amy courts: en route


The Thing About House Shows Is…
August 29, 2011, 11:41 am
Filed under: Faith and Faith Life, Music, Travel

…they’re not just about giving private concerts to a select group of uber-special people (though they are that, too). They’re about fellowship. Storytelling. They are, to me (as an artist), the quintessential picture of the Church as it was back in the Day. People gathering to eat, talk, share burdens, and be lifted…through music and message and hope and just being together.

I love house shows because even when I enter the home of someone I’ve never met or even spoken to, I leave with a few new Great Big Family members. I have new friends I know will listen if I need an ear, and who know I’ll listen too.

There are plenty of artists out there who would prefer to do big stage shows, who don’t do a lot of intimate interacting with their frands* and I get why: some are huge and famous and it’s just unrealistic; for others, they simply prefer to keep their professional and personal lives very separate. That’s just not me. My music is a pretty major expression of who I am and what goes on in my head, so sharing it with people is inviting them into a deeper place anyway. Why not make it even more Real by making it a shared, listen/listen experience, rather than a one-sided singer/audience one? You invite me into your living room, I’ll invite you into my writing space. You feed my belly, I’ll try to feed your spirit.

Anyway, that to say I’m looking very much forward to another round of House Shows with one Ms. Bethany Dick-Olds in a few weeks. We’ll be hitting some spots again, like Spartanburg, SC and Asheboro, NC, and a few new ones as well, like Greensboro, NC and Philadelphia, PA. If you’re anywhere nearby – or somewhere along that route – give me a shout. We’d love to come share with you!

*Frand:
Noun.
1. A fan of one’s professional artwork who has become a personal friend.

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Ghost Hunting
August 5, 2011, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life

Cameras are amazing. They capture images our minds might otherwise fail to properly retain. In the hands of a particularly gifted eye, what we see can become even more powerful and moving once the real image has faded and the paper replica is printed and framed. We can see what we once saw and somehow, without returning to that place and time, return to that place and time.

Audio and video recorders are the same. We can capture sounds on these little plastic discs and relive a moment just by pushing play. Granted, the moment isn’t quite as sweet or thick or consuming…but it can nevertheless transport us to a place where, with the help of visual and audio triggers, memory can produce a respectable duplicate if not a perfect replica.

But what of touch? What about those little sensations that are as fleeting as a breath and as impossible to capture?

Like the first time a first-time-mom feels that flutter in her belly and knows that’s her baby’s tiny foot?

What of the emotional current humming beneath those moments, bolstering in them this overwhelming, indescribable, yet inescapable power?

Like the pure, Nirvana-esque  …bliss… of Being the carrier during that moment in time.

What of those moments?

Because I can look at a photo taken that very same day and experience nothing of the moment. I can hear the very same words, in the exact phrasing and intonation, against the backdrop of the same song on the same radio station, and feel nothing but cheated.

…Like it’s sitting there, teasing me, just beyond my grasp, daring me to try and catch it but knowing I never will.

I feel like I’m clawing for a hold on ghosts of damned memories that can’t ever again find form or substance.

I wish there was a machine on which I could simply push “play” to re-feel all those sensations I didn’t mean to take for granted. Or, no…not that I took for granted; just that I never thought I’d so desperately need to remember.

__



Your Little Heart (new song)
June 21, 2011, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Music, Video

I wrote this song for Elijah while he was still baking. I even mentioned it here. Tonight, I got to sing him to sleep with it. It looked like this:

And it sounded like this:

Oh, my Elijah, your precious little heart.



…But Now My Eyes Have Seen You
June 2, 2011, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Baby, Faith and Faith Life

In the days immediately preceding Elijah’s birth, I was convinced I’d been abandoned by God.

After all, I spent my days dedicating my full passion and much ferocity to praying that Eli would come on his own, and focusing all my physical energy on making my body (and his) conducive to a “successful” natural labor. I did everything all those websites say induces labor, from walking to running to drinking red raspberry leaf tea to exercise-ball-bouncing to using the breast pump to sex to acupuncture to eating pineapple. The only thing I refused to do was drink castor oil.

And the boy wouldn’t come.

