Holding New Life

It was the Eve of Easter Sunday. My husband and I were celebrating the beginning of Spring Break and University of Michigan in the March Madness Finals with a dinner out. Little did we know this would be the last night we’d celebrate as a party of two. Wanting so much to enjoy the delicious meal in front of me, I kept getting hit with this hug of pain that made it impossible to eat for fear of seeing it again later. This feeling would come and go, continuing into the night. I would drift into a sleep to be awoken 10-30 minutes later with my insides being crushed with a searing ache. Contractions? Couldn’t be. It was a week early, and everybody had told me that firstborn babies are usually overdue. But if this was going to keep me up, it had better be the real deal. The pain persisted throughout the night, becoming more frequent but not enough to convince me to grab our bags and hit the road. The following morning began with a bowl of Cheerios and an Easter dress to fill and cover my bulging belly, followed by a call to the doctor “just letting them know.” However, our plans of attending Easter service were quickly dashed as we were advised to head to the hospital “just in case” this was it.

Our bags had been packed for over a month, and now they were finally making their way into our car for our drive to the hospital. We got checked into a room to hear several nurses expressing words that left me torn – “we’ll check you, but if you haven’t progressed since your last OB visit, we’ll have to send you home.” I was stuck in the in-between of PLEASE LORD; let this be IT, and SEND ME HOME; I am SO not ready. But isn’t it just like God to give us exactly what we don’t expect, but exactly what we need? To my surprise, I had progressed, my contractions were confirmed, and this was really happening.

I knew, like, years ago that when I had a baby, I would request an epidural. The contractions were picking up speed – moving from severe period cramps to uterine warfare. Imagine wringing out a towel with as much force as you can muster. Now imagine that instead of using your hands to wring out the towel, you are using knives. Now imagine, that is happening to a muscle in your body. I could no longer talk through these contractions, but you better believe when I was asked if I wanted an epidural, there was a resounding, “hell, yes.” The idea of a giant needle going into my back always terrified me, and as I was being prepped for the medication, I was just as terrified. But it was fine. SO OKAY. I could hardly believe how easy it was in comparison to what I had built up in my mind over the years and months leading up to this moment.

For the next several hours, I was bored. Numb and bored. Then numb, bored, and nervous. As the sun set, we’d already seen a handful of wonderful nurses, had my water broken, and watched the rise and fall of contractions on the monitor. Progress slowed. Pitocin was given. Progress picked up speed. Yada yada yada.

There was a burning pressure building up in my lower back. Frantically, I pushed the button for a release of more epidural medication, but it didn’t go away. No, this feeling was too familiar. I had to poop. Great. I asked my nurse how that would happen, and she told me that feeling was more than likely the pressure of baby descending. Good news – no pooping episode in the delivery room. Bad news – pooping would have been a quick fix to this agony, and it was not about to be that easy.

So begins pushing. They say you’ll know when you need to push. I was convinced I would be the one exception and never know and my baby would never leave my body. How wrong I was. I KNEW. Again, it’s like pooping. You know. Your body knows. There is nothing that’s going to make that feeling go away except to push. And oh man, did pushing feel good. Until it didn’t. Exhaustion set in after about an hour and a half of bearing down. My husband says I’m so close. I tell him to shut his mouth, because no. I say little to nothing else – turned completely inward. Following the nurse’s commands – push 1, 2, 3…relax, breathe, tell us when you need to push again. Over and over. FUN FACT: nurses do pretty much all of the work of delivery up until the last 5-10 minutes when the OB finally comes in. Props, yo. Fast forward another 15 minutes. Extra oxygen being supplied, silent prayers of strength being ushered, muscles shaking from fatigue. The doctor and a whole slew of other medical personnel come in. Hey, why not enjoy a free show? When it comes to my body, I have always been a very private person, but that went out the window on this day. I didn’t give a single shoot who was in that room, so long as this baby got OUT of me. A snip and one push later…

Dominic Rhodes Johnson. 7 pounds, 8 ounces of heaven on earth. My beautiful baby boy was here. Born on Easter Sunday. Shaking with tears of joy and exhaustion, they placed him on my chest. Magic. Breathing him in. Feeling his heartbeat against my own. Stroking his silk skin. Watching his glossy eyes blink in the sights around him and his tongue bob in and out of his mouth licking up this new world. He uttered his first sound. His monkey sound, we called it. We stared and smiled and praised. Our perfect gift. All those nine months of waiting found their purpose.

He ate for two hours – what a life, am I right? And I could now add sore nipples to the bounty of body parts ravaged by the delivery process. I’ve run a marathon, folks, and let me tell you, running 26.2 felt like a walk in the park next to giving birth. WOMEN, OUR BODIES ARE NUTS. WE ARE SO STRONG. For years, I lived in total fear of giving birth. I convinced myself that I would only adopt because I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain of childbirth. The Lord delivered me from this fear about a year before becoming pregnant, and He proved faithful once again.

This child was formed inside me. I felt him move inside me. Now I am looking him in his big blue eyes, stroking his curly blonde hair and the little dimple on his ear where it looks like he got a piercing. God is as alive as this sweet treasure I hold in my arms. He is still in the miracle business, and His goodness is seen in every beating heart. My son reminds me of this daily.

When he smiles up at me, I feel the Lord’s joy.

When I look at him sleeping, I feel the Lord’s peace.

When he cries relentlessly, I feel the Lord’s patience.

When I grow impatient and frustrated with him, I feel the Lord’s grace.

When I watch him grow, I feel the Lord’s steadfastness.

When he is held in my arms, I feel the Lord’s pleasure.

When I am reminded that he is ours for our time here on earth, I feel the Lord’s love.

Easter Sunday will forever be marked by the hope of my Savior and the birth of my son.  New life captured. Light after darkness. Joy after pain. Overwhelming love. And such good, good grace.

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