The hardest thing I did was birth a human.
The second thing I did was birth a business.
The third hardest was putting my money where my mouth was, walk away from the artificial firstborn for the human firstborn, and trust it didn’t mean I was losing myself, but simply transforming.
Maternity leave is a blur of having hot water rush over my hands scrubbing bottles at the sink, the ding of the microwave after they’re sanitized. It’s his blinking eyes, his quivering bottom lip. “Amazing Grace” followed by “I Love You a Bushel and a Peck,” and then whatever ADPi medley of chapter meeting songs comes to mind. It’s a mug of cold coffee traded for first smiles, my beat-up Ugg house shoes and robe coupled with my glasses.
John Talmadge, darling, I didn’t see myself as maternal until you.
You made me a mommy. The nine months that made you met me tear-filled and questioning how one night, just one try, could have been God’s plan when so many women have tried far longer. They met me questioning how on earth I could be ready for you when I’d just—finally—settled into a rhythm of restful marriage, recovered from the nightmare of mental health issues, and hit a stride with the man I’d loved so long.
Pregnancy sanctified my heart, pointed out my pride, and leveled me to again see my sin and why I need Jesus.
I hope you enjoy this—I wanted to post it because in my weeks before delivery, reading a couple of birth stories calmed me down. I also wanted to show one that was PRO-epidural/non-“natural” because I couldn’t find one that talked about that in positive language (I’m sure they’re out there, they were just hard to track down!).
Friday, December 7, 2018
My last official Friday in the office, I cut out to head to my doctor for a late-term regular appointment.
“I’ve got an assignment for you,” Dr. Kleiss said. “Go on a date with your husband this weekend. I don’t think you’ll make it ’til the 19th. I give you 10 days—or less. This baby’s coming.”
That afternoon, I squirreled quietly and intuitively into planning and plotting, mapping and making tidy ends neat with the faint scent of dry-erase markers over a calendar. With 12 days until my due date, I figured I’d have the next week or so to write a bit, but I punctuated things with a button as best I could.
Saturday, December 8, 2018
Saturday morning I woke up and had my quiet time before sitting down at the washed oak table for a short stack of baby gift thank you’s. Wes walked downstairs. “God and I talked,” I said. “The baby’s coming Monday.”
I don’t recall saying it quite like that, but he does.
Either way, I gave him my blessing for an Atlanta soccer game that evening—they won. 😉
I instead ventured to a breastfeeding class at the hospital (I wrote delivery verses in my Val Marie Paper prayer journal the whole time!) and a gifted pre-natal massage.
Intuition fluttered constantly that day, and my nesting alarms went off. I soon found myself in the TJ Maxx line replacing the sheets and guest bedroom pillows for grandparent stays, and that evening with Wes out, wrapped every remaining Christmas present. The “nesting” urge struck my Type A self with a determined attitude. John Talmadge was low, low, low, and every step I felt like he’d plop out on the floor.
Typical for my last few months of pregnancy, I couldn’t sleep a wink that night.
Sunday, December 9, 2018
Sunday dawned and I blinked open my eyes on the couch downstairs, texting Wes that I didn’t feel up to going to church, and just felt altogether funny and awful. We spent the cold, grey day in sweatpants, deciding to venture out before dark to walk down the street to his brother and my sister-in-law’s house to visit.
With my puffer jacket on, I waddled about 3 steps behind Wes down the street. “You gonna make it, Ash?” I’m fine, I said. Two minutes later I asked if we could just make a short lap and drive over to their house—.6 miles away—because no, I couldn’t make it. Later that night I’d text Lorrin that I asked for a chair right when we walked in because I thought Tal would fall out of me.
Back home, my lower back started aching with painful streaks blinking across my middle. I figured it was just part of these final days, leaned against a heating pad, and complained to Wes until he went to bed—but not before deciding to vacuum the entire house one more time.
Nesting, I tell you.
Sleep? RIGHT. These back pains were getting worse. So I flipped on a Christmas movie and invited our two German Shepherds on the couch with me.
I tapped open an app on my phone and started counting. 59 seconds on, then off, 5 minutes relief. 62 seconds on, then off, 5 minutes relief.
Okay. So these are maybe contractions. Weird, because they’re all in my back, but I guess they’ll come around to the front later. I flicked on the kitchen light around midnight and started scooping out balls of cookie dough for the hospital nurses—I’m telling you, nesting hit me with a vengenace—tying them up with a glittery silver bow, and moving our hospital bags towards the front door.
These were almost most definitely contractions … the qualifiers there because I still couldn’t figure out why nothing was happening in my abdomen. Everything was back.
I plugged in my curling iron and dabbed on a touch of concealer before shaking Wes. “Hey babe, I think these may be contractions but they may not be so I don’t know what to do.”
Gee, that’s helpful.
“Okay, well what do YOU want to do?” I answered that I did NOT want my pride to get the best of me. I wanted to leave in time to have an epidural. According to Wes, I didn’t say that as calmly as I recall.
We meandered down the interstate in the dark, our drive punctuated with “I think my water just broke—your new truck’s leather seat!!” Like everything up to this point, nothing fit the “oh, you’ll just know” mold that doctors and other mommas had told me about. NO, my contractions weren’t just “bad period cramps.” No, I didn’t even really know they were contractions. No, water breaking didn’t feel or look anything like TV shows. ????I found labor so confusing!
