I’ve been working on for a little while now, I’m putting together my first ‘Christmas Essentials Workshop.’
I want to take the stress out of all your gift giving planning. I have created 12 simple recipes and prepared a list of ingredients you’ll need for each one. You now have a whole month to get any little things you might need- oils, jars, moulds. Get all your bits and pieces together now and on December the 1st I’ll be releasing one recipe a day for 12 days! Be sure to SUBSCRIBE TO MY EMAIL LIST for the recipe cards and other such info!!!!
Also, Be sure to follow along on my Instagram @essentially_focused_ in the lead up and for all my low tox, oily ideas. Let’s get into the Christmas Spirit together.
The recipe booklet is ready for you! Just SUBSCRIBE for the RECIPE CARDS to be sent to your inbox!!!!!
Take a sneak peak at what we will be creating this Christmas as our gift ideas!
This week has been hard. It’s been hard to watch the world crumbling in the comfort of my own home. The terror, the fear, the looting, the rage, the innocent lives hurt all in the name of racism. My heart breaks for this world. The brokenness and evil overwhelm me the more I go looking and search for truth and read accounts of peoples lives. It is soul destroying. Who can we turn to for law and order? Who can we trust in? Every political party lies in some way or another. I had a beautiful friend ask me a simple question this week. “Jennifer, how do I know what I’m reading is truth? I read one article that paints a position or event one way and then another that states the complete opposite.” It’s all so exhausting.
It’s got me thinking about the next generation. When we are out as a family my children will play with other kids they have never met. When they come back to us after playing they will talk all about their ‘friend’. It’s as simple as that for children. Anyone who is nice, any other child who plays with them is their friend. There’s no judgement. There’s no prerequisites, no pressure as to what they believe, their worldview it’s just pure and innocent love.
It gets me everytime. It brings me a warmth in my heart and at times it convicts my spirit. To love others even when I don’t know who they really are. Then I tend to think further, what makes a good friend? How do we find a true friend? How can we enjoy each other’s company as adults with differing points of view?
You know, just this past week I posted what I believe was a great speech by the President and with that post a friend of mine ‘unfriended’ me. I mean, when I type this out and read it for what it is it’s really embarrassing. I approached them and let them know I’m sorry to see they unfriended me but I still think they were a great person. Since when are we not allowed to have a different opinion? Since when is freedom of opinion allowed only if you agree with my point of view. Since when are people disrespected for their beliefs? I see it more like freedom of speech BUT only if you believe what I believe.
The peaceful protestors are being caught up with the violent protestors. I cannot understand why people are destroying other people’s property all in the name of #blacklivesmatter
Why aren’t we having the same ridiculous protests for #prolivesmatter #babiesmatter #jewsmatter #womenmatter #thirdworldcountriesmatter you get my gist. We need to stop this. We need to stop the abuse and hatred. Now this writing won’t change the world. My thoughts won’t allow people to see reason and logic. This is a very humble blog. I don’t have enough followers to make an impact.
This is my own outlet of my thoughts and dreams. But it feels good to get my words onto this platform. So I can leave it here and give it all to the one who can change things, the one who can make a difference in people’s hard hearts. The Holy Spirit. Only through the gospel can people really change. We must remember this in these trying times. Remember we don’t need the law if we live by the Spirit. Suddenly my children’s Bible memory verse feels so much more powerful. I understand it on a new level.
Just this week I’ve seen countless reports about the President gassing and shooting peaceful protestors for a photo op. That didn’t sit well with me and so it lead me to go searching. Looking for answers. I mean, really if he did such a thing wouldn’t they of put the man on trial! Or called for impeachment? Only two days later it appears in his interviews and also with the perspective of the DOD and Parks Rec. No tear gas or bullets were used to clear the street so the president could in fact visit St.Johns church. A church that was set on fire the night before by riots! All in the name of unity? Huh? Unity? That doesn’t gel for me.
I’ve stopped and had many moments. Moments when I’m alone. To ponder our meaningless lives and why we are here. What is friendship? Brotherhood? I didn’t want my children to see the depths of corruption of humanity just yet. They know some stuff. And they have to for their own protection, you know stranger danger and just plain old sin. People’s hearts are wicked. They understand the only good in them is when the Holy Spirit changes them. That is the good. When Jesus makes you new. You see things differently.
You know, I’ve had different seasons with friendships. Different likes or interests have drawn me to particular people. In my younger years it was who you’re placed with in your class. You connect with those kids because quite frankly you have no other choice. And as we get older we are drawn to new friendships along the way. Some fizzle out just naturally whilst others can sadly take a turn for the worst. I’ve experienced both in my short life. I’ve gone from countless friendships to once having children watching how that naturally changes. My focus is elsewhere. And then I wear a new badge as a ‘homeschool mother’ meaning friendships shift again. I can’t grab a coffee in my day. My best friends become my children. Catch up’s with friends stick to weekends or my new fav app ‘Marco Polo.’ I can connect with friends during the day whilst I’m busy being mum via text or Instagram.
