Elijah’s Birth Story

Ever since Lydia was born, I have enjoyed hearing others’ birth stories. Some are encouraging, inspiring, or at times, intimidating, but all have been useful in preparing me for another birth. So this is Elijah’s birth story. Here’s my disclaimer: this is going to be long (for the most part) unedited. If you don’t enjoy hearing lots of medical sorts of details, this post may not be for you.

To read about the events leading up to Elijah’s birthday, click here.

At something like 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning on November 20, Dan and I were settled into our triage room waiting for my doctor to come remove my stitches so Baby could be born. My labors have all been pretty fast, and have gotten faster each time, so I was already doing the math in my head and expecting Baby to be born by about 9:00. But, I was also trying to just take things moment-by-moment, because I know nothing is guaranteed to go the way I expect during labor. I had read up, prayed a lot, and was prepared for a completely natural delivery, if possible.

The resident and hospital doctor came into our room to remove the stitches and I braced myself for an uncomfortable experience. (I had a cervical cerclage, or stitches to keep the cervix shut and hold Baby in longer, put in at around 13 weeks.) My doctor was not on call that night and his partner, whom I’d never met, wasn’t at the hospital yet. So my entire time in triage was with the hospital’s on-call doctor and the resident. They had had some trouble getting the stitches out with Paul, and it was a fairly painful experience. This time was much worse.

The resident started trying to get them out, but after several minutes, she gave up and asked the doctor to try. She couldn’t seem to find the stitches. The doctor sat down and started to try to get the stitches out, but she couldn’t find them either. So the two started tag-teaming, trying different tools, angles, and techniques. Thankfully, I wasn’t in too much pain from contractions yet, because the attempts to find the stitches were painful enough. I lay flat on my back, squeezing Dan’s hand tightly with my teeth clenched and eyes tightly shut.

Occasionally the doctor and resident would ask, “Do you want a break?” but I just wanted the stitches out, so I kept telling them to keep trying. I have no idea how long we were in that room, but it felt like a long time. At some point I started praying. Then I started praying more urgently, “Jesus, help them find the stitches…guide their hands…” It started to look like they were never going to find them, and I started to wonder what would happen if they didn’t. Would I have to have a c-section? Would I labor anyway and just tear right through the stitches? I was praying more frantically and feeling pretty desperate.

When I was feeling rather hopeless, urgently praying, suddenly the darkness of the inside of my eyelids seemed to be replaced by a glowing light and I was filled with peace and calm as some verses came to my mind. They weren’t actually verses that I have memorized so the words weren’t clear in my mind, but the idea was there…”When you pass through the waters, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…” I was filled with trust. Jesus was taking care of me. Then I heard the doctor and resident and felt the pain again and everything was dark and painful and desperate all over again. And I prayed and again the darkness melted away and I remembered those words, “The waters will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” Calm washed over me again.

Just a couple of minutes later, the doctor declared that she had successfully removed the stitches! There were still buttons in there somewhere, stuck in the scar tissue, but the stitches were removed. (The stitches were tied through a button so that they would be easier to find and cut out. Instead, the buttons got lost and the stitches were very hard to find!) As soon as everyone left the room, I asked Dan to find the passage that had come to my mind. He found it and read it to me:

Isaiah 43:2
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,and the flame shall not consume you.”

Soon we were allowed out of triage (I have no idea what time it was by now) and headed to labor and delivery. We were shown to our room and once there we let everyone know what kind of labor I was intending on having (since we had already been offered pain medicine once or twice). My birth plan was pretty short:

I would like to have as natural of a labor and delivery as possible.
If possible I do not want an IV.
I know that pain medication is available and will ask for it if I want it.
If possible, I would like to hold the baby immediately after delivery.

