The birth story of Ellie Grace Clements doesn’t begin on 6/25/13 for me. It began in the living room of our pastor, Terri Dieter, with Terri, Michelle Demus, Katie Stermer, Dave and I. I had just been through a bunker night with them, with God setting me free from some things, many hurts, and so many lies. It was close to Labor Day of 2011.
We were chatting in the living room before saying goodnight and Katie said something about us having children. I said, “Dave and I aren’t having kids. We have decided it is just not for us and its not who we are. It may be selfish but we just don’t feel like we want to have children”. In typical Katie fashion she laughed and said “well God showed me that you ARE totally having kids.” We chatted a bit more and Katie just laughed and said “I know you two are having children…I saw you with them!” Michelle and Terri both had GIANT grins and Michelle agreed and Terri said she believed we were going to have children as well. At this point in time, both Dave and I were adament that there was NO child or children anywhere in our future.
2011 had been a year where we fostered our first kitten litter…4 kittens, and lost 2. I became extremely, almost unhealthily attached, to one and had a very hard time letting go when they went up for adoption. I knew that God said that neither of them belonged to me/us, but that didn’t make it any easier. He said he had something very special for us. I, of course, took that to mean a new kitty…or maybe even a dog!
Fast forward to 2012. I had been going through a lot, many changes, and at the end of 2011, Oma ended up in the hospital in November, and was in the hospital/a nursing home until she passed away 6/19/12. We hadn’t been attending church for some time because we were trying to support our family and be there for Oma as much as possible. I still had a lot of healing to do. Dave and I had talked about having children by this point, though neither of us could say we were particularly ‘ready’ to start trying. Our plan by that point was to start trying in 2 years and then I could be a full time stay at home mom. Financially and time wise this all seemed to make perfect sense.
In this timeframe, Katie Stermer and I were spending a good amount of time drinking tea together and one night the subject of babies and birth came up. I told Katie that IF we ever had kids that I was going to have a C section: just knock me out and cut it out! She didn’t tell me I was wrong, but instead shared her homebirth story and told me about how women were made to give birth and we had a really really long discussion all about home water birth and midwives and not going to a hospital. I was really really excited and thought “Yeah, this sounds like something to talk to Dave about!”. So as we breached the subject of children, I brought up using a midwife and not going to the hospital and Dave was actually totally on board. He said he hated the idea of that much medical intervention and would love a home birth.
We didn’t have the “home birth/water birth” discussion all at once, but talked about it many times and agreed that we would like to go that route should we ever become pregnant.
In March of 2012, Zoe, who was technically my baby as I had gotten her as a small kitten and had her for 18 years, passed away. We knew that it was time to put her down as she went into sudden kidney failure, and it was very rapid how it came on her. We knew, as everyone says you do, that it was time to say goodbye. So we said goodbye to Zoe in March. After some healing, we sought to adopt an older cat and perhaps round our kitty cat pack out again. I kept hearing it wasn’t right, or it wasn’t the right timing, but I felt that we had grace to adopt another animal. Dave felt that we could adopt again as well. In August we started really talking about adopting a new pet. God had spoken to me that the summer of 2012 he had something really special for me. I felt that was our next animal to adopt!
I was dead set on a 9 month old kitty named Barlow, as he and his brother Barley (both black kitties) had been overlooked for far too long and were absolute sweethearts. So Dave and I went to adopt Barlow one Saturday afternoon. He had a big goopy eye and it sounded from his breathing that he might have an upper respiratory infection. I asked for a medical staff member at the shelter to come take a look at him since I wanted to make sure that he was well if we were bringing him home into a house full of healthy cats. While we were waiting on that, my friend Melanie who works in adoptions, suggested we go see a litter of kittens brought up that were from another foster family, the Smiddy’s.
I did NOT want a kitten, but had told Dave that I wanted him to be able to make this decision on our next family member. We walked into the cage where Sherri and Tom’s kittens were and this teeny tiny kitten was curled up in the middle of the floor. Dave fell in love RIGHT away. He literally fit in the palm of Dave’s hand. His name was Charlie and he was a tiny black and white (tuxedo) kitten. Dave said this is the one. So we adopted Charlie. I was thrilled as we had our new family member and also because I knew that this was the special promise from God. HA HA HA. Little did I know.
