My first two experiences with childbirth were, to put it mildly, a complete blur of intensity and activity from the first unmistakable contraction to the full delivery, all completed in, roughly, an hour. Even with going all natural, without any kind of pain relief, I failed to have the spiritual journey and experience that many women experience. There simply was no time for it. Those short minutes were powerful, consuming, and suddenly over. And there was a baby!
But, there's no time like the third time to switch things up.
I've struggled with some degree of insomnia/sleeplessness at night during all my pregnancies, it begins in the second trimester and then comes on with a vengeance in the final stretch. This was manageable when I could sleep whenever, because I had no children yet. It was somewhat doable when I had only one child who still napped every day, so I slept when she slept. It was death itself with two children who did not nap at the same time; one who would not sit through more than 15 minutes of a movie, no matter how hard I wished it. I'm fairly certain I wondered how tired you had to be to die of exhaustion.
The fatigue began to lead to heavy bouts of Braxton Hicks. The only solution was to plunk myself down in our small recliner and helplessly watch as my husband took over. So when I began having mild, yet regular, contractions, I wrote them off as more Braxton Hicks. Until, they kept coming, even as I rested. And they progressed, albeit slowly. This was nothing like my slamming, sprint-to-the-labor-unit experiences previously, it was a textbook perfect picture of labor. Which was so weird. I may be one of the only moms who, on her third experience with labor, kept asking if this is what labor is supposed to feel like? Was it labor?
Eventually we made it over to the hospital and admitted. Turns out a history of precipitous labor leapfrogs you into a room much more quickly than normal. Nobody wants you having a baby in the hallway. And labor went on. And on. For five hours.
Let me pause here and acknowledge the thousands, if not millions, of women who bear through much longer periods of labor, with grace, fortitude, and maybe only a little profanity. But to a girl used to an hour or less, five hours was an eternity.
My exhaustion was so deep. The words, "I am so tired," left my mouth more times than I can probably count. Tyler wisely never complained about that. Even as I entered into end-stage contractions, I began dozing in the short intervals between them, on my hands and knees, leaning my head forward onto the raised bed, only to be jolted back into awareness by another contraction. For the first time, I began to question whether or not I was up to this experience. Deep in my heart was a chilling fear that I couldn't sustain this for much longer, I was too tired, too worn out already.
Yet in my fear, I found my heart pleading for help and strength. In our quiet room, as Tyler and I were left peacefully alone, we prayed together. And my mind began to replay two scriptures over and over again. These scriptures aren't mine to share, they are Jeremiah's, tied into his name and who he's going to be. But I felt this strength, this knowledge that this child wasn't just mine, he was God's, and together he and I were going to get through this childbirth business together. So as the contractions began piling up upon each other and my heart wavered at the thought of continuing on, I heard the words of God over and over again.
An immense pressure began to build, soon becoming more unbearable than the contractions, the midwife informed me that it was likely my bag of waters, still unbroken. She offered to break it for me and I agreed without a second thought. As I breathed heavily into an oxygen mask (since I had begun to feel quite dizzy and realized I was very close to passing out), she broke that sack and, just like that, two minutes later Jeremiah was fully born. His birth was the most painful, the longest, and also, the most spiritual.
And now, he's a wiggly, ever-moving 10 month old who fiercely admires his older brother, fake cries like a boss, and loves to have conversations. Someday, I have no doubt, I'll see the meaning of those scriptures play out and I'll watch in awe as I realize that my Heavenly Father saw this coming all along, when a worn-out girl needed to know that she and her coming son were known.
15 December 2016
05 April 2016
A birth story was supposed to be written during the fourth week of Jeremiah's life. The first two and a half weeks were going smoothly, life was unbelievably good. I was so impressed with my transition to three kids. I was cooking, cleaning, playing, nursing, keeping up on laundry, making plans. I was superwoman.
And then. Oh, and then. Then came being compelled to be humble.
There has been silent reflux and terrible gas with bloating. There have been soaked burp cloths and long, crying hours. And most recently, there has been an outbreak of hives. Poor boy can't catch a break.
We have had heaps and heaps of soiled laundry still sitting in the hallway. We have eaten too many dinners of cold cereal. We have only had two spare inches of kitchen counter space due to the massive piles of dirty dishes. We have gone to bed while every toy and book still lay on the front room floor. We have watched movies, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer twice in one sitting.
I have prayed. I have fallen asleep on my knees after only a minute or two when I was supposed to be praying. I have hunted for causes and solutions. I have felt overwhelmed and spiritually numb. I have had days where I just hung in there only because there was no other option. I have been anything but superwoman.
