In those final days before Asha made her arrival, I watched several videos and listened to quite a few podcasts by a doula named Kierra Blazer who encourages women to listen to the Lord and invite Him into their childbirth process. I loved it. It was like food for my soul to hear stories of women who experienced the presence of God in different unique ways throughout their journey of bringing life into the world.
In one of the videos I watched, she encouraged her audience to bring two things with them into their labor experience – faith and hope. Bringing faith looks like believing God for super specific things whether that be a supernatural pain-free birth, no tearing, or for another particular thing to occur. But when and if birth takes an unexpected curve and the things we have faith for don’t happen like we expect, we need hope so that disappointment doesn’t blind us and steal our joy in the process. Bill Johnson explains hope as the confident expectation of good. The truth is that God is always good and we can always expect him to follow us around with His goodness (Psalm 23:6) no matter what circumstances lay before us. In short, hope expects God to be good. He never disappoints.
I am so thankful that I listened to that beautiful piece of wisdom from Kierra before Asha’s birth. For months and months, I had prayed and declared and gotten other people to agree with me that I would go into labor spontaneously before her February 11th due date. I have such a high value for having a natural birth with no interventions, but I also wanted the baby to come early since I had gone past my due date with Opal and I just didn’t want to face the emotional challenges that might arise if I went past my due date. Needless to say, I had incredible faith for a spontaneous labor that would happen before the due date.
I even had faith that she would come on a specific day – February 5th. We made an appointment to be induced on the 6th just in case things didn’t get moving by then, but I just knew she would come before then. Everything about it sounded perfect to me. Five is a number that represents grace and redemption for me. How perfect is that? That was also the day of the Superbowl and I just knew that the Falcons were going to win, and that our daughter’s birth would be a sign and a wonder of victory and “rising up” above loss as champions. But as we all know, the Falcons didn’t win, and Asha stayed cozy inside of me that whole day. My beautiful plan was not working out so well.
That’s when I really had to face my disappointment. Not only was it disappointing because my grand plan didn’t work out, but I then had to deal with the fact that induction was more likely to happen than a spontaneous labor at that point. And it felt like I had failed. Why didn’t my body just work the way it needed to so that I could experience what it felt like to go into labor spontaneously? Why did I need medication to help me birth my baby? I went back and forth about whether or not I could go through with the induction, which scared Kyle because he just didn’t think he could emotionally handle much more time without a baby in our arms. To say we were on an emotional roller coaster is an understatement. After talking with my doula and a dear friend, I knew that like a GPS, I could emotionally re-route and go through with the induction though it still felt disappointing.
So induce, we did. We went in on Monday night, February 6, to get the process started. We got some people to be praying and entered into the hospital ready to meet our girl. Would it even be later that night? Early the next morning? To say that we were eager is an understatement.
Little did we know that that was the beginning of quite the waiting game. The hospital somehow had not registered us in the system as a scheduled induction, so there wasn’t a room ready for us. Three hours later, we were admitted. Three days later, I went into labor. And four days later, I was holding our beautiful baby on my chest.
Though I had carried faith throughout my pregnancy for labor to look a bit differently than it did, I saw how the goodness of the Lord followed us around the whole time.
First of all, my doula. Praise the Lord. I could go on and on about her kindness towards us. She was such a strong and supportive presence for us through Opal’s birth experience, and she was the same for Asha’s. Though she had changed professions, and gone back to teaching this past year, she decided to take off of work to support us! What kind of a friend uses her last two days of PTO to walk the halls of the hospital with this laboring mother? Not only did she take off of work, but she also pulled some strings to let us get out of our hospital room on day 3 of our stay there to take a walk outside, debrief, and talk through some decisions we needed to make regarding the induction process.
We all thought for sure that I would have the baby within the two-day period that she had off of work, but when that didn’t happen, and she needed to go back to work, God kept following us with his goodness.
Enter doula number two! Our good friend Erin, a labor doula, had just moved an hour and a half away with her family, so we really didn’t know if she would be able to come with such last minute notice, but on Thursday afternoon, the fourth day of our hospital adventure, she came and joined team Francis. She even had a dream a few nights before about us having our baby and knew that she was supposed to be there with us. It was perfect. She had me doing the Miles Circuit while using her clary sage in the essential oil diffuser. Anybody familiar with birth out there knows that she meant business. We were gonna have this baby soon.
We aggressively upped the Pitocin over the course of that Thursday afternoon, and by evening, I was having strong and steady contractions. Though I was afraid it would just stall again like it had earlier in the week, labor was truly underway at last!
