Birth Story with Havenly Birth and See Baby at Dekalb Medical Center
Updated: May 21, 2018
While I was preparing for Super Bowl this year, GO FALCONS!! In Brotherhood for Life!! I couldn't help but reminisce about the sweet birth I attended one year prior. I was in awe of this beautiful mama and her hands on supportive husband. Here is her story of bravery, surrender, and faith.
"Every time I talk about Annie’s birth I always get the same look from people- confusion and skepticism, usually accompanied by comments like, “Well it wasn’t like that for Me.” or “I could never.” If you would have told me a couple years ago that I would have an almost ten pound baby naturally, without drugs, and two weeks past my due date, I would have thought you were crazy. Of course, it was long, painful, and messy. But it was PERFECT, and I take zero credit.
Let me start by saying that I’m usually the first person to give up in an exercise class, I’ve never run more than 3 miles without talking myself out of it, and I usually give in to my late night chocolate cravings. Clearly, endurance and self-control haven’t always been my strengths. The one (and maybe only) thing I did have was faith; faith in my body, faith in my midwife, doctor & support team, and most importantly faith in God to get me through.
When I found out we were going to have a baby I realized pretty quickly that I had to make a choice. So much of being pregnant feels like something that is just happening to you; like you no longer have ownership over your body or emotions. Those crazy hormones smack you with an instant sense of worry about the health of your unborn child. As someone that relied on being in control to feel secure, I needed to learn real fast to let go. I see now that this was God’s way of revealing in me the things I needed to release in order to become a mother. I realized that if I began to worry about every pound on the scale, every possible genetic disease, or every “worst case scenario” of labor, I wouldn’t have time to enjoy the incredible privilege of watching God create a human. I knew I needed to put down all the scary books, drop my own expectations for the process, and enjoy the ride. I needed to lean into my faith and begin to replace worry with prayer.
Like a lot of pregnancies, mine was far from perfect and my newfound resolve to be calm, peaceful, and spirit-led was tested often. An early ultrasound revealed that I was actually pregnant with twins. My husband, Andrew, and I were over the moon about our two babies, but sadly, we lost the second baby during the first trimester. It broke my heart a bit to pack away the “Palombo Baby #2” onesie that we had made to tell my parents, but God’s grace covered me so strongly that I felt nothing but gratitude for our healthy little girl and full trust in His plan.
I refocused on enjoying the rest of my pregnancy (lots of warm baths and relaxation) and started thinking about my birth plan. A friend of mine sent me “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” and I was so encouraged by all the stories of real women and their experiences with natural labor. Sure, it’s was a little hippy-dippy and those 70’s birth photos were enlightening ;) but it felt intuitive in a way the other books didn’t. I felt strongly that if my body knew how to make a baby without my input it would know how to deliver one. I hired a Doula because I knew I needed a calm and encouraging presence for support and had read the stats about how important they are in successful natural births. I knew Andrew would be amazing (because he’s a saint, really) but I also wanted someone who has seen it all before and believed the same way I did about birth. We took a Christian-based birth class that taught me how to relax and not fear pain, but to surrender to the process (giving up control was becoming a theme for me). I spent the last few weeks preparing by writing down and memorizing encouraging scripture and making a worship playlist for the hospital.
When Annie’s due date finally arrived I felt so ready and surprisingly calm. My belly was huge at this point and I was constantly asked “Are you sure you aren’t having twins?” I was also asked on the regular about my birth plan, which I knew was by no means set in stone. I knew I needed to be flexible and trust God to be faithful- no matter what that looked like. My prayer was always for him to just get me through and walk along side me. It brings tears to my eyes to think of all the ways he did just that.
The due date came and went. Every day felt like the movie Groundhogs Day. We watched about a million episodes of Game of Thrones and fielded many texts from anxious friends and family members. My mom delivered me a week late so I knew that might be the case for me as well. I was so blessed with a doctor (Bootstaylor) that didn’t put a timeline on things. We did an ultrasound every week past due and Annie was just as snug as a bug, but passed all her tests. At one point she was measuring eleven pounds (gasp) but after further investigation that number was reduced to nine. Andrew and I were both nine-pound babies so I knew I had my work cut out for me. Sometime during that period I had a call from my Doula letting me know she had a family emergency and wouldn’t be able to attend my birth. Once again, I knew God would still provide and did he ever. The highly recommended, Libby Forrester, came to my rescue and immediately put my mind at ease. I knew she was the perfect fit and that God had picked her way before I did.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Feb 7, 2016 two weeks and one day past my due date, I woke up at 5 am suspecting that my water had broken. Knowing that the first baby can take some time, I mentioned it to Andrew then went back to sleep. We got up for good around 8:00 am and I was as giddy as can be at the thought of finally meeting my baby. I was having minor contractions that felt very similar to Braxton Hicks so I did a little work around the house and bounced on my yoga ball. It was such a beautiful day so I was happy to just look outside the window and wait. By noon we had just finished lunch and Andrew was on the couch and I was sitting on my yoga ball when I felt a huge rush of water and knew for sure my water had broken again (I wasn’t aware it could happen multiple times). I noticed a bit of a yellow color so I called the midwife who wanted me to come in right away since the color was a sign of meconium.
