christopher roan's birth story.

Guest Post by: Jennifer Braswell - Jenn was in the same sorrority as me, Alpha Delta Chi. She and her husband,Corey live in Boise, ID with their dogs and new baby boy.

Friday October 2, 2015

    It was Friday morning, October 2, 2015. Corey had just left the house to go to a dentist appointment. I laid in bed for about a half hour while I looked at Facebook and Instagram. Then at about 10am, I got up. I put a bowl of oatmeal in the microwave. When I turned around, Malibu had those “feed me” puppy dog eyes on. I opened the cabinet, pulled out the tub of dog food and opened the lid. I squatted down to scoop the food and...pop…

10:05am: Water breaks. I looked down and watched the water pour onto the carpet. The gushes kept coming. The water was a yellowish-brown. I instantly knew there was meconium in my water. I was standing on the carpet and wasn’t sure what to do. Of course Corey had just cleaned the carpets a week before. I noticed a couple blankets on the back of the couch so I reached for those. I put on the floor to soak up one of the water and one between my legs to catch the water that was still coming out. I seriously didn’t know there could be so much! I called Corey to tell him what happened. He was already in the dentist’s chair about to get numbed up. He told me he would head right home. I called Kristi, our midwife, to let her know that my water broke, there was meconium and that I wasn’t having any contractions. She told me that if I didn’t feel the baby move within ten minutes, to head to the hospital in case the baby’s cord got pinched. When Corey arrived back at home, I hadn’t felt the baby so we loaded up the car and headed the 2-3 blocks to the hospital.

10:45am: Registered. When we arrived at the hospital we went to registration and they took us straight back to a room. They asked me a few questions and hooked me up to a monitor. The baby’s heartbeat was strong and to my surprise, I was having contractions. By the time we were about to leave registration, I started feeling some of the contractions.

11:45am: Admitted. Once we were admitted, we were taken to our labor and delivery room. The room was huge with a great jet tub. When we arrived in our room, we started to get settled in. Corey brought our bags up and bought us food since we hadn’t eaten yet. After lunch, we were ready to go. Contractions were really kicking it at this point. We had learned lots of techniques to help me relax and cope with the pain. We tried a hot shower, counter pressure, labor dance, hip squeeze, jet tub, robozo, etc. Corey was a great coach and really took advantage of everything we learned in our Bradley classes. At this point, the contractions were getting really intense and were mostly in my lower back. Between the back labor and everyone (Corey, Kristi and our nurses) rubbing/massaging/squeezing my lower back, it was hurting pretty darn bad.

11:46pm: First Vaginal Check. Kristi decided to check me and see how dilated I was. This was my very first check during my pregnancy. I was 5.5cm. This gave me some encouragement although she said the baby was still high.

Saturday October 3, 2015

3:45am: Nitrous Oxide. My back was hurting so bad that even after a contraction ended, it still felt like it was continuing in my back…for 3 minutes. I wasn’t getting any kind of break. We called Kristi and asked her to come back to the room so we could talk about pain management. She recommended nitrous oxide (laughing gas). She said it is great because I can control how much I get, it doesn’t transfer to baby and as soon as I stop inhaling it, the effects go away. Corey and I discussed this option and decided that I should try it since my back was hurting so badly and there aren’t any risks. It took a while to get the hang of it but it was working nicely once I did. For those who have never used it, it essentially makes you feel a little light headed to distract you from the pain. We continued all of our pain management techniques. Corey was very supportive and encouraging of me even though I decided to try the nitrous oxide.

5:54am: Fentanyl. The contractions continued to get more painful especially in my back. My back hurt so incredibly bad. I was starting to panic when I would feel a contraction coming on. I was getting pretty tired at this point. I was crying and just want some relief between contractions. We talked with Kristi again and fentanyl was our next option. It is administered through an IV port. I was able to get a dose an hour for 4 hours. They use a syringe to put it into the IV port instead of being hooked to an actual IV. After my first dose, I felt a little relief in my back which made the actual contractions bearable. The fentanyl only really lasted for about 20 minutes then the back pain came back full force. I tried the jet tub again and was feeling amazing. After an hour I got back out. As soon as I was out of the water, the back pain kicked back in. I would panic at each contraction. I was using the Nitrous Oxide and the Fentanyl. Nothing was helping my back. I was hysterical with each contraction….It wasn’t really the contraction that hurt so bad, it was the back pain that wouldn’t stop between contractions.

