On June 10, 2021 we welcomed our amazing Grace Selah Jolly into the world! We prayed for her for years and to finally meet her brought us so much joy. I love reliving that day and sitting down to write this brings me back all the feels. Today I’m sharing our positive birth experience and the beautiful story of how we brought our little girl into the world. There are so many opinions and stories about birth being a scary, painful experience – I for one had some pretty big fears about birth (years before trying to conceive). I’d hear people amplify the pain and their negative thoughts toward it. Movies and TV always made it feel and look extremely traumatizing as well. Now, there is a lot of birth trauma that can occur and I don’t discredit that at all. I am talking more about the overall look at birth seem to always be focused on pain and stress which gets more amplified than the positive ones from my experience as a woman listening over the years and what I was told when I was pregnant. Something I wanted to take into this birth was faith over fear. I know there isn’t a lot you can control when you are pregnant or when giving birth — things can happen and escalate, so while I knew I couldn’t really “prepare” for this moment, I focused on surrendering and working my muscles of trusting my body and God throughout and it served me so well, I am forever grateful. In the end, so much has to come together — the baby has to work with you, your body has to release certain hormones, positions, levels etc. and there should never be any guilt or pressure around if any of those things changes or need intervention. Your body is beautiful, but if it doesn’t progress the way you want it to you can take a lot of that on, which just isn’t healthy. I hope my story helps you feel more calm, centred and empowered. Positive birth stories gave me the confidence that I could have that too. I didn’t have a birth plan, as I know far too well anything can happen, I just wanted to be as calm, relaxed and at peace as possible no matter how it turned out, letting go of any expectations…
While trying to conceive, I worked with a Christian councillor to help get my anxiety under control, as I knew this was where I needed to start to help get my mind settled. There was a lot of work I had done both mentally and physically to prepare to receive this baby, especially after a miscarriage and I am so grateful for that time because it truly did prepare me for motherhood. You can read more about those experiences here and here. During my pregnancy, I learned to really advocate and educate myself so I could have an informed birth. Knowing my options, rights in the hospital and during birth was an important part of the experience for me. I hired an amazing doula which came recommended by my councillor and it was the best decision Neal and I ever made! Her name is Teresa and I called her Mother Teresa or Mama T 🙂 She was so gentle and nurturing, it was just what I needed! I didn’t know much about doulas beforehand to be honest, but after looking into it more, I knew this would be an incredible asset for the birth I was praying for. Neal and I BOTH felt so supported by her during my pregnancy, the birth and even postpartum (new dads need that support too). We took prenatal and breastfeeding classes with her that really helped us prepare and understand the process better and although they were all on zoom because of the stay at home order during my whole pregnancy, it was still great and personable.
The other piece to preparing my mind, focus on my breath and centre myself was this app I used called “Christian Hypnobirthing.” The app has meditative tracks that focus on positive affirmations, prayer, scripture and breathing techniques. I found this extremely valuable especially in the weeks leading up to birth. I’d listen to it anytime I was about to go to sleep and it would put me at ease and fill my mind with strengthening, calming encouragements. If you’re not familiar with hypnobirthing…
“At its core, HypnoBirthing aims to help a woman deal with any fear or anxiety she may have around birth. It involves various relaxation and self-hypnosis techniques to help relax the body before and during labor and birth.
The idea is that when the body and mind are in a completely relaxed state, birth can happen more quickly and painlessly because the body doesn’t fight the natural process.” – Source: Healthline
Traditional hypnobirthing does put a lot of focus on personal power, which I don’t necessarily connect with as I put my power in the Lord and draw it from Him, so I was so happy to find one that was called Christian Hypnobirthing! You have to do what works best for YOU! This is your experience 🙂 This gave me birthing support based on scripture and the power of my Heavenly Father, which empowered me.
