What Does Labor Feel Like?

This question came up during a previous Childbirth Conversation gathering I had, and it is a really good one. During the gathering people answered this question from their experience, but no one could really answer the question.

Why?

There are as many answers as there are women who have had babies.

Labor is unique to each woman and in many ways unique to each birth. One of my friends, when she found out about the first Childbirth Conversation gathering I was having, she told me to tell the women there that it was the worst pain of your life. At the gathering I passed along her message, but then promptly said, “But that may not be true for you!”

With my first baby, it was not the worst pain of my life. Not even close! I had severe menstrual cramps growing up, so for me it was like a period that got a little more intense at the end when I needed to push. I gave birth and immediately thought, “Let’s do it again!” My second baby was very similar and happened so fast I didn’t even have time to hurt. In fact, my post partum pain was far worse than my labor.

It was not until my fifth that I would have described what I felt as pain, and that labor was vastly different in many ways. My seventh baby was positioned wrong in my uterus and so that labor was also more painful as his head pressed into my pelvic bone.

Though six of the eight were very similar, none were the same!

Some women have dull aches in the front of their abdomen. Other women have sharp pains throughout their abdomen, perineum and back. Still other women have intense back pain. And every woman feels it differently. Therefore, unfortunately, I cannot tell you exactly what labor feels like. I can only tell you what labor feels like for me.

How about you? Share how you experienced labor.

Sam’s Birth Story

After having my last two children without any induction assistance I was all ready to have a natural delivery again. I had high hopes throughout the pregnancy that it would be similar to my others. I started having irregular contractions around 38 weeks. No surprise there. Unfortunately they did very little at that point.

My due date, April 10th, came and went. Thankfully I was beginning to dilate from the contractions and was 2-3 cm at that point. I was hopeful that labor would kick in. I begged and pleaded with God for labor to begin and still nothing. On Monday, April 14th, they did an ultrasound to make sure all was well with the baby and it was. They also were guessing the weight to be 9 lbs and 12 oz! Having had a 9 lb baby before I knew it would be wise to go ahead and induce sooner rather than later. There was also extra fluid. The combination told me from my experience that unless labor kicked in that night, I would need help having the baby. Dr. Brown asked me if I would allow her to help me, and I said yes. She checked my cervix and I was a stretchy 4 cm, meaning I would only need pitocin and not cervadil. They arranged for me to be induced the next morning if nothing happened during the night.

I went home and began having contractions that felt promising. Again I was hopeful and I contracted well for about 2 hours. But then they began to space out. Again I begged God to bring the contractions back. I was up late and had to wake at 5 am to call and find out what time I could go in for the induction. 6:30 was my time, so Jim and I got up and ready to go. Thankfully the car was packed and ready, so we just had to pick up a couple of things on our way out the door.

Check in went quickly. My IV was started that hurt horribly. (Still is the worse part of having a baby, seriously!) Finally, around 9 am the pitocin was started. I was hoping to just need a whiff of pit, but no go. The contractions did not get harder. I tried changing position. The baby was still so high. I just had to wait. Jim and I listened to music I had put together for labor and played a couple games together on his Ipad. I was so tired I began to fall asleep. Around 11 or so I took a good nap. I have never napped during labor! But clearly I needed it.

Contractions continued with no real progress. I knew if they broke my water things would move quickly, but at that point the baby was still floating, which is an unwise time to break water, especially when your fluid is high. I sat up again, hoping it would encourage the baby down. The contractions got a little harder, but still no real discomfort.

Finally, around 4 pm I was about 6 cm and the baby’s head was low enough the doctor felt it safe to break my water. That’s when the hard part began. I stood up beside the bed for awhile as the contractions increased in intensity. It took about 45 minutes for me to get really uncomfortable and need to get back in bed. At that point, I felt like I was dying. I have never had overly painful contractions, but this time I did. It was intense and I was hurting. I was so close to asking for pain meds. My mind was my enemy. Thankfully, I was making gradual progress and so I told myself I would resist. With each contraction I was regretting the decision, but I cried out to God all the more. I had to remind myself that God was my only strength and He would get me through.

