Monthly Archives: January 2015

Midwife Crisis (A Birth Story)

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

That’s childbirth in a nutshell.

I had a baby recently.  Five days ago, in fact.  So the memory’s fresh.  It all went down like this…

I’m one of those lucky folks who can either say they’re in labor for six weeks – or six hours.  Pressure builds and Braxton Hicks contractions are regular company in the weeks leading up to my due date.  I waddle.  Nothing fits.  I have to choose between breathing and bending over.  I crave chocolate.  (Actually, that’s nothing new…)

My last hippo selfie
My last hippo selfie

The local hospital (where all my children have been born) frowns on natural birth after a mom has had a cesarean birth.  They’ll do it, but grudgingly – only if the mom’s doctor is with her every moment she’s there.  I’m enough of a crunchy mom to consider a home birth except for two factors.  My house is tiny.  And my husband isn’t into the idea.

It would have been nice to not have to treat childbirth so medically, to be pushed for every intervention, to have to lie down the whole time, to have to tell the next twenty strangers that I’m not in fact 16 or Catholic, I willingly chose to have six children, and explain my desires to delay clamping the cord, and not be told when to push, and wait to give the first injection.  I wished I could just be home in my own bed after having a baby rather than visited every hour by nurses just stopping in to push on my tender tummy and ask if I was getting any rest in the most infamously uncomfortable of contraptions – the hospital bed.

But such things were not to be, so I tried to prepare for the next viable option – waiting until I was white-knucked onto furniture in labor before rushing to the hospital, popping out a baby, and convincing them to let me get home as soon as possible.

The best laid plans of mice and men… My midwife retired last year, so I had the doctor whom she practiced under (and who had delivered my fourth baby by c-section.)  When I saw him on Friday for a check-up I was almost 4 centimeters dilated, so he offered to strip the membranes and get labor going.  Since he was required to be in the hospital while I was, a weekend labor would have been most convenient to avoid any scheduled surgeries or appointments he had during the week.  I agreed, and went home to wait for labor to kick in.

But aside from lots of cramps and waddling around grandma as she handled the daily bustle of my home, I didn’t go into labor.  I waited all day Friday.  My water broke mid-morning Saturday, so I called my husband to come home from work before the snowstorm.  But still we waited.  I concluded I am not a patient person.  I didn’t want to call the doc to tell him my water broke because I expected he’d make me come in and be induced.  I really wanted to wait for my own body to do its thing.

But I finally caved.  Indeed, he wanted me to go to the hospital to get checked out.  They confirmed several things.  Yes, my water had broken.  No, I wasn’t having strong contractions on my own. No, they wouldn’t let me leave to wait at home.  No, I couldn’t leave the bed.  Yes, the cafeteria was closed all night.

So I spent the rest of the night enveloped in a huge hospital johnny, strapped to machines reminding me that I wasn’t really in labor, and pouting.  My doc did let me wait… And wait… wishing I were home in bed waiting… until about 2 am.  Then they decided to induce contractions.  We couldn’t leave, couldn’t sleep, and I wasn’t allowed to move.  I agreed.

As they started pumping in the drugs, my hopes fell.  If we were going to do things their way, I decided we’d do it all the way.  I got an epidural for the first time in any of my non-surgical births.    It did make the relentless medicine easier to bear.  At 4:35 Sunday morning, all seven pounds and three ounces of little Ezra slipped into the snowy world.  He looks like his brothers and is, of course, perfect. 🙂

credit: Danielle Brady
credit: Danielle Brady

It wasn’t how I’d planned it (I wonder if it ever is).  But he has arrived.  I did get to go home before the next snowstorm about 36 hours later.  It snowed in our family of eight.  Eight!  I’m trying hard not to do too much more than snuggle my children, old and new, and occasionally clean pickle juice off the floor.

The day Ezra was born, I bumped into Genesis 41:52, the verse in which Joseph named his second son.  Ephraim.  “For God has called me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

I could pout about the way labor went, or I could breathe in the sweet smell of my newborn’s head as he nurses (I don’t get why I will smell like sour milk and sweat while he can smell so delicious) and choose to be thankful it was all for a purpose.

