amy courts: en route

Help! I Need Somebody!
September 17, 2012, 9:41 am
Filed under: Activate, Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Politics, Random, Running, Uncategorized


I am woefully aware this morning that I have recently been, uh, negligent as regards daily quiet time to breathe in Scripture and live it out.

Not that I’ve been totally dismissive of spiritual food… I mean, we attend church (most weeks). I download the sermon podcasts from weeks we miss, and faithfully listen while running. I engage in many theological and spiritual discussions throughout the week.

And I swear, I really do love Jesus!

But I am negligent, none the less.

Case in point, number one: Last night, my Facebooking was interrupted by a message from a dear friend encouraging me to read, soak in, and be encouraged by Psalm 107.

So I googled ‘Psalm 107,’ was redirected to, and, upon seeing how dreadedly long that stupid Psalm is, I skimmed it, thought to myself, “awww…,” and immediately returned to scouring my Facebook feed for offensive political posts to which I could respond with appropriate self-righteous anger and dismay.

Case in point, number two: Late last week, I was invited by email to join a “Scripture Encouragement Exchange.” It’s like one of those book exchanges where you invite six people, and each of you sends a book to the person at the top of the list (and that person ends up with like 300 books), and then you add your name to the number two slot and forward it on.

Only with this, it’s as simple as sending an encouraging verse to a stranger.

Guess who’s procrastinating, because she “just can’t think of six people to invite.”

I know, I know.

Please line up to punch me in the face. One at a time.

And then, once you’ve punched me, please help:

Send me your suggestions for a good, in depth daily devotional or study of some sort. Your favorite devotional…or Bible Reading guide…whatever.

And keep me accountable.

Because I firmly believe and trust that, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

But I’ve got to let Him plant the seeds and water them if I’m to enjoy any growth…

June 15, 2012, 11:03 am
Filed under: Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Uncategorized

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3)


I’ve spent much of the last few weeks – a month, even – oscillating between sadness, anger, and being generally okay. I’m not so much surprised that finally, after a year, the fact of my hysterectomy and its utter finality are hitting me hard. But I’m often shocked at my reaction. I’m just mad.

At God, for taking away something so essential to my womanhood, to my motherhood, to my personhood…something I rarely ever considered before the fact, and can’t stop thinking about since.

At circumstance. The fact that even though we were planning to adopt before it ever happened, now I’m left with no choice in the matter. The crippling fear that I’ll never be ready to adopt. Angry at the fact that if and when we do, the expense is unfathomable…and it’s not an expense I should have ever been forced into.

Mad at what is and is not. I’m angry at other women who are having their second, third, seventh, eighth babies. The professional preggos. I’m angry that, despite all the effort I made during pregnancy to stay healthy and strong, despite all the prayers for a natural, intervention-free labor & delivery, I somehow ended up here.

I’m mad that everywhere I turn, I feel stabs of accusation and judgement…Fingers pointing, voices screaming I shouldn’t have agreed to be induced. I should have insisted the pitocin be turned off. I shouldn’t have waited so long to call my doula. I should have waited a few more days to let Eli come on his own. I shouldn’t have been so impatient. I should have enjoyed those last days of pregnancy and been aware I might not ever get to do it again.

I’m angry and sad that in all of this, there’s just no answer. It is what it is, and there’s nothing to be done about it.

And the question tearing through it all: WHY? “Why, me, God? What did I do to deserve this? Why am I not good enough to bear more children? Why did you rob me of my life-giving ability and leave me barren and empty? Why are you punishing me – what did I do wrong?!”

I was sharing this stuff with my therapist this morning. She allowed me my interpretation of the situation, but then – humbly – offered her own.

“What if God, your father – not just ‘God the Father in Heaven’ but ‘God your dad’ – saved you? What if He, as your parent who deeply loves you,who would not bear to lose you, and still has deep abiding purpose for you, said ‘No. This will not be your end. This will not be your death. You may lose a piece of yourself, but any loss is worth it to save your life.’ What if this isn’t just the end, but the Beginning?”

