Judah’s Birth Story (A Redemptive Caesarean Birth)

If you’ve been around me for a few years you probably know the birth of my oldest was pretty traumatic for us. I did so much planning and preparation for an unmedicated birth, but after 36 hours of labor, a non-emergency hospital transfer, hours of pushing, and multiple intervention attempts by my physician – we were rushed to the operating room for an emergency c-section. Baby girl spent 4 days in the NICU due to complications, and my recovery was rough. The obstetrician explained that in 98% of his cases he recommends to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) in future pregnancies, but due to the details of our situation, I fell into the 2% he would strongly advise to have another caesarean. I felt crushed that I may not even get a chance to “redeem” the experience we had with our first. Though there were many moments where we clearly saw God’s hand at work, Matt and I shed lots of tears of shared trauma and grief during that hospital stay.

I was grateful to bring home a healthy baby, but it took me a long time (and some counseling) to process the event and come to terms with everything that happened. Still, I didn’t think I would ever feel completely ready to have another child after that. Well….lo and behold, we found ourselves expecting baby #2 in May of 2022.

In spite of my previous doctors recommendation, I was still considering a VBAC. I was so afraid of another c-section and knew how amazing it would feel to finally have a successful natural birth. I called the doula we used for Shiloh to hear her thoughts on how her birth went. Was I too weak? Did I give up too easily? Were we bullied into doing the interventions we wanted to avoid? Her response confirmed to me that we did indeed do everything we could. She stated that we had one of the best staffing situations she’d ever seen at a hospital and she was impressed at how respectful and caring everyone was. Ours was one of very few births she attended where she actually felt a c-section had become necessary.

While it was not what I was hoping to hear, it did help provide a little bit of closure. I felt like I could finally stop questioning the events that transpired the first time. As a last ditch effort I decided to ask my current doctor to run the VBAC calculator on me and see what my odds were. To do this, they look over your medical record and crunch a few numbers to see how likely you are to be successful. At my hospital, a “passing” score was 50% or higher. Anything lower and they would not take you on as a patient. My score? A whopping 21%. I recognized that I was not in the mental space to cope with the possibility of another failed attempt, and decided I would feel best about doing a scheduled c-section with a doctor I could trust and respect.

Fast forward to Judah’s birthday, January 9th. That whole week the Lord gave me a supernatural peace about everything. Matt was a nervous wreck and I kept waiting for the nerves to kick in for me, but I just felt a sense of calm….even as we were driving to the hospital (I think partially because I was just SO done with being pregnant, lol). We were scheduled to go in that afternoon, but I got a call at 7:45am that there was an opening if we could come in right away. Matt & I loaded up our bags and headed to the hospital. Once we got called back, they did bloodwork, started an IV, and hooked me up to a fetal monitor. We signed lots of paperwork, enjoyed some alone time with each other as we waited, and met with the anesthesia and delivery teams to discuss our birth plan.

When everything was ready, they took me to the OR to get prepped for surgery. Matt had to wait until this was done before he could join. This was the part I was most nervous about doing alone, but the staff were all great. One of the nurses gave me a big hug as they did my spinal anesthesia – which didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I was anticipating – and quickly moved me onto my back. I chose some peaceful worship music to play over the speakers and it kicked in right about the same time my legs began to feel like warm lead. I will say, this anesthesia was much more of a block than the epidural I had my first time. I could still feel a lot of pressure and a little pain during my c-section with Shiloh, but this time I honestly felt paralyzed from chest down, which was admittedly very freaky and I had to avoid thinking about it too much.

One of the nurses brought Matt back in and at some point the surgery was underway without me even being aware. At 12:28pm they brought my sweet Judah Rhodes into the world, he protested with a lusty cry, and the doctor exclaimed, “He’s chunky!”. Due to my size, his big sisters birth weight, and the fact that he was delivered a week early, everyone was expecting a tiny 6 pound baby….to our surprise he was almost 8 pounds! This sounds dumb in hindsight, but one thing I remember being excited for was a baby with a perfectly shaped head (Shiloh had a gnarly cone head from a long labor). I’d been experiencing a lot of nerve pain for months and thought it might be because he was really low, and boy was I was right. Needless to say, he came out with a wacky head too from being wedged so low for so long. Hah.

