A few weeks after I got pregnant, I came outside into the cool morning air and looked down at my feet. Just in front of my toes was a tiny pink moth. It's a girl. Something inside of me knew. I'm sure every mother thinks that her baby is going to be special.
I don't think the sadness, the pain, the self-inflicted drama, the bad choices, and the bad places that Preston and I were both in when we met can ever be adequately put into words. Let's just say that while he was on his way out of a very dark hole, and I was tumbling my way on in, we ran into each other - hard - and God made it stick.
On Thursday, May 26th, Preston and I got married in a little wooden court room downtown Lynchburg. The man who officiated our legal marriage was a sweet old man with a yellow tie. He seemed genuinely happy for us, and he loved our crazy hair. We cried and then ate some good food, happy to be together.
A few days later we got an unexpected offer for a free honeymoon time in South Carolina. We got tan, rode bikes on the beach, watched an alligator not eat a bird, ate great seafood, and sung some really bad karaoke together. Also, I got pregnant (though I didn't know it yet).
A few days after we got back from South Carolina, I had a terrible fever that lasted all day and deep into the night. As I fell in and out of sleep, I had intense dreams about angels coming to my apartment with flaming swords and killing thousands of shadows. I dreamt they flew around Preston and I as we slept, and they literally slew the darkness around us. I woke up hyperventilating, my fever reaching 106, and was rushed to the emergency room. I barely remember anything about that night except for my dream, the angels were there, and then I woke up to the face of a paramedic in the back of an ambulance. "You're going to be ok," he told me. Preston sat at the foot of my hospital bed and read an emergency room copy of the Bible. Later, when my fever hadn't broken, he crawled into the bed next to me and cried. We prayed. My fever broke. The doctor came in and sent me home. They couldn't find anything wrong.
A few weeks later, I believe it was June 21st, I woke up at 5 am and knew that I was pregnant. 3 pregnancy tests made it official. Preston and I were going to have a ... baby.
Emilia was with me at our ceremonial wedding on July 2nd. People who didn't know we were already married judged me. People who knew I was married judged me. People said mean things, sad things, and I was terrified. People said nice, beautiful things (people like my Dad, whose opinion really matters), and I was terrified. A life, inside of me? I knew that I couldn't do it. I knew that I didn't deserve it. I had walked so many steps toward God, and then ran thousands of steps away. To watch people I love so dearly suffer -- it only pushed me farther to the edge. How can God be good? He doesn't love me. I am angry. I am unloved. This was my worldview, and I was wrong. On July 2nd, though, everything began to change.
A cardinal flew by. I began to pray. Happy to be married, to cook for two, I prayed. Preston and I fought. I prayed. I watched my belly begin to swell, ever so slightly. I prayed. Mostly this praying consisted of me, on the floor, crying my eyes out. Sometimes I would say "God help me," "Lead me in the paths you have set for me," "I'm sorry," or "Jesus." We went to a good church. We prayed. We took communion several times. My stomach continued to grow. And then, one day, I understood. 26 years of God chipping away at the scales over my eyes and the cement walls around my heart, it broke through:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
I once was angry; now I'm loved.
I had dipped my toes into the very edge of the idea of getting re-baptized (I had been at the age of 9). But I knew what that meant, so I didn't. Then, in November of 2011, Preston and I both signed up to do it. It was very un-glamorous. Since I was 7 months pregnant, I basically wore a full black body suit. I climbed clumsily into the tub. Emilia and I together in the baptism pool, I will never forget the feel of the water rushing over my face as they lifted me up.
A few months later Emilia was supposed to come. She didn't. I told the doctors that I thought my water broke, but they sent me home. Three times. The day before she was delivered, I only felt her move once. I didn't know what to do. Afraid to be sent home again, I decided to wait until the next morning, when I knew I had a scheduled ultrasound.
Preston and I stared at the ultrasound screen, watching our baby's heart beating. "Her heart rate is a little low." The ultrasound technician murmured too slowly to herself. She pulled up the screen to check my amniotic fluid. There was none. Without a word, she lept out of the room to get my doctor.
He came in, calm, and told me to go to the emergency room. "You will have your baby today," he said. I was crying. "Should I go home and get my bag?" "No," he answered too quickly.
