Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Journey of Joy: The Beautiful Birth of Enoch Leach

Foreword:  This is my experience.  It is one of the most beautiful and sacred things that has ever happened to me.  I almost hesitate to share it publically for fear of being misunderstood.  Not every mother has had an experience like mine and I mean no condemnation to anyone who has chosen to give birth differently than I have.  I hope others will give me the same respect.  If you had a horrible labor and got an epidural or planned a caesarean, or screamed curses and vowed you’d never do it again, I totally admire you for giving birth, for giving life to a child.  Your birth was just as sacred as mine.  Now, simply let me share my story.  Just please, let’s not let the controversial aspects of birth detract from the beauty of it.

From the time I first learned of the marvelous, mysterious thing that is childbirth I have looked forward to it with a mixture of anticipation and dread.  It seems that every mother has a horror story or two of hours of excruciating pain and agony.  Yet something in my heart knew that it was an experience I did not want to avoid.  Though afraid of pain, I wanted the reward of childbirth: a baby.  When I was courting Stephen, I read the birth story of a friend who had given birth naturally in water.  I read about her pain, but then there came the moment when her little girl was placed in her arms.  With tears I realized that any pain would be worth that moment. 
Before and during my pregnancy I did a lot of research on birth and Stephen and I decided on a home birth with a professional midwife.  We greatly appreciated the personal support and quality care we received from our midwives. 
My pregnancy went well with an average amount of discomforts.  As the time for Enoch’s birth drew closer I grew in faith and courage.  With prayers and joyful anticipation I prepared for the birth of my firstborn son.
I went into labor at midnight on May the 24th.  I tried to go back to sleep but it just wasn’t happening even though the contractions were still more than twenty minutes apart.  I told Stephen to try to sleep and went to the living room to pace around.  I was really excited!  I found that movement was key to relaxing through the contractions (which never got as bad as I thought they would.)  During those early ones I would lean against the wall and rock my lower body and sing “Jesus Loves Me” to myself.  I hadn’t planned that, but looking back it makes sense that I would choose a song that had meant love, safety, and happiness to me since I was a baby.  I also spent some time with God reconnecting.  I found that prayer really helped, not because I couldn’t handle the pain, but because it was so necessary for me to let go and I needed to trust myself to Someone bigger than myself.  
I was really afraid of overreacting to labor so I convinced myself that I was still really early and could handle it all just fine on my own.  Still I thought maybe my Mom would be awake, (it was now in the early hours of the morning) and would like to know what was going on.  She immediately wanted to get in the car and come be with me.  I didn’t think I needed her yet, but didn’t tell her that.  My dad wanted to come too, which I hadn’t planned, but, since I knew he was really nervous about his daughter having a baby, I thought it would be good to let him come to the house anyway.  We had the birth pool set up in our bedroom and a door separates the living room/ dining room/kitchen from the bedrooms and bathrooms, so he could be close without actually being in the room.  He spent the time in the living room waiting for progress updates and probably had the roughest experience of any of us. 
After I got off the phone I decided to call my midwife, Shea, and give her a heads up.  My contractions were well within the every five minute range and even though I didn’t think they were that intense, I decided to call her.  I knew she was out of town for an infant resuscitation course that was required to keep her license and that her partner, Barbara, would have to come to the birth instead.  I really like Barbara so that was no problem although I was disappointed Shea couldn’t be there.   Shea was also disappointed that the baby was coming when she couldn’t come herself.  She asked if I had tried going back to sleep, but after timing the contractions that came during the call she knew this was the real thing.  She told me to call Barbara when I thought I needed to.  I told her that since my mom had worked her whole nursing career in labor and delivery I thought she could probably check me when she arrived and we would call Barbara depending on what she found.  She thought that was a good idea and advised me to wake Stephen up in the meantime.  I was ready for some support. 
I “woke” Stephen (he wasn’t asleep) and he helped me through contractions until four when my mom arrived.  I asked her to check me.  I was certain I was still at no more than 2, but she told me to call the midwife because I was “at least a five.”  I was so relieved and happy to be that far along!
Stephen filled the birth pool which we had purchased, and I got in.  The warm water felt so good!  I had a much easier time relaxing there in the water with my mom, sister, and husband rubbing my back and arms. 

