April 25, 2016

Grace's Story - a stillbirth birth story

I posted on Instagram a couple of weeks ago that I felt I was ready to share Grace's story of arrival and goodbye. Not long after I posted I sat with Eden in her room in the dark to feed her. That last nighttime feeding is my time to think and pray and that night I thought about Grace and her birth and the pain of seeing her for the last time. I thought about the day of her funeral service and the homeless man at the light we were stopped at and the way my heart ached for him. I was sad for both of us. And then, in the dark while my sweet girl ate in sleepy quietness, I cried and cried and cried. But I wasn't really even crying for me. I was crying for that homeless man from three years ago. I was crying for the countless stories of hurt and pain that I've heard and known. I was crying because we suffer so much in this life and because so many suffer more than others.

It reminded me yet again at how much Grace's life and death has changed me. Yes, it broke my heart. But it didn't just break my heart for me, it broke my heart for the hurting. And I'm so, so thankful for that.

I recently finished a book called Colors of Goodbye by September Vaudrey. It's a memoir, telling her story of the sudden death of their 19-year old daughter and the subsequent wake of grief and loss they experienced as a family. I was so comforted and moved by many of her descriptions of what grief looks like in the everyday life. We often write and talk about the big things (anniversaries, funerals, hospital stays) but what does grief look like as you keep clocking in those 24-hour days?

She described an experience that she calls "body memory." Their daughter passed away at the end of May and she says every spring stirs those last memories they had with her and worse, the memories of getting the news and then the plunge into their new normal.

That's exactly how I feel every end of March/beginning of April. I can't help but be reflective and introspective. I find myself lost in thought, staring very far off as my mind sifts through memory after memory. On a regular basis I find myself stopped at the light on the road that leads to the cemetery and I'm back to that day we drove there for her service. My thoughts were so desperate, I just couldn't fathom that we were really on our way to our daughter's funeral. I literally could not bear the thought of her being buried underneath the ground. I had carried her and birthed her and held her and loved her; how could she now be buried in the ground? It was insane to me. To this day, it's something I can only think about for a moment at a time and the reason I rarely visit.

But after reading September's memoir and also the birth story of another bereaved mama, I felt like I could finally tell Grace's story. I never thought I would, quite honestly. I've rarely even spoken of it. The memories have always been too sharp, too burdensome to take on unnecessarily. But I feel like in this season, it could bring more healing than pain.

So here we go, Grace's birth story.

It was a Thursday morning and I was 29 week and 6 days. I woke up that morning and I can't explain how I knew except that I just knew. She was gone. I knew it in the deepest parts of my mama heart. Surprisingly, I didn't feel a crushing weight as it sunk in or even the deep grief that would come, just a calm, indescribable peace in its acceptance.

I had my Bible study that morning and I forced myself to go. My dear friend, Ashild (who you'll hear more about later) looked deep in my eyes that morning and squeezed me long and tight. She later told me that she knew that I knew.

I didn't call my doctor's office because I already had an appointment that day. I spent that time between my study and the appointment in a surreal state of peace. It's so hard to describe. How do you describe the work that God does in a person's deepest being? He says his peace in our hearts is like a river and yet our bodies can't contain a river. At least not like the rivers we have in Montana. It's something other-worldly, it transcends understanding.

I walked to a park with my sons and watched them play and it's as if I watched from a different world. I saw things more clearly. It was like God was bolstering my spirit, giving me a strength and grace you can't have until you need it, and you can't describe until you have it.

I met Matt at the perinatologist's office. We were brought immediately back and before the ultrasound tech put the wand on my belly, I said, I haven't felt her move, I think she's gone. It took only moments to see stillness where two days prior there had been a beating heart. The calm I'd had previously was gone. Sobs and anguished words burst out, so unlike my normally composed person.

Matt took over immediately, in the best way. He made all the phone calls, made all the necessary arrangements for the boys and his work; he contacted Sarah, my friend and photographer who would document our time with her. He handled it all with such grace and strength.

We were told to return at midnight that night to be induced. The calm and peace I had experienced that morning, when I knew that I knew, returned. It covered both of us over the next hours as we went home, had dinner with our boys, tucked them in, laid down to rest, got up and packed our things, and ultimately all the way through the coming hours of labor.

