Ellis's birth story

Here it comes!  It's taken me forever to write all of this, and I'm so happy I did.  Ellis came into this world in such a wonderful way.  God definitely wrote his story way better than we could have ever imagined.  It's only good things from here! 

I went into labor at midnight on Wednesday night.  We had just come home from our small group.  I was already 8 days overdue.  I had secretly been praying every day that I would be able to get a good nights' sleep and go into labor in the morning, perfectly rested and ready to go.  Needless to say, that did not happen.  I had been feeling the Braxton-Hicks contractions for a few weeks by this point, but when I went to bed on Wednesday I definitely felt something different.  I wouldn't call it pain at this point, but it was definitely not to be ignored.  I mentioned something to Reuben about 'feeling something different' but he obviously didn't care because he feel asleep straight away.  I grabbed the iPhone and started timing my contractions, just in case.  I went back and forth from the bed (I even caught a few zzzz's in between contractions, which were anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes apart right now) to the living room where I leaned on an exercise ball and did some reading.   I couldn't believe when I watched the sun rise that I had been up the whole night.  I was impressed at myself for not having to wake Reuben up - I thought, that way, at least one of us would have been rested, and there wasn't much of anything he could have done at this point, anyway.  Contractions were manageable (considering what I was expecting, I guess) and despite being up all night, I had a difficult time feeling certain this was really happening.

Right around 8am things started picking up.  I called Rachel, our friend and doula, and told her to be on standby.  We weren't sure that the hospital was going to allow her to be in the delivery room with Reuben and I, but she had offered to come to our place and help us to the hospital if we needed.  Then, Reuben called Dr. Narinder.  I was so happy that we didn't have to make any middle-of-the-night "this is an emergency, get out of bed!" phone calls!  Ellis is already so respectful of the working man (and woman) and business hours.

I'm jumping to the end (surprise, we have a baby!) but this is Rachel.
I had a really hard time figuring out the point at which I was at in labor.  I think I had read so much about it that I expected it to be more obvious.  My contractions were 3-5 minutes apart but didn't feel so bad.  I -still- had a hard time believing this was real labor, considering everything that I had ever heard (I thought my back was breaking!  I thought I was going to die! etc.)  In hindsight, I can't believe that I was following my contraction recording app so closely and not being more alarmed/concerned.  I just expected it to feel so much worse than it actually did, so I didn't take it seriously.  I told Dr. Narinder this over the phone and he said, "come in when your contractions start to feel more intense, or call me at noon." That wasn't a very good answer for me (what does 'more intense' mean??) so I quickly called Rachel back and had her come over, so she could be a judge of things.  Dr. Narinder must have just arrived in his office and pulled my charts, because Reuben shortly after gets a call back from him and tells us to maybe not wait so long to come (I had told him about my family history of fast and furious labours).

Rachel arrives at our apartment and gets to work.  Seriously, and I will say it again and again, we don't know what we would have done without her.  Reuben was running around like mad making smoothies and cutting up the remains of our fresh fruit (You can tell his priorities.  Shortly before we made our phone calls he was making a list to go to the market.  "We need some fresh fruit to bring to the hospital!" he was saying.  He never did get there).  I'm on my hands and knees on the yoga mat and the exercise ball, just like I was for the whole night.  She starts timing my contractions for me and holding a hot water bottle to my lower back since that was where I was really feeling it (instant relief!).  It didn't take long for her to suggest that we start thinking about leaving for the hospital (although, time is all relative at this point).  We had a gigantic pile of bags to bring with us, which probably doubled in size at the last few minutes as we were running around getting last minute things and checking off the list.  But all I needed at the time was my labor bag which had the few things that I would need at the hospital, right away.  I'm so glad somebody gave me the suggestion to bring one.

Getting in the car was the tricky part.  Even tricker was getting in the car with two people and an exercise ball in the backseat (it can be done!)  I had drank a little bit of Reuben's smoothie and some pieces of mango on our way out, which I immediately threw up in the parking lot.  So much for fuel.  The whole drive I was thinking two things: make all the green lights, and "don't look at me, don't look at me".  I had my eyes closed the whole time, but I do remember opening them as we pulled up a red light right next to a public bus.  Awesome.  In retrospect, I think we made pretty good time.

Reuben was excited to get to manoeuvre (living on this side of the world converts Google spell check to British English, hence the spellings in this post) the car into emergency as Rachel and I got out.  Reuben had to go park the car and register me, so I would have been on my own had Rachel not been there.  I was offered a wheelchair but insisted I walk.  The downside of Island Hospital is that they have very few elevators - that are used by everyone.  Services (cleaning, construction), in-patients (in hospital beds) and visitors all use the same lifts.  The labor ward was on the first floor (second floor "American style" - Malaysia has "ground floors") and we had to wait what seemed like forever to get on.  Not only that, but we didn't even make the first elevator that came.  Seriously, do yourself and everybody a favour and when you see a woman in labor, give her your spot on the elevator.   It was an "oh, Asia" moment.

