Music, whispers, prayer, and laughter. These are the sounds of your birth room that echo in my memory as I think back to that day.
I can see Josh in my mind’s eye as he bends his head to your ear again and again between contractions, and I can hear a hint of his hushed voice as he shares words of encouragement meant for your ears alone. His tenderness toward you and pride over your hard work are palpable. His words are clearly just what you need to hear as you nod, refocus, and breathe through one more contraction, and one more after that. He rubs your back, kisses your head, and praises your effort after each wave has passed. He has settled into a rhythm to match yours as you trek together through labor: speak softly to prepare, press on your hips or spray hot water onto your back during the contraction, kiss gently and speak softly again, offering congratulations on one more peak of labor’s mountainous terrain successfully crested.
I can hear you in my thoughts as well, Mckayla, breathing deeply as you wait for the next contraction, letting out an “oh” or an “ah” as it builds, and surprising me as you interrupt yourself to sing the line, “Something beautiful out of me!” each time the song playing on repeat cycled back to those words.
That song accompanied us through so much of your labor. It was playing early on, as you sat on the birth ball and I sat behind you, rubbing your back while we sang together and chatted. Later, I had the job of restarting that song over and over during active labor, while you step-touched in the shower, yelled to release your pain, and yet you still sang intermittently, always that one line: “Something beautiful out of me.”
The lyrics aptly described your labor as I watched it unfold. I saw you choose to lean not on your understanding about what labor “should” be like, but you listened and responded intuitively to your body as you entrusted yourself and your birth to the Maker of heaven. You embraced labor with such confidence, knowing that your Maker would see you through it. Labor calls for such raw surrender in order to avoid fighting against its power, and you let go of control more and more as contractions piled on top of one another. I could easily imagine your silent conversation with God, starting from the depths of your soul and ending in the very physical experience of your body. Through it all you seemed to be proclaiming to God as those lyrics played:
“I give it all to You, God. All the pain, all the anticipation, all the giddy excitement, all the apprehension. I give it all to You, trusting that even through this task that feels unbearable at the moment, You are making something beautiful out of me. You’re making me a mother. You’re making me more like You by teaching me about long-suffering, about sacrifice, and about love. So I’ll climb this mountain of labor with my hands wide open, accepting what You give to me, welcoming what You have designed for the birth of my baby, not holding onto any expectations or pre-conceived notions of my own making. My life is in the hands of my Maker, the Maker of heaven.”
The abandon with which you labored was remarkable, Mckayla. Simply stunning.
Josh was struck by the intensity of what birth professionals affectionately refer to as “Laborland.” It’s clear that a laboring mother has entered Laborland when she suddenly seems to be gone from the room, other than physically. There is no more happy chatter between contractions, questions posed to her go unanswered, her eyes are often closed, and although she may feel or think something with total clarity, she finds herself incapacitated from communicating whatever it is to the rest of the room. Your Laborland was a force to be reckoned with, Mckayla, as you were deeply “in the zone” working with your baby and your body. Josh was caught off guard by the need to communicate with the staff and make decisions for you, particularly when it came to interpreting whether you truly wanted an epidural or if maybe you were just in transition. After all was said and done, the three of us were able to laugh together about your apparent absence from the room during that time.
At one point, you didn’t want to keep going. You begged for relief, and Josh would remind you of a Scripture you had chosen ahead of time and tell you how well you were doing, how strong you were. Your eyes were closed, and your head was down, but you were listening, and it was enough to get you through one or two more pangs before the two of you would repeat the process. This eventually brought about one of Josh’s most vivid memories from Josiah’s birth, when you surprisingly, though only momentarily, emerged from Laborland: “At one point Mckayla sat straight up on her knees on the bed and looked right at me. She put her finger over my lips and told me I wasn’t hearing her. She said, ‘I’m done!’ And I had to change my approach; I had to assure her that I heard her, and that I was right there and would help her. She needed to feel heard.” Helping you to feel heard helped you put off an epidural for as long as you could stand, which was what you wanted, and you were grateful to Josh later for his keen attention to your needs and his ability to help you achieve your goals. You shared later, “When Josh told me I could do it, that we would do it together, I felt like I could. That was what I needed to hear.”
And then, after a much needed rest, came the favorite part for both of you: pushing, and the actual birth of your darling baby boy. Mckayla, you loved feeling in tune with your body even though the contractions were painful. You were amazed at being able to feel Josiah’s head descending and emerging. Josh was so proud of you for pushing even more than the nurses or doctor instructed you to. You went above and beyond what they expected of you, and your loving husband beamed in awe of your strength and stamina.
Josiah was born, his name still a mystery to the rest of us, and he was placed directly onto his mommy’s chest. Mckayla, you laughed and cried as you announced his name for the first time, exclaiming, “Josiah! My baby! Hello, Josiah! Hi, my love!” over and over.
You were no longer in Laborland, though you were still somewhat “gone,” only reachable by your sweet family as the three of you marveled at each other. You entered a new place together. Some call it “The Golden Hour,” some think of this as the beginning of the “Babymoon.” Whatever name you’d like to give that ethereal place, the three of you were there, so in love with each other and not paying a lot of attention to other things happening in the room. As it should be.
All of your hard work had paid off, your boy was in your arms, and you began your new life as a family of three. What a pleasure to witness God making something so beautiful out of you.