Disclaimer: I have no intention of judging women who choose to give birth with an epidural or other forms of pain killers. Every woman is different, all births are blessings, and every mother is a hero, with or without medication. I just wanted to share my birth story.
How do you put into words one of the most important days of your life?
Most never do. I guess that is why God equipped humans with memory, or why men invented cameras, so that we never have to.
Oftentimes, words do not live up to the actual experience, even fail you. But I’ve learned that experiences are only valid, only really mean something, when they are shared with others.
So, I’m going to try.
June 24, 2013, a miracle happened to me. She came in the form of a dark-haired, wide-eyed feisty, little baby girl who came out of me screaming and crying into the world. Maybe there are some who are just a bit cynical and would say, “Oh big deal, a baby. You just became another one of the billion mothers in the world. Congratulations.”
I had the same sentiments….before I became pregnant.
I could go into all the little details of what I felt and what it was like to see and hear her inside of me for the very first time…but I won’t. Instead, I pray for that same joy to fill you in all that you are and in all that you do. Even for just one day.
But even that was not the real miracle. The life that formed deep in my womb from nothing into something was not the real miracle.
For me, the real miracle was giving birth not in a hospital as I’ve always imagined it to be. Free from anesthesia or epidurals or other drugs that induce or sedate. It was feeling my baby move, inch by inch, slowly but surely out of my body and into the outside world. The real miracle for me was being alert and awake for every single, magical second of my child’s birth.
I was already 8 months along when I finally became convinced that I was taking the midwife option. I kept ping-pong-ing between that alternative and giving birth in a hospital. Alternating between feeling brave and then getting scared all over again.
I spent many hours a day poring through forums online, trying to learn as much as I can about giving birth naturally. Again and again, I kept reading the same thing: If you can and your body could, try to give birth without the drugs.
According to what I’ve read, (again, this is according to what I’ve read and could or could not be true) most of those who decided to go natural had richer and fonder memories of their birth while those who took the epidural route had the more traumatic or painful accounts of their birth. Being in control of your own body and your own birth, according to what most of the women said, made all the difference.
So I said go.
My first plan was to travel to Kalinga and give birth at the Abundant Grace of God clinic in Tabuk. But after awhile, the thought of traveling for 13 hours up with my 6 pound tummy and then back down with a newborn wasn’t something I could fully see myself doing. Georgia, the head of the clinic, suggested to connect me to a nurse that she knew here in Manila, who ran a birthing center in Antipolo. That way I could give birth here and still enjoy the perks of going all natural.
That was how I met Pami Ellis, who is not only a missionary but also a certified nurse. She got in touch with me through email, was very thorough yet kind. She sent me a few links of how to prepare myself for a natural birth and just put me so at ease that I knew I was going to go through with it. That I could go through with it.
Bring it on.
My husband and I met her in a coffee shop the following Sunday. I didn’t know what to expect really, but when a tall and beautiful woman came through the doors and gave us a radiant smile, I have to admit, I was stunned. She definitely was one of God’s angels.
Pami told us all about the story of Shalom Christian Bahay-Paanakan in Antipolo. How it was birthing center supported by Action International Ministries. How it was founded by Mavis Orton, a British missionary nurse called to the Philippines to start her midwifery ministry. How Mavis is now 80 years old and still helps with the births to this very day.
Pami showed us pictures of what a regular day at the clinic was like. On some days, there were so many births that pregnant women literally filled up and spilled over the clinic’s humble space.
Now was I going to give birth at this clinic? Was I ready to rock it out with the best of these women? Labor on the floor if need be? Call me crazy (I’m usually thought to be), but, yes. I was ready to do so.
But God had a little surprise all planned out. As it turned out, I didn’t have to.
Amazingly, Shalom Bahay-Paanakan was moving to a brand-new and improved 3-level building just around the corner. Thank you to the donations and blessing of those who believed in Mavis’ cause, the little clinic that could would soon transform into a sprawling new space equipped with a lobby, birthing rooms, a laboratory, a recovery area and even a rooftop space. Even more amazingly, Pammi revealed that the new building would open their doors on June 15, 2013, a mere two weeks from my due date. God’s timing, as always, was impeccable.
With a beautiful and caring nurse to facilitate my birth and a beautiful and brand-new building to give birth in, how else could I ignore the signs? God obviously planned my birth this way and who was I to say nay?
So it was set.
But hang on for a minute.
Was I ready for the pain of giving birth without an epidural? Could I withstand the hours of actual labor? What was it going to be like to give birth outside of a hospital? What was it going to be like to feel every single second of childbirth? These thoughts ran through my head every single day as my due date drew near.
Was I nervous? Oh, yes.
Did I have faith? It was all I had.
And as I was about to find out, it was all that I needed.
(End of Part 1.)
(Note: All pictures courtesy of Shalom. To see more of Shalom and what they do, click here.)