Birth Story

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Cape Town waves, by Hans-Christian Harder

About two months ago, pregnant with our sixth child, I began to look into something I have previously never considered: a home birth. I was 34 weeks pregnant and becoming increasingly frustrated with my OB who seemed focused on reminding me of all the possible things that could go wrong with my delivery. I’ve given birth five times before, no c-sections, no high blood pressure, no gestational diabetes, no placenta previa, no PPH or any of the other complications possible. My only issue has been that my pregnancies tend to go past 41 weeks! So after been told I was “high-risk” one too many times I decided to look into seeing a midwife and having a home birth.

Surprisingly this was met with complete support from my husband, who as a licensed paramedic wasn’t previously interested in the idea. We considered all the factors (including our 5 minute ETA to the hospital, if necessary), found a highly recommended, experienced certified nurse-midwife from Switzerland, and went shopping for exciting things like ice-packs, linen savers, and homeopathic oils and powders. I talked to amazingly supportive and encouraging friends who’d had home births. I learned some new exercises to help baby enter the birth canal, made some freezer meals, saw two such freezer meals slide out of the freezer, crash on the concrete floor, proceeded to clean up broken glass dishes and cried about throwing away my glass-shard filled food. I read dozens of home birth and water birth stories, got inspired, and then got totally freaked out when I remembered my last labor. Yes, we do forget the pain of childbirth but I can ask any one of you who’s delivered a baby to try to remember…and yes that memory is as fresh as if it happened yesterday, if we want to call it up.

We eagerly anticipated my due date, and then saw it come and go. Christmas Day came and went. 41 weeks. No baby.

Finally Monday night I started to have consistant contractions, every 10-15 minutes. I woke to some other definite signs of impending labor and since the contractions persisted I felt fairly certain labor was beginning! I called the friends I had lined up to watch the kids and we dropped them off that afternoon as I prepared mentally to give birth. As the heat of the day increased all signs of labor stopped. Nothing. Sadly we picked the kids back up again and I became that woman who faked labor.

As the sun went down that night, my contractions started again. Every 10-15 minutes, the whole night. I tried to sleep in between but by morning I thought, certainly this is it. So I called the midwife, and she came over about 8:30am. Just as everything stopped again. She shared with me her concerns about having the home birth since my labor didn’t seem to be progressing. She gently told me she would like me to deliver in the hospital, where she could still attend the delivery.

We went in for a non-stress test and saw baby was still happy inside. The midwife did an internal exam and saw that I was only dilated 2cm and not effaced, even after two nights full of contractions. The rest of the day was so hard…I felt like my chances for a delivery without intervention were slipping away. My two main goals with this baby were to go into labor on my own and deliver on my own. As I was sitting for the non-stress test I saw the shelves full of epidural equipment and could just see the scene play out…induced labor not progressing, me getting exhausted and stressed, finally asking for medication, eventually delivering but having to sort through mixed feelings of disappointment at not having the natural childbirth I desired. I’ve had three deliveries unmedicated, two where I got an epidural. One of those was necessary due to my level of exhaustion and prolonged labor due to induction, but the other was me second-guessing myself and getting one more out of fear of another prolonged labor. Part of my strong desire for a home-birth was to be in a supportive environment where I could labor on my own and not be tempted with short-cutting the awesome experience of natural childbirth. If I know relief from pain is sitting next to me on a shelf at the hospital…I am going to go for it!

But since above all of this is the goal of a healthy baby, I agreed to deliver at the hospital. We made arrangements for a friend to come stay with the kids at home.

I considered an interesting comment by my mid-wife, that rarely in her experience do women give birth during the heat of the day. If a client hasn’t called her by 8am, she knows the baby will not be born that day and she is free until evening. This seemed to sync with my experience with labor as well.

