labor & delivery
So, last January, my friend texted me saying, "Hey. Call me when you can. No big." When I called her she gasped into the phone, "Hey. So. I want you to know that we are pregnant and I don't know how it will feel for you, but I love you so much."
This would be #2 for them, after almost a year of trying to conceive. And I was happy. Of COURSE I was happy. But every time someone says "I'm pregnant" to this infertile mama, there is always a catch in the throat, a funny clinch in my stomach. And yet for one of the first times, that tightening in my throat was less than my genuine heart for my friend and I squealed and shouted up the stairs to the mister and we prayed together for that baby in my friend's healthy, fertile womb.
When we went over to our friends' home for family breakfast the next morning, we talked and laughed and they made plans. Their two year old son told us there was a baby in mama's belly. Our friends listed the baby names they loved and we appropriately ooooh'd and ahhhh'd. I told her I was well-informed on childbirth from watching all those movies and would gladly be her doula - you just need a little fishing line and some crisco right? We laughed, but then she said seriously, "But really. I want you in there. We'll have moved by then and if you feel you could do it, I want you to be there for baby's birth."
Thank God for the next nine months to encounter the question: was I ready to attend a birth, knowing I may never have that experience?
Her pregnancy went so smoothly - she was healthy, baby was healthy. Baby was declared a girl - great rejoicing! Then in a delightful turn of events, actually turned out to be a boy - great rejoicing! And aside from the standard exhaustion of parenting a two-year-old and growing another baby, my sweet heart-sister was thriving.
But for me, the question still loomed. I went back and forth. And as the date approached, she reiterated again her love for me and her desire that I be there - but urged me to choose what was most right for my heart. I will probably write an entire blog post on my friend some time - she is teaching me so much about God's grace and mercy, so much about loving one another and putting others first. So much about being a servant, about tenderness and the pursuing heart of our Father. Even as she was nearing her time to labor and deliver, she was graciously and tenderly putting my heart before her own, allowing me space and grace to decide if I could attend her. This is a woman after God's own heart, I tell you. She is a blessing. And her love for me gave me the strength and grace to decide: I can do this with her and for her.
And then came baby.
He was born after almost 12 hours of laboring and I watched his little self burst into this world with all of the pain and agony and joy that accompanies the miracle of birth. She. Is. My. Hero. She labored intently and quietly and urgently and her husband paced and I prayed aloud for the God of all peace to attend her in her pain. We whispered to her and exhorted her and prayed the Word and whooped and cried when she was finally delivered of a son in the wee small hours. Her husband wept and the doctor sang and I was awed. Look what you did! I whispered to her when they placed the baby on her chest, Look at him! He is gorgeous! This is your son! I was, admittedly, afraid he was going to be kind of an ugly newborn and I was going to have to be like, "Oh, look....a baby!" But his head full of dark hair and his quivering chin and HIS FREAKING DIMPLES and this adoring Titi was toast.
And then I left. I barely made it out of the hospital before I burst into tears and sobbed the whole way home. I confess this now: I wanted it to be about me. I imagined that mid-delivery some huge sign with glittering letters would descend from the heavens and be like "Yes, one day this will be you." or "No, this is not for you, ever." I wanted a sign. I thought if I was being brave and courageous in this way, in my infertility, that God would surely grant me some kind of ...something. I thought He would tell me how our family is going to grow.
But He was silent. For weeks.
And I went over and snuggled that sweet baby and we took photos and my own child pointed & shrieked "BEHBEEEE! Behbeeeee!" and proud big brother rubbed little brother's head softly and we all just stared in amazement at the tiny little creature gifted to their family. And in the weeks that followed, I began to hear God speak to my heart and I began to reflect on the incredible experience of attending my friend as she gave birth.
The veil has been lifted a little bit, I think...this veil of mystery that has shrouded pregnancy and labor and delivery from my experience. What previously was this great enigmatic thing that I perceived was being kept from me for no explicable reason now seems a little less mystical. There is no secret thing from which I'm being excluded. The birth of my friend's sweet boys is no more miraculous than my own daughter's birth and adoption story. The miracle of life is the miracle of life, however a family is grown and however a woman becomes a mother. I can tear down the altar I'd built to "having a baby" and be fully, wholly content and grateful for the way I had a baby.
Because I had a baby, you know. I labored through three failed pregnancies, my heart contracted through four tiny hearts that stopped beating, and I delivered heartache and grief into the world. But the Great Physician, who attended me in my labor pains, gently swaddled that grief and handed it back to me as joy - a chubby little baby girl, my own sweet daughter. He has a history of making beauty from ashes and He did that for me and my mama-heart.
It's because of this that not only can I rejoice in my own pain and story, but I can rejoice more freely and completely for my heart-sister and for my many friends who have labored or are soon laboring to bring their children into the world. The sisters who carry their babies in their wombs and those who carry them in their hearts and minds. There is great rejoicing for these mamas, because we serve a God who routinely takes our brokenness and returns it to us as joy, tenfold.