But you know those true friendships. The ones that stick forever. That last through all seasons. Those are really hard to find. In my years I could tell you some stories that belong in a Melodrama Book series. I’ve had moments where I could imagine you reader sitting on the other side of the table at your fav cafe (let’s be real I just imagine it these days) sipping your delicious coffee with your jaw dropped over the stories of “so called friendships” ha! And I’m certain you would exchange the same jaw dropping stories yourself… maybe not to the same degree. Trust me.
However, jokes aside. I’ve come to learn through the Spirit to trust His gentle voice, the way He presses on my spirit and heart with a certainty in a person. I’ve learnt to pray for my friendships. I’ve learnt it’s of great importance to ask God for kind friendships where my whole family are blessed. Not just myself. Where we can give and serve as a family. And enjoy life giving friendships.
We were created for relationship. We were created to enjoy these good things given to us by God. Jesus had 12 close friends in His 30’s. That’s more than I have (ha!) yet in that bunch of great blokes He has 3 very close ones. Ones that came alongside Him and held him up in prayer, who laughed and cried with Him, who encouraged Him. Who were there even though they were flawed and got it wrong. Who weren’t afraid to say ‘sorry’ when they did the wrong thing. Who failed miserably and yet he forgave time and time again.
As I’m nearing my 40’s now I can see the saying is real, “A true friend is hard to find.” However, to find that true friend, we need to pray for it. We need to ask the giver of all good things to place the right people in our lives. In our circle. To become our community. And hear me friend, one or two good, solid God glorifying friendships are better than 20 fake ones. God can and will do this for you reader.
So no matter our spiritual or political beliefs can’t we just see past this and show love? Can’t we look for a need in someone and fill it. Talk about the real issues in life. Ask ourselves how can I help the poor and lost and be a friend in someway to all mankind? How can I be as Jesus was to the best of my ability. In doing so we display Christ. And the gospel will no doubt be spread.
Ultimately there is one true friend who will never hurt or shame you. Who will never throw slurs at you or talk behind your back, who will never lie or cuss at you. A friend who would lay their life down for you. In fact this friend already has. Now, that’s true friendship.
Peace, love and grace to you reader wherever you are at.
I’ve been inspired by the flavours of the Middle East for years. I’ve cooked countless Moroccan themed dinner parties and experimented with spices and ways to bring a beautiful meal to the table in a short amount of time.
One of my favourite dishes to bring to the table is an Israeli Pilaf. Every culture in the Middle East serves this dish in their own way. Today I’m giving you a recipe in my own way also…. coming from the ‘Mother of 5, get it done’ recipe! Ha!
What got me feeling good about this recipe was that I could add my housemade Vegetable broth to the dish! Game changer…. I sat there with a winning smirk on my face as my children ate up all it’s goodness.
For the chicken:
1 organic Chicken (save skin and bones to make a broth later).
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp parsley
For the Rice:
2 Tbsp olive oil
400g basmati rice (wash and soak for 1 hour)
300g Organic Lamb mince
700g Vegetable or chicken broth (housemade is best)
1 brown onion
3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
Salt and pepper to taste
30g blanched almonds
1 bunch of Coriander
1 bunch of Parsley
500g Greek yoghurt
150ml Veggie broth
2 garlic cloves
After shredding the chicken toss in the cumin and cinnamon. Cover and set aside.
Heat oil in the pan, slice onion and cook until golden. Add in the garlic and spices. Stir for 1 minute.
Add in the mince and allow it to brown.
Place the rice into the pan and coat it in the oil and spices.
Carefully pour the broth in and season.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once cooked allow to stand for a further 15 minutes.
In this time add yoghurt, broth and garlic in a bowl. Mix and set aside.
Place chicken in a pan and reheat quickly with parsley.
Melt butter in the pan. Cook almonds for a few minutes. Add pine nuts and cook until all golden brown.
Assemble rice on a large platter. Place chicken on top.
Then the nuts and melted butter.
Parsley and coriander.
Finally organically throw your pomegranate jewels on top.
Serve with yoghurt drizzled on top and on the side with Lebanese bread.
Do you ever get that feeling, that little niggle or nudge? You can’t put your finger on it, you can’t know for sure what it is but something doesn’t sit right. It may not necessarily be a bad feeling, it’s like a caution signal. Maybe to stop and tune into your feelings and thoughts. Maybe pray or meditate. But you just don’t. Or you don’t enough. You push it away or busy yourself. You know it’s a feeling about something you have coming up in the future. You kind of end up subconsciously thinking, yeah, I haven’t got time for this feeling. Let’s just get on with it. Let’s get on with life, say that prayer, read that Bible verse but not meditate to bring about a calmness and peace in your spirit.
