Back in May of this year, we planted a peach tree.
It felt a little like cheating, because we planted a tree that was already loaded with the tiny beginnings of peaches. But when you have a choice between peach trees covered in peaches, and peach trees that don’t have any… you’re probably going to pick the ones with peaches.
A tree by it’s fruit right?
We did what all good gardeners do; we lined the hole with compost and (goat) manure to give the tree a little jump start. We cut the root ball so the tree would start to set up and spread out in its new home. We back filled the hole. Tamped down the dirt. We watered until the ground was sodden a foot in each direction. Then we did what all good gardeners must also do; we waited for the fruit to grow.
Two days after we planted our peach tree, we got the earliest, and most devastating hail storm of the season. Torrents of water and ice pelted from the sky for the better part of an hour. I went out there, in jean shorts and mud boots, my great seven-months-pregnant-belly barely fitting under my rain jacket, and tried to cover what I could of our garden’s seedlings with tarps. After struggling with those for the better part of twenty minutes, my shorts were so heavy with water they were weighing me down. My legs were welted from pellets of hail. There was a solid two inches of rain in each of my boots.
And then I looked at our peach tree…and knew there was nothing I could do. Covering it with tarp would have hurt it just as bad as letting it get pelted with marble sized balls of ice. I sat on the milking stand in the garage to dump the water out of my boots, and asked my four year old to grab me a towel. I tried not to worry about our newly planted tree.
In the after math of that hail storm, Fergie proved to be as hearty as the description card on the Reliant Peach proclaimed him to be. There were a bare handful of peaches left on its branches, but it was growing, and we were thankful. We hoped the next year would bring a greater harvest, but we would take what we got this first go around.
We went back to waiting. The children asked every day, “When will the peaches be ripe?”
“When will our baby come??”
The children asked it. My husband asked it. I asked it to the sky more that once, especially after July ended with a very convincing false labor. And I knew our baby could come anytime.
“August.” I said. To them. To myself.
“When the peaches are ripe, our baby will come.”
The long summer days found the kids and I in the baby pool, or hiding inside with our small front room air conditioner unit that kept the house a tolerable 80 degrees. We went to the park. To the farm. All that long summer we had waited for the peaches to ripen; and for our baby to come. And every time it rained, I had the strangest feeling of premonition… like that feeling you get when you see the sky turn sort of green and you know it might hail…that our baby would be born during a late summer rain.
The first week in August we picked the two final peaches that ripened on our tiny tree. We shared them for dessert that night. We picked chokecherries off our back neighbor’s bushes that droop their branches low over our fence, and we made jam. And hungry for more peaches, we went to our favorite farmer and bought an entire box of the juiciest sunset peaches from Palisade.
The second week I made freezer meals and learned how to can chicken stock with my pressure canner. We welcomed home a friend who had been deployed the past eight months of my pregnancy. I sat on the birthing ball. I complained about my pelvis. By the end of the second week we had finished our box of peaches.
The third week, I knew would probably be our last with only two children; my due date a mere handful of days away. I knew he had to come out sometime. I couldn’t actually stay pregnant forever. Yet its hard to wrap your mind around the glory of the harvest when you are still just in the middle of the field pulling weeds. I went to the doctors office. I called my Mom. I bought another box of peaches.
All that summer I felt like Fergie; the peach tree with only two peaches surviving to show for all his hard work. I felt burnt out, wrung out, strung out and weary. And all that summer long, as the birth of our third child approached, I was tentatively asking God for things. But also afraid to ask.
The birth of our second child had been so difficult; an excruciatingly painful 10 hour labor, followed by an unplanned cesarean section. I remember the feelings of despair, breathing shaky into the oxygen mask and looking into my worried husband’s eyes as our baby’s heart rate kept dropping with every contraction, and nothing seemed to help.
But I also know that God had so much good for me in that hardship. Boaz’s birth brought into acute awareness my desire to control outcomes, my anger when I could not, and the terrible pride I had in my previous birth experience, (as well as in my life in general) assuming that if I just “did everything right” things would turn out the way I wanted.
The good and glorious truth is that like any good father, God doesn’t always give us what we want. But he always, always gives us what we need.
I needed humbling, and God was gracious to humble me through that difficult experience in ways that have changed me forever, for the better.
But that wasn’t the story now.
Sometimes desire is the most frightening thing. And I had desires for this birth.
I wanted a VBAC. Despite the heightened “high risk” monitoring that came with said VBAC, I wanted for things to go as smoothly and peacefully as possible. I wanted a kind and gentle nurse. I wanted my friend Jess to be able to be there, for my Mom to be able to take care of the kids. I wanted to be able to hold and snuggle my still-two-year old son when all was said and done, without the fear of the pain of a recent surgical incision.
