The Naming of Aria Iolani

It was an early Sunday morning in July.  Most of the family was still in bed.  I was on the computer Googling “names meaning eagle” and hoping no one would come down the stairs and see what I was doing.

I felt rather silly, looking up baby names.  I was 41.  I already had 9 beautiful children.  I had no reason to think that I would ever be blessed with another one.  I would say from time to time, “I think I would like to have a baby in my 40s.”  My husband would always respond, “You’re crazy.”

I felt a little crazy just then, but I felt compelled to do it.  I just had to know what names were out there that meant “eagle.”  Over the past few years God had used many amazing encounters to convince me that I was meant to be an eagle.  I was beginning to let go of who I thought I was (a quiet girl who was deathly afraid of heights) and believe who God made me to be.

I found many names that fit the bill.  However, I needed an “A” name for a girl and a “C” name for a boy to follow the pattern of all our other children.  I could find no suitable boy name, try as I might!  A girl’s name struck me as though it were jumping off the computer screen .

Aria Iolani

 Aria:

Hebrew from Ariel – lion or lioness of God

Italian – air, melody

Sanskrit and Persian – noble, honorable

Teutonic – intelligence of an eagle

Iolani (ee-oh-lahn-ee):

Hawaiian – hawk of royalty, bird of heaven, to soar like an eagle

How perfect!  How beautiful!  A dream had been planted in my heart; a tiny seed carrying the perfect name. A dream that I would one day have a daughter who would bear this name.  A daughter who would have the vision and intelligence of an eagle.  A daughter who would know her identity from the womb. She would not have to live 40 years on the ground before it began to dawn on her…she was meant to FLY!

A few months later, in December, I found that I was pregnant.  The revelation came at a time I didn’t expect.  It didn’t seem like the right time for another baby.  But …perhaps this dream in my heart had been a dream in God’s heart all along.  Perhaps now was THE TIME!

My oldest daughter, Areli, loved the girl’s name I had found!  The boys did not like it, mostly because they wanted the baby to be a boy.  Chris liked the named “Aria” but wasn’t sure about “Iolani.”  It was too hard for him to remember and pronounce correctly, and he thought it would difficult for others as well.

I checked out a bunch of books from the library about Hawaii since Areli was planning on going there for school in the next year or so.  I discovered that there is an Iolani Palace in Hawaii, the only royal palace in the United States.  That settled it.  “Iolani” was THE middle name!

I was excited but told myself that this baby could easily be a boy.  Soon sickness and other pregnancy discomforts (that I had never experienced before) came upon me.  The dream of “Aria Iolani” was still a lovely thought, but it was overpowered by the thoughts of a victim pleading for release from her prison.  I understood that all that was going on in my spirit was being experienced by my baby’s spirit as well.  I tried to be thankful and upbeat.  I tried to speak over my baby love and peace and truth.  Half the time I doubted the truth myself.  That God really loved me and that someday I would feel good again.

Many fears started to plague my mind.  What if there was something wrong with this baby?  What if there was something wrong with my body?  And the worst fear of all, what if this child had a chromosomal abnormality like Ashlyn had?  I love Ashlyn and I am still amazed that God would trust us with such a special child.  Still, I always thought that having two special children would be absolutely too much to handle, and I would break under the strain of it.  With each pregnancy there has been a small chance, and each time this fear rears its ugly head.  This pregnancy the fear was worse than usual, almost suffocating me at times.

I didn’t go to church for two months.  Finally I was feeling well enough to go to a Sunday morning service.  As I entered the balcony of the sanctuary, I heard the Helsers leading worship.  I felt the sweet presence of God, and I longed to linger there forever!  They were singing, “Mt. Zion.”

We have come to Mount Zion

City of the living God

Heavenly Jerusalem

By his blood we have come

I felt God’s presence.  I felt peace and joy.  I felt safety and security.  The fears dissipated.  Hope started rising.  This is where I should have been living this whole time.  This is where I wanted my baby to live, even in the womb.  I felt sad that I had been such a bad mother so far.  I had tried to abide in the presence of God in my own home.  But most of the time I just felt sick and discouraged.

Here at church I could feel His presence, as though Mount Zion was a reality I was dwelling in. The song continued:

Thousands of angels dance around his throne

Thousands more sing out new songs

And elders throw their crowns down

As all of heaven sings out

 

“Baby, this is where you are to live all the time,” I told the precious little one.

                “I know, mama.”

I heard a sweet little girl’s voice say these words.  At least I thought it sounded like a girl. I knew it was my baby.  This was very unexpected and unusual.  It wasn’t said in a sassy voice as if to imply that I was being dumb for thinking my baby didn’t already know this.

It was said in a comforting voice as if to say, “Mama, you worry too much.  I am just fine.  I just recently came to you from heaven.  I could see those angels in person, and I can see them still.  I am still surrounded by His presence.”

I felt more at peace than I had in a long time.  My baby was more aware of spiritual realities than I was.  She was most definitely an amazing child.  I began to remember all the fears I had confronted during previous pregnancies.  One by one those fears had fallen by the wayside, replace by peace.  Almost across board just the opposite had proven to be true.

I didn’t need to worry about this baby’s health, well-being, or intelligence.  She (or possibly he, I had to remind myself) was extraordinary…a super baby!  She (or he) had just spoken to me from the womb for goodness sake!

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On March 30th we had an ultrasound that revealed a perfect and beautiful baby girl!  My dream was growing inside me.

Aria Iolani

About four weeks before my due date, Aria dropped.  She was sitting low and I was uncomfortable.

“At least she is head down and in the right position.  She is getting ready to be born, and it won’t be long now,” I thought.

Each week she dropped a little lower.  Each week I was more uncomfortable.  I kept having signs that labor was near, but no real labor would come.  The last week, each day felt exponentially worse than the day before.  My due date, August 16th came and went, and Aria became my first baby that was actually late.

Finally my water broke the night of August 17th.  The next day labor still had not started, but my homebirth midwife came over to check on me.  I was already dilated to 5 cm and Aria was at +3 station.  The midwife said that babies normally are not that low unless the mom was already in labor.  We both thought that once labor started, Aria would be born quickly.  We were wrong.

Labor finally began around 3pm on August 18th but it progressed very slowly.  I was listening to worship music, scriptures, and birth affirmations.  I was enjoying God’s presence.  He was speaking to me and showing me visions of Himself.   Before I knew it, it was evening.  I didn’t feel like I was in transition even though I was dilated to 10.

Then it got difficult.  I never really had a difficult labor, so it was a new experience.  Aria was so close to being born, yet she wasn’t being born!  I am sure it was difficult for her too, but her heart-rate remained steady.  Finally after an ambulance ride, an epidural, Pitocin, and some sleep; Aria supernaturally came into the outside world at 2:33 am on August 19, 2018.  I felt no pain and consciously did nothing at all.

I simply slept and prayed, “Jesus, you do this because I can’t.”

I woke up to the slightest bit of pressure.  My midwife looked under my covers to see that Aria’s head was crowning!

She was born quickly and placed in my arms.  The rest of the room faded away.  There was only my baby.

Aria Iolani

She was beautiful and peaceful.  I noticed her eyes first.  They were open wide and moving slowly back and forth, scanning and taking it all in.  To me they looked like the eyes of an eagle.

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She is now six weeks old.  Aria had not been as sleepy as my other newborns.  She is more alert and her eyes are always looking.

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The midwife saw her at three weeks and said, “She seems more like a 6 week old that a 3 week old.”  At 3 ½ weeks she began to really look at our faces and smile! The most adorable smile.

Not all is prefect of course.  My recovery had been much slower this time.  Aria finds it hard to just fall asleep, and she spends a good amount of time crying when she is tired.  She also had the worst case of thrush I have ever seen.  Then came the baby acne.

But when I nurse her and look at her baby face, I am so thankful for the chance to have her as a daughter, my 10th child.

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What a rare and precious jewel.  When I prayed for her during my difficult pregnancy, God showed me so clearly that Aria is vitally important – to this family, to this world, and to eternity.  She was not an extra baby or an optional baby.  She NEEDED to be here.  Just like every single baby ever to be conceived.

Of course to me Aria is amazing!  Brilliant, observant, and born to fly.

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Aria Iolani

A dream come true.

How to Let Go of the Pain

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Usually the weeks and months after I give birth, I am so happy!  I love caring for a newborn, nursing, snuggling, and looking into that precious little face.  That face contains all of the wonders of the world, and I bask in the glory of it.  Even in the midst of sleep deprivation, I feel the bliss of motherhood.  This time I experienced something unusual for me.  Amazing joy and deep sadness side by side. Sometimes in those rare moments of peace and quiet while nursing Annalise, I would begin to cry.  I was so happy about my little girl, yet so sad about how she had to come into the world.  The sorrowful thoughts kept coming, even though my life was so good.  I had seen many women go through a C-section with strength and grace and never complain.  Why was I having such a hard time?

My recovery was much slower than with my natural births.  When I returned home from the hospital, I couldn’t walk and hold my baby at the same time.  I would sleep any spare moment of the day and night and still feel dog tired.  Yet that was not why I was so sad.

During the difficult days of pregnancy, I would envision my lovely birth and the ecstasy that would follow.  That birth would make all the suffering worthwhile.  Yet this C-section birth had not produced that bliss.  In fact, as soon as Annalise was born and whisked away to the recovery room, I was left alone with a hollow feeling that went deep into my heart.  To read the whole birth story read, “The Heartbreak and Joy of having a C-section.”

