I felt your body leave my own
with a tug and a groan
you were here!
Breath of heaven in your lungs
your cry pierced evening air
a thin place —
and we were forever changed.
Nixon was born on a Monday, but his birth story kind of starts the prior Thursday at my hair appointment. No, I was not in labor for four days and my water didn’t break while I got my hair highlighted. Ha! But you’ll see in a minute how God ordained all of this to work together.
At 33 weeks, we knew Nixon was breech. His head was tucked right below my ribs and he was constantly tap dancing on my bladder. My doctor and nearly everyone I talked to told me different ways to help him flip over to a head down position because if he was still breech by 37 weeks, then my doctor was going to try to flip him via external cephalic version. Of course if that didn’t work, then we’d probably be scheduling a c-section. But I didn’t want to do either of those options – I didn’t want to try to flip him (it seemed dangerous and stressful for baby and painful for me) and I definitely didn’t want to have a c-section for delivery (this is obviously a personal choice. It’s just not what I wanted.) So I tried everything – I went to the chiropractor, I laid upside down on an ironing board, I tried different yoga poses, I tried acupuncture, I played music for him, I put an ice pack on his head, and I prayed, prayed, prayed he would turn.
Meanwhile, Aaron and I were preparing for his arrival. We took a birth class. I created a playlist. I packed essential oils and my diffuser. I read other birth stories to prepare for all possibilities of what to expect. My plan was to labor at home as much as possible before going to the hospital, then get an epidural and push exactly two or three times, just like my sisters did for all of their labors. Perhaps this was naïve of me, but it was my hope.
The only problem was we crept up on 37 weeks and he was still breech. As that mark drew close, I cried about the possibility of a c-section. It just wasn’t what I wanted for delivery – it’s not what I planned or prepared for. I guess I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t have the full labor experience I was planning on. Laboring and doing the work of delivering is obviously a lot different than having your baby physically/surgically removed from your body. But at this point I still had hope that I would eventually just feel him turn over one day, and if not, the version would work to flip him and then my labor plan would go on as I wanted.
Well, my hair appointment, set months in advance, ended up being four days before Nixon was born. As I sat in the chair to get my hair foiled, my stylist and I talked (as you do) and we talked about life and the baby and soon came to find out that we had the same OB. What a coincidence (if you believe in that sort of thing)! I feel now like it was the providence of God because as we talked about her own c-section delivery, she mentioned how much she loved our doctor – how great she was during delivery, how sweet she was, what a good job she did, and how confident she made her feel in the whole process. I knew this about our doctor – it’s why I chose her in the first place. But hearing from someone who actually had a c-section made me feel better. I texted my sisters and my mom upon leaving my appointment and I said something to the effect of, “I feel a lot more confident now should I end up having a c-section.” I would soon come to find that this conversation was a sweet gift of preparation from the Lord.
Three nights later, I was getting into bed and noticed less movement from Nixon. As you move through pregnancy, you start to notice times when your baby is most active. Your doctor will tell you to start doing kick counts late in second trimester and especially in third. (I can tell you now how important this is!) For Nixon, he was always busy bopping around in the evening as I was getting into bed and in the early morning as I ate breakfast. So as I was getting into bed that night, scrolling my phone and waiting to feel the reassuring movements I was used to, I was worried when I didn’t feel much at all. I told Aaron I was feeling nervous about it. I pushed on my stomach to get Nixon to push back at me, and he did, eventually. He seemed a little sluggish, but his movements were enough to help me fall asleep that night.
Monday morning when I was sitting at the table eating breakfast and expecting to feel him wake up, I didn’t. I mean, he moved occasionally, but certainly not normally. I texted my mom and sisters and we all agreed that it was good I had an appointment later that morning to see my doctor. Trying to set my nerves aside, I went about the morning, anxiously waiting for 11:30 to roll around.
At 10, my doctor’s office called.
“Can you come at 11 instead?” they asked. I immediately felt it was from God – moving the appointment up so we could be aware of a problem sooner.
“I’ll be there,” I said.
Aaron met me for the ultrasound and we watched as our tiny guy came up on the screen. I told the tech that I felt like he wasn’t moving very much in the last 24 hours so she was aware as she moved around my belly. She hovered over his lungs for a while because at this point in pregnancy, babies should be practicing their breathing in preparation for birth. We saw Nixon doing it at 33 weeks, but today he wasn’t. She pushed on my stomach to get him to move, and he did, but barely. And he still wasn’t breathing. Still, she seemed pretty positive. She joked about him being tired, printed us a couple of pictures, and sent us on our way.
Since my appointment with my doctor wasn’t for another hour, Aaron went back to work and I went over to my sister’s house to pass the time. When I returned to my doctor’s office, she came in and sat down.
“How are you?” she asked.
“Well, I feel fine. But I don’t feel like baby has been moving that much in the last 24 hours,” I told her, nervously swinging my legs off the end of the table.
