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Oh, The Bliss

So thankful for the myriad healthy and fragrant ways my dear husband invests in our kids! But for some reason, smoking a stogie with Dad has become a Spry child rite of passage at age 18. Aaron Ray waited almost a year for his moment ~ July 2019, Columbia Falls, Montana

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul. Verse from It Is Well with My Soul

Beautiful music is a gift. Being sung to can be delightful. My mother used to make joyful noises while playing with us, running her finger up and around our hands, foreheads, noses and chins. We would giggle in delight. One of the few happy memories my mother has of her childhood is her mother singing around her, usually hymns.

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. Psalm 33:1-3

Some of my fondest memories are of my father singing—standing next to him in church, listening to him harmonize hymns with his gleeful tenor, or falling into peaceful rest as he sang The Lord’s Prayer to us at bedtime. My mother would wake us on Saturday mornings playing a peppy rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In on the beautiful baby grand piano my dad refinished for her.

I have done a fair bit of singing to our kids—over them, with them. Lullabies and Sunday school songs were favorite genres and with the help of some nursery rhyme books, tapes (mid-90s was the tail-end of this medium) and CDs, I was able to build a sizable mental library. I still sing to Bella. Though she is 15, I try to end most days with the Shema and The Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes I break out in a praise chorus while driving.

Soon after each of our children was born, I created a lullaby for her/him. I abbreviated and adapted the lyrics from a popular song and personalized it for that child. Bailey’s and Aaron’s are from The Sound of Music (Edelweiss and The Sound of Music); Jacob’s is from John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy and Bella’s is from the Stevie Wonder tune, Isn’t She Lovely. Each song evokes warm fuzzies for me, as I recall bedtime kisses and soft cuddles, check-to-cheek.

I especially loved when we would sing hymns and spirituals all together, starting most of our home school days standing with my sweet Grandma Lennie’s treasured hymnal. So this past winter when Aaron texted me from college to ask if I knew who wrote the tune of The Hymn of Joy, I was delighted.

He was taking a humanities course, learning the origins of the lyrics and the music. After I replied, “Beethoven”, I asked him if he remembered the page number of his favorite song in our hymnal. Immediately he texted back:

“454, Trust and Obey

I was home, so I quickly grabbed the hymnal and flipped to that page. Sure enough, Trust and Obey is on page 454. This warmed my heart, connecting this boy and the book in my hands to ethereal memories of us singing, praying and acting on those words.

Aaron Ray just turned 19 on Thursday. He’s my third-one’s-a-charm baby, becoming the first to fulfill my heart’s desire of a natural birth. And if Bella’s (see Exceedingly Abundantly) birth was a chirpy rap song—clever and quick—Aaron’s was an all-out symphony in four movements.

Aaron and Bella play for a family wedding ~ August 2016, Montrose, Michigan

A Y2K baby, Aaron was born after nightfall, October 3. Like his two older siblings, he was “late”, though not nearly as tardy as they—both 12 days past their expected arrival. My midwife told me I just liked to gestate longer. I did enjoy being pregnant, so wonder if I had willed each child to linger? However, I do recall, like most mothers, being very ready by 40 weeks.

I pined for a natural birth after having two surgical births at which I became an object of the events rather than the subject that all birthing mothers should be. I prayed earnestly for this home birth to be uncomplicated and this baby to be healthy. We received a healthy 9 lb. 10 oz., 22-inch-long boy, after a marathon-like, mountain-climbing experience—a dramatic unfolding quite unlike the sprint that Bella’s labor and birth proved to be.

Here we go…for Aaron, for posterity, for normal-birth and for love’s-sake! (Full disclosure, Spry kids, please spare me the groans as I spare no detail here...this is the full-color unabridged version, as penned in my journal days after Aaron’s birth.)

Tuesday’s Child Is Full of Grace

Amazing, miraculous, awesome, exhausting, hard, incredible…these are some of the words that come to mind as I remember our labor and birth, Aaron Ray. As I sit and stare at your perfectly angelic face, I am awed by the wonder of creation. God is so amazing. How he created us to create and designed the process by which we become. I am so grateful and thankful for his mighty plan, power and peace.

Your birth, Aaron, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done—physically, mentally. My body aches, but my heart is flooded with joy. You are here, hallelujah! We did it—together. I brought you up onto my chest, warm and wet straight from your birth journey from my womb.

Your bright, knowing eyes gazed peacefully at me. You came from me and through me, to me. You were so content on my chest, naked we were, skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart. I rubbed and caressed you and felt your body with sheer pleasure. I was so exhausted, but had enough energy reserves to hold you close and revel. We lay together for longer than an hour, more like two. You were so alert and content.

You are perfect. For the long, hard journey, you came out strong and healthy, pink and beautiful. For you, we are grateful to God forever. You are his child. We are his children.

