I almost did it, gave into the madness. Throughout the day it wiggles its way into my thoughts and what a victory it is to say I’ve told it, each and every time, no, just no. You can’t steal my joy. Because today, today the sun is shining. Birds are chirping their song through the trees’ whistling leaves. My girl is doing silly somersaults in my belly. I’ve no time for anything other that sitting and dwelling in each beautiful truth present here and now.
“The calm before the storm” he said slyly, with sultriness. We sat on the rooftop underneath said tree, the landlord’s puppy running about under our feet, resting from time to time in the shade under our chairs. My girl was still dancing when he said it, reminding me the storm is coming. But what a beautiful storm. I can see it rolling in, all thick and filled with wonder. I welcome it, prepare in prayer to embrace it. I could run, I’ve chosen that way before. I’ve never found a path, though that the storm did not reach. It is only safe inside and tucked away from all that’s beautiful and terrifying that I couldn’t hear it’s roar. And it’s not because of the strength of our legs that we won’t be knocked down. It’s because of the truth that reached up from the ground to root us in surrender.
The storm descended. It settled into us, warm and inviting. Yes, terrifying.
At 3 a.m. on March 21st Charlie told us she was ready to make her way into the world. Right on time, my darling girl, right on time. My body shuttered to wake at such a powerful surge. Later on, much later, I’d laugh at what I’d then thought was powerful. But wake I did. Sleep came in waves, ten minutes at a time only to be reminded again by the imminent arrival of the baby that had rested so soundly in my belly for nine months.
Cooper held me as I lay in wonder at what my body was beginning to do, what it was about to accomplish. In time, it would bring life into the world. New life all fresh and goopy and beautiful. That life would be mine but all its own. She would have her own dreams, her own preferences, her own desires. But she didn’t know it yet. All she knew then was that she was moving down, away from her cozy safe space. Was she scared? Such bouts of thought stole away any sleep I could have accomplished. But I didn’t mind. Through the morning I rode the waves of early, easy contractions. I let my breath move me through the tightening of my abdomen. I delighted in every moment, awaited every minute. I was present in a way I’ve never been.
It felt like it took forever for the sun to poke through the night. I had wanted this day to come for so long, built an entire list for how we would pass the time. In anticipation I’d posted up prayers and promises around the house. I’d built a playlist of thoughtful, prayerful, playful, peaceful music. I’d planned to bake a birthday cake, go for walks, watch movies, talk about the future, pray. I wasn’t afraid. Fear, for me, faded around month 6 or so. At that point I was just ready for it — excited, even. I was excited to see what I would endure, to do it with my God who made me to be able to do it. I was excited to feel something I’d never felt before, excited to labor and work to bring this girl into the world.
We decided around month 4 or 5 to have our baby in our home with the help of a midwife and, as far as possible, without any epidurals or interventions. I’m not the overly granola type, though. It wasn’t because I don’t believe in medicine or doctors because I do. I really do. But hearing about having a child naturally, in my home, was the first time that it didn’t seem like a terrifying, imminent trauma I had no way of escaping. It was the first time I felt empowered and capable. It made me feel all these excited things. Having the freedom to learn what I was about to do gave me the confidence that I could do it. The adrenaline started long before the contractions and I was ready to roll.
The day full of labor ensued much like I’d planned. I baked a vanilla cake with lemon buttercream frosting between contractions. I went for a long walk with my husband and ate fried chicken for lunch. I watched Guardians of the Galaxy with my birth team. However, the plot was confused by the building intensity of fits in my abdomen. I stopped being able concentrate and found myself on my elbows and knees, eyes closed, and taking long, deep breaths to make it through them.
The midwife came over and by the looks of things (i.e. me keeled over an exercise ball trying really really really hard to relax through the pain), I was progressing well. At about 7 p.m. she guessed I was 4 or 5 centimeters dilated. We kept on keeping on. The contractions got heavier, I even cried. Cooper rubbed my back while I rested my head on the couch. Right on track, apparently. But a 10 p.m. internal exam took all the confidence I had and laughed in its face.
