26 May, 2017

THE HOMEBIRTH OF FRANCIS

Francis was born in the early hours of the morning, making his way quickly. His birth was the most gruelling thing I have accomplished. Lasting 90 minutes, it was the fastest and hardest of all my labours, but the gentlest of all my births.

~

At 3am I wake to a strong contraction. I’m climbing the stairs to keep things moving. Wash dishes, transfer laundry, eat dates. Surely these things were meant to be on my birth plan. 

Half-hour later, I wake Peter in excited whispers, "It's baby day.” He shakes himself from a light sleep. Two hours. It’s all he’s been down; surely that’s enough rest to deliver a baby? 

Did I make a mistake? Was I wrong? I have no pain. He should sleep. I ask if I can make him coffee and he responds with a look that says, Are you crazy?! Is this even labour?!


4:30am. Downstairs together making that pot of coffee. My sister comes out of her room, unable to sleep but unsure of what woke her and my husband’s still trying to shake himself awake. There’s laughter in the dim kitchen, the smell of hot coffee hangs in the air, and water pours down my legs. 

As my waters break, immediately the game turns 180ยบ:  laughter turns to groaning; the pressure, once briefly subsided now makes itself known with a vengeance. Contractions drop me to the floor, coming every few seconds. I tell Peter he should “probably phone the midwife” because if I was ever unsure I’m not anymore, and my sister is surprised we’ve waited this long.

He is told all the midwives are tied up with another mother, the hospital is dealing with an emergency, and we need to carry on alone. I feel calm. I’ve done this before; my body knows what to do. This is completely natural, and I believe that. I tell him, "They are needed there. This is not an emergency.”


~


I can still move between pains; we should move upstairs. I hiss at Peter a breathy, Hellp mee, and catch stifled laughter between my sister and husband. I’ve watched dozens of homebirth videos to prepare my children and feed my excitement and each time I mock what we dubbed “the screamers” but today I’m one of them. This is not a silent labour. Three contractions cripple me, one after another, in the space of our twelve tiny stairs. I’m on the bed, Peter’s on the phone with the midwife again; I feel the urge to push. Call the paramedics, they say, if she begins pushing

I feel I may break. There is no space to breathe, no relief, and the pressure is at its peak. Contractions are strong and continuous. I curse Peter for not doing exactly what my mind was hoping him to be doing. I try to cry but my strength fails. 


My human self says it is impossible. And so I surrender self, because there is nothing else to continue the process. And here, I meet Christ crucified: aching, fragile, utterly undone. I lock eyes with my sister for confirmation that this baby is coming, and fast. She nods to Peter and he makes an excited call to 999.


~

The paramedic asks Peter to explain what he sees. They tell jokes, talk about children. The room is calm. Peace permeates. Here I whisper praise, because there’s no fear. There’s no pressure on the other end of the line. There’s no darkness or uncertainty or doubt. Every person involved in this story is a gift.

My two bests on either side, both carrying me through. There’s the surrender, then I feel an entire-body shift, the pain vanishes, the pressure disappears, and there’s a complete, supernatural relief. The pain is gone


~

5:30am. My body pushes strong and and I’m near laughter because peace reigns and doubt is slain. I throw my head back and smile as I push. This baby is going to be born unassisted. And I feel amazing; I'm so happy right now! 

In three pushes there is a head, a life between two lives. The body follows quickly, with ease. In four pushes I deliver my fourth child. I deliver him through smiles. I deliver him on my own bed. I deliver him to the cheers of my husband and sister. I deliver him into his Papa's eagerly awaiting arms.

He’s lifted to my chest. A boy! Our son. And there are tears because there are no words.

Pain is cast to oblivion and we’re overcome by love and an awe that extends to all— my husband, my sister, this tiny naked babe on my chest, and the paramedic on the other line.

New life springs from pain. There’s no greater love.

I hold my husband’s face and cry, "Peter! You just delivered our baby!" The paramedic cheers on the other line. The awe extends to all.


Then our baby cries. And there's nothing in the world like it, because love made that boy and life was breathed into those new lungs.  


~


Peter and I sit together to stare at his face. Who does he look like? What does he look like? Because neither of our planned names seem to fit. We rub his pointy chin and wonder where it came from and smell his baby scent a dozen times and unwrap him to study his tiny body. What do we call him?!


Then Peter says it: Francis. He’s suggested it for all of our other babies and I rule it out without pausing, like I did with all the others. But then I repeat it and glance from the baby in my arms to my husband beside, and it does just fit. Francis, free man. Peregrine, traveller. There are a lot of smiles because after a birth like that, it more than fits.


7:30am. The sound of little footsteps outside the door and I hear Peter, I have something to show you. Do you want to see? Our twins whisper to one another, I bet Mama had the baby.
They trail in cautiously. Philippa, no longer our littlest but her Papa’s arms are strong enough to carry her still, presses her sleepy bedhead into Peter’s shoulder. Sebastian asks, Is it a boy?? Katharina’s eyes fill with tears.