He was so gracious to give me an amazing nurse who also talked me through each contraction. She was rooting for me to have the natural labor I desired, and it seriously made all the difference in the world!

Finally, I was given permission to push with my body. It took no time at all as my body and I pushed. At 5:31 pm the baby was born. Jim looked at me and said “It’s a boy!” To which I responded, “Are you sure?” (No, seriously. We all thought the baby was a girl.) But it is a precious little boy we had. Samuel Hezekiah weighed in at 9 lbs (thankfully the ultrasound was a little off) and was 21 inches tall. I was so thankful he was here and healthy. It is also special that his birthday is April 15th as that was my grandmother’s birthday.

God is so faithful and I am blessed beyond belief.

Men, This Is For You Too!

Men, thou shalt be interested in learning about childbirth!

Men, while it’s true your wife is the one who actually births your child, that doesn’t mean you are just a spectator! As husbands we ought to educate ourselves on what to expect when it comes to pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. That way we can compassionately care for our wives through all of it. God calls us as husbands to care for our wives and this calling applies to pregnancy and childbirth as well! To best care for our wives we need to educate ourselves on what to expect and how to help out during pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and beyond. We need to be proactive in caring for our wives during this delicate and painful time.
While educating ourselves is important, there are also other aspects that need to be unpacked as well for us Dads. We need to be sure to prepare for the journey with our wives, we need to stay emotionally connected and discuss our desires are fears, especially those regarding childbirth. We need to encourage and care for one another as we are commanded in scripture.
I will dig into many aspects of what this looks like and how we are called to best care for our wives during pregnancy and childbirth. Expect to see one post a month aimed towards husbands and fathers.

Preparing Together

Today we are blessed to be able to have our husbands with us in our birthing room. This is such a special privilege. But with that privilege also comes responsibility. For husbands and wives to be ready to work together in the birthing room, they need to prepare together during pregnancy.

God has given us each other as life partners, and pregnancy and childbirth are part of that life. With my five pregnancies in Louisville, I was blessed to take a Mama’s day out to prepare for my births. With our sixth baby, Jim and I really made time to prepare together, and let me tell you, it made a HUGE difference! Life had been quite different than we had expected and we needed to take time to share what was going on in our hearts as we prepared for our sixth child.

It was hard, emotional and messy.

But it allowed Jim to know where I was and allowed me to know where he was. It drew us closer together.

Something we sometimes forget as women is that childbirth is stressful for men as well, though in a different way. They are the leaders of the homes and there is a lot on their shoulders as they prepare to provide for and lead another person. Men also have the natural desire to rescue and keep those they love from pain. Pregnancy and birth is a time when they can often feel helpless as there is little they can do to rescue us from what is happening. This is hard for them!

As their helpers, we then can help them by sharing our hearts, what we are hoping for, what we are fearing as well as learn with them what is normal and abnormal, what options there are and discuss your desires for labor.

This is not a one woman show!

How can you prepare together?

Each of you pray individually and strengthen your relationship with God daily

Pray together regularly

Talk with each other regularly- talk about everything, but also make space to discuss fears and frustrations as well as desires for birth and what your desire for your family to be like post baby is

Dream and Plan together

Be open and honest

Practice relaxing together- This helps in preparing for birth and teaches you what you need him to do to help you relax during labor

Have fun together

In preparing together and going through birth together, it will strengthen your marriage as you learn to love and serve each other to welcome new life.

How do you prepare with your husband?

Pregnancy Prepares You For Birth

A couple years ago, a dear Sister, Ashley, said to me, “We have to be miserable at the end so that we will welcome labor.” I remember thinking, “That is beyond true!” It seems that all of pregnancy is that way, because pregnancy is preparing us for labor, delivery and motherhood.

As I shared in Preparing for Pregnancy, pregnancy is a time where we learn on a deeper level that our life is not our own and sacrifice marks the life of motherhood.

