Our first sunflower of the season bloomed in the second week of July. I love sunflowers. They remind me of the summer I was pregnant with my son. That first time experiencing all the emotions that come with the final weeks of pregnancy, the excitement, the unknown, and the natural way your mind just starts preparing and anticipating for a very real labor of love.
I ate my share of strawberries summer 2020, grew sunflowers for the very first time, took pictures under the sunflower’s giant shower head, passed the time watching makeup videos on YouTube (I know, it doesn’t seem like I would enjoy those, but I do!), took walks, bounced on the ole pregnancy ball, picked zinnias in early labor, and eventually, after a loooong labor and a laughter-filled delivery, I brought my firstborn son home to sunflowers.
Summer used to be so hard.
Then God gave me my son born in the summer in August. And sunflowers made up the backdrop.
What a love story.❤ Naturally, the ground squirrles ravaged those sunflowers soon after. They bent low and looked a bit like mayhem, but sunflowers remain such a celebration of summertime and a reminder of the beautiful summer I experienced. . .and right in the midst of 2020 when the world and everyone felt as though we were falling apart at the seams.
We still deal with that fallout today, but 2020 was not only anger, confusion, angst, and scares. It was sunflowers, and babies, and laughter, and hospital rooms bursting with new life, and moms rocking their babies to sleep, and men learning how to be dads. And loving it.
In 2021 when I was pregnant with my daughter, I wrote a poem that seems fitting to share in this post. We can live so scared of the times and we can be fearful for our children, but neither is how God wants us to go about birth, or parenthood, or birthdays, or life spent here. . .in this broken world.
BIRTH IN TIMES LIKE THESE
They said it would be too scary to bring a baby into this kind of world.
As if someone’s birthday shouldn’t happen because we think only in nightmares.
As if the weight of our worry is their reality forever.
As if we are the pirates of all peace and goodness.
As if God ran out of His beauty and power and kindness and love the moment we grew up to give birth to the children we wouldn’t even have without the hand of God.
Maybe it would be scary if it was me who brought this baby instead of God who brought this baby to me.
but it’s just me in an invitation to hold my baby and see so many good things happen after naively believing only nightmares come true.
Summer sun in the sky and summer son beneath sunflowers. My arms are open wide to life earthside. I will celebrate all that is good and lovely with thanks to God the Most High. My stakes are in the ground.
The surprise of my life came again with two pink lines. Pregnant! And so soon! A day after we found out, my midwife texted me out of the blue. It was such fun timing. Soon after I texted back and told her we had just found out we were pregnant. We’d only known roughly two days before telling our midwife the happy news.
From that point on, my midwife and I planned and anticipated her to be at my little girl’s birth. The next nine months came and went with sickness, exhaustion, excitement, fear, anemia, laughter, anticipation, good conversations and appointments with my midwife, and life, life, life.
A few weeks leading up to my April 1st due date, my midwife let me know there were two days she would be gone. This was something she couldn’t change although she tried. She didn’t tell me the specific days, only that there were two and if I went a little past my due date. . .that’d be good. So, I had a little time to prepare for the possibility she wouldn’t be there. Having missed Shasta’s birth coupled with our bond + friendship made this a birth my midwife was determined to be there for. I was glad she would be! She has made all the difference in my pregnancy, birthing, and early motherhood journey. She’s gold!
Then comes the morning of March 29th.
My plans for aftercare in early post-partum were unexpectedly shuffled around. When I found out, I couldn’t stop crying. Up till now, I had remained exhausted but fairly emotionally stable. But this tipped the scale. And though the shuffle made complete sense, I was disappointed! Suddenly I found myself with question marks where I had answers before.
That morning, Ben and I shared a smile saying something like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I went into labor tonight?” An emotional breakdown signaled Shasta’s labor and maybe those uncontrollable tears are my body’s way of preparing to give birth. At that point, we didn’t know, but it was a fun thought! (And we were right!)
For the rest of that day, our little girl was quiet as a mouse. She was so peaceful. There were no true signs. That evening I had so much emotion welling inside me. I felt overwhelmed, unable. Everything seemed daunting. My parents were here for the days leading up to and directly past my due date, but plans still needed set if I went “late” (quotations because babies come when babies come, ha!).
I found myself in Psalm 46. “God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and groan, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” And then I added my own “thoughs.” Though I’m exhausted. Though I don’t know how to care for two kids. Though this. Though that. And I ended that Psalm prayer with the end of that chapter. . . “Be still and know that I am God.” I prayed in my journal more, just so in need of God. I couldn’t do any of this without Him. Indeed, my very present Help.
Somehow I ended up in Psalm 18 and there were verses that spoke straight to my heart, surrounding me and holding me up in peace and courage. But it was verse 29 that became my anthem. “For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.” I am no stranger to this verse. It has been a life jacket during my years of chronic pain. It’s one of my favorite pages in my son’s board book on the Psalms. (He likes it too.) So, in all CAPS I wrote, “IT IS ALL YOU.”
