We Make Our Plans
Stephanie Penland

We make our plans; then God sits back and has a good laugh.

The story of Ezra’s birth begins many years before his actual birth. At one point I thought I was pregnant. I was nauseas and sick for 6 weeks. My sense of smell was heightened a hundred fold. I woke up every morning at 6 am sharp fully awake and ready to go. My world was turned upside down. However, no matter how many pregnancy tests I took, it said negative. At exactly six weeks from the morning I woke up I experience the worst pain and bleeding I’ve ever had and I’ve had some pretty terrible periods.
I was ready to be mom, ready to be pregnant. My husband however was not; so I tabled the idea and waited for Mike to catch up. I prayed that Mike would tell me specifically that it was time to start a family. A year and a half later he told me just that. So we went off the pill and started trying. It took four months to conceive.
On January 4th, the day before my birthday, I woke up and knew that I was pregnant. The events of the day proved my suspicions. I am, or was, a vegetarian who eats fish. At lunch, I craved meat so bad that I ate 2 chicken sliders, 2 beef sliders, a side of boneless Buffalo wings, and a plate of shrimp all in one sitting. Then I went home and had a steak for dinner, consisting of more meat then I had in the past 10 years.
Ten day later on January 14th at 7:00 am, the pee test was positive.
I started my prenatal visits like most women in America by making an appointment with the OB. After two visits, I was struck by how institutionalized my appointments were. I felt my convenient 15-minute appointments were just sterile. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my OB. She has always been attentive, and very good at what she does. It so happens she was pregnant when I saw her for my first appointment at 6 or 8 weeks and then I didn’t see her again for another two months. When she came back to work her outlook on water birth and home birth seemed to be different. She encouraged me to research these things and was supportive if I chose to go that route.
I started seeing Maria around my 5th month. From the moment I met her, I knew she was the midwife I wanted at my birth. My pregnancy was not a hard one, though I suffered with severe nausea that didn’t subside or lessen. I tried everything to make it go away and finally found Zophran, which just went generic. If I took this medicine, I could function normally; if I did not, I was sick as a dog and bedridden.
One of the best things about having a midwife instead of an OB as my caregiver is that Maria actually touched my stomach. She felt the baby every time and also used an old-fashioned stethoscope. Our appointments were also an hour long instead of 15-20 minutes.
The Birth

We went to dinner, Thai food. I felt great, like I was on top of the world yet scared and excited all in one and not quite sure of myself. I look back now and see that I was ready, preparing to give birth.
Tuesday Sept 29, 2009 11pm
Wake up to go to the bathroom. On the way there a warm liquid soaked my pjs. It wasn’t much and all I could see of it was my mucus plug, which had the same greenish snot color. The water didn’t appear to have any color. We called Maria and Christina my mentor to come over and then went back to sleep.
Contractions were at the 511 stages already. I was really confused, as they seemed to be very fast and hard this early in the game. My mother and I woke up my husband and called Maria.
My thoughts at this point are excited. I am fully aware of my body, my mind is intact and I am ready for this. This is what I have been preparing for. It seems I almost instantly know what do yet at the same time I have no idea what I am doing.
My husband is the best supporter. He holds me, caresses me, and gives me words of encouragement. He does everything I ask. I remember back to our prenatal class with Jane Austin and the question was asked, “What is my role in all this?” Jane answered, “Whatever she needs you to do.” Well I needed Michael to do a lot of things. I needed drinks, I needed to be held up, but most of all I needed his hand on my tailbone.
6 hours into it I was starting to get agitated. Maria suggested that I go into the shower. This was the best idea. The moment the water touched my skin I felt relief, and an awe, almost an ecstasy between contractions.
Earlier that evening I had given my mom the camera and showed her a few basic ways to use it and instructed her to take pictures, even though she was reluctant because she thinks she has no talent for these things. It turns out this was the best use of her. She took pictures while I was in the shower. Looking back at them now I am amazed at what I looked liked. I can feel the moment deep with in my bones, my belly is huge and bulging yet beautiful and just how it should be.
