It’s Sunday afternoon. The Bishops enjoyed cups of coffee this morning, worshiped at Engedi, ate lunch. Josh and Jack are now busy doing legos at the table and I just did a quick cleaning of the house. It feels so common and normal which is astounding to me considering the addition to our family that is slumbering–wearing a choo-choo onesie–in the living room pack ‘n play. Oliver Michael entered our world just eight days ago, and our lives have already begun to beautifully take shape around him.
Last Friday night at 11:44 p.m., while our oldest was dreaming in his dino bed, my water broke just before we were about to turn in for the night. Within the hour, Jack’s Oma was sleeping on our couch while Josh and I grabbed our bags and headed for the hospital. I had written Jackson a note telling him how deeply he was loved and how excited we were for him to meet his little brother. With both of my pregnancies, I felt a sense of desperation toward the end. Perhaps that is one way God prepares women for labor: we will do anything to not be pregnant for another second. I didn’t realize just how eager I was to meet my new son until that moment. In fact, I admit I struggled throughout my pregnancy with the reality that I’d be raising another boy. Being a mother of a son has sharpened my worldview and challenged me in more ways I thought possible. It has widened dimensions to my being and introduced me to an entire new lens with which to see God’s creation and His purposes. Jack is the greatest thing to happen to me, to break me of a certain selfishness, to direct my eyes to the excitement of boyish wonder and adventure. I’ve been made new through the refinement of being Jack’s mother, and I can’t imagine my life any other way.
Still, I love Barbies and dolls, lipstick and tea parties. I’ve always felt a desire to have a daughter, to connect and relate to a child of my own as girls–and eventually as women. I struggled a bit during pregnancy after our ultrasound, wondering if these desires would steal joy from my littlest son. I even had some tearful nights over this very internal conflict, praying that God would take away these desires for the time being so my baby would get every ounce of adoration he deserved from his mama.
The moment my water broke, these desires dissolved (for now at least). I could not wait to see the face of my unborn son, to love him completely, and to allow him to continue to refine me. I could not wait to smell him, cuddle him, nurse him, care for him. It’s this overwhelming love that a mother has for a child that serves as motivation and fuel to get through labor. On the way to the hospital, I had called my family to deliver the message that Oliver would be born that night. I also told them to get some sleep and come see us in the morning. As I sat on my hospital bed with nurses and doctors connecting me to iv’s, my mom entered the room looking dressed and rested, ready to stay up all night. It wasn’t much later that my sister–having driven 2.5 hours from Tecumseh–arrived as well. My mom and sister were my greatest support system throughout Jackson’s birth as well, and the reality of our love for each other was made concretely clear as they entered my room. One of my best friends, Molly, served me beautifully as my doula. She also arrived fresh and energized, ready to support me in any way I needed. I intentionally did not put together a birth plan, and I could not have created a better environment for me to welcome my newest little one.
I brought a worship playlist on the computer and began to breathe through contractions while listening to the calming lyrics and music of Kari Jobe, Andrew Peterson, Rita Springer. I wanted to be sure to stay centered on Jesus, the giver of life, as much as I could throughout labor. The truth of the resurrection felt so powerful and real as I worked to deliver Oliver. Molly talked me through my breathing, Josh worked closely with me each step of the way. The anesthesiologist eventually came to my aid as I requested an epidural. Similar to getting pregnant in the first place, this request was a gamble for me since the first time around was such a traumatic challenge. With Jackson, my epidural failed during labor and I unexpectedly had to deliver my firstborn without the relief I expected (and needed). This time around, it worked. Despite the fact that the doctor administering the epidural spoke in a muffled, slurred, nearly comical voice (I remember looking at Sara and Molly with a panicked face mouthing, “WHAT did he just say???”), the medication did in fact provide the help I had prayed for.
Although I felt relief, I also felt pain–enough to require both a second dose of medication and a greater reliance on God to get me through. All night, Josh and I worked together tirelessly, pushing past fatigue and finding the deepest motivation the human spirit can muster. We could not wait to meet our second child. I could feel new dimensions to my heart being carved out in these moments. And they are moments so sacred and tender, they can only be the efforts of the Holy Spirit. At 6:22 a.m., Oliver was laid on my chest. My world had changed forever.
The week that followed included every range of emotion on the spectrum, to the nth degree. I think every new mom desires to stay in the hospital for weeks on end, with nurses, delivered meals, and round-the-clock baby care. Regardless of preparedness, chaos typically ensues the moment you cross the threshold of the hospital doors. For me, this chaos came in the form of breastfeeding challenges coupled with a bit-too-demanding older child. Looking back on this week, I recall the ‘highlights’: furniture shopping with my 4-day-old to tearfully pick out a “nursing chair”, whisking my baby to my neighbor Jenna’s to nurse him there–escaping the people-pleasing pressures I felt at home, packing a bag for Jackson so he could go to my sister’s for the week so we could adjust, revisiting the hospital for breastfeeding support, crying episodes lasting for hours, and spending way too much time in either Target or Meijer purchasing dozens of items necessary for our survival. Meanwhile, I snuck in intimate moments (sometimes hours) with my son, practically devouring him with kisses.
Now, it is day 8. The security I feel as mother isn’t quite as anchored as it could be, but ohmygoodness, I feel more beautifully secure in my God-appointed role as a mommy than I ever have. I also feel a massive amount of joy which is the greatest blessing of all. Sometimes it’s difficult for moms to find this joy in the post-partum mess we find ourselves in, even though it’s buried under the emotion and hormones. But I’m smiling more now than I did Jack’s entire first year of life. I’m so deeply in love with Oliver Michael and with the God who gave him to me. I’m also feeling so deeply and obviously blessed that it brings me to tears and helps me realize that as I cradle my littlest son and cuddle with my oldest, I belong at the foot of the cross. I was rescued from my deepest fears of pregnancy and life post-partum, and God has undeservedly given me two precious boys to call my own.
I can’t thank everyone enough for their love and support. I feel surrounded in prayer and in the presence of the Holy Spirit. And I look forward to the weeks, months, and years to come because I have the privilege of being the mama of these two beautiful boys.
Amen. Amen. and Amen.