Bastian was born blue and limp, in a river of meconium. His placenta was grey and shriveled. My midwives and doctor had never seen a baby survive with a placenta that dead.
It took several minutes to resuscitate him. I was too drugged to understand what was happening; all I knew was that I was DONE, that the pain and the waiting were over. In the cover picture, you can see the tense face of my sister, watching as a team of people worked on my little baby boy.
His heart wasn’t beating.
An eternity passed. And then he cried. They brought him to me. He looked up at me with his huge dark eyes. I knew him right away. He was mine.
I’d opted to induce, at 41 weeks. I was hysterical from PUPPS, and my body and Jesus were telling me I needed to get that baby out. It was a hard decision to make. I am a believer in the benefit, for mom and baby, of unmedicated childbirth.
After 10 hours of insane, long contractions, coming in triplets, I wept many tears and asked for an epidural. I dilated so quickly it was obscene.
That’s when the first Code Blue happened; there were several of them over the next hour or so, complete with staff dramatically bursting into the room. They put John in scrubs. A C-section seemed imminent.
But despite being posterior, as all my babies are, Bastian descended. Weak and unable to complete the final rotation, an OBGYN manually turned him. That ain’t something you ever want to experience unless you have to.
I began to push.
Bastian's heart went silent on the monitor. Acting so fast she was literally telling me what was happening as she did it, my midwife cut an episiotomy and he came flying out, lifeless.
The day after I delivered, my midwife sat on my bed and said, “I want you to know you made the right decision. From the state of your placenta, I don’t think your son would have lived another day.”
But he did.
And it would take months and years to unpack the trauma of that experience.
I had felt the crises of my body and the urging of the Holy Spirit and made the right decision. That was a good feeling. On the other hand, my body had failed me. Again.
I didn’t know how to come to peace with something so beyond my control.
7 months later, when I was pregnant with Jasper, I worried about low amniotic fluid, dead placentas and a repeat shitty labor.
At 42 weeks, home alone, I wept in the shower. I felt powerless and afraid. I wrestled with the swirl inside of myself, with the attempt to control what was happening to me. The water poured over me and, as He always does, Jesus met me in that place with gentleness and empathy. I let go of the fear of induction. I released the battle for control. A few hours later, as I sat happily watching the Steelers win the Super Bowl, I started having close, regular contractions.
It was the day before my imminent induction; he’s always been such an obliging little guy.
I went into Jasper’s labor hopeful. Without an induction, without Pitocin, maybe my body would get it together and my contractions would be productive. After 10 hours of early labor and 14 hours of active labor, I had progressed to 3 centimeters. I was exhausted and furious. I had an epidural and, once again, I dilated so quickly I was pushing before the midwives could come barreling back into the room to catch the guy.
Posterior as he was, he turned himself and gave a perfect little flutter kick, a testament to his life-long love for water that lead to a near drowning...and encouragement to prep for the local swim team.
And he had blazing red hair. I held him and thought, “Who the hell are you?!” I was smitten.
But once again, my labor left me feeling defeated. No matter how I tried, I was never enough. I couldn’t get my shit together.
When I got pregnant with Tansy I wanted a home birth, but I had no confidence that I could make it through that storm of fury and pain.
Her labor was the longest and hardest. (Funny, considering the parenting challenges she presents.) It also holds the famous moment in which my current midwife climbed up on my bed behind me, wrapped her arm around me and whispered in my ear, “What are you so angry about?”
“EVERYTHING!” I screamed. And then proceeded to sob for over an hour, utterly undone.
I had hit The Wall, that thing inside of me that would not yield.
I had come to my breaking point. 10 hours of early labor. 17 hours of active, traumatic labor, and I was so done you could have stuck a fork in me. My contractions were painful and unproductive...confirmed by my midwife, who checked me during a contraction. Which hurt like hell. I cried like a baby. “What are you feeling right now?” she asked me quietly.
What was I NOT feeling?! I was feeling sorrow, the trauma of my body not working, anger that everything has to be so damn hard.
During treatment for vestibulodynia, my doctor had handed me a set of dilators and some lidocaine and said, “Try to get used to the pain.” That's what labor felt like to me.
You cannot force something to open when it isn’t ready.
17 hours in with Tansy, I went to the hospital. I was 4.5cm’s, the farthest I’d ever gotten on my own. Swearing and spitting I told them to give me the damn epidurual. 45 minutes later I gave birth. I’m not kidding.