When my mom came over that night to stay with our boys, my only request was that she please remove all the things we had collected and bought for Grace. I knew I wouldn't be able to bear to see them when we returned home. I didn't have the strength to look at those things for over a year and even then it brought a wave of tears and pain.

One thing that I prayed for very strongly that afternoon as we waited was that every person that we would encounter for our time there would be kind and compassionate. And I can't even tell you how God answered that prayer. Every single person that walked through that door, from our nurses to the guy who drew my blood to my doctor, literally, physically reeked of compassion and empathy. It brings me to tears even now to think about it.

The first thing our night nurse did when she got us settled was sit down on a chair right in front of me and cry as she told us how sorry she was and that she would do everything she could to care for us in the best way. It was a tremendous answer to prayer.

I was given Cervadil and some pain medicine to get my body laboring and also to be able to sleep. Matt's mom and sister arrived in the middle of the night after flying and driving all night. Morning came and there had been slow but steady progress made. Matt and I mostly spent time alone with the occasional visit from our families.

I remember so vividly lying in bed waiting hour after hour for her arrival, but my spirit felt so strong and prepared, even in the middle of such profound sadness and I knew that people were praying for us. Prayer is incredibly powerful and to this day I don't downplay my ability to help others when "all" I can do is pray for them. It does something in the supernatural that we'll never fully know until Eternity.

As late afternoon came I felt my body changing and preparing to push. I didn't want anyone in the room except Matt so everyone left except Matt and our nurse, Ashild.

Yes, the friend I mentioned earlier. She's a labor and delivery nurse and she "just happened" to be working that day. She asked the night before if she could be my nurse when she came in the next day. I couldn't say yes fast enough and she ended up having an irreplaceable part in our story. I never think about this part of our story without thinking of Ashild too.

When the urge came for me to push, it came fast and strong. It was my doctor, Matt, Ashild and me. The lights were all dimmed except for the one directly overhead. I have to describe this part because it's the one memory I treasure and visit in my mind over and over again. My doctor is in front of me, ready to deliver. Ashild is to my right and Matt is to my left. We had already talked about what it would look like and what my desires were, and my desire was to have Grace given straight to me.

I have immediately held and loved all my children and she would be no different. I felt extremely strongly about that. I wanted her in my arms and held against my chest in my love just like all my other children.

I pushed only a few times before she was born. Ashild wrapped her in a blanket like we had talked about and placed her directly on me. And this is what I remember and treasure. I cried and cried as I told her over and over, You're so beautiful, you're so perfect. And you know how in those profound moments in life, you take in a hundred different details at once and store them away as a memory, though the moment itself only lasted seconds? That's what it was like. As I was totally caught up in meeting her and holding her and taking in her face, I'll never forget Matt's face as tears streamed down as he did the same, the way he pinched his thumb and finger over his eyes to stop the flow. I see my doctor's kindness as he did everything as unobtrusively and gently as he could. I see Ashild's tender face and firm resolve to make every moment count with her as she helped deliver her. It was only moments but I see everything played out as if a full-length film.

The hardest thing of that moment that many stillbirth mamas will say is the silence. Where there should have been a crying baby and constant chatter about who she looks like and rehashing to one another those final pushing moments and laughter and finally getting that Ginger Ale, there was only heartbreaking quietness.

I held her for a long time before I asked them to bathe her and then I watched from the bed as Matt and Ashild worked together to bathe her, the way Matt has done with every single one of our children.

After a long while, we called Sarah (my friend and photographer) and our families in. Everyone had a turn holding her. The boys got to meet her and hold her. They still talk about it to this day. After what was probably less than an hour I was weary to my core. I wanted only to hold my baby and to sleep. We said goodbye to our families with lots of tears shed by everyone and then Matt and I collapsed in total exhaustion into a deep sleep. We took turns snuggling her close and when I was awake, I constantly traced her face and hair, telling her over and over how sorry I was. I was so sorry that she had a broken heart. I was so sorry that she had to endure anything other than a whole heart and a family that loved her desperately.

Because she had so much swelling from her heart failure, her skin was very delicate and peeling in a lot of places. After spending most of that day with her, I saw that it was nearing the time to let her go. Matt asked me if I was sure and I managed to say I was, though no mama is ever ready for that moment to say goodbye for the last time. We called our nurse in (the same night nurse we had the night before) and she asked me the same. I knew we had to do it, whether it was then or in another five hours, I was still going to have to say goodbye for the last time.