At sunset that evening, my contractions re-surged with a vengeance. Every 7 minutes, strong and getting stronger. I dared to hope this was real labor, but kept quiet about it because of the previous false alarms. Finally when I almost dropped Eva while working through a contraction, I told Gert I think this is real labor and maybe we should call the midwife. I chatted with her on the phone, explaining they were coming every 4-5 minutes now and what should I do? So she said she would get dressed and come over, and why don’t I take a hot shower in the meantime to relax me.

While in the shower I had several strong contractions and started trembling uncontrollably. Since it was a hot night I knew I wasn’t cold. By the time Natasha came over, I was nearly in transition. We didn’t really discuss it, but since I was so close to delivery, she decided to assist us at home after all. She helped me find positions to labor in, the one that helped the most was leaning over an exercise ball on the bed with Gert by my side. She used several essential oils to rub my back, apply heat, and generally guide the baby down the birth canal. As I tried to manage the intensity of each surge, she said things to me like “only you can do this, no one can take this away from you,” and “you want this, you want this baby, you can do this.” She helped me breathe, and told me to visualise the baby on the other side of the road, and said I had to go get it. This one didn’t work for me :). First I pictured my newborn laying there in the ditch and then standing up like a toddler about to get hit by a car! But visualising the baby wanting to come down the birth canal and eager to meet me did help.

“With my God I can scale a wall,” the word He gave me in my 8th month of pregnancy, resonated in my mind throughout the labor, especially in the intense time of transition. As I spoke this out loud, I felt His power strengthen both my mind, heart, and body.

The midwife suggested I sit in the bathroom through a couple of contractions, I think she was hoping my water would break there. She asked if I could feel the head, and I asked her if she wanted to check me to make sure I was fully dilated for pushing. She declined, saying each time you do an internal exam, it sets labor back again, and I would know when I was ready to push. After two more strong back to back contractions I stood up and immediately felt the urge to push. I was standing next to the bed hanging on to Gert when in one gush my water broke and I felt the burn of baby”s head crowning. I pushed once and her head and shoulders came out, the rest of her body quick to follow. Natasha reacted quickly to catch her by the head and leg, unwrap the cord which was loosely looped around her neck twice, and hand her to my shocked self. Labor was over and suddenly I had a baby!

She cried and cried and cried, yet none of the kids woke up. Fireworks were going off all along the beach front, and we watched from our bedroom window. Labouring through New Year’s Eve, she was born 12:30am New Year’s Day, 11 days past my due date. It was a celebratory, joyful, peaceful birth-day, with candles and worship music and my amazingly supportive husband and midwife attending the birth of our sixth baby, in the comfort of our home. I learned so much from this experience, about allowing my body to do what God created it to do without interference and allowing myself to lean into pain, knowing it is birthing something new and beautiful and full of life.

I am so grateful for this birth. God is so good to me. His kindness and hand was with us through it all. He helped me overcome the discouragement of two days of false labor and brought me through a fast and intense labor when at last the time came. I am thankful for all the prayers that helped this labor and delivery commence and follow through without hesitation or stalling. And I am so thankful and in love with our little 8 lb 12 oz Eden Joy Roets.

Hope and Eden
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Special Birth Announcement from Anne M
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Kids Need Structure During Vacation

We had a pleasant first three days of school holiday. A fun excursion up Table Mountain (I am working on a post about this!), a day of playing computer games and watching movies (not allowed on school days), a nice hike in the Helderberg, a friend’s birthday party. Then everything fell apart. The arguing, not listening, unkind speech, and even outright disobedience brought on some very real threats from their mother (me) to start school again. Then it dawned on me…while I might be able to impose my own self-discipline, my kids aren’t there yet. I love a long, relaxing morning with no where to be and nothing to do, not bothering to make breakfast or take a shower but for my kids this is too much freedom. I saw their increased anxiety without their usual boundaries and structure.

This is a strange time for all of us. We are excited for Christmas, anticipating a baby, wondering and waiting to hear if we will get the house we want. I have as much energy as this snoozing cat laying next to me and my feet swell up the moment I get up to do something.