Well, I had to quickly get my head into a very new and different space on the 3rd of April.
Thursday night was just like any other. James and I hit the couch exhausted and ready to relax for a few hours watching mindless Netflix. At about 10pm I stood up and said “I can’t sit like this anymore. I’m just too uncomfortable.” And with that we went to bed. I tossed and turned. Nothing new here. Speaking for myself and maybe half the pregnant population (ha!) I don’t sleep so well from about 30 weeks of pregnancy.
At around 2am I suddenly felt some fluid in my underwear. Totally composed, I went to the bathroom. I just assumed this like all my others was the same feeling just before labour. The ‘show’ could be coming out or my waters about to break. However, things ended up very different…
I sat down on our toilet and focussed my very tired eyes, looking at my underwear I saw about a tablespoon of blood soaked through them. I didn’t have many thoughts just yet. Only staring at it. Then I felt something else strange. I looked into the toilet bowl and there was a blood clot about the size of a golf ball. Ah, nope… that’s not normal. I thought, ‘ Well now what?’ I called James into the bathroom. Asked him to look at it also. We stared at the bowl and then back at each other. I said out loud, “That’s not normal, I’m going to call the midwife.”
Right about now I need to add a very important point here. If I was hearing this story, I would feel all the feels right now. I would be so concerned and anxious. Particularly because I am that kind of person. However, I had that split second thought where the penny dropped. That was it! That was the niggling feeling, the nudge I was talking about. Where God was asking me to pray, go on, keep praying about your birth. Pray for safety and protection and for My hand to be upon you.
When you’re going through the motions on auto pilot like we were, you don’t have time to whip open your Bible and start proclaiming verses and songs. Instead there is only a few words you throw up to the Lord. My friend, does that make a difference? Does God need fine words and dances to answer our cries or prayers? Certainly not reader. And so, after literally saying in my mind “Keep my girl safe Oh Lord.” The next events came about without a single ounce of fear or trembling. It was just a smooth well orchestrated series of events that I can see had the markings of the Holy Spirit ALL OVER IT.
My next step was to ring my midwife. She was convinced it was just ‘the show’. I replied very directly explaining it was certainly not the show. Not satisfied with her response and knowing that this isn’t normal, I wanted a second opinion. Afterall, the health of my baby comes first. I Hung up and called Sutherland Hospital. After speaking to a lovely midwife there and answering a few important questions she advised I come in for a few tests with the hope I would come home to still have my Home birth. I assured her I would in fact be having the baby at hospital now. She replied with kindness but sounded like I had made that decision a little too early.
I just knew. It was all from that niggle I had going on in my heart a few weeks leading up. James and I both knew our baby wouldn’t be born at home. This knowing and niggling feeling we both had- sadly wasn’t communicated. Just last night as we were chatting about the events that took place he literally said to me “Everytime I walked past the birthing space it was as if something wasn’t right. Something was missing.” Now, in hindsight we know it was God preparing us for a change of plans. His plans and ways are certainly not ours. Let that be a good reminder to press into God and allow Him to always direct your path. I promise, if things don’t work out the way you imagined, YOU WILL NOT BE SADDENED because what He has for you is far greater than your thoughts or dreams!
James went and woke the children up. They came in wearing their matching little pj’s I had bought for the birth. Expecting baby would arrive in the middle of the night like her siblings did. I will never forget the smiles on the girls faces as they came into my room asking “how do we look mummy?” and “don’t forget to bring the brush for our hair mummy.” (We had a photographer ready for the birth. Scarlet and Aquila obviously wanting to look their best *wink*). The innocence on their faces. The joy. We had told them I had bled and we were on our way for mummy to have a check up. We explained that I would probably have the baby there just to be safe. No one was fazed by this decision. Noah was first into his seat. The excitement was very real for them each. Even little Selāh was just so happy and content.
Neither of us thought to pack extra clothes for myself or the baby. (Lucky for me, I don’t stay overnight when I birth!) I was in my very, very old and daggy sweats for comfort while sleeping. I put some slips on and away we went. It wasn’t actually until my baby was born and the midwives asked what my baby was going to be dressed in that I realised I HAD NOTHING FOR EITHER OF US!
We turned up to Sutherland hospital just before 3am. Driving up to the general entry doors. We prayed as a family and I kissed them each goodbye. The midwife I was speaking to on the phone assured me it would be a fast check to know just exactly what was going on. Again, that calmness hadn’t left me. I took the lifts up to the labour ward. I was met by a few lovely midwives who asked me some questions. They attached the CTG to my stomach. The sound of Abilene’s heart beat was the sweetest sound in the world. I couldn’t tell you what words were coming out of the midwives mouths in that moment. All I knew was I could hear a steady heartbeat. One that wasn’t in destress at all.
