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Love Grows in the Tension

Love Grows in the Tension

Earlier this week, I posted on social media sharing my reaction to when I found out I was pregnant with Cohen, and several mamas (and daddies) messaged me, confessing they are struggling with being excited for their current, unexpected pregnancy. Mamas who already love these unborn babies so deeply and yet are grappling with guilt or fear or shame from the circumstances surrounding their little lives, ever growing within. Some who thought they were done having kids, only to be shocked when that test turned positive. Some who are walking through crippling anxiety with a pregnancy after loss. Some who are wary to share how they’re feeling because their friends are struggling with infertility. Some who have been made to feel foolish by those closest to them for having another child. Some who are just waiting to feel the same connection to this pregnancy that they did with their first (or second or third). 

The motherhood journey, woven through and through with all the intricacies of endless emotion, is a complicated spectrum of wonder and fear. It is, in every stage, fraught with growing pains of some kind, pushing and pulling, giving and taking. God created women, created mothers, to be a dichotomy, beings with the capacity to carry both beauty and pain simultaneously. He gave us the power to hold all of these things, to feel all of these things, and to let Love grow in the tension.  

In the garden, after the fall, as the Lord unveiled his plan for mankind to move forward, he tells Eve she will now bear the pain of childbirth (Gen. 3:16). The weight of that sentence alone should give us pause. God entrusts womankind with a tremendous gift – to hold and behold the tiniest souls the world has known. And at the same time, He tells her He will not allow it without pain, without struggle. God knew the joy motherhood would bring. And He also knew the pain that would accompany it. Not just physical pain – but emotional and spiritual pain too. Sin brought struggle into our world, but in ways only God can, grace breaks in to redeem it.

When God chose Mary to carry His Son, he did not choose a married woman eager to become a mother. Instead, he became Emmanuel with a small-town, teenage girl who was shocked by this revelation, terrified of what others would say of her, and perhaps even ashamed of her swollen belly, though she knew the salvation that stretched and somersaulted within. I am certain she cried many tears at the future she was facing. She loved this miraculous babe and believed He would be the one who was promised to her and her people, yet everything in her said, “This was not my plan. This is not the way I thought my life would be.” 

And still, Love grew in the tension. 

I can only imagine the overwhelming fear Mary must have felt when she realized she would deliver her first child, the Messiah, in a stable. No midwife nearby, no Mother’s guidance, no warmth of a home or a well-prepared nursery. Bloody, painful, difficult, lonely, raw. She was caught in between what I’m sure she longed for and what was actually happening in those moments. As she breathed and birthed a savior into the world, her own motherhood journey was birthed as well. Pain and redemption at once. Uncertainty and assuredness intermingling. 

And Love grew in that tension. 

And when that tiny babe became a man and made his way to die, even He gets caught in wishing things would play out differently. 

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…” (Luke 22:42)

What excruciating pain He was set to bear that He, the King of the World, would plead for another way. But Grace stepped in once more. And Love grew – and exploded forth – in that tension. 

Dear mama, there is room for all of it. Room to hold fear and joy in your heart. Room to question what is to come, while still believing deep down that God is always good. Room to doubt your mothering abilities and yet, rise to every occasion that is required of you. The God who created you, who sculpted motherhood into all of its complexities, is big enough to hold space for every emotion. Your longing, your wondering, your doubting, your weeping, your rejoicing, your expecting, your trusting. There is no guilt or shame in carrying it all at once. And believe me when I say, you are certainly not alone in it. Millenia of mothers have come before, bearing both brokenness and beauty, looking to one another and to heaven, and wondering if they will ever be enough.

 And somehow finding, that Love still grows in the tension.

Adelyn Maelie Susan | a birth story

Adelyn Maelie Susan | a birth story

*Adelyn’s birth story was first featured on my former blog, Display Your He{art}, in 2012. In honor of her 8th birthday this week, I thought I’d share her birth story here on our new blog. To be honest, her birth was fairly traumatic, and I don’t think that when I wrote this post the first time around, I truly understood the impact it had and still has on me and consequentially, her, as well. I was a first time mom and didn’t know what to expect, didn’t know I should have advocated for myself better, and could never have predicted how hard of a recovery I’d have or how difficult of an infant she’d be. Having birthed three more babies since Adelyn, I’ve learned so much that I wish I could tell my first time mom self. At times, I wish I could take back her birth story and have one that’s similar to her brother’s recent birth or even Elsie’s calm birth experience, but that’s not the story we share and ultimately, not the story we’ll tell.

So take a trip back eight years with me to the wild night I met my firstborn! But before we do, here’s a photo of what my blonde beauty looks like today…

     We woke up Saturday, February 25, 2012 and decided to have a lazy morning around the house before Smitty went to work. We made cinnamon rolls, watched some tv, and just spent some quality time together. I was two days past my due date, and knowing I could pop any day now, we wanted to take advantage of our final moments as just the two of us. Shortly before Smitty left for work around 1 pm, I started having mild contractions, pretty similar to the Braxton Hicks I’d been having off and on for several weeks. I honestly didn’t think much about it. We said our good-byes and he headed off to work, while I went out to the mall to meet up with a friend for coffee and some good ol’ “let’s walk this baby out” time.