Eva has burst through to a maddening two-year old stage where she cries about the wrong sippy cup, wanting her sister’s dinner instead of her own, and screaming for more toothpaste or more grapes or to take yet another bath for the day. She wants to go ‘potty’ but the moment I put her there she cries to get off and then refuses her diaper. Her favorite words are ‘no’ and ‘daddy’ and ‘kitty.’ None of our other children have been this attached to Gert and I get such satisfaction and amusement and delight when she calls for him instead of me early in the morning!

So back to the structure. Last night, after a day of the kids squabbling, we had a family meeting. We challenged them to come up with a plan on how to promote kindness, peace, respect, and obedience in the family again. They came up with a chart to keep track of their behavior, each one giving themselves a ‘mark’ if they are unkind, teasing, etc with a loss of game time for a total amount if points.

I wrote a loose schedule for us to follow on these long, warm, summer days of waiting. We are also studying and memorizing Colossians 3:12-17. Before we put on our Armor of God, we put on the underarmor of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Notice I said we…I am working on this too. It’s so tempting to give into irritation because I am so big and uncomfortable and swollen and feel like I may never go into labor!

The kids know I have their math books at my fingertips and so far today is a little better then yesterday. Last night we read about St. Boniface, the missionary who brought the gospel to the German pagans who were busy sacrificing children to the god Thor, worshiped in the form of a Thunder Oak. Boniface stayed the hand on the would-be priest executioner and saving the child’s life, declared that nothing would happen if they were to cut down the tree instead of making a blood sacrifice. When his claim proved to be true, he pointed to the evergreen trees, proposing to cut one down instead, and used a small fir tree as a tool of evangelism.

“This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”

Isn’t this beautiful insight into our tradition of the Christmas tree? Now you can hang decorations and lay gifts under without assuming it’s just another pagan custom. Read the full story of Boniface here.

The freshly implemented Vacation schedule, subject to change. So far it’s working better to have devotions in the evening, which feels more ‘Christmas-y’ anyway.

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The kids’ action plan. As you can see, a couple misdeeds today.

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My beautiful, darling, daughter. Her days as baby of the family are numbered…

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My not so darling budding 2 yr old…

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Sojourning

Undocumented for several months now, I need to reconnect with my blog. I’m reaching the end of my pregnancy (37 weeks today!) and God is helping me to quietly process the logistical, relational and spiritual challenges we’ve experienced the last four months. We’re being re-directed in ministry after laying down a great dream and an unexpected move came up with extenuating circumstances, all while I’m in my third trimester, homeschooling the kids, and pioneering the first Classical Conversations community in South Africa.

Some of these challenges are old ones. Yet I’ve learned something key regarding tests. I used to refer to tests from the Lord as pass/fail…and if you don’t pass it, it will come around again, bringing on a sense of failure. God revealed to me that when he is trying to teach us something, he will do so through many means. And the important lessons are usually repeated! If I can summarise what I’ve learned:

If I don’t hold on too tightly to my own plans, it won’t hurt so much when God changes them.

We are continually called to love each other deeply from the heart. This is not easy.

God does ask us to walk through things too much for us to handle. How else could his power be made perfect in our weakness?

I am grateful for my husband’s initiative to start our family studying the book of Proverbs as this has been a well of life, insight, and direction through our circumstances. I am thankful for the muscles of faith developed in Gert and I, and our children, as we pray for another new house and prepare for another move. I am floored by the avenues of blessing towards this unborn baby. We did not foresee reaching the threshold of six children and yet the prayers, vision, prophetic words, and material provision has exceeded any other pregnancy. I feel that because we said yes to God for what in our minds is an extreme step of faith, he is releasing a new store of blessing to us. I feel entirely overwhelmed that we will be parenting an almost-teenager all the way down to toddler and newborn. Yet I know the grace of God will be with us as we walk through the unique needs of each child. We are sustained.

