That Sufficient Grace: Caleb’s Birth Story (plus backstory!)

The Backstory

**Feel free to skip down to The Birth Story…I know that’s what some are most interested in!**

I don’t think Caleb’s birth story can be told well without first giving a little background about the months leading up to his birth. It’s been a whirlwind, just like his birth was!

In December of last year, our family returned from Japan after serving there for about 6 years as missionaries.  Baby #1, Evie, was 1 year old when we left for Japan. By the time we came back, we had 3 more babies, all born in Japan, and I was pregnant with #5!

I’d been saying for a while that #5 would also most likely be “#last”, and that I’d like to have the next baby in America, especially if he was to be my last. But when I found out I was pregnant, we hadn’t yet decided to resign and our stateside assignment wasn’t for another year, and so I became content with baby #5 also being born in Japan. He would have been born at the same maternity hospital as Micah (#4) had been, and it had been a relatively good experience. I’d come to appreciate the Japanese custom of keeping new moms in the hospital for 4-5 days. The more kids I had, the longer I was happy to stay!

A couple months into my pregnancy, however, we decided to resign from our organization and as missionaries in Japan, and from there everything moved very quickly. 2.5 months after making the decision, we were on a plane to Florida. It was through faith and relying on God’s grace that we could make a decision like that; oddly enough, there was a lot of security in staying with our organization and on the field.

I worried about my pregnancy. During all the stress of making the decision to resign and then packing up and selling almost all of our possessions, I had had some bleeding. It was minor, but I’d never experienced that before and so it was scary. Those articles about pregnancy and how you should try to avoid stress because it can affect your baby were always on my mind. There was no avoiding it, but His grace IS sufficient – after a month of no heavy lifting, all seemed to be back to normal.

Thankfully when we got to Florida we were able to relax some. There were a lot of wonderful things about living on my parent’s beautiful property in a studio apartment for 2.5 months. But for obvious reasons, living in a studio apartment with 4 kids came with stresses as well. We were able to spend a lot of time in my parent’s house though, and Adam set up a tiny office for himself in the loft of the apartment so that he could focus on job searching and building his web development business. I started homeschooling my kids, and we were able to focus on the transition. It worked out well, but when we had the opportunity to move into my parent’s rental house near the beach, it was time.

We moved into the beach house around the middle of March. We had to do a LOT of shopping since we’d come back from Japan without very much to our name besides clothes, memorabilia, and a savings account. So, at 8 to 9 months pregnant, I was shopping, setting up the house, trying to nest, and also not neglect my 4 sweet and energetic children. Not to mention that the house needed some TLC in terms of paint and minor repairs…

The Birth Story

The day I turned 37 weeks pregnant, my sister-in-law came to visit for 2 and a half weeks. She was such a huge help and blessing! We were able to get a lot done and I was able to do some nesting and preparing for baby and the birth; in the middle of everything I had decided to have a home birth! I was really excited; this was something I’d wanted for a long time but was unable to do because of being in Japan. I didn’t think we’d get to this time either, but the Lord worked out the timing so that it made sense to have the baby at home rather than drive 45 minutes to the birth center and then have to drive back, just 2-6 hours after the birth. That just didn’t sound appealing to me, and knowing that my sister-in-law was coming helped me to decide that the beach house would be ready enough in time for a home birth.

On April 10th, during my devotions, I read 1Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”  I had been feeling weak; I had a cold that I couldn’t get rid of and was feeling huge and uncomfortable. I couldn’t get much done and was having a hard time imagining not just going through childbirth, but also having a newborn and trying to take care of everything else in my life that needs taking care (namely, my other children). But the Lord reminded me again that His grace is sufficient, and that perhaps through my weakness He was going to show Himself powerful.

My sweet sister-in-law helped me to get some homeschooling done with the kids that day, and we all went to the Dollar Store and grocery store. While we were out I had several strong contractions, but nothing consistent. I told Dana that I was pretty sure this baby would be born within a couple days though!

That night, Dana watched the kids for us while Adam and I went out on a date. My cold made it hard to breathe, so when Adam got jalapenos on his pizza, he offered me some. It worked to clear my sinuses, and we think it might have worked in other ways too (spicy foods are said to induce labor). After eating our fancy pizza, we walked across the bridge that has the sign “Welcome to Daytona Beach”…we felt like tourists and took some cheesy selfies. I reminded Adam that this was strangely reminiscent of the night before Micah was born – we went for a walk, went on a date and ate spicy food, and he was born that night! After that, Adam decided no more walking, so we headed to the movie theater to watch “I Can Only Imagine”. I had several more strong contractions during the movie, but again, nothing consistent. However, on the way home I decided to review with Adam what his responsibilities and priorities were when I went into labor, like putting a mattress cover on our mattress and moving things around in case there was time to set up the pool for a water birth. When we got back I headed straight to bed, and on my way, I said again to Adam and Dana, “I think this baby will be born tomorrow.”

