Heads-up: My story-telling in this post is lengthy, but honestly it’s just as much (truly, more) for me than it is for anyone else, so I wanted to remember every detail. Writing is the best way I know how. If you just want the gist of Remi’s birth story, feel free to skim.
This can’t be happening right now.
As I stared at the puddle of clear liquid on my bathroom floor, knowing but not quite believing that my water had just broken, it’s the only thing I could think. I wasn’t expecting my water to break at all, and especially not three full weeks before my due date.
A moment earlier, I had just been sitting on the couch, waiting for Brian to come home with Chipotle and Chick-Fil-A milkshakes. After a long week, I was very much looking forward to a relaxing Friday night with a good dinner, a fun Netflix show, and a few laughs with Bri.
Lol. Much like the rest of our fertility journey, God had something entirely different in store. Now, here I was in my bathroom, heart pounding and hands shaking, realizing my entire life was about to change.
The day had been an eventful Friday. Brian and I both worked remotely as usual, but we also toured a house that day (because why not house-hunt when you’re 9 months pregnant) and had our lawyer come by so we could sign our new wills (apparently we got those done just in the nick of time). Throughout the day I noticed some very minor cramping here and there, but as it wasn’t that unusual for me at nearly 37 weeks pregnant, I chalked it up to good ol’ pregnancy digestive discomforts.
As the work day wrapped up, we decided we wanted take-out for dinner and Brian went to get it while I took care of a few things around the house. At one point while cleaning the bathroom (lol, should have waited on that one), I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Looking at my baby bump in my black maternity shirt, I actually thought my belly was sitting a little lower than normal.
“Am I making this up? Did he drop?” I asked myself as I turned to the side and examined my belly more closely. Ultimately, I decided my eyes were probably playing tricks on me and went on with my to-do list. Eventually I finished and made my way to the couch while I waited for Brian.
Sitting there scrolling the ‘Gram, my stomach started to feel a little uncomfortable (refer to aforementioned pregnancy digestive discomfort). Maybe I need to go to the bathroom?
I pushed myself off the couch and walked across my carpeted living room, crossing onto the hard floor of the dining area as I headed to the main floor half bath.
And then it happened. A gush of liquid splashed onto the floor. Stunned, I stopped walking and stared at the ground. And it just. kept. coming.
Have you ever heard that sometimes the water breaking can just be a slow trickle and you might not even know if it’s pee or your water? Yeah. That was NOT me. Apparently I was in the lucky 15% of women whose water breaks before labor, and in an even smaller percentage of women whose water breaks abruptly in a flood-like fashion.
I hobbled over to the bathroom to try to get myself cleaned up and focused enough to call Brian, only to hear, “You have reached the voicemail box of…”
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!
I hung up and immediately called him a second time. As Brian tells it, when I call twice, he knows I mean business and he better answer.
Being the sweet man that he is, he had gotten me my all-time favorite pregnancy craving (a big ol’ fountain Diet Coke), but the lid had blown off on his way back to the car. As such, he found himself in quite a precarious situation as he drove home with one hand on an incredibly full, lidless Diet Coke hoping to prevent it from spilling all over his white leather interior. That daunting task took precedence over answering me when I called the first time.
As I called the second time though, he bravely risked the spillage knowing I must have really needed him. When he finally picked up, I was greeted with a playful, “What do you want, woman? I’m almost home!”
“Well… so… um… I think my water just broke?”
“… I’m sorry, WHAT?!?”
“Yeah… there’s liquid all over the floor… it’s clear, odorless, and there’s a lot of it…” (This may seem like an oddly specific description, but I frantically racked my brain for the COAT acronym they taught us in the Lamaze class—color, odor, amount, and time—so that we knew what to report to the doctor.)
Brian proceeded to erupt into nervous laughter. “…Um, okay then!… Well, uh, I guess I’ll see you in a couple minutes…”
As Brian rushed in the door with our dinner, I sat on the toilet wondering what in the world I should do next. He brought me new pants and then put our dinner in the refrigerator and our milkshakes in the freezer, and I called the doctor. Way too nonchalantly, the doctor simply said, “Okay, see you at the hospital.” And just like that, we were supposed to head in.
We started rushing around like maniacs to grab last-minute items and pack Brian’s bag (thank goodness I’d packed mine by 36 weeks!). But, before we got too far, he grabbed my hands and told me to take a deep breath. I did so reluctantly as all the thoughts of what we still needed to pack and how I hadn’t gotten the vacuuming done and how I hadn’t eaten since lunch crashed around in my head.
And then he prayed. He prayed for protection, for guidance, for my health and the baby’s health, for safety in travel, and for God’s hands to cover our whole birthing experience. And even though—as you’ll soon read—the experience didn’t go anything like we’d planned, that prayer was definitely answered.
