On the night you were born,
the moon smiled with such wonder
that the stars peeked in to see you
and the night wind whispered,
“Life will never be the same.”
– Nancy Tillman
You are snoring softly in your swing as I type these words, and I still cannot believe you have finally graced this world with your presence. After 9 long months of morning sickness, indigestion, insomnia, stretch marks, and severe diaphragm pain (let’s not forget cookies… lots and lots of cookies), I wasn’t sure you would ever vacate your very crowded premises. I remember crying in the evenings when the pain was the worst and telling your Daddy, “I’m not going to make it.”
Yet here you are. You came into this world with a flurry and a bang, driving us all to feverish prayer under our breath as we learned you were presenting sunny side up with the umbilical cord wrapped around your neck. I will never forget pushing with all my might, only to be stopped by the nurses and jostled into one awkward and uncomfortable position after another. I thought they were simply trying to help me pass through the final stages of labor more effectively until I realized the persistent beeping of your heart monitor was growing slower by the second.
“The baby isn’t tolerating the pushing very well,” a young nurse named Juliet whispered in my ear. She was tall and slender, pretty and fresh-faced, a combination my very swollen, sweaty self frankly despised at that moment. (Juliet, if you ever read this, I am so very grateful for you. You were an answer to my desperate prayer for peace during my second dance with that devil called Pitocin. But may I speak for expectant mothers everywhere when I request that you stop showing up to work looking so darn adorable? It’s almost as bad as having a male delivery nurse.
Okay, maybe not that bad, but still… at least throw all the puffy and panting preggos some solidarity and smear your eyeshadow or something.)
Moving right along.
“No more pushing until your doctor arrives,” she continued. “And we’ll need to use vacuum or forcep assistance to get the baby out safely.”
Same song, different verse.
Your sister’s forcep delivery left me bedridden for a week, fully convinced I would never walk again, much less bear another child. Just like you, she became stuck in the birth canal and all our gathered family and friends watched the waiting room monitor in horror as her heartbeat slowly, steadily declined.
But God is faithful.
Your delivery room quickly filled with bodies, and though questions and instructions and concerns were delivered in whispers rather than the medical drama shouts we witness on TV, the air crackled with the adrenaline that accompanies even the mere threat of an emergency.
More bodies. More whispers. More calls – this time for a respiratory response team and an urgent request for my doctor to “come right away.”
My oxygen mask kept slipping off my face, so I focused on keeping it in place and timing my deep breaths with my silent requests.
Oh God… not now.
Don’t bring us all this way to lose her at the end.
Protect my baby girl.
Breathe Your breath into her lungs.
Fill her with life.
And then it happened. In just a few confusing moments of rapid action my doctor sailed into the room, flipped you into position, instructed me to push with all my might, and ripped you from my womb.
You were blue. But you were so beautiful.
I watched as a newborn nurse placed you on my chest, then lifted your arms and let them drop. They fell against me like wet noodles, and I momentarily panicked when she scooped you up and flew with you to the warming table. There were people everywhere, instructing and congratulating me, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. I stared and prayed as a nursery team rubbed you clean, pounded your back for what seemed like an eternity, and finally got a good throaty cry.
And I cried with you.
Your entry into this world was dramatic, precarious, and tense, but the second your warm, pink body was snuggled up next to mine, I nearly drowned in the one thing for which I had begged God each day of this pregnancy.
I nearly drowned in joy.
Your big sister was and is the first of our two greatest gifts. She fills our days with laughter and our nights with snuggles, and is, at the ripe old age of 2, my very best friend. But her delivery was much more painful and traumatic than yours, leaving my body in such a state of shock that I barely remember the events immediately following her birth. My suffering was acute, my recovery was gruesome, and my brain had as much trouble bouncing back as my body did.
Did I mention she never slept? And when I say never, I mean never. At least not for more than 20 minutes at a time. She had colic, reflux, milk allergy, soy allergy, and severe digestive problems. She cried almost nonstop until she was 5 months old, and I was fairly certain my life was over. I watched with a broken heart as I tried everything I knew to help her keep a bottle down, but bless her heart, she lost weight, she became dehydrated, and she suffered as much as I did. Exhaustion, frustration, and despair became my constant companions and I found myself in a pit of postpartum depression with no idea how to dig my way out.
