Not So Silent Night

It’s two days before Christmas and I am over-the-top busy getting ready for the big day. So, today I’m reposting something I put on Facebook last Christmas. Merry Christmas Everyone!

“Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, All is bright.” When I was a child this was my favorite Christmas Carol. I would always imagine a cold moonlit night, stars shining brightly, a big star shining down on a picturesque stable standing all alone on a beautiful hillside. Inside the stable were a couple adorable animals, all sleeping quietly, while Mary and Joseph sit on little stools, dressed impeccably, looking adoringly down on a beautiful infant who is glowing slightly and sleeping peacefully. You know the image I’m talking about, what we always see on Christmas cards.

Now, when I hear that song, I laugh quietly to myself.

“Silent night.” Hah. I doubt there was anything silent about that night. I have given birth 10 times. Yes, 10. I have had a labor that lasted over 24 hrs with 4 hrs of pushing, I’ve had induced labors with an epidural, I’ve had completely natural  births that lasted 4 hrs and completely natural births that lasted 90 minutes. It doesn’t matter how you go about it, the end result is the same. Lots of pain. Mess. Achiness. A feeling of being out-of-body. People around you are giving you instructions, you are doing everything you can to get through the pain, and your husband is trying to offer whatever support he can. And then when the baby is about to come out, the energy in the room suddenly increases and everyone is bustling, getting ready to welcome this newest addition to the world.

I imagine Mary, going through that birth experience in a stable. No sterile hospitals with running water. No ice-packs, no pain killers. No clean bedding. I don’t think Mary was alone during her birth. I am not an expert on the culture of Bethlehem at that time, but I have lived in cultures that were a lot more community oriented than what we have here in the US.  I’m pretty sure she had at least a midwife there, if not several other women who showed up just to help. And we all know that where two or more women are gathered there will be conversation. No. I don’t think it was very silent.

“All is Calm” No. Not really. The baby comes out and is handed to you and you are shaking so hard that you can hardly hold him. And then, there is that overwhelming panic as you look at this tiny bundle in your arms and you realize that it is up to you to keep this baby alive. It’s like a giant weight settles on your shoulders and your entire perspective on life shifts to this baby. From here on out, every decision you make will have to line up with the ultimate goal of providing for and protecting this little one.

But.. it was Holy. “Holy Night.” Yes. The birth of any child is enough to bring you to tears at the wonder of creation. To see this red-faced, wrinkly creature is a holy experience in itself. I remember tears streaming down my face, all pain forgotten for the moment, as I carefully cradled this little one. My child. This life came out of my body. I was in awe at the wonder of birth. I would think, for Mary, that experience was multiplied a hundred fold. Her child. God’s child. Hope born. A fulfillment of God’s promises. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Painful, messy, loud, chaotic, Holy Night.

Keep It Simple Stupid

My life motto has been, for quite some time now, KISS or Keep It Simple Stupid. In a world that is full of mixed up complicated advice, I am looking for that one simple instruction that is doable, attainable, simple. I don’t do well with complicated. When I make decisions, you can bet money that one of the top priorities for me is which solution is going to be simple. As I have recently been struggling with a problem and needing some simple advice, I found myself remembering the birth of my last child.

The part about the birth that I remember the most was the very end. Everything had gone in a rush. I had shown up at the labor and delivery floor at 7:30, contractions coming every 2 minutes. The baby was 3 weeks early and so I hadn’t even had time to preregister. I made my way to the nurse’s station and started talking quickly, trying to say as much as I could in between contractions. Hi, I’m Esther Heneise, this is my 10th pregnancy, all natural births, Contractions started at 5 pm……pant breathe pant breathe………..Ok, I have gestational diabetes, I’m taking insulin, the baby is really big……pant breathe pant breathe……..umm. Last ultrasound said the baby was 13 pounds, doctors wanted to induce early, they’re worried about shoulder dystocia……pant breathe pant breathe…………………The doctors suggested a C-section but we want to try natural first……….pant breathe pant breathe…………………..My labors are really fast so you don’t have much time……….

