I haven’t had time to post.
And I was gonna show you our new floors today but…
I’d rather talk about something more important.
(And I’ll post the floors soon.)
Yesterday I was given the extreme honor of documenting my friend, Jill’s, birth with my camera.
If you’ve looked at my blog in the last oh 3 years or so, you may have noticed I kinda have a deep heart for birth. But I’ve never seen anyone (who wasn’t me) give birth. (Not counting the YouTubes I watched nonstop during my second pregnancy -- I mean in person.)
Honestly I was pretty nervous about the idea. I didn’t know how I’d handle it. I didn’t know if I’d get scared or nauseous or light headed.
I really didn’t know if this photographing a birth thing was gonna happen for me or not. There were a few hurdles for me to cross to get there.
At first when she approached me with the idea, she had been planning on a hospital birth. And it was the hospital where I had had my c-section. The only time I had been back in there after my c-section (unrelated to Jill’s pregnancy/birth) I felt some major stress response -- lightheadedness, weak knees, overwhelming thoughts. I was not sure how well I’d do for Jill in this state. But I shared that with her, out of fairness, because I wouldn’t want to bring a bunch of unexpected fear into the room while she labored. She didn’t mind if I didn’t mind, and I decided it would be good for me to face it down. So I was in.
The next issue I was unsure of was who would watch my girls while I did this. I don’t have a sitter lined up here -- and with our food and pet allergies it’s not always the easiest thing to line up someone who can care for them.
So we kinda just said, well if I can figure it out I’ll come, but if not, that’s fine too.
Part way through her pregnancy Jill decided to do a home birth. She talked with me about my experience with a home birth, and did plenty of her own homework before deciding on it.
I was thrilled for my own selfish reasons that she was doing this -- I’d no longer have to face my fears at the hospital. AND I’d get to see an Illinois midwife in action. I’d much prefer to find another “Sheryl” here in IL over a hospital doctor/midwife if everything is looking safe and amiable to that for any future babies Blake and I might have in Illinois. So I was excited to get to see one doing her thing.
And I was excited for Jill too because I knew how impacting my home birth was for me. I was excited for her to get to experience that for herself.
So I started feeling better inside my own self about doing these photos.
And it worked out to be perfect timing for me to get there, because her labor wound up being during Blake’s break between semesters at work so he was able to come home and watch the girls in the middle of the day, for me while I went over to Jill’s house.
On my way over there I started getting really really nervous. I hadn’t done any professional photo taking in years -- so I felt very rusty. And I also had of course never photographed a birth. I didn’t know how well I’d do. I also really didn’t know if I might pass out. And I didn’t know if I’d wind up being annoying with my endless shutter clicks -- which is the last thing I’d want to do -- annoy a laboring momma. And I didn’t know what emotions I’d encounter within myself.
Initially when I first got there I did feel kinda like an intruder -- not because anyone acted that way -- just because I didn’t know what I was doing. And I didn’t know if I was over photo-taking, and annoying people. Eventually I found a groove -- although I will say that I never fully found myself feeling completely unobtrusive. Birth is so intimate -- I never lost the feeling that I was inside a sacred space.
There were some hard moments -- seeing my friend in pain.
But what got me through that, was the deep knowing that she is stronger than the pain. The deep knowing that we all are. Knowing that, in the middle of the scene, made it very peaceful inside myself -- not terrifying like I had feared.
I think that’s what I love most about earthy birth people. I’ve gotten to interact with my share of them since my pregnancy with my second. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what makes them so appealing to me. And I think it’s the calm that comes from that deep knowing -- they seem to exude it during every moment of their life.
I wish I could write more eloquently of this day and what it was to me -- but I’m still in the deep thralls of it -- feeling the weight of it.
I can say that seeing a baby born is probably the most beautiful thing on earth.
It rides a line: some parts so unsightly; yet overall the most exquisite thing there is.
And amazingly, to me, it really truly is the unpleasant parts that make it so stunning. Speaking both from inside these moments myself and as a spectator of them. Without them, the beauty would be limited. It’s that conquering that brings out the transformative beauty. And just because I have to say it, because it’s DEEP in my heart -- this transformation isn’t just for natural home birth mommas -- it’s for every momma -- it’s very real for us all.
And that makes me think of life and love.
And what really means anything in life -- what is of true real value.
And what our existence looks like to God.
How proud of us he must feel to see us endure. How deep that must be. How profound his love.
And those bits of joy that come out even in the middle of it all -- in the midst of the toiling. That even in the middle of deep trial we can find respite and rejoice.
And this all makes me speechless at the stunning power of letting go and letting life wash us over with waves of pain and hardship, so we can make it through to the goal.
