I know that a lot of moms share their birth story, but dads are a part of it too, so I thought I would share my perspective on the most amazing, wild and craziest day of my life!
June was 10 days late. We were ready for her arrival in a big way.
But let me start the story 24 hours before she entered into this world. It was a cold February night and I was at youth group. In the packet that they hand out during small group time there was an activity that said, "Set up chairs in an obstacle course and have races over them." So we did exactly that. We raced, laughed and carried on like boys do. Our last race ended in a tie, and well, we had no choice - "we had to do a tie breaker." That line is in quotes because it has been repeated over and over again by our small group due to the events that followed. During the tie-breaker I jumped over a chair, like I had three times before, but this time I landed funny and BOOM - high ankle sprain. It was bad. Like, why is there a softball growing under my skin bad. Youth group ended and as I hobbled out into the bitter cold parking lot, I called my beautiful 10-day-late wife Brooke and lied to her. Flat out lied.
I said, "Hey babe. So... we were playing this game at youth group and I hurt my ankle. It looks a lot worse than it is, but it doesn't hurt too bad! I'll be home soon. Bye, I love you!"
For 12 painful minutes, I gassed and clutched my car all the way home, all while thinking how foolish I had been to get injured so close to my daughter's birth. I got home and Brooke was upstairs in our bedroom, so I hobbled to the kitchen to get some ice and walked as confidently as I could up the stairs without wincing. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, I see Brooke...having mild contractions. I sat on the edge of the bed as she looked and gasped at my injury and I assured her again that it looked worse then it felt. So I iced, we talked, watched a little TV and I fell asleep around midnight.
Four hours later, around 4:30am, I felt the sweetest tap on my shoulder and through squinted eyes I turned to see Brooke smiling at me and saying, "Hey, my water just broke. So..I think we should call Sherry (our doula) and go to the hospital."
I know I married-up when Brooke said, "Yes" to me almost 8 years ago. And I will forever be thankful for that moment, but it's moments like the morning of our daughter's birth that make me realize how true it is. Here is my 10-day-late-wife, calmly and quietly waking me up from sleep only minutes after her water broke. She is the ultimate calm and steady presence in my life and even through the craziness that is labor and delivery she was still her calm and steady self. In the stormy waves of life, my wife is the anchor that keeps our family calm, peaceful and safe.
I have never been more instantly awake in my life. My head started racing, "Oh My Word! My daughter is coming! June is coming! We get to meet her! Ahhhhhhh!!!" Then I got out of bed and my thoughts went to "!@()%R&[email protected]#@%*($THGADNJ$U(%@[email protected]!!!!!! What is happening to my ankle? Am I dying?!?!?!??!"
I was injured badly, for sure, but on the day your wife is going to give birth to you child, you can NEVER complain about pain. So, I winced, limped to the bathroom and took a really quick shower, while Brooke continued to have contractions in the bedroom and finished packing our bag.
Once I was out of the shower and ready to go I started moving carseats, bags, snacks and anything else I thought we would need to the car. My ankle was in so much pain, so at points I was literally just hopping on one foot across the street with piles of things in my arms. Anytime Brooke was near me I confidently walked on both feet so she wouldn't think it was as bad as it was.
With the car full of everything we thought we needed, we started our drive through the cold February night to the hospital. On the way we prayed, we sang worship songs, and I talked a mile a minute while Brooke breathed in and out, calm and steady like always! I realized on the way to the hospital that this would be the last car ride we would ever take as a family of two. Mind blowing.
We arrived safely at the hospital and went through the check in process - waiting rooms, triage, etc.
Between 6:00am (when we arrived at the hospital) and 8:39pm (the actual minute June arrived) time didn't exist to me. There was nothing to do besides be in that moment with the love of my life as she labored and worked. Brooke decided early on to do the "all natural birth thing", so she had been training for this moment for months. It truly was the most amazing thing I have ever, or will ever, see in my life. Childbirth takes more guts, courage and hardwork than anything I have ever watched - and that's not exclusive to natural childbirth. I have told people since June's arrival, and I will continue to tell people until the day I die, that a man could not do it. Not just because of our parts, but because of the type of strength it takes. The type of strength that is found only in a woman's will, a woman's courage and a woman's care.
Brooke labored while Sherry and I coached her. At times Brooke needed the coaching from her coach, Sherry, and at times she needed love from her husband, me. And isn't that so true for all of life? Sometimes we need to be told how it is from a boss, teacher, pastor or coach. And sometimes we need heaping piles of grace, love and a simple touch from the ones we love the most. It was in those blurry hours that I was realized that what Brooke was desiring during labor is what we, as people, are always desiring. We desire coaching, correction and doing the right thing - all while wanting grace to help carry us through those hard times. We all desire Jesus and even in Brooke's most difficult moments, I was learning that.
