The new year has come, but it is the old that still draws my attention, for it seems time has slowed, stopped for me in the new blue eyes of a baby, in the uncertain brown eyes of a toddler too suddenly grown. I scrabble about through memories and dreams - old and new - sorting what is, what has been, what is coming to be.
The next several posts will be my birth story, sorted as I can sort it for now for sharing, for remembrance. I have linked in a number of older, related posts for my reference, so I don't end up rewriting things I have already said here. You don't have to read them all, but they're here if you'd like a little more back-story.
I hope you enjoy.
It was evening on December 4 when the contractions began, when all my well-laid wait-plans fled in the early groaning, the beginning of labor - the initial birth pains. The hope became immediate, shocking, shivering into gasping fear painting stark real out of two-weeks-early. I grasped at calm, at warm, at comfort.
I wasn't ready.
Two and half years before, on a weekend in early July, the same pains had come. I had forgotten. I joked then about something that went deep, the head-patting for the novice, the not-knowing, the hope deferred.
I wasn't ready. But I didn't know it then.
Then, I ran out of things to say, growing quiet, feeling deep.
This time, I kept sharing, processing, sorting, feeling louder in the "wait" than I had, more familiar with it than I had been, observing, aging.
The contractions that had ended came again nine days later, and I willed them to continue, willed them to stop or go, just to do something. I dreaded the labor this time - knowledge was more a burden than a blessing - but still it had to come. There was no other way. I slept and woke and slept and woke, grasping the rest I knew I'd need at the end of this advent silence.
I remembered and clung: Piper had come, my little girl emerging just before sunset into the room where she had been conceived, into my arms with her small cry of surprise at the sudden change.
Bredon would be born at home too.
I reached for God, grasping blind into black, desperate to feel the nearness I had known during my labor with Piper, feeling acute 400 years of silence in thirteen days' time.
So this was what it meant to need a Great Light, to long for a Word timely breathed into dust, to ache for a promised life.
I wasn't ready. But oh, how I needed him to come.
Him. The pronouns mingled and mixed and matched, God-Him, Bredon-him, Christ-Him. I asked for God's presence, and He gave Immanuel, "God with us", and the Gospel came alive again to me, for how could God have come more near to me than in the Person of my Soul-Rescuer?
The contractions didn't stop after Sunday, December 14th. They came without pomp, working behind the scenes of our daily life, sporadic reminders of the babe almost here, of the more intense pain to come. I tried not to notice them.
It was Wednesday now, December 16. I visited my midwife for what would be the last time. Piper played merrily with the daughter while Brandy examined me.
Four centimeters dilated; seventy percent effaced.
As I rolled off the table, the contractions grew stronger. I called my mom on my way to Pete's office to ask her what the numbers meant. I hadn't been paying attention.
We chatted and laughed with Pete's boss and coworkers; Piper wanted the candy in the office lobby. I met a girl I'd been meaning to meet. She wants to assist me if I shoot any weddings down here. She was very sweet. Pete told me later she'd opened up more with me than he'd seen her since she'd come to work two months ago.
I was huge. I felt huge.
We went home. We were in bed by nine or so. I woke around 2:00 a.m. with a contraction. I was hungry. The baby wouldn't let me go back to sleep.
I didn't bother waking Pete. I went to the kitchen, ate, caught up on blogs, wrote a new post about something I'd noticed, something about Jesus, about not being ready, about how He wasn't always ready, but love...
Finally, I went into the living room to read in Christmas-tree light. I'd been working on a book for a while; it was time to finish. I'd been having contractions, but the pain wasn't intense.
I tried not to notice them. The squeezing was so familiar by now it was almost comforting.
At 4:55 a.m., three pages from the end of my book, just as I was dropping into that pleasant almost-get-to-close-my-eyes drowsy that meant I would sleep again soon, a long, strong contraction ended with a "pop."
There was an exclamation point on that "pop!"
I laughed, thinking that Bredon had just kicked against the contraction - he did that a lot. But there was a sudden gush of fluid, and I was up with a speed I'd been missing for the last three months or so, bursting through the door of our bedroom into the jack-and-jill bath with a "Pete, my water just broke!" on the way through.
While we were on the phone with Brandy, Piper woke, disoriented, sensing the tension.
I was shaking. My mind was racing. Was something wrong? Piper's water hadn't broken until about 30 minutes before she was born. My contractions were still ten minutes apart. Had I done something to cause my water to break? Other women started their labors like this all the time. It wasn't so unusual. Would this make the labor harder?
