Monday, March 29, 2010

An Unexpected Rescue

Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

After Caleb was born, I was sure that I never wanted to have another c-section. It's not that I thought labor was a piece of cake because it sure wasn't. Nevertheless, I felt so grateful that I was able to participate in his birth by laboring. I carried him for nine months. I wanted to finish the job. We've always wanted a larger family too and so one of the reasons I wanted to VBAC in the first place was to have less wear and tear on my body. However, the main reason I wanted to VBAC was to have the do it myself and to not have the major recovery afterward.

When Caleb was nearing a year old, I found that I was feeling sick in the mornings. I hadn't gotten my cycle back yet but was suspicious of another pregnancy. I was right. I was due with number three in late September. This time I didn't anticipate anything being amiss. I was simply planning for another birth. Caleb's birth had been so smooth and usually the first VBAC is the sketchy one. After that, your scar has been tested and things usually go just fine.

So, based on those things, my husband and I started considering homebirth. We went back and forth on it for months. We knew a midwife who was extremely skilled and experienced, and she had been at Caleb's birth. We felt safe having her deliver our next child at home. However, we didn't ever feel quite at peace about it. We decided to wait and see how things played out and we didn't actually decide for sure either way until the night Joshua was born.

I've already posted Joshua's birth story on this blog as it was one of the hardest, scariest yet wonderful nights in my whole life. So I don't need to re-hash all of the details but I'll retell it in short. I went into labor naturally four days overdue. It didn't start and stop like Caleb's did. It just started in the early evening on a Saturday night. It was during our Sabbath Dinner and so I waited until afterward to even tell my husband that the contractions had been coming steadily for an hour or so. I still wasn't even sure I was in labor. Yet, I knew the contractions were steady and strong.

We called our midwife and she headed out to check me. In the meantime, I started bleeding. Now, everyone bleeds some in labor but this was different. It started all of the sudden and it didn't stop. It progressively got worse and I was passing clots...some very, very large. Once the midwife saw the clots, she told us to get into the car. No homebirth. I was trying to stay positive but deep down I knew something was terribly wrong.

Yet, I still felt strong. The contractions were coming fast but I was more worried about the bleeding than about the pain. When I showed up at the hospital I was at 6 and the baby and I seemed to be doing fine when we were monitored. That eased me a bit but the bleeding continued to worsen and I saw the looks of puzzlement on all of the nurses' faces. I knew it wasn't normal. I knew there was a problem. And I was desperate for it to go away.

When my doctor showed up he took one look at me and told the nurses to prep for surgery. I totally lost it. I had held it together up until that point but when he said those words, I just knew that not only was I going to have another c-section but that something was horrifically wrong and I wouldn't be able to fix it. No amount of hard work, no mustering up strength, no just getting through was going to fix this problem. I was going into surgery in 20 minutes flat and I didn't know what kind of world would face me on the other side.

Would I have a baby? Would he be okay? Would I be okay? Would I still have a uterus? Could I have anymore children? All of these questions flashed through my mind as I silently sobbed. I had come to the conclusion over so many months' time that c-sections were overdone and I do still believe that in some respects. But there I was, literally bleeding to death and barring a c-section, the baby and I wouldn't make it. Ironically, the very thing I loathed was going to be used to save me. My husband asked our doctor, who was very supportive of me having vaginal births, if there was anything else to be done, and he answered very curtly, "Get out of my way...I am going to save your wife's life."

And that was it. I was knocked out a few minutes later. Steve was told to wait outside (he was not allowed to see Joshua be born) due to the emergency situation and our little Joshua, which literally means, "Saved by the Lord" was born late that Saturday night to a very thankful group of doctors. A very thoughtful nurse brought our camera into the delivery room so that we could have pictures or else we wouldn't have any. He weighed in at 8 lbs 2 oz and was 20 inches long. Once they got in to do the c-section they discovered my uterus was rupturing at the site of my original c-section scar (which is extremely rare....1.5 % chance after 1 c-section and even less after having a successful VBAC). Our doctor had caught it just in time. I hadn't fully ruptured and Joshua and I were safe.