I was still fine with taking my time at this point but Andrew had the bags in the car before I even hung up the phone. The drive to the hospital was unexpectedly calm and beautiful and I texted Libby to meet us there. The contractions were starting to get stronger but I was surprised by how joyful I felt. Thanks to the super bowl, the notoriously terrible Atlanta traffic was gone and the roads were clear. Our planned 40-minute drive only took 15. We listened to Carrie Underwood’s version of “How Great Thou Art” while I cried happy tears, then laughed at how ridiculous I was. I knew I would be happy afterwards but was surprised by the elation I was feeling during labor.
We arrived and checked in- I had to pause a bit during contractions but they were still very manageable. I was greeted by a nurse whose first words to me were; “Your midwife said you were very cool, calm and collected during your appointments. Your type are usually the first to start screaming for an epidural!” That’s not really the kind of confidence you want from your nurse, but I was happy to accept the challenge. My midwife came in and checked me. I wasn’t dilated much but she was able to break the remaining water to help things progress (3rd time is the charm, apparently). She then asked what my birth plan was and I informed her I’d like to try with as little medical intervention as possible. Her response was “Well, it’s going to be very hard to go without the epidural after we start Pitocin. Since there is meconium present we are going to need to deliver the baby as soon as we can.” I was disappointed in hearing this, but surprisingly not defeated. She left the room for 20 minutes to let the nurses know the plan. In that time I tried to relax as much as I could- remembering that you hold the most tension in your face and that if my jaw stayed relaxed the rest of me would too.
The beautiful Libby finally arrived like a ray of sunshine. We had never met in person but I felt like I had known her for many years and enjoyed chatting about God and family between contractions. The hospital (Dekalb Metdical) was kind enough to let me dim the lights, play my worship music and diffuse oils in the room. It was just the three of us and the nurse for awhile talking, relaxing, and breathing through the “rushes” as Ina May referred to them. I could no longer talk during contractions at this point so I knew things were heating up. When the midwife returned to check me again and start the Pitocin she discovered I had made significant progress and was no longer in need of the drugs. “Thank you, Jesus.” Is all I thought. I felt so strongly that my prayers were being answered and that the entire process was Spirit-led. I didn’t just believe, I knew that my body was fully capable of doing what God had intended. There was a complete absence of fear (anyone who knows me can attest to how out of character that is for me).
Right before the shift change I received a little extra gift. The nurse, who had once been a little salty, asked to give me a hug and kiss before she left. She told me she had a heart condition and that the music and calm setting had blessed her so much. I loved how God was at work in so many ways that night.
The next few hours are more of a blur but I remember being so in the zone and so connected to the voice inside telling me to relax and give in. The sounds coming out of me were evidence that it was not easy – the pain would come like waves – slowly rise, then peak and subside. I always joke that my labor was much harder on Andrew then it was me because he had to witness it. I was lucky enough to retreat inside. I’m pretty sure I kept my eyes closed through the entire transition period. I’m told this is the point where a lot of women give up because the contractions come so fast. Sweet Libby was already ahead of me and made sure I stayed relaxed and controlled my breathing. She massaged my hands and showed Andrew how to apply pressure to my back. They both provided much needed mental (and physical) support. It’s amazing how if you let your mind panic your body quickly follows and it becomes hard to recover. I knew if I just stayed ahead of it and took the contractions one at a time I could get there. I heard my mom's voice saying, “You can do anything for a minute.”
By midnight I was through transition and started to have the urge to push. I remembered my mom also telling me that the pushing part was a break and I was so grateful to find this to be true in my case as well. The contractions slowed way down and my body fell into a perfect natural rhythm building strength through the contraction then forcing the momentum downward (a sensation I couldn’t have ignored if I tried). With a little coaching from Libby I was able to channel my breath into the push, giving my body even more strength to help the baby out. I wish I could say it was three pushes and she was here but my large-headed sideways baby had other plans. It took a lot of work, positions, and cheerleading from the team, but after a few hours of effort she finally made her appearance at 3:26 am with a very loud cry. I had been told that they may need to take her and work on her for awhile because of the meconium but because of her cries it was clear she hadn’t aspirated on any of the fluid and was able to come right to my chest.
My first words were “Thank you, Jesus” Because really, how do you witness a miracle and not thank the miracle maker? She was an angel with a bright red angel’s kiss between her eyes to prove it. John 4:19 took on a whole knew meaning to me “ We love because he first loved us.” I knew the love I felt for this baby is just a tiny glimpse of the love God has for us. God revealed so much of himself to me in that moment and it brought me such a feeling of peace and comfort. He got me through just as promised and the other side was so much more beautiful than I could ever imagine.
So many people said to me that it’s silly to give up pain medication just so you can prove something to yourself. I understand that way of thinking because nothing should ever be done out of pride, but it was never about that for me. I connected with God in a way that I never have before – a way that is truly transformative and in my opinion, the very best way to start motherhood. The pain and trials don’t end with labor and it was such a blessing as a new mother to be able to develop my faith and trust in the Lord to get me through, not just on the miraculous days but all my days. I’m still learning on a daily basis to replace my worry with prayer and each time I do I feel God cover me with his grace and peace."
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
“…when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow for when your endurance is full developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
Written by: Melissa Palombo
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