William Hunter Shover born on August 17, 2023 at 3:12 am in the comforts of our home with his eyes WIDE open. 8 pounds. 20 inches. Sweet as can be, and looks just like his daddy.
I have been meaning to sit down and write about the journey of having our first child, William Hunter. It has taken a while for me to process the whole event, and the time leading up to it to be able to put it into words. So, here I go.
In the fall of 2021, Jonathan and I decided that it was time to start a family. We had been together since I was 15 and he was 18 in 2010, got married in 2016, and we had been asked so many times “when are yall going to have a baby??” We had traveled, built our business, and done everything we ever really wanted to do before we had a child, and hanging out with just each other was fun but we thought it might be time to add a little excitement to our life. I made the appointment to get my IUD out in February of 2022 and we started dreaming about what it would look like to be parents. The day of IUD removal came and went and we began “trying” to get pregnant. We got pregnant right away, and felt blessed because so many of our friends and clients weren’t that lucky. Many had lost babies, have walked through infertility, and much more. We thanked God. We started documenting the whole journey. Every little thing we took video and I even wrote a children’s book called Sadie Sleeps, which announced our pregnancy at the end for our family to read. We started telling people and everyone was so excited. All along, though, I had slight cramping, and right before our 13 week appointment which we had waited so patiently for to see our little baby for the first time, I started bleeding. I was told after calling the doctor office that it could be subchorionic bleeding and not to worry, but they would fit us in the next day for an ultrasound. We went into the office the next day with scared hearts, and prepared for what was to come. When the scan came up on the screen, we saw a black orb which was the sac that holds the baby, but nothing was in it. Just darkness. Our hearts broke. Not because of the empty sac on the screen, but for the visions and ideas we had of what this baby would be like were now lost. What the rest of the pregnancy would hold. What parenthood would be like. What holding our little baby would be like. All of those down the drain. They gave us the option of waiting for this to pass naturally which could take months, or schedule a surgery to remove the sac, and furthermore, move on with our life. Very little empathy. They have told thousands of other people the same thing, so we were just another couple who lost a child. On June 17, 2022, we went in for our D&E, and I have never been more scared in my whole life. I had never had a surgery before, and had no idea what to expect. The day passed and then the waiting game began for my body to go back to normal. As time passes, your body eventually goes back to normal, but your brain and your heart never forget.
I will never forget what a friend of mine messaged me after the loss: “When you walk into Heaven, a little child will run to you. You will know exactly who that baby is, and the baby will know exactly who you are.” I couldn’t wait for that moment.
Time passed and eventually my body went back to normal but it took months of waiting. They tested me for every chemical imbalance, and every problem that could cause infertility and our next step would be the infertility clinic. I knew that I didn’t want to do IVF, and we would probably adopt at that point. I told myself if I wasn’t pregnant by February of 2023, we would start the adoption process. I was stressed beyond belief. Why is my body so screwed up? Why wouldn’t it just work like normal? This was a season of waiting, and God teaching me patience. I have never been a patient person, and this was God showing me a place I needed to work on in my life. On the beach in Cape Cod, MA, Jonathan and I were walking at sunset after dinner and came upon these little toddler footprints in the sand. We stood there and looked at them and wondered if we would ever get to walk on the beach with a little one one day. We drew a rainbow around those footprints, and prayed to God together. We released our anxieties to Him, and gave this journey to Him. We would allow Him to control it instead of trying to control it ourselves.
On December 8, 2022, I took a pregnancy test because I was going on a bachelorette trip the following weekend. It was positive.
This time felt completely different. I didn’t have cramping, and just felt like this was real. It was. We went in for an ultrasound that I DEMANDED well before 13 weeks to confirm that there was actually something in there. There he was. A little heartbeat pumping away. Instantly, I cried. That was my little guy. I will never forget that moment.