I'll never know why God chose to give that birth to us. Like I previously mentioned, the chances of that happening are so, so small. I would encourage anyone that I know, who wanted to try for a VBAC, to go for it!! Yet, for a long time, I chose to see it as the biggest nightmare of my life. I felt like such a failure. I felt like I had done something wrong and I struggled to simply be grateful for my life and the life of my child. My husband, on the other hand, saw that night as a rescue. In his mind, God had saved us from so much. Where I thought God had taken away, Steve believed God had relented. Now that so much time has passed, that is really how I see it too and am convinced that it's the way I must see it.

I'm not going to lie and say that I don't care anymore about his birth. Just thinking through that night moves me very deeply even though so much time has passed. I think it always will. Yet, God had prepared me in a lot of ways prior to him coming without me even knowing it. It started with Isaac and the crazy life we led right before he was born. God taught me that I can never rely on what I think might happen but that through it all, He would always be there to get us through. Then in Caleb's birth, he taught me patience and in His kindness, allowed me to have a beautiful, natural birth that will always mean so much to me. This kindness, this mercy showed through to the next one. Caleb's birth brought me much healing. Joshua's birth was crazy and unexpected like Isaac's but written all over it was God's mercy to me, to Joshua, to Steve and to our family, which was just like Caleb's. It was a marriage of the two and without the two proceeding births, I wouldn't have been able to see it that way.

"Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save."
Isaiah 46:4

It took me many months to process through and accept the events of that night and I still have a hard time talking about it without wanting to cry. It was so hard for me to accept. It was so hard for me to be grateful. But God chose to give us that night and whatever I was to learn from it, I needed to learn. If anything, it was clear that God had intervened once again in our lives, in a way we didn't expect or even want, to bring about His beauty. And those glimpses of His beauty and glory are what helped me to eventually lift my eyes.

So where does that leave me now? I've known all along that I will have a scheduled c-section with this next baby. It's the first time I've ever known that from the beginning so that has helped. Even though I'm such a fighter by nature, I haven't fought it. I've had to accept it. And even though I'm not looking forward to the surgery, I am definitely looking forward to meeting my little girl and am determined to make the best of the situation when it comes.

I feel so thankful to be a woman; to have the opportunity to be changed personally by the lives God places in my family. I'm not a theologian at all but, to me the verse "Yet she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." 1 Timothy 2:8 speaks volumes. God has changed me so much through this process even though it wasn't at all what I expected. And I don't think that it ever is for any woman.

God started with "Laughter"...showed Himself strong with "Bravery"...and amazed and humbled us when He reached out His hands to proclaim "Saved by the Lord."

I'm excited to see what He does next.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Little Getaway

So every year we make a trip in late March/early April to good ole San Luis Obispo to visit the Weeks for Debbi's birthday. We still end up visiting San Luis more often than that during the rest of the year, due to various AGO alumni events and other happenings, but every spring we go for the annual birthday. After we moved, I realized Debbi would probably much prefer having us there with her, since we don't get to see her all that much, than have a new book or something. This last week was our annual birthday trip.

As the kids have gotten older it has really become much more fun to travel with them. It's still a lot of work but they aren't babies anymore...minus Josh that is. So, I get to think of all of the great places that I can take them and we've even developed some fun traditions over the years. We always go to Mitchell Park at least once (this last trip we went and based on my love for Bali's, we visit the frozen yogurt shop quite frequently...okay, every day that we're there basically. Yes, even in winter. We don't have good frozen yogurt here so I figure it's okay to pack it in for two or three days, if it's only three times a year. There...Justified.

We did tons of things but here are some fun highlights:
-Visited my old co-workers from Family Care Network. If any of you live on the Central Coast you should consider doing Miracle Miles for Kids 10K Walk/Run on April 17th to raise money for this amazing organization. I can't believe it's been seven years since we started that event. Seems like yesterday.
-Rode bikes all the way downtown to get Bali's the first night we were there. The kids were so tired afterward, as it's a long way down there, but they did great. They also got to see the train station on their way down which was a major plus.
-Frequented Mitchell Park once a day for some major play.
-Rode bikes on the bike trail.
-Had fun "kid food" for dinner like chicken nuggets and fries. The boys loved it.
-Saw Jill and baby Jude. Such a blessing (especially to me).
-Went to McDonald's for some happy meals and ice cream.
-Saw some of our friends from Grace like Steve's old boss, Ken Peet and a few others. Hassons, we missed you terribly. Even this morning my boys asked if they could still see Suzannah, Charlotte and Elizabeth. Hope you're all better and we'll catch you next time!!
-Drove through Cal Poly's campus to see where Mommy and Daddy met and where we went to college. After that we drove past the Veteran's Building where there is a "real tank." I think that was a major highlight...the "real tank" and the "BIG GUN".