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Wouldn’t trade it.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on the sofa drooling in sore-backed exhaustion while the toddler paints himself with yogurt on the rug and the kids try to sneak M and M’s and video game time.

It’s a wonderful life.

credit: Danielle Brady
credit: Danielle Brady

To Kill a Mockingbird

I’m nesting.

Baby clothes are washed.  Everyone’s fingernails have been clipped.  Those cobwebs in the corner were finally vacuumed.  Groceries are stocked.  Grandma is standing by the phone.

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This pregnancy has nearly reached its magnum opus.  Soon I’ll get to hold the baby in my arms rather than waddling like a hippo-sized penguin with it balanced under my belly button.  The anticipation is growing, and I want everything to be ready.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those who make neat, tightly woven nests. I’m flighty, as bird-brained as they come – and that’s when I’m not even pregnant.  Add homeschooling, five little boys, and general homemaking in a little house, and life gets messy.  Really messy.

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It was about 7:00 yesterday evening that I had to admit the truth.  Grandma had graciously helped me with laundry all day, even changing the sheets on the top bunk beds (always an adventure, even when you’re not pregnant).  I had just pulled the toddler from the bath.  A second later, the little streaker raced into our bedroom, clambered onto the freshly laundered white sheets, snuggled down next to the pillows with a huge grin… And peed.

That was when I should have started humming, “Let it go… let it go…”  But I couldn’t.  It did bother me.  I stood there, diaper in hand, staring face to face with reality (and a happy naked baby on a wet mattress.)  Everything is not going to be ready for this new baby.  No matter how hard I’ve tried…

It would be nice to plan a birth like we do a wedding, every detail accounted for right down to the weather.  But every baby born in a snow storm is proof that God has other ideas.

You’d think I’d know this by my sixth child.  You can’t prepare for a miracle.  Not really, even though you know it’s coming.  There is a new soul coming into the world.  A new promise.  A new person.  Sure, you can buy diapers, make freezer meals, and practice deep breathing for labor, but you can’t be really be ready to carry the weight of a fragile new life in your arms.

I’ve thought of Jesus often recently.  He steadfastly set his face toward Jerusalem in the weeks before his death.  He prepared himself.  He prepared his friends.  But still, the night before his gruesome torture, he wrestled with control.  Jesus had complete control of his destiny.  And it was the one thing he had to give away.

My body will be held by others even as his was.

I will go through contractions much like he bore every lash of the whip.

Others will cover me in clothes I would rather not wear (those darn one-size-fits-none hospital jonnys) just as they clothed him in robes to mock his kingship.

I will bleed and cry in anguish for another even as he did.

Through pain, I will give life to someone helpless to live unless I do this. Just like Jesus.

After the marathon of birth, I will carry and sustain a new life that won’t say thank you or appreciate all I’ve done for it, similar to what Jesus bears in our salvation.

I will lose control of everything that is comfortable and predictable in my life for the joy set before me.  Just like he did – for me.

Can I be so bold as to associate my own life with the life of God himself?    I think we – as mothers – are given this singular chance to carry in our own bodies the death of Jesus so that his life will be revealed by it.  (2 Corinthians 4:10).

This amazing miracle can only happen as I give over control of every little detail of my own life.  Sweat, pain, tears and humiliation will birth a new, perfect, fearfully and wonderfully made masterpiece.  There is no other way.

And this little masterpiece will fill my heart with joy like nothing else on earth.  And then it will pee on my bed.

I give up.

This nesting thing is for the birds.

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Letter to My Unborn Son

This was the first post I ever wrote on this blog, one and a half years ago.  But as I prepare for the impending birth of my next son, I still mean every word.

Dear Child,

I haven’t met you.  I don’t know you (though your roundhouse kicks to my ribs hint at strength and stubbornness ahead).  But I love you already and can’t wait to meet you next month.

I want the best for you.  Unfortunately, I am completely inadequate to be your mother.  Even if I pour my life into parenting you, I will fall short.  Already I do.  (Sorry about those doughnuts.  They gave us both a sugar crash later.)  Just ask your brothers in a few years, when they’re teenagers and you learn how to talk, they’ll tell you.  I will fail you.

