Sunday, November 20, 2011

Her Birth Day: Meet Zayla Arshaloos Gilmore

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. for what I thought was a routine trip to the bathroom. I felt some pressure in my side but didn't really dwell on it because I was too excited about the day ahead. I was slated to go to the MOPS Holiday Boutique at our church to sell jewelry from our Haitian Bead Project and my own knitted items. I was so excited to see what God would do that day to bless the ladies in Haiti. My mind was racing, thinking through all the items I needed to bring to the boutique and debating whether I should try to get more sleep or just get ready now. I stopped by the kitchen for a glass of water and a handful of dried cranberries.

Ericlee popped his head in our dining room. "You, ok?" he asked with a bleary-eyed look. "Sounds like you're rushing around."

"Just getting ready for the boutique," I replied with a smile.

I decided to get in the shower. Again, I felt this strong pressure in my side. Could this be it? Labor pains? Oh no, not on the morning of the boutique! I told that baby girl to stay put until at least Saturday night. The hot water washed over me, massaging my back. Maybe I could relax it away. And then, the pressure again. I called to Ericlee from the shower. I described my contractions. It was 6:15 a.m.

I started thinking of the scenarios - birth now? Or what if contractions began later in the car? What if I went into labor at church? I think not. Then I knew I might not be making it to the boutique this morning. I got out of the shower and grabbed for my iPhone. My fingers fumbled for that Contraction app to measure the next one.

Five minutes apart. The contractions kept coming. Regular now.

Forget the boutique. My friends could handle it without me. Time to concentrate on labor and birthing. I told Ericlee to call our midwife and the grandparents right away.

"Tell them to come now," was all I remember saying. In between the intense contractions, which seemed to be coming faster, I texted a handful of friends to have them pray.

He started blowing up our birthing pool and preparing for the birth. I kept calling him back in the bathroom to help me focus through contractions. All I wanted was to look into his eyes. My coach. My focal point through the hard pain.

The next minutes seem blurry but I remember that the contractions were 3 minutes apart when my parents and our midwife finally showed up.

Ericlee went to wake up the girls. Meilani and Giada woke up to hear mama laboring through.

I wondered how long this labor would be. I prayed for God's strength in each moment, begged my husband to recite scriptures with me.

While everyone seemed to be bustling around looking for the kids' clothes, filling up the pool, I suddenly felt like pushing. Was this for real? My midwife hadn't even checked how far I was dilated yet.

With each contraction, I felt myself baring down. She insisted I come back into the bedroom. "Don't fight it," she said. "This baby is coming now."

My dad was still filling up the birthing pool. I was on the ball, trying to balance between contractions. Ericlee wondered aloud if I should get into the pool. My midwife said there wasn't time. I didn't want to deal with back labor. My midwife suggested I get down on all fours next to the bed. This position felt natural to me. I remembered my Yoga Mama video and tried to breathe.

Suddenly, I felt this one long push radiate through my body. Her head was out.

"Wait until the next contraction," my midwife instructed calmly.

Could this be the finish line already? I found myself recounting Giada's birth when I had pushed for what seemed like an eternity. I remembered that excruciating pain. I tried not to dwell on it. My mom's voice came through. She was reading to me from my PUSH pages - a little book prepared my dear mama friends full of scriptures and encouraging words to carry me through.

On the next round I pushed and heard a distinct baby's cry. And there she was. We were all in shock. Two long pushes and she was out. What a miracle. My eucharisteo baby.

The first few months of pregnancy had been all shock - surprise that God was gifting us with a third child when we were preparing to move to Haiti. The following months were filled with moving plans and actually getting our family of four and my pregnant belly to Haiti. So often I tried to forget I was pregnant because it felt so hard as we lived there in the developing world. And then these last few months had been about moving back to the United States, watching my belly swell large and feeling my body rehearse for this final dance.

Thankful. How incredibly thankful I felt. She was here. Healthy. Complete. Full of grace. She gasped for air. I exhaled.

