My Birth Story – To God be the Glory

Childbirth, consequence, birth; birthing; excitement; glory

Actually, my last blog – scheduled before hand and posted July 16 – was after my beautiful daughter was born.  And God got all the glory! 

They decided to induce me on the Thursday evening before my due date (which was July 17), and my daughter came into the world on Saturday afternoon.

One of my friends commented on that last blog and told me I should share my birth story as a follow-up.  She said people had to know how all these things I talked about helped to overcome the fear and reality of childbirth.  

I was very hesitant at first.  Birth stories are gory by nature (we’re dealing with bodily fluids here, folks).  I didn’t want to subject anyone to that, nor did I want to accidentally fall into telling a “horror” story.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right.  I could literally see how God had worked the whole thing for His glory; and I’m not saying that just because it’s the Christian thing to say.  I’m saying it because I already see how His birth plan for me brought Him so much more glory than my birth plan would have….

Warning though: this is a long one…

When the Doctor Calls, it’s Never Good

This process actually started on Tuesday when my OB called to say the baby was measuring small.  She comforted me, telling me the baby was fine, I was a small person and so not expected to deliver a large baby; but they wanted to be sure the placenta and blood flow was good.  So, she told me to make an appointment with the high risk doctors to get an ultrasound.  

I called Andrew, and we headed over to the hospital.  They did the tests and everything was fine – but the doctor agreed with my OB: I should be induced by the end of the week.

We went to an appointment with my OB the next morning, and she had already made an appointment for me to be induced the next day.  She went over what was going to happen, and Andrew and I were sent off for our last night in our baby-less home.

I will admit: there was a part of me that was hesitant to be induced.  Everyone said she was fine, and I am a small person. But since it was my first baby, and I had two medical professionals tell me to be induced, I felt the prudent thing was to agree.  

Next time, I would decline an induction and tell them to give me at least to my due date…but I can’t regret doing it this way.  Like I said, God’s glory shown so greatly that there’s no doubt in my mind it was meant to be just the way it was…

The Induction Ceremony

So, on Thursday evening, we went to the hospital with our things and began the process.  The induction began with a drug called Cervidil, and it was created by Satan. Basically, they give it to you when your body is not ready at all to have a baby.  It kick starts the process of labor by giving you regular contractions. They were all manageable, but 2-4 minutes apart, which meant Andrew and I didn’t get much sleep as we worked through the pain.

I won’t tell you too much more, as it’s a pretty awful drug in other ways.  What I will say is that, ladies, if your doctor says they’re going to give you a “vaginal suppository” or mentions the name Cervidil, just ask for a C-section.  Trust me.  

I mean, you know it’s a bad drug when you tell the doctor the next morning about what happened and she responds with, “Yes, it’s a rough drug. But it’s efficient, and rarely do women need a second one.”

Well, I was one of those rare cases.  I had already told Andrew that if they came in saying I needed a second one, I was going to ask for a C-section.  I already suspected I would have one at the end of this anyway. But when I asked for one, the two OBs looked at each other hesitantly…and then convinced me to take a second dose by holding out the tantalizing promise of being 9 cm dilated by morning. 

To say the least, I saw nothing to glorify God in this.  I didn’t blame Him – I blamed the doctors.  But neither was I grateful to Him.

The Second Dose

This second dose brought on more intense contractions, but they were manageable…or would have been if we’d gotten any sleep the night before, or if this had been my first dose.  Because it was my second, my legs shook with fatigue and pain, and I could not stand (which makes managing pain difficult). I did find a sitting position that worked, but that one picked up my heartbeat on the monitor rather than the baby’s (I had to be monitored constantly), and so they kept telling me to sit back.

This made the pain unmanageable.  However, even if it was manageable, I knew I was looking at another sleepless night.  With two sleeplessness, how was I going to push out a baby? And how was I going to be a mother to that baby, who would need instant care and require more sleepless nights?

I hated it, but I knew I needed an epidural.  I knew if it hadn’t involved drugs, I could have managed the pain effectively.  My mindset at this point was one of anger. The doctors “forced” me into an induction, two doses of Cervidil, and then an epidural.  Granted, I could have declined them all, but what did I know of these things? I didn’t feel confident enough to say no to medical professionals who knew more about how to get a baby out than I did.

To say the least, my focus was not on God at all, and bringing Him glory was far from my mind.  

The Epidural

While waiting for the anesthesiologist, my water suddenly broke and very intense contractions began.  I was very grateful to have already ordered the epidural, as it took the anesthesiologist a little while to get there.  

I hated the epidural, but was grateful for the relief.  Finally, I could get some sleep.

But I soon awoke to several nurses in the room.  They said my blood pressure was dropping (which is a side-effect of epidurals), and it was making the baby’s heart rate drop, too.  The nurses began busily doing all their tricks to get my blood pressure regulated, and I called Andrew over (he’d been asleep when they all came, and I’m so glad he was!  The poor guy got as little sleep as I did!).  

vision board

My Vision Board. I meant to post this in the last blog, but was induced before being able to upload the picture.

