But could I even relate?
In summer 2012, as I began writing and creating products to help people stop having ‘bad days’, I felt that people would need to know that I could relate to hard times. So I searched my mind for the hard times I had been through in the past. But I can’t say that I came up with a lot. Sure I had been through some hard times…but not nearly to the extent of some people I knew of. OK, I had a sore throat for a month. Big deal right? Some people’s trials make that look like a walk in the park. I wrote this in the early summer on my website.
I Can Relate To Hard Times
“These days any time I see suffering, pain, and heartache, or discouragement, my desire to help somehow just gets stronger. I have experienced suffering and pain in my life. I have had plenty of ‘bad days’. I couldn’t even count them.
You might relate…like times not so long ago, when by the time I got home from work I felt so fried and frustrated, that I was totally useless to my family. I have been in the depths of sadness at times. I have felt depressed and discouraged. I have been ashamed of myself. I have felt weak and insecure. I have been consumed and overwhelmed at times by fear. I have been full of doubt and fear that I wouldn’t stack up some days. That I wouldn’t be able to provide for my family. That I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent or mortgage. That I wouldn’t be capable of doing the job. I have felt embarrassed and humiliated at times. I have suffered from envy and jealousy. I have been so stressed and anxious about my responsibilities that I got stomach ulcers after the birth of my first child. I have gone to food for comfort and felt shame and awkwardness because if it. I have neglected my body and been more than 30 pounds overweight; uncomfortable, unhappy and disappointed in myself. I watched as my mother died and felt the deep sadness of being separated from her when I was 18 years old.
I have experienced emotional suffering. I understand intimately how it feels. And so it is not without personal experience of suffering that I tell you that I believe this life is Truly Amazing.
I have seen how to stop emotional suffering and rise above it, and I want nothing more than to share that with those seeking it.
I realize that is a bold claim, but emotional suffering is just the negative emotion caused by a meaning we attach to things with our thoughts. And that is definitely within each of our control.
For example, I have experienced a lot of pain in the past that was completely free from any emotional suffering, because I saw the pain as good for me, rather than bad for me. And I know without doubt that it is good for me in some way. So not only can we avoid suffering mentally from pain, but with diligent thought, we can move to a place of acceptance and even gratitude for the good it is providing us.”[/content_box_grey]
I guess I couldn’t relate to hard times well enough yet!! Those beliefs were about to be severely tested.
I had seen nothing yet.
A tiny spark can trigger massive change
July 28, 2012 was likely the most extreme and intense day of my life up that that point; my daughter Kelsie’s birthday. Any time you add a new member to your family, huge changes are inevitable. But the birth of our daughter Kelsie lit the spark on a fuse that would soon reach a patiently waiting bundle of dynamite. Here is part of my wife’s description of the event from her blog:
In a postpartum visit with my midwife, as she was looking at her notes I asked her how long I actually pushed for because WOW that was the longest segment of time in my life. It felt like at least an hour of intense body wrenching and mind numbing pain. But no, not even close. ”Twenty-one minutes,” she said. Just twenty-one minutes.
At no point in my mental preparation or in the prenatal visits did we foresee a surprise breech detour but I do believe that God sends us on detours in life maybe so we can experience something new or empowering, or learn something profound. Maybe just so that we can learn to adapt. Most certainly so that we can grow.
Twenty-one minutes. Twenty-one minutes is probably about how long it took me to run my first 5K back in high school. Ready, set, GO! La-di-da…up this hill, down that one…oh there’s the finish line, I think I’ll sprint now…and it’s over. I’m a little tired but oh, that was fun. This twenty-one minutes, the final twenty-one minutes before I met my fourth child was much, much different. Exciting, yes. But not super fun and definitely not easy.
I was pretty tired from being up all night, but birthing doesn’t provide much opportunity for rest. Birthing provides opportunity for work. And let me tell you, that final twenty-one minutes was work.
After being told my baby was in the frank breech position and wondering HOW IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO PUSH THE HEAD OUT LAST!? There were some minutes in there where I found myself “hitting the wall” in absolute desperation, sobbing and screaming “I need to go to the hospital! Let’s go to the hospital! They’ll get this baby out now!” At which point one midwife shoved a spoonful of honey in my mouth and the other midwife calmly explained, “Nan, you are fully dilated and this baby is COMING. Trust me, it is much safer to deliver a breech baby right here at home than it would be in the car on the way to the hospital.” She was right. At that point it was illogical to attempt getting in the car and driving to the hospital; time didn’t allow us the option. Besides, my midwife knew what to do. She had caught no less than seven surprise breech babies before mine and everything was fine. As those thoughts went through my mind and the energy from the honey infused into my muscles and brain, my logic returned, I got my “second wind,” stopped complaining, put my head down, and got to work. I visualized myself lying on the bed with a healthy, alert baby on my chest. I knew I’d be in that spot soon.
For the record, pushing out a breech baby was much different than pushing out a vertex baby. It felt like two steps forward, one step back with each push. Or like I was in the final mile of a marathon where the race official announced, “Attention Nan Kennard, YOU get to run an extra loop today! Please turn here. This will be your route to the finish line.” While that slippery little bum ever so slightly inched its way out I knew the finish line was near, just not exactly HOW near or what kind of finishing kick I would have to lay down in order to reach it. Thankfully I had Aaron and two awesome midwifes patiently urging me onward. I could not have done that without them. In fact, I think my support team was even more than just Aaron and the midwives. There were moments when I felt strength beyond myself. Strength from God.
