Redeeming a Traumatic Birth

My 3rd child, Eliana, was born in 2014 in Tokyo, Japan while we lived there as missionaries. Below is the story of her birth.

True to form for a third child, Eliana’s birth story has to start with Evangeline and Malachi. They were 3 and 4 weeks early when they were born. Evangeline had bad jaundice and weight gain issues, and Malachi spent 3 days in NICU because of breathing and jaundice issues.

Because of these experiences, I fully expected Eliana to be 1. early 2. have problems with breastfeeding and 3. terrible jaundice. I worried about it a lot, plus I worried about the fact that the longer I went to the small but nearby clinic I had chosen the less I liked it. Since Malachi and Evangeline had both been about 6-hour labors, I didn’t want to go somewhere farther away again. This place was 15 minutes by car, and my sweet Japanese friend was able to drive me there almost every time since she was also pregnant and scheduled her appointments at the same time. She also helped translate for me when things got difficult to understand since the doctors I saw spoke minimal English.

There are several reasons why I started disliking the clinic, but mostly it was because the more questions I asked about the labor and delivery, the more I realized that they were very set in their ways…while it would be “natural childbirth”, I wouldn’t be allowed to move around or choose the position to deliver in. That made me pretty nervous. On the plus side, the doctor was open to delayed cord clamping if there were no problems, which I did not expect at all! She ended up having her cord clamped after a couple of minutes, which is better than nothing.

The weekend before Eliana was born, I started reading the book ‘Redeeming Childbirth’. What a huge blessing it was. I really believe that the reason Eliana was born when she was is because I read that book and was able to finally release my fears and worries to the Lord. The day before she was born, I also finally asked my friends on my team here in Tokyo to pray me through the last few days or weeks of pregnancy and the labor and delivery. Many midwives and “birth experts” will say that fear can actually stall labor, and I really believe that was the case with Eliana.

I had had several experiences of false labor over the two weeks before she came and just felt like she was very ready, but I was not. At least, not until I went to bed on that Tuesday night with peace in my heart, knowing that she would come at the perfect time and that no matter what happened during the labor and delivery, I would be praising the Lord through it, since He is the one who created my body to do such an amazing thing and He is the one who knew and formed Eliana in my womb. 

On Wednesday morning, March 5th, I woke up at 4:30am after a pretty restless night. I was huge and uncomfortable at 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant, and had been having a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions. I had a Japanese lesson scheduled for that morning, but I texted my tutor when I woke up saying I was just too tired and thought we should cancel the lesson.

About 20 minutes after that, I started having contractions that were more painful that what I’d experienced before. I started timing them around 5ish, and sure enough, there were about 10 minutes apart. I told Adam that this was it and I was going to take a shower and let Tony and Marsha (our neighbors, mentors, and drivers to the clinic!) know.

Once I started moving around, the contractions got closer fast. As I was taking a shower around 6:30, I got a call back from Marsha (good thing my phone is water proof!). At that point they were about 4-5 minutes apart, so I said we should meet at 7 and be on our way. I got out of the shower, woke Adam up again (he slept through the beginning of Evangeline’s labor too!), and started getting ready.

The contractions became really painful at that point, and there were only a few minutes between them to do anything. Luckily I’d been preparing for weeks, so there wasn’t much to do! The kids got up and Adam got them breakfast while I packed the last few things and got dressed. I also called the clinic and managed between contractions to tell them in Japanese what was going on and that we were on the way.

Tony came in a few minutes before 7 to watch the kids and take them to daycare, and Adam and I said goodbye to them and headed down. I was too far into labor to be emotional about leaving them and they didn’t seem to mind at all that we were going.

Once we got in the van I had to really focus on breathing through the contractions. I had decided to keep the song “Blessed Be the Name” in my head (a suggestion from Redeeming Childbirth), which helped. Adam tried to ask me some questions, but I ignored him…Marsha said I was either mad at him for something or having a contraction. 🙂 

We finally got to the clinic, made it to the second floor, and were ushered into what can only be described as what looked like a large supply closet. I’m not kidding…this was where I had been checked when I came in for false labor, and I had just assumed this was the first room and then I’d be moved to a more comfortable, less cluttered, space if I was in true labor.

Not so…I was told to lay on my back with feet up in stirrups while they checked me. I was very much in labor this time! They hooked me up to some monitors and an IV for after the labor, and I was told not to move. Adam tried many times to ask them if I could get up and move around. I gave birth to both Malachi and Evangeline on my hands and knees, and he knew this was how I was most comfortable. They would not agree to that, and I just had to reassure Adam that it was ok. “She’s coming now!”, I remember saying.

It truly was a blessing that this labor was even faster than the others because the room and the way I was required to lay on my back was pretty terrible. For this reason alone I would never recommend this clinic to anyone! But the Lord gave me such peace during the labor. Looking back, I can’t believe I wasn’t screaming at the nurse and thrashing around to get off my back. 

Eliana was born less than 50 minutes after we arrived at the clinic, at 8:39am. I pushed for maybe 10 minutes…it’s hard to remember. Despite the position I was in, this was my easiest labor, probably because it only lasted a total of less than 4 hours. Unfortunately, it was also the most difficult recovery (possibly because of the position I was in, I tore worse than I have before), but that’s another story.

Eliana Grace Sharick was 8 lbs 7 oz (almost 3800 grams) and 20.5 inches (53 cm) long…my record-breaker baby. She was healthy as can be, although the nurses insisted on giving her glucose water less than an hour after she was born. She was a great breastfeeder from the beginning, which helped my milk come in faster than it ever had before. When I went back to the clinic for a weight check when she was 5 days old, the nurses were surprised that she had gained 100 grams in 1 day. 

My stay in the clinic is also another story, but let’s just say I was happy to not eat fish for a while after that. I also was glad to not be constantly asked by the nurses if they could give my baby a bottle! Breastfeeding support was less than ideal, so I’m glad I’d already done it twice before. But other than those two things, it was really not that bad. They let me come home on Saturday, which is 1 day earlier than originally suggested. I’m looking forward to returning this week for Eliana’s 1 month check up and giving the nurses a thank you note and picture of Eliana.

Even though I know that the Lord was with me and present at my other two births, I chose to include Him and recognize His presence so much more this time, which made the entire experience so much more meaningful and better. Praise Him for His grace and mercy at all times, and especially in childbirth!

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