     By the time I got to the mall, my contractions were fairly consistent, coming 8-12 minutes apart, and were now joined by a dull lower backache. I still didn’t think much about it though, as the contractions weren’t painful and everyone had told me, “When it’s time, you’ll know!” My friend and I spent awhile in Starbucks chatting and then decided to make some laps around the mall to help coax this stubborn little girl out. Keep in mind, I’d already tried all the labor inducing wives tales (walking, exercise ball, Mexican food, etc.) to no avail! As we walked, I decided to start officially timing the contractions. At this point, they were coming every 5-8 minutes, but still not painful. After two laps around the entire mall, I finally decided I should probably head home in case they got more intense and I couldn’t drive. I left the mall at 3:30 pm and called my mom (who lives three hours away) on the way home. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey, don’t get your hopes up or anything, but it’s possible I could be in labor? I proceeded to tell her about the contractions.

Mom: Okay! We’re packing now!

Me: Well, wait…I don’t want to cry wolf or have any false alarms. Maybe I should just wait it out?

Mom: I think you’re in labor. And I am not gonna miss my grandbaby’s birth! Why don’t you call the hospital and just ask what they think then call me back? We’ll get all ready to go in the meantime!

     My mom had fairly fast deliveries with both my sister and me and was so afraid that she was going to miss everything because of the lengthy drive to get to St. Louis. I wasn’t convinced I would progress that quickly and therefore, wasn’t quite as concerned. I hung up with her and called my husband, basically having the same conversation..

Me: Hey, I’m not sure, but I might be in labor? Don’t leave work yet. I’m going to call the hospital and see what they say. I just wanted to give you a heads up!

Smit: Okay! I’ll have my phone on me!

     He was SO excited.

     After I got home, I called the hospital and told them that my contractions were 5-8 minutes apart but still not painful, and that I was 3 cm dilated and 70% effaced at my last appointment. The doctor on call (who isn’t my doctor, but who did my surgery last January and was who we prayed would be the one to deliver should my regular doctor not be there) said, “Well Brittany, I think you’re gonna have a baby today. You better come on in!” I couldn’t believe it was time! I called my mom and Smitty, telling them the news and started getting together the final things for my hospital bag. It was 4:30 pm.

     We arrived at the hospital around 5 pm. I was only 3.5 cm and my effacement hadn’t changed, but I was definitely having consistent contractions. They told us to walk around for an hour and they’d recheck me, but were fairly confident I’d stay. We returned from our walk around 6:30 and I had progressed to a 4 with 80% effacement. Still not much change, but they were hopeful that once I hit a 5, I’d progress much quicker. So, we waited.

     My family arrived around 8:00, and by that time, my back was killing me with each contraction. Still no abdominal or true labor pains – at least not what I would expect – but my back pain was enough for me to be uncomfortable with each contraction. My mom and Smitty took turns applying counter-pressure throughout the entire process.

     After some discussion with the nurse, resident, and the doctor on call, we decided around 10 pm to go ahead and break my water. Within minutes, I was writhing in pain. I did NOT expect it to get that intense that quickly!! It didn’t take long for my nurse to offer an epidural. I moaned in agreement, and at 10:28 pm, the anesthesiologist came in to give it to me.

     Once the epidural was in place, we waited until I started to feel some of its effects. After a few minutes, my contractions got less intense and I was starting to feel much better. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.

     Shortly after my epidural and while my pain was still under control, the nurse checked me again and said I was at a 6 and over 90% effaced! I had already begun to progress quickly, but my contractions were starting to slow down. My nurse was about to go on her break, but said she’d recheck me when she got back, and if my contractions weren’t picking up, we’d start Pitocin. I really didn’t want Pitocin, but was willing to discuss it and just cross that bridge if we got there. My nurse left, and less than 15 minutes later, I started feeling some serious pressure that quickly intensified into a deep pain. After trying to tough out multiple contractions, I began to get the sense that something wasn’t right. I don’t have the highest pain tolerance, but I was pretty sure you weren’t supposed to feel this much pain with an epidural on board. As the pressure and pain began to get overwhelming, we paged the nurse. She came in laughing, saying there’s no way I should be feeling that much “almost-have-to-push” pressure already. She went ahead and rechecked me…I was at an 8!

