Lora and I have been friends for over a decade. We’ve adventured Lebanon and Thailand at each other’s side and when this world gets crazy I dial her number to reaffirm truth. When I visited her last month we found a park with a speckling of daisies where I could capture her family aglow in the heat of our midwest summer. In return she is making my baby in the womb a quilt to keep him warm when he is greeted by the turning of summer to fall. Love this friend for all seasons.
I was struck by how many photos of hands I'd captured during Chris and Hope's wedding day. Grandpa holding Bride's veil, Groom's' thumb caressing his love's jaw, Father of the Bride holding a perfect euchre "loner" hand, hands mingled in prayer, flower girl reaching up to beautiful Bride, and Mother of the Bride's hand clasped in that of her daughters.
I know Chris and Hope's deepest desire is to know and serve Christ in their marriage. Thus, my prayer for this Indiana girl and Haitian boy is Moses' words in Psalm 90:17:
"May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands."
A also have to share a favorite moment from the day:
I, Chris, a bridesmaid, groomsmen, and two empty car seats were packed liked sardines into a little sedan heading back to the wedding site after portraits at a park. The bridesmaid asked if Chris thought he would tear up seeing Hope walk down the aisle to which Chris shared that he might get emotional thinking about his dad, who had passed away a couple years ago, not being there. A few minutes later he mentioned as we were passing a cemetery “that’s where my dad is buried." We immediately suggested a stop and Chris was able to take a special moment with his dad at his gravesite. Such a beautiful gift from God.
The Livingston family chose this trail for their session. A river on one side and cars zooming by on the other. Green and blue in the midst of the city. Their Sabbath ritual is walking this trail from their home and the boys showed me their special spots: a sandbar by the water, the rocks where turtles sunbathe, and the trees full of purple mulberries ripe for staining hands and cheeks. Little Greta got lots of kisses from her three big brothers and it won’t be long until she’ll be running alongside them on this path.
When Erin was a girl she walked through this bluebell wood and dreamed about some day being wed on this hill of blue. Not deterred by recent rains, we waded through knee high water to return to this significant spot for her engagement session with Will.
They lying in the bluebells reminds me of the Midsummer Night’s Dream monologue:
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And if the high water wasn’t wild enough…I am 90% sure we spotted a bobcat on our walk out of the park!
"When on thy lovely vale I stand to gaze,
I feel thou need'st from me no meed of praise:
Thy hanging woods, thy fountains, and thy bowers,
Thy dashing floods, thy landscapes, and thy flowers,
Thy bold grey rocks, thy healthy purple fells,
Where silent solitude with beauty dwells ;"
On Bingley by John Nicholson
Four daughters. A modern "Little Women."
Queen Anne's Lace
We welcomed our little wildflower into the world almost two months ago! Here's the tale...
When carrying Lilias in the womb I asked God to speak a verse to my heart that we could be praying over her life. I believe I was given John 7:38 “Whoever believes in me as the Scripture has said, ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Water brings refreshment…cleansing…life.
Upon reflection I recognize how water rippled significantly throughout Lilias’ labor and delivery story.
Labor began with water...trickling and gushing just as I was settling in late on a Wednesday night. Though I’d known it was possible I could go into labor two weeks early, I’d truly not expected or prepared for this and had only packed our suitcase that evening. I’d just read that if you go into labor at night it is wise to try to sleep and wait to wake your spouse as to allow yourselves rest for the long hours ahead. So, I followed this advice. At least, I didn’t wake Zade
No sleep for me. My water continued to trickle in phases over the next five hours. At 4:30am I noticed some bloody discharge (probably just my mucous plug) and nervously phoned the on-call nurse. Incredulously she exclaimed, “Your water broke five hours ago? Come in now!” We had decided beforehand that we wanted to labor as long as possible at home. But, after speaking with the nurse my resolve was waffling so I decided this might be a good time to wake Zade. Groggily he expressed his amazement. We really hadn’t imagined she’d arrive early! Zade (who up to this point would not be pinned to declaring our daughter’s name though we had never even discussed another and
we’d long ago decided on Lilias) finally granted “her name will be Lilias.” He reminded me of my original intent to stay home as long as possible and we agreed to “go back to bed” and re-evaluate around 8. My contractions grew in intensity around 7 and I officially started to prepare for departure. Around 9 I was groaning. At 10 we threw the car seat (which we had no idea of how to use) into the car and headed to the hospital. I thought “my contractions seem close…this baby could come at any moment.” Ha.
The pain in a contraction pulls you in like a wave’s undertow. You can do nothing but surrender until it releases its hold. For me this ebb and flow lasted for hours upon hours. A new nurse would arrive for her shift and I would think “I will have the baby with her.” Then, seven hours later she would leave and still no Lilias. I resolved to only exist in my current contraction. I couldn’t think of what had passed before or what was ahead. To stay strong and fend off discouragement I would only focus on my current wave.
