I cannot believe Ember is already
4 months old 9 months old ONE (in a couple days) and I am just now finally getting around to sharing her birth story. WOW! It has taken me an entire year to finish it. Sigh. Guess that’s just reality as a new mom, going through two remodels, writing our first book, keeping always more and beating50percent a float, while trying to maintain sanity and some resemblance of a social life. The past year has been exhausting, thrilling, tearful, and full of treasured moments. But perhaps the most treasured moment was September 10th, 2017.
So here, I am finally telling our birth story.
Did I have a birth plan?
Why did I have a doula?
How did labor start?
Did I use essential oils?
What did I pack in my hospital bag?
How did I get through unmedicated labor contractions?
I am excited to finally share some of those details with you here!
Also, I will not be sugar coating the messy reality of birth…. You’ve been warned!
As you read, please know that I believe all forms of birth are miraculous and amazing! Mom’s are incredible and no matter how you bring your baby into the world YOU ARE A FREAKIN BOSS!
God is the author of life, I only hope to be a faithful narrator.
On September 9th, I was 10 days past my due date. I had been praying hard that I would go into labor soon because I did not want to be induced. I woke up to spend some time in the Word, and wrote down a few of the symptoms I was having too. The first line of my journal entry for that day says, “Finally woke up to an encouraging sign! I’m starting to lose my mucus plug!” (remember… I warned you about the messy details thing) I also recorded the verse that stood out to me in my reading that day. “May the Lord give you increase, you and your children.” Psalm 115:14. I scribbled a little arrow off to the margin and wrote “always more” as I often do when I find verses that relate to my life mantra.
Although I was encouraged by some physical signs of labor and having lots of Braxton Hicks, I was also starting to feel a little anxious… I reallllly did not want to be induced, I wanted to go into labor naturally. They offered to induce me at 5 days over and I immediately refused. My midwife – who probably thinks I’m way more granola than I actually am – made it very clear to me that they would not let me go more than 12 days overdue because of the apparent health risks. I’m not exactly sure what those risks are, nor do I have any kind of medical expertise, but I just really trusted that the Lord would bring our daughter into the world on His timing. I was willing to wait. You might think I’m crazy, but I seriously was! I never had those feelings of “just get this baby out of me.” I had so much peace that she would come when she was ready, and she did. Come to find out later, she really needed those extra days cookin in the womb!
That being said, by the time I was 10 days overdue, I was trying whatever the internet suggested about naturally inducing labor. Pineapple, spicy food, bouncing on the ball, taking baths, long walks, raspberry leaf tea, acupuncture, and sex, but still no baby. I remember reading comments on social media, and even receiving texts from friends, who had some opinions about my desire to wait for our baby to come naturally… Of course. I would not put our baby in danger if I did indeed need to be medically induced. But I also knew lots of women who were impatiently or unnecessarily induced early, and I wanted to avoid that. So I kept surrendering and trusting in God’s timing for our daughters birth.
We spent the evening of the 9th doing what we had been doing every night for the past two week since moving into our new home – unpacking, organizing, and majorrrr nesting on my end. We got stuck on a house project late at night (we moved into our new home 3 weeks prior) so didn’t get to bed until about 12:30 am. I was having lots of Braxton Hicks all day and had started timing them, but none were super consistent and definitely not painful, it just felt like I was doing an ab workout all evening.
I woke up at 2:30 am to what I thought was just intense cramping. I had experienced some pretty intense cramping the past couple of nights so I didn’t think too much of it at first, but after a few minutes I quickly realized this was different. MUCH different. This was the blinding ambush. IT WAS TIME!!! I reached over into my nightstand drawer and grabbed a sharpie to write my life mantra on my arm – ALWAYS MORE. I knew that this day, more than any other day, I needed to be reminded that I ALWAYS had MORE strength, endurance, and hope through Christ.
Our birth plan and choosing to have a doula…
Jeremy and I wanted our labor and delivery experience to be a calm, low stress, and intimate experience between the two of us. That meant no family, friends, or cameras in the delivery room. We wanted to bring our daughter into the world together without having to think or worry about anything or anyone else. Just Jeremy and I, intimately experiencing the most defining moment of our lives together.
Our birth plan was essentially to have a low-intervention, unmedicated birth at the hospital with the help of our doula Echo, essential oils, prayer, and a jammin’ Spotify playlist.
