Beautiful pictures that we will treasure forever by Elizabeth Tate.
3:30PM on July 25th
I had just woken up from a nap. I was already on maternity leave, It was 4 days before my due date, and I had been chasing my 2 year old Milly around all morning. I felt mild cramps, and then they would subside. “Could this be it?” I laid there for 30 minutes, praying, timing the cramps, and begging God for help and His presence.
I texted Will, “Could you come up here please?”
A few minutes later, he was in the room. “I’ve been having cramps on and off for about 30 minutes. I think things are beginning.”
His eyes got big and he smiled. He leaned down and kissed me, and we both began to cry. “I thought we were ready for this,” he said smiling and laughing. Our emotions had both caught us a bit off guard, but that moment still remains one of the sweetest moments of my labor. The start of it all.
Before I continue, I’m going to give a bit of background, similar to how I did when I wrote Milly’s birth story. (Read Part 1 and Part 2 of her amazing birth story, or just scroll down to the very bottom of Part 2 for a film that will make you cry for the brief version!) We decided to have a natural childbirth for both Milly and Lyndon, free of medication. I think every birth is beautiful and all mamas are heroes, no matter the way they come into the world! It is a deeply personal decision, and this was simply our decision.
For Milly’s birth, we prepared with lots of knowledge. We took Bradley Birth Classes (“Husband coached childbirth”), we read books, we memorized positions for labor and learned all about the woman’s body in labor and delivery. I’m not going to lie – it was a really hard labor and delivery for me. While I had the natural birth I desired, I also had to go into surgery immediately after birth because I tore internally (somewhere around 60 stitches – the doc lost count.) Recovery was hard and long. I couldn’t sit comfortably for 2-3 months. I also had some intense anxiety after having Milly, for weeks. All of that to say, I battled fear for much of my pregnancy with Baby Ray #2.
For Lyndon’s birth, it became clear to me that I had to prepare spiritually. I knew what my body would do, I knew the techniques. But I knew fear, and I knew that the fear had to go. All I could think of was the incredible pain, the giant emotions and tears the days following Milly’s birth, the pain of healing, the fear of tearing again and having to go into surgery.
It was about 2 months before my due date when the Lord began gently leading me through this process of ridding myself of this enormous fear and concern I had in my heart…
– I sing on the worship team at my church, and one Sunday morning (as I was very pregnant and leading worship – quite the sight I’m sure,) I saw a picture of myself laughing while I was in labor. It didn’t make sense to me, because I equated labor with pain and tears, so I knew it had to be from the Lord! I simply received the vision and asked the Lord for this to really happen.
I decided to memorize 3 verses to meditate on throughout the labor and delivery process, and those verses word for word began to form a new picture in my head of childbirth as well. (Those verses were Psalm 138:1-3 MSG, Psalm 27:1 MSG, and Isaiah 41:10).
– I read this blogpost by my friend Shaylyn. It honestly sealed the deal for me wanting another medication free birth.
– When Will and I went to our quarterly marriage counseling session, (which we highly recommend for all married couples!), I told our counselor about my fear. His answer was profound and so helpful. He said of all the people he’s counseled through different traumas in life, the ones who returned to normal life were the ones who were able to go to that quiet place of worship in their hearts on a regular basis. Healing happens when we enter God’s presence, and He encouraged me to take the time to really worship God in the quiet place in my heart throughout labor and delivery. Looking back, that made all the difference.
– Not too long after that, someone recommended the book “Supernatural Childbirth,” so I bought it and began to read it. I’m going to be honest – it was super challenging to my faith! Many testimonies in that book claim pain-free births (what the what!?), and that was so hard for me to fathom. But my faith grew with the scripture and testimonies, and I began praying the prayers in the back of the book. (Those prayers alone are worth the purchase of the book easy!)
– Will encouraged me to listen to John Piper’s Sermon “Fear Not, I am with you, I am your God.” Isaiah 41:10 was a verse I meditated on to carry me through. I vividly remember the day I listened to that sermon while folding laundry – just a week or so before I went into labor.
All of that to say, when labor began, I immediately began to pray. I put on worship music (listen to my labor and deliver playlist on Spotify). I cried out to God for help, and He showed up in a big way.
