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BYO-Perineum Oil: Jude Oliver’s Birth Story

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Hi. I’m back! Now that I’m on the other side of pregnancy and past the fourth trimester (the first 3 months post-delivery), I’m finding some space to write again. I thought I’d kick it off big with our birth story.

Disclaimer: This is an honest and detailed account of our labor and delivery. While some of you will eat this up, this may not be others’ cup of tea, and it’s OK if you want to opt out on this one.

Tuesday, May 31st

I went to see Dr. Supreeya for my Tuesday night appointment (prenatal appointments are only offered T/Th evenings). I was 3 days post-due. Mon, my midwife friend and colleague, came with me, so we could catch up on the drive across town. She had arrived back to town the day before from Australia, where she had been the past 3 weeks: we thought for sure she’d miss the birth. Where previously in the pregnancy, I felt an almost striving hope that she’d be able to attend our birth, I felt God progressively asking me not to put my trust in HER but in HIM. That spoke to me, and I felt a true release and surrender while she was in Australia to do this birth without her. Further, I had become excited that our other friend and certified doula Jasmine could be there as our support.

I had prayed several times during my pregnancy that the Lord would ORDAIN (that word, specifically) whomever would be at our birth. Which doctor and nurses, which support (Mon or Jasmine) and even which friend (Katie or Jamie) would be available to photograph, something we’d never done before!

On the drive, Mon said, “So you’ve got 24 hours to have this baby.” She’d have to return back to Mae Sot, where she lived, (5 hours away) on Thursday. Fat chance, I thought. OK, RE-orient that it WILL be Jasmine after all. Back to plan B. again.

We saw Dr. Supreeya together. As she checked me, the doctor said, “Ah, still one centimeter.” “Cervix still thick and hard.” Probably said something like “not ready yet.” I felt my heart sink. No, there were not real significant Braxton Hicks contractions happening. “Ah, and you’re already 3 days past due.” And to top it off: “Baby is big,” she said with furrowed brow (kind of ironic, since she’d say “baby is small” with furrowed brow for most of the pregnancy). Thankfully, though, she didn’t mention induction or c-section.

We decided that I’d come back to clinic on Friday to have my membranes swept and to discuss next steps too. (Brenden and I decided not to get my membranes swept today, after Mon’s statement that there were much more gentle ways to treat my body than that, at this stage of the pregnancy. Mon wasn’t even concerned that I was 3 days overdue.)

As we set the date for me to return, the doctor said, “Well, keep walking!” (Um, can’t say I even HAVE been…in this heat.)

Mon’s first words as we got in the car (after having shared silent “knowing” looks in the office) were “OK! It’s time to speak some truth to you.” She took charge, assertively reframing that my body knew what to do and would do what it needed to in time. She truly believed in my body’s ability to work its way toward labor and delivery. She suggested that B and I spend a lot of time just BEING together, enjoying quality time together over the next few days, laughing, cuddling, playing, talking. That a few days of that could do wonders in preparing the body, due to the hormones it would release.

That felt really natural and REAL and doable, especially since I had finally decided earlier that afternoon that, even task items left undone (mainly the blog post on prenatal care in Thailand), I was finally (mentally) ready to go!

Mon and I pulled up to the house right around 9pm. It had begun to rain: the beautiful, cooling rain of rainy season. As I put the car in park, I felt a little gurgle in my underwear (I know that sounds strange. And it felt strange. I don’t usually get gurgles in my underwear.)

Got out of the car, as Mon continued to talk about who-knows-what. And GUSH, out came my waters, mixing in with the rains right there on the sidewalk next to the trashcan. I couldn’t even believe it. “Mon. Mon! My waters just broke.” She didn’t look particularly thrilled. So I walked to the carport, where I saw Brenden, through the window, washing dishes. “Brenden!” “Hi honey.” “Brenden! Brenden-look!” “Brenden, I need a towel.” Like I just assumed that from the shocked look on my face, he must’ve known that clearly, my waters had just broken. He hustled over to the front door and I told him, “My waters just broke.” Here we go!

