Anytime I write I strive to adhere to two goals: make it beautiful, make it honest. This story is honest. The beautiful part is that it gave us our sweet curly girl. But this was, for me, a very traumatic birth. Consider this the “trigger warning”; however, do not let this story cause you to fear future births. I am largely writing these birth stories to prepare me because looking back at Ivy’s birth I see how unprepared I was, and I won’t make that mistake again…
Back to the Beginning
In a complete disclaimer, which I am honestly ashamed to admit to now, I had been actively praying against having more children. We had a pregnancy scare when Iris was about 15 months that sent me reeling. I worried what people would say if we had a third. I worried if I could handle a third. But most crucially, I didn’t want to face labor again. Not yet anyways.
Little by little the thought of another baby began to creep in. I would watch my nephew and dream of another little one running around. We had moved and I could almost just picture a new baby in this house. It was just a little ache, not a full blown desire. Until one night I had a dream. A dream that has changed my entire life, and though I haven’t seen it all fulfilled in its entirety yet, I knew it was prophetic. And in it was my Ivy.
I was ready. I wanted her so bad I couldn’t stand it. There was no real desire to be pregnant or expecting- I wanted her– right then and right there! Up until this point, we had never tried for a baby. Though I didn’t expect to get pregnant immediately I never dreamed I would have the struggles in the waiting that I had.
The Mouse, the Sickness, and the Monthly Reminders
Month after month began to pass. They didn’t pass unscathed. Instead they came like tidal waves. Mid month I would begin to have pregnancy symptoms- undeniable ones like sniffing out a dead mouse 3 rooms away that no one else could smell in the room with it. Hormonal swings. Nausea- sometimes even actual morning sickness. I had never taken a pregnancy test that was negative until this season of life.
Month after month. My period would be days late, but just one line.
Pregnancy symptoms would overtake me, but still just one line.
And then came the worst part. The real monthly reminder that would squash all hope. I’ve had my period since I was 15 or 16 (yes I was a late bloomer) but it never really struck me that it was blood until this season. It wasn’t just the “not being pregnant”- it was the bleeding and the pain and the feeling of the loss of something I never even had.
I would sit on the deck in the early morning hours weeping, remembering all the times I had prayed not to be pregnant. I would beg God to give me the little girl He showed me or to take away the desire. Everywhere I went I saw Ivy growing. Up the side of buildings. Down the rocky cliffs. All the places Ivy could grow so wild and so free, but never within me.
Rafael wanted her too. And that made it so much harder. I remember watching tears stream down his face one night after Revival and feeling so broken that I couldn’t seem to give him what he wanted. What I wanted. I was haunted day after day by the prayers I had prayed a year before..
And then One month, I just knew..
I knew I wasn’t pregnant. I bleached wasp spray off the porch because I just knew.
In the middle of a shower I sneezed so hard I busted a blood vessel in my eye and popped a rib out of place, but I just knew.
We picnicked in the tall grass, and people asked if I was, but I wasn’t- I just knew.
Then came worship night on the Cannon County Courthouse lawn. This is one of my favorite events of the year. Watching a community come together to praise God in their town square. We aren’t from there but we always attend with our friends. A year before Rafael had the privilege of baptizing his best friend while his wife was baptized right beside him right on the town square. But over the crowd, over all the noise, a still small voice said “I am a good, good Father, and I give good gifts.”
And immediately I knew.
Doubt would arise in days to come, but I knew.
I learned that Slippery Rib Syndrome is actually a pregnancy symptom, but I either way I already knew.
And when I could stand it no more and finally checked for sure- I laughed and cried to two little lines– because I knew.
High Risk Pregnancies and Worldwide Pandemics
Ivy’s pregnancy was a little rough. I hated the smell of coffee- which if you know me probably seems crazy. Everything I craved, I immediately despised after eating it. I was nauseated and exhausted, but I was happy. I had waited so long for real symptoms that I almost couldn’t believe I was finally here.
Then came the ultrasounds.
Listen, ultrasounds are great and I am thankful for how far technology has come, but I opt out of most of them at this point because of this experience.
Ivy was little.
Words like Intra Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) were bounced around. They thought she had a cleft lip or possibly a genetic condition. At one appointment they told me they didn’t know if she was alright or would even make it without ever being able to identify one thing wrong with her. I sat in my van crying and praying. I broke down in the middle of Food Lion. There was no diagnosis, but they also made it sound like there was no hope.