So I was pretty angry with God. He was ignoring me. He wasn’t pressing the “Elijah, come forth!” button, and seemed to be interfering with my attempts to press it. On those evenings when 5 hours of consistent contractions just inexplicably stopped, I was certain I was the butt of some not-hilarious cosmic jokes.

I was being teased and ignored; I was sure of it.

And then Friday happened. And everything fell apart. I had inconceivably hard contractions. My son’s heart rate rapidly disappeared. I very nearly bled to death.

But lying in my ICU bed, listening to the perfectly soothing sounds of my Labor & Delivery iTunes playlist (and for the record, I am very skilled at creating situation-appropriate playlists), I took stock of the days and only then started to realize how perfectly near God was throughout.

Like I said in a previous post, I have no idea how long Eli had a knot in his cord, or what effect those weeks and weeks of braxton hicks contractions might have had on his little heart while he wasn’t on the monitor. I know there were two contractions the day he was born – one in the morning, the other in the afternoon – that caused a major deceleration of his heart rate. And yet, he was delivered in perfect health. I believe God very actively preserved his life.

I’m also convinced it wasn’t mere luck that landed me on the operating table in the hands of some of the most skilled doctors and surgeons at Vanderbilt. I didn’t get the B-student doctors; I was cared for by world-class over-achievers that night. One Doula-friend in Texas even said that if any of her patients ever had to have a c-section, she’d want it done by Dr. Spetalnick, who performed mine. I can’t count the times I heard ICU and postpartum nurses comment about how lucky I was to be under the care of Drs. Gold and Rebele, et.al. during my surgeries. They saved my life.

Neither did luck land me under the care of The Best SICU Nurses In The World, who ignored my early morning belligerence (you have no idea how frustrating it is to wake up in an unknown bed with the horrifying sound of elevator music blaring from the speakers in the bed itself with no way to say “turn that off NOW!” thanks to a breathing tube snaking down to your stomach…), and instead treated me with kindness, gentleness, and total but compassionate honesty…and seriously doted on my most adorable baby boy.

But maybe more significant than any other anecdotal bit is the sheer number of emails, texts, or other messages and comments I’ve received from people who, for whatever reason, had me on their minds or couldn’t help but pray for me that night and over the days that followed. They knew something was wrong, and – as one person said – felt “compelled to pray.”

For me.

I’m no great intercessor, and it’s rare that I ever feel that burden to pray for specific people. So it’s miraculous to me that God actually interrupted other peoples’ lives on my behalf. And not just one, but many people.

During our weeks of lessons on “how to do this thing naturally,” my Doula kept telling me about how during and after the births of her two sons, the Scripture that was burned on the back of her eyelids was Job 42:5 – “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” She told us over and over that’s what childbirth does to you: It shows you God.

But for me…well, it wasn’t going to be “my” verse. It just didn’t resonate.

Until I was there, on my death bed, and pulled back to mother my newborn (only) son…Until I saw and understood the weight of what happened to us, and the significance of the literal salvation all three of us – Paul, Elijah, and I – experienced that night.

Now, that verse carries all the weight of the world, especially when I consider the context in which it’s situated biblically:

4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
   I will question you,
   and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
   but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
   and repent in dust and ashes.”
                                     (Job 42:4-6)

Indeed, my ears had heard. But now my eyes have seen God in all His goodness and wonder, working on my behalf, and I am compelled to my knees in utmost gratefulness for delivering us in so many ways, and in repentance for having ever doubted His goodness or questioned His presence…for having accused Him of something He promised He would never, ever do.

And I declare (if I can do so without sounding either ridiculously Southern or sillily archaic):

God does not abandon or forsake us.

He simply does not.



Observing Grief
May 28, 2011, 11:14 am
Filed under: Baby, Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Media & Art

“…there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it. There is [no] device which will make pain not to be pain.” (CS Lewis, A Grief Observed)

In the days after returning home from the hospital, I had a number of heated conversations with God. I was angry that I never had the chance or opportunity to bargain with Him, and hurt that He’d seemingly cruelly left me without something that felt so essential to being me.

Oh, the things I would’ve given up in exchange for my uterus. Almost anything. Anything but what could have saved it from the start – Elijah and his daddy.

