November 16, 2010

God set the table

The week before I gave birth to James I dreamed that I gave birth to a stillborn baby boy.  It sounds sensational, I know, which is why I'm just now bringing it up. 

With L I dreamed of holding a happy baby girl.  With Ben I dreamed of snuggling a cute little boy.  With James I dreamed that on the soft brown carpet in my bedroom I delivered an ashen boy with black hair.  I told Travis about the dream.  "Oh no," he said.  "That can't happen."  And then we both chose to ignore the dream.

I think most people assume that I regret having a home birth.  I do not. 

Near the end of my pregnancy with James I felt uneasy about the upcoming birth and I considered going to a hospital.  I was afraid of another long labor, and so I gave myself permission to transfer if I no longer wanted to be at home.  I reviewed all the reasons we chose home birth in the first place.  I prayed about it and never felt convicted to not birth at home.  I asked people to pray for a labor lasting less then 10 hours and I believed that I would be eating my chocolate blueberry cake in my own bed while Trav napped with our newborn.

My labor with James was perfect.  It was beautiful.  It was eight hours (way short for me!) and when I pushed I never tore.  I am sure this sounds amazingly selfish, but for me that labor was the best part of the first seven weeks of James' life.  I cannot change what happened, though I would to spare my son, but I am thankful that I have those eight lovely hours.

But my lack of regret is not based on the fulfillment of my ideal labor. 

In all my prayers I never felt that God was urging me to give birth in a hospital.  I never felt led by the Holy Spirit to leave my home the night of James' birth.  In fact I felt like we were on the verge of something great - the next step in this huge blessing from God.  James was a little bit of a miracle even in his conception, and all through my pregnancy we were reminded time and again of the goodness and faithfulness of God.  Travis and I believed that God wanted James to exist for some great reason.  "Maybe he will be pope," we even whispered to each other as we laid in bed at night.  I looked forward to meeting this little person who had a future full of hope and possibilities, and I was excited to see what great things he would do for the Lord.

I cannot feel bad about being at home when clearly that's where God wanted me to be.  As I explained it to a friend, "God set the table." 

God put down the linens, laid out the dishes, arranged the flatware, and set out the food.  He invited me to join Him so I showed up and sat down in the chair He pulled out for me.  Everything has been as He wanted it to be.
the consolation of a beautiful labor
the sixty-one minutes when he didn't have a heartbeat
the doctor who said to give him five more minutes in the ED so she could tell the parents that they'd done everything they could
the way his heart started at five minutes, just as they were stopping
the confirming him with the name Linus
the way his organs kicked in, one after another
the way his leg continues to heal
the way he takes a bottle, sucking it dry
the way people have prayed, fasted, given alms, and done good works
the way his story helped a woman evangelize for 45 minutes in a grocery store
the way little children have every word of the Sheen intercessory prayer memorized
the way my dad is going to Mass again, on a regular basis, for the first time in my life (don't tell him I put that on my blog - he'd kill me!)
the way I have relearned what it means to be pro-life
the way I have relearned how to pray, and trust, and praise, and say thank you.

How can I feel guilty about a choice I made - in good conscience and after prayer - when that choice so clearly has me and my family smack dab in the very middle of God's will.

You can still think I'm crazy and selfish for giving birth at home, but if you believe in God then I don't think you can judge that I made a poor choice and my son is suffering because of it.  It is obvious that God allowed this to happen because of the great good that could come from James' redemptive suffering.

Travis and I knew, nine months ago, that God would use our son to accomplish marvelous things.  We just didn't know that those things would include conversions, repentant hearts, and miraculous healings.

I feel great peace about the home birth.  For what it's worth to you, my heart is filled with peace.


  1. Oh, Bonnie, I'm so glad. What a beautifully written representation of God's glorious presence in your family.

  2. Amen Bonnie!
    Preach it!

  3. Bonnie-I'm crying tears of joy for you. Praise God that you have peace with this-what a gift. I admit I have been wondering about this (as we were seriously considering home birth ourselves when James was born) and your "answer" makes perfect sense.