It took a minute to then remember that OH WAIT. My body isn’t really ready for this. So I felt confused. But still on one level very glad and excited that we were moving forward, one way or another.

Mon wanted me to go “lie on the lounge” (Aussie friends, I tell ya) but the last thing I was going to do was take my wet self and lie on our couch. So we set up shop with a few towels on the floor. Out came her equipment and she checked my blood pressure and baby’s heart rate. All was well. She checked baby’s position and said it wasn’t posterior (hooray!) but it wasn’t anterior either: the baby’s head was facing the side.

As I lay there on the floor, with B and Mon on either side, we took bets about the baby’s sex: Mon made Brenden choose a camp, so he joined me on the “girl” side. Mon said that because we’d both picked girl, she had to stay in the boy camp.

We talked about what the evening should look like: good quality time with Brenden-whether that be talking, laughing, playing a game, cuddling—to get the good hormones flowing, a hot shower, and a good night’s sleep. We prayed and I remember asking that Craig and Kara, dear friends, could come meet our baby before they flew out to their new lives in America, about 27 hours from then. I cried a bit, probably a combo of adrenaline and wondering how my body would kick into gear enough to have a baby.

She left to sleep at another colleague Dorothy’s house (2 streets over) and said she was a phone call away. B and I ate cheese and crackers with hot sauce, I bounced on the bouncy ball and wrote our close friends/family that labor was starting, we took some final belly pictures, and we went to bed around midnight.

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Wednesday, June 1:

We got up around 6 and had a quiet house (and no contractions) to get ready to send the kids to school and head to the hospital. I was grateful we’d get to say bye to the kids in person, though they (Maja especially) understood that their may have been a morning where they’d wake up with (yet another colleague) Kristina there because we’d be at the hospital.

I woke up with a clarity and peace that we should head to the hospital for Pitocin, without rush but without delay. Maja’s birth was a guiding star for me: the same situation had occurred, in which my water broke but labor did not begin, but then, we had waited too long, complications arose, and she had ended in a cesarean birth. Now, since labor hadn’t begun after a night’s sleep, it didn’t seem likely it would start on its own. I felt completely peaceful about this option: I would have loved labor to start on its own, like it did for Emerson’s, but I didn’t feel we needed to throw out the baby with the bathwater: if we got Pitocin early enough, there was still a strong chance for a vaginal and otherwise-natural birth. (And I wasn’t Group B Strep positive this time, which simplified things.)

Mon came over around 8am. She said she woke up and prayed that God would give me a clear direction for labor, since she wasn’t looking forward to initiating the conversation about Pitocin. She felt her prayers were confirmed after hearing my thoughts on getting started with it. We took sweet videos of telling the kids we were heading to the hospital. They were little rockstars!

After some fun last family pictures, Brenden took the kids to school. I finished getting last minute bags and food packed and we were ready when Brenden got back. Mon was making fun of me for how much stuff we had packed: food, crockpot (for essential oils, another new addition to this birth), Christmas lights (I’m a sucker for mood lighting). I was feeling a little bashful, actually, but just didn’t know what to expect giving birth in a new country.

 

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Maja commands “Funny Face” and we follow suit

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Last selfie before leaving home

There was a lot of excitement in the car and singing as we drove to Sriphat Hospital. We took selfies. I took a screen shot of the current weather. Mon dropped us at the hospital entrance and we got out with all our stuff. It’s a vivid memory waiting a considerable time for the elevator, with loads of people around, with bags over our shoulders and the big blue birthing ball in my arms. B and I commented (sheepishly) to each other that we probably had more things for labor than many of these people owned. We stood in a crowded elevator, me and my big belly and my big birthing ball, as we climbed to the 12th floor. It felt fun, and certainly not at all how I envisioned part of my labor to look!