Then, the oxygen mask came over my face and I saw my nurse’s brow furrowed.  If that wasn’t a bad sign, I didn’t know what was. My vision board had to be put across the room, and although I could see it, I could not read the verses.  But, I’d been prepared, and had sent a PDF version to Andrew for his tablet so he could read them to me if I couldn’t see them.  

I tearily asked Andrew to get his tablet and read my vision board verses to me, and he did so several times.  There were tears, but also peace. I also knew this was incredibly special – these nurses got to hear amazing Scripture about our amazing God.  God was using this for His glory.

And I began to be thankful for this experience.

The “Pushing”

They regulated everything, and we were able to get a little sleep.  I was only 5 cm dilated in the morning, so they started me on pitocin.  Before i knew it, it was time to push!  I pushed for about half an hour; and then they told me the baby’s heart rate was dropping with each push.

I needed a C-section.  

I was so scared.  As I’d said in previous blogs, I had never been afraid of the pain.  I had always been afraid of being exposed.  I knew enough about C-sections to know this would happen.

Again, a bunch of nurses began coming in, and a lot was just left open on me.  I understood that they were medical professionals, and it wasn’t a “thing” to them…but it was a big thing to me.  

One of my main objectives during labor was to be an advocate for myself.  I’d done this in various ways throughout the ordeal, but this one really stood out to me.  When I mentioned to my nurse, Maya, that I was afraid of being exposed, she instantly began protecting me like a lioness.  She covered me whenever anyone came through the door, even if she it meant stopping what she was trying to do.

I also asked if it was possible to have an all female staff in the operating room, saying I understood if they couldn’t, but I’d prefer it.  They were incredibly kind and accommodating. They asked, and said that it would be all female except one anesthesiologist. I nodded, and was grateful that most of them were female.  I knew he would be professional; but I suspect they’d told him about my fears,, for I was not prepared for how sweet he would be…    

The Operating Table

That’s when things began to get really chaotic.  They prepared me for surgery while Andrew gathered our things to take to the recovery room.  We were separated, and the tears began to stream down my face. I closed my eyes and only opened them again when Andrew and I were reunited in the operating room.

The C-section table, by the way, is literally shaped like a cross.  Your legs are on a long table, and your arms are out to the sides (not strapped, thank goodness!!!).  It makes sense, as they need to ensure the arms don’t get in the way of the operation. 

But it is just like Jesus.

It was so reminiscent of all I’d blogged about.  Here I was, so like Christ, delivering my child. To keep calm, I thought over and over: “Jesus was in this position to give me life; I can be in this position to give my daughter life.  Jesus was exposed to give me life; I can be exposed to give my daughter life.”  

Tears fell swiftly, as they still do when I think of this.  The Lord’s sacrifice gave me the courage to be strong for my little girl.

As I wept, the anesthesiologist bent near and asked if I was crying because of pain or because I was overwhelmed.  I replied it was because I was overwhelmed.

And he took a tissue and gently dabbed the tears from my eyes. It was one of the sweetest acts in the world, and I thanked him profusely (although still with my eyes shut).

God Directed it All

Finally, Andrew was in the room with me.  He held my hand, and I could tell his eyes were glassy, too.  I instantly asked if he’d brought his tablet, but he’d forgotten it in the chaos.  

“That’s ok,” I said.  “I think I can remember.”

Which is crazy.  I have a terrible memory, and have always struggled to memorize scripture.  

But I’d looked at it so often in advance, and Andrew had read it often enough the night before, that I was able to remember every single one.  Not verbatim, and I personalized them for myself by inserting my name. But I remembered them all. 

As I did so, I knew these people were also being blessed by the scriptures we were reciting.  Many of them may not have been paying full attention, and it’s not like I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s presence.  I simply knew He was there, the ultimate Physician, directing the operation. Because God was using this for His glory.

And then my beautiful daughter was out!  I heard her cries, and Andrew got to talk to her as they cleaned her.  He got to hold her skin-to-skin immediately as they cleaned me up. As it turns out, her umbilical cord had been loosely tied around her neck; but because of the quick C-section, she was not admitted into the NICU.  God had really been looking over her, protecting her from harm.

And then, as they rolled me to recovery, I held her for the first time and felt a deep abiding sense of peace, love, and contentment.

To God be the Glory

It wasn’t until we were home from the hospital that everything began to sink in.  As I reflected, there were two main, overpowering thoughts.

Overcoming the Sense of Shame

First, there were several aspects of the C-section that left me feeling humiliated and ashamed.  Things I knew were necessary, but still not pleasant. Part of it was related to the male anesthesiologist, who was very sweet; but I still felt a sense of shame at being exposed because he did occasionally need to look across the curtain to see what was going on so he could do his job.   

