a girl.
Kent stroked my hair, his face pressed against mine and I sighed contentedly, “A boy.”
. . .
This is Titus’ birth story. And I’ll tell it with pride until the day I die.