Gideon’s Birth Story
Gideon Theodore Harding was born beautifully at home on August 13, 2019 at 5:15pm weighing 8lbs 15.9oz and 21” long. His name means Mighty Warrior. He has a Jesus story that will follow him for the rest of his life.
My Birth Story
My husband and I were believers, Christians, since we were teenagers. However, as I approached thirty, I found myself questioning my salvation. I felt like a big question mark. After a beautiful season of forgiveness and love, the Lord revealed an essential truth: He loves me. For the first time since my Mom died, I felt wholly loved. I had spent twenty years of my life believing the lie that because my Mom was dead and never coming back, I would never be fully loved. Once I realized that my parent’s love for me was but a speck of sand in the desert compared to God’s love for me, I was able to receive His love. I chose to put Him first, at the center of my heart, from which all things flow.
On June 10, 2018 my husband and I were baptized. It is my favorite, most cherished “birth” day because I was BORN. AGAIN. Made new. I was born into the family of God. I have brothers and sisters in Christ and I have a home in heaven for eternity. I have a new identity, a daughter of God. The parents I was born to here on earth, the identity I carried for so long, the long list of lies I believed about myself, the details surrounding my own birth - are interesting, but they are not essential. What is essential? I am who He says I am. Life has not been easier; I still have problems, perhaps more than before, if I’m being honest…but, God. With Him, I am never alone and I am never without help. I have hope.
In August 2018, I had a miscarriage. It lasted three weeks. I couldn’t wait for it to end so I could actually process what had happened. Miscarriage made me feel like a failure…at something. I resisted that feeling, but I also knew that the Lord uses deep, hard, painful things for His glory. Trials serve a greater purpose in a believer’s life…I felt led to do something that was really difficult for me…tell someone. But whom? Several women came to mind…the common denominator being that these women, in particular, had never shied away from sharing their own trials (there are many other people I could have shared with, but it really came down to asking the Lord whom He wanted me to share with). They validated my experience and I was free to grieve. Several months later, two of those women experienced miscarriages and I was honored that they felt safe sharing with me. I knew God had seen each day.
Fast forward a couple months and we found out we were expecting. We were excited, but cautiously hesitant. I called the hospital midwives. I remember Joe saying, “Are you sure you want a hospital birth?” which surprised me because he had never been all-in on the homebirth thing! I said, “Yes, I think it’s the best option,” not realizing that I was actually terrified of losing my baby and figured when it happened at least I’d already be on the books. An ultrasound confirmed a little, active baby (never mind the $120 speeding ticket, hour wait in with three kids under five, and the chair debacle)! I put the pregnancy in the back of my mind and we didn’t tell anyone until about 15 weeks, when I was confident that this baby was going to “stick”. At the 20 week ultrasound, I let out a sigh of relief I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. It was at that moment that I felt a stirring in my heart…of course I wanted a homebirth!!
I told my friend (who also happened to be my college roommate, the one who taught me everything I knew about birth autonomy and the amazing doula I used for my third birth) about my decision. She asked me what had changed. I told her my thoughts and she said, “Some of my mothers who have experienced miscarriage have trouble trusting their body because they think it ‘failed’ them.” And there it was. She verbalized what I couldn’t. It got me thinking, “Did I believe that God had failed me? My baby? Did I trust God with this baby?”
My pregnancy was low-risk, as usual. Most days were good, some days were bad, and some were awful – the Florida summer heat did not help. But, just like non-pregnant life… I showed up. Every. Single. Day. I gained the most weight with this pregnancy (despite walking for an hour every day), yet I felt physically great, with high energy, for the majority of the pregnancy. I think my body was...used to being pregnant?!
Despite all that I had on my plate, I managed to find at least an hour each day (super interrupted) to pray, journal and finish several Bible studies. My favorite study was Priscilla Shrirer’s Gideon. Gideon’s story fascinated me…it encouraged me to recognize my weakness as the keys that the Lord was giving me to unlock the full experience of His strength in my life. Instead of ignoring, neglecting, or trying to escape my weaknesses, I learned to see them as the gifts that they are, given specifically and strategically by God to unlock the door of God’s strength. I suggested the name Gideon but nobody liked it. And so we decided to name him Theodore.
