The Birth Story

On Tuesday, April 7th 2020 our little angel made her eventful entrance into the world. Isabel Grace Denner was born at 6:43 AM at 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 20 inches long. During my pregnancy, multiple people told me to have a “loose” birth plan, but to be prepared for it to go differently than planned. And in our case, that was certainly true. Originally, I had hoped to have a completely natural labor and delivery, but Phil and I had talked about the option of induction as the situation with COVID-19 began to grow more serious and affect many medical facilities across the nation. On Friday, April 3rd, I had an appointment with my OB and after talking with her and a few other doctors, Phil and I decided to go ahead with an elective induction. While I had originally wanted a natural delivery, it was more important to Phil and I that he could be there for the delivery and birth of our baby girl. My doctor and many others at our hospital were just waiting for the day when the hospital would change the rules and not allow a support person in the room. Since I was full term and baby girl was due on the 7th anyways, we decided this was the best decision with the current situation.

So on Monday night, around 8pm Phil and I headed with our bags to the hospital. The plan was at I was to arrive at labor and delivery at 9pm, where I would then be hooked up and monitored and given a small dose of cervidil. The purpose of the cervidil is to help finish ripening the cervix and I was supposed to receive increasing doses every four hours until my cervix was fully effaced and then on Tuesday morning I was going to be put on Pitocin to start contractions and my OB doctor would be there during the day to (hopefully) delivery the baby; although the process could potentially take longer than that. Throughout the day I had been having some contractions, but they weren’t very strong and I just thought they were Braxton hicks. But before even taking medication, the monitors were already registering my contractions at every 5 minutes. After giving me the first dose of cervidil, the doctors left the room so that Phil and I could get some sleep.

Or at least that was the plan. It didn’t take long for my belly to start feeling crampy (which was normal) but then my contractions got stronger. Phil did get a little sleep, but I don’t think I ever did fall asleep. By 1am when they came in to check on me and I was already 3cm dilated. I never did need a second dose of cervidil.  At this point I still was hoping not to get an epidural, but was becoming more open to the idea of it. By 3am I was having contractions every 1 to 2 minutes and most contractions were lasting for more than a minute and a half and I was 6cm dilated. I felt like I could barely catch my breath before the next contraction started and they were getting increasingly painful. I still thought that I wouldn’t be delivering until later in the day and I was absolutely exhausted, having not slept since 7am on Monday morning. I didn’t know how many more hours I could go and also be able to push. So I finally caved and decided to get an epidural. The doctor had already warned me that it would probably be close to an hour after asking for one until I actually would get the epidural.

They started me on an IV and began prepping to have us moved down to a delivery room. I have no idea how I would have made it through the next hour without Phil. He held my hand through each contraction and helped me to breathe through each one. At one point while Phil stepped away to get our things together, I felt like I could barely concentrate to get through on my own. The walk down to the delivery room felt like it took hours. I think it was only a few minutes after I got in the room that the anesthesiologist came in and prepped me for the epidural. I was really nervous, but it went in without a hitch and before long I felt so much relief. The doctor said that we should be able to get some rest now and I began to feel really relaxed and we dimmed the lights. Much time hadn’t passed though, before the doctor and nurse came into check on me and helped me change positions. My blood pressure had dropped a bit, which is normal on an epidural, but the baby’s heart rate was dipping down after each contraction, which was a concern.

Every 15 or so minutes they would come in and have me change positions.  I can’t exactly remember when, but at some point they broke my water and around 6:30am I was 8 and ½ cm dilated. Throughout this time, they continued to keep a close eye on the baby’s heart rate. Right after checking how dilated I was they told me that we were going to start prepping for a vaginal birth. I remember Phil laughing and saying “Well I’m guessing your OB won’t make it here in time for the delivery!” I felt so ready to meet our little girl and couldn’t wait to start pushing. And then only about 5 minutes later (or maybe less) 3 or 4 more nurses and 2 more doctors were suddenly with us in the room. Phil heard them saying, “Do you have the consent form for her to sign?”, but I didn’t realize what was going on until my doctor came up to me and said, “Lauren we are going to go ahead and do a c-section.” Everything after that was a blur. I remember starting to cry as I signed the papers and not wanting to let go of Phil’s hand as they lifted me off of the bed and rolled me out of the room.

