Luka’s Birth Story

Luka’s Birth Story

This post is mostly for me… and maybe the 2-3 friends of mine who are doulas and interested in this kind of thing.  Dad, you definitely don’t want to read it.. and I imagine many of you will want to skip over this post as well.  Consider yourselves warned!  :)

About a month before my due date, I started waking up in the middle of the night itching like crazy.  At first I blamed it on the cooler weather and started slathering on lotion every night.  Didn’t help.  Maybe I was dehydrated?  Drank gallons of water.  Showers too hot?  Didn’t do anything to change that – I do like hot showers.  Nothing seemed to help and I was waking up at night with huge welts on my legs from where I’d been scratching in my sleep.

I mentioned it to my OB at my next appointment and she got a serious look on her face and ordered blood work right away.  She suspected I had cholestasis – a pregnancy complication where the bile your liver produces gets backed up.  The only symptom is itching and it can be very dangerous for the baby.  Usually babies are delivered at 37 weeks, which was only a week away.

I did the blood tests and they came back inconclusive – apparently that’s pretty common.  So I continued testing every few days with the same results.  Because of my previous C-section, the options for delivering baby early are few, so my doctor was trying to give my body as much time as possible to go into labor on its own.

Both of my girls were born early but this baby seemed nice and content at my 38 week check up.  My doctor felt that we had waited too long and waiting any longer could harm the baby, so she decided we needed to deliver that day.

When I was pregnant with Ruby and first discussing the possibility of having a VBAC, one of the criteria was that I had to go into labor on my own.  I could not be induced as the contractions caused by pitocin can put extra strain on my scar, thus upping the chances of a uterine rupture.

I was in tears in the office.  I really didn’t want another C-section but at the same time, the health of the baby is by far the most important thing to consider.  But my doctor also wanted to avoid a C-section.  She thought that since my body had already been through labor twice, we might be able to just give it a jump start and then let things progress naturally.

So we agreed that I would try the lowest dose of pitocin for three hours, and if I progressed to a 7 or 8, we’d would turn it off and let my body finish the job.

So I headed over to L&D while Caleb scrambled to get the girls situated… my mom wasn’t arriving for 24 hours.

By 3pm the pitocin was flowing.  There was a team on standby in the operating room ready for any emergency.  The next three hours dragged by.  I could see on the monitor that I was having contractions but barely feeling a thing.

At 6pm, my doctor passed by to check me.  I was only at a 3, not anywhere near where we hoped I’d be.  But she was encouraged that I was making progress and thought we should continue a little longer.

A few hours later she came by and I was still at 3.  She broke my water hoping that would help things.  The contractions immediately starting getting stronger, and quickly escalated to very painful

Pain meds were not an option for me because of the C-section.

At 9pm I was in a lot of pain, but when the resident checked me, I was still only 3 cm dilated.  He said the doctor would be back at 10:15 and we’d decide what to do then.  At that point I resigned myself to a C-section.  If things were moving this slowly and I was already in this amount of pain, there was no way I could continue.

The next hour…. I don’t know how to describe it without using curse words.  The contractions were right on top of each other and so much more painful than anything I experienced with either of the girls.  I was screaming for them to turn the pitocin off – it felt unnatural, not right, I don’t know how to describe it.

Caleb and I were both on the intercom screaming for a doctor to come in.  The young resident finally waltzed in and looked at me patronizingly and told me, “well, this is labor.”  I have never wanting to hit anyone as much as I did in that moment.  This was anything but natural, normal, but I didn’t have the words to describe it.

I think at some point they did turn the pitocin off.  At about 9:45, I started panicking.  I couldn’t get on top of the contractions, I was in so much pain, and basically freaking out.  At 10, the room was full of nurses and the residents, I’m still freaking out.  The obnoxious resident ordered oxygen and as the nurse was unwrapping the tubes, my body started pushing.

“I’m pushing!” I screamed, and everyone in the room just sort of stared at me.  Now I’m really freaking out because in my mind, I’m still only at a 3 and somehow my body has decided it’s going to push a baby out of a three centimeter hole and no one believes me.

Caleb was the only one who got it.  As the resident was telling me, “no, no” Caleb was shouting at him that I was going to do what my body needed to do and I’m now thinking I’m going to kill both me and my baby by forcing it through a too small opening.  Looking back it’s clear I was going through transition, but I wasn’t there mentally.