I mentally flogged myself for all those times in high school and college when I foolishly begged – pleaded – for someone to come and remove my uterus so I wouldn’t suffer those wretched, debilitating cramps ever again.

I was clueless.

I look back at those old blogs and shake my head.

I worried about losing sleep, my changing marriage, not getting showers, doing laundry, keeping a clean house, and losing my career. From the time I learned I was pregnant until May 6, 2011, my worst fear was that it’d take years to get my pre-baby body back…or that I’d never see it again. And I loathed the idea of a c-section; those scars are so ugly.

Today…not so much. I don’t get a lot of sleep, but being awake and getting to stare at and shower with kisses the most beautiful, daily-changing face in the world (without being called a creepy stalker), is sweeter than any dream I can imagine. I don’t want to miss a moment. My marriage? If entering the covenant five years ago didn’t do it, this gift and loss are creating the unbreakable bond. Showers, laundry, and home? I’m clean enough, deodorant and hats are magic, and my newborn doesn’t care about clean parents, clothes, or floors. And my career? Surely more songs will come; they always do. But for now, my son, his father, and my Savior are the only songs I want to sing, and the only ones I want to sing them for.

About those pounds I so feared…It’s three weeks out and I’ve lost 32 of the 37 pounds I gained during pregnancy (roughly 2lbs of that was the uterus I lost…). Already I miss the weight and all it represented. I look in the mirror and wonder if I ever really did have a baby inside me. I can’t imagine a greater insult than, “You look like you were never pregnant!” Especially now that I know it can’t ever happen again.

And that scar? Thank God for that precious scar. It’s my proof. If the weekly pictures and maternity photos are worth a thousand words each, my scar is the definitive word. That’s all I need: the one word.

I get why Jesus cherishes and celebrates His scars. They mean…everything.

Anyway, as grief goes, I don’t know how it works, but I’m sure it’s happening as I speak. And there’s no way around grief but to go through it.

As Lewis said…”there’s nothing you can do with suffering but to suffer it;” nothing that can make the pain anything but what it is. All we can do is hope to find suffering’s partner, comfort, somewhere along the way.

Even if Comfort is simply to be “sharing in the sufferings of Christ.”



Life and Death in 24 Hours: The Labor & Delivery Story
May 26, 2011, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life

I’ve debated back and forth about whether or not to write this blog and share my labor story. It’s a long one, and it’s not pretty. But because a few other womens’ blogs detailing similar stories have so helped and encouraged me – and because, in a way, sharing is therapeutic – I’ve decided to go with it.

So how do you begin to recount the events of one day that will remain both the best and worst day of your life?

At the beginning, I suppose.

At 7:30am on May 6, 2011, Paul and I arrived at Vanderbilt University Hospital’s Labor & Delivery ward for my scheduled induction. Originally, I was scheduled for induction Wednesday the 4th, but because an ultrasound and non-stress-test showed Elijiah was in good health, we were able to delay two extra days. Studies show that the majority of first-time mothers who deliver after their due date do so by the 8th day past-due, and Firday would be day nine. Neither of us was comfortable delaying any longer, since Elijah’s ultrasounds also showed he was a BIG baby boy…and growing bigger. And the bigger he grew in utero, the greater my risks were of needing emergency intervention. Since our goal was to have a natural labor and delivery with no intervention if possible, we wanted to give him a few extra days to make an entrance. But Elijah wasn’t coming on his own, despite a few weeks of false contractions; despite my having had strong Braxton Hicks contractions since week 27; despite our having done everything possible to naturally induce labor.

Me and E at 41 weeks

So the first thing we did upon settling into our labor suite was explain to my nurse that we’d still like to keep things as natural as possible. Granted, we were probably going to choose to induce with a Pitocin drip to get contractions rolling. But our hope was that once they became regular, we’d be able to stop the drip and un-tether me, leaving me free to labor naturally.

Alas. Things didn’t go according to plan.

Around 8:15am, my midwife checked me to find out how progressed I was in labor. The examination threw me into a horrendous contraction during which they lost Elijah’s heart rate on the monitor for more than five minutes. Within 30 seconds of making the call, 15 emergency team members were in my labor suite ready to wheel me off for an emergency cesarean section. Thankfully, they recovered his heartbeat quickly thereafter and we were able to avoid the c-section.

