BABIES RAISING BABIES: LYDIA'S BIRTH STORY FROM STEPHEN'S PERSPECTIVE

10:46 AM

I know I already posted my ridiculously detailed and way-too-long account of Lydia's birth story, but Stephen, too, had the opportunity to write the story from his perspective in an email to his parents. I purposely did not read his account until after I'd written mine because I didn't want to be influenced by the way he told about the events. When I finally did read it, however, I was blubbering like a baby. His perspective is incredibly interesting and touching, and it increased my testimony even further of the power of the priesthood and the power of prayer. Although it is also a little lengthy (we are rather chatty people, haha), I really think you should read it. (And not just because he makes me sound way cooler than I really am, even though he does ;) ...Maybe reading this will give you a little window into why becoming a parent with him by my side has only made me love him more.)
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Experiencing Lydia's birth will forever be one of the most precious moments of my entire life, and was incredibly emotional and spiritual for both Hannah and me. Although I have already told all of this to you over the phone I want to write down the story of Lydia's birth from my memory so that I can have it forever. I still don't know if I can find the words to adequately describe how precious it was and how much I admire Hannah, but I'll do my best with my limited vocabulary.

As Lydia's Halloween due date approached Hannah and I became more and more anxious to have a baby. Thankfully, Hannah was not feeling as much physical discomfort as I think most pregnant women feel at nine months. The tough part at first was just the waiting, but then as the due date came and went it became more about Hannah feeling bad for keeping April and Mom Flinders out here. April had come up from St. George with her 2 year-old, Kennedy, on Monday, to be Hannah's doula, and was planning to stay until Hannah had her baby. Mom Flinders arrived on Monday, November 2nd, and was planning on staying until Wednesday the 11th (she has since graciously extended her stay to the 14th).

By Wednesday, Hannah was feeling so anxious that she started getting crazy ideas of ways to get things moving a little quicker. Hannah had joked about hiking the Y on Tuesday, but when I jokingly texted her on Wednesday morning saying, "So have you hiked the Y yet?" I was shocked to almost instantly get a picture message back showing the base of Y Mountain. I was sure she was joking and responded that she had found a nice picture off the internet, but she quickly sent me a second picture of both her and her mom standing at the start of the trail, ready to hike! They took their time going up and down, but they hiked the whole trail, all the way up to the Y and back! 

After hiking the trail they did some other crazy wives-tale things to get Hannah to go into labor. The worst sounding one was drinking a strange concoction of caster oil and some other stuff which made Hannah quite sick by about 8 p.m. Whether they were the things that did the trick or not, we don't know, but by about 8:30 or so Hannah was having much more frequent contractions than she'd ever had before. 

We hung around our place for a while, doing our best to stay distracted as we timed her contraction lengths and intervals, but eventually decided to go over to the Gordon's house so that Hannah could take a warm bath. It was also convenient to be there because April was able to help Hannah with her breathing and focus. 

At about 1:45 a.m. Hannah's contractions had begun to get too intense for her to sleep. She had only gone to bed about an hour before, and she woke me up at about 2 (I had slept for a couple hours) to help her get through her big contractions. We were still at the Gordon's house, so we texted April and went to the living room to help Hannah. April was helpful from the very beginning, helping direct Hannah and focus her breathing so that she could control her contractions as she tried different positions on an exercise ball. 

Hannah labored for about 2 hours before deciding that it was time to go to the hospital. Her contractions were about 2 minutes apart on average, and getting stronger and stronger over time. The main thing we were concerned about, however, is that she was bleeding quite a bit and we were worried that it wasn't a good thing. After eating a couple pieces of toast, knowing that it might be her last food for a while, we headed to Utah Valley Regional Center. 

The hospital was quiet and deserted as we made our way up to Labor and Delivery on the 5th floor. Everything was pretty calm, much like when Hannah and I went in to the hospital a few weeks ago worrying that her water had broken, except for the difference that Hannah needed to stop every one hundred yards or so and deal with a contraction. When we got up to the 5th floor and got checked in, we requested the same room that Hannah had been given the previous time. Thankfully it was open and we were able to get it. It may seem silly or insignificant to some, but it was a nice little tender mercy to us to have a room that Hannah had been to and pictured for the last couple weeks. It was only one tender mercy of many over the course of the night. We got into the room and when the nurse checked on Hannah, she was dilated to a 5 and we were officially admitted for labor!