First ice cream cone...they've had ice cream just not on a cone. Of course they felt so big.

But three days without Daddy is just too long, especially for me, so we came home last night full of joy from our wonderful trip, but so glad to see our favorite man in the world...Steve. As I lay next to my hubby last night I thought, "God is so kind to feels so good to be home."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Golden Arches and a Jammy Ride

I'm a St. Patrick's Day baby. It's fun to have your birthday on such a holiday like St. Patrick's Day because it's a special day but it's not Christmas or anything that would overshadow your festivities. It's just fun to wear green, hear about leprechauns and the good ole Irish themselves. Now that I've gotten older, I've discovered that St. Patrick was a pretty incredible guy as well, so I guess it's a great day to have a birthday. I wouldn't know any different. It's always just been that way for me.

My parents did a great job making my day special while growing up with fun green decorations on my cake, one in particular was a Care Bear Wish Bear (remember Care Bears were huge in the 80's) and various other fun green themed things. However, something they did nearly every year was get me a Shamrock Shake from McDonald's. It's pretty darn yummy and I have fond memories of going through the drive-thru to then slurp down my special milkshake all the way home. It was great and for some reason I thought they made that milkshake just for me and my birthday. Hmmmmm....

When I met my husband, I think I happened to mention the Shamrock Shake tradition sometime before my first birthday that we spent together and then I totally forgot about it. Well, he didn't. He felt it was his duty to keep the tradition going, even though I no longer lived at home, and on that first birthday, he took me out to get a Shamrock Shake. Unfortunately for him, McDonald's had run out...RUN OUT on St. Patrick's Day. They had plenty the day before (he even scoped it out ahead of time) and I'm sure plenty the next day, but on the day that it mattered, St. Patrick's Day, there wasn't one little drop of green milkshake to be found. We even checked the other McDonald's in town...none.

And so began the new tradition. Every year after that, for the past eight years, he has tried to get me a Shamrock Shake. It became the joke every year. "Maybe this will be the year..." But much to my poor hubby's chagrin, it never worked out. Either McDonald's was out or they didn't even know what we were talking about...for SHAME!

Debbi, my mentor for the past ten years, knew of this running joke between us and she called a couple of weeks ago to let me know that she had personally seen the Shamrock Shake in San Luis Obispo. This gave me hope since we tried many years when we lived in SLO and never got one. If they were in SLO, then maybe we'd be able to find one this year.

We decided not to take our chances on St. Patrick's Day but to go on St. Patrick's Day Eve so that we were at least close to the original tradition. So last night after dinner, we made the children clean-up the kitchen, clean the playroom and get all ready for bed--basically do their nighttime chores and then just when they thought it was time for Daddy to read the Hobbit and settle in for the night, Steve and I screamed "Jammy Ride! Everyone in the car!!" The squeals of delight reverberated through the house. They didn't know where they were going but KNEW it was going to be fun. Jammy Rides always are and usually involve some sort of treat. The one thing they knew for sure is that they weren't going to least not yet. And off we went, hopeful but with a Plan B to pick up a cookie if McDonald's failed us yet again.

Nevertheless, I'm astonished yet happy to report...we picked up three Shamrock Shakes last night thus officially ending the drought. And we all shared them. It was pure delight. Of course, it was just a vanilla milkshake with nasty, fast-food green dye, disguising itself as "mint" flavoring mixed in. But it brought me back and I enjoyed it. Maybe it's just a foreshadowing...during the decade of my 20's I couldn't even find the stuff. But now that I'm getting older and it's my last year of my 20's, someone decided to throw me a bone for old time's know, a way to say "good-bye" to my youth. I don't know and I don't care.

