A month ago, I gave you the first #WeWontShrinkBack challenge: to share a new lesson or a cool story of something from your life that has happened in the last 3 years.
I loved reading all the stories that were sent to me! And I want to share one with you today.
Earlier in my blog, I told you a little bit about my friend Jamie and how she and her husband lived in the Dominican Republic for two years. Jamie and I met in college and have remained close friends through the years, so I went to visit Jamie, her husband Matthew, and their son Gabe this past January.
I went in January because the timing was good for me. But the timing was also a little interesting because Jamie was almost 9 months pregnant with their daughter. We figured if the baby came while I was there, then that would make the trip all the more exciting! :)
One night during my visit, Jamie took me to a restaurant that was pretty far up in the mountains. The sight was so breathtaking. As we ate our dessert on the mountain that night, Jamie told me her concerns for delivering her baby in the hospital there in the Dominican Republic. She gave birth to her son in Indiana, and she had needed to have a C-section because he was breech. But with this baby, she felt deep down in her gut that God wanted her to deliver naturally.
I listened to Jamie share the details about her medical history, the limited resources of the hospital in Santiago, the difficulty of communication due to her doctor’s limited English and her limited Spanish—so many unknowns. I wanted to be reassuring to her, but I was sure that if I were in her place, I would be FREAKING OUT.
Jamie kept saying that she was relying on God, trusting Him with her baby and with her own health. I admired that so much. I literally thought it was one of the bravest things I had ever witnessed. But part of me still wanted to make it easier for her and say, “Oh my gosh! Get on a plane and go deliver that baby in the U.S.!!” But I knew that was just my fear talking.
So instead, I reached across the table, held her hand, and prayed that God would give her peace and would protect her and her baby girl. Together we prayed that God would be glorified through this child’s birth.
A few days later I went with Jamie to her doctor’s appointment at the hospital in Santiago. Her doctor hugged me and kissed my cheek, which I thought was so sweet that even doctors are friendly and hospitable in that culture. During the appointment, I felt like it was hard to understand the doctor, and there were lots of questions still in the air. But Jamie kept doing her research, made a plan, and most importantly, prayed that God would have His hand on this birth.
Jamie's #WeWontShrinkBack Story
Jamie took the challenge to write down the details of her birth story, and I want to give you a chance to read it. So here’s Jamie’s #WeWontShrinkBack (even when giving birth in a developing country!!!) story, in her own words:
Giving birth in the Dominican Republic is an experience I will never forget:
Let's just get this straight. The odds were against me delivering Selah via VBAC. First of all, the Dominican has somewhere around an 80% c-section rate (I won't go into my theories for why that is at this time). But also, my medical history made it so that me doing a VBAC was even more high risk than your typical VBAC (which is a story for another day). And just to make this very clear, it is likely that although my doctor was one of the more progressive doctors on the island and was very supportive of me trying the VBAC within certain parameters, I am almost certain that he had never actually preformed one before. Let's be honest, I didn't want to know.
So that afternoon on Friday, February 13, 2015, we started gearing up for game time. I called my doula, Katie, who was also an American missionary and fellow mom friend of mine, to let her know that it was happening and that I would keep her posted. I then called my friend Jaci, who we had asked to also be there for additional support and translating, and gave her the update. We also were in communication with my dad, who had been living in the DR as well, letting him know news as time passed. Since my contractions really were not serious by any means or progressing very quickly we decided we'd eat dinner and put our son, Gabe, to bed before heading down the mountain to the hospital. Still to this day, Jaci jokes about how nonchalant we were about the whole thing. Very anti-climatic!
At the Hospital
My mom and step-dad would later join us at the hospital with my dad, only to have to get a hotel to stay in over night since I continued to progress slowly even while at the hospital. We (my husband, Matthew, Jaci, and I) arrived at HOMS hospital in Santiago, DR, around 8pm. After getting checked in and set up in the room we waited to see my doctor. In the DR the doctors are much more involved and the nurses are hardly trained to do anything other than check blood pressure and heart rate.
This is when the 23-hour saga began. Katie arrived shortly after we did and so with my “team” assembled the true endurance race began. For the first 2 hours we climbed up and down flights of stairs to help the contractions progress. It seemed to be working, but then when my doc came to check me around midnight I wasn't even dilated. This was very discouraging news, to say the least. He didn't discharge me, given the risk factors involved with VBAC ( which is initially why we decided to go the hospital so early).The doc recommended we all try to get some rest. Matthew and I shared the twin hospital bed and Jaci and Katie concocted a bed out of chairs.
