I recently had the privilege of teaching a “Birth Coach Boot Camp” for some expectant couples in my ward. Before showing them some hands-on ways to help their wives, I outlined for them some “Parturient Relations” or seven PR-tips for labor. One of those was “Priesthood.”
I told those dads, “Don’t forget that you have the power of the Priesthood for a purpose, and it can be one of your greatest gifts to your wife during labor. If complications or difficulties arise, do not assume there is nothing you can do. The power of the Priesthood can change the course of a difficult labor, bring about miracles, and help you make pivotal decisions.”
When I spoke those words, I was thinking of Neoma’s birth story. Although Neoma had hoped to avoid Pitocin, she consented to an induction because of concerns about her late pregnancy blood pressure. Labor progressed fairly well until Neoma reached 4-5 centimeters. She was restricted mostly to lying on her left side (because of her blood pressure) and in a great deal of pain. Here’s what happened next:
After hours of slow progress Dr. Blackham came back in. He expressed some concern about how slow things were going and suggested that we may have difficulty delivering this baby vaginally—the other option being cesarean. Somehow that scared me and relieved me. I didn’t know how I could go on. I felt like I was going to die. I told Jason that I really didn’t know how I was going to continue. . . . The only good news throughout this difficult part was that the baby’s heart rate was fine. There was never any urgency on account of the baby.
The next sequence of events is somewhat of a blur in my mind. At that lowest point I think I would have agreed to anything, so I’m really glad no one offered me an epidural. I know I didn’t want an epidural, but I didn’t see any other way out. That is when I needed Jason the most, and he was there for me.
He remembered that I had talked about wanting to sit on a birthing ball. He asked about it and our new nurse agreed to let me get out of bed. The birthing ball was comfortable and allowed me to sit in a squat-like position. The contractions were still intense—if anything they were more intense—but sitting up and swaying back and forth helped me cope with them.
Jason also suggested that he and Dr. Blackham give me a blessing. He spoke with the doctor, and together they gave me a blessing by the power of the Priesthood with Holy Anointing oil. I don’t really remember what they said, but in essence they blessed me that I would relax and the baby and I would both be safe and the birth would happen according to the Lord’s will.
Dr. Blackham has mentioned this blessing several times since Sam’s birth. He thanked Jason for thinking of it and for including him. He counts this as the turning point in my labor. This is where the miracle happened.
At some point while sitting on the birthing ball I threw up. Jason had been feeding me snacks at my request through the labor, and out they all came. I was glad to vomit. I had read that throwing up was a good sign in labor. It means that you’re in transition (the last stage before pushing).
Apparently sitting on the birthing ball helped the contractions be more effective, because I was soon at 8 centimeters dilation. Jason remembered that I had wanted to try the Jacuzzi. I had thought that I wouldn’t be allowed in the tub because my water was already broken, but the nurse said it was fine—I wish they would have told me that earlier. When I got tired of the ball I moved to a hot bath. I found that the hot water really helped me relax between contractions, but when a contraction came the heat was almost unbearable.
I wasn’t in the tub for very long before I felt the urge to push. The nurse and Jason helped me dry off. Then the nurse checked me and I was 10 cm – completely dilated! She said I could push if I wanted to. Boy did I want to. I really didn’t know how to push, but it felt so good to do something – to be so close to the baby being born. At that point all breathing patterns went out the window. I made all sorts of moaning sounds. I tried to keep them low, like a cow mooing, just like I had read in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.
The pushing went fast. . . . Before I knew it the baby just slimed right out. I was surprised. I remember being amazed at how when the baby came out the pain relief was instantaneous and complete. It was all gone and I felt wonderful—exhausted, but wonderful. Our baby was here. He was beautiful and perfect.
I remember reading Neoma’s story several months ago and being struck by how beautiful and simple the solution to her problem had been. I wondered how many couples would benefit from hearing her story and recognizing that they need not feel powerless in the midst of a childbirth complication. I also loved how Neoma’s labor illustrated so wonderfully the things that will facilitate childbirth. I’m sure it was no coincidence that the power of God enabled her to get out of bed (lying in bed is a fairly counter-productive place to labor) to spend time squatting and swaying on the birth ball and to relax in the tub—both wonderful methods of assisting labor progress. The power of the priesthood is real, and the Lord knows how to help us through whatever childbirth challenges we may encounter.