All I know is that three little boys were nestled in the back of our car, sipping their green milkshakes, Dad was smiling that he FINALLY succeeded, and I was taking it all in, blessed by my family and of course, my Shamrock Shake. It was the perfect start to my 29th year.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Fresh Start

Nearly 10 months to the day after Isaac was born, I found out that I was expecting again. I had just gotten my cycle back one month earlier (yeah breastfeeding!) and we decided we'd just see what happened. Well, what happened is that we were going to have another baby!! The OB that I had in San Luis Obispo had recommended that I not try for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section) with my next child because she said that I was too small anyway to deliver a baby normally (like that helped my defective complex). However, my new doctor told me that he didn't see anything wrong with me going for a normal delivery. I was elated. Just the idea of trying for a vaginal birth gave me something to look forward to and prepare for.

I'm not really one to do things half-way so I took all of his advice to heart and jumped feet first into my second pregnancy with hope and anticipation. I buried myself in books as well. I read, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, by Henci Goer and read VBAC birth stories on-line to help myself see that other women had gone before me and done it. I watched my diet. I exercised and we hired a doula. The doula that we hired is also a home-birth midwife and so we knew that she knew everything and would have the skills to get us through our birth safely. I familiarized myself as best as I could with birth itself and then my husband and I just prayed for a healthy delivery. We prayed for the doctor who would be on-call, for the nurses and for our baby.

Everything went well until I hit 34 weeks and the baby went breech. He had been head-down ever since 28 weeks but for some reason he turned around. I now know that I have an oddly shaped uterus (a birth defect) that makes the area of my uterus smaller than it's supposed to be, causing my babies to turn in an effort to find the most room to grow. But at the time, we didn't have that knowledge and it was surprising. Only 3-4% of babies end up breech at term so I thought we'd just gotten unlucky the last time and that chances are that we'd be okay this time. However, it wasn't so.

I consulted with my doula and did everything she told me to do...exercises, exercises and more exercises. Time was of the essence since the longer a baby stays breech the bigger they get and the harder it gets to turn. I did all that I could do and then had to leave the rest in the Lord's hands. Within a couple of days, I felt that the baby had turned back. I was right. After that I wore a girdle to help keep that little flipper turned the right way. I didn't take it off (except to shower) until I was past due.

My due date came and went like the wind. Nothing happened. I knew that it was my first labor so I expected to go late but nothing can prepare you for going overdue. It is so difficult to be patient during those last few days. However, I knew that it was best for me to just bide my time. I'd made it this far, I could wait a few more days. The midwife suggested a bit of castor oil and of course I tried it. The memory of that nasty stuff is still very vivid in my mind. It didn't put me into labor but it did cause me to have some pre-labor contractions that definitely succeeded in dilating and effacing me a bit more. I was moving closer but I didn't know how long my doctor would let me go. If you're a VBAC, you aren't allowed to have any sort of labor induction due to already having a compromised uterus. Therefore, I needed to go into labor naturally on my own and I needed it to happen soon.

It was Presidents' Day weekend and my husband had four days off. We made ourselves as busy as possible to ensure we wouldn't be thinking about the baby. I had contractions off and on but they never regulated and didn't last for longer than an hour or so at a time. At one time I thought my water might be leaking so we headed into the hospital. However, it wasn't so and we were still waiting. Monday hit and I knew that my husband was headed back into work the next day and that I was headed back to the doctor to be officially 41 weeks. So I pulled out the castor oil one more time and gave it a try. It made me so sick that time and didn't put me into labor but more of a sputtering of contractions as the day went on. I spent most of that day in the bathtub while my husband watched our then 18-month-old. Steve would periodically bring in hot water from the stove to replenish my bath (our water heater was pretty lame and didn't heat water after five minutes).