I kissed her for the last time, said I was so sorry one final time, and then Matt had his turn. I can't even write this part without crying. He held her close, kissed her one last time, wrapped her in her blankie, set her in her bassinet, and then just stood and stared at her while his tears fell. It was beyond heartbreaking, it's a pain you can't imagine unless you know.

The nurse wheeled her away and I literally collapsed onto the end of my bed, totally unable to comprehend the pain and magnitude of it all and the fact that I would never see her again. I managed to send a message to my Bible study group asking them to please pray because it was a pain I couldn't fathom. We were discharged that night and we headed home to adjust to our own new normal.

And that's her story. Much of it at least.

This was as hard to write as I thought it would be. Many tears were shed but I prayed today as I sat down to write, Lord, let me write truthful words that honor her life. And that's what I've done.

If I could beg you to come away with one thing, it would be this: Jesus is the greatest delight of life and there are no good substitutes. If you read this story and thought to yourself, I could never do that, please know I thought the same thing! But we could only never do that because we've never had to do that but when we do, His grace will be all-covering, all-filling, totally and completely enough to sustain and bear fruit even in the most arid of lands.

I'm not just saying that. I hate Christianese, feel-good verbiage. I mean it with all my heart. I spent time in his Word just now before I sat down to finish this and it so moved me to praise him out loud, God, you are so good, so beyond description. Thank you, Father, thank you!

He is worth it. You will never walk through anything so hard you can't endure. He will sustain you, he will empower you, he will redeem everything in his time.

He is making all things beautiful.

March 09, 2016

Why I Will Not Be Voting for Donald Trump

I'm rowing into unchartered waters today and I'm a leetle bit skurred of the sharks. Because it's politics and here's how many people I talk politics with: one.

(Hi, babe!)

I got off of Facebook permanently about a year ago and I haven't reactivated my account a single time in that time. But you know what I remember from the last time our country was in an election season?

One party: you don't agree with me and you're going to vote for That Guy; you're an idiot and a million laughing emojis because of how stupid you are.

Other party: You're the idiot. *insert hateful meme with Other Party's face on it designed to shame the other party for being so stupid as to actually believe fill-in-the-blank*

I can't tell you how many times Matt and I have turned to each other and said, Wow, sooo happy to be off Facebook.

Which is why I'm a lotta bit cautious about this post.

I have written this post in my head a hundred times but I've left it there because of how divisive politics can be, and of all the things I want this blog to be, divisive is not one of them. I also think politics are a huge distraction for many Christians from the gospel and really knowing God and his word. If we get our "doctrine" from a major news channel and surround ourselves with a lot of people who agree with us, then we tend to think Jesus does too.

I use a reading plan for reading my Bible. I'm not a fan of devotional reading (i.e. a random verse a day coupled with a feel-good blurb) because it tends to put the emphasis on us: what is this doing for me, where do I fit into this, how does this conform to me. Me, me, me. I think it's so important to understand context while also fully aware that because it's a living and active word God does use it to speak into our lives all these thousands of years later.

I'm at the end of my plan which has me in books like Daniel, Ezekiel, Micah, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and because it's a plan that has Old, New, and a Gospel everyday, I've also been in John and Revelation.

The timing and congruency of these passages is unreal. Here's how I would narrow down the themes in many of these books:

1) Trusting in ungodly and arrogant rulers to protect from outside threats and their promises to make rich and subsequently God's discipline, whether it be through famine, captivity, or poverty.


2) because of this, repent, repent, repent. Repent while there's still time that God may have mercy not only on us but on our nations.

I just finished Jonah yesterday and because this is a book I've read many times and seen the Veggie Tales version of even more times than that, I wanted to read it with fresh eyes and fresh perspective. And right out of the gate, my commentary from the ESV Bible blew me away.

"The Lord is a God of boundless compassion not just for 'us' (Jonah and the Israelites) but also for the 'them' (the pagan sailors and Ninevites)" (ESV Bible, pg. 1683).