Our nurse was sweet. She got me all hooked up to monitors and assured me I could have a natural delivery. Then someone told me I had to get the betamethasone steroid shot for the baby’s lungs. I assured them I had already gotten both doses, but they insisted. New research has shown that it can help if Baby gets it right before delivery, any baby born before 37 weeks. Now, that shot takes 24 hours to be fully effective, and 48 hours for two doses to be fully effective. We thought it was silly, knowing how fast my labors are. But we also felt like we were in a position where we would be terrible parents to say, “No”. So, I got that painful shot during labor again. (My doctor later told me that I could have declined, knowing the shot was pretty much useless in that amount of time anyway).

After the shot I was allowed to labor as I wanted. I lay down on my side, shut my eyes, and tried to relax through the contractions. Dan was at a loss as to how he could help and kept asking if I was ok. “I’m relaxing!”, I insisted, “it’s part of my method”. Eventually I couldn’t just relax anymore, so I got up on my knees and leaned against the top of the bed. The nurse offered me a big bean bag to lean up against, and that really helped. By now my contractions were really intense, sometimes coming on top of each other. Dan tried rubbing my back or pushing on my hips to help and I actually swatted him away, thinking, “you’re doing it wrong!”. I’ve always wanted Dan near me and helping me during labor, so I KNEW I was in transition and Baby would be coming soon. I also started to feel like I had to go to the bathroom all the time, but after a couple difficult trips back and forth, I knew it was just the pressure from Baby moving down lower.

When I started moaning more and more loudly through the contractions, Dan and I knew it was time for them to check me. I was a little nervous, not wanted to hear I was only dilated to four. But I was also confident that I was in transition and Baby was coming fast. They told me I was dilated to “six or seven” and I clearly remember thinking, “Whatever. That baby is coming soon.”

I hit the peak of transition and thought, “If this goes on much longer, I can’t do it”. I was moaning so loudly that I heard the nurse saying, “Stay with us Justine!” If I remember correctly, Dan was expressing some concern that, “They’d better get in here!” Then I felt Baby moving down fast and pressure to push. I started yelling (how else could I tell them Baby was coming?). The nurse knew instantly that I was starting to push and she got right up near my face and asked, “Did the contraction stop?” I frantically shook my head no and she told me I had to turn over onto my back during the contraction. This seemed cruel and almost impossible to me at the time, but I was also in a state where I would do whatever I was told. I managed to roll over onto my back and the contraction just kept going.

I was concerned about tearing, and I knew it could be good to stop pushing and wait even if it hurt. I was preparing for that moment, but everything was happening so fast. The next thing I remember was feeling the most intense pushing contraction and the nurse demanding my attention. It took every ounce of will-power to not push and instead listen and obey what the nurse was trying to say, so I opened my eyes wide and looked right into hers. Later Dan told me he would never forget the face I made. He said my eyeballs were almost outside of my head and I looked completely crazy.

The nurse told me to let go of Dan’s hand (I wasn’t even aware I was holding it) and bend my right leg and wait to push. I did. It seems like there were about five people all crowded around me at that point and that a couple of them started telling me to go ahead and push. I have no idea if I was having a contraction or not, but I pushed and then I heard Dan say, “Justine! Look!” I looked down and there was my baby! Well, there was the top half of my baby. I heard one of the ladies there (A nurse? Or doctor? Or pediatrician?) say something like, “What do we have?” and in the next moment someone declared, “It’s a boy!” and scooped him up and put him right up on my chest.

Dan and I both thought it was a girl (again). And I had really wanted a boy. So I was relieved and thrilled and so happy I could cry. They were about to clamp the cord when Dan jumped in and asked if they could wait. They said that was fine, and waited until the cord stopped pulsing to clamp it. (From what I understand, the baby gets more blood if you wait to clamp the cord. Since all of our children have been anemic at some point during their first years, this was important to us.) They left Little Elijah snuggled up on me for the next 45 minutes.

Then my Doctor’s partner came in (he missed the delivery, but I guess I really only did push once or twice). He sat down with the resident and they spent the next half hour or more digging around looking for those long-lost buttons. They finally found them, after a miserable search, lots of hand squeezing with Dan, and lots of sympathy from the nurses. They had to cut them out of scar tissue in the cervix and then stitch up the cervix and a second degree tear.