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Having to give up my dream of a beautiful, natural homebirth had challenged many things that I had held to be true.  It had shaken my faith in what I thought about life, what I thought about God, what I thought about my own body.  It had challenged my ability to hear God’s voice.  I thought that God had told me that natural, easy labor was my inheritance as his daughter, yet mysteriously I was denied access this time.   I couldn’t figure out why.  Scriptures God had given me during my pregnancy told me not to fear disaster.  To me, having a C-section was a disaster.  God didn’t design my body to give birth through an incision in my abdomen.  If this thing could happen to me, this disaster that I couldn’t control or predict; what else would God allow to come into my life?  What other catastrophic events were on their way?  Maybe something could happen to steal the health and life of my precious baby.  If I had so misinterpreted God’s voice concerning this birth, how could I ever be sure of hearing him again?

These thoughts are similar to the thoughts that any person has after a trauma, whether it is small or life altering.  It occurred to me that this is a small part of what causes post-traumatic stress syndrome.  A person lives through events that destroy their assumption that life is good, safe, enjoyable, and fair.  They have to come to faith all over again.  They have to find their way back into the arms of a loving father.  It is a tragedy that once the horrible events are over and they are truly safe, they may never feel safe again.

I have lived through many such traumas.  They don’t seem like much compared to what other people have had to endure, but they were earth shattering to me at the time.  Each time I had to seek God again for the truth that would set me free and the love that would cast out my fear.  Each time God would draw so near to my broken heart and bring healing.  I would love to share what he has taught me, using my recent C-section as an example.

  1. Pain demands to be felt. Don’t shove it down or pretend it isn’t real.  Don’t deny it because you think you should be strong enough to be happy in all circumstances.  Suppressed emotions always surface in one way or another.  Feel what you feel.   Grieving is an important step to healing.  God is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Revel in his closeness through your nights of sorrow.
  1. Don’t stay in your pain forever! What caused your pain may be the reality you are living in right now.  Seek God for a higher reality, a reality that goes beyond what you can see.  A reality that is forever.

My body was scarred and bruised from a surgery I had done everything to avoid.  God had not answered my prayers for him to move my placenta out of the way.  I felt betrayed.  I had offered him my body as a living sacrifice, and I thought he would protect me from this.

I thought about my God, and realized that he could never betray me.  It goes against his loving nature.  Jesus was betrayed, yet he would never betray.  He was scarred and bruised for my sake.  He had proven his love for me.  He COULD NOT EVER betray me.  If he didn’t answer my prayers, it was because he had something better in mind.  He would bring good out of this situation, even if I couldn’t see it.

  1. Ask Jesus to show you where he was and what he was doing before, during, and after the traumatic event. Read through your journal entries during that time or look at pictures taken during that time and ask Jesus to speak to you about them.

I read through my journal that I kept during Annalise’s pregnancy.  I saw God calming my fears again and again, promising to protect the life of my child.  He did that when I had spotting around week 15.  He did that when I was having signs of preterm labor around week 34.  He did that when the marginal placenta was diagnosed at 38 weeks.  My little girl was safe in his hands the entire time.  He told me not to FEAR disaster, not that a “disaster” would never happen.  He was simply telling me that there was no disaster that I needed to fear because he was with me.

I also had a dream toward the end of the pregnancy. Annalise came out through my belly and she looked up at me with ice blue eyes.  She was a serene as could be.  This dream turned out to be very accurate. God had been preparing me.

  1. Talk about it with trusted friends. Many times they can see things with a clarity that isn’t clouded by overpowering emotions.

A week after Annalise was born; I was able to attend a birthday dinner for a friend.  During the meal, I confided to the ladies that I still felt sad about the C-section.  I was sharing about how I love to minister to other pregnant women, to pray for them and give them peace and confidence about labor.  Now I wasn’t confident about anything anymore.

One of the women said, “Do you think you have more empathy now for women who have had a C-section?”

I most certainly did!  She continued to say, “There are so many women out there who are feeling inadequate about some part of their mothering.  Perhaps they couldn’t give birth naturally; perhaps they were unable to nurse.  You are able to understand and minister to them.”

“Yes,” another friend chimed in, “God has just extended your authority.”

I had never thought about it that way, but it was really true.  There was meaning to my suffering.

Another friend sent me a text before the procedure, because she knew I was very distraught.  She said that God was increasing my trust in him.  That has been true as well!  I trust him more because he brought Annalise and I through beautifully.  If a circumstance brings me closer to God, then it was worth it!

  1. Give Jesus the pain and receive his joy in return. He gives us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  He already carried the weight of all of our pain.  Let him carry your pain right now and every day. (If it was another person who caused the pain; forgive, forgive, forgive.)

I kept giving him my sorrow, every time it resurfaced, even if I didn’t totally understand why I was feeling so sad.  It became less and less. He already carried the weight of my pain so there was no reason for me to try and carry it.  One of my favorite songs remind me to “Turn my eyes Upon Jesus.”

  1. Take care of your body. Your body, soul, and spirit are so interconnected; one affects the other.  Eat good food.  Take probiotics.   Get some exercise.

Once Annalise and I were both able to sleep through the night, it was amazing how much better the whole world looked to me!  For help with that, read “How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night.”

  1. Thank God for everything you can think of, every morning, every evening, every day, now and forever. When you realize all he has given you, all he has already done for you; gratitude begins to eclipse the sorrow.  Fill your mind with all the good things, and the disappointment doesn’t have room.

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When I shared with my friends and family that I was going to have a C-section, I was overwhelmed by all the love and support and prayers I received.  I would think of each person and feel so thankful for their love.

My homebirth midwives spent 7 hours at the hospital with me even though they couldn’t attend the birth.

My mother-in-law drove all the way from Florida to help.

My mom was so excited about the new little girl and brought me a rose and blueberries in the hospital.

My other children were amazing and took care of each other at home.

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My husband Chris was a hero in the hospital.  After the surgery, I felt uglier, weaker, and more pitiful than I ever had before.  Yet I never felt more cherished!  My husband tenderly helped me to walk, to go to the bathroom, to take a shower.  He slept on that horrible hospital chair night after night and never complained about a thing!

Annalise has been one of my easiest, happiest babies.  She is worth any pain I had to endure.  Now when I see my scar, I don’t think about my disappointment.  I think about my little bitty pretty one and I am so THANKFUL that she is here!

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Looking back over my life, I can say that the worst of times were always transformed into the best of times because of God’s voice.  When I am desperate, God always meets me and shows me his love.  He always speaks words that impact me deeply.  His words and his close presence during my times of sorrow have changed the way I see the world for the better.  They have shaped the person I am today.  Even though I still have to walk through hard times, I know that amazing joy is waiting for me on the other side.  And I know that the journey is worth it!

 

Should You Be Afraid to Let Your Baby Sleep on Her Belly?

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When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read every parenting magazine I could get my hands on.  Each one contained an article about SIDS, the silent and mysterious killer of babies.  What could be more terrifying to a new mother than a condition that she could neither predict nor understand?  What was a concerned parent to do to protect her child?  Simple.  Place the baby on her back to sleep.

The doctors and nurses in the hospital had me so paranoid about sudden infant death syndrome, that I religiously complied with their back to sleep recommendation.  If I couldn’t hear Areli while she slept, I would check on her.  The first few times she slept through the night, I would wake up almost in a panic, wondering if she was still alive.  When she was a few months old and sleeping in her own room, I would wake up in the middle of the night and worry about whether she was ok.  I would slip out of bed to check on her, because if I waited until morning, it might be too late.  Finally, after this happened several times, I decided that I was being ridiculous.  I could not worry constantly about her safety!  I would drive myself insane!  I decided to pray a simple prayer instead.

“Please, Holy Spirit, protect my baby.  Wake me up and tell me if there is something wrong with her.  Make sure I am there if she needs me.”

The Holy Spirit did wake me up one night.  It was still and quiet and I found myself in the hallway.  I don’t even know why I was there.  I became aware of a strange odor and followed it into Areli’s room.  Areli, the sweet baby that she was, must have felt sick, quietly vomited in her crib, and then curled up in the only clean spot left.  She was fast asleep!  I cleaned everything and put her back to bed, so thankful that she didn’t have to stay in that state until morning.

I still put Areli on her back to sleep, but as soon as she learned how to roll over, she would choose to sleep on her belly every time.

When my second baby was born, I also put him on his back to sleep.  I was a bit more relaxed, having seen one baby safely to toddlerhood.  Cole just was not a good sleeper.  He was restless and fitful.  Friends of ours returned from a class they had just attended at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia.  They shared with us what the Institute thought about the Back to Sleep Campaign.  The entire campaign had been based on a fairly small study that they considered to be very flawed (grouping infants who had been crushed under sleeping parents with the belly sleepers).  Sure, a baby sleeping in a bed surrounded by blankets and pillows and other people may be in danger of suffocation, but what did that have to do with belly sleeping?

