Joy Johanna Eve | 9lbs 2oz. | Born at home on December 6 at 11:33 pm
Joy – “Delight, or great happiness.” Once again, the Lord in His tender mercy has filled our hearts and home with great joy by entrusting another covenant child into our care.
Johanna – “God is gracious.” This is my dear Grandmother’s name, the woman I am also named after. My Grandma now has a daughter, several granddaughters, and a great granddaughter named in her honor.
Eve – “Living.” Eve is after Brad’s Mom, who I hope Joy will grow to be like. Joy is our first child to have two middle names, but since the spelling of this one and her first name are so short, we thought it fit well.
Our prayer for Joy (and all of our children) is that she would have been born to be born again, and may one day say, “Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.” (Acts 2:28)
*Content Advisory* Birth stories are deeply personal, and not something I would normally share on this blog, but Joy’s story is a testimony of God’s steadfast love and mercy despite my weak faith throughout my pregnancy with her. I’ve decided to share it because it speaks to His greatness and power, and I hope it encourages those who may find themselves with the same doubts and fears I had.
That said, reading birth stories while you’re pregnant or have recently experienced a loss can be triggering. I mention things like miscarriage, subchorionic hemorrhages, still birth, Amniotic Band Syndrome, and placenta abnormalities here because while they are a part of Joy’s story, I also want you to be able to exit this page before stumbling across those parts accidentally.
I found out I was pregnant in March. My heart had been yearning for another little babe to love, but the discovery of her beginning brought with it a slew of mixed emotions, questions, and uncertainty. Pregnancy is an intensely sanctifying time.
As was the case with the previous 4 pregnancies, I started bleeding half way through my first trimester. 3 trips to the ER confirmed that while baby was thriving, I had a small subchorionic hemorrhage that kept bleeding out. This condition caused the miscarriage of our third child, the premature birth of our 4th, and 2 months of bed rest with our 5th. I had a small one with my last pregnancy, too, but it dissolved on its own by 6 weeks and I went on to have a normal pregnancy with our youngest son. So, when the Dr. told me this hematoma was small, I was actually more relieved than I was scared.
However, I found myself back in the ER at 17 weeks with another bleed. During this ultrasound, the technician was very quiet and I could tell something was up. In addition to the standard profile, she printed off a picture of Joy’s tiny little feet for me. I thought that was so sweet of her, but didn’t realize why she had done it until I got a call from my back-up midwife the next day (my primary midwife was off for two months).
My back-up midwife told me that they found two abnormal bands of tissue floating in the amniotic fluid. Another ultrasound was scheduled to confirm the diagnosis, but she prepared me for their suspicion: Amniotic Band Syndrome.
After her phone call and against my better judgment, I consulted Dr. Google about this condition I had never even heard of before. Amniotic Band Syndrome is what happens when loose pieces of tissue from the uterine wall attach to the baby. If the tissue tangles too tightly around the baby’s digits or limbs, they can cut off the blood circulation as baby grows, causing severe deformities, and even death if the tissue wound too tightly around the neck or umbilical cord. The ultrasound technician had printed off a picture of Joy’s tiny feet for me because if I did indeed have Amniotic Band Syndrome, this could be the first and last time I saw them perfectly formed.
The follow-up ultrasound left us with more questions than answers. Now, the Doctors weren’t sure if the two bands they were seeing were lose pieces of tissue coming from the uterine wall, or if they were actually an abnormal growth on the placenta. The OB and midwives from our small-town hospital agreed that it would be best for baby and I to be sent to hospital further away that specializes in maternal care and children’s medicine. My appointment was booked for 27 weeks gestation, and in the mean time, I kept going for regular ultrasounds near home to keep an eye on those mysterious bands.
I had been told to bring a friend or spouse with to my appointment for with the specialist for support, and that we could expect to be at the hospital for most of the day. Brad and I decided to make a “date” of it. I’m so thankful he came with, because with him by my side, we were both washed over with relief when we were informed that the two bands of tissue posed no threat of life to our unborn baby GIRL ! The bands were thick and short, most likely due to a circumvallate placenta, and had attached themselves to the wall of the uterus. Baby could kick them, but the gap was too small for her to get caught in. The OB saw no reason to continue the serial ultrasounds, gave me the green light to travel to a conference in the United States, and even told us that there was no danger in pursuing a home birth!
Until this appointment, we had not found out the gender of our baby. I was 99.9% sure we were having a girl anyway since I’ve always been sick or had complications with xx chromosomes and had good pregnancies with xy! Brad saw unmistakably that we were having a girl, and not wanting to be left in the dark, I asked him to tell me, too.
