Lindsay has always been a girl of good intuition, so when she felt that Gemma would arrive early, we didn't question booking the weight of my trip to be before her due date and end only a few days after. I had imagined days and days of dressing up our babies and going on walks, helping Lindsay through late nights of breastfeeding troubles, and watching Annika kiss Gemma goodnight like a big sister. I expected to welcome Gemma into the world and be Lindsay's right-hand girl for a while until her husband came home on leave from the Navy. But our time together sped by, Scott came home, Lindsay's due date came and went, and we were all squirming in anxious anticipation for Gemma to show up.
I never realized how many "old wives' tale" remedies there were for natural labor induction, but we certainly tried a few. I researched and cooked the recipes that were supposed to help, Lindsay walked the hills of the San Diego Zoo like a mad woman, and of course there were other methods that I had no part in. But if there was something to be done, it was done... and still no Gemma. After a meeting with her doctor, Lindsay scheduled the earliest induction possible just to be certain that she would come before Scott's departure. But the induction was Saturday at 9 p.m. and I would have to leave San Diego for the L.A. airport at 8 a.m. the next morning. (Or at least, so I thought.)
I began to seriously wonder if I might miss the birth entirely.
On Friday night, I cooked a special meal full of labor-inducing foods. Homemade lemonade, eggplant parmesan, and red wine - even for Lindsay. Then we watched a Beth Moore video that I had downloaded and it was about how Christ is our high priest and he intercedes for our prayers, and about how God has been and can be moved by prayer... how he thinks about our prayers and decides how to act.
Before it was even over, Lindsay said she felt really comforted by God that her story wasn't over yet, so she believed that she really might go into labor that night. Without knowing it, we were both on our knees in our separate rooms that night, asking for labor to come. I even got out of bed at midnight to pack up our things, just so I could be sure I was praying in total faith that it could happen.
But Saturday morning came, and we both woke up a little bummed out and confused. We kept talking about how we trusted God to do what was best for our lives and for his kingdom, rather than demanding our own will for the situation.
On Saturday afternoon, Lindsay and I went to Target to stock up on snacks and essentials for the hospital and my flight home the next day. Her wonderful friends brought dinner to Lindsay's house, and we celebrated the big night... the first of her labor and the last of my time there. Lindsay and Scott left for the hospital and the rest of us waited around for a while before hitting Starbucks and joining them a little later.
By the time we got there, they had already placed a foley balloon in Lindsay's cervix, which would slowly fill with water and dilate her to 4 cm without drugs. (For those unfamiliar with birth lingo, 10 cm is fully dilated and is when the mom can start pushing.) It worked well, and she was a full 4 cm before midnight. It was all so exciting, but as 12 o'clock passed, and it was officially Sunday (the day of my departure), my excitement was slowly turning into a deep nervousness.
Everyone was feeling the craziness of the situation, how I'd been there for 3 weeks waiting for Gemma only to leave while Lindsay was in labor. They were all being so sweet and so insistent that we find a way to keep me in San Diego for a while, even though the next Allegiant flight out wasn't until after Scott left for the U.A.E. We settled the conversation saying that we would call the airline in the morning and see what our options were.
Around 3 a.m., or something like that, everyone was winding down and wanting to get a few hours sleep. We were short one chair, so (since I knew I probably couldn't sleep) I made Annika a bed on the floor and sat down next to her. Everyone fell asleep pretty quickly, and I sat quietly in the dark watching the glow of Lindsay's monitor and the clock. I wanted to pray, but ended up spending the first hours in restless silence and restless thoughts.
Just before sunrise, I finally was able to pull my tired head together and really approach God about it in a different way. The last time that Lindsay had been checked, her cervix was only dilated to 5 cm and I had less than 2 hours before I had to leave the hospital. I knew my time was up. Gemma was not going to come before I left.
I thought about their offer to change the ticket or find a new way for me to stay, but I felt the words pressing into my mind "this is not about you." I wanted to fight it, but had to accept that there was nothing wrong or unnatural about Gemma coming into the world without me there. It was not a deal-breaker whether I left or stayed. Obviously, God could have brought her earlier if he wanted that to be a part of my trip, but he didn't. I had to accept that my purpose in California must have been more about Lindsay than it was about Gemma. One of us, or both of us, must have needed each other during those weeks.
As much as I wanted to be there when she arrived, I looked at Scott and Lindsay sleeping...about to be a brand new family with only 3 more days together... and knew my time there was up. God had chosen for my time there to end without actually meeting Gemma. I said impulsively in my heart, "God, if you're going to keep that from me, it'd better be for a good reason." I was immediately convicted and softened, and able to firmly and conciously speak faith over my selfishness... "God, if you're going to keep that from me, I know you have a good reason." I know that faith isn't something that we can really work for, its something that we ask for and God gives, so I just asked for some. I was heart-broken, but confident.
Lindsay woke up before everyone else, and I was able to sit with her a while and help her to breathe through some of the tougher contractions. In between contractions, I told her that I felt like I should leave, and she agreed that it seemed like the only right decision. I think others were stirring awake while we talked and cried and tried to understand why it was going to end that way when we both wanted so badly for me to meet Gemma and had both prayed and asked so earnesty for it.