So by now you may be thinking what in the world does a cat or adopting a kitten have to do with your birth story for your daughter? Well, I thought that the kitten we adopted was the ‘special promise’ from God. God has a WAY bigger view of things, and a really great sense of humor.
I didn’t really feel like Charlie fit in, but aside from that, he was THE first cat that didn’t prefer me. He ALWAYS preferred Dave. I had this feeling growing that maybe God actually meant a baby for us. But there was NO way that we were ready. When I started praying about it and asked God is Charlie our special gift that you were talking about He never really gave me a direct response…as God often does. I just felt in my heart that perhaps a baby was in the works. I shared this with Dave and we by no means were trying to get pregnant. We were still using birth control and still being careful.
In August of 2012 I was feeling very nauseous in the mornings and generally tired. I was CERTAIN that I was pregnant. SO certain that we bought about 20 Dollar Store tests (my friend Natasha had told me that they are very good and at only $1 each why not buy many of them!) Well they said I wasn’t pregnant. So we bought an EPT or one of those other ‘fancy’ brands, and tried one of the tests from the box. It too said I was NOT pregnant. I was SO disappointed. I wasn’t sure why, because I was sure the timing was off. And then I became relieved as I was SURE the timing was off. I thought God had confirmed my pregnancy, and when I wasn’t pregnant, I cried out and asked “God, WHY did I feel you tell me I was?!”. He simply said when the time is right is when you will conceive, but not before then. Trust in Me that when you are ready it will happen. God just asked me to surrender it to Him, and move on. So I did. Dave and I both did.
Fast forward to September 2012:
Dave and I had both walked through some awesome challenges in 2013. I had an amazing breakthrough on September 4th and basically was reborn as a completely healed woman. God really healed me of some deep wounds and I was finally able to love and be loved the way I was created to. Not only was I healed, but Dave had grown so much into the man that God was moulding him to be. Our relationship was finding real harmony and balance. I was in a place of submitting to him and allowing him to be my protector and provider as well as my strong husband. This all happened in what seemed like the blink of an eye. As we both remember not even liking each other in May of 2012, just being around one another was an irritant and we felt like we had completely fallen away from one another.
Then one night at church, Beth Swiger, as she often does, totally obliterated us both and walked up to us before service to say “you guys have an amazing and strong marriage.” That opened the door for healing and for Dave and I to start realizing that things had to change. We started loving each other with intent and the way that God intends a marriage to be. Honoring one another, keeping criticism to a minimum, correcting one another with love, encouraging and building each other up and the BIG one of picking what is TRULY important.
Now again, this was not easy…it took us a few months to get there, and when we did our marriage was truly transformed. SO much so that we decided to recommit ourselves to one another in a small and private ceremony at our church with only a few people in attendance, who the Lord specifically put on our hearts to invite. I was so happy and so in love again it seemed impossible, but God takes the impossible and makes it possible. Especially when it is His will.
On September 7th of 2012, Dave and I gave over our hearts to one another again with our church family in attendance, as well as Tante Killi, Bernie, Jenna, Kim Parmelee, Amanda Johnson and Mom. It was a beautiful ceremony, I actually liked it better than our first wedding. I had written out exactly what I was going to say to Dave and then God gave me totally new vows to speak just before we started. It was SO awesome. Our church family spoke prophetic words over our lives individually and as a couple. We were so built up and so encouraged and we were again SO in love.
Dave and I were basically high on love and the fact that the following week we were going to Portland Oregon, where we hope to call home one day soon (sooner than later as well!) We were very active in the next few weeks in practicing making a baby. But we were using protection and were still totally not planning a baby sooner than 2 years down the road.
One night in Portland we had a terrific day and were feeling so close and had an amazing night together. Just before we went to sleep I said, I wonder if we just made a baby. We both kind of laughed but didn’t think too much of it.
Our trip to Portland was wonderful and restful and relaxing. When we came home, I noticed my energy level was starting to dip and I was feeling generally run down. I swore I was coming down with something. October 13th, 2013 I woke up like any normal Saturday. Excited to go to the shelter (Humane Society of Pinellas) and happy that it was the weekend. For whatever reason, I felt I should take a pregnancy test. I wasn’t thinking I was pregnant, and I wasn’t even really paying attention to the test as I took it that morning going to the bathroom. I wasn’t paying attention until I looked over SHORTLY after putting the urine in the window to see it had turned positive.