I was driving home today (the day after Oliver’s beautiful birth) and I was bowled over by it all. I pulled up to an intersection in which I’ve wrestled God before. Numerous times actually. An intersection where I had once prayed I’d go into labor with my first child. And intersection where I started to realize I wasn’t gonna get my natural labor, that my body wasn’t gonna meet the deadline before an induction. And an intersection where I’d try to work through the deep disappointment of my c-section. At first just driving my newborn around without accepting I was sad that my uterus had been un-naturally opened by a knife -- just pushing through the days of numbness. Then coming to the realization I was crushed. And then trying to believe I wasn’t destroyed. Trying to trust God again. Even when it came time to move away, likely never seeing that intersection again, to some place slightly terrifying to a 20 week pregnant VBAC-hoper because my birth options were few. Trying to believe he was strong. Because it seemed that every time I was in that intersection I’d hear the song, “Our God is Stronger.” And I’d face all that in the words. He didn’t always seem that strong to me. Or mighty to save. But I’d always try to sing it, hoping I’d believe it one day. Banking hard on the idea that he was “healer”, if not to me, to at least some. Hoping some day my heart would quit begging him to prove it, hoping I would get past needing proof, so I could have peace inside, so I could feel faith for once. So many times I’d try to sing that, and my voice would crack and break under the fears that it might not be true. So many times I’d try to sing that, and my voice would crack and break under the fears that maybe it was true, but that I wasn’t strong enough to believe it and that I might be lost forever.
Today as I drove my two girls home -- my oldest who’s birth was so hard for my heart, but her life has been so good for it, and my youngest who’s birth changed my world. Today as I drove them, I of course was still thinking all about Jill’s birth (Because what else do you think about the day after you witness you first birth?) And I pulled up to that intersection’s red light, deep inside my head, letting her birth fall into mine, feeling life and love, and moving emotions with the song…and then my mind cleared just enough so that my ears started to let the words come in, and they were “God you are higher than any other” and I just burst into tears. All of a sudden I was full circle. I was back in a place I didn’t know if I’d ever see again. Hearing the song. I was whole now. I was here now. He had healed me. He had redeemed it. And he had even let me watch it from the outside now. The tears, the kind that have no sound, just shaking shoulders over took me silently. All of it washed over me. The pain, the ache, the hollowness, the waiting, the fearing, the dreading, the growing, the relocating, the special placement into the only environment that could get me to where I was going. The special people he placed in my life for a special moment, in a place I would never have picked to be. The magic that I would have never known if he had left me in a place I was comfortable.
I would have NEVER EVER EVER signed up for a home birth in my life had I not had a c-section with my first, and then moved to a place where the only realistic way for me to have a VBAC was with a home birth only midwife.
And my home birth, as fantastic as it was, in and of itself, was SO much bigger than just a birth. The entire process of it all grew me up as a person. I had to stand up for myself. I had to stand up in faith for where God was leading me. I had to trust in someone who wasn’t my normal comfort zone kind of person (my midwife was a new bread to me, as I was used to “normal” doctor’s offices and standard protocol.) I had to learn to research. I had to learn to trust someone because they are trust worthy, not just because I should. I had to learn to trust myself. I had to learn to stop dead in my tracks of fear and choose to be strong regardless of utter terror.
I would have never of know any of this. And I need to know most of this now -- to make it through the rest of my life. It parallels my existence perfectly. Specifically with my daughter’s food issues. But also with really anything I encounter.
At that intersection it all washed over me. And I started weeping. After the shoulder shaking silence, I though, "Oh what I lovely thought, I’m so glad to have realized that, now I’ll stop crying." But in the next instant, the fullness of it all came on me, in pictures I just edited, in memories that live only in my body. And then very-labor-like-weeping sounds started to seep out of me, at the red light. Years of labor inside my shoulders finally coming out of my vocal chords. As I birthed a realization that God is good. And just like when they say, you don’t necessarily have to push your baby out, your body can do it for you. I didn’t come to this on my own. And even as it birthed out of me, I didn’t push it out -- it just came forth in it’s time.
His goodness wasn’t good like I asked for. It was better. It was excruciating. For longer than I thought it could be. And it wasn’t what I wanted. But it was better. And it WAS good. It is good. He brought me full circle. It took me years of wandering in half trust, but he brought me out of it, by bringing me back to it. To show me like only he could, that he is indeed good, regardless. Mind blowingly good. Because it’s a good I can’t conceive of.
Back on planet Earth, I started to worry my daughters, as I wept in the car. I did everything I could to keep breathing it out, because now the light was green and I needed to drive. And I pulled it together enough to make breathing labor sounds as my eyes let out tears unbidden the five more minutes home, while I drove under the speed limit, telling them how happy I am to be their mom.
Thank you, Jill, for letting me see you labor.
Being vulnerable in front of me. Letting me in past what is standard for friendship.
It really did change everything for me.