Her Story

On a Sunday in the Spring of '14, Penelope Mae was born.
Each of us has our own unique story...a story written by the Creator Himself, even before time began. We are not here on earth as a random, nameless, faceless part of humanity, but we are we here as part of something more grand than we could ever fathom. We were made uniquely and personally by God Himself and were made to fit perfectly into a story that is much greater than ourselves.

I love the stories of my children. All 3 of them have come into this world under very different circumstances, different places in time, and different seasons of life.

Mekonen's story is one of God's goodness. 
Evie's story is one of God's faithfulness.
Penelope's story is one of God's mercy. 
There are many moments and places in life where we find ourselves stopping and thinking, "I never thought I'd be here." Sometimes this is in a positive sense, and sometimes in a negative sense. This third blessing is one of those positives. One of those "wow moments" where we both laid eyes on our precious third child for the very first time and simply cried. Tears of overwhelming joy, tears of gratitude, tears of two people and one small family being the main characters in a story of such intense mercy and favor from God. I never imagined we would be here, at this time, in this place, basking in the passionate pursuit of a loving and compassionate God.

We almost named her Mercy.

I cannot listen to the song Blessings by Laura Story without tears streaming down my face. "What if your blessings come through raindrops, what if your healing comes through tears. What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near....What if the trials of this life, are Your mercies in disguise."

His mercy. Our story. Her story.

The addition of Penelope Mae represents so very much, so much more than just adding a child to a family, and for that, words fail to describe our thankfulness.
So without further ado, what many of you have asked for... The birth story!

I've been asked a hundred times about the specifics of little Miss Penelope's birth, because in the circles we run in, our birth was not your average birth in your average place. Our sweet baby girl was born right here at home, welcomed by Mommy and Daddy in a place that represents so much to us. And yes, this was on purpose!

That's usually the first question that came back in the hundreds of text messages that went back and forth during the first few days after she was born..... "WHAT?!?!?!?!?! HOW?!?!??! Was it on PURPOSE?!?!?!" I have to say, one of my favorite responses came from my friend Amanda. I was laughing so hard my entire already very sore body, was doubled over in pain. She had asked me a series of questions, one in which was "was it able to be VBAC?" I replied, "Yes, it was a VBAC because c-sections don't happen at home." This is what she sent back, "My actual face right now." hahaha!!!

We kept our choice of a homebirth to ourselves for many reasons, most of which revolve around the negative stigma of homebirth. And I will say, a lot of homebirths aren't safe, aren't done well, and aren't run by the right kind of professional and educated staff that they should be. So in one sense, we agree, homebirth is crazy, if you are with the wrong care providers. But this simply was not the case for us! We used an amazing, fully staffed, and fully medically certified midwifery team out of Indianapolis called Believe Midwifery. I never in a million years imagined I would be okay with having a homebirth. (And if you know me and my worry-wort self, you would be just as shocked about this as I was)!

If you also know us, you know that we don't do many things without a lot of research, weighing options, and choosing what we feel is best. One of the greatest things about this midwifery group is that they are evidence based care, which means they don't have insurance and hospital policies running your care and delivery, it's purely evidence and scientific based care. So if possible, breath a sigh of relief, knowing we were in excellent hands. I had better prenatal care with our midwife than I've had with any doctor (and I switched twice during this pregnancy before choosing homebirth). Our midwife provided all the standard of care in pregnancy and went beyond that. She was wonderful! Not to mention, the 4 to 1 ratio of constant care and attention during the entire labor and delivery was above and beyond. The monitoring was top notch and their emergency care abilities were astonishing. I had no idea the kinds of things the right homebirth provider can do. So again, if possible, breath a sigh relief, as we were not here at home, with a backwoods midwife who came over in a calico print skirt with hair down to her rear to deliver our baby simply because she had a few herself. :)

My due date was April 6th, and little munchkin arrived right on her due date, just like her big sister Evie. What are the odds!?!?! Crazy, right? It's something like only 3% of babies are born on their due dates, and so far, we are 2 for 2 with our bio babies arriving RIGHT on time.