Because I was having an unmedicated birth, I’d prepared music, massagers, a birthing ball, and Bible verses to set the tone and aid in pain management. I’d imagined we’d post a “we’re having our baby” picture on social media. But that all went out the window. During labor I wanted nothing…nothing but Zade by my side and water. Everything else seemed too overwhelming.
I labored a few hours in the shower allowing the hot water to dim the pain in my abdomen and back. We heard a knock on the door and a whispered exchange. Then my nurse explained calmly to me that she was going to put some sheets and towels on the floor because the water was leaking….through the bathroom floor…into the office below!
Not too long after that they suggested I move into the birthing tub. Zade held the spigot to my back and stomach and a straw to my mouth so I could sip cold water throughout contractions. Hours passed and I got lost in the waves….
During labor I kept repeating “pure joy” because I thought we might name our Lilias (which means purity) Lilias Joy. I was reminded of how Christ “…for the joy that was set before him endured the cross….” (Hebrews 12:2). I’ve never experienced true, raw, all-consuming pain like labor. Enduring this for the joy of Lilias may be the closest I will come to resonating with this verse.
Thursday passed into Friday and Lilias was close. But I was in the dark deep. The nurse would speak my name “Bethany” and it would pull me mentally to the surface momentarily. But, I was becoming delirious due to exhaustion. The nurse kept instructing me to not groan when I pushed as this was focusing my energy away from my pushing. I would agree and then again and again do exactly what she’s said not to do. Zade asked me to repeat what the nurse had asked and I did. Then, I again groaned with the next contraction. He came to the realization that though I was repeating what the nurse was telling me I couldn’t understand what she meant. Once Zade illumined this I realized he was right. I could repeat the words but what it meant to follow them were lost in a muddle in my mind.
All the while they checked Lilias and confirmed her heart rate was normal and that she was “happy.” They brought a mirror so I could see the tip of her head and when a contraction came I’d push with all that was in me. But, with all my strength I was getting nowhere. After hours of this the midwife related “Bethany…baby is doing fine but it has been a long time now and we are concerned that baby has not come out yet…what do you think about having the doctor assist with a vacuum?” With that I mustered all the strength in my being and gave it one more PUSH.
Still no baby.
I collapsed again. I realized that I was growing more and more delirious and my body was becoming less and less capable of continuing on without assistance. I agreed to receive the vacuum.
I moved from the tub to the bed and found myself surrounded by women. I don’t even know who they all were. The doctor showed me the little vacuum which wasn’t nearly as scary looking as it sounded. Ladies in the room were commenting, “she’s so calm.” Amazingly, God had given me peace throughout the entire labor. The doctor placed the vacuum on Lilias' head and I PUSHED in the next contraction and heard a loud POP! I asked “Is she out?!” But, it was just the vacuum popping off her head! It was placed again and on the next contraction I PUUUSHED as the ladies surrounding me cheered and encouraged me through the “ring of fire.” A second later Lilias was in my arms. Amazement, joy, gratitude, and relief flooded my being. Twenty eight hours led up to this moment. Lilias laid upon my chest eyes wide and lips pursed, smacking. The nurses were inquiring “she’s not crying….why isn’t she crying?” But, she never cried her first hours of life. She came into the world in peace. Zade stood beside me enthralled by our little one. He had never left my side once.
Our prayer for her is that John 7:38 would prove true – that she would believe in Christ, the fountain of living water. That He would be her pure joy as she is His.
I went into birth with no fear. I was confident that my body was strong and designed to give life naturally. During labor and delivery I felt at peace and was overwhelmed by the encouragement, care, and kindness of our nurses and midwives. Indianapolis is more beloved in my heart due to Methodist Maternity Hospital. I was on a high the first few days of Lilias' life. But, after getting home I experienced some hormone induced acute stress regarding my labor and Lilias’ wellbeing. Nothing had prepared me for the rawness of labor…the enormity of pain. Looking back I kept seeing myself helpless and delirious in the water, unable to push Lilias out and becoming weaker and weaker each passing hour.
I realized that if I were in a different time in history or with a different set of resources or less capable staff Lilias and I could have died. We never came close to that. But, the realization of my complete weakness flooded my heart with fear. When Lilias was almost a week old we discovered that she had a feeding issue and was transferring very little breastmilk. This was causing her to lose weight rapidly. All emotional energy was channeled toward helping her work through the challenges that were keeping her from eating and I felt incapable of taking care of “me.” I was incredibly vulnerable due to the postpartum hormonal imbalance. I felt nauseous and had to force myself to eat, was bleeding profusely, and experienced my first panic attack. Thanks be to God Who surrounded me with family who helped me talk through and recognize my anxiety during those rough two weeks following postpartum. I share this postscript not to create fear for those who have not yet birthed, but to help normalize the postpartum challenges we women can face. All women react in vastly different ways to labor, delivery, and postpartum. My advice is to recognize that this
acute stress will pass and to have people around you who can care for you without reservation. It is true what they say, it takes some time but you forget the pain due to the greater joy of your little one. I am back to my old, even keel self and we continue to seek professional help for Lilias' breastfeeding challenges. Last week she had a tongue and lip tie surgery and we are hopeful for improvement!