I will never forget the next few moments and hours. Dave was walking down the hall from our bedroom, watching the trailer for Hotel Transylvania on his iPhone. I said “Dave, you need to come take a look at something.” He walked in and I just pointed at the test and he said “are you sure it is right?” I said, I don’t know, we have a bunch I can do another. So I did…another Dollar Store test. And sure enough it too changed to “+” VERY fast. I said okay then…wow. Dave then said “are you sure that they don’t all just turn positive” and I said yeah, especially since they were all negative last month when we thought we were pregnant! I said I can take the EPT one if you want…and Dave said yeah take that one, so I did. And it too turned positive VERY fast. So we had three + pregnancy tests sitting in front of us and I think we were both in SHOCK. We were super excited and just over the moon that wow we were pregnant…going to have a baby!!! Then the real processing began.
The excitement and planning in both of us kicked in fairly quickly. We actually told our immediate families, guessing we were 4-6 weeks along at the time based on the date of my last period and an app we got on our phones. Our families were super excited. I also told my HSP family, as I was beaming and SO happy and excited that day when I went in that I couldn’t keep it to myself! I also needed to let everyone know that I couldn’t clean kitty litter pans anymore, OR foster any kittens for a while. And the following Tuesday night we told our Narrowgate family so that they could begin praying for us.
While I was on my way home from HSP the evening we found out, I prayed and thanked God and just talked and listened. He told me that He had this baby, it was His pregnancy and everything was in His hands. He was asking me again to lay down my worry, fear, anxiety and all of my concerns. God told me THIS IS MINE, I HAVE IT. Just do what you should do in being healthy and smart and I have this baby.
And immediately we started to look for a midwife and a home birth option. Beth Swiger suggested Breath of Life birthing center, so we reached out to them. Unfortunately, they told me straight away, over the phone that my BMI was too high and I couldn’t go through them.
We had then reached out to Katie’s midwife, who we interviewed, as well as two other local St. Petersburg midwives. When we met Katrina Hollon, we both knew right away that she was THE one. We actually interviewed her first, and felt that way, but wanted to follow through and make sure that our instincts were correct.
So we went forward on the path to a home water birth. Many people expressed concern for my health and the baby’s health and safety by doing this, but we knew it was right and that it was exactly what WE wanted to do. So many people teased me and said that they thought I would ask for the epidural and that I would give in, but we knew what we wanted.
We continued to educate ourselves and watched movies like “Pregnant in America” and “The Business of Being Born” both of which I HIGHLY recommend for any couple expecting. We read loads of materials and I read Ina May’s book “Ina May’s guide to Natural Childbirth” as well as “Orgasmic Birth.” I do NOT recommend Orgasmic Birth, I didn’t like it, found parts of it untrue and somewhat offensive and generally misinformed on veganism as well as vegetarianism. I also read “Vegan Pregnancy” which was great and highly informative. I HIGHLY recommend anything by Ina May if you are planning a natural childbirth. ANY soon to be parent could benefit from her knowledge and the information in her books, but for a natural childbirth plan it is a MUST.
I also read Jenny McCarthy’s book about pregnancy, which made me laugh…and that was much needed during an emotional first trimester.
So our pregnancy progressed, and at every visit we anxiously awaited hearing a heartbeat…which Ellie held out on us until mid November. But the sound of it the first time made me SO over the moon that I laughed and of course Katrina lost it. Then we finally got it back again and wow…what an amazing sound and what an amazing baby!!
Our next hurdles were blood work, an ultrasound, GBS tests, me staying in shape and eating well. Check, check and check. Every blood test was perfect, every single thing always came out perfectly. When it was time for the ultrasound I was certain we were having a girl. I was laying in the guest bedroom, which was not yet painted or made “Ellie’s room” because the soft bed hurt my hips less. Dave had tucked me in and said goodnight and I was lying there with my hands on my stomach and I asked God to tell me the sex and I felt SO strongly that it was a girl. I had really wanted a boy just because then if we had a second, he would be a big brother. Then if the second were a girl he could protect her and be the big brother I had always hoped I could provide a little girl.