     We decided we needed to call the anesthesiologist back in and see what was wrong and if he could redose me. He tried to readjust the epidural to see if it was placed wrong. He also ended up giving me Fentanyl (I didn’t know that at the time), which quickly made me incredibly hazy. The combination of the two suddenly made my upper body go almost completely numb. My head was too heavy to lift, my arms and hands not strong enough to even grasp a tube of chapstick, and my breathing was labored! The next stretch of time is all fuzzy to me. I remember not opening my eyes for awhile. I felt exhausted and was still in pain. The redosing still wasn’t taking the proper effect and each contraction grew with intensity, making the entire process a giant leap from what I had anticipated for my birthing experience.

    It didn’t take long for the pressure to become nearly unbearable, so my nurse checked me once more…9.5 cm! Everyone was shocked that I was progressing so rapidly. Even me. I’d gone from a 6 to a 10 in 45 minutes! We’re pretty sure that’s part of the reason why the epidural wasn’t working effectively. My body was moving faster than the drugs could keep up with. My nurse told me she was going to start getting things ready and that we’d begin pushing very soon.

     At 1 am, everything was set up and ready to go, and I began pushing. I was struggling because my brain and upper body were still feeling sluggish. I could barely lift my arms to grab hold of my legs. My husband and mom did a great job being supportive, physically and emotionally, throughout the whole process. About halfway through, my nurse stopped me and called in the resident because I was starting to lose more blood than she was comfortable with. The resident said we shouldn’t be too concerned, everything looked okay, and to carry on. So we did. We later learned that I had already begun to tear internally at that point.

     At 2 am, after 1 hour of pushing, the team told me to lay on my side, cross my legs, and not push anymore. She was crowning, and they still needed to call the doctor, so I needed to hold that baby in! Are you kidding me?! At that point, almost all the feeling in my legs had returned and my back was still killing me. It only took the doctor 15 minutes to arrive, but it felt like centuries! I was so relieved to see her walk into the room. She’s a phenomenal OB and even though I’m not her regular patient, she has always taken the time to really invest in my care. We were so impressed with her after my surgery last January and were thrilled that she was on call to deliver when my actual OB couldn’t be there. She quickly moved about the room, assessing the situation, asking why my pain wasn’t under control, and trying to prevent further tearing. We tried through three contractions to adapt my pushing style in an attempt to aid in this process, unfortunately, too much damage was already done. Finally, she looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Brittany, look at me. I need you to push. We are going to have this baby right now.” So I did. I gave one more push and she pulled our sweet baby girl out.

     I didn’t get to see her or hold her right away because both of us were running low grade fevers and they needed to make sure everything was okay before they brought her to me. Daddy got to take lots of pictures throughout the process, however, and I am so so grateful for that. Dr. Walsh and the resident began delivering the placenta and suturing me up, a process that would take over an hour and a half. I had sustained both internal tearing and external 4th degree tears.

     After they determined that she was healthy and the fever was no longer a concern, they brought her over to me to hold. Finally!

     She was (and is) so beautiful. I couldn’t believe she was here. After all this time, all this waiting, all the prayers..she was finally here. Adelyn Maelie Susan Smith. Born on February 26 at 2:39 am. Weighing in at 8 lbs 1 oz and 20″ long. We are so in love.  I just remember thinking how much she looked like her daddy. And I was shocked that she was over 8 lbs! I couldn’t believe I’d grown such a big, healthy baby!!

  We are so grateful and humbled by this privilege to be her parents, to raise this sweet baby in the Lord. We are so excited about the years ahead and can’t wait to see her develop into a beautiful woman of God. We are also extremely blessed with a fantastic family who loves this little girl like crazy. We only wish her Grandma Sue, who she is named after, could be here to meet her, to hold her, to love on her too. What an incredible reminder of God’s grace and blessings even in the midst of a season of grieving and loss, though!

     I must admit our lives are pretty crazy right now with a newborn at home. I’m definitely starting to feel a bit over my head at times when I think about being a work at home mom and all of the new jobs that just got added to my plate. I know there will be days that are harder than others, trying to figure out how I’m going to be a mom and a wife and an artist all at the same time, but I’m so excited about what lies ahead! I’m trusting that God will provide strength when I feel like I have none. Energy when I’m exhausted. Grace when I feel like giving up. And mostly, joy in the journey. What an amazing journey I know it will be!

Elsie Norah Faye | a birth story

Elsie Norah Faye | a birth story


*This blog post was first featured on my former blog, Display Your He{art}, in 2014. Now that we have a new family blog, I thought it would be fun to share again here on Elsie’s 6th birthday! Reading through it again, all of the anticipation we felt to meet our second babe comes flooding back. It’s also fascinating to see how my perspective on birth has changed now that we’ve had a successful home birth.