Talking through these things with Andrew helped me overcome that sense of shame, as he told me what I didn’t see: how the anesthesiologist would look quickly, but then immediately look back at me; and how he would constantly move his side of the curtain up so he couldn’t see what was going on.  Hearing those things, and realizing the depth of his sweetness, helped me overcome those feelings.

As an aside, I want to highlight my husband Andrew.  He went through this process with me – getting as little sleep, having as much worry, and helping me cope with everything I was up against; but he also has taken such sweet and loving care of me postpartum.  Andrew does so much of the housework since I can’t bend over from the surgery: cooking, cleaning, dishes, laundry. He does almost all the diapers and burpings as I figure out nursing, run to the restroom for the umteenth time, or get a quick bite to eat. He tells me I’m doing great, and encourages me in so many, many ways.  Andrew is the silent hero of this story – secondary only to Jesus.

To God be the Glory

The second thought was far more humbling.  As I reflected, I began to realize that had all of those things not happened – had I not been induced, had I not needed the epidural, had I not needed the C-section – then this would have been a different story.  The nurses and physicians would not have heard the Gospel. I would have had a birth story centered around me and my desires. And I would not be closer to the Lover of my Soul.

God would not have received as much glory through my plan; but through His plan, He received so much glory.

This has been the most spiritually intense experience I’ve had since my dark times in college.  I can’t even say it’s a feeling of being close. It’s a knowing – truly knowing – that I am His, and He will never abandon me. 

To God be the glory.

Zion says, “The Lord has abandoned me; The Lord has forgotten me!” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.  Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands… – Isaiah 49:14-16a

Excitement vs. Fear

Childbirth, consequence, birth; birthing; excitement; glory

“Can you believe she’ll be here in 2 or 3 weeks?” I asked Andrew.

“I know! I’m so excited!”

There was a pause as I processed his words.  “I didn’t realize that was an option,” I finally admitted.  Excitement was not what I’d been feeling.  At all.

And instantly, I put up my old defenses.  “How can I be excited when I have to mentally prepare for the trials of labor and postpartum?  God allowed all these awful things, so how can I be excited?”

The Struggle for Excitement 

This was before I started my blog, and even though I’d been thinking through all these things, God ministers to me most when I write things out.  So yes, technically I “knew” everything, but it hadn’t set in the way it has now.  

But still…those lies went deep.  If I’m honest, I still struggle with them.  And did you see how the Enemy changed the words?  Not “God cursed women with this,” but “God allowed this.”  The Enemy is crafty with his lies, and we must be careful.

Andrew was so sweet and told me I just needed to change my outlook.  I said it was impossible, but I prayed secretly that God would change my fear into excitement.

And you know what?  Literally the next morning, I woke up SO EXCITED to meet my daughter!  And the excitement is what has stuck with me these past few weeks.

But there is a thin line between excitement and fear.  It is a choice.  A choice I need to make daily sometimes.  But God is faithful – He gave me two very important tools in changing my fear into excitement.

Changing Fear into Excitement

Partly, the excitement stuck because of this blog.  As I said above, God ministers to me most when I write.  It’s as if he corrals all the thoughts running rampant through my mind, puts them in order, and then reveals His beautiful truth.

The other thing that really helped me claim my excitement was going over my vision board every day.  This was an idea I got from a webinar I watched. The lady had lots of cool empowerment pictures and sayings to encourage you to keep focused.   

I will admit, I was hesitant to make it at first.  It seemed silly to bring a board into the birthing room.  But I decided to go ahead and make it, and then not take it if I felt it was silly.  So I printed empowerment pictures, verses, pictures of our lovely pregnancy photo shoot, and pictures of mermaids (because I’m a magical, pregnant, mermaid princess, and after the baby I will be a magical, skinny, mermaid princess).  I overprinted, to say the least, and so ended up with just one picture of Andrew and me, two mermaid pictures, and a ton of verses. Priorities people!

After I made it, I instantly fell in love with it.  It currently sits on our dining room table and I try and read it at every meal.  I go over the verses, and what they mean to me in the birth. For all you pregnant ladies, I hope these verses help you!  For all you non-pregnant people, I hope they encourage you by showing just how great our God is!

Verses for Persecution/Trials

I want to preface by saying I know these verses talk about persecution or intense trials brought about by sharing Christ.  I do not want to make light of those situations, but I also believe God wants us to apply these to our lives. And honestly, childbirth is one of the biggest trials a woman goes through.  

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. – Romans 8:35, 37

So technically, only Romans 8:37 is on my board (there wasn’t enough space for verse 35).  But I know what it is, so it serves to jog my memory. I especially clung to the “nakedness” part, as a huge part of my pre-labor anxiety comes from being exposed. (Yah, I know they say you don’t care.  I don’t believe them, as I don’t know anyone as neurotic about it as me.) But over this particular trial I am “more than a conqueror” through Christ’s love.

Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16

This one made me laugh when I read it.  Pregnancy and labor do, in a way, “destroy” the “outer person”…all the while, an “inner person” is being brought to life.  There is, of course, a more spiritual reason for me liking this, too. As we’ve discussed previously, this should be a special time of women drawing near to their Savior, who completely understands what we are going through.  And in that way, our inner person of faith is being renewed through this trial.

Verses for Abandonment or Encouragement 

Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me; The Lord has forgotten me!” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands – Isaiah 49:14-16a

I mentioned this verse last time, but I think it bears repeating.  One of the greatest lies I believed was God was abandoning me to the pain and fear of childbirth.  He isn’t, and He shows that by using a specific metaphor about childbirth. I will sooner forget and abandon my precious little girl before God forgets and abandons me.  That is saying a lot.

But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

In my head, I like to add “and they shall labor and not give up.”  I know it’s not in scripture, but it definitely fits with the spirit of the verse!

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

Again, I know this is out of context.  I’m not going to conquer Canaan…but labor is like a battle, and so I feel I can use it.  I especially like when God says not to be discouraged. So if the numbers aren’t doing what I’d like, or if I need to go in for an emergency C-section, I don’t need to be afraid or discouraged…I can take confidence that God is going with me.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand….For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you: Do not fear, I will help you. – Isaiah 41:10, 13

I have these verses separated on my board because they are so important.  God is with me, holding onto me even! I don’t need to be afraid. I’m not abandoned.  I’m safe.

Verses for Peace

These specific verses are on my board to remind me not to be anxious about the postpartum period.  Several weeks ago, I became terrified that I’d develop postpartum OCD/anxiety or psychosis. For some reason postpartum depression doesn’t frighten me, but those other two do.  But these verses help me focus on the Lord, and what power I have through Him.

And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

I especially like the wording “every thought.”  Usually it’s translated “understanding,” but that doesn’t have the same connotation.  I love that God’s peace can overcome all my anxious thoughts, and guard my heart and my mind from them.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

I know the usual translation says “self-control” but I love how the New King James Version says “sound mind.”  I don’t need to be afraid of any thoughts or fears I may have; through Christ I have the power of a sound mind.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” – Romans 8:15

I use this one when thinking of both labor and postpartum.  If things get serious or overwhelming, I don’t need to be afraid – I can call on my intimate relationship with God, and know He will be there.  Likewise, during postpartum, if my thoughts sway toward anxiety, I can remember that I don’t have a spirit of fear, but am a child of God.

 

God in the Birthing Room

Childbirth, consequence, birth; birthing; excitement; glory

We’ve talked about how God didn’t curse women, but gave the natural consequence of pain because of fear entering the world with sin.  We also talked about how God bonded us to Him through the horrors of the Cross, intentionally allowing the giving of life (both spiritual and physical) to be linked with a sacrifice.  

And knowing those two things caused a chain (granted, only a two-link one) of very important thoughts to pop into my head…

Saved through Childbirth?

Thought number one revolves around a very strange verse found in 1 Timothy 2:

“But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.” – 1 Timothy 2:15

Honestly, it seems a bit of a non-sequitur, even in context.  Paul is telling Timothy how he feels women should act in church, and giving biblical reasons why this is…and then he throws this in.

John Piper has an excellent post about how he sees it fitting into the context of the proceeding verses, and I highly encourage you to read it here.  He gives good evidence for it to be read as “she will be saved despite childbearing” – i.e. despite the “curse” of pain in childbirth (his words! It’s the only area I disagree with him on in the post!).  

Saved through Childbirth

He convinced me, but there is one caveat I’d like to add: because the very act of childbearing does bear striking similarities to what Jesus suffered on the cross (although nowhere NEAR as horrific), a woman’s salvation can be strengthened through childbirth.  In fact, I believe that’s the goal of childbirth for believers!  

We know what Jesus went through on the cross to bring us eternal life; through childbirth, we get a glimpse of the pain He suffered as we labor to bring about a physical life.  As I mentioned last time, this is an incredibly special bond we Christian women get to share with our Savior. 

I’m convinced that childbirth was always meant to be a picture of salvation for women, and in that way they are “saved through childbrith.”  Their faith is strengthened, and their salvation is made more precious to them through this process.  For after experiencing labor, what woman who knows of Christ’s sufferings can take the Easter story lightly? She “knows,” in part, what He went through.

And all of that leads to a very important truth that floored me, and should floor you: if you view childbirth as a means of strengthening your faith, that invariably means you are inviting God into the birthing room with you…

Birth Goddesses

Being a history major and classical studies minor, I’d heard of birth goddesses before, even though they are minor deities and seldom discussed. Since western culture is founded upon Greco-Roman culture, the one that pertains most to us would be Eileithyia.  Her name means “she who comes to aid” or “relieve,” but she was also be blamed for elongating labor.  Eileithyia was directly under Hera, although Artemis also seems to have had some say in what she did, too.[1]

This is just one childbirth goddess of one culture; every culture would have had them, whether we know of them or not.  But no culture had a childbirth god.  No god went into the birthing room to help a woman.