However, I snuggled my Baby that whole time before they took him away to weigh him and clean him off. He weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long. He was born at 8:38 in the morning, just 5 hours and 23 minutes after my water broke.

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It took a while to settle on his name, even though we had pretty much picked it out when he was only about 14 weeks along (that’s another story). But soon enough we announced it: Elijah John, and we were transferred to the Mother-Baby room to enjoy the first couple of days with our new baby.

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Later in the morning, the kids came to visit and meet their new Baby Brother. Lydia very sweetly brought a stuffed lamb for Elijah to sleep with, in fact, the stuffed lamb my mom gave her before she was even born (we told her that wasn’t allowed, but kept the lamb where Elijah could see it.)

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It was sweet to see the kids together, but I especially enjoyed watching Paul react to his new brother. He loves him already, and even though he doesn’t have a lot of words, we’ve heard him say, “Baby” and “Lijah” and sometimes he gives Elijah kisses.

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Like Paul, Elijah got to be held almost non-stop in the hospital. It’s a privilege we just didn’t get to have with the girls.

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And after two (sleepless) nights in the hospital, we got to take Elijah home!

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Birthday Princess (Lydia’s Fifth Birthday Celebration)

Five years ago on Memorial Day, Lydia Hope was born unexpectedly. Unexpectedly because, after a completely routine and healthy pregnancy, my water broke at only 30 weeks. Several hours later we had a baby. This year, Lydia’s birthday fell on Memorial Day again. It was her fifth birthday. And, for several reasons, this one felt like a big one. Since Dan had the day off and Lydia knew exactly what she wanted to do for her birthday, and since Dan and I knew exactly what Lydia would love for her birthday, we made the day a pretty epic celebration.

Dan greeted Lydia in the morning with a birthday tiara and a bouquet of orange roses, her current favorite flower. Dan has a tradition of getting his girls birthday flowers and he puts a lot of thought into getting them flowers that they will love.

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Then Dan and Lydia took off on their own for Lydia’s first Daddy-daughter date. They went to Leo’s, a coney island just down the road from us, and Lydia got to pick whatever she wanted from the menu. Now Lydia had been fighting this plan for weeks because she likes us all to be together and just couldn’t understand why Daddy had to take just her. Afterward she told Dan, “I didn’t think it was going to be fun, but it was.”

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When they got back, we surprised Lydia with a couple of small gifts. Gum, and nail polish. She’s been drooling over both for the past several months with no idea she could ever actually chew gum or wear nail polish. “Maybe when I’m sixteen?”, she would ask. Lydia’s not usually a good “reaction” girl. She takes in surprises slowly and gets excited a day or so later. The gum and nail polish must have been pretty good surprises then, because her reactions were priceless.

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After lunch and a quick (failed) attempt at naps, we packed up and headed to the splash pad for some more fun. I didn’t bring my camera with me, so you’ll have to use your imagination on this part. Abby was beside herself with excitement. She loves playing in water. Paul was uncertain and spent much of the time watching the kids play but keeping away from the water himself. Lydia was in and out of the water, torn between relaxing on her towel and running around getting wet.

Then we fulfilled Lydia’s requests for dinner: pizza and ice cream from restaurants. The first pizza place we tried was closed for Memorial Day, but we yelped “best pizza” in the area and found a winner. We got our meal to go and ate outside at our favorite ice cream place, a locally owned Dairy King in Plymouth. Paul was a trooper and didn’t complain once about his steamed broccoli and bananas while the other kids got pizza and ice cream.

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There’s a picture of me when I was about Lydia’s age, eating some sort of blue ice cream out of a cone while standing on a beach. I wish I had it to post along with this one. Ice cream all over my face. Like Mother, Like Daughter.

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It was late by the time we got home, but we finally let Lydia open her “official” present from us, a new (bigger) ballet leotard and tights. The girls danced around in their dress up clothes before finally getting ready for bed

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As Dan was tucking Lydia in, I heard her crying, “Today was the best day in the woooorrrlllddd. I don’t want it to end everrrr.” Good thing we’re Taylors. “It’s not just a birthday, it’s a celebration” is what we like to say, and the celebration continued over the next two days.

