A Birth Story: Isaiah Phillip Runyan

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On May 13th, the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima and the day before Isaiah’s due date, Jeff and I decided to enjoy the beautiful Colorado weather and hike up Green Mountain with hopes of walking baby boy out. Following our hike we went to our celebrate Our Lady at our parish. I felt great and way too “normal” to go into labor. I had a feeling this kid was going to take his sweet time.

On May 14th — Mother’s Day and Isaiah’s due date — I still felt great so we decided to make the trip up to Greeley to celebrate Mother’s Day with Jeff’s family. The day came and went, and still no sign of baby boy’s arrival. 

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Jeff and I spent the next few days with high anticipation of when Isaiah would decide to make his debut. Jeff worked from home and I busied myself with cleaning and art projects. 

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On May 18th, I painted all day. Throughout the day I felt different:  uncomfortable and “crampy.” Jeff suggested that we try coaxing Isaiah out with spicy Indian food that night. We enjoyed one another’s company, our final date with Isaiah still inside the womb! Later that night our friends, Emily Martinez and Mary Kate VanderWoude, brought some DQ ice cream over and we watched Hitch. I continued to have slight discomfort and cramps throughout the evening, and felt quite giddy. I knew Isaiah was coming soon. Little did I know that he was already making his way.

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That night I slept through my pre-labor (slept about 5.5 hours) and awoke at 6 A.M. to go to the bathroom and noticed a little blood — a sign that this could be the real deal. I continued to second guess myself and wondered if I was actually going into labor, so I took a long hot shower, got ready for the day, drank a lot of water, and tried to stay relaxed. I was hesitantly excited, and although I wasn’t sure if this was actually “it,” I texted a few friends and family to ask for prayers. “I think this is the day!!!” I downed a banana and a heap of almond butter, knowing I was going to need some energy.

By 8 A.M. I was having consistent contractions lasting 30 seconds long and about three minutes apart. I texted our doula, Sarah, to let her know. I had an appointment for an ultrasound scheduled at 10:30 A.M. with a doctor at Bella Natural Women’s Care, but Sarah recommended that I call them to see if they wanted me to go into their office or not. I spoke with a nurse (Regina) on the phone and she said I needed to make my way to Swedish Hospital instead. (I tested positive for GBS and they wanted to ensure they could get two doses of antibiotics in me before Isaiah’s birth.) I was bummed because I wanted to labor at home as long as I could, but after having Jeff call the Bella again to try to convince them to let us stay at home longer, we agreed…but we took our time. :) 

Jeff made eggs with onions and feta cheese, and I ate them as I danced around the house through the contractions. We left for the hospital at 11:10 A.M. It had snowed the day before so there was snow on the ground as we drove to Swedish Hospital — snow in May!

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When we drove up to the hospital valet and began unloading the car, I went through a contraction. Noticing, the valet attendant told Jeff, “Oh man, you better get her in there.” I still wondered if I was even actually in labor. 

They checked me in and I came to realize that there were no more rooms with birthing tubs available, and my heart sunk. The tub was what I had counted on to help me labor naturally, but the nurse did a good job of convincing me one would be available soon, knowing all too well that it really wasn’t true. HAHA! The nurse read over my birth plan and she assured me that they could accommodate all my birth plan wishes. (I had written down my “dream natural birth” knowing that sometimes things don’t always go according to plan.) Dr. Bauer checked my status and I was 4 cm dilated, 80% effaced, and Isaiah was at -2 station. It WAS the real deal! Sarah, our doula, arrived at noon with Starbucks:  an Americano for Jeff and a dirty chai for me (although I only enjoyed a few sips). 

At 1:18 P.M. my IV was finally in after the fifth try and a third person — an anesthesia doctor. Getting my IV for the antibiotics was the most anxiety and stress producing part of the whole labor. (After the birth, my arms and hands were black and blue with bruises.) They did the first round of antibiotics and put a port in so that I could move freely. I hated looking at the needle in my arm so Sarah covered it with a hand rag and tape. Sarah and Jeff offered me lots of water throughout the day and I was even able to eat a few bites of a turkey sandwich Sarah got for me.

