Gabe asked me today how it felt after Raychel was born to not have her in my tummy anymore. It was odd, but not in the way I thought it would be. It felt like my stomach wasn’t mine. I had become so used to Baby Berry making it her home that I no longer thought of it as just “my” belly. When she was gone I remember not feeling confident that I could stand up straight or really do anything involving my abdominal muscles because I think I did not feel I had control over them anymore.
It’s those moments when you can’t help but go into her room and stare in the darkness at her sleeping silhouette. The moments she is crying and the only thing she needs is to be in your arms. The moments you look at her from across the room and her face lights up. The ones in which the rest of the world seems like background noise to a song more beautiful than you imagined possible. It’s those moments that make you appreciate what it took to get her here. The changes to your body, the fear you felt approaching labor, the excruciating pain, the (long for some) recovery, the terrifying mood swings, the exhaustion after everything… All of it necessary to bring that perfect little being into this world. This crazy, messed up, ugly world that is made a little less so by her presence.
I am stunned with how much I love her. She’s changed me, but life goes on. Finances get tighter, relationships have their ups and downs, we learn more and more the areas we aren’t fully trusting God with and yet, she’s here. Her sweet smile greets me every morning like a honey coated reminder that we aren’t forgotten. God is near, He loves, He is the God of provision, peace and grace. I don’t deserve her. I don’t deserve such a perfect child with eyes like the sun and hands that sweetly clasp my fingers. She is Grace personified. That God loved us enough to give her to us is a miracle, but the greater miracle is that he loved us enough to give us His son… That is a love I don’t know that I can understand, but I am eternally grateful for it.
That is a good thought to go to sleep on… That my Father loves us all that much…
You have ruined me. From an eager mom-to-be with the sober knowledge that I couldn’t know how much love I was capable of you have made a fool with a heart broken by the devastating joy you brought with your arrival. When you curl into my chest I feel love. When you scream in my ear I hear love. When I catch a glimpse of you my eyes are overwhelmed with love. It’s radiant. You are radiant. I wake up every morning tired, but eager, anticipating the walk to your room where I find love personified. Nothing is the same.
You are growing so beautifully. You smile with your eyes and I see wisdom in you already. I can tell: you’re a thinker. You make your father and I so… proud. The kind of pride that is humbling. I don’t even want to know why God thought we were in any way worth giving such a perfect gift. He did it and we are exceedingly grateful. As you struggle through your milestones – discovering what frustration is while trying to roll and what pain is while teething – I pray you will never feel without hope. You are proof of it, my love. You are a reminder of the purest hope we have in Christ, a concentrated bit of Heaven. His grace is sufficient for you always and as you grow you will find that to be the deepest truth.
My time is taken up with you so this letter won’t be long, but I want you and the whole world to know that you are my heart. Even better, you are the heart of myself, your daddy and our God, lovely in the truest sense of the word. We love you. We love you. We love you.
In all devotion,
|Photo by Tish + Tom Photography|
I used to think about having a baby someday and while the thought thrilled me, it also caused me great concern over the fact that… it’s a human. I would consider the differences between babies and puppies. I’d think about what could go wrong – would I know how much to feed it? would I be fragile enough in handling? would I forget it somewhere? would I damage it psychologically with my ignorance? I would start to become anxious with the thought of such a heavy responsibility.
And it is heavy. She’s completely dependent on Gabe and I. Completely. She needs us to survive. Yet, the weight is somehow counter balanced… Much to my surprise, I do not feel a pressure to “be a good mom.” I don’t feel scared that I’m going to screw her up, either. I’m her mother. I’m not perfect, I’ve already made plenty of mistakes and I have every confidence in that continuing for the next 60 years, but I am the person that God chose to be Raychel’s mom. I don’t feel worthy, but I do feel called. I trust that God will be with us every moment and that he’ll make sure that his sweet baby Ray is taken care of one way or another. I’m completely honored that I have the opportunity to fulfill that role right now.
