It still feels a little surreal to say, but my sweet baby boy is finally here! Caleb James Bell made his arrival at 11:50 pm on December 27, 2021, at 8 pounds 9 ounces and 21 inches long. I can’t fully put into words the amount of joy that his little life has already brought to me. So many months of praying and waiting, and now he is in my arms!
Caleb is my third baby earth-side, and from the moment I learned I was expecting him I knew that I wanted his birth to be different. My first two were by no means traumatic, but there were things that happened during labor and delivery that I didn’t love and wanted to avoid this time. I felt disrespected by my doctors and made to feel that I didn’t know my body best. So this time, I researched and found a new provider, a certified nurse midwife, who I believed would support my decisions and wishes. Let me say, it made all the difference! Each of my babies’ births will forever be special to me and live in my memory as the most amazing days of my life. However, Caleb’s birth was what I had hoped all three would be: a beautiful, natural, spiritual experience. I hope that sharing my positive birth story will be an encouragement to some of you getting ready for your own labors and deliveries!
Everyone says that every pregnancy is different, and I wish I’d listened to that more. My older two children came at 37 weeks and 2 days, and 37 weeks and 1 day, respectively. I completely convinced myself that my third would definitely come around 37 weeks, too! That looked to be true, when at 36 weeks and 6 days pregnant, and 4 centimeters, I woke up with strong contractions that came 3 minutes apart. I called my doula, Kaelie, and when the contractions didn’t let up we decided to head to the hospital. I spent several hours there, only to have labor stall and be sent home. I was sure things would pick up again quickly, but for the next two weeks I experienced prodromal labor. This is labor that starts and stops before you really begin active labor. It was exhausting and frustrating! I was emotionally and physically at the end of my rope, praying daily that I would meet my baby soon but not be away from home on Christmas.
So we waited. For two weeks I tried everything I could to get the ball rolling – curb walking, spicy foods, stability ball bouncing, eggplant parmesan (this one was new to me, but look it up!). Nothing worked, Christmas came and went, and still no Caleb.
On the morning of December 27, at 39 weeks, I went to my appointment with my midwife and decided to have a membrane sweep because I was just so exhausted. I also drank what’s called “midwives’ brew,” a drink designed to start labor within 24 hours (discuss with your provider before trying it). I don’t know which of these worked, or both, but by 3 o’clock in the afternoon contractions started up again, and they felt stronger than they had over the last couple of weeks. I followed my doula’s suggestion and got as much rest as possible, watching The Great British Baking Show with my kids and trying to relax. Around 5:30 pm, they were growing increasingly painful and closer together. I was having a hard time getting relief in between them, and they were about four and a half to five minutes apart. You’re usually supposed to head to the hospital around that point, but after the prodromal labor and the false alarm at 36 weeks, I wasn’t convinced it was really labor and was afraid to be sent home from the hospital again.
I decided to get in the tub at my house to see if that would slow things down. I put on my labor playlist filled with worship music and just breathed through each one, praying that this was really it. It definitely helped me relax and get some relief, but the contractions only got closer. By this point, around 6:00 pm, they were more like two and a half to three minutes apart. Thirty minutes later, we called our friends to come over and keep the boys because we were pretty certain it was time. I hugged my babies close, knowing that the next time I saw them we would no longer be a family of four, but a family of five.
The twenty-five minute drive to the hospital was extremely uncomfortable. I continued listening to my playlist while my husband worked to get us there as quickly and safely as possible. We finally pulled in around 7:00 pm and went straight up to triage. I was relieved to learn that I was now 6 centimeters and that they were moving me to a labor and delivery room immediately!
My plan for this birth was to go unmedicated like I had with my other two, and I found great support from the nurses in that goal. I was able to use the wireless monitors, and when my doula arrived shortly after we got admitted, she started helping me try different positions to get more comfortable and help labor progress. The lights were dimmed, my music was playing, and Andy was encouraging me the entire time. Moving around helped a lot, and I found that the sitting on the ball and leaning over the bed felt good for awhile. Later I moved to hands and knees in the bed, and then sitting backward on the toilet.
After that last position, I started feeling pressure and a subtle urge to push. I was completely exhausted and considered asking for an epidural just so I could get some rest. My team helped me decide to get checked to see where I was before requesting the medication, and I learned that I’d progressed to 7 centimeters. I felt a little discouraged by that because I was sure it was almost time to push. So I requested getting my water broken to help things along. Knowing that the pain and pressure would intensify, I also asked if I could use the nitrous oxide to help relax me through that part. Though I did use the nitrous, I don’t think it helped at all.
At this point, I was in a lot of pain and started to feel panicky. My midwife, doula, nurse, and husband all tried to help me stay calm, though I honestly thought I was going to need oxygen to help me breathe. I thought that there was absolutely no way I could keep going and repeatedly said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I remember hearing “You are doing it!” from everyone at different times, and that encouragement was what I needed.
Thank you, Jesus
I was lying on my side when I felt the strong urge to push. And I was extremely relieved when my midwife gave me permission to do so! At both of my other births, I was told to wait before pushing, and I hated that. To be given the go-ahead and allowed to listen to my body was amazing. I’m not entirely sure how many times I pushed, but I think it was four or five strong ones before my baby was born. Since I was allowed to stay on my side, I was able to clearly see him being born, something I hadn’t gotten to do before. Later I learned that from water breaking at 7 centimeters to his birth was only 32 minutes, by far the fastest transition I’d had! The relief I felt when he was laid on my chest was incredible! All I could say was, “Thank you, Jesus!” over and over. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that Caleb was finally here, perfectly healthy and so, so beautiful! I had asked that he not be taken for any of the routine newborn things (like weight and height check, etc.) until we had successfully breastfed, so he stayed on my chest, skin to skin, for over an hour. I sang to him and just admired him with my husband, and he decided when he was ready to latch for his first feed.
This birth was hard. I don’t think it’s possible to have a baby without it being hard, no matter how you deliver. But it was such a redemptive experience. I had always wanted to spend part of my labor at home, and I didn’t get that with my first two. I can’t tell you how special it was to have my kids wrap their arms around me, asking if I was ok, and telling me they loved me. My doula, Kaelie, and my midwife, Tiffany, were angels the entire time. They empowered me to make decisions for myself and to trust my body and the birthing process. The music that I listened to throughout labor and delivery helped me to be in a worshipful state of mind, and now when I hear those songs I’m taken back to certain points in labor and can picture exactly what was happening when certain songs played. Andy’s encouragement and support meant the world to me, and I was so thankful to have him by my side, holding my hand and telling me that I could do it.
A couple of years ago, I was reading through the Bible and noticed the story of Caleb and Joshua like I hadn’t before. Numbers says that Caleb wholly followed the Lord, and that he had a different spirit. God blessed Caleb and his family because of his faith. I knew that if I was blessed with another son, I would love to name him Caleb, praying that my child would also follow God. My great-grandfather’s name was James. We’ve given family names to all of our children for their middle names, and I love that we could honor my Great-Grandfather James this time.
Caleb, you are such a gift from above. My pregnancy with you was far from easy, and the end was especially difficult. But you are worth every bit of it, and I’d do it all again to hold you in my arms.
Note: I couldn’t possibly recommend my providers more. Kaelie Harris works with Rocket City Doulas, a doula agency here in Huntsville. All of the doulas are amazing, and I worked with Tracy Abney, the owner, for my second birth. If you’re expecting, I hope you’ll consider working with them. My midwife, Tiffany Golub, works with Women4Women. She is absolutely incredible, and I’m so thankful that I found her! These women have been huge blessings to me and my family!