I will get mad when isn’t your fault.

I will be too busy when you really just need me to listen.

I will be too lenient when you’re testing rules that should be safe and solid.

I will be too harsh when discipline isn’t the best teacher.

I will say no when I should say yes.

I will be a bad mom sometimes.  I’m sorry in advance.  Is this how Mary felt as she considered being Jesus’ mommy?  We’ve been entrusted with the impossible job of parenting perfectly.  No pressure.  It’s harder than you might think.

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For the record, sometimes you will think I’m being a bad mom when I’m actually trying to do what’s good for you.

I will say no when I shouldn’t say yes.  (More on that when you’re 2).

I will discipline you when you do wrong, belligerently disobey, or try to hurt someone.

I will set rules that must not be broken to protect your own safety and health.

I will teach you manners.

I will not give you candy before supper.

I will expect you to practice helping anyone who is smaller or weaker than you, and all girls, no matter how tough they are.

I will observe bedtime.

I will give you good food when you ask for junk, kick you outside to play when you want to watch too much t.v., and won’t move the car until you’re buckled.

Because even Mary had to set boundaries for Jesus when He was little.  Even Jesus couldn’t play in traffic.  Even Jesus had to take turns.  Even Jesus had to learn to read when he would rather have been in the sandbox.

Jesus didn’t come to earth because it was going to be easy.  He didn’t pick Mary for His mom because she was perfect, or beautiful, or rich.  He didn’t come to be comfortable.  Jesus didn’t come to earth to be happy.

He came to a hard world, a young, imperfect mother, and a very difficult, painful purpose.  It pleased God – His Dad – to put Him here.  His Dad loved Him more than I even love you (because He could).  So because I love you, I must expect the same for you.  I want more for you than just happiness.

It’s a little late for you to back out of this.  In fact, I’m expecting you to jump in head first.  Literally.  But don’t worry, even Jesus laughed sometimes.  In fact, I’m pretty sure He had an infectious giggle.  Even when He grew up, kids loved being around Him, so He must have been a pretty fun guy.

He had lots of brothers, just like you.

He enjoyed food, just like you will. (He spent lots of time eating with friends).

He had lots of energy, just like you. (He worked hard and walked everywhere).

He had an awe of nature, knowing that His Dad had made it to be enjoyed and used by Him as well as you.

He had the power to fill and to break His mom’s heart, just like you.

And He knew His mom loved him.  Just like you.

There are mountains to climb out here.  There are books to read.  There is chocolate; there is steak.  There are pretty girls (we’ll discuss them later…)  There is hard work, sweat, and pain.  But there is laughter, deep joy, and times of rest.  There are big trucks.  There is darkness.  There is hope.  There are hugs and cuddles.  There is lonliness.  There are puppies.  There is dirt.  There is ice cream.  There is so much to discover.

I cannot promise you happiness.  But I will try to teach you joy.

I cannot promise you painlessness.   But I will be there to kiss your booboos and stick on band aids.

I cannot promise you comfort.  But I will try to buffer the hurts when I know they are coming.

I cannot promise you immediate gratification.  But I will try to help you accept the waiting.

I cannot promise you sunshine and warmth.  But I will dance with you in the rain.

I cannot promise you won’t get dirty.  But I will give you bubble baths.

I cannot promise you won’t get sick.  But I will soothe your pain.

I cannot promise you won’t be afraid.  But I will chase monsters with you in the dark and hold your hand when you feel small.

I cannot promise you won’t fail.  You will make mistakes; you will try your hardest and still lose.  Sometimes.  But I will help you get up and try again.  And again.  And again.

I cannot promise I won’t fail you.  In fact, I guarantee I will.  But I will teach you about Jesus’ Dad – the One who put you here in the first place – and I guarantee He will never fail you.  I can’t wait to introduce you to Him.

I’m looking forward to joining you on the grand adventure, baby.  See you soon!

Love, Mom

They're waiting for you...
They’re waiting for you…

P.S.  That first step of life is a doozy.  For both of us.  You can start practicing now being a good sleeper for mama, ok?  Thanks.