Something that can be very difficult to do is “give things to God.” I am by no means saying that I do this perfectly or even really very well, but by His grace God has shown me how much better His hands are than mine. I can trust Him with Raychel. I can trust that no matter what happens He is doing all He can within His perfect plan to make sure that she is loved and protected and safe. I know that this doesn’t mean that no harm will befall her – that simply isn’t the world we live in – but it does mean that whatever does come is supervised. It is never easy to come to grips with the reality that even your child is not something you can cling to, not something you can depend on keeping forever, but it is the truth and after the initial sting it’s a comforting one. The fact that the God of the universe, the Artist behind this piece called Life, is overseeing and interceding in the life of His beautiful RJ is a thought to rest in, a thought to go to sleep with. It’s a soft pillow in a harsh world; a world I am simply weak in, a world I could never protect her from.
There is a funny thing about motherhood: you don’t know what you’re doing… and you don’t have to.
It’s amazing how sometimes the simplest things reveal the most about God…
So I prayed. God has put it on my heart, whenever she is crying and I know she is okay, to pray that she feels safe somehow and that she knows she is loved and protected. So I prayed this prayer as the monitor lit up with little coos and grunts. I asked God to help her drift to sleep, to let her know somehow that He’s with her. I hardly noticed that her noises died down.
Relieved and, I admit, a little bit surprised, I started to go to sleep myself. Then I heard her wake again. So I prayed again. And again she gently drifted back to sleep on her own. In the middle of praying I would realize that she had stopped stirring. It was as though the very words themselves were floating into her room and filling it with God’s presence. This process happened a few times and each time I was more relieved and less surprised until both of us fell asleep for the rest of the night. I entered slumber praying to our Father as he soothed both his baby Ray and his new-mommy daughter.
This was not a parting of the ocean or turning water into wine. I have no burning bush and I didn’t hear the Voice of God, but I will build an altar here. Any mother will tell you that this was a meaningful miracle and I can tell you that I was in my Father’s arms that night. And not only me, but the one person I am formed and commissioned to care for. I can’t meet all of her needs, but Christ can. Everything in me wants to make everything in her completely cared for and the only way I can do that is by giving her back to the God who gave her to me.
Sometimes I wonder what weight my prayers have. I feel repetitive and dry as I tell God things I have told him before. But they mean something. Throughout the Bible people pray and the Lord answers. I get the impression that if they did not pray, God would not have acted as he did. Since God knows our thoughts I guess I assume that he doesn’t need me to tell him what I need or want, but that seems to be a necessary part of this life… I can’t give you a reason why – I can guess and I can assume, but at the end of the day I really don’t know the mind of God. What I can say is that praying makes a difference. I have absolutely no doubt that had I not prayed, Raychel would have worked herself up and we would have had the night I was afraid of. And maybe, had I not prayed, RJ would not even be here… God listens and responds to his people.
What a bounty this child is already!
“Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:2)
I am typing this with my darling little girl asleep next to me with her hands sweetly and gracefully balled up next to her face, one holding her chin. She has a content look on her face and every now and then a smile spreads under her button nose. She is a miracle. She is everything that is right with this world. She is God’s message of hope and abundant affection. She is my beloved and anticipated Raychel Joye whom I have adored since long before I was a mother, a wife, a fiance or a girlfriend. She is my daughter.
I wanted to write this for a few reasons. One being that I am a writer at heart and it would be strange for me not to record it somewhere. Another being that I know I am not alone and I want others to know that they are also not alone. I was not prepared for the “Baby Blues” and I think that if I had read others’ accounts and gotten an idea of what might happen it would have been helpful. The most significant reason however is to brag a little about my God. :)
To start, let me say that the first 5 days or so after the birth were absolutely euphoric. I felt so incredibly in love. It was as though the world had stopped moving and all that was left functioning had to do with Raychel. The purpose for the birds chirping, the sun rising, people laughing was all for her. And us: our new little family. I thank God for those days and for the natural high he allowed us to have while we bonded. I will cherish that time in the deepest recesses of my heart for eternity.
Then one night she was very fussy (I think it was some cabbage I ate – oops!) and I’m not sure if that is what did it, if it was purely the hormonal drop* or if many factors were at play, but I woke up with a much different state of mind. Suddenly I was disconnected and just sad. I didn’t want to smile or laugh, I felt a darkness that I could not shake for the life of me. I was scared that it would last forever, that I would never feel the love I had felt just one day prior. I didn’t know how to get back there and I so desperately wanted to go back. I had this feeling of overwhelming loss for that closeness.