But God always has a plan and opposition and adversity are not pointless experiences.
There have been supportive texts and phone calls. There has been divine guidance to understanding the root problems (forceful letdown and oversupply), leading to solutions that work (nursing while reclining, tummy massages, gas drops, baby swing). There has even been the gentle whisper letting me know that part of the solution (gas drops) was now becoming a problem (hives). There have been days where all three little ones napped at the same time. There have been friends checking in to see what they could do for me. There has always been a husband doing everything in his power to hold me up, rescue me and still provide for our family.
I have felt strength come when my own was at its end. I have heard a heavenly encouragement to just go to bed when I have fallen asleep attempting to pray. I have learned to savor the little moments and put the household duties in their proper place. I have felt a hunger for spiritual things again, cutting through the indifference and dullness. I have gained a new appreciation for my two oldest little ones and just how good they are. I have started getting baby smiles and coos regularly.
I have become a more patient mother, a more grateful spouse, a more thoughtful friend, and a more humble woman. And Jeremiah is only 7 weeks old. Maybe next week I'll write that birth story.
25 January 2016
I'm 37 weeks pregnant and I'm fighting to stay present. This is my third time round this rodeo and though it is possible for this little boy to make his arrival at anytime, the odds of an earlier arrival are not in my favor. Braxton hicks plague me with no rhyme or reason and bouts of "spurious" labor keep me up at odd hours of the night. All of me knows better than to hope for labor this soon, but I can't help it. I'm so tired and this pregnancy has felt so long.
My mind screams for a break from the constant pressure of waiting. The actual labor itself, if anything like the first two, will be a speeding blur from first true contraction to holding baby all taking place in an about an hour. Every trip I take outside the house, every minute of the day, I'm constantly assessing the plan and options available should I go into labor. The fear of an accidental home birth, or worse, a freeway delivery is ever present. And I am emotionally exhausted.
Social media sings its clarion call of mindless scrolling and numbness - an enticing trip away from my ragged thoughts. Or there's mindless movies on end or even emotional binge eating beckoning. But the problem is that you can't selectively chose to dull yourself from pain or impatience or fear. Life is an all-or-nothing game in the feeling category. As tempting as emotional withdrawal is, I realize everything I'll be missing and what I will rob myself of.
I want to be present for my older two children, for one's stories and the other's emerging words. I want to be present to soak up the selflessness of my husband as he willingly sacrifices sleep and innumerable personal comforts to shoulder more of our family burden at this time. I want to be present so that when this boy is born I actually feel that rush of joy and pure awe looking into a scrunched face and eyes come straight from heaven.
So despite my emotional exhaustion, frayed nerves, and sinking morale, I'm here, in every sense of the word. And here I'll stay, uttering fervent prayers, pleading for the strength to carry on for another hour, another day, or even, heaven help me, another 3 weeks.
Postscript: Everything looks better in the morning, even 3 more weeks. So here's to cheering up and eating cake and letting God take the wheel. I've done all I can, why stress? It's in His hands. And I know better than to think I can start labor merely by wishing it so...
16 January 2016
We took a family trip to the park this evening. Worn out from a recent bout of insomnia and nightmares, combined with the physical stress of 35 weeks of pregnancy, I sat on a bench and watched until I got too cold, when I went and sat in the car. While I sat on the bench, I was next to this mother of a lovely little family of 4 girls. I made some efforts at small talk but it was clear that she was uncomfortable with speaking to me in English and I haven't the vaguest idea what language she naturally spoke. So we said a just few words, I expressed my admiration at her little clan and then we sat in a comfortable silence.
Back in the car a little while later, I opened up my scriptures. I've learned that, these days, I have to seize the passing moments to put in my time with the word of God. I never regret finding Him in any time or space. I looked up after a few minutes to watch my little ones delight in their play with their daddy and, as I did, I saw that the mother I had sat next to was quietly saying her evening prayers. While her husband manned the playground duties, she alternately stood and knelt on the damp grass communing with God. It wasn't showy, or this big deal, or anything of the sort. It was a mother, putting in her time with God.
She may be Muslim and I am Christian. She may not speak much English and I don't speak anything else. But my heart felt so close to her. There we were. Two mothers of our little clans, finding God at the park. There is no space too small or insignificant for Him. There is no moment He is not eager to feel our hearts turn to Him. There is no greater gift we can give our children than to let them watch their mothers find Him in their lives, even at the park.