Hearts overflowing with gratitude for God’s mercy, we left the hospital and headed to a restaurant to enjoy a late lunch together. Reflecting on the roller coaster of emotions we had experienced for several months, we decided to name our daughter Joy. “Delight, or great happiness,” is exactly what we felt in that moment.
I wish I could say that God’s mercy and faithfulness and knowledge of His Sovereignty carried me through the rest of the pregnancy without doubts, anxiety, or fear, but oh, how shamefully small my faith can be! I struggled deeply with believing that no matter what the future held, God’s goodness and His love for me could not change.
In my last trimester, 3 friends miscarried their babies, and an acquaintance lost her full-term baby girl 11 hours after being born. Fear clouded my mind, and I believed that this was God’s way of preparing me for something similar. I forgot that “God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
These thoughts were not coming from the Lord; they were planted by the devil. I desperately wanted to be in control of the situation. I wanted God to write on the wall whether we should have a home birth or hospital birth. I wanted to know that I wouldn’t have a retained placenta and hemorrhage like I did when our preemie was born 5 years ago. I wanted to know what the end looked like. I wanted to live by sight, not by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).
On the Sunday evening, a few days before Joy’s birth, our pastor preached from Psalm 40 (you can listen to the sermon here), underscoring God’s goodness and sovereignty in and over all things. I felt so convicted for how low my thoughts of God had been, surrendered to His hand, and confessed I was fully dependent on Him for every single thing.
The next few days were peaceful and full of reflection on what God had already done for us. He had dissolved the subchorionc hemorrhage. He had taken away the prognosis of an extremely rare and dangerous pregnancy condition. He had kept me safe when I traveled to the U.S. at 30 weeks pregnant. He had provided us with a 12 passenger van. He had brought me to full-term. He had been faithful. It was easily within His power to carry my through the labor and delivery, too. And if He didn’t? Would that change my view of Him? Or would I still believe He is a good, good Father? Pregnancy and childbirth is a battleground for spiritual warfare!
Thursday, December 6, I woke up, still pregnant, and without an inkling that our new daughter would be born before the day was through. I took our 3rd child to the dentist in the morning, and spent some time paper quilling and doing art in the afternoon with our oldest. Around 4:30 pm, I started having contractions, about 5 minutes apart. They weren’t painful, and this had happened many times over the past 2 weeks, so I didn’t think too much of it. An hour later, they were still coming, a little closer together, and slightly more intense. I told Brad, and he instantly knew it was “the real thing.” He suggested I call his Mom, started feeding the kids supper, and getting their bags together to spend a few days with family.
I was so conflicted. I hate calling the midwives “for no reason,” and didn’t want to put people out for coming to get our kids when I felt the likelihood of the contractions petering out was pretty high. But, Brad has always been right about his assessment of true labor, so I called his Mom to let her know that something might be happening.
Then I went to our bedroom to pray. All of our babies, with the exception of our preemie, have been born at home, and while I absolutely love home births, I would never choose it if the risk factors were too high. I had spent 27 weeks of this pregnancy “at risk,” and now I wasn’t sure what to do.
Psalm 34: 4 says, “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” I begged the Lord to show us clearly whether or not we should go to the hospital, or if it was safe to give birth at home. I laid out my fleece: if I was dilated 5cm or more, we would stay home. If I hadn’t progressed past the 3cm I had been at since Tuesday, we would go to the hospital.
I called my primary midwife too, and gave her the heads up. She was at a hair appointment, but said she’d send my backup midwife out our way to check and see if my cervix had dilated at all. She recommended sending the other kids away. Worst case scenario, I’d hopefully have a good sleep with a quiet house, and be energized for the big event.
Friends and family came to pick up our five other children around the same time my backup midwife arrived. I still wasn’t convinced I was in actual labor. She checked, and I was shocked to discover I was already at 6cm! What a mercy! Baby was coming tonight!
Elated, able to relax with the kids gone, “delivered from all my fears” about where I should give birth, I felt completely at peace as I hovered over the birthing ball and chatted away with our midwife as she set our room.
My primary midwife, who has delivered 5 of our 6 babies, showed up within the hour. We were having a grand old time and my contractions kept coming every 3-4 minutes apart. 2 1/2 hours later though, they started petering out. I felt discouraged and asked her to check if any progression had been made. It was past 9 pm and I was getting tired.
