About Me


 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott


I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
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Birth story: Phoenix Jedidiah

Michael delivered our beloved dog Buddy into the ground on a rainy Wednesday night.

He returned home around 6 pm, covered in dirt from digging a hole at the base of our favorite tree on the farmhouse property.

Eleven hours later those same strong hands and tender heart delivered his third born son into the world.

the view from my parent's driveway as the firetruck and ambulance arrived...doesn't it look like another fire?

On Thursday November 17th,
I woke up from sleep sometime around 3 in the morning with strong lower back pain and contractions; I don't know when exactly I woke up because I didn't bother to put on my glasses and check the clock.

Instead, I made up a little mantra for myself and repeated it inside my head: every time I felt a contraction, I spoke the words, Cradle me,
and I thought about Jesus like a lamb, wrapping himself around me, the lion.

This goes along with my birth imagery story, and my conviction that this birth would be one of rest, of the lion lying down with the lamb.

And then this verse came unbidden to mind:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
-Isaiah 43:2

I didn't realize it until three days later, but this was the last thing I'd written in Phoenix's baby journal; I'd replaced all the 'you's" with his name, and claimed this verse as a benediction over his life.

I laid in my bed beside my sleeping husband and repeated the verse over and over, every time a contraction hit.

After the fire, one of my friends gave me a necklace with a lotus flower stamped on it- it was my first piece of post-fire jewelry, and I haven't taken it off since I got it because I love the symbolism: the lotus grows in muddy water...at night the flower closes and sinks underwater, and at dawn it rises and opens again.

So the other thing I visualized as I lay there breathing was my whole pelvic floor as an upside down lotus, spreading white petals and blooming open with the dawn...kind of like a Cabbage Patch Kid.

When I finally looked at the clock, it was 4:13 am; the next time I had a contraction, I checked and it was 4:23, then 4:33, then 4:43.

I tapped Michael at this point and told him I thought I was in labor, and that I wanted to get up and take a shower before we had to hit the road- we birth out in Leesburg at The Birthing Inn and it's at least a 45 minute drive; I told him we had to leave within the hour to not get stuck in early morning D.C. traffic.

 making their way up the stairs to the "delivery room."

I was all business mode, thinking of everything that needed to get done before we could leave.

Then I swung my feet over the edge of the bed and stood up.

And it was like someone catapulted me into active labor.

I got myself onto the toilet and was sitting there rocking back and forth when Michael came in the room and asked why I was sitting on the toilet.

I must apologize in advance here for being somewhat belligerant with my hubbins.

I've never been one of those women who screams obscenities at the man who got them pregnant; usually Michael and I are a great birthing team, but he hadn't really woken up yet, and he kept asking me questions that I wanted him to answer for himself.

I told him he could go find another toilet to sit on.

Then I told him I needed a hair thing and he asked me where they were.
I pointed to the counter, then behind my head to the cabinet, then finally remembered they were in a drawer, barely managing to get these words out between the pain surges.

Then he asked me where the cell phone was.
And I realized the phone, since it was lost, probably wasn't charged.


Then I asked him for my music- the one crucial thing I need to birth.
I have to have music to distract me from the pain....and he couldn't find that either.

We've had so much help around the house setting things up that we have no idea where anything is.
I'm barking commands at Michael, already too intent on conserving energy to waste it on being kind and polite.

I don't have a cell phone, music, ear buds to listen to music....I get my hair up in a ponytail with one hand while I hold the toilet seat with the other, and then my bangs fall in my face, which is like the most annoying feeling in the entire world, and I would gladly chop my hair off right now just to get it out of my eyes, but of course I can't find any scissors.

In my state, sitting on the toilet like someone Krazy glued my butt there, moaning and rocking back and forth, I started to get really fearful.

the boys first glimpse of their new baby brother as they stand in the bedroom doorway

I am not getting enough time to mentally prepare for this reality.

