Birth. Five little letters, yet, in an instant, so many different emotions, experiences, and thoughts are brought to the surface. For me, I can’t help but think about my own experiences. My experiences, like yours, are completely unique to me. I don’t propose that there is one right way to experience pregnancy or birth. I can tell you that as I became more and more intentional in my role as a mother, birth became a more Holy experience.
The thing about birth stories is that rarely do they just involve those last few hours of pregnancy and then the delivery of a brand new baby. For most of us, our stories begin long before that as we overcome our excuses, our fears, our false beliefs about birth and ourselves. We each are set on a path with different experiences and no story can be the same. Every story has triumph and conflict and there are both sad and happy endings.
My story includes more miscarriages than I can remember and three beautiful births. I remember my first miscarriage. It felt like a dark cloud had come to sit over my house and wherever I would go, that little cloud just came right with me. I could not escape that darkness even though I lived in sunny California. I would go through the motions of living, through church and the grocery store and all the other mundane things, and just could not shake that darn cloud. I had so many questions and no answers and found it to be a lonely time. I was fighting to find the sun again, and eventually, the sun started peeking through. It didn’t come back instantly but finally one day, I could breathe again. I could see the sun and the flowers and although I still did not have answers, I didn’t need them anymore. I hated that first miscarriage at the time – I hated not being able to just pop up and feel happy. I hated noticing what was in the other shopping carts, minivans, and both cooing and crying babies everywhere I went. It seemed so heavy and such a raw deal but now I find myself grateful for those days. My miscarriages gave me the understanding I would need to work with my clients and to help friends and family. A loss is loss no matter how it is experienced. Whether it is a loss of a relationship or a baby or security in a job, or whatever else, there is a little piece inside me that knows what it is like to have those dark days. I feel like God has always taught me the lessons I need to learn in the most gentle ways possible. I never knew that I would be able to say this, but I am grateful for what I learned from having miscarriages.
My three babies came into the world with great purpose. Each birth experience shaped me and helped me learn about heaven and God and my body and myself. I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences as each became a core piece of my understanding of God and how he works. The most powerful lessons happened with my third baby. From my journal:
It is Sunday evening once again and I can’t help but think what we were doing exactly one week ago. Justin and I had walked up and down the hills by our house. I think we both felt a bit of disappointment and surprise that I was still pregnant as real contractions had been present so many different times. As we walked, sometimes I had to pause to let a contraction pass but things just did not escalate to the point of no return. We went to bed and knew that Sunday was not our day. I don’t remember anything significant about the night, but I woke up at 6 am to go to the bathroom and was having regular contractions every 3 minutes. I started timing them on my iPod ap so I could see the patterns and duration. I was not concerned by the length or frequency of the contractions as they were so similar to what I had been experiencing the last few weeks. I decided to stay in bed for the next hour and see where things went. I knew rest was good for me and the longer I stay in bed, the longer the boys stay asleep! I listened to my birthing tracks on the iPod and just stayed relaxed for the next hour. My son came in at 7 and wanted help with his blog. I had to sit up in bed to help him type and we worked on a couple different posts. Fifteen minutes passed and during that time I decided the contractions were really consistent and stronger since I had sat up. I woke Justin up and told him to help our son. while I showered and that I thought we were finally headed into the hospital. I looked in the mirror at the condition of my hair and debated taking the shower. Was it in me to blow dry my hair? Could I get another day out of it? I carefully considered my options and decided that while I could get another day out of my hair, I would feel better if it was washed and I thought I had plenty of time. Showering at home was a good way to kill some time and I preferred laboring as much outside the hospital as possible. Plus, I had used some essential oils the night before and the smell was disgusting. I committed to the shower and started the process. I shaved in between contractions. As each one hit, I would simply lean against the wall of the shower and breathe through it, thinking various affirmations. “Strong and long bring my baby closer to me. My body was made to do this. I am strong. I am relaxed. I am filled with energy. These are simply waves passing through my body.” I got out of the shower and really struggled to know what to wear. I knew I needed to get clothes on but I just could not decide. We had planned to have a photographer document the birth. If I I was going to be photographed walking the hospital halls, what would be most appropriate and comfortable? What to wear? I just could not figure it out…I told Justin to call the midwives and also Brit, the photographer. I told him to shower but be fast. At this point it was around 7:35 in the morning. I was blow drying my hair and still was not sure what to wear – if the baby was coming fast, it did not matter…blow dry, blow dry, blow dry….breathe, breathe, breathe. I got on the floor on my knees and