We eventually make it into an elevator and get whisked into the room prepared for us (it had been set up for me for the past week, actually).  The pool was already quite full when I got there (it takes several hours to fill- from the sink with a hose- so they had probably begun filling it quite a bit earlier when we called in to Dr. Narinder.)  I get laid down in a bed to get a CTG, which measures contractions and baby's heart rate.  They check me (4cm upon admission) and after 10 minutes or so of watching the contractions they put in the call to Dr. Narinder.  He comes in shortly (again...time is a blur) and tells me, "you're going to have a baby today!" The pool is ready and he tells me I can get in the water when my contractions "become intolerable, "because water can stall labor.  Enough with these subjective statements!  Obviously they weren't intolerable (and in retrospect, were they ever really?) because I chose to ride out a few more contractions on the bed/exercise ball.  Nurses came in with paperwork for me to sign.  Reuben came back at some point, and finally did I then decide to get in the water.
"The pool."  It's bigger than it looks in this picture.

The other half of the labor and delivery room

They call a birth pool a "midwives epidural" and frankly, I don't know what I was expecting.  I'm glad one friend told me that as great as the water is, you're still in labor and it's still going to hurt!  So much for my jacuzzi holiday.  I was really feeling it in my lower back (he was posterior as of a few days before I went into labor, I don't know at which point he turned, because he was born normally) and Reuben faithfully sat behind me and rubbed my back, providing the counter pressure I needed - for hours.  Rachel coached me from the front, timing my contractions, and holding a bag of ice up for me.

Dr. Narinder does a quick check and says I'm 8cm, to which I reply, "you're kidding me!  Did he just say 8cm?"  I had gone from 4cm to 8cm in half an hour.  Zoom!  This would have been at about noon.  One of my fears was that labor was going to drag on and take forever, so I was relieved when I realised this was going quickly.  The next few hours were a bit of a blur.  Looking back, I know that God gave me the strength to manage this part well - I had no control over what my body was doing, of course, but I never felt crazy out-of-control like people often describe it.  Rachel didn't know what was happening or what stage I was at, and neither did I.  The only negative thought I had was "so this is why people ask for epidurals." and "this is really hard," but that moment passed and I was over it.  An hour or so later, I get checked again and Dr. Narinder tells me I'm fully dilated. Do you feel like pushing, he asks?  I say, no.  I keep going through contractions for about half an hour, when he asks again if I feel like pushing, and again, I say no.  "You better start!" he says.  Rachel had told me about the 'rest phase' that sometimes happens just before the baby starts descending.

Let me pause here and say that the past twelve hours, give or take, of labor were a piece of cake compared to what came next.  I guess I didn't pay much thought to this part beforehand.  I pushed for an hour, but it was surely the most intense hour of my life.  No turning back, this baby can only come out one way now!  I definitely needed lots of coaching as I felt completely unprepared for this part, and also because I didn't feel like pushing.  My 'team' kicked into high gear and were great, from what I vaguely recall.  Dr. Narinder hopped in the tub, I was leaning on Reuben, and I was squeezing Rachel's hand as she was repeating over and over, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  I remember opening my eyes briefly and seeing all of these people plus four nurses standing around watching me.  It's a party!

I have to say a few words now about a little phrase that going through the experience of childbirth has ruined for me.  That is: "you're almost there!"  I know, I know, I've said it a million times when cheering at races and now I have to apologise to those people because truthfully, they weren't almost there.  Far from it. (actually, I just needed something to say to them besides 'good job').  Now I'm never going to say it again, unless they really are almost there, like within view of the finish line.  Now at every race I will think of this and remind myself of that time when I was clutching the edge of my birthing pool for dear life.  Anyway, I remember hearing this phrase more than a few times, and I don't remember who.  But no, I wasn't almost there.  Maybe they thought I was, or more likely just wanted to be encouraging.  Luckily, I was already at the point where I didn't care what anybody else said or did (or what I said or did, for that matter.  Propriety had left the room hours ago).  I was focused and inside myself.  Only when Dr. Narinder said something about a finish line did I think, finally something I can relate to!  I was wondering if all those triathlon competitions would do me any good and in those moments, it all came together.

An hour after I started pushing and about 3 1/2 hours after arriving at the hospital, Ellis was born.  The first thing I saw was his hairy black head.  He was placed right into my arms and the first thing he heard outside the womb was probably me saying, "I have a baby!" I couldn't believe how big - and clean- he was.  He didn't cry for some time.  I'm in awe of how, in those moments we watched him take his first breath and see the world for the first time.  What a miracle.  After a few minutes, Reuben cut the cord and I wobble out of the pool and into a bed.  And the rest is history!  Ellis was 8lb 4oz and 20 1/2in long, happy and healthy.

There are still a few things that I can't wrap my brain around: how Ellis fit inside me (and came out with not even a Tylenol on my part) and how amazing the female body is.  I never felt scared, out of control, or weak (even without the energy gels!)  And how everything worked out perfectly according to plan - and better! and how we actually get to take this little bundle home with us.

We are so grateful to everyone who supported us from near and far.  We had many, many people praying for us (thanks to some massive text messages sent out and note: if you go into labor on thursday afternoons the PIC prayer meeting will be praying for you!).  I can't take credit for any of it.  Yea, I feel like my body is amazing, but it's because God made it that way.   Ellis is pretty great too (in my opinion) but God knit him together in my womb!  He placed some amazing people in my life for this time that were perfect for this moment, and it all came together in a glorious way.   I had wondered for so long what memories I would have from this experience, and hoped and prayed they would be good.  It far exceeded any of our expectations.  I still can't believe that God would be so good to us.  It certainly wasn't in our strength or amount of preparedness.  And with that, I'll end with something that sums it all up:

"He brought me out into a spacious place.  He rescued me because he delighted in me."  (Psalm 18:19)

To be continued here.

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© Reuben + ErinMaira Gall