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Also, my green cross, a scarf (different each time), and B’s “We have reached the magical hour” t-shirt: all 3 were components of our 3 children’s births. Some traditions that organically came to be.

The check-in process was calm, quiet, and easy (and it helped that I wasn’t in labor). They had me lie on a bed in the triage room and they checked my cervix. Still one centimeter and (after I asked), cervix still “pretty thick”. The nurse’s face said it all. The nurses seemed surprised that it had been so long since my water had broke (about 14 hours), but in my world, we had gone to bed, gotten the house in order, and come straightaway.

They took the nail polish off all my toes there in the triage room. That made my heart drop a bit. I’ve heard mixed feedback about whether this is standard protocol or whether they only do this for women they think may need c-sections. The feeling I got, though, was that I was being placed in the “c-section” camp and they had to prepare (by removing the polish, it allowed them to assess circulation and other indicators should the need arise).

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We got settled in our labor room: the same one in which I had spent Halloween day when I needed IV fluids to rehydrate my body after a stomach bug. We leisurely unpacked, which felt so weird to do whilst in labor!

Brenden and I asked Mon for a little space. Just before she left, we heard another woman next door pushing her baby out. I cried again, feeling that I had no idea in the world how my body would make it from it’s current stable state to feeling the need to climactically push out a baby on this present day. Mon grabbed my shoulders, looked me square in my eyes, and said my name. I can’t remember WHAT she said now, but I know that it was in full belief that I could, I WOULD do this.

Shortly after, Dr. Supreeya came. She asked me if this was my first child, I told her that no, I was her VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) candidate (I did not tell her that she had met my 2 other children several times over the past 9 months: to be fair, she has a massive caseload and case notes are not computerized-my entire prenatal records were documented on a 3×5 fold-out index card, which I was responsible to bring to each appointment or there’d be no documentation). Her face got concerned when I said VBAC (and also knowing that I needed Pitocin) and she mentioned the possibility of uterine rupture(!). (Thankfully, I wasn’t as worried about it this birth—that had been my primary worry for Emerson’s birth.)

Someone told me that she’s done maybe 10 VBACs ever or that she does about 10 per year—in either case, not a lot. That’s a strong reason to THANK her for allowing me to attempt one: I’d heard that she’s the only doctor in Chiang Mai who would allow me this chance, for which I am so grateful to her. In this culture, where Thai women often want an elective C-section, VBACs just aren’t common.

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The IV with Pitocin was placed at 12:30pm. The nurse inserted the needle on the first try, and (thinking to all the failed attempts with Maja’s birth, leading a second nurse to have to insert the IV), I thanked her in Thai for succeeding the “nung krang” (first time), totally not sure if I was saying this correctly. I HAD, and we all laughed: she understood! Neat to connect cross-culturally.

Starting the Pitocin was similar to when I got my epidural during Maja’s birth and when midwife Jualeah strongly recommended augmenting labor with Pitocin for Emerson’s birth: I mourned in each of those pivotal moments when I realized they would not be the natural, med-free births I hoped for, and yet we knew at the times that they were the only ways FORWARD. (And my, how my perspective toward medication and interventions during childbirth have done an about-face since needing various interventions for all 3 births: I don’t take access to medication for granted).

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And then the hurry up and wait game began. For 7 hours! Many times in those hours did I wish for a deck of cards, to pass the time and distract my mind from the clock, kicking myself that I had thought to grab them on the way out the door and hadn’t.

The basic memories of those hours were ones of fun and rejoicing coupled with clock-watching and worry. Jamie, our photography friend, was in the hospital taking newborn pictures for someone else, so she swung by to take a few pics of us (see this batch below).

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Thanks for your incredible eye Jamie.