My church and my family wrapped me in prayers so tightly that I could feel them. Over and over again I replayed that dream, I had seen her– so I knew she was okay. Whatever the path was before us, I knew somehow she would be okay. We stayed below the 4th percentile and were moved to weekly high risk appointments.
Then the pandemic hit.
There were so many questions. When would Rafael be able to go back to work? Would he be able to attend her birth? Would they take her early? If we got Covid, could we hold our new baby? There was so much uncertainty, but through it all we were able to laugh simply because of the God we serve and deep down inside we just knew..
From 4th to 17th in the blink of an eye…
At 34 weeks I went in to my high risk for my weekly ultrasound. Masked and alone I sat on the cold table just like every other week waiting to hear no specific and no good news. They had arranged a video call for me with the Doctor in Chattanooga. I knew this was a standard procedure but so far every time I had been a doctor was actually present in the building.
I sat down- waiting and praying for good news.
Finally the Doctor came on,
“Hi Ashley. We were planning to have you come to Erlanger tonight to be induced (no one had ever mentioned that to me). Baby has stayed consistently in the fourth percentile and we think she may do better outside than in, but baby is measuring in the 17th percentile today and everything looks great. So we are releasing you back to your midwife for weekly ultrasounds there. We don’t want you to go past 37 weeks though.”
He is a good, good Father and He gives good gifts.
35 weeks came and went. Followed by 36. Then 37. We walked and walked and walked some more. Contractions came in intervals and then stopped. My midwife was seeing us every couple of days in order to keep from having to induce me. Finally we reached 38 weeks and 6 days…
The Wal-Mart Parking Lot
Wal-mart in the middle of a pandemic- just where I always dreamed I would have my first labor contraction. It came on strong and lasted a solid ten minutes. That should have been a sign that labor was going to be off- but I ignored it.
That was the big problem. The number one thing I wish I could do over…
I ignored any thought of labor. I had been through it twice, I would just do it again, right?
The thing is labor is a mind game and I never got my mind in the right place. I wanted Ivy and I completely ignored the fact that I had to walk through fire to get her…
Contractions were sporadic all day long, some strong, some more like Braxton Hicks, nothing too consistent. So I ignored them.
I walked the driveway, and played outside with the kids. At about 6:30pm I realized I was actually in labor and told Rafael. He immediately kicked into overdrive which seemed so silly to me, but looking back I’m glad he did.
I insisted that I was not leaving to go to the hospital until after midnight so we may as well go ahead and bathe the kids and get them dinner. Rafael and my sister talked and he decided to go ahead and take them over.
I did my usual..
I sat on the couch and ate and watched TV. I very rarely ever watch TV, but in the early part of labor it helps me pass the time without overthinking. Unfortunately though I never overthought any part of this labor. If I had to say what my strategy was it was what it had been so far- just ignore it.
And that only works for so long…
My contractions were off a little. I would have many normal ones at regular intervals followed by one rogue very long and painful contraction. I tried to ignore those, but when they came they were hard to push past. At some point Rafael must have noticed my face because he instantly loaded up the van and announced we were going.
I fought him on it at first but I quickly realized I was either going on my own or he was going to drag me.
Halfway to the hospital, it suddenly got real…
Rafael called to tell them we were on our way, but this was the middle of a pandemic and they insisted we couldn’t enter the hospital without masks.
We stopped by Rafael’s mom’s house to grab a couple since we had forgotten to pack some. But things were picking up quickly and I was having a really hard time ignoring it.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
The masks and labor do not mix- just in case you were wondering.
I couldn’t think straight other than to remind myself that my body has the contractions Ivy needs not the ones I need. That thought is really all that got me through.
We got to the room a little after 10:30pm. The first nurse who checked me declared I was a two. Nope, no way. I need a second opinion. So the next nurse came in- we will call her Helga because she looked like a Helga- and she determined I was a six. Thank you, Helga.
From this point this story takes a turn and I can really only tell you bits and pieces of what I remember. It was an absolute whirlwind…
Thirty minutes or so pass of relative normalcy and we decided to use the birthing ball. In the past I have liked the birthing ball, but shortly after getting situated on it- something strange happened. I had a contraction that NEVER stopped! There were no more breaks, no more breathing in and out of contractions. There was no ignoring it- it was constant and ever intensifying.
A couple of young nurses came in and began to get frantic- which helps tons (that’s sarcasm if you were wondering).
They finally got me into the bed and called my midwife.
I was an eight, but something was wrong.