The Institute noted how there is not a single animal that sleeps on its back.  Why is that?  Because there is no protection and no function.  All animals naturally prefer the belly down position and babies are no different.  They feel more secure, more comfortable, and what’s more, they develop faster.  They build their muscles and achieve their developmental milestones faster.  The Institute not only suggested that all babies sleep on their bellies, but that they also spend most of their waking hours that way as well.  In fact, if you wanted a physically and intellectually superior child, you could build him a crawling track and allow him to sleep in it (and be awake in it as well) to encourage crawling which stimulates the brain.  Babies are able to start belly crawling immediately after birth and should be allowed to do so.  We observed this first hand when we put Cadin on the floor to sunbathe when he was just a few days old.  We let him sleep there for a few hours and he crawled halfway across the room!

“A floor equals civilization,” they would say.  This means that any culture that has floors safe enough to place their babies on, would develop a written language and higher math skills.  Cultures that could not allow their babies time on the floor, such as some American Indians and primitive tribes in Africa and South America, stayed more…well…primitive.  In these cultures, mom would carry her baby tightly wrapped up on her back because it wasn’t safe or efficient to put them down.  This allowed the babies little opportunity to move, roll over, scoot, or crawl.  They became brilliant craftsman and hunters but never developed a written language or higher math skills.  We need to be careful that we don’t adopt a more modern version of this method of child rearing; restricting our baby’s movements and development using baby slings, baby swings, exer-saucers, and car seats.

To learn more about the amazing programs and results of the Institute, read How to Multiply your Baby’s Intelligence and How to Teach Your Baby to be Physically Superb (or the updated version Fit Baby, Smart Baby, Your Baby).  I love these books and have used many of their techniques with most of my babies.  The old pictures in the Physically Superb book are Matthew and Carol Newell with their young child.  I worked with Matthew and Carol when I took Ashlyn (my special needs daughter) to the Family Hope Center, which they started.  By that time their son had graduated from college, and they reported that he had amazing grades, was a Shakespearian actor and a triathlete.  I know that this is a bit off topic, but I find brain development to be fascinating.

Once I heard the viewpoint of the Institute, I decided to try it.  As soon as I turned Cole on his belly to sleep, he immediately slept better.  His sleep was longer and more peaceful.  He was also able to get rid of gas by pulling his knees up and let out little baby toots.  My fear of belly sleeping was officially gone.  Since then, I have laid all of my babies on their bellies to sleep, and they all have been very happy that way.  Of course I made sure that there was nothing else in the bed with them and that their sheets were fitted tight around the mattress.

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My opinion of the Back to Sleep Campaign is that it is very similar to most of the campaigns launched by the medical community – propaganda based more in emotions (usually fear) that in real science.  If you would like to read more in depth about this subject with specific studies, Click here. I was notified of an excellent article that offers real answers to crib death and real prevention that has been 100% effective in preventing crib death in New Zealand;  Has the Cause of Crib Death Been Found?

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Parents, you do not have to live in fear that SIDS might claim the life of your precious child!  Only God knows the plans he has for your child, only God knows the number of his days. Yes, some babies do die unexpectedly, and it is always sad.  The number is really very small, only around .06% of all babies.  I believe that there is a reason for those deaths; theories include vaccinations, second hand smoke, toxins in the mattress, bacteria, or a toxic overload of many things at once.  I do not believe it is caused by a baby sleeping on his belly.  I am not saying that you SHOULD put your baby on his belly to sleep.  I am simply giving you the FREEDOM to do so if you want to.  (I also hope you have the freedom to question what health care professionals and the media tell you.)

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So parents everywhere, pray over your little ones.  Put their lives into God’s loving hands.  Ask him for the wisdom to eliminate dangers and bring peace into your home.  And enjoy a good night’s sleep, free from fear!

How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

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Sometimes I am confident that I know a few things about babies, and sometimes I feel that I know nothing at all!  But each one of my nine precious and exasperating little bundles has taught me something!  Looking back I can see clearly what has worked and what hasn’t.  Helping your baby sleep through the night is mostly about what you do during the day.

Sleeping through the night is really, truly wonderful!  It helps me to be a good mom.  It helps my baby to be a content baby.  Sleep allows me and my baby to recharge, dream, rest, heal, and grow.  It is essential for a happy and healthy life!  New babies have to eat every 2-3 hours around the clock and I am happy to oblige.  But once I know that my baby can sleep through the night (around 8-13 weeks), I am all for it!  I want to shift from survival mode to real life as soon as possible.

There are some major schools of thought that drive what a mother does with her baby day in and day out.

Demand feeding is when the baby is in charge.  Scheduled feeding is when the clock is in charge.  Parent directed feeding as when the parent is in charge.  You would think that the parent would be more able to direct the feeding schedule than the baby or the clock, wouldn’t you?  Yet the parent doesn’t always know what to do.  Take me for example.

When I first became a mother, I didn’t know what I was doing.  God gave me the easiest baby in the history of babies.  Areli was sweet, adorable, and LOVED TO SLEEP!

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I practiced a sort of demand feeding.  Areli was sleeping through the night at 6 weeks.  At two months she would sleep from 8pm to 8am without waking up.  She was happy and content all day long.  Yet she stopped gaining weight for two long months. I was so worried, and the doctor wanted to do all sorts of blood work on her.   Finally I realized that the wisdom of “you never wake a sleeping baby” was absolutely false!  Once I started waking her up at 10pm to give her an extra feeding, she started gaining weight again.  Phew!

My second baby was completely different!  Cole was my first boy; loud, grumpy, and not a good sleeper.  I would feed him whenever he seemed grumpy, which would usually be every hour and a half.  I ended up nursing him before and after each nap, yet he often wasn’t content.  I realized later that nursing my baby so often caused him to get into a bad habit of “snacking.”  He would drink the foremilk but not get the richer hind milk that would have satisfied him for hours at a time.  This little boy didn’t sleep through the night until he was over a year.  We were not well rested or happy a lot of the time.

My struggles with Cole led me to read On Becoming Babywise.  I love this book!  It gave me the knowledge to leave demand feeding behind and embark on the adventure of “parent directed feeding.”  I will take it one step further than the book and suggest “Holy Spirit parent directed feeding.”  No book or parent has all the answers, yet there is someone who ALWAYS does, and He gives wisdom to all who ask Him. I ask Him EVERY DAY for that wisdom.

The seven babies that came next were all put on a “Babywise” type schedule, and they have all slept through the night between 8 and 13 weeks.  Two have been girls, 5 have been boys, all have had unique personalities.  Yet each of them have done very well with a predictable daytime schedule.

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The first few weeks of a baby’s life outside the womb is all about bonding and holding and getting one full feeding at a time.  Don’t look at the clock.  Don’t worry about sleep. (I know, easier said than done!)  Just make sure every feeding is long enough (half an hour to an hour) to establish a good milk supply and create a good habit of drinking both the foremilk and the hind milk.  The challenge here is keeping the little guy awake long enough to keep nursing!

Summary for Baby’s first year of nursing

Week 1-8: Stabilization

Start with 8 or more feedings a day.  During the day you should feed your baby when she wakes up.  Then try to get some awake time.  As she gets older, wake time will become longer. Once you know your baby is tired, put her down for a nap.  Her naps should usually last and hour to an hour and a half.  The end of the nap is the time for the next feeding and the beginning of a new cycle.  Every cycle should be similar (2  ½ -3 hours long): eat, wake, sleep.  During the night you simply feed your baby and put her back to bed.  She will slowly extend her night time sleep until that glorious day when she drops the middle of the night feeding and sleeps until morning (usually around 8-13 weeks). The important part of this schedule is to feed your baby when she wakes from nighttime or naptime (or perhaps you will have to wake her to maintain every 3 hours during the day and every 4-5 hours a night at first).  After the feeding, attempt to keep your baby awake for a little while.  Newborns are so sleepy and this may not always work, but try.  Soon she will be able to be awake for ½ hour to an hour at a time.  When it is nap time, lay your baby in her bed while she is still awake.  Usually she will fuss a little and then go to sleep.  Some babies, like most of my boys, may cry very loudly!  This is where the Holy Spirit comes in.  Ask Him for wisdom.  Sometimes it is appropriate to allow you baby to cry for a few minutes before nap time.   The payoff is that in a few weeks, he will learn that nap time is for sleeping, and he will snuggle in and sleep as soon as you lay him down.  Other times the crying indicates that he needs something extra: more awake time, a diaper change, or a snuggle.

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Weeks 9-15: Extended Night

A baby can gradually extend his nighttime sleep to 9-10 hours.  By the end of the 13th week, your baby can average 5-7 feedings a day but never less than four.  Between weeks 12-15, most babies gradually extend their cycles to 3 to 4 hours.

Weeks 16-24: Extended Day

Your baby can sleep for 10-11 hours at night during this phase.  Babywise states that during these weeks you will be able to drop the late night feeding and begin to introduce baby food during the day.  There are many ideas about the best time to begin with food and which foods to introduce first.  This is another time that I pay attention to my baby and ask the Holy Spirit.  I prefer to look to traditional societies as a guide to introducing food to babies rather than to modern advice.  Click here for more information on how to feed babies.

I usually wait until 6-11 months to introduce solid foods.  I also like to keep the late night feeding (around 10-11pm).  My milk is the perfect food and it is always ready, so I am not in a hurry to start other foods with my babies.  Plus I love nursing so much!

I will include the Babywise recommendations for those who are introducing foods early than I do. During this time period your baby will maintain 4-6 liquid feedings in a 24 hour period, three of which will be supplemented with baby food(or not).  Nurse first and then offer food.

