Emmaline Grace. The fourth baby born to Amy and Michael. The first girl. A child so loved and prayed for. Her birth story brought me to tears so do yourself a favor and have some tissues handy. Her mama has such a way with words.
“When Michael and I found out we were pregnant last November it didn’t take long for us to decide to keep the sex of the baby a surprise. With three amazing sons already it took quite a bit of discipline to stick to our resolution, but we made it through the 20-week ultrasound, a 32-week ultrasound, and a 40-week weight check ultrasound without peeking. I have difficult pregnancies and this one was by far the hardest with my typical 2nd-trimester migraine headaches returning with a vengeance during the final month. It was also Michael’s busy season at work, so my parents stepped in and helped us parent our sweet and busy boys while I tried to recover from the migraines and prepare my body for labor.
With my doctor’s recommendation we scheduled an induction for Saturday, August 18th, one week past my due date. We prayed for peace, a smooth induction experience, for my body to respond well to the doctor’s interventions, and for the transition stage of labor to go quickly!
Saturday morning I woke at peace, grateful for that first prayer answered. My parents sent Michael and I off with prayers and hugs and we were soon checked into Mercy Gilbert, hooked up to the familiar monitors, and I had received the first induction intervention; it was a tiny pill to stimulate contractions, and required me to be monitored in bed for four hours before being checked for progress. Michael and I passed the time talking, enjoying a visit and fresh flowers from my bestie, and praying for my body and the new baby. At about 1pm my doctor checked my progress and calmly broke my water. It was game time! This was another huge answer to prayer as I was now free to walk the hospital halls and labor in the tub.
Around 2pm Michael and I
walked waddled for about 40 minutes, I was monitored for 20, and my Mom and I walked another 40. I noticed the contractions getting stronger during the subsequent 20 minutes of monitoring in bed and told the nurse I would probably be ready for the tub soon. She reminded me to hold off as long as possible because the tub can sometimes slow labor. I reminded her that according to my past two labors, once my labor got going it could progress extremely quickly.
The contractions continued to gain strength during 30 more minutes of walking, then I labored on a yoga ball while the nurse filled the tub. After a few contractions in the water I asked the nurse if she had a smaller yoga ball to sit on in the tub. Although that request didn’t make any sense at all (I was definitely feeling the intensity at that point and had lost the ability to communicate clearly) she sweetly went to see what she could find. As soon as she was in the hall I had another contraction and Michael could tell I was close by the sounds I was making. He asked if I needed to push and I said no… and then promptly changed my mind. “I’m pushing!” I said and Michael helped me out of the tub while my Mom ran for the nurse. I crawled onto the bed and let the contractions take over, pushing and breathing through five more while on my hands and knees. The nurse’s call to my doctor went to voicemail (“This is unheard of!!”) and several nurses flooded in. Everyone was so calm and capable, and gave me gentle directions as I felt my child enter the world. The charge nurse caught our baby (quite literally, I wasn’t fully on the bed at this point and was still on my hands and knees) at 5:34pm and handed baby to me under my belly.
I reached down and took my baby from the nurse and took several deep breaths staring at baby’s face. I remember thinking, “just enjoy the fact that the baby is born, don’t worry about the sex yet.” When I finally looked down it took me a good ten seconds before I could process what I was seeing. Just in case I was wrong I asked the nurse, “Is it a girl?”
She said, “It’s a girl!”
“ARE YOU SURE??”
The nurses were all laughing a bit at this point, but I was completely serious. In fact, for about 30 minutes (okay, all evening) I kept asking the nurses and my doctor (who finally burst in a few minutes later crying, “Nobody even told me you were having strong contractions!!”) to double check and make sure she was in fact a girl.
I’ll never forget that feeling of drawing her to my chest and into my arms, collapsing onto the bed, and sobbing with joy, shock, and gratitude. The first day I took a pregnancy test I felt God impress on my heart the words “this child will be a gift,” and later that day I was driving to work and a car briefly merged in front of me. On the bumper sticker were the words, “children are a gift from the Lord.” I later looked up Psalm 127. Verse 3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.”
The night Emmaline Grace was born I lay in our recovery room looking up at one of the crosses Mercy Gilbert hangs in each patient room. I poured out my gratitude for our beautiful gift, and repented for the weeks of my pregnancy when I had allowed the pain I was going through to make me doubt God’s goodness and gracious heart. I stared down at my beautiful daughter and thanked him for this vivid reminder that he hears, he cares, and he gives very, very good gifts.
We’ve had the name Emma Grace picked out for our future daughter since we were pregnant with our first son. Emma means whole, or complete. I love that. Complete grace. Completely a gift. The name Emmaline means hardworking, which may seem a confusing combination with the word grace, but I love it just as much. This whole pregnancy has been hard work, both physically and emotionally. I have struggled to trust God through the waves of hormones, but through it all his grace was working on my heart even while my emotions didn’t feel it. I was carrying his gift all along, even while doubting the Giver. Emmaline Grace is a reminder that grace is truly “unmerited favor,” unearned yet given freely. “Hardworking Grace” is not a spiritual bandaid, but is the powerful antidote to our deepest idolatries. Grace penetrates our hard hearts, our wounds and doubts, and works from the inside out to make us new, to make us free. The grace of Jesus renames us and makes us whole.
My prayer for my daughter is that she will grow to know and love Jesus and to grasp how great is the grace he gives. I pray our family will be a loving and beautiful gift for her as she walks that journey. And I pray that she will in turn be a gift to everyone around her, and a sweet reminder of our God’s good and gracious heart. I know that she has been so for us already.”
Amy and Michael are great friends of mine. There is nothing greater than when your friends choose and trust you document the most precious times in their lives. It’s truly an honor. I’m so grateful and thankful that we get to do life together.
Amy and Michael, thank you for being such a great example of unwavering faith, never-ending grace, and unconditional love. Words cannot express how honored I am to have taken these sweet images of Emma for you. I love the way the boys love her and cherish her. They have pretty awesome examples in you as their parents!