Sunday, February 26, 2012
My sophomore year in college was seven years ago, yet I still love my days stuffed full to bursting and somehow still managing to get everything done. Last week, though, when the ultrasound revealed that our daughter was footling breech, everything on my to-do list became null and void. With that picture of my daughter head up at thirty-nine weeks, instead of scratching to-dos off my list, my madly spinning world scratched to a halt.
If I walked (then waddled) my three miles every day and did my stretches at night, if I drank my quart of raspberry leaf tea, took my gentle birth herbs and prenatal vitamins, if I read the books by internationally-known midwife Ina May Gaskin, I believed that nothing could go wrong.
Well, I was wrong.
Seated on the paper-sheeted examination table with the doctor and midwife discussing my options -- a scheduled C-section, external cephalic version followed by induction -- I realized that my entire life and that of my daughter’s was out of my hands.
There was nothing I could do but pray, which -- coming as a last resort and not as a first inclination -- caused me to understand that I did not trust my Creator at all. Seven years ago, doubt about the goodness of God’s heart crept into my own, and the only way I knew to combat it was to take the reins of my life back into my hands.
With every to-do scratched off my list, I felt like I was keeping one step ahead of catastrophe. I felt that if I had control, nothing could spin beyond my control.
For seven years, this self-destructive behavior masked as constructive never stopped. But then, for five long days last week, I was forced to stop. I was forced to lay back on an inversion table with hot packs and cold packs and pray, pray, pray that my daughter would turn.
I was forced to relinquish my control over the situation. I was forced to admit that regardless of how many quarts of raspberry leaf tea I consumed, regardless of how many miles I walked and books I read, I was powerless to bring my daughter into this world unscathed.
The only One who could keep my daughter safe, the only one who could turn my daughter back where she belonged was the same One who placed her inside my womb.
In the quiet of our living room, curled up on the carpet like the child inside me, I wept as I surrendered my control. I apologized to my Creator for attempting to take my life by the reins when He was the One who controlled its direction. I told Him that I knew even during that turbulent time seven years ago that He would’ve taken care of my family and my friends if I had only stepped out of the way and let Him.
Instead, I had thought that keeping my days full to bursting meant that my life could not break apart. But God never wanted my life to break apart. He wanted to heal it; he wanted to turn it back to Him just as I needed to turn back to Him.
I must’ve remained on the carpet in our living room for less than five minutes, but the change that took place felt so momentous it could’ve required a lifetime. When I finally wiped my face on my t-shirt and crawled back over to the inversion table to resume trying to get my daughter to turn, I realized that I had been as stubborn as my firstborn child, but that in God’s mercy He had waited for the surrender of my heart so that I could finally trust and turn my life back over to Him.
Looking back, although I did not feel it, I believe this is the afternoon my daughter also turned.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
The next morning I awoke and immediately touched the top of my stomach. Adelaide Anne’s sweet round head was protruding from the space where her tush used to be. Tears filled my eyes as my optimism faltered: If we could not get her to turn, early Tuesday morning (the day before our daughter’s official due date on February 22nd) I would have to go to the hospital where the doctor would relax my womb before performing an external cephalic version, which means that he would manually turn her from the outside. Although this routine is said to be painful, it did not fill me with fear as much as the possibility that Addie’s heart rate could drop from the stress of being maneuvered and from the medication given to relax my womb. If her heart rate did not return to normal, the doctor would have to perform an emergency c-section that even my husband could not attend.
After eating breakfast, my determination recovered. Randy helped me climb up on the inversion table and handed me the hot and cold packs. We played Beethoven through headphones connected to the laptop in an attempt to lure Addie down. Twenty minutes later, I climbed off the inversion table and leaned over an exercise ball and rolled my pelvis to work my daughter loose. Even while writing, replying to emails, or talking on the phone to reassure my mother that I was not in labor and would let her know if I was, I would be in some incredibly awkward position the Internet promised would flip breech babies.
Big shocker. The Internet lied.
When my husband returned at 5:30, the baby-turning boot camp truly began. With my legs fully extended and my hands flat on the floor, I “elephant walked” up and down our hallway, which -- at this stage of pregnancy -- looks far more ungainly than it even sounds. Afterward, Randy slid a blanket beneath my back, lifted me off the ground, and shook the blanket back and forth to wiggle little Addie’s foot out of my pelvis. Back on the inversion table, we tried administrating hot packs, cold packs, lukewarm packs, frozen packs and played through the headphones every classical selection I had.
Our daughter, with typical firstborn stubbornness, refused to budge.
But neither did her parents.
For a touch of comic relief, Randy started speaking to my stomach through a paper towel roll. I began threatening to ground Adelaide until puberty if she did not obey us and get her behind in gear. The next day I went to a chiropractor who adjusted my pelvis to dislodge Addie’s foot, then I followed this up with a massage (figured I should get some benefit out of the deal).
Tomorrow we find out if our efforts to flip our daughter have worked. But either way, the desperate times calling for humiliating measures will not cease. This afternoon we purchased castor oil that I am going to chug as soon as we see that Addie is head down. If she is not head down, I still have twenty-four hours until the external cephalic version. And, believe you me, I will be spending every minute of those twenty-four hours elephant walking up and down the hallway with a cold pack at the top of my stomach and a hot pack at the bottom.
But soon, very soon, we will get to hold our baby girl.