During those hours and hours of labor Brooke kept repeating, "I can do this. I can do this." Over and over again. She has no memory of saying that at all, but Sherry and I remember. Over and over again my strong-willed, amazing wife stayed confident in her mission to bring our little girl into this world. And again, life lesson number two here, we all need to stay confident of what we are called to do even in the most difficult moments. It would have been so easy for Brooke to say she couldn't do it and lose hope. But she didn't! She stayed confident even in difficulty and that was so inspiring. It's so easy to quit. But hard to push through in life and anytime I get frustrated or discouraged I just think of Brooke in those moments saying, "I can do this. I can do this."
Around 7:00-7:30pm, I all of a sudden remembered that my ankle was in pain and looked down to see that I no longer had a defined ankle area. My leg went straight from calf to foot and the swelling was starting to "ooze" over my shoe. It was gross. I needed to get off my feet for awhile, so I asked Sherry to sit by Brooke as I sat and iced my ankle for 20 minutes or so. Brooke has no memory of this either, which is good. I knew that what she was going through was harder and more painful than my ankle sprain could ever be, but that didn't mean that I wasn't having pain. I think sometimes we try to tell people that they can't complain because "people are dying in other countries" or because "my story is so much worse." But if it's real, pain is pain no matter what someone else is going through. We can be so insensitive sometimes declaring that because our pain is "worse", yours doesn't count. Even after June was safely here, Brooke was so concerned with my ankle because, even in pain and suffering, real, honest love cares more for others than for self.
Side note: Here is a photo of my ankle the morning after June was born, just so you can get a perspective of how bad it was (sorry it's gross). In case you were wondering I hurt the one on the right.
Back to the story - after 20 minutes of icing my ankle, I got back up and was right by Brooke's side. Coaching, kissing, whispering, singing and tell her anything she needed to hear. She has thanked me many times for my encouragement during labor. Encouraging words are so powerful and I have tried to use them more and more, at all times, in my life. Labor taught me how powerful our words really are and I hope to practice what I've learned for all of life. If we can encourage someone, why wouldn't we?
And then after 15+ hours Brooke started to push little June into this world. A woman pushing a baby out is like, in the "elegant" words of my brother-in-law, "the wild west". There can be screaming, crying, cheering, encouraging, sweat, tears, blood, fluids and just about everything else. If there was a venn diagram to describe labor it would be that small intersection where amazing, crazy, kind-of-gross and love, all meet in the middle.
It's raw and beautiful and almost unbelievable. But my wife did it and I have never been so proud of a human being in my entire life. I was crying and smiling and laughing and kissing and loving and amazed, and did I mention crying?, when little June made her first appearance into the world. She was slimy, and small and the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
...and that was just the beginning....
Tomorrow my daughter will be seven months old! It's been the best seven months of my life, which all started with wildness, rawness and love. In these past seven months, I have seen the amazing things of life unfold right before my eyes. I have watched a little slimy infant grow, develop and learn. I can already see her personality, which thankfully is a lot more like her Moms than her Dads. I've watched her laugh, cry, giggle and scream! I've watched her discover her love of water, being outside and anything that makes noise. I've watched her jump for hours, seriously so many hours, in her jumper and put almost everything in her mouth that's within her tiny arm's reach. It's amazing.
But that is not even the most amazing part of these last seven months.
The most amazing part is Brooke. The strong and steady force in our family. The woman who is peaceful through the storm and calm amongst life's crashing waves. The woman who is the silent kind of strong and the deep kind of beautiful. I thought I knew Brooke pretty well before we were parents, but as we walk hand in hand through parenthood I have seen layer upon layer of her kind soul peeled back and am amazed at the beauty I see. As a husband, I think it would be easy to just see the dirty diapers, middle of the night feedings and a crying baby, but we should really strive to shift our focus to what our wives become when they enter motherhood. They become even more than we could have ever imagined in the most life-giving way.
Being June's Dad is totally awesome and one of my favorite things, but being a husband is even better, especially to a great mom. May I always remember what Brooke had to go through, both with the actual labor and what followed, to get to this point in life and all the lessons it taught me. Labor and delivery is beautiful, chaotic and incredibly real. My hope is that my whole life and the way I love will be a reflection of just that - beauty in chaos.