They say that every pregnancy, every baby, and every birth is different, but after having two natural, unmedicated, and yes – different – births I thought I knew what was coming for our third. While to an extent that was true, Malachi’s birth was yet again a different birth, a different experience, and a different story that I’m excited to share.
The difference really started when I was 38 weeks pregnant. The pregnancy had already been vastly different because I felt h u g e (he was our biggest baby), it was a historically hot summer, and I struggled with a lot of pelvic pain. So when I started having regular contractions at 38 weeks I was excited at the thought of no longer being pregnant! It started on a Saturday night: after having mild contractions every 5 minutes for several hours I decided to go to bed and try and rest as best I could, hoping contractions would pick up during the night. Well I was surprised to wake up the next morning with no more contractions and obviously still very pregnant. This off and on labor continued for the next two weeks, but I was trying my best to simply live life and rest as usual.
At my 40 week appointment the midwife asked if I wanted a membrane sweep as I was about 70% effaced and almost 2 cm dilated. I said I wanted him to come in the Lord’s timing with minimal intervention, but I went home slightly discouraged that I wasn’t already 5 cm dilated from all my off and on contractions.
Over the next three days I walked (hard to do in late August in Texas), cleaned (hard to do at 40 weeks pregnant) kept the laundry done and pantry stocked just in case, and hung out with my girls, knowing we would soon not be a girls-only family. When I was 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant, I noticed a change in the contractions I’d been feeling, but continued about my day as normal still.
Because I was feeling jittery and slightly discouraged, my mom and dad had offered to take the four of us out to dinner that night. We met them that evening at Chili’s where I thoroughly enjoyed my steak, mashed potatoes, and steamed veggies, but kept remarking to my mom when the contractions came and really began to notice them in my lower back. After dinner, they offered to take us to Crumbl, but there was a shift in me. I could not stand to be in the small, crowded, loud atmosphere — I wanted to be outside with my husband, fresh air, and a wall to lean on. I was certain now: this was real labor.
While driving home I began timing the contractions and they were about every 4-6 minutes apart, but felt more intense than the ones I had been having in weeks prior. They were still very manageable, though, so I was able to help David get the girls tucked in for bed, the pull out couch ready in case my parents needed to come over in the night, finish packing things for the birth center, and take a shower. After showering we settled in to watch TV and the contractions had slowed down, but still felt very “real”. At first I was disappointed by this, but we decided it would be best to try and sleep as it was 11 o’clock at this point.
During the night, contractions would wake me up about every 20 minutes and I would breathe through them. Though they were slow and spaced far apart they were gaining in intensity. Around 2 AM, I woke up shivering and felt worried I was about to transition (I wasn’t) so I called the midwife who advised me to keep sleeping until I couldn’t any longer. She said sleeping was the very best thing I could be doing right now.
Historically I knew to expect a long early labor, and with the girls I would constantly move and walk and hike trying to get into active labor, but I trusted that God, being the Creator of birth and my body, would move my labor along without me having to do anything. So I kept sleeping when I could even though the contractions kept coming. Sometimes, in my half asleep state, I would have to get on my hands and knees to help through a contraction, and David would reach over and rub my back in his half asleep state. It felt so nice to be in our bed, not worrying if we needed to rush to the hospital, and trusting the Lord and His process for birth and how He designed my body.
Around 5 AM I couldn’t sleep any longer. I got up to try and enjoy the quiet of the dark, early morning. I put on some comfy clothes, made some toast and coffee, then sat down on my yoga ball with my breakfast and Bible. As I began moving around, the contractions intensified and began coming about every three minutes. I was thinking we’d still have awhile before it was time to go to the birth center, but knew that I wouldn’t want the girls around while I was having such intense waves, so I called my parents and asked them to please come pick up the girls around 7.
While trying to read my Bible and eat my toast, contractions continued to come in waves of increasing intensity and some being only one minute apart. I knew we needed a change of plans — as soon as my parents arrived I wanted to leave. So around 7, my sweet daughters still sleeping in their beds, I left a half eaten piece of toast and a half drunk cup of coffee on the counter as David and I drove to go welcome our son into our arms.
I texted my discipleship group and home group that it was time and to please pray against traffic as the contractions were very intense and we were driving to Ft Worth (45 minutes without traffic) at 7 AM on a weekday. I believe I witnessed a modern day miracle because there was not a spot of traffic!
David and I talked to the sweet midwife Erica on the phone as we drove, she suggested stopping and getting a Gatorade to stay hydrated, but the amount of pressure I was feeling made me feel worried to make any extra stops. When we got to the birth center at 7:50 AM, I told her the pressure I was feeling was immense. Even with the intense pressure, I was surrendering to the contractions, not fighting the pain or pressure, but letting them do what they needed to do. Before she checked to see how dilated I was David reminded me that whatever number she would say didn’t mean anything. He encouraged me that I was doing well handling the waves and that we would meet Malachi soon no matter how dilated I was in that very moment. However, I was encouraged to hear that I was 6 cm dilated and that the baby’s head was extremely low which is why I was feeling such pressure.