Because this is the reality: I danced with death. I received 23 units of blood transfusions over the course of a six-hour surgery, after an emergency c-section. Due to the fact that I’d had such a difficult labor, and the cs, and was 41 weeks 4 days pregnant, my body should have rejected those transfusions…I should have become infected, sick. I should have kept bleeding.

But I didn’t. I lived. And not only did I live, I recovered quickly and flawlessly.

Of all the should- and shouldn’t-haves, that is perhaps the most haunting: I really should have died.

And yet, I’m alive to tell the story.

So as I left my dear therapist’s office, the Spirit brought to mind – as He does – this simple Truth: Much of the time, what happens is simply what happens. It’s not the consequence of some unconfessed sin. It’s not the result of unworthiness, or poor decision making, or of any other human flaw or failure other than, perhaps, the sticky terrain that is our fallen condition.

Rather, it is what must be in order that I may live to tell the story of How God Saved My Life. It is what must be in order that God may be displayed in us.

I won’t lie: it’s terrible. I hate it. I hate nearly every second of it.

But then…I’ll get a message from another woman from another city who lost her uterus, too. Or from a woman who’s miscarried time and again because her womb just can’t sustain life. Or from a woman whose first daughter is growing inside her without a skull, and who will die when she’s born or soon thereafter.

And I know, again, that we’re not alone. That God is giving us language for the unspeakable, fellowship in the desolation.

I know that He is showing Himself to us and through us, using our tragic stories to paint another masterpiece of love beating death.

And I am reminded that we are desperately loved by One who would stop at absolutely nothing to save us.

Going on Strike!
May 7, 2012, 7:03 pm
Filed under: Baby, Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Uncategorized

I think it’s time I strike. That is, take a hiatus. I should specify: An online social networking hiatus.

About this time last year – okay, to be a little more precise, it was about one year and one week ago – I shut down the MacBook Pro and handed my profiles (and I have way too many of them) over to Husband. He promptly changed all my passwords, and I spent a couple glorious weeks offline to await (and then endure) the miraculous birth of this guy: our first son.

I’d expected to bring the phone and computer to the hospital to take pictures of the whole shebang, but it didn’t work out that way (and aren’t you glad you didn’t see it all!). Instead, it was a deeply personal, intimate family-and-closest-friends-only affair. Just as it was meant to be.

It was good for me. It was good to unplug and step away from the public. My pregnancy had been front page news every day (at least, front of MY page news). Many, many, (too) many people were constantly asking “have you gone into labor!?” and “Is he here yet?!” Being 10 days “late,” I couldn’t handle it. I was already fighting God about the fact that this boy just would not come out. I didn’t need to battle friendly but overbearing facebookies and twitterheads too!

I always use the excuse that as a public figure with so many screaming fans* I need to be present on social networks. If I’m not, I’m not connecting (duh) and might well risk losing them…and everything.

But the reality is, it’s a distraction for the most part. From house cleaning. From cooking. From important things. It’s a distraction from my beloved son and husband and friends. While some distractions are good, I’m not sure this one is. At very least, I could certainly do what I need to do on Facebook and Twitter in an hour in the evening after Eli’s alseep, like the rest of the working/parenting public, right?

Then, about a week ago, my friend and fellow singer-songwriter extraordinaire, Tanya Godsey, released this incredible video for her incredible new single “White Page.” I watched and listened stunned, as chills crept up my arms and down my legs (take a gander – you will not regret it I’ve even posted it right here to make it easy for you!). It was just the reminder I need(ed).

You’ve probably read a bit about this past year, and the heavy load it dropped on our shoulders. This incredible gift of a tiny human, built, constructed, perfectly formed in my womb, coupled with the total inexpressible loss of never being able to do it again. The burden of making every single day, hour, moment count…because it’s one of a kind. We will absolutely have more kids, but they won’t have our DNA. So there’s a gravity to raising Elijah that wasn’t there on May 5 of 2011. There’s a heaviness to watching him grow, knowing we won’t get to do this ever again.

So I’m struck with this grave necessity to be present. Not distracted. To see each day as a blank White Page, and myself as a pen in the hands of a writing God with 24 hours of possibility in front of me.

