It’s always a challenge to sit down and begin writing the birth story. How do I condense one life-altering, world-changing, heart-stretching experience into a few lines on this digital page? But somehow, as private of a person as I am, this is one ‘exposed’ area in which I feel great joy. Bringing my nuggets earthside has been the clearest and most miraculous representation of God’s design for our bodies, both women and babies alike. Sharing that with you is an honor and privilege. So here’s the account of sweet Hala Keene.
I went into my 38 week appointment as usual: ready to hear that doppler heartbeat and be on my way. Don’t get me wrong, I was eager to be done with pregnancy and meet our girl. But nothing prepared me for the midwife’s report: I was 5cm dilated with an almost-breaking bag of waters. She calmly told me, “Go on home, get your things, then head to labor and delivery. You’re going to have a baby today.”
Now let me back up on a few things. I have a history of fast labors. The second my water is broken, it’s full speed ahead. Those babies don’t wait. Secondly, I am always requiring of antibiotics during birth. So, despite the fact that I was feeling nothing, it was in the best interest of myself and baby to check into the hospital. The plan, as my midwife and I discussed, was to be monitored for whether or not I was in active labor. If it turns out I was, they’d break my water and get this show on the road.
From the exam room I called Eric to tell him the “Out of Office” needed to go up. Once home, we quickly packed up our things, thanked my mom for watching the kiddos, and drove off. It was a bizarre feeling. I’m familiar with labor starting sporadically in the middle of the night. But driving mid-afternoon knowing a baby is coming? That was fairly mind-bending.
We checked in to Labor & Delivery around 4:30pm where my doula joined us. With Amelie I didn’t have time for an epidural so it wound up being an unintended natural labor. I much preferred that recovery and decided to work with a doula to plan on natural birth again. It was a daunting prospect but the end game motivated me.
They got my IV started, hooked me up to fetal monitors, and checked on progress. In odd yet very fortunate circumstances, my body was truly in labor. Contractions were regular even though I barely felt them. At most, they were like the tightening of Braxton Hicks across my belly. The midwife on duty provided another exam and confirmed I was both dilating and had a ‘bulging bag’ (how terrible of a term is that, by the way).
Their plan was to complete the rounds of antibiotics before breaking my water. Considering I was two weeks early, they didn’t want to conduct any more exams or encourage labor until the baby was protected by medication. Once that happened, they’d feel free to go full steam ahead and bring on baby girl.
The next few hours were a whole lot of ‘hurry up and wait.’ I know my body well enough by now that I was confident labor wouldn’t truly commence until my water was broken. It has never broken on its own and I knew it wouldn’t this time either. So that waiting was mentally taxing. As the evening progressed, the nurses and midwives were inundated on the floor by emergency situations and full-term mothers. Time and again they’d plan to break my water only to bring unfortunate news that another patient took priority.
Despite these circumstances, I have to say we had an incredible care team surrounding us. Everyone on staff was supportive, engaging, and my personal favorite—hilarious. We joked with them continuously and that’s the exact atmosphere I’d hoped to deliver in.
All night we walked the halls, climbed stairs, and danced to the Macarena (seriously). I wanted to get this show on the road somehow. In hindsight, I should have simply slept. I needed rest instead of trying to artificially move ahead with what I knew wouldn’t work.
Following the morning shift change, our new midwife and nurse marched in with the glorious news. She was ready to break my water and see just how fast baby girl might arrive. When she broke it at 8:15am I had only gotten to 6cm. And now that we’d spent so much time waiting, losing sleep, I felt barely prepared. In a moment alone, I confessed to Eric I didn’t think I had the strength. Graciously, he held my hand, prayed, and assured me I could do anything to birth little Hala. As cliche as it may sound, his faith brought me confidence—it’s these instances in marriage that surpass any other, when partnership is truly irreplaceable.
Until about 9am, I still didn’t feel much. The contractions were slightly intensifying yet I was able to walk around, sway, and mostly talk through them. That very quickly shifted. Come 9:30am I needed a change. My doula helped me onto the bed where I attempted various positions. I finally settled on all fours with my arms draped over the upright portion of the bed. Every contraction required all of my focus, every ounce of breath concentration.
During this surge in labor, the midwife arrived to check again. I was 8cm dilated. As I heard her give the update, my heart sunk. Internally I screamed, “I WANT AN EPIDURAL!” But I never let that sentiment come from my lips. I knew it was too late and uttering those words would be useless. It had taken me (what felt like) a while to go from 6cm to 8cm and I feared I couldn’t do more of this pain level.
Two contractions later and I felt the urge to push. I was worried it might be a bit soon since I’d just been at 8cm. However, my care team encouraged me to listen to my body and push when I felt it. With two pushes little Hala came out uttering only a small yelp. I turned over as they placed her tiny body on my chest. The nurses rubbed her to get more cries and I broke into weary sobs. It was 10:01am.
I know no other way of describing it than heaven breaking open and meeting earth. This unknown soul inside me suddenly becomes my entire world in arms. There’s both intense familiarity and complete strangeness. We know one another in such a primal way yet we’re just beginning this mutual discovery.
At 7lbs, 19 inches, and almost two weeks early, Hala Keene Musser honored us with her entrance. This family of five life has been anything but easy; however, it is more gratifying than I could imagine to watch these siblings bond. In closing, I am tremendously grateful to my doula, the nurses, and the midwives for their care, comfort, jokes, and support. Moreover, I am beyond words at this point for the admiration and appreciation I feel toward Eric. Each birth experience enriches our relationship ten-fold. He is my solid rock without whom I’m certain I couldn’t have gotten through. I love you.
newborn photos by Brynna Grae