Let that sink in for a moment.  Of all the cultures in the world, childbirth deities were specifically female. It makes sense, really.  Women really only want women in the birthing chamber. However, there’s another important reason: male deities didn’t pay attention to women unless they were getting them pregnant to begin with.  And once that happened, they left.  

Talk about abandonment!  Women were playthings to them.  The ancient women could not count on a god to be with them in such a time.

And yet, we have a male God who goes into the birthing room with us.  

An Historical Enigma

All of antiquity would laugh at such a thing!  What would a male deity be doing in birthing room?  Childbirth is for women, after all.  

But He is there, with us.  Yes, I will have a kind (female) doctor, a good (female) nurse, and an amazing (male) husband to help me through the birth.  But I will also have my Lord and Savior, the Chief Physician, the Head Nurse/Doula, the Main Partner Support with me, too.

The God of the universe is there, with me, in the birthing room.  

That should humble us.  That should floor us. This is an extraordinary thing for a god of any culture to do!  And their gods were delegated spheres of influence, and so seemingly weren’t coordinating everything the way our God does.

And if you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s some scripture to back it up: 

“Zion says, ‘The Lord has abandoned me; the Lord has forgotten me!’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…’” – Isaiah 49:14-16a

The very fact that God uses the birth of a child to talk about how He will never abandon us shows us that He’s there, with us everywhere…even in the birthing room.

And that should give us great comfort indeed.

 

 

Sources

[1] Eileithyia, Accessed July 5, https://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/Eileithyia.html.

 

The “Horrors” of Childbirth 

Childbirth, consequence, birth; birthing; excitement; glory

Women looooooove to dwell on their birth horror stories.  And honestly, to someone who hasn’t gone through labor yet (both men and women), everything seems like a horror story.  It sounds painful, dehumanizing, and just plain awful.  

I grew to despise this fear-mongering type of conversation before I was pregnant, and I avoid it like the plague now that I am pregnant.  I will admit, I feel these stories heaped fuel on my anger towards God.   

And then – with birth and babies on the mind – I read a very familiar passage in a whole new light…

Birth Requires a Sacrifice of the Body

Most of us are familiar with Nicodemus’ visit to Jesus at night.  Many of us would know that’s where our “born again” term comes from, and I’d venture that all of us know that’s where the famous John 3:16 comes from.  It’s such a common passage that I think we often gloss over it, never pondering the passage completely.  

Let’s look at those two verses with fresh eyes, in light of childbirth:

“Jesus replied, ‘I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God….For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life…’ – John 3:3, 16

In this passage, we have birth and life juxtaposed next to each other.  I immediately thought, “Jesus gave birth to our eternal life like I have to give birth to my baby.”  A strange thought, but an important one. For giving birth was now a very painful, messy process full of horrible possibilities.  It was no longer just a happy event that led to life.

And I realized: our rebirth in the Spirit required a bodily sacrifice…not too different than childbirth…

…And yet, it IS Different

This gave me a good deal of encouragement…but it wasn’t until I read the crucifixion scene in John, along with a commentary, that I realized something important: yes, there is a similarity between the sufferings of a woman in childbirth and the sufferings of Christ.  However, the “horrors” of childbirth are nothing – NOTHING – compared to the horrors of the Cross.

We tend to gloss over them.  We read that Jesus was beaten, whipped, mocked, and nailed to the cross.  Seldom do we stop and think about what that would be like. Not to be graphic, but I want to share some insight into the horrors of the Cross by dwelling on just one aspect: the scourging (or beating/flogging) of Jesus.

The Roman scourge was a brutal form of torture.  It had several strips of leather with pieces of metal, bone, or clay shards attached at different levels of each strip.  These were specifically designed to “flay” the skin from the body in different places. Prisoners would often die from this before even getting to the cross.  What’s more, the legion stationed in Jerusalem was from Thrace, and were “known as the most brutal of all the Roman Legions.” Basically, they knew how to exact the most amount of pain and suffering from those they scourged.[1] 

Jesus endured this willingly for you and me.  He even lived through it and “made it” to the Cross.  And this was on top of the pain of seeing those He trusted most betray Him and flee, being stripped naked, having spikes rip through his hands/wrists and feet, suffocating on the cross, and having the Father turn away, abandoning Him.

Put in Perspective 

Women often struggle to breath during pregnancy, and they endure rips, tears, pain, and certain humiliations during the birth.  I said last week that this made me feel betrayed, abandoned, unloved, and vulnerable. These are all very real, valid issues and feelings.  These should not be brushed under the table.

But as we saw above, they really are nothing to what Jesus went through.  Jesus went through all of those things, too, but worse. Jesus could not breath, had his flesh ripped open, was literally betrayed by friends and abandoned by the Father, surely felt unloved, and was exposed and vulnerable on the cross.