The entire book of Jonah is about God sending one of his people to a ruthless and cruel nation (historians say that the Ninevites had rows and piles of human skulls because of their evil and cruelty) to relay God's message of mercy and compassion towards them if they would repent. Which they did. And Jonah was furious that God would extend compassion to outsiders, and to such cruel outsiders at that. In fact, Ravi Zacharias says that when God asks Jonah if he's angry about it, that in the original Hebrew language, Jonah's response is so strong that it could be translated, Yes, I'm damned angry!

I've narrowed down two reasons why I think Donald Trump is so popular in this presidential race:

1) His promises to protect us from fill-in-the-blank, but most notably Muslims and Islam.

2) His promises to make us richer.

In Daniel chapter 5, Daniel is called upon by King Belshazzar to interpret a terrifying message that was literally written on the wall for him; for brevity's sake, I'll summarize what Daniel said:

King Belshazzar, your father was given power and wealth by God. What he said and purposed happened because of his great power and wealth and renown. But, BUT

"when his heart was lifted up and his spirit hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven from among the children of mankind (literally driven insane)... until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this... And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, (material wealth) which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored" (vs. 20-23).

Daniel went on to say that Belshazzar had been weighed in God's balance and found wanting and the days of his kingdom were numbered. That night Belshazzar's kingdom was taken captive and he was killed.

Let me tell a quick story. Matt and I have friends that we love dearly, she's American and he's Moroccan. He's also Muslim. We have them in our home, they have us in their home. He's cooked Moroccan food for us (yum). He's shared his family and stories with us. He's painted a vibrant picture of growing up in a small town in Morocco and the way everyone cares for one another and the way they eat their meals on cushions gathered tightly around one big table. The way the siblings take care of their aging parents. Agh, our hearts are just so tender towards him. We truly love them both.

And I just told Matt the other day that I had prayed and told the Lord that I would have no greater joy than to see ____ come to know Jesus. It would truly be my greatest delight to see him come to know Christ and have new life. My heart aches when I think of him being separated from the Lord.

To me, and so many others who love those of other beliefs, it's not "those people". It's not Them and Us. It's people by name that we love and desperately want to see turn to Jesus.

As long as we allow Party lines and groupthink to control how we think and vote, it stays Us and Them. I think one of the most astounding things about Jesus is that he came to us and has chosen to know each of us intimately. Knowing makes all the difference. It's a lot harder to spew hateful rhetoric towards a person or group when you know what keeps that person up at night; the fears they have for their children; you've seen the tears trace their cheeks; you've cried your own tears for their loss and abuse; when you read in God's own Word how desperately he loves those in darkness and the great lengths he goes to rescue and redeem.

No, I won't be voting for Donald Trump. By God's grace, I want to avoid the pitfall that the Israelites found themselves in time and time again: putting their trust and the future of their nation in the hands of an arrogant and rich ruler to protect them and make them rich and ultimately turning away from God in the process.

And an interesting thing is that they kept up their religious habits. They kept offering sacrifices and worshiping in the temple, but Amos 5 says that because they had trusted in other things and their hearts had turned from the Lord, God tells them:

"I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
Amos 5:21-24

(It's also interesting that just before these verses it says in verse 10 that the people "hate those who speak the truth." This is just as true today, though it should in no way mean we stop being truth-tellers.)

And if we think that this message is only for the Israelites in the Old Testament, here's what Revelation says to believers now:

"For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,' not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (5:17).

And a couple verses later, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent" (vs. 19).

Be zealous about God's truth and repent where we've believed anything else. Repent where we've trusted in anyone and anything other than God alone.


"'Yet even now,' declares the Lord,
'return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.'
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster." 
Joel 2:13

2nd Corinthians 7:10 puts it this way:

"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

Listen, I know what grief feels like. It's severe and it's painful. Repentance isn't free from pain; it brings grief when we see how and where we've turned from God and put our trust in earthly things, but God's ultimate goal is our true freedom. Freedom from misplaced trust that leads to unavoidable disappointment and discipline. He reproves us because he loves us. It's his kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). It's unkindness that allows a friend to keep a steady pace in darkness towards death.

Ultimately this isn't about just Donald or even Hilary or Bernie or Ted. It's about the lens with which we see and vote and live in this country. Is it a Biblical lens? Are we using godly wisdom and not the "wisdom" that comes naturally to our coddled selves, that James 3 tells us is demonic in origin? We can always find something to substantiate what we believe but if it contradicts Biblical truth and godly wisdom then it's origin is demonic. The Bible is clear on that.

