Note to my readers: I kept thinking I’d get this story written long before now, but I finally finished it just before my baby turns one. How time flies! My apologies on the length…there were so many details that had to be shared to give the background, but if you aren’t interested in those, just wait for the actual “birth story” coming soon!
When I sit down to write out the story of Talitha’s birth, the subject that continually comes to mind is that God answered prayer. Seriously. The winter of 2015 was unlike any I have ever experienced to this date, full of stretching in areas physically, spiritually, and emotionally. In order to understand part of the picture of how so many things came together in order to make her birth the peaceful event that it was, bear with me as I give you some background to that cold February night…
My husband, Joel, has served with All-Nations Bible Translation for many years, and earlier in 2014 the decision had been made to build a training base in the State College area, just 2 miles or so from our home. It would take too long to recount the ways God opened doors for a location, permits, funds, etc, but suffice it to say that, as generally happens with construction projects, this one had taken much longer than expected before all the red tape was completed in order to begin building. Which translates into the “crunch” time beginning while I began my last trimester of pregnancy, even though it hadn’t initially been planned that way. While I was not helping with construction J, it was our responsibility to make sure the volunteers had coffee, snacks for break, lunch, and sometimes even a place to stay along with breakfast and supper. Joel had tried to get help in for this, but to make a long story short, nothing worked out-though he was able to get a number of churches and interested individuals to help with some of the food prep, in order to reduce my load. I will admit that these months were HARD. When I’m pregnant, I’m extra emotional, uncomfortable, unsocial, and ready to be DONE. To add hostessing, food prep, and all the effort that goes into that to having two toddlers to care for, all the while dealing with pregnancy issues stretched me beyond what I thought I was physically able to handle. Oh, and I should mention that our small church community (made up of about 7 families) had THREE pregnant mamas, two major moves, a house renovation project AND health issues during the last two months of my pregnancy. But God gave strength, and we pressed on, reminding ourselves that at least the construction project wasn’t something that was going to be repeated!
Besides the building project, I also was committed to delivering babies! The “last” baby I had on my radar before my own was due the end of January. When I took on this sweet couple, it was with the idea that January would be my “rest month”, as Joel was actively lining up help for the month in order for me to prepare for our baby. I also figured that since there were a solid 5 ½ weeks between this mamas due date and my own, this also should be no problem. Well…sometimes God has other plans in mind! I started getting a bit nervous about how all of this was going to work out when I began having preterm labor signs of my own around 33 weeks. When I realized that I was beginning to dilate, and that baby was settling lower and lower, we seriously reduced my time on my feet, which helped to slow the contractions. I began praying that God would help baby wait at least until this other baby came…and that baby wouldn’t come before we could do it at home. We figured out a workable plan in which I would sit with my feet up after every hour or two of work, which helped to keep things at bay, though I started wondering if we’d be meeting our baby sooner rather than later. But back to babies…the one due in January was not to be my “last” one after all! One of the ladies in our church, who is a good friend, had some things come up which made their family feel like perhaps the midwife they had chosen was not a good fit for them. While I do not normally get involved with a situation such as this (there’s often a deeper reason when a couple and midwife part ways late in pregnancy, and it’s not something to delve into without concern), we had a close relationship with this family, and felt like we needed to help them out. Incidentally, this mama was due the same week as I was, and we had been neck-to-neck throughout our pregnancies, though she was convinced she’d deliver first, as her babies tended to come early. We lined up a back-up, just in case, as there was the real possibility we’d both be in labor at the same time…
So all of that brings us to the first week of February. At this point, I’m still having contractions whenever I ‘m on my feet for awhile, and I’m waiting on two babies before my own can come. It’s the kind of situation where you keep saying, “Okay, Lord, let’s see how you’re going to work all this out…” 🙂 In the middle of all this, we started a renovation project in our basement…we had help to do it, and wanted to have the basement ready by the time my mom came to help after our birth, and I didn’t want to be dealing with dirt, dust and noise with a newborn, so we dug in. There were times I cried-like when the heater came on in the basement and spewed concrete dust all through the house…but the guys made great progress throughout that week, and one afternoon a sister from church came over to help me clean. After waiting about 10 days from his due date, the “January baby” came…and I felt like it was a direct answer to prayer to have a clear night for travel (no snow and ice on the road) and a straight-forward, relatively short labor, complete with a healthy baby. I felt a huge sense of relief, too, as that was one more responsibility off my shoulders, allowing me to feel more prepared for my own baby.
