Eliana Joy Willcox
“The LORD has heard our prayers”
5 lbs 12 oz
January 4, 2012
One of the things that drew Stephen and I together when we first met was our desire to have a house full of children. We believe that children are a heritage from the Lord and a blessing, and are thrilled to be given the gift of bringing children into the world with the prayer that they will grow up to honor and glorify God with their lives. We welcomed our firstborn son, Jeshuah–”The LORD saves”–Paul Willcox, 5 days after our fourth anniversary. When we learned we were expecting our second child 14 months later, we were thrilled. But the Lord had other plans for that little one’s life, and we miscarried eight weeks into the pregnancy. She was our Elealeh–”The LORD reigns sovereign”–Grace, reminding us of God’s goodness and power even amidst our loss. Our hearts were heavy with grief, but in the midst of it all, we felt the Lord whisper to our hearts that He wanted to bless us with another baby soon, another girl, who would be called Eliana–”The LORD has heard our prayers.”
Two months to the day of my miscarriage, we learned we were expecting again. We were filled with joy at God’s goodness and knew in our hearts that this was indeed our Eliana, the answer to our prayers for another little girl that might fill our arms, hearts, and home. Though our hearts told us that this little one was a girl, we both felt strongly that we wanted to keep her gender a secret until her birth. We had found out the gender with our first and wanted to know what it felt like to anticipate that “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” upon delivery. So, we contained our curiosity and decided to wait to find out, eager for our January 26 due date.
But seven weeks into the pregnancy, I began to bleed. A sonogram showed a healthy baby and a small subchorionic hematoma, but no other explanation for the bleeding. I was put on partial bed rest until the bleeding stopped. A week later, the bleeding stopped, and we all breathed a sigh of relief, asking the Lord to guard and protect this little one’s life.
I was indescribably blessed by having significantly less morning sickness than I experienced with my first pregnancy. I actually found myself enjoying being pregnant this time! God was indeed being gracious.
Then one evening, when I was eleven weeks pregnant, I was sitting on the floor playing trains with Jeshuah, when I felt a rush of blood and ran to the bathroom. I was bleeding again, this time quite heavily. As I attempted to pull myself together, I knew a few brief moments of panic as I pleaded with the Lord to please not take this baby, too. Within seconds, a peace that passes understanding washed over me, and I knew in my heart of hearts that God was good, no matter what. But I also felt a confidence that the Lord was hearing and answer my prayers “yes” and that I would indeed hold this little one in my arms.
I was put on partial bed rest again, and my mom and sister-in-law came out to help. Our church family wrapped their arms around us by bringing us meals, taking care of Jeshuah, and sending cards of encouragement. Two of the deacons in our church felt compelled to come over and pray for us and for the life of our child, and we enjoyed a time of petitioning the Lord to protect our little one. One of the cards we received contained Mark 11:24, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Stephen and I felt that still, small voice again whisper to our hearts, “She is your Eliana, and I am hearing your prayers.” Although we were confident in God’s sovereignty and control no matter what, we felt a peace and confidence that the Lord’s will was to make himself known by bringing this little girl into the world to glorify His name through answered prayer.
I continued to feel comparatively wonderful as my pregnancy progressed, and I was filled with praises for God’s goodness at giving me a pregnancy that was so drastically different from my first. I could eat, keep food down, I had energy, and I could sleep at night. All of that helped the fact that I was chasing a toddler around daily!
But the Lord was far from being done with answering our prayers regarding this little one’s life. At 15 weeks, I began hemorrhaging once again and we headed to the hospital this time. Sonograms continued to reveal a healthy, growing baby and a mystery regarding the cause of the bleeding. Each time I was sent home with the warning that all this bleeding signaled a significant increase in continued risk of not only miscarriage, but also pre-term labor.
Within a week, the bleeding stopped again, and my pregnancy progressed normally for a few weeks. Although I began experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions at 14 weeks, I didn’t think too much of it, as I had experienced them throughout my first pregnancy as well. Our 20 week ultrasound showed a healthy, growing baby, though we maintained our desire to not find out the gender.
We made it into the third trimester without any more complications and breathed a sigh of relief as every day brought us closer to full-term and meeting our little Answered Prayer. But once again, at 33 weeks, I was admitted into the hospital with pre-term labor. They were able to stop the progression of labor and my midwife put me on full bed rest for the next four weeks until this baby was full-term and closer to being ready to enter the world.
