Surrender: A Birth Story, Part 2

Surrender: A Birth Story, Part 2

Part 2: Birth

Early morning June 8th (3 days after my “guess date”), I woke up to some waves that seemed a little different than any of those practice “Braxton Hicks” contractions. I had planned to attend a women’s conference that day if I still had not birthed our baby yet, so I contemplated if I should still go. Eventually, with the help of my doula, I decided it would be good to go and enjoy the time. It could even be a good distraction if things continued to move along as we did not know how quickly or slow things would happen. Plus, I only lived a few minutes away and would have no problem returning home early if need be. 

The theme of the women’s event was “The Dawn” and it was the perfect beginning to a beautiful birth. One speaker shared that the word “dawn” meant the “first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise, or the beginning of a phenomenon or period of time, especially one considered favorable.”  As I heard these definitions, a sense of peace and awe washed over me as I knew my time was near. 

As we worshiped, the lyrics to the song also immersed me in a secret place of security and trust in the process that was soon to come. 

Psalm 91

Verse

In Your presence I will dwell

In the shelter of You the Most High

In Your presence I will sing

You are faithful, the God who covers me

With love and mercy

Chorus

Your are my refuge, You are my fortress

And I will trust You, and I will trust You

In times of trouble, still You are with me

And I will trust You, and I will trust You

At the event, they asked who was the closest to having a baby. A few of us raised our hands and shared due dates. Of course mine was the closest as my due date was 3 days prior! In my head and heart I knew that it was sooner than anyone else would know at the time. 

As I returned home, I shared with Teddy the events of the morning, and my thoughts and feelings about what was to come. We listened to some worship music and with tears streaming down my face, I committed once again this process to God, as we knew long before when we discovered we were pregnant that a child is a gift from God that we get to steward. 

We tried to go about our day as normally as possible but with so much anticipation and excitement that it was hard to focus on much else. Things did not seem to be progressing too quickly so we even ventured out to get some Zesto ice cream to distract us. 

Later that evening, it seemed things were starting to progress so we had our doula and my mom prepare to get to our house. 

10pm

Both my mom and our doula arrived right around this time and we already had our hypnobabies background music playing with low lights and pillows all around. My pressure waves (contractions) seemed to be more in my back, which my doula quickly realized were some signs of back labor. She had me lay on my back and placed her arm underneath me to get our baby to turn into a better position. 

After trying multiple positions and walking or moving around, things were still not progressing too quickly. My doula advised me to try and get some sleep. As disappointed as I was at the time, it was probably exactly what I needed. After a few hours of sleep with Teddy in our bed, I woke to more intense waves. I woke him and came downstairs to share the news. We tried more positions, I walked up and down the stairs, sat on the toilet, swayed with Teddy, sat on the birth ball, and so many more. Each time a wave came, I would go into my zone and either Teddy or Aly (doula) would apply some pressure to my hips or back. 

Soon Teddy began preparing our bags and things to go to the birth center. This got me excited and motivated me too keep going. However, there was still some time. 

Early Morning

Around 6am I had been somewhat nauseous, so we finally called the midwife and decided we could start moving in that direction. Around 7am we arrived at the birth center and got settled there with some more intense waves. My cervix was checked, but we asked that the midwife not share the information with me. I simply told myself that I was at 8 centimeters already and that it would not be much longer. By 8:30 I had thrown up and was having more consistent and intense waves. 

Close to 9am I was able to get in the tub and shortly after that, we saw bubbles in the tub. Eventually I had slight pushy feelings and at one point felt some pressure below and heard a big pop! I looked around and said what was that?! They told me it was my water breaking. Things were moving along. The tub was nice and warm and I moved back and forth between a hands and knees position to laying back in Teddy’s arms. At some point he read the notecards we had prepared with scriptures and affirmations and it was one of my favorite parts of the birthing process. It brought me peace and motivation to keep going.

Around 11:40 I moved back to the hands and knees position and started pushing. This time  to me seemed like an eternity and was a huge mental battle. At one point during this stage, I contemplated my “options” since it seemed like this baby would never come out. I thought it was probably too late to get an epidural and I definitely was not going to opt for a c-section at this point after all the work I had done. I prayed to God and finally surrendered to him that I was weak and could not do this on my own. I asked him to be stronger in my weakness. With each push I had started to get discouraged that I was not going fast enough or doing the whole birth thing good enough. I surrendered over and over in my mind, knowing Jesus would carry me through. Apparently during this time I seemed still so full of peace and determination that no one in the room would have known what was happening in my mind. 