Elsie has brought so much joy and laughter into our home and we are so incredibly thankful she’s ours. Before you head down memory lane with me, here’s a photo of our sweet girl now…

March 5, 2014

Our sweet Elsie is 8 days old today, and she’s just about as precious as they come. After all of the craziness from the past month – bedrest, pre-term labor (twice!), and RSV – we are so thankful that she’s finally here! I’ve never wanted to be one of those pregnant ladies who wished my pregnancy away, but honestly, by the time last week rolled around, I was SO ready for her to arrive! The end of my pregnancy was pretty far from anything I would’ve hoped for and heading into delivery via induction two weeks early, while still being so sick certainly made me a bit discouraged, but God was so gracious and gave us an incredibly smooth and beautiful birth experience in the midst of it all.

     At my appointment on Monday morning, my doctor told me that it was probably time to get this baby out. She had been concerned for over a week, and due to my persistent illness, my pre-existing heart condition, and the size of my baby, she decided we needed to induce as soon as we could. Induction is not anything I would have planned or hoped for as the risk for difficult labors and c-sections increases greatly; however, I trusted my doctor and really sensed she was right in knowing that Elsie needed to be delivered soon. She wanted to induce later that afternoon, but we decided I could wait until the next day, which would give us time to make arrangements for everything. They told me I would definitely be induced on Tuesday, but had no idea when that would be. I was to receive a phone call sometime Tuesday morning letting me know when I could come in for the induction. I assumed it would be later in the day since I was getting on the schedule fairly last minute. Imagine my surprise when I received a 6 am wake-up call on Tuesday saying they were ready for us!

     I woke Smitty up and we both started getting all of our final things together. I called my family and told them it was “go time!” so they could get on the road as well. We woke Adelyn up and headed into the hospital – our last trip as a family of three.

Sorry for the terrible iPhone photo quality!

  We arrived at the hospital a little after 8 am and were immediately checked in and taken upstairs to a birthing suite. We got settled in and then…waited. My doctor wanted to break my water herself so we waited on her to arrive. In the meantime, we got the word out to our friends and family that it was baby havin’ day! We said good-bye to Adelyn as a dear friend came to pick her up for the day and the reality of how different our lives would be in just a few short hours began to set in. A mix of emotions coursed through me. I was so eager to meet this little girl who had been growing inside of me, making her presence known through my bruised rib (she was a kicker!) and her constant hiccups for so long, but at the same time, I was anxious about being induced and frustrated that I still didn’t feel 100% because of the RSV. I so badly wanted to have a stronger voice in my birth experience this time around, but the combination of an induction mixed with the fact that I was still coughing my brains out made me feel like I didn’t even have the option of control in the process. I had spent 9 months praying for a better birth experience than my last, planning how I would respond in each scenario, and yet here I was in a completely unpredictable situation, feeling out of control again. God sure has a way of teaching me to trust His plan over mine, though!

     Around 11:30 am, my doctor came into my room and broke my water. We also met with the anesthesiologist, explaining the terrible experience I had with my first delivery. She was confident that, should I choose to get an epidural, it wouldn’t happen again.  I am so thankful that we were all able to have that meeting and get on the same page. After the anesthesiologist left, my doctor told me to sit on the birthing ball for the next hour to see if contractions would pick up and if I would begin to progress at all.

     I had come into the hospital at 5 cm dilated and about 75% effaced thanks to my pre-term labor 3 weeks prior. At 12:30 pm, my nurse came in to recheck me and my contractions had just begun to become consistent at about 3 minutes apart. They weren’t painful, I just felt them as pressure more than anything. We decided to wait on the cervical check and give me a little more time to move things along.

     At 1 pm, I asked if I could walk the halls. I wasn’t in active labor yet, but really felt like if I could get up and move around, my body would progress fairly quickly. My parents had just arrived and while the boys went to grab a quick lunch, my mom and I started walking the halls. It was close to 1:30 pm. I made two laps around our hospital floor – one with my mom and one with Smit – and by the end of the 2nd lap, my contractions were coming about 2 minutes apart and I was having to slow down and breathe through each one. As soon as we got back into the room, I had three contractions back to back that were 1 minute apart and suddenly super intense. I told my family to call the nurse to recheck me. She came in right away and let me know that I was at a 6. I was definitely in active labor and progressing now!!

    A few more intense contractions later, and my nurse asked if I wanted my epidural. Throughout my pregnancy, Smitty and I had often discussed what my birth plan for this baby would be. Initially, I had planned to attempt to have a med-free delivery, but given how sick I still was and how difficult it was for me to breathe due to the cough and congestion plus the added variable of an induction, I decided it probably would be best for me to get an epidural at this point. I have no shame or guilt over this decision – I truly believe it was the best decision for both me and my baby and in the end, I am so thankful that I got it! (Bonus – it actually worked this time!)

     The anesthesiologists came in sometime around 2:30 pm to place the epidural and I was finally able to relax a bit. See before epidural…

…and after epidural!