    So cute that they know the words to the Sheen prayer :)

  4. ***wiping away tears! Bonnie, that was a beautiful post.

  5. Amen Bonnie! I L-O-V-E your insight on things, you make me view things in a whole new way and I admire your ability to see God working in every aspect of your life. God has definately set a beautiful table for you!!!

  6. I'm wiping away tears too.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    I am so relieved that you don't feel guilt about the home birth. You shouldn't, but I was worried that you would.
    I am a midwife and a few of mine have been born at home ( although more latterly I've had sections because of a twin who died at term in utero)
    In normal circumstances homebirth is safer, but obstetric disasters can happen and do happen anywhere.

    I hope your midwife is managing to deal with his too.

    It sounds as though God was preparing your heart for the great things that he has in store for you. And the suffering that always seems to be an inescapable part of that.
    My heart has been wrung out reading your posts about litle James, and this one, although it has made me cry again, has reminded me to have HOPE. God knows what He is doing and we can trust him. When it all hits the fan I realise how little my trust is.
    Your little guy is on our prayer card and we'll continue to pray.
    God bless you all.

  7. God is so good. He chose the perfect mother for James who would understand that this is His will. I'm so happy to hear that you are filled with peace, as you should be.

  8. I love how you share your heart, Bonnie. I think you absolutely made the right choice in choosing homebirth. This was the obvious choice for you, Travis, and for James. We are to trust in how the Lord leads us and leave the results up to Him. God has indeed done amazing works in lives through James' circumstance. His young life has demonstrated great importance in God's kingdom. Bless you for sharing your thoughts on your homebirth choice, but really you don't need to justify or explain to anyone. You and Travis have followed the Lord and that's all that matters.
    - Audrey

  9. I've spent the better part of an hour working on this comment, so I hope you understand where I am coming from and I understand if you don't want to publish it.

    I'm so glad you aren't experiencing any guilt any more about this. Guilt is only appropriate when you've done something wrong. You've done everything right for James. You've been the best mother he could possibly have. If he recovers further it will be mostly because he has such wonderful parents who are pro-life in the deepest sense of the word. There's nothing to be guilty about. Guilt follows when you commit a sin, not when you make a mistake.

    Many babies are born with brain damage in the hospital. But many of them aren't. The reason is that when the baby is born, people with the highest level of medical training and the best technology can start life and brain-saving efforts right away, instead of after 15 minutes in the ambulance. Fifteen minutes is forever when you're talking about the brain.

    But a lot of times their efforts fail, anyway. Maybe James would have had the exact same problems at the hospital. We'll never know, because he never had the chance to access those resources right away.

    Do I personally feel that every baby deserves to have that chance, even if it means an uncomfortable labor for mom? Yes, I do. Do I blame you for choosing a home birth? Never. Especially since it went so well the first two times and this was a very healthy pregnancy. You don't have a crystal ball (although those dreams are pretty amazing)!

    God is clearly doing great things with James and through James. No matter how he got here, he is a gift and a sign from God.

  10. I met James during the time he was without a heartbeat and have been praying for him and your family ever since. This was a beautiful post.

    Love, Suzanne

  11. A beautiful post from a beautiful heart. Thank you.

  12. Jessica,

    First, Thank you for your honest comment. I understand your view on why hospital births are best, but I think you have a misunderstanding on ALL the reasons people choose home birth.

    Second, The only thing that would have spared James would have been a c-section. And funny enough, I strongly believe that if I would have had Lydia in a hospital all three of my children would have been born via c-section.

    Third, I think you missed the point of the post. The point is, I feel like God wanted me at home so everything else could play out the way it did.

    Fourth, I never felt guilty about being at home, or if I did it was pretty fleeting. The guilt I blogged about came from thoughts and feelings that are much too personal to share. And I share a lot of dark stuff! ;)

    Fifth, It is not for you to discern my mistakes ("Guilt follows when you commit a sin, not when you make a mistake.") I think that statement sounds a lot more judgemental than you wanted it to, and again I think you didn't get the point of the post. If I was following God's will then no mistake was made. And it looks to me, and the peace He has given me proves to me, that I was following His will. Which is another thing you can't discern for me - God's will in my life.

