My baby girl, Emmelina Clementine, is about to turn two. TWO FREAKING YEARS OLD. Two year old birthdays are so… weird, right? Like you’ve already hit the one year milestone, and the past year was filled with even more milestones… but suddenly you realize your baby will be graduating from high school like NEXT YEAR and the freak outs begin.
We’re still a couple weeks away from her birthday, but it’s had me thinking about her birth lately. I’ve written at least a dozen posts about our struggle with infertility leading up to getting our Emmy girl. And maybe someday one of them will be decent enough to actually share. It’s a crazy hard topic, infertility. Like you don’t just throw that into a casual conversation without ugly crying about it. And while I can talk about it freely now and feel like God has really done some deep healing in my soul, I just haven’t figured out how to write about it. Everything either comes across too angry or too depressing or too medically detailed. So. Someday.
Birth is also a crazy hard topic, because everybody has an opinion about how it should go and it never goes that way. And then there are inevitably hurts in your heart about some aspect of it and it’s so easy to get defensive about our experiences, isn’t it? I mean giving birth is easily one of the biggest, most marking experiences of your life. And the mamas who have dozens of kids?? LIKE HOW THOUGH. Here’s my stance on birth, in case you’re wondering: 1) I strongly believe that you need to give birth where you feel most comfortable and 2) I strongly believe that you need to educate yourself with facts, not fear. Those two beliefs have led us down the home birth route.
Ella’s birth was this textbook water birth. Like for real. Nathan and I were the perfect team, we were so in love afterwards, Nathan caught her in one hand while holding me up with the other, and I got in my own dang bed an hour later. I mean it was still BIRTH, people. Unmedicated, unbearable pain, birth. But it was just what you’d hope for, and I could probably have filmed one of those videos afterwards- the kind that makes you roll your eyes because it was just “so perfect”.
So it’s safe to say that going into Emmy’s birth I wasn’t nervous at all. I’d already conquered people’s fear of home birth and had an answer for nearly every question. Plus, once you’ve done it before people tend to treat you with this sense of awe and wonder instead of treating you like an idiot for not wanting your baby to live or something. I’m telling you, birth is really such a hard topic.
After Ella’s birth I wrote a beautiful memoir about it. It helped me to process through it all and let others into my “perfectly safe and beautiful home birth” experience. After Emmy was born, though, I couldn’t even talk about it let alone write about it for the world to see. And that’s what I’ve been thinking on more than anything, with her birthday approaching- the story that happened to me. The story that is mine, ours, even though it’s not the story I wanted.
Here’s a quick recap:
My labor started around 4pm on my due date, but I was in denial so I went to the mall with BFF instead. My contractions intensified there but I I figured it was just “practice” for the real deal, so we ate Chick Fil A for dinner. BFF was secretly texting my midwife the whole time giving her updates- and hallelujah for that. Finally, we headed home, and snapped this picture just before we left the mall. I’m freaking smiling. I mean if you know me, you can probably tell it’s my fake smile. My contractions were like 4-5 minutes apart at this point so it was in between pain waves, but still. Total denial.
Things picked up pretty quickly after that. My mother-in-law came to pick Ella up for the night, my midwife came to our home, she and Nathan started setting up the birth pool, and I was vacuuming. So far, so good. And now comes the part where I’ll spare you most of the details because they’re too long and boring. All you need to know is that I had a cervical lip issue, which basically means that Emmy’s head was being blocked. I was deep into active labor, though, pushing contractions and all. And the jist of it was this: my midwife, Alana, had to stick her hand up into me during pushing contractions, and move my cervix over while also helping to “open my pelvis”. No medicine here, remember? I still feel nauseous thinking about it. And then I pushed Emmy out on my back, in my bed, the exact way I hoped to never give birth, just before 3am. I also tore a bit and Emmy screamed, unconsolably, from the second she came out until she finally fell asleep at 8am. She was 9lbs 2 oz. It was… a lot.
Like I said earlier, birth is such a hard topic. I am so aware that my experience might not have been as bad as yours, friend. And I want you to hear my heart here- I’m in no way trying to be a one-upper. I’m just giving you some back story into the part I really want you to remember- the part that comes next.
At my first postpartum appointment (like a whole 12 hours after Emmy was born or something), things were pretty routine. We went though all the medical checks and things looked like they were supposed to. Then as we were wrapping up, Alana paused. “I want to talk to you about how your heart’s feeling,” she said. “I know that this birth didn’t go the way you had hoped. I want you to tell me your story- what was going on in your mind and heart while all of this was happening.”
So of course I just started ugly crying.