I am in the middle of serious labor and my husband is somewhere rummaging around the house, my kids are asleep one bedroom away, and there are no midwives to rub my back and speak soothing words and no worship music to help me go into that deep internal place where I can find the reserves of strength to handle the pain.

I strip off my clothes and barely stumble the three steps into the shower before falling to my knees.

I sit (appropriately) like a lion on a pedestal, on my haunches, letting the hot water pound into my lower back, and resting my face against the cool tile.

my support team taking me out to the ambulance on a gurney

And I feel really alone.

I am used to Michael being my birth coach, encouraging me, massaging me; I am used to having the healing hands of a midwife guiding me through each ebb and flow of labor.

Without any slow and steady build up, I am in the shower moaning like a cow, pulling my own jaw down to make sure I don't tighten up my face muscles thereby tightening up my pelvic floor.

I am shaking and bellowing and praying and speaking out the name of Jesus because I am on my own here and I feel like a little girl.

I know Michael is trying to call my parents to come get the kids; he's calling my midwife to let her know we are on our way...and then he yells from the bedroom,

We aren't going to make it to Loudoun. Let's head to Prince William.

Out of everything that got burnt in the fire, Michael's red t-shirt, the same shirt he's worn for all our children's births, made it through the flames.  Despite the chaos of the morning, he threw it on in time to wear for the trip to the hospital. 
I love this man.

I am trying to work my mind around these changes, too fast for any comprehension:

we've got to find the phone charger and put it in the van; we've got to switch our van for the van that belongs to the owners of this house because our van has a bag of fire-smoked clothing in the back and smells like a house fire and there is no way on this earth I am bringing home a new born baby in a van that smells like a burnt house; I've got to get out of the shower, put on clothing, make it down the stairs, make it in the van, sit upright in a seat, and labor for 45 minutes till we get to the hospital...

And I just feel so completely inadequate for the task, so overwhelmed, so tired of fighting.

I just want someone to knock me out, take the pain away, and give me a baby at the end of it.

the boys watching their two-time heroes

But that's not the way this is going down.

I am completely weak, but if anything has reminded me that in my weakness, God is strong, it's been the events of the last week.

I turn off the shower, dry off (although I can feel water dripping down my leg and have to assume my water broke while I was in the shower), try to get into the bedroom to start getting dressed,

and I'm back on the floor, my towel gripped in both hands, my head pressed so hard into the floor (I realize later I bruised my whole forehead), my body moaning and rocking back and forth.

I'm on all fours and Michael tells me I am dripping blood onto the floor.

That's when he calls 9-1-1.

Next thing I know, the phone (which has only been charged for fifteen minutes) is lying beside me and a female dispatcher is telling me to get on my back. 

Get on my back and get my knees pulled to my chest.

I'm thinking, there is no way I am getting in a bed and onto my back and then dirtying up our homeowner's sheets and comforter; there is no way I am turning around on the ground and lying prone on someone else's carpet...what am I supposed to lean back on?

I ignore the dispatcher and tell Michael I have to have a bowel movement.

Honestly, in my head I am still going with the plan to try to get to the toilet again, poo, put on clothes, and get in the van to Prince William Hospital.

It's not till the dispatcher asks if Michael can see the baby crowning that it occurs to me this is it-
this is the birth story happening right here, inside the sea green walls of someone else's master bedroom.

My mom comes in the room, grabs more towels and bath rugs, and lays them under me.
I get a few back rubs, but really, both of my normal support people are just trying to keep up with how fast everything is flying at them.

I hear myself start to groan, "the song of labor" as midwives say;  I sound like I am about to push this baby out, and somewhere in my head I pray that my kids would not walk in in the middle of this.

I still think I am trying to push out a bowel movement which (and sorry this is gross) Michael is handling by grabbing donated socks out of a drawer and wiping away any evidence, when I feel the intense pressure of the baby's head.
Not once did I feel him coming down the birth canal, not once did I feel the pressure of his head and try to push him out.

