I awoke at 5 am, stirred by a gentle tightening of the muscles stretched around the great balloon of a midsection that used to be my waist. Just five hours earlier, Hero Hubs had pulled into the driveway and collapsed into bed, after capturing a beautiful wedding day with his camera, over an hour away.
But that’s not where this story begins.
The day before I’d tiptoed around the house, trusting that nothing was going to happen while HH was so far away. The wedding was scheduled before we knew we’d be expecting, and it was the day after my due date. We had a sense of peace that it would be fine, all would be well, and I held on tight to that in my heart, and did my best not to be anxious.
I decided to get up and start making notes, just to keep track on my phone of the timing of the contractions. Unlike the birth of the Tank — a story better suited for Hollywood with a high-speed drive to the hospital and a birth nine minutes later, and different as well from the arrival of the Belle, when contractions started sometime after 5 in the morning and she was on the outside before 7 am, this was a peaceful increase.
I stood in the bathroom waiting to see what would happen, started putting on makeup because if you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that is somehow part of my relaxing-my-way-into-giving-birth routine, and things were still and slow and peaceful. I got back in bed, from around 6 to around 7 am, and the contractions were still happening, but still more than ten minutes apart, so I’d snooze for a bit, wake up and mark the time of the contraction, and then fall asleep again.
Finally, around 7:30 the pace was beginning to pick up, and I woke a bedraggled dear Hero of a Hubs to announce that I needed a lift to the hospital, to which he replied:
“You’re joking, right?”
They offered to wheel me up to the Labor & Delivery floor when we checked into the hospital around 8:30, but I decided it would be better for me to walk and allow labor to keep progressing. It was a pleasant thing to think about: walking in as one and walking out as two.
Just a week before I walked through those hospital doors, a precious fellow Mom who is a part of our homeschool community gave birth. Her due date was just two days before mine, and we’d been talking about who might go first, and she was also expecting a girl, to add to the three beautiful daughters she already has. The baby was stillborn. They named her Caroline Grace, and her funeral was just the day before I went into labor.
I wept when I read the news, wept again nearly every time it came to mind over the next two weeks. How do you keep going when a part of your own heart stops beating?
By 8:45, I was hooked up to a monitor, and the nurses were waiting for my next contraction to see how the baby’s heart rate was doing. Those squiggly lines on that piece of paper meant something more significant than ever before.
For as long as I can remember, the Hubs and I have had a sense that four was our number. With each child’s arrival, there was a sense of great joy and excitement, but there wasn’t yet a sense of completion.
Does the story of a life start when the parents are dreaming of her coming into being?
After twenty minutes or so of monitoring, contractions were beginning to progress, and the unanimous decision was that I should head to a delivery suite. We shuffled down the hall, and chose the same room I’d shuffled into three years ago to give birth to the Belle.
A familiar face greeted us, as the OBGYN I’d visited during both of these last two US-based pregnancies, recently transferred to a practice in another town, was back covering a weekend shift. I was happy to see her.
Just like the Belle, my water hadn’t broken, and with contractions coming steadily, she decided to break my water and see if things might speed up a little.
Two weeks after her arrival, the tiny little stump of an umbilical cord finally came off and I sighed a deep sigh — happy that the little stump was gone because I am always so nervous about those things getting caught on something and yanked out, but sad because it was a sign of change, so soon — her need for her Mama will slowly transition from complete dependence to complete independence, perhaps me at home hoping to hear how she’s doing in some far corner of the globe if she follows in my or her Dad’s footsteps one day.
After they broke my water, the contractions gradually went from significant to intense to ohmyheavens thankyouLord thispainisforapurpose.
Unlike previous deliveries where the feeling to push was so intense I couldn’t imagine not pushing, this time the doctor suggested maybe it was time to push, and I decided maybe that was a good idea.
Today this little treasure of a girl is three weeks old, and I’m following the news about the great loss of life in Paris. I visited the City of Light when the Bear was just ten months old. We adored the sights, the ambiance, the food, and we took in all that we could on a shoestring budget with a baby in the baby carrier, strapped to Hero Hubs’ hero chest. The Bear fell asleep as we strolled through Notre Dame, my mouth consistently gaping open at the beautiful, my neck strained from so much looking up.