The labor was amazing.  I felt so much love from my husband, mom, and sister that it was very manageable.  As I got closer to full dilation, and the contractions got more intense, Barbara had to keep reminding me not to fight.  As I would come to those moments I would recite a Bible verse in my mind and I would calm right down.  I could not believe how much it actually helped.  I really didn’t think that would work for me like that.  The time went by and looking back it really doesn’t feel like it could have been as long as it was.
Finally, after nine hours of labor, I was ready to push. I pushed for a while.  It took a few tries to figure out how, and then I went for it, certain my baby would be in my arms in no time.  An hour went by.  And then another.  It was much harder work than I expected, although not as painful as it might have been.  After two more hours of pushing, I was starting to get discouraged and questioned whether I would be able to give birth naturally.  We tried a few different positions and finally I felt him move.  I will forever be grateful that I didn’t have an epidural, because that feeling of his head moving gave me the strength to finish.  At 1:20, four and a half hours after I started pushing, Enoch was born and immediately placed in my arms.  No way can I describe this moment!  My little boy looked up at me with a trusting inquisitive look.  “Hi Precious,” I said.  Stephen held me as I held Enoch and we kissed and cried together.   

Looking back, I am certain that if I had been in a hospital, I would have been given a c section.  I would have consented to it.  It really looked like my small bone structure was preventing his birth, but Barbara was so calm and confident (and careful to check his heart rate very frequently) that we didn’t panic.  I kept trying and I did it.  Only by the grace of God, but I did it.  I didn’t even tear. 
I really think there is a huge difference between labor pain and other forms of pain.  It is such a happy kind of pain I think.  I felt so safe and loved and excited that my baby was coming that it could no way have been called suffering.  Every other kind of pain (except maybe vigorous exercise) feels like an injury, like something is wrong.  This isn’t like that, at least not for me.  I do think though that it is worth it to prepare yourself for pain.  Also I know that some women have had a much harder time than I did and have been in worse pain.  I don’t want to trivialize someone else’s experience, but that is how it was for me. 
Giving birth was a life changing experience for me.  I no longer fear childbirth.  (Watch my next one be terrible, I know.)  I believe that God allowed couples to be given an experience to prepare them to raise children in a world full of sin and danger, a world that calls for every ounce of parental strength.  I feel that going through this experience together with Stephen helped me to love and trust him more.  Also it taught me to look to God for strength when the demands of motherhood are too much.  Just as God used the curse of hard work tilling the soil as a blessing to men, he turns the curse of pain in childbirth into a blessing for women.  There can even be joy in it.  God is like that. 
And did I mention I can’t get enough of my precious baby?  J

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

30 Years Later

Dear Mom and Dad,
July 10, 1983 Chewelah, Washington.  I wasn’t there, but I am sure it was a bit like my wedding a year ago.  Lot’s of friends, lot’s of pictures, lot’s of details.  Hopes, dreams, plans, promises meant to be kept.

Many things have changed in the last thirty years.  You have bought and sold houses, moved from the northwest to (gasp) Arkansas, started careers and changed to different ones, changed to a total vegetarian lifestyle, and changed from a computer that only displayed blinking green text, to graphic designing on flat screen.   You have watched your family grow from just the two of you and a couple cats, to one baby girl and then two.  You watched those little girls grow and shaped and molded their little lives.  You homeschooled them, taught them to read and then tried to get them to stop reading long enough to get the dishes done.  You watched them become adolescents, then busy college students, and finally teachers.  You welcomed a new son-in-law.  You held a new baby boy.  There have been lots of changes, but the friendship you committed to thirty years ago is still there stronger than ever. 

 To Beth and I your marriage has been a granted, something we never considered not being there.  Not everyone can say that to their parents.  So, although I haven’t said it enough over the years I want to say that I have always appreciated the security of the home and family you created for us.  I thank you for the sacrifices you made to make us what we are.  Thank-you for not giving up.  Praise the Lord!
I wish we could all be together today. Love you both!