Nora's Birth Story

Hi everyone! I am sharing Nora's birth story with you today. I think reading birth stories can calm a lot of fears and also help prepare you for what to expect, or rather not expect. I know it is very long and detailed, but I think you will enjoy her story if you read it. Her birth wasn't easy and certainly wasn't as we planned, but it is a testament to God's love for his children, of His sovereignty, and His perfect timing.

After enduring two long weeks of waiting past my October 8th due date, Matt and I decided to make one final visit to the midwives to see if they could do anything to get labor going (my induction was scheduled for 9pm that night). We headed to their office around 11am on Monday the 22nd. Midwife Lauren did a membrane stretch and sweep, and Baby's heart rate slowed down quite a bit. She wasn't overly worried but did tell us to head to the hospital. At this point, our bags had been packed and in the trunk for well over a week so we grabbed some lunch and headed on over to Vanderbilt Hospital. 

Right before heading to the Midwifery Clinic

We got settled into our room around 1pm. I was feeling pretty nervous about the induction. We had trained and prepared for a natural birth, so an induction was the last thing I wanted. We had been praying hard for Baby to come soon and for her to be healthy (they started monitoring for fetal stress post-40 weeks). Jesus really started to impress upon us the idea of desiring His perfect plan, and this is the point where that really began.

A pic right before they induced me

Around 3pm the induction began. We decided to start with a Foley Catheter to begin cervical ripening. This is a drug-free way to start labor, but they explained that most of the time multiple interventions are needed to keep labor progressing. The Foley bulb had to be inserted twice (the first one broke). No more than a couple minutes after the second one was in, I felt a lot of warm fluid and knew my water had broke. I panicked a little, knowing that my entire labor lay ahead and this would now pose a risk of infection. After Matt and the midwives reassured me that it was ok and that my water had been likely ready to break on its own, I began to realize that this was a blessing because I would probably dilate faster. 

At this point, my contractions were pretty mild. Matt and I took some photos to document laboring at the hospital and even turned on the SF Giants playoff game. The bulb quickly began to make laboring difficult though. I don't know if we would choose this method again. We tried walking around and laboring in a rocking chair and on a birth ball. The bulb caused so much pressure and discomfort that I ended up laboring in bed and changing sides every few contractions. The discomfort wasn't only during contractions. The worst of it was between contractions which made laboring with it in seemed very long and very uncomfortable. The discomfort also caused me back pain as I wasn't able to relax a lot of muscles between the contractions. The nurse periodically came in and added resistance to the bulb. The more resistance, the more discomfort. It was supposed to fall out around 4 - 5 cm.

Around 8pm, the midwives suggested that I eat something, and then they would give me a 25 mcg dose of Cytotec around 9. Cytotec ripens (thins) the cervix but doesn't cause contractions, so they anticipated following this with pitocin. The Cytotec made labor a bit harder, especially with the Foley bulb still in. After 4 hours, they decided to remove the Foley bulb because it had done whatever it was going to do. I was pretty discouraged because labor had become even harder. Since the bulb usually comes out around 4cm, I thought I was maybe a 2 or 3 and had a very long night ahead. When the midwives checked me, I had dilated from 1 to 5cm and was 60% effaced - great news to Matt and I! 

I started receiving pitocin, which causes contractions even if your body isn't ready, at 2:10am. It can make contractions longer and stronger than you are ready to handle since your body hasn't had the time to gradually build up oxytocin. Regardless, we needed to get things moving so we agreed. She looked healthy on the monitor, but we were still seeing occasional dips in her heart rate during contractions. Around 3:30am, there was a long deceleration that didn't regulate quickly. At this point, only our nurse was in the room, but people started to arrive. First, (almost) Midwife Lily came into the room and started to work through some laboring positions with us. I was also having back labor at this point. I was getting scared and asked Lily to stay with me. Normally, the decelerations were remediated by changing positions between contractions, but this was no longer the case. I was hooked up to the monitor constantly now. Lily and Matt alternated positions - one encouraging me and and the other rubbing my lower back as hard as possible. My focus was on getting through each contraction, but I could also hear Baby's heartbeat and see the monitor drop down to ~70 bmp instead of the normal ~135 bpm with each one. More and more people filtered into the room, and I realized that something was really wrong. They put an oxygen mask around my nose and mouth and told me to take very deep breaths when I could. The next steps happened probably in a matter of minutes, but each each contraction seemed to last so long. I was terrified at this point, and all I could do was breathe in that oxygen as slowly and deeply as I could to get more oxygen to the baby and pray to Jesus to still my fear and protect Baby. 

Next, they tried to halt my contractions. They took me off Pitocin and gave me some kind of injection to completely stop contractions (which worked immediately). They placed a fetal monitor on Baby as a last resort, showing that she was pretty stressed and her heart rate wasn't improving. I was 7cm, and we didn't know how much longer it would take to bring her here if I labored on my own. Around 4am, the midwives told us that if Baby's heart rate didn't settle, they would need to go in a get her. An OB came in the room and explained the risks of Cesareans. Contractions had stopped, but my back was still killing me so I was on hands and knees and still breathing as deeply as I could, nodding big to signify that I understood. At this point, a natural birth was far from my mind, and all I wanted was to bring Baby here safely and soon (the last thing I remember Matt praying for out loud during contractions). I signed the papers, changed into a gown as fast as I could, and they rushed me off to the OR. My two midwives came with me and encouraged me. Matt had to stay in the room while they tried to get a spinal block to work. If it had not worked, I would be put under completely, and Matt would not have been allowed in the room. 