I wanted to have a unmedicated birth for a few reasons. I knew it would stretch my faith and give me an opportunity to trust the Lord on a whole new level, I wanted the ability to move around freely and not be confined to a hospital bed, I believe in the natural way (call me granola if you want), and yeah, I’m a bit of an adrenaline junk, I thrive on intensity. But one of the main reasons I wanted to have an unmedicated/low-intervention birth was because I wanted to labor together with Jeremy. I didn’t want labor to solely be something I went through, while Jeremy watched from a chair. I wanted for him to be an active participant. I wanted for him to feel needed and important during the whole process – and he was. Laboring with Jeremy was was the most intimate, unifying, God-empowering, thing we have ever done together. I am so thankful that the Lord fulfilled this desire of my heart.
Some of you may be thinking…. then why did you have a Doula? Isn’t that what they are supposed to do? Not always. And Echo (our Doula)made it very clear from the beginning that she was our advocate, educator, support, and encouragement, but she was not my labor partner – Jeremy was. Instead, she helped me write my brith plan, suggested different laboring positions, was with us from start to finish, and basically made it so that Jeremy never once had to leave my side (except once to pee;). Echo if you are reading this, WE ARE SO THANKFUL FOR YOU!!!
I understand that this cannot be the case for everyone and is not a desire for everyone. AND THATS OKAY. Like I said before, every single birth story is different. But each birth story is a beautifully-brave God-inspired miracle. So whatever your story is. Own it.
And so it begins…
Jer and I had planned to labor at home as long as possible before heading to the hospital. But contractions came on fast and strong. It was only a matter of minutes from the time I woke up before we were calling our midwife to gauge when we should load up the car. She could clearly tell right off the bat that I was in active labor. I could hardly speak to her on the phone during contractions, and they were coming fast and lasting long. Only a couple minutes or so in between and each one lasted about a minute and a half.
After about an hour and a half of contractions that were growing in intensity, I told Jer I didn’t think I could endure too many of these in the car, especially if they got worse. Jer texted Echo before we left to let her know to meet us at the hospital! I had three beastly contractions in the car on the way there. And since my brain was clearly working so well at the time… I decided to sit in the passenger seat and buckle myself in. MISTAKE. Ladies, trust me, get in the back.
When we arrived at Labor and Delivery they quickly admitted me to triage because it was more than apparent that I was clearly in active labor. When they checked me I was 4cm dilated (for those of you reading this that have no idea what that means – because that would have been me before I got pregnant – you have to get to 10 cm dilated to push out a baby!) 4cm was good progress and my body was clearly showing signs of continued progress, so they transferred me to a labor and delivery room. I was having contractions every 3 minutes lasting about a min to a min and 30 seconds.
This is where the story has the signature of divine all over it….
Do you know what the significance of that number is?!?!
Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” This is the verse that inspired always more.
WOW GOD. Just wow.
We got settled into room 320, and I was mostly laboring on all fours or standing up holding on to Jer in the middle-school slow dance position;) I got super nauseous all of the sudden and threw up profusely for an hour or so. I basically just ejected everything I had consumed the day before. Echo held my peppermint oil under my nose – thank goodness! I think my body may have gone into shock from going into labor so quickly… At this point I was pushing for the tub.
At the hospital where I delivered Ember, they don’t allow you to give birth in the water, but they do allow you to labor in the water. I knew that was something I wanted to try during labor because I had heard such incredible testimonies from other women. Sure enough, it was a lifeline. Unfortunately, in order to labor in the tub, I had to leave our room and walk down the hall to another room where they labor tub is. The contractions I had in the hallway on my way to the tub were not fun… but the way back was the worst…. we’ll get to that later though.
The labor tub room was private and much more of a calming of atmosphere than my delivery room. When Jeremy and I walked in my doula had already gone ahead of us and set up my diffuser, some fake candles, and had my labor Spotify playlist going. I got in the warm water and felt relief from the pain in my low back and tailbone which I ended up fracturing during labor… eek. Don’t let that freak you out too much, I had fractured my sacrum when I was in college from running, so it more susceptible to reinjury.
The antigravity of floating in the water really seemed to help. I put my arms on the ledge of the tub and rested my head on them letting my belly hang into the water and my hips float so there was no pressure on my tailbone.
For the first hour or so things seemed to have calmed down a bit. I remember being able to focus on the lyrics to the songs, clinging tight to Jeremy’s hand, and feeling so much peace despite the intense pain.