Friday, April 4th, I wasn't feeling well most of the day. Kind of nauseous, kind of sick to my stomach feeling. Basically the same way I felt with Evie the day or two before she was born. Jon and I went out to dinner at Outback together, without the kids, and I was uncomfortable most of the time, having contractions on and off, but nothing super substantial, and I honestly wasn't even really sure if they were contractions. I was also exhausted. I was so uncomfortable, we basically just ended up eating quick and going back and getting the kids from Grandma's before heading home. We got home, Jon put the kids to bed, and continued working on some projects he had going in the house, and I plopped down on the couch and relaxed, watched TV, and then we eventually went to bed.

I don't remember much about what we did on Saturday, April 5th, but I did write this status on Facebook. "We've just arrived at the point where we can sleep in on Saturday mornings and our kids can get up and turn on the TV and still be alive when we get up. And then we decide to add a newborn to the mix very soon. Oh the circle of life." Little did I know "very soon" would mean, the next

Around 7pm, we were sitting at the table, finishing up pancakes for dinner (the kids favorite)!  I didn't have a big appetite and felt a bit queasy trying to force myself to eat some dinner. Same thing happened with Evie when we were eating lunch at Costco the day my water broke with her. So we are sitting there, chilling out, and all of a sudden I heard and felt that infamous "pop" sound, and a slight, super miniature "gush" happened just like with Evie, except much much less. So much so that I wasn't quite sure if it was my water, but I definitely knew it was the start of something. I just didn't know how quickly "the start" would get moving. I told Jon, and we immediately went into "get house ready mode." There's nothing like having an entire birth team at your home to motivate you to get your house in order and keep it clean pretty much every day for the last couple weeks "just in case" today was the day.

I set about packing the kids bags to go to Grandma's (still unsure if we would send them right then, or if we put them to bed and see what labor brought, since we had no idea how long this whole thing would be). I was having mild contractions off and on, but nothing real consistent at first. Jon gave the kids a bath while I continued to pick things up, and make sure stuff was in order if this was really it. I started texting back and forth with Heather, a good friend we told about the homebirth as I had attended her homebirth with the same team, almost two years ago. She was an amazing help and support person throughout the entire pregnancy and world of homebirth advice. After we got the kids settled in bed, I called Penny, our midwife, around 10pm, and told her what was going on. She said, "could be labor starting now, could be signs labor is coming soon." Then she basically told me to wait it out a bit, try to get some sleep, and call her if it picks up steadily. So at this point, I was kind of still in denial it was happening, and also still wasn't sure.

I began timing contractions around this point and they were fluctuating between 4-5 minutes apart. I still was not entirely convinced this was happening, and my labor with Evie was so different in that the only stuff I really physically remember was when I was on pitocin, so I had nothing to compare it to. Heather was a tad concerned that because my level of what I knew to be labor (which was on pitocin) was not normal, that I might wait too long, waiting for it to be really bad to call and Daddy might end up delivering. (Funny as that sounds, they actually made sure in weeks prior Jon was aware of what to do if that was the case. Yikes! Can you imagine?!?!).

