What’s this? A blog post by Becky? Where have I been?
Drowning Floating in the ocean of chaos love.
It’s been three weeks exactly since my new little guy was born. I’ve been out of writing commission as we adjust to our new family dynamic and I recover from pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve tried to dust the cobwebs off the computer a few times, but finding time to sit down and actually write amidst all the obligations of caring for a newborn and three other kids — including a toddler who has spent most of the past two weeks in tantrum mode — is like learning a bunch of new dance steps for a routine that already required some fancy footwork.
But before I write a post about the laundry list of our family’s exciting new adventures… like seeing how many children can be crying at the same time (so far, we’re at three out of four, but I’m hoping to go four for four any day now), I wanted to hold true to my promise in my birth announcement to give a recap of the events leading into and including the birth of our little son, Caleb Stephen, especially to highlight God’s timing once again when it came to my labor and delivery.
Here’s the lowdown.
The week was a waiting game as I continued to endure ongoing contractions that intensified and died out, but never progressed into any formal labor (we like to call that nature’s way of teasing me into
insanity true surrender). As I approached 39 weeks, I realized how little control I had over the holding pattern… but praying hard and whining a lot does make a difference.
In many ways, it was fitting. Holy Week is a time of anticipation laced with both somberness and hope. On one hand, it marks the countdown to the Passion and Death of Jesus. And on a personal note, while the actual date of April 12 doesn’t always coincide, the liturgical season marks the anniversary of losing my dad suddenly on Holy Thursday night. That has always made the final days leading up to Easter very stressful for me.
On the other hand, it’s the preparation for what is really the crowning moment for humanity in all of history and time: The Resurrection. Easter is a joyous commemoration of a reality that is so hard to wrap your mind around, it can sometimes be easier just to focus on the secular traditions that are wrapped into the religious holiday… like jelly beans and egg hunts.
With my last birth, we had a remarkable mini-miracle. My mom showed up on our doorstep unannounced two days before our due date because she just felt like she had to be there. By 9:40 a.m. the next day, our daughter was born in my first homebirth.
This time around, I wondered if God would capitalize on that maternal instinct once again to help everything align so that I could deliver our baby while my mom was in town.
She arrived on Tuesday of Holy Week, so my husband and I made a beeline for our favorite Italian restaurant to have what would likely be our last date for some time.
On Holy Thursday, my hubby stayed late at work to get things in order for his furlough week coming up after Easter. This meant our little family tradition of washing each other’s feet would have to be postponed until Good Friday.
On Good Friday, we also went to a live Stations of the Cross. It clearly inspired our 5-year-old, Donovan, who said this at the end of the 40-minute service:
“Wow, I liked that. It was short…but it was still holy.”
For dinner on Good Friday, we ordered fish and chips from the 5-star take-out establishment, Long John Silver’s. What else would you expect from a woman who is 39 weeks pregnant? And as we ate, Steve read from the Gospel of John.
Once we got the kids down, the grown-ups sat down to watch the Passion of the Christ, something Steve and I have done every year since the movie came out on DVD.
When Saturday arrived, I had a burst of energy, despite another restless night. I made breakfast for my family and did a little housework. By lunch, I was feeling some contractions, but nothing I hadn’t been experiencing for the past month off and on. So I didn’t think twice about going to Target with my hubby to get a couple final items for the kids’ Easter baskets.
When Steve saw me standing in front of the action figures breathing through another contraction that had started going into my back, he said, “Uh, I think we need to get home now.”
When we got home at little after 2 p.m., we napped for about an hour-and-a-half. As with my last labor, I was able to sleep in between contractions.
I got up and took a shower, still not fully convinced I was in active labor. We decided to start setting up the room for a home birth, including inflating the pool and preparing the bed.
As it approached dinner time, my mom took the kids out to the restaurant of their choice: IHOP. No, that’s not a typo; they honestly picked the International House of Pancakes for their dinner option.
Things began to progress, and Steve called my midwife at 6:50 (time stamp on his cell phone confirms this). When he hung up and said, “Sue’s on her way,” I began to cry. The anticipation, the worry, the pain, the strength, the reality – all of this flooded over me. I was going to do this thing again. I was going to go through what I’ve gone through three times before. I would endure the greatest physical challenge I’ve ever experienced to be a vessel for true love to literally gush forth in the form of blood and water – just like Christ. And with each contraction, I would be one step closer… one prayer closer to shedding blood for new life – just like Christ.
It would be a Good Friday that leads to an Easter Sunday. It would be an opportunity for me in each moment I felt I could go no further to unite my suffering with those whose intentions I promised to offer up and place them all at the foot of the cross where full surrender yields the greatest empowerment.
And within minutes after I had uttered to my husband that I felt the need to push, my midwife arrived. She checked me and announced that she didn’t feel any cervix, which immediately sent me into a panic.
“What does that mean?” I was thinking, Great, now I have no cervix! Where did it go? This is going to make things even more complicated!
Labor has the tendency to turn an otherwise bright woman into a moron. Fortunately, my midwife reworded her comment.
“I mean you’re fully dilated; you’re ready to go.”
That was all I needed.
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s do this. Let’s do this,” I said as I climbed into the pool, consumed by half-breaths I could barely catch. There is an odd pairing of great fear and great confidence in those moments just before delivery. I felt like a child lost for the first time and yet within the sniffles comes a determined moxie of a four-star general ready to issue the go for attack.
It is in these moments when I encounter the edge of Heaven. A woman who is about to give birth is so closely in tune to her body and yet so disconnected. There is a transcendence that occurs. You are one with yourself and your feminine genius, and yet at the mercy of something that seems almost unbearable, something that cannot be accomplished without the grace and might that comes from God and His design.
This is why I wish not to anesthetize the experience for anything. That is why there is nothing I have ever done… ever will do… that exemplifies the beauty and fortitude and power of the female body — of the human body for that matter — like that of carrying and bearing new life.
I heard my midwife say at one point, “I can do all things…,” and my husband joined in, … “through Him who…” and the remaining words dripped out of my mouth: “… strengthens me!”
My husband is my rock!
Eleven minutes later, at 7:50 p.m., our baby boy arrived.
I don’t mean to brag, but this kid is strong!
One woman I know made a connection I thought was truly profound. At the very moment I was in labor and giving birth to a new life in water, thousands of people coming into the Catholic Church were receiving the Sacrament of Baptism during the Easter Vigil – receiving new life by being “born of water and spirit.”
I cannot explain the high I was on. We called my mom and told her she had a new grandson and that she should bring the kids home to meet their baby brother… the newest member of our family.
Michael even got to help measure Caleb’s length.
And I’m in love all over again.
So how was your Easter?