      I got rechecked me as soon as the epidural was placed, and and I was at 8 cm. Within 25 minutes, I was starting to feel a ton of pressure and suddenly began to shake uncontrollably with each contraction. Although the contractions weren’t necessarily painful, the pressure was obvious and I knew that it was probably about time to start pushing. I called the nurse who said I was at 10 cm and that she would call the doctor right away. This was such a huge difference from my first delivery where I did all of my pushing with the nurses and the doctor arrived at the last minute to literally catch the baby. We now know that this was a huge reason for much of my tearing the first time around. I had no one to advocate for me or my body, no one who knew my history, no one to speak up when things didn’t go as planned. My doctor was sure to not let that happen this time, and what a tremendous answer to prayer she was!

     She entered the room around 3 pm and with a calm, but assertive sense about her and began to walk me through the entire pushing process. I began pushing a little before 3:15 pm. She immediately noticed that the baby was facing sideways instead of being face down so we spent the first 20-25 minutes just trying to turn the baby. She busted out the baby shampoo (yep, you read that right!) and began to coax Elsie’s head down and into the proper position. With Smitty on one side and my mom on the other, I pushed for close to 45 minutes and it was honestly such a beautiful experience! With Adelyn, my pain was out of control, my mind hazy, and my anxiety high. This birth experience was worlds apart. The room was calm and there was a certain sweet spirit within it. Every push was a step closer to meeting my littlest girl. Every ounce of pressure or pain I felt was a reminder of the precious gift I was about to hold in my arms.

     We’d been having trouble getting Elsie’s big head over the ridge in my pelvic bone, so on my last two contractions, my doctor slid her arms under my tailbone and essentially folded my body in half, pushing her head out. Because of this position, I was only inches away from my baby girl as she made her entrance into the world! I remember just saying, “Whoa! Wow! Oh my gosh, she’s right there!” 

And in just an instant, there she was…big and beautiful and in my arms!

      Elsie Norah Faye Smith arrived on February 25 at 3:55 pm, weighing in at 8 lbs 7 oz and 20.5 inches long. She was born two weeks earlier than we anticipated, but incredibly healthy and such a perfect little blessing! Her birth experience began much differently than I planned, but in the end, we truly were able to have the birth we had prayed for all those months. The next morning, as my mom and I were discussing it, she told me she felt like she was almost at a home birth. Everything was so personal, so intimate. Instead of the sterile, distant hospital birth so often controlled by staff, we were able to actively participate in the process and be truly up close and personal as we welcomed our daughter into the world.

    My recovery has also been a thousand times better than it was with Adelyn. I only had a small 1st degree tear from a controlled, linear episiotomy. I was up walking later that evening (which is 3 weeks sooner than I could say with Adelyn) and have had minimal pain overall. I am so tremendously grateful for a smooth and quick delivery, an excellent doctor and nursing staff, a healthy baby girl, and a fairly easy recovery. I’m also so thankful for the support of my husband and my family and friends who helped during that day and the days to follow. What a gift!

     We are smitten with Miss Elsie. She is the squishiest, snuggliest little girl and it such a joy to be her parents. Adelyn, while a bit apathetic about her baby sister at first, has been fantastic so far. She even woke up this morning saying, “Baby Elsie! Where are you??” It’s so sweet to see them interact and I can’t wait to see their relationship grow over the years!

     And finally, thank you to everyone who has been praying for us along the way. It truly has meant the world to us to know that so many have been interceding on our behalf. God has been gracious to us and we are profoundly grateful. 

Your Baby Isn’t Broken. And Neither are You.

I used to think I did something wrong. I was a first time mom to a baby who never stopped crying and I was 100% certain I had already ruined her. Sure, she was just a few weeks old, but as I watched other new moms snuggle their sweet, sleeping babes and smile as they told me all about their perfect infants on their perfect schedules, I couldn’t help but feel like we’d already failed.

For years, our firstborn cried her way through the world. Not the cute, baby cry with the adorable lip quiver. No, I’m talking shrill, angry, never-ending wails that went on for hours at a time. When I say we tried everything, I mean, we.tried.everything. My nerves were shot, I never slept, and I was probably in the throes of postpartum depression and didn’t realize it. I cried just about as much as my baby did, and I swore I’d never have any more kids because I was clearly not cut out for this motherhood thing.

But slowly, days turned into years, and years brought us new babes, and the fog of fear and failure lifted ever so slightly with each new life entrusted in our care. If I’m being honest, the middle two were easy. They were the kind of babies that trick you into having more babies because you think you’re an expert parent raising practically perfect kids. They were content and happy pretty much all the time and it wasn’t anything we did differently. That was just their God-given personalities.

Then, came number four. This darling little chunk, who I love dearly and watch with wonder, is wildly reminiscent of his eldest sister. He’s a terrible sleeper and a sloppy eater and needs to be with his mama at all hours of every day. He’s opinionated and vocal and exhausting, but he’s not broken. And neither am I.

If I could go back eight years and say one thing to that bleary-eyed, first-time mama, it would be that. Your baby isn’t broken and neither are you. You’re not a failure. You haven’t ruined her. You’re doing the best you can and so is your baby. 

