May 28, 2023
9lb 15oz, 22″
A little life, utterly unique, has been born into the world, into our home, into my arms. A life that was imagined and fashioned by God for this time and this place.
At 3am, when the last of my friends and sisters had slipped away, leaving Ryan and I in the peace of our own tidy room, we both just marveled: “Look. There’s a baby in our bed. Suddenly. Just like that. A whole new person.”
I was six days overdue and mentally prepared to go the full 42 weeks, although that was feeling like a tough order. I was uncomfortable and starting to feel emotional, and just kept praying for grace each morning. The last of my commitments had passed, and I was starting to just take each day as it came, waking at the crack of dawn or sleeping a bit longer, spending hours digging and transplanting in the garden or napping on the couch by 10am. And every single day, my girls would repeat over and over, “It could be today, or tonight! Any time now!” They were so excited. Anticipation just overflowed out of their hearts and put the moments of discomfort in perspective.
Saturday wasn’t a terribly ambitious day. I put on a dress and went out for coffee and a stroll around town with Ryan. I put as many loads of laundry through as I could. The boys headed off for the afternoon to help friends, and I laid down for my mandatory nap along with the littles. Dinner was burgers, so I got those shaped and cut up the watermelon before folding mountains of laundry out at the picnic table. It was an absolutely perfect day, and I was feeling pretty decent.
Around 4:30 I started to feel funny, and very soon after had a contraction that I knew was The One. I sat at the kitchen table to see if sitting would make a difference, but nope — another came, and then another.
Internally, I sighed, slumped, and just felt overwhelmed. Funny how you can be so eager to just have a baby already, and still not really quite want to. I dreaded it. I dreaded what I thought would be an all-nighter. I suddenly wasn’t sure I could do this. So I quietly pulled the food out so I could give directions, then went to my room to iron. Somehow, ironing seemed like the right activity: I could stand and be busy, and have Ryan’s shirts ready for the next stretch of days. And the contractions kept on coming.
Finally I said something — to Cecily? Perhaps it was her who came in and asked if I was okay, and then eagerly pressed me with, “Is this it? Do you think you’re going to have the baby??” She ran out my bedroom door, announcing her grand news to the household, and I just kept ironing and processing. Finally I called Ryan to come and pray for me. I was just so afraid and full of dread. He hugged me and prayed, and then called the kids in to pray for me, too. We all stood together here in my room and they surrounded me with love and affirmation, and then disappeared to make dinner and ready the house for A BIRTH! Oh, you would think the biggest party was about to happen! Bathrooms were cleaned, every room tidied, fresh flowers cut and brought to my room, candles lit, and all with such quiet joy as they played worship music and whispered and read books to the younger ones… The atmosphere of our house was instantly one of such joy and expectation. That is exactly what I had prayed for, and the Lord gave it to me through the ministry of my children. I want to remember that.
Things kept moving along, but I just wasn’t sure it was really “it”. Enid and Percival’s births had both been cases of stop and start, and what if this was that? I started timing the contractions, and yes, they were consistently close together, but I just didn’t feel urgency. Ryan was left on his own to decipher the cues and determine when to summon the crew. Meanwhile, my three older girls stayed nearby, just being with me. The littles were tucked into bed, the boys disappeared to watch a big Celtics game, and the house hushed. I have never been one to listen to music during labor, but this time I turned on a song that’s been a recent favorite. The gentle but whole hearted lyrics ministered to my heart, reminding me of why I do all that I do:
Not for anything that I could gain
Just to honor You and bring You praise…
There’s no motive, there’s no hidden catch
Here’s my all and I don’t want it back
Like a fragrance broken on the floor
May my worship be pure
Tears ran down my cheeks. There aren’t always a lot of moments in my current season of life that feel like “just me and Jesus,” but this was one. No one else was going to walk the road I was embarking on, and He poured out grace.
Around 10:30 two of my sisters came. I told them I wasn’t sure this was even it, maybe it would slow down and we’d all end up sleeping the whole night — I just didn’t know. And then within half an hour the contractions were minutes — what felt like MANY minutes — long. After that, a blur. I have no idea what happened for the next hour and a half or so. I kept thinking, this isn’t that bad yet and I haves so far to go. I became aware at some point that the midwife, another sister, and several friends were also in the room. It was a good thing we had so many there, because with every contraction all I wanted was tremendous pressure on my hips and I could hear them laughing about what a workout it was, and who’s up next? Perhaps it was around midnight when I was walking and had to stop for a contraction, but felt so much pressure. I was genuinely confused — how could there be pressure already? I had so much longer to go, I was so sure of it. Oh no — what if I was jumping the gun, pushing before I was ready? Had I forgotten how to do this?
Apparently I was the only one second guessing; everyone else seemed to sense what was happening and began scurrying to prep the room. I continued to be a bit restless — I don’t remember staying in one spot for very long — and tried the birthing stool for a bit, but it didn’t seem super effective, and I was happy (happy? maybe another word would be more suitable!) to stand with Ryan’s support. Finally I was helped to my bed. It was close, we all could tell. Even laying on my side, somehow my amazing friends and sisters managed to keep up the counterpressure on my hips, all the while encouraging me, waiting in quiet as the contractions slowed down for that calm before the storm, and filling the room with prayer and strength.
It really was calm before the storm, and as has happened so many times before, I started to wonder what was wrong. Was this gonna happen or not? Could I remember what to do? Pushing began, and I realized it was going to be effort this time, and I wasn’t sure why. I had to work for it, while also trying to stay relaxed and calm. At times it felt like I was regressing, not progressing, but no one in the room seemed alarmed and so I just kept moving forward, praying, “God, where in the world is this baby? Why isn’t it coming?”
But she did come, all at once, a miracle all over again and also for the very first time. A girl, a sweet girl, and posterior! That explained all the funny pushing, but in the grand scheme, not aa big deal.
And she came at 12:57, no where near an all-nighter, and I just couldn’t believe it. I felt amazing, strong and energized. The baby was pink and crying and healthy and quite big, despite how tiny she seemed. We wrapped her and oohed and ahed over her and everyone rode the wave of exhilaration that fills a birthing room when at last it’s over and we celebrate LIFE.
I received the best of care, as always, from dear friends and sisters, and was tucked into my freshly made bed, with a fresh bundle in my arms, by 3am.
And then we named her, our sweet Winifred Lee, after Ryan’s grandmother, and after my mom and me. We have held her almost non-stop since, and amidst all of the debate over whose turn it is, I occasionally put my foot down and say, “MINE!” She is cuddled and swaddled and cradled and burped and walked and adored as only the new sister of seven siblings can be.
I am so thankful. This little one — a little daughter to sow our lives into, to love and nurture and marvel over as we see who God made her to be. And as I watch my oldest spread his wings bit by bit, I hold this little bundle a bit more tightly, thankful that God has given this gift, at this time, knowing it’s by His design.