As it neared 8 a.m. (my time to leave), Lindsay's contractions were getting stronger and more painful. She had agreed to an epidural since she was on pitocin, but hadn't been hitting the "epidural button" often (which controlled the flow of the medicine) and possibly was getting most of it in her legs and toes since she was working so hard to sit upright and speed things up. I'm not sure what the deal was, but her contractions seemed almost unbearable and I was able to help her breath, remind her of the thoughts that had helped me find strength in a painful labor, feed her ice chips, hold cold rags on her head, etc. I hated that I was going to have to leave just when things were getting the toughest.
Just before 8 a.m., Rob (the one who was taking me to the airport) came into the room. My heart fell and I told him I felt like he was the Grim Reaper. At some point just after he had come in, a nurse had also come into the room to check Lindsay's progress, and excitedly exclaimed that she had dilated a full 2 cm since their last check and she was now at 8 cm. Other lesser-known things, like the baby's position in the birth canal and her cervical effacement, were also significantly improved and they assured Lindsay that the end was near. In the same moment, Lindsay's friends and Rob were discussing the time that we would need to leave the hospital, and we realized we had all miscommunicated about my flight time. I didn't actually have to leave until 10 a.m.! Gemma was coming soon and I had two whole hours to wait for it. I was almost in tears and hugging them while a midwife was talking to Lindsay about pushing, furniture was moved around, and the baby's bed was set up next to Lindsay's bed.
Those next two hours are an extreme blur to me... Lindsay's contractions were intense and extremely painful and I was completely focused on that with her, I hadn't slept at all the night before and yet was on a deliriously happy adrenaline high with the sudden revelation that I would, in fact, get to watch Gemma come out into the world and kiss her sweet face to say goodbye before leaving California.
When it came time to push, the midwife told Lindsay that it was "up to her" whether or not she could push the baby out before I left. A little bit of pressure, maybe, but Lindsay is a strength-under-fire kind of girl and I knew her determination would be amazing. A little after 9:30 a.m., The midwife pulled her into an upright position and put Scott and I on either side, helping to hold up and support her legs. She pressed her finger down somewhere near the baby's head and asked, "Can you feel my finger pressing? It doesn't belong there...(she smiled) Push it out."
We watched the contractions happening on the monitor while Lindsay gave her everything and in 16 minutes, Gemma slipped out into the midwife's hands and went straight to Lindsay's chest. I stepped away and wept in complete emotional release while Lindsay and Scott got to see her for the first time. I had to leave at 10 a.m., Gemma Claire was born at 9:53 a.m. (Reminds me of that game kids played in middle school, 7 Minutes in Heaven. I never played, of course. Really, I didn't.)
After kissing Gemma's face and saying goodbye, Rob and I hit the road. We expected the traffic to be great since it was a Sunday... "as long as there are no accidents," he said. Well, we had to do one U-turn for a forgotten stroller at the hospital, and hit two accidents and big traffic jams and were an hour later than I had planned to arrive at the airport. But, when I checked-in, I found out the flight was delayed one hour! I even ran into a family from our Fayetteville church at our gate, waiting to go home. It was a long, hard, tired trip home, but I was so at peace inside and felt really comforted that I was going home and all was as it should be.
Today was my first day back and I've felt pretty low-key and still very tired. I was so relieved and thankful to have been there for Gemma's birth, even if only for a moment, but feeling a little unsettled. I wanted to be praising God like crazy, but felt hesitant to get over-excited...like, "Yay! I got what I want! Now I really trust you!" I'm not sure how that will be understood by people, especially anyone who is not a believer, but its hard to explain. I wanted to praise him, but I wanted to do it with a clear mind and steady heart and not just on an emotional high. As I unpacked my clothes from my suitcase, I started just rethinking everything and wondering about the whole trip.
Why did it have to be such a close-call? Why couldn't I have gotten to know her more?
I set my stuff aside and got on my knees for the first time since I'd left the hospital. I guess I pretty much just asked for some understanding and clarity about the whole thing. And God, like the sweet Father that he is, gave me the closure I needed. In a moment, I went from feeling uncertain to feeling almost overwhelmed with the reality of what God did.
My time in California was a blessing on my friendship with Lindsay, an even tighter intertwining of our lives at a time when everything was about to change for her. It opened my eyes to her life there, and especially to the people that she loves, which were such an encouragement to me. I was able to clean house with her and cook meals with her, to get grossed out about Grover's fleas with her, and wash dishes in the bathtub with her when the sink was clogged. Distance can be such a challenge on friendship, but God has always been so good to bring us together at just the right time to share life together for a little while more... and thats why I was in California. On the other hand, God had worked things out perfectly for Scott to come home to meet his little girl. Gemma's birth and first days were for Scott, not me. They were two distinct times with two distinct purposes.
But, just like we learned while watching that Beth Moore video on Friday night, God loves his children and especially his Son, who is like the advocate of prayers. He can and will be moved by our prayers, and when they can allign with his will and serve his purpose, he will give us the desires of our hearts.
Friday was the night that Lindsay felt God reassured her that her story "wasn't over yet." We thought that meant labor which was specifically what we were praying for that night, but I guess it simply meant "ask and you shall receive... just watch." And of course I may never know the reality of what was spiritually going on in that labor and delivery room, but it was just after we accepted that I was going home, cried our tears and yet resolved ourselves to trust and love God's will more than our own desires that contractions really began to hit hard. It was during that time that she jumped from 6 to 8 cm and not long after that until I learned of my extra hours there.
So who knows, maybe that was the act of faith that most moved God's heart and when he was the most pleased to bring my time and Scott's time just a little together... to overlap 7 minutes in which I could share her birth, kiss her face, and go home completely spent and happy.