Wednesday, December 17, 2014

the things i loved about birthing at home

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Here I am, looking back to 6 months ago, when our sweet Stella made her way into the world, in the wee hours of a hot summer morning, in the comfort of our home, in our own bed. How did so much time pass so quickly? And yet, I remember the events of that night and that morning so vividly. I wouldn't change a thing about it. (Even if my children all do insist on taking forever to work their way out because they sit so wonky in my womb. Anything for my babies).

Stella turned 6 months this past weekend and so I've been reflecting back on her birth a little bit lately: the events that led up to it, what actually took place, but more so the things that I will cherish in my heart forever about birthing my daughter at home.

It was incredible.

And perfectly wonderful.

For starters, when I go into our bathroom to take a shower and the same candle that was burning that night is lit, I am immediately transported back to being in labor. They say smell is the sense most strongly tied to memory and I love how certain smells from that night- coconut, lavender- take me right back.

That night, I had been in active labor for several hours and was starting to tire. I decided to take a shower at about 1 am (she was born about 4:15 am). I had a candle burning in our bathroom and our bedroom of the same scent- vanilla coconut. And so now, that smell will forever be tied to my memory of laboring in the shower, where my contractions really began to pick up, where things got so intense I had to squat or bend over to get through each contraction, where I knew it was time to call my midwife because things were getting ready to really happen.

The smell of lavender will do nearly the same thing. Ben joked that our bedroom smelled like an herb factory thanks to a crock pot full of hot wash cloths and lavender essential oil. During each contraction, Ben would place a hot wet wash cloth on my back as I leaned over our bed. It was a life saver. And lavender in the air helped too.

I loved that I could tuck my boys into bed at 8 o'clock that night, while having strong contractions, and when they awoke the next morning, their baby sister was there, in their home, waiting to meet them. We didn't have to be separated from each other for any time. At all times, our children were near to us and we were near to them. No worrying about who would watch them overnight, who would bring them to the hospital, if Ben would go home or stay with me. We were all right there, together, the whole time, as a family.

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The moment that Stella was born was peaceful. No one whisked her away from me. There were no monitors to run her to, no beeping or heat lamps. No one insisted on wiping her down and bathing her immediately or poking her foot with needles. No one running around the room frantically. No one asking me a million questions. No machines, no technology, no intervention whatsoever. It was quiet and calm, not loud and chaotic. It was dark and peaceful, not bright and hectic. Ben was by my side, worship music was playing softly, Stella went right on top of my tummy and chest (of course we took some pictures) and then we rested quietly, together.

It was basically the exact opposite of the two hospital birth experiences I had with my boys.

I was able to nap in my own bed after labor. Need I say more? I mean, wow was that an amazing thing. Something so simple and yet so wonderful. I gave birth, nursed my sweet daughter, and then I took a nap, all in my own bed.

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I was surrounded by only the people I chose, at the time I chose, no one more, no one less. For most of my labor it was just Ben and I. No nurses poking me in the arm, no one insisting that they check to measure my progress, no monitors strapped to my tummy, no one asking me to sign a bunch of forms.

Just me, my baby and my husband.

I could focus on what I was doing. I wasn't interrupted a million times. I was able to get into my zone and stay there. When it was time to call for help I invited my midwives and one of their students into my home. They were there to assist and support me, to simply attend my birth. They were not there to tell me what to do, how to do anything or try to convince me to do anything against my will.

Which leads me to the best part about birthing at home: I was free to choose. Birthing at home allowed me to choose exactly who I wanted to attend my birth, it allowed me to choose what I wanted to do during labor, it allowed me to choose what happened to my baby after she was born. It allowed me to decide what I wanted or didn't want to do while pregnant as well! I was free to decline anything I felt I didn't need.

Birthing at home allowed me to listen to my body and labor exactly how I chose: walking, standing, squatting, in the shower, laying down. I wore whatever I wanted. Even when things got a bit challenging, my midwife encouraged me to just follow my body's cues and do what I felt I needed to do. She didn't interject and say I needed pitocin to get my cervix to dilate quicker or to stop pushing (like I was told during my delivery with Isaac). She was there simply to encourage me to keep working, to keep laboring, to keep going. And of course to make sure Stella and I were both doing well.

You see, there is freedom in birthing at home. 

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I look back on that night with gratitude. What a blessing it was to have a baby in the comfort of my own home. What a blessing it was to have the freedom I so deeply desired for her birth. I am grateful every day for the beautiful amazing gift that God gave to us wrapped up in a sweet, precious, cuddly little baby and I am grateful every day for how she made her way into our lives. I am grateful that He was there in our midst and that He never left my side. And I am grateful that even if I hadn't been able to birth at home, even if things hadn't gone the way I had desired, that He would still be the sovereign God.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Jesus became flesh and blood- how having a baby during Christmas is changing my perspective

Because God's children are human beings--made of flesh and blood--the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. Hebrews 2:14,15 (NLT)

Yesterday, as I searched for a verse to put on our Christmas cards, I came across this version of this verse. And it just struck me. This is the gospel story and the Christmas story all wrapped up in two verses. Let's consider what we learn in this piece of scripture.