Finally, after straining and pushing for close to 2 hours, I heard the midwife tell me to reach down and pick up my baby. She was born and in an instant it was over. I felt bewildered and amazed and overwhelmed with love as I pulled my baby up from the water. Teddy came behind me and we gazed at the beauty covered in so much vernix as she let out her wail and eventually calmed as she laid on my chest. 

After a few minutes of skin to skin, it was time to get out of the tub and into the bed. While still holding our sweet Thea, and her umbilical cord still attached to the placenta inside of me, my birth team helped me out of the water and waddled across the room and into the bed. We had done it! I could barely see much besides my babies face as my eyes hurt from the pushing. 

Teddy hopped in bed next to me to cuddle our new babe and cut the cord. During our shared skin to skin time, I finaly asked the question that had been gnawing at my mind the whole time, “how many centimeters was I when we first came in?!”  He and my birth team shared that I was 5 centimeters (normally to be admitted you have to be at 6), but that I was 80% effaced and “very stretchy.” My whole birth team knew and continued to encourage me. I was so thankful that I did NOT know that information or I would have been greatly discouraged. I truly think that is part of what helped me to enjoy the process. Maybe sometimes ignorance is bliss. 

Our desire was for our birth experience to be a holy one, full of worship, peace, and love. Our sweet Thea was born on a Sunday, with prayer and scripture spoken while I was in that tub. Our act of worship that Sunday morning was a labor of love and surrender. 

I am so thankful to my birthing team:

Teddy, who was the greatest partner and husband in this process and I felt so comfortable with him by my side almost the entire time. He brought peace and love into the process and I could not have done it without him.

My mom, who took care of me and Teddy, and our doula to ensure that everything went smoothly. She also prepared our house so we could come home after 12 hours to a peaceful environment and then stayed for 4 days to ease the transiiton.

Aly McClain, our doula, for the encouragement, knowledge, skills, and intuition to keep that little bit of info from me in order to help us all with a beautiful birthing process.

Andrea Showers, our hypnobabies instructor for preparing us and equipping us with some great tools to get the birth that we desired. 

Rachael, our midwife, whom we never met before that day (though we had intended to), and who waited patiently and encouraged sweetly throughout the whole process. 

Erica and Heather, the other two midwives who helped us during the pregnancy process.

CHI Immanuel Birthing Center for creating a home-like environment.

Also thanks to each person who prayed for us, brought us meals, gifted us with baby gear, or more. We so appreciate the community who supports us!

Surrender: A Birth Story Part 1

Surrender: A Birth Story Part 1

Part 1: Pregnancy and Preparing for Birth

Birth is such a beautiful journey that many undertake and many misconstrue, turn into an argument or judgment or make some kind of competition. That is not my purpose today. My purpose today is to share my story, the birth of my firstborn, Thea, and the preparations that led up to it. I hope that through my story, maybe you can learn something, and I pray that it will fill you with hope and joy! 

We found out we were pregnant on a Monday morning in October, right before going to work! Not the best timing but something so excited nonetheless. A secret we had to keep for several weeks. That time seemed to bring us more together since we and God alone knew what joys were to come.

I found being pregnant enjoyable and such a beautiful, unforgettable experience. I did have some sickness in those early weeks, but I counted it as a joy, because I knew what was to come! Being pregnant seemed to connect me to a new inner world where I prayed more, was more aware and mindful of what was going on around me and especially what was going on inside of me. I wanted to fill my body with good fuel and fill my mind with joy and love. I often felt that my sweet child could read my mind, so I wanted my mind to be filled with love and good things. I think this became a beneficial mindset that helped me throughout the rest of pregnancy and prepared me for birth. Studies show that stress does impact children in the womb, so I understand now how important it is to be as stress free as possible during pregnancy!

We decided early on, before making our first appointment that we wanted to go the natural route and for us, that meant going with a midwife as our care provider. We chose a birth center located inside a hospital as it seemed to be the best of both worlds to satisfy all parties. We then began looking for a doula and immediately I knew of an acquaintance I had seen post about being a doula on facebook. I contacted her and we attended an info session. She seemed great and so we hired her shortly afterwards. Our thought in hiring a doula was so we could be as prepared as possible and also to have someone knowledgeable by our sides to help us plan and carry out the birth that we desired. 

About midway through our pregnancy, we were told that in order to birth at the birth center, we would need to take some kind of birthing class to help us prepare. As the midwife was listing off several options, one in particular stood out to me. I quickly began researching “Hypnobirthing” in Omaha and came across Omaha Birth and Babies’ Andrea Showers. I quickly asked my doula if she had heard of her and they were apparently friends. Soon, we were signed up to begin our hypnobirthing classes!

