Summer was in full-and-glorious bloom when last I wrote here. So was my belly, nearly 40 weeks full of my darling daughter. Nine days later, I gave birth. I settled into a self-imposed hiatus from writing, and suddenly it’s winter. Or so the calendar says. Most of North America seems to be experiencing an early spring.
I’ve been busy the last five months. And tired. Tired and busy are hackneyed descriptors, but accurate. I’m usually too busy during the day and too tired at night to write. Why wouldn’t I be? I’m holding down two full-time jobs in mothering a toddler and an infant. Meanwhile, my body is mysteriously yet magically rewiring itself. My hormones are regrouping, rendering me sometimes peevish and pessimistic–or sunny and inspired.
Nothing is forever, not even hormonal chaos. And this isn’t meant as a gripe. Spending most of my time and energy on my son and daughter is a privilege. I get one shot at forming the solid emotional base on which they’ll stand for the rest of their lives. The temporary separation from my writing makes me love it more.
None of this is riveting. I anticipated sticky patches well before I conceived my daughter. What fascinates me is the joy surrounding my daughter’s birth. Only God could design something so lovely. Most amazing, though, is that He’s using it to heal me from the trauma of my son Noah’s arrival almost three years ago.
The way it’s supposed to be
The amniotic sac surrounding my daughter tore gently on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 27. It sent such a slight trickle that I almost didn’t call the hospital. I’m glad I did. The nurse convinced me to summon reinforcements–my friend Julie, who would care for Noah, and my husband Matt, who was playing soccer–and come in. We arrived at Edward Hospital at 6 p.m. The slight trickle had become a strong-and-constant gush, and nurses confirmed I was in labor.
I was thrilled. I was frightened.
I explained to my nurses and doctors the complications surrounding Noah’s birth, that I wanted something different. A lot would be beyond my control, I admitted. But I knew more than I did when I had Noah. I knew better than to think I had to do whatever the medical staff suggested. Knowing better means doing better. Everyone agreed, and worked with me to achieve something better.
My contractions progressed, and I pushed through without painkillers until 4 a.m. I opted for an epidural that diluted the pain of the contractions but maintained feeling in my lower body. It also allowed me to sleep for about 3.5 hours. By 8 a.m. I was fully dilated and ready to push, so we called for the doctor. He arrived at 8:30 a.m., and I was pushing by 8:40 a.m. A few pushes later, and my daughter was born. I was amazed. I pushed for three hours with Noah, and he still wouldn’t budge. Surely this baby would require half as long, I thought. I was wrong.
Syma Amaris Cowan arrived Sunday, Aug. 28, at 9:10 a.m. She weighed 7 lbs, 1 oz, and was 19 inches long. Syma means “joy” in Hebrew, and Amaris means “God has promised.” My daughter, and the way she entered the world, is God’s promise of joy.
Noah’s birth was a defining point in my life. I considered it a major failure. My body was simply too weak to endure a normal birth, one without those hideously invasive forceps. From the time he was born until the minute Syma arrived, I doubted myself, doubted God. Childbirth meant trauma and heartache. That was my cross.
Over the last five months I’ve reflected on that notion. After experiencing Syma’s birth, I know that my thinking was wrong. I now see that Noah’s birth was perfection in its own right. He arrived safely and besides gashes from the forceps, unscathed. He was a very agreeable baby. A good eater who nursed easily, he happily took pumped milk from a bottle. A good sleeper who napped four hours at a time, he slept through the night around two months. My initiation into motherhood wasn’t what I expected. But without a rough start, I’d be a different person. I believe the person I’ve become is the closer to the woman God is molding.
The time between the births of my children was a long night filled with doubts. But as Psalm 30 says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” My experiences with childbirth point to that truth.
I am with you always
In the hours just before Syma’s birth, a Bible verse decorated my dreams, Matthew 28:20:
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
That verse comforted me as I woke up and prepared to give birth. Great, I thought: God is reassuring me. He’s on the scene. The same verse reappeared two times shortly after Syma was born–at my church and on a radio program. It’s the closing line of the “Great Commission” in the Bible, where Christ directs his disciples to spread news of Him to every nation.
Why did this verse crop up three times, in close succession?
I believe God was reminding me of a promise I made right after Noah’s birth. If I made it through those dark days of early motherhood, I would share with others what sustained me: my faith. My experience of the Great Commission came when I was in a valley. God was with me down there, trudging along. Then he helped me up and out. He delivered me from what I thought was defeat in Noah’s birth, to triumph in Syma’s arrival. The circle of life–blood, sweat, joy, tears–there’s nothing better.
God was with me. He allowed tears, returned the joy, all in perfect time.