Weeks 25-52: Extended Routine

A baby can transition to three meals a day with the rest of the family by a year.  Of course there are always snacks for young children, usually two a day (maybe afternoon and bedtime). Babies at this age will only take two naps a day, 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours in length.  They can still be nursing 4-5 times a day.   I always try and nurse my babies as long as possible(12-18 months), but some of them had weaned themselves by this time. Others I slowly weaned because I was pregnant again.

Sleep props

Sleep props are anything that your baby needs in order to fall asleep.  The way you get your baby to fall asleep MOST of the time, will become your baby’s preferred routine.  Don’t start a habit that you are not willing to continue indefinitely.  Sleep props include nursing to sleep, rocking, music, pacifiers, sleeping in mom and dad’s bed, etc.  If you start (after the first few weeks) to lay your baby down for a nap with no sleep props at all, he will learn to fall asleep on his own very quickly.  I have found this to be invaluable!  Imagine a busy day with a house full of children.  When it is nap time, I simply carry my baby up to her bed, lay her belly down in her crib, speak some words of love, and walk out of the room.  She immediately snuggles in, starts sucking on her fist and falls asleep!  Sometimes there is an air conditioner or fan running, and sometimes there is not.  The most important part is to lay her down when she is still awake MOST of the time.  This will not happen all of the time, since newborns are so sleepy!  If your newborn falls asleep in your arms or on your chest occasionally, don’t worry.  Just enjoy the fleeting moment!  Love and hold the little precious one, for they won’t be so little for very long!

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Babies that need extra help

Some babies are fussier than others.  Some are so colicky that it may seem like they never stop crying.  This can be so emotionally and physically draining for parents.

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I just found a resource at the library that may help calm the difficult baby.  There is a book and DVD called “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”  It explains how to trigger the calming reflex in your newborn (up to three months) which can calm him in minutes!  I wish I knew about this long ago!  I haven’t gotten to try it out because my baby is now three and a half months old and is so happy.

Some babies may have suffered some trauma while in the womb or during birth or after birth.  This trauma can be greatly reduced or eliminated with chiropractic care, craniosacral fascial therapy(CFT), and prayer.  To learn more about CFT click here.  I took a class in CFT and it was wonderful.  They are the happy baby people, and they say that every baby can be happy, peaceful, relaxed, and healthy.

Some babies may have an allergy or sensitivity to something in mom’s milk, usually wheat or dairy.  Eliminating those two things helps in many cases. All nursing moms (and everyone else for that matter) should eliminate all caffeine and stay away from sugar, processed foods and medication. For a diet for pregnant and nursing moms, click here.

What if I didn’t start a Baby wise schedule when my baby was born but I want her to sleep through the night now?  How do I start?

Start by getting your baby on a good schedule during the day.  Begin the eat, wake, sleep cycles and putting your baby to nap while she is still awake.  It will take some time, maybe weeks, for your family to adjust to this.  Don’t give up!  Don’t worry about the nighttime just yet.  Get the daytime straightened out first, and the nighttime usually follows.  It is much more difficult to allow your baby to cry at night for fear of waking the rest of the family.  Some crying before naptime during the day is much better.  Think of it as practice for good nighttime sleeping.

What if my Baby’s daytime routine has been great for weeks but he is still waking up at night?

Move your baby into his own room or into a part of the house that is away from the other bedrooms.  Sometimes that alone did the trick for me, because I wasn’t reacting to every little whimper I heard in the crib right next to me.  Many times babies, just like the rest of us, will wake up at the end of a sleep cycle and get a little noisy or active until they fall asleep again.   We don’t have to nurse them every time they stir.

If you just can’t wait any longer for your baby to sleep through the night on his own, you know that he doesn’t need a feeding at night, and he is older than 13 weeks; then you can prepare yourself for a few nights of training.  Pick a weekend when the family can sleep in the next few mornings in case you don’t get much sleep.  Warn everyone beforehand that there may be some crying, and it is ok.  If your baby wakes up, first wait to see if he will fall asleep in 5 minutes or so.  If he doesn’t calm, then check on him, love him, whisper assuring words, but don’t nurse him.  It would be awesome if Dad did this part!  Hopefully after a few nights, baby will get the idea that nighttime is for sleeping and not for eating.

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My life right now

Annalise is three and a half months old.  She is a very easy baby, easier than most of my boys.  Here is what my schedule looks like right now.

6:30am  Annalise wakes up or I wake her up to nurse

7:00 I talk to her, change her diaper, and then lay her in a pack-n-play so I can eat breakfast.

8:00 Naptime

10:00 I get Annalise up from nap and nurse

10:30 One of the other children holds her and talks to her. Then a diaper change and some belly time.

11:30 Naptime

1:00pm Nurse and then playtime and diaper change

2:30 Naptime

4:30 Nurse and then play with Dad and diaper change

6:00 Naptime

7:30 Nurse, lay on the floor on a blanket, then get ready for bed

8:45 Bedtime

10:30 Nurse and put right back to bed

Annalise sleeps so much that I usually have to wake her from nap.  I like that because it gives me the flexibility to wake her a bit earlier or a bit later if I have to be somewhere at specific time during the day.

All of my babies have had seasons when they started waking up at night after they had been sleeping the entire night through for some time.  It could have been a growth spurt that required more milk, a bothersome stuffy nose, belly aches, or teething.  Sometimes I would nurse them and sometimes I wouldn’t. Sometimes I would sit up with them and hold them, sometimes I wouldn’t.  I would always ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom on how to comfort them and nourish them without starting a bad habit.  Usually they would start sleeping through the night again soon on their own.

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I have spent nights trying in vain to comfort a fussy baby and have been utterly convinced that I wasn’t a very good mother.  I have also had many happy days fueled by many peaceful nights.  When my sweet, content baby giggles at me, I feel like a brilliant mother!  I am neither a genius nor a failure in the mothering department.   I am simply a normal mom who has a really great God!  A God who loves my babies more than I do!  If I can get my baby to sleep through the night, then you can too!

Adjusting to Life with a Newborn…Again

I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in three months.  I know that it is going to be any night now, yet every early morning I am awakened by her sweet snuffles and cries for milk.  I feel like I am on the brink of total exhaustion and my brain is mush.  I haven’t written much lately because I am not sure whether I can put coherent thoughts together.

I have done this before, eight times!  You would think that I would have it down.  Yet somehow it is all new, with this new little, bitty, pretty one.

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I don’t know much for sure, except that there is nothing like motherhood to reveal your weaknesses.  Motherhood is able to bring even the most confident woman to the realization that she knows almost nothing at all.  But what a gift that revelation is!

To meet this new person that I have felt wiggling inside of me is pure magic!

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Her skin is soft as silk.

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Her eyes are big blueberries.

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Her lashes are so long and curly, just like a little girl’s lashes should be.

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She sleeps a bit more than the boys did, and her cry is softer.  She begins to smile and I see that she has dimples around her mouth like I do, and a big dimple in her cheek like Daddy does.

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She seems very peaceful, thank you Jesus!  But the next week she is awake for hours at a time and doesn’t seem to want to sleep, oh no!  By the next week she has settled into a predictable three hour feeding pattern.  But the next week after that is totally different!  Finally I think I have her figured out; she will sleep until 5am and pretty soon be sleeping the entire night!  Yes!! I can get my life back!  I can regain my energy, plan my day, exercise, and fit back into my normal clothes again.

But then I find myself sitting in the chair again at 3am, nursing the little bundle in the dark.  I am so tired.  My eyelids are heavy.  So…hard…to…stay…awake.  My head sinks to my chest.  WAIT!  My head snaps back up.  My eyes are open.  I must…stay…awake!  I have fallen asleep in this chair night after night and now my neck has a kink in it and my back is sore.  I must feed her quickly and get back into bed!  I must be strong!

Little Bitty One is totally unaware of my concern.  She nurses lazily and takes almost an hour.  I hear the very first bird song at 3:45am.  Why are those crazy birds awake so early?  The sun won’t be up for hours.  How I wish I didn’t know when the first bird starts singing.  How I wish I was sound asleep, blissfully unaware of the secret life of birds!

I guess I could be enjoying this quiet time when no one else is awake.  I suppose I could spend this time praying.  Alright God, here goes.  God, please help me to not fall asleep in this chair.  Please, please, please let Annalise sleep through the night tomorrow night!  I feel like I can’t do this one more night!  Please, please, please let her get into a predictable schedule.  Then I can start getting up before the rest of the children.  I can start to have a quiet time each morning. Then I can start to pursue you more, God.

Suddenly it hits me.  God’s grace is for me RIGHT NOW!  Not at some point in the future, but right now.  It is always RIGHT NOW.

Joseph Garlington shared this definition of grace – “God’s enabling presence that empowers us to accomplish our created purpose.”  God’s presence is with me right now, in the middle of the night.  His voice is whispering words of love and truth right now to my sleepy brain.  He is wooing my worried heart.  If I spend every moment thanking Him instead of wishing for something else, I can bring His presence closer.  I can cultivate my awareness of Him and accept His power to do what He wants me to do…RIGHT NOW.

And what could possibly be a better time?  His power is perfected in weakness, and I am so weak.  He says that His grace is sufficient for me in times like these.  Not just enough to survive.  No, this is an overflowing, abundant grace that is more than enough for me…RIGHT NOW!