    5:57am: Vaginal Check. Kristi checked me again and I was 8cm! I was so happy to be so close. She said the baby was still high though. I was just excited to be closer to meeting my baby. I somehow found the strength to continue. I was getting very tired at this point. All I wanted to do was sleep. I was still very hysterical with each contraction. Corey continued to be a great coach.

    12:16pm: Vaginal Check. Kristi checked me again. I was hoping to be a 10 so I could start pushing and be done. Unfortunately, I was still an 8 and the baby was still high. I as so done at this point. I just want my back to stop hurting and to sleep. Kristi started explaining her concerns to us. She said that my contractions weren’t close enough together, they weren’t strong enough, the baby was still high and I was exhausted. She recommended I get an epidural and start Pitocin on the lowest dose. Corey and I discussed this with each other. We decided that it was in our best interested to take Kristi’s recommendation and start the Pitocin and epidural.

    12:58pm: Started Pitocin. They started me on the lowest dose of Pitocin while we waited on the epidural. My contractions started to become more frequent and stronger. All I could think about was getting some relief with the epidural. It felt like it took forever to get it.

    1:45pm: Epidural. Oh man. I was so happy to get the epidural. It started working within 15 minutes. I finally got some relief! I decided it was nap time and snoozed away. I was feeling fabulous.

    5:30pm: Vaginal Check. Kristi checked me again and I was only 9cm and baby was still high up. Baby was not coming through my pelvic bone. At this point, the epidural started wearing off. I was not happy. Kristi met with the Doc and they decided I should try to push to see if I could get baby to descend.

    6:00pm: Started Pushing. It felt so good to push! I tried really hard to do my best so that baby would descend and we could finally meet. After 30 minutes of really good pushing Kristi and the Doc both agreed that the baby was not descending at all. They said that the baby was literally too big for my pelvis and that they recommended a C-section. Corey and I felt that we had tried everything we could and that a C-section is what we needed to do in order to keep everyone safe. They brought everyone in and started to prep me for the OR.

    7:20pm: Begin C-section. I was wheeled to the OR and was finished being prepped for the operation. Once I was ready they brought Corey in. One of his hands was holding mine and the other had the camera read to go. We were so excited to meet our baby. We both were at peace with our decisions and were so ready to be done.

    7:43pm: Baby is born! The baby is born and Corey announces with a tear in his eye that we have a boy!! We were both so happy. After they suctioned Christopher, he got to lay on my chest for a few minutes. Then he and Corey went to recovery while I was put back together. My midwife said he was in the optimal birth position and his head was legitimately too big to fit through my pelvis. I started to feel a little pain and was ready to be done. I hear the Doc and others mention blood loss and hemorrhage and other scary things. I knew it wasn’t good. I was given a couple shots in my arms and I could feel a lot of tugging and pulling. All I could think about was dying on the operating table while my husband and my baby were clueless in the other room. Finally, they said they were putting the last stitches in. I was then wheeled to the recovery room.

Christopher Roan Braswell

October 3, 2015

9lbs 1oz and 20 ¾ in long.

Head circumference was 14 ¾ in

    Recovery. When I got to recovery, Corey and Chris were already there. The doctors came in and pushed on my uterus through my stomach. Ouch! It was so painful. When she did that, a little blood came out of me but not too much. I was feeling confident. Then my nurse, Brian, pushed and there was a big gush. Not a good sign. I’m freaking out inside. They started giving me multiple pills and shots to try and get my uterus to contract and the bleeding to stop. They pushed on me at different intervals throughout the night. Finally in the wee hours of the morning the bleeding slowed down. I didn’t get any sleep all night. I thought I was going to die from bleeding out. It was the scariest thing ever.