This blog post feels rough and clumsy, uncertain but moving towards confidence. Much like how I feel as we make decisions about where and how this baby will be born and where we will live. I am excited about new possibilities and leading towards a midwife and home birth and peering around the corner at the possibility of buying a house.

Thank you to Susie Squirrell and Hans-Christian Harder for these great pics of our kids! 🙂

Evangeline, 22 months

Evangeline, 22 months. She says “yay!” for yes–keeping the team spirit alive in our family.

Gabrielle, still a sweet spirit

Gabrielle, still a sweet spirit

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This is a frequent sight these days

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Exploring the backyard

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Et is the one who has changed the most lately. Do you even recognise this boy?

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Gleefully playing in the hole he dug, before discovered by his dad…

Dining With the Greats of God’s Army

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Photo by Susie Squirrell

We are excited to announce the upcoming arrival of no. 6! I am happy and feeling good and we embrace this new life and addition to the family. Yet with each new child comes a crisis of faith. Is God really asking more of me? How can I handle another baby? Can he provide for this one when it already seems we are stretched to the max?

And then I need another dose of vision. Of the why. Of the high calling. Of the purpose. I’d like to share with you this poem, which does exactly that.

I am a Woman

My willingness to carry life is the revenge, the antidote, the great rebuttal of every murder, every abortion, and every genocide. I sustain humanity. Deep inside of me, life grows. I am death’s opposition.

I have pushed back the hand of darkness today. I have caused there to be a weakening tremor among the ranks of those set on earth’s destruction. Today a vibration that calls angels to attention echoed throughout time. Our laughter threatened hell today.

I dined with the greats of God’s army. I made their meals, and tied their shoes. Today, I walked with greatness, and when they were tired I carried them. I have poured myself out for the cause today.

It is finally quiet, but life stirs inside of me. Gaining strength, the pulse of life sends a constant reminder to both good and evil that I have yielded myself to Heaven and now carry its dream. No angel has ever had such a privilege, nor any man. I am humbled by the honor. I am great with destiny.

I birth the freedom fighters. In the great war, I am a leader of underground resistance. I smile at the disguise of my troops, surrounded by a host of warriors, destiny swirling, invisible yet tangible, and the anointing to alter history. Our footsteps marking land for conquest, we move undetected through the common places.

Today I was the barrier between evil and innocence. I was the gate keeper, watching over the hope of mankind, and no intruder trespassed. There is not an hour of day or night when I turn from my post. The fierceness of my love is unmatched on earth.

And because I smiled instead of frowned the world will know the power of grace. Hope has feet, and it will run to the corners of earth, because I stood up against destruction.

I am a woman. I am a mother. I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth. Heaven stands in honor of my mission. No one else can carry my call. I am the daughter of Eve. Eve has been redeemed. I am the opposition of death. I am a woman.

By Christianna Reed Maas

Why We Have 5 Children (and are open for a 6th)

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Sweet baby Viola, proud mama Kristen Brooke

An interesting question came up in our small group discussion Monday night.

How can we influence our culture?

“If you don’t pro-actively influence the culture, the culture will influence you.” (Jim Anderson, Unmasked)

This is known as The Influence Principle. We want to be part of a movement leading the way to true revival!

While there are many effective ways to influence the culture around us, the most significant for me right now is through our family.

Early on in our marriage, I had a terrible fear that was actually quite rational. I was afraid I would get pregnant! I felt so inadequate and certain I would be a terrible mother. I felt clumsy and awkward around babies and little kids and although I knew I should want to be a mom, I was terrified. I hoped someday I would be “ready” but that day wasn’t in sight.

Yet I was reading passages like “…Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies I the gate.” (Psalm 127)

Clearly we decided to step out in faith and say yes to the blessing of children. Each pregnancy required a new level of faith and obstacles to overcome. We had three miscarriages; especially difficult times of mourning the loss of life right after we embraced it. We didn’t set out to have five children! I’m the type of person who needs to take things one step at a time, and knowing we would have five would totally overwhelm me.