The early Christians didn't respond to an ungodly nation and ruler with legislation and hateful two-party lines. They preached the gospel: turn from sin, receive God's free gift of mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, have new life and eternal life. And then they took that new life and spent it on behalf of others in Jesus' Name. And Acts 11:26 tells us that other people first called the believers Christians (like Christ/of Christ). Their lives so looked like Jesus' that they became his literal namesake.

So let's repent. Let us return to the Lord and repent. Let us put our hope and trust and belief in Jesus only.

May our hearts be wholly His and may we walk in truth, armed with godly wisdom found in his word alone.

March 02, 2016

Eden's Birth Story, Part 2

Ok, contrary to popular belief, I did not mean to leave you hanging off a cliff. I just have like 27 kids and all their laundry too.

Read part 1 here.

When we left off, I had Eden in my arms but things were taking a turn for the worse. Some of you may remember that when Luke was 10 days old I hemorrhaged pretty severely and had to have an emergency D&C. I also mentioned briefly in another post that I had had bleeding in Eden's pregnancy too that was subsequently diagnosed as placenta previa. (This all relates, stick with me.)

Only a few hours old! I couldn't resist the head wrap. 

Proud daddy.

Ok, here's a little more to Eden's story. When I was 13 weeks pregnant with her, I had a deja vu moment when I again woke up in a puddle of blood. (I'm so sorry for the graphic picture, but it's what happened.)

When they diagnosed it as a complete previa, it was thought to most likely be a result of the D&C I'd had when I hemorrhaged with Luke. If you've had a D&C it increases your risk for a placenta previa. So from weeks 13-19 with Eden I was on bed rest/light duty. Obviously total bed rest wasn't possible so I had to cut back severely on everything else. My mom was totally even more amazing than she normally is during that time, coming by almost everyday to keep the laundry going and kids bathed and everything else that goes with life. She's the best.

My sweet mama.

This next part is actually a really cool story but I'm trying to avoid a novella so, in short, the elders and pastors of our church anointed us with oil and prayed for a complete healing (like James 5 says to do) and when I went in the next day for my appointment it had completely moved. Completely and totally moved. Amazing and a true miracle because exactly one week prior it had still been a complete previa. Now, they can move and that's the hope but not in a single week's time. So, truly a miracle.

But because I'd had it I was still under supervision from the high-risk OB and at several ultrasounds he noticed concerning things with my placenta, mainly what he called "placental lakes." He said it can cause IUGR (intra-uterine growth restriction), so he wanted to keep a close watch on her growth, especially since she'd consistently measured behind. It wasn't concerning enough at that time to set an induction date but something to keep an eye on.

We had been hoping she'd be born before the New Year for our insurance purposes but again wasn't something we could force.

Ok, now fast forward to right after she was born. The nurses had just finished cleaning things up and when I sat up I felt a huge gush of blood. They quickly got my midwife who flew back into the room and sure enough blood was gushing out of me. She said she was going to have to do a manual sweep (um, ouch) and amazingly was able to get several large pieces of placenta (called a retained placenta) but the bleeding wouldn't stop. She made the call to have the on-call OB come in and do an emergency D&C. This is where things for me get very hazy and I'm relying on Matt's account of the story. I didn't know for several weeks that I had gone into shock. I couldn't figure out why I had such little to non-existent memory of what happened.

Matt said that the anesthesiologist came in and this is where it became like a movie. He said he was barking orders to everyone, saying things like, I don't want you to think her blood (for a transfusion) is on its way, I want you to know exactly where it's at!

Everything was a flurry of action and working to try and stop the bleeding.

I had so much fluid pumped into me in such a short amount of time (Matt said that the anesthesiologist was literally pumping the fluid bag by hand) that my eyes were swollen shut. Which I didn't know was the reason I couldn't see so when I came to I kept asking Matt to wipe my eyes, thinking I had something on them that kept me from being able to see anything.

So I was whisked away for surgery and my favorite story Matt told me about coming to was that I croaked to the recovery nurse that I could still feel blood coming out and she leaned over and said so sweetly, That's ok sweetie, a little blood is normal. Is this your first baby? He said I didn't even say anything, I just held up 5 fingers.