Let’s be honest; pregnancy is hard for most and often not very much fun. There’s nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, growing and stretching, the use of muscles you didn’t know you had, sleeplessness, restlessness, pulling, swelling and more. At times it can be very uncomfortable and even painful. But all of it is preparation for the hard work of labor,  delivery of the baby and parenting this new life. Everything in this time period takes sacrifice on our parts. We want to feel good and “normal,” yet we feel anything but.

Every bit of the changes, challenges and pain prepare us to welcome labor.

How does it prepare us?

It prepares us physically

The constant reminder that our boyd is not truly ours, but an instrument of God’s to use as He sees fit if every present. All of the physical changes we feel are preparing our body to be able to give birth and sustain life. Elastin helps everything to open up so there is room for baby. The vomiting strengthens our ab muscles. Our breasts swell and grow to prepare to offer sustenance to our little babes. In spite of how physically tired or sick we feel, we still must get up and do work as God has called us to do, whether in or out of the home. All of it is building us up so that we can give birth when the proper time arrives.

It prepares us mentally

Pregnancy can be quite taxing. But it is also a time for us to prepare mentally for what is to come. Birth is as much mental as it is physical. While it is impossible to know what exactly will happen, pregnancy is a time to educate ourselves on the birth process, learning what is normal and not normal, hearing others stories and learning what an amazing design birth is. All of this helps us prepare mentally for birth. If you are not mentally prepared for birth, it can take you for an unpleasant surprise, and that is not ideal. While the curse has made labor more difficult, it is still an amazing blessing and as we think on what is to come at the end of this trying time, we become ready to welcome the new life that God is giving to us.

It prepares us emotionally

Emotions are always present when dealing with major life changes, and pregnancy seems to accentuate emotions to the nth degree! The hormone fluctuation that happen throughout pregnancy do not help with unstable emotions either. One moment we may be over the moon with excitement at a new life and the next scared to death we may lose it with a wide variety of other emotions mixed in there. It can be a bit overwhelming. But knowing this, we can learn how to control our emotions with Truth!

Our emotions are God given and meant to give us a fuller experience of life. So let’s step into them in a healthy way. As we experience joy, let’s remind ourselves that God is the giver of all joy and life and be thankful for His joy. If we experience fear, let’s take it to Him and remind ourselves that in Christ we have no reason to fear. When we feel like life is over, let’s remind ourselves that we have a new life in Christ and that He may do with it whatever He pleases and remember His great sacrifice to give us life.

Knowing how you respond emotionally will greatly help you in preparing to step into the full throws of labor. Give all of those emotions to God so that you can respond to your birth with all that He has given you.

It prepares us spiritually

I cannot think of many times in my life that have grown my faith as pregnancy did. God has given us responsibility over a life, and yet we are completely inadequate to grow, birth and raise a child apart from His grace. During pregnancy with everything you are feeling and experiencing, if you do not press into God, it can completely overwhelm you! While there are things that we do that can help or hinder our pregnancies, God alone keeps our baby alive and growing. God alone prepares our bodies for the ability to give birth. God alone holds us together when we’re having mental or emotional break downs because we do not know what is going on with our bodies. Pregnancy is a slow dying of self and being made more in the likeness of Christ, which is exactly what God promises to do with each of His children.

So run to God in the joys. Run to God in the confusion. Run to God in the pain and discomfort. Run to God in the fears. It will grow you so much and when the day comes to give birth, by God’s grace, you will have peace that He will see you through it.

It is easy to complain about pregnancy and all that comes with it, but it is such a gift, and I pray that this encourages you to welcome pregnancy as the gift that it is and let God use it to prepare you for the birth of your child and on into motherhood.

I have needed this reminder at the end every time, as often it would get unbearable. But I am thankful for each pregnancy that has taught me more about my God, and for each birth that has shown me God’s provision and love for me.

How have your pregnancies helped prepare you for birth?