The Birth Day
On August 13th, 2019, I was 41+ weeks pregnant and had been 5cm dilated for about a week (how was the baby not falling out?). The only people I wanted to talk birth to were my midwives and doula! My mind was a mess and I was miserable! I called my midwife crying and she came all the way out to our house and sat with me and we talked. I asked her to do another membrane sweep, 6cm. Normally, I don’t care to know about dilation, as it means nothing (besides that the incessant Braxton Hicks were doing something) without contractions (in the past I’ve gone from 5-10cmin 15 minutes). I believe in letting the baby choose his birth day. However, all the pre-labor mingled with the responsibility of three other kids was too much. I wanted something to tell me that I was not going to be pregnant forever.
I’m thankful for the things I learned in the waiting. For instance, I came across a stack of Polaroids – of my mom in the hospital giving birth to me. She looked so beautiful and there I was. It breaks my heart that my Mom has never met any of her four grandchildren. It wrecks me. She would have been such a wonderful grandma. At each birth I’ve always said I wished she was there. I chose two of the Polaroids and put them on the ledge around the tub next to my birth affirmations. What a gift!
At 41+ weeks, I was getting closer to having to discuss induction options. I’m not a fan of intervention because it usually leads to more intervention and I did not want to do anything to jeopardize my homebirth. Several friends suggested castor oil. I’d never done it before or had even been tempted. I asked my midwife. She assured me that because I was overdue and already 6cm it would work. I shared my concerns about the oil crossing the placenta and causing the baby to pass meconium (already a possibility with a late baby) and my concern that I should just be patient. She left the decision up to me. If I was going to do it, she insisted I get a good night’s sleep and pour it into my “second favorite” flavor of milkshake! I text my doula. She sent me an evidence-based research article and a summarized version of her clients’ experiences. She left the decision up to me.
Around 1PM I had Joe bring me a strawberry milkshake. We decided that he should do school pickup at 3 and take the kids to his sister’s house (there went the beautiful photographs of my kids lined up around the birth tub meeting their baby brother for the first time).
I found a comb I had used to braid my daughter’s hair with earlier that morning and I set it out in the bedroom because I had seen where laboring moms squeezed it as a distraction for labor. Within a few hours, I felt the surges come on like waves. I simply breathed through them and tried to ignore them. I would know. It was then that my midwife text me and said, “Hey would you like me to come over?” I didn’t like the idea of anyone in the house “waiting” on me to give birth, but I agreed because I didn’t want to be alone if things progressed quickly!
Let’s have a baby!
Lynne arrived thirty minutes later and we chatted in my bedroom. Surges were picking up. I text the doula and the photographer. They’d been waiting as long as me! It was happening!! I hadn’t anticipated an afternoon birth and hoped it would be as quick as the last two. “Allow each birth to unfold with its own uniqueness,” I reminded myself. We put on some music, lit some candles and Joe cleaned.
The birth team is so amazing in that they do this thing called “holding space” where they are super present, yet super invisible. It’s no big thing. It’s peaceful. I felt nauseous at one point and Doniece handed me a tissue with peppermint oil. I squeezed my trusty comb! I knew that I could do anything for sixty seconds…with each wave I breathed steadily and waited for it pass, and then was able to smile, talk, answer questions, and shout demands (LOL) before the next wave!
Things progressed pretty quickly and they asked if I wanted to get in the tub. YES, please. It literally feels like an epidural…warm relief all around. There is always a point where I envision what has to happen – head, shoulders, knees and toes – and I wanted to resist so badly, all the while knowing it was the point of no return. The dominoes have already been set into motion. There’s no point in resisting. Let it go. Transition. I would meet my baby very soon! The moment I had been waiting for!
The midwives checked me, smiled and said, “Let’s have a baby!” They checked the baby’s heartbeat, it was strong. My doula pressed a cool, wet washcloth to my forehead. The sunlight was warm. The house was still, calm and quiet. I let out all the noises – I think they’re the most human noises that exist – and then I collected myself, felt the baby’s head engage and I let my body do what it was made to do. I didn’t waste energy making noises, I knew about FER and knew that I didn’t need to count or push (although I couldn’t help it), I just let my body expel the baby and did my best to embrace its direction. My water broke. With the next surge, the baby’s head came out. My arm muscles were tired from bracing against the sides of the tub. I kept telling myself to stay limp and it would be over with. With a deep push, his body was expelled and he was immediately placed on my chest. Relief!!