It was like a switch. It was so sudden and so drastic that it shocked my whole system – my body, my spirit and my mind. In my weakness arose severe insecurities, mostly ones I have struggled with before. I was afraid not only that I wouldn’t take care of her correctly, but that I would end up hurting her. I felt so unsure about my role and my ability to carry it out. I believe in spiritual battle and I have no doubt that I was in one then. It scared the crap out of me, frankly. But the Lord was battle-ready. Not only did I have my mom there, but over the last year He has set us up with an entire community of believers. He even brought Tim and Tessa to the duplex just a month before RJ came. Not to mention Beth who knew the tough questions to ask and what to look for. And of course my amazing husband who has always been with me during these times to speak truth into the storm.
Because of the community God formed around me, I talked. I didn’t keep all my thoughts and feelings inside which is my natural tendency (probably something we all struggle with to some extent, I imagine). I shared my lowest lows and to my great surprise, was not judged, but loved. My community prayed for me, my friends embraced me, my mom assured me that she experienced all the things I was experiencing…. I was so surrounded by Christ’s love that even though it was dark in my mind, I wasn’t in the dark. Everywhere I looked I saw the Light of the world. Our friend Tom once described confession as a gift… He said that it wasn’t meant to be a burden, but a load-lifter. We get to confess to one another and be healed. It’s the truth! What a tremendous gift that the things which have in the past caused me to sink into my self, to be spiritually and even practically ineffective do not have the power they once did because I now have people with whom I can share my insecurities and fears. In the past I would have spent at least 6 months in a depression trying to overcome my emotions, wrestling fears and guilt, , but I really cannot afford to do that now. I have a child totally dependent on me for food, security, comfort and attention. Even though I did not know to prepare, God prepared for me.
I do not expect to be “over” the weird new-mom feelings and insecurities. The fact that I am responsible for another human’s well being is a daunting reality. I am okay with having down days. I’m going to be patient with my emotions while they try to process this huge shift in my paradigm and I’m going to appreciate the highs that much more. But I am not going to be alone and as often as I can I will remember that my Lord, to whom I owe nothing less than my life and from whom I can demand nothing, has answered my prayers for a family and has once again turned ashes into beauty.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20)
*There are known periods within the first few weeks and months postpartum where a woman’s hormone levels drop drastically; since she produced more hormones in that short 9 months than she will the entire rest of her life, this can cause significant changes to her mind and body.
Disclosure: This is a fairly detailed account of Raychel’s birth. If you don’t want to know, don’t read. :)
Raychel Joye Sedberry joined this crazy world on July 18, 2011 at 6:24 in the morning at Dayspring in Hayden, Idaho (she’s our little spud). She weighed 8 pounds and 12 ounces and measured 21 inches long. She also had a full head of hair!
As she is lying here on the bed next to me, making adorable faces, I am just in complete amazement by her… I seriously can’t even concentrate on writing this. It’s taken me like an hour to get this far. She just keeps doing cute things!
So anyway, the birth story… Around 10:30pm on Sunday I was skyping with Beth and had a couple of rather serious feeling contractions. They were like half an hour apart and not too intense so Gabe and I thought they were just harsh Braxton Hicks or maybe really early labor. Gabe especially was really expecting the signs of early labor that we’d learned about in our Bradley classes: excitement, nesting, high energy… These weren’t present so we just ignored it and went to bed around 11:30pm. Around midnight I started feeling more contractions. I was trying so hard to ignore them (per everyone’s advice so that I could get rest before labor), but it was becoming increasingly difficult to do so. We stayed in bed and I tried sleeping between them, but at one point I was woken up so violently that I shook Gabe like a rag doll and getting that tensed up made the contraction nearly unbearable. (That was my hard-knock lesson on the huge difference it makes to not tense and scream). Gabe decided it was real and we should take a walk. He got me out of bed and had me walk around a little bit. We went outside and it seemed to help, but they kept coming on pretty strong and by 2am they were about 3-4 minutes apart and had been maintaining this pace for a while (Gabe couldn’t time them at first because I had all of his attention). Mind you, we’d been told that people who live 10 minutes from the hospital should go in at 4-1-1: 4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour. For people who live 40 minutes from their birthing place we were told to go in at 6 or 7-1-1… So these things are going through Gabe’s head while I am irrationally unsure as to whether or not to call.
