Morgan is such a gifted writer. Grab a cup of tea and get lost in her words as she tells the story of her Emmanuelle.
What the deepest part of me knows is that God can be trusted, that He is with us even when it appears He is not, and that our hope, if it be in him, will not be put to shame.
The deepest part of me believes God will redeem everything. Everything. All things will one day see their Beauty restored, even things in my little life. Nothing is too small, too inconsequential to be recreated in Shalom.
Yes, I know now glory is intended. God intended life to be glorious, to shine with the truth of who He is.
This knowing started as a mindful agreement. It was knowledge I downloaded from others, from Scripture, from sermons, from songs on Christian radio. But now this knowing is deep. It flows through my veins, settles in the marrow of my bones, dwells in the caverns within my lungs. It is my knowing and that changes everything. I could try to deny the truth I learn from others, but what is embedded in my own story, my own life experience, I cannot. This is the gift of trial, of any kind of trial: if you only be willing to walk through it with the Lord, He will be faithful to tangle his Truth and Beauty in your life in such a way that it will never unravel.
So here is one little personal chapter of my life, a chapter that contains the birth of my daughter and an experience that gave me a deep knowing of the goodness and greatness of my heavenly Father.
Emmanuelle Poem Cecil was due Jan 21, 2012. She arrived, however Feb 5, 2012. 15 days doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you are that pregnant, I assure you it is. It wasn’t the waiting alone that tried me, it was the hope I held in a particular vision of her birth.
From the moment we found out we were pregnant, I dreamt of delivering our baby in water.
A special I saw on 20/20 when I was 10 on babies born in water captivated my heart, and now 22 years later, my still captivated heart lept with the vision that perhaps I could deliver my own baby that way. I always loved the water. I was a little mermaid as a child and even as full grown woman one of my favorite places on earth is the bath. I couldn’t imagine a more magical way to bring life into the world than in a big soft tub of warm, inviting water, but my first baby was born in the hospital.
He was induced and I was given an epidural, and in the end both of us were happy and healthy, but my heart’s desire was to do it another way. When one of my dearest friends gave birth to her 3rd child in a blow up tub in her living room, she gave me the confidence to pursue that birth experience too.
But homebirth would be a big deal for us. Our insurance wouldn’t cover it, so every penny would have to come out of pocket. And living on one income in a big city we were already squeezing everything out of our modest budget. God made a way though. We were given the opportunity to rent out our downtown apartment as a vacation rental, so from August to December, we did just that. Our family of three, my husband and I and our young son, lived out of our suitcases for months, hopping from place to place, house sitting for friends, traveling a bit, and taking advantage of my parent’s extreme hospitality, as strangers lived in our home. My belly grew bigger and bigger, and I scrubbed toilets and floors and laundered sheets and towels weekly, and I did it with joy, knowing each guest that stayed in our home was bringing us that much closer to the possibility of delivering our baby the way we wanted.
As we were saving enough money to make it happen we also sought counsel from our friends and a pastor at our church. If God wasn’t in it, no matter how lovely a waterbirth at home sounded, we didn’t want it. So we prayed for clarity around the decision and clarity we believed we were given. We got connected with a birth center recommended by my O.B. and we met a midwife team we felt confident could care for us and take us through the adventure of delivering a baby without any pain medications.
My pregnancy was wonderful. I was healthy and baby was growing healthy too. I danced, and did yoga, and since we had sold our car that summer, I did a lot of walking too. Everything felt good in my body, and my heart was so excited for the challenge and gift of birthing at home.The holidays passed, the new year came, and we got ready for baby, a baby girl, the sister our son had been asking for by name since he was three. He was now 5 and “Emma” was long awaited in his heart. She was the one always intended for us and all of us were anxious to meet her. I was already having contractions and so we expected her to come early. We did a belly cast for me January 12th, thinking I might go into labor that night, but the 12th passed, and the 13th passed, and then my due date on the 21st came and went too.
When it looked like the long month of January was going to end before our daughter was going to be here, I started getting concerned. Does my body actually know how to go into labor? Will my body go into labor on it’s own? Since my first baby was induced I did not know what going into labor naturally even felt like. With each passing day I lost a bit of confidence.
My whole family had sacrificed to make a way for the possibility of a home birth for little Emma, and we had prayed ceaselessly for it to happen, but now it looked like, despite everything, it wasn’t going to be. My O.B. had set an induction date for February 6th, at 6am and my midwives agreed that medical intervention was the best course of action to ensure the health of baby, if baby decided not to come on her own by that day.
We were trying everything on this list of how to induce labor at home. I got acupuncture, ate whole pineapples, ran up flights of stairs, danced the hula, drank bitter tasting tinctures, used the breast pump in rotations of 70 minutes at a time, and yes, my husband and I had lots of sex. Still baby showed no interest in leaving the womb. My contractions were regular but not increasing in intensity and though people assured me baby could not stay in belly forever, I began to doubt them.
All the while, though, I held tight to God, begging him to orchestrate my labor. We asked everyone we knew for prayer. I even emailed a convent on the east coast, at the suggestion of a friend, and asked the sisters of Our Lady of the Rosary to pray for Emmanuelle’s arrival too.
