- Cindi Denbow
The Birth of Luke Christopher (Dad's story)
(Mom's story italicized)
About 1000 on Saturday morning, Meesh said she was having a different sort of contraction that did not feel like her Braxton Hicks she’d been experiencing recently in her pregnancy. They weren’t unmanageable so we went on with our day, eating lunch together, reading According to Plan, and capped off our day with our weekly visit to the grocery store.
We went to the Commissary and I had to stop every now and then. I figured it was just my pregnant body adjusting to more changes. We didn’t buy anything for the birth day since I “still had time” before little Leong was suppose to come. And I didn’t want to have an abundance of food that the two of us could not consume.
I also had a list of to-dos on the fridge to include making and freezing waffles and apple muffins should I have a morning birth and want breakfast. I had cards to laminate for the birth day; bible verses on one side and black-and-white pictures for LL on the other side. At one point in the day I thought I might paint my toes but decided not to since I couldn’t sit long enough without having a contraction.
Things seemed normal until late at night she started experiencing serious pain: stronger contractions. I had been a little behind in my reading, worriedly broke out the pregnancy books and flipped to the phases of labor. Meesh, though well versed in her readings, also anxiously flipped through her books to see where we were.
“We’re okay, this may be a bit” said Meesh. I, not completely convinced stared at Meesh only believing her because I was behind in my readings and should have known better, but did not. The idea that Little Leong could come 13 days earlier threw off my equilibrium; I had plans for my work, the new football season was starting, and mainly, I had much to do in preparation for Little Leong’s arrival. I shrugged off the thought and tended to her, who was now experiencing contractions at a very frequent pace.
I downloaded an app to time contractions. After a few contractions earlier in the day, it seemed like I was in early labor moving onto active. Honestly I didn't think much of this. According to the estimated due date I still had two weeks! Not to mention that first pregnancies usually go past the due date. So I figured my discomfort was me being weak sauce during the Braxton Hicks contractions. We’re okay, this may be a bit.
One contraction over 60 seconds in length every 4 minutes. Was this within the range of phase 1? “Full Term,” the app that counted contractions, provided a rollup of frequencies of contractions in relation to the phases of labor. This reading was moving from phase 1 to phases 2 according to the rollup. Yikes. I sat next to Meesh in bed as she tried to sleep, plagued by frequent contractions and leaving her in a world of pain and discomfort. After an hour of monitoring her, I called our mid-wife Cindi to ask if this was “normal.”
Cindi said things appeared to be normal and that I should call her again if Michelle experienced more pain or something at a different level. She seemed to plateau at “painful” and “frequent” and had a horrible night. She never slept; I barely slept because I was trying to support her but praise God things never got worse.
I was exhausted. There were moments that seemed like I slept for a long period but Hoy said it was just minutes in between contractions that I was resting. I had no idea what time it was and how often I was moaning with those contractions.
In the morning, around 0730, Cindi texted us asking to meet up at the birthing center to do a quick checkup. We were more than happy with this offer, tastelessly ate breakfast, and soon headed out to see Cindi.
I wanted to see Cindi but I didn’t want to, for the fear that she’d say I’m just early along. What if all this pain I’m feeling is just the beginning and not even close to the real deal?
Meesh, at this point, was having a real hard time waddling so when we got to the birthing center, we slowly made our way inside where we were greeted by Cindi who gave us the most shocking information that we did not expect.
“Looks like someone’s going to have a baby today!”
WHAT??? 3 cm dilated. My eyes were wide open and I stared at Hoy. Excited and shocked because I was actually progressing! Strong contractions at short intervals. No, she must be mistaken. This can’t be! I felt a sense of anxiety and excitement, though more anxiety because I was not ready for an early arrival. It was a little difficult to stomach the news but we reminded ourselves constantly of God’s will for our lives and how His plan was good for us, even if it wasn’t what we had planned ourselves. Okay, time to take a breath.
“It could be 30 minutes from now, or it could be 3 hours from now. I’m going to send you home. Call me when things are different or when you can’t handle being at home anymore.” Cindi said. My water didn’t break yet but it could be any moment now. I asked if it would be obvious. She said it would be like a water balloon popping. Cindi walked us through some exercises to help Little Leong move further down (to include sashaying!) and shortly, we were on our way back home (not waddling anymore but sashaying).
Side note, our birthing center focuses on having labor in the most comfortable place: the home. We weren’t sent back home because they weren’t ready for us, but because they wanted us to be comfortable in our setting. And we were.