I tell you, I can't even escape myself in my unconsciousness.

When I finally came fully to I was a wreck. Not only was my body recovering from having a baby but also severe blood loss and surgery. I despaired that entire first day of her life, totally unable to fathom how I was going to be able to parent three other kids and have a newborn. All I could think about was how difficult it was recovering after Luke's hemorrhage and now I had another kid and another newborn.

The boys seeing her for the first time!

Sweet Luke was (and is) so gentle with her. 

One of my favorite moments of my entire life.

That was Sunday and on Monday the high-risk OB made the call to do a blood transfusion. He said in this day and age odds are 1 in a million of having an adverse reaction, but I could have honestly cared less. All I wanted was a  jump start to recovery. There was no way I could go home with how depleted I was from all the blood loss.

I got two full bags of blood and I do not exaggerate when I say the effect was immediate. I couldn't believe that I hadn't gotten one after my first hemorrhage. It would have made all the difference in my recovery. But I'm so thankful I did this time because it truly was just what I needed.

The boys meeting her for the first time was amazing. They were so sweet with her, even our wild Lukey.

Our other Nana, Matt's mom. She's awesome too.

Hospital room shenanigans.

How to keep three kids entertained: food and TV. 

Because of all that I had to stay in the hospital for a couple days longer than normal and I was so happy to finally go home.

Going home!

One last thing. I'll be writing a whole post on this but Matt and I have always used Natural Family Planning (NFP) in our marriage, and though I had felt from the beginning of Eden's pregnancy that it was my last one neither Matt nor I felt good about making that kind of permanent decision just because we felt that way. We literally talked about it the entire pregnancy. And in such a gracious way, the Lord really answered the question for us.

I said in the beginning that everything related and the common denominator was my uterus. The doctors said I have so much scar tissue in my uterus that another pregnancy is almost guaranteed to result in the same way.

One of the most sobering things that we learned from my midwife was that as unhealthy as my placenta was, that Eden really came when she needed to (she was 12 days early). Which is also why she was so tiny, my uterus simply wasn't healthy enough. To give you some perspective, Asher our second son, was ten days early and weighed 8lbs, 3oz.

So Eden is our last baby. And I have total peace about it. We couldn't ask for a sweeter, more perfect ending to this childbearing season.

Just a few days old.

(More on our experience with NFP in a future post. I know it can be a divisive subject but I promise it won't be inflammatory, just informative.)

Thanks for following our journey, friends!

March 01, 2016

Eden's Birth Story, Part 1

Finally. Here we are. Only 9 weeks from her birth. Her story. Eden Hope's story.

Her stats.

Born: December 27th at 2:44am

Weight: 6lbs, 1oz

Height: 19 inches

Ok, her story begins the week before she made her appearance. But let's recap first.

Eden is my 5th baby in six years. I've carried and delivered naturally (no c-sections) five babies. Five. So this isn't what you call my first rodeo. I know a thing or two about having babies.

Says the mama who's about to have experience thrown in her face.

Back to one week prior.

I should also say that I have never experienced false labor. For me, once the first signs of labor started, baby was on the way.

Ok, back to one week prior. (Oh my gosh, I'm driving myself crazy.)

Eden was born late on a Saturday night but that previous Monday I had taken all the boys to the Y to have a break from parenting and to walk the track. That had been my routine for some time but that day as I was walking I kept having to stop and breathe through painful...pain. I wasn't necessarily terming them "contractions" yet. But it eventually got to the point that I barely made it down the stairs and to the bathroom to call my midwife's office.

She wanted me to come in right away so I gathered all the boys and took them to her office. It was only right in the middle of lunch and nap time so not a big deal at all. Optimal time really. The pains continued and while I was there she said I was dilating and definitely in the early stages of labor and didn't feel comfortable with me driving myself home to pack our things so to have Matt leave work and come get me.

Well, this was big because Matt has patients scheduled and his time off wasn't set to start for another week so it was going to be a huge deal if it turned out to be nothing.

I bet you can see where this is going.

So we grabbed lunch, went home, I took a shower, packed my bags and then...nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not only had that never happened to me before but now Matt had canceled his patients for the entire week and it was looking like it was all going to be for no reason at all.

Ugh, the frustration.