I wish I had known that then and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to remind myself that now. 

Every time this on-the-go #bosslady feels held back by her non-stop nursing newborn. Every time I toss and turn in frustration in the middle of the night with a baby who doesn’t sleep. Every time I sigh because he won’t let me set him down. Every time I’m reminded that he’s not on a schedule yet. Every time I want to go somewhere but can’t because I know he’ll scream the entire car ride. Every time my expectations are too high and I forget that he’s little and just needs his mama. Every time I feel like a failure. Every time I feel like I’ve already ruined him.

Every single time, I need to remind myself, “He’s not broken and neither are you.” 

He just needs a little more time to figure it out. One more nursing session to fall asleep. One more backseat handholding session. One more snuggle. One more song. One more night of sleeping on my chest. One more day to hear my voice and feel my heartbeat. One more.

I remind myself this now because I know that some day in the not so far off future, “one more time” will happen for the last time and all of these weary moments will have made us better in the meantime.

Callan Milo James | a Home Birth Story

Callan Milo James | a Home Birth Story

Disclaimer: if birth isn’t your thing, this is probably not the post for you. I’ll give you quick reader’s digest version, so you can skip ahead and carry on.We had a baby at home. On our bedroom floor. Yes, it was planned. Yes, everything went fine. He’s big and fat and healthy. His name is Callan Milo James and we love him.

If you decide to stick around and read the blog and see the photos, you’ll see a lot of love and laughs, a lot of skin, a little bit of blood and beautiful baby boy. But more than that, what I hope you see is the circle of humans around me, supporting me every single step of the way. These photos show the incredible tribe I had by my side and I am so grateful for each one of them. Jen, Andi, Julie, Dana, my mama, Smitty – each a gift, strong in their own way, resonating strength back to me as I gave birth. Every time I look at these images, I will think of them and the way they encircled me and the village it took to bring our son safely into the world.

I remember taking the pregnancy test and staring at it in shock. I remember walking downstairs and handing it to Smitty with no words, just a tiny bit of panic and a whole lot of emotion. He met my emotion with his, and in that moment, we began processing this new life inside me that would stretch our family to six. I was only 10 months from my last pregnancy, and we were just barely adjusted to life as a family of five. To add another seemed so incredibly daunting. How could we possibly handle yet another babe around here? But as the initial shock settled, we kept reminding ourselves that children are a heritage from the Lord. They are blessings, not burdens. That God knows our hearts and needs better than we could ever possibly understand. And that this new soul we’ve been given to raise would be another way He would break into our plans and remind us that His ways are not our own, but they are always better.

I could write a book about our past pregnancy and birth experiences, and while I’m sure I’ll share the other three kid’s birth stories on here sometime, for now, let’s just say that I’ve always tended to have birth experiences that were somewhat rooted in obligation or fear that was passed down to me from my providers. I had considered an out of hospital, natural birth in the past, but was always told by my OB that because of a heart defect I was born with, I was too high risk of a patient to consider it. However, after 3 births with the only complications to my heart coming from epidurals, I felt empowered to at least explore my options. I knew I wanted a different, more holistic approach not just for the birth itself, but throughout my entire pregnancy.

Enter Jen Jester, our midwife. When I reached out to Jen, I honestly assumed that home birth wasn’t even on the table for us. I thought that we’d chat about the possibility of her being our doula for a natural birth at a hospital, but as conversations continued, it became clear that a home birth was not only a viable option, but it was also the type of experience we were truly hoping for this time around. After much discussion with each other, Jen, her supervising OB, and my cardiologist, we were given the green light to proceed with a home birth!

And then…Texas happened. If you know us in real life or follow us on social media at all, you know our journey took an unexpected turn when I went into preterm labor at 30 weeks while in Dallas for an engagement session. What proceeded from there was nothing short of a whirlwind! Two weeks in the hospital in Texas, followed by five weeks of bedrest at home, a couple more early labor-like incidents, a week of illness, and then suddenly, the real thing! After all of that, we somehow made it all the way to 39 weeks and our home birth was going to be a reality!

We left our 39 week appointment around 2 pm with no indication that I’d be having a baby that day. After picking Cohen up from my mom’s house, I took a phone call from Dana Jacobs, our birth photographer. It was actually the first time we’d spoken and we were discussing the possibility of hiring her (I know, I know, I was down to the wire…Texas threw us off, y’all!). I got off the phone with her around 4:30 and told her to send over a contract, so we could get the ball rolling! I think I may have actually said, “We’ll keep in touch! I guess I can go into labor any minute!” After hanging up the phone, I walked downstairs and had my first contraction. Two minutes later, another came, and two minutes after that, another.

