Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Personal Superbowl: The Story of Naomi's Birth

by Julie and Nate Odom
It was Thanksgiving morning, two-thousand and nine when my husband and I received one of God’s greatest blessings in the form of a head-to-head matchup with pregnancy and later birth. We had been so longing for this match for some years, and it was finally here. I had not been feeling well for several weeks and assumed I had the swine flu.

My husband, Nate, had gone to the grocery store to get a few things to take to his mother’s for Thanksgiving dinner. While he was there he purchased what he thought was a pregnancy test. He had accidentally grabbed an ovulation test. Nate had an inclination that I was pregnant before the thought had even crossed my mind. When he told me he bought a pregnancy test, I was excited, nervous, and anxious. We waited for what seemed like twenty minutes, but, in reality, it was only three. PREGNANT! I couldn’t believe it. Nate was jumping up and down, and his face was radiant with joy. I was amazed and somewhat doubtful about this new reality of life; I needed the reassurance of another test before I was actually convinced. We agreed that if the second test also came back pregnant, we would tell our family that very day so they could give thanks together with us. Again, it read PREGNANT!

We later shared the news with my husband’s family as we were gathered around Thanksgiving dinner. “We are thankful for life, and especially the new life inside of Julie!” Nate prayed. It took everyone a second or two to catch on to this implicit allusion and then hysterical jubilation ensued! Hugs, kisses, and tears of joy now surrounded our thanksgiving. We later shared the news with my family as well. Their exuberance mirrored that of Nate’s family.  The day was magnificent and much celebrated! We now focused all of our energy towards preparation for the greatest marathon life can offer, our estimated due date, July 18th.


Pregnancy was wonderful!  I often felt sick and nauseous, but it was never unbearable. I seemed to have an insatiable desire for potatoes and a wide variety of fresh fruit.  Oddly enough, two of my favorite things, Panera and chocolate, repulsed me during pregnancy.

But I love surprises! As such, my husband and I wanted to experience the benefits of bliss given from life’s quintessential astonishment, new life. We were very eager to welcome our daughter or son into the world! We frequented the doctor’s office and enrolled in Beautiful Childbirth Education Class (BCEC) with Dr. Jane Beal.

There were many things that I took away from her class. I can say without hesitation that I would not be able to look back at this grand experience with such fondness without the edification and encouragement received each Tuesday night with Jane. I learned the importance of listening to what my body was telling me, especially its little nuances. It may appear a simple mantra (listen to your body, listen to your body, listen to your body), yet it seems that popular literature echoes a much different message to women. I needed to practice listening to my body and responding to its demands. This would play a huge role in my success on “game-day”:  failing to do so would potentially leave me powerless with the possibility of being pricked and incurring scars that would haunt me the rest of my life.

Throughout Jane’s course, we learned more and more about the pros and cons of both hospital births and at-home births. Although we started with the mindset of being in a hospital during birth, our learning experience left us leaning more towards a home-birth type of delivery. By that, I mean that we wanted to avoid the route where medical advances would place us on the fast track to cesarean. Without BCEC, we would have never arrived at this conclusion. We had such a positive experience, and were so confident in Dr. B’s abilities and knowledge, that we felt it was an essential part of our game-plan, moving forward, to hire her as our Defensive Coordinator, or doula.  

Despite being uncomfortable during pregnancy, I gained comfort from the constant love, prayer, and support that surrounded our family. I knew that the hardest part was yet to come, but I was ready for this! I knew that I could compete at this elite level of physical endurance and desired to attempt to deliver our child naturally. Although I was afraid of the pain of labor and delivery, I had strong aspirations to try a natural delivery.

Pre-season Scrimmage

In an attempt to be on the same page with our Offensive Coordinator, or doctor, we decided to write out a comprehensive game plan that we called our birth plan. Three weeks prior to our due date, we went over this plan with Dr. F, who had been my OBGYN since I was eighteen. We had hoped to have her deliver our child. We were stunned with what occurred next! 

She told us that I had to be hooked to an IV and fetal monitors as soon as I entered the hospital – “It’s non-negotiable,” she said. She said “no” to a hep-lock and intermittent monitoring. She also told us that I must deliver the baby on the bed, lying on my back, in the lithotomy position. Dr. F agreed that the position was not ideal for women to deliver (it does not allow gravity to help or the woman’s hips or pelvis to open), yet she said that it was better for her. She actually said that she did not want to get the baby’s secretions on her! In addition, she stated that if I were squatting while delivering, she might drop the baby when it came out. Seriously? WOW! We were absolutely flabbergasted.

An overwhelming sense of discouragement and fear gripped our hearts. I was about to endure the most pain imaginable in this life, and she was worried about herself. My husband questioned why Dr. F had said what she did. She simply responded that she did not want to get sued. We left her office obviously upset and in utter alarm toward her reaction toward our plan. We called Jane, our doula, who recommended another hospital and a group of midwives. Our Head Coach, the Lord God Almighty, turned this situation into a huge blessing. What Satan had meant to harm us, God had turned around and used to help us!

Needless to say, shortly after the dilemma with Dr. F, I left the OBGYN practice. The new group of midwives was empathetic toward my situation and did everything to help. I first met with Shirley Moore, and within the next week, met all the midwives in the practice. Elise Erickson was the midwife who delivered our baby, and she was absolutely amazing. I still feel an inexpressible bond with her; this intimate connection will never end. Our midwives delivered at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park. We also chose this hospital upon taking a tour of their ABC (alternative birthing center) rooms. These rooms encourage natural childbirth with a variety of comfort methods available, all of which I used throughout labor. With the new players we had been blessed with, we felt supremely confident moving forward toward the big game.