Hypnobabies

We started our 6 week course and began faithfully completing ALL THE HOMEWORK. During that 6 week timeframe, we would meet once on Sunday for 3ish hours, then go home and each day would have 1-2 hours of homework. The homework included listening to tracks (some you could fall asleep to, others you had to be alert but relaxed). I think these tracks are what helped me sleep so well during pregnancy because the whole point was to relax! Hypnobabies changes your mindset about birth through self-hypnosis and also changes some of the terms. Instead of contractions, they are called pressure waves. Instead of talking about pain, we talk about comfort and discomfort. Some people even say they had pain-free births using these techniques.

One of my favorite parts about Hypnobabies was how involved the partner was expected to be. This helped train Teddy and I on how to work together and communicate with each other during our birthing time. He was preparing to be an ACTIVE PARTICIPANT- not just a bystander. 

For the rest of our pregnancy, we would listen to 1-2 hypnobabies tracks a day, as well as my “Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations” track which helped me to maintain a positive mindset about pregnancy and birth. This seemed to be a tedious process at times, but I believe the time invested really paid off in enjoying the majority of pregnancy and birth.

One day closer to spring

One day closer to spring

Though the winter is long and the night is dark

There is still one thing we can remind our hearts,

We are one day closer to spring

We are one day closer to spring.

When the wind whips cold and the snow has grown old, but still the ground is hard as gold,

One thing remains, let our minds be told

We are one day closer to spring

We are one day closer to spring.

When the ice is thick and we try not to slip,

We slide around and even get frost nip

One flame remains, we will keep it lit,

We are one day closer to spring

We are one day closer to spring.

Though our faces still sting, each time we bring,

Ourselves outside, to go to anything,

To the truth we will cling, and this chorus we will sing:

We are one day closer to spring

We are one day closer to spring.

-Ella Young

Embrace Gifts

Embrace Gifts

Christmas is the time of the year where it seems to be all about GIFTS. We celebrate the gift of God’s son, Jesus, coming to the world, but we also spend LOTs of time and money on gifts for each other and, let’s be honest, sometimes ourselves. Tis the season for gifting and regifting, and sometimes forgetting the daily gifts we have around us each day.

As I am winding down the year with my word, EMBRACE, and headed into a new year of life, and a new mindset of pregnancy and motherhood, I am trying to stay mindful of the gifts that are all around me.

I know this child inside of me is a GIFT. I have felt that from the very start, and I pray that my husband and I can steward our gift well! When I first fell in love with my husband and ever since, I have thanked God for the GIFT that he is in my life.

The more I have thought about gifts, both tangible and intangible, I realized I have gifts surrounding me each and every day.

The gift of my family who raised me and sent me out into the world with so much love and support.

The gift of a new job and coworkers as I learn and grow to be a better counselor.

The gift of a church family and friend group who pursue Jesus and seek to show his love in the world.

The gift of friends near and far, with whom I can connect with on soul levels and rejoice at each monumental step along the way.

The gift of a slow morning every now and then, reminding me that even Jesus took the time to rest.

The gift of fresh, crisp winter air as I walk outside, when normally I would have complained about the cold.

The gift of a cool drink of water, as I prepare for my day or for bed.

It is amazing the place my mind and heart have started to settle into as I have intentionally chosen to EMBRACE this past year.

As we remember this past year of 2018 and look forward to the new year of 2019, I would encourage you to set an intention, a word or theme for your next year. Maybe you will not achieve every single one of your goals to the full (I sure did NOT), but you may gain a new mindset and heartset as you choose to walk forward in faith and remember with new eyes.

 

Each day is a gift, each breath is a gift, and I pray we embrace it all!

To Listen is to Love

To Listen is to Love

God has given me a gift,

the gift of what can be,

in people and in places,

and every thing I meet.

I often see potential

of glory from within,

the transformation story

if we just listen.

 

Who have you listened to this week? Who has felt valued by you? There is a world that wants to be heard and only the few who are willing to listen long enough to make a difference. Will you listen?

5 Healthy Marriage Habits

5 Healthy Marriage Habits

My sweet Theardis and I are coming up on 2 years of marriage. We have enjoyed many ups and downs doing life together and learning what it truly means to be “Better Together.”

In the midst of life, it is often the regular disciplines and habits that help us stay the course to meet goals, accomplish successes, and get stuff done. What we are realizing more and more, is how habits can create health in a marriage. When two busy people consistently make time to communicate and connect, it can foster intimacy and build trust that are both insanely crucial to the relationship.

I have compiled a short list of marriage habits that we have found useful. This is no way a comprehensive list. However, these are things that have benefitted us, and countless other couples, some of whom I have had the privilege of helping. All of these things can be done (to some extent) with kids or without.