    Mother and Baby Unit. The next morning I was stable enough to transfer to the mother and baby unit. We spent 3.5 days here. I had blood tests drawn to see how my counts were. I was given many IV fluid and other oral medicines. The nurses were all shocked at how well my body was coping with the blood loss. I lost half my blood volume and I never felt dizzy or light headed. I was exhausted but that was about it. I ended up getting two units of blood and two bags of iron. This took an entire day which was annoying but I felt like I had so much more energy. My bleeding stayed in the normal range and I continued to improve energy wise and my body coped well with the blood transfusion. I was able to get up and walk around more. It was so nice to take Christopher for a walk around the hospital. We enjoyed our stay but were so ready to head home.

    October 7, 2015: DISCHARGED!! We finally were able to go home ☺

Total Labor: Approximately 27 hours basically natural + 6 hours epidural= 33 hours before C-section

Corey and I are not disappointed at all with our birth story. We joke about how we were able to experience the three different types of labor/delivery: natural, medicated and C-section. We thank God for keeping me safe and giving us a healthy little boy. We felt very prepared after our Bradley class which not only taught us about natural birth but equipped us with questions to ask when interventions were presented to us. Corey was a great coach and remembered so much from our class. Our midwife, Kristi, was also fabulous and I apologize again for increasing your C-section statistic ☺

the emptiness of miscarriage pt 2

Guest Post by: Sarah Moulson

I believe that those who have struggled with infertility or miscarriage understand the miracle of pregnancy in a unique way. During the two years that Steve and I tried and tried again to get pregnant, I frequently remarked, “When you consider all the systems that have to work perfectly and precisely for a child to be conceived, it’s incredible that anyone ever gets pregnant!” (And it’s amazing how often it happens by accident!) After suffering a miscarriage with our second pregnancy, I was once again astounded, but this time in a different way. As I learned more about miscarriage, I was floored by the statistics. It’s estimated that as many as 75% of all fertilized eggs never result in the birth of a child. For a variety of reasons, about 3 out of 4 embryos fail to implant in the uterus and miscarriage occurs, appearing to be just a normal period and most likely without the woman even being aware of what has happened. Once a pregnancy is confirmed, there is a 15-20% chance of miscarriage. (See Making Sense of Miscarriage Statistics for more information.)

I have seen these statistics lived out in my own circle of family and friends. I have watched two of my three brothers walk this hard road with their wives. All five of my closest married friends who participated in my wedding have gone through it, some of them more than once. Several years ago I was attending a gathering of fellow seminary wives and somehow the conversation turned to pregnancy loss. Of the ten women in the room, half had lost a baby, and I was aware of a handful more not in attendance that evening. I don’t say this to scare those who are currently expecting or who may become pregnant in the future. However, the reality is that at some point in your life, either you or someone you care about will probably become part of these statistics.

Statistics are cold and impersonal numbers on a page, but miscarriage is real and heartbreaking and raw and awful. Just like with childbirth, each person’s experience is similar and yet unique. I can only speak from my own experience. Below are some things that I have learned as I stumbled along this unexpected road.

A miscarriage is a death. Treat it as such.

A miscarriage is not simply a clump of cells leaving your body. It is the death of your child. We lost our baby between Weeks Six and Seven of the pregnancy. When people would ask me how far along I had been, I frequently found myself responding, “Only six weeks,” as if it wasn’t really a big deal because it was so early in the pregnancy. I eventually realized that I needed to honor my child and drop the “only.” One of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes comes from Horton Hears a Who – “A person’s a person, no matter how small!” At that stage of development my child was the size of a lentil. But within that miraculous, tiny body, he or she had a beating heart that stopped beating. The little nose, mouth, and ears that I longed to kiss were beginning to form. I was carrying a unique person made in the image of God.

Understanding that miscarriage is a death, and often a physically grueling process, if someone you know experiences one, treat it like you would any other death or serious illness. Send flowers or a note of sympathy. Take them a meal. Care for older children so that the couple can rest and grieve. Pray for and with them. Be gentle and thoughtful with your words. Sit and cry with them. Allow them to vent. Give them space if they want it. Respect their unique grieving process. Be present.

One extra thought on the topic of caring for those who are grieving – Don’t forget about the dad. Just like with a pregnancy, the mom is often the center of attention following a miscarriage. But there’s a dad who is also mourning the loss of a child. As the protector of his family it can be horrible for a man to see his wife in physical and emotional pain, knowing that there is nothing he can do to stop her suffering or to save the life of his child. He may not feel the physical agony of the miscarriage but that doesn’t mean his heart isn’t breaking.