She was indeed a SHE at our ultrasound. In fact, SHE was told was a THEY by Dave…as when the ultrasound tech started Dave said “there THEY are” and I said THEY?! WHAT THEY?! He said the baby…not they as in two! That was a shocker!! And really scared me! Thankfully we have just one.
Well weeks turned into months, and soon there was no doubt I was pregnant…I finally started showing and I looked pregnant, not just fat. The months ticked away and by May I started swelling and getting truly uncomfortable…to the point that going out to eat or anywhere at all wasn’t really an option anymore…and that I just really wasn’t feeling up to much anymore. I still managed 2-3 times per week at the gym, not sure how, but I trudged along.
Our original due date, based on our pregnancy app, was June 4th. Our ultrasound revised it to June 11th. By the beginning of June I was miserable. I was excited to meet her ‘any day’ but so totally uncomfortable. I had one night of contractions that we thought was leading somewhere…and when they eased and I went to go to sleep they too went to sleep. LOL. Then on June 18th I woke up shortly after midnight with contractions. They got very close and Katrina ended up coming over around 3am to be with us. They lasted for nearly 16 hours…we mall walked, we did what we could and eventually I just passed out exhausted because I couldn’t handle it anymore. And again…the contractions stopped. At this point we were at “critical mass” since now I was technically in week 41. So Friday June 22nd I had a BPP (Biophysical Profile) ultrasound to make sure Ellie and me were okay. She scored perfectly and then Katrina did a 10 minute listen to her heartbeat and we determined on 6/23 that we could extend the due date for a week. So we wouldn’t be 42 weeks until 7/2/13. Katrina said just to listen to my body, relax, and let the baby come.
Sunday was a great day with just Dave and I. We were up fairly early, went to the gym, had a really yummie brunch together, then our appointment with Katrina. That night we went for gelato and tea downtown just to spend some time together out of the house. It was awesome. I really love my husband but that last evening of time was well spent together. It is even nicer in hindsight since it was our last night alone…with me in a sane state of mind.
Well, Sunday I was up again almost hourly with Braxton Hicks contractions. I hardly slept. Monday morning when I got up to pee, there was what appeared to be my mucus plug in the toilet. I told Katrina that is what I thought it was and she said just to let her know if anything progresses. Thankfully Monday wasn’t too stressful a day and I could lay on the couch with my laptop to work. Around 3 ish sometime I had a contraction…a REAL contraction. A contraction that I didn’t like. Then by 3:40 I started to time them. They were fairly irregular but very painful. I called Dave to let him know and he started to rush home. I said don’t rush because surely if this is real labor it won’t happen THAT fast! (Little did I know…fast is the furthest from what it turned out to be!)
I kept working, having to take breathing breaks for the contractions when they came but I was VERY happy to log off at 5pm so that I could deal with my body. We ate dinner, watched Graceland, and I labored on. Dave did our normal nighttime routine, and I did…tried anyway. I showered, etc. and we got ready for bed. By 10 ish or so, Dave said I think we need to call Katrina. So she got to us around 11:30pm. By this point I know I was super duper uncomfortable and was having steady contractions…steady in that they were 30seconds to a minute long but varied from 3-4 minutes all the way up to 6 minutes apart. I know that at some point I said Braxton Hicks is BS. They should call them BS contractions because real contractions are HORRIBLE!!! I said it feels like the worst period cramps of my life and nothing like the BH contractions. I also said that I understood why women ask for epidurals because the pain is SO intense. I don’t know how but we slept a little during the night. By 5 ish in the morning I was SO uncomfortable and now having pain in my lower back, come to find out that was due to Ellie’s position, so we got me into the hot water of the birth tub somewhere around 6.45am. I remember the hot water REALLY helping the pain of the contractions and I was nodding off a bit in between them as I was getting so tired. Then at 6:50am my water FINALLY broke.
Both Dave and I, in speaking after the birth, thought that surely the baby would be born now within a few hours. Well 7am came and no Ellie, 8 am no Ellie…11 am and Sarah, the birth assistant, said we needed to get me some calories and she went and made me a smoothie. It was AWESOME. I chugged it, chugged water, chugged the Code Blue and then she had me chug another smoothie. Katrina had been feeding me honey since around 8am to get my energy up but the smoothies really helped. By 12:30 I had some energy back, but in Katrina’s words had finally “engaged in active pushing.” I had thought I was actively pushing before that, but Katrina and Sarah told me that instead of screaming, which I had done A LOT of (surprised that no neighbors called the police,) to non-vocalize and put ALL of my energy into that area and the push. She had me bearing down with my chin into my chest and holding my breath and just going for it. SLOWLY…and I do mean SLOWLY…we began to make progress.
