Vivien’s Birth Story
Your mom and I looked at each other confused. Now? Did she say we need to go now?
“Now?” I finally asked.
“Now,” Dr. Ruffin replied.
“Can we go get something to eat first? We’re starving,” your mom said.
“No, sorry. You can’t eat anything. You need to go straight there,” said the doctor.
We weren’t ready for this. You weren’t due for another week and a half, and even though we were hoping you would come a little bit early, we wanted to wait until you were ready. We wanted to wait until the Lord called you forth.
We didn’t want the doctors to decide.
It was a stressful day. We had a bag packed for the hospital, but we had left it at home. We hadn’t eaten anything, as it was our usual tradition to go straight from the doctor to Chickbucks, where we would have a celebration of sorts for your life and growth in your mother’s womb (Chickbucks, by the way, is an amazing combination of Chick-fil-a and Starbucks; the two together form one of God’s unique gifts to ease our burden here on earth). Now, the doctor was practically demanding that we go to the hospital so they could monitor your mother’s blood pressure. They were concerned about her; we learned later that pregnancy induced hypertension can be very serious.
As we walked across the sidewalk to the purple tower, we thought about the implications of the monitoring. What if Sarah’s blood pressure stays elevated? What if the tests the run come back positive for kidney failure? What if they want to induce labor?
In moments like these, when these “what if” questions arise, I’m grateful that I can trust in the Lord, and I don’t have to depend on myself. I myself am powerless to most circumstances. I live at the whim of millions of factors beyond my control. While I can do many things to act responsibly, it’s these cases where I have to let go. Let go of myself, my selfishness, my self-dependence. I have to trust the Lord, because I am incapable of doing anything about it on my own.
As we walked, I prayed for you, and I prayed for your mom. But foremost I prayed for the Lord’s will to be done. Because that’s the beauty of the Lord; his will is perfect, and his desire for you, your mom, and I is perfect. I knew then, and I know now, that regardless of my desire or my will in that moment, the Lord’s will was best. My perspective is jaded, clouded by emotion, and untrustworthy. The Lord’s will is perfect, just, and absolutely trustworthy.
When they strapped the monitor onto your mom it was only a matter of minutes before her blood pressure dropped to a perfect level, and stayed there for the duration of the tests. After several hours, the doctor came in and confessed “I have no excuse to induce you,” and they let us go.
This marked the high and low point of pregnancy for your mom. It was the high because we were able to really see how the Lord was in control, and we were able to completely trust him. But it was also the low because you still weren’t here, and we had to endure another two weeks of doctors professing fears, demanding inductions, and postulating consequences. Each time we told them that we trusted the Lord, and that we would not induce.
In fact, they scheduled an induction for the day after you were due. We didn’t show up. It turns out your journey into our lives was set to begin two days later.
I left work a little early on Thursday because your mom and I were going to meet one of her friends from California who had just moved to the Atlanta area. We went out to get burritos for dinner, and then we picked up her friend for some Starbucks. As we sat and spoke with him for several hours, Sarah began to have contractions off and on. She didn’t say anything to me, although we were both anticipating these moments. When we said goodbye for the evening, she admitted to me that her contractions had been coming all night.
We returned home and started to get ready for bed, when something quite hysterical happened; your mom’s water broke. We didn’t realize it was happening when it was happening, but if I could paint a picture of the moment it would look like this: your mom was laughing uncontrollably saying “babe, I think my water just broke! Did it break? I think it broke!” and your dad was standing there looking very concerned because your mother seemed to have lost her mind. After some deliberation, we decided that yes, in fact her water had broken, and we made up our mind that we were going to the hospital.