About a minute later, my body started pushing again.  Obnoxious boy finally realized something was happening, checked me, and called out “transfer!”  It took a few seconds for the team to realize what he was talking about, and I’m thinking “transfer?  Am I having surgery?

Next thing I know, we are running down the hall, well, I’m being wheeled down the hall, and the resident is yelling “don’t push!” while I’m screaming “I’m trying!” still thinking we are having a major emergency.

We get into the deliver room as my doctor arrives.  All of a sudden the mood changes.  “You did it!  See, I knew you could do it, we just had to try!”

I’m still a bit panicky.  I pushed for 3 hours with Isla, and quite a while with Ruby, and I just don’t think I have it in me.  Apparently I had gone from 3-10 cm in less than and hour which is just too much for a body to handle!

My doctor and Caleb both assured me I was really close, they could see his head (with hair on it!), but I was so tired, my doctor decided to cut a little to help things along.  Two pushes later, Luka flew into the world.

They immediately put him onto my chest, but I was feeling so traumatized, I couldn’t actually hold him.  So Caleb was holding on my chest while the medical team did awful things to deliver the placenta and make sure my C-section scar (the internal one, not the external one) hadn’t busted open because of the stress of the very fast, unnatural labor.

After a while, Caleb headed to the nursery with Luka to be checked out, and when I was finally stitched back up, I was wheeled to a recovery room to properly meet my little man.


Recovery was hard.  Looking back I wonder if I had known how things were going to go, if I would have made the same decisions.  But Luka is here, he is healthy and we are in love with our little guy!  He’s lucky he’s #3, because if this had been my first, he might have ended up an only child!!

Delivery wishes – Birth plan

Delivery wishes – Birth plan

The purpose of this blog is to share our experience as a little American family living in Beirut.  I save work and ministry stories for our newsletters.  I upload bajillions of pictures of our girls on facebook.  But the blog is mostly for my thoughts and experiences related to life in Lebanon.

This is one of those posts that’s not for everyone.  About once a week I get a blog hit from someone googling “delivery wishes.”  I always wonder when I see that what exactly they were looking for and if they found it on my blog.

So I thought I’d share my birth plan that I gave to my doctor before Ruby’s birth.  Obviously a birth plan is a very personal thing – very specific to each individual woman and pregnancy.  But I found it really helpful in writing mine to read over what others had written, so I’ll throw mine out there as well for anyone who is trying to figure out what is important to them in their birth experience.

Last chance for those of you who just want to read about silly language mistakes to bail!  :)

First of all, keep in mind that this birth plan is for a VBAC in Beirut, Lebanon.  There are several points on here that I’m sure my American readers will think are silly to include because they are things taken for granted in the States.  If you want to know more about the reasons I came up with this plan, you can read about it in the post Delivery wishes that I wrote leading up to Ruby’s birth.

So, here is what we gave to my doctor:

Birth Plan


– Freedom to move, walk, change positions as I feel comfortable
– No IV, only hep-lock in case of emergency
– Limited cervical checks
– No epidural, other meds unless I ask for them
– Fetal monitoring?*


– Would like to push when I feel the urge, not just because I hit 10cm
– Freedom to choose various pushing positions (not just on my back)
– Prefer natural tear to routine episiotomy, but prefer episiotomy to vacuum or forcep delivery
– Immediate skin to skin
– Delay cord clamping until it stops pulsing
– Would like to initiate breastfeeding ASAP

Baby care

– No glucose, formula or pacifiers
– Husband will remain with baby at all times

* The fetal monitoring was something I was unsure about.  The problem with the fetal monitor is that it limits your movement.  Initially my doctor said that she’d monitor the baby periodically and while I was attached to the monitor I would have to be in bed, which I was really hoping to avoid.  When I arrived at the hospital, I was already at 10cm, and my doctor wanted me hooked up right away, but there was enough length on the cord that I could move around as much as I needed, as long as I stayed close to the bed, which was just fine because I was pushing, not walking around trying to deal with contractions at that point.

So, that was my birth plan.  I hope it’s helpful to someone out there!  Happy to answer any questions or clarify anything if that helps.  If you are interested in reading how it all went, you can find that post here.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.  :)

Ruby’s Birth Day

Ruby’s Birth Day

I had an appointment on Wednesday, and even after a week with contractions, I hadn’t made any progress since my appointment a few days before. I wasn’t quite 38 weeks yet, so I felt like this baby was content to stay put for a while.

