Blythe Emery Lenna, born at home on 5/31/20 at 5:13am, 5lbs. 11oz. 18in. She surprised us all with her early and rapid arrival. And what JOY! She came at 37 weeks and in about three hours of active labor. Quite the shock compared to our 24 hour labor with big sister Libbi who was born at 41 weeks.
Her sudden appearance saw her delivered into the hands of her daddy, five minutes before the midwives arrived to our planned home birth. I wouldn’t have changed a thing! What a thrill. I can say without a doubt that I had complete confidence in my body’s ability to bring our baby into the world and in Auren’s ability to be the best birth assistant imaginable.
Looking back, I feel the surreal wonder of it all. It was quick and powerful. I was probably in early labor that evening but dismissed it as the common Braxton Hicks I had been experiencing regularly for a few weeks. The night before she was born I put all my deep cleaning and purging projects, freezer meals and birth prep tasks on my calendar for the next two weeks. I had a hunch she might come early, but I thought I still had at least two weeks. I can imagine God chuckling as I meticulously scheduled my to do lists.
As I settled into bed for the night, I felt a few tightenings in my stomach that felt slightly more uncomfortable than Braxton Hicks contractions. At the time I dismissed them and went to sleep. I had similar contractions that lightly roused me in the first few hours of sleep, and then an unmistakable contraction around 2am that woke me up. This contraction and a few that followed were enough to encourage deep breaths and some shifting hip movement to process through them. Then all of sudden I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t stand being in bed and had to get up and change positions.
I started to time contractions and when I started to shiver between them (something that happened during Libbi’s birth process), I decided I should at least wake Auren and let him know what I was feeling. I still thought it could be false labor because of how early we were in the pregnancy.
I could feel myself resisting the process, trying to slow labor down and wish it away. I knew I had some heart work to do before my body could truly open for birth, if that was indeed where we were headed. As I processed each contractions I started speaking aloud the thoughts in my mind. Some of the statements felt silly but I knew I needed to release my expectations in order to be fully present for birth.
“If now is the time, I trust that God, my baby and my body know best. It’s okay that I didn’t get those freezer meals made. It’s okay that I didn’t de-clutter the office. It’s okay that I didn’t deep clean the shower. It’s okay that I don’t have all the birth supplies or baby items ready.” Yes, I literally said these things and more. I had to let go of that perfectionist in me and release my “to do list” to get my head in the game. I felt these thoughts hindering my concentration and they needed to go.
And I prayed.
“Lord, I don’t want to resist any part of this in my spirit, heart or physical body. I trust that her due date was preordained and that she’ll arrive when she needs to. Help me surrender and be open. If tonight is the night, then so be it. And if this is false labor, help me find peace as well in the fact that she may not come tonight and that it could still be four more weeks before we get to meet her.”
Heart on the line. Hands open. Surrendering. Ready if this was the moment, and ready if God asked me to wait another month. Embracing the challenge and pain of these contractions even if they ended and I didn’t get to meet our baby that day. Likewise, wholeheartedly embracing these contractions if this were indeed THE moment. Then choosing peace regardless. I was now fully present in the moment.
Auren suggested we time contractions for an hour and if they persisted, we would then call the midwife. We lay in bed and rested through each contraction. My mantra through each one was, “I am open.” They were manageable with breath and a little bit of movement and though they stayed regular lasting about a minute long and two and a half minutes apart, the intensity stayed at the same level as well. We called the midwife around 3am.
Considering the history of my labor with Libbi and having had back labor through it all, my midwife suggested I try the Miles Circuit to help baby get into a better position for birth. At the time I wasn’t experiencing any back labor, but the fact that I was on the phone with the midwife for 11 minutes and able to talk through the contractions made us think it was a position issue especially with contractions so close together. Back labor is usually caused by the baby’s position and can trick the body into thinking it is farther along in the labor process than it actually is. Getting the baby to shift positions often helps space out contractions to properly match the level of progress, and helps labor proceed smoothly, versus lingering for hours.