The Dr came in to ‘examine’ me. I won’t go into too much detail here…. I’ll leave that up to your imagination. Jump to the end of the examination and he explained there were lots of little blood clots. He didn’t know where they were coming from. And basically I was going to have the baby later on that morning. He explained the baby was totally fine, though I had to be induced (welcome nerves, I’ve never been induced and I heard it brings labour on super painfully?!). I went back downstairs to see James and the kids and tell them I would call when I was in labour to come back and be with me through it. They left happy and excited to be buying donuts from Seven 11 on the way home. They totally deserved that reward!
My midwife drove up to the hospital to connect with me for a moment. It was a nice gesture. I was placed into a really spacious birthing suit. Only one other woman was labouring that same night. So, the ward was really quiet. I got into bed, when the Dr came back in to chat with my midwife and myself. He looked at my midwife and said, “Did you see the size of the clot?”
My midwife: “Yeah, it was only this big… (creates a 5c coin with her fingers)
The Doctor standing on the opposite side of the bed replied, “No, It was this big… (using both hands to create a 10cm circle).
I almost burst out laughing, I felt like I was in the middle of a comedic skit! To which I promptly replied, “Neither of you are right, it wasn’t that big or that small, it was the size of a golf ball and that’s large enough to know it’s not right.” So with that I bid my midwife goodbye so she could hand over the reigns to the hospital staff. I felt really confident I was in the place I needed to be for a safe and peaceful birth.
I was supposed to be getting some sleep before being greeted with the handover of staff, but I couldn’t sleep. I was eager to meet my baby! My mind was in overdrive.
Around 7am I was met by my new Doctor. He was one of the top Dr’s in charge of the birthing ward. I liked the sound of that. The guy has gotta know what he’s doing.
And, this is where it get’s REAL GOOD… As I turned around to be greeted by the new staff I saw a beautiful, familiar face! My friend Sarah. She is a remarkable midwife and totally like minded in her faith in the Lord Jesus. Oh man, this was just pure joy to my heart. There it was, another wave of peace! She was here on the journey with me. Sarah explained she never takes the morning shift. So I knew there and then I was given another blessing by God! He is good!
Okay, back to it. This Doctor wasn’t one to pretty up a situation. He didn’t dilly dally with what has to happen. I was literally told they didn’t know where my blood clots were coming from. I would need to have an epidural in case something went wrong then resulting in an emergency C-section… a C-Section. NOT GOING TO LIE! The words C-Section worried me. My prayers kicked up!! I did not want a C-Section.
I FaceTimed James and the kids about three times before the Dr. came back into the room. Man, we were all buzzing. The Dr. walked in and I quickly hung up from the fambam. He broke my waters at 8:40am. (Have you seen the knitting needle type devise they use to break your waters? All I can say is SHIVERSSSSSS). As soon as my waters broke the Dr. was really happy. He told me baby was now engaged and I was sitting at 3cm dilated. He left and I never saw him again. I knew then and there, I was having a natural birth! 3cm is good. That’s active labour…. Let’s do this…. let’s do thissss…. Agh, nothing’s happening! I kept repeating to Sarah that nothing was happening. Not a single contraction.
ENTER- the anaesthetist, I was given an explanation on what was going to happen for this epidural. Still, not a single contraction. What is going on here? I started to think this ain’t so bad. If I’m going to get this ‘needle’ in my back at least I can enjoy a “pain free” labour…. Well so I thought!
After the injection, Sarah sat with me to allow the epidural to kick in. We chatted about everything! It was lovely to catch up and talk about life, family, faith, you name it. We chatted. My spirit was calm with her close by.
10:40am – Sarah started the drip of Syntocinon Infusion (thanks Sarah for the correct pronunciation of the word) at the lowest dose possible (to bring on labour). I then FT James and the kids again… chatting. Watching the kids do their craft. Waiting, waiting, waiting for labour to actually begin!
11:10am- Sarah was back in the room, I was in the middle of recording a video to the family again when I finally had my first contraction. AND IT KILLED ME! I FELT LIKE I WAS BEING QUICKLY RIPPED OPEN. Here’s the funny part. Because I had this epidural, all I was thinking was “man up Jennifer, what’s wrong with you? You labour without painkillers. Why are you dying now. Just focus.”
11:20am- I told Sarah I would just call James and the kids to come once I am further into the labour. Sarah graciously smiled and nodded knowing all the while the truth of the matter. Being that children are not allowed into the hospital at all while Covid-19 was still around. Then again, maybe… maybe I did know but just pushed that thought away. I convinced myself it would be ok for my family. And I needed to so I could stay focussed on my labour and not get emotional.
