October 10, 2016
Keogena Na’Airah Lynelle Atogwe
7lb 20 1/2″
September 12 2016
one day old
Hi, friends! Our sweet Keogena (Kay-oh-geh-nuh with a hard “g“) is one month old and we feel like we’ve known her for a lifetime. She is the perfect addition to our family and we can’t get enough of her newborn snuggles. Now that I know just how fast it goes, I’m savoring every moment of her being this small, snuggly and sleepy. In both of my pregnancies, the thing that most helped me prepare for natural labor was reading positive natural birth stories. I wanted to share mine while it’s still fresh to encourage anyone who had a first birth that didn’t go as planned that there is hope for the birth of your dreams.
A few days before Oshiolema’s first birthday, I stood in my bathroom holding a Clear Blue pregnancy test that read “Pregnant.” We were absolutely thrilled, especially since just one week before my husband and I had both just gotten a word from the Lord separately on the same day that our verse for the year was Isaiah 43:19. This verse reads, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway in the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” When we heard those words, we knew He was talking about my next pregnancy and labor. Our first ultrasound revealed a little Lima bean with a flickering heartbeat that stole ours immediately. They declared September 14th the due date and sent us on our way. I had a little extra pep in my step just thinking of how wonderful and dreamy this pregnancy would be. I mean, God had specifically said He was doing a new thing- a new thing in my mind meant “a much easier thing.” Oh how wrong I was. This pregnancy was much harder on my body than the first-partially because my body didn’t have much recovery time and partially because baby chose to sit extremely low for the entire pregnancy. This left me with alarming vericose veins, swollen discs in my back and round ligament pain rivaling even my worst sports injuries. I had a week long battle with food poisoning cooked up by the devil himself. We had lots of traveling to do and each flight took a serious toll. It was a daily battle to hold tightly to the word the Lord gave us, “behold, I am doing a new thing…” Shouldn’t the new thing be a better thing? I often wondered. But I knew that word wasn’t written on our heart to trick us or give us false hope. He is faithful to do what He promised. Fast forward seven long months to find a very pregnant mama packing up boxes for a temporary move to Dallas.
At 35 weeks pregnant I was scrambling to find a midwife, pediatrician and doula in a new city. We didn’t have a doula for my first birth and despite my husband being the absolute best birth coach imaginable, we felt we could really use some extra cushion just for added comfort from an expert in natural birth since my ultimate goals were to not have extensive tearing again as well as to shorten labor. Once all those things were in place I felt my whole body exhale. Since Oshiolema was two weeks early and this baby had been perfectly low and in position for labor for weeks already, we were sure I wouldn’t make it to 37 weeks. Well we were wrong. My before baby bucket list ended at 37 weeks so each day past it felt like the longest day of all time. My Braxton hicks contractions were nearly as painful as the real thing and kept me on my toes. The day I hit 38 weeks my whole family made the hour and a half drive down to Waco for my baby brothers Baylor game. Within an hour of them leaving, I had my first big contraction. I was had intense cramping, got the chills and became pathetically emotional-bursting into tears when my son gave me a hug and feeling both nostalgic for a time when it was just us with no thought I’d a new baby and so ready to meet our new team member. I called my mom crying to let her know this was it. They left at half time, I let my doula know all that was going on and following her instruction I crawled into bed and kept timing contractions. Strangely enough, they never followed a pattern and after a few hours they stopped altogether. This was my first night of false labor. This pattern repeated every day for the next week leaving me angry, exhausted until finally I just set up camp in self pity. I had the same due date as many friends and one by one, everyone had their baby. By the end I would bitterly let everyone know, “just in case you’re wondering, SHE HAD HER BABY TOO.” My husband started singing his own rendition of — “you went and saved the best for last” on a daily basis. (you should go listen to that song. you’re welcome.)
I woke up Sunday September 11th with more energy than usual. We went to church and I found myself sitting through some of the worship because my belly felt heavier than ever. I noticed my contractions coming more frequently than usual but at this point I refused to pay any attention to them. This continued though the rest of the service, through oshiolema’s time at the playground and through the afternoon and evening football games. Oshiomogho noticed a change in me and started timing contractions, finding they were perfectly ten minutes apart. They grew a bit stronger but stayed about the same time frame apart. Since my water broke well before I was in real labor last pregnancy, I was struggling to know how I would “know” this was really it. I didn’t believe I was in labor, but all the signs were there and thankfully, Oshiomogho was more in tune with me than I was. He told me to get in bed and try to rest through them as he continued to time each one and comfort me with the labor techniques we learned last time around. After a couple hours I simply couldn’t rest anymore and each contraction, while still manageable, took all my focus and effort to get through. In the next couple hours things got real. I only felt comfortable hunched over and my contractions were steadily four minutes apart. We texted our doula, Signe, and said it was time.