I squarely remembered the consequence of our last trip to the hospital, and even though I wasn’t hungry at all I still promptly ate a bowl of cereal, some leftover soup, a piece of fruit, and some crackers. Sarah ate an apple as well, which may or may not have been a good idea. Nevertheless, we were determined that this time we would be prepared with everything we needed for the trip, and we brought everything we could think to bring, right down to our backgammon board. And with that, we made our way to the hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital, we made our way to the third floor of the purple tower and went to check in, which is quite a hilarious process when you consider the questions they ask. “Why are you here?” Um, I’m in labor? Not all the questions were as inane, but the sheer volume of paperwork and signatures required made me happy we came early in your mom’s labor. It would have been even more tiresome with regular contractions. But it wasn’t long before we were in triage, which might have marked the low point of our stay.
The first nurse who saw us came in and did a few tests, including checking your mom’s blood pressure. Sure enough, the reading was high, and despite all our previous experience with the doctors and nurses and our expressed faith that the Lord would take care of us, everyone still feels like they need to add their opinion to our situation. It was here that our nurse “Missy” decided to tell your mom that she would not be allowed to get out of bed for her entire labor. She also decided to offer your mom this bit of wisdom: “sometimes you can’t always have the birth that you want.”
All I will say is this: don’t tell my wife what she can and cannot do when she’s in labor
By the time we made it to our room it was close to 4 AM; your mom’s water broke at 2:30AM. We finally saw Dr. Tag, one of the six doctors in the OB practice and quite frankly a blessing in scrubs, around 8AM. The report was not good. Sarah was only dilated about 3 centimeters, and progress was slow. Only this time, the consequences were inevitable. Since Sarah’s water had broken, she had to give birth within 24 hours. If she didn’t, they would have to deliver via C-section, and neither Sarah nor I was interested in that. We said a prayer, and then accepted the doctor’s suggestion of speeding up labor with pitocin, a synthetic version of a chemical produced by the body called oxytocin.
We knew we needed to do something to speed up your arrival, but we forgot the effect pitocin can have on the body. Unlike oxytocin, which when released is accompanied by endorphins, pitocin can cause contractions to come steadily without any accompanying endorphins. This makes it much more difficult and much more painful when each contraction comes. Yet at 9AM, after having been awake for nearly 24 hours, we started Sarah on the pitocin drip.
The contractions began to come hard and fast. Although they started the drip at a low level, it increased automatically every 30 minutes. We were still under orders to stay in bed, and it didn’t take long before the contractions became so miserable that your mom couldn’t even talk. To make matters worse, the majority of the pain was in her back, because you were facing the wrong way. This only compounded your mother’s pain, because not only does it hurt worse when you face forwards, but it can complicate the delivery process, and your mom was worried about you. We had already been praying fervently for you, for your life and your birth. This information only renewed our purpose, and our prayers remained constant for nearly the remainder of your mother’s labor.
The doctor had optimistically told us that with the pitocin, Sarah might be ready to deliver by 5PM. I can remember distinctly looking up at the clock and counting the minutes. We were listening to some beautiful instrumental worship music, and I did what I could to support your mom. Yet frequently I found myself standing beside her, helpless. At one moment I would push her back to help ease the pain, and the next moment that would make the pain worse. Then I would try to push on her hips, then that would make it worse. Through constant position changes, movements, and contractions, we wrestled with trying to find comfortable, or at least bearable, positions. Often, however, it was just a matter of enduring the pain for your mom, and for me it was a matter of doing whatever I could to help, which was ultimately a fruitless endeavor.
As the afternoon wore on, nurses would check on your mom to see if she was doing ok. One of the greatest blessings of this time was our nurse Sharron. Although she “advised” Sarah to stay in bed for her high blood pressure, she also indicated that she would be gone for a while and to buzz if she was needed. We got the hint, and we took the away time to move around the room. Although these movements helped with the pain for a short time, the contractions kept coming one on top of the other. By 5PM, we still hadn’t slept in over a day, and Sarah was exhausted. We had to slow down her pitocin drip or she wasn’t going to be able to give birth.
In our desperation to find some comfort and rest, we had both ended up lying on the floor of our hospital room. We badly needed to sleep, and even though we weren’t progressing fast enough, we couldn’t keep upping the pitocin. Somewhere on that floor we decided we had to get an epidural. There was no other way you could be delivered without a C-section.