There it was again, BANG! The surge, the wave was unbelievable. This isn’t normal labour? Where is the duller contractions? Why am I feeling it so intensely if I had an epidural?
I turned to my side out of sheer embarrassment. Breathing slowly and deeply. It felt like the last contraction, you know the one before you push the baby out. I was dying but trying to remain calm and cool. I didn’t want Sarah thinking I wasn’t strong. I fixated my eyes on the chair in the room and covered my face with my right hand. It was shaking from the pain I was in. I could feel Sarah watching me. “Stay cool Jennifer, surely this is not normal. It will settle down soon.”
After that crazy contraction Sarah asked me how I was going. I tried to keep my voice as relaxed as possible but what came out instead sounded like a 12 year old boy who’s just hit puberty. “Um, it’s hurting a bit. Is that normal?” was my perplexed, I mean totally composed reply. Sarah assured me “Yeah, it will hurt a little, once the epidural kicks in it will be fine. You will be in active labour for up to four hours.” She left the room to grab her computer- explaining to me later on (when we debriefed after birth) she assumed I was establishing my active labour. I was secretly dying at the thought of having a long labour!
I face timed James at around 11:40am… Just explaining to him and the kids I had two contractions. Once active labour starts I would call them all to make their way over. Hanging up the phone I had another contraction. This one was smaller. I thought “You beauty, finally normal labour has sunk in. This must be the beginning of my labour.” WAIT, at the end of that contraction I felt my baby’s head actually move down. On an angle. My body wanted to push so badly. But I resisted. NOT YET! I haven’t begun proper labour yet. I turned to Sarah, using my 12 year old boy voice “I feel the baby’s head down low, there’s so much pressure there.” Sarah kept poised explaining it was all good and baby is just doing the right thing. Another contraction. And another. On this contraction I was sure I needed to push. I said ” Sarah, I think there is a head coming out, can you please look.” Sarah, totally chilled walked down to the end of the bed. Pulled back my sheet of ‘dignity’ and gasped “Oh my gosh.” she lunged for the emergency button to call back up. Sarah cried out “I don’t have my gloves on.” Bouncing off her expression and shock I used whatever stomach muscle I had left from growing 5 children to sit up just a little and say “What’s wrong? Is the baby ok.” No sooner had I said those words, then I saw six other women flood my birthing suit. Sarah called out in excitement “nothing is wrong, you’re having the baby. She’s coming out.” I glanced across the room to read the faces of the other staff and they were all smiling. Man that felt good to see. Another midwife added “look down, pick her up honey.” I gently pushed and Abilene Jewel entered the world. I lifted her onto my chest holding her in COMPLETE SHOCK AND WONDER. Sarah and I half laughing, shaking our heads saying over and over “How? How did that happen? I can’t believe it. I’m shocked.” We couldn’t stop laughing about the “I don’t have my gloves on” line.
Sarah’s joy was as great as mine. This woman helps to bring babies into the world every single day and the joy she shared with me was as if this was the first time she had ever seen a delivery! That’s what makes her a good midwife. Such tenderness to each mother.
Here’s the next part to God’s providence! My blood loss was minimal. My placenta was immediately birthed and no drugs were given to get it out (I’m a fan of everything being natural if it can be helped). I was able to finish her birth with delayed cord clamping goodness!! I had no tearing! Still shaking my head in disbelief and wonder. Once everything went quiet, Sarah and I sat there taking it all in. I couldn’t believe how quickly she came. 10 minutes of active labour!!! Is that even possible. I will never forget the words Sarah said to me. “When I hear those stories of women birthing incredibly fast I have never ever believed it. Now, I’ve witnessed it.” I WAS TOTALLY THE SAME!! But I can confirm, It can happen. It did happen and God was all over it! A perfect birth! What happened to the blood clots? Where was all the extra blood? Or my complicated birth….. nowhere! AMEN! I overheard Sarah sharing the story with other midwives outside my room. She was showing the ladies the CTG of my contractions. I could feel my pride in boasting in what the Lord has done.
And so about 12 minutes after hanging up the phone from my husband (I birthed Abilene and cut her cord) I FaceTimed him again. I can confirm when we chatted about this last phone call as he went to answer the phone the thought did cross his mind, “Imagine she had the baby?!” And here is my only regret, I didn’t film his reaction. There I was, baby in my arms on the screen. He FLIPPED OUT! Jaw wide open in shock. He was ecstatic! The kids came running over to the screen. They lost it! screaming with happiness. Aquila blurted out “But we have to be there!” I said “She just came, she just came out! You better get ready to pick me up everyone.” No one was upset, no one was grieving our plan.