After a couple of contractions around or less than 3 minutes apart and too painful to talk through Gabe convinced me to call our doula. I called her twice and didn’t get an answer so we called our friend Brittany who has recently become certified as a Doula. She said it sounded like labor and to call the midwife and let her know how it goes. She was so calm and kept us both at peace. Gabe called the midwife who listened to me have a couple contractions on the phone and said that we could either keep working at home or go ahead and get that 40 minute drive out of the way. Still expecting a 24-30 hour labor I had to deliberate with Gabe – we decided after another severe contraction that we wanted to get the drive out of the way. I felt a little discouraged that if what I was experiencing was still early labor I would not be able to handle active labor (clearly, I was wrong and I was indeed actively laboring).
So as Gabe got our stuff together I called Brittany back and I asked her if we could possibly pick her up since we couldn’t reach our planned doula… Looking back I must have somehow known that I was progressing quickly and would need the help because I don’t think I would have decided to stop and pick anyone up had I really considered how far into it I was. So the famed “irrationality” of a woman in labor ended up being good! She was already in gear and said she would grab her bag and wait for us. Still sort of thinking this is early labor, I didn’t rush. For some reason I really wanted to make the bed and Gabe was getting impatient with me, but was totally sweet and understanding… Helping me through like 3 contractions as I dilly dallied and finally getting me out the door. I could tell that he was getting nervous and really wanted to get me to the midwife. In the car I called Beth and my Mom to let them know we were going in. I kept having to put the phone down to have contractions and they were getting more intense. We got to Brittany’s and she was waiting outside for us. I had a contraction as we pulled up and then got into the back seat with her. She was waiting on her porch and was like a ray of light to both of us – Gabe was instantly put at ease with her presence. Each contraction was really hard on my back and applying my own counter pressure in the passenger seat was just not cutting it. Gabe is pretty amazing, but he doesn’t have a third arm.
That drive sucked. I remember asking if we were almost there and Brittany sweetly saying, “No, not really, but we’re on our way.” She was an angel. She rubbed my back (hard; she got a work out!) and was completely calm despite seeing signs of transition (commonly noted as the most intense part of labor, it’s what a mom goes through right before the pushing stage). She told me later that she actually considered what to do if I started pushing! But she didn’t let me know about those thoughts, she just helped me work and reassured me. One of those signs is fear and I told her I didn’t think I could do it. Brittany and Gabe were both such a comfort, reassuring me that I was doing it and that I was doing great. I thank God that our planned doula didn’t answer her phone; there is no way I could have gotten through that car ride without Brittany. I think we would have ended up at a hospital or I would have passed out or something. Gabe was also such a stud, driving quickly and safely despite the laboring woman in the backseat. He even held my hand and kept up the positive affirmations… He is amazing.
Around 4am we got to the Birthing Center and Carrie was in the parking lot waiting for us and had already started the bath. As we pulled onto the street my water broke, but the contraction was too painful to tell anyone. When we parked I told them and had another contraction, then they quickly got me out of the car and helped me into the house. We got to the foot of the stairs before another one hit – about 50 feet or so from the car. The second it was over they helped me up the staircase before another one came on. I had at least one in the room and then wanted to go to the bathroom so while the tub finished filling up I labored in there. Then they helped me into the tub so I could labor in the water. It helped relieve some of the pressure, but not all of it so Brittany had to basically cradle me by my back – she never complained and kept her calm disposition even though her arms must have been killing her! I remember thinking that this was the dumbest thing I’d ever done and that if I got pregnant again I was definitely going to a hospital and getting an epidural. I also felt insecure about being able to keep it up. Between contractions I would cry and say how I felt. Gabe was right there with me the whole time (he went to put the music on for me and I scolded him… everyone laughed). Carrie and Brittany kept assuring me that I was doing well and that everything looked great.
