I was already planning to write his birth story since I love writing and doing so, helps me to literally spell out what is on my heart about things. But then this last week a friend of mine got me in touch with a small christian publication called, Thought Meadow, and the editor asked me to write an article about gratitude. It was perfect timing. I won't say much more. After reading, you'll understand.
Yet I'll say this, his birth story is a bit long so if you don't have much time, you'll want to come by later. And for those of you who just want to see pictures, here's a few from that special and difficult night. I'll forever be grateful to the nurse who thought to take pictures for us since I was knocked out and Steve wasn't able to be in the room. He/she really gave us an amazing gift by doing so.
I remember it was hot. While most of the country was experiencing the first signs of fall full of bursting colors, sweaters, soup and apples, I was living through what some Californians call an "Indian Summer". It was early and my two boys were sleeping soundly at home while their Dad snored. I, however, was out walking the hill behind our house, my taut skin stretching snugly over my belly. Up and down I trudged, determined to walk and walk that hill that I had climbed so often during my pregnancy, trying to urge my body over the edge and into labor. Deep inside, the miracle that God was nearly finished forming in my body, kicked and rolled making his presence known again. I reminded him firmly, in a motherly sort of way, that he was running out of room and that he needed to come out!! While I walked, my thoughts were on getting through another day without being discouraged. Every day that one goes overdue seems like a week and if that were really true, I was already three weeks over. I didn't want to make it to four.
The rest of the day was full of Sabbath Dinner preparations, a trip to Costco, making Challah bread, kissing owies, cleaning up messes, another walk and cuddling with my husband. It was a typical Saturday. Once dinner hit and the preparations were done, the contractions started. Clean and smooth they rolled like butter off of a knife. They were productive and strong. I didn't tell a soul. We sang, we laughed and we made it through another Sabbath Dinner full of mystery and delight and as I cleaned up, I started to time the waves rippling through my abdomen. Once I was sure they were regular and close, I pulled my husband aside and whispered that it may be time. Excitement hung in the air like perfume. The day was cooling off and the sun was setting. It was a perfect autumn evening. The boys watched a movie while we continued to time. Steady, steady they came like the beat of a drum. My last labor had been short so, before long, we knew it was time to call our doula.
Almost as soon as we got her on the phone, the bleeding started. At first I was elated. Bloody show most certainly meant that it was the real thing and not a false alarm. Nevertheless, almost as rhythmic as the contractions, the bleeding came, steady, steady, faster and faster until I began to get a bit nervous. When our doula showed up, we all decided to head into the hospital quickly. As we sped along the country roads, my body leaning into the curves and bends of the road while simultaneously moving through the waves, my thoughts slowly went back through my two other births.
My firstborn was born two weeks early right before a major move. He had flipped to footling breech right near the end and was taken via c-section. It was unexpected and shocking. However, we were elated he was born and happy to hold him in our arms. Our next son was our first attempt at a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after C-Section) and his birth went off without a hitch. My labor was fast, strong and productive. It was an amazing experience and I felt like I had a tiny glimpse of what God's glory looks like in our world. I got to have a piece, a very small piece of what it feels like to lay myself down in death to give life to another. I savored my experience like a little child with his first ice cream cone and the memories of his birth still remain for me an experience full of wonder and awe at our Creator. Once I was pregnant with my third son, I knew I wanted to try for another VBAC. I didn't expect any problems. I expected another birth that would be physically challenging but aesthetically beautiful at the same time. Yet once we arrived at the hospital and I made that familiar walk down the halls, I realized that things may not be going according to my plans.
Once I was checked in, the rest of the night sped away from me very quickly and began to get blurry. Nurses went in and out trying to figure out why I was bleeding so much. Was my placenta abrupting? Was it lying too low? The baby was fine and I was progressing great but, the bleeding was not stopping. It continued to worsen. As rhythmic as the contractions, the blood flowed and I steadily began to weaken. I held onto hope that I could labor fast enough that it wouldn't matter and the baby would be born without any problems. Nevertheless, once my doctor showed up, he plainly saw that I was hemorrhaging, quickly pulled the plug on the whole operation and then very decisively prepped for surgery. Everything was slipping away from me at that moment. I went back to the morning in my mind and remembered the bright, cheery sun as I climbed the trusty hill. I remembered the strength I felt that very morning and tried to muster it up from deep down inside myself. But as much as I tried, my body was failing. The body that I had carefully and diligently prepared, relied on and trusted for nine months to carry my little one to completion was failing. And I was falling into the darkness.