And I’ll tell you why. God made way for Abilene to enter the world in a way where it just wasn’t possible for James and the kids to arrive on time. If I knew I was in active labour and had rung. They would of been in the car on the way over when I had birthed. James would then have to stay in the carpark with the children because they were not allowed into the hospital due to the new regulations with Covid-19. This idea would of then caused stress. It would of felt horrible to sit in a car park knowing your wife and mother are just 3 floors above you giving birth! And then to go home and wait two hours before coming back to pick me up. Then we imagined dropping the children to a friends home last second. (pretending James could make it on time). Again, we know our kids. It was never ever discussed or an option. To leave them suddenly would of shattered them. Instead James and the children spent two hours making welcome home banners. They prayed a few times together and played. James has no sadness about not being there. I don’t have sadness. I never once felt alone. God painted the story in a way where we were protected from the sadness of missing out because of the time!
And it’s quite a novel idea knowing I was able to cut the umbilical cord! What a memory to cherish. It was quite amusing when one of the nurses told me it’s time to cut the cord. I looked around the room- then realising, oh wait… That’s my job!
Once all the checks were done. Sarah was finishing her shift at the same time I was leaving the hosptial. So she offered to film the family’s reactions to meeting their baby daughter/sister. All my ideas of matching pj’s and pretty clothes went out the window! And that’s ok. This is our everyday. It’s just fun to plan those special moments. But we need to be able to openly let go of our ideas and make room for God’s. I was wearing my old sweats, the kids looked like they had been playing in the dirt all day and James looked exhausted. Such is life. A life lived to the fullest. A life of joy. A life well lived. A new life added to the mix.
Welcome my littlest darling, Abilene Jewel.
You were prayed and deeply longed for.
Jennifer X (Mama).
I stumbled across this quote at 7:15am the morning of Abilene’s birth in hospital. While scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook. What a timely reminder.
“God can never be out manoeuvred, taken by surprise, or caught in a disadvantage. He is a God who knows no crisis… Before an emergency arises God in His providence has made adequately and perfectly timed provision to meet it.”
I fell pregnant with our third child right before we were relocating two hours north of Sydney to Newcastle. I didn’t even think about hospitals or midwives because the fact is, we live in the 21st Century. In Australia hospitals are generally easy enough to get to, depending on your location. We were moving to another suburban area so I just thought I’ll book my place in once we settle into and unpack our lives.
In saying that, a month or two rolled by and I was about 15 weeks pregnant from memory. I remember where I was distinctly in our little rental when I made the first phone call to our local hospital. I had just put my two babies down for a nap. I sat down on my bed and dialled the number of the hospital to begin the process. Switchboard re directed me to the midwifery section, a mid wife answered and transferred me again… a kind voice answered. Taking the time to begin with just a few questions about my previous pregnancies and births. I answered all the typical questions adequately and was waiting for her to give me a time to come in and fill out the paper work. There was a pregnant pause (pardon the pun) and she explained very simply, probably too simply for someone who knew very little, if not any information about the subject “it’s probably best you have a home birth.” I shook my head “I’m sorry, a home birth. Ahhh, no. I won’t be doing that.” Thinking all the while how negligent can this woman be. Babies are born in hospitals, not in the home. Let’s just say that very narrow minded, uneducated point of view changed in the next few weeks.
I brought the conversation up with my husband that evening. We both laughed and shrugged it off. Happy to go into the hospital to do the usual, ‘not step out of the box, hippy, homebirth nonsense.’
We came in to meet the lovely staff two weeks later and to re-familiarise all the protocols that are needed with having a baby. As I type this, in reflection I can see now these lovely ladies wouldn’t be done with me yet and our decision making. We finally met one of the midwives face to face. I can’t for the life of me remember her name, however, she was centred in her being, calm, a natural beauty. I hoped I would have her to join me on this journey. The midwife turned directly to James and said “So, Homebirth. Are you going to do it? You guys live 40 minutes from hospital and Jennifer has birthed quickly prior to this pregnancy.” Clearly they knew my answer was a flat out no and were ready to work on James!
James was hesitant and replied with the usual questions. All the what if scenarios. And everytime we thought we would stump her, this very calming midwife responded with such a vast knowledge and experience. I cannot explain the feeling that came over us. Finally she stumped us with a question herself. “Who do you have to look after your children when Jennifer goes into labour?” We were the ones stumped. We couldn’t answer her. We just aren’t blessed with a community of people who we can trust and rely on. Yep, sucks at times and it’s sad. BUT…. my goodness, God works through those trials also and continuously sheds grace, strength, capacity and breakthroughs. (Can I get an Amen from all the mothers who don’t have a community! And an extra salute to those single mamas. I see you!)
We didn’t have anyone to take our children. Now the new questions were running through my mind. What if I labour a long time in hospital with little children there? What will the kids do the whole time? How can James look after the kids and me? Will the hospital cater to children being there when I’m labouring?
As we left the appointment James turned to me and said “Well that’s it, we are home birthing. I love this idea.”