But God is faithful.
I begged Him for the joy I saw on the faces of other new mothers as they cuddled their perfectly content newborns. I pasted on a tired smile as I listened to rookie parents declare that their babies slept so much they had no idea what to do with their time. And I clenched my fists and bit my tongue as I received worthless nuggets of “encouragement” such as, “Some people just get bad babies; hang in there. She’ll straighten out eventually.”
I knew I did not have a bad baby. I had a precious gift from God. But I couldn’t help but feel completely inadequate and ill-equipped to give her everything she required – which was, in fact, everything. Every ounce of my energy and patience, every second of every day, and every last drop of unconditional love I could possibly muster.
She stretched me, broke me, and purged out more selfishness than I ever dreamed I could possess. She made me a better person in every way, and despite my daily struggle to adapt to my new normal, I loved her so much I feared my heart would burst. She was the most precious thing I had ever seen, and throughout the struggles of that difficult season, the Lord taught me that joy has nothing to do with our external circumstances. I was exhausted, desperate, and often felt like a complete failure as a mother. But she brought me the most intense fulfillment I had ever experienced on this earth.
Still, I wondered if I would ever have the mental or physical energy for the large family I had always dreamed of.
When I found out you were growing in my belly, I laughed in delight. With my desperate days behind me, I could now see the parallel “big pictures” of birthing and raising children – the pain that seems like more than you can bear in the moment, followed by the breathtaking reward for those who persevere. Without the pain, there can be no life. It took a full seven months of prayer and petition, but finally you were ours, and your daddy and I were afforded yet another opportunity to die to ourselves to discover life more abundant.
But as my pregnancy progressed, I confess a fair amount of fear crept in. I pictured another excruciating delivery, another year of extreme sleep deprivation and frustration, another battle with postpartum depression. It took many months for me to become myself again after Laynie was born, and I dreaded the thought of going back to that place.
So I hit my knees and asked everybody I knew to do the same. I begged God for an easy (or at least bearable) delivery, for a healthy baby, for freedom from the bondage of postpartum anxiety and depression. But most of all, I begged that no matter the external circumstances, He would once again use my daughter to fill with me with joy.
And boy did He come through.
Aside from the last-minute scare during your delivery, the day was drenched in peace. My nurses were precious, my labor was easy, and best of all, my epidural made me completely numb from the waist down. (Can I get a hallelujah?) You even had a head full of beautiful dark hair, just the way I pictured you in my prayers and dreams.
You eat like a champ, you sleep like a champ, and you are happier than I could have dreamed. You are my proof of God’s redemption, of His meticulous care in even the most mundane details of life. My initiation into motherhood could not have been further from the ideal I had built up in my head, but it was necessary for my own refinement. Without LaynieCakes, I would still be a very selfish, very self-centered, very immature woman – and I wouldn’t even know it. Only a God like ours can use very ordinary measures such as colic and reflux to slowly mold and shape a heart to look more like His.
I was prepared for more of this painful transformation, as I know that I am nowhere near the end result He requires… but I am delighted that for now, we are covered in peace.
He has chosen to use a beautiful baby girl named Crosbie Kayt to remind me that weeping lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning… that He will offer us beauty for our ashes… and that there is always redemption and purpose in our temporary suffering.
I know there will be difficult days ahead. (Aren’t there always?) I know my own refinement is far from over. But I also know now that it is in the valleys of life where we are truly transformed, not on the mountain tops.
I know that there is always joy to be found.
And when I see you snuggled in the arms of your amazing big sister, who instinctively and softly started singing “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…” as she held you tightly in the quiet darkness of our hospital room, my heart is so full I feel it must be bleeding from the inside out. And I am moved beyond words at the realization that He makes EVERYTHING beautiful in its appropriate time.
Because God is faithful.
He taught me the true meaning of joy through a little girl named Laynie.
And on the night you were born, that joy was made complete.
I love you every day,
*Photos courtesy of brittanyotwellphotography.com