That evening a friend of ours was coming into town and Steve went out with him for a few hours. I told him to bring me back the biggest Diet Coke he'd ever seen. I hadn't had any diet sodas my whole pregnancy but I was exhausted, cranky, uncomfortable and needed some caffeine. I was having contractions but they weren't regular at all so I ignored them and chased my little toddler around. Later, I pounded that Diet Coke and climbed back into the bathtub where I had a little chat with a dear friend. After awhile she said, "Ummm...Nikki, those contractions are pretty close together. Are you sure you're not in labor?" I responded that of course I wasn't in labor because I'd been having contractions for days and they weren't doing anything and kept stopping!!! However, after I got off the phone with her, we started timing. They were five minutes apart and regular. We headed to the hospital.

I thought they'd send me home again but when I showed up, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was at 8 cm. I was in transition! My water broke and labor got much more intense. The Watermark song, "Glory of Your Name" played continuously in my mind while I was in transition and I was reminded again that it was all about God's glory. Little Caleb Michael, which means "Brave Soldier" was born about two hours later after the nurse pushed a stubborn cervical lip aside. I cannot describe the healing that happened in my heart the moment they laid him on my chest. I got to hold him, nurse him, talk to him and be with him. I got to watch him get weighed and bathed for the first time. I got to be there. I even asked for a sandwich because I was so starving. It was unlike anything I'd experienced the time before. I wanted to get up and walk to my postpartum room just because I had the energy and ability to (of course they didn't let me). I couldn't stop smiling. It was amazing. I was so thankful.

Caleb, which means "Brave", was named Caleb because we had to take a step out and be brave to try the VBAC. We didn't know where it was all going to go or what would happen but we knew we wanted to try. We also knew that we had a God who had gotten us through before and would take care of us again. We'd learned that the first time. God, in His kindness, gave that birth to me. He didn't have to and I knew it but He just did. Everything went so smoothly and quickly. It was like a dream. And I was now the mommy of two precious little boys. Isaac...who had started me on this journey and Caleb who helped me get there.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sorting it All Out

After Isaac's birth, I found myself in a whole new world full of nursing (it was SO hard!), caring for an infant, keeping a house (remember I had few domestic skills), supporting a husband in his new job and living in a completely new place where I didn't know ANYONE! I can't tell you how many times I begged my husband to take me home. I'm sure it wasn't easy for him to deal with an emotional wife, a new baby and a new job but somehow, he remained as solid as a rock and I did my best to merely get through the day for a long time. We did have family nearby though and that helped pull us through for quite awhile.

Time heals and soon enough, I did feel a bit better--especially as I got more sleep. However, there were some lagging things in the back of my mind that I just couldn't quite express or explain to anyone regarding Isaac's birth. I just didn't feel right about it. I felt like it hadn't gone naturally or something, and I always felt the need to explain to people who learned I'd had a c-section, why I'd had one. When the women around me shared their birth stories, I immediately felt left out and isolated because I had no idea what they were talking about. I hadn't gone into labor. I hadn't physically delivered a baby. I hadn't been given the chance. I showed up at the hospital timid and scared and an hour later, my baby was born. Not only did I feel left out, but I felt like I was somehow less of a woman.

Over the months I began to see how these feelings really took root right after Isaac was born. The disappointment was very real right from the beginning even though I tried to brush it off. I remember a very insensitive male who came to visit us in the hospital recounting in all his glory the birth of his first child and how his wife had been "So amazing and had no drugs or anything." Then he looked at me with a smirk and said, "At least you didn't have to go through all of THAT!" If I could've gotten up at that point I think I would've decked him. But somehow I kept my hands to myself and tried to let his comments walk out the door with him. I know now that he didn't know he was being insensitive or that his comments would haunt me for a long time. He didn't know how important the birth process is to a woman and when it's messed with a woman can often feel so disappointed. He didn't know. But I knew and as time went on, it became more and more clear to me that as happy as I was to have my little healthy baby boy, I was definitely struggling with how it all came about.

And then came the guilt. I can't tell you how many times I've had people say to me, "Well at least your baby is healthy. That's all you can ask for right?" (None of these women have had c-sections either and if faced with one wouldn't want one!) Of COURSE I'm thankful he's healthy! I mean, isn't that a given?! The fact that I was even slightly disappointed when I was looking right at my perfect baby boy made me feel even worse and much more guilty. My emotions were so tied up in knots I didn't know how to sort it all out. I heard all the comments like, "A 100 years ago you could've died." Well yes I guess anyone could have died in childbirth...heck anyone could still die today! But no...they probably just would've delivered my breech baby and chances are we both would've been fine. Or "Well at least you didn't have to go through labor I mean I labored for over 30 hours with my first." And I'd be left feeling numb, left out, ungrateful and guilty all for struggling through what I felt about having that first c-section. It was a very confusing place to be. No one tried to make me feel bad. I just did whenever birth was brought up. I felt defective, unsettled and muddled. I didn't feel right and to be perfectly honest, I didn't know how to make it right.