I gave James a look and replied, “Are you serious?” I was so scared. The unknown, the uncertainty, the fear. I had to go and process it all. Knowing that James felt positive to embark on this journey did help me. He could see how wonderful it would be for our whole family. He could see the peace and calm in it all. I still had to process with the Lord to get to that point.
A few weeks had passed, I prayed and prayed. God was working on me, I saw the midwives who continued to work on me in their own way also. What I learnt over those weeks was clearly profound. Nothing new of course because there is no new revelations from God but it became a new and firm certainty in my heart. You see I always relied on hospitals. Without speaking it out loud, for myself there’s this safety when you turn up to a hospital that you’re in safe hands. Nothing can go wrong now. They have all the state of the art equipment to look after each patient and fantastic care.
When I could say this out loud, and recognise why I felt safety in the hospital I could move forward. It didn’t mean I was wrong in these thoughts so to speak. It’s incredible that we live in such an age where hospitals can help us. Help so many of our needs, nonetheless, I was lacking with my trust in God. I didn’t really need to depend wholeheartedly on Him. I didn’t need to hand over every fear I could think of because my faith was in the doctors hands.
What if I removed all that? The doctors, medical staff, equipment, safety, comfort, security? Then what? What would happen to me?
God stripped me back friend. And it was truly a beautiful thing. He doesn’t strip you back where there is fear or uncertainty or doubt. As He slowly strips back each question, each reluctance I was finding more and more promises from His word. More comfort from reading His words. More safety in the Great Comforter. The Holy Spirit. More peace than ever. I actually found myself thinking about my past two births and astonished that I had no fear then. Trusting a human?? I mean really? No mans fate is safe in the hands of another.
The hands of God, a completely different story!
I began finding Bible verses, verses that would empower me with Jesus by my side! Having them around my home and in the safe space in my bedroom where I intended to birth. I put these up weeks before I gave birth as daily reminders, my medicine so to speak to keep my mind clean and focussed. I spent more time in meditation. Pleading God to be in my home, my space as I birthed His precious child. I prayed over my baby. For the labour, the midwives, my family unit. And I spoke everyday with my two eldest children about what was going to happen when I went into labour.
People often ask me how my kids feel about sitting in on my labours. I tell them the truth. They don’t think it should be any other way. What I mean to say is, they think this is how everyone gives birth. The family is there to support. And in this reader, if they didn’t want to be there we would allow them not to be. It’s their choice. In fact I find joy in asking them each time if they would like to be there when mummy gives birth. Purely due to their response. Little squished up noses, squinty eyed… trying to work out why I would ask such a question, followed by a long “yeaaah” sound! Music to my ears and heart. Knowing they are close by.
And so, we decided to have a homebirth after all. The midwife would visit and conduct my checkups. Her name was Jenny. She was lovely. I didn’t get to choose her, she just showed up one day to my doorstep and introduced herself. She was tall and loved to talk. She had a thick Irish accent. Sometimes I couldn’t work out what she was saying. She was the type of woman who giggled after most of her sentences. I just giggled along with her.
My due date was the 10th of July 2016. Having had miraculously my first two babes on their due dates the pressure was on. Although, I thought highly unlikely.
That evening we did our usual things, dinner, star gazing (it was winter, a fantastic time to do it) and then popped the kids into bed. We came out and sat down to watch Master Chef. At about 8:30pm I felt a trickle of water seeping through my pyjamas. I walked into the bathroom, checked… nothing… and came to sit back down. At about 9pm I felt something strange again. I walked into the bathroom saw I had lost my ‘show’. James followed me in and saw. Oh boy, he was so excited, exclaiming “Oh, you’ll go into labour now.”
I had to calm the guy down. I told him just because it happened like that before doesn’t mean it will this time…. sheesh! Was I wrong.
I walked 3 steps out of the bathroom when I fell over the back of the couch in my first huge contraction. James was excited. Telling me he was calling the midwife. (She had said to call as soon as I have my first contraction due to my history). I shooed my hand at James and explained it wasn’t a contraction. I was in denial. Again, I felt another deep surge. I stood there hands on knees, hunched over breathing through it. James picked the phone up and rang the midwife. She was on call somewhere else so I had to brace myself for another midwife to turn up. One I’ve never met or connected with. However, at this stage, I couldn’t care less.
Fiona arrived after about 20 minutes into my labour. She had a midwife in training with her. I agreed to this. Shortly after the second midwife arrived. (Homebirthing rules are you must have two midwives. One for mama and one for baby).
The midwife in training had her face in my face, rubbing my back, telling me I was doing a great job. I was dying. I wanted to scream “get out of my face.” She didn’t know I labour very quietly. I need stillness to focus on each surge of pain. And they were coming in fast and hard.
