Carsen's Birth Story

Dear[est] Carsen boy,
Many people have been asking me about your birth story. And like I said in your last letter, you and I worked very hard to get you here.

Many people knew we were trying for a home birth. From the moment we landed in South Africa we wanted a home birth. We wanted you and mommy to be in a familiar environment that felt safe, secure and intimate, since everything else felt so new - new country, first birth, etc. And we found two midwives we loved.

And while your birth story starts off in our one bedroom apartment, where we end up actually delivering you is quit different.
And you know what?
That is OK because you and I both are healthy, whole and life-filled [my one prayer throughout your pregnancy].

The lesson to any pregnant woman during her labor: Know when it's time to move to plan B… or even plan Z and be OK with that.

This, my son, is your birth story:

Saturday, May 11, 2013 [Your parents' one year anniversary!]

5:30 a.m. I woke up having felt contractions for about 30 minutes. But I couldn't be sure so I text your aunt Sarah and aunt Carla back in Omaha to talk through what I was feeling and both confirmed I was most likely having early labor contractions.

6 a.m. I wanted to take a bath, but had to wait two hours for the water to heat up [TIA] so I decided to try to sleep through some of the early labor contractions… When that didn't work, I bought a contraction counter app for my iPhone to try and keep myself busy and not wake daddy up just yet.

That didn't last much longer as my contractions continued to get stronger. But daddy didn't mind because he was so excited that today "could be the day!"

7-8 a.m. I tried to eat, only to throw it up.

9:30 a.m. Daddy called Ciska, our midwife, who recommended drinking apple juice and said she'd be over in about one hour. Daddy went to buy apple juice and toilet paper while I took a bath.

10:30 a.m. Ciska arrived and I was 5cm dilated, had normal blood pressure and a perfect fetal heart beat. Everyone was excited that we were progressing so well! We all believed you'd be here in no time.

11:45 a.m. I got into a warm bath were I spent the next 2 hours managing the pain. It wasn't horrible, but it definitely wasn't pleasant. But I didn't care, I knew it was bringing me you. I continued to throw up and tried rehydrating with watered down apple juice. Your daddy poured water on my belly every time a contraction came on. He was amazing through this whole process!

1:30 p.m. I moved into the bedroom to continue laboring through the contractions. I felt like a champ working hard to get my baby out.

2 p.m. Ciska examined me and I was now 7cm dilated, normal blood pressure, good fetal heart rate, but it seemed you had changed positions and I started having the occasional urge to push [something Ciska worried about].

3 p.m. I moved to 8cm [known as the transition phase] and you were definitely not in a good position to start pushing. Ciska recommended we move to the hospital, however Kevin and I wanted to give it a bit more time. Your heart rate was not in distress, my blood pressure was normal and we both figured I'd dilate to 10cm sooner than later. At this point the contractions were very strong, painful and frequent and lasting for longer periods of time. I worked very hard NOT to bear down and push even though my body was screaming to.

3:30 p.m. Susan, a third midwife, and our birthing class teacher, arrived to give a second opinion. I was still only 8cm dilated but she felt we could get you to turn by taking some homeopathic tablets, laying on my left side and pushing hard on my right. She felt we just needed to give it a bit more time.

4:15 p.m. I was given an IV to help keep my blood sugar up. The urges to bear down and push were intense. Every time a contraction came, I desperately tried to breath through, but often I screamed out in pain.

4:30 p.m. A urinary catheter was put in because I had stopped peeing, and my bladder needed to be emptied out.

After tea [yes this is what happened], Susan and Ciska got me into a pushing position on the bed [your poor daddy was my back rest] and had me push as hard as I could while they moved my cervix around to try and maneuver you out. When it seemed like they were close to getting my cervix around one side of your head, the other side would slide down. Your position would not allow us to get you out ourselves.

5 p.m. Susan and Ciska reassessed and still I was only 8cm dilated. Because of your position not changing and the fact that my body was involuntarily bearing down, we made the decision to go to the hospital where a doctor would assess me and decide what needed to happen next.