In Lamaze class, they told us that when we were at the point of heading to the hospital, we should stop eating. So, without eating any of my dinner, I threw a towel on the seat (because still leaking ugh) and we drove to the hospital.
We checked into the emergency room and waited to be taken back to the labor and delivery unit. It struck me how calm the hospital staff were while I was sitting there hyped on adrenaline wondering if this baby was going to come out any second while I’m giving them my address and phone number. Shouldn’t you be rushing me back somewhere more quickly than this? Don’t you realize I’m in labor? I’m a ticking time bomb!
I understand now why they were so calm. Not only is that their job, but also I was nowhere near giving birth. (Like I wasn’t even in active labor.) I mean I knew that labor and delivery didn’t work like that, but as this was my first baby and my FREAKING WATER BROKE THREE WEEKS EARLY, I just had no idea what to expect anymore.
After what seemed like forever, a nurse named Jodi (who we ended up absolutely loving throughout our hospital stay) brought a wheelchair into the emergency room waiting area, looked at my pregnant self and said, “Jenna? Are you ready?” and then told me she was going to take me back to labor and delivery.
I don’t really remember the wheelchair ride or what we talked about. As we entered the secure labor and delivery unit, Jodi told Brian how to get in and out and frankly I’m impressed that he had the brain power to take in the information at that time. And then, as she wheeled me past the main desk area, she said, “Well, you’re going to go home with a baby!”
… Holy crap. We’re going to go home with a baby.
It was in that moment that I realized there is no going back and no going around. Only going forward and through whatever the next several hours held for us. I actually felt very similarly nine months prior when we approached our first frozen embryo transfer. I wrote about the feeling at the time, describing it as the feeling you get at the top of a roller coaster. I just want to share that again, because these words describe how it felt once more as I was wheeled into the labor room:
As you wait with eager anticipation, the car slowly takes you higher and higher, all the while the clicking chain reminds you that the top is coming. You can’t see it. You don’t know what the drop looks like. You don’t know how much further you have to go. But you can look to the left and to the right, and you can tell you’re getting there. You can see how much space is behind you—where you came from.Jenna Bieber, Open Heart Home Womb
And of course you’re excited—I mean this is what you wanted. You got on the ride. But you’re also scared. With each click, your heart races a little more, because—seriously—the top is coming. There’s no going back. There’s only going forward.
The Labor Room
When we got to the labor and delivery room around 7:15pm, I put on my gown and settled in for a long evening. Another labor and delivery nurse, Diane, introduced herself and began hooking me up to all kinds of monitors while Brian started eating his Chipotle (yepp, we brought his dinner with us). She explained everything she did and why she was doing it, which I found to be incredibly helpful. And as I complained about my lack of dinner, she also sympathetically told me I absolutely could have/should have eaten before coming in. UGH. REGRET.
Something I had been super nervous about was the saline lock in the back of my hand. Just the thought of a needle stabbing into the vein on the back of my hand and then having a catheter just hang out there gave me the heebie jeebies. But it turns out that when you’re in labor, you just do what you have to do. The saline lock (and the process to get it in place) really wasn’t that bad. Even though I was too distracted to explicitly ask Him, God graciously helped me to overcome those fears… and thank goodness, because you really have no choice. 😉
My favorite part was when she started to ask about Brian’s and my genetic history to collect information on the baby. As an embryo adoption mama, I relish every opportunity to educate and to share about this incredible journey, and so we dove right in and said we were happy to share our genetic history, but that it wouldn’t really be relevant in terms of the baby! 😊
I’m often surprised at how few healthcare professionals know about embryo adoption, so being able to share our story with so many of the hospital staff was absolutely amazing. They were all incredibly intrigued and moved by our story and it made our experience with them that much more special.
Diane also began to explain our options. Initially, Brian and I had gone into the hospital hoping that we could get labor started naturally and that I wouldn’t have to be induced. However, after my doctor checked me the first time (which by the way—why does no one tell you ahead of time how painful the [unmedicated] cervix checks are?!), it was clear I was going to need some help: I wasn’t even dilated. My options were to spend all night (and all my energy) walking the halls in the hopes of getting labor started or to just get things moving with Pitocin to induce labor and bring on some awesome contractions.
We ultimately chose to induce labor with Pitocin. As my water had broken, we needed to deliver the baby within about 24 hours anyway, and we felt there was no point to delaying the timeline and using up all my energy in the process. I was disappointed to be confined to the bed so early (as the Pitocin is administered via IV), but I was excited to get the labor process going.
In just a few short hours, my contractions were strong and I had dilated to 2-3 cm.