(And I know, I know, babies will come when they're ready but this is my story so blah, blah, blah.)

There's a lot that happened during the following days (stripped membranes, walking, jumping jacks, etc.) but let's move ahead to Saturday or we'll be here all day.

Saturday morning (the day after Christmas) Matt and I woke up ready and recharged to walk this baby out. So we took the entire fam to the Y again where I speed-walked a mile and a half; whatever I could to encourage the whole baby actually coming out thing.

We decided to skip naptime and hit the mall and run errands and then we decided to go sledding again. We had already been sledding several times that week but I had just watched every time. But this time I decided I was going to sled too. And it was so much ridiculous fun. I belly laughed every single time I went down. It was one of the most fun times of that week for me.

We got back home a little after 5 and within an hour contractions had started again. But after my previous experience I was terrified to get my hopes up. We did alert our moms just in case it was the real deal and I walked our house while watching worship from Passion 2015. It's such a sweet memory for me, walking the house in the dark with snow outside and worship inside. I love those kinds of memories that stay with you.

The contractions continued to pick up in intensity and were getting closer and closer together so we finally headed for the hospital around 8 that night where my midwife met us. They immediately got me checked in and hooked up, and when they checked me I was a...3.

A three. A measly, small, insignificant, tiny 3. Little bitty 3. Just sitting there, so cute, in its teensiness.

I was truly shocked. At the level of pain I was experiencing I expected to at least be a 6 or 7, based on my previous labors. Again, maybe I've had kids before? I don't know. I was starting to second-guess my entire existence. I've had an epidural with every labor but I've gotten them when I was dilated to 8s and 9s, not baby-faced 3s.

Anyways, that set the precedent for an entirely different labor experience.

My midwife broke my water to keep things going and I turned down the epidural until I felt "like I needed it." (Future me hates past me for that.) Matt and I walked the halls to keep moving and after one particular contraction that doubled me over in the halls, I said, I want to go back and get the epidural now.

So we made our way back but every contraction that hit doubled me over until I barely made it to the room. Matt let the nurse know who then made her way to me and what I can now recognize as that tone of voice you use with unstable people said, He (the anesthesiologist) just went next door. 

Next door, like another building, next door? I asked with crazy eyes.

No, next door to another laboring woman's room, she responded with such the utmost care.

Commence literally the most physically painful hour of my entire life. Listen, I've experienced transition pain. I know what contractions feel like. I love natural births and home births and birthy births. I love everything about them. Never enough to experience one completely, but I still love them.

No. Not after this. Honestly, this is the one labor I don't look back on fondly, except for to be glad it's over. I have never panicked like I did with Eden's labor. Every time a contraction would begin I would start crying all over again and sink into a dark pit of despair. I literally (I can't think of another way to describe it) felt like my bum was going to split in half.

This continued for an hour at least, during which time I may probably have said things like, I just hate herHer being the laboring woman next door. And, Babe, please just go in there and ask him what's taking him so long. There being the laboring woman's room.

Matt was amazing. So steady and calm and ready to help however I needed him. Except for barging into our neighbor's room. He drew the line at helpfulness right there.

Finally (FINALLY) he came to our room, I loved him at first sight, he placed my epidural, and I settled in for some rest. (I don't know what time this was, but after 11 I think? Maybe later?)

At 2:30 in the morning on the nose, I felt something in my body drastically shift and change. I asked the nurse to check me and she said I was a 6, maybe a 7. Seriously, again I was so shocked. I expected to be complete with the way my body felt and the way I was feeling the contractions and bearing down, even with the epi.

Turns out I did know a little something about labor because 14 minutes later, Eden was born. In 14 minutes, I went from a 6 to complete to a baby in my arms.

Oh, that relief to hold her! To finally have my sweet baby girl in my arms. I cannot even describe it. I didn't even cry, I just stared and stared at her face, just overcome and overwhelmed that she was finally here.

And she was so tiny! Barely cracking 6 pounds, a teeny squish of delight.

Unfortunately, after her birth things went downhill very fast. Matt said it looked like a scene out of a movie.

Eyes swollen shut, barely out of surgery, oxygen in, massive blood loss, and all I kept asking for was Eden. Amazing how deep God makes a mother's love. 
But I'll have to save that for Part 2! Coming soon, I promise!

Part 2 here.