The First Birthday…

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My baby had his first birthday a couple of days ago. We didn’t do much. In fact, I couldn’t find the birthday candles, which was okay because I don’t have any matches. He still enjoyed the singing. But the first birthday is less for the baby than it is a celebration for everyone that loves that baby of keeping him alive for a year. Whoop! We made it! We kept another one alive for a year!

I wrote this little bit of thought after he was born. I didn’t have a forum for it at the time, but thought I would put it here now.

So, here it is, this is where I was one year ago:

I am three days out from the birth of baby three and it’s official. The endorphins have moved out and the postpartum hormones have moved in. I’m sitting in my cool dark room like a mother wolf in her den, with a sleeping baby on my bed and lanolin on my angry nipples. I hear my other two children getting ready for bed with Dad but I can’t seem to break out of my room to say goodnight. It’s the perfect place right now to explore the reeling sensations left over from the wonder of another birth.

I’ve been very fortunate to have beautiful home births for each of my children. And just as my children are different their labor stories differ as well. Of course, no one is ever prepared for motherhood. I knew birth would be a “spiritual” experience, but I had no idea of the parallels I would see between this life and the one I have been adopted into. With each of my three babies I have learned different spiritual truths hidden couched in our circumstances and situation from conception to delivery.

My first, my son, was conceived not two months after the death of my dearly loved Daddy. As fall and winter went on I grieved much and learned to hope for spring. With greenness and life came those first fluttering kicks that weren’t as surprising as much as they were exactly what I might have thought they were going to feel like. And in the summer he came. The whole experience was full of the contemplation of life out of death, the pain coming before the resurrection, salvation coming from laying oneself down. I couldn’t get away from it, the new wonder of the goodness of God that would not let death come without clearing a place for new life.

With my second, my daughter, I was resolved to do it again, not to have an only child, though my son had thoroughly made me aware of my lack of knowledge and energy for parenting. I doubted my ability to do this whole “mother” thing well. I dreaded the pain of labor in those brief instances when the amnesia lifted and I was able to remember. But God was teaching me much at the time about work, the work of being a mother, working harder and more selflessly than had previously been required of me. Work was the curse, but in it also was the blessing.

I ran across this quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Get leave to work in this life, ‘tis the best we get at all, For God in cursing gives us better gifts than men in benediction.” And how I knew what a blessing the curse of work had been to me. I was more capable, more efficient, knew how to get an incredible amount done in the window of a two-hour nap time. And I applied this to the labor of delivery. Was it not also a curse, the pain of labor? But hadn’t I already experienced the blessing in that particular curse? The knowledge that kept me going through the first two difficult weeks of my first son’s life was this: If I could do that, I can do anything, the labor of babies, the labor of children, the labor of teens, the labor of life, etc.

The second I felt I had to have, the mandatory sibling. But the third I decided to have, I asked for.

With my third, another son, the phrase kept coming to my mind, born of blood and water. There’s a verse that talks about being born of blood and water. Having done two births already in my midwives’ water tub I was fascinated by the parallels it brought me to.

As the time for me to deliver grew close I experienced three painful exhausting weeks of pre-labor. I realized I was terrified to go through it again, the labor part. With my daughter it had been more intense than with my eldest and there had been a few times when I had barely been able to stay on top of it. I knew this would be worse. My lovely midwife who was crazy enough to have nine kids commiserated and reminded me of Jesus’s prayer in the garden. He was so concerned he took his friends with him to pray. “If it be your will let this cup pass from me.” But there is only one way to be born, isn’t there? There is only one way to get our babies here. And I had signed up for this, a thought that did not bring me much comfort during those early transition contractions when you realize that everything is getting away from you very quickly.

And so I descended again into labor and this much more intense. The groans that emanated from me were new to my birthing experience. And then it was too much. I couldn’t stay on top of the pain. And I realized I would have to go through it, under it, let the pain roll over me in hopes that the resultant endorphins would do their job. I clung to the promise of a baby and lovely mommy amnesia at the end.

And I thought about the sacrifice I had known ahead of time that would be required of me to have another baby. I had chosen it willingly to have my body break for another because it was the only way to get my son here. And I thought about Jesus breaking his body because it was the only way to get me there with him. And his body broke and poured out blood and water. And then my boy came out, into the tub that was quickly growing red, and my midwives told me, “Pick up your baby.” And I reached down and brought him to my chest hearing his first cries. And I remembered my baptism brought out of the water to new life. And I heard the words of Jesus say to me even as I said them to my son, “I got you, you’re safe. This new life is just beginning. You’re already on the other side.”

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