It is crazy to think that our sweet Judah has been with us for a little over two weeks now. Pregnancy lasts for 9 months, which is the better part of a year. And then in a matter of hours, you are no longer carrying your child but caring for him. If you're new around here, you may not know about our journey to pregnancy. It was a long one, filled with sorrow and unmet expectations. But last fall, we were delighted to find out that our wait was over and God had granted us the greatest desire of our hearts by allowing me to conceive our son, Judah Edward Mathisen.
In the years leading up to our miracle pregnancy, God gave me resources at just the right time that helped to prepare my heart and mind. Prior to learning about the beauty of pregnancy and birth, I had assumed it had to be just like it was in the movies - 9 months of misery followed by an arduous labor, which was only to be followed with sleepless nights and hormonal imbalances that wreaked havoc on everyone in my presence. But the Lord helped me to see that pregnancy is a gift, not a medical condition to be treated. It is a beautiful time of blossoming and growth. It is a miraculous time to be celebrated and enjoyed, not endured. And so I began to pray. I prayed for conception, for an enjoyable pregnancy, for balanced hormones, and whatever else the Lord showed me through various books and through time in His word.
What is so beautiful about praying specific prayers is the joy we can have when He answers them! I was able to have a pregnancy devoid of any complications. I was able to honestly say that I felt better pregnant than before I was pregnant, which is a huge blessing. I know this isn't true for everyone, but it was seriously the best 9 months of my life. After all of the women's health issues I had endured, pregnancy was a dream come true.
As I thought about preparing for labor and delivery, I just kept thinking to myself, "If God has been faithful to answer these specific prayers for my pregnancy, why wouldn't He do the same for my labor?" After learning about the various medical interventions women use during labor for comfort measures, I was bound and determined to have a natural birth. I wanted to see what my body could do and also wanted to watch God work.
I prayed for adequate time to get to the hospital, a clear distinction between Braxton-Hicks contractions and true labor, one midwife to attend me during the birth, no need for medical intervention, and so much more. On Tuesday, April 30, I went to work as usual. The day before, I went to my 39 week appointment, and my midwife said that I was 3 cm dilated and 75% effaced. That day I went to work as usual, but I was super crampy and had a lot of random contractions throughout the day. But since I hadn't yet experienced labor, I still wasn't sure how much longer I had until the big day.
That evening, I got home from work and continued to feel not so great. We were all watching The Voice, and I bounced on the birth ball for a bit before sitting down next to Ror on the couch. I was still experiencing contractions, and they seemed to be a little more regular. I said to Ror, "Babe, I think these may be the real thing." He started timing them, but they were still somewhat irregular. About an hour later, they had picked up and were starting to take on more of a pattern. I decided to tie up loose ends by finishing packing my hospital bag. We called his parents, and they came and picked up our dog and our daughter. I also took a shower, and then we called the midwife. She said to take a warm bath, and that if the contractions continued, they were indicative of real labor, but if they stopped, I probably wasn't in labor just yet.
After taking a warm bath, the contractions continued, and we knew it was "go time." We called the midwife (again) and she said that I could continue to labor at home as long as I could since I wanted to have an unmedicated birth. We stayed at home, and then when the contractions were four minutes apart for a while, we got in the car and headed to St. Mary's hospital. It was strange to be in the car, on our way to the hospital to have our baby. It still didn't feel like it could really be happening.
Once we got to the hospital and were taken back to triage, I got checked again and was said to be at 5-6 cm and 90% effaced. So I really was in labor after all! It was super encouraging to know that this was actually happening and that it wasn't just a false alarm. It was about midnight at this point, and I was super happy that we would have a May baby after all. I had prayed that our baby would come in May, because we have several family birthdays in this month (mine, my dad's, Rory's, and our daughter's).
We were admitted to a labor and delivery room, and we figured that with how fast things had been moving, we would have a baby by morning! I labored in the tub for a while because it was comfortable and easier to manage the pain. After a few hours, I was checked again and was at 6-7 cm. This was a little discouraging considering the fact that I had been laboring for a few hours at that point. Around 5 am, I was checked again and was in the same place. That's when I started to get a little frustrated. But all through labor, I kept crying out to God and asking Him to help me. Rory read Scripture over me, and we prayed and prayed and prayed.
After laboring for a while longer in the tub, my midwife suggested I get out so that things could pick up a bit. I admit I was scared for it to get harder; I was using all the breathing techniques I knew, visualizing, and praying as best I could (at this point we had been up for 24 hours), but the pain was just so intense. A few hours later, I was checked again, and I had only progressed to a 7-8. The nurse had said to me earlier, "This could be a long day; first babies tend to take a while." I just looked at her and said, "Please don't say that." But goodness, was she right. This boy wasn't going anywhere.