Every time a contraction came I reminded myself to relax – I know that sounds crazy – but I knew that the more relaxed my body could be quicker and more easily my body could progress. I had other mom friends and my midwife encourage me to try and relax as much as possible because when you tense up, that’s what slows things down. Let me tell you…. in the moment the LAST thing you want to do is relax. It seriously seems impossible in the middle of hard core labor contractions, but I think constantly reminding myself to relax, actually gave me more energy. You have to let your body do the work, and it works more productively when you don’t fight against the pain but rather embrace it. I knew that labor contractions would be painful and I was ready to embrace the suffering in faith that the Lord would carry me through.
I Just kept telling myself the same thing I would have my dad yell at me during cross country and track races that always calmed me with confidence and strength: “Breathe Audrey! Breathe.”
I credit so much of my ability to breathe and relax through intensity to being a runner, but also to taking and teaching barre3 classes throughout my entire pregnancy. I HIGHLY recommend it to all pregnant women.
While we were in the tub my contractions started to come much stronger and with little to no break in between. Sometimes I would only get 30 seconds in between contractions. I remember looking at Jer, Echo, and our midwife and saying, “when am I gonna get a break, I’m not getting a break anymore…” They kept encouraging me that this was a good thing, my body was doing what it needed to do to push a baby out… but after a few hours of strong and long contractions with hardly any breaks, I started to reach my breaking point.
I remember desperately longing for a break and hoping that I was nearing the end because I wasn’t sure I could go on at this intensity much longer. I specifically remember three or four contractions where I started to think, “wow… I can’t do this anymore…” Jeremy later told me that it was at this point that I looked like I was trying to crawl out of my body…
But with each contraction, Jeremy kept saying over and over, “You’re stronger than it babe.”
I caught a glimpse of the words on my arm – completely blurred by the tub, sweat, and tears. ALWAYS MORE. Even still, it was an empowering promise. Always more strength through contractions, always more hope when I felt tapped out, always more purpose through the pain, always more perseverance to endure, always more opportunity to be courageous, always more reason to trust, and always more victory in Christ. Never in my life had those words carried more power than they did on September 10th, 2017.
At 7 am there was a shift change and the new midwife and nurse came into the room to introduce themselves. It was one of the midwives I loved and had met before! Realizing the incredible and increasing amount of pain that I was enduring, they determined it was probably time to head back to the L&D room….
At this point I was using words that require asterisks to type, and aren’t a normal part of my vocabulary….
Back in room 320, contractions felt like a chainsaw to my stomach. One of the midwives suggested sitting backwards on the toilet in the bathroom to relieve the pressure I was feeling on my tailbone. I remember pep talking myself through exacerbated breaths…
“I have MORE… I can do all things by Your strength… the same power that conquered death is in me… I can do this….”
Eventually, I reached a point where I could no longer mummer affirmations to myself. All I could do was grunt, and try to keep breathing. Jeremy prayed over me. I started to feel the unbearable pressure….
Realizing I was nearing the end, my midwife spoke up, “Those grunts are starting to sound a little different Audrey… do you want to have this baby in the bathroom…??”
I made my way back to the bed and she asked me if I felt ready to start pushing. I tried to push – literally – through contractions, but I couldn’t. It felt like something was blocking me from pushing. Then I realized…
“Did my water ever break…?” I asked
My midwife assured me, “Oh honey, I bet it happened when you were in the tub…”
“It feels like something is in the way when I try to push… ” I know my body pretty well from being an athlete my whole life, and I just had this strong sense that my bag of water was still intact…
Well, we haven’t checked your dilatation since you checked in last night… so let’s see how dilated you are and just double check your water isn’t still in tact…”
Sure enough! My water never broke!!! After my midwife broke it for me, I immediately felt like I could start pushing!
Pushing was my favorite part of labor because it was like the bell lap! I knew I could give a little more and push a little harder because the finish line was in sight! Pushing also gave me something to do through contractions besides just patiently bearing them. With each push I knew I was one step closer to meeting our daughter (we still weren’t 100% on the name, we wanted to see and hold her first)!
I kept reminding myself that I could keep enduring, keep surrendering, keep trusting, and keep on pushing more and more because of Christ’s strength empowering and emboldening me.
Jeremy later told me that I also kept saying, ” I just want to hold her… I just want to meet her…” and that I kept telling the nurses and my midwife, “thank you so much…” after everything they did or told me. LOL.
While pushing my midwife also realized that my IV had come out at some point (I had a nastyyyyyy looking bruise on my arm for weeks after because of it). When I first checked into the hospital they gave me what’s called a “hep-lock” that is essentially an IV catheter that is then capped off for later use – that way you aren’t hooked up to an IV pole, but the nurses have easy access in case you need something injected into your vein later. They were particularly concerned that mine had come out because apparently redheads are known for postpartum hemorrhaging… (aka bleeding scary amounts after delivery) They tried to readminister my IV while I was pushing. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?! LOL at trying to get a laboring woman who is pushing without medication to stay still! Just – no. But I did end up needing a shot in my leg after she was born to help stop excessive bleeding… I guess the rumors are true? Redheads beware.