After about 30 minutes of contractions coming consistently two minutes apart, but lasting over a minute, Smitty suggested I start calling people. I kind of laughed it off and told him I didn’t want to cry wolf and we could still wait it out. After another fifteen minutes passed, I decided to just give everyone a heads up. Everyone I spoke to decided they wanted to come right away though! By 6 pm, our house was bustling with activity. My dad was trying to get the kids out of the house, my midwives and doula were setting up the birthing pool and prepping supplies, my mom was putting together snack baskets, and Smitty and I were walking through contractions together. My doula, Andi, offered to give Dana a call and I agreed. Dana couldn’t believe we had just spoken and I was already in labor! Talk about good timing!

I knew from past births that I tend to labor somewhat atypically. I don’t usually have painful contractions until my water breaks; however, my water has always been broken for me in the past, so I wasn’t sure what to expect this time around. True to form, my contractions were low and lots of pressure, but not what I would necessarily consider painful. I was walking and talking through them, despite only getting about 30-45 seconds between each contraction.

Around 8:30 pm, my team asked if I wanted to get into the pool. I shrugged and said, “Sure. I don’t feel like I need to, but why not?” We had such a great setup. The pool was in our living room, with lots of space for everyone to stretch out and Christmas lights twinkling nearby. I had envisioned catching my baby in that water and all of the natural birth magic that follows. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this pregnancy though, it’s that this little guy will make his appearance on his own time and terms!

I hopped in the pool and instantly, the pressure I’d felt with contractions was gone! Even though they were still coming consistently, I could barely feel them and that gave me so much encouragement for when I knew I’d be delivering him in the tub! For 30-45 minutes, I hung out in the water and shared conversation with our team. We laughed at Smitty’s dad jokes and dancing, watched Elsie’s YouTube videos, and shared stories. It was calm and warm, the exact opposite of every cold, sterile hospital birth I’ve had.

After getting out of the tub and walking a few labs around my house, Jen suggested we head upstairs to get some rest, not knowing what the night might bring. It was around 9:30 pm and they said they’d check the baby’s heartbeat every 30 minutes, but to take a nap in the meantime. To be honest, I was a little defeated as I trudged upstairs. I felt like if I laid down, the contractions would slow and everyone would go home, leaving me to feel like I was a burden for calling the team out too soon. Nothing had changed by the first check-in. Contractions 90 seconds-2 mins apart, lasting 1:15. I rolled over to my right side. 30 minutes later, Andi came in. Still the same. Contractions same spacing, same intensity.

She mentioned that they’d come back in and recheck me in 30 minutes and if nothing had changed, then we might have a discussion about the team (or at least some of them) going home for the night and coming back when things picked back up. I was discouraged, but rolled over to my left side and decided to try to get some more rest. I prayed for clarity one way or another – that either the contractions would stop completely or they’d pick up and we’d know it was time!

It wasn’t but 45 seconds after she left the room that I had a contraction that felt even lower and stronger. Smitty had been applying counter pressure while I was lying down and it was suddenly too much pressure on my back. I stood up to go to the bathroom and instantly started shivering uncontrollably. In the past, this has always signaled transition, but I still had on wet clothes from being in the pool, so I told Smit I was just cold and needed to change. Our team must have heard us shuffling about upstairs, because within minutes they were in the room. It was close to 10:40 pm.

“What’s going on?” Jen asked with a smile.

“Oh nothing, I’m just cold and shivering. I just needed to change my clothes, I think.”

Jen sort of laughed at me and said, “Well, I’m not going anywhere. Do you mind if we put a chux pad under you?”

At that moment, she knew, better than I did, how quickly the next stage was about to unfold.

I had a couple of strong contractions that made it very clear to everyone that this baby was coming. I remember making it through a few contractions and spotting Julie, our assistant midwife, coming through our bedroom door with the entire birth kit in her arms. In my head, I thought, “Wait, no, I’m not having a baby in here. I’m going back down to the pool! I did not plan to have a baby on the floor of my messy bedroom!”

I wound up on my hands and knees and was mostly annoyed that I couldn’t get comfortable because my wrists and fingers were hurting so badly. We tried changing positions: standing, kneeling with one leg up, side-lying. My body kept returning to this same spot.

At one point, we attempted to get me to lay on my side and I started shouting, “No, I don’t like that! Sorry, I don’t mean to yell at you, but I really don’t like that!” That was the moment I knew I was stuck. I wasn’t going to make it downstairs. I was going to have a baby on my hands and knees on my bedroom floor. No birthing pool to take away the pressure. No twinkle lights for ambiance. No perfectly cleaned, spacious living room. Instead, I was going to meet my son in a room with laundry piled in the open closet, clutter atop the dresser, and stains on the carpet. It wasn’t perfect. It was messy and real and raw and the most honest reminder that birth is just that. It’s the stripping back of everything else and focusing on one thing – bringing another human into the world. And the beauty of birth is found in the vulnerability of it. There is power in the letting go.

So, I gave up and I gave in and I pushed my baby boy, breathed my baby boy, roared my baby boy into his daddy’s arms.

