I have struggled for a week to write Caleb’s birth story, to make sense of it all. He is a most precious gift, a sweet little baby, but he did not arrive in the way I envisioned. I know there are lessons to be learned from every situation YHVH brings us. But I also think it takes time to glean everything. So let me start by writing Caleb’s birth story. I know YHVH will show me lessons even as I write it down.
Finding out I was pregnant with Caleb was a much desired birthday present. For many months I was fully convinced he was a girl lol. I had a birth pool and my birth kit before I was two months pregnant. Noah’s birth was such a wonderful experience that I looked forward to another home birth. He was very quiet in the womb, moving and hiccuping, but not as much as my other babies. I worried about him, but he had a strong steady heartbeat so I tried to quiet any fears. I had a quick ultrasound to make sure the placenta was in a good position due to previous c-sections. It was perfect. We also found out he was a boy, much to our surprise!
On Shabbat, shortly before my due date, I started having contractions. I waited until evening to make sure they were real. Doug and Naomi inflated the pool for me. My parents came and began filling it up. My wonderful midwife and her assistant arrived. At 2 am, the pool was finally ready and my midwife checked me before I climbed in. Only 2 cm. She tucked me in for a much needed rest. A huge feeling of defeat swept over me. This was the fourth time over the course of my labors that I had had a false alarm, and it never gets any easier.
I spent the next few days puttering, trying to keep the house running, all the while having painful contractions every couple hours or so. But Wednesday night, they were suddenly every ten minutes. They stayed that way and were often much closer. They hurt like heck, and did not go away, even with efforts to relax them. I was in a house full of sleeping children, so I flipped the hose in the pool and began to fill it myself. I breathed or moaned through each contraction, trying to stay focused since I was still alone. I read a verse card I had printed about not being afraid. But then the water heater ran out, and my midwife was still a ways out. I knew that neither my mother nor I could haul water from the kitchen, but I called her anyway. She woke up my 16 year old nephew at 3 am and brought him with her. He had been staying with them for a couple days for additional help with his history studies. He hauled pan after pan of hot water from the stove to fill that pool. My midwife arrived again and Caleb was still doing well with a strong heartbeat. The pool was finally ready for the second time, so she checked me again. Obviously, I was quite nervous, but this time, I was 4-5 cm. Not as far as I would have liked, but I was definitely making progress this time.
But then the bombshell dropped. She was pretty sure that she was feeling a butt, not a head. With careful palpation at every visit, we had all been quite convinced that he was head down, right where he needed to be. But Caleb had somehow fooled us. After several minutes of palpation and checking the heart rate with the doppler, she became more and more convinced that this baby was breech.
In my heart, I had sensed that something was amiss for months. I had prayed about it, talked to Doug about it, but could never resolve it. I even sensed that Doug would be at the birth. He had not been at Noah’s birth and we planned the same scenario this time. He appreciated missing the drama and coming home to a new son, and I appreciated the absence of his stress vibes.
But here I was a 7:30 am, listening to my midwife explain that a breech birth may not be wise to undertake at home. There were too many risks. Somehow, after all the months of worry, my heart was at peace and I knew what needed to be done. When Doug got home, I explained the situation to him. He was upset. He understood the implications far too well. But he packed his wife safely in the car and started the hour and fifteen minute drive to the hospital that became even longer because of road construction. Our midwife was in the car right behind us. They called the hospital to let them know we were coming. What followed was the most tremendous collaboration between doctor and midwife to get the best care for mother and baby. My midwife shared her records and findings with the doctor, and he was able to verify a frank breech position with a mini ultrasound machine. He was very disappointed to have to tell me that I needed yet another c-section. He and the nurses all seemed to understand my letdown at losing my homebirth. Yet, YHVH held me up with a tremendous peace that this was what needed to happen.
They prepped me for surgery and took me into the operating room. It was certainly not the birth sukkah I had spent so many months creating. But Doug was there with me, holding my hand as I had envisioned while pregnant. As I looked up at the white ceiling and the lights, fear swept over me, just for a moment. I cried out to YHVH to help me, and He did. Only moments later, I felt them pull Caleb out, and heard him cry for the first time. He was OK! His apgar scores were 9’s! I had feared for so many months that something would be wrong with him, or worse. But here he was, alive and healthy and beautiful! He was yet another testament of the wonderful gift of life. Doug brought him over to me as they got me in a hospital bed. He was so perfect in every way, and looked so much like his big brothers and sisters. Doug helped the nurse comb his hair into spikes, which amused the entire staff. My midwife stayed, as promised, until he was nursing, which happened to be on his first try.
Now that Caleb was safely here, I set to the business of resting and recovering so I could get home. The Proverbs 31 practice of strengthening your arms was never so appreciated. I was able to get in and out of bed unlike my first c-section 12 years ago. I was blessed with the most wonderful nurses. They became friends, cheering for me during my stay. I was revered as a mother of seven. I am still amazed at how well I am recovering. Even now, a week later, I am no longer taking pain medication and can pudder around and do light housework with the kids’ help.
Doug brought me home on Shabbat, to Gramma, six very eager siblings, and the dog. I am so blessed to have a family that has warmly welcomed every new addition. There has never been disgust at yet another baby in the house, for which I am truly grateful.
Unfortunately, the flu hit us a day after Caleb and I came home. I spent three days cleaning up messes and washing every sheet and towel in the house. No one was left unscathed except Caleb, praise YHVH for that. And all this week I tried to make sense of all that had taken place. There were so many extremes that I had to sort out. I was so relieved that Caleb was healthy and safe, but so frustrated that I had to have a third c-section. I was so thankful for a wonderful doctor, midwife, and nurses, but so sad that Holly, the first to recover, had to play nurse for all of us. I am so thankful for a quiet, sweet baby, even though that same trait had petrified me for months.
I have read so many wonderful home birth stories from my friends, and wonder why YHVH did not plan that for me. As I prayed through this pregnancy, YHVH only ever gave me two words – Trust me. I hope that I have done that. He gave me Caleb Maccabee, my precious little boy. He gave me a wonderful supportive husband that was there when I needed him. He gave me my children and our parents, that helped out and welcomed Caleb so lovingly.
As I write this, I can’t help but wonder if we put too much emphasis on the method and not enough emphasis on the result. We don’t want to walk through the wilderness but would rather camp out at the oasis. Yet, the lessons of life are usually learned among the rocks and the mountains. The Torah was given to us at the rocky Mount Sinai, not at the Red Sea or the lovely En Gedi. While I am so grateful for the oasis of Noah’s birth, an incredible home birth experience, I must also be grateful for the other six. I faced difficulties with every one, but they served to bring me Naomi, Holly, Isaac, Sadie, Elisha, and now Caleb. They also made me the woman that I am today.
So what have I learned? That YHVH doesn’t always take me down the path lined with flowers. More often He takes me up the rocky slope so that I can learn to hold His hand and learn to trust Him. I have learned that life is a gift, in and of itself. It doesn’t matter how a child enters this world. What matters is that they are here, blessing us each day.
Even as I traveled through a dark tunnel, YHVH was right there with me. He gave me many reasons to smile. Thank you so much, Abba, for Caleb Maccabee Cooper. We are delighted that he is a part of our lives. <3
PS If you are wondering about his name, he is named after two of Doug’s favorite heroes. Caleb, one of the spies with a good report, fought bravely until he got his mountain. The Maccabees, which we remember each Hanukah, drove the Greeks out of the land and restored Torah obedience. Yes, in the Hebrew, his name means “dog hammer.” Be sure to say it strongly and with authority! lol Isn’t he sweet? <3