I remember praying over and over, “God please let Isabel be okay.” I didn’t know until later why I was getting an emergency c-section and only knew that something was obviously wrong.  I never realized just how QUICKLY a c-section could be performed, but like I said earlier they had decided to prep me for a vaginal delivery at 6:30 (Phil had checked the clock) and our sweet little girl was born only 13 minutes later. Things seemed to move even more quickly after I got into the operating room. I remember looking around and being able to count at least 11 people in the room with me and only seconds after getting the blue sheet up to block my view I could feel hands yanking around at my stomach. And then I felt myself being sliced open. And it HURT. The anesthesiologist by my head asked if I could feel pain and after saying that I did it was only a few seconds before I felt the pain go away; but I could still feel what was happening. I couldn’t see anything though, and it felt like an eternity until I finally heard the cry of a baby. Within a couple of seconds of that cry I felt a hand holding mine and without even looking up I knew it was Phil.

I learned later that as they were wheeling me out of the delivery room, a nurse had told Phil that he could join me in the operation room after he was dressed and they gave him PPE (personal protective equipment). Right after getting everything on a nurse returned to walk him over and he thought that they would be prepping me for the c-section. But as he walked in to the operating room, the first thing he saw was me, open, on the operating and the doctors pulling our baby out of me. After being ushered over to me and holding my hand for a few minutes, he went over to Isabel where they were cleaning her up and giving her oxygen on the warming bed. I was able to see her around the blue sheet, if I strained my neck enough. Each time Phil came back to me I asked if she was okay and finally they wrapped her up and gave her to Phil. He brought Isabel over to me and I was able to reach out and touch her face. She was so beautiful and opened her eyes to look at me as I talked to her. I wanted so badly to hold her in my arms, but after another minute or so they had Phil leave the operating room with Isabel.

After they finished stitching me up, I was taken to get xrays to make sure everything looked good (although I honestly don’t even remember getting them) and then they finally took me back to Phil and the baby. Phil gave her to me to do skin on skin and I never wanted to let her go. It was then that I learned that Isabel’s heart rate had been continuing to drop way too low, which is why they decided to do the emergency c-section. It was then that they realized that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck so as I was contracting and she was moving further down into the birth canal, the cord was tightening around her neck. Even towards the end of my pregnancy I didn’t think I would be getting induced and definitely didn’t plan for a c-section. It wasn’t at all a part of our birth plan, but once I held Isa in my arms and knew that she was okay it didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was that God had protected me and our little girl and brought her safely to us. In the end, it was such a blessing that I ended up getting induced and choosing an epidural, because they spent more time monitoring Isabel’s heart rate and were able to see what was going on. Also, because I had an epidural I didn’t need to go under general anesthesia, so I didn’t miss the birth of our baby and my recovery wasn’t quite as difficult.

Because of getting a c-section, the hospital normally keeps patients a few extra days, but because of COVID-19, I was told that if the baby and I were doing well we could leave on Thursday (2 days after delivery). We were all taken up to a postpartum room, where none of were allowed to leave until leaving the hospital. Phil even was able to order meals with me. We also had to wear our masks whenever other people were in the room with us. The nurses and staff that worked with us were absolutely phenomenal. We felt so supported and taken care of. On Tuesday afternoon, my OB came into see us and the first thing she said was, “What the heck?! That was NOT the plan!!” We all planned. Yes, that definitely was not the plan. My doctor was only supposed to work Tuesday of that week but ended up there the next two days and was able to check in on us each day. We were both absolutely exhausted. I don’t think either of us slept for more than 2 hours at a time before leaving the hospital. Even when Isabel was fast asleep there were techs or nurses coming in to check on one of us and administer meds, etc…

As time went on, I was increasingly grateful to have Phil there with me. Before the delivery, all I had thought about was how much I needed his support during labor; I had never considered how much I would need him after. I don’t know how I would have survived alone in the hospital for the next few days. From exhaustion, emotional tears, to adjusting to breastfeeding, and processing all the information I was given-having him there to hold my hand and walk through everything with me. As amazing as everyone was, it didn’t take long for us to both feel stir crazy and claustrophobic. With having a c-section recovery would look about different than if I had a vaginal delivery. Each time they checked on me they said that everything was looking great; they told me what warning signs to look for when getting home and that I wouldn’t be able to drive or lift anything heavier than the baby for 6 weeks. The first time I stood up, I was in extreme pain even with the meds and it was with much difficulty that I practiced walking around the room (like they had told me to).

