The Atonement, a Birth Story, and the Help of Angels

**In this post I share the birth of one of our children. At the beginning of labor the placenta tore, causing a rough birthing process, yet our outcome was miraculously positive. While I show that God was with us and protected us during our labor and delivery, I do in no way believe that he is not present when the outcome is disability, death, or stillbirth. I feel that he is evermore present in such situations. This is one experience. It is my hope that by reading the perspective in this experience, you will become more aware of the way God has been present during your own difficult circumstances. I feel he wanted me to share this, so I hope it will be uplifting to you.

I woke with contractions close enough together to gather supplies. Spencer put everything in the car and we were off. But by the time we got to our friends’ house to drop the kids off, contractions were slowing.
And by the time we got to the hospital, they’d stopped completely. Feeling confused—shouldn’t we have recognized false labor after 3 deliveries?—we turned around.

An angel settled in the backseat as we drove, ready for the night ahead. I felt the peace of the Lord she brought with her, even if I didn’t consciously notice her presence. We picked up the kids and went home.

At home, I snuggled with our two-year-old, both of us restless from the strange night.
Another contraction—strong—and fluid. I’d have felt so certain that it was time, but I was determined not to jump up and run to the hospital again. I decided we had time. We could wait. But the fluid made me nervous. I went to the bathroom—blood. That couldn’t be good.

I prayed. Our angel held me, and I felt peace. But what to do?
Run to the hospital again? Drop the kids off . . . again?
“Is the baby moving?” Spencer asked.

“Yes, maybe. He isn’t usually active at this time.”
My phone crashed as I sat there, fumbling, trying to decide what to do.
I prayed, paused.
“Let’s all get in the car.”

I continued to pray.
We paused at the corner. To the hospital or our friend’s?
To Ashley’s, the Spirit whispered—firmly.
We drove to their house and sat outside. They didn’t answer their phones. I called the doctor. The doctor wasn’t worried. I was. We prayed. I knew it would be okay.

But what to do?
I walked around. Angels walked with me. I was too distracted to fully notice them, but they gave me strength. I supplicated the Lord; I wanted a specific answer. “What should we do?” But the Lord seemed content to send me peace and allow me to decide how to handle the situation.

I thought about the night—it wasn’t normal, not for me.

We knocked on the door until someone inside woke and let us in. We put the kids in sleeping bags on the floor, tucked them in, in a quiet house. Their eyes were wide open. I was braced for the whining, the begging us to stay or to take them with us. But they didn’t make a sound as I moved up the stairs. I was relieved that angels calmed them, too. None of our usually apprehensive kids were upset at being left.

I sent a message to my mom on the way into the hospital. It was only three in the morning where she was, but, being a frequenter of 3am, she replied within five minutes, “Ok let me know. Love you”

But she knew. She knew something was wrong. She went to her closet to pray. My dad rolled over in bed and prayed. Their prayers brought more angels to our side. And as we walked through the nearly silent hospital the angels lifted, guarded, and walked by us. 

We made it through triage where we found baby’s heartbeat. I was dilated to 6-7 cm.

The next few hours passed quickly with little progress.

My obstetrician recommended either Pitocin or breaking the water.

I didn’t want either, which was new for me. I would have gone for either in any of my previous deliveries. But I had been led by the Spirit to prepare differently for this delivery. And now in the face of intervention I was undone. We prayed, and received the peace of our Savior—the strength of his powerful Atonement.

We decided to break the water. But the sack wasn’t tight enough. After a few knife-point painful attempts that made me sick to my stomach, I asked the doctor to stop. She sighed, looked me in the eye and said, “The back of the cervix is only about a four.” They’d mismeasured, all of them.

I wanted to go home. But God knew we needed to be there. Unknown to any of us at the moment—the placenta had started to tear away from the wall of the uterus. The angels gathered round, bearing me up.

I signed the paperwork for the epidural. Then leaned into my husband’s steady embrace for a contraction, my nurse at our side, guiding me through it. I relied on his sustaining grip, on her patient encouragement, and their strength bore me up—they were among my angels.