We were allowed to delay cord clamping for 60 seconds before they transferred him to the scale where Matt was waiting to cut it. I was originally hoping to be able to do immediate skin-to-skin contact, but our hospital was still not allowing that in the case of a caesarean. Side note: more and more hospitals are becoming “gentle-birth friendly.” I anticipate this will drastically change things over the next few years. 🙂 In our case, the operating room had a video monitor above the table so I could see Judah the whole time he was on the scale. I had requested they delay all newborn procedures until we were in the recovery room and made it clear that I wanted him skin-to-skin as soon as possible, which I was told would be after the 2nd APGAR test, taken 5 minutes post-birth. When I realized it had been longer than 5 minutes and they were doing some of the things I’d asked to hold off on, I attempted to advocate for myself but was told “soon, mama. He’s almost done!” This was our only complaint about the experience, but my angel of a doctor – who had been focused on stitching me together – turned to the nurses and said, “She asked to delay those things. Bring her the baby.”

They brought him over, placed him on my chest, and he immediately began to quiet down. It was such a surreal experience to realize he knew me and I swear I could actually feel a surge of Oxytocin release as I felt and smelled him for the first time….like my body itself just took a deep breath and could finally relax knowing he was safely here. There wasn’t much room between my head and the curtain, so I awkwardly held him as they finished the surgery and he stayed on my chest – perfectly content – as they moved us to the recovery room.

Funny side story: In the recovery room I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia and quite a bit of sickness the rest of the day. We had a sweet, bubbly nurse who was great, but the first time I told her I was about to be sick she basically tossed me a barf bag and ran from the room saying “I’m sorry! I can’t do throwing up! It’s the one thing I just can’t do.” Which we thought was super strange and hilarious for a nurse.

My mom and sister brought Shiloh to meet him that evening, and it truly was love at first sight. All she wanted to do was touch him and give kisses. She got to hold him for the first time and sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to him. My mama heart was so full.

Throughout our hospital stay, I remember marveling at all the little gifts The Lord gave me during the whole experience. I felt so much peace and comfort knowing that He would faithfully carry me through this birth just as He carried me through my first. Still, it was such a blessing to reclaim the moments that I truly grieved losing with Shiloh. I got to see Judah right away, do skin-to-skin contact, successfully nurse him in the recovery room, room-share with both of my guys for the duration of our stay, and implement most of the wishes on my birth plan. It was a blessing to feel confident and sure of the decisions we made throughout the whole process, and to feel respected and valued by our medical team. As far as my recovery: other than the reaction to anesthesia, it was loads easier! By the next day, I was up walking around and doing things on my own that took a solid week with my previous caesarean.

Tiny guy taking his first nap on mama

I know this has gotten a bit long, so I’ll close out now with a little backstory on his name. We really struggled to come up with a boy name and couldn’t decide on a full name until the day after he was born. Music and worship have always been a big part of our lives and I wanted a name that reflected that. We were both in agreement on “Judah”, which means “Praise,” as his first name. We also liked that its meanings and origins have so many similarities/parallels to Shiloh’s name. His middle name, “Rhodes,” required much debate. We’ve both always admired the vintage Fender Rhodes electric piano and used to dream about owning one someday. This was the name we originally intended to give our first child, and while I still loved it, Matt was feeling a bit indifferent toward it. However, I was sentimentally attached to it, which is what eventually swayed his opinion. (Well…the fact that we had no better options miiiight have also had a hand in it, lol)

I carefully curated a special labor playlist for both of my births, and this time around one of the songs I happened to included was “Gratitude” by Brandon Lake. I’ll leave you with some of those lyrics, which touched me anew as I sang them over my tiny Judah in that hospital room.

So come on, my soul
Oh, don’t you get shy on me
Lift up your song
‘Cause you’ve got a lion inside of those lungs
Get up and praise the Lord!”

By Regan Kraus

Hi! I'm Regan. I'm a wife to my best friend and biggest supporter, a mama to our 2 kiddos, and a beloved daughter of Christ. This blog is a virtual invitation to coffee. Grab your favorite mug and Join me to talk marriage, motherhood, ministry, and all the life that happens in-between!

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