To this day I don’t know what happened. I imagine Ivy was turned wrong because I’m pretty sure at some point they turned her, but I honestly have no idea. But this is why preparing your mind for labor is so important. I was completely out of tune with my body. I had stopped reading all of my natural cues and ignoring them had given me nothing but ignorance as to what was happening.
Without me in any kind of control or right mind, my midwife took to trying to position me herself. She began by putting me on all fours and I remember them saying “Ashley we are only at an eight, but we really need you to push.”
The thing is when you are laboring naturally you can’t stop pushing once it starts, but you also can’t make your body push when it simply won’t.
In all the chaos I felt humiliated. I was on all fours in a room full of people. Labor is never modest but I felt like I was being ripped in half with my lungs exposed. They kept encouraging me to push up on my arms, but I was so out of my mind I didn’t know what arms were. I would try to move, but every joint in my body was locked in place.
They finally rolled me back on to my back and I immediately started passing out. One minute I could hear everyone yelling “push” but I couldn’t see anything- the next I could see everyone but I couldn’t hear anything other than high pitched ringing. Rafael would tell me the next day that he didn’t know someone’s eyes could roll back in their head so far. (Which is a lovely thing to tell your wife after a traumatic birth.)
Bright lights flashed followed by sudden and complete darkness. knew I had to push but every time I would try I would pass out and collapse backwards. By God’s grace I finally pushed somehow and instantly she was on my chest at 12:20am.
She was Perfect
I came to and realized I was already talking to her and telling her how hard we had prayed and how long we had waited. She looked exactly like I knew she would. Absolutely perfect. All the tears, all the worry, all the ultrasounds- she was here and she was everything God said she would be- a good and perfect gift! (Of course He would know, He made her!)
Through all the tears and excitement, there was one little issue. I felt ripped from belly button to spine. Every other time when labor was over- it was over. The pain seemed to leave the second the baby was born. I laid there feeling exposed and raw. I was shocked when they declared I didn’t need stitches and in about 20 minutes I felt okay. But there was a deeper trauma than I could have known at the time- a mental trauma that wouldn’t emerge until I was preparing for labor again. (But that’s for the next story.)
I’m thankful for this labor now. It taught me the importance of preparing. I don’t care if you have had 25 natural births- you always have to prepare. By God’s grace, I had Ivy naturally. I did try to ask for an epidural but no one could hear me through all the yelling and Rafael shushing me. Of course it wasn’t an option at that point anyways. But most importantly I am thankful for that labor because out of all the trauma and chaos came my precious Ivy Jo.
A Good, Good Gift
The days that followed would find us nursing through tears and tongue ties, battling 2 months of jaundice, and falling more and more in love with our precious girl. Having Ivy taught me to trust God with planning the size of our family. It taught me that every baby is a good and perfect gift.
It also reminded me that God is truly faithful. Everything He said would happen, happened.
In the midst of chaos, a pandemic, a traumatic labor- when everything feels like it is falling apart- God gives a good, good gift.
A few days after her birth I was editing some pictures of her, and it was actually looking at her ankles that completely broke me. The intricacies of God’s creation. The baby I wondered if I would ever have. The baby that ultrasounds showed imperfectly- but God had woven her together perfectly. Just as He does every child even those to whom a diagnosis sticks- they are still fashioned by the Father’s hands with love and with purpose.
After her birth, I felt that I had walked through the valley of the shadow of death (I’m not even kidding when I say I thought I was dying in labor with her), but God was with me. Every single step of the way. There will be a redemption story for the trauma of this labor, but in the meantime there was Ivy and she was worth it all.
My entire pregnancy rather than crying or having massive mood swings- I would just laugh uncontrollably. And that is my Ivy.
She is sassy, sweet, and sensitive. She is always singing and from the minute she wakes up she is go, go, go. The laughter and joy she adds to our home is unreal and her wild smile is contagious.
She is bossy and loud. And I remind her all the time that we prayed for her and God answered.
My brother-in-law calls her Braveheart and I think that is about as accurate as it gets. She is heaps of unruly curly hair- usually colored on or dirty- and as wild as nature itself.
We thank God for Ivy. We thank God for each of our babies. When people look at us like we are crazy for having five babies I always think of the me who prayed to be done and how thankful I am that God had bigger and better plans for me than I had for myself. I’ve said it since the day she was born, “the burdens will never outweigh the blessing.”
Though this was a hard birth, I will always consider this a positive birth story because it ended the way every positive birth story should- with a healthy, happy Mama and with a precious new baby!
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV
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