This post includes a story about my wife and I on the day she gave birth to our son. I share it with her consent.
It was important to my wife Lauren that she have a natural birth. This meant going through the process with midwives and avoiding an epidural and IV medicine. The day of delivery came in late July. 18 hours later, Lauren reached 10 centimeters of dilation- or the “push phase” in laymen’s terms- without medicine, but there was almost nothing left of her energy and stamina. The marathon (between the final two centimeters in particular) had exhausted her completely, and she was losing control of the pain in a hurry. Seeing her suffer, I was starting to lose it too.
She tried pushing, with the midwife, nurses and I assisting her as best we could. But things stopped progressing. After two hours of pushing, we were no closer to meeting our son. My thoughts turned to frustration, and I started to foolishly count my objections to the situation. I wasn’t ready for another child, it all felt too soon. I was nervous to have a son due to my own fears and insecurities. And now we were here, well into the process, and the natural birthing plan was probably going to be thrown out, after all of the pain and suffering that she went through. I felt entitled to a smooth process for her and for me.
“We need to think about an epidural quickly,” the midwife said. “Or you are looking at a C-section.” I was bummed to hear the doctor utter the words, mostly because I knew she was right. It was time. My wife needed a respite; she deserved whatever help we could give her, even at the cost of the plan being altered.
I had to step to the side of the room while the staff tended to my wife. I grew angry, felt helpless, and assumed incompetence of the staff in that moment. Lauren had been in such agony for so long that I irrationally started to worry about her safety. My anger turned upwards at God. It’s a fault I have at times, as someone who prays frequently. I make the mistake of insisting, however quietly, that God not only answer me quickly but also correctly, as if frequent conversations reduce God to a genie offering endless wishes on demand. But things don’t work that way. God has the good sense not to give us everything we ask for, and the wisdom to let life play out as if He is showing up late.
I went into the hall where my parents, parents-in-law, and my wife’s close friend waited. They had been listening to the sounds of my wife suffering for hours, and they were traumatized too. We all stared at the ground and each other, waiting for her anesthesia to kick in.
The room next to us went quiet soon after.
I entered to find my wife asleep. Suddenly, things were better. The epidural was in and it was working. There would be a break before she began again. Lauren would find new strength and composure, and after a few more hours of pushing, our son Stellan would enter the world.
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I’ve reflected on this humbling day quite a few times. I’m glad it didn’t go the way it was supposed to; my wife is glad too. She didn’t deliver her son on her exact terms, but the old plan doesn’t matter to her anymore, and the change avoided a C-section for which she is grateful. It’s funny how it can take the loss of certain expectations to clarify other blessings. Lauren is proud of her effort, and feels the accomplishment of giving birth after a long and noble fight. Her strength and vulnerability on that day changed things between us; I look at her these days with a new admiration. Neither of us care in the slightest about the epidural that we swore would be a huge problem for the birthing plan.
As for the child I wasn’t ready for, of a gender that spooked me, my fears and insecurities lost the argument with life, and rightly so. I am so glad we have a new child together. I am thankful he is a boy, and delight in the differences between he and our older daughter. My selfish and irrational thoughts at that time seem small and silly now.
Above all of that is the small glimpse of God we caught on that day. This is a God who knows the value of tests and trials in an age of disengagement, ease, and comfort. This is a God who we find, often in retrospect, to be closer than we think, working in ways we might not expect. This is a God of immense courage and mystery, drawing us towards him provocatively, teaching us to trust, and revealing the majesty of unlikely blessings grown out of times of pain. This is a God worth knowing, loving, and following. This is an adventure worth the leap of faith.