After reading that, I feel a sense of kinship with Job, who said,

“I am so insignificant. How can I answer You?  I place my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not reply; twice, but now I can add nothing” (Job 40:4-5).  

Who am I to complain about the “horrors” of childbirth when I see the true horrors Jesus experienced to give me life?  

A Close Bond

And yet, there is a striking similarity between what Jesus went through on the Cross and what we go through in childbirth.  Actually, it’s quite remarkable, and it makes me smile and feel overwhelmingly blessed.

Yes, blessed.  I get to share this very special bond with my Lord and Savior.  He went to the cross “for the joy that lay before Him” (Heb. 12:2).  What was that joy? To give us eternal life (John 3:16)! Likewise, we women have babies for the joy that lays before us in loving and nurturing new life.  And, of course, because children bring joy to the Lord (Gen. 1:28, Mark 10:14, Matt. 18:10)!

Men will never experience this deep bond with our Jesus the way we will.  They can’t (unless they are also crucified, which doesn’t happen anymore).  But throughout the centuries women have always had this bond with their Savior.  We can cherish it, and what’s more, we can know that He not only understands…He went through it, too.  But worse.  

No matter how traumatic of a birth experience you have, nothing will ever, ever be worse than what He experienced for you on the cross.  So when the horrors of childbirth begin to overwhelm your mind, or you begin to dwell on the truly painful and degrading things you went through during the birth, remember the horrors of the Cross and what Christ did for you.  Although this might seem morbid, I think it will help us ladies put our sufferings into perspective.  

What’s more, it will deepen our love and devotion to Christ, who went through all of that willingly so we might have life.  

 

 

Sources

[1] “The Scourge – Its role in Biblical History and Jesus’ Execution,” accessed July 3,2019.

Coming to Terms with the “Curse”

Childbirth, consequence, birth; birthing; excitement; glory

“He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish.” – Genesis 3:16a

If we’re going to talk about childbirth, we need to start at the beginning.  We all know the story: the serpent persuades the woman to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  She eats, and gives some to the man – who is with her. They realize they are naked, and hide from God when they hear Him.  Then the blaming begins.  And then the “curses.”

This, the woman’s “curse,” is the reason for so much hype around the ordeal of childbirth…

The Lies I Believed

Last time, I wrote how I felt betrayed, unloved, and left vulnerable by God.  Why? Because of this verse. I believed that because of the “curse,” God wanted women to be degraded in childbirth, to suffer because of Eve’s sin.  

However…God did not curse the woman.  We often use that term in regards to the Fall, but we shouldn’t.  He cursed the Serpent (Gen. 3:14) and the ground (Gen. 3:17). He did not curse the woman or the man.  They had consequences.  

It’s so important to see it as a consequence – but why that consequence?  

The Consequence of Pain 

First, we need to look at the verse again: “He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains…” (Gen. 3:16a).  Did you catch that?  He said He would “intensify” the labor pains.  Does that mean there was a small amount of pain before?  Or – dare we say those doctor-ish words – discomfort and pressure?  

I have a feeling “discomfort” and “pressure” are indeed the words women would use if the Fall had not occurred.  (And they wouldn’t be a euphemism for pain, either!)

But why are they intensified?  Again, why that consequence?

It was actually Andrew who pointed this out to me. One of the things we purchased when we first found out we were pregnant was a webinar on how to do a natural birth (I’ve come to terms with it a little, but epidurals freak me out.)  Anyway, the webinar host talked about pain, and being afraid, and all these things I took notes on….but didn’t actually apply.

It wasn’t until I was (once again) crying to Andrew about “why would God give us this pain intentionally???” when he turned to me and said, “Babe!  Remember what the webinar said? Fear increases pain.  Sin introduced fear into the world.  Maybe that’s why pain is increased.”

The light bulb went on, the dots connected.  Sin introduced fear – fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of death.  All those things are wrapped up in childbirth. We don’t know how our birth experience will go.  We don’t know what the future holds for our precious child. And for centuries, death and childbirth have often gone hand in hand.  What’s more, from the time we’re born, we teach ourselves to fear pain and being hurt. 

With all of that, no wonder there’s fear in childbirth, which leads to an intensification of the pain.  Thus, intensification of pain in childbirth is, in fact, a direct consequence of sin. Because without sin, there would be no fear.

A Fitting Consequence

Another lie I believed in relation to this verse was that God gave this consequence because He didn’t love women, or He was for some reason vindictively cruel in this instance.  It’s a lie with deep roots in my heart, and it required more than analyzing just this verse to unearth them. But it began here, and it’s worth mentioning.

A lot of women point out that the pain of childbirth doesn’t stop at childbirth – it continues afterwards.  For we bear children into a sinful world, and we cannot protect them the way we long for.  That heartache, they say, is worse than all the physical pain you endure.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I sense that might be. 

