Jack's story is our story, a story of grace abounding. It is a story of redemption, of giving new life and new meaning to a day that could have meant sadness for others, and while those other stories are not mine to tell, the significance of God choosing April 4 as Jack's birthday is not lost on me. God's timing is always perfect, and I am thanking Him for making that ever so clear in the sweetest of ways.
Luke and I both come from good-sized families. Four kids in his, five or six in mine depending on which side you look at. I always assumed we'd have three or four kids, maybe even five if I hadn't gone crazy by then. Avery was a pleasant surprise. Eleanor showed up after months and months of trying. We were thrown a curve ball after that and it looked like we were done having children. But oh, my heart longed for another. They wheeled me down the hall with an hour-old Eleanor in my arms, and all I could think was, "I can't wait to do that again." My husband, on the other hand, was done. I was discontent for a long time, learning to adjust to some things which I had not planned for, but in time, though the longing for another baby was still there, the contentment with where God had our family grew.
And then - another surprise. A positive test, to which I had randomly taken to ease curiosity. I fell on my knees laughing; laughter quickly dissolved into tears of worry that my sweet husband wouldn't share my excitement, and tears of worry that this good and perfect gift would be yanked away from me. The question we all struggle with: is God really good? Does He really love me? We all want to believe that what's good for us is also what's easiest. We doubt His goodness when the trials come, and for years the trials kept coming in my life. So then, why would He give me a gift that was simple, no testing attached? It took a couple months to shake that doubt and fear.
Luke was ecstatic to learn the news. I waited a couple days to tell him, partly because we had the budget talk twice immediately following the plus sign on the stick. I should never have worried - his reaction was beautiful.
The pregnancy progressed, the fears abated, and we delighted in my growing belly. This pregnancy was exactly the same and completely different than my last two - a little sicker in the beginning, more back pain, but easy in most regards. What was truly different was my attitude. With Eleanor, I read every book about VBACs I could get my hands on. We did a Bradley class and were the only second-time parents in it. I did prenatal yoga every week. I followed the strictest of diets and then had gestational diabetes which tightened the reins even more on what I ate. I talked through my feelings with friends. I processed my disappointment at my c-section and prayed constantly for my labor. But with this one, my third pregnancy, I chilled out. I made a conscious decision to not over think it, and then two weeks before my due date, I worried that I hadn't prepared enough.
Then, all of a sudden, after feeling like I would never have this baby, it was time. A couple days of warm-up labor, a sleepless night full of contractions that went nowhere...I was exhausted. We celebrated Avery's birthday on April 2, and I was convinced that the two would share a birthday. The baby waited. And the baby waited again the next day, holding off so our doula's daughter could celebrate her own birthday. We have a very considerate baby. My mom drove in that day, since we knew the baby would show up sometime in the next day or two, surely. Late in the evening we decided to walk Costco and Target in an attempt to get my contractions in a regular pattern (and do some shopping, of course). It's rather difficult to not be awkward when you have to pause every 8 minutes, breathing heavily, as you stare intently at the econo size jar of olives or spaghetti sauce or the 64 rolls of toilet paper.
My water broke shortly after midnight, not long after I had gone to bed. I had just updated both our doula and our birth photographer, thinking it would be quite awhile before I needed to check in with them again. My eyes flew open, my body flew out of bed, and I desperately, fruitlessly, tried to catch the water with my hands as I ran to the bathroom. Obviously I wasn't fully awake or thinking straight. Luke went from a dead sleep to overdrive in a matter of seconds. I went through three pairs of pants before we made it out the door. We decided to labor at the hospital this time since my water had broken, and last time I had a baby an hour and a half after. We didn't know how fast labor would go, and my contractions had jumped from 10 minutes apart to 4 minutes apart.
We got settled, sat on the ball, walked the hall, tried all the positions my doula, Sara, recommended, and labor dragged on and on. Our doctor was the same one who had delivered Eleanor, my first VBAC, who I disliked then and fell in love with this time - I guess we just needed time to get to know each other. The pain was out of this world. I hadn't slept in two days. The only thing keeping me going was the encouragement of my birth team and the cranberry juice Sara kept giving me.
Bits and pieces of the last hour of labor are perfectly clear to me. Hanging on the squat bar as if my life depended on it. Luke and Sara helping me push. The doctor calmly going about her business of prepping for a baby, which helped me believe it would actually happen this way, as opposed to another surgery. Trying to eek out one more push when all my strength was spent. The uncontrollable urge to birth that baby that overtook me in the last few minutes. Whispering prayers. Or maybe I wasn't whispering them, but loudly lifting them up. Retreating inside, tunnel vision, complete focus. And finally, the most amazing feeling in the world - new life sliding out, ready to greet us.
"It's a boy!" Luke spoke those words and then promptly broke down. Tears were flowing, and that moment is forever my favorite memory. We had kept the gender a surprise, and we had no hopes one way or the other, but what a wonderful, shocking announcement.
Jack arrived almost 7 hours after my water broke, weighing a whopping 8 pounds 15 oz. God's timing? Perfect. You see, my step-dad passed away a couple years ago, and April 4 would have been my parents' 17th wedding anniversary. Jack also arrived on the first birthday of the precious son of my dear friend (and our birth photographer), a little boy waiting to meet them in a few short weeks. Jack's birth brought new meaning and renewed hope to a hard day. And his name? It means "God is gracious". Yes, He is.