Bed rest has always been one of my biggest fears, imagining myself lying completely horizontal in bed, staring at the ceiling for weeks, unable to even read a book because I had to lie down and my arms would get tired. However, after the first couple of days, my contractions slowed enough that I was able to sit up for short periods, then even be up on my feet briefly without beginning multiple contractions again. My parents came and picked up Jeshuah to care for him for the week at their home so I could be as still as possible. I asked God to sanctify this distress to me, and he richly blessed that time. He quieted my anxious heart with his love, allowed Stephen and I some sweet alone time, and prepared me for the new year and the new addition to our family.
Three weeks into my bed rest, as much as I had learned that God could indeed use even that to bless my heart, I was still eager to be free to get up and get back to a normal routine before our little one made his or her entrance into the world. On Thursday, January 5, I would be 37 weeks pregnant and considered full-term. The baby would be at a much safer size to be delivered, and I could officially go off of bed rest.
Wednesday, January 4, I woke around 5:30am and felt a few contractions as I dozed in and out for the next hour. This was not, of course, unusual, so I didn’t think much of it, except that these contractions had a bit of a sharpness to them that most of my others had not had. Still, I remembered many friends telling me how many Braxton-Hicks contractions they had had, even painful enough to have to breathe through, and they were not actually labor. I got up and began my morning routine without paying much attention to my contractions, their consistency, or their timing. After all, I had had contractions two minutes apart for three hours multiple times throughout this pregnancy, and they hadn’t meant much of anything!
Since I was still on bed rest, we had arranged for Stephen to take Jeshuah to his cousin’s house for the morning to play, and then Stephen could go into work for a few hours. At about 8:30, I told him I had been having contractions off and on that morning, but I didn’t know if they meant anything or not. I decided to go ahead and take a bath and see if they stopped, as that would mean they were simply false labor. At 8:45, Stephen loaded Jeshuah into the car and headed out, deciding instead to come back home and finish packing the hospital bag, just so that we would be ready whenever I actually did go into labor.
By 9am, I had begun to time my contractions and realized that, although they were still inconsistent and extremely mild, they seemed to be getting closer together and had not been deterred by the bath. I had had to breathe through a couple off and on and had noticed a little bleeding. I began to realize that this might actually be the real thing.
I made a phone call to my mom, who was planning to act as my doula as she had with Jeshuah. I described my contractions and that they had been about 11 minutes apart thirty minutes ago and now they were between 5 and 10 minutes apart, but still not consistent or very strong, and some were so mild I didn’t even know if they were really contractions. She said she would hop in the car and make the hour and a half drive over because her guess was that I really was in labor. I told her not to worry and to take her time, as this labor seemed to be going much slower than my first.
With Jeshuah, my water had broken at 6:30, and I went into labor. Four and a half hours later, Jeshuah was born. There had already been so many false alarms, I felt the need for my water to break this time in order for me to really believe I was in labor. I had been praying all morning that if this really was labor, that the Lord would simply cause my water to break and confirm to me that it was time for action. I had convinced myself also that the reason my labor was so fast with Jeshuah was probably due to the fact that my water had broken immediately, and that if my water did not break to begin early labor, I would probably have a long, drawn out labor. Between all of those factors and the fact that my contractions were not very strong or close together, I still was not convinced I truly was in labor.
Stephen arrived home and began packing bags. Around 9:30, I began having stronger contractions and needed to stop and breathe through a couple more. I ran around the house, putting Jeshuah’s clothes away and labeling drawers and cupboards and printing off instructions for Grandma to know where everything was for Jeshuah later. I wanted to labor as long as possible at home, and since my water still had not broken, I was convinced the need to head to the hospital was still a long way off.
At 10am, we took a pictures of my tummy with an “In labor!” sign next to me.
Two minutes later, my contractions suddenly began rolling into the next with mere seconds in between and pain so intense I could barely move. I felt the baby heavily making its descent and looked at Stephen in wide-eyed panic. The hospital was 15 minutes away, and I truly did not know if we would make it in time.
Stephen propped me up as we made slow progress toward the car, still in indecision about whether to try to drive there in time or deliver this baby at home. But the thought of delivering the baby at home by ourselves was more frightening to me than having to pull over on the side of the road if we didn’t make it, so we continued towards the car.
At that point, Stephen asked if I had called my midwife yet. Well, no, I hadn’t…I thought I was just supposed to show up at the hospital and they would call her once I got there. Usually she was just downstairs anyway. And besides…I had called her so many times throughout this whole pregnancy already, I didn’t want to bother her if I didn’t have to. Stephen sighed and quickly dialed my midwife’s office, explained that I was about to have the baby, and asked what we should do. The nurse told Stephen to call 911 and ask for an ambulance escort to speed our way. While Stephen hung up and dialed 911, I held on for dear life and tried my hardest not to push. (We have since joked that that phone call would be quite humorous to hear the recording of, as Stephen described our location and car in between coaching me to relax my face and take deep breaths, breathing in and out with me while conversing with the operator!)