I'm not saying that all of my emotions were justified or even remotely godly but they were real and my disappointment was real. Not every woman who has a c-section feels the way that I did, however, many do and most don't want to talk about it. I wanted to feel my baby laid on my chest after having used every ounce of my being to push him out into the world. I wanted to feel that victory. Instead, I got to simply touch his face and he was whisked away. I lay in a hospital bed all alone and my baby waited for me to nurse him for a few hours. We were detached and all alone, and I hated it.

The reason for these feelings, I learned, came as I sorted through all of these conflicting emotions to finally get at the root of the problem. And it took a very long time for me to get there. I began to see that the very essence of my femininity was all wrapped up in carrying a child, childbirth and then nurturing that child as best as I could. It wasn't because I had made it an idol, it was because it was who I was inside, as a woman. It was me. It was how God had designed me to be. It was natural for me to be disappointed that I didn't go through the whole process God had designed because well, that was how it was supposed to go.

However, what became crucial was what I did with that realization. Yes, Isaac's birth wasn't how things were supposed to go in a perfect world. Yet, this world is fallen. And God promises us that we will have sorrow. And I had to wrap my arms around the fact that even though God had wired me to feel the way that I did simply because I am a woman, I still had to accept the fact that He didn't allow things to go the natural way. His answer was, "No." That was God's choice and not mine. He orchestrated it all for His glory and who am I to question the Almighty? As hard as this was for me, I knew it was right and I knew God would help me sort through the disappointment.

So as the months wore on, that's what I did. I laid my longings for future births at His feet and I surrendered as best as I could, my sadness relishing in all the joy that God had still given me in this new little life. It didn't make it better all of the sudden. But I grew and began to understand, in a small way (and I'd understand much more later with Joshua) that God spins and moves and does as He pleases. I may not always know why but I can trust Him to share my hurts and I can trust Him with my life.

This time was important for me to sort it all out. I needed to learn more about myself, my femininity, what it meant to be a mother and how God had equipped me with all I needed to do what He'd called me to do--be the wife of one handsome husband Steve and the mommy of one precious baby boy, Isaac...laughter.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Blessed Weekend

We've had some unexpected things going on lately but God really blessed me this weekend. Here are some highlights.

Tons of family time. The boys love to "play" along with Daddy while he plays the piano. After dinner Steve usually plays the piano for awhile. It's a great relaxer for him and we all love the music.

I received (and have received over the last couple of weeks) an abundance of baby girl hand-me-downs and brand new clothes given to me from friends and grandparents. I've been so humbled by the generosity of others. We don't even know where to put it all yet. Thank you, thank you!

I purchased this adorable little tutu (my only purchase so far) for baby girl that I found at Babies R Us. I wanted to get her one so badly and when I saw it and I saw it was a great price, I had to get it!! Too bad she can't wear it until she's at least a year!!

I have had lots of cuddle time with my little toddler (who will hardly cuddle anymore) due to a fever and feeling under the weather. Poor little guy.

And the sweetest thing of all--a dozen roses from my boys just because. Evidently, when Isaac was out with his Dad running errands yesterday, he told him, "My mom would really like those flowers. Can we get them for her?" So of course, my husband obliged him and they brought them home.

I also got to catch up with a dear friend, who I love very much, on the phone, take a few walks, get some much needed sleep and have a great talk with my best friend-my husband. God is good and He always takes care of us.