So back to the day of…
After that nap I went about life as usual. We had our friends Robert and Elizabeth over for dinner (Yes, Elizabeth on the NRP team!), because why not? I wasn’t in active labor – just early labor. And we all needed to eat and had plenty of food. I’ll never forget that dinner: Salmon, brussels, and sweet potatoes. SO good.
I made the statement, “I’d love to get a good night’s sleep, then for things to really pick up tomorrow!” Thankfully, that’s what happened!
We called my mom and sister (aka Sissy), and they caught a plane from Nashville, arriving at Midnight! I awoke around 2am, went downstairs to find my mom and sister asleep on our couch, and talked with them. My contractions had subsided, so I wondered if I was really even in labor any more. I headed back upstairs and fell asleep again around 4am.
The next morning was all hustle and bustle! The cleaning lady came and started to work on our house, Callie and Olivia came to pack up everything in the studio and move out for a month, my sister and mom were there, Will dropped Winston off at the neighbor’s house, I finished packing my hospital bags, and the mild contractions returned and were more regular. I ate a big breakfast and a big lunch, all the while knowing that these contractions were slowly getting more intense.
Will, Milly and I went on a walk. It was perfect. The time alone with them, especially with Milly, was just what my heart needed. It was the last time we spent time as a family of 3, and it kept me active. I’ll never forget the breeze and sunshine on my skin between contractions, and how sweet Milly was. I’ll never forget the picture of her running down the sidewalk in front of me, as I walked hand in hand with her Daddy.
2:00PM on July 26th
I laid down on the bed to rest and hopefully sleep. I put on worship music and rested, but no sleep came. By 3:30pm, I had been having mild, crampy contractions for 24 hours. I asked Will to make me a smoothie, which is when everything changed.
He returned to my side, smoothie in hand, and I been to cry. Psalm 43 played on the phone by Jenny and Tyler, and the tears came. This was IT. These contractions were intense. There was no turning back, and I knew it was time to press into the Lord because this baby was coming.
“I can’t eat anything. I don’t want the smoothie anymore. And I want someone with me.” I said that through the tears, explaining I was crying because that song was exactly what I needed in that moment.
My sister and Will took turns being by my side. Sissy encouraged me to sing worship through my difficult contractions, and that is what really helped me get through them. I headed downstairs to labor a bit more in the living room, and to spend some time with Milly before I had to say goodbye.
Elizabeth came to begin photographing, and Milly stayed right by my side. She would rub my back and say “Good job mama!” I of course would begin crying at her sweetness. She would also run around like a normal 2 year old and play. I think she knew something was going on, but she didn’t know what. I’ll never forget having some really intense contractions, then opening my eyes afterwards and her little face was right there in front of mine, smiling. Her eyes staring straight into mine. She reminded me so vividly of the joy that was to come – having her their was so sweet.
It came time to tell Milly goodbye, and I hugged her so, so tightly. I began crying so much, knowing it as the end and the beginning of wonderful seasons in our family. “Mommy loves you so, so much.” Is all I could say as I let the tears come. It was hard to communicate in that moment how much love I have for her, how precious she is to me, but I hope she felt it deeply as I did. Grammy (Will’s mom) picked her up and off they went to Grammy’s house.
Sissy guided me through different positions to try, and things kept intensifying. My legs began to shake like crazy, which is exactly what happened during Milly’s labor just before we went to the hospital! My husband called the hospital, and the midwife on call highly encouraged him to come on in when he explained the signs of labor. I knew it my heart – it was time to go.
I finally told Mom, Sissy and Will that I felt like it was time to go. After talking it through, we all agreed, and we began making our way to the car. I had 3 good contractions in the foyer while everyone else loaded up, then I got in the car with Will.
Let me just tell you: that drive to the hospital is like a dream. I only remember parts of it. Also, we have wayyyy to many roundabouts in our neighborhood. Those were the worst! And they chose the most inconvenient time to pave the road outside of our neighborhood – the day we were driving to the hospital. Will cut through some construction cones to get me into the hospital! It was quite comical.
Part Two coming tomorrow… stay tuned!
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