By: Allyson Phillips
Sitting here with my sweet son, Isaiah, just weeks after his entrance into the world is the biggest miracle of my life. I have seen God in many ways – through the eyes of an orphan, in the miraculous healing of cancer, in simple love songs, but I have to admit that birthing my son was the most tangible expression of God that I have experienced in my 25 years of life.
Here is our story, the story of sweet surrender.
When my husband Lyle and I found out we were pregnant with Isaiah we immediately began deciding on the kind of birth experience we would want to have. I had several friends who had braved the all natural, drug free labor and for some odd reason had told me it was “beautiful” and “empowering”. If I‘m being honest, before I got pregnant the idea sounded cool but I kind of thought that most women were really just doing it for some imaginary pat on the back or something. It wasn’t until I had to decide for myself that I realized how incredible the mothering body is and how much safer it is to engage fully with birth and bring your child into the world naturally.
Once we had decided to go the natural route I had the privilege of bringing a doula on board with us! Merrill was (as you will see) the single most comforting person for both my husband and I while we were in labor.
So, my due date was March 30th but both my mom and my sister tended to have babies early, so I was prepared to go into labor early as well. On Friday evening March 27th, the big dance began! I started having mild crampy contractions at around 9:30PM. I remember being so pumped while simultaneously wishing that I had more signs that this was actually labor. I did everything I could to stop my labor – took a bath, tried to rest, ate some food, but sure enough those contractions kept coming. They were approximately 10 minutes apart and 1 minute long!
Midnight of the 28th rolled around and I had been in early labor for just a few hours and then all of a sudden my contractions went to 5 minutes apart 1 minute long and my discomfort level shot up to a 5 out of 10!
At this point I assumed that my labor might go very quickly and that I would get to meet my son sometime on the 28th, but boy was I wrong! Little did I know that I was going to have to endure 36+ hours of labor before getting to hold my beautiful boy.
From 12:00PM until 4:00PM I worked through contractions that never seemed to truly progress past about a level 6 in discomfort or get any closer than 4 min apart. I had all the classic early labor reactions, vomiting, sleeplessness, anticipation, but there was one thing amidst my labor that I didn’t plan on experiencing. Peace.
Merrill, our doula, arrived at 4:00PM and helped me to labor. I remember the three of us (Merrill, Lyle and I) being at so much peace as things began to pick up pace slowly. I told Merrill how happy I was to be in labor which is a reaction I never imagined having in those moments. I felt the presence of God like I never have. It was as if He reached His hands down, placed me securely in His arms and was whispering to me,
“Sweetheart, you can do this. I made you to be able to do this!” It was powerful!
As the evening of the 28th progressed, I began to have sporadic and unevenly spaced contractions. Some were 2 minutes apart and others were 7 minutes apart. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get through this.
It had been 24 hours and I had seen little progression, no other labor signs like my water breaking or losing my mucus plug and I was VERY tired. I had been awake for nearly 30 hours and I was ready for this thing to kick into active labor! This had to have been the 1st road block that I hit in my whole process.
I remember over thinking and just trying to rush through it. I felt like a failure for having such a long labor and I certainly felt silly for thinking that I was going to have a fast labor. But just when I felt like giving up and saying, “someone drive me to the hospital and get me the drugs!” at around 10:00PM I lost my mucus plug. That nasty thing might as well have been 14kt gold to me. It was a definite sign that I was progressing and considering the contractions were getting more and more uncomfortable, I was relieved.
I decide that I am ready to go to the hospital. My contractions were still irregular but I was experiencing level 7 pain and I had been laboring for 25 hours so I figured that I was surely progressed enough to finish laboring at the hospital.
I hauled my big ole self into the car and made the miserable journey to the hospital. You see, you never really can prepare yourself for the car ride to the hospital. That thing is brutal. Trying to work through contractions while seated, no thanks. Anyway, we arrived at the hospital and I was eventually wheeled back to triage at 11:23PM.
