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Sacred and Peaceful - Olivia's Birth of Baby Enda

In the Fall of 2021 at an Irish Festival, I went to watch an acoustic guitar set by a man named Enda Reilly. I found myself sitting there listening to his cover of U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and in tears. In the past year I had a reversion to Catholicism and felt like God was calling us to have another child, yet I sat there not pregnant, distrustful of my body, and wondering what God's deal was. Enda...that’s a nice name.


About a year later I went to my OB's office, finally mustering up the courage to seek answers to our secondary infertility. With NFP charts in hand, I asked to get my progesterone checked and a full thyroid panel. The OB, without looking at the charts, said she doubted there was anything wrong. I was the epitome of health and had two boys already. Her advice was to stop worrying.


And so I found myself in tears again, feeling guilty for being selfish and wanting another child, yet angry at God because I felt He placed the desire on my heart. I wanted to humbly lay at His feet, but found myself throwing a temper tantrum instead.


I had been blessed with two amazing boys. My first had been out of wedlock, born during a dark time of my life. A gift from God that my prideful soul was not deserving of. He was a chance to walk a different path, one I never envisioned myself on: motherhood. Despite turning further and further away from Him, He continued to send good my way in a steady, loving husband and a second son.


When Lent 2023 began, I decided to enter into the season rigorously. It had been two years since I made my general Confession, and over those years God had been working on me, reopening my deepest wounds, and healing them from within. Graces abounded in our marriage. Despite the sorrow I felt at not getting what I wanted, our life was unfolding in beautiful ways. I stopped asking God for a child and started asking Him for humility and help surrendering to His will.


A few weeks after Easter, I realized my period was later than usual. My initial thought was that I had fasted too much over Lent, but I decided to take a pregnancy test. When I looked down and saw "Pregnant" in the little window I fell to my knees in tears. Thank you, Lord. This child is Yours. I went downstairs to my husband, who went from deep concern at my weeping to laughter as soon as he saw the test. Based on my cycle we were due on Christmas Eve - God was showing off His sense of humor. 

My first two sons were unmedicated births at the hospital, not because I knew about the ill effects of epidurals, but because I did not want a huge needle shoved in my back and my mom had unmedicated births so I figured I could try too. However, over the last few years, like many others, I found myself questioning things in the medical realm. I found resources such as Made For This Birth and had my hopes set on a homebirth underneath the Christmas tree. 


I began calling the few homebirth midwives in the area the week I found out I was pregnant. My husband was not a fan of the idea, so I wanted to find the perfect one quickly and reassure him it was a great option. Two never got back to me, and the two I did speak to on the phone left me disappointed. I had gotten out of the New Age and was not open to having someone who didn’t hold certain values in our home at such a vulnerable time. I can be stubborn, but I have learned in the past that clinging to something I want, even if it is a good desire, usually ends in tumult. Just like with the conception, I needed to get out of the way and listen to God’s path.


Up until 22 weeks I simply prayed, focused on nourishing food and movement, and was at peace with having no prenatal care. I made a last-ditch effort to find a midwife slightly farther away and although she was a Christian, she was not accepting any December clients. A final door clearly shut. I decided to do a 54-day Rosary Novena and on the first morning changed my petition from a homebirth to a sacred, peaceful, and healthy pregnancy, labor and birth, whatever that may look like.


At my husband's request, I set up an appointment at the baffled OB's office (did you not realize I were pregnant?!), and had an anatomy scan to confirm all was well with our baby boy. The whole process was another lesson in humility and surrender. I did not want to have a hospital birth, but I did want to follow what appeared to be God's will and He sent me many consolations in the forms of the midwives and nurses. The hospital we birth at went through some changes in the last few years, and I was encouraged in my wanting to only see the midwives, two of whom were new, and to plan for as much of a hands-free birth as possible. I went from showing up at appointments with my fists figuratively raised, ready to fight any of their protocols, to being happy to go and have supportive women who I felt understood the kind of birth I wanted.


As my due date got closer, I went inward. I had been enjoying birth stories from Made For This Birth and Holy Wild Birth, but turned all social media and podcasts off to focus on the Daily Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, and Rosary. I entered into the Advent season of waiting with more joyful anticipation than ever before. Having birthed in the 38th week with both prior boys, I was prepared to go early, but also slowed down in my workouts and activities to try and make it through as many of the boys' Advent activities as possible. In You, my God, my body will rest in hope.


My 38 week appointment had to be moved from the afternoon to morning, which meant I was going to see a different midwife, and I also had to take my energetic three-year-old with me, which was a bit stressful in itself. When checking the baby’s position the midwife said, “I can't really get a feel for if he is head down or not.” He had been head down every week, so I doubted he had turned that late, but he definitely took after his gymnast dad flipping around the entire pregnancy. "Can you go get an ultrasound done right now? I don't want this to turn into a cesarean for a breech baby." I sat there for a minute in shock...I had only wanted one ultrasound, and I did not want a C-section. I called my husband and luckily an event he had for work that morning was done, so he immediately came and we handed our son off to my father-in-law and drove 45 minutes to the only place with an ultrasound opening that day. The minute I saw my husband I started to cry.


We made the drive and had a wonderful ultrasound technician who confirmed baby was head down and everything looked perfect. "All right, God," I thought, "what was all of that about?" My husband, always the voice of reason, said, "At least we have peace of mind now for when the time comes." And indeed, the time came.