And I have to imagine that God felt that same pain as He created – or “birthed” – the world…    

A Link Between God and Women

God created this amazing, beautiful, bountiful, life-giving world.  And yet, He knew. He knew sin would enter. He knew the animals would turn on each other, tear each other apart, and that man would also be cruel to them.  What’s more, He knew mankind would do heinous, awful, ineffable things to one another.  

He knew…and yet, He still chose to create life.  

Likewise, women know.  Women know this is a sinful, terrible world.  We know of the cruelty, the neglect, the humiliation, the fear that awaits our children.  Of course, we also know there will be physical pain in childbirth.  We know…and yet, we still choose to create life.

Why?  Because we know it’s worth it.  

God didn’t give – or allow – this consequence because He was vindictive or cruel.  I think He allowed it because He had gone through it with the “birth” of the world.  It goes hand in hand with the knowledge of good and evil, which is what we wanted to begin with.  It’s a fitting consequence because it’s what He went through, too.  It’s a special bond we share with Him. We know He understands our anguish.  

That gives some comfort, albeit not quite enough.  After all, that was a heart pain, which sounds like a cop-out when you’re grappling with the intense physical pain of childbirth.  

But as we’ll see, that heart knowledge became physical…

 

God & Childbirth: The Wrestling Match Begins

Childbirth, consequence, birth; birthing; excitement; glory

“Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.  When the man saw that He could not defeat him, He struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip…’What is your name?’ the man asked.  ‘Jacob,’ he replied.  ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ He said. ‘It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.’” – Genesis 32:24-25, 27-28

Neither God nor childbirth are fairy tales, so why am I blogging about them?  

Similar to how I blogged about weddings in 2016, I now feel compelled to blog about what I’ve learned over these nine months of waiting for my little girl.  The truth is, just like with weddings, there are hundreds of thousands of “stories” we women tell when it comes to childbirth. Most of them are rather horrifying, especially to women (and obviously men) who haven’t gone through labor and delivery.  And those stories need to be combated with the love of Christ. 

That’s not to say the stories aren’t true, and that certain traumatic things can’t happen; they can, and do.  However, the “stories” we Christians tell about birth should be markedly different, regardless of our birth experiences.  

Why?  Because we have a God who loves us.

However, I didn’t believe that fact.  In fact, I still have trouble with it.  You see, the anticipation of childbirth caused deep lies to surface, accompanied by many tears. Ok, I admit it: I ranted and wailed. You could say, I wrestled with God.  But it took me awhile to realize it was a wrestling match…

It Began as a Rant…

Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic when I found out I was pregnant!  It was planned and anticipated; however, the excitement didn’t last long before the worries came.  There were a myriad of things I fretted over, from miscarrying to preeclampsia…and, of course, the whole labor and postpartum process in general.

And so I began to rant, to both God and my husband.  But the rant was strange, and distracted me for quite awhile from the real heart-issues I had to confront.

Why did women still have to endure the agonies of childbirth when men in our society have all but escaped their “curse” (Gen. 3:16-19)?  Most men are able to have fulfilling jobs where they provide for their families adequately.  They may work hard, but most of that “hard work” is sitting at a desk. If it isn’t, it’s because they’ve chosen a more manual job, and they like it.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m man-bashing, and I understand that men can feel they’re wasting their lives at an unfulfilling job.  But in our culture now, there are ways for them to rise above it. Many – if not most – can get a new job, or go into business for themselves. 

Not so much with childbirth.  Man’s labor has changed; women’s labor is far more primal.  Yes, women can “escape” some of the pain through modern medicine.  But there is still quite a bit of prenatal discomfort, and quite a lot of postpartum pain.  Modern medicine can only do so much. (Plus, obtaining that pain killing medication is no walk in the park, either…).

I know all of that sounds petty, and honestly I didn’t think of it too often.  I had a wonderful first and second trimester, and childbirth seemed far enough away that I could easily distract myself with these ranting thoughts rather than focus on the heart issues.  And then in my third trimester, God took out my hip, so to speak…

Other Distractions

In the first two months of my third trimester, I had 4-5 major eczema flare ups, a cold, and a root canal.  All around the same time.

These issues are only indirectly related to pregnancy (for those who don’t know, your immunity goes down), and I was more upset because I had to take a ton of medicine.  I was worried about how that would affect my unborn baby, and angry God had allowed so much all at one time. Couldn’t I get a break? Why was He allowing my child to be possibly harmed because I was sick?

I had positive distractions, too, such as moving, having baby showers, and having family come into town.  These were great, but actually occurred simultaneously with my health issues. Thus, I was emotionally overwhelmed and over-wrought.  

But afterwards, I was finally able to confront the wrestling match I’d been evading…

The Wrestling Match Begins

The “wrestling match” popped up periodically throughout my pregnancy.  I cried many tears whenever I thought about these deeper issues, and still struggle with them.  They also began with ranting language, but they are much closer to what I was really struggling with.

