Natural Birth: Empowering & Humbling

A bride doesn’t expect to buy maternity pants six months after her wedding – but there I was, six months after my wedding day, waddling into Target, and buying maternity pants. I wept when I saw those two pink lines in the spring, partly from shock and partly from overwhelming dread. I don’t think I can do this. 

Throughout my pregnancy and the birth of my daughter, I discovered that my initial reaction was a correct one. I truly couldn’t carry her, birth her, or raise her – not in my own strength. Motherhood has been the single greatest tool God has used in my sanctification. Most profoundly, he has used this season of life to lovingly show me how to step aside and watch Him do His marvelous work.

My pregnancy went very well. I am blessed to have a husband, Ben, who loves and cherishes me. He gave me the freedom to make decisions and wholly supported my choices – like electing to use a midwife and preparing for natural childbirth – even though I knew he was very much out of his element. As a first time mom, I had all the normal apprehensions about the changes going on in my body. Repeatedly, I was amazed by God’s handiwork. He created a woman’s body to beautifully handle pregnancy and birth. Every change I feared to be an abnormality turned out to be perfectly ordinary. While our bodies are broken by sin, they are also fearfully and wonderfully made. The Lord constantly reminded me that He was orchestrating every membrane to do its job to grow my baby girl.

During those precious months I prayed fervently for my baby girl inside. I remember being completely in awe that I wasn’t merely growing a little body, but an eternal soul. I prayed that she would be delivered safely. I prayed for her to come to know and love the Lord. I prayed that I would be a good mom. More than ever before, I prayed. God was laying the groundwork to show me just how desperately I needed Him entering motherhood. Of course, I have needed the Lord all along, but something about pregnancy taught me that truth anew.
eternal soul

For the last month of my pregnancy I had already begun to dilate and experienced several strong Braxton Hicks contractions, many of which went on for a few hours, keeping me on the edge of my seat in anticipation. The evening I went into labor, I had several noticeable contractions at work that I brushed off like all the others. Over dinner I was eager to share a sermon with Ben that I had listened to recently on parenthood. The sermon, by Pastor JD Greear, was based on Psalm 127 and has since defined much of how Ben and I approached parenting. Namely, that unless the Lord builds our home, we labor in vain. We must acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over every area of our life. When we gladly submit our family to Him, He will give us purpose. Pastor Greear explained that one of the primary purposes of children is for them to be ‘arrows,’ given by God so that we send them back out on His mission. With that larger view in mind, being a mom and dad takes on eternal significance.

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one’s youth.

Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
Psalm 127
 

With the words of Psalms 127 rolling around in our heads, we settled into bed. Not long after the contractions returned, but this time they were 3-5 minutes apart and long-lasting. I tried my best to sleep in between the contractions and practice the relaxation techniques I had learned, but lying down was uncomfortable and I couldn’t seem to rest. We learned later that my daughter was in a posterior position, explaining the discomfort in my back I experienced the entire duration of labor and my inability to lay down.

I felt bad that Ben also wasn’t resting because of my constant rolling and rocking. We took turns ‘sleeping’ on the couch, and I took a warm bath at one point. We gave our midwife a call around 3am on Wednesday morning. After answering a few of her questions, she asked us to come to the hospital and get checked out. Our drive was so peaceful. The interstate was barren, just like the winter landscape, and I remember the reassurance that God was in complete control.

At the hospital, I was able to use a room with a labor tub – a major answer to prayer! Water is often called the ‘midwife’s epidural’ and planning a drug-free childbirth, I was so grateful to have the option of soaking in a tub to relive the pressure. A nurse checked me and found that I was 6 cms dilated and 100% effaced. What a joy to know I was actually in labor! The morning went along pretty smoothly. Ben prayed for us and read Scripture aloud to me between contractions. He supported me while I walked, squatted, and rocked back and forth on a birth ball. At some point our doula, a church friend and nursing student, arrived. She gave Ben a much needed break, helped me greatly, and was a Christ-like servant. 

Even though I had been laboring all morning, I had only dilated to 7cms when the midwife checked my progress just before lunch. That news was very disheartening. My midwife offered to break my water, to relieve pressure and get my labor moving along. Because I wanted a natural birth, I was hesitant about any interventions.

I was torn between my pride, thinking I was “better than” needing help, and my fear, over the risks of the intervention.

My midwife offered to let me think it through; I could decide if I wanted my waters broken after lunch. While she was gone, I prayed that God would just break my waters so I wouldn’t have to decide. I tried doing lots of deep lunges and squats, but my water didn’t break. When the midwife returned I was sitting on the toilet, desperately praying that my water would break. Then, it occurred to me that maybe God would answer my prayer using the midwife. It was a wonderful lesson in how to hold my plans loosely, submitting them to the Lord. I decided to let her break my waters and I entered transition within the hour.