I had had three children in four years. I still have no idea how. Amongst the normal exhaustion of that experience, and the added stress of a child on the autism spectrum, I began a process of looking hard into what The Wall inside of me was.
Because this is who I am: I am the person who wants Recovery. Health. Functionality. In every part of my life. And I am committed and willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Even if it sucks.
Let me tell you, the willingness to take this journey has brought me to a lot of places I probably never would have otherwise gone.
It's worth it.
The Holy Spirit began to show me the extent to which I resist labor, trying to wrest those contractions under my will. I fight the pain. I get stuck, held captive by my emotions, fighting for control. But birth isn’t about control. Or power.
Birth is about surrender.
Labor is release, letting the pain come and letting it go, allowing it to pass through you. An epidural, for me, is forced surrender. (Ironic, right?!)
I saw this Wall in myself and I knew that there was One who could change everything.
And if I let Him, something fundamental would change inside of me.
I didn't want the easy way out. I wanted to go to the depths and confront what was hurting. So, for my fourth baby, aside from the medical interventions I wanted to avoid, I decided to face The Wall. We prepared for a home birth.
I remember that my room was dark, filled with the aroma of lavender, but my fourth baby came like a storm. It was by far the most painful labor I’d experienced. The back labor was excruciating. I wanted, so much, to stay emotionally present...but eventually I hit a point, in the pain, where I couldn't.
I wanted to DO this labor but I couldn’t DO anything.
My frustration began to grow. At 11pm I had been in labor for four hours. I was imagining that I had at least 10 more to go and I knew that I absolutely did not want to do it unmedicated at that level of pain. At that moment, John stepped up to me as a partner. He had been praying and listening and the Lord had spoken to him about how He came to save his people.
“One hour,” John said, “you wait one more hour and I will take you anywhere that you need to go.”
I swore and snarled…but I labored on.
I got up to use the bathroom and threw up. I got in the birthing tub, loudly declaring that I was ready to leave. And then something exploded inside of me. I felt the pain of the baby moving beneath my pubic bone.
IT WAS HAPPENING! My midwife wasn’t even there!
No one was prepared for the swiftness of this birth!
I didn’t even push. My baby was shooting out of my body like a freight train. “Her head is out!” I screamed. Everyone cheered. At that exact moment my midwife came dancing down the hall crying, singing, “Thankya JESUS!” over and over. She plunged her hand into the pool and scooped my baby up out of the water.
To the minute, it was one hour since John had asked me to wait.
They cleaned me up, got me in bed and covered me with warm blankets. My midwife made me biscuits and gravy.
I had faced the wild tempest of emotions, the battle for control, and had a peaceful, unmedicated water birth at home.
I nursed my baby and snuggled into bed, in shock that the whole thing was done. I wanted to say, "Look at me! I nailed it!" but a strange feeling of disappointment hung over me…I hadn’t remained present. I felt like I hadn’t “done” it.
In the quiet, as the days passed, the Holy Spirit said to me, “You don’t. I do it. In my faithfulness, in My mercy, I am the one who DOES it. All I needed was your ‘yes.’”
My yes to the process. My yes to letting go of control. My yes to releasing my anger in that place. To being willing to ride the wives of pain and let them go.
The secret trap door of labor is surrender; I can do anything in surrender, because I am no longer the one trying to do anything. He does it for me.
I do not hold the responsibility for my life; my Maker does. My endless trying to figure it out, to master all things, to make the best strategic decisions, feeling like I carry all things, is the altar made by human hands. It’s not personal responsibility. It’s not owning my shit. It’s trying to be God. Trying to control all things, know all things, be all things.
And in my own personal darkness of the last few months, I have forgotten.
I resisted the process. Because I didn’t want to do it. I didn't want the suffering, helplessness, powerlessness, loneliness. Who does?
But it is in resistance, in digging in my heels and snarling, that I find myself in the black place of despair.
So I can wail and be upset. I can hurt and ache and dislike it. I can wrestle through it, looking at the things exposed inside of me that are broken, that need healing.
Because I know the way out.
I’ve experienced the kindness of God in the place of suffering. I’ve walked on dark paths, blocked with stones, and as I pick up one to move, He picks up one larger. In all things, I have come to know Immanuel, the God who is with me.
I have come to know His peace, passing all of my understanding.
End of Part V...find more of Kristianna's story at www.cookingformonsters.com