So on Thursday, we had some friends come over for a play date and then Caleb, Isla and I walked down to the new Zaitounay Bay for burgers. Caleb planned to head up the next morning to Shabibi camp, since it seemed like not much was happening baby-wise. That night, I was up a lot just feeling weird. But I mostly blamed it on the burger.

I woke up at about 6, and still wasn’t sure if I was in labor or it was the burger, but by 7am, I was pretty sure I was having regular contractions. We started timing them, and they were super consistent. 4 minutes apart and each lasting about a minute (actually 1:07… yes, I was very aware of each of those extra seven seconds!). They were very manageable, bad cramps but not painful, so I took a shower, started some laundry and got things organized a bit around the house.

A few hours later they started getting pretty painful and we started talking about when we should head to the hospital. The plan was to labor at home as long as possible, because even though we had a birth plan, we weren’t sure how things would actually pan out once we were admitted. Isla watched Barney, I bounced on the yoga ball, and Caleb started packing our bags.

At about 11:30 we decided to call a few friends to see who would be available to help watch Isla. And then I decided that I wanted to go to the hospital RIGHT NOW. I can’t explain why, or how I was feeling, just that I wanted to be at the hospital two minutes ago.

Thank God it was a holiday – Good Friday – because the road was completely open. On a normal weekday at noon, it can take upwards of 45 minutes to drive the 15 minute walk from our house to the hospital because of traffic. But it was a holiday, so we arrived in just a few minutes.

I got checked and was at 10cm and ready to push!

Both Paula and Mona arrived just as we did, so Paula took Isla home for lunch and a nap, and Mona came up to be with me while Caleb did the paperwork.

Because it was a VBAC, my doctor wanted me to be on continuous fetal monitoring. Normally this would require me to be on my back in bed, but I was allowed to stay up and moving… at least as far as the cord on the monitor would let me! :) The residents seemed hesitant about it, but didn’t fight me. They didn’t even offer pain meds and were continually asking permission for different things they wanted to try. My water broke like in the movies, a huge gush all over the place, including poor Mona’s shoes! I started pushing pretty soon after Caleb finished the paperwork… some while standing, some while in the bed so the doctor could check the baby’s progress.

My doctor arrived at about 2pm just as the baby was crowning and ready to be born. At this point, they take you into the delivery room. It’s basically a big operating room… table in the middle of the room with stirrups and big bright lights shining down. My doctor was amazing, rattling off the different points of my birth plan to all the nurses and making sure they understood the plan.

She wanted to do an episiotomy right away, but let me push three more times, and then had to make a small cut for baby’s head to come out. At this point I just wanted that baby out of me! Head came out, then shoulders. Thankfully I was a numbed a bit for the episiotomy because baby’s shoulders were quite broad and I ripped a bit.

Ruby Elizabeth was born at 2:35 pm, weighing 3.8 kilos – bigger than Isla but just as bald! :) As soon as she was born they put her on my chest – which the nurses all thought was bizarre – and Caleb cut the cord after a few minutes.

One-day old Ruby getting some sun… ribbon courtesy of Isla :)

She stayed with me until I was all stitched up and then they took her to the nursery to do a few tests. My doctor was insistent that Caleb stay with Ruby, even though that’s totally against hospital policy. So he followed her to the nursery while she got her Apgars and I don’t know what else done. The nurses had lots of comments about it – not sure if they realized how well he could understand them :) – but they tolerated him being there, and I think hurried up with all the procedures to get him out quickly. :) Apparently, news had spread that this baby “actually breastfed on the table!”

After about 45 minutes, Ruby and Caleb were back in the room with me, and she rarely left my side, except for a few times to get a bath, and to be examined by the pediatrician.

I felt amazing. There is not even a comparison to how I felt after my C-section with Isla vs. Ruby’s all-natural birth. I was pretty sore from the stitches, but besides that, I didn’t even really feel like I had given birth. A bit tired, but mostly completely normal… no drugs in my system, I could get up and walk around right away… it was everything that I was hoping for from recovery.

24 hours later, I was discharged and we were just waiting on the pediatrician to sign Ruby’s discharge papers so that we could go home!