16 hours into labor I was only 2 cm dilated and my spirit was absolutely crushed. All the hype, the encouragement had given me this false sense of confidence. Before that I felt great, lively, powerful, capable. I felt so proud at what I’d endured up until that point, like a rockstar. They said I was a rockstar. But now I was exhausted … ready to either have a baby or go to bed. I couldn’t fathom going through another 16 hours of this — harder than this — in the state I was in. Through a foggy inability to stay present and heavy eyelids I heard a conversation about what we would do.
The hospital is down the street.
We could get that shot to pause the contractions.
She could get some sleep.
We could wait another hour to see if she’s progressed.
She should just have a glass of wine and try to sleep.
Stop. Let’s pray. Why were we trying to do this on our own? If it was up to me and any ability I possessed I would have stopped then and there, got into a car and gone to the hospital for my epidural. I couldn’t do it on my own. While God may have made our bodies capable, he made our hearts to need Him. And need Him I did. I didn’t have the will, or the mental capacity at that time of night to make such a decision.
We prayed for the contractions to get more efficient. We prayed that I would move further along. We prayed for rest. We prayed for trust and endurance.
The decision came to do some sifting exercises and to just make our way through the next three hours. One step at a time, Taylor, God said.
3 hours, weird baby shaking exercises, and some shifty bouts of sleep later I was 4 cm dilated. Confidence and competence came pouring back in a weird, sort of hazy way. I was on autopilot. Sleep contracting, if you will. At one point I thought I’d be able to wash my face, start fresh and watch TV. Haha. The next 4 hrs I’d rapidly progressed to 8 cm. All I remember is the taste of vomitty banana and feeling really bad for having spewed it all over my midwife, feeling really cold when there wasn’t a contraction and really flushed when there was, trying so hard to relax my muscles when they did come, and crying out in all my weakness to Jesus.
Jesus, I need you. Jesus, I need you. Jesus, I need you. It was all I could utter.
Some stories I’d read before it started said not to call it pain. Call them waves. Call them intense. Call them experiences, they said. But for me, contractions were painful. They were the hardest things I’ve ever endured and I couldn’t, wouldn’t do it without divine strength. Perhaps God uses some people’s labors to show them their strength. He used mine to show me His. Because I had none. I leaned into the strength of my husband and into the strength of my maker. I wanted it all to be done much sooner than it was.
One step at a time, Taylor, God said
It felt like He wanted to take all that confidence I’d built up over the months, all that exhilaration and excitement and eagerness, and show me that it has no place other than at His feet. No matter how strong or capable I am, I am so much more at the feet of Jesus.
I breathed. I cried out. I slept. Breathe. Cry out. Sleep.
It was painful. But in a beautiful way. Like a storm. The thunder is loud but it’s majestic. The rain is heavy but there’s a calm in the way in dumps. The clouds are dark and thick but there’s comfort in their warmth, the way they close in and make the air so you can touch it. That’s how the pain was. Each time a contraction passed felt like a finish line. Every rest was savored. I even snored through a couple of them. But every contraction was a moment that I was able to cling to and sing to Jesus. Jesus.
I knew I’d need him. I knew I’d need a miracle. I knew I’d need what I didn’t know I’d need. He was so near I could have hugged him. In the most feeble of moments, the most painful contractions were when I felt Him nearest. So yes, bring on the pain. His nearness is sweet enough to endure the pain.
In 2 more wild, dizzy hours she came. Charlie. I didn’t see her goopiness or her purpleness. I didn’t realize how much blood I’d lost or that they were still pulling stuff out of me. I’d forgotten all about the past 29 hours. I had my girl and she had me. Now all I want to do is tell this story. I saw her tiny body and knew she’d endured every bit of discomfort I had. Now we just get to love her, be patient with her, get to know her. And I get to tell her this stories and all the others where I’d not done a single thing by any strength of my own. But by the strength of a God who made me, who loves me, who holds us through the storms.