At some point in the last hour or two Ellie’s heart rate dropped to 102 so we had to immediately get me onto my left side, take her heart rate again and take it while I was pushing. The concern wasn’t just her heart rate but the fact that meconium was coming out when I was pushing…which could be an indicator of fetal distress. As soon as I rolled to my left, got some oxygen and they checked her heart rate again the variability was from 120-150 during a push. Everything was good.
Katrina looked concerned a few times, but she kept telling me everything was good and I was making good progress. I know I asked about a hundred times if it was real labor and if the baby was really coming. She was very reassuring. Finally Sarah and Katrina talked and decided that if I couldn’t get her head down in a few more pushes we would have to move to the bed. I did NOT want to do that as the bed was SO uncomfortable so I started really kicking it up. The last half hour or so I used every bit of strength and energy I had. My contractions were coming in 3’s and she would come down a bit, then just slide back up. It was SO frustrating. Finally I just pushed as hard as possible and we had a forehead…she was sort of just stuck. Since the contractions weren’t moving her…and I was absolutely refusing to get on the bed I just kept pushing as hard as possible. Finally everyone was staring at my vagina and the progress telling me to keep going. She got stuck at crowning and man did that hurt. Sarah said do you feel the ring of fire? I said OH YES. I decided I would keep going even if I didn’t have the contraction to push through. Instead of the 3 contractions and resting…I pushed a 4th time and Katrina, Dave and Sarah all said YES she is coming keep going!!! So I pushed a 5th time and they said that’s great Martina one more and finally a 6th time and I felt the head FINALLY come out and Katrina said ONE MORE PUSH and that literally felt like nothing since the head hurt like hell…and out came Ellie. She was face first, face up, smiling and eyes wide open as she came into the world. Daddy picked her up out of the water and put her on Mama’s chest. I just kept looking at her…she was so small yet SO big having just come out from inside of me. She was perfect, so pink right away, so alert and attentive, wide eyed and beautiful. She was an absolute miracle.
Katrina was literally like a Mom during labor. She was wiping my head around my hairline, my neck and the top of my back with a cool washcloth, making sure I had honey, water, rubbing essential oils on my feet and just generally trying to soothe me. It was so comforting. I had gotten sick at some point during the night and thrown up my dinner, but the second time I got that nauseous Sarah came fast with some lemon essential oil on a tissue and put that right under my nose and as soon as I smelled it the nausea lifted. They both tended to me with LOVE, not just a medical perspective. Not just as a job, but with love and care. This to me was the second biggest difference in the home birth versus the hospital. The first big difference that you are HOME. You are in your own environment, in your space, comfortable. Well, as comfortable as you can be while dealing with such intense pain. In retrospect, if I had it all to do over again…same pain, same labor for nearly 24 hours, at home with just Dave, Katrina, Sarah and I OR in the hospital with an epidural over and done with total process in 5 hours…I would take the home birth every time.
The miracle of Ellie is that when I was 19 years old I had cervical cancer and cancer of my uterine canal. I was treated locally and also at Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa. They told me that I would NEVER be able to get pregnant unless I had the help of medical intervention, i.e. fertility treatments, and even then they couldn’t guarantee that I could “carry to term” because of my cervix. Lesson: when GOD tells you He has it…that He is in charge…He’s just showing off. He doesn’t care what MEDICINE says…He doesn’t care what circumstances say. HE is the truth. And He not only showed that this pregnancy was His but this baby. This child. He has great – NO, GRAND – plans for her life. What those plans are we have yet to know, we have yet to see develop. Dave and I are just blessed to love her, to have her to parent and to be able to love her ON PURPOSE (we are parenting based on a model we learned from Danny Silk’s book “Loving Our Kids on Purpose.”) Ellie, who’s name means “bringer of light, beautiful woman” and Grace means “love.” Our Ellie Grace has already brought so much light and love to us. Her nickname is Sunshine, because she truly is our sunshine. I can’t believe how much I love her, and she isn’t even a week old.