Tuesday, August 25, 2015

On Birth Stories and Miracles

The most highly cultured mother gives birth sweating and dislocated and cursing like a sailor. That’s the place we inhabit as artists and innovators. It’s the place we must become comfortable with.” ― Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
For a really long time (we're talking years, not months) after Caden's birth, I would find myself immobilized by some strange mixture of grief and possibly post traumatic stress every time I ended up in a circle of women sharing birth stories. I would quietly excuse myself to the bathroom where I would cry into my hands, shaken by too many fears wrapped up in muscle memory of the day Caden was born.

We share birth stories like peanut m&ms, in casual conversation over coffee or before book club. But the truth is that childbirth and motherhood envelops a deep place, something holy curled in the bellies of women everywhere. And sometime that place is tender, bruised or broken, hopes never blossomed, or experiences too sharp to relive without fear and pain.
And so I document Isaiah's birth here with acknowledgement that there are many ways to make a mother. With reverence for your own story, and all the fears and hopes and dreams and hurts it carries.
I expected Isaiah's birth to come quickly, a slipping into the world that mirrored the way my last two came: according to schedule and without too much pain. Despite Caden's crazy journey after his arrival, my actual births were both uneventful and even quite enjoyable. Sometimes, though, I reluctantly admit, I need to learn new lessons. And sometimes joy only comes hand in hand with unexpected pain. I mean actual physical pain this time, childbirth without an epidural, which was never actually my plan. I forgot, apparently, that motherhood mostly reminds me time and time again how very-much-not-in-control I am.
With much fitful starting and stopping of contractions, complete with dropping heart rates and blood pressure, we spent hours waiting and praying. Until finally Isaiah made quick work of 5cm-9.5cm and before I knew it he was ready and coming whether or not I myself was prepared and medicated.

Despite my panic, and tearful protestations that I certainly cannot do this, Isaiah arrived: new and velvety and and slimy and perfect. My body stretched and tensed and finally surrendered to nature and design. Months of waiting and hurting and hoping culminated in three big pushes and the perfect bliss of finally clasping my son to my chest.
We know immediately, of course, just how perfectly he fit into the space our family has unknowingly held for him. How he stares into our eyes and we discover that we were made for this moment, this messy and painful perfection. 
And life, of course, will never be the same. Oh, it might ebb back towards something resembling normal, and we will nurse and change diapers and eat dinners prepared by our loving community, and we will find the rhythm of our days as a new family of five. Certainly, emotions will run high from all corners (except Adam, thankfully he remains our rock), and we will struggle to adjust. And there will be temper tantrums. But this gift remains snuggled in our arms, unfurling and growing inexplicably larger with each passing day.
Isaiah's birth reminds us that sometimes miracles don't come in the form of miraculous healing or broken hearts made whole. Sometimes, they run more ordinary. New life brought forth as grace and light, reminding us that joy always comes with the morning. 
Miracles that smell suspiciously of baby shampoo, and look a whole lot like stolen moments in a quiet nursery. That remind us of the beauty and pain of life and creation, wounds that take time and space to heal and force us to slow down to enjoy the sleepy days and sleepless nights of newest life.
And so our hearts swell with gratitude. For Isaiah, for his safe arrival, for our family and friends who carry us in prayer and in service, and for big brother and sister who care and love well, even as they shuffle to discover new roles and places in a changing family.
*Amazing pictures from my amazing friend Meg, without whom I'm not sure we could have made it through. 


  1. Gorgeous photos, gorgeous writing. Thank you for sharing!

  2. 3 pushes? You ARE wonder woman :)
    I love that picture of dad holding him with you laying fuzzy in the background... gorgeous.
    I'm so glad you have a healthy boy to go with your other 2 amazingly beautiful kiddos!

    1. haha thanks :-)
      And that one of Adam and Isaiah is my absolute favorite. For sure.

  3. I love reading/hearing birth stories and had never fully considered that they could be traumatic or angst- and fear-inducing for some...but of course they can be. This is a good reminder to stay sensitive about these sacred stories. And thank you for sharing yours!


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