It’s hard to see so much darkness falling into a beloved city of light.
The dim lights in the delivery suite were shut out as I squeezed my eyes tight and pushed for all it was worth. After the suggestion about pushing, we all got ready and I, not having any pain medication coursing through my veins, took to my normal practice of hollering my way through those final moments before birth. Fortunately, there were only a couple of minutes of pushing or else I might’ve had a couple of days without a voice after her arrival. And the nurses might’ve stopped to get earplugs.
I pushed and my thoughts were with my friend who lost her precious girl. I pushed and thought about my Dad not getting to meet this last baby until we’re reunited in heaven someday. I pushed and gave thanks that this pain was for a purpose — holding onto faith instead of fear and believing a healthy baby girl would soon arrive.
They laid her in the little baby bed nearby and I saw her tiny face, and I was once again transported back to Scotland, to seeing the Bear’s little face for the first time. From the look on her face to the hairs on her head, she seemed like a beautiful little carbon copy.
I was overwhelmed this time, with hearing her cry. I know it: this isn’t always the outcome. This world is broken, and there is darkness and people are blowing themselves up and trying to take as many people out with them as possible, and babies don’t always get to see the light of day.
I wondered then, and I suppose I always will, why I am the recipient of such gifts.
Of this I am deeply aware: I am undeserving.
I mess up. I yell. I make bad choices with words. I say things that hurt other people. I choose the low road sometimes.
But there is hope. I hope to raise these four precious children to be lights in a dark world. Although I’m occasionally the one pulling out my hair, I believe in the possibility that HH and I can raise kids who will challenge convention by radically pouring out their hearts. There is evil in the world today, but there is good, too. The good is what makes life worth living.
They laid her on my chest and I could scarcely make out the word in a whisper, as if saying it too loudly might mean it wouldn’t come true: Catriana.
Her name has roots in our beloved Scotland, a variation of the Gaelic version of Catherine, meaning pure.
Perhaps her story starts there, where her Mom and Dad met, just over a decade ago.
The truth is all of our stories have their genesis in the Creator who dreamed us into being, long before our parents’ parents’ parents’ took their first breath. He saw it all. He knew who would arrive on October 25, 2015, how much she would weigh, what plans He had for her life.
While lots of folks seem to think we’re a little crazy to want four children, I sometimes think a lot of folks are crazy not to.
I’ve stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower and marveled at the beautiful city of Paris below. My heart has swelled full at the beauty of Cape Town, from the vantage point of Table Mountain. Looking over the incredible blue-green waters off the coast of Roatan in Honduras from a little boat-plane in the sky made me feel like I’d found a slice of paradise. Walking across the stage with my second Masters’ degree at the University of Edinburgh was exhilarating.
But my hope for the world, and my hope for the next generation, are tied to this gift from the Lord that keeps on giving. These children that challenge me, show me how selfish and flawed I am, and still make me feel so precious and important.
It is exceedingly, above and beyond glorious.
Perhaps the greatest mark I’ll leave for His glory, with the days and years I’m given on Earth won’t be the folks I helped encourage toward the God who loves them, the feet I’ve washed, the things I’ve said.
I imagine it’s quite likely that the greatest mark HH and I will leave for the glory of God will be the legacy of raising children who unashamedly love God and want to make this world a brighter and more beautiful place for His glory.
The calling of the church is to be the true City of Light — the city on a hill that loves so pure, so deep and so selflessly that the world can’t help but see, and say Jesus.
Catriana Claire Collie is here. A gift that weighed exactly 8 pounds and 15.6 ounces. We rejoice as undeserving recipients. Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor.” Her peaceful arrival, her joining our family — it is truly a taste of grace.
We have kids because we have hope.
We welcome this precious girl with hopes that the world will be just a little better each day, because she is a part of it.
–With Prayers for Paris and for the Fellers