Grief is very personal and unique to each person. It is messy and tricky and perplexing.

Everyone grieves in a different way, and there’s no instruction manual about the “right” way to do it. It is such a messy, confusing process. I wanted people to comfort me, and I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to sit in my sadness, and I wanted to move on. Sometimes I felt guilty that I wasn’t feeling sad enough, and other times I felt guilty that I was so overwhelmingly sad. I didn’t cry at times I expected to and I burst into tears when I least expected it.

The ways in which people move forward and pull out of their grief are also very personal. Some name the child. Some don’t. Some never get pregnant again. Some are expecting the very next month. Some speak freely about their loss. Some hold it quiet and close to their heart.

Grief requires patience. I had to be patient with myself, acknowledging the various emotions as they arose and riding out whatever wave happened to crash over my head at that particular moment. I had to be patient with my husband, and he with me, as we chose to lean into each other during the hard times rather than allowing them to drive us apart. I had to be patient with those who tried to be comforting but who weren’t, just as they had to be patient with me when I tried to be gracious but wasn’t. Finally, I just had to be patient and trust that while time may not fully heal all wounds, it does cause them to eventually not hurt quite so much.

It’s normal to question why it happened and whether you may have caused it, but don’t hang out in that place for too long.

The baby that I lost was unplanned. In the weeks following the loss, I questioned why God would give us the joyous surprise of this child only to turn around and take it away a few weeks later. I also wondered if I had unintentionally done something to cause it. Was it because I was still nursing our older daughter? Did I lift something that was too heavy or eat something I shouldn’t have? Asking questions like these is normal, but you probably won’t ever get answers. I’m three years past it, and I still have no idea why it happened. What I do know is that it has caused me to grow in compassion. It gave me a new set of eyes; as I look around at others I know that everyone has invisible scars weighing them down and influencing their attitudes and actions. It has helped me to bravely comfort others when I previously would have run away from their pain. It has shown me aspects of God’s character in a new light. It forged a deeper bond between my husband and me. It made me appreciate the children I do have even more. It grew me as a person. The event itself wasn’t good, but the things it has done in me are.

It can help to have an outward reminder of the child to honor his/her life.

Miscarriage generally doesn’t leave any external marks, but it is a significant event worthy of remembrance. Our family has an annual tradition of giving each member a special Christmas ornament that in some way commemorates an event from the previous year. The Christmas following the miscarriage, we had a special ornament made in honor of our baby. Each year I tear up as I remove it from its box and hang it in a prominent spot on the tree. It’s our small way of remembering someone who we wish was there celebrating with us. I know of friends who have displayed paintings or planted flowers. When my brother gave his wife a necklace containing the birthstones of their children, he included one for the child they lost. It can be big or small, constantly present or occasionally pulled out, but having some sort of tangible reminder of a seemingly invisible person can be a valuable source of comfort. (A side note -- Do remember that everyone is unique. For some people having a visible reminder of the loss can be a source of great pain. I’m like a broken record here, but there is no right way to grieve so do what brings you the most comfort.)

Miscarriage impacts future pregnancies.

Eight months after the miscarriage, God surprised us (and my doctors!) with another pregnancy. As much as I tried to fight it, the early months of that pregnancy were tainted by fear. Where I had only previously known joy at the news that I was carrying a child, I now found it difficult to rejoice fully. I begged God on a daily basis to help this little one hang on and grow, all the while not fully allowing my heart to hope or grow too attached. I held my breath every time I used the restroom, fearful of what I might discover. I closed my eyes and fought back tears the first time my doctor searched for that tiny heartbeat. It is so hard to not allow a miscarriage to rob future pregnancies of their joy. I now pray for this specifically when a friend who has lost a child announces that she is expecting again.  

God is good. All the time.

After all the tears had been shed and all the questions had been asked, this is what I was left with. God was good the day before my miscarriage. He was just as good the day after. He never left His throne or turned His back on me. I will never claim to understand His ways, but I also don’t doubt His love.

the emptiness of miscarriage pt 1

Guest post by: Sarah Moulson

“When you’re pregnant, you’re so full. And then, suddenly, you’re so...” Here she paused, trying to choke out the word, “…empty.”

