Just keep swimming

September 8, 2011 at 4:54 am

[Trigger warning: This post contains loss.]

Almost five years ago, four friends went fishing in a small motorboat on a cool November morning.  Kimball and Steven were brothers. Steven brought his wife, Catheryn. The other was a friend. At first, the lake water was like a sheet of glass, calm and serene.  After a few hours, however, the wind picked up and so did the waves.  The fish started biting like crazy.  One after another, they brought fish in, not realizing that the waves were slowly filling the boat.  Suddenly, just as they noticed the too-deep pool of frigid water in the bottom of the boat, it sunk out from under them.

Based on the low temperature of the water and the distance to the lake shore, none of them should have survived.  All of them were praying their hearts out.  First they swam together toward the marina, crying out for help as loudly as they could.  Then Kimball realized that they were swimming against the current and needed to turn around and swim the other way.  He swam ahead to tell Steven, who said, “You think?”  Steven swam ahead to where Catheryn was.

Kimball thought that he was telling her the change of plans and that they would quickly follow.  He turned in the direction of the current with his friend, looking back repeatedly as the current carried him further and further from where his brother had been, unable to see them any longer, wondering whether they might have chosen to keep heading toward the marina to look for help in that direction.  As he swam, he heard these words over and over in his head: “Just keep swimming… just keep swimming… just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

Half of them made it miraculously to shore and survived, half of them moved on to the world of spirits.

I ached with both loss and relief as I stared out over that frigid water in the weeks following the incident. I had lost a brother and sister-friend, Steven and Catheryn, but I received with deep gratitude the miracle of my brother Kimball’s survival.

A couple of mornings ago, I woke up from a dream centered around the home vs. hospital debate.  I can’t even escape it in my sleep! Can I just tell you how old this debate is getting?  The same old arguments.  Each side flaunting their research.  Each side discounting the other side’s research.  Each side using the other side’s tragedies to whip their opponents.  It has become so ridiculous to me.  So ridiculous, in fact, that I think this may very well be the last time I address that debate on this blog.

When I was consulting with God about where my third baby should be born, I received an undeniable answer through a powerful spiritual experience I have written of before. I felt absolutely certain that home birth was now right for me, but I worried about what other people would think or say in response.  In my distress, God sent me these thoughts:

Remember your brothers… remember their paths… both of them were praying… both of them did the right thing.

Suddenly, I felt flooded with peace.

Here’s the thing… I could come to you and say, “I feel like it’s right to swim this way” and give you all my reasons.  But that doesn’t make my way the right way for you.  I don’t know the right way for you.  But I believe we can take those questions to our loving Creator who will always give impeccable advice.  That advice may be to swim in the opposite direction as your sister or friend.  And that’s OK.  You are a unique person and so is your baby.  What’s right for you will also be uniquely suited to you.

And you know what?  Sometimes even death is right. When we have done all we can to prepare ourselves and follow the correct path for us, we may still encounter death in that pathway. But it doesn’t necessarily mean we made a mistake.  It just means it was time.

I know my brother and his wife left this life in just the right way for them.  I know they’re busy doing good in their spirit forms.  Sometimes they come to me in my dreams.  It’s always so wonderful to see them, hug them, hear their voices.  Sometimes I feel them urging me forward into some important task like a kick in the pants.  In fact, I’m pretty sure they’re largely to blame for my starting Birth Faith to begin with.  Thanks for that kick in the pants, guys. :-)

I also know that my other brother, Kimball, was kept alive because he has important things to do here in his mortal form.  Some of those things he has discovered.  Some of them I’m sure he will yet discover.

When I gave birth to my son at home, both of my brothers were present.  Kimball was downstairs in my family room, offering protection and support from below.  If we had needed his assistance, he would have been there in a heartbeat.  Steven was present in spirit, offering support from above.  I did not see or feel him, but I felt confident in the weeks preceding my birth that he would be there, protecting our home.

I believe Catheryn also came.  In fact, I felt her influence often during my third pregnancy.  As I transitioned through my most difficult phase of labor, my mind wandered back and forth between my present physical surroundings and an otherworldly distant space. Somewhere in that space, I found myself pleading, “Catheryn, I need you now!” A voice whispered in my head, “It’s almost over. You’re almost finished.” I like to believe that was her loving reply. My husband’s soothing touch and the words “It’s almost over” playing over and over in my head are what carried me through to the end.

Sometimes heavenly visitors bring protection and miracles.  Sometimes they arrive to escort us to our next state—whether into this world or out of it.  I feel grateful that none of my babies have been escorted away just yet, but it could happen. I try to remember that. It helps me to not take my children for granted.

Sometimes babies need to be born in a particular place for reasons we may or may not understand… be it at home, at a hospital, on the side of the road, in a parking lot, or in the middle of a forest. I don’t know where your babies need to be born.  That’s between you and your Creator.  Do what you need to do to feel good about your choice of birth place—research, ponder, pray, listen.  And then move forward.  Don’t give opposing advice too much attention.  Just keep swimming.  And let other people swim their own way too.