We ate (I was SO hungry): we ordered Subway from the delivery service, Brenden busted into the Cheezls (absolutely no nutritional value, admitted: they were supposed to be for celebrating afterwards). We talked, we played music for a hot minute (and then it didn’t work for me, as I knew it likely wouldn’t). We hung the Bible verses on the wall (of COURSE I brought tape!), we read the Bible verses, we hung the Christmas lights (of which I couldn’t be more glad I brought), Mon talked me down from the clock, and I even took notes on my OWN LABOR, AS it was happening! We wondered if baby would come before the Garrisons flew out at midnight, and if it would be born on June 1, my half-birthday (no and no, as it turned out).

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Mon sporting the purple scarf Emerson asked her to wear. I thought it’d remind me of him during labor, but can’t say that it did. We had a mission to complete, after all.

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I love these time stamps

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The tub. Or lack thereof. But the water was HOT and provided refreshing showers.

The nurses (usually a different one each time) came in every 30 minutes religiously to increase my Pitocin by 12 units (the max dose for a VBAC candidate was 120, half the max dose for a non-VBAC woman.) They would put their hands on my belly for 5 minutes to check for contractions. It didn’t seem like the most consistent way to read my contractions (especially compared to the monitors in the States that could read the strength and frequency objectively), and for all those hours, I simply wasn’t HAVING any (or couldn’t feel them myself). Plus, Mon said I had good uterine tone (to which I complemented all the raspberry leaf tea I drank throughout pregnancy!), so that some of the nurses may have thought I was having contractions when really it was just a tight-feeling stomach (and the baby’s butt). The different nurses knew varying amounts of English, and at times we talked with them, and as the labor progressed and we became more tired physically too, we talked less. Just as the labor books describe.

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In these hours, I wondered often, to myself and aloud too, whether and when my body would start contracting stronger. And what if it didn’t, by the way? And look at how many hours had passed? And what if my cervix didn’t ripen? And there was Brenden, my best friend—even if we HAD seemed to be in over our heads at times this past year—with his easy and light presence, and Mon, with ready answers. Mostly along the lines of “when the contractions DO start picking up, I’ll remind you that you asked for it!” and in more seriousness, expressing belief that my body was doing exactly what it needed to do in its time and to just be patient. I won’t lie, I did some Google searching about “Pitocin with a VBAC” or “thick cervixes and labor outcomes.” Reading Bible verses helped more.

I’d also read aloud the index card “Welcome”. One of the words Brenden came up with for this labor. Baby, you are welcome to come. You are welcome into our family. We spoke words of welcome over this birth and this baby.

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Dr. Supreeya came back in around 3:30pm: she asked if I was feeling contractions and I couldn’t confidently say yes. But that MAYBE they were getting stronger and closer. She checked me and we all heard her say “sam cent” (3 cm), but then she told me I was 2cm (and she seemed pensive). But we all heard that “sam cent”. Dr. Supreeya was going off-shift to leave for Bangkok for the next day (we knew this in advance) and later tonight, we’d meet her backup, Dr. Oosany.

Once she left, Mon celebrated that my body WAS making headway (even though it seemed so slow to me). I thank God for Mon’s medical wisdom and steadiness, keeping me from freaking out. (I should brag here that she’s delivered thousands of babies in Australia before spending the past 7 years delivering babies in open-air clinics hours from any medical facilities inside of Myanmar).

Brenden read me friends’ emails of encouragements: they made me tear up. To know friends from the States were with us, in thought, spirit, and prayers, even half a world away. Sonya’s “slow and steady” urging, said so factually from her own Pitocin labors, stuck with me. As did Christy’s calling me a brave mama warrior.

We have a picture of me eating Subway, smiling at 7:30pm, with the Pitocin near at max dose.

Finally, around 8 or 9pm, the contractions finally required the start of the slow exhale breathing. I felt strong (and even remember squatting for a bit—the “power move” to help move baby down) and rocked as I stood, all that movement helping to position and move baby. Oh yes, I remembered this breathing rhythm from Emerson’s birth!

Dr. Oosany came around 8:45pm. I liked her bedside manner and spirit. She did yet another cervical exam and found me at 3cm and 25% effaced. She did some manual stimulation, which hurt, but did seem to pick up the labor. Though my water had broken the day before, I felt like there were a lot of cervical exams, which I’m assuming would have been minimized in the States.