I asked Auren to bring my yoga mat into our bedroom and moved through a few contractions on hands and knees shifting my hips and pelvis side to side and up and down. We gathered the birth kit, some towels, and made the bed with a waterproof sheet just in case. I labored for a bit on hands and knees and then on my left side, following the circuit. Shortly thereafter I felt a shift and back labor joined the party full force. Once this happened, I knew we were having a baby that night! I still doubted up until this point. Now it was undeniable!
I called the midwife again around 4am to update her and she got in the car while we were still on the phone. I called my mom immediately after and told her I was in labor. After I knew the midwife and my mom where on the way I felt a new sense of relief. All of the pieces were coming together. I had been worried about what might happen if Libbi woke up and having my mom present made me feel confident that Libbi would be taken care of if needed. All I had to do now was focus on bringing our baby into the world.
From this moment, it felt like contraction piled on contraction and these were intense. I maybe got a few breaths in between each one before the wave would rise and fall once again. With Libbi’s labor, I had hours of gradual transition from phase to phase. I felt like I could build up my resilience and endurance as the intensity increased. This time, it felt like I couldn’t catch up or stay in control. I felt like I was crashing with the waves instead of riding the waves. The contraction would pass and I had to work to silence fear, channel strength, and get my mind focused before the next one would come. Labor is such a mind game! Such a rush!
Auren was pushing on my hips helping me counter the back labor pressure and reminding me to take slow and steady breaths. Mama was right by my face helping me steady my breath and find my strength. Their encouraging words upheld me. It was a team effort. I periodically felt an unstoppable urge to push during contractions (this never happened with Libbi). I knew we were close. My body was taking charge. Despite the intensity, I wasn’t completely overwhelmed. I felt very present in the moment and knew we would meet our baby soon.
Around 5:00am I had a contraction, my body gave a push, and the waters broke. I felt encouraged. We called the midwife to let her know. Side lying on the left became more uncomfortable and I knew I needed a change. I rolled over to my right side. One more contraction on my right and I felt the baby starting to crown. Auren said he could see the head! It was almost like I needed this confirmation that someone else could see the progress I was feeling. I knew it was time to fully engage in the pushing phase, and I was so ready! We called the midwife again and kept her on the phone. I got on my hands and knees on the bed and with the next contraction and intentional push felt her head being born.
Auren said she was out to her eyebrows. I rested between contractions and felt her head slide out more, naturally and with little effort. Another contraction and her head emerged fully, one more and Auren caught her! I could hear the excitement and adrenaline in Auren’s voice as he narrated what was happening for the midwives.They talked us through what to do and Auren passed the baby up to me. I laid down on my back with our baby in my arms and what a triumphant feeling! I couldn’t believe our girl was already here!
I never had a thought of concern. Never a moment of worry at the prospect of delivering our baby at home by ourselves. In the back of my mind I had actually thought what a great story it would make to deliver our baby alone! Ha! Blythe came out and gave a little cry and what joy we felt in that moment. Our girl was born with just her family in our home. I would do it again and again!
I wish I could just linger here…her birth at home is the part of the story that I love to recount!
Even as I write this and reflect, there’s a bit of sadness that I didn’t just get to stay in this sacred space after birth with my baby on my chest. As I replay the event in my mind, I allow myself that special time to linger in the wonder and peace and victory of the moments right after birth. I know God’s plan’s prevail and He is good and faithful through them all. I wouldn’t change our story. Still, I indulge myself in rewriting the ending as I have often rewritten a bad dream after waking.
The midwives arrived five minutes after she was born and walked in with heartfelt congratulations and eyes observant and aware, assessing the situation. At this point, I had no thought of anything being amiss. I was literally astounded by how quickly she came and that months of preparation had culminated in such a rapid victory. It was almost like instant gratification! My heart felt SO full and I already envisioned a lazy Sunday morning in bed with Auren and Libbi, cuddling our newest family member.
The midwife approached me first and cupped my face with her hand and said something like, “How are you? You did it! She’s here. Good job mama!” These encouraging words were like water to my soul, especially in the vulnerable space after birth.
The midwife assessed me, and the birth assistant (who was also an RN) assessed Blythe. It was shortly after their arrival that we realized Blythe was having difficulty breathing and her O2 saturation levels were unstable and often alarmingly low. There was enough concern that we made a 911 call and our home was buzzing with paramedics and EMTs within 45 minutes of her birth.