Nursing this baby 6 to 8 times a day for an hour each time means I can’t accomplish very much.  Trying to figure out how to do my normal grocery shopping and errands and therapy appointments each week in the two hours between each feeding makes my brain hurt.  Thinking about having to give up my afternoon nap just to get important things done sends me into a panic!  No, I don’t have much time to check off items on my to-do list.  But I do have plenty of time to sit and nurse, admire my Pretty One and snuggle.

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Time to pray and read and think.

As I think back over my life, I can see some things very clearly.  I see that most things I have attempted to accomplish I have done because I felt like I SHOULD.   Because I would feel guilty if I didn’t.  Because I wouldn’t be as good of a mother as someone else.  I did those things out of my own strength, my own ability, my own effort.  And I failed at most of them.

I think about Solomon’s words in Ecc 3:14, “Everything God does will endure forever.  Nothing can be added to it and nothing taken away from it.”

I think about Jesus’ words in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  Nothing of eternal significance that will endure that is.  I have done a lot of things!  I have spent a lot of energy and time and have gotten grumpy and stressed out to do a lot of things.  But those things WILL NOT ENDURE.

Now that I am in a position where I feel like I can’t get anything done, it dawns on me.  That is the point!  That is what God is trying to teach me…RIGHT NOW!  His grace is sufficient and when I rest in Him, He is accomplishing things through me that are significant beyond my imagination.  Like growing this little girl, one feeding at a time.

Someday my life might get easier.  Someday I might have it down and be able to coast effortlessly through the day.  Maybe.  So I must make the most of this season…this wonderful and difficult season.  Because this season of weakness is how God is showing me His amazing grace.

RIGHT NOW!

 

The Heartbreak and Joy of a C-section

As a young girl, I read that one out of every ten babies in the United States was born by C-section.  I remember thinking, “If I have ten children, I will probably have a C-section in my lifetime.”  But who really has ten children anyway?  So I dismissed it as a very unlikely possibility.  Despite the fact that cesareans have become more and more common (one out of every three births), I estimated that my chances were dropping.  I was healthy and strong, educated in natural childbirth.  I had beautiful, easy deliveries…eight of them!  Although theoretically, I knew that anything can happen in this life, and I was not exempt from the risks of childbearing, I never thought it would happen to me.

I was so excited to be pregnant with my ninth child.  I became even more excited when I found out that it was a girl!  I had longed for a girl for so long, that I had almost given up.  I felt the overwhelming joy of a dream come true.  Yet along with it came a suffocating fear.

I had never before worried about the life of any my unborn babies.  I just loved them, prepared a room for them, and anticipated a future for them.  Yet this time I began to wonder if my preparations were in vain.  What if I never got to hold my baby girl in my arms?  What if I never got to dress her in all the pretty clothes?  What if the sweetness and the tenderness of who she was, left my life forever?

I didn’t speak of these thoughts.  If I uttered them out loud, they might become more real.  Finally one night I tried to explain it to my husband, and I began to cry.  Why was I crying?  The baby was healthy and moving around in my belly.  This had been my easiest pregnancy yet.  There was no reason to worry.

“I think you have fear with this baby because she is so connected to the promises of God,” Chris said.  At that instant I realized that it was true.  We had already named her Annalise Promise which means “Oath of God” and “Graced with God’s Bounty.”  Her name was a sign to us that we would be entering a season of promises fulfilled, promises for abundance.  We had always prayed for that season. We had been looking for it ever since we had gotten married, straining our eyes across the horizon for any sign that the prosperity might be on its way.  We felt deep in our bones that God meant for us to have more than enough of everything we needed, everything our children needed.  Yet we hadn’t been able to live in that prosperity, cycling between the highs of great opportunities and the lows of dashed dreams.

Now we were having a girl whose very name meant the Boundless Generosity of God, and I was terrified that I would never be able to keep her or God’s Goodness, that both would slip through my fingers no matter how hard I tried to grasp them.

Of course I realized that God does not work that way.  This fear was not from Him, yet He would take it from me, I was sure.  I laid my fear at His feet and He gave me hope and joy and promises!  He had me read Zephanaiah 3:14-20 over and over again.  I could almost hear Him rejoicing over me with happy songs.  I could feel Him hold me in his strong arms.  I could sit back and watch him fight for me and gain the victory!  I did not have to fear disaster! He was holding my little girl in His hands and she was safe!

My other babies were always head down in my womb, settling into a familiar position that I knew so well.  But this little girl would not do that no matter how much we talked to her, coaxed her, and prayed for her.  She would flip and turn and end up in all sorts of positions.

I was becoming quite nervous about her position as I headed into week 37.  Our whole family had been hoping for an Easter baby which was only days away, yet Annalise was still not head down.  I would lay in bed at night, tired yet unable to sleep.  My belly was so big, I found it hard to breath.  I could feel her do flips inside of me.

“I think we need to get another ultrasound to check on your placenta.  If it is too low, that may be why the baby is not able to descend.” Mary, my midwife said as I was getting close to 38 weeks.

I had no intention of getting another ultrasound, but the night before Chris had expressed concern about the same issue.  I felt peaceful that Annalise was safe and sound in God’s hands, but for Chris’ peace of mind, I agreed to go in and get checked.  I prayed that if all was well, I would go into labor before the ultrasound.  A peaceful homebirth was my heart’s desire.  I would rehearse the wonder and beauty of it in my mind to cheer my weary bones.  Yet I also prayed, “Don’t let me give birth at home if you want me in the hospital.”

Labor did not come and I found myself lying on a table in a darkened room.  It only took the ultrasound tech a few minutes to see that placenta was covering the cervix.

“I am so sorry!” Mary said, “I know how much you wanted a home birth, but we just can’t deliver you at home.  If the placenta is born first, your baby could die.  You will need to choose a hospital and I suggest you go in tomorrow.  It would be better to get a C-section as soon as possible so you don’t go into labor.”

I was in shock.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  Yet, I knew that it was what God wanted.  Otherwise He could have easily moved that placenta and brought labor on the week before.  When I returned home from the ultrasound, all I could manage to do was cry.  Most of my other eight children were around the house playing or doing homework after school.  My oldest daughter hugged me and said, “It will be ok, Mama.”

I tried to believe her.  I cried and grieved the loss of my perfect homebirth. I had wanted to be close to my other children.  I had wanted a fast and easy recovery that would allow me to continue taking care of the needs of the home and homeschooling.  I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that I had offered my body to God as a living sacrifice, to carry this child of promise, and He was going allow doctors to cut into me tomorrow.

The next day Chris and I began the work of getting ready to go to the hospital. As soon as Chris’ mom had heard about the situation, she had started driving to Pennsylvania from Florida.  She would be able to get to our house by the evening to take care of the other children.  How that eased my mind!

I sent a prayer request to all the ladies who had been to my baby shower a few weeks earlier.  I also called my mom to explain the situation.  She had been hoping to be at the birth, but I told her that I had to get surgery and she probably wouldn’t be able to see the baby until hours afterward.  Mom happened to be at the ladies meeting at church.  She stopped the meeting right then and there and asked for prayer for me!

A lovely thing began to happen.  As I was trying to get ready, rushing around the house, up the stairs and down the stairs again, I started to receive emails and texts and calls from loving friends.  They were praying for me and speaking encouraging words and offering help!  One dear friend even prayed out loud for Annalise while I turned on the speaker phone so Annalise listen.

I was feeling an overwhelming sadness about having to endure a C-section, but I didn’t want Annalise to feel sad.  I didn’t want her to feel like she was being torn from her safe haven too early or experience anguish on the day of her birth.  The prayer I heard coming from the other end of my phone brought peace to my body and soul.

“Annalise will be so peaceful.  It will be a sign to you.”  I heard my friend pray.

Chris and I arrived at the hospital in the early afternoon.  Mary was already there.  It took hours for the staff to assess me and determine that the placenta was not actually covering the cervix but was dangerously close, only .9 cm away.  Studies had shown that 90% of women with a marginal placenta like mine bled during labor and required an emergency C-section to save the life of the baby.  Thankfully, I had not yet gone into labor and we could have a planned C-section.

It took several more hours to prep me for the C-section. During this time I felt oddly peaceful.  God was in control and it was going to be ok. Finally at 8pm I was taken into the operating room where the anesthesiologist started the spinal.

“No pain.  You will feel no pain, only pressure.  No pain,” he kept saying over and over again.

I must admit that I didn’t believe him.  How could I feel no pain at all during such a major surgery?  Yet almost immediately, I started to lose feeling in my lower body.  I started feeling woozy. My body felt so heavy.  I was so tired, that I could hardly respond to the questions the nurses would ask from time to time.  Before I knew it, Chris was next to me.

I heard the voice of a doctor instruct the intern on how to begin.  I had never seen the doctor’s face.  The intern had introduced himself and explained the entire procedure beforehand.  He said he had done at least 50 to 60 C-sections in the past. He was friendly and I liked him a lot. The doctor, however, was gruff and rude to this nice intern, acting like the intern had never done a C-section before.

“NO, not like that! Not like that! Here, let me do it!”  I heard from the other side of the blue curtain.  I really experienced no pain at all!  It was amazing to me.  It almost felt like this procedure was happening to someone else.  Even the abrasive voice of the doctor and the extreme pressure on my pelvic bone couldn’t bring me out of my medicated haze.  But more than that, I felt the peace that surpasses understanding.  I knew that God had every detail of this birth planned out for the best.