When I started pushing it was not what I expected. I felt her move forward and then come back and started getting really discouraged. I just wanted her to get out of me. Carrie checked her heart rate (it was good) and I said, “I don’t care!” Then I asked Carrie if that was normal, to not like my baby right now (I was worried that I wouldn’t love the baby when she came out). She laughed and said yes and they all assured me that it was normal and nobody blamed me for not caring. That helped me not worry and just focus on the work at hand – which was plenty! Between pushing I would pass out. Gabe said my body would go limp and my eyes would close, but then I’d suddenly wake up and start pushing with everything I had. At first I kicked my legs out because of how much it hurt. Carrie told me to put all that energy to one spot so from then on every ounce of energy I had went to pushing into that spot. After a bit over an hour Carrie told me that she thought that if I were to get out of the tub the baby would come out faster. My only concern was the pain, but she assured me that it wouldn’t hurt any MORE out of the water at this point so I agreed – I wanted this thing out of me!! It’s a good thing I took her advce, too because I didn’t even make it down the 2 steps from the tub before dropping into a squat to push. Kim (the student midwife who we saw the most and whom I was really hoping would be on-call; actually she wasn’t, but Carrie forgot and she came anyway! :)) was on one side holding me up by my arm, Brittany was on the other side and Carrie was in front of me putting down puppy pads and getting her gloves on. When I saw her preparing I knew that this kid was coming – I think she actually said, “Okay, baby is going to be born on the floor!” It gave me a little bit of energy to see that we were nearing the end. Gabe was watching and was in complete awe and totally speechless. I heard Carrie say to him, “Tell her what you see!” and then his excited, smiling voice tell me that he could see our baby’s head. That “ring of fire” thing was no joke – and it didn’t last for a few seconds like it does on TV. Pushing was definitely the hardest part of labor for me. But once I just accepted that it was going to hurt like hell I pushed through it and didn’t let the pain stop me. After a few pushes her head came out and then her body quickly followed. Kim told me later that it was a fast exit and Carrie had her work cut out catching her. ;)
Carrie put her on my chest and immediately I was in such a deep love all I could do was cry. I wasn’t exhausted or in pain anymore, just in love. Gabe was instantly by my side and the joy on his face is something I don’t know that I’ve ever seen before… Maybe on our wedding day. He had tears going down his face and could not stop smiling. He kept saying things like, “Thank you,” and “Look at our baby! Look what you did!” Somebody asked if she was a boy or girl and when we checked I said, “I got my little girl. I got my Raychel Joye.” It was incredible… At that point I didn’t even consider the pain it took to bring her here, I was just so grateful that she was in my arms.
They helped us to the bed and not too long after Gabe cut the umbilical cord and I delivered my placenta. At some point the initial euphoria wore off and I was in a bit of shock. They made sure I got some sugar and protein which stopped the shaking. During this time I didn’t feel as connected to Raychel, but as I ate and just rested I once again felt overwhelmed with love and joy (or… Joye… haha sorry, had to). While they were making a gourmet breakfast for us Gabe, Raychel and I spent some time alone as a family. All we could do was stare at our little girl and look at each other in total amazement. We were both physically tired, but we couldn’t sleep. We were way too high on pure emotion. Hormones are no joke! lol After we ate we had visitors: We skyped with Beth and my Mom and Gramma and Vickie came in. Then we took a short nap (only about an hour) and Tom and Tish came with Jamba Juice and took some beautiful pictures. It was so wonderful to share her with the people we love… She brought smiles and tears to everyone she met. :)
We left the birthing center around 5:30pm to pick up my mom from the airport and go home. First we took a bath, spent more time resting and I had to get some shots of her. :) When we got home our neighbors Tim and Tessa had decorated the house in pink, written “Welcome Home Baby Berry” in chalk on the concrete and decorated the door to the nursery with scripture and ribbons (they had also cleaned up the house which was such a blessing). Tish had gotten some of our maternity shots printed and framed and put them around the house… She put a gorgeous bouquet of pink roses in our room (and they lasted for a really long time!). It was a beautiful, perfect homecoming. The Woods and Wellings came over (and of course both grandmas were there) and we got to just be family and celebrate Ray’s birth day (we even had cake with a number 0 candle). We are so blessed and I cannot begin to express how grateful we are that God has provided not only such a sweet, beautiful, healthy baby girl, but also a family to surround her with His love.