She came by and told us she was a bit concerned about Ruby’s bilirubin levels – meaning she was a bit jaundiced – and she wanted us to stay in the hospital so that we could re-test her levels in the morning. It seemed a little extreme to us to stay there just waiting for a test, so we decided to go home and come back the next morning for the blood test. We had to sign a waiver because we were “going against medical advice” even though the only medical advice we were going against was where we would sleep between then and the blood test.

So we headed home for our first night together as a family of four! Isla couldn’t be more thrilled with her baby sister. She wanted to take her around the whole house showing her every room, every toy. She’s always bringing her toys and drawing her pictures and just absolutely loves her to death. It’s the sweetest thing in the world to hear her tell her sister, “I loves you, baby Ruby!” She is doing amazing.

stylish sisters

I can’t even begin to thank you all for your prayers and support. While there were a few small things that frustrated Caleb with the way the whole delivery went, I feel really satisfied and happy with how well things went. Can’t believe I actually delivered a VBAC baby totally naturally. It’s not something I ever thought I would do, or even really wanted to do, but I am so glad we did!

Delivery wishes

Delivery wishes

I don’t think there is a pregnant woman in the world who isn’t wishing for a quick and easy delivery.  But, we wanted to share with you a little more why we are asking everyone to pray that this delivery is a by-the-book, smooth, and quick one.

Quick disclaimer… the post will be kept PG, but if you don’t want to read about details of labor and delivery, or if you are uncomfortable with words like placenta, maybe this post is not for you.  :)

Isla was born via “emergency C-section” after a pretty difficult labor.  I was completely dilated to 10, and pushed for 3 hours, and she would just not be born.  The official reason I was sent for a C-section was “failure to progress.”

At the time, we didn’t know any better, but looking back, we do wonder if the surgery was necessary.  What if I had been allowed to get off my back (I didn’t move off of my back from the time we checked into the hospital at 11pm through the pushing and into the C-section 13 hours later)?  What if I had waited to push when I felt the urge, and not just because the doctor felt it was time?  What if when she wasn’t born right away, I’d been permitted to stretch, walk, anything in order to help her turn or shift into a more ideal position?  Obviously, we can’t play the what-if game. What’s done is done and we have an amazing 2 year-old to thank for it.

BUT, as we go into the delivery of this next baby, we feel like we are a lot more prepared.  For several reasons, we’ve decided to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean).  VBACs are not common at all in Lebanon.  The C-section rate is incredibly high in Beirut, and the repeat C-section rate is even higher.

My doctor is actually very supportive… at least in theory.  But the more we discuss what labor and delivery will look like for me, the more we realize that it is going to be a major uphill battle.

In order to have the best chances of delivering this baby via VBAC, I have to go into labor on my own.  I can’t have any drugs – either for pain or to help labor progress.  I need to be free to move as much as possible during both the labor stage and the pushing stage.  I need to push when I’m ready not because a timer as been set.  These things are  totally counter-cultural and very much against hospital policy.  But my doctor is willing to let me try… as long as things move quickly and normally.

At least she says she is.  But as we were going over the birth plan a few weeks ago, we were talking about fetal monitoring.  She said anytime I was in the bed, I would need to be on a fetal monitor.  But we had just spent a good ten minutes talking about how I didn’t want to be in the bed at all.  And if this is from my supportive doctor (who I really love), the midwives and nursing staff are going to be even less inclined to let me do what I need to do.  We are going to have a bit of a fight on our hands.

In addition, there will be lots of pressure for a C-section if….  the baby is big, she is late, she isn’t in perfect position, my labor is long, pushing is long, if I’m having a hard time dealing with the pain… and the list goes on.

Obviously, the goal is a healthy delivery – healthy baby, healthy mama.  If a C-section is necessary, by all means that is what we will do.  But we need wisdom in knowing what is really necessary, versus cultural (Lebanese culture or hospital culture).

So, we are asking for prayers.  That I will go into labor on my own.  That labor would progress in a relatively quick and textbook manner.  That I can push the baby out in a few pushes.  That I can manage the pain well.  That the doctors and nurses would truly be supportive in my effort to have this baby naturally.  That we would have wisdom when faced with decisions.  And ultimately that Isla’s baby sister would arrive safe and healthy, no matter how she is born.