Morning 6am – 4pm
We try the tub. This is yet another miracle moment for me, a wave of pure lightness. As the contractions rush through my body I am able to lift my legs and hips off the ground and suspend myself in the tub. This is a most exhilarating feeling of floating and tensing up. Michael has now been applying pressure on my tailbone for about an hour. It turns out over the next two days his hand is on my tailbone almost the entire time.
After the tub we walked up and down the hall. At the end of the hall I would collapse into my husband’s arm as my body shook with the rush. It was as if I no longer existed but my body took over and the pain and tension and joy was all there was. Maria suggested I sit on the toilet for a while. By 1:00, we checked and I was still not fully dilated, only about 4. The whole day really passed in a blur of water, rubs, walking.
Evening 4pm – 11pm
At this point I was tired and my husband says that I looked at Maria and said, “Am I almost done?” I don’t remember this but I do remember thinking he was never going to come out and my tailbone was going to split in two.
The second midwife came and was very quite and calm. She checked me vaginally as well to get a second opinion, which was that I was 8cm or even 7 but that there was a lip over the baby’s head. They did try to move the lip while I was having a contraction. This was very uncomfortable, as was the catheter Maria also used to help the process.
In the evening my contractions started to slow down. They were irregular in time and in strength so we tried acupuncture. This worked really well for a time. It brought on the contractions really hard but didn’t keep them consistent. We tried homeopathic herbs with no results. Maria sat us down and gave us our options about going to the hospital or staying home. By late evening we were tired and I felt that I needed to sleep but my husband wanted to try more. So he walked me up and down the hall. Helped me with leg stretches and squats until I couldn’t hold myself up any more. At one point I was laying on the floor waiting for the next one and all of a sudden I threw up. Not just a little but everything I had eaten 20 hours earlier. Apparently I didn’t digest any of my dinner. It was embarrassing but honestly I was glad to get rid of it. Then the tears came and from what I remember, the rest of the evening was done. I slept on the couch waking up every ½ hour or hour for a contraction. My mother kept track of them, how long they lasted and how far apart. By morning I was feeling better but still very tired.
Thursday Oct 1
Morning Day 2
Michael and I decided to have a talk in the bedroom about our options. I told him that if I had to go through another day of this with no results, I didn’t think I’d have the strength to go the hospital. I would not be able to resist getting drugs or worse yet, they might have to do a cesarean. We prayed and felt the answer was to go to the hospital. When we told Maria what we wanted, she agreed that it was the best thing to do and that she was proud of me. That I had done a great job and did all I could.
I had a small bag packed just in case we went to the hospital. The car ride there was not fun. Thankfully I didn’t have a contraction in the car but his head was already so far down that nothing I did helped. Upon arriving at the hospital, my good friend Jackie was waiting for us. They got us situated with an IV and started fluids right away as I was slightly dehydrated even though Mike did a great job of making me drink the whole time. The nurses gave me a relaxer to calm me down because I was so tense but warned me that it would not help the pain of the contractions. They were right.
Now that I had the pitocin coming in strong and regular it was hard to get into a groove again. At home, it was easy as I was in familiar surroundings; I had all my props and comforts. I was now 8 cm and felt like things were going well until the head doctor on staff came in and informed me that if I wasn’t dilated at least 1 more cm by the time he came back in an hour then we would have to talk about cesarean birth. I freaked out. Thank God I had my support team there. Maria was great, she calmed me down and told me that it wasn’t going to happen, that we were so close, it would just take a little longer.
I spent most of the day in the shower. That is where I found my groove. Swaying back and forth, squatting with the water on my back was heavenly and hellish all at the same time. Jackie came in and told me that my contractions were 1 minute apart and that they were off the charts. She actually went and got the nurse who turned them down. I remember this because I was so far in my head that I was not able to speak. The nurses kept coming into the room asking me questions and pulling me out of this primal place. My husband, God bless him, kept them away as much as he could. They really wanted to make sure I wanted an epidural. He told me to just ignore anyone who comes in, to face the wall and keep doing what I was doing.
