I promised to share Declan's birth story with you - and here it is. It's a bit long, but I hope you see that it's a story of God answering our prayers in every way - fitting for a boy whose name means "man of prayer".
Andrew and I had been in Bangkok almost three weeks already. Our birth plan was written, check-ups with the doctor were normal, and we’d finished shopping for baby supplies. We wondered a lot when labor would start and how, and felt excited and a bit anxious for this unknown experience that lay ahead of us.
Because Declan had been in different positions in the last few weeks – sunny-side up, then lying on his side – I had prepared myself mentally for a long, painful labor, in case he didn’t turn around. I was doing exercises every day to encourage him to turn, but I also knew it wasn’t 100% effective. I spent a lot of time praying that he would turn around and give us an easy labor. A few weeks before, a friend had messaged me, telling me about his dream that our labor had been quick, without complications, and that we were surrounded by family afterwards. His story encouraged me to keep praying and trusting God to give us the birth experience we needed.
We also felt anxious about some of the details surrounding his birth. Although his due date was March 5, we made an embassy appointment for him on March 4 to apply for his passport. There wasn’t another opening til March 18, which meant if we had to wait til then, we wouldn’t get back to Poipet til April. Andrew’s work leave ended March 7, which wouldn’t give him much time with us if Declan came on or after his due date. Every day, I had to choose to trust God’s timing and control in the situation.
Thursday morning, February 27, I woke up at 6:30am with sharp abdominal pain. I went to the restroom, thinking it was the curry I’d eaten the night before. But the pain returned ten minutes later, and again, and again. Andrew was still sleeping, so I tried to eat breakfast quietly and get into my morning routine. I wasn’t sure I was actually going into labor – so many of my friends had contractions for days before the baby actually came. I thought, This might be it; but I didn’t want to get too excited.
By the time Andrew woke up, I was sure I was in early labor. I hadn’t finished packing my hospital bag, so I started laying out items on the bed. By 10 am, the contractions were coming closer together, and I vomited during two of them. I tried taking a warm shower and doing some more exercises, just in case Declan was still sunny-side up. We called our doula to tell her what was going on, but still thought we had hours of active labor to go before we needed to go to the hospital. She suggested different activities to keep me relaxed and moving.
We moved downstairs to use the bathtub in our host family’s son’s room. By the time I got in the tub, I needed to start vocalizing during contractions to stay relaxed – groaning in a low voice and closing my eyes helped me stay relaxed. The contractions were 3-5 minutes apart. Initially Andrew had to ask me when they started and stopped, but soon he figured that out by when I started and stopped groaning!
Around 11:30am, we reached the point where contractions were a steady 2-3 minutes apart and getting much more intense. I finally got to a place where I felt like I couldn’t cope anymore. When I started to have more bleeding, Andrew’s concern grew, and he called the doctor. She told us to go to the hospital. When my hosts saw me, their faces told me I was farther along than I expected.
I managed to go back up the stairs to our room while Andrew ran around, throwing things into our bags. I changed clothes and asked Andrew to start pushing on my hips during contractions. He said he was using all his strength, but I could barely feel any relief. We walked down three flights of stairs, stopping once to rest, and again at the bottom. Ann, our host, helped me out the door and prayed for us to have clear roads.
Amazingly, Thursday was a rare day when Ann and Johnny, our hosts in Bangkok, were both home all day. They could drive us in their truck, which was a huge help – I can’t imagine going through transition like I did in a taxi. I remember crying and telling Ann, I didn’t think it was supposed to happen this fast! She said, You are a strong, fit young woman, and this baby is coming!
Johnny drove, and Ann and Andrew sat in the back with me. I was on my hands and knees, grabbing onto Ann’s arms, Andrew pushing on my back, as the contractions became incredibly intense. I lost all track of mental reasoning or time, just telling Andrew to push on my back as hard as possible. I felt panic rising, but Ann’s strong voice and arms kept me grounded. We headed onto the expressway, and Johnny talked with the toll booth attendant. I remember thinking, Just drive!!! I found out later he was asking for a police escort to the hospital. Unfortunately, they were too busy keeping peace amidst all the protests! But the expressway was completely clear.