Brenden managed the essential oils like a champ (I became a believer after meeting Ashly at MTI and Amanda here), rubbing my belly with clary sage or myrhh when things seemed to slow down some and creating concoctions in the diffuser. As I got tired, Mon had me on the bed in a side-lying position with my leg bent/propped up as much as I could—this would help baby turn into anterior position, even as I tried to sleep.

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Shameless plug for Christmas lights: but aren’t they just lovely?

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I can’t remember how long I lay in bed. I was worried it would slow labor, but Mon said it was important to rest and it was a good position for baby. And my Brenden—just sitting near me, knowing I didn’t like a lot of chatter, just knowing ME and not having to say much for him to GET ME and what I needed. (Other than that one video clip we have where I tell him, briskly, not to breathe in my face, thank you, and I’m sorry.)

I was GLAD for the contractions, and in fact, often (at least early on) hoped for them to intensify and strengthen. I had read only the underlines (from my pregnancy with Emerson) in the Ina May childbirth book in just the week or so before I went into labor. And I only made it through the 100 pages of birth stories—didn’t even get to the technical info on birth. But wow, how I was struck by what I had underlined: to welcome the contractions, to ALLOW them to be strong, to call them “waves” or “rushes”—I recalled this information organically during labor. During contractions, I would close my eyes and picture a “wave” (but a literal wave) at Ocracoke Island—our dear NC vacation spot—coming toward the shore, and as the contractions got longer, and I had to take a painful deep breath in the midst of the contraction, I’d start the second wave to shore. And it worked, that visualization, and it got me through the entire labor. I think, even during labor, that I realized how valuable those last 10 weeks of lap-swimming at the neighborhood pool were—I felt like I had more breath capacity than during Emerson’s birth.

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Thursday, June 2:

At around midnight, contractions seemed to be picking up steadily. So much so that we decided to call Katie about coming to take pictures. It’s neat: one of my worries was that someone (either her or Jamie) would come and be twiddling their fingers and that I’d feel pressure for my body to do “more” than it was able to. And yet, here we were, just gutturally knowing it was time to call. So grateful Katie was more than willing to come in the dead middle of the night, even with 3 children of her own at home!

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I distinctly remember this moment: when B left to call Katie. He was so excited! Note hospital shoes and max Pit dose going on.

Around 2am, Katie arrived and then within minutes so did Dr. Oosany and her entourage of nurses to do another cervical check. I was quite uninhibited, so I thought “Here you go Katie, welcome to my birth!” as they began the check. I was vocalizing in low, long tones by this time. The check was painful. She said I was 5cm and, after Mon asked, said that I was 90% effaced. Mon said later that, watching my body cues, she wondered if I was further along (I heard her tell Katie to look at my feet—how they’d curl during contractions—that it was the “7cm toe curl”). I cried when they left (all this crying, and me, not a cryer!). Probably because Dr. Oosany’s exam hurt, yes, but mostly because there it was: I was 90% effaced! Finally. Mon thought I was crying because I was “only 5cm” but she had indoctrinated me enough by then to know that 5 was better than 3 which was better than the 2 before that, so that I wasn’t half worried about the 5. Especially since I was 90% effaced.  (The rest of the photos are all credited to Katie Friesen.)

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After the check, I then labored at the foot of the bed. I’d lean in to Brenden, vocalizing. I’d sleep during contractions—in a complete haze, sitting bolt upright. I didn’t realize until afterwards how taxing it was for Brenden to hold up my body weight while he was in a compromised standing position during this time, for an hour or longer. He was so tired too, but so strong and steadfast. At one point, I remember saying the contractions weren’t coming fast enough (worrying labor wasn’t progressing). Mon and Brenden both looked surprised and said they were coming closer together than ever and also that they were longer than ever. (Interestingly, I had this same conversation with B and our doula Andrea during Emi’s birth, and the same response).