    I hope that doesn't sound harsh - oh the flaws of typing! No body language, no tone of voice!

  13. I'm sorry, may I just make a couple of observations on Jessica's comment?

    "Guilt follows when you commit a sin, not when you make a mistake."

    This seems to suggest that Bonnie made a mistake. I don't believe she made a mistake AT ALL. And I'm happy that she doesn't seem to feel that way, so although I'm sure you mean well, I really don't want you to put that in her mind Jessica.

    "Many babies are born with brain damage in the hospital. But many of them aren't."

    You seem to be assuming that less babies suffer anoxia that are born in hospital than at home? This is untrue. Home birth is statistically SAFER than hospital birth. This may not make sense to you, but having worked on labour ward I can tell you it makes sense to me.

    The reason is that when the baby is born, people with the highest level of medical training and the best technology can start life and brain-saving efforts right away, instead of after 15 minutes in the ambulance. "

    As a midwife this comment bothered me. This is not the reason at all. Goodness me, a midwife was in attendance at the birth, resus will have commenced straight away and continued on the way to the hospital.
    ( and by the way, midwives who deliver at home are usually the cream of the crop in terms of skill and experience)
    Even in hospital, efforts to get a heart rate going again can fail.
    Labour is not without it's dangers. If giving birth in a hospital environment with all it's high tech equipment and "highly skilled" personnel were such a safe option, then the US ought to have a considerably better record when it comes to perinatal morbidity than it presently does.

    "Do I personally feel that every baby deserves to have that chance, even if it means an uncomfortable labor for mom? Yes, I do"

    Ugh. That comment just felt very barbed and unecessary to me. Homebirth is NOT all about a more comfortable labour for mom! One could say precisely the same, more accurately, about hospital birth where you can choose to have a painfree epiduralised birth. As I've already mentioned, hospital is not unequivocally the safer place for a baby to be born.

    Maybe I'm being a little over sensitive on Bonnie's behalf here. But I had a stillbirth three years ago and am well aquainted with the power of a misplaced word to send me spiralling down into guilt and shame and self reproach.
    And it cuts me up to think that anything we say here in the combox might hurt Bonnie.
    I've probably said too much already.

    Dear Lord, through the intercession of your servant Fulton Sheen, please bless, heal and wholly restore little James Fulton to full health.

  14. Just to be clear. I posted my comment before i had seen Bonnies response to Jessica.

  15. Bonnie, I read this yesterday and then received our long awaited phone call yesterday afternoon and all I can think of is how God "set our table" as well. It is fascinating to see how our whole lives have fallen into place and have been prepared for this right now. I'm blown away by his divine plan and his generosity! Great post!

  16. I wanted to clarify my comment-just in case Bonnie or anyone else assumed that we chose not to have a home birth based on any of the events that have happened with James. Absolutely not. The only midwife in our area is unavailable for our due date. I'm disapointed that we won't have the opportunity to discern if that was God's plan for our baby's birth. But I'm trying to trust that He closed that door precisely because it wasn't His plan.

  17. So much to be Thankful for!
    Happy Thanksgiving


  18. It's amazing to me that you and Travis have thought James would do great things, because some time after his birth (not immediately), I had the same thought and feelings: James will do great things. I don't know how that will manifest itself, but that thought has repeatedly entered my mind. The day you asked me in the hospital at lunch what I thought of James, I later thought, "I should have told her I think James will do great things," but that thought didn't come to me at that time, even though I had thought it many times previously. You have mentioned all the great things that have happened already through James' circumstances. My feelings are that he will be an instrument of great things in the future. This is only the beginning.