“That’s what I heard,” she said. “I talked to the tech and what she did during your ultrasound was a biophysical profile. Basically it tests baby on five different things and then gives them points based on what they see. Baby was moving, so he gets points for that and his fluid is good, so points for that. But he wasn’t practicing his breathing, so he lost points there and she also told me his tone wasn’t very good, so no points for that either.”
She went on to explain that tone is subjective but basically that our baby wasn’t as squirmy as he should have been – wasn’t using his muscles the way he should have been, especially when pressed on. The way I took it is that he was looking kind of limp. I tried to absorb all she was telling me but still wasn’t prepared for what she said next.
“So, at this point, we can’t do nothing. Essentially, we have two options: since you’re 37 weeks, we can deliver today…”
I drew in a breath. Deliver today? I thought. But we just tore out all the carpet in our house! We don’t have a name! I don’t want to have a c-section! We still have three more weeks. And Aaron isn’t even here. I’m sure the panic registered on my face.
She went on. “…or we can send you to the hospital and hook you up to a monitor and just watch him for a little while, see how he looks and redo the ultrasound from this morning.”
“Okay…” I said slowly, trying to understand the whole situation before I made a decision. “What would cause this? Why wouldn’t he be breathing?”
“It could be a few things...,” she said. “But for babies who are in distress for some reason, breathing is the first thing to go. And that’s often because of the cord, where they’re not getting the amount of blood flow they want. Next is fluid but his fluid still looks good. So, something is going on, something changed in his environment, and it just happens to be that we caught it.”
Tears were already starting to catch in my throat. “What would you do?” I asked.
She thought for a moment. “Since you’re 37 weeks, I would probably deliver.”
And then I couldn’t hold in all the emotion. I started crying and my doctor reached for the tissues.
“It’s fine…” I tried to calm myself down by speaking aloud. “It’s fine.” I wiped my eyes.
“It’s just not how you thought today would go?” she interjected.
“Yeah…” I stared at the floor.
“Well, why don’t we just go to the hospital and get on a monitor. Let’s see how he does over the next hour or so,” she decided for me, thankfully so.
“Okay…” I agreed.
“So, go to the hospital now and I’ll meet you there. Don’t go home, just go there. I’ll call and tell them you’re coming.”
And that was the start of the whirlwind that led to Nixon’s birth. I called Aaron on the way to the hospital and through tears and some panic I told him what was going on. I texted my family to let them know we were headed to the hospital and today might be the day.
We got up to our room and I changed into a gown and was hooked up to a monitor. Nixon’s heart rate was on the low end of normal but overall he was doing okay. Aaron and I waited and watched the monitor and talked about how we still didn’t have a name for our baby and how crazy it would be if he was born today, still thinking there was a chance he would be doing well enough that we could go home.
But when my doctor arrived and came to check on me, she sat down and said that we could either prep for a c-section now or try to flip him and if it worked, start Pitocin to induce labor. “Since nothing has changed or gotten better, going home isn’t an option,” she told us.
Still holding on to the possibility of avoiding a c-section, I agreed to try and flip him. So my doctor looked at Nixon on ultrasound and then tried to push him into a head down position. She thought he had moved a bit but the moment she let go, he moved right back to where he was, head up. One of the risks with a version, which was explained to us ahead of time, is that the cord can become wrapped around baby’s neck, so after she tried to flip him once, she pulled up an ultrasound image to check positioning. She also brought in another doctor who specializes in high risk pregnancy. They both looked at the monitor, discussed cord position and whether it was safe to try again to flip him. He was still doing okay, so they tried two more times to push Nixon to a head down position. But despite their best efforts, he didn’t move.
“So, let’s prep for c-section,” my doctor said. “We’re not in a rush, but there’s no reason to wait because there’s no one ahead of us,” she explained. “So we’ll see you in there.”
Aaron and I had only arrived at the hospital four hours prior. And now we were having a baby.
Our nurse brought in scrubs for Aaron while they prepped me for surgery. Finally, Aaron sat down next to my bed and we had a few minutes alone.
“We’re having a baby today,” I said in disbelief. We were both shocked and excited — nervous and anxious and thrilled and all the known emotions. “I think we should pray,” I said to him.
He took my hand and we closed our eyes. He prayed for me, for our baby, for wisdom for the doctors. He prayed that all would be well and that it would all go smoothly. We said amen and it was time.
When I say it was all a blur, that’s because it was. My nurse was in and out of the room. My anesthesiologist came in and explained what he would be doing and how. I have to say he was the sweetest man. He shook my hand and Aaron’s hand and as he left the room he said, “Okay, I’ll see you in there. God bless you.”
At this point my parents had arrived and Aaron’s brother popped in on his way home from work. We had all of three minutes with them before I walked with my nurse down to the OR.
