God gave me some of the greatest gifts in life with my four sons and my sweet daughter. Pregnancy and birth stories are unique to every mom and every baby. These life-altering experiences frame much of life after they occur. My first two children were born in the United States. I had a wonderful, caring doctor who did all my prenatal care and attended the births for my two oldest boys. Our family was raising support with a mission agency when our second son was born. When were a few months away from moving, we found out God had gifted us with another baby. We already had enough things in place for our move that we decided to stick with our timeline and move halfway through my pregnancy.
I researched doctors and hospitals online ahead of our move knowing I would need to see a doctor within a couple weeks of arriving to keep continuity of care. I still remember pulling up in the front of the hospital for my first visit. I began crying and asked my husband if we could just go home. It seems silly now to have been concerned because I walked into the office of another caring, wonderful doctor. With two toddlers in tow (our oldest boys were 3 years old and 16 months old at the time), I visited my doctor here in Southeast Asia for the first time. He was kind and gentle and listened to my history. He spent time with me and our family talking about what to expect and what he recommended. God once again gave us a great gift.
I finished that pregnancy at 41 weeks exactly. The plan was for a water birth, something my doctor originated in our country. I went to the hospital midday on a Sunday after 14 hours of labor with very painful, but inconsistent, contractions. After an hour of monitoring, my doctor came in to see how I was. Based on the monitor, I wasn’t far along, but when he checked me, I was quite a bit of the way through. I was moved to a room where the birthing pool had been set up for me. I got in the pool, became too warm, and got in a good laboring position on the bed. My doctor never left the room and after only being at the hospital for two hours, with just my husband and my doctor in the room, our third son was born.
A little over a year later I appeared in his office again with news that I was pregnant. He was thrilled for me and once again took great care of me. Our children went with us to every appointment. My doctor did ultrasounds himself right in his office and would explain everything not just to me, but to each of my children. They got to the point they could pick out the heartbeat and various tiny baby parts. Their tiny sibling was loved and known because of these beautiful moments of in utero bonding.
This time around we had built community, something I vowed to do after our third son was born just a few months after we moved. I had friends throw me a sweet little baby shower with promises to bring meals and help with older siblings after the baby was born. Our fourth son came into the world during the wee hours of a Sunday morning in a birthing pool at the hospital. And again, my doctor was close by for the hours we were at the hospital and spent the whole last hour in the room with me.
We went on our first home assignment a few months after our fourth son was born and loved spending time with our four boys. We sensed a shift in our family during those months and felt like maybe God was done adding to our family, but we put it in His hands and asked that He would guide us to what was next. Well, a few months after we got back we found out what was next. I was pregnant again. A few weeks after I discovered I was pregnant, I began having some pain and was worried about the pregnancy. I went into my trusted doctor, told him my pregnancy news, and also explained my symptoms. He showed some concern and immediately did an ultrasound to check for a heartbeat. He marveled right along with me when he was able to find a beautiful heartbeat from that incredibly small heart. My fears were squashed, and I went home with pictures of my baby.
Throughout that pregnancy our boys accompanied us to appointments, watching the baby grow. We chose not to find out the sex of our kids with any of the pregnancies and by the fifth one, those older brothers were quite opinionated about if they had a younger brother or sister. Just like I knew with all the boys, I was quite suspicious that this pregnancy that seemed the same, but also different, would end with a girl. My due date was February 28, but it was a leap year, so lots of people, including my doctor, were rooting for a leap day baby. February 29 came and went without a baby. I went into labor on March 1, got incredibly sick, spent March 2 in the hospital on fluids, and went home late in the afternoon to rest. I had barely made it home when contractions kicked in again and I labored with a little sleep thrown in throughout the night.
We decided to head back to the hospital a little before it opens so the traffic would be lighter and getting admitted would hopefully go quicker. I got set back up in the same room I had been in the day before, with the new birthing tub and baby bassinet all ready. I labored for a few hours, but then stalled out again. Due to how weak I was becoming and with my labor not progressing, my doctor gave me a little something to move things along. In theory it was supposed to gradually move things along, but it made my labor go from 0 to 100 in about 10 minutes. Less than an hour after getting the medication, I was ready to push.
As that was happening, my doctor said to stop. The cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. He had the nurses call our pediatrician down (the doctor’s clinics are right inside the hospital, something that was very convenient in this situation). I finished delivering the baby and my doctor handed me a blue, limp baby girl. He had my husband quickly cut the cord and took her over to try to get her breathing while I just kept asking if she was okay. The pediatrician showed up quickly and was able to get her breathing. The first picture I have with her is full on ugly crying, but she was plump and pink and the most beautiful baby girl ever. She has been such a delight and joy to raise.
Having a baby abroad is not the easiest route to go, but I have been incredibly blessed through all three experiences. I had a wonderful doctor and my parents were able to come stay with us when each of our babies were born here. We also built community the longer we lived here and had people walk alongside us, as we have done for others, in this dramatic life change. God has been so good to us and I look back on all five of my birth experiences with gratitude.