Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

Victorious: A Birth Story

*This is an account of the birth of our newest sweet son. It is intensely personal, not especially graphic, but may not be of interest to all readers.

The way I get through difficult experiences is to let true words ring in my ears over and over, helping me to focus my mind on what is true instead of what I am afraid of. My soul considers words carefully, repeatedly turning them over like a rock in a pocket; worries rubbed right out against the smooth and even surface of true things. I draw in deep breaths, hoping the air I take in will displace the angst that ominously threatens to rule me.

In sitting position, I listen intently and rock gently with closed eyes. Music pours quietly from the tiny speaker on my phone beside me, straight into my soul, strengthening me through increasingly intense waves of pain. Contractions started suddenly only minutes ago, but they are already full-force and close together. I can’t handle sensory input from anywhere else, so I shut everyone out of my laboring space and give myself to the process and the music. I am strong, but tender. I am ready, but uneasy. I am well aware of the work ahead.

I know my husband is preparing the delivery space just outside the door from where I am, which is little more than a twin mattress on the floor, properly made up to receive a struggling, laboring woman, a new child, and the fluids that go with. It’s a humble stage, but somehow comforting as such. He flurries around trying to piece things together without a road map, and I feel his excitement after waiting long weeks and months to meet his new son. For the sometimes gruff exterior, the man has a beautiful soft heart for his children.

I hear the midwives arriving. I can’t open my eyes, but I start to cry when they reach me. I am relieved to have skillful, compassionate women at the ready to help me through what I know will be a trauma even as it is a gift. I hear my sweet sister-friend arrive at nearly the same time as the midwives, ready to help our older kids upstairs settle into their temporary bed on the fold-out sofa mattress. She whispers excitedly that she will take care of everything upstairs. I can’t acknowledge her in that moment, but I feel a deep sense of gratitude for her willingness to drop everything and come straight over to help in the small but essential ways she does.

The midwives set up their supplies and check in on me. I answer questions when I am able, and I resolve to not brush away the doppler they put on my belly to hear the little one’s heart rate every so often, even though its almost a reflex to wave it away. The music continues, and I sway and rock in rhythm, deeply focused on overcoming each excruciating contraction, which continue to come with vigor.

Every so often my phone dings with a message from the friends that know I am laboring. I don’t read them until later, but I find strength in the sound of them coming, knowing the content is prayers and encouraging words sent my way.

At the peak of the discomfort, I want to crumble. Each contraction is so difficult to manage, and they fall so close together, I have very little relief. I dig for the grit in my bones to press forward, to open and surrender instead of bracing against the pain. In one moment I can do it. I am convinced. In another, I sink low, tense up my shoulders and hope that someday this agony will end. After a minute of angsty pause and counting slow breaths out, the pain lightens for a moment, only to begin again a moment later.

The music lifts me in the perilous moments of struggle.

“I will trust here in the mystery, I will trust in You completely,” and I choose to trust again at the start of each contraction.

“Let the weary rise, lift their eyes to see Your love crushing every lie, every doubt and fear.” I am aware that while I tremble, I am overcoming my fears in real time. I am doing it. I am breathing through it. I am moving through it.

“With Your breath in me, I will worship.” I realize anew that worship in distress is perhaps the most effective way to overcome. It doesn’t help to try and hide, disengage, complain, or cower from the trouble before me. Worship is a battle cry of perseverance through hard things.

“Hallelujah, hallelujah You are making all things new.” A new little person is on his way into our home. I am in so much pain, but so eager to see his face. I am so honored to have this task.

“You will lift my head above the mighty waves…and in my weakness You are the strength that comes from within.” I am reminded that the power of God is perfected in the weakness I feel acutely in these hours. He is sustaining me, upholding me in the moments I am sinking.

“You cause my faith to arise, stand at attention, for You are calling me to greater things.” I pour out every last bit of myself for this task, reserving nothing, giving all. Great love and great labor.

“How I love you, You have not forsaken me.” I feel the nearness of God–peace to steady me when everything physical within me is torrential. Somehow the brief space between the swells filled with calm and resolve.

“I am the wind in your sails.” I am convinced my sails are going to buckle and collapse, until a wind carries me forward in the very momentary relief between the close, intense contractions.

“It will be worth the risk you’re taking, what you make of this moment changes everything.” Once I see this boy, my life will never be the same. I know my son will be in my arms soon, even though time slogs along agonizingly slower than usual.

I replay the songs again and again as labor progresses over the course of two and half hours, clinging to the words more fervently with the escalation of pain.

It all starts to feel impossible, like the pain will never end. The baby will never come out. I will never open my eyes again, and I cannot remember what not-pain feels like.

The water breaks and I break too. It is all so much.

Somehow we get to the mattress outside the door, the midwives, my husband, and me. I am having an out of body experience, hearing myself scream and feeling contortions of my body that I cannot control, my eyes still tightly closed. I know nothing except the strong arms that keep me from breaking apart…the arms of my husband who is heroically holding me through the last frightful minutes. I am terrified. I am screaming. I am frozen.

And then he is there. My heart and womb spilled out. I am broken and filled in the same moment. My son, whose name means victorious, is in my arms. With that, I am pleased to introduce you to the newest member of our family who was born in the late hours of a Friday evening at the end of February, about five days overdue. He weighed 10lbs 4oz, and measured 22 inches.

*The music referenced can be found here and is very worthy of a listen.