On August 2nd, I gave birth to our son, Shasta. The entire experience was so beautiful and filled with healing. My body–with a decade of pain, grief, and struggling–was invited into something wonderful and breathtaking. This body–the one I’ve wrestled with and grieved for–became a vessel for giving birth to a living, breathing soul. Giving birth is far less about my strength and stamina as a woman, and more about receiving the otherworldly, stunning gift of childbirth. I can’t believe it’s part of my story.
But there it was.
And here I am.
While I write this our little boy is intermittently making all sorts of sounds from the bedroom. He’s so much fun. Giving birth was profound and beautiful and healing, but I think most of this post will be peppered with humor. And I love that too. This photo was taken August 1st while I was in early labor. It would take many more hours for my son to make his grand appearance. And yes, bathroom selfies are the least classy of all millennial photographic skills, but here we are. 🙂
So, let’s rewind.
To be frank, I didn’t think I’d go into labor on my own. It seems as though so many years of chronic pain has oft given me the underlying feeling of “failure” and a sense of just not trusting my body to “work.” Of course, I don’t consciously live under that assumption (I’ve gained a lot of freedom + confidence over the years!), but when push comes to shove and the hormones rage ( 🙂 ), and your body is actually preparing itself for childbirth, some of those underlying things you STILL need to work through explode to the surface and you MIGHT just end up crying profusely in the car on the way to the grocery store. It could happen. It’s a strong possibility. 🙂 HA!
That was Friday. But when Saturday morning rolled around, early labor officially began. Now, a gentle labor prologue began on Friday night (a few hours after my grocery store sob), but Saturday was the first full day of actual early labor. I didn’t feel terrible, but I also didn’t feel like a frolicking unicorn. On Saturday evening we went to the hospital to be sure my water hadn’t broken, because there had been some suspicious happenings and I didn’t feel comfortable with how slow things were moving if my water had indeed broken.
I also picked some zinnias before we left. Because, obviously, I had to! TA-DA!
Well, lo & behold, no broken water! So, we let labor keep progressing at home. All in all, I labored at home for about a day and a half. YES! You read that right. A day and a half!
By late Sunday morning, I was in a lot of pain and had been instructed by my doctor to come in Sunday morning no matter what.
(Here’s something fun I got to do: while in labor, I got to stand at the ER door with my mask on, get my temperature checked, and answer questions about coughing and sore throats. So, so fun. Loved that for me. JUST LET ME IN ALREADY! HA!)
Well, there we were. . .a day and a half into labor, and I discover my results for the C-word-that-shall-not-be-named test that I had done a couple days prior hadn’t come through yet. So, the nurse stuck that awful fuzzy q-tip (not what it is, but ya know, best I can do for description) up my nose and dug around for awhile. Remember, I am A DAY AND A HALF INTO LABOR. No, I wasn’t in the transition phase yet, but my body had been through plenty up to that point. Take that thing out of my nose, please and thank youuuu!
Until my test came back, the nurses had to suit up in their space science gear. By the way, my primary nurses were wonderful! And we actually weren’t headed into space, but man! That gear! One of my nurses just felt so bad about how the C-word-that-shall-not-be-named had affected things for me. After the test *finally came back negative, I was then given the okay to labor in water, but uh, I didn’t last long because I felt like I was dying. Or maybe a cow was dying. (If you know, you know! Ha-ha!)
By this point, I needed to make a decision about the epidural. My birth plan was to take it step by step and make decisions about pain management and medication as needed. By now in the laborious game, I’m in the transition phase, and I’m doing some self-assessment (which I’m very good at, having lived with chronic pain & limitations for a decade now). I was on the cusp of a migraine, emotionally and physically drained, and I knew if I was going to have the energy + strength to push, enjoy giving birth, and give birth without more medical assistance, then I would need to say yes to the epidural. This wasn’t something I was jumping up and down to do, but I did say a prettyyyyy fast & hearty yes after I learned it would take them about an hour to even get in my room to administer!
I had some slight pain reliever given an hour or so after arriving at the the hospital, but nothing more since then. By the time they got the epidural in, I was at a happy 9.5. Definitely not frolicking unicorn material!
A few hours passed, I got some rest, ate some jello and broth (which I’d throw up later, #noregets), and waited. My concept of time during the last 11 hours of laboring in the hospital is pretty much non-existent. So I’m not sure when I labored in water, or when I got the epidural, or when I ate the jello, or when the doctor said it was time to push, or how long I did push, but I do know I was so happy to finally push. I was as ecstatic as you could be while encroaching on two days of labor.
(I may have been frolicking unicorn material by then. . .not pretty by any means, but frolicking. . . yes, MAYBE!)
I made jokes with my nurses, laughed in between pushing, and really got to be present for the last stretch of labor. We were huddled together in a team effort to bring life into the world. Laughter poured from me and surrounded me, and it seems profound that we could welcome him here without fear or trepidation. I loved bringing our Shasta into the world with such liveliness and lightheartedness. So, life won. Hope won. God won. And. . .life wins. Hope wins. God wins. This is our theme here on earth!
And it punctuated Shasta’s birthday.
Less than a minute after Shasta was born, he was on my chest, and I was crying. Years of waiting. Months of anticipation. Two days of labor. My son. The joy of birth is palpable. The whole of it is unreal. But there we were. . .right in the middle of it with laughter and tears and pain and exhaustion.
We named our son Shasta after Mount Shasta in Northern CA so he could have a mountain name like mine (Sierra), but we also chose Shasta because that’s a favorite character of Ben’s in the C.S. Lewis book, The Horse and His Boy. I later learned my Great Grandpa helped build the Shasta Dam so the name holds even more significance for us!
It feels incredibly special that God invites our pain-ridden, limited, aching bodies to do the work of childbirth, to be on the front-lines of another soul entering this world. It may be hard and painful, but it’s also a glimpse of glory! Childbirth certainly doesn’t make us more worthy or more important, but it is truly a beautiful thing to experience, a celebration to embrace, a gift to receive!
So, here we are as a family of three instead of two in a home of hormones (they’re subsiding very nicely, haha!), and at the starting line of a wonder-filled, diaper-filled beginning. We love our boy, and I look forward to celebrating his first birthday and recalling the gift I received in bringing him into this world. What evidence of God to laugh so freely and know great joy in a world as dark and chaotic as this! What a life we have! And how glorious and powerful to witness new life entering in.
Birthdays are just so good.