By the time we got inside Piedmont, I was trying not to double over as we checked in.
1 centimeter. WHAT!? THAT’S IT!? If I wanted to progress, we had to take some laps. Walking helps, they said.
Wes went to his car to get his AirPods. He slid one in his ear, I wore the other. I remember holding his arm, shuffling down the long, fluorescent-lit hallways in the wee hours, blinking back tears and having to sit down while I labored. I’d made the playlist, and Christy Nockels followed Ben Rector followed Alan Jackson. At one point Wes laughed at the eclecticness of the songs—I rolled my eyes and told him the songs either reminded me of Jesus or of him so he could can it. 😉
2 centimeters. Still not enough. They’d give me a few more minutes, otherwise, I may need to go home to labor to a point. I’ve never felt pain like that. So many women told me that once you have a child, you’ll forget the pain of it all. *soft smile* No, no. I still remember ever inch of that pain. It still settled all in my back, scraping and excruciating down my lower spine—with no pain to show for in the front. (Side note—no one had told me about “back labor,” but it’s a thing. Google it.) I kept telling Wes I can’t do this, I can’t do this. He didn’t know (obviously) how to answer that, other than telling me I kinda had to. That I could do it. I couldn’t stop crying and shaking, thinking years of spinning on bloody blistered toes in wooden pointe shoes didn’t prepare me an inch for this. “Lord, we talked about this,” I silently prayed. “You know my past with depression and anxiety and mental illness. If this continues, I just know I’ll resent this child. I can’t do this.”
4 centimeters, admitted.
I’d considered a natural birth for a while, reading MULTIPLE books (posted a list at the bottom of this blog!) and researching both sides of the spectrum before finally deciding—for me—if the Lord gifted brilliancy to chemists to come up with a tool that would help me cope through labor, bring it on. May I glorify Him in their gifts. ????(It took me months to be okay with that decision, FYI!) And I did. I prayed through every second the needle for an epidural slid in my back, and a few minutes later, I felt so serene. Wes walked in from getting our hospital bags out of the car and said I was a new person.
I felt like I’d had two champagne cocktails—slightly giddy, yet a little happily slowed down. “Wes, I feel like a maternity goddess now,” I said. “I can’t WAIT to meet him!” And I couldn’t. Bring it on, birth process. I want to meet this little one!
I am VERY pro-epidurals and amazed with anesthesiologists. From this point of labor on, I loved absolutely every moment. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy and on cloud 9!
The mid-morning and early afternoon were a sleepy blur of naps (“Get some rest—you two take some naps before things get started!”) WHILE having contractions (!), and greeting family. I loved every bit of it. I loved talking to the nurses, hearing what they were doing.
Around 3 p.m., they decided it was time to push. Pushing was—truly—my favorite part. With the epidural in, pushing was simply an abdominal exercise—“The Curl” that I’d worked to perfect so many times in barre classes at the gym … it just happened to last for an hour and a half.????Wes hoisted up one leg and our sweet nurse held the other, but calmly coaching me through. “One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three. Relax.” The room was so calm, just the 3 of us laughing and enjoying one another.
I remember Wes’s brown eyes tearfully locking with mine and his head nodding up and down in approval. Ice chips and an oxygen mask made contraction breaks a resurgence before it was back into the ring until finally, our nurse said it was time to call the doctor in.
Our jovial doctor wheeled over on a spinning stool—it’s really all a blur for me here—and got me to push one more time. “This is it,” she said. And it was. I pushed with everything in me, my eyes on Wes, who was looking towards where Talmadge was being pulled up, up, up, showing his entire silky, wet little body. Seeing Wes’s expression shot my eyes over towards my legs. And there you were. I laughed, held Wes’s hand while he laughed, both of our eyes brimming in tears. I didn’t quite know how to take it all in—again, there was aboslutely zero pain (even though I tore and they stiched me right up) so I was just taking in the magnitude of everything that happened, giddy and overwhelmed with joy.
They put your writhing little body on my chest, little Tal, and I remember thinking fingernails. You have fingernails. “I’m your momma,” I said. Those were my first words to you. “You’re my baby.”
The hospital went on to be a revolving door of visitors and family, nurses and charting, but it was such a sweet delivery with healthy 8 lb., 5.5 oz baby and mama—absolutely no complications. The Lord steadfastly knit John Talmadge’s little life inside my body, and covered the whole process of bringing it into this world.
I wanted this post to be out there to encourage any other not-quite-sure they’re maternal mama-to-be, and to show just ONE way to consider birth. I heard so many “birth stories” my final weeks of pregnancy, and I considered all different ways to go through delivery.
The books that helped me learn as much as I could were:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin :: The “bible” on natural childbirth. Very, VERY helpful and empowering. Until I read Push Back, this had me fairly convinced to try natural birth, even though it scared me a bit when I thought about complications—and pain!
Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize :: Theologically, I actually disagree with a lot in here. I do think it’s got a few helpful points and verses, so I’ve included it, but read with a very discerning mind if you are a Christ-follower.
Okay, I’ll wrap this up (even though I could include a BILLION adorable baby pics). I also stayed up making a Labor + Delivery playlist/stalking other womens’ before delivery, so here’s mine … it may also be fun background music while you work! 😉