I hear the dispatcher ask once again if he is crowning, I hear Michael say yes, and I reach down to feel my baby's head coming out of me.

Michael tells me to move my hand, and I push, and just like that, out comes the head.
I give another push, and the rest of the body slides out.
I am on all fours facing away from Michael; I can't see anything but I hear him say I got him, and then I hear a little cry, and then the dispatcher says,

It sounds like you've got a healthy baby boy.

She asks me to try and turn around and scoot down to the baby so that he can go back between my legs, the warmest place for him to be.

I rotate around onto my back, and there before me is my precious husband, naked except for donated tighty-whities, holding our newborn son in his two strong hands.
And my son, covered in vernix and blood, the cord thick and pulsing between us, just hanging there between his Daddy's hands.

Breathing, but not crying.

It's like a wind of peace has just blown in the door, surrounding us.
I am overcome by the calm of his spirit.

I lay back onto the floor and I cry and smile because I just had a home birth, because this baby is born, this baby is healthy, my husband delivered our child, we have a roof over our head, we are lying on the floor of a bedroom that is not our own, in the intimate light of the morning,
just the three of us,

and our baby is born.

The firemen show up a few minutes later; there are about seven or eight of them surrounding me.
One, a handsome Italian named Marcello, kneels by my side and starts massaging my stomach to help the placenta deliver.
Another lovely woman with blond hair takes Phoenix to check his vital signs, but not before I get to hold him on my chest, in all his newborn glory, before anybody has wiped him off or made him presentable; I get to have him raw and miraculous.

I stare up behind me and there in the doorway are my two older sons in their superhero pajamas and scruffy bedheads, taking in the firefighters and mommy on the ground, naked except for some towels.
Gabriel asks, Is that my bruder?
And Malachi asks me why there is blood on his head.

I say, 

Isn't this amazing loves?  We get to have the firefighters here again, and they helped us have your baby brother! He is born right here and you get to see it! Not many big brothers get to see their babies right after they're born.

I am in love with this moment. 

All the fear is gone, I'm not dwelling on everything that could have gone wrong. 
This feels like the only appropriate birth story to go along with the way God is writing our story- I can feel him smiling down at us with the pen in his hand.

He gave me a home birth, a desire of my heart, just not the way I ever thought it would look.

A home birth without a home.

My children are surrounding me, but they didn't wake up to be traumatized by momma on all fours yelling like an Amazon woman.
Malachi tells me later he thought his mommy had turned into a monster, so I guess he was awake and listening...but I don't mind my boys knowing that birth brings joy, and pain.

And we have firefighters again, on the same road as our fire, but this time to bear witness to new life.

Like wise men who made the journey to bless the miracle baby boy, they offer their love: taking pictures with their iPhones, massaging me, wrapping me up in a portable gurney so that I become the baby in the womb, carried down the stairs and out under the big black sky, held up by the strong arms of men who know the sacrifice of love.

I've never seen the sky and the stars so soon after giving birth.

And then I'm being wheeled over gravel on the same road I've grown up on, the same road I learned to drive on, the same road I walked up a week and a half ago away from my burnt house- now I am lying on a gurney, naked under the night sky except for my white fuzzy robe draped across my body, a pulsing placenta still inside of me, my baby wrapped in Gigi's arms waiting safely in the ambulance, my husband beside me.

Michael holds Phoenix in the ambulance; I get an IV as we hit the potholes on the gravel road...it's a haze of trying to keep the placenta inside me and listening to the murmur of the EMT's and the breathing of my baby, who hasn't cried once.

We get to the hospital. 

I catch a glimpse of myself in the glass ceiling of the foyer, manage to take in for a millisecond the oddity of the situation: me, naked, legs still bent in pushing position, pulsing placenta, EMT escort, hubbins with baby beside me...