Am I going to waste my day on facebook and twitter? Am I going to be the mom who stares at her computer listlessly while her son begs to be chased? Am I going to be the wife who loses six good hours of homemaking to a phone that absolutely must be checked every three minutes (lest I miss something super important on facebook or twitter while the MacBook is closed)? Am I going to be the Christian who wastes minutes and sometimes hours in silly threads discussing fighting about “how to be a better Christian” while actually doing nothing – human, Christian, or otherwise?

Or am I going to unplug, pick up my son, stroll him to the park, and engage? Am I going to walk him around the house and watch as he takes his first steps without my help? Am I going to make mommy play dates, and talk face to face with people I actually know, rather than spend all day facebarking at people I’ll probably never meet and won’t like if I do? Am I going to do the laundry before it piles up and we’re out of clothes, instead of spending waaaaay too long shopping online for new clothes I don’t need? Am I going to actually cook these delicious meals I’m discovering online rather than spending so long perusing the recipes that I have no time to cook and have to order pizza instead? Am I going to be diligent about keeping in touch with dear distant friends, refusing to let those relationships slip and slide away?

Because this is the thing about me: I’m not the girl who spends most of her time on Eff-book communicating with my real-life friends. I do catch up with some old high school friends on Facebook. But for the most part, I just stalk strangers and re-post stupid stuff. Theoretically speaking, I communicate with my real-life friends in real-life. But reality shows me twisted to the point where I (barely) communicate with everyone on facebook and with almost no one in real-life. And it’s no good.

I want to notice the daily growth and actually watch my son as he changes.
I want to read him books (Books! Pages filled with beautiful, fun stories! Remember them!?), and sing songs with him.
I want to teach him the alphabet, not Big Bird or Dora or even the super smart readers on “SuperWHY.”

I want to water some old friendships that have some droopy leaves.
I want to plant new seeds with some people I’ve recently met who I’m sure I’ll like.
I want to date my husband, play games with him, talk to him face-to-face, and remember what it was like 7 1/2 years ago when we were still enthralled with each new thing we learned about each other. (Surely we’ve changed enough over the past year alone to guarantee us a few into-the-night get to know you dates, right?)
I want to get to know my neighbors and their kids.
I want to make my house a home.

So, facebook, twitter, and wordpress, I think I’m ready to bid you adieu, at least for a bit. I’ve got company coming this week to celebrate my can’t-possibly-be one year old dream boy. I’ve got a sick baby who needs my attention and is craving the cuddles, and I really ought not refuse him. I’ve got books to read, rooms to clean, and a husband to cook for, clean for, seriously make out with, and probably seduce. More than once.

See you later, gators.


Trading Futures
May 5, 2012, 11:15 am
Filed under: Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Music, Travel

Tomorrow we celebrate one whole year with my sweet Elijah David. I can hardly believe it. This past year has simultaneously flown by and granted me hundreds and hundreds of honey moments that drip and drizzle so slowly I can still savor them.

The year has taken us on some wild adventures through near-death and baby-tours to a brand new city where we’re still in the process of making our first house the home we’ll grow old in.

The year has taken me from the highest heights to the deepest depths and back up again, and left me lingering at times in a lost limbo of in-between. Sometimes I’m able to climb with Rocky-esque ease to the top of the mountain where I do nothing but celebrate the journey. Other times, the climb is a mountain marathon I can’t even begin, much less finish. Sometimes the descent is a peaceful journey down into the valley where I’m able to rest despite the depths. Other times, it’s like a free fall whose crash landing leaves me bruised and broken all over again. Lately, the journey has been across rolling hills that scale both hills and valleys over and over again, leaving me exhausted at each day’s end.

This morning, as I was cleaning the bathroom (company is coming!), I was stabbed by a pang of self-pity and doubt. I was nearly overtaken by that old toxic lie, “God is punishing you.” For what, I’ll never know. I go over and over the events of that day, thinking to death what I could or should have done differently. I always land in the same place: I did everything right in pregnancy. I was as healthy as I could be. For medical reasons, at the behest of the professionals, we chose to induce, but that should have been safe and uncomplicated. And yet…

Cycling on repeat… “I did everything right, God. Why did you take this away? Why did you rob me of this future?”