All along, I said that I would see how I felt and that getting an epidural would be a game-time decision. If I felt I needed it, I’d get it, and if I thought I could go without, I’d try to go without.
I needed it. So I got the epidural around midnight, and it was awesome.
I did not feel the need to be a hero or make a point or test my willpower. Pitocin-induced contractions were hitting me every three or so minutes, and I wanted to be able to sleep and conserve some energy for pushing. But frankly, even without the energy conservation argument, the contractions were just plain painful and I wanted the medicine to take the pain away. And it did just that, and I loved it. 10/10 would recommend.
Like the saline lock, I also had been nervous about the whole needle-and-catheter-into-the-spine thing, but the needle was truly not that bad. Jodi held my hands and told me to squeeze as hard as I wanted, so I did while breathing deeply with my chin tucked to my chest and legs dangling over the side of the bed, trying to focus on Brian’s presence in my peripheral. The medicine itself burned a bit going in, but in my mind, it was a small price to pay for the relief.
Allow me a quick mini soapbox here: To the mamas that did this thing naturally, you’re amazing—seriously. And to the mamas like me who had an epidural, you’re also amazing—seriously. Labor and delivery are hard enough; we don’t need to add epidural-shaming to the mix. It’s not the “easy” way out. You’re not “cheating” anybody. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself either way. Literally no one but you cares if you get one or if you don’t, so girl—you do you.
The Second Labor Room
After the epidural, my body did serious WORK. I tried to sleep, but between nurses rotating me from side to side every 2 hours and the broken thermostat keeping our room a suffocating 80 degrees and the anxious nerves, sleep was not happening. So I watched the most comforting and uplifting show—90 Day Fiancé—on and off throughout the early morning hours.
Eventually after maintenance checked out our thermostat and confirmed there was pretty much nothing they could do to fix it, we were moved to a new (and much cooler) room around 4:00am. Unfortunately by that point, all hope of sleep of lost.
My doctor also checked me around that time, and I had progressed to 7-8 cm throughout the night! My body had kicked into active labor and was crushing it! Praise God! At first, we were thrilled with this good news as things seemed to be moving the right direction, but then my doctor also informed us that his head hadn’t really moved down the birth canal yet—his station was still at -2 and that was concerning.
At the first check when we first arrived at the hospital, we had learned that baby was still face up, and it turned out that by the 4:00am check, he still hadn’t turned over to be face down. And so because his head was tilted back instead of tucked down, he was essentially stuck.
My doctor wanted to check me again in a couple hours. If he still hadn’t turned over and moved down the birth canal any farther, we needed to discuss our options.
It was at this point that Brian and I started to get a little worried. I had made it to nearly 8 cm! Surely this was going to keep progressing and I’d be pushing soon and we’d have this thing wrapped up in 12 hours flat, right? I mean I’d envisioned all along that I would experience the transition labor, the pushing, the exciting encouragement from Brian and doctors and nurses, the breathing reminders, and ultimately, the laying of my son on my chest as I cried tears of joy, exhausted but proud of all the hard work my body had just accomplished and thrilled to finally meet my son.
But that wasn’t what happened.
At 6:00am, the doctor checked me again. Still 7-8 cm dilated. Still -2 station.
He was officially stuck, and so was my labor.
My doctor compassionately but straightforwardly began explaining our two options: 1. Start Pitocin again to try to strengthen my contractions even more in the hopes of making them strong enough to push him out, or 2. Have a C-section.
When I heard the word “C-section,” I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I had never really prepared myself for that possibility. Sure, in the back of my mind I knew that some people had C-sections. But I was not some people.
The risks associated with option 1 were not insignificant. Our son’s heart rate had already started to show signs of stress, and the increased use of Pitocin would likely just add to that and may not even get him “unstuck.” And the risks associated with option 2—you know, me having major abdominal surgery and whatnot—were also not insignificant.
It was ultimately our decision, but our doctor recommended the C-section.
So there we were. We prayed. We cried. And though I knew deep down that I hadn’t, it sure felt like I had failed.
At this point, the doctor did something I’ll never forget. As he walked into my room to find me crying, this big, burly, loud man came over, hugged me, and told me that our story was not lost on him. He knew how hard it had been for us to get here. He knew that we had adopted our son and that this incredible embryo adoption journey was about to come to its apex in his birth.
And he wanted to keep us safe. Nothing was more important to him than a healthy mom and healthy baby.
And so we agreed that a C-section was best.