As we got in the car to drive home, I felt a fairly strong contraction. I didn't want to give a false alarm to my husband, who had a meeting for work that evening, so I quietly turned on my stopwatch to start timing them. They were coming consistently every four to five minutes, although I was still able to talk through them. My previous labors had come on strong and quick, and that is what it felt like again. We stopped to grab some milk near our house and with the contractions beginning to get even stronger, I decided to tell my husband. We made a plan that as soon as we got home, I would get a shower and lay down to see what happened. He got our oldest from the bus stop and by the time they returned I was having contractions 3.5 minutes apart. I briefly wondered if I could just stay home and labor longer, perhaps even freebirth, but I decided instead to go. We had my father-in-law coordinate with my mom to take the boys and on our way to the hospital we went.


When we arrived, I insisted on walking up to the room – now that we were committed to being at the hospital, I wanted things to progress quickly. We had a wonderful nurse who did her best to get all of my info and vitals so I could continue to move around. She told me the name of the doctor on call that evening. Another brief moment of anxiety – I was told multiple times that the midwives would be there on weekdays and now I not only had an obstetrician, but the same one who I felt was dismissive of me when I went in for my secondary infertility. “All right, Lord,” I thought, “whatever You’re doing, I trust You.”


My father-in-law briefly popped in with a gift. My sweet boys had picked out a plush robe for me to be more comfortable in the hospital. I took a moment to mourn the previous life we had together, knowing that the dynamic would change with the new baby. I also knew he could not have two better big brothers.


When finally alone, my husband further dimmed the lights and sat in a chair behind me while I sat on the birthing ball and leaned over the bed on some pillows. I put in my headphones with my labor playlist of Cassia and Myrrh songs. Do not be afraid, the darkness will not conquer you. Do not be afraid, noli timere. I went between focusing on the songs, to repeating the Jesus Prayer, to envisioning horses and cows (the horse lips technique and breathing out "moo" to keep everything deep and low). Aside from the nurse coming in a few times to check the monitor, I was undisturbed.


The contractions soon began to get stronger where I had to make a considerable effort to remain relaxed through them. I would run a check from my head to my toes and make sure I wasn't tensing anywhere. I knew the pain had a purpose and welcomed it. I began to feel like bearing down. This was the point where I felt my other labors went out of control, with bright lights in my eyes, me screaming and swearing, the nurses trying to tell me how to breathe and when to push. Be with me, Lord. I don't want to swear.


I felt a gush of water underneath me. The next time the nurse came in I told her I thought my water broke. She checked the pad underneath and said it was a trickle. "Good luck, I think you're going to see your baby very soon!" Her shift had just ended and another nurse was coming in. She introduced herself and was checking in on all the monitors. I was trying to remain calm and talk to her, but I knew I was in full fledge transition and it took all my concentration to continue breathing through each surge.


She asked if I wanted a cervical check and I hesitated – I chose to decline checks the entire pregnancy, but had discussed with my midwife about possibly having one before pushing. Still feeling pushy, I said yes, and it was the only regret I have of the entire birth - the pain put me over the edge and I went into primal mode and almost kicked her. I was trying to regain my focus laying on my side squeezing the railing and my husband's hand. She believed I was only at an 8 or 9 and continued talking quietly to my husband when all of the sudden I felt the head crown and slip back inside.


"He's coming," I moaned out.

"The baby is coming?" the nurse asked lifting up the blanket to look. She resumed her position at the monitor and with the next surge I mooed with all my might and felt his head emerge completely. I was in the zone, so I don't know what quite happened, but somewhere in there the nurse realized I wasn't kidding, called the other nurse in and I could hear them quietly but urgently trying to page the doctor. I was patiently awaiting the next surge and for the fetal ejection reflex to continue doing its work, except it wasn't coming. The nurse urged me to push. "You're almost there, babe!" I heard my husband say. I tried to remain in control and go slow. In one long push he was the rest of the way out and quickly on my chest, showing off the full force of his lungs. Our little Enda. Thank You, Lord. This child is Yours.


It took some time for the doctor to arrive, which meant plenty of time to let the cord pulse all the baby's blood into him and for the placenta to detach on its own while we soaked up time skin-to-skin. When the doctor came in, she said, "Well, you didn't need me, you could have had your homebirth!" Good one, Lord, very funny. I laughed and, in that moment, let go of my negative judgment of her.


All three of my births were unmedicated and quick, but this was my first birth with a distinct feeling of peace and sacredness - all from God and given back to God from beginning to end. Entering into motherhood for the third time has brought numerous joys, and also unique challenges. To walk into this season at such a holy time of year, while awaiting the birth of Christ, has overall been a privileged, healing experience.

I may never know why we went through secondary infertility, why I could not find a midwife to support me in a homebirth, or why I went on a needless wild goose chase to get a second ultrasound, but I do know that God has given me ample chances in humbling myself and turning to Him and His will. I question His choice to make me a mother every single day, but nothing has given me so much practice in selflessness and patience. I would give anything to take care of my husband and boys. I know that His hand is in that and in following His will as best I can wherever it may lead.


"Beloved, all that is harsh and difficult I want for myself, and all that is gentle and sweet for thee.” -St John of the Cross 


Olivia Murphy is a devoted wife and mother of three boys. In her free time, she can most often be found running, reading, baking, and attempting to pray without ceasing.


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