And then I am in a delivery room, and the doctor, Dr. Harms (which means that our "Welcome Baby Boy" sign on the baby cart has Wilbourn and Harms on it...another precious little gift) is suiting up with gloves and the white cap and the blue robe, preparing to deliver my placenta.

I can't figure out why I have to put my feet in stirrups, scoot my butt down to the light; why there are sterile instruments laid out on a table and a somber manner in the room.
I am used to the warm hands of midwives massaging my belly, helping the placenta to deliver, no big deal.

I find out later that a woman with a home birth a few weeks ago, left the placenta in for a couple days before finally coming in to the hospital; for all he knows, I am another one of those.
He tells me the next day he was afraid of placenta accreta- when the placenta attaches itself to the uterus.

The placenta comes out perfectly; Michael says it's the most perfect of any of my placentas.
And then we eat it.

Just kidding.  Sorry guys.
I couldn't resist.
I mean, it's done in some traditions.

bonding with Kyrie to help her get over the jealousy hump

The doctor turns back to check the rest of me out and says something like:

Okay, you have a lot of tears in there. 
It looks pretty bad. We need to stitch this up right away.

And so, for the next hour, he proceeds to put 40-50 stitches into my nether region.

I nurse Phoenix during the whole process, which keeps me from flailing and freaking out, and when they put the lidocaine shots right through the most sensitive parts of my anatomy, Michael kisses me to keep me from yelling.

When I ask the doctor about it the next day, he says he's never counted stitches before, that they're like baseball stitches: you put the needle in and just go, so it's not fair to count them as individual stitches.

The nurse says it's 40-50, and it sure feels like it. Not to mention the 18 different punctures of lidocaine down there....Michael saw the whole thing and he says 18.

I don't know if the numbers are correct. 
All I know is that it felt like reconstructive surgery, a much more painful experience than the birth.

The sweet doctor came to visit me the next day and drew me a diagram of my nethers to show me the process. We talked about the fire, I showed him pictures from my blog, he rubbed my shoulder with compassion.  
He gave me pain medication, which I refused to take once I left the hospital, but have since decided it's better to be able to walk than to stay in acute pain with four children to take care of.

Basically, although Michael did an incredible intuitive job delivering Phoenix, I did not have anyone there to help me push him out.
He just kinda flew out of me, his head didn't mold at all; and as my midwife told me later, it can blow out your bottom a bit to not have the baby slowly work his way down, to not have kind hands helping massage the area to make for a less painful post-delivery.

Since this story is told from my perspective, and I didn't get to see Michael deliver, all I can say is that he seemed incredibly peaceful and competent.  He's watched my other births and told me later he was remembering our wonderful midwife Paula, and how she did it- he turned the shoulders a little to help them fit as Phoenix slid out; he swiped his finger around the neck to make sure no cord was wrapped; he swiped the mouth out of fluid; he massaged Phoenix's back to help him cry.

I did not fear for a second that Michael could not do what it would take to deliver his baby.  

We are a good team.

Even though I didn't get to have my midwives, God blessed me with the tender care of two amazing women: our pediatrician, a friend and fellow church member, pulled up a chair and we talked for forty-five minutes, and then we prayed together. 

My lactation consultant is another friend and church member; she helped multiple times to get Phoenix latching on correctly, and she prayed for me as well.

An EMT from our delivery came to visit, and later, we found a gift bag dropped off at our door with a Prince William County Fire Department onesie for the baby, and a card that said: It's a Boy! We Checked! signed by all the people from Fire Station 16.

The social worker came to visit, asked if we needed anything, and brought us a handmade quilt.
A couple days later, we were able to return the blessing by donating six bags of newborn clothing to be dispersed among other new mommies at the hospital.

All the nurses were so kind to me.
They brought me endless cans of ginger ale, along with peanut butter and graham crackers- my absolute favorite hospital snack.  