Contractions started coming right on top of the other, many of them lasting 3 minutes. I remember leaning on the window sill and looking out at the city. The trees were bare and I thought about how I was being stripped bare, too. Brought to the end of myself and my abilities, to a point where I was naked (literally) before God. I remember looking at Ben and telling him that I couldn’t do it. The funny thing about labor is that just when you think you can’t do it, you are about to. That’s true in life as well.

The moment we realize we can’t, we are about to witness that God can.

I asked Ben to sing to me. He plays guitar for our church and has a wonderful voice. He chose ‘Victory in Jesus’, which was so appropriate. Around 4pm our midwife found that I was a ‘squishy’ 9 cms. She said it was a perfect time to get into the labor tub. In the tub, the protein bars and orange juice I had earlier on resurfaced. I have to admit this was the most humiliating part of labor. Not because anyone made me feel so, but because I was self-conscious about being disgraced in front of others. Our doula held a bag out for me and it was difficult to set aside my pride and just let her serve me while I fell apart. It was yet another moment in which God brought me to the end of myself so I could see Him work. 

**Note from Angie: I think it is beneficial to discuss as sisters in Christ and mentor one another in the truth of what to expect during pregnancy, birth and post-partum… as tastefully as possible. Sometimes there is just no real ‘gentle’ way of describing the truth of what happens. Losing control of bowels during birth is perfectly normal and happens frequently… it’s part of how our bodies are designed and as Victoria shares it is just one more opportunity for us to be refined in humility while others serve us. Special props and thank yous to all those nurses, midwives, and doulas out there who do serve in this capacity every day so graciously and gently. WE THANK YOU! 

In the tub, my contractions rose to an intensity I couldn’t imagine. My deep breathing turned to moaning. I wondered if I would be one of those women who quietly labored. Not so! As it turns out, I was a very vocal laborer. Soon enough, I felt the urge to push. Our midwife coached me through several more contractions, waiting until that pushing sensation became undeniable. Once it did my labor team assisted me to the hospital bed, where I got on my knees and clung to the back of it.

Pushing was by far the most difficult stage of labor. Though I prepared for labor and delivery, no amount of books or exercises can prepare a woman for the climax of her work. Up to that point had been fairly calm, but began to feel panicky with each pushing contraction. Our midwife got right in my face and spoke words of encouragement. “You are a strong woman, Victoria. You are so strong. You can do this, you can push out this baby. She’s almost here.” 

Nurses hustled around the room and in the midst of the activity, I remember glancing at the clock and seeing it was 5 pm. I had been in the hospital since 4am that morning and was weary. In my spirit I cried out to God, asking Him that she would come before dinner. “Please Jesus, help me!” I said aloud.

For the pushing contractions to do their job, you literally have to push into the pain. You have to submit. You have to surrender your agenda – at that moment, comfort – and walk through the trial. But, as with all refinement by fire, you come out more whole on the other side. After pushing for a solid hour, our beautiful Carson Anne was born at 5:58pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014. Two minutes before dinnertime. The Lord provides!

Emotions of gratefulness and wonder rushed over me as Carson was lifted onto my chest.

naturalbirth
I remember looking at Ben and saying something like, “She’s here. We did it. She’s here.” We both couldn’t stop staring at her, our first little arrow to be placed in our quiver. 

The post-birth serenity was short lived, though. There was a complication. I had retained my placenta and the window of time in which it should be delivered was running out. Our midwife called for backup and that frightened me. I prayed that God would keep me safe, as retained placentas can lead to postpartum hemorrhaging. The head midwife in the practice soon appeared. She explained to me that she would need to go in and try to manually detach my placenta. She also mentioned that most women have epidurals for this procedure. Her ‘search and rescue’ mission was extremely painful. Thankfully she was able to pull out the placenta intact. Because of that minor drama, though, I don’t have especially warm fuzzy feelings immediately following her birth. However, I am thankful for God’s mercy and provision during what was a scary incident, and could have been a serious problem.

I’m so thankful to have had a natural birth experience. I’m so grateful to God for designing the amazing process of birth and for designing a woman’s body to do exactly what it needs to bear children. Going through labor, we heard beforehand, gives women the strength to be a mom. And now that I’ve done it, I think that’s true – but with a nuance. Natural labor gave me the strength, if you will, to learn that I must totally and wholly rely on the Lord and to trust Him to work as He does. His creation is amazing and it works amazingly well. We trust, we obey, we work, and we see Him move!

In Christ,

Victoria Wilson

profile-picVictoria says, “I love my coffee strong, friends warm, conversations deep, readings thoughtful, writings creative, husband close, daughter cuddly, and my Jesus alive!” She is the “Mrs. to Ben and Mom to Carson.” She writes at Victoria’s Ramblings and you can find her on Twitter @mrsbnjcwilson and on Facebook  and Pinterest.

You can find more birth stories here on Redeeming Childbirth’s blog under testimony and Can add your testimony to our Link-Up here!
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