As I sat listening to my precious sister-in-law sob out her pain, my own tears fell freely, having felt that same heartbreak a year prior. Pregnancy is a uniquely beautiful time of fullness, brimming over with excitement, anticipation, joy, and life. But when a pregnancy is cut short, it can leave one feeling gutted and raw.

We lost our second child to miscarriage. After struggling to conceive for two years, God had gifted us our beautiful daughter, Iris, sixteen months prior. When I discovered that I was pregnant the second time around, it was a complete surprise. I thought, “So this is how it happens for ‘normal’ people. No fertility drugs. No doctors. No meticulously marked calendars or precisely timed sex. You just wake up one morning to the happy discovery that you’ve made a baby.” For two-and-a-half-weeks, my husband and I delighted in this blissful surprise. And then one Saturday morning, I walked out of the bathroom and shattered our joy.

“Steve, I’m bleeding.”

The next two days were a blur of phone calls, tears, pain, and pleading prayers. Eventually we were forced to accept that I had lost the baby. As that reality set in, a dark cloud of grief encompassed our home. At times Steve and I cried together, and at times we cried alone.

One night I couldn’t sleep so I crept downstairs and sat on the couch. I didn’t turn on any lights. I just sat in the quiet and the darkness and cried like I’ve never cried before. As I wept, a strange thought came to me. I had heard stories of people who self-harmed through cutting, burning, scratching, or other equally painful actions. I had never been able to understand what would drive a person to do something like that. The causes are complex, but one reason suddenly became clear to me – the desire to express a deep internal pain in an external way. I wasn’t going to harm myself, but I pondered how it could be that I was experiencing the deepest emotional pain I had ever felt, and yet I had nothing to show for it. Unlike other tragedies that can befall a person, miscarriage doesn’t leave behind any external markers. I had no cast or stitches or bandages. There would be no discolored or gnarled scars. In fact, if I didn’t tell people what had happened, they would have no way of knowing simply by looking at me. I longed to sit on our front stoop in sackcloth and ashes, screaming to the world, “I’m in pain here!”

Genesis 3 tells of the punishment that God placed upon Eve, and all women through her, because of her disobedience. “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” When reading that verse, it’s natural to instantly think of the physical pain of childbirth, but I believe that the pain of motherhood is so much larger than that momentary discomfort. Infertility. Miscarriage. Stillbirth. Birth defects. Chronic or terminal illnesses. Death of a child. Failed adoptions. Regretted abortions. Post-partum depression. Divorce. Abuse. Suicide. Unrepentant children. War. Famine. Persecution. There are so many ways that women feel pain in connection to their children, and most of them leave no external wounds. Whether they are the results of one’s own sin, the sins of others, or simply the general fallen-ness that permeates all of creation, they cause us all to collectively cry out, “This isn’t how it was supposed to be!”

And that is one of the most profound truths of this life. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. When God created this world it was full of glory and light and life. But when sin entered, every facet of our existence was tainted by pain and darkness and death.  Whatever sharp edge of this broken world has left you feeling pierced through, whatever invisible scars you carry within you, know this – there is One who emptied Himself of His glory, who walked perfectly among us in this painful, heartbreaking world, who willingly poured Himself out to the point of death, and who lives now so that you can one day experience life as it was supposed to be. For eternity. Your current pain is not the end of the story. The story ends in a place where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) At this moment you may parched and empty but cling to the truth that“from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)

My tears subsided that night in my darkened living room as the Holy Spirit spoke truth and comfort to my heart. Where I feel emptiness, Christ gives me His fullness. Where I feel pain and sorrow, Christ applies the soothing balm of His grace and love. The journey of moving on after the miscarriage was not neat and tidy, but after that night, whenever the waves of grief threatened to knock me down, I knew without a doubt that my suffering wasn’t invisible. There is One who sees each of my tears even if no one else does. And not only does He see, He understands, having shed tears of His own. And not only does He understand, He is powerful enough to conquer it all and make it right.