 

Gabriel’s Birth

One week and two days before my due date, God decided to surprise us with the birth of our 4th child!

It started as a normal morning with the Lillian wake up call at 5:30 am, Bible reading, prayer, Jamey’s appearance around 6 am, little play time, breakfast, Reuben waking up at 7 am and getting ready for my weekly doctor’s appointment. School time had to be by-passed since the appointment was scheduled for 8:45 am.

Jim and I left the house just after 8 to go to my appointment. With this pregnancy I have had contractions here and there for weeks so I thought nothing of the fact that I had a couple of contractions during the morning and on the way to the office (which is thankfully connected to the hospital). I signed in and sat to wait to be called back. I was so tired and was just trying to stay awake. I remember thinking “I hope they call me back soon. I really need to pee!” and then had a huge contraction that caused my water to break.

That, I was NOT expecting.

I told Jim that my water broke and Jim told the people at the front desk. They got towels and a wheel chair and whisked me down to labor and delivery. I went to triage first to get admitted and checked out. Though I was not contracting regularly I was around 4 cm dilated. They soon moved me over to my designated labor and delivery room and the waiting began.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, my body responded and began to contract regularly after an hour or so. God gave me strength and, even with my water broken, thankfully held off very intense contractions until the end. Because of my water being broken I was not able to move around as much as I would have liked in the hospital setting, but I was able to move around in the bed to help bring the baby down. Praise the Lord, I did not need anything to augment my labor. It took a little while, but by God’s grace my body did what God designed it to do. Around 1:30 pm I felt the rest of the water break and the baby moved into place. I knew it would not be long.

I am very blessed that when that happens, it happens quick and at 2:07 pm the baby made it’s way into the world. I looked down and Jim said, “It’s a boy!” “It’s a boy,” I responded laughing. I could not believe we had another boy. I really thought this one was a girl based on my pregnancy, though I had had some doubts. But a boy he is and a beautiful one.

This labor was so different, but a blessing as God helped me to give birth a fourth time. We named him Gabriel Jonathan. We chose Gabriel because it has the same meaning as the other boy name we were expecting to use, “God is my strength” and Jonathan for Jim’s brother. God completely named him and we know God has a plan for this precious boy’s life.

How Can We Be Prepared Spiritually?

On Monday we discussed why it is important to prepare spiritually for childbirth. Today I want to talk about some of the practical application of Spiritual preparation for childbirth.

First and foremost, check your relationship with God. If you are reading this and you do not have a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, please email me or talk to another Christian in your life about the amazing Gospel that saves us from sin and brings us to life with God. When we know God through Jesus, His Holy Spirit lives inside of us and He can lead us throughout this experience.

If you are a Christian and you’re reading this, I still say check your relationship with God. What do I mean by that? Evaluate where you are spiritually. Are you trusting God in everything? Are you spending time with God in His word, praying and worshiping? Are you regularly meeting with God’s people to hold you accountable?

I do not mean this in a legalistic way, but your relationship with God is crucial to spiritual preparation. After all, God is the One Who made your child and is over all of the conception, pregnancy and birth. He is the One who knows what is to come and can give you the desires of your heart. His Holy Spirit will lead and guide you as you make decisions during this time. Where are you with God right now?

After we evaluate our relationship with God, we need to deepen that relationship with prayer, Bible reading, singing, and sharing. Pray without ceasing. Ask God for what you need. Tell Him your fears. Seek Him and His will day in and day out as you live in this new phase of life. Commune with God and grow in Him and with Him.

As we grow in our relationship with God, we need to memorize Scripture. If you are not yet pregnant and reading this, may I highly recommend you start this now! If you are already pregnant and your memory is faulty, that’s OK. Memorize all that you can. This will be your life line in labor! No matter what decisions you make medically, Scripture will help you as you give birth.