Despite the explaining and discussions about labor that I'd had with Hannah leading up to the birth, I realized that I had no idea what labor would be like. I don't know if Hannah would say the same, but for me, labor was much less traumatic than I was expecting. The main reason for that is because Hannah was absolutely incredible. Not that I ever underestimated her, but she was calm and controlled to a point that I didn't even know would be possible during labor. That doesn't mean that it was easy by any means, but she was calm, kind, patient, and very grateful for the help we could give her. 

Hannah's contractions continued to happen about every two minutes or so, with increasing intensity as she progressed in dilation. From the time we were checked into the hospital at about 4 a.m. she progressed about one centimeter per hour until she reached a 7. Having April there as the doula was incredibly helpful. She was an excellent coach and did a great job of helping Hannah remember to relax and breathe through each contraction. I was especially grateful that she was there as a coach  because it allowed me to play a 100% supportive role for Hannah and do whatever she needed me to. I can't express how much it meant to me to finally be able to help with Han's pregnancy. For months I have had to watch her be sick, have pain in her back, be more gassy than a nuclear power plant, and deal with acid re-flux, all without me being able to do anything to really take away the pain. Finally, though, in labor, I could help! I could put counter pressure on her back, I could stroke her head, and when Hannah was going through contractions while standing up I could support her while she hung around my neck. 

By about 10 a.m. Hannah had been dilated to a 7 for a little over an hour. It was also about that time that the doctor on-call came in for the first time (Hannah's doctor was on a very timely vacation until Friday) to take a look at Hannah. We had been informed that the on-call doctor had already had a pretty busy and stressful morning. She was coming to see us in between the completion of an emergency C-Section and the start of an emergency D&C, and as soon as she walked in the room and started talking we started feeling the stress as well. 

There were so many things wrong with our first encounter with the doctor that I don't even know where to start. As I remember, she walked in, clearly in a rush, said hello, mentioned that she hadn't had a chance to look over Hannah's file yet, but said that based on what she'd seen from the baby's heartbeat and been told about the amount of blood Hannah was losing, we should prepare for an emergency C-Section. 

We felt like we had all been punched in the stomach. Hannah had worked so hard on preparing herself to be able to a natural birth and she had been rocking it for the past 8 hours, and a C-Section felt like it was going to take the purpose of all that away. To make matters even worse, as the doctor examined Hannah she exclaimed, "Where's her epidural, does she not have an epidural?" When Hannah said no and that she wanted to do it naturally, the doctor boldly stated, "Well you should get an epidural, because if you start bleeding too much when your water breaks, we'll have to rush you into an emergency C-Section, and by that time, if you don't have an epidural, you'll have to go under general anesthesia." If Hannah were to go under general anesthesia, no one other than doctors would be allowed in the room and we wouldn't get to see the birth of our baby. 

The doctor said she had to be off to perform the D&C, but that we had two decisions to make. The first decision was whether or not we wanted her to break Hannah's water, which would hopefully make her body progress more quickly, and the second was whether or not she wanted an epidural. The concern was that the blood Hannah was losing was actually coming from a tear in the placenta, and that if too much blood were lost, the baby would not be safe. The doctor and nurses all said that since Lydia's head was so low, it was possible that it was blocking more blood from coming out, and that as soon as Hannah's water broke and some space was freed up, things would get a little more messy. We tried asking the doctor what the odds of each outcome were, but she seemed almost insistent that Hannah would be having a C-Section. It seemed as though to her, it was only a matter of whether Hannah wanted an epidural or general anesthesia. With that, she told us she would be back in 30-45 minutes, and left us to decide what route to take. 

We all felt like the air had been taken out of the room. Hannah and I both felt devastated, and we all felt like we had just been pushed around by the bully on the playground. We really didn't want to have a C-Section birth, but it felt like that was inevitable, and that Hannah would be silly not to give up on the idea of having a natural birth and get an epidural right then so that I could be in the room and she could be conscious when they pulled Lydia out. 

We were ok with the decision to have the doctor break Hannah's water. The process doesn't hurt, and it just moved things along at a normal, natural pace, with the only change being that contractions get a little more intense. The real decision was between getting an epidural or not. At this point all four of us were crying (I'll admit and say that I was probably crying the most). I texted Mom and Dad and Sarah as well as a few friends to please pray for us to help us make the right decision. We decided to first say a prayer, and then I would give Hannah a blessing. 