By late afternoon something had changed in me. Now I was out of the shower, the nurses changed me and dried me which was so helpful. For the next two hours, I was finally really pushing him out. I squatted, holding the back of the chair and screamed a real loud scream that I had not done yet. Maria suggested that I tuck my chin and instead of a high pitch scream, that I grunt down. When I did this, I felt his head move off my tail bone and down in the canal even further. It only took a few more of these to know that he was on his way. I was so tired, physically my legs could no longer hold me up. I had to rest so I got on the bed and that is where I stayed.
Michael was very tired as well. He would hold me up with each contraction, and my mom would put her hands on his back to keep him up. Jackie and Michael were amazing at keeping my spirits up, encouraging me and helping me physically. My mom was amazing too though at one point I looked over at her and she had the most depressing look on her face. I said, “Mom, that look on your face is not helping.” So she put away her fears and focused on my needs and that was the end of that.
Once on the bed and pushing really began, Dr. Norell came. She was the doctor we had seen for our hospital visit and we loved her. I was so happy that she was the one that was going to deliver my baby. Everyone was crowded around me. My legs were spread and my mother pushed one knee down and Jackie the other. I can’t explain how much it helped to have them pushing my legs to the bed. It was as if my body was a giant rubber band that needed to be stretched and maintained.
Someone said I can see the head, and he has hair. I was so excited. They asked if I wanted to touch but I was so inside, so concentrating that I did not dare. Then for no reason at all I put my hand down there and felt his head, and he really did have a lot of hair. After that my pushes were very strong. I wanted him out. They describe the head coming out like a ring of fire. To me it was like every pain, every anxiety, every hope and every fear all wrapped into one sensation. My belly was lopsided as I pushed him out. The moment he came out, the belly fell. There was a lot of commotion, excitement and still some pain. I can’t even describe the rush of emotions that hit me as his head passed the threshold and his body slid out. He was given to Michael to place on my chest. Everyone had a hand in pulling him out, my mom and Jackie both.
Oct 1st 6:27 pm
As he was coming to me I said, “Is this my baby? Is this my baby?” At the sound of my voice, his eyes found mine. He knew who I was and he pierced me with such a stare that I’ll never forget that moment and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was a God. That this baby that grew inside of me for the past 9 months was a miracle and was special.
They cleaned him while he was laying on me. I was unaware at the time that I was naked and looking back at the pictures my breasts are in every picture but I do not see myself as naked but as one with my baby in a pure and perfect state. The first cry he made was on my chest. Then they took him with Michael to the other side of the room to get cleaned up, measured and weighed. When he was placed on the scale at 8lbs 12oz, a cry of, “Oh my God” came out. No one expected him to be that big. I was still in a lot of pain and the placenta had not come out yet. Then I felt a shudder and gave a push and it slid out like a little fish. Now this may seem weird but it was almost orgasmic pushing out the placenta. It was so soft and supple compared to the hard head of my baby.
I can’t remember when he took his first suckle but I do remember it was amazing. A sensation and emotion I had never felt before.
I needed three small stitches. I have one real fear and that is getting stitches. I can’t believe the first time I get them is in my vagina of all places. I was rather numb from the birth and the shot they gave me before hand made me completely numb. Jackie held my hand because though I could not feel it, I could see the needle. It wasn’t that bad and at that point I felt like I could have gone through anything.

After the Birth
I feel like I was really prepared for all that had happened. I knew about each step. What home birth and hospital birth mean for procedures and care. I did not however realize what birth would do to my body the next few days and weeks. The first time I stood up a gush of liquid followed me all the way to the shower. Gallons of pee that had been blocked by my enormous baby fell out. I have to say here that the nurses were so kind and helpful, assuring me that it was not a problem at all. They brought us food, which was amazing, and helped us with all that we needed.
I was so sore, and the stinging was out of control. I expected this but not to this magnitude. Because my birth was so long and he was on my tailbone for almost 2 days, there was a lot of damage done inside. At six weeks when I had my last appointment, though the stinging had stopped, I was still sore.
We stayed in the hospital for two days. I could hardly move and didn’t want to leave in that condition. My baby was born. My husband was by my side. My mother, now a grandmother was waiting at home for us. It felt like the whole world stopped for us and life had just begun.