“She is almost here.” I heard Chris say with joy and excitement.  I just couldn’t muster up excitement myself.  I felt pushing and then a weight was lifted.  I was lighter!

“She is here!” Chris said.  Quickly the little bundle was taken to a table just a few yards behind me.  I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her.  She was crying for all she was worth!  A good sound.  I wanted to call out to her.  I wanted her to know that I was close by, that I was so excited that she was here, but I didn’t have the energy.  Someone brought her to me and placed her on my chest.  She was little and perfect.  I was too numb to hold her, so she was whisked away again, this time out of the operating room.  Chris went with her and suddenly I was alone…so alone.

I was lying on the operation table in the middle of the large room.  I was vaguely aware of nurses and doctors working to stitch me up.  They were talking among themselves, but not acknowledging me.  I knew that the bright lights were highlighting my nakedness and my gaping wound.

“My baby is here!  She has been born!”  I thought to myself. “Yet how could this really be considered her birth?  I didn’t give birth.  Is today really her birthday?  I didn’t push her out.  The doctors pulled her out.  It didn’t feel like a birth.”

As these thoughts floated around in my clouded mind, sadness descended.   Instead of feeling the overwhelming relief and bliss that enveloped me after the birth of my other eight children, I felt a stark and cold loneliness.  I wouldn’t allow the weeping to begin.  I knew it would overwhelm my consciousness.  I didn’t want to meet Annalise in the recovery room with tears.

Soon I was being wheeled to where my baby was.  She was placed into my arms and I got my first really good look at her.  Her face was tiny and beautiful, and she was looking up at me with open eyes.  So serene.  So peaceful.

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She was a sign to me that everything was going to be ok.  I would heal.  The sadness would fade.  I had suffered loss, but it hadn’t been the disaster I had most feared.  My little girl was safe.  Safe too were all of God’s promises.  Our finances were still in an unstable place.  But I was certain that we would see His goodness.  I was sure that Annalise would live a life marked by God’s generosity.

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The bliss didn’t rush in and seep into every cell as I had hoped.  It crept in slowly.

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It increased slightly with every look into her eyes, every touch of her soft skin, every time she nursed.

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My heart was full of sorrow and joy, but the joy would overtake and overwhelm, one miracle moment at a time.

 

You were created for Childbirth!

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My husband and I wrote this to help other couples looking forward to the big day – the day when their new baby will be born!  Our desire is that everyone can have the joyful, peaceful, amazing experience that God has for them on this wondrous day!

 

You were created for Childbirth!

 

Giving birth to eternal children of destiny is God’s gift and a sign of his great honor and favor toward you!  The labor experience is a privilege, NOT a curse!  Here are some tips to help make your labor experience a little (or a lot) easier.

Pain is a curse spoken over Eve in Gen.  All curses were broken at the cross.  Break the curse of multiplied pain in Jesus name and don’t let anyone talk you back into it!  Pain in labor is increased because of fear.  Our body’s normal response to pain is to release adrenaline to prepare our bodies for the “fight or flight” response.  Adrenaline stops the production of oxytocin and slows labor down.  We have to practice going against our normal instincts to resist pain and learn to relax in the pain.  With every contraction, find a comfortable position and relax every muscle of your body.  Don’t try to move or talk.  The more relaxed and at peace you are, the less pain you will feel.  Practice this before you are actually in labor. If you want to read more, get the book, Childbirth without Fear: The Principles and Practice of Natural Childbirth.

HUSBANDS AND WIVES;

    1. Pray and seek God about any issues He may want to address before you have a baby.  The closer you are to God, the more peace and forgiveness you have flowing through your life, the easier labor will be!
    2. Ask God for specific scriptures and promises for your labor and new baby.  Speak these out all the time!
    3. Ask God to give you His heart on any issues you might encounter such as an epidural, inducing labor, c-sections, and other interventions.  In the intensity of labor is not the time to develop a philosophy on these subjects.  God is the authority on labor, not your doctor.
    4. Speak to the mommy’s and baby’s bodies and prophecy before and during labor that they will quickly and easily and joyfully go through all of the stages of labor.  “Uterus; you will contract perfectly without multiplied pain!”  “Cervix; you will dilate perfectly and quickly.”  “Baby; you will descend into the birth canal at just the right time and turn in just the right way to be born quickly and easily.”
    5. Speak to the mom’s and baby’s spirits about the labor.  “Mom, you are able to give birth in peace and joy.  You are in God’s hands.  You are His beloved.”  “Baby we love you.  God gave you to us as a precious gift.  Come out and see us at just the right time.  We are so excited to see you!

HUSBANDS

    1. Pray, Pray, Pray!
    2. You are the authority over you wife, not your doctor or midwife.  Ask God about any options that are offered.  Don’t do anything you don’t feel at peace about.
    3. Sometimes you have to make decisions for your wife during labor.  She may not know what to do.  Don’t be afraid to direct the labor time.
    4. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage.  Use your words to help her, not distract her.

“You’re doing great!”  “Relax your muscles and breathe.” “It will be over soon!” Use a peaceful tone.

 

WIVES

  1. During your labor it is your job to RELAX, RELAX, RELAX!  Trust God and trust your husband.  Let them take care of everything and relax!  Enjoy the time between contractions.  Walk around, squat, pelvic tilt.  During contractions relax every muscle and rest!  A warm shower or bath does wonders!
  2. During your pregnancy, exercise often (walking, pregnancy Pilates, squatting, kegels) and eat as healthy as you can.  Eat 60-100 grams of protein a day.  Here is a link for a diet for pregnant and nursing mothers.
  3. Even if things don’t go as you had hoped, God has got you in his hands and He is never letting go!  He is in control!
  4. Don’t worry!  This birth thing was God’s idea and it really does work!

 

Wisdom from other moms

 

“I had two supernatural births without pain.  The difference between my first two and my second two was I had an encounter with the Father’s love to where I was able to completely surrender and trust in His love and protection for me.  I also read Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize and that really encouraged me.  The first two births I prayed in the spirit and the third and fourth Jason laid hands on my belly and prayed in the spirit during each contraction so I was free to completely surrender to it and rest and trust while he did all the work.  I also labored in a Jacuzzi during transition and took honey for energy.”  Cari Cash, mother of four

 

“A wonderful labor experience begins and ends without fear.  Figure out what it is you are afraid of and get the answers you need before labor.  Fear creates pain and makes what should be a wonderful experience terrifying.”   Katie Horst, mother of four

 

If I could only give one piece of advice to a woman going into labor I would say “The only thing you can expect is that it is not going to be as you expected.”

So in the middle of the labor or delivery when it seems you are being thrown off course by some unexpected event.  Ask yourself…”Is this what I expected?”

No… so be encouraged …this means you are right on track. 

You can then continue in strength and peace.

As Bill Johnson says – You only have authority over a storm when you have peace.

Anne Stock, former homebirth attendant and mother of two

 

 

 

 

 

Birth Story: Part 7 – Let Your Heart Take Courage!

courage 5

In 2011 Chris began to ask God to give us a business. I also began to pray that in the right time, God would give us another sweet baby! In October of 2011, we were able to purchase a Signarama shop that was only a few blocks from our home. Being business owners turned out to be harder than we had ever imagined; pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into a venture that just seemed to devour all of our money. God continued to encourage us with Ps 27, “Be strong and let your heart take courage and wait for the Lord.”

In July of 2012, I discovered that I was pregnant. I was blissfully happy for a week! Then morning sickness began, worse than I had ever had before. To understand just how I felt, you can read a previous post of mine, “God Needs Me?” Chris and I had both received our heart’s desire from the LORD, and we were both very discouraged about it, because it wasn’t the glorious reality we had expected. We were more than discouraged…rather; we were depressed and wanting to give up on everything. Yet God kept giving us the same message every place we turned.

“Let your hearts take Courage!”

We found out that this baby was a boy, our sixth boy! I knew that Courage was the prefect name for him! Every time I talked to my baby boy, I was reminded to take Courage!

I had been reading the book, “Supernatural Childbirth” which describes one woman’s journey of praying and speaking out scriptures and promises from God and then experiencing no pain in childbirth! I started praying the prayers over myself and my baby, over and over again. I had a few specific requests for God. Number one; I didn’t want my water to break before labor. That had happened the last four times and that had been quite enough to me. It would happen at night, and then I would be so nervous or excited about the impending labor that I couldn’t get any sleep. I wanted a good night sleep before this labor, I decided! Number two; I didn’t want any after-contractions. After my last labor, they had been so painful for two days, stripping me of the joy of new motherhood. Number three; I wanted a fast, easy, early, and pain-free home-birth. Not too much to ask.

Three weeks before my due date, I felt my water break. I was rather confused, because I really thought that God would honor my prayers and keep my waters intact. Still, I was excited to have Courage early, and I notified friends and family to pray. An entire day went by and no labor had started. Day two passed and I was beside myself with worry. I wanted an uncomplicated home birth, but I thought that now I would have to go to the hospital to be induced. Surely the midwife wouldn’t let me go much longer.

