Birth story of my sweet Zoe
I thought with the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, I would share my own birth stories this month, beginning with our firstborn, Zoe Alethia. My husband, Zach, and I were living in Turkey at the time, and we were so excited to celebrate our pregnancy, news of which came not long after we lost our first baby. The pregnancy went well; some throwing up, plenty of nausea, and discomfort in sleeping, but otherwise not too many complaints and our baby was healthy all the way along! ;)
My due date was August 11, a Friday. I was praying to start labor before arriving at 41 weeks (otherwise I would be induced). I started having regular contractions on my due date on the way to my OB's office for my 40-week visit. She put a stress-test on my belly and measured several contractions. She told me, "We will get to meet your baby this weekend!" (My doctor, Selale, was absolutely amazing and spoke English, for which I was very grateful).
I labored easily that day and called my friend Lyndi, who lived in another city and who was planning to be my unofficial doula for the birth. We decided she would come that night (She needed to take a train and didn't want to miss the birth if Zoe came in the middle of the night!). Zach, Lyndi, and I spent the night walking around our neighborhood [PS. As I'm writing this, I asked my husband, "Did we have the dance party the first night I was in labor with Zoe, or the second?" My best friend then said cheekily, "Oh my gosh, that shouldn't even be a sentence..."]
Anyway, I'm pretty sure the first night there was no dance party. I slept most of the night, although with constant interruptions from contractions. The next day, the three of us killed time walking around a track in our neighborhood, doing squats, and ended the night with a dance party, all in hopes of progressing labor. (Zach and I sadly ignored both of our moms who kept admonishing us both to rest!)
That night I couldn't get to sleep, as the contractions were getting longer and more intense. I got up around 3, and sweet Lyndi was already awake (I don't think she slept at all either that night!), and we woke Zach and decided to go to the hospital. I called my doctor twice on the way there (yes, in Turkey, you have your doctor's cell phone number...), and she answered the second time and told us she would call the hospital to make sure the nurses were ready for us. Lyndi read me encouraging notes, prayers, and Bible verses that she and some friends from home had written for me. I loved that. I felt ready for labor!
It was very strange, entering the hospital so late. Obviously it was pretty empty. The nurses all spoke in Turkish and made me dawn a gown and fill out paperwork, which was all mildly stressful. Zach took care of as much as he could for me. Selale, my doctor, came to check my dilation, and I was only dilated at 2 centimeters! I asked her if I should go home, and she told me that I'd be more comfortable if I stayed at the hospital...which, I was not.
I labored pretty intensely, trying to walk around and lean/slow dance with Zach, for several hours, and progress was so slow. Selale checked me several times over the course of those 8 or so hours, and I was barely progressing. She told me that she'd request an epidural if I didn't progress to 5 centimeters in the following hour. We prayed and asked many friends to pray, and I made it! But then I stalled at 5 centimeters for several more hours. Selale came in and told me she was requesting the epidural. Though I came into labor desiring no medication, both Zach and I were relieved when she said that.
Zach held my hands as I was given what I later learned to be a spinal (they call them all epidurals in Turkey), and after that I was able to rest, albeit fitfully, for an hour or so. I remember the pain of the contractions being replaced by an uncomfortable amount of pressure.
Selale came in after about an hour, and I was dilated at 10 centimeters! She got the nurses and asked me to sit up. I needed Zach and Lyndi to move my legs into the stirrups, since I couldn't move my legs. I felt so tired. I wasn't sure that I could push. Even though I knew that pushing was the last phase, mentally I kept wondering if I would ever get to meet my baby! Selale told me how to push during each contractions, and it took a handful to feel competent. Zach was holding my hand and was right next to my face (his dad had been known to pass out during birth, and Zach had the same faintness when it came to blood, so I forbade him from looking anywhere near my vagina!). Lyndi told me that our baby had hair! Lots of it! I think that shifted me into reality, and the pushes really became productive. Selale kept smiling at me through each contraction and telling me how great I was doing. She cut an episiotomy, which I told her I didn't want, and she used a vacuum to get little Zoe out, as she was coming out crooked. The pushing phase took about 45 minutes.
Immediately after Zoe came out, she looked around, as if thinking, I wondered what it would look like out here. From her first moments, she was curious and wide-eyed, taking everything in. She barely cried. She was placed on my chest just for a second before the nurses took her to suction her throat and nose and to weigh her. She was then given to Zach while I was stitched up. I couldn't take my eyes off of my perfect little beauty. She looked up at her pa as if asking, Are you my daddy? And then she marked her territory by peeing on him! We were transferred into a recovery room, and I nearly fell to the floor trying to get off the bed and into a wheelchair. I felt like I could walk, but my legs were still partially numb! Had there not been a huge male nurse in front of me, I would have been sprawled out on the floor.
Zach and I got acquainted with our little beauty. A few friends came to visit us and meet little Zoe. It was an incredibly special (and tiring) time. That night Zoe slept on my chest. She was in her little cot next to my bed, but when she started crying, I just couldn't leave her there! So she slept on my chest, and Zach snoozed on the couch. And that's how Zoe left my womb and took her first breaths on her own!
Looking back, there were definitely things I was disappointed in about her birth. I would have denied an episiotomy and would have gone home after being checked initially. I would have rested a lot more during early labor and heeded the advice of my mom and mother-in-law! But through all of this, I was reminded that my God was with me in it. He was protecting Zoe and was right next to me during each and every one of those long hours. Jesus was Immanuel, God with us, to me, just as He was when He first came to earth as a babe Himself. Though Zoe's birth wasn't perfect, nor was it as I expected, it was God's plan and His best for us. We were so thankful for the wisdom and skill of Dr. Selale as well as the care and compassion of our friends.