There are a few memorable moments and events in my life in which I have distinctly witnessed God at work in my life. These are the moments that ground me in faith. They are stories, when told again and again, remind me of the power, grace, and deep love of God. Silas’ birth is one of those stories for me.
We had been anticipating his arrival for several weeks and at the midwifery appointment on my birthday, February 25th, had my first check and things were looking ready for birth—the baby’s positioning was low and my cervix was mostly effaced and dilated to about 2 or 3. I was hopeful that he would come on his due date—February 27th. On the morning of Friday, the 27th, I woke up and discovered that my waters had broken. Although I hadn’t really started regular contractions yet, Nate and I were giddy at the thought of meeting our little guy soon.
I sat on the birth ball for the morning and got some last minute work done while Nate ran some errands. Then we both went about the house working and getting things together. I was feeling waves of small contractions around every 5 minutes but they weren’t painful. Our moms showed up at the house around 4 pm and we promptly went on a walk around the neighborhood to try to get things going. Later I sat on the birth ball and put the breast pump on to try to get some stronger contractions going, which worked surprisingly well! The contractions started intensifying but were still 4-5 minutes apart.
Since we were aiming to give birth at the birth center (which was about 40 minutes away) and didn’t want to get there too late, we decided to head out around 10pm. I could feel the intensity of the contractions increase in the car, as I had to focus more through them. When we got to the birth center, I was about 4 cm dilated, which I was happy about as I just wanted to be progressing (even a little bit!). The midwife immediately started me on an herbal tincture to get labor progressing and the breast pump as that helped earlier. When I was checked again I was about 5-6 cm dilated. I had not progressed very much and the baby wasn’t positioned very well. He was higher up in the pelvis and his head wasn’t engaging the cervix well to dilate it effectively. We then did an inversion and rebozo work in order to get him to move and lunges and squats to try to move him down. Meanwhile my contractions would oscillate in frequency and strength, sometimes coming back to back with no break in between.
By 2 am I was quite tired (as well as most of the crew) and so Nate and I were able to lay down for a bit and I was able to snooze in between contractions. At around 4:30 am, I was checked again and while I had progressed some the cervix still wasn’t evenly dilating and the baby was still in the same tricky position.
During this time, however, I didn’t feel discouraged or stressed. I felt just an immense sense of calm. I knew that everything was okay with me and the baby, although I did wonder if he was ever going to come out! I simply continued to focus on the contractions and slipped even more into my inner world. In this world, time seemed to be flying as I continued to labor. Hours would pass and it would feel like minutes to me. I loved being at the birth center where I could walk around, take a shower, sit on the birth ball, and labor how I wanted to. I also did a TON of squats and lunges to get the baby to turn. Worship music would play in the background and it seemed that there was an immense covering of prayer over the entire labor. Both Nate’s mom and my mom were there to encourage, make food, pray, and give me messages. Chelsea, my midwife’s assistant, did so much to put counter pressure on my hips and help me during lunges. During each contraction, I was reminded to open up my hands in acceptance and my midwife Natalie would whisper “thank you Jesus.”
Because it had been around 24 hours since my water broke, the baby and I had an increased risk of infection developing, so I was given IV antibiotics and my temperature was monitored frequently. After a low-grade temperature reading, things looked a little more concerning. We really needed for labor to start progressing more! Inside I felt a conflicted mixture of peace and concern. I somehow just KNEW that things were going to be okay. I did not feel tired or worn out or like I was even CLOSE to giving up. Yet, I knew this baby really needed to turn and come soon if I wanted to deliver him at the birth center and not be transferred to the hospital.
At around 9 am, my midwife was in touch with the Ob/Gyn she works with at the hospital, who urged us to come in and said that he could be available before 1pm for us. I was hesitant to go and requested more time to labor and progress at the birth center. I said that I would do whatever it took, and so I spent most of my time on my hands and knees lunging during contractions. The whole room was in worship and prayer while I labored. We called out to God for strength and help. Please God help this baby turn. The song Oceans, by Hillsong, played in the background and I began to weep while I lunged…
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
After again requesting more time, I was given one hour to make some significant progress. At then end of that hour, around 12 pm (and about 27 hours after my water broke), I had made it to around 9 cm but the progress wasn’t significant enough. It was highly recommended that I transfer to the hospital to get some Pitocin and possibly an epidural. The Pitocin could help get strong enough contractions to turn the baby into the proper position and the epidural could help relax and loosen tight muscles that might be inhibiting me to dilate or the baby to turn. And so I went with a nervous heart.