Now let’s get into the fun stuff! The day I went into labour…
June 9, 2021
I was 40 weeks and 4 days and had another appointment with my OB to see where I was at. She booked me an induction for June 16 (as OB’s typically won’t let you go 10 days past your due date). She checked me and I was still 1 cm dilated (just like I was at 39 weeks) so she did a membrane sweep which stretched me to 2.5 cm. I didn’t have crazy expectations it would put me into labour because it doesn’t usually work for first time moms…little did I know…
Neal and I went off to do some groceries after my appointment (naively not knowing our baby girl was going to show up the next day). In the grocery store I started feeling some period-like cramping, which is common after a stretch and sweep. Later when we got home I said to Neal “I feel like they’re escalating,” so he texted our doula (as I wasn’t going to be able to have a full conversation back and forth during them) and she said that it was all common but sometimes it can stop. So, I carried on my evening but the cramps didn’t quit (important to note our hospital bags were already packed a few weeks earlier so I didn’t have to scramble and could just focus on my body). All I remember is the cramps soon became contractions in my back but they were spread out. When they’d come, I would bend over in a position the doula taught us in our classes and Neal would apply pressure to my lower back. They would last 20 seconds and come every 10 minutes. I found I was able to manage these as long as Neal would come over and apply the pressure. As the evening progressed I tried to sleep but those contractions kept coming in like waves and getting more intense. The doula suggested I change positions, so I went into the shower and the hot water on my back felt glorious!! It was truly the most helpful thing for them but I began to get overheated being in there for so long and wanted to get out. By midnight they were rolling in quick and hard and I couldn’t carry on a conversation with Neal. Whenever a wave would hit me I would breathe through it and rotate my hips as I gripped on to a door. I started saying this mantra out of nowhere “baby is coming down” as I breathed through it. We still laugh about where this came from and I have no idea but when I’d breathe I would just keep saying “baby is coming down” and it soothed me. At first the doula and Neal thought the baby was literally coming down but then they realized it was something I would say to get me through a contraction. I realized that all my contractions were felt in my back not in my stomach and that I was having back labour which is apparently much more painful. My doula Mama T didn’t tell me this at the time when I asked if that was what I was having (which I’m glad she didnt because it kept me calm, not having a clue), but when we reviewed the birth experience she commended me for sticking through as long as I did because back labour is no joke!
June 10, 2021
By 2am, I knew we needed to go to the hospital so the doula told us to ring the Labor and Delivery Triage at the hospital. By that time my contractions were lasting a minute and close together. Our bags were already packed at the door, the dog was already picked up by my parents for sitting and we were ready to go! When I get overwhelmed physically and emotionally, nausea can manifest and I need to throw up so, I had one puke in me before we left lol and I felt better. Just thinking about having to drive in the car with contractions and what was to come made me feel anxious, so I literally said to Neal at the door, “I just need to puke before we go so we don’t make a mess in the car” lol! I even took a bucket and a puppy pee pad (we had from Lucy) to put on the seat in case my water broke. Pro tip.. *wink*
We got in the car and…that 15 minute ride to the hospital was not fun with the back labor sitting down but I breathed through it all, praying over myself, knowing we were on our way to meet our daughter. Knowing we were about to get to the next destination for some relief kept me going! Neal stayed so calm the entire ride and we thankfully got every green light! Once we got to the hospital, our doula met us there and they took us up to get me checked. I would hold on to my doula in the hallway getting to our room and she would rub my back and help me focus on my breath. She had a magic touch that woman!! Neal pushed the cart we brought with all of our overnight bags, pillows, blankets and more and so I am so thankful I had the doula to hold me through the hallway. I can’t imagine us trying to bring all of our things up together while contracting, haha. I got into a room to get checked and once again had to puke (I will say I hate to throw up, but you feel so much better once you do, especially during labour). I kept focusing on my breath to remain calm and this is something I’ve worked on for years dealing with anxiety. My doula encouraged me saying I was such a good breather (just little positive affirmations like that encouraged me and empowered me throughout so I am so grateful she chimed in whenever she did). You need all the positive words spoken over you when you’re going into the most unknown experience of your life! I laid back and the nurse checked me – I was now 4cm dilated and 100% effaced!
With the nausea, throwing up and back labour I felt at that time I really wanted to get the epidural. I had always planned to but wanted to try to get to 6cm because sometimes shutting off the endorphins your body releases when it feels pain while contracting after you get the epidural can slow down labour. My doula held me, and said let’s make these next few contractions count before you get the epidural as we waited for the anesthesiologist. So as they prepared the room and called the doctor, I held on to my doula as she rubbed my back and we breathed through it together. Now I was put into my birthing room and got my epidural. I truly didn’t feel the needle or any pain, Neal held on to my head so I wouldn’t move and I was contracting even while it was going in. Funny enough the only pain I could feel was in my neck from having to crunch forward! Thatanesthesiologist was truly gifted and gentle!! After the epidural I felt so calm and present to really enjoy what was coming next! We dimmed the lights in the room, I had brought some LED candles we turned on to relax, Neal put on our playlist of worship music and we just relaxed. I knew I wanted to rest before having to push but I was just so excited. I think the doula, Neal and I napped for 20 minutes and that was it! The nurse came to check me one more time and I had gone from 4cm to 7cm now! Then all of a sudden when she was about to put the catheter in me, my water broke all on its own. We all cheered! My body was doing everything I had prayed it would and working with me to progress. By 9am I was 10cm dilated and 100% effaced, we were ready to start the pushing!! I was so happy to start pushing and give birth, I was smiling and laughing through it the whole time. If someone told me this was how I would be during birth a few years ago I would have been shocked, but I just felt so calm, happy and excited. Everything my doula described that happens for a progressive birth in our classes was happening and I was so thankful.