I won’t get into the battles we expect to have over baby care in the hospital (mandatory first three hours of baby’s life away from Mom to “warm up because it’s a cold environment”)… but would appreciate your prayers for that as well.

Thanks so much… and we look forward to announcing this little bug’s arrival soon!!


**updated to add**If you are interested in reading my actual birth plan, you can do so here.**

A year ago today: October 18

A year ago today: October 18

So we all woke up early Sunday morning, and honestly things are a bit fuzzy from here.  All I remember is that the epidural wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  I had tried to do lots of research and have realistic expectations and at the same time not to hold anything too tightly, but I had never – not even a little bit – considered that my epidural wouldn’t work.

And I am a huge wimp.  So, the anesthesiologist made several more visits to my room… he kept upping the dosage of my epidural but it just wasn’t taking.  At this point I’m in a lot of pain (duh) and not really handling it very well.  More contractions, more crying, begging for something to drink (not allowed), more crying, more epidural, more pain meds, more crying.

Finally it’s time for the pre-pushing.  I think I just made that word up but basically, you push until right until the baby is about to be born and then they take you to the delivery room where you actually deliver the baby.

I pushed and cried and pushed and cried and wanted to give up for two hours.  And that apparently is all that you are allowed to push.  She just wasn’t moving.  They let me push some more with no luck and decided that I needed to have a C-section.  I didn’t wan’t a C-section, but at this point I’m hurting so much I just want the baby out.  Plus I really don’t have a choice.

So, they wheel me out of the room into the OR.  No one is allowed to come with me.  Actually that’s not true.  Mr. 16-year-old anesthesiologist was there.  He gave me a spinal tap and then said he’d sit with me through the surgery.  I had no idea that they strap your hands down for a C-section.  I felt like that dead guy in the DaVinci code movie.  They gave me an oxygen mask but I was shaking so bad from a combination of nerves and being freezing cold that it kept falling off my face and my hands were strapped down so I couldn’t fix it (why do I remember that so well?  I don’t know).  I think at this point I was in and out of consciousness.  I do remember the anesthesiologist guy trying to comfort me by patting me on the hand, but all I could think was, “ow, you are patting my hand right on top of my IV needle and it hurts.”  But he was trying, so that was nice.

After what seemed like forever, I heard a baby cry.  I couldn’t see her, but I guess they were cleaning her and wrapping her up.  As the nurse passed by, she asked if I wanted to see her.  Um, yeah!  So I guess I saw her, but nothing really registered.  The last thing I remember is calling out to the nurse, “Don’t feed her!  I am going to breastfeed!”  And then I think I passed out or fell asleep or something, because next thing I know I am waking up in a recovery room (which kind of felt like a supply closet, but that’s beside the point).  I’m not sure how long I was out, but apparently when the nurse was taking Isla to the nursery, she passed by Caleb, my mom and Mona waiting by the elevators.  It was 12pm exactly, which we know for sure because the power ticked off, so their first view of the baby was in the dark.  I think Caleb may have opened up his phone to try to get a peak at her.

Caleb was in recovery with me when I woke up, and eventually they wheeled me up to my room where I finally got to hold Isla for the first time.  What the heck.  This is my baby!!!!!

is she not the sweetest thing ever?!?

You know, I was going to continue this a little bit, but to be honest, it’s frustrating me, so I’m not going to talk anymore about our hospital stay.  I thought this would be healing to write it all out and share it, but it’s not.  I will just say that the next few days were some of the most difficult of my life.  A lot of it is a haze… I do know that I was begging for more pain meds way more than the nurse would give them to me, and we were in a constant battle with the baby nurses over feedings, clothing, and letting Isla actually be in the room with us.  The first few weeks of Isla’s life are just a jumble of more medication, trips back to the hospital, several infections, fighting with the doctors who refused to listen to my concerns, and of course very little sleep for all of us.

So instead of continuing, I will just give the answer that I give to most people when they ask how having a baby in Beirut was: She’s here and she’s healthy, and we are so thankful for that.

It feels so fresh as I write it… So let’s fast forward a year.. I can’t believe it has been a year already! I can’t believe we have a one-year old!  How did time go by so quickly???

Happy birthday, baby girl!!!  Mommy and Daddy love you so much and can’t imagine what our life would be like without you in it!  We thank God soooo much for you!

Ahhhhhh!!  My baby is ONE!!!!!