And then. I remembered back to the summer of 2002, when I was engaged to someone else. How we did everything right. More than ever before, I was following at God’s heels, stepping exactly where He directed my feet. I was obedient. I was chasing Him. I was devout! And I was…oh, I was crushed. For having done everything right, it ended in utter disaster. I was angry, hopeless, replaying those same words… “I did everything right, God. Why did you take this away? Why did you rob me of this future?”

God is so good to remind me.

Because now, I see now.

I see my husband, whose love is deeper than any depths I’ve sunk to; whose grace is wider than any desert I’ve wandered. Whose long-suffering is…well, loooooong suffering. I see my best friend, my lover, confidant, provider…my champion. The man who scales walls with me and for me, who carries me through and abides my tantrums. Who celebrates me – and us – in ways only I can appreciate. He is the best expression I’ve found of God’s perfect love for me.

I see our son. This perfect, blessed boy who draws from me more exuberant joy than I ever dared imagine. Whose smile, I’m certain, could light the world on a dark night. Whose hugs and kisses smother me in inexpressible cheer. Whose cries stir in me a cast-iron will to surrender life, limb, and soul to see him safe and at rest. The boy for whom I would endure infinite hell to ensure he’ll never see its gates.

I see our life. This life I never deserved and never would have had if the other future I’d so desperately wanted and “done right” for played out in reality. This life I wouldn’t trade for a thousand other “good” – but not “this” – lives.

And I am reminded:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind conceived what God has planned for those who love Him.”

Just as surely as He took one future away in order to give me a better, more perfect one back in 2002…so He will do is doing again.

I hope in glory for the day I see its unimaginable fruit.

Waiting for “Even More”

Because our pastor was meant to be filming a movie (in which he plays a hairy hobo, no less) in snowy Montreal over the weekend, our new church in Minneapolis featured a guest speaker on Sunday, Steve Wiens. I wasn’t particularly excited about it until I realized a) we’d already heard him speak when we visited Church of the Open Door (and he’s good); and b) we’d already heard this message too (it happened to be the very same he’d given back when we visited, and it’s also good). Some people might scoff and say something about “the pastor who recycles his sermons…” Those people can shut it. Because this sermon deserves to be given – and received – over and over.

Based on Matthew 1:18-25 (with a little bit of Genesis 37 sprinkled in) and titled “Considering the Even More,” it’s all about the Joseph’s: Joseph, husband to Mary, step-father to Jesus, and a guy who probably said “You have GOT to be kidding me!” when he first learned of Mary’s “immaculate conception”; and Joseph, son of Jacob, who was sold by his brothers into slavery, endured years in prison under the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife, but somehow ended up right-hand-man to Pharaoh and The Guy Who Saved The People from Death By Famine.

It’s about how each of them, in otherwise paralyzing circumstances, were able – by grace alone – to pull back and ask, “What can’t I see? What don’t I know? What might God be doing here?”

I’ve mentioned this before, but names are significant, especially in Scripture. I only came to realize the power in my own son’s name, Elijah David – which means “The LORD is my God; I am His beloved” – after he was born. Not insignificantly, the name Joseph means “Yahweh Adds” or “Even More.”

Most of you know that after Elijah was born, I nearly bled to death and the bleeding was only stopped by removing my uterus. And thus, I can’t ever have any more babies. I am, by some odd flip of the coin, the one in 110,000 women who suffers such severe post partum uterine atony as to indicate emergency hysterectomy.

I have asked too many times, “Why me, Lord? Why not one of those crack head baby mama’s from the ghetto who has nine kids and counting? Why remove the possibility altogether, leaving no room to hope?”

I don’t know the answer to that question and I’m not sure I ever will. But, after hearing this sermon twice now (and I don’t believe it’s by accident), I’m inclined to think that’s probably the wrong question.

Instead, I am reminded to consider the Even More.

…To consider Joseph son of Jacob, who could have wallowed or taken revenge but chose instead to believe that Yahweh Adds, and in so doing “saved many lives,” including those of his brothers whose jealousy drove them to do the unthinkable.

…To consider Joseph husband of Mary, who could have abandoned her to the law and seen her, his pregnant-by-someone-other-than-him betrothed, stoned, but chose instead to consider the Even More that God was up to and in so doing NAMED the Savior.