The car ride to the hospital was pretty miserable. Right before we left, my contractions seemed to leap to a new level and the only response to them was to squat or drop to all fours and rock through them. During the car ride I would double over and count to 30, knowing that by the time I reached 30 it would hopefully be on the downward end of the contraction. When we arrived to the hospital, I felt as if I was in the scene of a movie. I was that crazy pregnant lady in labor arriving to the hospital moaning and going nuts during contractions, squatting against the wall and dropping to the floor. It was strange to go from the safe birth center environment where I was able to labor freely, to the hospital environment where I felt I had to behave in a certain way.
I got to the hospital room, put on the lovely hospital gown, and promptly started using the head of the bed as a support for my arms while I rocked back and forth on all fours during contractions, my naked backside open for everyone to see. Did I care? Not in the slightest. I had much bigger things to focus on. I was beginning to feel as if I couldn’t do this anymore and the possibility of an epidural, or some kind of relief sounded wonderful. And yet I really didn’t like the sound of any option presented to me. I had done my research and I knew of no drug option that would give me what I really wanted.
Yet of course, when you think you can’t do it anymore, the end is right around the corner.
Soon after getting into the hospital gown, the labor and delivery nurse checked me and said matter-of-factly “well, you’re complete.” The whole room stopped. Well, that’s ironic. I guess I just needed a car ride to the hospital to get me over the last hurdle. Oh, and also the baby had moved to the optimal delivery position. WHAT?!?
I was elated. I didn’t need anything else. I didn’t need Pitocin. I didn’t need an epidural. I could push this baby out now.
As the nurses shoved consent forms in my face during contractions (because I was STILL having really intense back to back contractions that didn’t let up), I began to feel overwhelmed. I didn’t want to sign these papers! I didn’t want to consent to the fine print! I just wanted people to leave me alone and only focus on the task at hand—having this baby! I asked in exasperation, “Do I have to do this? Do I have to be HERE?” The nurse replied, “Well, no you don’t have to be here. You can leave. In fact, I think you probably have time to make it back to the birth center.”
I was shocked. I could leave? Nate and our midwife then had a little pow-wow. Should we go back to the birth center to have the baby? Could we make it back in time? Nate was deeply concerned for my health and the health of the baby, specifically that the risk of driving back to the birth center during such intense contractions and the possibility of the baby needing medical attention due to infection could outweigh the benefits of delivering at the birth center. Natalie seemed to think it was likely that we could make it back to the birth center and deliver there. As we were discussing this, I had my next massive contraction and felt that I could push that baby out right then. Natalie then suggested that it would probably be best to stay at the hospital. Nate agreed. All I could think about were the crazy intense contractions.
After another 45 minutes of hard labor, the doctor came and instructed me to start pushing. Nate held one leg, Natalie held the other. After about 30 minutes of pushing, everyone exclaimed that they could see hair! I didn’t believe them. I then reached down to feel his head, amazed. About 15 minutes later the doctor lifted him up to my chest. He was the most beautiful, squishy baby I had ever seen, and I couldn’t believe he was finally here.
Nate did the honors of cutting his cord before he was whisked away to be weighed and suctioned (he did have some difficulty breathing and had a lot of mucus suctioned out).
Later, after Nate and I had a quick meeting, we announced his name—Silas Philip Messarra. The celebration then ensued with fajitas from Pappasito’s.
Overall, the birth was everything I desired—a low-intervention, natural childbirth that resulted in a healthy mom and healthy baby. I still wrestle with some sadness relating to delivering in the hospital. Yet we received great care there and you can’t be too sad when 3 hours after giving birth, you just want to do it all over again.