The weekend was tense. Friday afternoon I went in for some tests to check on baby in my O.B’s office and the nurse informed me my placenta was “old,” it had begun to calcify. Her words scared me though my midwives assured me that my baby was fine, that two days was plenty of time for my body to go into labor and deliver her safely at home.
The night passed. Nothing happened. The next morning and the next afternoon came and went.
Nothing happened still.
Saturday evening I took a bath, lit a candle, read my bible, and prayed. I thanked God for every seemingly inconsequential contraction. I thanked Him that He created me, that He designed my body perfectly to birth this baby naturally. I thanked Him that my contractions would grow in intensity. I thanked him that at any moment He could act and the miracle and mystery of birth could begin.
I went to bed that night hopeful, believing in the greatness and wisdom of God. I was also comforted by the thought that a thousand intercessory prayers from friends and family and nuns were being spoken on our behalf. But at 3 o’clock in the morning on Sunday, February 5th, I awoke still not in labor. In the darkness of that morning, the Lord seemed as silent in reply to my prayers as my womb was still. And it was the stillness, along with the exhaustion of waiting and the worry that there was something wrong with me or my baby, that made me cry out in pain.
I wailed. I wailed. I wailed. My sister who had come for a visit from Madison, Wisconsin, thinking she would be meeting her two week old niece, was with me, and she held me along with my husband. They let me cry and I cried as loud or louder than a woman in labor. I knew that in less than 24 hours I would be packing my bags for the hospital. I felt utterly defeated. Like something was wrong with me, my body, my womb, and my faith.
Why would God lead us here only to leave us now? Did I misunderstand those holy whispers I thought I had been given? Would my hope be put to shame? My doctor had been ready with a shot of pitocin for over a week and my own family had wondered if my decision to wait more days was wise. But I didn’t want to give up hope yet, I wanted to give every chance for God to move. I believed He could. I even wrote in my journal that I trusted He did his finest work in the 11th hour.
“God only writes great stories,” I wrote to encourage myself, “and great stories don’t see their resolve until the final hour. That’s what makes them Great and not just Good. To be ‘against all odds’ is to be completely dependent on God. And there, only there, is where the miracle can happen.
That’s where we are right now.
Is it too dramatic to say, ‘Here I am Lord, standing with the Israelites facing the Red Sea?’ As small as this trial may be in the history of your children, it is still the trial I am in. Please use it to increase my faith. It is not meaningless if you use it deepen my trust in You. I feel the breath of my enemies’ horses coming up fast behind me, but I stand towards what is possible in You before me. What is it to part my womb when you have parted the seas? I am little, but you are Great and I am believing You, God, that You are writing a great story for my daughter. Her name will be Emmanuelle, and she will always remind us that You, God, are with us, even when You feel silent and far away.”
I wrote all that, heels digging into faith even as the flesh in me was tempted to slip and turn away. The 11th hour had arrived and there was no evidence that anything was going to change.
I hung on as long as I could to Romans 5:3-5, “We rejoice in afflictions. For we know that afflictions bring the capacity to stay with things, or patience, to the fullest form. And patience proves that the hope was right. And the hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”
Buckled over in tears, in the quiet of that early February morning, something in me broke, I felt it break, and when it did so my soul in all its emptiness was able to plead with purity. Every sob released something of my own power and when I had finally come to the end of myself, I heaved heavy in the arms of my sister and my husband who held me tight, and then I rested deeply. In their love, silent of words though it was for they were grieving too, I felt the powerful presence of God, a dear friend who had every marvelous plan for redemption up His sleeve.
In the knowing that He was going to be there with me, no matter how this baby was going to be born, I fell back asleep and a blanket of holy covered me. What I could do no more for herself, I let Someone else do for me. Exodus 14:14 whispered I could rest, “The Lord your God will fight for you, you have only to be still.”
I awoke again at 5 am. My body was still not in labor, but the panic of what that meant was gone. In the absence of worry, I was given the gift of a vision where I saw myself, in that very room, with a newborn baby in my arms only 10 minutes old. HOW it would happen I did not know, but THAT it would happen I believed deep.
And 12 hours later, the tension of faith and doubt was resolved. God moved just as he brilliantly does, in the 11th hour, where all glory is unmistakably His. She was here!
Emmanuelle Poem Cecil born 9lbs and 21.5 inches long, at 9:49pm Sunday February 5th, in our little apartment, downtown. I had labored and delivered at home, and she was born in water, straight into my husband and my arms just as I had envisioned she would be.
Never had I felt so much joy and relief holding her. Never had I felt so sure God was with us, that He had always been with us, and always would be with us still. God indeed writes only great stories, and when we lean into Him completely we get the excitement of living His stories as our very own lives.
Emmanuelle had come into the world in a way that would give lasting meaning to her name.
The gift of waiting 15 extra days for my baby to be born was the gift of a deeper intimacy with my Lord. This is what trials of any kind can give each one of us. This is what James 1:3-5 promises. I knew before what God was capable of doing for others, but now I knew what God was capable of doing for me. Now I knew with a deep knowing that He is faithful to redeem every area of our lives that we turn over to him for redemption; He is waiting to give us all the strength we need just on the other side of all our efforts to supply our own; and, He will not put our hope to shame when our hope is in Him.
photo by Toni Greaves