Everything still seemed so surreal; every time I held her or looked at her, I just couldn’t believe she was ours. I know Phil felt the same way and even now it still seems surreal at certain moments. I can’t believe that God chose us to be her parents. This beautiful little angel is actually ours! When they finally gave us our discharge papers, we were so excited to get Isabel home and start life as our little family. Nothing about the delivery or hospital went the way we thought it would (and if you know me, you know I don’t always do well when plans change). But as we held her and snuggled her, none of that mattered. All that mattered was how God had provided for us and brought Isabel safely to us. All of this is just an incredible reminder that we can plan and plan and plan for what’s ahead, but ultimately God is in control and I can rest in that fact as Phil and I continue this journey as a family of three, with our Isabel.


My Pregnancy: Car Accident & COVID-19

As exciting as finding out you are pregnant is, it is also completely normally to have some anxiety and concerns about things that could go wrong. Besides having morning sickness during the first trimester and dealing with some anxiety over the unknowns, God blessed me with a very healthy pregnancy and it started off quite uneventful. Of everything that I was prepared to encounter, the two big events that have affected my pregnancy are ones that I never foresaw. At the end of January I was in a pretty bad car accident, in which my car was totaled and I ended up in the hospital for over 26 hours. The following weeks consisted of working through pain from injury, as well as anxiety and unexpected responsibilities. And then secondly, the last few weeks of my pregnancy have been amid the global pandemic of COVID-19 and currently life as we knew it has ceased to exist. Both of these events have challenged me and given me an opportunity to trust God and place my life more fully in his hands.

I was on my way to work at 8am on a Thursday morning. I was in the right lane of a four lane road (two lanes going each direction) and there was a car in the left lane trying to make a left turn. The car behind him decided not to wait for him to make the turn and merged into my lane. There was a cement building on the other side of me and I had nowhere to go. The other car hit me hard on the front left side of my car (up by the tire in front of the driver’s seat) and ripped the front part of my car off. I was wearing my seat belt, but with the impact, my chest and top of my belly hit the steering wheel. I was able to get myself stopped, but then sat there in shock not even knowing what to do. Thankfully, Jesus sent me a guardian angel in the form of the driver behind us. He pulled over and came to check on me right away. He made sure I would be able to get out of my car and then offered to call 911 for me. I was already feeling pain and was working hard to hold back tears.

I called Phil right away (he was at work), and miraculously he happened to have his phone on him. He normally doesn’t have it with him except on break and as they had just changed locations, I had no idea what his new work number was. He answered right away and was able to leave work within 5 minutes. He took care of calling my boss and my mom so that I could talk to the police. It wasn’t long after, that they arrived. Everything still seemed like such a blur and it was such a blessing that the guy behind me had stopped because he had witnessed everything and was able to tell them what had happened. The police sent for an ambulance and came to check on me and then went to talk to the man who had hit my car. I was in quite a bit of pain, but mostly concerned because while I was driving the baby had been moving a lot and I hadn’t felt a single movement since being hit.

As I was waiting, I heard the other driver trying to blame me for the accident while talking to the police. He hadn’t even come to check on me to see if I was okay (I’ve been in a few fender benders in the past and the other driver had ALWAYS been approachable and we always checked on each other) and had purposely avoided coming over near me. I think that added to my shock and tears and it certainly upset Phil when he arrived and realized what was happening. Phil arrived right after I got my things out of the car and right before the ambulance arrived. Phil talked to the police briefly and got information we needed to follow up about the accident. And then the EMTs checked me out and were going to take me to the closest hospital, but since I was stable Phil was able to drive me to the hospital where my OBGYN practice is.

