I have been thinking for a while about posting the birth story of my first son, Marshall. It was almost the polar opposite of Jess' birth. It was a beautiful and valuable experience that I created for myself. I, in no way, see it as a "bad" experience, but in the telling, I'm not sure that will be conveyed.
Jess' birth was a spring rainfall. It was healing, soothing and gentle.
But here is the story of the tempest.
When I attended Seminary, I had an excellent teacher the year we studied the Old Testament. He frequently pointed out and explained symbolism, imagery and parallels from the Bible. We talked about Adam and Eve, the Creation, the Fall and the Atonement. Among many other things, I was taught about the parallels of Christ's Atonement to a woman's giving birth. I was fascinated!
I woke up from my Sunday afternoon nap with mild cramps. After seeing a tiny bit of blood, Kurt called my midwife to tell her. Mom made me a sandwich and started recording my contractions on paper. I took a bite of my sandwich and couldn't chew it. This should have been told to my midwife immediately, but we were new to childbirth and we questioned ourselves. (Not being able to eat is a sign of the start of hard labor.) The mild crampiness turned into strong contractions within 15 minutes. There was no time to ease into what was happening. I got into the birth pool to try to manage the pain.
Right away, I was worried. My insides were being ripped assunder with each contraction. I was really scared that I would have a long labor...feeling this intense, indescribable pain for 20, 30, or more hours. I had no idea something could hurt that bad and not kill me. (Now I understand that this is not typical of most labors-especially for a first time mom, and fast labors tend to be more intense.)
Strange things happened in my mind. I began to feel sorry for myself. (BAD IDEA) With each surge of pain I slowly comprehended that I was utterly alone, that no one could do anything to help me, that I was going to do this all by myself...no matter who was there "with" me. My midwife was almost two hours away. There was no time for her to get there.
I did not feel like I was participating in the labor. I felt acted upon. I felt my free agency taken from me. I saw some of the skeptical faces of women I had enthusiastically told about my plans to give birth naturally, and these faces mocked my pain. I felt angry. I didn't expect to feel angry in labor. This seemed wrong to me, and so I also felt disappointed.
From taking Bradley Childbirth classes, I knew I needed to empty my bladder every 30 minutes. A full bladder can increase pain. Increase? The pain could increase? I made three trips to the bathroom. The last time, two contractions came close together when I was out of the water. My husband was holding my hands. I vividly remember my feelings of desperation and despair. I looked into his eyes, no, past his eyes and into his soul. I wanted to climb in them, climb out of who I was, climb up and over and away. I could barely breathe. I tried to breathe.
In the Garden of Gethsemane He labored with great agony
to enable our re-birth.
His disciples came with Him, but all fell asleep as He suffered.
He only could do what had to be done. He bore it alone.
His blood was shed for us, so we could have free agency
and be redeemed from the Fall.
My mom recorded that my Bradley teacher, Nancy, arrived at 4:35pm, two hours and 48 contractions after I felt those initial cramps. She also wrote that I kept whispering " I need a break...please...please...please" and "I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay." I wouldn't move from my side-lying position in the water. I was afraid to move for fear of losing my mind. I was afraid to lose my mind because I feared it would cause more pain. I was just holding on by a thread. It was more like I was trying to grasp at a rope, only to find it made of sand: it was a cruel joke.
It didn't feel like my body was floating in the water. I felt like a rock. Barely a sound came out of my mouth, and that seems incredible to me because all I heard was screaming and the roaring, rushing water of the tempest.
I was in transition. Transition is the "Valley of the Shadow of Death." But I did not feel God. Where did He go? All I felt was black space and nothingness.
I didn't care about my life anymore. I wished for death; death seemed merciful to me. Hope was gone. I floated in blackness.
"My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
Nancy touched a cool washcloth to my forehead and hand.
This simple thing saved my life in that moment. I turned away from the darkness and began to move back to the world. It was like she was an angel whose message was, "Not today...you will not die today." It was time to return and have a baby.
My body shook violently on the inside. I felt a jackhammer pounding with the next stage of contractions. Down, down, DOWN! These contractions didn't hurt the way the others did. These were almost exciting to feel in comparison. I was still unsure of myself, though.
The midwife that lived closest to me arrived around 5:30 pm. (My midwife often works with two other midwives.) She had my husband turn me from my lying position to a sitting one. A gush of blood filled the pool. With the next contraction, I pushed out my baby's head. With another contraction and a slight push, out came my little baby boy. 7 pounds 9 ounces. This was a three hour labor.
Hope, joy and peace returned in full.
But on what shelf in which room had they been put as I suffered?
Who was the keeper of such a horrible place?
It was me, I owned that room. I created it along with the entire experience of this birth. I created my own Gethsemane for reasons that mean nothing to anyone but me.
I have been taught that we sometimes pass through sorrow so that we may know joy. I have lived that truth. I have fulfilled that principle.
I no longer fear the pain of laboring to bring a child into this world.
It was once my biggest fear.
More importantly, I no longer fear JOY.