It was just before lunch. That much I remember. Intense emotions – joy, wonder, overwhelm – ran through me as I stared into those bright blue, inquiring eyes. “Where am I?” we both seemed to be saying.
Only One Way Out
That was a tough last 13 hours! I had no idea of what to expect. Whoever does when it is your first? You can take the baby prep classes and read all you want, but when it’s happening to you, so much of what you learn goes down the drain. You rely on reflex and what you know to be true.
Which really isn’t much. All you do know is that, as those contractions start intensifying and get closer together, there really is only one way to resolve what’s going on. This little guy wanted out.
As for me, I couldn’t escape.
When that water broke around 10 pm, we knew it was time. The sensation was less dramatic than I had expected. I felt some relief from the pressure. Temporarily, of course.
We were ready for the 15-minute journey to the hospital. No surprises there. No older sibling to worry about. They were ready for us.
The little guy did get started on his actual due date, but arrived a day later. Maybe that walk along the beach really did get him thinking that being out of the womb may, indeed, be kinda fun….
Prayer for Two Things
All systems were go. I had prayed for two things. The first was a Bible verse to “chew” on during my labor. Something that could kinda be like my mantra. A Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, caught my attention: “I can do all things through God who strengthens me.” Well, that was surely appropriate!
The second was for some image to carry me through the pain and uncertainty.
I got a really clear picture of a woman in Mali, Africa, on a dirt floor, in a hut, in the middle of almost nowhere, writhing in the pain of childbirth. She was alone. She was giving birth, but with no support and in the most primitive of circumstances.
I wondered if she would make it through. And I wondered if I would meet her someday.
Strength from Mali
I had taken a dose of Fentanyl to take the edge off of the pain, but I progressed rather quickly and the drug wore off. In our birth plan, I had left open the possibility of getting an epidural. But I progressed so quickly to six centimeters that the epidural soon became out of reach. Unfortunately, by then the Fentanyl had worn off, and the nurses said it wouldn’t make sense to take another dose. I guess I just had to “rough it.”
I thought of my imaginary friend in Mali. She was the real one “roughing it.”
Here I was in my state-of-the-art hospital, with amazing doctors and medical professionals all around me and, most significantly, my loving husband cheering me on. My heart flooded with gratefulness and joy.
Interestingly, some months later I happened to catch a news report of a recently released UN study on maternal mortality, basically the number of women per thousand who die in childbirth. The report was chastising the U.S. for pulling in so low on the list – if I recall correctly, somewhere around number 16. Up at the top (fewest number of deaths) was…Italy. And at the bottom? Mali.
So, with Philippians 4:13 circling around in my mind and my Malian friend triumphing, I continued on with no medication and made it through. One complication – an elbow sticking up and out that took awhile to coax downward – and we were through. Just in time for lunch.
So there we were. Lunchtime for me. And for him. I fumbled a bit in my first awkward moments of nursing but, miracles of miracles, this little guy certainly seemed to know what to do. Even through the exhaustion, the wash of contentment and joy overcame me. We had done it. Forever, inextricably, changed.
Who was this little creature? What would he become? How could I care for him? The weight of responsibility seemed too great. And yet, this moment was so very ordinary.
I reflected on this. Ordinary, but extraordinary. I held a miracle cloaked in mystery in my arms. A year earlier, this little person was only a dream, but he was a reality in the Master Designer's mind. The holiness of the moment didn’t escape me. I basked in it.
And then I fell blissfully asleep.
[Postscript: June 11, 2017 marks my first child's 22nd birthday. Not only will he be walking across a stage to receive his Bachelor's degree this month, but he will also marry in early August. His (their) future looks bright!]
People from every culture experience the struggle, beauty and holiness of childbirth. What has given you strength as you have lived through this ordinary, but extraordinary life event?
Image Credit: Unsplash on Pixabay