I can't think of a time that I have prayed with more sincere intent than at that moment. I have had deeply spiritual experiences through prayer before as I've prayed to gain a testimony, or prayed for comfort multiple times on my mission, but never have I been so focused and filled with faith than as we bowed our heads to ask for help to make the right decision. I was an emotional wreck at this point, but managed to sputter out to Heavenly Father that my biggest concern is that Hannah be safe, and that Lydia be healthy, and that we walk away with our family. I also prayed that we would know which decision to make, that we would be able to communicate with the doctor and nurses better, and that we would be calmed and comforted no matter the outcome. 

I gave Hannah a blessing of strength and intuition, that she would know and feel what was best. Never have I been so grateful to be a worthy priesthood holder, and for its power that has been restored in order to bless the lives of others. I know its power is real because I felt it as we prayed. As soon as the blessing was finished we all took a moment to warm ourselves in the peacefulness of the Spirit that filled the room, and humble ourselves as we listened for an answer to our prayer. After twenty minutes or so of thinking and discussing all the potential outcomes, both Hannah and I could not let go of the feeling that we wanted to move forward and have her water broken without an epidural. We both felt like it was what we wanted most, and the peace we felt in the room seemed to continue as we talked it out. We asked Mom Flinders and April if they agreed with our decision, and they said yes, and so we told the nurse. We felt prepared to assume the risk between the best outcome and the worst outcome and felt more motivated to do it than to deal with the other two not-so-great outcomes. 

When the doctor came back around 10:30, it was instantly apparent that our prayers had been heard. It was as if we were meeting a completely different person when she came in, sat down next to Hannah, and walked through her thoughts. As she sat down she told us that she had had a chance to look over Hannah's file, see that she was very healthy, and said that she felt optimistic moving forward. The nurse must have told her our decision before she came in, because she did not ask nor question it, she only proceeded to ask Hannah about how she had envisioned the birth. As Hannah walked through everything we had planned for--natural delivery, no epidural or episiotomy, immediate skin to skin time, and me cutting the umbilical cord--the doctor was supportive and encouraging. She didn't even mention a C-Section again.

The doctor had previously said that we would know after only a minute or two of breaking Hannah's water whether or not she would need to have a C-Section, so we all waited anxiously after Hannah had her water broken with what looked like a giant plastic crochet hook. Since she'd been admitted to the hospital, Hannah had two heart monitors around her stomach, one to monitor her heart and one to monitor baby's. We all breathed sighs of relief as Lydia's heartbeat remained normal after Hannah's water broke. Our prayers had been answered in full. We'd listened to the Holy Ghost and made the right decision, and it looked like everything we had planned for was going to happen! 

As soon as Hannah's water broke she progressed to 8 cm dilated. I guess once you get passed 7 things really start to kick into gear for the home stretch. Hannah said that the contractions were certainly stronger, but it seemed like at that point we were all just anxious for her to hurry up and dilate to a 10 so we could get Lydia out and see her. We were encouraged by how quickly Hannah went from a 7 to an 8, and then an 8 to a 9, but it took what felt like a long time for her to finish it out and get to a 10. Things were especially difficult once she dilated to a 9 because she started feeling intense urges to push. The nurse had told us this would likely happen, but that Hannah shouldn't give in because if she did, Lydia's head might bash up again her cervix, which would cause it to swell and cause the birthing experience to be even more difficult. Hannah did a fantastic job. Our favorite moments were her saying, "Oh wow, I really want to push. Trying not to push, trying not to push...pushing! Pushing! Giving in!" Although she felt like she gave in, she did a near perfect job and did not cause herself any later problems. By a little after 11 am she was dilated to a 10 and it was ready to start the final stretch.

By this time I was starting to get teary-eyed again because it was so emotional to realize that our little girl was going to be born any minute. The doctor came back in as well as a couple extra nurses, and Mom Flinders, April, and I all took positions around the bed with them in order to help Hannah get through the last parts of the delivery. I got to hold Hannah's left foot/leg, and Mom and April stood by her to help coach and comfort her.

I want to reiterate at this point that I cannot express or describe my admiration for Hannah. This is probably the most painful part of the whole experience and Hannah powered through it like a pro. She was truly incredible. I have never seen such control and focus. It gave me a new definition of power. Not brute force or physical strength, but pure strength of will and of mind. She is my hero. At this point she had been laboring for about 9 hours, she had been awake for basically 26 hours straight, in which, don't forget, she had hiked the Y, and she had had nothing to eat other than ice chips since we had checked in at 4 a.m, and two pieces of toast before that, she threw up around 6 o clock. She could easily have been grumpy, angry, impatient, or bossy, and nobody ever would have blamed her. Instead, she was calm, patient, kind, and extremely polite. She thanked us every time we handed her the cup of ice, and she also thanked the nurse for counting to 10 every time she had a contraction so she could have a goal for how long to push. She is an angel.