The west wall of the OR was all big picture windows. I remember feeling surprised at this but also comforted. It was a beautiful day turning into early evening and for some reason I thought about it being a beautiful birthday for our baby as I stepped up and sat on the side of the table. And then the anesthesiologist was ready to start. My nurse braced my shoulders as I leaned forward and breathed through the placement of both the spinal block and epidural. In the week prior I had been watching these short videos and studying Psalm 23. As I sat there on the edge of my bed having a large needle shoved into my back, I repeated these verses to myself as much as I could remember. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul… He restores my soul… He restores my soul,” I repeated as the pain increased and then subsided. With a warm rush to my legs, I was numb in seconds.
My mom sent a text to our family group at 6:17 pm that said, “They just came to get Aaron.” It was relieving to see him walk into the room and sit by me. He took my hand.
“Can you feel that, Lyndi?” my doctor said as she and the other doctor who had tried to flip Nixon finished prepping.
“No,” I said. And then I knew they had started.
From my position, I couldn’t see anything going on.
“I need you to talk to me,” I told Aaron. I needed to not think about my lower half being cut open.
“You’re doing great, babe,” he said. He was holding his phone, recording all he could while also helping me stay calm. I’m so glad he did because I have watched the video multiple times now.
I could feel a lot of pressure. I breathed through it all like I was laboring – not because it was painful but because it felt so weird. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it. Luckily I didn’t have too much time to think about it.
“He’s almost here,” my doctor said.
And in the next moment I felt the pressure of Nixon’s body leaving mine. It was like I was suddenly empty – life no longer growing inside me. It was 6:25 pm.
“He’s here! Oh, he is long! And looks just like you guys!” my doctor said. She was very positive and unconcerned. But I didn’t hear him crying.
“Is he okay?” I asked Aaron.
Aaron stood up so he could see a little bit better. “He’s moving,” he responded.
I felt helpless. I wanted to know what was going on - I wanted to see him.
And then his cry shook the room and altered our whole lives. And my cries immediately followed. I couldn’t control the emotion. We have a baby. That’s our baby, I thought.
They cut his cord and a nurse held him up so I could see him before they took him over to the warmer to weigh and measure him.
“Go see him,” I told Aaron. “Go see him.”
He left my side to go see our son. Our son. What a miracle of a life. I could not believe he was here. I watched from across the room as he wailed, just waiting to finally hold him. Aaron got to cut off more of his umbilical cord and then stood by while they cleaned him off and weighed him, making sure he looked good and was breathing well before bringing him over to me.
They finally placed him on my chest and I could not help but cry. This was a moment I waited for, dreamed about, planned for, hoped for, and it was here. It was surreal. And it was beautiful. I will never forget those next few moments where it was just Aaron and me and our baby.
Shortly after, Aaron and Nixon were moved to recovery to wait for me while my doctor finished stitching me up and nurses bustled around the room.
“You did great,” my anesthesiologist said as he finished. “God bless you guys.”
He’s right. We were truly so blessed.
Then I saw my doctor leaving the room.
“Thank you!” I called after her. And I meant it from the deepest place in my soul. Thank you for today – for noticing that my baby was in distress. For making the right calls. For keeping us all safe. For bringing him here to us. What a journey it had been.
She turned around and came back to my side. She grabbed my hand.
“Thank you,” I said again.
She smiled. “You’re welcome.”
Nixon Wilder Harms was born on August 26, 2019 at 6:25 pm, three weeks before his due date. We are so thankful for his life. While his birth story is not what I planned for or expected, I find that most of life is that way. There is very little we actually have control over. I was recently reminded of this again through the book I’m currently reading. One chapter is about our birth stories and this section really hit me:
“Nowadays, the perfect birth story is sought after like the Holy Grail. If we just read the right books, practice the methods, and have enough stamina and willpower, we have the power to manipulate one of the most vulnerable, undignified things we’ll ever do, making it bend to our desires as a display of our own strength and control. Our natural bent toward pride tells us that if we get our perfect birth story, we get to parade it around like a badge of honor… [But] As you plan for or reflect on your child’s birth, remember that God is the giver of life. He writes the only perfect story. In our birth experiences, God deserves all praise.”
God was working in Nixon’s story in so many ways — he was present and active from beginning to end - preparing me through conversation with the precious gal who does my hair, all the way through to having the sweetest doctor and anesthesiologist. When I saw my chart later, the reason Nixon was delivered was listed as, “non-reassuring fetal heart rate.” When my doctor came to check on me the next day, I asked if they ever found a reason for his distress.
“Not really,” she said. “The cord wasn’t around his neck - it was fine. I guess he was just letting us know he was ready to be born.”
What a blessing it is that he is here, safe and healthy. And instead of being what I planned, it worked out just as God planned, which is always better anyway. What a gift! I’m forever grateful for the life of this little boy he entrusted to us.