That’s when our good friend Jenn entered the scene. She had been present for the birth of Asha’s big sister, so it just wouldn’t have been the same without her there. She brought so much encouragement and supernatural joy along for the journey, as well as the new Brian and Jenn Johnson album that we played on repeat that night. She was quite the DJ and quite the intercessor. When I was in too much pain to notice what was going on around me, I could hear Jenn praying. And every now and then, I’d hear her say, “You’re doing so great.” What a beautiful friend.
When I tell people that the induction process lasted 4 days, many sympathetically ask if I was in pain that whole time. Let’s just take a moment to praise the Lord that I wasn’t! Whew. It was an emotional and tiring 4 days for sure, but there were only about 6-8 hours where I was seriously having to cope with labor pain. I won’t go into details about that, but I will just say that being on Pitocin (which makes contractions stronger), combined with the ginormous size of our baby made for quite the experience.
I am not ashamed to say that I begged for an epidural after they told me I was only 6-7cm dilated. I didn’t know how I was supposed to do 3-4 more centimeters and push a baby out without some sort of relief! Well as soon as they ordered the epidural, I started pushing, and it was then too late for an epidural. It all happened so quickly!
That’s when my midwife got called to assist another mom a few doors down who was also pushing. Can you imagine being the midwife in that situation? How do you choose which mom to assist? Thankfully, she called our OB who quickly came to the rescue. So the midwife went in the other room, and our Doctor arrived moments later to be present for Asha’s birth. It was perfect. He was the one who delivered Opal and had walked with us through our pregnancy journey with Asha, so we had grown pretty fond of him. It was just a sweet kiss from the Lord. Oh how He loves us!
At 3:42AM on February 10, our Asha Elizabeth was born and placed directly on my chest. It was glorious. I had dreamed of that moment for months and months, and it was sweeter than I had imagined.
When I had prayed all of those specific faith-filled prayers about what I would have loved labor to look like, I always ended up just coming back to my core desire – to have a living, breathing baby on my chest when it was all said and done. That was really all I wanted.
And in that holy moment, with my living, breathing gift on my chest, I know Heaven was having a party. They had been eagerly waiting for this moment, just like I had. And Opal – she was the happiest of them all! All of her favorite people had just met for the first time – her Mommy, her Daddy and her Asha. I know she was (and probably still is) proudly wearing her “Big Sister” shirt, dancing with the angels, excited about the grace and redemption her family was getting to experience. Oh, how sweet our Jesus is.
In those first few moments, all Kyle could say was, “She looks just like you!” (But now she looks just like Kyle!) And all I could say was, “I just birthed a three-month-old!” I couldn’t get over how big she was. After a couple hours of family bonding, they finally weighed her – 11lb. 3oz.!! That was EXACTLY what I weighed at birth. I now had a whole new appreciation for my mother.
Whew! I did it. I birthed a huge baby while on Pitocin with no epidural. It was hard. But it was good. And throughout it all, my hope in the Lord did not disappoint. “Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)
Oh, and her name! When I was in India back in 2008, I spent time at a couple different orphanages – one was named “Asha House,” and the other was “Asha Mission,” and there was even a little girl at one of them named Asha. In Sanskrit, Asha means, “hope.” I remember thinking how much I loved that name, and so I put it in my pocket for later.
Well, “later” came along and we just knew that it was the perfect name for our girl. Hope, strength and restoration is what grew inside of me as she grew in my womb, and it is what we experienced throughout her birth. It is who she is and it is what she carries.
I was talking to an Indian friend of mine who also lost a full-term baby, and she told me that this is the second “rainbow baby” she knows of with the name, Asha. A rainbow baby is one that is born after experiencing infant loss. Our Asha came just like the rainbow comes after a dreary rain as a promise from God that we will not be flooded and consumed by the storms of life.
And if that wasn’t perfect enough, the name, Elizabeth, means “promise of God.” This family name was a perfect seal for our rainbow baby. My mom is Elizabeth and goes by “Beth.” And I am Mary Elizabeth, and I go by “Maribeth.” And now we have our Asha Elizabeth.
Life with Asha has been absolutely delightful. Kyle and I both feel like we are living the dream. Even when things feel overwhelming, as they tend to with a newborn, our hearts are filled with gratitude and praise to our God. We are thankful to have the privilege of raising this girl, and seeing how she lives out the hope, strength and restoration within.
*Photo Credit: Sarah Joy Smith (sarahjoyphoto.org)