And the water broke.

Now the cervix had opened—a true seven. I prayed in relief and gratitude. A renewed optimism enveloped me. We could continue as planned. I was sure it would be over soon.

But my ancestor mothers who had borne this burden before me in more dangerous and uncomfortable conditions were still there. They knew we still had a long road ahead. They are powerful. They strengthened me through the next few hours of contractions.

The Savior and the power of his suffering for me was powerful in the room around us. I was focused on the task at hand: deliver the baby. It took longer than I had hoped. These angels, seen and unseen, supported me through contractions while it was difficult to relax, through a spurt of laughing gas, through slow progress, through my waning motivation.

Over a thousand miles away, my family continued to pray. Not far from them, Spencer’s family prayed. Just a few miles from the hospital, my friend Ashley prayed. They all knew something was wrong though we had barely any contact. The nurse became concerned by the amount of the blood. The doctor guessed the placenta had torn. They were anxious to speed the delivery up. Their anxiety could have overwhelmed me, but the angels gave me clarity. I knew all I could do was focus on the delivery. I couldn’t let their worries become mine. Focusing during stress is not one of my stronger traits, but the strength of a hundred prayers carried me—the angels attended me, strengthened me, held me, and didn’t let me go.

I consented to the epidural, and as the pain subsided, it seemed that the delivery would be over with numbed anticipation. With only a lip left on the cervix they asked me to push past it. But baby’s head wouldn’t stay down to enter the birth canal. We waited some more.

It was afternoon and it had been a long night and a day and it felt like no time had passed and like it’d been days since we dropped the older kids off and tucked them in sleeping bags in our friends’ basement. And I was distantly aware that they were waiting. But I didn’t worry. The angels spoke peace to my heart. And at the same time I realized that I was very tired and that I hadn’t eaten all day and I should probably feel hungry. And I wondered where I was getting the energy to go through with this, when all the calories that had sustained me the day before had definitely been used up.

Then the pushing began. But the baby slid up into the uterus over and over and over, never descending fully into the birth canal. And the doctor and nurses were so supportive, telling me, “You’re an amazing pusher.” I only kind of believed them, thinking that if I was so good the baby would be born.

His heart rate lowered with every contraction. He was transverse and his mouth and nose were blocked when I pushed. The doctor reached up to turn him during every round of pushing, hoping he would stay in the birth canal, but he kept rising back up, turning back as he did. Soon I was breathing oxygen between pushing sessions and the nurses and doctor assured me that baby was stubborn and I was doing a great job.

I felt the strength, the power of the angels bearing me up. The Lord had prepared me with my study of birth, of natural delivery, and He filled me with energy through the endless hours when I couldn’t have made it on my own strength, and he sent angels to my aid—my angel mothers who were tough, who carried me along with him.

So with no progress and baby still struggling we changed pushing positions. The resident obstetrician kept coming to the door. Sensing some of the tension in the room, I knew my baby was in trouble, but the Lord kept me focused on what I could control: pushing.

The baby’s nurse was a fierce believer in the power of women. We needed her energy and it wasn’t by accident that she was there that day. She stood at the head of an army of angels, fighting for us all to do our best. The doctor was worried. My husband was worried. But in the face of her buoyancy, we all took heart. The room was crowded with angels, seen and unseen, all working hard to bring the baby safely into the world.

There was a pause. Something had to give. There had to be some progress to be made.

The nurses suggested hands and knees pushing. The doctor agreed. I agreed.

The angels in the room gathered round me. The doctor was surprised by my strength as I pushed round after round. She worried I would be exhausted after every round, but with each contraction I lifted onto my hands and pushed. The unseen angels were holding me up, I barely registered the nurses admiration of my continued energy, but looking back, I can see the angels, bracing my arms, lifting my chest, holding my legs. And the presence of the angels and the praise of the doctor, nurses, and my husband gave me the determination to keep going.

But after a while we ceased pushing. It seemed that no amount of tenacity would get this baby out. We rested to increase the epidural. I’d neglected to give myself enough to cope with the increasing contractions. I’d thought it would be over soon.

