“No, keep driving, just get me to the hospital!” I insisted on gritting my teeth during contractions. In my labor-induced fog, the only thing I wanted was clean sheets and a hospital room. Instead, I was riding in a car at midnight in a state of full panic. Then suddenly, the car started to slow down. My husband turned his head to look at me as he dialed 911.
“We’re not going to make it to the hospital,” he said calmly.
I’m thankful God gave me such a level-headed husband because he was actually right! We did not make it to the hospital. We welcomed our new daughter to the world in the back of an ambulance as it whipped down the highway.
At least there were clean sheets in the ambulance!
I have given birth five times and each one was a very different experience. When I’m asked what advice I’d share with expectant moms, specifically about labor and delivery, that midnight birth in a speeding ambulance is always the first thing that comes to mind.
I had thoroughly prepared for the delivery. I pre-registered at the hospital. I read all the birth books. I wrote out my birth plan. My bags were packed. I was ready. I’m glad I prepared as much as I did, but no amount of preparation equals full control. I was still surprised by my birth story.
After that experience, this verse has become especially meaningful to me.
“A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
It is a comfort, especially looking back on the births of my children, that though I might not have known what was coming, the Lord did. It was a good thing for me to have prepped, but I also needed to prepare my heart for all the unexpected possibilities that labor and delivery may bring.
In that spirit, I’ve asked some of my mom friends to share their different birth experiences and advice for expectant moms.
Epidural Hospital Birth
“The type of birth I had with both of my children was a hospital birth with an epidural and looking back, I wouldn’t change it. One aspect of getting an epidural that I didn’t think about, but was definitely appreciated, was the rest it allowed us. It was amazing to get some solid sleep, be woken up and told you are fully dilated and ready to meet your baby soon, it felt like dream labor! That sweet face and the instant love you feel is the reward for the hard work. I would tell mothers who are going through this type of birth not to think you aren’t as strong if you request an epidural. You are incredibly strong, you just grew and carried a baby for nine months, and now you have to deliver that baby. It is ok to say to yes to the epidural, to get some rest, to have some sweet moments with your husband before you both are about to be parents without the pain of labor.”
Natural Hospital Birth
“My biggest tip for having a natural birth in a hospital setting is to discuss your pain management plan with your doctor beforehand. If possible, also try to discuss your hopes with the nursing staff at the hospital before going into labor. Let them know that you’d like them not to offer the epidural unless you ask for it, and ask them about alternative pain management tools that they can offer to help you through labor. Ask if they are equipped with wireless baby monitoring – being able to move around in labor is so helpful!. When you are actually in labor, avoid laying flat on your back as much as possible, let gravity help move things along. The advantage of giving birth naturally at a hospital is that you have medical professionals to monitor and assist if necessary. It’s important to communicate what you are hoping for, but embrace the fact that labor won’t always go quite as you planned.”
“Stay home as long as possible. If you must have a hep lock, kindly ask that it not interfere with bending your wrist. You’ll want to use your hands for bracing yourself. Keep moving and ask about alternative positions besides on your back. Ask for a squat bar. Bring a heat pack if they have a microwave.”
“Don’t feel bad that your plans changed and your baby was born a different way. Sometimes I have felt that certain people considered our birth story inferior because “natural is best.” In our case, it would have been fatal. Every birth story is special in their own way. A healthy mom and baby are worth a change in birth plans!”
“I would say to hold your plan loosely because I ended up with an unplanned c-section twice. With my second birth, they found my baby boy with his cord wrapped around his neck four times! If I would have pushed at all, it would have put my sweet baby in distress. Sometimes what we plan is not what God has planned, and we just have to trust in that. Afterward, remind yourself that you’ve just had major abdominal surgery, and allow others to help. Make sure you are up and walking around the hospital (even when it’s painful) before you head home because it definitely helps the healing process. It can be frustrating because the recovery can be so long (no lifting or driving for 6-8 wks), but just remember that God brought your precious baby in this world the best way for your baby.”
“Compared to my previous vaginal birth, the scheduled c-section was pleasantly easy and straightforward. One tip I do have for expectant mothers who need a c-section would be to come up with a code word between you and your husband to use in the OR. Due to a relaxant pill they gave me, I became overly emotional and had a very hard time breathing and communicating. If there was a next time for me, I would make sure my husband and/or doctor listened for a “check-in” phrase, and if I didn’t say it, they would know something was off. Also, have your husband take lots of pictures! No matter what style of birth you have, itʼs a miraculous and precious event that you will want to remember for all the years ahead!”
“My second was a planned c-section and it was wonderful knowing family was able to come help before the baby was born, and there were no surprises.”
VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean)
“I have now gone through three successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian) experiences and I would highly recommend them to other c-section mommas. Since my c-section was scheduled due to a breech presentation, I was the ideal candidate to try for a vaginal birth. Even so, I had to talk to quite a few doctors to find one that was supportive of the idea. Be your own advocate and do your research so that you feel confident in your decision. Discuss with your provider the parameters that they feel comfortable letting you labor through so you are all on the same page on the big day and there is clear communication. Once you have done all you can to prepare, accept that at the end of the day, the goal is to come home with a healthy baby. If you need another c-section then do that, then that is perfectly ok!”
“I’m a mama of 9 babies born at home. I want new moms to know that God made their bodies to know exactly what to do; trust your body. One thing to know about home birth is how peaceful it is. You can cater to the environment to your specific needs with no outside pressure. With each birth, I learned more and more to trust my husband’s leadership and the Lord’s hand in my life. If you’re planning a home birth I want to encourage you to trust God’s design for your family and for your body. You are wonderfully made!”
-Lisa, The Pennington Point
“Have all your necessities organized. You don’t want to be trying to explain to your husband where you keep your hair ties while you’re in labor. Freeze homemade labor-aid in ice cubes so you can toss them into the blender and have a boost of electrolytes easily. Keep a yummy hearty meal in the freezer and pull it out when labor starts. You’ll be starving when you’re done!”
Birth Center/Midwife Birth
“As someone who has always had an aversion to doctors and hospitals, I found a birthing center to be the perfect setting for my first birth. If you are hoping to give birth at a birth center, my tip would be to consider using the tub. I was pleased to learn I could do a water birth or use the tub throughout laboring to help with relaxation and pain management.”
“Dealing with pain is obviously the hardest part of giving birth! But our center provided many resources: a birthing tub, nitrous oxide, a swing, and a king-size bed! I knew what was available and started with the easiest stage (the swing) and as the pain progressed moved through the stages ending with nitrous oxide. One of my favorite pain tips I always share with moms is having your husband squeeze your hips together during the contractions. It always helps alleviate the pain at the beginning of labor! Also, when you think you literally CANNOT continue, it means your baby is almost there!”
-Bethany, Waves and Lilacs
Birth In An Unusual Place
“I had the unique pleasure of giving birth in the backseat of our car, as my husband drove 65mph down the highway. I say pleasure because not many women get to deliver their own babies, and it was such a special moment filled with lots of surprises. With it being my first, I wasn’t prepared for how quick labor could be—only 4 hours from start to finish—and I think that’s important for all new moms to know; it might not take hours and hours. Staying calm, having lots of towels, and having a focused driver calling 911 to alert the hospital, are key if you’re ever faced with a potential car birth!”
“I just had my third baby almost three weeks ago. She decided to come nearly six weeks early. It was far from my plan. But you know what? God is bigger and better and stronger than you will ever know. He showed His faithfulness to me every moment since my water broke, through friends helping in a time of need, to keeping me and my baby girl healthy and strong. Spending the last three weeks in the NICU with my baby girl has been one of the most challenging things I’ve done. But every day God teaches me to trust and to lean on Him. He is my hope and stronghold in this time of trouble. He brought healing to me after a complication from the c-section had me nearly debilitated. He keeps us safe. He is bigger and stronger than we will ever know and I’m so thankful I can trust in Him even when I don’t know what the day will hold. God is good and He loves us and our tiny treasures more than we ever can. That is one thing I can cling to. My hope is in Him.”
“When you first find out that you’re pregnant, you find out your due date and that’s the date you are looking forward to. No mom ever expects to deliver their baby earlier than predicted, especially when your due date is in March and you need to deliver a tiny baby who no longer has a heartbeat in November. I chose to deliver Michael at the hospital with labor-inducing medication, but no epidural. I’ve had 3 full-term live births before with no epidural and this 20-week old baby delivery was by far the most painful… and it’s all because my body and my mind were not ready to let him go so soon. If you have the unfortunate news at your 20 weeks ultrasound that your baby no longer has a heartbeat, the only encouragement that I can give to another mama is to make sure you hold that baby as long as you want and to get pictures of the experience. Although it was the most painful delivery I’ve had, I’m so happy I chose to go through a full birth experience with him. It was easier to grieve and I can cling onto that experience and the photos to know that he is real and he is still my baby. I’m not the only one who has gone through this experience and you won’t be either, but it can be a very isolating experience if you don’t talk about it with others.”
There is so much wisdom and encouragement to be gleaned from other moms in preparing for labor and delivery, and one thing that I’ve heard from almost every mom is that things usually don’t go exactly the way you planned. That can be hard to hear and accept sometimes. We like things to be in our control, but pregnancy, labor, and delivery – and motherhood in general – are experiences that remind us how little we are in control of anything. That can be a scary realization, but we can rest in the fact that the Lord knows exactly how labor and delivery will go. He will carry you through when you lean on Him.
Even if things don’t go the way you expected or wanted, holding your baby in your arms is a sacred and precious moment. You are a mother. Breath in the gift of that. No matter what leads up to the birth of your baby, God has been holding you in His hands the whole time, and now you have the chance to bring glory to Him through your birth story.