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B told me later just how tired he was too. This was less than an hour from delivery.

I stood up at one point and felt more pressure. I tried to lie down, but my legs would shake during contractions (and I think I was cold?) and I couldn’t get a good stable footing during contractions, so my time lying down was ending (ha, in hindsite-all classic signs of transition right?). As I got back up, it was a noticeable, noticeable increase of pressure. I was surprised. I guess this gravity thing really was true.

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Transition: the warm lavender rag on my legs, which were shaking, and B holding down my other body shakes

I think I started saying I was feeling more pressure and what did this mean and I’m not sure if I felt that classic urge to poop and what was happening anyway?! Mon, who was pretty vague about progress during labor (and even during pregnancy) said she thought I was “transitional” and even in the labor, that sounded more committal and specific than how she usually talked, and I knew it meant we were making progress. I think perhaps it surprised me that I couldn’t tell I was in transition (for all the talk of people knowing…)

I remember having told Mon I had never felt the urges either to push or to poop for Emerson’s birth, and I had never identified transition then either, and that I hoped I could have those “classic” urges this time. As she and Katie talked quietly while I labored, I heard her tell Katie jokingly at one point that I had “bullied the nurses into giving the max dose of Pitocin”, and now here I was groaning away.

I was amping up: all that calm breathing and vocalizing was quickly disappearing: and it was all brand new. For Emerson’s birth, we had needed Pitocin for the final hours to keep labor moving and strong enough to deliver. I was louder than I thought I’d be and I remember thinking I didn’t know what to do and Mon, please help me.

I somehow ended up back at the foot of the bed and Mon said she wanted to give a feel, if that was OK. She got one of the warm, wet washcloths from the same crockpot she had made fun of earlier (which now had warm, lavender-infused water and plenty of washcloths in it). There wasn’t time for the perineum oil (an unopened bottle of extra virgin olive oil that we were recommended to bring from home: Dr. Supreeya had become very good at supporting the the perineum, having learned from Westerners over the years.) It was all happening so fast.

Mon calmly just told me to listen to my body. What, like should I push? If my body told me to. (No 10-centimeter check and go-ahead?! In my Western mind, I thought I needed that permission. I’ve never met a midwife so committed to the woman’s ability and wisdom in knowing what her body needed.)

Even with all that hooting and hollering starting (and it was just flowing out of me-I couldn’t stop it), no nurses came to check! Katie went out to get them. They raced in, maybe 5 of them (one picture showed 6 in the room at once), and wanted to check me. They wanted me to lie down on the bed but I knew there was no way in you-know-exactly-where that that was going to happen. And then, I guess, they left.

It’s all fuzzy then. Mon might’ve said something about feeling the baby’s head. That I didn’t have a bald baby. That there wasn’t time to prepare the perineum but she was supporting it with the warm washcloth. And I just felt the pressure coming at full-speed. I couldn’t bring my legs together—there was a baby that low.

I guess Mon mouthed to B, over my head, “Where’d they go?” about all the nurses. Katie once again went out to get them. They all came in, and literally it was (probably already) go-time.

They must’ve wanted me to move onto the bed, because one of the nurses started lowering it (which I was leaning my full weight into). I said “oh no!” and Brenden, standing on my left side, exclaimed “MAI” (which means “no”)! I think we were startled by them and they were startled by us. Two worlds, converging. I mean, I was STANDING (perhaps by accident). Definitely not the norm here.

I said I was going to start pushing, because the pressure was not subsiding. So I did. It wasn’t even the vein-popping pushes I did for hours on end for Emerson. I remember thinking I’d probably have to push harder than THAT to get this baby out and that I should muster energy from somewhere inside. But then, minutes, just minutes, maybe 3-5 pushes (I don’t really know), I heard them all (and I DO MEAN ALL) hollering, and finally Brenden’s voice emerged above the din, and he said “stop pushing.” Then, there was Mon’s voice saying the same, and I yelled in despair “I can’t hear you Mon!” I don’t remember hearing the “hummmmm” of the nurses, which Thai nurses are rumored to do in unison when a woman is pushing. (I would have liked that, actually.)