Getting to the car was nothing more than one of the hardest things I've ever done. I had to walk to the elevator, go down and then get into the car all the while the bearing down contractions still happening. I feel like I need to apologize to our whole apartment building :) The ride in the car was a bit surreal. Daddy drove while Ciska sat in the passenger seat holding my hand while I laid in the back.

6:15 p.m. I made it to the labor ward. They hooked me up to a fetal monitor where we realized your heart rate would decelerate with every contraction but would return to baseline once finished. Because of this, the doctor said an emergency c-section was the only option. They began to prep for the operation. I was given Nitrous Oxide [laughing gas] to help get through the contractions and again encouraged me not to bear down and push… Impossible at this point and the gas never once made me laugh.

IN THE MEAN TIME: Poor daddy had to deal with the admission side of things. Unlike the states, certain hospitals in South Africa can deny you service if you do not have the money up front. The hospital wanted $3,000 up front [not including the doctors' bills]; money we did not have. We were told that unless we paid, we would have to drive to a government hospital and wait in line to get my c-section and then I'd leave that same day. Poor daddy didn't know what to do. His wife was upstairs screaming in pain, while his son was inside his mommy's belly needing to get out ASAP, and we didn't have the money to pay for the procedure at that moment… He really didn't want to take the chance of driving however far to a government hospital where we could wait in line for who knows how long.

Uncle Steve came to the hospital to be with daddy. And after hearing the situation, asked our community if we could use our community purse to pay upfront. Each month, as a community, we tithe to a community purse. That money is then used towards ministry and "family" needs. It was a major blessing in a time of emergency.

Because of the delay with the admission, and the almost cancellation of my c-section, another operation went before me, which pushed back my c-section even longer [I waited this whole time without an epidural and just screamed through the contractions].

Ciska helping me relax after receiving my epidural
After daddy arranged the payment he raced upstairs, changed into his scrubs and wheeled me into the operating room where I received my spinal epidural.

8:17 p.m. You were pulled out, checked and handed to me. You weighed 3.31g [7lbs. 4oz.] and were 52cm in length [20.5 inches]. Perfection. We were then transferred to recovery and finally into our room.

Carsen the second I saw you I started crying from such joy. You were so handsome and you were ours. My heart figuratively exploded with such a deep love for you. Words do not adequately express my love for you son.

While your birth story took a different path, the end is the same… You in my arms - healthy, whole and life-filled. I couldn't ask for anything else and I'd do it all over again if I had to. You are so worth everything I went through and more.

Unconditional love… It's like May 11th gives me a deeper understanding of this meaning with each new year.

Testimony Time: Ciska was so impressed with how mommy and daddy handled each step of this process. She said how we were continually positive and uplifting. We prayed throughout the process for strength and guidance. And Ciska was so impressed with daddy when he had to deal with the admission side of things. She said she has seen some people get really worked up, screaming, etc. But your daddy had such patience and peace and kept his kind heart through it all.

Mommy & daddy right before they cut me open. Your daddy loves me well.

Your umbilical cord was lightly wrapped around your head.

Pulling you out of my stomach.

You looked like an alien. But you were our alien baby!

When Dr. Searle held you up for me to see I started weeping. I could not contain my love for you!

Daddy handing you to me to hold.

You looked like a pirate. Just your right eye was open because your left eye was gooped shut.

Our first family photo. Your daddy and I were so proud and in love.


  1. Wow Lindsay!! You are amazing!! I hope I can meet your beautiful boy one day! So much love to you 3!!! <3 <3 <3

  2. Linds, your gift of words is inspiring, no matter the topic. I'm proud for you and your family! Hugs and love my friend.-krystal

  3. Love it! Thanks for sharing your story Lindsay! Sorry it was so traumatic! Graham also had a cone head when he came out. ;) Boys are so precious! Glad you are all doing well!

  4. linds, I read this a while ago, but phone wouldn't let me leave a comment, but I have thought and even told your birth story to some of my friends. Your story made me cry for so many reasons. I know it was not how you planned, but I am so thankful Carsen is healthy and safe and I cannot help but think if you would have pushed him out naturally that the cord may have been wrapped tightly around his neck. What a blessing to have the wisdom of your midwives! Also what a support to have your community come in with the money you needed!! I have loved seeing you transform into mommyhood and can't wait to watch it continue!


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