Monday, April 27, 2015

A Lesson in Love – Redemptive Childbirth – No, It’s Not What You Think!

We have a new son! He is already three weeks old on the day I write this. I usually share my birth story within a week or two, but this one was more difficult to write because it took such a long time to process it … in fact, in many ways, I am still processing it.

How do I tell this story when there are so many aspects (so many past moments) that weave into it? So, let me just start and see where the story leads me… As many of you know, this is my sixth child birth. My husband and I were very proud parents of five sons and we had waited to find out if this child was a boy or a girl. (As a side note, although there was a sense of adventure and fun in not finding out, both my husband and I now agree it is much better to find out! At least, it is for us. But that’s another story …)

April 2, 2015 - 7lb14oz, 20in

During this pregnancy, I had a great deal of anxiety about the impending childbirth. It wasn’t rational; it just came upon me like little panic attacks that escalated. Of my 5 births before, only one was an excruciating experience. The first was difficult, but seeing my first baby the pain magically erased. The second was a piece of cake. The fourth was labor but not too difficult and the fifth was everything I imagined natural labor could be. It was intense, but beautiful and euphoric.

It was the birth of our third son that taunted me. My doctor feared preeclampsia, so had me induced at 37 weeks, 6 days. Usually breaking of the water works to set my body in motion, but not that time. They began pitocin. It was bearable at first, but just awful in the end. I did it, non-medicated, but compared to the other four labors (where pitocin wasn’t needed), it was torturous. (The contractions are harsher, without a natural rise and fall. My body felt it for weeks.) And it was the memory of this experience that would awaken me in the night during this last pregnancy – with my heart racing and head sweating.

A friend counseled me, during a week of many anxiety battles; she said I should ask God for a redemptive childbirth. That the experience of the birth itself would be a witness of God’s love. You would pray that you may join your suffering to the sufferings of Christ and that the pain be experienced would be a witness of love. This friend sang through her labor and said how much it helped, because she too was suffering from too much knowledge of labor. (If we could only erase certain moments from our mind, to approach it anew!)

So, I began to pray for God to take my memories and keep me at peace. As my rheumatoid arthritis began to show its ugly head and bite into my body in the last weeks of pregnancy, I was tempted to ask for early induction – just to bring an end to the pain! In the end, I waited. I chose to accept the pain (pain that even compromised my ability to walk) and wait on my body to be ready. “Go the full 40!” was ringing in my mind.

At 40 weeks and 5 days, and through consultation with my doctor and husband (and the RA becoming ever more debilitating), we all decided it would be best to go in to be induced. It was Holy Thursday. Usually, it only takes the breaking of the water or prepping the cervix to get my body to take over; that is what we assumed would happen. I was ready, armed with a “power and strength” playlist and an intercessory prayer list. We got settled into the room and that’s when the adventure really started.

As my doctor was attempting to break my water, there was some confusion as to whether or not it had broken. What usually is a quick, less than a minute procedure, was lasting quite some time. (She was getting a little frantic herself and kept apologizing for torturing me.) And for those of you mamas who know what it feels like, know how the sudden flashes of pressure and pain kept causing me to get light headed and nauseous. Finally she just couldn’t get it and gave up and yet, as I sat up, the water gushed – she had succeeded after all.

As I tried to recover from that craziness, I attempted to start walking – to get baby moving into position and get contractions going. Yet, after every few steps, I would get dizzy again and start seeing spots. This went on for a couple hours and then they needed me back on the bed to give a dose of antibiotics and fluids (to try to help with the light-headedness). After another hour or so, my doctor came back in and my cervix had not progressed. Then came the terrible words, slamming down on my ears and heart,

“We’ll have to start pitocin. It’s now inevitable.”

I was crushed. And my heart began to race and I could feel my anxiety rising. I asked everyone to leave, so my husband and I could speak privately. We spoke about what it meant to take the pitocin and the awful experience I had previously and then, the possibility of getting an epidural along with it. He supported me in whatever I chose to do. He reassured me that I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone, but that I needed choose what would be best for me and baby.

When the doctor returned, I explained that if we had to use pitocin, then I would like the epidural as well. She said that she was about to suggest it and thought that was the most excellent decision. She hates having to use pitocin since it makes labor so awful; getting the epidural with it was, in her mind, the best decision I could make … then why did I feel like I had just given up?

After both those were in and going, I was a little lost. I kept asking the nurse, “what should I be doing?” She would laugh and say, “relax or nap!” I’d just shake my head; it was so surreal. After five unmedicated labors, this was just so strange. Emotions were raging in my head – I have always been engaged in my labors (with every fiber of my being), but here it was like I was watching from a distance – disconnected – lost. I felt numb and weirdly sad. When it was time to push, I couldn’t feel a thing. I knew what to do only because of experience; a few pushes and baby was born!

It was a boy! My husband said “It’s our Anthony!” But of course I had to check for myself … thinking “really? 6 boys? what are the odds!” He was beautiful. But I had to shake my head; without enduring labor, I felt like I had cheated at the test and still got an A.

The mixed emotions continued after Anthony and I came home. I did feel a little like a failure for asking for the epidural. I thought I would have a redemptive childbirth and I felt like I just skipped over it all together. Easter Sunday, our first full day at home, so Anthony and I stayed home while my amazing husband took the other five to Mass.

Alone in the house, I nursed Anthony as the sunlight streamed across the floor. I prayed. Then it hit me. A revelation like a lightning bolt to my soul – this was redemptive childbirth! I wanted to participate, to show I could do it, to flash my supermom cape, but that’s not what redemption is about! Redemption is not our doing at all! Redemption is God’s work, which we can accept or not. It’s about our humility. I walked away from this childbirth humbled; it wasn’t what I expected and I didn’t even have the “I am woman, hear me roar” flag to wave from making it through natural labor. I didn’t know what others might think since I couldn’t do it this time. It was indeed humbling. And, yet, at that moment in prayer, I realized the profound lesson of love and gift that humility was! Christ gave everything for us and his love is not conditional! What we need to let go of is our pride. I asked God for a redemptive childbirth and He granted me an experience where I had to lay everything down – everything.

Thank you, Lord, for my weakness! Thank you for the gift and blessing of another amazing son – to be the mother of six boys is a unique blessing itself. Lord, make me worthy of such a task!

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

oldest & youngest - #heartmelt