By the time the ambulance had our location, we were two intersections away from the hospital. They told us to pull over and they would find us, but there was no way I was letting Stephen slow our race to the hospital. Stephen drove, lights flashing, honking his horn, as fast he he could safely go, as he assured me they would have someone waiting at the hospital door to hurry me to a room.
We pulled up in front of the Trinity Birth Place, and a nurse with a wheelchair opened the door and exclaimed happily, “Oh, good! You’re still pregnant!” We waited for the current contraction to ease and she and Stephen heaved me into the chair. The nurse took off toward the nearest empty room, and Stephen went to park the car.
I remember just closing my eyes and trying to hold out, telling myself I would soon be in a room and know how soon I might be holding this little one in my arms! As I neared my room, a flock of staff, including nurses and doctors hurried in behind me and began setting up. One nurse began inputting into a computer, and the doctor and another nurse got ready to check my progress. Stephen appeared in the doorway and a nurse congratulated him on his speed, then told him to breathe. We had made it.
I was extremely eager to hear the doctor’s report on my progress and prayed I was fully dilated, but feared that perhaps I might still have a long way to go, despite what my body was telling me. When she announced that I was 9 and 1/2 cm, but the baby was still at a “one,” I needed a reminder of what that meant, and she explained that the baby wasn’t fully lowered yet and I “still had some time.” I looked at her skeptically and nearly laughed out loud, but I didn’t voice the fact that I knew otherwise.
The nurses passed out my birth plan and began looking it over and discussing it. I heard someone ask how far away my midwife was, and they joked that she was still a ways away. I saw a woman appear in the doorway and heard someone say that it was the OB that my midwife works under. She stood by the door, chatting with some of the nurses nonchalantly.
And that’s when I knew it was time to push. However, in all my reading on childbirth, I knew that my current position, laying flat on my back, was the worst possible option for delivering this baby. Not only that, everything in my body rebelled against the idea. I knew I needed to get up and allow gravity to do some of the work for me.
I shakily asked if I could get up and kneel on the bed. The nurses asked the doctor, and she replied, “I don’t care what she does.” (It has since occurred to me that she did not realize I was asking that because I was ready to push). Relieved, I knelt on the bed and put my arms around Stephen’s shoulders. At this point, I remembered that my water still had not broken, and I heard the nurses talking about that very fact. I thought I heard one of them say they were going to break my water as they baby was born, and I told them not to, that the baby could be born in the sack safely, and they assured me that they would not break my water.
And then, as all the doctors and nurses chatted with their backs turned, with one tremendous effort, I felt the baby slip out and heard a “pop!” as the baby hit the bed and the sack burst open.
Twelve minutes after we arrived at the hospital, Eliana Joy was born.
“Oh!” The staff exclaimed, turning suddenly in shock.
“It’s a girl!” Stephen called out, peering around my kneeling form to see the baby that had just plopped onto the bed.
Within seconds, they had taken the baby, wrapped her in a blanket, and placed her on my chest. She laid there quietly, mewing softly every now and again, but mostly just laying still, looking up at me with wide, blue eyes.
My midwife walked into the room and exclaimed her disappointment that she had not arrived in time. A few minutes later, the placenta was delivered, and my midwife looked at Stephen and me, her eyes very serious.
“The Lord was protecting this baby,” she said solemnly.
“The Lord has been protecting this baby this whole pregnancy!” I replied. ”But what makes you say that right now?”
She went on to explain that the placenta was deformed, a very rare case of velamentous cord insertion. To put it simply, the umbilical cord had implanted into the fetal membranes instead of into the placenta, leaving the baby’s blood vessels exposed.
“If the water had broken during labor, this baby most likely would have died.”
The condition explained all the bleeding I had had throughout the pregnancy. It explained the preterm labor and preterm birth. It explained even more deeply why our little girl truly was “Eliana.” I was humbled to realize that all morning (and indeed, throughout the pregnancy), I had prayed that my labor might start by my water breaking so there would be no question. But God, in His sovereignty, knew that was the very thing that could have cost my daughter her life, and so he preserved her within her sack until the last possible second, when she could be born safely, and gathered into my arms.
When we placed her on the scale, we found that she weighed 5 lbs 12 ounces and was 17 1/2 inches long. So much joy wrapped in such a tiny bundle! My midwife declared that if she had been born one week earlier, she would have been in the NICU. But she was over five pounds and healthy, so we thanked God for yet another answered prayer.
Her middle name is Joy, and she has already filled our lives with so much joy in the few days since her birth. We are overwhelmed by God’s goodness in her life and in giving her to us. We pray that He will continue to guide us as we raise her and Jeshuah to walk in His ways.