started leaning over the stool in my bathroom as I worked through each wave. I tried to remember how this compared to the boys’ birth days…I can’t remember. I asked Justin for a quick blessing. Okay, I’m okay. I just need to keep moving. I have no idea where I am at or how dilated I am. I can’t focus on the iPod to track the timing. I just keep doing my hair, breathing through stronger contractions, giving Justin orders in between each one. I could not help but moan through some of the pressure. Oh wow…things are really moving fast. “Justin, rub my back and push down on my hips..that’s good..okay, keep moving, let’s keep getting ready.” We need to go to the hospital. Justin starts loading the car and telling me to be working my way to the car. I am. I am. Just let me finish straightening my hair. I’m almost done. Oh wow…I can’t get in the car until I go to the bathroom. I have to go so bad. This is not good. Needing to use the bathroom always proceeds delivery. Oh wow….I don’t know that we can make it to the hospital. I start telling Justin this baby is coming, we are not going to make it. “You don’t want to have a baby at home. Get in the car. I know we can make it. Just get in the car.” “I don’t know, babes…I can’t go until I finish being on the toilet….aaaaahh…..oh wow, I don’t know.” I remember trying to call down revelation from heaven. “Do we have 15 minutes to make it to the hospital? Can I do this in the car?” I reach up to see if there is a head or what is going on. No head, I can’t tell anything else…for all I know I am only dilated to a 4 or 5! I tell Justin to send the boys on a walk with my mom. I am going to walk to the garage and don’t want them to see a contraction or hear my battle cries. It is now about 7:55. I finish in the bathroom. I walk the 6 feet to our bed. I pause for a big contraction. This is crazy. I can’t imagine sitting in the car to do this. Justin tells me he put a towel down on the seat, just keep moving. Get in the car. Get in the car. I walk down our hall and pause in the family room for a big contraction. I tell Justin that we are not going to make it. There is no way. He tells me we will. He will drive fast. We can make it we just need to get going. I cry out sounding like some sort of tribal woman….oh I don’t care about making it to the hospital. There is not time. I get down on my knees. Justin tells me to repeat after him. “We can make it. I am relaxed. I am calm. We make it to the hospital.” His coaching helps. I am calm and I am relaxed. We are not going to make it. Yes we are he tells me. No, we are not. “Ashlee, get in the car or I am calling the paramedics. We do not want to do this right here.” Over the next five minutes, I am on my knees, I am having a baby. I have surrendered to having a home birth. There is just no other way. I am down on my hands and knees. I tell Justin the floor is just so hard. He tells me it is wood. I know it is wood. I see the pillows on the couch out of the corner of my eye..no, I don’t want to ruin those. I could really use one of those knee gardening pads. We don’t have one. Oh well, the floor is hard, okay concentrate. This is crazy. I see Justin calling the paramedics. “My wife is going to have a baby and we are not going to make it to the hospital.” I hear the operator ask for our address. “Justin, the head is right there.” I am looking face to face at a baby coming out of my body while I am kneeling on hardwood floors in our family room. That’s interesting. Her face is covered in a sack of membranes or something. Oh yeah, my water never broke. I see Justin between my legs, one hand is holding the phone to his ear. The other hand catches the baby’s head and in perfect synchronocity, the baby falls across his forearm. I feel a gush of water and feel the wetness between my legs. I am glad there is a red hand towel there. I don’t know when Justin got it but it catches the fluids..that’s good. I ask if it is really a girl. It is. Is she breathing? I ask. She is. She lets out a little cry. I ask what time it is. 8:06 am. Okay. Breathe Ashlee. Oh wow. We just delivered a baby.
I had prayed for months that I would experience birth however God had intended. And His answer came in an accidental home birth. I learned so much from that sacred day. God answers my prayers. I am loved. I am stronger than I thought. My body is amazing. And so much more.
Right now, I am in the process of another birth. It is a rebirth of myself and I can feel it happening underneath the surface. Some of it is beautiful and oh so ready to come out into the light of the world. I like those parts of my current life experiences because they make me feel alive! Some of what I am experiencing is ugly and makes me feel vulnerable. Just like a regular pregnancy, once the process starts, it cannot be stopped. And so I am facing things that I haven’t dared look at before. Every little breakthrough is like a contraction. This time I won’t be delivering a baby, but I do feel like a better me will be on the other side of this birth.
As I think about the Gift of Giving Life book, I think what I love most is that it is a collection of stories from strong faithful women. They share little glimpses of their journeys that make me feel more comfortable with my own. Their stories give power to every other human being. Each and every one of us is connected to life and to birth, whether we are moms or not. You can google and learn all about this great book. You don’t need me to share quotes from the book because you will read it yourself and see that it is your story too. Although the book focuses on giving aspects of giving life from miscarriages to birth, it is really about each one of us. Every single one of us experiences the lessons the authors and contributors share in the Gift of Giving Life. Read the book and start telling your stories.
Visit the Gift of Giving Life Virtual Book Tour for a chance to win some great pregnancy/birth/baby-related prizes!