Mere minutes after my prayers through the Psalms, I felt my little girl like a rocket ship getting into position. That is truly the best way to describe how it felt. Contractions began steady and purposeful. But I wasn’t ready to call anything. I let this go for awhile and didn’t tell Ben. Once he knew, there’d be no sleep in the cards for him. No need to get him worked up if this wasn’t true labor!
A couple hours later, I decided to move to the couch which is infinitely more comfortable when you’re unwell! Ben heard me and asked me, “What’s up?” He’s always on high alert in the weeks leading up to birth! I told him I had been having contractions, but I wasn’t ready to call anything yet. Before I could get comfortable on the couch, it became a bit more clear that. .uh, yeah. . . this is probably for real. I go back into the room to tell Ben something along the lines of, “Never mind, it’s happening.” But it wasn’t time for the hospital yet!
So, I got comfortable and labored for a couple more hours before we decided it was time to call my Mom over to the house to care for Shasta while we went to the hospital.
Dad said, “Okay you guys, go have a baby.”
Off we went.
And then back we came, because I forgot my I.D. and insurance card. Hahaha! Thankfully we hadn’t been too far on the dirt road of potholes yet.
So off we went again.
The drive was quite bearable. Our conversation was sweet. I breathed and moved through my contractions well. I told Ben about Psalm 18 and there we were at the hospital. Upon arrival around 5 a.m. (??), I was 3.5 centimeters. I had texted my midwife some hours before while laboring at home.
And of course, March 30, was the last of the two days she was gone.
I got situated in the hospital and continued laboring. The nurse brought my husband a cup of coffee from (I’m assuming) the nurse’s lounge because she said the cafeteria wasn’t opened yet. She was the absolute best! I tried to labor on the birthing ball which was just a bad choice. Haha. I didn’t last long! I found a good position during contractions to labor in bed. I jumped from 3.5 centimeters to 7 in no time at all. Throughout this, my midwife was texting me. She was hoping to make it back for little girl’s entrance. But labor was moving fast. I still felt my midwife by my side even though she wasn’t right by my side.
And then at some point, I felt my water break. And it BROKE. Like in the movies. It was right up there with one of the most uncomfortable parts of labor. With bug eyes, I gasped to Ben, “My water just broke!” The nurse changed out the bedding. I labored, holding tight to Ben, and somewhere along the way. . .I noticed her tattoo.
You are my sunshine.
She was the same nurse I had for Shasta! The nurse I remembered most from my son’s birthday. She explained her “You are my sunshine” tattoo as the song she would sing to her daughter. It was a song passed down between mother and daughter and it was apparent that You Are My Sunshine was a lullaby etched deep in her family history. I decided to tie that story to mine and sing that song to Shasta as part of our good night routine. It felt special to let her tradition live on in my family.
“You’re the nurse! You’re the one who was with us for Shasta! We sing ‘You Are My Sunshine‘ to him every night!”
It was an amazing discovery.
She added to the story saying that in the last year or so she now has a grandaughter to whom she sings the song. It was such a special gift to have the same nurse, to get her name (because I could not remember!), to tell her we sing that song to our son, to hear the story is living on in her family. With my midwife unable to be there, I truly believe God gave me this specific nurse, a sense of familiarity, a really beautiful extenstion of Shasta’s birth to his sister’s, refreshment to my heart!
I kept meditating on Psalm 18:29, said yes to the epidural, was behind one other woman, then they changed their mind. I needed it first. My body was moving fast. We were close. Getting the epidural took awhile. I struggled with positioning. When baby is that low, it’s hard to sit! I continued breathing and calmly moving my way through contractions slow and steady.
My nurse and Ben were so present for me throughout the pain. There was such a contrast between the gentle comfort they provided and the intensity of the pain. It was beautiful to feel the gentleness of their comfort, but it did not erase the pain. It could not! I felt the pain and comfort simultaneously but separately. The comfort carried me through the pain, but not away from it. There’s a lesson in that, I think.
After the epidural (administered by the same anesthesiologist from Shasta’s birth), I managed to get some rest. The epidural only dulled the top half of the contraction, but allowed me to feel the pressure and urge to push. I was thankful for the relief.
Not only was my nurse and anesthesiologist the same from Shasta’s birth, but without my midwife there, the doctor delivering was the same too. Initially when I had arrived she wasn’t on shift, but I was determined to stay pregnant until she was! (As if I had control, heeheheee.)
If my midwife couldn’t be there, the only other person I wanted delivering my daughter was the one who delivered my son and took care of me so well. (I was told later that her delivery of Shasta was one of her first births at this hospital!) She came in, checked on me and the baby who was, in her words, “happy as a clam!”. And that was that. The baby was coming soon, but we were going to let this baby labor down.
My midwife was watching the strip from afar, sending me a video with her love, and Ben snapped a terrrrrible selfie of us and my disheveled self with a thumbs up to send her way. There was no way this baby was going to wait for anyone.
Around 12 p.m. (I’m assuming times here), it was time to really have this baby. I’m not sure how often I looked at my nurse like a wild woman saying something like, “I can feel this baby!” And at some point in the birthing process, my nurse asked how I was doing to which I replied, “Well, pushing a human out isn’t really my cup of tea!” There was laughter and then we just kept on laboring together. If you’ve ever given birth or attended one, you know it’s a group effort. I find that so beautiful.
