If you have followed along with my previous four birth stories then you know I was very nervous for this birth. It has taken me a few days to fully process the birthing experience of our newest member, but I have passed through the fire and on the other side I can safely say- he was so worth it!
The past few weeks have been such a rush. I actually stocked my freezer and cleaned every inch of the house. I’m typically not a nesting Mama, though I often wished to be, but this time I was. From homeschool to Easter celebrations, welcoming spring and raising baby chicks, scrubbing baseboards and tripling recipes- it has been a very busy season. All of it building up to baby day- whenever that may be!
As huge as I was- and I was the biggest I had ever been- I never really felt tired or over pregnancy like I normally would. I was still able to hike, play, work, and spend time with everyone like normal. Unlike my previous pregnancies, I had almost no contractions outside of labor. I even passed the 39 week mark for the first time- still only dilated to one.
An Unexpected Turn in the Day
Sunday night rolled around and I spent some time alone in my bedroom floor praying. There was so much fear surrounding this birth. I kept expecting God to just take it away or to speak something over me that brought peace like He had done with Indie. But it never came, and the fear remained constant in the back of my mind.
Monday morning found me feeling great and ready to embrace the day. I made about fifty pancakes, mopped the floor, packed the kids’ bags for when we had the baby, and did some laundry and schoolwork with Isaiah. Around noon the kids and I sat down to play Old Maid for a bit. A handful of relatively strong contractions passed at odd intervals. I hid them in the back of my mind and moved on with my day.
12:30pm: Rafael messaged me and asked me to bring him lunch. My midwife had called earlier in the day to tell me that some papers I had been waiting on were ready to pick up. I decided to go ahead and kill two birds with one stone. So I dropped the kids off with my sister in hopes I could zip in and out of places without having to take all afternoon. I had no idea how smart of a decision that was.
1:15pm: I ordered a salad and lunch for Rafael and swung by his work. I had decided not to mention anything about contractions to him because I didn’t want him to leave work for no reason. But after attempting to eat and realizing how nauseated and uneasy I was- I thought better of that plan. We decided to go ahead and ride together to get the papers from my midwife and run them back by his work.
At Every Red Light
1:45pm: Rafael went back to work to let them know he was taking the rest of the day off. I went to pump gas, take off trash, and pay the water bill. And I am happy to say I did every single one of those while in labor. (And thank you to the man working at the dump who unloaded all my trash for me!) It felt like such a God thing. At every single red light or stop sign I would contract, but in the space between I was okay. I stared at the faces of every person I met and wished that I were as carefree and pain-free as they seemed to be. (Though I have no way of knowing if they were or not in all fairness.) All the while- every single second- I was praying.
I was torn between an attitude of gratitude for the fact that my body was doing exactly what it was designed to do and soon I would meet my new baby- and a heart of fear for all the unknowns ahead. I whispered over and over “God if you don’t change my mindset- I will never get through this.” And I prayed a small prayer that will now forever be etched on my heart:
“God, when the sun sets today, I pray I am nursing my sweet healthy baby.”
2:45pm: Rafael and I were finally both home. He had arrived before me and was already in the process of changing and getting things ready to go when I came in the front door. I marched straight past him and turned on the bath tub.
I always plan some comfort measures ahead of time that I plan to utilize in labor. I had dreamed my entire pregnancy of laboring in the bathtub- which is basically my favorite place in the whole world.
When the Tub Becomes an Altar
These contractions were different than what I was used to. They would start with the tiniest pin prick in the bottom center of my back and slowly begin to wrap from side to side across my hips. In about 30 seconds they would move down my thighs and tug at my knees before finally crossing the front of my stomach. I could tell they were productive and I reminded myself over and over that we have the contractions our baby needs to get out- not the ones we want. (I wanted the pain free ones, but Isaac needed something more I suppose.)
Rafael made trips back and forth to my mom’s house to take clothes and things to the kids. I was struggling when he finally made it back to stay. The bathroom was filled with mid-afternoon light and worship music played loudly overhead. He sat in the floor beside the tub and rubbed my neck and back as the contractions came a little faster now.
These are the moments in labor that you never forget. I have already forgotten the intensity of the pain and the sounds of panicked breathing. But I remember the way his hands felt and the peace that came when he was finally back to stay with me. I remember the feel of the cold bathtub and the hot water where tears poured for all the best reasons. I had prayed that somehow this labor would feel like an act of worship- and here, in this moment- it actually did. My head rested on the side of the bathtub and the words overhead filled my heart:
“And all my life you have been faithful.
And all my life you have been so, so good.
With every breath that I am able,
Oh I will sing of the goodness of God.”–Goodness of God, Jenn Johnson
The bathtub faded into an altar. A place where my comfort, my desires, my entire body- was finally surrendered in exchange for a time of labor. My head in Rafael’s hands, the sunlight pouring in from overhead, prayers whispered within that trembling lips couldn’t utter, and an inner twisting that was completely out of my control. But there was so much peace, fear was replaced with the familiarity of labor. A soft embrace with each wave of contraction reminding me that this was God’s design. Soon deliverance would come, and a soft red skinned baby would wipe away every memory of the pain.
Transitioning and Transport
This was the first labor where I could sense the moment transition began. We decided it was time to head to the hospital. I paced the porch waiting on Rafael and dreading having to sit in the van- dreading having to sit period. I was nauseated but the sun was perfectly hot without a cloud to dim the sky. Taking note of the way it felt on my skin, the package on the porch that I wouldn’t even bother to pick up until we came back home with a newborn, and every little Swiss chard leaf that was growing in containers on the porch. Seeing it all and taking it all in. The world that was waiting all around seeming to hold its breath in anticipation for the new life that was soon to enter it.