In the midst of all of this, admit your fears and take them to God. Satan likes to attack all of God’s children. Pregnancy and childbirth is an extremely vulnerable time for women and an easy time for him to strike. The easiest way to do this is through all kinds of fears. Take it to God. This is another reason why Scripture memory is so important. We fight the attacks of Satan with Scripture. We fight fear with Scripture.

In all of it be open and honest with God and let Him work in you and through you. When you prepare with God you are more ready for whatever may come. Let God be your strength and your courage. There is always some surprise, but with God you can be confident that He is working and He is still good!

What do you need to do to begin preparing spiritually for pregnancy and/or childbirth?

Why Is It Important to Prepare Spiritually for Childbirth

Giving birth is a spiritual event. No matter what your personal convictions are, there is something beyond the physical that transpires when you have a baby. As a Christian, it is seen even more, because we know that the beginning of all life lies with God and Him creating humanity and we have the creator living inside of us to aid us in birth. Eve said in Genesis 4:1, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” The very first record of birth states that it is with God’s help life has come forth.

It is no less true today. Without God there would be no birth, no life. He is the One who forms us in the depths of our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139:13-16). He is the One who builds our houses. He is the One who protects and guides (Psalm 127:1). We need God for everything, and this is especially true in birth.

Today in our individualistic society it is easy to think, “I’ll just go have a baby” and think we can do it on our own. But we can’t. We need God to start and sustain our labor. We need God to keep the baby alive. We need God to give us the strength to push. We need God to heal our bodies. Because of sin, not everything goes the way God intended when He created the world, and that truth alone shows me how much more we need Him.

We need to be confident that the Lord will do what is best, even if it’s not what we want. We need to believe that He is working for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). We need to take every fear and doubt to Him (1 Peter 5:6-8). Birth is not easy. Pregnancy is not easy. Motherhood is not easy. Life is not easy.

But when we know the One who holds all things together and surrender to Him, even when it makes absolutely no sense to our human minds, we can make it through, no matter what comes our way. And that is why we need to be prepared spiritually for birth. This preparation can take as many forms as there are births. There is not one way to do it.

I like to remind myself of these truths and reflect on the One who made birth, especially when I’m sitting here ready to move forward, and it seems as if the day will never come. I pray Psalms that have touched me deeply and remind me of who God is. I sing praise songs and remind myself that God is Who is to be praised. I pray and fight and wrestle with my flesh. I let God into the mess of my heart. It’s not easy, and it’s not pretty, but in the end a beautiful story of grace comes out and I get to, once more, tell of what God has done for me.

Why do you think this is important? How do you prepare spiritually for childbirth?

Reuben’s Birth Story

God’s hand was completely in this as He is in all births and I am excited to share how God showed His glory and favor to us.

Both of my other children had to be induced for different reasons and I desired so much in my heart to go into labor unassisted medically. God designed birth and I knew that He could put my body into labor without medical assistance and I prayed so hard for this. Not only were Jim and I praying for this, many of our wonderful friends were praying the same thing for us. I prayed that it would bring God glory to do this. We were narrowing in on the day that a decision had to be made and I continued to pray that God would see fit to bring Him glory by my body to do what He designed it to do without assistance.

I had been contracting off and on for a couple of weeks. On Tuesday around 3:00 pm, I noticed that they were much more frequent, but they were no stronger than the ones I had been having for the past couple of weeks. I debated and debated but decided it was nothing to call about and went to bed around 11:00 to get a good nights sleep in my own bed before we had to decide what we should do.

Praise the Lord I slept! What a beautiful thing.

And I felt mostly rested when I got up in the morning and I was still having contractions. This was great! I was so excited and hoping I would be about 3 cm dilated at my appointment, since I had apparently been contracting all night. Rebekah came to watch the kids for my appointment and Jim and I left. On the way there the contractions started to change a little bit. Just a little bit stronger and needing a little more concentration. At 9:45 am we checked in for my 41 week appointment and they looked at me and asked if I was in labor. I said maybe but I wasn’t sure. They got me back and I had to wait a few minutes for the doctor but while I was waiting the contractions felt a little stronger. Dr. Pridham came in and listened to the baby and checked my cervix. I was 6 cm dilated! I was rejoicing that the Lord had given me the desire of my heart and had put my body into labor as He had designed it to do! He told me to go to check out to get a copy of my chart and head over to labor and delivery.  I had intentionally not taken my bags because I really was not expecting to be that far along and was going to go home to labor for a bit. So I called Rebekah and her mother came to watch the kids. Rebekah got all of our stuff together and took care of things at the apartment arranging childcare for the rest of the day.