|First time face to face|
|Brittany, our angel Doula.|
|Yummy yummy breakfast… I didn’t eat much, but what I did was super delicious!|
|About to be swaddled by Carrie.|
|First family photo.|
|Totally in love|
|Kim and Carrie|
|Skyping with Beth.|
|First bath… She liked being in water again.|
|Tish visiting and holding RJ.|
|Such a beautiful baby!|
|Daddy putting on the first diaper (after she pooped in her swaddle lol)|
|My beautiful daughter!|
|She looks like a thinker.|
|First car ride!|
|She was beyond happy to see us in the car – we surprised her.|
|Our wonderful neighbors, Tim and Tessa.|
The really cool part was that as we began looking at things Gabe got increasingly excited and surprised us both by picking out things and offering ideas – he was as much, if not more, into the whole thing as I was! :o) So as we begin to set up the room our little one will come home to I am excited that it will be a labor of love from both of his (or her) parents.
So there are a plethora of things “they” do not tell you about pregnancy. Not only will you find out on your own, but when you do you will be utterly freaked out because you are about 83% positive that it is abnormal and your baby is going to end up with some bizarre complication. 93% if said symptom is discovered in the middle of the night when you’re disoriented.
I won’t make a list, but to any of you non-pregnant ladies out there, feel free to ask when you do get your BFP (big fat positive – evidently there is a whole dictionary of acronyms just for pregnant women) and I will do my best to tell you all the things that are totally normal and never discussed. Of course, one of those things is the fact that you completely lose random portions of your memory so you’ll have to forgive me if I leave a lot out. 8-/
So during the worship time at church a couple weeks ago we sang the song that goes,
“Crucified, laid behind a stone. You lived to die, rejected and alone. Like a rose, trampled on the ground You took the fall and thought of me above all.”
When I sing those words I can’t help but put myself in the “me” position and reflect on how Jesus
regards me, how He went so far out of His way to be not only my King, but my Savior as well. It’s a moving sentiment. But this time as I sang, the “me” included something currently very much a part of my being, but also quite separate: this baby.
Standing there singing these words of recognition I was surprised and stunned by the striking thought that Jesus died for my child.
The thought has surely crossed my mind before. God so loved the world… It’s His will that no man should perish… My loved ones, including my future kids, are included in the world and they would be considered men, but this time was different. This time I was struck, taken back, almost breathless. My child, this child, has been accounted for. His sin has been dealt with. His soul redeemed. This very child I carry now and cherish already has a Savior King: the very Savior King I adore and cannot live without.
I began to cry in sheer gratitude. So much more than how grateful I am for my own redemption was my relief and appreciation for what Jesus did for this baby. As a Mother-to-be, I constantly think of the things I want to do for my child. I scrutinize my home and come up with ways to make it safer, I eat wheat bread even though it’s gross, I try to learn about things I will want to teach him when he is older, I consider the life choices he might make so that I can offer ample love. More than anything I am filled with this instinctual desire, rooted far deeper than I could know, to protect this kid with every resource at my disposal – outlet covers, nutrition, knowledge, compassion, etc. When he cries out I’ll be there, whatever I need to do. But the one thing I cannot guard him against is his sin. He’s a creature born into a fallen world and one day he’ll fall, too. He’ll need a protector then, but I won’t be able to help.
I never considered before now that part of the Gift of Christ is that it soothes a parent’s helplessness when her own child sins and calls upon himself the penalty of death. How can I express what pain I feel when I consider that this seemingly perfect being whom I have loved since before his conception is going to find himself imperfect? And how can I express the joy I feel when I consider that in his imperfection he can look to the Savior who has sweetly turned my own ashes into beauty? As much as I hate that this world is cruel, that in it we are held captive to depravity, I love – I relish and bask – in the knowledge that the very thing which brings us despair also brings us to Christ. Someday this child will feel lost and alone, crying out for help from anyone or anything listening and it will kill me, but I won’t be able to answer. Christ will.
This “Baby Berry” is so loved already. Gabe and I are enraptured, but it’s not just us: there is a village of people who are greatly anticipating his arrival and will shower him with affection. But all of this just pales in comparison to the love God has had for him for eternity. Being honored with the privilege of carrying this baby is yet another reminder of how insanely loved we are by the Author of life. I wish somehow I could remove “sin” as a danger for this child, but at the same time, since God’s grace tastes sweetest to the ones who need it most, I am excited for the day I can share with him the truly Good News.