The nurse jumped into action, asking a bunch of questions that I could barely answer. Some important, when did you last take insulin? Others not so important, do you have a working refrigerator and stove at your house? (huh?) There was a flurry of getting into a gown, getting blood work drawn, and in the meantime they were still trying to get an idea of how big the baby was and how important was it for me to get a C-section? They did an ultrasound while I sat on the bed almost delirious with pain. I asked if I could get an epidural and they said, sure, as soon as the blood work comes back. I was doomed. I knew there was no way I would still be in labor by the time the blood work came back. I was already at the end of this process. No one else seemed to understand. They checked me and told me I was dilated to 7. I told them that the baby was going to be born within the next half hour. They all nodded and smiled and patted me reassuringly, don’t worry, as soon as that blood work comes back we’ll get you your epidural. By this time I was in transition and basically retreated from the world, just trying to focus on not dying from the pain.  At one point in time they came up to me and asked if I just wanted to go ahead and get a C-section. All I could think was, If I get a C-section will they knock me out so I don’t feel this any more? At least one logical part of my brain spoke up and said, I’m in so much pain I can’t make any decisions, ask my husband. Andy looked up, startled, but fortunately we had talked about this beforehand and so he gave our agreed upon answer which was that we were going to try natural first. I groaned. I had really hoped that I could just get knocked out. Suddenly, I knew, it was time to push. I started pushing. The nurse looked startled and asked if I was pushing. Yes. Stop pushing! You can’t push till the doctor checks you, it might not be time! I looked at her, felt the urge to push, and pushed again. She shook her head, announced to the room at large that I was no longer listening to her and I had started pushing. Total chaos broke out. The room was suddenly filled with people, the bed was being taken apart and 2 nurses came up and pushed me flat on my back, grabbing my legs. I was in a fog and was not tracking with anything but the pain. Suddenly a man’s voice broke through all the commotion. Ok, breathe! Breathe it out, contraction is coming, get ready,, Ok Push! I turned my focus on him, a big tall guy in scrubs and a mask. I have no idea who he was. He might have been a doctor, a nurse, an aide, or some random observer off the street. All I knew was that finally someone was actually helping me. He became my focal point as he coached me through a couple more pushes and then, without any complications, the baby was there. No problems, only weighing 9 pounds 12 ounces instead of the predicted 13. (pretty much 30 mins after they told me I was dilated to 7!) Everyone was healthy and well.People started leaving the room till I was left with just a couple nurses. I survived my last birth.

Looking back, I don’t know if I can emphasize enough how important the man in the scrubs was in the whole process. I was so caught up in my pain and the confusion that I could no longer help myself. I desperately needed one person to break through and just give me some simple instructions. Something I could handle and latch on to. He was a life saver.

I had this happen another time. When I was pregnant with my fourth child, that summer I had a real struggle with panic attacks and anxiety. I didn’t want to leave my house and I felt like I was barely holding my sanity together. Life was so overwhelming and I hadn’t learned yet some of the basics of self-care. I was pouring everything in to my 3 children, expecting another child, and felt like I wasn’t succeeding at anything.  My husband finally asked if I’d be willing to go and speak to our pastor. I made an appointment and we met and talked. I can’t really remember much of what we said but I do remember that he wrote down on a piece of paper 3 things to do. They were very simple. One was to establish a quiet time every day where all my kids were in their beds either napping or looking at books and I could have an hour to myself. The next one was to make it a priority to have a time to just talk to my husband every day with no interruptions, adult conversation. I can’t remember what the third was, but I do know it was equally as simple. It was a voice speaking through the fog of my anxiety, just giving me a couple basic instructions to help me establish some good practices of self-care. Even though it was simple, it really helped.

Sometimes I’ve had an actual person who shows up to speak some life into my situations. Other times, it’s the Holy Spirit just speaking a simple idea into my mind. I have been dithering around for a couple days now. I want/need to start eating healthier. I’m ready to do it. But how to go about it? I’ve read so many books and heard about so many different methods that now I’m completely stalled out and I don’t know what to do. This plan says no animal products, this other says, mostly only animal products. This plan says no fat, this other plans says all the fat you want, just don’t eat it at the same time as Carbs. This plan says one cup of grain a day, this other plan says all the grain you want as long as you don’t eat fat. ACCKK!!! What do I do? I finally made it a matter of prayer, Ok Lord, I need some guidance here. And an idea came to me. No sugar. Every single plan agrees on that one, no sugar. Just keep it simple. Tackle one bad habit at a time.  A still, small voice breaking through the confusion, giving me some simple advice. It’s exactly what I needed. Just keeping it simple….stupid.