Around 3 or 4 a.m., sleep was just not happening for me. So my team started taking turns doing stairs with me again. They were all very positive, upbeat, and encouraging. In the morning when my doctor checked in on me, I was 1-2 cm dilated. This was encouraging and disappointing at the same time. He stated that if I was not progressing nicely by noon we would move towards c-section. He was surprised when we told him we had been climbing stairs and let us know we are only supposed to remain on the labor and delivery floor! We kind of laughed, but realized our game plan would have to change. Matthew, Katie, and Jaci began taking turns doing “laps” with me around the maternity unit. Which by the way, was made up with around 8 beds for post-op recovery (aka, c-section) and only two labor suites. We got all kinds of looks from the nurses, as I'm pretty sure they had only witnessed a handful of American women laboring in their halls.
We played music. We walked. We sat. We ate. We breathed. We prayed. We laughed. We cried. We used essential oils. We walked some more. I took a nice long shower. My mom even was able to jump in on the walking rotation. At 10am, my doctor returned with the anesthesiologist. After checking me and confirming I was 5-6 cm dilated (woohoo!), they put an epidural port in my back so if a c-section was needed, the medicine would be ready. Little did I know that I still had 9 hours of laboring ahead of me.
To make a long story short, the laboring got very intense, as you would imagine. Around 4 pm we scrubbed up because the doctor wanted to break my waters to progress labor. At this time, the impression was that we were going to try to have this baby or c-section it would be. Unfortunately I had to pick 2 out of the 4 people that had been helping me. Matthew and my doula, Katie, went in the room with me. I was scared. I prayed for peace. Then he broke my waters and… Nothing happened. I literally had the longest break in contractions than I had experienced since the night before. So I asked, “Is this normal? What do I do now?”. Finally a contraction came, definitely feeling stronger than the previous now that my water had been broken. And surprisingly, my doctor decided that I could continue laboring for 2 more hours and if I didn't have the baby by then we would have c-section.
People were praying. Really hard. And at this point, God’s presence was tangible. The pain was so intense. It was all I could do to withstand one contraction. Even now looking back on it, I'm overwhelmed by the reality that without the support that I had both present with me and in spirit, I would have gave in and gotten the epidural which would have most likely resulted in c-section, given my circumstances. The pain was bearable with those around me bearing the pain with me. So at this point it was key to remind myself that the pain was serving a very important purpose- bringing our daughter into the world. Without the contractions pushing her down the canal, she would never be born. I had to tell myself the pain was worth it and embrace it rather than resist it.
So by 6pm I was desperately asking where the doctor was. He said 2 hours, it had been 2 hours, where was he?! I remember him coming in with the anesthesiologist behind him. I was hovering the toilet, as this squatting position was one that I found offered some relief. He immediately asked if I was ready for some pain relief. Let's just be honest. At that point, I was desperate, exhausted, and in excruciating pain. Yes, give me the epidural. It was easy for the doc to administer since we already had the port. I had several more severe contractions before it started to kick in. Everyone was scrubbing up again. Doc was ready to have this baby one way or another. They helped me get onto the bed and we all walked down the hall to the surgery room (he allowed 3 to join so Jaci got to come).
And this is when the miracles happened. The doc checked me. Selah wasn't even in the birth canal, he could hardly feel her head. He stated it was time for c-section. My doula, Katie, responded immediately, “let her try to do two or three big pushes first and if that doesn't work, we’ll do the c-section”. Within seconds, everyone was “with one accord”, as I can't describe it any other way. This was truly a team effort. Katie to my right, telling me how to breath and push. I couldn't feel from my chest down. They were telling me to push and I honestly didn't know if I was or not. But she coached me through it. Matthew was there cheering me on. Jaci was taking pictures the capture the moment. The anesthesiologist was on my left, forearm positioned on the top of my stomach, “assisting” me with pushing. My doctor was in the receiving position, with forceps and whatever other tools he used to make it all happen. There were also several nurses and the pediatrician present, doing whatever they do!
Within a matter of a couple minutes Selah went from not even being in the birth canal to being born. I couldn't believe it!!! We did it! She was blue and slimy at first but I held that precious gift on my chest. It took her a minute to cry which had me worried but as soon as the cries came the joy and relief flowed equally as free. Selah Grace Morley was born on February 14, 2015, at 7pm, in Santiago, DR, at 9 lbs 5 oz. Who knew that God's perfect plan would include allowing me to experience natural childbirth, via VBAC, in a developing country who primarily does c-sections. His ways are so much higher than ours!
I cannot express enough how clear it is to me that God protected me and Selah in countless ways through out the whole process. Although it may have been much easier and much less risk (in the opinion of some) to have the c-section, I wouldn't take back a single detail of my birth story. Even though there were so many things that probably shouldn't have happened the way they did (by U.S. standards), I still wouldn't take back a single detail. God made it so evident that HE was there that day that we would be foolish not to give Him the glory. And for that, I wouldn't change a thing. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen!
Jamie, thank you so much for sharing your story with us! Your courage and faith inspire us! Love you! xoxoxo
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.