When Kelsie’s legs popped out it felt like a catapult sling-shot right below me. The midwives quickly helped me turn from my position on my hands and knees to an upright position sitting on the birthing stool. As her body came out, Kelsie’s arms had stretched up around her head so my midwife had to reach in and pull the arms and shoulders out one at a time. In case you’re wondering, yes that hurts. Once the arms were out, one midwife began fisting me in the abdomen with all her might to put pressure on the top of Kelsie’s head while the other midwife gently pulled on Kelsies chin to pull her head down into a more favorable position. They both told me to push like I’d never pushed before and what felt like minutes but must have only been seconds later, Kelsie was there! It was just 90 seconds between when her bum came to when her head came. The goal with breech birth is to get the head out no more than 5 minutes after the first part of the body. If it goes beyond that 5 minute window and the head has still not been birthed, the baby may have trauma. Kelsie only took 90 seconds, thank goodness!
They put her on my chest and I rubbed her body to stimulate her to breathe. Even though she had not opened her eyes or taken her first breath I could feel that she was there. Life was in her. Her heart was beating and she was still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord, but still no breath. Moments later the midwives had her on the floor pumping air into her lungs while Aaron and I pleaded with God and Kelsie to please breathe! It couldn’t have been more than twenty seconds but felt like an eternity before she took that first good breath and let out a heart-warming wail. That first cry was the most welcome baby cry I had ever heard. She let out a few more little wimpers and opened her eyes big and bright, then she was placed back on my chest and we just stared at each other for a good five minutes. So happy to finally meet each other.
Ahhhhh…..it was finally over. That was the most I had ever yearned for a finish line in my entire life. And what a perfect finish line it was. An 8lb 9 oz, 21 inch long, 15 inch head amazing little baby girl. Apparently a 15 inch head circumference is off the charts, above 100th percentile, whatever that means. Miracle is what it means to me. We witnessed a miracle to see the biggest part of her body come out last, just 90 seconds after of the rest of her body. Because it could have turned out a lot differently.
Now five weeks later, I look at Kelsie with amazement. Her entrance into this world was quite an exciting adventure and I’m sure she’ll continue her life as such. We have what feels like a BIG family now with four awesome kids. Yes, it’s busy and crazy and hectic at times but also fun and loving and abundant. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Life is truly amazing.
My wife’s strength and faith absolutely amaze and inspire me and I would be nothing today without her. To put her words into perspective, just a year earlier she literally limp-ran her way to a 6th place American finish of the 2011 Boston marathon in 2 hours and 38 minutes. Her quad cramped and seized less than half way into the race, and she grimaced in pain for over 14 miles before collapsing at the finish line. And this after three previous natural child-births. So for her to say this was “the most she had ever yearned for a finish line in her entire life” should give you some idea of the absolute intensity of the day.
And what may not have been clear from her description was how “life or death” the situation felt to us. We had both been awake for over 30 hours, since she started labor the night before. We were both exhausted, but especially Nan. And the situation of delivering a baby at home breach wracked our nerves. While it isn’t as dangerous as the Doctors at hospitals would have you believe, we had plenty of doubts and fears. As Nan started losing her mind in the hour before the birth, I struggled to hold it together and attempt to put on a strong and courageous face for her amidst intense stress and bombarding fearful thoughts. We bawled together, we prayed, and I tried my best to comfort her with words of assurance. I had to lean completely on the expertise and assurances of our midwives and somehow try to persuade Nan to do the same.
Then after navigating the 12 hours of intense labor process, came the absolutely crazy intensity of the birth itself. After what felt like 15 minutes (really only 90 seconds) of Nan screaming uncontrollably at the top of her lungs while pushing Kelsie out, to then find out she was not breathing was devastating! The thought that she may not live twisted our hearts into knots. Tears of anguish spilled out and all we could do in that moment was hold each other sobbing and praying to God to let her breathe…PLEASE LET HER BREATHE!
And of course she did breathe. And she was perfect and well in every way. The intensity of tears, and fears, and doubts and fatigue, were followed almost immediately by an incredibly powerful euphoria, joy, and happiness. This amazing little person had just successfully navigated her way to earth and to our family bringing total elation to our hearts, a magnificent contrast of feelings.
Here is a picture of our new family later that evening.
This picture accurately displays the state of absolute joy our entire family experienced that day. Those were not fake camera ‘cheese’ smiles. Words cannot describe well our feelings of elated fulfillment, despite it being ranked among the most challenging days for both Nan and myself. We felt deeply grateful to God. And our children absolutely adored their new sister and overflowed with giddy, happy laughs and smiles all day.
But little did any of us know at the time the unforeseeable challenge that extremely stressful day would trigger in our family. Nor the steepness of the descent from the magnificent climactic peak of pure happiness we all stood on. We thought we were prepared to welcome our fourth child into our home. But nothing could have fully prepared us for what came next. We couldn’t see it, but a spark had been lit, and was now steadily devouring a fuse with explosion imminent.