My midwife brought up our sweet Zayla Arshaloos into my arms. Ericlee proudly announced her name. Zayla means lovable, dark-haired princess, a Hebrew derivative of Sarah. Arshaloos means dawn in Armenian - a name chosen after his grandmother, our inspiration, a missionary in Haiti. Daddy's heritage, Daddy's girl. Born at 7:52 a.m.

Ericlee called for the girls and his mom. They had just barely left the house and had to turn around to come back. I held my sticky, crying bundle of joy in my arms. She was here. Finally. Here.

In the minutes that followed, I clutched my precious gift and birthed the placenta. Ericlee did the honors, clipping her umbilical cord, releasing her into this new world of existence. Zayla weighed in at 7 pounds, 14 ounces and measuring 20 inches long.

Meilani and Giada returned with Grandma Christene. They petted their baby sister's back with gentle fingers. Giada's voice sang her name over and over again. "Zayla Arshaloos - Zayla Arshaloos - Zayla Arshaloos." We had urged the kids to keep her name a secret for the last week. Now was the time to celebrate it out loud. They marveled over Zayla's baby toes, squealing with delight. Giada was finally a "big sister" joining our first-born Meilani in this new role.

Photos by Allison Vasquez, August Grace Photography
And now, we are a family of five.

Eucharisteo - thanksgiving - always precedes the miracle. ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Thursday, November 03, 2011

October-November Gilmore Gazette: Jumping into Fundraising for Haiti

November 3, 2011

Dear Friends & Family,

November creeped up on us already and we wanted to take a few minutes to send you an update on our ministry to Haiti. We have found that there is plenty of work to do here in California for the ministry!

Ericlee has been working hard at his new role as a fundraiser for Christian Friendship Ministries. We have various projects for 2012 that we hope to fund to help further the goal of connecting resources to Haiti and developing jobs for Haitians. The grand price tag on these projects is $100,000, which seems daunting to us but not to our God. We find hope in a devotional we read yesterday, “In your prayers, above everything else, beware of limiting God, not only through unbelief but also by thinking you know exactly what He can do. Learn to expect the unexpected, beyond all that you ask or think” – Andrew Murray (Streams in the Desert).

Ericlee’s focus this month has been preparing for two main fundraisers. This SundayNov. 7 we have 26 runners participating in the Two Cities Marathon/Half Marathon in Fresno/Clovis. They have been working hard under Ericlee’s personal training for 12 weeks. They have also recruited corporate sponsors and have raising funds “jog-a-thon style” for our Solar Power Project inPignon, Haiti. We ask that you would remember them in prayer this Sunday morning as they are running/walking.

Our second fundraiser is the 2nd Annual “Haiti Decathlon” Crossfit Competition/Fundraiser on December 3. Ericlee is using his love for fitness and competition as an inspiration for this event. The venue will be the SPEED/CrossFit Combat Fitness gym where Ericlee works. The proceeds from this event will go toward improvement of the four schools in Haiti that are part of our ministry in the northern mountains. The teachers in these schools have many challenges, such as limited resources, too many students in too-small classrooms, and less than decent salaries.

We are very grateful for the interest of Erik Traeger, the owner of the gym, who has been very generous in helping us raise funds for Haiti. In addition to allowing us to host the fundraiser at the gym, he also has deemed one day a month Haiti Mission Monday and all money brought in on those days for the Boot Camp classes goes as a donation to our ministry. Ericlee has also seen a lot of doors open to share Christ and our heart for Haiti with clients at the gym through this job.

Meanwhile, Dorina has been launching our Haitian Bead Project. She has taken the recycled jewelry made this past summer by the ladies in Haiti and sold it in various venues in FresnoOn October 6, the jewelry was featured at Mullins Studio in downtown Fresno for the monthly ArtHop event. We were blessed to see the overwhelming interest. In fact, we are almost sold out of the jewelry we brought home and we haven’t even made it into the holiday season!

On the home front we are trying to find the balance between working full-time for Christian Friendship Ministries and family time. We are preparing for our third baby girl who is due on November 22. We would especially appreciate your prayers for the birth and transition time as we add a new little family member.

We look forward to connecting with each of you soon! 

In His Grip,
Ericlee, Dorina, Meilani, Giada & a new Gilmore girl