Hope your weekend was blessed too.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beauty from Ashes

When I found out I was pregnant with Isaac, I was quite young. Well, young for today's standards. I was 23 and we had only been married for two and a half years. I was in the workforce working as a Writer/Editor for a non-profit (Family Care Network) in town. Thankfully, we were both were graduated but my husband was in an internship at our church and not a permanent position, working with the youth group. We lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment that when I think about it now, would've taken me about 45 minutes to clean top to bottom. Too bad I never cleaned in those days. I didn't know ANYTHING about running a home. I cooked some nights but we ate out a lot and I was pretty naive about most domestic things.

But there I was, pregnant with our first, and I had NO CLUE what was going to happen next. None of my friends were pregnant yet. All of our buddies from college were newly married too and were enjoying their first years together. So that meant that I was all on my own to try and figure out how to handle pregnancy. To say I wasn't scared is an understatement, however, as time went on, God helped me navigate the new waters and I learned quickly how my body was changing. It was all a big adventure.

We had quite a bit to figure out. Steve had to figure out very quickly what he wanted to do with his life and get himself a real job. Not that he wasn't working hard as an intern, it just wasn't permanent and we needed health benefits. My job provided our benefits at the time and we hoped I wouldn't be working after the baby was born. We started to save money like we had never before. We always saved and we almost always dealt in cash with things-you know the old fashioned way, like if you can't pay cash for it you can't buy it (being poor, married college students taught us this) but we knew that it wasn't just us anymore. There would be another little person relying on us and we had to make sure we were being wise!!

So we saved, we searched for jobs, we prayed and we marveled at my growing belly. Everything went well, except for Steve finding a job. We lived in San Luis Obispo at the time, and we quickly found out that there isn't much for college grads there. It's just too small of a town and there are too many overqualified Cal Poly grads looking for jobs in the area because no one wants to leave the beautiful Central Coast. We hit June and 32 weeks and Steve still didn't have a permanent job. After August, we'd have no income. Isaac was due in August.

I remember feeling like we'd have nothing to offer. We lived in this little apartment, had old, old clunkers for cars, didn't have a nursery and lived paycheck to paycheck. And after August, there'd be no paycheck either. This time in my life proved to be one of the most stretching times. It also was an incredibly stretching time for our young marriage. Yet, instead of drifting apart in our frustration, we banded together like no other. We were so tight. We knew it was us against the world and we weren't about to give up on each other or anything else.

Then our cars were totaled. I know that I've already told that story on this blog so I won't go into so much detail but...for those who don't know, here's the story in short. It was early July and Steve finally had a lead on a job. The good news was that it meant money and benefits. The bad news: it was in another city up north and it started two weeks before I was due. Great timing huh! On our way home late at night, we got hit in a hit-and-run on the Cuesta Grade while just ten minutes from home. I was very pregnant and we got hit on the freeway--totally crazy. The whole thing is really a miracle. Even though we got hit very hard and our car was totaled, we were totally unhurt. We never found out who hit us so we were just out a car. The next day, on our way to get our rental car, somebody side-swiped us in our other car sending it to its grave as well. We had nothing but our rental car for the next 30 days.

I remember very distinctly going to bed the night of the hit-and-run thankful we were okay but shaken up pretty badly. As we lay there in the dark, huddled together, my husband sang the words to the Matt Redman song, "Blessed Be Your Name". We couldn't quite understand where we were at this time in our lives, but we knew that we just had to praise. God had already given us so much and knew our needs. Even though it looked bleak, we had to trust.

Within a few weeks things had turned around a bit. A couple at church had given us a car and Steve had accepted a teaching position which meant we were moving. I was 35 weeks and was packing my house. While most women are putting their feet up, admiring their nursery and washing all their baby clothes, I was boxing up everything we owned and getting it ready to move. We were to move when I was about 38 weeks. I never even saw the place we were going to live. I had no idea what we were getting into. I just knew we had to go. It was our only option.

The day before our move we found out Isaac was footling breech. He hadn't been the week before but all of the sudden he had turned around. I was devastated. I had wanted a natural birth and here I was staring down the barrel at a c-section. I knew nothing about c-sections. I knew nothing about breeches. It's not like I could go home and research my options since my entire house was full of boxes. We had no idea what to do. We were given ten minutes to discuss our options. C-section the next day or up in our new town early the next week. When the doctor left us alone to talk, we both burst out laughing. I was crying through the laughter, of course, but we just couldn't believe the curve ball we'd been thrown yet again. The next day we were supposed to move. The next day was also Steve's birthday.