There is so much that can go wrong in pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum.  Why would God allow this sort of pain as a way of life? I understand sin and evil abound in the world, but this is just a standard occurrence (a la, the rant about men “escaping” their “curse”).  

And why the exposing, humiliation of it?  Why couldn’t I simply unhinge my jaw and regurgitate my baby out of my mouth?  (Although if I had stretch marks on my neck, I might decide that’s not what I wanted.)

The crux of these “rants” are different.  These rantings and tears came from a sense of…betrayal.  To be honest, I felt betrayed and abandoned by God. Unloved and unsafe.  Unprotected and vulnerably alone.  

However…I’ve always struggled with those emotions about God.  Pregnancy has just brought them bubbling to the surface.  I’ve always felt I had to earn His favor, and that He wanted bad things to happen to me so as to test me.  

I “know” the truth.  But there’s a difference between knowing it and then believing it when faced with a trial.  

So this blog will explore those themes, and how I combated them with knowledge and truth.  It’s not a very long series, especially considering how long I had to think on them. But I couldn’t stay silent any more, and hopefully this will help other women (and their partners!) work through some of these issues.  

What’s more, at the end, I will also receive a new, treasured name.  For I, too, wrestled with God, have had (and will have) significant bodily changes,  and will have “struggled” with mankind…or at least a very little girl.  That new name will be Mommy, and it will change who I am forever.

 

Of Crèche Sets and Christ

Merry Christmas!  I hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful time celebrating the birth of our Savior, the birth of Hope!  I hope it was full of family, fun, and frivolity!

This post today is short(er) – I don’t want to take you away from family for too long!  They are really just some random thoughts I have about the real Story of Christmas: Jesus.

A Crèche Set Story

I grew up in a household that had probably about 20 crèche sets.  I loved looking at all of them and putting them out each year.  They each were unique and special to me, each bearing a memory of Christmas past.  I’m not sure I could choose one favorite.

When I got older I started to wonder: which one was Mary’s favorite?

(more…)

The Gifts of Santa Claus

Growing up, there was never any doubt that Santa existed.  It helped, I suppose, that I spent those early childhood years in Germany, where Nikolaustag was celebrated on December 6 each year.  My parents were quick to equate St. Nicholas and Santa Claus (as they should – they are the same person), and thus saved me a great deal of trauma in finding out the “truth.”

Of course people believed in Santa!, child-me thought.  I figured all the hoopla in America was just in honor of him.  I was about eight when I realized the truth: many children believed in an actual human being (elf?) who lived at the North Pole, had flying reindeer, and delivered presents every Christmas.

Being a highly rational creature, I decided the best thing to do was to make up for lost time.  I went into a sort of denial-based belief, and literally CHOSE to believe Santa was real.  After all, I had lost a valuable eight years of not putting cookies and milk out for Santa!

This only lasted a year or two.  After all, I knew the truth.  Now, I’m a married adult and looking to eventually in the future have children…And I’m faced with this dilemma: what do I tell my kids?

It’s a hot button issue in our culture, and things can get personal quickly.  But I think if we looked at the actual person of St. Nicholas – whom Santa Claus is derived from – we might just feel a little better about the concept of “Santa” (which just means “Saint,” anyway).

(more…)

The Light of Santa Lucia

I have always loved the lights at Christmas time.  I even wrote a blog about them several years ago.  Light brings warmth, hope…and it symbolizes an indescribable longing.  A longing that maybe – just maybe – the Light will overcome the Darkness.    

Is it any wonder light is tied to Christmas?  We longed for a Savior – even the Gentiles had this longing.  We longed for Light to triumph over the Dark forces of this world.

And then the Light of the World came, and He dispelled the Darkness from our souls, giving us the hope of Life (John 8:12).

This longing for light is universal, and never more so than in the winter months, when light (before the advent of electricity) was scarce.  The pagans had their traditions about winter and Light…and God used that in a very special way.  One of those ways was through Santa Lucia…

(more…)

Seeking God in the Stories we Tell at Christmas Time

It’s that wonderful time of year once again!  There is holiday cheer and well wishes, gift giving and receiving, and an all around joyful atmosphere (usually).  The lights are up, Santa’s are out, and creche sets have been placed.

And once again, it’s time for an advent blog.  It’s actually my fourth Christmas blog, although I kind of cheated last year by just incorporating Christmas into my existing series.  It worked…but this year I didn’t do a fall series, and I was left in the quandary of having to figure out a suitable blog.

I’ll admit, I was all out of ideas.  At first I was going to just “blog” a short story about the Christmas season (which will one day, God willing, make it into a novel).  However, I wasn’t satisfied with that option. I’m just not ready to be *that* vulnerable yet, and I felt I didn’t have sufficient time to do research or flesh out the characters.

I toyed with the idea of not posting anything at all, but that seemed rather lame.  So, I asked myself, “What is a good advent blog? What stories do we tell about Christmas?”

And then it hit me: Santa.

(more…)