And so my time in the hospital began.

They knew I wanted a natural delivery and they completely respected that and worked with me. I had a wonderful nurse, Debbie, who loved that I had been an L&D nurse. She put me on the monitor to check the baby and gave me a saline lock. Since I was going natural they allowed me to walk and drink water. I even got to have a Popsicle! The nurses at the station heard I had been an L&D nurse and talked to me about it. It was really neat for them to be excited about that and they were super nice to me.

I walked until I really could not stand through my contractions any more. I went back to my room and struggled through positioning as the contractions continued to grow in strength. Transition came on strong. It became difficult not to push but God gave me the strength to resist and hold off until my water did break. It was perfect timing, God’s timing. I had a very strong contraction that broke my water. At that moment my doctor was walking by my room from a C-section and came in. I have never screamed in labor before but that day I did. All I could say was “God help me!” My wonderful husband whispered in my ear “He will.” And He did.

It was time to push and about 10 minutes later Reuben Yates was born! God gave me the strength to endure and gave us a son to care for for Him. What a wonder! What a blessing! Birth is so amazing and God is so amazing.

I will admit that this was my most challenging labor, but it was my easiest recovery. With the inductions they were so fast it was almost as if I had no time to feel anything. This one was longer, but it was in God’s timing and gradual. Reuben tolerated it so well and we both did wonderfully. I also did not feel as tired afterward. Reuben fed within an hour of birth with no problem. They did not even give me pitocin after the birth and I had no complications. God is so good!

Preparing for Pregnancy

“I’m Pregnant!”

It’s the phrase many women all over the world from all walks of life desire to say with much excitement. Pregnancy is a natural part of life that God gave to women to populate the earth. Though we long for this excitement, we often view pregnancy as no big deal because it is such a natural part of life. But pregnancy is an amazing time and we need to prepare for it as much as we can.

You may ask, “If I am wanting to have a baby won’t I be excited and receive it well?” Maybe, but maybe not.

Pregnancy, while a natural process and an amazing gift from God, takes its toll on many women requiring much sacrifice.

As Christians we know our lives are God’s to do with as He chooses, but pregnancy shows this so deeply. Really, pregnancy is God’s gracious gift to ease us into another level of self-sacrifice. We are not responsible for another image bearer and now we can directly see how our actions affect another. What you take in, your baby takes in. What you say, your baby hears. What you do, your baby feels. You are completely connected.

If you are planning and hoping to become pregnant at any time, then start preparing now.

How?

First, and foremost, Pray! Pray for you, your husband, your future child/children and, if you already have children, pray for them. Pray that God would use you in the way He sees fit. Pray that God would prepare you spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally for the challenges of pregnancy and His grace to handle anything that comes well. Pray for God to be honored. Pray that you will trust His timing. (This is probably the hardest!) Lay everything down at His feet. And continue to do this. You will grow in prayer and your relationship with God so that not matter what comes, you know you can trust Him.

Evaluating your health and lifestyle to see if you need to make adjustments is also extremely important. Make these adjustments prior to pregnancy.

Why?

Because pregnancy is already challenging and full of changes. If you have bad habits it is easier to tackle prior to pregnancy. Believe me! Do you need to exercise? Do you need to change your diet? Do you need to evaluate how your time is spent? Maybe there are issues with your job? Maybe your marriage needs to be more unified? There are other things that could go here, but you get the idea. Ask God to show you what needs improvement and let Him work in you.

What work does God need to do in you to prepare?