At this point, I had been in labor for about 10 hours, awake for way too many hours, and hadn't eaten anything. The contractions were so strong and intense, I would groan and just say the name of Jesus. My midwife suggested that they break my water, and when they did, the contractions got even stronger. And yet this little one would not budge. We also discovered that he was "sunny side up," meaning his back was toward my back, making it extremely difficult for him to progress into the birth canal. We then had a choice: 1) I could get an epidural, and they would reposition me and hope that he would turn, and if he didn't, my midwife could turn him, or 2) she could turn him without an epidural. Rory and I looked at each other, took a moment to pray, and went with choice #1. I was determined to not feel like a failure for needing medical intervention. After all, I had just labored for over 10 hours sans medicine! The nurse and midwife were constantly encouraging, stating that if I chose to have another child, I would easily deliver them and they would slip right out. But we had to focus on sweet Judah at this point.
Getting the epidural was not painful because of the needle, but rather because I had to sit up, sit still, and bear down during the most painful contractions yet. Not to mention that it took a while for the epidural to really set in. But when it did, I was so grateful to get some relief. I was also able to get a little sleep, which was so needed at this point. Exhaustion doesn't even begin to describe how I felt. I then laid on one side for a while and then the other in hopes that baby would move, but he didn't. The midwife then said it was time for her to try to turn him, and again, we stopped to pray. Baby turned without any complication!
It was time to push to see if we could move baby further into the birth canal and get me to that magical 10 cm. I was still having contractions, but they were too far apart for me to make any progress. Enter our friend, Mr. Pitocin. Once I got the Pitocin, the contractions happened fast and furious, and I could barely catch my breath. But even with all of my hard work, baby still wasn't making much progress. I was so frustrated and oh so tired. My sweet nurse gave me some juice and a popsicle (even though you aren't supposed to eat after getting an epidural), but I just didn't have much strength left.
My midwife had called the doctor to let her know that there would be a possible C-section, and that was my biggest fear. I didn't want to have to recover from a C-section, and I wanted a vaginal birth for a multitude of reasons. All through the day, Rory was texting our friends and family with updates, and they were praying. We called out to God together, asking Him to bring this baby into the world without any further medical intervention. After about 15 minutes, my midwife said that she was beginning to see progress, and things were turning around! God was making a way for my baby to make his arrival! My midwife called off the C-section, and I pushed with everything I had in me, even though I could barely feel what was going on since my legs were numb and heavy.
All of a sudden, the atmosphere in the room shifted. People seemed to be moving into different positions, and it looked like they were getting ready for a baby to come! I kept pushing, and with a big mirror in place, I was able to see that his head was there, and I was so close. That gave me motivation to just keep going, no matter what. I was going to get this baby out one way or another! In a matter of minutes, he finally came, and they handed him to me. I just started weeping and saying, "Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!"
I couldn't believe he was finally here and that I was able to lay eyes on the little one who I had been getting to know over the last nine months. He was here. And everything was worth it. Judah Edward Mathisen came into the world at 5:54 pm on May 1. May 1 is a special day to my family; it is the day my parents met and also the day my maternal grandmother Nanny died five years ago. To have him come into our lives on this day was sweeter than I can say.
All through my pregnancy, women told me to "expect the unexpected" for labor. I confess I didn't really want to hear that advice. I had prayed for certain things, and God was going to come through on them, right? Not only had I prayed, but I had done everything else "the right way." I didn't gain too much weight, had stayed active by walking and lifting weights, took a quality prenatal and other supplements, and did acupuncture! But this labor and delivery was nothing like what I thought it would be. However, the end result is exactly what I prayed for: a healthy and happy baby.
There were so many ways we saw God work: I had the same nurse and midwife the whole time (for their whole shifts!). I was able to labor for a long time naturally, giving me the confidence I may need for future births. The Lord gave us the opportunity to be a light to the hospital staff who were in and out of our room as we listened to worship music and prayed. The hospital staff was praying for us. My midwife said she had never had someone come so close to a C-section and then have everything change. Both she and my nurse said that they had given up, but I never did, so they kept doing everything they could for me to deliver without a C-section. Everything was completely fine with Judah, and while I did suffer a 2nd degree tear, I had no further complications upon delivery.
It's easy to think that we have God figured out or that we can pray a certain way to get a certain result. And it is wonderful and beautiful when He answers specific prayers just the way we asked Him to. But it's also beautiful when He gently reminds us of our need for Him and humbles us. It's beautiful when we are able to look and see His sovereignty over every detail, even when we don't understand. My heart's desire was for a happy and healthy baby. And while the journey to bring him into this world was nothing like what I thought it would be, I would do it all again, because through it, God helped me to know that I truly am never alone, and His plans for me are always good, no matter how different they are than my own. God alone is God, and I am so grateful for His kind generosity to me and for the gentle ways He reminds me of His faithfulness in every season.