The pain of the contractions without bearing down was more than I could handle. I was blind with pain, barely aware of what was happening as the anesthesiologist came in to increase the dose. When it kicked in the doctor had my nurse raise the bed—hoping gravity would help us. I’d suggested that position over an hour before, but the suggestion was dismissed in the concern for baby’s heart rate drops.

The room was filling up. An entire NICU team was awaiting our baby’s arrival. More nurses rushed around and my nurse called another obstetrician for advice.

I barely had time to look around at them all when the baby’s head crowned. The doctor  leaped into action. “Push.” I didn’t have the energy for it, not with the comfort of the increased epidural. I had been ready to rest. But with everyone in the room relying on me, I pushed. Pure grit and instinct brought our baby into the world. I was shocked. After all of that. Everything. After hours of pushing and almost negligible progress and increasing distress, he was thrust onto my abdomen.

Concern replaced the shock. He was blue, not moving. I wondered if he was breathing at all. I couldn’t be properly fearful with the peace of being close to the Lord still in my heart, but I wondered if our baby would make it through this ordeal. I didn’t want to lose him, not after working so hard for him. I begged God to let me keep him.  

“He’s just stunned,” they told me. “Rub his back.” 

We all gathered around rubbing his back while the doctor cut the cord and a long time seemed to pass while we sat there rubbing his back and the doctor cut his cord, but it must have been only seconds.

They threw a blanket over his body and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed and none of the rubbing seemed to make any difference and someone grabbed a bulb syringe and sucked fluid out of him, but he still didn’t move or cry or whimper. And they swept him off my chest and over to the infant bed. All the doctors and nurses were blocking my view. I begged my husband to tell me if he was okay. “He’s fine,” he said, giving me the look that told me not to worry.

I turned my attention to the placenta. After we delivered it, there was still a lot of activity around the baby. My husband stood at the back of the pack of doctors, attention glued on the infant bed, his height allowing him to see the baby over top of them all.

“He’s fine. He’s fine,” he tells me, when I called out to him, though his heart had seized in his chest and he wasn’t sure at all if the baby was okay. He couldn’t bear to worry me until he knew for sure. He wanted to carry this small burden for me, for a time, having felt so helpless for most of the last few hours.

Finally the doctors settled down. One explained to us that they would take our baby to the NICU to run some tests. They were worried his loss of oxygen had led to—worst case scenario—bleeding in the brain and brain damage. I expected fear and worry to grip me. Our baby didn’t sound fine at all. But the angels around me wouldn’t let me sink into despair. They formed a shield around me, and I felt a peace I couldn’t explain. I didn’t know whether he would make it. I had no clue what his future looked like, yet I knew our Savior was with us and we would meet any challenge.

As the NICU team exited, Spencer longed to follow them, but, still oblivious to his inner turmoil, I begged him to stay and support me. There are so many doctors with our baby, and something must have told my soul that there are angels with him, too.

As we sat holding hands, struggling to reconcile the most difficult experience we’ve been through, Spencer told me of the priesthood blessing he gave me at my most difficult point, and tears in my eyes, I started to see the angels who’d been with us all day.

A peace settled over us that I can’t explain physically. Yet the power in the room was real. And as Spencer saw my calm, he admitted that he was exceptionally worried about our baby. I released him to go find out. His anxiety would normally give me anxiety. He so rarely worries, but the shield of peace would not leave my heart. In my mind, I begged God not to take this baby from us, after working so hard, I wanted to see him grow up. I felt that no matter what the next few hours brought, I would be okay. I had the strength of my Savior and my ancestors rallied around me.

Within an hour the NICU doctor was back, telling us that all of the tests came back normal. Our baby was fine. Healthy. Perfect.

I see the angels.

I’m on my hands and knees on the hospital bed and they crouch all around me. One holds my legs. One supports my arms. Another braces my body to keep me from collapsing. And they hold me. They hug me. And there is our Savior, protecting us. And together, we bring one of his precious children into the world.

Leave a Comment