Most people now look at us, stop and count our kids, ask if they are all mine, comment on only one boy, etc. I usually don’t mind at all and look at it as an opportunity to speak words of life over the vocation of motherhood and the blessing of children.

It was when we packed up to leave the beach one day I knew we are influencing our culture through our children. Someone thoughtfully left a condom for me on my diaper bag, as if to say, ‘don’t you know you can do something about this?’ After I recovered from the shock of it, I recognized the flurry of lies so prevalent in our culture today.

The earth is not overpopulated. We are not running out of resources. The world will end when every nation, tribe, and tongue has heard the gospel, NOT before, no matter what the global warming alarmists preach. God has given us a mandate to raise up a righteous generation, to be fruitful and multiply, to pass on the knowledge of his glory and goodness to the next generation. Motherhood is a task worthy of laying down my life for. It is not a waste of my talents or a drain of financial resources. It is a High Calling and my job is to live a life worthy of this calling.

This is where my faith meets my reality. Can I trust God to provide for the children he’s given us? They are his, aren’t they? My faith-reality is that he can provide for them far better than the best of planning and even unlimited financial resources could do. He has a destiny, a calling, a purpose, and a plan for each life that is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

It is a colossal responsibility to be a parent, it takes a huge amount of faith and sacrifice. I’ve never heard anyone say they regretted having more children. But how many times have I seen the look of longing in a mother’s eyes saying, ‘I wish we’d had one more.’ Or from an older woman saying, ‘I just didn’t think we could handle another, but after they grew up a bit, I realized we could’ve had one or two more.’

I didn’t set out to be a voice of influence in our culture through our family, but here we are, like it or not. The question to ask is, “How can I influence the culture around me?” And maybe the harder question…”How have I been influenced by the culture?”

The Flash Mob and a Public Mocking

The hot sun betrayed the fall season on Thursday in downtown Cape Town. My kids, since they live in Africa now, think they don’t need to wear shoes anymore. So three little bare feet children followed me from the apartment block through the overgrown, grassy field. When we came upon a huge shattered pane of glass, I knelt down to carry my son piggy-back across the field. We passed more broken glass, discarded wine bottles, a cardboard shack, and used hypodermic needles strewn along the trail. The smell of human waste completed the ugly picture of urban poverty.

Crossing the street to the University, I didn’t know what to expect. We were to be part of a Flash Mob, a term I knew only had something to do with the Passion scene we were about to re-enact. Soon Jesus appeared, a teammate dressed in rags and covered in bruises, hardly recognizable.

We followed him-representing HIM- up the stairs around to the amphitheater of the University, gathering onlookers to join us. Some did, a few stood up to trail after us and see what we were up to.

I struggled to find my voice as teammates shouted “Crucify Him!”

As we passed students, their reaction stunned me. Most pulled out their cell phones to video the disruptive scene. Many ducked their heads and nervously giggled to each other as we made our procession through campus. As we continued the laughter increased. Soon many in the crowd around us were doubled over, laughing and pointing.

Laughing. Mocking. Jeering. It was like they were part of the mob. Or were they?

I stood there, feeling on fire, hot with the sun and hot with emotion at seeing the likeness of a crucifixion even in the small degree we re-enacted. My kids held back, gaping, as the crown of thorns rested on his head. Suddenly all our sin seemed equal. Great or small, we have all sinned against this perfect Savior.

I was part of the mob.

Then preaching. Moving for us who love Jesus, provocative for some, offensive to others. The kids and I took the basket of freshly baked German bread, each shaped into the form of a cross, and dispersed into the crowd to share about the love of Christ. We talked to many people, and each person unique in their perspective on what they just witnessed and their thoughts on sin, the afterlife, and a Savior.