Except. Something felt different. Babies are usually blue or pink or make a cry. He was limp, pale, and white with an olive green tint. We rubbed his back and I spoke to him. Midwives are guardians of normal. Lynne knew something wasn’t normal. And I knew that they knew something wasn’t normal. Lynne immediately called for his cord to be clamped (there went delayed cord clamping and first latch) and she began applying chest compressions. I watched, helplessly in the tub, as Lynne’s two fingers pressed into the hollow of his little chest, his arms dangling like a lasagna noodle. I screamed. Wake up. Do something. Theodore, it’s mommy. I love you. Wake up. They placed him on the tile and I could see, from over the tub, they were calling 911. Doniece placed her stethoscope to his chest, calling out, “No pulse. No heartbeat.” His eyes were closed. He was silent. Fix him, I cried. FIX him, breathe Gideon. Lord, save him. I wanted my baby. I needed him. He could not just disappear.
Joe called our neighbor Clayton, a fire captain (we had always joked that we would call him to catch the baby). By the grace of God, he was home and arrived within minutes. Everyone was working on the baby and everyone was frustrated with the 911 operator’s questions. The seconds, minutes were accumulating in my mind and adding up to impossible. I couldn’t cry. I remember leaning over the tub, shouting, “Gideon, be like Gideon. Lord, save him, use him.” The last image I have of my baby is Clayton picking up his pale, floppy body, half-wrapped in the blue bath towel Lynne had handed him, and running out of the bathroom. The photographer had stopped taking photographs.
Postpartum – The Golden Hour
Doniece, calm and collected, helped me to deliver the placenta. There was a tight knot in the umbilical cord. Without a baby to distract me or breastfeeding to tend to, and my husband gone…they cleaned and dried me off and helped me out of the tub. I lay in bed silent. I couldn’t cry. Shock. My doula held space and read me Scripture while the midwives stayed on the phone and examined the placenta.
As I was examined, I watched the flashing lights on the extra fire truck at the end of our driveway. I pictured a tiny, baby coffin. What would I tell my children? Would we be planning a funeral tomorrow?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.
Just then, Clayton came in, with tears in his eyes, and asked me what he could do. I told him to pray with me. He held my hand and prayed. The only part I remember is him saying, “...this boy is going to grow up to love you, Lord, and do great things for You.” With that came the peace that passes all understanding.
Shock is a gift. In Romans 8:26-27 it says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” When I couldn’t cry or even come up with the words to pray, I never doubted that the Lord was very near, very present. He was not judging or condemning me. I knew nothing could separate me or my baby from the love of God. He knew the desires of my heart. He is a good and faithful Father who wants the best for His children. I knew He loved my baby more than I ever could; my love for this child was but a speck of sand in the desert to the love He has for him.
The midwives fixed me a large plate of lasagna, as I was starving. It felt ashamed to be eating while my son was...gone. What time had he been born? How much did he weigh? What did his chin look like? They gave me permission to leave whenever I was ready. My doula drove me to the hospital and we shared our testimonies on the drive, a wonderful distraction.
About halfway there, Joe called me for my blood type. “Do you want to see him?” I thought it was cruel of him to ask me to see our son. He asked, “Can you hear him?” Hear him? HEAR. HIM? “HE’S ALIVE???” Shock gave way to joy. Joe activated FaceTime and there, before my eyes, was a screaming, crying baby. My heart. Our baby. Crying. Alive. He had not disappeared. The Lord had breathed life into him!
What’s in a name?
Joe surprised me by telling me that, on the way to the hospital, he had changed our baby’s name from Theodore to Gideon! I couldn’t believe it! The name I had wanted for so long! Wow, when the Lord works on one end you can be certain He is working on the other end!!
When we arrived at the valet, my doula got me a wheelchair and Joe wheeled me to the NICU.
We sat in the lobby and we talked and cried and prayed while we waited to be allowed to see the baby. I learned that Joe had followed the ambulance, alone in his truck. They had taken the long way – we were already 25 minutes from Shands – and they had to completely stop several times, leaving Joe to assume the worst. I am awed by the composure and grace with which Joe handled the barrage of decisions he was faced with.