Then, the baby was OUT. It was so quick. And I just stood there and couldn’t move my legs. And I heard Brenden crying somewhere in the background. And lots of scurrying and activity. Maybe it didn’t even register that the baby was out.

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The brief moment I looked up at Katie and laughed

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I looked behind my left shoulder and saw a baby and heard Brenden say “It’s a boy!” And I smiled and probably said “Really?!” and yet was probably not surprised (even though I had picked the “girl” camp). I saw my baby briefly over the corner of my eye and then he was in the army of nurses’ arms. I don’t remember seeing Brenden cut the cord. It was just all over before I knew it: I feel like I kind of missed the actual birth and after-birth activities, but then, you don’t get to pick these things. And I had certainly been fully present and engaged for the hours of labor. And my baby was finally here, in our world, with us, where he belonged. And I was so relieved the pressure was gone.

Next thing I know the baby was lying on the bed in front of me and I was looking at my son. I said “Hi Jude” with such joy and Brenden said “What?! I thought we were going to talk about the name after we met him!” And I said “I know, but we both know it’s Jude, right? right?” And he laughed, and we all laughed, and we said we’d still talk about it.

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The photo that will always capture this birth. Always.

I wanted to hold Jude, but I was having afterbirth contractions so badly that I wanted to wait till after the doctor (who had since arrived) was done stitching my second-degree tear (the stitching hurt so much more than Emerson’s and also took so much longer to complete). I asked to see the placenta after it was delivered, and we all giggled: the nurses nervously and with surprise and me joyfully. I hadn’t gotten to see Maja’s placenta because of the c-section, and it was such a disappointment. For Emerson’s birth, it was so redeeming to have the midwife describe his placenta to me even as she placed it on a towel on my belly after it was delivered. This time was fun too: it swished around on the plate and the doctor truly almost dropped it before that beautiful, life-giving organ was thrown away.

During this time, Jude was over at the warmer (which hadn’t really gotten turned on in advance). They were suctioning his nose and mouth and commenting that he still looked so purple. One nurse said she wanted to take him to the nursery for some oxygen. Mon gently asserted that he likely just needed “a lusty cry.” She turned him over and rubbed his back and spoke sweet words to him and commented in her Australian way that he was starting to pink up. It felt like so long and I still hadn’t held him, and Jude was starting to fuss and suck too.

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Ha, in the world of hashtags, this would be called #thirdbaby. Four minutes after birth and not one of us there beside him. 🙂

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I might have suggested that B do skin to skin, and perhaps the nurses wondered what the heck was going on, but then there they were, beautiful skin on skin, just as in Emerson’s birth.

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At some point during Brenden holding him, I got to peer into Jude’s little face and noticed how blue his eyes were, which made me happy—when it’s 3rd baby AND new country, you don’t spend a lot of time during pregnancy wondering if its eyes will take after Brenden’s or mine! Finally, after Jude sucked a big blood blister onto his own arm (for which there’s still a scar), I said I’d take him immediately.

I felt the deepest of joys to hold my healthy child. I held him and we all (Brenden, Mon, Katie, and I) processed the birth in a flurry of words. I remember asking them for 10 minutes to just hold my new baby before we started talking. I wanted to savor the moment. And yet, once again—3rd baby—he nursed on as we eventually talked away. I felt a bit guilty, in hindsite, but I also knew that my whole inner being loved HIM in that moment and was divinely content to be holding him, even as we adults were visiting. Brenden said it was the most climactic of our 3 children’s births.