And I am compelled to consider our own situation: What if, by allowing this certain tragedy in our lives, God is somehow saving more lives? Perhaps we are meant to parent some of those nine-kids-and-counting who would otherwise be fatherless?

I can’t say it enough: I don’t know and can’t begin to imagine what plans He has conceived and intends to birth in and for us.

But I know, because of Elijah, that The LORD is my God. And I know, by the Joseph’s, my God is the God of even more; He is the God who adds, who ever gives even when He takes.

And I can therefore anxiously await Even More.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout generations.” > Ephesians 3:19-21 <

Conceiving the Inconceivable
January 5, 2012, 11:18 am
Filed under: Activate, africa, Baby, Faith and Faith Life, Home Life, Music

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” -Shel Silverstein

I ran across this quote this morning. I pondered it. I thought about it along with something I’ve been considering for a few weeks now: that perhaps my fear and paralysis, my eternal worry about my professional life, is my own doing. My own responsibility. My own failure to believe and really internalize what is both simple and true… that I am meant to dream inconceivable dreams so that God can out-do them and so prove Himself bigger and better than I’ve ever imagined.

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

I’ve spent a long time being afraid I’m asking too much, expecting too much, wanting too much, hoping too much. I should know better. In one year – 2010 – I watched, in stunned jaw-dropped-ness, while God brought me home from Africa (where He taught me what it is to surrender) only to meet and tour with my two musical heroes, Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb; then, for the first time ever, gave me exactly what I asked for in the exact context which I asked: I got pregnant “accidentally” and found out on my birthday.

So I ought to know better than anyone why we should ask for more than we can ever imagine having…because God is in the business of doing the inconceivable for those who love Him and ask it, with hope and expectant confidence.

But it’s taken so long to even recognize the concept, much less believe it. It is still a struggle for me to actively believe that God wants to give me amazing things. But if the Apostle Paul was telling the truth, then He has already planned the inconceivable for me.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind conceived what God has planned for those who love Him…” – 1 Cor 2:9

The only question, then, is what I find inconceivable. I’m beginning to believe that the less inconceivable it is to me, the  bigger God is allowed to be.

In all of this, my dreams are shifting. They’re not as much for me anymore, but for Elijah.

I may never change the world. But my son can. And the most powerful thing I can give him is a taste for the Inconceivable.

May Elijah ever know that the impossible is always possible; That he can literally be anything he wants to be, and do anything he wants to do; That what’s inconceivable to him is small potatoes to his Infinite God whose dreams for him are bigger than even mine.

And may I only ever empower and equip him with tools of courage, hope, faith, fearlessness, boldness, confidence, and above all love – for God and others – that he might dwell in the truth that no matter how small he is or may feel, his God is infinite.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.” – Maximus

Oh, that he would echo.

…But You Will Be Safe In My Arms…
September 4, 2011, 9:27 am
Filed under: Baby, Home Life, Music

I very nearly bawled my little green eyes out this morning all over the clothes I was folding.


As ever: because of a song.

I was listening to Plumb’s “In My Arms” (which is FREE at Noisetrade right now, along with 5 other pieces of musical honey) for the first time since having a baby. I used to think that song was a little cheesy. But now I’m a mom. I get it. And there’s no cheese about it. Except maybe the sweet, cream cheese icing kind of cheese.

Anyway. It’s going so fast. Too fast. Elijah is rocketing skyward. He’s talking and giggling and – I swear – holding entire conversations with me and others in a language that can only be described as Screech. And before I know it, he won’t want to talk to or be around me anymore, and after that he might want to, but he won’t need to. He’ll be a grown man, showering his own beloved wife with kisses and diapering his own babies’ perfect little butts.

How do mom’s do this?

A few days ago I was wondering if music is done with me. Now I’m not entirely sure I’m not done with it.

No, I’m not done with it.

But it is, at best, a back burner love these days, a tool I’ll use only as often as needed to say to this boy what no other form of communication can convey.

I just don’t want to miss a second of Elijah’s fleeting days. I want to soak in every one.

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.


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!