What happened on Christmas? Jesus, the Son, came as flesh and blood.

Why did He come as a man? He came to us as flesh and blood because we, the children of God (and as some versions refer to us, His brothers), are made of flesh and blood.

Why did He have to become like us? He had to become human because He had to die in our place, as a human being.

Why did He have to die? Death and the power that Satan had over it could only be defeated by Jesus dying, in our stead.

What does that mean for me? Satan no longer has the power of death. He has been defeated. And because of that, I can live! I am set free! I am no longer a slave to sin and death.

I suppose I could just wrap up this post right here. I mean, that is the whole story, in a nutshell. And yet there is so much more to this verse than simply what we read on the surface. One thing I've learned to do over the years as I study scripture, something that took time and discipline to develop, is to read not only what a verse says at face value, but also what the verse implies. Every statement brings with it implications. But we have to dig in and ask what is this implying? About me? About sin? About Jesus? About God? About creation? About culture? And the list goes on and on. The questions are endless and so are the answers.

Scripture is rich and deep and there is always more to discover.

But what more is there to dig into in regards to this passage? The first question I asked was "what exactly did it mean for Jesus to become flesh and blood?" I won't even begin to brush the surface of the endless answers to that question in this post, but I wanted to share just a few things.

Having an infant during Christmas changes everything about this season for me. Eli was a newborn 2 years ago at Christmas and I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't catch this then. But this time around, although Stella is 6 months old, I'm determined to let the fullness of what happened on that Christmas morning fall and settle on my heart. I want to grasp the greatness of what occurred when Jesus "became flesh and blood."

Later in this same chapter of Hebrews, the author says that Jesus had to be made like us "in every respect." And as I stopped to consider that, I reread the Christmas story in the gospels and this particular verse in Luke caught my attention:

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger Luke 2:6,7

Mary gave birth to her baby and swaddled him. That's what we do with babes. We bring them into the world and we wrap them in swaddling clothes and we lay them down to sleep. When it's time to eat, we feed them. When they need it, we change their diaper. They are ultimately and completely dependent on us for their care and nurturing. And just like every other baby before Him and just like every baby since, Jesus became

He became a helpless babe, swaddled, nursed and cared for by a woman who He Himself created and yet who He Himself would call mother.

How can I even make sense of that?

I look at Stella as I nurse her and change her and carry her on my hip and sing to her and talk to her and wrap her in a blanket and lay her to sleep in her crib and I think, "Jesus became just like her."

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And again I can't help but ask, why?

And the Word of God whispers, "for love and for My glory."

You see, Jesus, the Creator God, the Alpha and the Omega, the great I AM, put on flesh and blood, was made to be like His very own creation- a man- in order to sacrifice Himself on our behalf. Christmas is just part of the story. He didn't just come down to earth to be with us. He came down to earth to sacrifice Himself for us, to die for us. We can't understand the magnitude of the story without understanding that the Babe we celebrate in December, the infant swaddled in the manger, came with a purpose. That purpose was to give Himself up so that we would be set free from sin and made holy.

What other god does that? What other god makes himself to be like the people he created for the purpose of dying on their behalf? None. No other god is like our God. There is no greater or more perfect display of love than that. 

Jesus is, therefore, worthy of all worship and honor and praise.

Jesus, the Creator of all things, God Himself, became like me- a man, a mere mortal, so that I could be like Him- holy, pure and sanctified. He put on flesh and blood, walked a perfect sinless life and then died to defeat death, hell and the grave in order that I may be delivered from sin- free from the fear of death. I am no longer a slave to sin, but I am free in Christ. I died with Jesus and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ in me! (Galations 2:20)

And so, when I look at Stella as I nurse her and change her and carry her on my hip and sing to her and talk to her and wrap her in a blanket and lay her to sleep in her crib and I think, "Jesus became just like her", I also think, "Jesus became just like her, just for her" (and just for me, and just for you).

This Christmas I am determined to be overcome by the magnitude of what it meant for God to become a man and die for me. The Christmas story is about love, no doubt. But the Christmas story is ultimately about Jesus, about who He is, what He did and the glory and honor and power that He calls His own because of those things. May we be in awe of that tiny babe this Christmas, but may we also be in awe of the Lord of all, whose name is more excellent than any other, whose throne is forever and ever, and who is the founder and author and pioneer and captain of our salvation.

Soli Deo Gloria.