Family and friends came to visit, to laugh with incredulity over our crazy, and yet so appropriate, birth story.

Could it have happened any other way?

It truly was a birth of rest- my hunch is that I labored while I slept, and even though I felt more alone in this birth than with my others, I also felt the arms of the lamb wrapping me in peace.

So much could have gone wrong, could have taken us to the mat as my midwife said later, but it didn't.

Just look at this exquisite little treasure...

This is our story.

Apparently, God is writing an epic.

And here is the hero, baby Phoenix Jedidiah.

The most precious proof that beauty does indeed come from ashes.

image taken by Stacey, owner of Focus Photography, who gave us a free photography session as her Thanksgiving gift after the fire...thank you Stacey! You blessed us so much!

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Reader Comments (12)

My soul has been richly fed as I have read all of the postings Shannon reminds me to read. Tears still linger on my cheeks from reading the birth posting. I laugh and I weep at your entries and among so many other things, I praise God for 21st Century technology coupled with your precious trust, vulneralbitlity, and craftsmanship with words that collide so that I can experience your life vicariously. God bless youa all and thanks again for sharing your journey with us.

November 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaycee Emilienburg

Trina, wow. I'm in tears... The Lord speaks thru you, I can't even express how deeply you reach me. Thank you, and praise You Father for this story... I feel like it was written for me.

All my love to your family and to the Lord for His fauthfulness and grace...

Happy happy Thanksgiving.

Kristen Schrock

November 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterschrock

I laughed out loud at the placenta-eating part :-) Trinity, you are something else and this story is fabulous. Phoenix has a triumphant entry into this wild world and you have 50 stitches. Wow.

To Phoenix: Welcome to earth, Phoenix! Your mom is a total bad ass. (edited for content: your mom is a rock star, is brave, full of grace and tenderness, and will teach you amazing things.)

November 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Moffat

Phoenix is so, SO beautiful, Trin. What a precious reward.

November 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCara

I gagged at the placenta eating part, but I cried when you wrote about not having one doubt that Michael would do what it took to deliver the baby. I love your marriage. Thanks for being so open here. It's such a blessing to everyone. Thank you for my sweet nephew. And thank you for showing me your stitches.

November 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbrett baker

I was referred to your blog by a friend, curiosity sparked by your beautiful son's name. I, too, have a Phoenix. He is my "middle child." And I named him that because I too believe that beauty and amazing purpose can come from ashes. Congratulations to you all. What an absolutely breathtaking experience you shared with us. Good work, mama :)

November 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterluv2bemama

I am overwhelmed by all of your words precious friends. Thank you for loving on me and my family, and for your mutual belief in God's purposes being accomplished, even if that doesn't always look like what we think it's going to look like.

November 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTrinity and the brood

I pray the story continues, but I hope this is the climax...at least for the time being. I love you and I did not doubt for a minute that you would be able to birth our son right there in the bedroom. We are a good team.

November 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Wilbourn

I am still amazed by this story, even though you've told it to me over the phone and in person and I've now read it here. God just blessed every single piece of it.

I am glad he didn't bless the eating of the placenta, though. That's gross. What's grosser is the woman that left it in for days. What is that all about? EWWW!!

November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBriana Arlene

Phoenix is BEAUTIFUL!!!!!! and what a Beautiful story!!! Yes, God is writing an Epic... a wonderful, beautiful, amazing epic of your lives!!!

So happy for you guys!

December 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda von Schilling

I've enjoyed reading some of your blogs, Trina. You have a beautiful family!

December 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Gresham

Oh Trinity, the writing has been on the wall since your parents named you and you met a man named Wil-bourn. I'm sure you've done the math, and in the names of your children you have foreshadowed part of the amazing story yet to come. Your penetrating honesty and steadfast faith in God and each other stand as a beautiful reminder to me. Love and blessings, Erin Emilienburg Greer

December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin Emilienburg Greer

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