But the ride over was brutal. The thing about birthing in the sunlight is everybody else is out also. But I never saw the traffic or the route we took to get there. I saw my hands trembling and reaching for something to grasp. I saw Rafael’s hand in mine and the light dancing across my lap as we drove. In all the birthing videos you watch and hear those primal sounds that women make and you vow you won’t do that.
But you will.
There is a roar inside of each mother that somehow has to come out before the baby can. There was music. And silence. And sound. There was rhythm. Discomfort. And the intense sensation of a bowling ball passing through clenched bones.
4:55pm- We finally reached the hospital and I couldn’t even put my shoes on. Rafael pulled them onto my feet and lead me out of the van and back into the sunlight. I stood in the parking lot burying my face into his shoulder while a helicopter whirled overhead.
A Hand Picked Room
I had dreamed of a homebirth this time. Many tears had fallen in the process of accepting another hospital birth. After turning down a wheelchair about 5 times, we finally made it back to labor and delivery. Rafael took to answering the nurse’s questions while I worked through contractions. He answered them all wrong and had no idea when our due date was- so I took over.
Every single person who stepped into our room was fully on board with our birthing plan and eager to take part in this experience with us. I feel that God hand picked every single person in that room and we couldn’t have had a better experience.
5:00pm- I was a nine-and-a-half and involuntarily pushing when the nurse came in to check me. My water was perfectly in tact and showing no signs of that changing anytime soon, so I opted to have the midwife break it. Which proved quite difficult and even after my bag was broken almost no fluid would come out.
After Indie’s birth I knew I wanted to squat, so we broke down the bed and set up the squat bar. The finish line was in sight, but I still had a hard valley to cross- one that I had no idea was in my path.
5:05pm: Pushing has always been the part I anticipated. It is when I suddenly have control of taking an active role and yet there is really nothing you can do to stop it or speed it up. You are fully subject to your body and the waves that it pulls you under.
Birthing in the Sunlight
The room was bathed in the sunlight of a west facing window.
There was so much encouragement and so many kind and affirming words being tossed about and spoken over us.
But with every brutal push came a cry from deep within. A wild call that seemed to erupt both up and down, followed by an even harder push. The contractions were long and the push was brutal with almost no break in between. With every push out came a strong upward push and I was praying not to puke all over our precious team.
Bearing down with all my might and feeling as though he had to be out, only to glance down to see- nothing. I felt that I had birthed him three times before he finally emerged. The pushing wasn’t long. In fact we were only at the hospital for a few minutes before he was born. We didn’t even have hospital bracelets until after he was out. Yet it was brutal.
But it was fast. And it was beautiful. The sunlight danced across his red skin. He was facing my right thigh and in a perfect ball as he entered the world. Our biggest baby.
Eight pounds and five ounces of pure sunlight.
The next chapter after a previous dark season.
Laughter and light were written all over his chubby frame and joy drowned out every memory of the pain.
In the gleam of a bright setting sun, I nursed him for the first time. I shifted my back to the window because the light was so bright in his eyes. But it will forever be a reminder that I nursed my healthy beautiful boy before the sun set- just as I had prayed I would.
The next few days were difficult. I had always bounced back from labor as though nothing had happened. This time around I have very much had to slow down. Between 80 hours of rough after birth contractions and a lot of pelvic pain, the first few days were hard. But through it all- there was Jesus. He was the one I called on- begging not for the strength to have Isaac- but I asked for the love to push again. On the side of the bed steeped in hard labor, I could see Jesus. Surrendering in Gethsemane. Drawing his last few breaths on the cross. I caught a glimmer of the love He had for us. To turn away anything that numbed the pain. To embrace the arms of death and the brokenness of sin- all for us.
What a love. Labor is nothing like dying on a cross. But for a moment He invites us in to partake in something painful, something real, and raw for the sake of love. And with that final push He allowed my entire body to whisper “I love you” as Isaac entered the world.
In the days that have passed, when I look back, I see nothing but sunlight. I remember Rafael’s eyes fixed on me as he tried to guide me through each contraction and back to him. I remember the worship, the tears, the surrender, and the full body sacrifice that comes with bringing a new baby into the world. And with absolute certainty I look back at the fear, the struggle, the pain, every wave of labor, and every push of love and I can safely say: he was so worth it!
Introducing Isaac: Son of Laughter
I didn’t like the name Isaac when Rafael suggested it. But I also didn’t think he would be a boy. Of course he is. I prayed for a name and God gave me- you guessed it- Isaac. When I saw the meaning, it changed my heart completely.
This past year has been one of the hardest I have ever lived through. It felt like battle after battle and valley after valley. God has been so present and we have always found reasons to rejoice, but it was hard. And with the name “Isaac” came the promise of a new season- a season of laughter. Already it has begun, and we rejoice for every moment God is redeeming and turning our mourning into laughter.
This boy is precious beyond words. He is sweet, soft, and snuggly. He adores eating- especially cluster feeds- and having his head rubbed. His middle name is Rafael. I’ll let you guess where we got that from, but if you need a hint he is named after one of the most amazing men I have ever had the privilege to know. It is a hard name to live up to. But I have no doubts he can do it.
It’s a new season. A beautiful season. Filled with light and laughter and I hope you will embrace it with us. May our homes and our stories be filled with redeeming joy.