Seeing him in there didn’t completely remove all aspects of fear and anxiety though. The devil will use your anxieties against you, and losing him was my biggest one. My heart couldn’t take losing another. After a day of work, I came home and was getting ready for bed and went to the bathroom to find blood again. My heart dropped. I got in the shower and just bawled knowing it was happening all over again. We went in the next day for an ultrasound, and just like every time at the doctor, my blood pressure was through the roof. I could feel my heartbeat in my ears, and followed the nurses as they led me here and there for this test and that test. Once again, just zoning out and basically floating above my own body. The screen popped up, and by God’s grace, it really was a chorionic hemorrhage, and he was just fine. Moving around and his little heartbeat was absolutely perfect. My baby was still alive and thriving.
During all this, a client of ours, Dr. Heather Soper with Genesis Midwifery, was always there for us. She would message, check in, and see how things were going. We worked with her to document a birth for marketing her business and she had stayed connected with us since then. She would always offer to see me, do testing, really anything we would need through our journey trying to get pregnant. At the time, I was going to a local OB office and felt so un-seen. We were paying bill after bill because our insurance sucks. Every time I went into the doctor, it was the longest wait, and I just felt like another warm body they had to push through so they could go home for the day. I was always anxious, my blood pressure would get so high, and dreaded every visit. The next visit I was scheduled to get a pelvic exam and PAP smear. I asked, “Am I required to do these tests?” Their response was, ” they are recommended.” That was the last thing I wanted. It was that day that I cancelled the appointment and scheduled a meeting with Heather. I knew I wanted a home birth and a whole different experience than the norm, but knew it would take some sweet talking to get Jonathan on board. He is so science based and wants statistics and studies to back up things that I would tell him about home birth. He would say I was “crunchy” and didn’t want to “risk” something happening to me or the baby during the birth. All it took was one meeting with Heather for him to be on board.
As the pregnancy went, we had many appointments with Heather going over every aspect of the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. We went over the relational aspect of how having a baby would change our relationship and what to expect. We talked about the mental and hormonal aspect of it all, and how hard it probably would be at first. She didn’t sugar coat a thing but truly educated us on what to expect. We learned all about physiological birth and how if you are low risk, it is safer to birth at home than in the hospital because of all the interventions at the hospital that disrupt a normal birth the way God intended. We felt so prepared, and ready for him to be here. The weeks leading up to his birth, I was doing every move possible on the birth ball, eating pineapple, and raspberry leaf tea, and doing everyyyyything to try and get the baby out! The day before his due date, I did my hair and makeup and asked Jonathan to take a few pictures of my belly in the backyard to honor him making it to 40 weeks exactly. Later that evening at 7:30pm, I was sitting on the bed trying to pump in hopes that would encourage him to come out… and my water broke.
I instantly messaged Heather to tell her that I didn’t know if I peed my pants or my water broke. Thankfully, she lives 5 minutes from our house and said she would stop by and check and see. She showed up with all her gear (even though she had a birth earlier that day and probably already was exhausted!) and swabbed me. It was my water. We were having our baby boy. Contractions INSTANTLY started and I got out my heating pad and laid on the bed trying to rest and save up energy. The heating pad was a lifesaver for back labor which I had the whole time. Heather checked me and I was 5cm dilated at that point. She initially said she would go to her house and shower and then come back later. She decided pretty quickly that because things were moving so quick, she was going to stick around. I think that surprised Jonathan because we had been thinking our first birth would take 24-48 hours as they typically are for a first time mom. This baby was coming quick!
Contractions were pretty strong at this point and I was having to breathe through them. Heather came over and said, “Can we pray together?” She laid hands on us and prayed for guidance for herself for the birth, a healthy mom and healthy baby safely brought into the world.” I will never forget her doing this.
At that point, I started to fade out with memory. I think looking back that when you are in pain, God makes it so you zone out and don’t realize how much time passes, and basically are floating above yourself just making it through each contraction, and recovering in between in each one. In each break between contractions, our amazing doula, Lauren Durrer, would give me a sip of water, and assist in anyway to make it more bearable. She would rub my hips, use the fan on my face, refresh my cold wash cloth, and help move me into positions that made it feel better. I wanted Jonathan the whole time and didn’t want him to leave me or let me go. He was talking into my ear, “you are doing so good, you can do this, you are made for this, you are almost done…” so many affirmations that made me feel safe and that I could actually do this. I knew that going to the hospital wasn’t an option, and I would have to just put my big girl pants on and get this baby out no matter how much pain I was in. And I am so glad that I did.