While waiting to begin pushing, my nurse took a marker and next to my bed there was a wall with a white board and she asked me what the baby’s name would be. I answered “Grace” and she began writing “Happy Birthday Grace” with info to fill out when the baby arrives. I looked over and saw this and I started just balling tears of gratitude. I couldn’t believe my eyes and how good and faithful God had been to us to bless us with this moment. Neal and I looked over at each other and cried so hard. This is the moment we had prayed and longed for, for so so long, our baby was going to be born today! When you have an OB, you don’t always get them during your delivery, you’ll get whoever is on call. I didn’t have my OB, the nurse wrote the doctor who would be delivering our baby and it was the same one who had to deliver the news in the same hospital back in 2019 that I had miscarried after they ran tests on me. He was such a sweet doctor and when I read that it was going to be him, I told Mama T. She asked if that was triggering for me or an issue and I said “nope, I think it’s perfect he is delivering our rainbow baby, a full circle moment.”
Now comes the fun part…pushing. Baby girl was still pretty high up so I had a lot of work to do, the first hour I was pushing and still chatting in between. The nurse was so sweet and we were having conversations but at one point she told me, we love to see you laughing and talking but when it’s getting real you’ll be focusing more on breathing and pushing and not really be chatting. Well by the next hour I understood what she meant! I was locked in focused, using all my might to push, push push. It was getting tough, I was drenched in sweat and even though she was making progress, I was getting tired. Neal and the doula worked together encouraging me, massaging my legs and speaking life over me. I didn’t give up and I wanted every push to really count. By hour 3, yes friends, 3 hours of pushing lol, the OB came in the room and suggested we change my position to get things moving. Baby’s heart was doing good, so I was given the green light to keep going as long as she wasn’t in distress they wouldn’t intervene. We tried something different but in the end I went back to my original way and continued. The nurse, doula and Neal were all so encouraging, even when I know I didn’t do the best push, they kept me going. The words spoken to us during birth are so important! The OB came back one more time and because the baby’s heart rate was starting to drop he said to me, “Steph, if you can’t push baby out in the next 15 minutes, I am going to have to go get forceps or the vacuum to get her out.” I was determined to not have this intervention if I could avoid it and mustered up all the strength the Lord had given me for such a time as this. So I gave everything with each push and we were getting closer! Neal could see her head and beautiful dark hair. That’s when my doula came by my ear and whispered “you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, show that doctor and push his hands out!.” Well, friends, I don’t believe in fear tactics, but there’s a time and place where they can work and they did because two minutes later I pushed my baby girl out! Even with the epidural I could feel my back labour contractions (mild but still there) and I felt the pressure of her coming out and it was the most wild experience! I didn’t fear the pain, I used it to get in tune with my body of when and how hard to push. I used my breath. I used my faith. I used my knowledge of when I would need intervention and when it was okay to keep going as long as baby and I were healthy and safe. I heard her beautiful cry and they put her on my chest. All throughout pregnancy and birth I visualized the doctor placing her on my chest and Neal cutting the umbilical cord. This was the moment I had dreamt about forever. Our favourite song “Million Little Miracles” by Maverick City Music was playing when she was born and now here she was, our real life miracle, earth side.
Our first days with sweet Selah…
Neal looked at me after I gave birth and a million kisses to my forehead, “don’t ever tell me you can’t do something, you’re incredible.” All my life, I’ve doubted myself and strength. I’ve given into fear and anxiety since I was a little girl. Funny enough, my name Stephanie means “victorious” but I’ve always kind of felt defeated all my life. I’ve never been the one who won ribbons and medals and I’ve often been mocked for having anxiety. As I walked into motherhood I have never felt more empowered and strong of what I am capable of doing through Christ, who strengthens me. I know Jesus now fully and He is truly my provider and source. I’ve been able to do things I never thought I could do, through Him. I am so grateful for the woman that was born through this pregnancy and this child. It’s made me believe anything is possible and miracles are scattered throughout the everyday.
With God – Grace, Neal and I worked together to become a family. With God anything is possible.