I pushed for 45 minutes on all fours until she finally came out. 9:40 am 7.13 lbs and 20.25.”
An absolutely beautiful miracle
I seriously think this is one of the most beautiful photos we’ve ever taken. Not because we look good or the lighting is perfect, but because of the moment it represents. Holding our baby girl for the first time, while looking up into her daddy’s watery eyes… wow. Oh my heart. I think I’ll be discovering the depths and significance of this moment for a long time. I’m so thankful my doula captured these photos for us to cherish! Holding our baby girl in our arms, I instantly understand the Father’s love for us on a whole new level. How could I be so madly in love with someone I don’t even know yet?
The second she was out of my belly and into my arms the tears of pain ceased, and the tears of joy poured out as we kept staring at our daughter and then looking back at each other in awe. I felt so blessed to be entrusted with such a beautiful little girl to hold, protect, teach, inspire, and love. Jeremy prayed over her while I breastfed her for the first time moments after entering this world.
The longer we held her and starred at her the more confident we became in the name we had picked out. We agreed. It was perfect.
Ember Jean Roloff.
The dictionary defines EMBER as “a small live piece of coal wood etc in a dying fire. The remains of a fire. A glowing fragment from fire.”
Embers are GLOWING – they can light up an entire room, forest or field. ????
Embers are ENDURING – they are the fiercest remains of a fire and radiate a substantial amount of heat long after the fire has been extinguished. ????
Embers offer REVIVAL – when a fire is dying the embers can bring it back to life! ????
Embers are WELCOMING – they are inviting. They draw people in by their warmth and light. ????
Embers FLY – when they have been burning hot enough, they know when to spark and fly. ????
Embers are CONSTANT & LOYAL – they radiate a more constant form of heat as opposed to the fire which is constantly changing along with the heat it radiates. ????
Embers are FORERUNNERS – in forest fires they can blow on ahead of the fire and start fires kilometers away (l loved this one being that she’s our first child) ????
Oh. And to add to all of this… Jeremy and I fell in love while starring into the embers of the campfire pit at the farm. Ember just felt so perfect.
We want our little Ember to be a light in the darkness, glowing in all she does, enduring and lasting – hard to stop, ALWAYS believing in the MORE that is within her – and when stoked/kindled by her Creator – able to burn and glow even MORE than she could on her own. Our prayer is that she would be MORE on fire for God as He continues to fan her into flame. Always more.
My Doula took all of these photos of us during labor and right after. They are some of my absolute favorite photos in the world. As I was uploading them to this blog post all the empowering emotions were flooding back to me. LABOR AND BIRTH IS SO BEAUTIFUL. Thank you Echo for capturing these treasured moments and making it oh-so-real for me to relive.
The next day my good friend Julia Green came to take some newborn photos of us while we were still at the hospital. These are the photos you may have seen before. After we cleaned up a bit;)
To download my labor playlist and FULL packlist >>click here<<
I was well prepared for the pain and suffering that comes with childbirth, but I was not prepared for the pain and suffering that comes afterwards. And when you’re adrenaline wears off and you’re body realizes you’ve been laboring all night and now you get to take care of a newborn and learn to breastfeed (which is much harder than anything you’ve ever had to learn), you just don’t have the stamina to fight more extreme pain…. and I had to.
But to end this blog on a happy note, I’m not going to dive into the misery of reoccurring mastitis, the blisters bruises and stress fractures, how I killed my milk supply and then worked ruthlessly to get it back, my opinion on the tongue/lip tie surgery, or what I did to recover and regain my physical health…. but next up on the blog is going to be all about 4th trimester, bouncing back from pregnancy and my breastfeeding journey! Stay tuned!
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You guys, it makes me want to cry thinking about it, but I cannot believe we made it a full year and Ember is still breastfeeding! I am so thankful that I fought it out in the beginning even though it was a turbulent start.
I CANNOT BELIEVE it’s been almost ONE YEAR since that day. I remember it so clearly. The day I became a mother. What a joy-ride it’s been.
And as Jer and I like to quote from our favorite book, “If it’s half as good as the half we’ve known, here’s Hail! to the rest of the road!”
In three days we will wish our baby girl a happy first birthday. There will surely be lots of floral and frosting;) Stay tuned for the pics.