Heather said she needed to check me again to see if I was ready to push. I was 10cm dilated so I got into the tub and FINALLY felt a moment of relief. The warm water was amazing. Laura poured cup after cup over my back, and I finally sat down and started to push. I really didn’t think that I would birth sitting down or have him in the tub, but there I was doing just that. I was pushing for almost three hours and near the end of it, I could feel fear coming up. I heard myself say “I can’t do this” because it felt like if I did, I would split completely open. I begged God for mercy and asked everyone to pray for William and I. I heard Jonathan in my ear praying. I heard Lauren praying over us. Every person in that room was whispering prayers. I could feel the presence of God in the room and just couldn’t help but cry through the pain and just the overwhelming feeling of the Holy Spirit within the room surrounding us. I heard Heather say, “you have to push past the pain, Sam” and I knew that I was at the end of myself, but I also knew that the moment that I went past it, I would be holding my little boy. Instantly, I went into overdrive pushing with all my might even though it was more than I could take. Heather said, “you did it, Sam, his head it out, keep going!!” One second longer, and here was this wet, long legged baby on my chest. “You did it, Sam!!” It was 3:12AM. He was perfect. Every bit of him. His long fingers and big hands, his eyes WIDE open checking us all out. Jonathan was crying and kissing me and William grabbed his finger. His hands looked so tiny compared to Jonathan’s finger. The most overwhelming feelings passed over my body and lasted for so much time after that. A mixture of adrenaline, pure joy to be done with labor, and just immediate love for this tiny little thing that five minutes before, I had never seen or met before. I can only describe this as the purest form of love. I just stared at William and looked at every inch of him trying to put this moment forever into my memory to last until the day I die. HOW did that just come out of me?? I couldn’t stop crying and holding him close.
A little while later, Heather helped me birth the placenta and once the cord was completely white, Heather talked Jonathan through cutting the cord. I jumped in the shower and washed off while they cleaned up the room and took the birthing pool down. Jonathan got to snuggle him and do skin to skin with him, really his first time meeting his first son. I got out of the shower and settled into my warm bed and instantly got to eat and drink all the things. I was pretty tired at that point and I know that Heather and the rest of the birth team was exhausted. They just pulled an all nighter!! We sat there while Heather walked us through his assessment right in front of us. She showed us what she was inspecting to make sure William was okay, and then put him in the hanging scale to see how much he weighed. 8 pounds! I was amazed that I was able to birth something that weighed 8 pounds!
Heather and the rest of the birth team stayed until after 5am to monitor us both, make sure William latched and I knew how to breastfeed him, and make sure my bleeding had subsided and that we were okay. She educated us on how to take care of him through the rest of the night, and what to expect until she came back within 48 hours for another checkup.
Since that night, we have been in awe at how much you can love something. We just sit and stare at our baby and soak in every second. He is a little over a month old now and already looks so different compared to when he was born. He is just a little ray of light. I think back to the day that we saw the ultrasound and there was an empty sac in my belly. Just a black oval on the screen, and realize that despite having to go through that dark time, God brings light to over-shine the dark moments. He makes good out of the bad. At the time, we felt like we wouldn’t make it through. We clung to each other and trusted that no matter what happened, we would have each other and our journey would unfold. Little did we know that God would bring the brightest light ever into our life: little William Hunter.
The photos and video taken during our birth were taken by my best friend, Melanie Yoder. She came during the birth and I didn’t even realize she was there until the end once he was born and I came back to planet Earth. I am SO thankful that I had her there during the birth to document the most special moment of my whole life. A wedding day is amazing and special (and people typically spend a lot to have photo and video taken that day), but the day that your child is born tops any other day in your whole life. Why would you not document that moment to remember forever? The moment that your baby comes out and suddenly the way you look at each other is completely different, and your brain completely re-wires itself. Now that baby is the only thing you can think about and worry about. THAT exact moment caught on film to have forever. I am so grateful for Melanie and her skill that day because I can never recreate that moment.
If you are reading this and have a child dueto be born, PLEASE think about having someone there to document the moment. You will not be sorry you did it, and will be so thankful to have the photos and video to relive that day. The day that your life went from dark to light.