At 6:32 pm on June 16, 2015 Milo Chapman Sanders was delivered safely into our aching arms. He was 7 pounds, 4 ounces of love and bravery and spirit, and we are blessed to call him Son.
Matt and I had planned for a natural delivery, primarily due to all the complications we had with sweet Oliver. (Look here for the adventure we had bringing Oliver into this world at 9:56 am on June 17, 2013.) We had been chatting with our Midwife on ways to avoid similar complications, we had been working with our sweet doula, and I had been seeing a chiropractor.
And then, at 35 weeks I began itching, crazy-wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-throw-yourself-into-a-cold-shower-type-itching... which led to a diagnosis of Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. After the diagnosis was confirmed, an induction was quickly scheduled.
Not. Part. Of. The. Plan.
We met with our Midwife on Monday and she agreed to give us a day to try to get labor kicked into gear on our own. I was already dilated to a 5 and 80% effaced and she thought we had a chance of getting there without induction. And we tried everything. And I mean, everything. And everything did, in fact, include acupuncture. Lets talk about that. Needles sticking out of my feet, legs, arms, hands and in between my eyes. We were covering our bases... Eastern Medicine, Western Medicine, Herbal Teas and prayer.
But it was not quite enough to tip me over into actual labor.
And as we drove to hospital the next morning, I could see the birth we had been imagining fade away. I tried to poise my heart for a birth similar to Oliver's, steady myself for complications and prepare for another stay in the NICU. It was a surrendering and a yielding and a prying of my fingers off MY Plans. And it was stormy in my soul.
We got settled in our room. Nurses came and went. My IV was placed. Fluids hung. Our doula, Alicia arrived. And the pitocin drip began. And to be brutally honest, I had very little hope that I would be able to labor without an epidural. I mean, I wanted to do it without an epidural... but I knew when contractions hit full force, especially pitocin induced contractions, I would buckle. I don't do pain. I very rarely do discomfort. There is a reason I don't do marathons... or run... ever.
And then we waited. And chatted. And walked. We wore the hall of the labor unit out, and became shockingly familiar with the dreary, muted art work at El Camino Los Gatos Hospital. And every hour or so, the nurse would up my drip of pitocin, until I was getting 12mu and still not in active labor.
At 3:30pm we asked to have my water broken, rather than continue to up my pitocin drip, and within 30 minutes I was in the thick of it. Breathing deep, holding Matt's hands, and letting wave after wave of contraction roll over me. And they built, and grew, and gentle waves quickly turned into a pounding current, leaving me groaning in Matt's shoulder.
And he held my hands, and my heart, and my gaze. And my eyes found his. Every. Single. Time.
In between contractions, he read scriptures over me that we had prepared ahead of time, scrawled on the backs of pictures of newborn Oliver. Gentle reminders of what is true, of who God is, even in the uncertainty of a delivery room and in the pain of labor.
With each contractions that rolled toward me, Matt would pause reading and wrap his left arm around me and grasp my right hand with his. Alicia gently walked me through guided imagery and muscle relaxation during each wave. (I'm fairly certain that Matt fell asleep briefly during one contraction due to her skill at coaching relaxation.)
I labored for the better part of two hours on the couch in our delivery room. I didn't want to move, I couldn't move. I could only focus on Matt's voice and breath deep into each contraction. And then Alicia asked me to move to the toilet... to relieve my bladder and to labor for a bit, seated there.
Matt crouched in front of me. His forehead pressed against mine.
It felt like an eternity.
It was thirty minutes.
Time moves differently for women in labor.
And then I hit THE WALL. The wall where it feels unbearable. The wall where you are desperate for the end. The wall that makes you beg your baby to come out. The wall that leaves you breathless, and speechless, and groaning deep and low.
And then my body took over... and there was no stopping it, no holding it back, no restraining it. My midwife was quickly brought in and she firmly and gently insisted that I walk to the bed. And despite my protests that I could not move, I allowed Matt to pull me up, steady me and slowly lead me... the most unbearable 20 steps.
He gently laid me on my side and leaned over me, wrapping me up, as I delivered Milo into our Midwife's waiting hands. And it was beautiful and excruciating and peaceful and wild.
That first cry. That first sight. That first time I calmed him with my touch.
Dark brown hair.
Deep, dark eyes.
So much life tucked into that tiny little frame.
The nurses gently laid him on my chest, his umbilical cord still pulsing. And his tiny body felt so familiar. That palm-sized little bum that I had been massaging back into a more comfortable position for the past several months. I know you already, Sweet Milo Chapman, and I am only beginning to know you.
Milo Chapman Sanders,
My brave boy. My second-born. My son.
God ordained the day of your birth, buddy. He planned 6:32pm on June 16th for you, and you were not a second early or a second late. As you lay here beside me, sighing deeply in your sleep, my mind is wandering to other days that God has ordained for you. Small triumphs of childhood... your first lost tooth, your first bike ride without training wheels, your first day of kindergarten, your first home run. Those days we will savor, and drink deeply of, and tuck away in our memories. God ordained, since before your birth, three weeks ago.
And just like your birth buddy, beautiful and painful and different than daddy's and my plan, there will be God-ordained days of beauty and pain, probably tinted with anxiety, because they were not part of your plan. And I want you to know, Little Chap, that God is just a present and just as sweet and just as sovereign in your grief as He is in your joy. He can be harder to see, because your eyes and your heart get clouded with hurt, but buddy, He's there. Daddy and I pray that those days are few and far between for you, but when they come, oh press into Him, pursue Him, look for Him in every nook and cranny.
And when you find Him, ask Him the hard questions.
And then do the challenging work of committing to Him the work of His hands.
He is good, He is present, He is sweet and sovereign.
We love you deeply, Milo Chapman.
Love, Mommy & Daddy.
This song by Steffany Frizzle Gretzinger was playing in our delivery room, and captures my experience with God and with Matt, who loved me and led me through the birth of our son.