I pushed about five times and right as he was crowning, my water broke. Jen knew Smitty wanted to help catch him and she made that a priority. He came rushing into the world at 11:45 pm. I didn’t get to see Smitty’s face when it happened, so I’m incredibly grateful for these images that show the emotion that overtook everyone!

The same sort of shock I felt when I found out I was expecting this little guy was the same sort of shock that kicked in when I realized we had just delivered a baby on our bedroom floor! I remember thinking, “What the heck just happened?!” It was truly the most intense, empowering thing I’ve ever done!

After he was born, my mom cut the cord and Julie gave me a shot of Pitocin to help with bleeding. Andi never left my side. Supporting me physically and emotionally, she was such a gift and we are so thankful we had her as part of our team. She was one step ahead the entire time, allowing my mom and Smitty to focus on me and Callan, while making sure I was still present in all of it.

You’ll notice that Callan was born with incredibly red, sensitive skin. We’re not sure if it was lingering side effects from the steroids and medications in Texas, but poor dude was so rashy! We’re still working on clearing his skin up, but it’s getting much better! Jen did his newborn exam and we couldn’t believe how big he was! 9 lbs, 21.5″ inches and a 14.25″ head!

Callan Milo James. Born December 5th, 2019, at 11:45 pm. 9 lbs, 21.5″ long.

Callan means “brave little warrior”, Milo is a nod to Smitty’s grandpa and means “merciful”, and James signifies one who will take his rightful place in the world. In many ways, he has already lived up to his name. What a journey we’ve been on already with this little man. So many battles we fought to bring him into the world. Physical battles, emotional battles, spiritual battles. But God has been merciful. Our story could have started and ended much differently in Texas. We could have been writing the tale of a NICU baby or one with serious health concerns. But the Lord protected him and he shielded us until it was the right time.

We know full well that life is not linear. It is filled with the unexpected and overflowing with uncertainty, but we are thankful for little reminders of faithfulness and promise in the middle of that. Callan’s pregnancy and birth is just one of those reminders that will permanently linger within us. We have learned more trust and gratitude and strength than we knew before and our hearts and home have been forever changed by it.

And to our sweet new addition:

Callan, our prayer is that you will face every battle with bravery and courage, that you will remind us that God is merciful and just, and that one day, you will take your rightful place in the world, and change it for the better. We love you, son!

Meet the Smiths – all SIX of us!

Meet the Smiths – all SIX of us!

Hi friends! Welcome to our brand new family blog, Six Smith Story! I’m Brittany, wife to Smitty, and mama to four beautiful littles, Adelyn, Elsie, Cohen, and Callan. We’re a busy, creative entrepreneurial family based in the Midwest where we own and operate two businesses, Kairos Photography and Kairos Creative. We love Jesus, pizza + family game night, and planning our next adventure together! Our life is crazy, but our love is big and that’s enough for us!

When Smitty and I first started dating, I was a fairly consistent blogger, sharing much of my heart behind ministry, being a creative, and life in general. I kept up with it for several years after we got married and started having babies, but eventually, it took its place in the back corner behind our busy life and that was that. As our family has grown and our life has blossomed into something we never dreamed it would be, I’ve often found myself wishing I did a better job of writing and sharing our story. But let’s be honest, life with a lot of kids is hard. Life with a lot of kids and multiple businesses is even harder. And I just haven’t wanted the pressure of starting a blog again. I feel like I’m already drowning a bit in unmet expectations and to add one more thing to it felt foolish and frankly, a set up for failure.

On the other hand, I know that our story is worth sharing. Our life is anything but typical. We have odd schedules and crazy dreams and too many loads of laundry. Our story is imperfect and messy and chaotic, but beautiful just the same. And for much of the past year, I’ve felt this pulling at my heart to be intentional with sharing it.

So here I am, pushing past the expectations I know I’ll never meet, letting go of the imperfections I already see scattered throughout this site, and stepping over the virtual threshold once more, ready to write.

I can’t promise a post every day or even once a week, but what I can guarantee is that I will use this space as a platform for honesty. To acknowledge that parenthood is the hardest blessing we’ll ever be given. To laugh at our failures and misadventures. To divulge our life hacks and favorite recipes and creative projects. To mark milestones and document dreams and cultivate community. But ultimately, to share our story. To say that our (not so) little family of six, in all of its weird and wild, has many more chapters to write and I want to be the one to do it.

So, I hope you stick around. I hope you say hello and join in. I hope you sense the solidarity and are encouraged. And I hope you know that you have a story too and that is what unites us. Page by page, chapter by chapter, blog post by blog post, we’re all in this life together, and this is just one small way to say so.

I’d love to know that you’re here, so leave a comment below and say hello! And if you want to get to know us a bit better too, head over to the About Us page! Oh, and you can follow our blog or find us on Instagram too! We’re just getting started, friends!