In this time, Mon said that Jude’s head came out in one push and that my perineum had still been intact. She said the wrong shoulder started to emerge next, but that she thought there was still enough room for Jude to figure out how to come out on his own. But the nurses, who were used to women delivering on their backs on the bed, seemed quite nervous, especially without a doctor in the room. Mon said one of the assistants all but pushed her out of the way after his head was out and, cupping his head with the towel, pulled his shoulders downward to assist him in coming out. At that point, Mon heard me tear (though I didn’t feel it). Mon also said that after he was born, she tried a couple different times to indicate for the nurses to pass Jude up through my legs so I could hold him immediately, but that he was being passed down the line of nurses so quickly and they didn’t seem to understand what she was suggesting. I do wish I had gotten to hold him straightaway, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to live with (along with the tearing) having birthed in a culture different from my own.

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The midwife and the baby

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Our dream team. Ordained.

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The girl behind the camera: Katie, what a gift to have you there!

After an hour, Mon and Katie headed out, around 5:30/6am. The nurses gave us this leisure first hour to bond with Jude, according to my birth plan request, and then eventually Brenden and Jude went to the nursery, where he was weighed (for the first time—after we nursed! I *think*).

When they returned, Jude slept peacefully in the bassinet by the bed for a couple hours, still in the delivery room, while a solid rain and dark clouds covered the earth outside: a cleansing rain, welcoming the early morning of the new day with peace. And we looked on at our new little life.

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dsc_0406_lrJude Oliver Miller  /  June 2, 2016 4:12 am  /  3820 grams, 52.5cm  /  “Praise”                                                

                                                                                                PC: Jamie Rattanapamonsook

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8 thoughts on “BYO-Perineum Oil: Jude Oliver’s Birth Story

  1. What a treat it was to get to have “coffee time” with you and hear your labor and delivery story of that precious little boy! I would have sat there in front of you and asked so many questions, and you knowingly answered them all. Thanks for sharing with us, and for the wonderful pictures! We are so thankful for God’s guidance, protection and provision for you all, and we “praise” His Name. We wish we could hug all five of you!

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    • Aww, that is exACTly what I hoped: that this could take the place of me sitting over coffee sharing the birth story with my close friends from the States. I was afraid it was too detail-laden (not to mention so personal to post on the Internet, which still makes me uncomfortable), but it was about the only way to share the story with the friends I wanted to. What a sweet picture, you and coffee and the story: I can’t wait to connect over coffee FOR REAL.

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  2. Holy smokes that must be one of the most gripping stories I’ve ever read. What a great story teller you are! I’m impressed you could remember so much detail. Thank you for sharing!

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    • You crack me up. I miss you!!! Ha, and I never wrote Maja or Emerson’s story, so even though it took about 3 months to finish this, it still feels so soon after birth compared to trying to scrounge for memories years later (like I’m still hopeful to do for the other two). Please send me all-things-new with you, yes? xoxo

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  3. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing all this. It was a joy to read. You are so blessed! Now we will have to hear how things have been going since the momentous birth. Sending love and prayers!

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    • Lilly!!! Ah, it’s so great to hear from you. Thank you for not giving up on me! I promise there will be more news from this side of the world in the coming season of my life. (At least, I reallyreally hope so.) Thanks for stopping in and reading this: it’s a joy to share with old friends.

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  4. Whoa! This is the best story I’ve read in a long time! Yes, thanks for sharing an honest and true account of child birth in an Asian country. It’s a beautiful (and sometimes scary! for those of us without kids anyway) story. I hope Maja and Emerson are enjoying their new baby brother and Jude is soaking up all the Thai language. It sounds like things are going so well for you and Brendan (with the farm work) and I’m so happy for you. We still miss you on Hill St. though! xxx

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    • Hey you! Love seeing your name pop up here. Maja is definitely little mama, Emi loves him with kisses every now and then between playing nonstop, and Jude will definitely have the best shot of us all of being bilingual: come on boy, represent for the family! Thankfully the heartache of leaving Hill Street has subsided after 1+ years of being here, but we’ll be HAPPY to visit it next time we’re home-so many fun memories together there. And we’ll be buying your coffee too–so proud of you guys! xoxo

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