But I knew right then, deep in my gut, our course for the day was set. It was completely out of my control.

Still, we began the Pitocin drip and between 8:30am and 2:30pm, my contractions grew stronger but remained bearable, and by 2:30pm I’d dilated another two centimeters to four. My doula was on-call, ready to come whenever I transitioned to active labor, but we didn’t want her to waste her entire day in the labor suite with us while nothing happened. And you never know with Pitocin how long it might take for labor to really kick in.

By 3:30pm, my water broke and we were off. Contractions became a bit stronger and longer, and both Paul and I were getting more excited. Elijah was on his way! So I called my doula to let her know, and we just waited. Even by 4:15pm, the contractions were strong and getting more painful, but I was still able to talk around them if not through them.

By 4:45pm, when my doula arrived, I was in a state of near-constant contractions. I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but somewhere in that fifteen minute period, the contractions became a tornado.

During normal Active labor, contractions will last anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds, and will come every few minutes, allowing for a 60 to 90 second rest between contractions, until the Transition phase, when they last 60 to 90 seconds and come every 2 minutes or so.

Mine, however, were already on top of one another, lasting 1:30 to 1:45, with only fifteen-second breaks before the next…and I was only 5cm dilated; I still had 5cm to go before I could even consider pushing. Looking at the monitor – and my face – my doula kept saying, “This isn’t right; she shouldn’t be having contractions so strong or frequent til transition. This isn’t right.”

She called in the nurse at that point, who cut the Pitocin in half, and then in half again, but the contractions still wouldn’t stop, slow, or weaken. I was in such pain I couldn’t move or change positions at all. I was frozen. And when I wasn’t frozen, I was convulsing wildly.

By 5:15pm, I had been in one constant contraction for over 20 minutes…and they lost Elijah’s heart rate again. This time, they called it a “terminal deceleration” – they knew they wouldn’t be able to recover it this time. So at 5:17pm, I was off to OR for an emergency c-section, and by 5:24pm my baby boy was born. Turns out, there was a knot in his umbilical cord. Those heavy contractions were squeezing the life out of him and cutting off his oxygen supply. Thankfully, he was born in perfect health.

Elijah's first look at Daddy (and a camera)

Because I hadn’t gotten an epidural during labor, I was put under general anesthesia for the c-section, so I didn’t wake up until around 7:20pm. I was pretty out of it, but knew two things: I wanted to see and hold my baby, and I wanted to know why there was gushing between my legs. So I asked the nurses.

They checked me again, and by 7:30pm, just as they were about to give Eli to me, I was being hauled off to OR again, this time for massive post-partum hemorrhaging due to uterine atony. See, after a baby is born, the uterus naturally continues contracting in order to deliver the placenta and to allow blood to clot. Atony is when the uterus fails to contract. Hence, hemorrhaging.

By 9:30pm, my surgeons had re-opened my incision, drained the blood, packed me full of clotting materials, and sown me back up. But it didn’t work. I was still bleeding.

By midnight, after close to five hours of surgery and 20 units of blood transfusions, they had to do an emergency hysterectomy to save my life.

I woke up in Vanderbilt’s SICU Saturday morning, May 7, to the news that Elijah was perfectly healthy and incredibly strong…and that he would be the only biological son I’ll ever have.

My first visit with Eli, in ICU, about 17 hrs after he was born (and a couple hours after hearing the news)

My immediate reaction was, “You saved my life, thank God! And hey…we can adopt.”

As days have passed, my heart still echoes those sentiments… But I’m also just beginning to realize the loss.

And it stings, knowing that what made me a woman – my ability to bear children – is gone; knowing that I’ll never get to experience the gift of giving birth; knowing that I’ll never wear maternity clothes again, or feel my baby tumble and swing inside me, or have another baby who immediately, upon first meeting, calms at my touch, my scent, my heartbeat that he’s known for nine months…

But at the same time…Elijah is a miracle. That I’m here to love him, feed him, hold him, cherish him is a miracle.