So we went home. Meesh’s contractions still hit every few minutes. During those contractions, I stayed by her side, encouraged her to fight on, telling her to keep breathing. When the contractions were not dominating her, I raced around the home and began preparations for the delivery. Luckily, Meesh already packed a suitcase and made a meal to bring to the birthing center. Hoy just had to organize some things and load up the car. Meesh’s job was to persevere.
I was leaning over the sofa moving my hips back and forth as Cindi had said. In between contractions I watched Hoy move our suitcase and cooler to the car.
One hour and 15 minutes after we returned home from the birthing center, Meesh’s water broke. It was 1315. I called Cindi, who had just got home from our previous visit, and she asked if we could meet at 1400. Meesh, in the background, screamed “there’s more water!” and Cindi immediately said, “I’ll have someone at the birthing center in 10 minutes!”
I had a HUGE water balloon! I thought I could hold it in with all the Kegel exercises I’ve been doing. HA! Before we left home I almost chewed Hoy’s head off because I needed to get dressed and he completely missed that point. I think this was the only time I wanted to kill Hoy during labor. Flustered, Hoy gave me his red skull shirt to put on and we left.
And off we went. I made 2 trips to the car to load everything up then slowly walked Meesh to the car (it took about 10 minutes to get from kitchen to car!), then carefully drove (didn’t break speed limit folks!) to the birthing center, 5 minutes from home.
Our short drive to the birthing center seemed like forever.
I pulled into the parking lot and drove right up to the front of the building, ignoring all parking rules. I escorted Meesh inside and was met by the staff of the birthing center. They were each warm and friendly, excited for this big day for our family. Okay, time to get to work!
1400: It happened so fast. Cindi got Meesh pushing right away and we were off. She did another check up and said I was at 10 cm! Oh my word! This is really happening. Meesh was still in heavy pain but valiantly worked through it and focused on pushing. Cindi was an expert coach and helped both Meesh and I through the process. She kept calm and all the staff kept encouraging Meesh and I. I am so grateful for their approach: to let the husband and wife labor together, have the husband encourage the wife and support her through it rather than a doctor. I noticed that things were zipping by and looked for Meesh’s phone to at least call our parents and small group to let them know we were in labor. No luck, I was needed, I had a job. (That’s why you didn’t hear from us until after!)
I couldn’t talk, all my energy was used for pushing. Nodding and shaking my head were my only forms of communication. I had the thought of a C-section at one point but couldn’t get any words out of my mouth. When things were tough, which were often, I ran Psalm 92:2 over and over in my head. “to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night.” I couldn’t remember any of my other bible verses.
Meesh almost broke three of my fingers. I was in pain but nothing compared to hers. All I could do was tell her she was doing awesome and that it was worth it.
I labored over the toilet and then transitioned to the birthing ball on the bed. I wanted to labor in the birthing tub but couldn’t make it over there in between contractions even though it was only a foot away. I had things packed in my suitcase to help with the labor, a comb, my dryer balls, a massage tool, and some Jolly Ranchers. Of all these I only had the hard candy and sucked on it for only a millisecond until my next contraction came.
It was hot. I remember Hoy wiping away my sweat and Cindi fanning me.
When time was getting closer to Little Leong’s arrival, I asked if I could catch our baby. Cindi was more than happy to let me do this so I swapped places with one of her assistants, Christina, and they handed me a pair of latex gloves. Thanks Christina! I’m grateful you were there! I struggled to put them on as quickly as possible, knowing that the time was soon. Cindi saw me struggling and assured me there were still a few pushes before Little Leong would come out. I remember Cindi telling Hoy, “Don’t worry, you’ve got some time.” She was wrong. <— That is said with love. With one push, Little Leong popped out around 1459 (I don’t think anyone caught the exact time) and escaped the sure hands of both Cindi and myself! Luckily, he landed on the soft bed and was unharmed. I quickly went to grab him and, with my vast experience with holding children (if you know me, I have zero experience except for an electronic baby in daddy’s class), attempted to hold our new baby boy! Somehow, I got the umbilical cord wrapped around Meesh’s leg while she was recovering from the final push and had to carefully uncoil my son from my wife’s leg. Despite this new clumsy father, God led the way and blessed us with a beautiful, handsome, and so-cute-you’ll-want-to-kiss-him-all-over baby: Luke Christopher Leong!
Neither of us expected Luke to join us when he did. At our follow-up appointment Cindi mentioned that he cooked in there just long enough and it was time for him to come out. It was a good reminder of God’s plan. None of those readings and classes we had, though helpful, could tell me exactly what labor and birth would be like. By God’s grace Luke came and I didn’t kill Hoy.
God’s timing and plan, certainly not ours.
Our sweet son was born September 8, 2013 around 14:59. He was 19.5 inches and weighed a tiny 5 pounds and 15 ounces. He was just perfect.