By the time the third week of February began, my friend and I were wondering who was going go first. I had reached that point where one is chronically uncomfortable, but so had my friend. That Sunday night she went into labor (just 3 days after moving into her newly renovated house…talk about cutting it close!), and early Monday morning I was called over, helping them to welcome a baby girl within an hour or two of my arrival. Once again, God was gracious, giving them a lovely birth, with no issues that would have been challenging for this very-pregnant midwife to take care of! This week were also trying to finish up the renovation in our basement, as Joel’s sister, Lucy, and her husband were supposed to be arriving that week in order for Daniel to do some trim work at the ABT project. So I napped around construction noise, and felt grateful that meals at the ABT project were being taken care of by another church family who had moved into our community just the week before (remember my mention of two moves over this time?!).
Another aspect of uncertainty surrounding this birth also had to do with the availability of my own midwife. Our dear friend, Rose, had been involved with our previous two births, and we really wanted her for my midwife again this time. For each birth, God answered specific prayer related to her availability, and this time was no exception! She was working down in Lancaster, and while she had permission from her employer to head our direction when needed, my last labor hadn’t given us a lot of warning-and Joel was not in a hurry to do a solo birth again! I had also been hoping to have my student, Emily, involved, even thinking that at least she’d get some good practice if Rose couldn’t make it in time. But she was already committing to attending her next midwifery class in Maine, which was scheduled to take place the last two weeks of February. So we prayed, and committed the situation to the Lord, knowing that He would work it all out somehow…but not knowing exactly who would be a part of our birth team.
Tuesday night, the 17th/18th, I slept fitfully, being awake for several hours with contractions. While intense enough to keep me from sleeping, they wouldn’t get any stronger, and I kept wondering at what point I should be calling Rose to come. When morning finally arrived, I was tired and discouraged. By this time I had experienced many uncomfortable nights with little sleep and lots of contractions, and wasn’t sure how much longer I could survive physically and mentally. After so many hours of consistent, time able contractions through the night, finding myself at only 4cm was so disappointing…surely things should be happening by now! Joel was so understanding, and after giving me time for a good cry on his shoulder, he sent me for a long, relaxing bath, after which he put me back to bed to see if I could sleep. He then proceeded to tell our friend who was working in the basement to wait to come for several hours. I know this seems like an unrelated detail, but it played into the events of the rest of the day! I was able to sleep in the quiet house, and once I woke up refreshed, Joel told Chris to come back-we found out that Daniel & Lucy were coming that evening, instead of waiting for the next day-so we needed the basement for them to sleep in!
I still look back on that Wednesday as a gift. Up to that day, my life had been so full, the schedule so tight, so many urgent, pressing things to take care, running from here to there. No time for reflection, or for that mental preparation that is so helpful when facing something like labor. Even after having had two natural births, I found myself fighting fears of a different type this time. Nightmares of having to be taken to the hospital, because I couldn’t take the pain. Wondering if I could mentally cope with whatever might come in labor. Every time I would voice those fears, my husband would remind me that they weren’t coming for the Lord, and that I needed to trust in Him, and resist those fears. Yet having a day in which to reflect, and be able to gear up mentally for labor was something I needed in order to be prepared. Joel encouraged me to take the day “off”, and he even suggested taking our little family out for lunch. It’s one of those sweet memories I have…our last outing as a little family of 4, enjoying some relaxed time together at the local Chinese buffet. Talking about when the baby might come, and the children soaking up the time with mommy and daddy.
Contractions continued to come and go throughout the day, and Joel (wisely) wondered if it might not be a good idea to touch base with Rose. He really didn’t want her to be very far away if things did start to happen! Rose informed me that she was off work the rest of the week, and was thinking of heading up to her family’s place in order to do some study, and be closer to us in case baby decided to come. I went for a walk in order to get some fresh air and sunshine (though a storm was brewing), and found contractions very strong and intense while walking, though they would slow down again whenever I would sit. Around this time, Joel and I discussed whether or not I should consider taking castor oil. While we didn’t want to interfere with God’s timing of this birth, we also knew that I was physically very run down, and we were concerned about how I would handle more sleepless nights should things continue. After talking with Rose again, and finding out that she was studying at a nearby restaurant, as she felt from the tone of my voice earlier that she should be close by (and a snow storm was predicted for later on in the evening!), we decided to try castor oil if things didn’t move forward on their own. The mind-body connection is amazing, as contractions began to pick up again after just knowing that Rose was 2 miles away!
To be continued….