Driving home that day I recalled my prayers for an outreach our family could participate in together. Our hearts are tenderized from this experience. We celebrated the Passover today (on Good Friday, a little out of order but no matter), and besides being exceedingly grateful to not be subject to boils among the other Plagues (don’t go google pictures to show your kids what a boil looks like…trust me!) I believe each of us has a deeper understanding of the perfect lamb, slain for us, saved by his blood and soon to rejoice in his resurrection.

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A Series of Unfortunate Un-adventures

Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a family who, bold, brave, and optimistic, packed their belongings tightly in their well-travelled mini-bus and headed north to a far-away place, on their way to a missionary retreat. Their foresight allowed them the prudence of departing one day later than planned, as to allow their sweet little children one more day to recover from a tiny cold. Long before dawn, five chirpy children nestled cozily into their car-beds laid out carefully by their daddy, their duvets, sheets, and pillows piled high. Eventually nodding off to a long-winded sermon CD, they slept soundly over a mountain pass and through an extraordinary tunnel carved through the mountains. Then one little head popped up and said, “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”

The mildy concerned but still optimistic mommy and daddy said, “Oh, don’t worry little one, you’re just a bit carsick. Sit up, and look straight ahead.”

They drove on, comforting this little one when she emptied out the scarce contents of her tummy. A few hours passed and it was time for breakfast, when the mommy noticed she didn’t feel so well. When she passed up an anticipated steaming hot Wimpy coffee, her husband compassionately asked if she is pregnant.

NO, I’m not pregnant!” came the disagreeable response.

The poor mommy turned green and ran for the bathroom.

Later, after consuming many snacks and yogurt drinks, after many construction delays and routine police checkpoints, the little boy started howling from the backseat. He, too, experienced the effects of what this bold, brave and no longer optimistic family realized was the sudden onset of stomach flu.

Again and again this unfortunate little boy headed for the side of the road, his daddy learning just how quickly he could pull over and hit the brakes while passing coal trucks and other inspired African vehicles.

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While on such a stop, another little girl popped up and said the now much dreaded words, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.” Her devoted but barely standing mommy quickly handed her the second-to-last barf bag. Then the brave oldest daughter burst into a puddle of tears. “I don’t want to throw up!!!” she wailed, “Why does this have to happen every time we go on a car trip?”

It was then this mommy and daddy realized they were three for three with road trips and the flu.

Time for some prayer! That is not God’s blessing…and his word says he will watch over all our comings and goings! So they prayed and broke any curses off their travel time. Unfortunately the sickness still had to run its course.

The tired, nauseous, and edgy family finally arrived at their half-way stopover for the night. They phoned ahead to forewarn their lovely but temporarily crippled aunt of the sudden onset of stomach flu and asked to be quarantined immediately upon arrival. Unfortunately that was not to be the case as guests were already occupying her bed and breakfast rooms. So while the family tried to be polite and sit around the dinner table with an exquisite homemade lasagna and salad, events were not to move in a positive direction.

The high-context Afrikaans culture of the daddy’s family dictated a table set with china, a delicate table-cloth, wine glasses, and conversation with the former Dean of Theology at the University of Bloemfontein involving the merits of studying Latin.

When suddenly, while the mommy with bloodshot eyes tried to feed lasagna to her fussy baby, this sad fussy baby became the last child to serve projectile-vomit all over the dinner table. Both of them covered in vomit, the humiliated, weary, and queasy mommy quickly excused herself to find the recompense of a hot bath and bed for herself and sick baby.

The next day she awoke feeling much better after sleeping for eleven and a half hours straight to the greetings of an amazing, healthy, considerate and hard-working husband who took care of the baby and all vomiting children through the night.

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Enjoying a ride in Tannie Amanda’s walker as she recovers from knee surgery

Van scrubbed and disinfected and vomit-covered duvets, sheets, pillows, and clothing bagged for laundering they stopped for some Power-Aide and finished the drive to their destination, passing spectacular fields of blooming cosmos along the way, without further ado.

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cosmos

The End.

 

 

photo credit