Sunday, July 25, 2010

Joy in the Journey

I know pictures of Ben is really what you want, so I'll start with one of them.

Andrew has been encouraging me to write my side of the birth story for the blog, so I thought Benjamin's due date would be a good day to post. Feel free to skip to the pictures.

Two years ago as I prepared to give birth to Abraham, I didn't know what to expect. I had many reasons to want a natural childbirth, and one primary reason to think that I could: women throughout time had always given birth without medication, and I was a woman. I believed that if I had enough "tools in my toolbox," that I could reach my goal of a birth without medication. On June 24th 2008, I gave birth to Abraham Craig Marshall, 8 lbs and 15 oz, after 44 hours of labor. I had reached my goal, but I was so exhausted that when Abe was put in my arms, I couldn't adjust him or move him at all. I was glad that I had given birth naturally, but it was very trying--mentally, emotionally and physically.

When it was time to start preparing for childbirth again, the reasons to have a birth naturally hadn't gone away, but I did not want to repeat that first experience. I really believed it was possible to have a joyful unmedicated birth from beginning to end, and I made that my new goal.

My good friend, Amy Thompson, invited me to take a Hypnobabies class with her at her house. This course helped me realize that maybe the solution for me was not that I needed to work harder, but rather that I needed to learn how to relax better and meditate, accept and enjoy each "birthing wave" instead of simply endure it. For the months leading up to Benjamin's birth, I spent many hours pondering and meditating, changing my negative thought patterns and learning how to completely relax.

Throughout the pregnancy I prayed that we could find a safe place for Benjamin to come in peace, and I knew God would answer that prayer. We thought we had everything settled until our first appointment July 8th. Andrew and I both felt uncomfortable there, so we prayed to know what to do. Two people served as messengers that evening to point the way to Special Beginnings Birth Center. We called that day, and they worked hard to fit us in the next morning and transfer our records right away. We didn't know how close we were pushing it!

Sunday we (accidentally) went on a very long walk, and Tuesday I hosted a dinner for eight people, and spent the whole day cleaning the house and cooking dinner. After everyone went home and we had cleaned up, I said, "I should probably take it a little easy until Benjamin comes." I felt pretty strong pressure waves fairly close together, but I decided that I just needed rest. So I went to sleep and had one of the best sleeps I had had in a while.

I woke up when Andrew got up for work Wednesday morning, and felt pretty strong pressure waves five minutes apart. I felt peaceful and very grateful that we would be heading to Special Beginnings. I stayed comfortable in a chair and rested while Andrew rushed around calling people, packing the bags and making me breakfast. I accepted each pressure wave happily because I knew that my new son would be coming so much sooner than anticipated.

As we drove the 1/2 hour to the center, my waves temporarily stopped allowing me to rest in the car. It was a really lovely time for me. I got to talk to my dad on the phone as he told me stories of my great-grandmothers. Thinking about them and the strong women they were gave me great comfort as I labored to bring another branch onto our family tree.

At the birth center Andrew gave me a beautiful, empowering blessing. We then relaxed for a bit before walking the stairs to help the labor pick back up. I found that listening to the relaxation CDs and focusing on relaxing was just as effective as walking around to pick my labor back up.

I labored peacefully from 10 am when we arrived until 5:30 when my mom arrived from the airport. I loved having Abraham close by, coming in and out with Melissa. I was so grateful for her short-notice help! She was a real angel to us.

We asked the midwife to fill the birth tub and break my water. I had a few minutes of peace while I climbed into the tub before transformation (transition) started. I had a couple of exhilaratingly strong waves, and then a very strong urge to push. I let it pass and told Andrew I was going to push on the next wave. In one push, I pushed the head out, and in the second push I pushed Ben's little body out. Andrew was the only one to catch him, and he calmly caught Ben while the midwife rushed in in time to help bring him to my chest.

This picture is of me right after Ben was born. I am looking to Abraham to see his response. My mom brought him in just in time to see him slip out. Benjamin came out quite purple and with lots of vernix, so I wanted to make sure Abe was doing okay, and I really wanted to share that moment with him. I was so thrilled that Ben was born and so glad I could share the moment with Abraham. (Note from Andrew: I love this picture! What a perfect expression of joy just seconds after Benjum's birth!)

Here I am in my nightgown leaving Special Beginnings around 10 pm the night Ben was born.
One of our angels, Sloane, Amy's cousin-in-law. She happened to work at SB, and happened to be on call for the duration of my labor. Her presence contributed greatly to the Spirit in the room.
Abraham really loves his brother. I only have to keep my eye on him because he wants to talk to and play with and kiss his brother all the time, even when he's sleeping. I can't wait for Ben to start being responsive so that he and Abe can really interact.
This is not the most flattering picture of me, but my mom took it because she loved how the only light in the room was shining on my face. That's how I felt; full of light. I am so thankful for how this experience has taught me that I have the choice to enjoy the process of life, not just focus on benchmarks. I have found that through Christ much in life we may fear has potential to be enjoyed.


Amy said...

So beautiful! The story was just as good the second time:) This is so encouraging for me to read too. I just washed the kitchen floor on my hands and knees (though we do have a mop!) and then went to Memory Grove Park and went up and down and up and down all those stairs! Clay also made me a powerful salad with lots of garlic! We're ready! Thanks for your great example.

Meredith Marshall said...

Thanks for telling the story Ariel. I feel like I've been waiting a long time to hear it! Congratulations on a beautiful birth. I can't wait to hear about it in person.

Love Meredith!

Ashley said...

I loved reading this. I think you are one of the most amazing women I know. Blair and I were saying last night that we really admire how you and Andrew have the presence of mind to focus on the amazing spiritual nature of your children's births. It's such a beautiful thing for us to read about. Congratulations on Ben's arrival and I hope your recovery is going well :)

Whitney Hardie said...

What a beautiful experience! I am so glad that Benjamin's birth was a joyful process. We're so happy for you guys and can't wait to Baby Ben.

Eliza said...

Thank you, Ariel, for sharing this. I birthed my second son naturally and am looking forward to that experience again but would also like to enjoy it even more fully this time. So, again, thank you for sharing your insights and inspiration. You are amazing and have such a beautiful family!

Katrina said...

Well done! What a beautiful birth. I'm glad you commented on Amy's post so that I could find your blog. I'd been wondering how your birth went. So happy to hear how wonderful it was. Congrats!

Megan said...

So happy for you!

Keenanonie said...

How did I miss this post for so long!? What a beautiful narrative of your joyous experience! Thank you for posting -- you have definitely inspired me for my upcoming labor. Thank you!!

Scottish gal said...

Ariel holding seconds-old Benjam -- like C. S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy

Rachel and Micah said...

Thanks for that beautiful story of Baby Ben's birth! I love your goal of finding joy in giving birth and of seeking to enjoy things we may fear.

Jan Marshall said...

There is nobody like you Ariel. I am so grateful for every little thing that transpired to bring Benjamin here in this way. Your faith and believing heart have made it possible, in preparation and delivery.

How glad I am that the one and only Andrew was able to recognize you, and marry you right away.

I love you both with affection unspeakable. Abraham and Benjamin are lovely, lucky little brothers.

eMily eLiZaBeTh said...

I am so happy for you!! your birth story brought tears to my eyes. im sitting here working at a tanning salon and feeling the spirit. you give me hope.