I took some Benadryl and tried to sleep. Um yeah, no way that was happening. I still wasn't quite sure how long this was going to be, is this it, etc. I didn't want to be the false alarm girl, so I refrained from letting anyone know I thought I was in labor. I got out of bed and got into the spa. We had a 6 foot spa for labor and delivery and it was amazing. Definitely a good source of pain relief. I got in the spa around 11pm or 12am, and actually watched an episode of Dance Moms while trying to relax through contractions, that again, were consistent, but I still wasn't sure how long this would be (like am I only 1 cm and being dramatic about this?) After that episode, I was no longer able to really watch TV and do this thing, so I shut it off and spent the next couple hours in the spa, concentrating on contractions. I told Jon to try and get some sleep because I would be needing him soon. He laid down for a bit, but was up and down, checking on me, and doing things here and there. Finally, around 2:15am, I called out to Jon who was sleeping on the couch and told him he needs to call Penny. He called and told her he thinks they need to head out this way. And within minutes, they were off!
It went from tolerable to intolerable in a matter of minutes, and so I absolutely knew this was it. By the time I knew this, I wasn't even able to text or call anyone to let them know baby was on its way, except a quick text out to my mom and sisters. Naomi, a birth assistant was the first one here, and I was so relieved to see someone. She quickly saw that I was having super bad back pain and started counter pressure. As soon as she heard me say, "I feel like I'm going to throw up" she called Penny (because apparently that means you are in active labor, 2nd stage, and baby could come quick at this point). Penny said to get out of the tub to slow it down as she didn't want baby arriving before her. I was at the point where moving sounded like the worst idea ever and I was quite annoyed at this idea. It took me what felt like an eternity to get from the baby's room where the spa was, to our bedroom, which is the room right next to it. I labored there for awhile and ended up back in the spa by the time the rest of the birth team arrived. I was so relived to see them. Naomi and Megan, two of the birth assistants, switched back and forth for hours doing counter pressure on my back. Jon stepped in a few times and I said, "Ok, you're bad at that. I need one of the girls." Haha. Poor Jon. He didn't take offense. :) I also got very annoyed at the monitoring a few times, and even refused one of the assistants checking my blood sugar with a, "Just stop touching me." Haha. So not my personality.
Sometime in the early morning around 8 or 9 maybe, the back labor was so awful from my little sunny side up Penelope, I honestly thought I might die from the pain. I never understood why people used the word "intense" when describing labor. It's like a weird, mystical version of trying to convince yourself that you aren't about to die from the brutality happening to your body. At one point, I cursed Eve from the garden of Eden, and at another point, I all out just cussed. I'm sure it was comical. I'm sure they've heard worse. For the most part, I was able to stay in control, and on top of it, but there were definitely moments of panic in terms of pain, but luckily being able to even vocalize "I'm losing it here" and "I'm so exhausted" was helpful mentally to know where I was, and where I needed to get back to. Around this time, Penny got me out of the tub to see how far dilated I was, see how things were going, etc. At first I refused to move, because I physically could not even fathom getting up, but we finally got to our room, and I was fully dilated. I think that was the biggest relief of all....it was my first check the entire labor, and I cannot recommend enough to laboring moms to stay clear of dilation checks as they really can mess with your head. I remember not wanting her to even check me because I didn't want discouraging news. I kept thinking to myself, "If she even says that I'm only 4cm, I honestly think I'm going to pass out." But to my surprise, she said 10cm and I was so relieved mentally, but in the worst pain physically. And as it turns out, my water had not really broken the night before. Maybe a slight leak, but it was not broken.

They decided to give me some sterile water injections in my lower back which supposedly helps relieve back labor pain. Let me tell you, I'm never doing that again. Those injections hurt worse than actually pushing the baby out. It was the one time, I literally started bawling and just couldn't fathom this entire thing ending.

At this point, I was begging her to break my water. It's something they rarely, rarely do, and have even had babies born in their amniotic sac. Wow that would've been crazy. She agreed to break my water, hoping that it would speed up the urge to push and all that. It took her several attempts to actually break my water because the bag was so strong, which apparently is a really good thing. When my water actually fully broke it was the weirdest feeling ever, and I actually felt the baby physically drop down hard.

I got back into the spa for about another hour or so. I knew I was 10cm, was still having painful contractions, but really no urge to push. Anytime I pushed I felt nothing, no progress. Part of this was probably her positioning as it's much more difficult to get a sunny side up baby down under the pubic bone. The water injections helped a little, but not enough to warrant ever wanting to try them again. Penny wanted me to get out of the water to see if that would help my body feel what was going on, etc. This was when things suddenly changed. We loosely planned on birthing in the water, but I didn't care either way how or where the baby came out, so getting out of the water wasn't a big deal to me.