  1. Praying together. This may look different for all couples, and can also look different in different seasons of life. Maybe you pray together before work, or at the end of the day, before meals, or through text/email or phone calls. Sometimes, we will use one night a month to journal and pray together, in order to get us on the same page spiritually.
  2. Going to bed together. This may be a difficult one for those who are in seasons of working opposite schedules or with children, but can I say, it makes a world of difference to start and end your day on the same page, in the same bed, as your spouse. The act of being in bed together increases the possibility of communication and physical connection – both huge health indicators in marriage. (AKA more SEX).
  3. Eating dinner together. There is something that happens over a shared meal that brings people together. Food and love and family seem to go hand in hand in cultures around the world, but sometimes we get caught up in the day-to-day rush and lose the intimacy of a shared meal.
  4. Weekly date nights. This is one we have learned from several great examples through our church family and friends. When we intentionally take the time to date our spouse, it helps us continue getting to know them. This can mean trying new things, looking nice for each other, and investing in shared experiences. It basically communicates to each other that you still find the other attractive and worthy of your time. A weekly date night is a great place to use a tool we have come to love called the Navigator’s Council. It’s a handy book that helps us stay on the same page and check in regularly about the nature and status of our relationship through six simple questions.
  5. S-E-X. This goes hand in hand with going to bed at the same time. It’s a whole lot easier to have sex when you’re both in the same room…  From my personal experience as well as research in marriage therapy, many of the above habits of connecting and communicating can feed into a more satisfied sex life. If you have a hard time talking about sex, check out Gottman Card Decks, which will not only provide topics to discuss like sex and intimacy, but can also give you some mild, medium, or spicy ideas on new things to try together. You will also find various prompts on how to connect with each other and create more “rituals for connection. “

What are some habits YOU do to stay connected in your marriage?

Other Marriage Resources:

Marriage 365

#staymarriedblog

Marriage Today

Family Life

Embrace Small Deaths

Embrace Small Deaths

Death is not normally a topic that is commonplace in our society today.  It is something everyone reaches eventually, but the majority of people try to avoid as long as possible, whether in their own life, or even in conversation. Today I’m not writing about death in the traditional sense, but more about the many small deaths we experience of ourselves, our ideas about the future, and expectations of other people.

Wee may die a series of small deaths each day or see these deaths happen over a longer period of time. Either way, we encounter death more often than we think, and for some, it is not welcome. Sometimes, not embracing small deaths can mean that we are holding ourselves back from something better.

I shared earlier in a post that the process of grief is not solely for the death of a person in our lives, but it can be for the end  of experiences, friendships, and seasons. Similarly, dying to ourselves can take on that death-like process, which may be painful and cause grief but can produce beautiful results.

What exactly is ‘dying to yourself’?

When we die to ourselves, we are saying to God, “I surrender, you are in control. You will provide. You will make all things new. Because of you, I no longer have to live in bondage or chains.” Scripture uses baptism as a tangible picture of this death and new life. When we go into the water, it is a physical representation of dying and coming up reborn into a new life – a life proclaiming Christ. Dying to ourselves is both a one time decision (initially) and an ongoing learning process called sanctification.

God’s kingdom is not like this world. In the eyes of the world, his kingdom is upside down. We start to see that the way we get to some of his greatest plans for our life come through some of the most unconventional ways. For example, we see in scripture that when we lose our life (ie. death) for Christ, we find it (Matthew 10:39). The Bible is full of these kind of references where we lose or give up our life in exchange for something better and eternal. We die not only to ourselves (the flesh), but we die to sin, to an old way of life, and to our idea of control for our life.

When we choose to give up our ideas for our life and give it over to God, we slowly start to look different. We may gain a different vocabulary, a new life motto, and a new perspective. This process takes time and might not be the most comfortable.

Death is essential for growth.

Lately, I have had to die to my ideas of perfection and how it can somehow be achieved this side of heaven. The desire, I believe, was placed in my soul by Christ, but it can only be fulfilled through him, and only in its entirety once we get to heaven. This has looked different for me, as my eyes are opened to my own sinfulness, selfishness, and brokenness. I make mistakes, disappoint people, and God is still sovereign.

This small death of my idea of perfection is one of thousands. Some things I have learned the easy way through the experiences and wisdom of other people, and some I have learned the hard way through my own failure or inability. Each time, I am reminded that my dependence on myself is dying, and my dependence on God is growing.

Just as branches from a fruit tree are pruned off and die, the whole purpose is so the rest of the tree can bear fruit that is much more flavorful and delicious!

 

What small death is God calling you to die today?

Is it your ideas for your future? Your timeline for your future? Your expectations for your loved ones? Your desire for fame and wealth?

What are you going to die to today in order to find new life and grow?

 

John 12:24 ESV

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Romans 6:1-23 ESV

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 12:1 ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

John 15:1-27 ESV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. …