I was checked in triage and to my not-so-happy surprise I was only 3, yes 3cm dialated…3! I experienced the 2nd road black in my labor journey. How in the world was I only 3cm? Hadn’t I done a good job? Hadn’t my labor been effective? I thought I was living in peaceful labor land, not the land where I am in labor FOREVER! Not only was I only 3cm dilated but because my tummy wasn’t so big, none of the monitors would stay on unless I laid down ON MY BACK! Now ladies, have any of you tried to work through level 7 contractions while forced to remain still and on your back? Nope. Not a single natural mama wants to do that. I began violently convulsing and my sweet husband just held me and encouraged me as I went through hell for those 30 minutes. After they monitored me we had a decision to make. My husband was exhausted, I was exhausted and I was so embarrassed that I was only 3cm dilated; all I wanted was for someone to tell me that it was all going to be over soon. But that wasn’t the case. Merrill came to the triage room and said to me, “Allyson, what do you want your birth experience to be like? They will absolutely let you stay here and labor here, but I have a feeling that if you stay they may offer you an epidural. And that’s ok, if that’s what you want. But my honest suggestion is that you go back home and get into “labor world” and you get this baby out!” At that moment something clicked. I realized that the only way that I was going to get through this in the way that I wanted to (which was drug free) was to surrender to it. Just surrender to labor. Let it do what it will and even if it takes another 30 hours, to remember that I will get through it, but not if I fight it. I had to give in.
I walked (barely) out of the hospital at 2:00AM on March 29th with tears in my eyes and determination in my heart. When I returned home I believe that this is when my active labor really began!
From 3:00AM-5:00AM my mom came and labored with me. I remember her praying over me through each contraction. We had this rhythm going on. I was standing and vocalizing during each contraction and sitting and sleeping in the minutes in between. Also. through every contraction I was vocalizing in deep tones and I would squat at the top of each contraction allowing Isaiah to drop into the pelvis.
And THEN there was transition. I cannot describe the kind of warrior woman strength that hits you as you enter transition. One contraction I would be focused and intense and the next I would be telling Lyle and Merrill that I couldn’t do it. By 6:45AM my contractions FINALLY were 2 minutes apart. At this point I was 34 hours into my labor and I was finally surrendered fully to the labor I was experiencing. Lyle would hold me up through every contraction and encourage me while Merrill was simultaneously telling me that every contraction was bringing me closer to meeting my son! It was beautiful. The perfect picture of team work and love as I was in the most intense part of labor!
7:45AM hit and Lyle and Merrill decide that it was probably time to take me back to the hospital. They had to make the decision for me because I was so focused on labor I couldn’t remember my own name much less decide if I was ready to go to the hospital! LOL! And thank GOD they took me when they did because the next hour was a blur!
8:00AM they get me in the car and we head to the hospital. I am now working through level 10 contractions while Lyle was driving and I was kicking myself for not just doing a home birth! HA!
8:07AM while getting off of the interstate my water breaks! And I’m talking about movie moment water breakage! It was as if I had popped a water balloon underneath me! At that point I felt intense relief and for the first time in 35 hours.
As we pulled into the parking lot I started to get emotional. I realized that I was very close to getting to meet my baby boy and I knew they would let me stay at the hospital this time because my water had broken! Luckily since we had been in the night before they had all my info on file. Boy, if they hadn’t I would have had Isaiah in the lobby! I remember as they were getting me my wristband I looked at Merrill and said, “Uh, I think I feel like pushing”! The next 20 minutes were the most fun and intense minutes of my life.
8:15AM after notifying Merrill and Lyle that I needed to push they rushed me to triage. We could barely get me on the bed to check me before wheeling me straight to the delivery room! I was 10cm dilated and he was fully dropped and ready to make his debut! Thats right, I went from 3cm-10cm dilated in under 6 hours when I had labored for 30 hours just to get to 3cm! SURRENDER!
I remember it all feeling like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy – Nurses in scrubs, monitors, a doctor fully scrubbed and ready to go. After holding back my pushes for 15 minutes I finally began to push at 8:30AM and in 10 minutes I was holding my beautiful baby!
Isaiah Triumph Phillips (6lbs 3oz) was born healthy and happy on March 29th (Palm Sunday) at 8:40AM! We named him after his triumphal entrance and the one we celebrate on Palm Sunday!
When they laid him on my chest there are no words to describe the love I felt for my husband, the love I felt for my son and the love I felt for myself. I will NEVER forget the presence of God that I felt again at the moment. It was as if all of creation was watching that moment as I received heavens gift in the form of my son.
Having a child is the most selfless thing I will do and I will always cherish the way I was able to birth my own. I felt like a warrior. I was a surrendered and laid down version of myself and I felt beautiful! But remember, every mom is a hero no matter how she brings her little on earth side! I celebrate my story and every story because every single one is beautiful!