At the hospital I was changed into a shapeless green gown. My arms were pricked with needles and IVs of antibiotics. I was strapped down with monitors and given an amnio-infusion. They induced labor and my contractions began. A nurse stayed constantly by my side, watching colored lines on a screen: red, blue, and green. That was my baby. I couldn't read it. "Is she ok?" I asked the nurse, tears pooling in the corners of my eyes. "She bears watching." "Is she ok?" I asked the nurse. "She doesn't seem to like this." "Is she ok?" I asked the nurse. "She bears watching." This happened all night.
My family members were pacing and praying. My grandpa, who can barely walk, who is quickly becoming a shadow of his former self, sat at a kitchen table and prayed. We thought of Bronson, and how his birth had started this same way. My brother, un-willing to let himself go unheard demanded that my mother began throwing things around the room and tearing wires off the wall until the doctor gave me a c-section. "Don't let them make that baby wait too long," he demanded. His love still makes my eyes burn with tears of gratitude. In the hallway, my mom demanded the nurse call the (very) overly busy doctor back into the room.
"Yea..." my young female doctor said slowly, "we are going to start your section, ok? I don't like the look of her decels." My body, which had been shaking violently from the epidural, continued to vibrate and shiver. "Ok," I said. My mother came and pressed her body on top of mine, holding back tears, she asked me "Are you cold?" She was trying to get me to stop shivering. I remember other family members coming over to me, my sister, my brother in law, their faces peered down at me. I was leaving the room in my mind. I closed my eyes and began to pray. I knew that something was very wrong inside of my stomach. At that moment, I knew.
The doctor came in and noticed a huge pool of meconium. She began to order the NICU down to my operating room and gave scrubs to my husband. She called the anesthesiologist back. I closed my eyes again and began to pray. I know that all kinds of medicines were in my body, but no one -- ever again -- can tell me that God is not there and that He is not good.
As I prayed, I saw 4 angels around my hospital bed. I didn't see see them with my eyes, which were closed, but they were there. I perceived them in a way that I had when I lay in a feverish sweat upon first getting pregnant. God was there too, and He told me "Do not be afraid." At that moment, my body, which had been shaking for hours, went completely still. I took deep breaths through the oxygen mask. They wheeled me into the operating room.
With my arms strapped down, outstretched on either side, they put the fetal monitor back on -- Emilia was now in official distress. The operation was supposed to last an hour. I heard my doctor tell her nurses they had 15 minutes. The screen went up and they began to cut.
"Get my damn husband," I yelled.
After a few minutes he came in, saw my stomach, and his face went pale. He knelt beside me and we continued to pray. As I felt them tug and pull and push inside of me, cutting me open and re-arranging my insides, I remembered that it was Lent. I could think of nothing better to give up for Lent than what I was doing -- laying there cut open, with my arms outstretched. Ironically, I began to thank God for the opportunity to be in that position.
Somehow, at that moment, Emilia got stuck and they couldn't get her out. My doctor, being a young female, was upset. Her voice and the words she spoke to her nurses gave away too much. If they didn't get Emilia out within seconds, she would be lost.
Preston began weeping, and I think I did too. We only said "Jesus" over and over. I don't know how long it was, but eventually - we heard her cry. One strong little chirp and then the NICU started to suck the meconium out of her lungs. That one little peep was all we needed. Thank you God.
Preston says they brought Emilia over to me, so I could see her, but I don't remember a thing. He went with her as she was to be cleaned. They stitched me up, for what seems now like it was hours, and then wheeled me somewhere, behind some curtain, and "monitored" me. The woman who was to check my uterus by pressing on my minutes-fresh stitches did not know there was a kink in my morphine line. All I remember is crying out the word "unbearable." My arms were still outstretched.
Hours later I was able to hold Emilia. Weeping over her perfectly fine, perfectly beautiful body with my husband at my side, my whole being was overwhelmed with Grace. I got everything I asked for when I signed up for that Baptism, and God got my abs for lent.
Emilia Kelen Lund left the hospital at 7 pounds even. Within one month, she put on 4 pounds, and she has caused us many sleepless nights, and even more smiles. We thank God for our baby girl, who still has so much to teach us.