Jeff and I walked rounds around the hospital as I worked through my contractions. Sarah set up our hospital room with electric candles, an essential oil diffuser (diffusing Jasmine), dimmed the lights, and set up visualization pictures around the room (quotes and pretty pictures inspiring me to continue with my plan to go natural). 

We got back to the room and at 4:09 P.M. Dr. Bauer checked me again — since she was going off duty. I was 5cm dilated, 100% effaced, and Isaiah was +1. I was slightly discouraged because I had hoped things would move along more quickly, but Sarah ensured me that this was great progression. (She was a great encourager along the way. She later admitted that she thought at this point I’d be there late into the night before Isaiah would arrive.)

Sarah and the nurse suggested that I try the bathtub. I was hesitant because 1) I didn’t want to use the tub too early in labor and 2) the tub was like a motel 6-smallest-tub-ever tub. But I tried it anyway. It was the worst. The tub was so short that the water didn't even come up to my belly. I stayed in there for a few contractions but I was so uncomfortable I knew I needed to get out and relax. When Jeff was alone with me in the bathroom I told him, “I’m scared, I don’t know if I can handle this.” But he and Sarah continued to encourage me and convinced me that I could. 

Funny side note, at this point, Sarah pulled Jeff aside and said, “Emily is going to start getting extra sensitive, she’ll tell your breath stinks and so on, so just be ready.” Five minutes later as I was working through a contraction I said, “Jeff, your breath smells like coffee!!!” Chuckling, he went and brushed his teeth.

At 5:08 P.M. I felt my body telling me that I needed to relax every muscle, so I laid down in bed with hopes of getting some rest. As I worked through one contraction I let out a loud screech and the nurse came running in. She recommended that in order to keep a low tone (high tones close sphincters, low tones open them), Jeff should begin humming in a low tone, and I match that tone throughout each contraction. As we did this Jeff held my hand and stroked my forehead and I entered into a mediative state. Time flew from this point on.

At 5:27 P.M. Sarah noticed that I was grunting at the end of my breaths and called the nurse. (There was a change in shift and my new nurse was sweet, but quite young. I remember being a little surprised when I saw her.)

At 5:51 P.M. I felt the urge to bear down. I continued to labor with Jeff in calm, low tones, and I was encouraged by Sarah to let my body do what felt natural. The nurse called Dr. Hodack who was still at home. (Less than two hours prior she had been told that I was only at a 5 cm dilation, so she assumed it would be a while until Isaiah was born.)

At 5:56 P.M. the new nurse checked me and I was complete. Sarah continued to encourage me to do what my body wanted, but no one was coaching me to push. 

At 6:11 P.M. I was still laboring calmly, but was experiencing involuntary pushing. My body was naturally doing all the work, and I just rode the wave! The new nurse said, “We need to call in a back up doctor because every time she pushes a head comes out!” Jeff took a look below and noticed a “black bubble” emerging. Sarah calmly told him, “Jeff you may want to back up because that is not a head, but her water, and it’s going to explode…”

At 6:20 P.M. a back-up doctor arrived. She kindly introduced herself as I was working through contractions, but I hardly noticed her. My low humming was constant as contractions were so close together and overlapping. Just as she got situated, my water broke all over the new doctor. The reason Jeff noticed the “black bubble” was because there was meconium in the water. Isaiah had gotten stressed enough that he went to the bathroom en utero, which can be alarming. A back-up NICU nurse was called for delivery, but a few minutes later Dr. Hodack (the doctor I was praying would deliver Isaiah!) arrived in her street clothes. 

At 6:29 P.M. Isaiah was born after three coached pushes. Dr. Hodack placed him on my chest. I was in complete shock, and Jeff wept. :) His 1 minute APGAR was a 9/9. Dr. Hodack asked if I wanted pitocin. I asked if she thought I needed it, and she said that I should be fine without it and that they could always provide it for me later if needed. She allowed the umbilical cord to pulsate then asked Jeff to cut the cord. I delivered the placenta (the nurse put it on ice for “The Fruit of the Womb” to pick up to encapsulate), and Dr. Hodack sewed my tear. The breastfeeding latch happened well with the coaching of Sarah. Jeff and I enjoyed the golden hour together with Isaiah on my chest. 