Tuesday Lydia got her presents from my mom and Dan’s Gramma. Abby had trouble understanding why they weren’t for her and Paul was disgusted at the amount of clothes Lydia was opening.

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And, finally, Wednesday tapered off the celebration with a visit from Dan’s parents, more presents, and sharing the news with Lydia that Grandma got a job in Ann Arbor and is moving down here!

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The birthday was a complete success, way too much fun for me to handle in a day, and a meaningful way for us to show Lydia how very thankful we are that God has given her to us, even it she was unexpectedly early.

The Seven Year Hole

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Earlier this week I had a dream about my brother.

I remember when Tim was a baby. I watched him in his little swing and wondered, “When will he be a real person?”. Of course, he was a real person, but in my five-year-old mind I wanted to know when we could be friends. When could we play together, talk together, and understand each other?
As Tim grew out of his toddler years, we did become friends, and we did a lot together. My two older sisters liked to hang out, so that left me and Tim to find our own things to do. Sometimes, we were quite creative. I remember playing the “dolphin taxi game” one summer whenever we were at the beach. I was the dolphin who acted as a taxi and gave Tim rides to where he needed to go. Our plot was much more developed than that, but I can’t remember the details anymore.

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I remember that every time we went to the Northwest Michigan Fair, or any other amusement park, I liked to go on the kiddie rides with Tim. I was big enough for the “real” rides, but he wasn’t and I was completely content to ride in circles on cars and boats. That lasted until one trip to Michigan Adventure when the man controlling the ride actually yelled at me because I was “too big”.

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As I graduated from elementary school and moved on to Junior High, my memories with Tim start to fade. Between busier classes, school sports, and new friends in the youth group at church, I started spending less time with my brother.

Junior High turned into high school and I started spending my summers working at a Bible camp. Church kept me busy with mission trips and youth group. School kept me busy with AP classes, orchestra, and the National Honor Society. Then there was boy drama and friend drama and all sorts of time-consuming and emotionally draining…well…drama. And I had so many other things on my mind that I let my brother slip out.

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I never stopped liking Tim. I never stopped thinking of him as my little brother or as my friend. But I inadvertently turned my back to him as I turned my focus to everything else. Even when I was home I was busy with homework, chatting with peers online, or locked in my own room journaling and reading.

And I moved on, without thinking, and left Tim behind. When his best friend switched schools, I wasn’t really there. When he made the big transition to junior high, I didn’t ask him about how it went or even find out if he was nervous. When he had a job that he hated, I didn’t know what he did there or why he hated it so much. Without thinking twice, I missed out on everything that was going on in his life, and I didn’t bother to share with him what was going on in mine.

Seven years have gone by since I graduated from high school and went away to college. For seven years I haven’t been able to do much with Tim because I haven’t been at home. But for seven years before that I had already left him. And now I can’t go back. Sure, there are emails. There are occasional three-day visits when Dan and I have to figure out how to visit about 24 relatives, a few friends, and somehow make time for Lydia (and Mommy) to take naps. So now, as I look back, I miss it.

I miss the dolphin taxi game. I miss the kiddie rides at the Fair. I miss pretending to be the lamb in the car on long trips when Tim would feed me my “milk” from an empty pop bottle. I miss those walks to the Boardman Lake where we fed our dog spicy Cheetos. I miss being the quiet shy ones who didn’t have to be quiet or shy when it was just us. I miss those seven years when I blew it and ignored Tim because I was too involved in all the other bright and flashy things going on around me.

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So you out there who are still at home with your siblings: please don’t blow it. Don’t ignore your siblings because they’re always around, because they’re younger or “less mature”, or because your other friends seem more interesting. Talk to them, play with them, love them, and pray for them. Someday you may need them or they may need you and you may look back and realize you have a seven-year hole to fill.
To you parents, I encourage you not to stop telling your children what my mom always told us when we were fighting. Someday, you’ll move out, you won’t get to see each other even though you’ll want to, and you’ll miss it.

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