This was the complete turning point and it felt like a whirlwind from there. I ended up in a sitting position and could finally feel the pushing. I have honestly never worked so hard in my entire life. Once I felt her head with my hand, I was determined more than ever to get this baby out. 28 minutes of pushing total, and she finally came out! She turned at some point during this time from sunny-side up, but the midwife wasn't exactly sure when seeing as though she literally spiraled herself out, doing a complete 360 spin. Holy moly, craziest feeling ever to have your kid come flying out of you. At this point, I was on my back and waiting to hear her cry. She was perfect! Daddy was bawling his eyes out and I kept asking, "Is it a girl?!?!" "Is it a girl?!?!" Through his sobbing Jon finally said yes, and they laid her on top of me, and we both cried. Oh this tiny girl, represents so much to us. The midwives don't cut the cord until it stops pulsing, so we laid for a bit while Penelope tried to figure out what in the world just happened to her. Haha. The baby's cord is not quite as long as you would think, so she was only able to lay right across the middle of my belly, which made it difficult to see her, but the first thing I noticed was of course her full head of hair, and her gorgeous, kisssable pouty lips, just like her big Sis.
 First snuggles with Daddy. 
 She was staring right at his face. 
For the next several hours, the midwife team was doing all their stuff with me and the baby. I was quite impressed with how quickly they moved, how efficient they were, and how everybody had their own specific jobs they were tending to. It was amazing. I ended up having an IV run because I was just so exhausted and feeling pretty light-headed from the long, hard working labor. After the IV I started to feel much better. They waited about 3 hours before weighing and measuring her, which was great because I got to snuggle her for the first 3 hours before anyone took her out of my arms. 

Head midwife Dr. Penny Lane.
(We had boy and girl things ready at the birth since we didn't know gender. Somehow she ended up wrapped up in the boy blankets. Haha). 

 She apparently didn't appreciate being weighed. 
She was born at 11:11am on Sunday, April 6, 2014. 
She weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz, and was 20 inches long. 
We named her Penelope Mae. 

I cannot speak highly enough of the excellent care we received. The medical attention to me and Penelope, and even just general care, was amazing. They did all of our laundry (even the stuff in the hampers!), folded it, cleaned our bathrooms, kitchen, and living area. Washed our dishes, and picked things up. They left our house completely spotless. The after care of delivering was the same as a hospital stay in that they returned to the house to check on me and Penelope and were on top of things for the next three days like in a hospital. It was a great. (And yes, the midwife is medically qualified to do medical infant exams, etc. We had everything done that is done in the hospital). 

So, there you have it! The story of Miss Penelope's birth. One I never in a million years dreamed of doing at home.  I'm still not at the point yet where I'm saying, "Yes, let's do this again!" (not specifically homebirth, but birthing another baby in general). I kept saying, "We are done. We are adopting from here on out!" But then again, I said the same thing after Evie. So I guess we'll wait and see.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful heart warming story.

Naomi said...

Love it! So happy for you and Jon and that miss Penelope Mae is here! Can't wait to snuggle her!! Love you all!

Charity Hildebrand said...

Oh my, I just love hearing birth stories - each one so unique and special! Thanks for sharing! Our last two babies were born at home. Here is a link to our son's birth story (who is now 4 months old): http://lifewiththehildebrands.blogspot.com.tr/2013/12/brooks-birth-story.html

I love her name and she is beautiful! Congrats Mama!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! What a lovely story and testament to God's grace, protection, and provision.

As a reader on and off for the past few years, I've noticed recently your alluding to trials and difficulties. But, yet, you seem to live a wonderful life: lovely vacations, beautiful children, and gorgeous home. You might do your readers a service and be a blessing and encouragement by sharing what you are alluding to, but not really specifically saying. God bless....