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Sarah ordered us dinner before the hospital diner closed. I had a turkey sandwich, fries, broccoli, a chocolate chip cookie and celebratory orange juice. Jeff had a ribeye meal with mashed potatoes and broccoli. Soon after I held Isaiah as the nurse pushed me to the recovery wing. As we were chatting she told me, “That was in my top two favorite births to witness,” and I was a proud mama. 

Our postpartum day nurse, Lynn, was amazing. She was a motherly figure who taught Jeff and I so much about the practicals of parenting a newborn. My parents and brother, Nick, came to visit and met Isaiah around 9:30 P.M. Jeff’s family visited the next day and Isaiah also got a bath.

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Two days later, a Sunday, a kind man from St. Thomas Moore provided a communion service for us at the hospital. Soon after we took our baby boy home.

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Introducing Isaiah Phillip

After a blessed and natural labor, our sweet Isaiah Phillip was born at 6:30 P.M. on Friday, May 19, 2017. He was 6 lbs. 11 oz. and 19.75 in. We are so grateful and overjoyed to be a family of three! Thank you to all of those that prayed for us!

Blessings,

Emily & Jeff

Baby's Birthday TBD

As we patiently await our little one, I'm enjoying these maternity photos from one of my besties, Wyn Wiley. This guy has lovingly documented so many of my big life events — been there through it all. Jeff and I are so grateful he made a visit to document the bump before Isaiah makes his grand appearance. Now come anytime, little guy!

 

 

Love you, Wyn!!!

— Emily

The Story Behind "Isaiah"

This blog was first posted on My Saint My Hero.

When I was a junior in college I was invited to serve on a mission trip in the Dominican Republic by a FOCUS missionary. The mission provided several profound moments — encounters with Jesus through His people and through His Word. There was one particular moment that changed my heart forever.

Each day on the trip we had an hour of prayer set aside. One holy hour, I was praying with a passage in Isaiah. At this point in my life, I had built my identity completely around my social life, image, and grades. I had grown so dissatisfied with who I had become, without knowledge of who I was or what value my life actually had. I wondered if I had any worth. But in Isaiah, I was reading about the God of Creation, and our worth as children of God. 

“Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, who formed you from the womb:  I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens.”

“I have called you by your name, though you knew me not.”

“I am the Lord, there is no other, there is no God besides me.”

“Shall the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’”

“It was I who made the earth and created the people upon it; It was my hands that stretched out the heavens.”

The Lord spoke to my heart and said, “Who are you to say that what I have created isn’t perfect?” As I was praying with these words, my mind was filled with images of the people in the Dominican Republic I had encountered. There were few opportunities for education, many didn’t have much food or clothing, yet many exuded joy in their state of simplicity. I recalled a sweet grandmother who had a few people from our mission group over for lunch one day. She lovingly prepared a meal for us in her home made up of sticks and mud and said to us, “I feel bad for many Americans because they are spiritually impoverished. I know that I am rich in the Lord.” The people in this community knew their worth and identity as children of God, and rejoiced in that. How could I not live in joy and gratitude as well? How could I question who the Lord had created me to be or where my true identity was? During that hour of prayer, the Holy Spirit revealed to me my truest identity, and it forever changed the way I view myself and those around me. I am a daughter of God, beloved and treasured beyond my own understanding.

A couple of years later I went back to that Bible passage in Isaiah and I felt the Lord tell me in prayer, “Just like your heart changed when you looked upon these words in Isaiah, your heart will change again when you have a son, ‘Isaiah’.” Fast forward a few more years, I am now married and expecting my first child, a son, this Mother’s Day. It was never a question when my husband and I found out that we were expecting a boy — His name is Isaiah. (I like to joke that maybe God will let us name the next one.)

As I reflect on these experiences in prayer, I see how through these verses in Isaiah, Jesus continues to call me back to Himself, and the truth that will never change:  I have worth and I am beloved because I am a daughter of God. Through all seasons of life, this is something that we as women need to be reminded of. Jesus delights in the beauty of His fearfully and wonderfully made daughters, and rejoices when we embrace who He created us to be. I see this in a special way as I prepare for motherhood.