I still felt lighthearted in the moment. I was confident Blythe would be okay and we would be home soon. Here begins what feels like part two of the story of Blythe’s first day with us.
The short version is that our day consisted of this first ambulance ride to Ellensburg where after some lung suction, tests, X-rays and observation, Blythe stabilized and by 4pm we were on our way home. We had a few wonderful hours at home and Libbi got to meet Blythe. During this brief time at home, Blythe started struggling for breath once again. Our midwife drove back to our house to assess. Blythe’s O2 levels dropped again. We called 911, this time headed to Seattle Children’s hospital. We went to the ER and after several hour there we were admitted for observation overnight.
Blythe seemed to be doing better until a plummet in her heart rate triggered a code blue call that turned our room into a hive of doctors, nurses and support staff, and landed us in the NICU. I never could have seen that coming. We spent six days in the NICU learning, crying, growing, praying. It seemed like the longer we were there, the more concerns surfaced. Six days of highs and lows. Six days of bassinet side shifts. Six days riding the waves of uncertainty, heartbreak, courage and hope.
What a relief when we finally made it home. Praise the Lord! How sweet the reunion with Libbi! She had been under the marvelous care of my parents while we were gone, but we missed her terribly!
As ever, despite any pain, reflection is making this an invaluable experience. A reminder of God’s ability, steadfast love and mercy. A monumental experience for our family. I hope I never have reason to become that comfortable walking in and out of the big double doors of the NICU. My heart can now resonate on some level with the difficulties many other parents have experienced. I still feel the heaviness. There is also now a sweet taste of life and victory, of God’s faithfulness and His ability to see us through the insurmountable. We have a new appreciation for MANY things we took for granted.
We learned a lot during our time in the NICU. That week felt a bit like a nightmare that finally ended when we came home. Moments of safety in the peace of our home yield vulnerability, thoughts and tears. I’m slowly embracing the reality that was, and soaking in the reality that is. Saying farewell to the expectations and desires that weren’t met, and wholeheartedly growing through the experiences we did have, believing in God’s faithfulness and trusting He knew all along. There were countless displays of His goodness working on our behalf.
I can’t help but feel like we’re the lucky ones. I know of many NICU families whose children are in the hospital for months or worse, whose children never make it home. What’s six days compared to that? We had moments of weeping and prayer over the other children and families on the floor with us. Overall, I’m grateful for the experiences we had, and even more grateful to hold my healthy growing daughter in my arms, in my own home.
We are currently soaking in all the sleepy newborn cuddles and finding so much joy in being together at home. It’s all the sweeter to us now. If you made it this far, thanks for bearing with the ramblings of a sleep deprived mother.
Blythe – Happy, Carefree
Emery – Brave, Powerful, Industrious
Lenna – Lion’s Strength, Lionhearted
We had Blythe in mind from the beginning. I wanted to speak joy over this girl. I also adore the Anne of Green Gables series and the beautiful family that Anne and Gilbert Blythe raise together. It’s an ode to embracing life, kindred-spirits, family and being carefree. The name Emery came mid-pregnancy. I loved the sound of it first and foremost, and when I discovered the meaning I knew it was one for the top of the list. We tested out a few other names we liked, but it wasn’t until day three in the NICU with Blythe that I stumbled across the name Lenna—Lion’s strength. It was perfect. My tiny one, hooked up with IV’s, wires and monitors, having endured more than I would wish on any grown adult…She bore it all with a steady sweetness and peace that amazed me. Lionhearted indeed, brave and determined. Lion’s strength also reminded me of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, and thus of Jesus and His enduring strength. I knew our Blythe would always know how to access His strength.
Welcome to the world Blythe! We love you dear one.
Lachelle has a love for writing and holistic health. MBA, 500RYT Yoga Instructor, founder of Ello Lifestyle and Ello Candle Co., Lachelle spends most of her time as a wife and mother to two daughters, looking for ways to optimize health, create an efficiently running home, embrace the chaos, and pursue those things that make life feel enchanted.