This would be our fourth birth, and we were very excited! My husband, Mark, and I were so thankful for another blessing from the Lord. When we were feeling very frustrated as parents, and were prepared to stop having children after having two, the Lord surprised us when we prayed for His guidance. His answer, that very week that we were praying, was “have as many as I bless you with!” This was an answer that didn’t match up with what anyone around us was doing. But we knew that He would help us in our frustration and lead us down this new path. He was certainly faithful in doing so, and we were excited to welcome another new life from Him since that answer to prayer!
Our previous births were steps (unknowingly) taking us toward having a water birth at home. In 2000, our first son was born in a Phoenix hospital with the help of a midwife. Besides the joy we felt regarding his birth, it was a terrible experience due to the interventions that were taken. Our midwife was part of my OB/Gyn office, and she may as well have been an obstetrician, due to her philosophy on birth. My husband would go into the bathroom to cry at times because of the pain I was experiencing. My son was posterior and the pitocin amplified the pain and took the breaks down to practically nothing between contractions. On top of that, the pitocin brought on nausea and vomiting. After three hours of pushing and threats of a C-section, I was given an episiotomy and finally gave birth to our son, Pierce.
In 2002, we planned to go to a hospital again, this time in San Diego. I was under the impression that I’d better stick with a hospital, since my first baby seemed ‘stuck’ and an episiotomy was ‘necessary.’ But just two weeks before my due date, our doctor called us ‘crazy’ when reviewing our birth plan (which was very basic, practically copied from Dr. Sears’ book) and informed us that birth was not a natural process. I was so upset, especially while in my nesting phase, that my doctor was revealing his true colors this close to the birth. But I knew that I did not want him at our birth. I checked out the Best Start Birth Center in downtown San Diego and we decided to have our son there (we were not educated about home birth at this point). When the time came, we drove to the birthing center – 45 excruciating minutes – and I was dilated to 9 cm at my arrival. Though my son was posterior, and I pushed for two hours, it was an amazing birth. It was wonderful not having pitocin, because I was able to experience breaks between contractions. I also enjoyed laboring in the water (I ended up birthing on a birthing stool), and we loved the peaceful atmosphere. We had Jaden in the afternoon, and were home again putting our toddler to bed by 8 PM that night!
For our third birth in 2005, in Houston, we decided to have a home birth. After getting together with a few midwives in the area, we decided on Cathy. She had an easy manner about her and certainly had a lot of experience (including her own!). I enjoyed the peaceful 30 minute drives to Cathy’s home for our prenatal care. For the birth, we rented a hard-sided birthing tub which would allow me to labor in deeper water than the garden tub in our bathroom. I had labored in a large tub for my previous birth, but my belly stuck out of the water which felt very uncomfortable. Sure enough, laboring in the deeper tub was wonderful. But I got out to move into different positions because our son was posterior (for the third time!). Our third son was born as I squatted by our bed after doing a ‘tug of war’ exercise with my husband that helped move my son down after 2 to 3 hours of pushing. It was helpful laboring in the birthing tub and being in the comfort of our own home for the birth of Elijah.
During this fourth pregnancy, I experienced something new… fear of the pain of childbirth. During transition with my third labor, this same fear had gripped me – the reality of what I was about to experience again. But it was new to be dwelling on it throughout pregnancy. For a few months with this fourth pregnancy, every night before I fell asleep, my mind would go in circles over the pain. I have a high pain tolerance, and though my first birth was difficult, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Then with each new pregnancy I would have expectations that it would be different – easier – somehow. It will be easier because it’s my second birth… and then it will be easier because I’m exercising through the pregnancy. But with this fourth pregnancy, I did not have those expectations. I was coming to terms with the fact that childbirth just might not get ‘easier!’ But the fear gripping me was not from God, and I came to Him repeatedly in prayer. He answered my prayer and lifted that fear, so that my mind did not dwell on pain for the second half of the pregnancy.
Friday morning, six days before my due date, I awoke to a sudden leak in my bed at 6 AM. It wasn’t much at all – perhaps a couple of tablespoons – so I wasn’t sure if my water had broken. My water had never broken on its own with either of my three previous pregnancies, so I wasn’t sure. I began to assume that I’d just had a little accident for some reason, since nothing else happened that day. But leaking resumed at around 7 PM, when we were at a park after having a dinner picnic. With my water leaking to my ankles, I knew that I hadn’t had an accident that morning after all! But labor still had not started. We headed home and called Cathy. After discussing the situation with her, we decided that it would be best to get a good night’s rest before inducing labor the next morning. Induction seemed the right thing to do since I had tested positive for beta strep. Our hope, however, was that labor would start on its own during the night so we could avoid induction and antibiotics.