Sometime between 1 and 2am, I was woken up by a strong contraction. I had taken Tylenol PM to help me sleep because of my cold, and so it’s possible I’d had other contractions before that and slept through them. But at 2am I started timing them, and sure enough, they were 9 minutes apart and getting closer, stronger, and more painful. I started my birth playlist (that was my top priority), woke Adam up and he went to work doing what I’d just told him to do a few hours earlier. I called the midwife (I love saying that because I LOVE that show). I let her know my contractions were now 7 minutes apart, and I had to stop talking during one, so I think she could tell they were painful. I also let her know that my other births had all been pretty fast, so I thought she should go ahead and come over. She was coming all the way from Orlando, and it was storming there, so she knew it would take about 1.5 hours. She agreed to head out right away.

From that point on I just worked through my labor the only ways I know how – listening to worship music, praying, hanging on to Adam or having him press on my back, and focusing on relaxing my whole body during contractions. I remind myself with each one that it’s bringing my baby one step closer to being in my arms, and so there’s no need to fight them. When my dad heard that we were doing a home birth, he asked if the kids would be able to sleep through it if it happened at night. I replied, “I’m not a screamer.” It’s true! I didn’t scream at all, except possibly a short shout during the final push. The kids slept through the entire thing.

The midwife arrived at 4:30am. I was able to talk to her a little bit as I knelt and waited for contractions, which were about 3-4 minutes apart and painful, but not unbearable. She spent a few minutes setting up and then checked my cervix. Perhaps the most surprising point of the whole labor was when she said: “There’s no cervix…you’re 10 cm dilated and you can push when you feel like it!”. My previous labor with Micah had also been fairly relaxed, never reaching the intensity level most expect during labor and childbirth. But my labor with him had also been my longest, at 7 hours. It had only been 2.5 hours since I started timing the contractions!

From that point on I just wanted to be standing up and hanging onto Adam’s shoulders. The midwife asked if I wanted to get on the bed or what position I wanted to give birth in, and I just said: “I want to stay standing for now.” I still don’t think it had hit me that this baby was coming and he was coming soon. The midwife went to get some things prepared on the other side of the room and told me to let her know when I started to feel like pushing. Well, I guess I wasn’t in the mood to talk, because I started pushing during a contraction without telling anyone until I was already pushing: “I’m pushing…”. Adam bent down and called out, “The head!” and the midwife came behind me. With one more push during what seemed like the same contraction, and I believe with the help of gravity because I was still standing, Caleb Ezekiel was born into his daddy’s waiting arms at 5:07am. He gave a loud cry right away and then was placed into my arms as I finally climbed into bed. He was covered in vernix (the white stuff) and had a head full of hair. For the first time, I was able to leave the umbilical cord attached to my baby as long as I wanted. He nursed for the first time while still attached to the placenta! After an hour or so of skin-to-skin and nursing, I cut the cord (which the midwives were in awe of because it was curly) and the midwives weighed and measured him (the second midwife arrived 5 minutes after he was born); he was 7 lb 15 oz and 21 inches long. I had guessed 8 lbs!

The kids began waking up around 6:30 and took turns coming in to meet him. I needed a medication, so my parents picked up that prescription on their way over. After they met Caleb, they gathered up the kids and took them to spend the night that night so Adam and Caleb and I could rest. Dana also stayed and rested and helped us out.

I loved having a homebirth! I would definitely do it again if I were planning to do it again (still not). What I didn’t love was having to leave home and my bed the very next day, strap my 1-day old into a car seat, and go to the pediatrician, and then again on day 3 to go to the birth center. I could go on and get on my soapbox about the sad state of postpartum care in America…but I’ll save that for another post. 😊

Caleb is 2 weeks + 1 day old at the time of writing and is such a beautiful and sweet baby boy. His name, which we decided on in the midst of our huge transition back to life stateside, means “faithful” or “wholehearted” (Caleb) and “God strengthens” (Ezekiel). God has been faithful throughout everything, and He has certainly strengthened me every day. My prayer is that Caleb will know that faithfulness and strength as he grows, but also that in his times of weakness, he will know that sufficient grace just as I did – before, during, and after his birth.

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