My sister took Piper back to bed with her while we resettled on the couch to wait for Brandy, to wait for the labor. I was so grateful to be home. I couldn't imagine having to go to a hospital, not now. I needed this safe.
Within 20 minutes, the contractions were a solid 4-5 minutes apart.
Piper had come out, seeking Mama. I held her close, and she slept on me and I smelled her and let the tears slip silent into her hair, writing in my heart about this last time my baby would be my baby.
Brandy came, and it was time for Pip to go, time for me to move, time to bring Bredon into December, into Christmas, into my arms and my heart.
I wandered the house. Blogged a little. Tweeted a little. Leaned on counters, on desk, on husband.
The labor was gentle, I thought. Strong, firm, but gentle. Where was the pain I remembered from Piper's birth, the pain that made a birth-song for her as I breathed in crescendo, up and down with the strength of the contractions?
As they strengthened, I moved into the living room, more comfortable on my knees, resting between, giving camera instructions, so aware of my surroundings. I told Brandy at one point that I hated transition. Why did I have to experience transition?
I wasn't ready.
But the baby was coming, and as I labored and moved and longed for him to come, every contraction brought him closer to me, and I encouraged it, and suddenly transition was upon me with an intensity that shocked me.
From gentle strength into blinding fury, the pain took my body. For the first time during my labor, I cried out, recognizing heart-deep that the words I cried in my panic were for God, for His help. I was helpless against these waves of pain I had handled once before, panicked.
"Mama's squeakin'," Piper explained to my sister in the kitchen. She had wakened about ten minutes before my transition, and Kate had taken her to the kitchen to make breakfast. I worried that she would be afraid, but my life was wrapped up in the life of my son now, in the incredible startling pain of his entrance.
I had watched birth stories with Piper for weeks leading up to Bredon's birth. She knew the noise would end and there would be a baby.
I think Bredon came during my last transition contraction. As soon as his head appeared, the panic eased. My awareness returned. There he was, a little blue head with a shock of dark, wet hair.
"We have a cord," Brandy said. I heard it from a distance, recovering, waiting for the next contraction as Bredon turned, as she unwrapped the cord from his neck. Then his shoulders came, and his legs, and my baby was no longer womb-bound, and he was crying - oh he was crying!
I held him close, talked to him, covered him, kissed him and still he cried. Already a strong one, he was.
I called Piper to come and meet him; Kate brought her from the kitchen, and she grinned with an excited "baby!" and I was so glad she was there right away, at the beginning of his life, the beginning of her new life.
I have a photo of us holding Bredon, and his daddy was smiling. My heart is so very full at the memory.
How strange that Bredon should come to me in transition, I have thought. How deep does this go, this incredible heart-story God began writing with the beginning of my birth pains those two weeks before my baby was born?
"Wait, hope," the message that came, hope for life, for a story I couldn't have written, Bredon's story, a gift of God's choosing.
That hope came after waiting, that waiting led to transition, and birth came during change when I cried out against it - my heart hurts with the wonder of it, that joy could come into such fear and heartache and desperation as swept over me during transition.
I had no control in transition, but God... The thought trails off; I duck with embarrassment at my fear, but this is the story. It is what it is.
It was only twenty minutes of incredible pain promised to Eve lifetimes ago; I brought forth my firstborn son, and he filled my hands and my arms and my heart and I knew what Mary felt watching her baby on the Cross and wondered how I would ever give my son back to my God, to his God for His plan - for he will be His, I am certain.
Now Piper is huge, and my mother's heart wonders how she grew so fast - was she so big before Bredon came with his little body that fits into my hands and against my breast? When did her hair get so long, her heart grow so old? I forgot that she had learned those words; did I notice that she had?
Does she still need me?
She's a little independent, but I know. I know she is pushing away because she is vulnerable right now. I do that too, and I reach for her tentatively and make time as I can in the baby-holding to hold this little girl who grew up in five hours two weeks ago.
Laura says that Christmas decorations shouldn't come down yet, that Epiphany is gift-time for us to grasp insight into the reality of Christmas-birth.
God with us.
I haven't removed my decorations. Mary's pondering must have lasted beyond Jesus' birth. How much she had to ponder - angels, shepherds, kings, priest, prophetess - all come to worship her Son, God's Son, and she a new mother in a torn country desperate for Messiah-salvation they didn't understand...
But I understand. I worship quietly, acknowledging Him in ups and in downs, trusting His heart of love toward me in spite of my fear and my struggle with the changes that surround me, that occur within me.
The waiting is over. The realization begins...
(Image © Informal Moments Photography)