Within minutes my husband had signed the papers, cried with me and sent me off into a sea of white coats with prayers and kisses hoping to see me breathing on the other end. Due to the serious nature of the situation, he was not allowed in to the operating room and ended up a puddle on the floor outside the door praying, waiting and straining to hear a cry from our son and a word that we were both all right. I was dreaming of better days within no time, yet somewhere deep down I was subconsciously crying that I could not witness my son's first moments and neither could his Dad. No one but the white coats, who were working so hard and fast to save his life and mine, could document his first cries and movements. Sadly, they were the only ones there.
Once I was awake and I knew my son was all right, the bitterness set in. Why had this happened? What had gone wrong? I felt the familiar pain from the surgery and winced in agony and in anger. My husband strongly held my hand, helped me nurse my little one and filled me in on the precious hours I had missed- his first moments. I lamented, I cried, I mourned and I seethed. Yet I tried to enjoy the first few hours of his birth. Because my husband loves me, he quickly set me to right, showing me the sovereignty of God and reminding me of God's mercy in the situation. "Look at all that could have gone wrong," he reminded me. "Look at what God saved us from. He didn't have to. He just did. We need to be grateful." I knew he was right but could not get my heart to meet him there. I should have been grateful. I should have seen the mercy. But I was blinded by selfishness, pride and my own feelings of injustice. I felt I had worked hard, prepared well and done everything I was supposed to do so I shouldn't have had any problems. Instead of rejoicing in our rescue, I just kept slipping back into the darkness.
As the weeks wore on, we talked about the birth constantly. My husband continued to remind me of God's mercy and I continued to remind him of the nightmare. But as time trudged on and turned itself slowly into months, God showed me glimpses of what could have been. There was an unexpected talk with a lady who had lost her son in childbirth. Her heart and amazing attitude moved me so much and I was humbled immediately. As I spoke with her, I cradled my infant safely in my arms and afterwards, I never looked at him the same. In that instant, I saw how close I was to losing him and how thankful I needed to be. It became less about me getting the birth I wanted and more about me holding tight the little life I was still given. I was also reminded that I could still have children, though not the natural way, and this joy and hope for the future, started to chisel away at my ingratitude. Slowly, slowly, with much prayer on my part and my husband's, my anger began to turn into thanksgiving. It was more about my perspective. Joshua's birth wasn't a nightmare. It was a rescue. It was mercy. And it wasn't because of anything I had done or deserved, it was simply because God had chosen it to be that way.
Job, who suffered tremendously, asked God what the reasons were for his sufferings since he was a righteous man who followed the rules and tried to do what was right. God simply responded, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." Job 38:4 And then God gave a beautiful accounting of His creation story all done by His mighty hand. When I think about why God does what He does, I get all tangled up in questions, feelings and particulars and then am quickly reminded that I was not around when God formed the world and cannot wrap my tiny arms around the wisdom of the Almighty. God moves, spins, creates and loves and I simply get to be a small part of it. Sometimes His actions go my way and sometimes they don't but they are always for my good, whether painful, trying, or joyful. It's simply about my perspective. And my perspective dictates whether or not I will be able to be grateful.
Joshua's laughter ripples through our house daily and reminds me of God's grace. The smell of him, the way he curls his hair with his fingers and sucks quietly on his hand are all reminders of mercy. His very name means "Saved by the Lord" and is an eternal reminder that I serve a God who rescues. My own salvation rests upon this fact and more than anything in this world, I am grateful for life. Christ went down into death and conquered it so that I could live. This is mercy. This is grace. This is the foundation of my life. This is the very essence of my gratitude.