I called my OBGYN to see where they wanted me to go when we arrived and they said to go up to the labor and delivery ward for monitoring. During the drive my pain continued to increase in my chest and just as we arrived to the parking garage I felt a small movement from baby girl. I was so relieved, but also still really concerned. They put me on an IV and did an ultrasound to check on the baby and make sure that the placenta had not detached from the uterine wall. If it had they would need to prep me for an emergency c-section (I was only at 32 weeks, so we were praying hard that this wouldn’t be necessary). I was having contractions, but luckily I wasn’t bleeding, the ultrasound looked good, and baby girl’s heartbeat was strong. Since I continued to have contractions they wanted to keep watching for awhile and took some blood samples. Throughout the day, baby girl’s movements got stronger and more frequent and eventually I was cleared to go down to the ER.

We spent the next few hours in the ER where I got an EKG (to monitor my heart) and Xrays. The xrays showed that I had a small fracture in my sternum (hence all the pain) and because of the baby we decided not to do a CAT scan; Instead they decided to keep me overnight for more labs and to do an ultrasound on my other organs to make sure nothing else was punctured. They had us go back up to labor and delivery for the night and they continued to monitor the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. We were able to leave mid morning, the next day. During the time that we were at the hospital, our pastor visited, one of my friends spent 5 or so hours in the ER with us, other friends dropped off food, and many people were praying for us. Phil and I were also pleased with the care we received from my OB, the labor and delivery unit, ER and trauma team; we were so thankful how God provided for us.

It was so clear to us how God’s hand was throughout the whole situation and how he watched over and protected me and our baby girl. The accident could have been much worse, but as we settled back in at home I began to experiences many emotions and deal with increased anxiety. I was in a lot of pain; I could barely get out of bed or turn over during the night. Phil would wake up each time I would to help me get up or adjust. Sneezing, coughing, and laughing were almost unbearable. Even though, the other driver had completely been at fault and was ticketed by the police officers, when Phil and I started to sort through the details of car insurance and medical bills and we realized we would need to hire an attorney just to be able to cover remaining medical costs and hopefully make up some of what we lost from our totaled vehicle. The first few times I tried to drive I was so anxious, not to mention in a lot of pain.

I also found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the driver who hit me. What was supposed to be an exciting time preparing for the baby to come was now marred with physical pain, added emotional stress, and many extra responsibilities dealing with insurance, our attorney, a tightened financial situation, and searching for a new vehicle. I had absolutely no control over anything that had happened and it was really tempting to grow angry with the other driver and to question why God would allow any of this to happen in the first place. It just didn’t seem fair and it was so easy to start feeling sorry for myself and get wrapped up in everything that was going wrong. It took a lot of prayer and reminders from Phil and others, that God is sovereign and control. Sometimes I had to choose to forgive the other driver multiple times in one day and remind myself of all the ways that God was providing and how much he had protected me (and baby girl) from.

It took a month or so for both the physical pain and everything else to get easier. And then just as I felt like things were getting back to normal, suddenly the whole world started changing. Before I knew it I was stuck at home 24/7 just waiting for the baby to come. I had so much extra time on my hands and while I wasn’t extremely worried about Phil or myself getting the corinavirus, I was concerned about the children we sponsored in vulnerable areas, about our immunocompromised friends, and for all of the people who were economically at risk from everything that was happening. And things seemed to escalate pretty quickly, because then suddenly there were articles going around about hospitals not allowing a support person in for labor and delivery; even my doctor and the practice were concerned that our hospital was heading that direction. I found myself growing increasingly concerned that I would need to delivery the baby alone and that Phil would miss out on the birth of our daughter.

Just like with my car accident, I realized that it came down to control. Or lack there of. I felt like I had no control over what was happening and I was letting that fear to control me. God convicted me that he is not ringing his hands over this situation, neither is he just watching for a distance. He cares about each and every one of us. I’m not saying that it is easy or that it makes sense to us, but God’s ways are often beyond human understanding. And when we focus on what the WORLD is telling us, YES it is terrifying. But when we focus on God and WHO God is, our perspective changes. God is steadfast and God is love and “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (John 4:18). And with that in mind, I no longer am filled with fear…but I have so much peace knowing that has go me (and us) in his hands. When I let myself be filled with his LOVE, everything takes on a different perspective and I know that he will take care of all the little details.