Mary, the midwife, arrived at my house that second day to see how I was doing. After a quick exam, she declared that my water had NOT broken after all! My cervix was completely closed, and I had no fluid leaking out. It was the outer bag that had broken, but the inner bag was still intact. I had no idea that there were two bags! Instantly my fear dissolved and I was at peace again. My water had not broken! I could safely stay pregnant for few more weeks!

I was actually happy to wait for labor to begin. Courage was sitting so low, at +1 station, as though at any moment he could just slip out! I was incredibly uncomfortable, but I was still at peace.
On March 8th, I felt a contraction while in bed and noticed that it was 1:11am. I would normally have Braxton-Hicks during the night, but they hardly ever woke me up. The rest of the night I slept very soundly, having dreams of contractions. Early in the morning, my four year old padded over to my side of the bed. I got up with him and snuggled in the first light of dawn. I kept feeling contractions, but they were so mild and irregular. I spent the morning doing all the regular chores, sitting on the birthing ball whenever I could. I was hesitant to tell anyone that I thought I was in labor, since my last announcement had been a false alarm.

Finally at 10am I called Chris and asked him to come home from work. I was feeling too distracted to take care of things at home by myself, but I still wasn’t convinced that I was in labor. Chris arrived home within minutes, and he found me rocking on the birthing ball and shivering under a few layers of clothes. I was not in any pain, but Chris immediately recognized the tell-tale signs that labor had arrived. He called the midwife, and Mary’s helper, Shirley showed up in no time flat. She was a plainly dressed, kind-faced woman who immediately started preparing warm compresses. When she told me that she had given birth to 12 children, I knew I was in good hands.

Mary arrived to our home around 11am, and she started getting set up in our bed room. She checked my cervix and informed me that I was 9-10 cm, all the way there!

“We just need to wait for you to feel the urge to push. The baby is at +2 station so it won’t take long for him to be born.”

Wow! I hadn’t even been sure that this was really labor, and Mary just told me that the baby would be born soon!

The contractions started to become uncomfortable and then downright painful. All my normal positions didn’t bring the expected relief. Mary could see that I was very tired and suggested that I try lying in the bed on my side.

“I just don’t think that position will be comfortable when I have a contraction,” I replied.

“I don’t think any position is going to be very comfortable at this point,” she said.

I agreed to try. I lay down on my side. Immediately, Shirley was packing pillows and warm compresses all around my heavy and burdened body which was now trembling. She would massage and apply pressure at just the right time in just the right place without ever being told.

I had never given birth like this, and I just couldn’t believe that it would work, without gravity to help. Mary assured me that the baby would come right out, but I just didn’t believe her. Yet I felt so tired that all I could do was lay there.

I thought, “This is going to take a while!”

Fear began to try to take hold of my mind. I prayed, “Jesus, you are going to have to give birth to this baby because I don’t think I can.”

He assured me that he would. I closed my eyes and imagined myself snuggled in the arms of Jesus.

“I might need to push.” I said.

“Great,” Mary said as she held up my top leg. After a few light pushes, I heard a loud SPLASH! SLAT! I opened my eyes to see that Mary and Chris were all wet. They were commenting on how the water had burst all over them, the bed, and splashed unto the floor.

“Is the baby out?” I asked.

“No, that was just your bag of waters. But he is right there!” Mary answered.

One more push and Courage slid out so easily onto the bed! Mary scooped him up, bundled him, and placed him in my arms. He settled peacefully in my embrace and promptly started sucking his fist. I was tired but completely and totally happy! Our Courage had arrived so quickly and easily, although not totally pain-free. But the biggest answer to prayer I would experience every moment for the next few days. I could enjoy my newborn without any after-contractions! It felt like a miracle to me, and God had honored my requests!

What had started as a very discouraging time in our lives had ended in a beautiful birth of a beautiful boy. The business that kept Chris busy at least 60 hours a week was still teetering on the verge of failure. Yet as we watched our Courage grow bigger and stronger, our courage and faith in God grew as well.

D-41

Courage is wearing his Signarama shirt!

He never let us go without food, and He never stopped sustaining our business in amazing nd miraculous ways. Signarama is still growing and improving, making signs for the greater Harrisburg area. And we are still daily reminding ourselves of God’s good words.
Let Your Heart Take Courage!

Birth Story: Part 4 – Chai, the One Who Brought Redemption!

 

I was pregnant with number five, and I knew I needed to try something different!  I had gained enough hospital experiences to last me the rest of my life.  I would have been happy to never return.

Ashlyn, who was now 18 months, was a developmentally delayed because of a rare chromosomal abnormality.  She was surprisingly healthy and incredibly happy…except when we visited any doctor’s office.  They she cried and screamed inconsolably.  She had had her fill of hospitals and doctors as well!  How different things would have been for her if I would have had the courage to try a home birth.

But this time I was ready!  I read and studied. All my research concluded the same thing.  Every study ever done comparing hospital births to home-births (assisted by a trained midwife) revealed that home-births were safer!  Home-birth labors were faster, less painful and required less intervention.  There were fewer chances for infection, injury, and death for both mother and baby.  I interviewed the home-birth midwives in Colorado Springs.  I found a very experienced midwife named Merrie who I just loved.  She thoroughly enjoyed what she did for a living, and she put me at ease.  I asked Merrie about what would happen if we had another child like Ashlyn.  The doctors had told us that it was a possibility.  She was just fine with it and reassured us that she was trained to transport us to the hospital at the very first sign of problems.

The pregnancy began with a bit of fear and trepidation.  What if this child was born with problems?  I would recognize Ashlyn’s distinctive features as soon as the child was born.  I imagined what I would feel; looking into the eyes of another “special” child and wondering if I would be able to handle the strain of it all.  Ashlyn was still like a baby.  She did not yet sit up or crawl, although she had started to scoot herself around on her belly in a funny one-legged pattern. Who knew what the future held for her?  Yet, her smile brought so much joy, her sweet spirit ministered to me.  I knew I wouldn’t trade her for the world!  She was the perfect baby for me!  I didn’t know how her life would unfold, but God did, and He said it was good!  I realized that even if this unborn child had problems, I would love him or her just as much!

Slowly and steadily, as the baby grew in my belly, so did my peace and trust in God.  I knew that having a home-birth was the right decision.  I knew that this baby would be fine.  We found out that the baby was a boy, and Chris and I searched for a name that would bring redemption to all of the problems that Ashlyn had been having.  We chose Chai Erik which meant, “Healthy and Powerful!”  Every time called him by his name, we were prophesying to him that he was healthy and powerful!

If you read my last post, Birth Story: Part 3, you will remember our bad church situation.  When Ashlyn was four months old, our family was kicked out of that church.  It was the best thing that could have happened to us!  We were now being reunited with truth and love and had rediscovered the joy of our salvation!  We also realized that where we really wanted to live was back in our hometown in Pennsylvania.  Life Center, the church we had grown up in and had been married in, wanted to hire Chris!  God was working out all the amazing details for us to move back home!  We were full of deep, deep gratitude!

Three and a half weeks before my due date, Life Center flew Chris out to Pennsylvania for the final interview. He was having a wonderful time reconnecting with dear friends.  I was at home taking care of four young children and throwing up every few hours with contractions that tightened my very huge belly!  The ladies at Life Center thought I was going into labor!  I reassured them that it was only a stomach bug.  I had never thrown up in labor before, and I wasn’t going to start now!

Chris returned home the next day and I was feeling better!  We were so excited about packing and moving across the country to our new lives!  We just had to wait for this baby to be born.

We didn’t have to wait long.  The very next night around two in the morning, I rolled over in bed and my water broke.  At first a wave of fear washed over me.  This was how it had all started with Ahslyn.  First my water had broken, then no contractions, then the hospital, then lots of rude people, then Pitocin, then birth defects, then…on and on my mind churned.  What if this labor was like the last time?  I tried to get some sleep, but I couldn’t. When the sun rose, I quietly got out of bed and sat at the kitchen table with my Bible and notebook.

“OK God, I really need to hear your voice now.  I do not want to listen to the voice of fear,” I prayed.

God put verses Isaiah 66:7-9 into my mind.  I looked them up and as I read, peace and joy washed over my spirit in healing waves.  I couldn’t hold back my worship and love for this God who had just given me the best verses that any pregnant woman could ever hope to receive!

Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son.  Who has ever heard of such a thing?  Who has ever seen such things?  Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?  Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. ‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the LORD.”

God spoke to the very depth of my fears; that labor wouldn’t start for days and this baby wouldn’t be born.  Yet God was saying that he would be born in a day and that I would give birth before the pains came upon me!  I was so relieved and thankful!

Then I became a bit agitated.  This baby was coming fast and nothing was ready!  Chris was still sleeping; the birthing pool wasn’t set up; the midwife wasn’t there.  I started having contractions, and I woke Chris up.

“I think we need to set up the birthing pool!” I said.  He seemed to take his good old time!  He didn’t feel the same urgency that I did.  When I was having contractions about every five minutes, we called Merrie to come over.  She arrived with another midwife.  I slipped into the warm birthing pool which was really just a kiddie pool with brightly colored fish decorating the sides.  I was so comfortable that my contractions completely stopped.

“I am in no hurry.  I will stay here for as long as it takes,” Merrie said. “Although, you do need to have contractions if you want to have a baby.  I have a homeopathic remedy that could start the contractions coming more regularly, if you want it.”