Nothing. Still at 6cm, I hadn’t dilated at all.
My midwife gave me two options: 1) she could go home and I could try to sleep, or 2) she could break my water and things would probably get intense. I was tired, but more than that, I wanted the labor and delivery to be over. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. The contractions were still too strong for that, and I imagined I would be laying there wondering if and when I should call her back. I asked her to break my water.
Immediately, the contractions started coming fast and furiously. 2 hours later, I moved from the birthing ball to our bed. Within 20 minutes I felt like pushing, and my midwife told me to listen to my body and do whatever I felt like I needed to do. I pushed for an hour and a half with our firstborn, but every baby since then has only taken one or two pushes to deliver. My expectations were too high! It took 10 minutes of pushing (long for me!) and screaming (which I don’t usually do either!), before Joy Johanna Eve entered the world at 11:33pm.
She was absolutely beautiful.
She was covered in a thick layer of vernix caseosa, the protection God gives babies in the womb from infections. She had a head full of dark black hair, just like many of her siblings did. Her face was rather blue from bruising, and her eyes were blood shot from the pressure of her “slam dunk” into the pelvis when my water was broken. Her umbilical cord was by far the largest I had ever seen, and even after a delayed cord clamping, Brad still had to try twice to get it cut off! Her screaming pinked her up quickly, and she scored 9.5/10 on her Apgar test.
I had never cried at any of our children’s births, but I certainly did this time.
Tears of joy, just like her name – Joy.
God had been gracious, just like her first middle name – Johanna.
She was not born still; she was living, just like her second middle name –Eve.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41: 10. He was with me. He strengthened me. He helped me. He upheld me with His right hand. God is good and faithful.
I still needed to deliver the placenta.
Completely distracted by the beautiful reward on my chest, I was largely unaware of how much blood I was loosing. One shot of oxytocin was followed by another before the placenta was delivered intact, but the bleeding did not slow down. Still snuggling with Joy and burying my nose into her sweet face, I assumed my midwife was overshooting when she warned me of how much pain the next needle in my leg would cause. She stabbed my right thigh with a combination of ergometrine and oxytocin. It was all I could do not to scream. She had not been exaggerating at all.
Brad was praying fervently that the bleeding would slow down, and the Lord was merciful here, too. The hemorrhaging slowed down enough for the midwives to asses the condition of the placenta. They showed us the band of tissue that had caused so much worry during the pregnancy. It clearly had not affected Joy’s ability to grow at all!
Though the flow had certainly slowed down, I still continued to gush blood and felt incredibly weak. My primary midwife let us know that she had one more trick up her sleeve she could try to get things under control. Uncomfortable leaving me for the night without it, she gave me a dose of misoprostal. It worked to stabilize the situation almost instantly, and I relaxed in bed, watching my midwife weigh Joy, measure her length and head circumference, and begin cleaning up.
The emotional connection between a husband and wife after the birth of their child is unlike anything else. There is nothing like witnessing the miracle of new life being brought into your family to humble you, to increase your admiration of the Lord, and each other, and to quietly and simultaneously resolve to enjoy the precious yet exhausting days ahead, fully aware by your sixth child that it all passes far too quickly. Brad makes me feel secure all the time, but especially during childbirth, and this time was no different.
He brought my a high protein snack to enjoy while Joy nursed contentedly for the first time. Then he gave our 4th daughter her first diaper change, and struggled with the help of our midwife to squeeze her 9lb 2 oz. chubby little self into her newborn size sleeper! The zipper barely did up, and the two hats I had washed and gotten ready previously were far too small, so he hunted down a larger one I had crocheted while on bed rest with our preemie, 5.5 years earlier.
Our midwife left around 2:20 am on December 7, and we settled down for the night. Brad slept well. I rested, but didn’t sleep. My legs were so sore and cramping from the shots I had to stop the hemorrhaging. Joy is 4 days old today and my right thigh is still in pain, but it’s nothing in comparison to the love, peace, and joy the Lord has blessed our hearts and home with through the birth of our 6th child.
Yesterday, when the pastor offered thanksgiving to the Lord for her new life and for sparing mine in the congregational prayer, He prayed that like her name, we would have no greater joy than to see all of our children walking in truth (3 John 1:4).
Oh Lord, let this be so! Would You be merciful and gracious, just as You were when You developed Joy in the womb, hear this prayer and glorify Yourself by doing what we have no power to do for our children ourselves: save them by the blood of Your Lamb, Jesus Christ, and give them a desire to walk in truth from their earliest years.