I told her how defeated I was feeling, how I felt so weak and out of control during Emmy’s birth. I told her that I was so angry- all the working out and emphasis on health I’d had my whole pregnancy ended in such a traumatic, opposite way. Wasn’t all that work supposed to help me? Why did I even try? Why was it so hard this time? Aren’t second babies supposed to be easier? I cussed a lot and stared blankly past her as I finished by saying, “I’ve never felt so defeated in my life.”
My eyes came back into focus, and I saw her eyes looking deep into mine, filling with tears. “Can I tell you what I saw last night?” she softly asked. “Sure.” I whispered.
“I saw you listen to your body. I saw you fight for peace through the waves of pain. I watched as the pain started to take you over, but then a switch turned on inside of you. I saw it in your eyes- this fierceness,” she paused as she held back tears, “this fierceness came over you and this power rose up inside of you. And then you said, ‘She’s coming. She’s almost here.’ Do you remember that? You knew, Erica. I watched as this lioness power came out of you right when it needed to. I saw you not giving up. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and I hope that when I give birth I can be as powerful as you were last night.”
Those words have been the sweetest gift anyone has ever given me.
Sometimes we need someone to help us retell our story. When trauma hits and the pain is too much to bear, we can forget the truth of what really happened, friend. Since pain is usually associated with negativity, it’s easy to focus on all the negatives of our experience. And the negatives are valid, for sure. I’m not advocating for shutting down feelings or emotions and lying to yourself. No way, Jose. Feel the pain, friend. But don’t stay there.
Maybe there is a painful experience that is coming to your mind right now. Maybe there is a past hurt you have that still feels raw and tender. Let’s go into that memory, friend. Go ahead and remember your story- the sounds, the smells, the pain. What emotions do you have as these memories flood your mind? Anger? Sadness? Rejection? Fear? Really take time to identify them- it’s important.
Next, I’m gonna ask you to do something that’s maybe out of your comfort zone. I want you to close your eyes and take a deep breath. Ask Jesus this simple question: “Jesus, do you love me?” and then be quiet and wait. Sometimes when Jesus speaks to us it’s through pictures or words in our hearts or minds. If, after asking Him this question, you hear anything like, “No.” or “Only when you…” then that’s bologna and not Jesus. Say, “Nope. I want to hear from Jesus, no one else.” and wait again. Sometimes you might need to do this a few times until you undoubtedly hear and feel His “Yes.” Then, I want you to ask Him this question, “Where were you during that experience, Lord?” Again, be silent and wait. When we’re waiting on the Lord, learning to hear His voice, it’s important that we know Him and who He is. He will never speak something to our hearts that contradicts His word. So, for example, He would never tell you to murder someone, right? Or to lie, or steal a yacht. Those are silly examples, of course. But it’s so important that you test what you hear with The Word. If it’s Him, it will always line up.
After a painful experience, I try to remember to ask Jesus what He was doing that day, what He thought of my experience. Without fail, He’ll show me. He’ll show me where He was when I was hurting- and I always see Him in the room with me. Whatever the situation, He shows me that He was FOR me as I was hurting, never against me. When I asked Him where He was during Emmy’s birth, I saw Him in my room. He was right next to the bed, during the most painful part, face to face with me. And He was fist pumping. FIST PUMPING. Cheering as I fought. Cheering for the miracle baby He had given us- ecstatic to see her in my arms. That’s just who He is.
How many people around us need their story retold to them? How many of our loved ones are living out painful misconceptions of their story when they should really be claiming the victory that is theirs? I have two challenges for you today, dear one. 1) Speak encouraging truth to those around you. If you see someone struggling, don’t kick them while their down by pointing out their weaknesses- build them up instead. Tell them who God says they are and how strong they are for enduring. And 2) maybe Jesus needs to help retell your story today, my friend. Whatever it is, whenever it was- let Him in. His words will be a healing salve to your soul and His love can wash away any stain. Ask Him where He was in your moment of pain and let His unfailing love replace your hurts.
Now, this is something that takes practice, amiright? So practice. Ask Him again and again. And start to retell your story, my friend. Retell your story, not through a limited human lens, but through the lens that our infinite God sees through instead. Retell your story to yourself every time the sting of hurt comes up. And retell your story to the world as the chosen child of God that you are- knowing that He is equipping you with everything you need to know Him and make Him known.
The retelling of our stories- of who we are and where we’ve been- it shapes who we are, friend. My hope for you today is that you will hear Jesus’s sweet encouragement to your soul, and that you will let Him retell your story from His perspective, not just from yours.