*Please hear my heart – not every woman has a birth story that she cherishes. Some have experienced real trauma or needed modern medicine for life saving purposes. I’m not devaluing these situations. Neither is my message that a certain way of doing things in the birthing room is right vs wrong. Rather my goal is to share a perspective of birth that perhaps you have not considered before.*
Blood, sweat, tears, surrender, new life. With the recent celebration of Easter fresh in our hearts, these words make us think of our sweet Savior and what he has accomplished for us! His labor of love, his perfect life, his willing sacrifice, his ultimate victory and living presence with us! I deeply believe that God designed an analogous process for mothers. This labor can ultimately give mothers a rich appreciation of the cost and reward of heaven.
Blood, sweat, tears surrender, new LIFE! This is BIRTH! This is a woman, accepting each wave of pain, surrendering to God’s design, trusting that he is good. This is a woman, crying out at the intensity of sensation, taking deep breaths, so sure that she cannot humanly accomplish this feat. This is a woman sacrificing her comfort and security in order to bring new life into this world. And what beauty comes when indeed she realizes “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13), remembering that God divinely inspired the authors of the holy Scriptures to tell us that “For We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22) and also “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” (John 16:21) The pain of childbirth, bringing forth LIFE and JOY is meant to be a holy inspiration to mothers. The comparisons made here in Scripture contrast PAIN with JOY. And what a stark contrast they are. In fact, as we often see in life, the greater the struggle, the greater the victory! What difference would women find in their own hearts and lives if they ceased to listen to the world’s version of what motherhood, pregnancy and childbirth are, and instead embraced the process as a miracle and mystery – as a divine gift?
All I ever wanted throughout my entire childhood was to be a mommy. The thought never occurred to me that I’d actually have to give BIRTH to these sweet babies I wanted so badly. It wasn’t until after I was married, and my husband and I were seriously contemplating starting our family that I realized what I might be in for. I watched TLC A Baby Story and bawled my eyes out. I didn’t bat an eye at the army of nurses, the bright lights, the tubes and machines, the sterile environment and highly controlled process portrayed on the television, accepting that this was what birth required. Out of the blue one day my husband asked me if I would ever consider an unmedicated birth – or even a homebirth. My initial response was to be mad at him. Ha! But because I love and respect my husband I prayed about what he had asked me and agreed to meet with a local midwife to just talk with her about childbirth. I left that appointment a changed woman. The vision she had for the sacred bond between mother and child, the beauty of allowing God’s design to work with little to no interventions, the glory of husband and wife bonding together through this birthing process –becoming even more ONE, as well as her idea that a midwife is guardian of a physiologically natural process, rather than a “do-er” or someone eager to intervene, really intrigued me and excited me. I had never thought these things through. I left with a stack of books and a new vision for what the process of pregnancy and childbirth – of becoming a mother – could look like.
Those first low, gentle twinges came in the afternoon on May 1 2007. I couldn’t be sure it was anything, it was after all my first birth. But the twinges came every 20 minutes, then every 15, then every 10. Nothing painful. Just low and crampy. By bedtime they were consistent around 10 minutes apart. The midwife was alerted and my husband paced about the house nervously, getting the snacks and supplies out, setting out the candles, getting the cd’s ready. Telling me to sleep. I was far too excited and didn’t shut my eyes once. At midnight my water broke and we called the midwife to come. She arrived, checked on my sweet baby and me and once she knew we were ok, she went to take a little nap in an arm chair until I would need her again.
I have never considered myself tough. Pain is not a thing I had ever handled well. But we had practiced for months, tensing muscles and relaxing muscles. Speaking a welcome to a contraction and letting it go completely once it was gone. This was reality and much more than I bargained for. It was hard. It was painful. I worked to surrender. I cried. The pain came in great waves that engulfed me and left me shaking. Once transition came I started vomiting and trembling violently – so hard that my teeth were chattering. My precious husband never left my side or those 9 long hours after my water broke. He supported my body weight as I leaned on him for contraction after contraction. He prayed over me. He rubbed my back and told me what an amazing job I was doing. Of course the midwife and doula were a gentle, calming presence, even though I was so focused on what was happening inside me that I hardly noticed! I got in the birthing pool a few hours before the final stage of labor. As I floated there, lost in world of pain, it occurred to me that Jesus, for the joy that was set before him despised the shame and endured a suffering far greater than I could ever fathom. His joy was to bring new life to his creation. This act of childbirth was a tiny semblance here on earth of Christ’s great love for us. At 9:27 AM, darkness became light! What was once unimaginable became beauiful clarity, and pain became unspeakable JOY as our daughter was peacefully born and placed immediately in my arms. I can’t begin to explain the emotional high, the heart pounding adrenaline, the laughter combined with tears of relief, my husband almost shouting with delight when he saw our baby girl for the first time. It was awesome and felt truly sacred.
Each of the next 4 babies born to us have their own unique birth stories. But with each one, I learned to surrender a little more. To trust a little more. To rejoice a little more. What had at first been a theory of welcoming contractions, became a practice. With our fourth and fifth births, we played worship music in the background and actually sang together between contractions. When I paused to ride the wave, I purposely thanked God for his good design and for this contraction. And once it began to descend I thanked him that I was one wave closer to meeting our child. It was never easy. Birth was never pain free for me. But “for the joy set before me” I chose to embrace the process and each lesson that God would teach me through it. With our fifth I had an epiphany as I floated in the warm birthing pool, minutes away from meeting our son. I was no longer afraid of death. Not because I thought I was going to die in childbirth, but because the pain and the unknown of childbirth followed by an ecstacy of joy had illustrated something to me. When it is my time to leave this world, how I will go is unknown to me. It may involve suffering. But I KNOW without a doubt that I will meet my Savior as I pass from this world to the next. Just as I met each of my babies as they passed from their life within my womb, to life outside my womb. So I will pass from this life to eternal life and be embraced by Christ. And no amount of mystery, fear or pain can take that from me.
Embrace the Pain
What if every hard thing we walk through in life is meant for our good? What if each difficulty was intended to shape and mold us more into the image of Christ? To teach us more about HIM? More about our role in this world and possibly even our passing to the next. Now, what if I also told you that our sweet Lord doesn’t force these lessons upon us. Our hearts need to be soft toward Him. Willing to learn these lessons. Willing to see the supernatural in the mundane and gritty. I have found it to be true that for mothers specifically, God has revealed himself to us through BIRTH. Yes, the same scary, risky, bloody, “sensationalized by Hollywood as always an emergency” – birth. We do live in a broken world where interventions can be necessary and life-saving. But when a low-risk mother is allowed to birth on her own – to work WITH the design of her body, in an environment that she is most comfortable, with a supportive birthing team, ideally free from any medications that interfere with the natural hormone flow…this is an ideal time for the mother to lean-in to her trevail. To embrace the pain. To rejoice in the gift of life coming from her womb to her arms. To recognize that if Christ was willing to pay the ultimate cost to bring life to us, we can do our part to bring life to our children. Not because we’re gluttons for punishment, but because we are women with bodies capable of nothing short of a miracle – designed by God as such! And we have a vision for seeing God’s hand at work in our lives – even in something as messy and misunderstood as childbirth. Because what if this “mess” is actually part of God’s glorious plan for shaping us more into the image of Christ…