Once I made the excruciating trek up the stairs I walked around the birth suite, squatting while contracting, and waited for the tub to be filled. Sweet, thoughtful Erica got clary sage and frankincense diffusing for me — these oils are supposed to help with stimulating contractions — and got me a barf bag (I was beginning to get nauseous) with a drop of peppermint oil in the bottom.
Once the tub was filled I was so eager to soak, deeply relaxing and enjoying conversation and laughter in between contractions, and was beginning to get very focused during a contraction. Erica called her birth assistant, Melissa, and said she could tell by my sounds that I was about to have this baby. (So far with all three births this has been my pattern: take a looong time to get to 6 cm but then go from 6 to birth in a couple of hours.) Melissa arrived soon after that and I was entering transition — the last bit of dilation before pushing which is usually the most intense. Melissa had me get out of the tub, straddle the toilet with one leg propped up, and stay there for a few contractions. I threw up at one point there, then we moved me to the bed to get checked.
I didn’t want any fear to hold me back so I said out loud “I am nervous that I’m not fully dilated because I never got to a full 10 cm with Selah and had to push through a lip on my cervix.” But Erica checked me and exclaimed “Girl, you’re complete!” I briefly talked through my struggles I had delivering Selah because, again, I didn’t want any fear to hinder me. Up to this point, I had felt very in control ironically by not trying to control the contractions, but simply by letting them wash over me and surrendering to God’s process of labor. Now however, I needed to push and be a more active participant in this birth. I asked Erica to break my water to help intensify contractions. It was hard. I worked to get Malachi out for about 40 minutes — the longest pushing phase I have had yet.
I started pushing on the birth stool, I pushed while kneeling on the ground, I pushed on my hands and knees, I pushed on my side, I circled back around to the birth stool, back to my knees; I was constantly changing positions. I was pushing with all my might — pooping, which is apparently a good indicator that you’re doing it right lol sooo let’s normalize it — throwing up, grunting, saying over and over “I can’t do it!” and at one point kind of sobbed weakly “I’m trying.” David was, as always, my rock in these moments. He was the best coach, a helpful birth assistant, and such a comfort to me by reminding me how God made my body, and telling me that I could do it and in fact, I was already doing it.
At one point, Malachi’s heart rate dropped, and Erica said “we need to get him out on the next contraction.” Fear gripped me, and I just wanted to stop pushing and hold him in — this is probably why it took 40 minutes to get him out — but of course there was only one thing to do. Keep pushing. With encouragement from David, I kept pushing with all my might, changing positions at Erica’s direction, and finally, on my hands and knees, at 10:59 AM, I delivered our precious son, Malachi Arrow. The first touch he ever felt was from the hand of his father catching him, and after his nuchal cord (could be why his heart rate dropped) was unwrapped from his neck, he cried loudly and was passed between my legs to hold.
Erica and Melissa exclaimed “That’s a big baby! He’s got to be nine pounds!” (He was 3 ounces shy of 9 pounds.) His big size definitely made me feel validated after I struggled so to push him out! (However, for the first time, I did not need any stitches after delivery, which was yet another answer to a specific prayer. Because of this, postpartum healing was amazing, and I felt totally myself within a day or two.)
I spent the next four hours at the birth center snuggling my fresh, sweet smelling, not-so-little baby skin to skin, nursing him, and being treated like a birthing queen! I got a healing herbal bath drawn for me, I got food prepared for me and brought to me in bed, and the birth assistant Melissa filled out all necessary documentation for us. All I had to do was lay there with our son; it was a wonderful and magical afternoon, and going home that evening to sleep in our own bed with no bright hospital lights or interruptions was a dream!
We chose the middle name Arrow for Malachi because of Psalm 127:3-5 which states, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” And though it is hard to be pregnant, hard to give birth, hard to raise children, (I am still very green on this journey), scripture says they are a gift and a blessing from the Lord! Not something that just happens to us or that we can plan for, but something He gives out of His goodness and love for us.
When Malachi was born, the song playing was “New Wine”; the lyrics say “make me a vessel, make me an offering, make me whatever You want me to be.” This simple lyric being sung as I worked to bring forth life is such a beautiful thought. Because, yes, it is scary, but I long to offer all of my life — including my children and my own body — as an offering to my God.
I pray that the story of our first son’s birth brings Him glory. He is the amazing Author and Creator of birth and these beautiful children.
“For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him forever! Amen.” – Romans 11:36