In the end, nothing humiliating matters.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
But this was not his only obstacle.
By the time David was fourteen, he was an orphan who shuffled between families without ever having a family to call his own. Assaulted with a feeling of hopelessness, every other day for two years David attempted suicide but was never able to accomplish it. Then, at a revival meeting his sister forced him to attend, David accepted Jesus as his Savior and -- along with a new sense of self-respect concerning his physical challenges -- found his life’s calling...
Time and time again, David was told that he could never be used in such a way. His speech impediment was too severe; he did not possess enough control of his limbs. Despite these setbacks and partly because of them, David did not relinquish his calling. In 1973 he began sharing his testimony at various churches and today is a nationally-known speaker who each year speaks with over 100,000 people not only at churches, but conventions, schools, and major corporate events.
This morning, as I sat in the congregation and listened to this man speak, I was awestruck. Honestly, I thought that someone who had been through as much as David Ring would be an inspiration to listen to, but I did not expect to be entertained. His sense of humor was pitch perfect and had the audience laughing to the point of tears. After talking about how cerebral palsy was a blessing because he was the only man in the world with four children who had never changed one diaper, he said that every day he thanked the Lord for giving him cerebral palsy because without it he would not have such a platform on which to speak.
Having learned of Whitney Houston’s passing last night, I realized that her talent had been her downfall, but David Ring’s tragedy had been his triumph. Whitney experienced incalculable wealth and fame in her forty-eight years. She was known for her beauty and for her voice that captured the attention of the world. Despite these achievements, in the end they could not bring her happiness.
David Ring, at fifty-eight, is not a wealthy man. When invited to a church, he does not inquire about the size of the congregation to calculate what the offerings will be. Instead, he goes where he feels led and prays that the Lord will take care of his family’s needs in the process. Due to his physical limitations, David is not very pleasing to look at or to hear. Yet this morning he exuded such joy as he stood up behind that pulpit, waved his limp arms back and forth, and said as a means of encouraging the congregation to do more, “I have cerebral palsy, what’s your problem?”
What was my problem, indeed.
Here was a man whose entire life had been burdened with challenges and still he continued to reach out to others instead of focusing on himself. Because of this perspective, David Ring had found true joy that lasted far longer than any euphoria brought on by wealth, beauty, or fame.
What a challenge. What a challenge to us all.
Who is someone who challenges you to reach out to others instead of focusing on yourself, and how have you risen to that challenge?
To learn more about David Ring, visit http://www.davidring.org/
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Although she can hear the cymbal-like clash of pans as I cook or leaps whenever Randy, my husband, pats the tiny protrusion of her bottom or knees, she has no concept of the world she is about to inhabit. I am sure if given a choice she would remain in that cozy cavern rather than being ejected into such a frightening expanse where, for the first time, she will feel cold, hunger, and pain. Why should she trust me or trust her father to care for her? She has never seen either of us, and I am sure our voices, though familiar, are distorted in the jetsam of other mysterious sounds.
The more I contemplate the stark elements our unborn daughter will soon face, the more I compare it to Jack’s experience in Emma Donoghue’s novel, Room. The story’s harsh premise -- a kidnapped woman who bears and raises the child her captor fathered -- softens through the eyes and voice of five-year-old Jack. Since his birth, his mother has shielded him from the reality of their entrapment by convincing Jack that their life in that prison cell is the entire world; that no life exists beyond it. But once Jack and “Ma” escape, Jack is horrified to realize that the world is far larger than that 11 x 11 room.
Raindrops striking Jack’s face, syrup on pancakes, walking down stairs, grass beneath his feet: all these things fascinate and terrify Jack almost to an equal extent. Because he has never understood that he and his mother were cruelly confined, he wants to return to the safety and predictability that 11 x 11 foot room represents and cannot understand why Ma does not want to join him.
Over time, though, Ma agrees to return with Jack -- and with the addition of police escorts -- to the now emptied room. Jack then realizes while looking around that cramped space he once considered cozy that his worldview has changed and expanded, and he is grateful to leave Room although for months his every thought was of his return.
How often do we view our lives with the same perspective of an unborn child or five-year-old Jack? We relish in the familiar as it does not evoke fear and will often do whatever it takes to keep our 11 x 11 foot worlds spinning in perfect orbit. We cling to darkness because we do not know what it means to step into the light; we remain stunted by destructive choices because we do not want to lose that which should've never been gained; we continue walking down a path we should have never traveled because we cannot imagine what it will take to turn back around.
But imagine if my unborn daughter in seventeen days decided that she was never going to come out; that she was going to spend the rest of her life trapped in the cozy cavern of my womb rather than being ejected into such a frightening expanse where, for the first time, she will feel cold, hunger, and pain. Imagine all of the experiences she would miss -- her mother’s first caress, her father’s tears splashing on her cheek, the warmth and comfort of her grandma’s hug -- if she chose to remain stunted by the familiar. Imagine how different Jack’s life would be had he remained in that 11 x 11 foot room and not chosen to return to the life found outside it.
So, dear reader, take courage in the fact that you are not alone. Many have chosen to remain in prison cells of their own making because they fear what life will be like on the outside. But sometimes what we fear doing the most is exactly what we should do. During the “birthing” process, you will probably experience fierce cold, hunger, and pain. But you will also experience a freedom unlike anything you have ever imagined, and you will find that life is far more beautiful beyond the confines of that prison cell you have made into a home.