When Cathy arrived Saturday morning, we started induction with a breast pump for one hour, and she started the IV of antibiotics to guard against the beta strep. I was pleased to hear that my baby was still anterior – a first for me, after three posterior labors! Natalie was there to assist for the day. Cathy and Natalie accidentally both wore the same t-shirt, which read “Before Moses Delivered Israel, Shifra & Puah Delivered Moses.” My husband, Mark, and I really liked that. It was neat having Cathy and Natalie there, since they were both present for Elijah’s home birth in February 2005.
After a (very uncomfortable!) check to ‘stir things up’ which showed that I was at 5 cm, we headed out for an acupuncture appointment for induction just before noon. Mark was feeling terrible with a cold, so he stayed home to rest. We were thankful for our dear friend, Alicia, who had come over to play with our three boys, take them to the park, Chick Fil A, and her home. Without her help, Mark would not have been able to nap, which he desperately needed in preparation for the birth.
The breast pump had caused some contractions which were lasting about 30 seconds. The check that Cathy did intensified the discomfort of the contractions. Then, after the acupuncture appointment, the contractions were very uncomfortable, and lasted about 45 seconds each. It felt strange to be out driving around with Cathy and Natalie. The company and conversation was great, but this was a strange home birth! Despite the contractions, we decided to stop and have lunch, though I was starting to long to come home once we arrived at the restaurant.
The chiropractor, Dr. Elliott, was only 5 minutes away, so we decided that it wouldn’t hurt to go there for an induction adjustment after having lunch. Normally, Dr. Elliott does four induction adjustments, 15 minutes apart. After the first adjustment, Cathy suggested that I walk up and down the stairs while we waited for the next one. After walking up the stairs and halfway back down, I’d already had two very strong contractions. The fear and reality of the pain ahead came upon me, and I just wanted to go home. I crouched on the stairs and cried, and Cathy came and prayed over me. We decided to head home.
The 15 minute drive home was very uncomfortable, with hard labor. Calls were made for Mark to have the birthing tub ready, which he had already done, and to have the front door unlocked. Though he was able to lay down and rest while we were gone, he was feeling terrible with a fever. Arrangements were made for Alicia to return home with the boys, and to bring along Ashlee, one of their favorite babysitters. We are so thankful for their help!
When I arrived home at 2:50 PM, I was desperate to get inside. I came down on all fours in the driveway through a contraction, and then made my way into the house. After using the bathroom, I changed into a tank top and a swimming skirt and got into the birthing tub. What a relief to slip into that warm water and feel it support my body! It was also soothing to hear music playing which I had prepared for labor, helping me to focus on the Lord and my surrender to Him. Labor had come on strong and fast, and there didn’t seem to be the breaks that I longed for, perhaps due to all of the induction measures that we took. I was reminded of the labor I had with my first son in the hospital, when I was induced using pitocin, and didn’t have breaks between contractions. The pain felt unbearable, and I so longed for it to be over – to be sitting on my bed, holding my baby.
Once I began pushing, I felt encouraged to measure progress using my finger, feeling my baby’s head. What soft, soft skin! After each push, I would hold up my finger, marking on my finger how far back the baby’s head was. Gradually, the mark was moving closer to my fingertip. This was different from past experiences, where the baby’s head could be seen or felt, but tended to stay put. After pushing for a while, I was determined to speed things up. Mark and I began our “tug of war” trick that worked well for me in the past – but this time we did it while I remained in the birthing tub. I really wanted to stay in the tub and have a water birth! With Mark on the outside of the birthing tub and my feet on the inside wall of the birthing tub, we gripped hands and pulled through contractions. This brought the baby down quickly toward the end. As the baby came out, Cathy worked to maneuver the baby’s shoulders. Relief and thankfulness poured over me as I scooped my baby out of the water and kissed that soft head! With three boys, I just knew that I’d had another boy (and I would have been thrilled to have four boys), but to my surprise, this baby in my arms was a girl! Havilah Praise was born with just 45 minutes of pushing – a record for me! – at 4:21 PM, October 20, 2007. She weighed in at 8 lbs., 3 oz. and measured 21 inches. Though I wouldn’t wish for a fast, intense birth after experiencing one, I was certainly thankful that the induction worked and we were able to have a healthy home birth, and a water birth at that!
“Havilah” can be found in Genesis 2. The river that ran through the garden of Eden split into four headwaters. The first, the Pishon, wound through the land of Havilah, where there was gold. I first heard the name “Havilah” in the movie “Fiddler on the Roof.” One of the daughters was named Havilah, and there is a beautiful song and dance about her. I love the name for its ‘softness.’ We also love the nickname “Hava” which means “life.” We praise the Lord for the incredible blessing of life He has given us!