Matt said it seemed like forever before they called him back to join me. During that time he paced in the room, packed, cleaned, and read Galatians. The following thoughts are from an email he wrote to his family.

All night, the Spirit reminded me that Jesus reigns, high and lifted up, king of the universe, and my friend. He was not surprised that Lauren was in the OR or baby needed to come out. He knew. 
In fact, this was him answering our prayers. We had asked that He would calm Lauren's fears of a natural birth, He did. We asked that He would bring her when she needed to come, He did (laboring a long time at home - which we had planned to do - would have caused her a lot of stress). We asked that we would want His will. He did, we do.

Matt came into the OR about 20 minutes later. They had gotten the spinal block to work! Matt later told me that there was a team of at least 15 people in the room. When he came in, they had prepped me and were opening me up. It seemed like an eternity, lying there, still trying to breath in oxygen steadily. I don't remember thinking much at that point. I just tried to focus on looking into Matt's eyes and reminding myself that God was with us holding our hands too. One of the midwives leaned over and said Baby was here, born on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 4:29am. We didn't hear any cries, but I could hear a man counting to 5. She had arrived with heavy mucous clogging her lungs so they were doing chest compressions. Finally we heard a faint little cry! The neo-natal doctor came over and asked if we had a name for our daughter. 

We had picked two names well before her birth. We both thought we had decided on one, but we wanted to hold her and see her before we were sure. I looked into Matt's eyes, and he looked back at the doctor. 

Nora Jane Aiken.

The doctor explained that Nora was struggling. They were going to take her to the NICU. He said Matt could go with Nora or stay with me, but if he went he could not come back into the OR. I told him he should go with Nora, and he did. Midwives Lily and Lori stayed with me, and Lily held my hand and talked to me for the next 45 minutes while they finished things up. I am so thankful that we went with this group of midwives. They are all amazing women, and I hope I can deliver all of our babies with them. I got a glimpse of Nora as she was being wheeled out of the OR to head to the NICU. I could really only see her little face and her head of brown hair, more beautiful than I had imagined. 
In the NICU, Matt said there were 4 nurses around Nora, all frantically working to get IV's in, take vitals, and care for her. 

We later learned that the umbilical cord had been across her face in two different places. Every time I had a contraction, the cord was being compressed. Because of this, her oxygen levels were low when she was born, and her tone was not good. Her Apgar score was a 1. The tube in her head in the pictures below is a glucose IV. She was also treated with antibiotics while they waited for some test results to get back. Her breathing, oxygen levels, and heart rate were closely monitored. The doctors said that after the initial 30 minutes, it was clear she was going to be ok. Within 2 hours after birth, they said you wouldn't even know she needed to be admitted to the NICU. Praise Jesus for this miracle!! (Nora stayed in the NICU for about 36 hours. After she was released on Wednesday afternoon, she was able to room in with us until I was discharged Friday morning.)

Matt came back to me in the labor (now recovery) room. We prayed, praised Jesus, called our parents to tell them her name, and headed down to postpartum. I was completely numb from the C5 vertebra down. It was around 7am now, and Matt was exhausted so he slept for an hour. I don't remember much from this period of time, just that my body felt so foreign since I couldn't feel a thing. 

About 6 hours later, around 10:30am, Matt wheeled me down to the NICU where I got to hold our Sweet Girl for the very first time. It was the most precious moment of my life, and I cried to Matt last night as her first week of life was coming to a close. I want to go back and relive each moment with her again, but instead, I'll praise Jesus for bringing this special little miracle into the world and look forward with joy to each week ahead.  

Her birth is far from what I expected it would be. Every intervention (literally) that we did not want, we received. Recovery from Cesarean was rough. Matt was the best birth coach, nurse, and encourager, and I'm so glad he was with me for every single step. Even though our time in the hospital was really hard, we joked to each other near the end saying that it somehow it felt like a long date. Now, I'm sitting in bed recounting every detail with a gorgeous little girl lying next to me. I would do it all one thousand times over again for sweet Nora Jane.

Matt is working on a slideshow of photos, but for now I'll leave you with our first moments with Nora. 

+, Lauren Aiken


  1. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey....To God be the glory!
    Thank you, Lord, for Nora Jane...

  2. Thank you for sharing this Lauren. Nora is so beautiful and so special! I can't wait to meet her... I know I'm going to love her! Congratulations to you both!

  3. What an empowering and encouraging story of Gods peace and strength that he gave you both! Thank you for sharing an experience that is forever going to be so dear to your heart. It is absolutely beautiful and perfect in the way that God designed it specifically for you, Matt, and Nora. May God be given all the glory for the healthiness of your sweet Nora Jane. She is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story - I am in tears just so moved at God's faithfulness and sovereignty. You are SO brave and Matt seemed like the BEST partner for you. I am so thrilled for you both :)

  5. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful story! I'm so glad she's okay, you're okay, and your family is happy and thriving. You are SO right- the Lord takes care of our plans before we even make them. My birth didn't go exactly the way I wanted either, but the Lord took care of it.

    Your story is going to encourage a lot of women, Lauren. Thank you so much for sharing it!