I am equal parts broken by the reality that grows a little bit bigger every day, and grateful that I was given the magnificent gift of having such a perfectly enjoyable pregnancy, that I was able to carry him to term and even run and play and do yoga with him up until the week I delivered, that he was born so healthy despite 14 weeks of Braxton Hicks contractions (who knows how long that knot was in his cord!?!). And praise God (!!!) that I was cared for and saved by some of the absolute best doctors in the world.

I don’t know how to describe it all yet. I’m sure it’ll take years to process, a lifetime to grieve, and maybe an eternity to understand even in part.

But the best I can offer is this: My pregnancy, from day one, was a miraculous gift. We weren’t trying to get pregnant, or even thinking about it. Elijah was the best birthday surprise I’ve ever had. Carrying him was a joy, every single day. Yes, I was exhausted some days. Yes, toward the end I was convinced I would be the only woman to ever stay pregnant forever (oh, how wrong I was!). But I am so thankful that I learned to cherish every moment, every kick, every tumble, every sleepless night. I thank God for a healthy pregnancy free of sickness and worry. I thank God that even during those last days when I was so anxious to see his face, I was able to treasure the final moments. (And thank God we did that maternity photo shoot!!)

It’s as if this beautiful box encasing the most precious gift was left on my doorstep for me to find. As if I opened it only to be blinded by an exquisite radiance to enjoy for only a short time. It is if that box was promptly and unexpectedly slammed shut, with total finality.

I’m not sure if its temporary nature makes it that much sweeter and more miraculous…or if it compounds the bitterness of the end.

But I know that I have a son whose name is Elijah, which means “The LORD is my God.” I know that he is and was always meant to be my daily, hourly reminder that my God is not a god of anger, cruelty, passivity or indifference, but The God of compassion and comfort, infinite goodness and everlasting kindness.

So I know that while this one dream of family has indeed been stripped from me –from us – for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, God will plant in us new dreams that could not and would not flower had my womb not been taken.

It’s ok.

My Elijah, 2 weeks old and giving us big smiles!

*love



Not That It Would Have Changed a Thing
March 2, 2011, 10:39 am
Filed under: Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Music, Uncategorized

Ok. I’m calling in the big guns.

I just read this thing, “25 Things I wish I knew before having kids” from another mom on babycenter. And none of it looks terribly crazy. It all looks/sounds eerily familiar.

And it’s freaking me out.

According to this list, beginning in late April, I’m not going to sleep at least three years. Actually, scratch that. If I’m anything like my own mom, I’m not going to sleep for 18 years. And if my kids are anything like me, during years 13-16, I’ll sleep less than I do during their first months of life. You know, when they don’t sleep through the night, so neither do I?

My marriage is being turned on its head. My husband, whom I love and cherish and treasure more than anyone else in this universe, and I are going to have to re-learn how to be married, this time with kids. Forget about baby proofing. That’s easy. What about intimacy? What about date nights? What about sitting up til all hours and just laughing? Will I ever be not-tired enough to enjoy any of that again? How am I going to continue being a wife when I become a mother?

I am about to completely lose my former self (if I haven’t lost her already) and become someone new. Namely, a mother. Everything about me is going to shift. It’s gonna have to shift, lest I raise a son who a) hates me, and b) will desperately need years and years of expensive therapy. This is difficult for me, because I’m selfish. And I like it.

Career? What career? I’m not good at multi-tasking, and having-a-baby seems, from everything I can tell thus far, like a pretty time-consuming affair. I don’t have the first clue what to do or think about that.

According to the list, shower time will be my favorite 5 minutes of the day. Because those minutes are all mine.

According to the list, I won’t have a clean house for a year…and I shouldn’t mind. Clearly, these people don’t know me at all, or anything about my obsessive compulsion for things to be presentably clean for company. Which leads me to the next realization…

We will not have company over for years. Because I, apparently, will not be cleaning for that long.

And we chose to cloth diaper. I am tempted to reconsider the dollars we’re saving, the landfills we’re saving, and all that other nonsense, and trade all those savings in for one other salvation of utmost importance: My sanity.

Maybe, with just eight more weeks to go, I should ask for a few more weeks of bed rest?

 

Baby E w/ 8 Weeks Left to Bake