“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” John 16:21
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I got asked the same question a lot; would I go unmedicated again? “Yes, I’m just hoping it’ll be a little faster this time”, I’d answer. That was my go to response, and boy did Frances Grahm hear those words! (Just as a reference: Walt’s labor and delivery took 15 hours!)
On Tuesday, March 18 2015, I woke up around 5am with small contractions. They continued steadily at around 7 minutes apart. As we started timing the contractions, I noticed that they weren’t intensifying. I lay down on my left side, willing my body to keep working, but the contractions were unremarkable. Kent’s mom came over to take care of Walt while Kent left for a meeting. We debated for a long time about whether he should go for that coffee meeting while I labored at home, my only request was that he had to have his phone in his sight at all times. And of course, don’t tell his boss that I was in labor because he’d most assuredly make him come home.
Around 10am, Kent came home to me bouncing on a birth ball, gossiping with his mom, and Walt helping out in his own little way. Kent’s mom decided to take Walt to the zoo, so we headed out for some last minute errands and spicy chicken sandwiches at CFA. We came back home, I took a walk, Kent watched Mad Men, and we decided this was false labor. That night as I worked on some last minute editing, the contractions started up again. I timed them for the next couple of hours and decided around 11pm that I should get some rest now if true labor actually started. Throughout the entire night I tossed and turned with contractions but managed to get a few hours of sleep until around 3:30am.
Just around that time, I suddenly woke up to my water breaking. Kent knew exactly what happened when I tiptoed out of the bathroom. Before I knew it, we were stripping the sheets off of our bed, calling his mom to come stay with Walt, and the contractions intensified immediately. We left for the hospital around 4:15am, this time the ride seemed longer and harder to bear. The week prior, I had progressed to 3cm dilated and 60% effaced. The contractions were so close together and much more intense than they were with Walt, which made me feel sure I’d made significant progress over the last 2 days. We made our way into the quiet L&D floor at Brookwood and settled in. The nurse checked and announced I was only 5cm dilated and 85% effaced. That was difficult to hear. My will to keep going, to concentrate, and to keep moving was becoming weaker. Mentally I was having a hard time staying focused on anything other than the pain.
When you’re in triage, nurses ask a LOT of questions…most of them multiple times. My goal was to concentrate on moving my body as much as possible and to keep my focus on point. This is nearly impossible when I’m playing 20 questions at 4:45 in the morning. Around 5:30am, I was finally in the laboring tub (the same room I delivered Walt in) and able to get a little relief. I’m so thankful that the room was available to us, what I special memory that both of our children were born in the same room. While I was in the tub, Kent knew exactly what he needed to do. He got my playlist going, offered up popsicles, and let me have my space while affirming my hard work. The work was getting hard; this labor was proving to be all-consuming. Contractions came one right on top of the other. My focus was blurred and instead of breathing out, I started making roaring noises. I’m pretty sure I sounded like an animal giving birth. Transition was here.
It’s now 5:48am and I’m at 7cm and 95%. Animal noises are still going strong and I am unable to move my body from where I’m standing. Hovering the bedside, my body starts to push. Just like my contractions, the need to push is overwhelming. This little girl wants to come out NOW! My nurse checks me again at 6:00am and I’m at 9.5cm and 100%. I can see that Kent is stunned by how quickly things are moving. We were prepared for the long haul, just like we had with Walt, so getting our bearings for such a quick labor was an unexpected experience. My need to push is still there, but for some reason I fight it. I’m not sure why, but I guess the idea of possibly pushing for multiple hours again made my head spin.
Then my body took control. I wanted to push right now! My nurse called the doctor and within 2-3 minutes she and 4 nurses flooded the room, ready for baby girl Michael. The doctor sat calmly at the side of the bed with me as I pushed. As the baby started to crown, my nurse told me to look down, and I yelled out “I can’t see anything over my belly”. Funnily enough, this exact scenario played out with Walt. Seven minutes later at 6:22am, I was greeted by lots of dark brown hair on our beautiful little girl. She looked just like her brother, only bigger, calmer, and a bit more purple. At 9lbs. 3oz. 21in, Frances did prove to be bigger than her brother, plus I was pretty proud of naturally giving birth to a 9 pound child in a little less than 3 hours. I remember as I held our daughter for the first time, looking over at Kent, still out of breath, saying “I did it”.
Frances’s birth was thankfully fast and uncomplicated, which certainly was welcome after losing our baby last year. Coping with the idea of never knowing our second baby has been difficult, but a friend’s words really resonated with me; “It never gets easier and you never forget, but seeing your sweet baby’s face will be such a balm to your soul!” Seeing Frances’s face was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen; a balm to my soul, indeed. We welcomed our third baby 8 weeks ago and I couldn’t imagine life without her. God gave us Frances.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16
*All of the beautiful portraits are by Spark and Arrow