I said that would be great.  It was a tiny dose of minuscule white pills.  Sure enough, soon those contractions were coming again.  The pain was not bad at all, but I was feeling it in my back.  Pretty soon I had gotten onto my knees to lean over the side of the pool.  Merrie applied pressure to my back with every contraction and that helped immensely.

“I have a feeling that the back pain is being cause by the baby flipped in the wrong direction,” Mary said. “I think if he turns, he will come right out!  I have another homeopathic remedy that will turn the baby, but if he is in the correct position now, it won’t change that.”

I took it and a short time later I felt a very funny flipping and flopping feeling inside of me.  He turned!  Because the pain was so minimal, I was aware of the baby descending into the birth canal.  I knew he was coming soon!  Chris was casually taking orders for lunch.  He was planning on running out to pick up some Chinese food and eating lunch before the baby was born.

“Chris you don’t have time for that.  He is coming!  I think he is coming now!”

Merrie asked Chris if he wanted to catch the precious bundle.

“Sure!’ Chris said as he knelt on the floor and leaned over the birthing pool.  Chai came sliding into the world under the water and into Chris’ waiting hands.  It was 11:55am and we were looking at a perfect, beautiful, and normal baby boy!

chai newborn

I sat in the warm water and held him close.  We were so cozy and comfortable that we remained in the water for another half an hour and made our excited announcement calls to friends and family.

Finally we both got dried off and transferred to my bed.  I felt so incredibly happy and comfortable.  I wasn’t even bothered by those pesky after-contractions that had hurt so much the previous times.

God words had proven true!  My greatest fears had not been manifested.  In fact, just the opposite had been true!  I understood that just as God had brought this baby forth so easily, He would also bring us into our promised land. It would be His grace and His favor that would bring us into the new lives we were longing and yearning for with all of our hearts!  He had brought us redemption!

Birth Story: Part 3 – Ashlyn, the One Who Changed Everything

ashlyn 2

I was two weeks away from my due date. It was late at night, and I felt a strange gush.  I thought my water might have broken, but I wasn’t sure.  That had never happened to me before, except at the very end of labor. Labor had not even started, but perhaps it would start soon.

Then I thought back to my first birth when the doctor had broken my water when I was half way dilated.  How that had increased the pain!  And now my bag of waters was already broken before the first contraction had commenced. Would I have to go through this entire labor with intense pain?  Suddenly a tiny seed of fear took hold.  During that sleepless night, it sent out invasive roots into my mind that became intertwined with every thought.  I couldn’t relax or rest. I was too scared that any moment a contraction would come and assault my body with pain.  This may seem very strange if you are familiar with my wonderful previous birth experiences.  Why should I be so afraid this time?

My family had been living in an atmosphere of mounting fear for the past few years.  We had started going to a new church when we moved to Colorado Springs, 6 years earlier.  At first it was wonderful, full of life and joy.  Slowly it moved away from the love and forgiveness of God and had begun to concentrate on our personal sins.  To listen to our leaders counsel us and rebuke us time and time again, you would have thought we were teetering on the edge of hell.  One wrong move and…we were done for! Talk about an atmosphere of fear!

This of course does not sound like the gospel of Jesus Christ at all!  Yet there was just enough truth woven into the lies that we continued to try to reform ourselves and gain the approval of our leadership and of God.

Later I realized that I had always had God’s love and approval despite what my church was telling me.  God had even told us to leave the church.  He had given me a scripture that said, “Do not have sons and daughters in this place.”  At the time, I thought He meant that we should not give birth to this child in Colorado Springs, but rather in New York, where some of our church members lived.  We tried to move, but it never worked out.  We thought we had messed up somehow, but we weren’t sure how.  Months later, I read that verse in my journal and the meaning became so clear!  I shouldn’t have given birth while under this leadership of fear.  But right now I was still in the thick of it, and the panic was holding back the very thing that I most needed…contractions!

The sun rose and labor had not started.  I didn’t realize what sorrow was in store.  I had no indication that the child within me had a rare chromosomal abnormality that the doctors had never heard of.  I had no idea what trauma she would have to endure in the first two days of her life, and how it would hurt my mother’s heart. (This is another story for another time. But don’t worry; this story ends with God’s wonderful redemption, just like every story in the life of a believer.) Yet I had a feeling of impending doom.  I tried to shake it off.  I tried to find my peace in Jesus, but my mind just kept spinning in fearful circles.

After we ate lunch and there were still no signs of labor, Chris and I decided to go to the hospital.  The nurse we talked to said she needed to look at the fluid under a microscope, but I had none leaking out at the moment.  The nurse didn’t think my water had broken, and was inclined to send me home, but instead, sent me on a walk and told me to come back in about an hour so she could check again.

Chris and I strolled around downtown Colorado Springs. It was a lovely, sunny day in January, and we walked around the Olympic Training Center.  It was so beautiful, and I knew that I should be enjoying the time with my husband, yet my stomach was in knots.  I was hoping that the nurse would just send me home and I could go into labor on another day, a day free from this weight of worry.  Nervousness kept bubbling over until I started to cry.

Chris tried to comfort me as we entered the hospital again, but I didn’t feel any better. All that walking had released some amniotic fluid, and they confirmed that my water had broken.

“When did it break?” the red-haired midwife named Alice asked.

“Last night around 11,” I answered.  It was now getting close to supper time.

The red-head immediately snapped to attention and spoke with alarm.

“What?!  Your water has been broken for over 12 hours?  We need to start you on Pitocin right away. And we will have to give you intravenous antibiotics to ward off any infection.”

That is not what I thought a midwife would say.  I thought a midwife would have faith in a women’s body to do what it needed to do without artificial hormones.

I started to cry uncontrollably.  I was devastated.

“I don’t want Pitocin!”  I insisted.

“We have to do it.  We have to deliver this baby as soon as possible because we don’t want you or the baby to develop an infection.  But we will start the drip slowly.”

I was taken into a birthing room and hooked up to monitors and a Pitocin drip.  I couldn’t stop crying.  My dream of a natural birth was being taken from me.  I had talked to other women who had Pitocin, and their reports had included hard, heavy contractions with intense pain…in one word – torture.

The nurse looked at me with my snotty nose and puffy red eyes.  She seemed annoyed, as though she would rather not deal with me at all.

“We will give you one round of antibiotics now and another around midnight.”

“What if I have the baby before midnight?”

I had gotten on her last nerve!

“You are NOT going to have this baby before midnight,” she snapped.  “You are not even in active labor.  It takes lots of hard contractions to birth a baby.  You probably won’t even have this baby before morning.”

I should have realized that I knew a lot more about birthing babies than she did.  After all, I had already had three, natural, wonderful births.  In my fearful, emotional state, however, her words pushed me into depression.  I saw a night of agonizing pain in front of me and I saw no way out of it.  I wished that they could just do a C-section and be done with it.  I didn’t know how to labor under the influence of Pitocin!  I just wanted to die.  Death would be better than what I would have to go through.

“And if I do get through this alive,” I thought, “I am never having anymore babies!”

Chris could see that I was falling apart.

“You are so upset because you are not in control.  You just need to give up control and trust God!  God is in control, and it is going to be just fine,” he said.

A small flame of faith was lit in my heart.  I relaxed a little and tried my best to trust in God.  It was 5:40 and I was only at 4 cm.

Our friend Chris came to the hospital and brought my husband Chris some supper.  She encouraged me to fall into the arms of Jesus.

“Pray, ‘Whatever it takes, I will do it and trust you,” she said.

I prayed that prayer and surrendered.  I was starting to feel more peaceful.  Around 8pm the contractions started in earnest.  At first they were surprisingly painful.

“If it hurts this much when I am only 4 cm dilated, how will I make it when I am at 8 or 9 or 10?!” I asked Chris, despairing again.

“Don’t worry about that.  Just take them one at a time.”

My wise and loving husband got me back on track again!  I finally remembered to relax during each contraction.  I would lean over the bed and let my belly drop and hang loose.  I would relax my arms, then my legs, and finally my face muscles.  Instant relief!

The grumpy nurse had ended her shift, and she was replaced by a solemn and worried looking nurse.  This new nurse wanted me to get into bed so she could check my cervix.  I hated lying in a bed; it was so uncomfortable!  As soon as I lay down, however, I uttered to everyone’s amazement, “I have to push!”

I gave one push and the baby’s head was visible!  The midwife ran out to get Alice.  The midwife  ran in and said, “Wow, it was a good thing I didn’t go home for supper like I was planning on! Alright, let’s have this baby!”

I was able to quiet myself and hardly push at all.  It was like a moment in a movie when everything is in slow motion, and you are aware of every small detail.  I could feel her little head crowning and easing out so gently on her own, without much extra effort on my part.  And then she was born!  So quickly, so easily!  I was in awe!  Instantly the worry and fear gave way to relief, joy and overwhelming gratitude!  I had made wrong decisions.  I hadn’t trusted God.  I had descended into the depths of despair, and God had reached down and pulled me out!  And in His great mercy, He had given me a fast, smooth birth.  It was 8:20pm.  God had proven that grumpy nurse wrong!  I was holding my sweet little Ashlyn Autumn, “God’s Vision for the Harvest” and I was content!

I learned that fear is the enemy of labor, and Jesus is the enemy of fear.  Rest in Him!  Trust in Him!  He can always turn our nightmares into a sublime Vision of His Goodness!