James piped up and asked them some kind of question… which meant he could take the brunt of it. I told him to shut up. He paused as if to say, I’ve done nothing and it clicked for him…He explained to the ladies I need absolute peace and quiet. Fiona stood right near me. I could see her bare feet and tie dyed pants from the corner of my eye. Slowly she came down to where I was at. On my hands and knees. She asked me what she needs to know. I told her 3 distinct things I need from her.
Be strong. Tell me I can do this.
Lie to me if anything goes wrong. I worry too easily.
Check to see how dilated I am so I can brace myself.
Fiona was everything I could of dreamt of as a midwife and more. The way she stared me down. Her eyes focussed on everything I said. I can still remember exactly how blue they were. I remember how her silver hair fell on her face and I remember her presence. She was a real Mother Earth. It felt like she was a mother to me during the labour.
Noah and Scarlet were still sleeping at this stage. Fiona checked to see just how dilated I was. I was sitting at 8cm’. Heck, I thought. I could do this.
The lamps were on in our bedroom and that’s about the only light that shone. I looked up and felt that reassurance reading all the words God had said just for me in my hour of need. I cried out in my mind “Lord, help me. Strengthen me.” That’s all I could say over and over. I had this beautiful vision of my guardian angel. The one He assigned to look after me, covering me with his wings of protection.
Very soon it was time to push. The midwives could tell. I started to make a very low moaning sound. Turning onto my back. I was positioned down the side on the floor of my bedroom. We had towels, sheets and pillows. I leant back to push, I pushed again, and again. Each time pushing harder than I ever had with my previous births. Nothing was happening. I was tired. I called out “what’s wrong?” And to honour my requests, EVERYONE replied with the stock standard “nothing” response. I couldn’t for the life of me work out why everyone including my husband was telling me to get up and go for a walk. A walk? I mean, I’m literally birthing.
During this time James went and woke up the babes and brought them in. They sat up on the bed watching. The nurses pulled me to my knees, I felt the next intense contraction. I laid back down and pushed HARD. Real hard. My baby came out in two pushes. SHE WAS HERE, she was really here in my weak, shaking, exhausted arms. I had never felt so tired from birthing. I was pushing for 30 minutes. (Big respect for the women who push for hours). Anyway, back to the story. The children and James were nothing short of overjoyed at the arrival of Aquila Jael. She had thick black hair, like a Raven, little red lips and beautiful plump cheeks. Ready for a good feed.
I looked up to Fiona and asked why it took so long? She explained I had a posterior labour and finished by explaining “they are one of the most painful of all the births to have.“
After taking our time as a family to enjoy baby Aquila. Taking in her smell, her little fingers and ears, her wrinkly feet and perfect lips it was time for me to have a shower. Noah and Scarlet played happily with the gifts Aquila had gifted them and the midwives were busy doing all their checks of my baby girl.
James slowly walked me into the bathroom. The shower was already on, running warm water. As the warmth touched my skin it felt like I was being massaged all over my back. He stayed for a while to make sure I was ok. Then left to be with the children. I leant my hands up against the glass screen, looked up to the heavens and questioned my God. Questioned my creator. I asked Him very directly “why would you allow for the most painful birth to be my first homebirth experience?” Why Lord?”
At that exact moment Fiona walked in proclaiming “well done incredible mum!” I said “yeah, thanks… but it took ages to push her out.”
Fiona challenged me. Asking me to research how long it takes a posterior baby to be born.
I opened the shower screen door and simply asked “why?”
She proceeded to humble me, “Hours Jennifer. It takes hours to labour and hours to push. And the pain is all in your back. You did it all in one and a half hours.”
Once she left I burst into tears. I felt no pain in my back at all. In fact out of all my four labours, this one felt the most like I could handle each surge better than the rest. Tears of love, adoration and yes sorrow too. I was sorry for questioning my great God. A God who has had His hand on me since the very beginning of my life. I could see Him so clearly all this time in my pregnancy…. why would He run or flee from me now. Yes, He humbled me. Gently as always. Holding me as His corrects my doubt, my sin. I looked up again and this time out loud shaking my head, tears rolling down my face. I spoke out loud “thank you, thank you Jesus. That you love me this much. Thank you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for doubting. Thank you.”
I was thankful, deeply awe struck in praise to my God. The God who created life, who created me, created women to be strong enough to handle labour, who created my beautiful perfect baby girl (all of them for that matter). I was thankful that His promises remain true.
I’ve kept those Bible verses. I’ve used them again for the birth of our fourth child. This week I will pull them out again and place them around my home as a good reminder of the pain that will come, and indeed it will come and no doubt I am just as scared- but I know the assurance of Jesus standing firm with me in the pain. I’ve felt it before. It’s real dear reader.
And who knows, perhaps I can pass these little notes of promises onto my children when they each experience their own births. Their own journey to rely wholeheartedly on the name of the Lord.