She arrived an hour later and for whatever reason Oshiolema woke up screaming for Mommy at this point. This is extremely rare and I truly believe babies know when their Momma is in labor. My labor stalled from distraction and I remember feeling so badly for calling Signe and actually started to believe this was another case of false labor (really, Jill?!) I told her she could go rest on the couch and we’d let her know when things picked up again. Thankfully, once he fell back asleep my contractions returned to four minutes apart and quickly progressed to three minutes apart. After one serious “I will have this baby here on the toilet” contraction, Oshiomogho ran to tell Signe things were changing. All she had to do was look at me and hear my sounds through three back to back contractions and she said calmly but sternly “we need to get in the car.” We woke my mom up to give her the baby monitor and the address to the birth center to bring Oshiolema the next day and for some reason it didn’t feel real until that moment. We were having our baby and our first baby was going to become a big brother. Oshiomogho finished packing the birth bags that had been packed (and mocking me for a month at this point) and we were off.
I have to admit, I was terrified to get in the car. My contractions were incredibly intense and only about two positions made them feel manageable. Unsurprisingly, in Gods sweetness and tenderness, I didn’t have a single contraction for the 20 minute drive to the birth center. We listened to worship loudly, talked and laughed…and the moment we arrived at 3:30am my contractions resumed. My sister Brooke and her husband Matthew met us there which was so sweet. Matthew stayed downstairs and rested on the couches and Brooke was in the room the whole time, helping and supporting like a champ. I labored for an hour or so, and just like last time the only thing that would get me through each contraction was visualizing my body opening, doing the deep belly breathing I’d practiced the whole pregnancy and tuning out everything but my breath. Finally, it was time to get in the tub. I labored in the tub for my last birth but because I got in too early, labor stalled heavily and I had to get out. This the, I was set on a water birth and had been looking forward to that warm tub since the moment I realized this was really labor. My youngest sister, Becky, had been waiting for “the call” since she moved back to Waco for school and she started the drive back up to Dallas immediately when she got the news. She arrived about an hour before it was time to push which was so special for all of us. At 6:30, I knew it was time. I was exhausted and nauseous but felt so ready and so strong. A series of the most empowering worship songs came on just at that moment and my husband and I were actually singing and worshipping as I was pushing. The presence of God was so powerful through the entire labor, it was everything I dreamed it would be. At 6:50am after a few long pushes, I felt the greatest relief unlike anything else in the world and as I was catching my breath I heard my husband yell “it’s a girl!!!” Everyone was bawling, my heart was soaring and the moment I meet my babies will always be some of the most powerful moments of my life. She had an unusually short cord so I couldn’t hold her to my chest for a while, but I rested her in my legs in the water and admired this little lady that shared my body for ten months; partially in disbelief that she was mine and partially feeling like I’ve known her my whole life. She is breathtaking. I kept repeating “we did it” and “it’s over” for the entire time I stayed in that tub. It’s so surreal, the birth of your baby. It brings such an abrupt ending to such a long and transformative period of your life and immediately starts a new chapter. The switch from pregnancy to parenting is so fast and such a great picture of the selflessness needed to take this job on.
I laid there on the bed with my love and my sweet nursing baby and was filled to overflowing with praise and gratitude. The Lord said He was doing a new thing and He meant every breath of that truth. I was laughing uncontrollably, walking around, eating graham crackers and sipping pineapple juice an hour after birth. I was giddy at the thought of how “myself” I felt. All the pain and trays and fear of my first birth washed away. Yes, it is a pain that can’t be described. Yes, the ring of fire is real and intense. Yes, pushing a baby out of your body is not something one considers breezy, but now when I think of labor I think of this bliss that followed and I can’t help but smile. He is so good.
One of the best parts of the morning was when my mom brought our sweet boy to the birth center. I made sure daddy was holding Keogena so my arms were free to hold him and in he ran with a little gift bag for “our baby,” grinning from ear to ear. He was, of course, a little tornado on the bed pointing out all of her body parts and smothering her in kisses. I’ll cherish this moment forever- our first moments as a family of four. He absolutely adores his baby sister, his “Daya,” and they’re best friends already..she just doesn’t know it yet(: My mom spent a few moments with her third grand baby and took Oshiolema home for his nap and believe it or not, after a little snooze for my love and a nursing session for me we headed home as well. We spent a total of seven hours in that sweet birth center. My mom had decorated the house in pink as soon as she heard the news and we knew we wanted to have a little “birthday party” mostly for Oshiolema to celebrate and understand how special the day was. We lit a candle on a cupcake, sang Happy Birth-Day to Keogena and said a little prayer. This day is one of my favorites in my 26 years of life so far, I love my Team.
I’m so thankful to my doula and midwives for helping me prepare my body for the marathon of labor. I’m incredibly thankful to my husband for staying sane for both of us in those last few weeks of pregnancy-being a rock of positivity, compliments, bad jokes and full of faith. He is my forever best friend that I get to make and raise babies with…it just doesn’t get any better. And most of all, I’m thankful to the Lord. His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55: 8-9) and He knew just what needed to happen in this pregnancy to have the birth I envisioned. I pray in moments of doubt or fear or mistrust that I’d always look back on this day and feel just as loved by the King of Kings as I do now.
I am a bloated, sweaty, puffy, zombie-like mess in this video but it is a treasured possession. Even through the ugliest parts, birth is such a beautiful thing. Without further ado, Keogena Na’Airah Lynelle Atogwe. Her name means “Beautiful girl who Seeks the Lord.”