I want to pause here again for another mini soapbox. Much like epidurals, C-sections are another topic covered in controversy and judgment. I’m quickly learning that there is so much shaming in so many aspects of motherhood, and I am not here for it. Having a C-section is not the easy way out and it’s not about vanity. As someone who physically could not change a single diaper in the hospital because I couldn’t stand/bend over the bassinet, who could only manage to go up or down the stairs about once a day for a good week, who needed my husband’s help to get up or down from any surface, sitting, or laying position, and who now has a scar and excess skin pouch right on my bikini line—both of which are likely permanent—I can promise you that a C-section is not “easy” and it has nothing to do with vanity.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but let me say it clearly, louder for the people in the back: whether a choice or not, planned or not, a C-section birth experience is just as valid and important as a natural delivery. I am no less a mother because he came out of my stomach, and I am really proud of what I went through to bring my son into this world safely.
Thank you, that is all. We will return to the regularly scheduled programming now.
As soon as we agreed to the C-section, they began prepping. They gave Brian his scrubs, prepped me with a higher dose of my epidural, and set up the operating room. Around 7:30am, they were taking us back.
As they wheeled me in and transferred me from my bed to the operating table, I remember thinking how surreal it was. I had seen C-sections dozens of time on TV before (my love for 90 Day Fiancé extends to a general love for TLC, where 90% of shows feature births at some point).
And now it was me on the operating table. It was me who was numb from my stomach down. It was me who was staring at a big blue curtain, separating me from the chaos happening on the other side.
I was nervous, but strangely calm. I can only chalk that up to the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit coursing through my soul, providing exactly what I needed when I needed it.
They brought Brian in a few minutes later, and he sat down by my head, staring at that big blue curtain with me. When I later asked Brian about his thoughts as he entered the OR, he said that what terrified him the most was the thought of going home alone… without his wife and without his son. He felt a lot of fear, but as he walked into the OR, he switched gears to be the best comfort and support for me that he could be.
My doctor informed me he was going to start checking if I could feel things as a test to make sure I was appropriately numb (goodie!). When he (apparently) pinched me with something incredibly sharp and I had no reaction, we knew we were good to go.
As he began the surgery, the nurses made small talk with me and encouraged me that I was doing a great job; I will forever be grateful for their kindness and reassurance in the moments when I most needed it. I went back and forth between Brian’s eyes and the bright lights against the white ceiling, hearing sounds of metal, weird clanking, and the doctors and nurses talking through the surgery.
Within five minutes (I kid you not), the physician’s assistant suddenly said, “There’s gonna be a lot of pressure, Jenna!” and they were telling Brian to stand up so he could see our son being born.
Suddenly I felt this intense pressure on my stomach, as if someone was literally sitting on me with all their weight. And I hear the voices in the room begin to rise in intensity. And Brian is standing, looking over the curtain.
People are shouting, “Here he comes!” I start crying. I hear my doctor say to Brian, “See, look Dad—direct OP!” (Direct OP is the classic posterior (face-up) position with baby facing straight forward, btw.) Then, hilariously, I also hear him say, “This kid’s bigger than I thought!”
Then, I hear a baby crying.
Remington Rome Bieber entered this world at 8:13am on 1/9/21 weighing 7 lb. 9 oz. (And yes, considering he weighed that at three weeks early, it seems it was very possible that I was having a C-section no matter what!)
And then, they brought Remi over the curtain and laid him on my chest.
I don’t have words to express this moment. I was grateful, overwhelmed, scared, excited, in love, nervous, and more all at once. It was a lot.
But looking back, it really was beautiful. I held my son’s hand and talked to him quietly for a few moments before they took him away to do all the newborn things.
His initial tests showed him to be a very healthy boy! Aside from swallowing a little fluid (a common occurrence during C-sections) and being a little early, he was perfectly healthy and we are incredibly grateful for that.
After his birth, he got to spend a lot of time cuddled with Daddy while I was being put back together. Brian remembers how strange it felt to be sitting in our delivery room while doctors and nurses fluttered about, just holding this new baby—his son—against his chest.
After they wheeled me back into the room, I realized I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. (I’ll save my thoughts on recovery, breastfeeding, and baby blues for another post…) But when I joined Brian in the room and saw him holding Remi, I realized the next part of our lives had officially begun.
Everything we knew would be different now—always changing and rarely easy. But good. Because God is good. And He only gives good gifts (James 1:17). And our son Remi is one of the best gifts He’s given to us so far. Remi is an amazing witness to God’s gracious and faithful redemption, bringing hope from devastation, light from darkness, and life from death.
Remi is the crowning work of God redeeming infertility in our story. But God’s work in redeeming our hearts fully, transforming us from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18)…that work is never complete on this side of eternity.
And so now, I trust in my faithful Father to renew my heart through His Spirit day by day, and I trust His fresh outpouring of grace and mercy as He molds me to look and love more like Jesus through this new adventure of parenthood.
God, you are so, so good. Thank you for this sweet boy that you’ve planned for us all along.