Isaac, which means "laughter", was born the next morning via c-section, in his hometown of San Luis Obispo. There were many things, looking back, that I didn't anticipate about his birth. I didn't get to hold him for a few hours. I didn't get to be with him and watch him get cleaned up after he was born. I didn't have the whole birth process like most women do. And the pain afterward was horrible. I wasn't given any other options besides a c-section, which I know now wasn't very responsible of my doctor at the time. His birth also put me on a path of uphill struggle with the rest of my children and this was something I couldn't foresee.

However, when I look back, it was the perfect ending to such a roller coaster ride. One that only God could have orchestrated and one that only He could get the credit for. He is pretty creative. And it was special that all of the people we loved in San Luis got to see him actually born and say "good-bye" to us in the hospital. I will cherish those days and the many, many people that came through forever.

It was a time when God used the upcoming arrival and actual birth of our firstborn son to change us into totally different people. We had to grow up. We had to be brave. We had to band together as a team and we had to trust. Isaac's birth laid the foundation for all of our other children and their arrivals. God used all that He put us through (which could've been much worse) to prepare us for the future.

And that's what God does. He uses our life-changing events to help us see that there really isn't anything that is impossible for Him. He can do whatever He wants. And whatever He does do, even when it's what we least expect, it will always be beautiful, even if its beauty from ashes.

" grant for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:3

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's What Makes Us Who We Are

Childbirth. Every woman from the time they are little thinks about one day giving birth and having children. The desire to bring forth life is literally written on our very souls. Our entire system, as women, is designed to propagate life. It's who we are. And it's definitely who we're meant to be.

It's as old as creation. When God dealt with Eve's sin in the garden He specifically singled out her femininity when He mentioned that she would bring forth children in pain. The very thing that was meant to bless and that set apart her apart from man, was brought out and cursed. Yet there was still hope as God reminded Eve that one of her offspring would one day overcome the serpent and free mankind from its bondage with sin. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15 Satan would strike at man's heel in an attempt to obliterate man by separating him from God but in the end, he would be overcome. So even in the fall, there was hope...and this hope came through the promise of offspring, a Savior--Jesus Christ.

It's no wonder that birth itself touches women to the core for it is our very femininity that is being discussed. Whenever I am with a group of women who have children, often times birth stories are brought up and shared. Each woman's story is as different as they come, unique to her as an individual yet, still tying her to her sisters in the room. And no one can deny it. We want to talk about it because it's who we are. It's how we're designed. Again, it's who we're meant to be.

But it's never a free ride. With all of the joy comes so much pain and this pain comes from deep within because it's our very souls, what makes us feminine, that is at stake. Some women experience infertility and miscarriage and some without ever having a reason. These women ache so deeply and so truly that women who have never been through such disappointment and sorrow cannot understand. We can only imagine, stand on the sidelines, lend an ear, offer a shoulder and pray. Others lose children in childbirth. It still happens. I know someone personally. And to attempt to put those feelings into words would never even do justice to the pain experienced there. Only God can surmount those mountains. Only God can lift the eyes of those women. Yet we can pray fervently on our knees for comfort and be there to cry.

Others, like the majority of women, merely don't get the type of birth they thought they'd get. Or maybe they do for some children but not for others. It turns out to be something totally different than what they thought it would be. But in the end, with a keen eye looking backward, they can see how God used that birth in the laying down in death to give life to another, to bring about much needed hope, change, growth and perseverance.

There's nothing like it. Nothing touches us all so deeply as the very birth of our children. Yet, we cannot worship it. We cannot trust it. We cannot rely on it. But we can worship. Birth should make us worship. Not ourselves. Not our accomplishments. Not how fast we labored or how many times we pushed. Not how many children we have or how much pain we can endure. We must worship the One who gave us this gift. The One who allowed it all to come into fruition. The One who put it all into place.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Psalm 139: 13-16

It is in that worship that we can see the beauty of all that God has given us, the good and the bad, and we can know that God is using our very selves, our very core to change us and bless us. And in that realization, we can be thankful. We must be thankful.