The domino

 Some people have said that we are resilient. That we have persisted, and held on to hope.

The truth is … Last year at this time I was ready to call it quits. I asked Ryan for a vasectomy. He said, “I don’t think we’re done.” I told him my body had already made the decision for us. 

After 5 losses — none of which seemed to have any underlying issues we could treat — the idea of trying again seemed ridiculous.

But I thought back to the years he was willing to try to conceive — against his own fear —  just for me. I didn’t want him to ever resent me for saying no. And so, a few weeks later, I agreed to not start birth control again, and we would just see.

Before Ryan and I had this conversation, I had recently attended IF:Gathering (a conference for Christian women). It was both amazing and brutal. Z had recently left, and I swore I wore my beat-up, broken heart right on my sleeve.

 At the end of the conference, we had to pull out a domino from a hat, and write on the back of it a decision we were going to make for God. (Signifying that when we each do the one thing we are called to do, it creates a domino effect that only God could orchestrate.)

On my domino, I had two dots across one side, and on the other side, it was blank. 

Instantly the blank side looked like the hole Z had just left in our family, and the two dots represented my girls.

 All weekend long, I felt God was telling me, “Keep your home and your heart open … I have another child to fill that space.” 

For God, the space wasn’t emptiness as I saw it, but an opportunity for us to love another child.

I wrestled and wrestled with God all weekend. I assumed He wanted us to keep Z’s space open for another foster child. But I didn’t know how I would ever return a child home again. Or even open myself up to the possibility. 

But God won me over that weekend, and I committed publicly that I would remain open to whatever child He had planned, whether that was to keep a child through adoption, or return them through foster care. What I never even considered was that God had something different — someone different — in mind.

 Just weeks later, we found out we were pregnant with Eleanor. 
Eleanor means “a bright, shining light” … And that is exactly what she has been through this year following the return home of Z and multiple losses. She is a light in what could have been a season of darkness. 

“Grace” means the unmerited favor of God. 
Medically, we have no idea why she stuck around, and not our other babies. But, I believe in God and I believe in miracles.

 And I believe that while God never owed us anything following our losses or Z’s return … he did choose to show us unearned, unmerited favor. He chose to give us Grace.

So this is our baby. Our sweet gift from God, shining such hope and light into our world.

We are so thankful for you baby girl. You complete us.

My victory cry

This morning as I made pancakes, I put on a show I never thought I would watch. A show called One Born Every Minute.

It’s a “documentary” showcasing 2-3 couples during labor & delivery.

Not normally my cup of tea. (And since it’s filmed in the UK, there’s a lot of tea to be had.)

But since our baby girl seems to be sticking around for now, I wanted to keep my mind focused on normalizing birth. Because the dang truth of it is …. I’m terrified of giving birth.

Now at this point, you might say, “Well, Rachel, given your experience … Being scared of birth makes sense.”

And I’d have to say, NOPE. This is actually me not being scared of pre-e, or HELLP, or even an emergency c-section. I’ve lived through those, I have an idea of what to expect, and I know how I want to plan for those contingencies.

What I am terrified of is regular old labor. The dilating. The cramping. The losing control over your emotions. The ring of fire. The pushing. The bring terrified of popping while pushing. (Not because of the shame … I’m already over that. But because Zofran has seriously already made pooping feel like giving birth. So I don’t want to give birth at both ends at one time! And yes — this is an actual fear of mine.)

I’m terrified … Terrified … That I’m not strong enough. That I’ll be a wus, dilated to 1 cm, screaming for an epidural. That all the nurses and my OB will roll their eyes behind my back and whisper “what a  drama queen.”

This is of course why I’m hiring a doula. Well, not the only reason. But a big one.

I feel like if I could just know someone I trust is on my side. She’ll help me focus through the pain. Give me freedom to express myself without shame cloaking every vocalization. Someone I know is not there to judge me, but just to love me through it — no expectations attached.

This is why I also hope to labor at home as long as possible.  (Well, one of many reasons.)

So this morning, I turn on my show while cooking. Because maybe the more I watch birth, the less scary it will seem.

Today’s episode features a second-time mom in her first labor. First time feeling contractions, first time pushing. 

And when she comes in, clearly not in hard labor, she tells her husband she hopes she’s at a 9. And that she wants an epidural right away. 

Not shockingly … She’s at a 2. 

Who knows how long she labored to get from a 2-3. The editing team didn’t really make that part clear.  But labor clearly got more active, and the whole time the poor thing is begging for her epidural.

They go to check her again … And she went from a 3 to a 9 in 1 hour. And now, it was too late for the epidural.

Pushing didn’t go much “better” for her. She cried, she cried out, she said she couldn’t do it.

And the whole time watching, I just wanted to tell her, “get a grip.” Not because she was wrong in anything. But because she was the part of me I feared, being projected onto her. 

She seemed out of control. She seemed to not be able to handle the pain. 

She began crying again, as the baby’s head emerged. She looked like she wouldn’t be able to finish pushing. She asked in fear if there was any chance the head would go back in. They laughed a bit, and reassured her the head was fully born.

And with one more cry/push, the rest of the baby emerged. 

Her face contorted from fear and pain to overwhelming joy.

“I did it!!!!” she laughed/cried. “I really, really did it!!!!”

And with that, I balled.

There was no shame in her voice. No apologies for the fuss she made. There was no need for any of it. 

There was just joy. Just victory. 

Something released inside of me with my tears. Knowing that no matter how I get there, and whether I’m brave in the process or just completely terrified the whole time, at the end of it all, to be able to say “I did it!” would be worth anything I had to go through to bring my baby to this world.

I made it through the struggle with hyperemesis gravidarum the first half of my pregnancy. I made it through the heart palpitations and weakness. I made it through all the chest pain and discomfort. I made it through the anxiety that naturally comes with pregnancy after loss. I made it through all the blood draws, the IVs, the ultrasounds, and the extra visits to my doctor. I made it through all the times I had to say no to doing what I wanted to do because my body was not happy with me. I made it through the second-guessing, the sleepless nights, the dehydration. I made it through the unrelenting fear that often threatened to steal my joy. I made it through the 4 years and 5 losses it took to get to this point.

And I made it through labor & delivery … And all the complications that did or did not happen. Whether it ends up being a VBAC or a c-section, I got through it all.

In the end, no matter how the rest of our story plays out, I hope that a newborn baby girl will be placed on my chest, and I can cry out through tears of joy, “I did it!!! I really did it!!!”

That is the moment I know it will all be worth it.