I also want to mention that I had seen almost a dozen videos of births before in my anatomy class and from being a TA for Human Development, but nothing could ever have prepared me for how miraculous it was to see a birth in real life. When I say miraculous, I mean it completely literally. Not only is it a miracle that a baby comes to life and takes a first breath, but it's also a miracle that she fits the tiny door she has to come out of. It was so emotional to watch Hannah straining to push as hard as she could and at the same time see Lydia's head come out a little more each time. I think the most uncomfortable thing for Hannah was the doctor's attempts to try and "loosen things up down there." From my position I could see that the doctor was just poking around with her fingers, but Hannah asked later what the deal was with the "wooden dowel" that the doctor was prodding her with, haha. It was obviously a tight squeeze (as noted by the doctor more than a dozen times), but after about 45 minutes of pushing, at 11:52 a.m., Hannah gave her final effort and Lydia Lynn was born! It was at that time that I also learned why the jargon is "catch the baby" because she came flying out much faster than I had anticipated!

From then on everything seems like it was a blur. Our whole experience from labor to discharge from the hospital 48 hours later seems like a blur. Actually, it all still feels like a blur after 10 days of taking care of Lydia, haha. It might sound bad, but I had not imagined how complete and human Lydia would look from the instant she came out. Her skin color was a light shade of purple, but she looked like a real person! She had all of the features of a baby, as well as a full head of hair (which Hannah and I were/are thrilled about). We waited a minute as they cleaned her off and got some things situated, and then I got to cut the umbilical cord (which, by the way, is the coolest looking thing ever). Right after that they picked Lydia up and handed her over to her mom. Hannah and I could not believe how perfect she was. She is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen, and she was so calm that there was almost a reverent silence in the room. Well, what would have been a reverent silence if it weren't for all the horribly uncomfortable stitch up work that they had to do on Hannah after Lydia and the placenta had come out. 

As is fairly common for a first birth, Hannah had some tearing that needed to be stitched up after Lydia came out. It's also not too surprising, since Lydia weighed 8 pounds 4 ounces and was 19 inches. After Hannah had passed the placenta and the doctor started evaluating the aftermath, we realized why Hannah had been losing so much blood. As the doctor and nurses had suspected, there was a tear in the placenta, which could have been dangerous for the baby, but there was also a tear on the inside of her vagina. All in all the nurses said she lost about 700 cc's of blood, which again makes us grateful that our prayers were answered and both Hannah and Lydia were safe, and everything was able to work out according to plan. 

After everything had been cleaned up and taken care of from the birth, I went with Lydia down to the nursery where her vitals were checked, she was given a couple shots, and a sponge bath. None of it felt like it could possibly be real life. People calling me Daddy? It didn't seem possible. I was beaming from ear to ear the whole time and I felt like I was on top of the world.

The rest of the birth story really just consists of us being moved to a much smaller room and being taken care of by nurses for 48 hours, as well as some birth aftermath stories that are TMI, haha. Everyone who helped us at the hospital was extremely kind and we felt very watched over and cared for during our stay. We were discharged on Saturday morning, just before noon, and Hannah walked out of the hospital. That's right, no wheelchair. She walked out like a victorious champion.

After over a week it's only starting to feel like this is real life and we aren't just babysitting someone else's baby while they're away on vacation. We are so grateful to Mom Flinders for staying with us and being extremely helpful in giving us advice, helping care for Lydia, making dinners, running errands, and organizing our house. She is a saint, and we would have been a wreck without her. 

We're grateful for the love and support and prayers from everyone on our's and Lydia's behalf. It has truly been one of the greatest experiences of my life (right up there next to getting married) and Hannah and I feel humbled by the trust Heavenly Father has in us to raise one of His daughters. Babies raising babies. We know we will continue to be loved and blessed and are excited to play out all our many new adventures. Although I previously didn't know it was possible, my love for Hannah grew immensely as I watched her go through giving birth to Lydia. I could not be luckier in getting to be her husband and having the chance to be by her side. I love her with my whole heart and soul and I know she will be the perfect mother for our children. I am so excited to see her in action.

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Stephen

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6 comments

  1. Crying. Can't stop. This is so tender and sweet. Watching your husband become a dad is the BEST!

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    1. Seriously though - I cry every single time I read this! (And I've read it an undisclosed number of times, haha.) Thanks for reading!

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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