I was two weeks away from my due date. It was late at night, and I felt a strange gush. I thought my water might have broken, but I wasn’t sure. That had never happened to me before, except at the very end of labor. Labor had not even started, but perhaps it would start soon.
Then I thought back to my first birth when the doctor had broken my water when I was half way dilated. How that had increased the pain! And now my bag of waters was already broken before the first contraction had commenced. Would I have to go through this entire labor with intense pain? Suddenly a tiny seed of fear took hold. During that sleepless night, it sent out invasive roots into my mind that became intertwined with every thought. I couldn’t relax or rest. I was too scared that any moment a contraction would come and assault my body with pain. This may seem very strange if you are familiar with my wonderful previous birth experiences. Why should I be so afraid this time?
My family had been living in an atmosphere of mounting fear for the past few years. We had started going to a new church when we moved to Colorado Springs, 6 years earlier. At first it was wonderful, full of life and joy. Slowly it moved away from the love and forgiveness of God and had begun to concentrate on our personal sins. To listen to our leaders counsel us and rebuke us time and time again, you would have thought we were teetering on the edge of hell. One wrong move and…we were done for! Talk about an atmosphere of fear!
This of course does not sound like the gospel of Jesus Christ at all! Yet there was just enough truth woven into the lies that we continued to try to reform ourselves and gain the approval of our leadership and of God.
Later I realized that I had always had God’s love and approval despite what my church was telling me. God had even told us to leave the church. He had given me a scripture that said, “Do not have sons and daughters in this place.” At the time, I thought He meant that we should not give birth to this child in Colorado Springs, but rather in New York, where some of our church members lived. We tried to move, but it never worked out. We thought we had messed up somehow, but we weren’t sure how. Months later, I read that verse in my journal and the meaning became so clear! I shouldn’t have given birth while under this leadership of fear. But right now I was still in the thick of it, and the panic was holding back the very thing that I most needed…contractions!
The sun rose and labor had not started. I didn’t realize what sorrow was in store. I had no indication that the child within me had a rare chromosomal abnormality that the doctors had never heard of. I had no idea what trauma she would have to endure in the first two days of her life, and how it would hurt my mother’s heart. (This is another story for another time. But don’t worry; this story ends with God’s wonderful redemption, just like every story in the life of a believer.) Yet I had a feeling of impending doom. I tried to shake it off. I tried to find my peace in Jesus, but my mind just kept spinning in fearful circles.
After we ate lunch and there were still no signs of labor, Chris and I decided to go to the hospital. The nurse we talked to said she needed to look at the fluid under a microscope, but I had none leaking out at the moment. The nurse didn’t think my water had broken, and was inclined to send me home, but instead, sent me on a walk and told me to come back in about an hour so she could check again.
Chris and I strolled around downtown Colorado Springs. It was a lovely, sunny day in January, and we walked around the Olympic Training Center. It was so beautiful, and I knew that I should be enjoying the time with my husband, yet my stomach was in knots. I was hoping that the nurse would just send me home and I could go into labor on another day, a day free from this weight of worry. Nervousness kept bubbling over until I started to cry.
Chris tried to comfort me as we entered the hospital again, but I didn’t feel any better. All that walking had released some amniotic fluid, and they confirmed that my water had broken.
“When did it break?” the red-haired midwife named Alice asked.
“Last night around 11,” I answered. It was now getting close to supper time.
The red-head immediately snapped to attention and spoke with alarm.
“What?! Your water has been broken for over 12 hours? We need to start you on Pitocin right away. And we will have to give you intravenous antibiotics to ward off any infection.”
That is not what I thought a midwife would say. I thought a midwife would have faith in a women’s body to do what it needed to do without artificial hormones.
I started to cry uncontrollably. I was devastated.
“I don’t want Pitocin!” I insisted.
“We have to do it. We have to deliver this baby as soon as possible because we don’t want you or the baby to develop an infection. But we will start the drip slowly.”
I was taken into a birthing room and hooked up to monitors and a Pitocin drip. I couldn’t stop crying. My dream of a natural birth was being taken from me. I had talked to other women who had Pitocin, and their reports had included hard, heavy contractions with intense pain…in one word – torture.
The nurse looked at me with my snotty nose and puffy red eyes. She seemed annoyed, as though she would rather not deal with me at all.
“We will give you one round of antibiotics now and another around midnight.”
“What if I have the baby before midnight?”
I had gotten on her last nerve!
“You are NOT going to have this baby before midnight,” she snapped. “You are not even in active labor. It takes lots of hard contractions to birth a baby. You probably won’t even have this baby before morning.”
I should have realized that I knew a lot more about birthing babies than she did. After all, I had already had three, natural, wonderful births. In my fearful, emotional state, however, her words pushed me into depression. I saw a night of agonizing pain in front of me and I saw no way out of it. I wished that they could just do a C-section and be done with it. I didn’t know how to labor under the influence of Pitocin! I just wanted to die. Death would be better than what I would have to go through.
“And if I do get through this alive,” I thought, “I am never having anymore babies!”
Chris could see that I was falling apart.
“You are so upset because you are not in control. You just need to give up control and trust God! God is in control, and it is going to be just fine,” he said.
A small flame of faith was lit in my heart. I relaxed a little and tried my best to trust in God. It was 5:40 and I was only at 4 cm.
Our friend Chris came to the hospital and brought my husband Chris some supper. She encouraged me to fall into the arms of Jesus.
“Pray, ‘Whatever it takes, I will do it and trust you,” she said.
I prayed that prayer and surrendered. I was starting to feel more peaceful. Around 8pm the contractions started in earnest. At first they were surprisingly painful.
“If it hurts this much when I am only 4 cm dilated, how will I make it when I am at 8 or 9 or 10?!” I asked Chris, despairing again.
“Don’t worry about that. Just take them one at a time.”
My wise and loving husband got me back on track again! I finally remembered to relax during each contraction. I would lean over the bed and let my belly drop and hang loose. I would relax my arms, then my legs, and finally my face muscles. Instant relief!
The grumpy nurse had ended her shift, and she was replaced by a solemn and worried looking nurse. This new nurse wanted me to get into bed so she could check my cervix. I hated lying in a bed; it was so uncomfortable! As soon as I lay down, however, I uttered to everyone’s amazement, “I have to push!”
I gave one push and the baby’s head was visible! The midwife ran out to get Alice. The midwife ran in and said, “Wow, it was a good thing I didn’t go home for supper like I was planning on! Alright, let’s have this baby!”
I was able to quiet myself and hardly push at all. It was like a moment in a movie when everything is in slow motion, and you are aware of every small detail. I could feel her little head crowning and easing out so gently on her own, without much extra effort on my part. And then she was born! So quickly, so easily! I was in awe! Instantly the worry and fear gave way to relief, joy and overwhelming gratitude! I had made wrong decisions. I hadn’t trusted God. I had descended into the depths of despair, and God had reached down and pulled me out! And in His great mercy, He had given me a fast, smooth birth. It was 8:20pm. God had proven that grumpy nurse wrong! I was holding my sweet little Ashlyn Autumn, “God’s Vision for the Harvest” and I was content!
I learned that fear is the enemy of labor, and Jesus is the enemy of fear. Rest in Him! Trust in Him! He can always turn our nightmares into a sublime Vision of His Goodness!