They’re confident, but they’re not fully prepared. Sebastian repeats, Is it a boy? Katharina's cries and her whole body shakes. She’s five years old and cries from happiness and I’ve never seen that before but it perfectly represents her character and I’ll never forget that moment. 

There are more whispers of, What is it?! And so we let Sebastian look because there were prayers for a brother from the very beginning. Tears fill my eyes because here, this moment, its everything. There’s wonder the first time and the fourth: how can love make something so beautiful? How can we suddenly not remember before? 






Francis Peregrine - 7 pounds, 4 ounces, 18 inches long - 5:31am, 26th February, 2017 


29 September, 2016

MESSY, CONVENIENT, SOUL-SHAPING: MOTHERHOOD AS MINISTRY

I've been thinking lately about what motherhood is to me.  I'm meeting a lot of mums in the park, the library, the school pick-up line, and it's quite obvious its different to each of us.



Motherhood is a lifestyle, a ministry, and a gift.

Its forsaking yourself to give your very best. Its laying yourself down every day for the nurturing and teaching and training of souls. Its an imperfect heart shaping hearts. Its stewardship, not ownership. Its clinging to grace every waking moment. Its constant, unending ministry. Its presence and patience and believing the truth that by grace, yes, I am enough.

Its viewing children as humans and treating them so.

We were at a barbecue last weekend and upon arriving inside, Peter and I instructed our children to take their shoes off, and only after they were off did we realise this was a shoes-on party. Sebastian and Katharina slipped theirs back on quickly and ran off to find their friends in the same amount of time that Philippa had just pulled back on her first sock. I stood across the kitchen watching her there on the floor-- rushing, excited, alone-- and it struck me: what is it like to stand knee-high to all adults? To be slower, less coordinated? To depend on someone else for nearly everything?

I felt such a pull in my heart; its the same pull you feel when you see someone being mistreated or sitting alone, and its the pull we talk to our children about watching for every morning before school. Its a pull you don't often feel unless you're looking for it, open to it. Its a pull that takes you out of your way for another.

I set down the salad I was holding and went across to her, "Would you like help with these boots?" And her face lit up because in that moment there was no where else I needed to be.

Motherhood is not having an agenda of what we want for or from our children, but constantly seeking What is this doing in me? Its taking up the cross, again, with gladness. Let's not be more motivated in our parenting by what we want for or from our children, than we are by what God is doing to us  t h r o u g h  our children.

Parenthood is miraculous. There are so many joys in it. So many wonders to behold. So many inconveniences waiting for you to realise they're conveniently leading you to The Cross.

If only you had the time.



This is what I'm passionate about; being slow with your children. With all of life. Taking time for the things that you think you can't be bothered with. Sitting with the little ones at the barbecue not to intercept messes but because you genuinely with your whole heart enjoy their company. Giving them opportunities to be more than a three year old. Talking in real adult voices about real things.

Its miraculous and I don't quite know how it happens, except God. I know he's in this motherhood business and he's busy in my heart and theirs. And I can feel his presence moving every single day as I shepherd these tiny people he has given me to make  m e  holier.

Ministry is everywhere-- in the dishes, in the wet bed, in the tantrums, in the quiet cuddly weekends and the exhausted midweek slump. Ministry is everywhere, because the gospel is everywhere. Right here, right now.



So what are we doing? We're teaching them to trust God. To love Jesus with all their heart and strength. We're teaching them to love in a world so full of hatred. That showing compassion doesn't make them weak; that listening to their heart makes them strong. We're holding them close and smiling when the orange juice spills and laying ourselves down to raise them up. Its being a parent, and its a messy, convenient, soul-shaping gift.





20 June, 2016

ITALY.





It's a bit hard to think of sitting down and writing a blog post encompassing our time away. I had a lot of moments while we were gone where I found myself wondering How can I ever write about this? 

This holiday came as such a breath of fresh air, as they usually do, don't they? Peter spent the past six months working or studying seven days a week in preparation for taking the CFA. We kept pushing forward with the promise of quiet and calm at the end of the tunnel. The children endured a lot of days without their Papa. Somedays it seemed it would never come, but each day we prayed for grace and purposed to be intentional about what time we did find together, and intentional wherever we were-- in the office, at home, having dinner alone, studying on a Sunday afternoon. 

And I look back at that season, so long, but so seemingly so long ago, and I can't even believe we are through it. I see God's gentle hand guiding us through every single day of it and I'm just in awe. 

His goodness to us-- the wicked, his grace to us-- the unworthy, his faithfulness to us-- the faithless.

This time away was peaceful and rejuvenating, we all bonded a little bit more and built our relationships a little bit stronger. We unashamedly consumed far too much gelato and came home with bronzed skin and sun-streaked hair. There was laughter and snuggles and living slowly and loving deeply.

I just love that we can so clearly see how much joy God finds in beauty and how He delights in delighting us. I mean-- look at these mountains! These photos are treasures to all of us.