The receptionist called out, “Okay, they’re ready for Rescue’s parents.” I was going to get to see my baby!! I knew my baby needed me; that my presence would make a difference in his recovery. I’ll never forget the feeling of complete and utter gratitude I had when I saw him. His perfect body covered in tape and wire. We weren’t supposed to touch him, but, ofcourse, I did. His nametag read Rescue and he was 9lbs. Our biggest baby!
We didn’t have answers as to exactly what had happened. Our best guess was that the knot in his umbilical cord had tightened as he descended through the birth canal. An umbilical cord has two arteries and a vein. The umbilical vein supplies the baby with oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood from the placenta. Conversely, the fetal heart pumps low oxygen containing blood, nutrient-depleted blood through the umbilical arteries back to the placenta. Our best guess is that when the knot tightened, it would have short-circuited the blood flow to and from the baby to the placenta which would explain his pale color and the extreme blood loss. It would also explain why he’d had a completely normal heart rate just a few minutes before being delivered. I’m honestly afraid to ask what his numbers were and how long he was without oxygen for (hypoxia). One nurse told me his numbers were so low that his recovery was literally miraculous.
Gideon was being treated for Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) – he would spend 72 hours naked, on a cooling blanket. He'd had two blood transfusions and one platelet transfusion. The potential long-term outcomes of hypoxia (lack of oxygen for extended period of time): brain damage, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, seizures, hearing/vision limitations, sensory processing issues, speech delays and language disorders, etc. An MRI after the 72 hour period would give us an indication of what to expect.
My baby was breathing. We could deal with neurological issues later. I would never stop giving gratitude for his breath alone. One morning my mother-in-law came in with a stack of note cards, pens and a Bible. I wrote out several verses and taped the cards to his window. I read and re-read the Anti-Anxiety book and healing/faith promises from a Bible Study I had taught earlier that summer, receiving the peace the Lord had for me. I was Gideon’s advocate. As his mother, I would believe in him more than anyone! He was perfect.
I was not a patient so I had no room or bed. We slept on makeshift cots, floors and office chairs. I was terribly uncomfortable. My hips ached, my feet tingled, and I was still wearing the infamous mesh panties (I had to navigate that situation as best I could from my backpack). We stared at monitors, watching the numbers dance. We learned which beeps to ignore.
I pumped incessantly to keep up with the demands of the proposed feeding schedules, wanting to give him all the perfection of the breast milk made specifically for him, determined not to supplement. It was a pleasant distraction being able to physically do something for him. In the beginning I used a tiny syringe to suck up every drop of the golden colostrum. I took pictures of every bottle I pumped, in awe of my body’s response. I was thankful for the energy to pump all hours of the night (and oxytocin release)! The doctors were pleased. It was Breastfeeding Month and I loved the encouragement all that was all over the NICU and I was grateful to be in such a breastfeeding friendly environment.
We prayed for everything. For his heart murmur to close, for his breathing to improve, that he would not have any seizures, that he would tolerate bottle feeds, that he would take to the breast, that he would get the MRI in the 24 hour window, that his MRI would be perfect.
We first held him on August 17th. I first breastfed him on August 19th. His MRI results came back completely normal on August 20th. We went home on August 21st.
I am so grateful for all the prayer that stormed heaven on our behalf. I am thankful that God showed us His love, His GRACE, His mercy and His POWER! Every time I hold Gideon, my heart reflects. And I praise our Father for His great mercy. I am reminded of how He has shown Himself mighty in so many lives that I personally know. And I marvel at His kindness.
I want people to know that homebirth midwives are equipped to handle emergencies. They know how to call in help and take the appropriate measures. There is so much misinformation about midwives not transferring or not knowing what to do when things take a turn. Midwives are trained in neonatal resuscitation and carry medical equipment to deal with rare emergencies. A lot of people think homebirth midwives can’t do what they did at my birth. Without Lynne getting oxygen into Gideon as quickly as she did and resuscitating him things could have turned out quite differently.
Gideon's birth was a completely unique, yet beautiful, experience in a loving environment surrounded by equipped, called and qualified people who made me feel seen, informed, smart, safe, comfortable, supported, loved and respected. My recovery and support have been fantastic, and I am enjoying my fourth trimester as a mama of four <3
“I will send out an army to find you In the middle of the darkest night It's true, I will rescue you...”
-Rescue, Laruen Daigle
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