The actual pushing was short, and I truly did not know how I would do it. God absolutely carried me through my daughter’s birth in every way.
And there she was!
While my daughter laid on my chest, the doctor took care of me and a nurse helped my baby along until they heard the hearty cry they were happy with. She was just fine. 12:31 P.M. Eight pounds, 5 ounces of complete miracle, of whirlwind life, of spring.
After Heidi was born and all was well with myself and baby, my wonderful doctor said almost as though she was talking to herself,
“Congratulations. That was a beautiful, beautiful thing.”
We named her Heidi, because my husband and I just love the name. I think most people identify Heidi as a cute name and it is, but I find it rather strong and spirited. Odeletta was a name we discovered along the way meaning “little spring.” I didn’t know if Ben would go for it, because Heidi Odeletta sounds a bit like yodeling, but Ben loved it. The more I say it, the less like yodeling I find it and the more like singing it is.
Heidi Odeletta, our spring girl!
My midwife came to visit us the next morning. We had both spent months looking forward to Heidi’s birth as something we would do side by side, but as we talked about things that happened before and during her birthday, it was so abundantly and beautifully clear to me that Heidi Letta’s birth was purposeful in every detail imaginable. Suddenly, my doctor’s words, “That was a beautiful, beautiful thing” made more sense. It was her all along who needed to be at Heidi’s birth. It took awhile for the reality of my midwife not being there to sink in, but it began to around Day 3 postpartum. And while I have cried more than once about my midwife being unable to make Heidi Letta’s birth, the lingering sadness cannot steal the beautiful and purposeful way in which God brought her into the world exactly as He did. His hand was gently + powerfully everywhere.
Truly I have lived the words, “You are He (God) who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of You.” Psalm 71:6.
Heidi already holds such a life story, such a story of life.
God is kind and He is good. I love how He brought our Heidi Odeletta to us. I love that the Psalms hold true. That God carried us into such a miracle as this and continues to sustain us through the exhaustion, tears, emotions, newness, and love that is always too big for us to hold on our own.
My prayer now in these sweet, overwhelming, hard, lovely newborn days is “Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because He trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3.
Happiest of Birthdays, my Heidi Odeletta, our spring girl! You are my sunshine. As is your brother. And God is our Light.
Your birth is going to beautiful. And if it isn’t. . .if the trauma pulsates beyond the birth, there will be healing for that. And that journey alongside God will be intimate and, yes, even beautiful in surprising ways.
You don’t have to be afraid.
I am so excited for you.
In the minutes and seconds before you meet your baby, the veil between heaven and earth will feel very thin. And how precious those moments are.
I am so excited for you.
There will be gifts from God even beyond the birth of your child. Mine was laughter. The laughter shared in that hospital room remains one of the most special gifts I received during childbirth. Those good gifts from God won’t be hard to find as you lean on Him to bring life into the world.
I am so excited for you.
When your baby is placed on your chest and you’re finally skin to skin, it will feel like coming home. And you may not know what you’re doing, but you’ve always been home to your baby. Just keep being home.
I am so excited for you.
Giving birth will not make you more of a woman, yet it is an inexplicably beautiful thing to experience as a woman. That experience may include an epidural, a C-section, inducement, pitocin, (etc & so on). None of these things take away from your value as a woman or the beauty you can (& will!) experience bringing life into the world.
I am so excited for you.
You’re going to cry a lot. And there will be hard things. But I bet you anything, the good you’re about see, the fun you’re about to have, the joy you’re about to feel . . .it all outweighs the hard. (Or one day, it will.)
I am so excited for you.
You birth and motherhood experience will be your own. Let it be your own. But some of the best advice I received at 37 weeks was: expectthebest.
There are so many things that will go well. There is so much happiness to be had from the moment you hear that first cry. There will be nights you hit the pillow and you’re just so excited to see your baby in the morning all over again. There is so much good here and so much good on the way.
I am so excited for you.
And I can’t say it enough.
So, I’ll leave you with some thoughts I wrote down while waiting for our Shasta-boy. The closer you get, the harder it is to wait. . .
Because yes, good things are coming!
But these simple thoughts helped me while I waited:
I will enjoy the excitement!
It is fun to anticpate his arrival. ❤
I will expect THE BEST!
I will not miss the good things in my life TODAY!
I can look forward-AND-fully live here.
I will intentionally live this hour of my life!
I will NOT rush past this season.
I am excited in the wait & NOT frustrated.
I will celebrate! that every day waiting brings me closer to your birthday!
My body is actively preparing for a healthy birth.
I will LOVE Shasta’sbirthday.
Your baby’s birthday is right when it should be and you are about to experience some of the most fun you’ve ever had. And for anything that’s painful and hard and not as it should be. . .well, there’s healing for that, for you, for your baby. God does beauty in the impossible. God does life. God restores. So, either way. . .you are about to witness good things, joyful things, miraculous things.
I am so excited for you.
May I be the first to wish your baby a very Happy Birthday.