I was afraid to ask, yet still I kept hearing Him whisper, “Ask me. Just ask.”
The book of Isaiah became supremely precious to me during the months leading up to my son’s arrival. As I read and wrestled with my unspoken prayers, I heard the LORD whispering directly to me in such a personal and tender way; “Forget the former things. See I am doing a new thing…No more could you forget your nursing child, than I could forget you. I have called you by name you are Mine. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you by my righteous right hand.”
And I realized that in the midst of my fears I was forgetting one other critically important truth about God. He loves to give good, lavish, undeserved gifts to his children.
In my heart, I felt what I had needed more that summer than anything. Peace. Rest. A pause for my world-weary soul. But I also knew that Isaiah was made for God’s glory, and that because of this I could rest in whatever kind of birth God provided for us, trusting the LORD’s goodness and sovereignty over Isaiah’s birth, just as I would need to trust it every day of his life.
At 4:50 am August 18th, I knew it was going to be the day. The pains kept me from sleeping any longer, so I got up and ate the only thing that sounded good for breakfast. Looking into the dark out the window above the kitchen sink, I slurped the juice of two perfect peaches.
I worked through contractions. I sipped exactly two sips of tea. I put on my favorite dress and brushed my teeth. Willy put the bags in the car and made sure we had the phone chargers and the car seat.
By 7 am we were headed to the hospital. The sun was coming up, warming the cooler late summer morning. The sky was clear and hopeful; a beautiful birth-day for my baby boy. We prayed and we wept tears of gratitude, and we asked God for what we wanted, but we opened up our hands to give him the day. The day he had made. I heard him whispering, “Today, I am writing a new story,” and my heart swelled with hope.
My friend Jess met us at the hospital as we had planned. We took our time getting upstairs. The hospital felt calm and collected at that hour in the morning. They showed us to our delivery room; one with a tub, but no window since that was the choice I had to make.
Our nurse came in shortly after; and here was answer to unspoken prayer #1: our nurse was sweet Brittany, who we had met a few short weeks before when we thought I may have been leaking fluid, but thankfully wasn’t.
Tears sprang to my eyes as I leaned on the birthing ball. “It’s Brittany! It’s Brittany!” I said.
When Brittany finished examining me she announced, “8cm and 100% effaced. I’m going to go call the doctor so she can make her way over here. And I’m going to call the nurses to get everything ready for the baby. He’s going to be here pretty soon!” She smiled at me.
In between contractions and sobs I spoke the words; “I’m just so happy. We get to meet our baby today!” But the work wasn’t done yet.
I labored. The doctor said his head was transverse, so I laid with the peanut ball for awhile, first one side. Then the other. Willy told me that my Mom was taking the kids to the park for lunch. I labored. I got to ten, but didn’t feel ready to push yet. I labored.
Finally after my doctor broke my water, I began to feel the urge to push. And thus began the hardest 1 hour and 17 minutes of the whole 10 hour labor.
I was at the end of my rope. The end of my strength. But I kept remembering what Eve said when she had delivered Cain, “with the help of God, I have delivered a man.” I begged Jesus to help me. And in my final pushes, when I didn’t have the strength, He did.
I did the really ugly cry then, my baby sticky and wailing in my arms at last. “THANK YOU JESUS!” I wept and kept saying, over and over again, “Thank you Jesus.”
When we were both a little more cleaned up and composed, they transferred me to the Women’s Care unit for recovery. And as Willy pushed me in a wheelchair by a wall of windows in the hospital hall, one of the nurses said casually, “Oh, it stopped raining.”
“IT WAS RAINING??” I said.
Of course. It was raining.
The name of our third child is Isaiah Selah; it means “YHWH is Salvation, pause and consider this.”
And in the one month we have spent loving him this side of the womb, his name could not be more apt. He is our pause. Our reminder to consider who it is that we worship. The great I Am, YHWH, is the God who gives good gifts. Sometimes they are the good gifts that come through trials and hardships. Those gifts feel hard to take, but they are part of what makes us who we are. They are the things that make us more like Jesus. They are the compost and manure that my soul needs to truly be fruitful. It is the cutting of my roots of self-reliance, so that I may grow better in the soil into which I have been planted.
But sometimes, He showers us with unexpected blessings. The blessings of prayers answered with a “yes…and even more abundantly than you can ask or imagine.” Like a Sabbath rain in the late summer heat. Like two delicious peaches off my very own peach tree. Like the most humbling and beautiful birth, for my beautiful baby boy.