Pope Saint John Paul II saw motherhood as the key to understanding the vocation of all women. Some women, he wrote, are called to grow life within them — and become biological mothers by accepting and nurturing the goodness of new life. But all women, even those without biological children, have a unique gift of being able to make space for others, of being able to accept others and to nurture others — which is at the heart of motherhood.

And we are able to do this only when we rest in the knowledge and trust that we are truly His. 

— Emily

I am wearing Greatest Love Deuteronomy 6:5 BangleSerenity, and Divine Blessings.

All photos by Wyn Wiley Photography.

MY SAINT MY HERO

Recently I came across "My Saint My Hero," a jewelry company with a mission:  to be a community inspired by God to help transform lives and make the world a better place. Their beautifully unique pieces reflect the mission of prayer, preserving Church traditions, and sharing the inspiring lives of saints. Recognizing that we need heroes of today - modern day saints - cofounders Amy D'Ambra and Christine Rich provide beautiful wearable blessings in order to bring Faith, Hope, and Purpose into life. 

Each purchase enables My Saint My Hero to use the power of giving to help transform lives. For example, Harriet from Uganda, taught herself how to sew and do handcrafts in effort to try to break free from the cycle of poverty. Harriet makes necklaces for My Saint My Hero and creates each piece with a prayer devoted to the Virgin Mary. Women from the small pilgrimage town of Medgjugorje create My Saint My Hero's blessing bracelets. The economy is not easy in the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the work provided allows them to rise above the poverty level to put food on the table, shoes on their children's feet, and the opportunity to send their children to University. The women and their families gather together to weave the bracelets and pray for those that will wear their blessings bracelets.

I have two different bracelet blessings: the Serenity Blessing Bracelet and the Collegiate Blessing Bracelets. The Serenity bracelet has the Benedictine medal depicting the most powerful ancient cross of protection, and the cord that wraps around the wrist symbolizes the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the embrace of Our Blessed Mother. The Serenity prayer on the card also beautifully reminds me to accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.


The collegiate blessings bracelets, also made with Benedictine medals in Medjugorje, hold the reminder that God has given each person a mission to make the world a better place and you can choose to fulfill that mission by using your hands to do good. I have the USC colors to remind myself to pray for the campus that I served on as a FOCUS Missionary Team Director. This line of bracelets also includes tips to live out your faith!


I love the layered bracelets, but My Saint My Hero has more to offer:  earrings, keychains, necklaces, prayer booklets, rosaries, sacramental gifts, and so much more! They also have a really cool Pope Francis line. :)

I highly recommend checking out this incredible company - each purchase makes a difference and provides an opportunity to share the love of our Lord. www.mysaintmyhero.com.

Blessings,

Emily

IF GOD WILLS IT

*This blog was first posted on Blessed Is She. Check them out here.

People often ask when I decided to become a campus missionary. My call, actually, came to me on an overseas mission trip. As I crossed the muddy waters from the Dominican Republic to Haiti, I watched the natives bathe while their children splashed in the awful smelling, cholera-infected water. Careful not to touch the water for fear of sickness, I thought to myself, “These people don’t realize that they are swimming in infected waters.

As a student, I couldn’t help but wonder what my campus would look like if I placed a spiritual lens over my eyes.

I suddenly saw my own friends unknowingly swimming in dangerous, infected waters of hopelessness, confusion, and sin.

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Translating the physical poverty in the Dominican Republic to the spiritual poverty on my own college campus placed a sense of urgency and mission on my heart. I responded to this mission by giving Jesus my ‘yes’ to serve as a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary where I was called to serve at Arizona State University, then at the University of Southern California.

Inspired by Saint Pope John Paul II’s call to a “New Evangelization,” FOCUS is a national outreach that meets college students where they are and invites them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Faith.

As a missionary, I signed up to fundraise my salary, enter into a year long dating fast (in order to be more present to the students and to more clearly discern my vocation), and to move across the country in order to serve students that I didn’t even know. Each day my team (there are four of us) prays a Holy Hour, goes to Mass, and spends the rest of the day leading Bible studies, meeting for coffee dates, and finding any excuse to spend time with students.