Game Day

The excitement of the big game had swept us up in a whirlwind of excitement. My husband had seemingly known all along that the big day would come sooner than we had thought. Correspondingly, around 2:30 AM on July 17th, 2010, one day before our due date, my water started to break. Nate and I were so excited we made sure to snap a few pictures in order to capture the moment. Today would be the biggest game of our lives, it was a day we would engage in a bout with birth, a day we would meet our child.

We called our doula, midwives, and mothers. Our wish was to encourage labor as long as possible at home. So, we went back to sleep until around 9 AM I woke up feeling minor contractions. Yet, we went to Seven Dwarfs for breakfast, where I ordered strawberry waffles. At the restaurant, the contractions became stronger, especially in my back. Nate was mentally and emotionally preparing me; he was the ultimate coach on the field, so to speak. We went home, tried to clean the house a little and did active labor exercises that we had learned in our BCEC classes. The contractions were getting stronger and closer. Also, my back pain was increasing. Nate called our doula, who came by the house to help turn the baby using the rebozo technique. She monitored my contractions and advised we head to the hospital now. It was game time!

Nate weaved in and out of traffic like an All-Pro running back. The car ride flew by, and I was glad; I wanted to get to the hospital. What should have taken us a minimum of twenty minutes of travel actually took twelve. We checked in at 1:46 PM, and I was already 7.5 cm dilated and in transition. Elise prepared the birthing tub with a lavender fragrance, my favorite scent! All of my training had prepared me for this moment in time. I was so intensely focused that I was unable to speak. I concentrated on what my body was telling me. Jane and Elise seemed able to listen to my non-verbal signs and respond accordingly. My eyes remained closed almost throughout the duration of labor. This was the most intense physical altercation I had ever encountered.

As the quarter back, I relied on my teammates to make the plays. My birthing team did just that. Nate was there supporting me physically and mentally; he was my moral support. I had a better understanding of being one with my husband because of the strength he gave me. He would whisper encouragement into my ear: “You are beautiful," “You are sexy,” “You are superwoman!” He had prepared several CDs that played over my soul and spirit and granted the serenity I needed. The music relaxed, uplifted, and even humored me. I remember laughing at one point, which was much needed.

Jane was encouraging me as she seemed so in tune with my every thought and need. This was particularly special and supernatural as I never said a word. Additionally, she helped communicate the game plan to the other teammates at the hospital throughout the struggle. Her presence was a powerful one. She placed me in different positions for comfort and at times massaged me. She reminded me that I wanted to touch the baby’s head. I did so twice, and each time, that simple touch gave me the strength to fight on. Elise did the delivery. She told me where we were throughout the labor and helped tell me when to push. Her words were calm and very directive. The calmness with which she spoke gave me the confidence I needed to overcome the fear of losing this battle. Kelly was the hospital nurse. She monitored the baby’s heartbeat after contractions. She cleaned up any of the mess that was made during the course of the scuffle.

I tried many positions during labor:  in the water, squatting, on the bed, lying over a bean-bag, on all fours, and on my side. When lying over the bean-bag, Nate and Jane would push on my hip bones to help ease the pain. This helped tremendously. This was a full out war with my body. Mentally drained and physically exhausted, I sometimes fell asleep during rushes. When pushing, the most comfortable position for me was the squatting stool. Nate was sitting on a chair behind me. He tightly grasped my hands. There came a point in time where I could not tell where his hand started and mine ended. I pushed for 2 hours and 25 minutes. Elise and Jane told me I only needed one more, and out came the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. It was a girl!

Naomi Grace was born at 6:46 PM, 8 pounds, 12 ounces and 21.5 inches long. Nate cut her umbilical cord as I was crying. I repeated, “She is so beautiful, she is so beautiful!”

Although the game seemed as if it was well in hand, our birthing team advised me to hand Naomi to Nate and for me to lie on the bed. The mood seemed to change from fantastic to frenetic frenzy. I had delivered the placenta quickly, but my contractions were now spaced widely apart, which meant the uterus did not contract down immediately:  this led to mild hemorrhaging. I lost about a tenth of my body’s blood, or a liter, in about thirty seconds.

Right when I thought we had taken the lead for good, the opposition struck back with a debilitating blow. Nate seemed to panic and began to walk away from the sight before his eyes. Jane then told him that he needed to come back and lay down next to me with Naomi. I had made it all the way to this point without any medical interventions. However, I was then given a shot of pitocin in order for the uterus to contract down and cut off the flow of blood. Thank God that it worked, and the bleeding stopped. I remember feeling so weak. Regardless, we had won!

The bout with birth was over and the reward was Naomi Grace, which means beautiful grace. Without God’s beautiful grace, our victory would not have been possible or as sweet!  The hospital played a lullaby over the speakers and our families celebrated with us.


The Lord’s favor and mercy ruled over this entire situation. It was truly a game that would not have been won without the support of his Spirit. All of our wishes and dreams had come true. Saturday, July 17th, 2010 was the best day of my life! Praise be to God! I could not have overcome the trials and tribulation that go hand-in-hand with pregnancy, labor, and birth without my teammates: Nate, Jane, Elise, Kelly, West Suburban Hospital, and our midwives. I am superwoman! I did it!