It still took us about 45 minutes to get to the hospital, and I was barely hanging on. At one point, I felt like a huge balloon of water was pressing against me, and I yelled, It’s coming out!!! Ann told me, No, it’s not! Then she turned to Andrew and told him to phone the doctor and tell her what stage I was at. Andrew dialed and turned to Ann – what stage ARE we at?!? Ann took the phone and spoke firmly in Thai to the doctor. She then said the labor and delivery team was meeting us at the emergency room to escort us straight to delivery.
At some point in the ride, I felt myself just letting go and surrendering to the contractions. There was so much energy going through my body, and when they ended, I just collapsed.
Finally, we pulled into the hospital. I rolled out of the car and onto a hospital bed, thanking God they weren’t putting me in a wheelchair. They literally ran with me to delivery. I laid on my side, opening my eyes once to see the alarmed faces of people moving out of the way as I groaned my way down the halls.
We arrived at delivery, and they put me straight into a regular room. We had chosen Samitivej Hospital for their natural birthing rooms, but the entire ward was full that day. But at that point, I didn’t care at all where I gave birth – I just wanted to get it over with! I got on the bed, and my water broke almost immediately. The doctor checked me and said, Ok, you can push whenever you want! I looked at her and said, You mean I’m fully dilated? Yes, definitely!
Mandy, my doula arrived in the room and supported me on the right, while Andrew was on my left. And then I felt that urge to push out the baby – more of an intense desire to get rid of the pressure in my body.
I hear a lot of women telling me they loved pushing, but for me, it was the most difficult part. It was hard to find the right position, and for a long time, I felt like I wasn’t making any progress. But Andrew held me up and told me how I was doing, and Mandy reminded me that all this was normal. At one point, I remember feeling like I couldn’t go on, I couldn’t push out the baby, and I started crying. But they both encouraged me, and I kept pushing.
I felt like my eyes were bursting out of my head, and they all told me to hold my breath, to not cry out during pushes, so I could focus my energy on getting out the baby. I pushed out his head – Andrew ran for a quick look, then came back crying he could see our son – and then suddenly, there he was, looking up at me. He cried out, and I felt surprised at how big he looked. I gathered up my strength for one final push, and he came out.
The relief was so intense – I just collapsed on the bed, every fiber of my being exhausted, yet so happy. The doctor quickly wiped him off and cleaned out his nose, then handed him to me. I thought I would cry over my new baby, but I just felt shocked. Everything had happened so quickly – he was born at 1:38pm, almost exactly 7 hours after contractions had started.
He was round and soft and purplish red, and his eyes were puffy. I held him close, not even aware of what the doctors were doing. They let me and Andrew hold him for close to an hour, and Andrew didn’t cut the cord til about twenty minutes after he was born. Later the doctor told me Declan came out with his left fist over his eye. Andrew took the baby out to show Johnny and Ann - I’ve never seen a more proud father.
We stayed in the delivery room for a few hours til the room was ready in the postpartum ward. The nurses came in a few times, and Johnny and Ann came in to see us. But otherwise, it was just Andrew, me, and our new son. He was so alert, looking around, scrunching up his face, sucking at my breast – as if he was in complete wonder about the world he was born into. I told Andrew jokingly he looked a bit like ET, with his swollen, slanting eyes.
That night, I had difficulty sleeping – I’d have flashbacks to the painful parts of pushing or riding in the truck to the hospital. Mandy told me sometimes fast labors are more traumatic because your body and emotions don’t have time to adjust to what is happening. But it’s amazing how quickly all that fades away, and is replaced by an awesome love for this squirming, little human lying next to you.
The birth was everything I’d hoped for. We labored at home literally the whole time. I had no medication or interventions, not even an IV. Andrew stayed by my side, supporting me. And God gave me the strength to deliver our son.
I feel wonder at the body God has given me, what it’s capable of – nurturing and growing a new life and bringing him into the world. And God’s timing was incredible. Johnny and Ann were able to take us to the hospital and call ahead for us. My parents flew into Bangkok that very evening. We were able to leave the hospital in time for our embassy appointment. And Andrew had over a week with his new family.
Over and over again, God proved he was in control of all the details and designed the perfect birth for our family.