I was awakened by the first contraction at 3 a.m., Tuesday, October 3. I lay in bed between them 15-20 minutes, trying to rest for the hard work ahead. The time had finally arrived. It is hard to contain one’s self after waiting so long, but I knew I needed to conserve energy.

By 7 a.m. I was up and about, thinking of what to do next. I watched a little TV, then by 7:35 called Suzi, “Today’s the day!” She was so excited…Mike even called from work with well wishes and said he had a tear in his eye. How sweet, what a neat guy!

I called Bridgett to tell her the good news. She was happy and said to keep in touch as she prepared for the day ahead.

Bailey woke up and we read some books together. The contractions continued, steadily increasing to 10 minutes apart. “Today our baby will be born,” I told Bailey.

“Finally…yippie!” she exclaimed after having asked my belly daily, “Is today the day?”

I had told Daddy around 5 a.m. in bed, so he had already called work and was home for the day. We picked up around the house, played a game with the kids and took a nice walk around the block. I had to stop several times to relax through contractions which were getting to be six to eight minutes apart.

Once home, I took a shower and had some lunch with Bailey. Sweet Suzi had brought over food. Bailey was off to school, Daddy took her and told her teacher what was happening and that Suzi would be picking her up.

I continued to labor, five minutes apart. Jake and I got in the hot tub for a relaxing dip. It felt good, but made me weak. By now, Bridgett and Lisa—whom I had called earlier that morning—were on their way.

I began to feel more intense waves as the contractions picked up. I got into the shower for a bit, then sat in our puffy chair to relax. It was around 3:30 p.m. Bridgett and Lisa arrived, Suzi and Bailey returned.

I was very focused during contractions, relaxing, breathing, beginning to moan often as they strengthened and lengthened - three minutes apart.

Once the labor tub was full, I got in and Daddy joined me. I needed him nearby for physical and emotional support. It felt good in the water, to float and let go of gravity. Time evaded me as I drifted in and out of the waves that would soon bring you into my arms.

Jacob and Bailey, at the edge of the birthing pool, eagerly anticipate their sibling's arrival ~ October 3, 2000, Waterford, Michigan

Bridgett checked our progress and soon after, it was nearly time to push. With one of my first grunts, your amniotic sac burst and fluid spilled out into the tub (kind of convenient, no clean up.) It was 5:30 or so, I’m told, when I began to push.

I moved around in different positions in the pool. We had nice moments of smiles and laughs with silly comments, and as I pushed, cake was being consumed without my knowledge. At one point, I told Scott, “Oh! It’s you who stinks!” when I realized I had mistaken his coffee breath for some gassy smell from me!

My best friend (and photographer extraordinaire), Suzi, helped them bake a birthday cake while I labored...intending to portray a skirted beauty, it featured a naked and drowning-in-chocolate Barbie ~ October 3, 2000, Waterford, Michigan

Suzi, teary-eyed, later told me of a tender moment when I leaned into Daddy and said, “Thank you for being so strong for me.” He sure is and was. He was my rock! Supporting my body as I leaned and suspended myself on him. He caressed my brow, held my hand, whatever I needed.

Suzi was another rock, caring for Bailey and Jake’s needs throughout the labor journey. She would often be the shoulder I needed too.

And little Lisa Guido (a labor doula), what a woman! Scott on one side and Lisa on the other, holding me up as I squatted. She is only 5’2” and small-framed, but she was an Italian She-Ra! Both she and Bridgett massaged my legs with oil and reassured me constantly.

I pushed in many different positions for two hours without progress. Bridgett checked me and determined your head was a bit cockeyed. So she had me lie back as I pushed and tried to straighten you out. Then, she figured out that it was more than a tilted head holding you up, it was Mommy’s extremely tight pelvic floor muscles. So then Bridgett was able to use her fingers to push down on those muscles as I pushed—lying flat on my back with my knees pulled up and back to my ears! What a position—one I never imagined birthing in, but the one position which proved most effective. Bridgett was almost embarrassed to have me use it!

By now, it was 7:30 and the most beautiful of autumn days had melted into dusk. The light waned and the room darkened. Candles were lit and soft Celtic music played. I was in my zone, focused on the difficult task ahead.

I put every ounce of my being into each push. And the contractions kept coming. Lisa said, “Wow, you have great oxytocin!” which is the natural hormone that causes contractions.

It must have meant all was well and you were on your way, slowly but surely. Thinking back, I know that the power and strength I had to push could only have come from God, it really was supernatural—the energy, the desire, the ability!

I had so much encouragement from everyone in this beautiful bedroom, but it was also the prayers of all those who love and care for us, those who weren’t here…my mom, sister, Debbie, Shelly, Diane, Monique, Bud and Kirsten, Christine. We had surrounded ourselves with such positive, faithful people who knew how hopeful we were for a good, safe birth. They were in this room in spirit, their prayers heard and answered.