We called the doctor and told her what we had decided. They cut the pitocin drip down and contacted the anesthesiologist. At 6PM, after 14 hours of labor, your mom received an epidural.
The medicine was a huge blessing. It allowed your mom to relax enough so she could sleep, and we could keep the pitocin churning along. With the added medicine we could up the dosage of pitocin, and by 10PM Sarah had dilated to 8 centimeters. The last push was coming, and it was none too soon. We were nearing the end of the 24 hour window we had to deliver you naturally before we would have to get a C-section. Although we weren’t sure about the timing, we trusted the Lord would help you along at the right time.
When midnight came around, it was time to begin delivery. We contacted your grandparents, aunts and uncles to let them know the time was near. Our nurse began to set up the equipment for you arrival, and Sarah began to feel the urge to push. Although you were still high in your mom’s uterus, the time was coming for you to be born. Your mom pushed and pushed, and after about 45 minutes, I saw a glimpse of you for the first time.
Just a glimpse. Just a peek. Just the tip top of your head…covered in hair.
It was a sweet moment after a long and tiring labor. But we weren’t there yet, and as I was spoke encouragement to your mom, she worked and struggled and strove to bring you into the world. Of the many thoughts I’m sure were running through my mind at this point, none of them seemed to register. All I knew is you are my baby girl. And I was about to meet you for the first time.
The doctor came in, and everything became really hectic. Nurses of all kinds flowed in and out, some for Sarah, some for you, some to help, some to witness. It all happened really quickly, and after the 24 hour plus labor, it’s a good thing the end came so fast. We wanted to meet you. This time, we were ready.
At least, we thought we were.
When you first came out, your cries filled the room. Your face was flushed, your body was pink. They had warned us that babies aren’t pink when they first come out. But you were. You were the embodiment of your name: Vivien, full of life.
Your mom was crying. I teared up too. I didn’t know where to go, where to stand, or what to do. I just walked around, turning to your mom, turning to you. I remember looking at your sweet face, then turning to your mom and whispering “I love you.”
She whispered back, “I love you, too.”
A few minutes later you were all swaddled in a blanket, and your mother was holding you in her arms. You weren’t crying at all, but you were just sweetly lying on your mom. I took a picture of you and sent it to all the family waiting to see you. The grandparents came back first, then the aunts and uncles on your mom’s side. Before the weekend was done, you had dozens of visitors, both friends and family.
But the part I will remember most is what the Lord revealed to me during your birth. The whole experience taught me so much about who he is and how much he loves us. I tried to capture my emotion and sentiment immediately in a poetic form. I wrote this around 2AM after you were born. It’s not perfect, but I like it that way. Because after a full day of work, followed by a full day of labor, this is all I knew to say:.
At two I watched the minutes pass.
Two oh five. Then two ten.
I’d look at her for a moment or two,
Then back at the clock again.
My arms were tired of holding her.
My back was sore from standing.
I pushed and pressed, did all I could,
but the curse was too demanding.
All I could do was watch, helpless,
At the anguish of my wife.
The toil of my body, a trifle,
Compared to the judgment upon my eyes.
With the curse of the fall before me,
And the judgment of sin upon us,
I received a new witness to mercy,
I received new hope in Jesus.
For the pain I caused my savior,
I now witness in my wife,
And I’m drawn anew to salvation,
And called to give up my life.
Now I too will be a father,
And soon, my own image will fall,
And on that day I’m sure I’ll see,
What it means to love above all.
And if I could only but cast,
A dim light toward God above,
Maybe someday too, my daughter,
Will know the truth of God’s love.
As your father, it has been and always will be my purpose to protect you, to lead you, to provide for you, and to be your shelter, for as long as you are under my care. This is my desire for your life: that you will learn the love of your Heavenly Father, that you will place your trust in him, and that you will fulfill his purpose for your life. And I pray that I will be a witness to his love for you here on earth.