Recently, I was blessed with the opportunity through FOCUS Missions to direct the Dominican Republic mission trip that transformed my heart over three years before. Six USC students and I met up with 18 other students and FOCUS missionaries from across the nation to work on mission alongside two priests from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. These holy men serve 10,000 poor people in the rural area of the Dominican Republic on the border of Haiti. The men, women, and children they serve live on the edge of extreme poverty. Most live in sub-standard housing and approximately 25% do not even have the “luxury” of an outhouse.

Prior to the trip, our mission group met for the first time in Miami at a retreat center to prepare for departure to the Dominican Republic. In celebration of the announcement of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and as a send off gift for our mission, the priest at the retreat center gave each mission trip participant a Good Shepherd pendant — the same pectoral cross that Pope Francis wears. The cross includes the image of Christ, as the Good Shepherd, and a dove above his head, symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The Shepherd is carrying the “lost and now found” lamb around his shoulders as He leads a flock of sheep. Adding this pendant to the chain around my neck, I got on the plane to the Dominican Republic praying that the Lord would show me what it means to be a witness of mercy in reflection of the Good Shepherd.

Our group of 22 spent a week digging three, ten-foot deep latrines, repairing a rundown chapel and praying with families during the day. Then, we facilitated youth ministry programs in the evenings. At our departing Mass, we prepared to leave the place and people that deeply moved our hearts. During the homily the priest said, “The people of Bánica did not choose their crosses, and we are not here to take them away, but to do what small things we can to help them to carry their crosses well.”

One who looks through the lens of the world may feel very uncomfortable by that statement. Suffering is the worst thing that can happen in a secular world view. It is not comfortable to see someone suffering. How often are we inclined to turn our eyes from a homeless person?

Often, the American approach is to escape suffering by doing everything we can to eradicate it. However, the reality is that there will always be poverty, pain, and heartache.

The Christian approach to suffering is to live in compassion and solidarity with suffering. St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians writes, “If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it…”. From its Latin roots, the word “compassion” literally means to “suffer with”.

As Catholics we understand that every human person has God-given dignity that cannot be diminished or taken away by circumstances of life. A person’s worth is not in physical things, but in the fact that they were created in the image and likeness of God.

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There was a woman in the Dominican Republic who invited a group of our mission team over for lunch one day. She lived on a dirt floor in a hut made of mud and sticks, but she desired to serve us. Her words of incredible wisdom still resound in my heart. She said, “I have spiritual richness. Many Americans live in spiritual poverty”. In the eyes of the world, this woman has nothing, but she carried the Joy of the Cross because she has her eyes set on the joys of eternal life.

As missionaries in the Dominican Republic, our service of digging latrines and repairing a chapel was not life-changing for the people. We did what little things we could to help alleviate their pain, but the greatest gift we could give was to acknowledge their dignity as human persons and to walk with them in the midst of suffering.

Each day I meet students on campus who are carrying extremely heavy burdens. The weight of their crosses becomes apparent as they share with me the pain from a broken family, the loss of their purity, the pressure to perform academically, and their attempt to build their identity around image.

As a FOCUS missionary on a college campus, I am doing what small things I can to alleviate the pain and pressures of college by simply being present and pointing them to the mercy of the Cross of Christ. It doesn’t seem like much, but the fruit of the seeds we sow is revealed when a student says, “If it weren’t for Jesus working through you, I don’t know where I’d be.”

Our crosses take many forms, and we are all called to do what small things we can to help one another carry our crosses well. As brothers and sisters, when we look beyond the surface and extend a loving hand to those we encounter, we unite our crosses, becoming the Body of Christ – the Good Shepherd – helping to carry one another in mercy to freedom in redemption.

The faith of those I encountered in the Dominican Republic, the simple people who live off the land and mean it when they say, “Si Dios quiere…” (“If God wills it…”) taught me what it means to be a witness of mercy in reflection of the Good Shepherd and to find joy in uniting our sufferings with the Cross of Christ.

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