Debbie had told me today she was praying for Bridgett. I told her that God answered her prayers. Bridgett was so necessary to the success of your birth. Her quiet presence, her confidence, her knowledge, her reassurances that, “Yes, he is coming.” She gave me the eyes I needed—the you’re-doing-it-it’s-working eyes.

Scott gave me peace and confidence. I was so damned determined! With each push, they saw a little more head. I could hardly believe or think about it. I tried to rest between contractions, taking ice chips from sweet Bailey who sat on the bed, ever so eager to see this child be born.

I felt a wave coming on and I would breathe in deep and muster all the energy I had, then bear down and hold it then recoup with a breath and immediately push again to get your head to stay a little farther down each time. And it worked! Eventually, two hours after figuring out how to make the best progress, Aaron was close to being born.

As your head came closer to exiting my body, I saw and felt it. Warm, hairy, soft head. Another push and your brow was out. Another push and your whole head was out of me! I saw it and was amazed! Aaron is really coming. (Could have been Erin, at that point we still didn’t know.)

My bottom burned and ached as your body waited to follow. Another wave came and I knew it would soon be over. Push, I did, with all my might and your whole body slithered out. Bridgett had told me to reach down to get the baby. My arms outstretched and my hands took hold under your arms as I lifted you onto my chest.

I did it! It was over. Praise God Almighty! Relief, euphoria and exhaustion intermingled as you lay on my chest. Love flooded my soul as I looked at this baby under my chin. You were warm and wet. Beautiful.

You gazed around the softly lit room, wide-eyed with wonder. You didn’t make any noise, as your body breathed from the placenta still inside me and attached to you by the cord.

I worried that you weren’t breathing but was reassured by Bridgett that you were okay. I rubbed your body and watched you. You didn’t squirm or struggle. You gently came into your own new earthly being and breathed, at first shallow then fully, as the transition from womb to earth took place. How awesome!

Moments after birth, Scott and Bailey gaze at our newest addition ~ October 3, 2000

You were so peaceful. There was no assault on your raw senses. No one smacked your butt or cut your oxygen supply by separating you from cord and placenta. No one shoved a bulb syringe in your throat or up your nose. And there had even been meconium. Along with a gush of blood, both concerned Bridgett enough to be checking heart tones after each contraction, but never was there a cause for worry since your heart tones remained strong. At one time, earlier on in pushing, the heart rate decelerated to 90 beats per minute, versus a regular 130 or 140, but it didn’t persist and was a normal part of a baby’s response to being squeezed under the pubic bone.

No doubt, had we been anywhere else but home or Bridgett’s birth center, we would have ended up with every intervention, including and concluding with a Caesarean—three-peat.

But praise, all praise be to God Almighty for the people and the place and the peace and confidence, the strength and stamina and determination. It was a miraculous event.

As I lay with you on me I rubbed your naked body and felt around your little bum. I had wanted to be the first to know your gender. Sure enough, I felt your parts. Yes, it has to be. It’s a boy!

Aaron Ray Spry, born at home in Waterford, Michigan on October 3, 2000

Aaron had arrived. Aaron Ray Spry entered this world at 9:25 p.m. After a long, hard labor, much sweat, blood and now tears of joy, you had arrived! You are so amazing and beautiful, Aaron. Purely perfect—a gift.

Big sister and brother love on Aaron ~ October 2000


Mother-Friendly Maternity Care

These links are loaded with valuable info -- Mother-Friendly Childbirth is Baby-Friendly and daddy-friendly! Help moms make informed choices that lead to excellent evidence-based care. No matter where a mother chooses to birth, every one deserves compassionate, evidence-based care. Find excellent resources and connections HERE.


Yom Kippur ~ Substitutionary Atonement

Ten days after The Day of Trumpets/Yom Teruah, the Lord’s appointed time Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur occurs. This year, it begins at nightfall Tuesday, October 8, and concludes an hour after nightfall on Wednesday, October 9. This is understood as the holiest day on the Biblical calendar, the only day the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies and call upon the LORD to offer blood sacrifice for the sins of the people. It is a solemn day marked by fasting, services and prayer. Today, we can rejoice that our Savior--the Jewish carpenter and rabbi--Messiah Yeshua/Jesus Christ made atonement for us once, for all. Find a great selection of teachings on this most holy of holy days HERE. Join us for services HERE: October 8, 7:00 p.m., October 9, 10:30 a.m. and 6:45 p.m.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.

But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! Verse from It Is Well with My Soul
Bennie Ray/Poppa with Aaron Ray; "It Is Well with My Soul" was one of his favorite hymns; he sang it and lived it ~ December 2000

Aaron Ray celebrating 19 with his Poppy/Ken Spry ~ Paris, Michigan

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