Lessons on self, life, and God are a plodding process, but there are rare moments where God seems to turbocharge the lesson and condense it into a whirlwind that leaves me dizzy.
After 42 weeks of leisurely lessons--lessons in patience, body image, and discomfort--labor began, and with it, the whirlwind.
12 hours later, I was admitted to the hospital; 17 hours after labor began, Pitocin was started to move things along; 18 hours in, my midwife broke my water, and not long after that, hard labor began. I remember feeling as though this was something I couldn't do. "My strength is made perfect in weakness." I remember feeling intense gratitude for the support of my midwife, my mom, and Joel. "Two are better than one." I remember feeling as though I was in an interminable place of pain. "Why is my pain perpetual?" I remember feeling challenged emotionally, spiritually, and physically. "Our sufficiency is from God." I remember the moment when I wasn't progressing--only halfway dilated after 26 hours of labor!--and I wasn't at all sure that giving birth was something I could do. "You can do this," a nurse whom I had never seen before that day told me. She looked me straight in the eyes as she commanded me to relax.
4 hours later, Liam was born.
It didn't happen in that one second of his arrival at 1:18 AM on August 18, but in the 30 hours leading up to his arrival; and in the panicky moments after his birth when he was examined for meconium aspiration and, struggling to breathe, whisked away to the NICU after only a few moments on my chest; and in the 24 hours he stayed in the NICU (he is completely healthy now with no ill effects, praise the Lord!); and in the six months since then wherein Joel and I have learned what it means to have a son. Somewhere in the whirlwind of all that, I feel as though I have learned a lifetime of lessons.
Never were tears and smiles so often blended together. I cried in pain as I gave birth. I cried when my brand new baby, whom I had yet to see, was across the room and surrounded by neonatologists with grave-looking faces. I cried when I held my baby for the first time and had only a precious minute to meet him and then say goodbye to him. I cried when I woke up without him, and I cried when he was discharged from the NICU. I cried when Liam smiled at me. I cried in weariness from a night and day of little sleep. I cried to say goodbye to my mom after four weeks together. Held in my husband's arms, I cried over my body I didn't seem to recognize anymore and which seemed to look flabby and unattractive in any outfit I tried on (my opinion--but, thankfully, not his!).
I beamed when I found out that we had a son, and I beamed as I breastfed Liam for the first time in the NICU. I beamed as I watched Joel hold him close for the first time. I beamed as we posed for our first family picture together. I beamed when the nurses gushed over him (and the waitress, and every four year-old girl, and the cashier at Goodwill...). I beamed through those aforementioned tears when Liam first smiled at me. I beamed as friends and family met him for the first time. I beamed as I heard Joel talk about our son. I beamed at how adorable he was the first time I dressed him (and the 139th time).
I have learned what love is in a way I never knew before. Perhaps I understand just a little bit better the love my parents have for me. Maybe, just maybe, I grasp God's love for Jesus in a way I didn't before. And God's gift of His only Son for the sake of the salvation of the world becomes an even greater sacrifice than I previously fathomed it to be.
P.S. This was written three weeks after Liam was born. It's hard to believe that he turned six months old yesterday!