  19. I'm glad you wrote this post, and I'm glad Jessica wrote what she did and you and others had the opportunity to comment on it. Now it's "out there": the thoughts-judgements- I'm sure many people who know of James' birth were thinking. Through all the comments, all sides of the issue were covered: clinical and spiritual. I feel peace about it, too, because I've always known you and Travis have always lived your married life trying to discern and do God's will. There's no better reason for an action than doing God's will. And as for the clinical reasoning, I've thought the outcome COULD have been better- a C section could have prevented the knot from tightening and subsequent loss of oxygen; the outcome could have been the same- things do go badly in hospitls despite their best efforts, or James was not under stress until he was in the birth canal, at which time it would be too late for a C-sectioan; or it could have been even worse, because you were not doing God's will. So I'm glad you're at peace.

  20. Bonnie,

    Thanks for your response - not too harsh at all! I hope you did not think my comment nasty or hurtful, I am hoping that I will one day be able to be a mom like you but I fear I'm not up to the task. I am so glad you are willing to share your life on this blog because sometimes I don't think it's possible for someone to live the authentic Catholic life. But then there's you!

  21. Bonnie-
    I have always admired you because you are so steadfast in your views. You back up your logic with real and educated information. And while you do not have to explain your decisions to those of us in cyber land, you do it quite well and accept contrasting opinions with dignity.

    While we do not always agree on certain topics, I must say that I agree with you whole heartedly. You have no reason to feel guilt in your decision to birth James at home. Or your other two children for that matter. In fact, because of your decision to home birth, you have three beautiful, amazing children.

  22. Bonnie, I hear you and am with you. In our case, God set the table for us perfectly for our daughter to be fine, and if we had NOT planned a home birth, she probably would have been dead.

    I went into labor at 2:30 in the morning, with 4 other kids at home. My labor from first contraction to urge to push was 30 minutes, 15 minutes spent trying not to push and then eventually pushing. My midwife arrived right as my daughter's head emerged, and she quickly addressed the positioning issue (not SD but startle reflex bracing her in, would not have resolved without expert help) and immediately began resuscitating her.

    If I had planned a hospital birth, my daughter would probably have died on the side of the road trying to get to the hospital. Even though in that situation I really wished we had hospital resources on site, the fact that we planned to be at home is the only reason my daughter is alive. And she is 6 months old and perfectly healthy. God prepares the way, and we are called to follow it.

    BTW, I've wondered if James might have been called stillborn at the hospital because maybe he wasn't *ready* until after that 61 minutes. For some reason, it kicked in then, but I've wondered if the "we have to say we gave it our best shot" is the reason that James is still here.

    You've been in my prayers, and will continue to be there.

  23. Bonnie,
    As I began reading your post...I felt the same way. I remember those feels, which until recently, or until I read your blog, I called, "Mother's intuition". With my daughter who has issues, I knew from the moment I got pregant...this was different...something....I couldn't put my finger on it. With my third, I told my mother a week before my son was born, "Mom, I'm just worried, something is wrong." She said, "Like what?". I said, "I don't know, but I think the cord is wrapped around his neck.". It was, 3 times and a true knot. Amazing. With this latest babe, I remember praying, discerning God's will, praying that only his will be done, talking to a priest. Her birth was nothing short of miraculous. Nothing I had anything to do with...

    On a side note, based on Jessica's response.... ha ha ha .... another remark about it....but I believe that baby James would have been the same, regardless of mode or location. His parents prayed about his birth and always invited God into their lives and James' pregnancy. THIS IS HOW GOD WILLED IT. THIS IS HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE. God has a plan for James, this is the first piece of the puzzle. It spans much deeper than many of us will ever know, isn't that the best part?? God's hand in our lives??? God's hand in our children's lives?? How can you argue with God? You can't. I believe baby James to be an ultimate gift from our Lord, a gift to mankind....beautiful, PERFECT. Exactly as God seems him.

  24. I'm glad you wrote this. I had been wondering how you felt about homebirth after your experience with James. As someone who had been a staunch proponent of homebirth, I have to admit that watching it from a distance rocked my "faith" in homebirth to the core. If I were to have another baby in the future, I don't know if I would choose it again. I know that my fear about it is probably irrational and not based on the statistical safety of home vs. hospital. I am glad that you have peace about it. Very glad. I think knowing that you don't regret your decision will help me get over my own fears. (because it's all about me, of course). ;-)