Around 8 months into my pregnancy, I was struck with the reality of child birth – my lifelong worst fear. I began waking up in the middle of the night dreading what lied ahead – fighting to focus on what came after and not the pain involved to get there. I was so afraid I wouldn’t know when to go to the hospital, or I somehow wouldn’t notice or have contractions. I feared the physical exposure and vulnerability of the situation. I feared my anxiety would take hold and I’d labor for hours, fighting against the tension in my body. Then if that happened, my baby would get stuck or hurt and they might have to do a C-section (which I almost elected for just to spare myself the “what ifs”). I was terrified of the pain and how I would react – what if I said something hurtful? What if I broke down or became angry? I didn’t want to be like women on TV who scream in agony and hit their husbands!
All this fear began siphoning the joy of being pregnant. I wrote about this in detail in my last post, so in short: childbirth was my biggest fear since I was a little girl. Nothing sounded more horrifying than it and it was the number one reason I used to think I didn’t want children until God himself reshaped my heart on the matter in August of 2017.
The fear was so extreme, but I knew God had started me on this path and I knew I had to trust Him. I began laying these fears at His feet and making my requests known. I asked Him to let my water break so I would see the sign that my baby was ready, whether or not I had contractions. I hoped He would do this in the morning, after I had slept so I could have as much energy as possible. Most importantly, I asked Him to surround me with His presence, lend me His strength, and empower me with His joy when it was time. I wanted so badly to be a witness to everyone around me. I wanted to go through my worst fear with such grace they wondered where it came from so I could point back to the One who brought me there.
At 7 AM on January 22nd, I was not surprised to wake up feeling like I had wet my pants. I had this constant feeling the day before that my water was going to break the next day – which I assume was the Holy Spirit’s whisper. A surge of joy hit me as I realized what this meant: I was about to meet my baby! The slightest hint of fear tickled me for a fraction of a second before a deep sense of peace washed it away. The Lord had heard my prayers and concerns. I knew He would take care of me.
I decided to shower then woke my husband up declaring that it was finally time! I double checked with the OB-GYN, then off to the hospital we were.
Oddly enough, I hadn’t felt a single contraction.
They took me into triage where we were met with little urgency. Without any contractions, they probably figured I had just wet my pants after all. Fortunately, after two different tests of the fluid, the nurse came in to tell me my water had definitely broken and we would get to stay and have our baby!
Tears swelled in my eyes – joyful tears. Still no fear. God’s arms were around me in spite of my lifelong fear being before me. They took us to the labor and delivery room which would be my home for the next several hours, hooked me up to an IV, and induced me with oxytocin.
The nurse – who had jabbed me three times, broken two of my veins, and used immense sarcasm to “hide” her irritation about her day – informed me that now that the hormone was pumping into my veins, it was just a matter of time before contractions started and grew stronger.
This is about when I should have been afraid.
But God smiled on me instead and I felt excited. Whatever pain awaited me – God was with me, fulfilling His promise, and I would finally meet my baby girl.
I lost track of time, but eventually the contractions did start. They grew and grew, becoming increasingly more painful. I had elected for an epidural, but had to wait for them to finish pumping fluids into me before they could issue it. The contractions reached the point where it was hard to talk through them or think about much besides them. But as they truly began peaking, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I began repeating that silently to myself as I endured powerful contractions, doing my best to stay positive and smile (after all, smiling releases endorphins, a natural painkiller!) Then finally, before it got out of hand, they issued the epidural on a drip system, handed me a button, and told me I could up my epidural with it at any point I needed. WHAT? I was so relieved!
A warm sensation started in my toes and crept up to my naval as my body numbed. The contractions increased in power, but I felt them less and less. Not long later, I began trembling uncontrollably. The labor nurse (a new nurse and my hero during delivery) told me that the trembling usually means that it’s nearly time for delivery, but at this point I had not even seen a midwife or OB-GYN, nor had anyone checked me for dilation.
The Lord’s peace continued to cover me in spite.
Finally, my midwife came in to check on me. She found a little pocket of amniotic fluid which she popped and then told me things would start moving a lot quicker now. She also informed me that most likely a different OB-GYN would be taking over by the time I was ready to deliver, since it would still be a bit longer.
Again, we waited. The labor nurse came and turned me on my side, propping some weird peanut shaped ball between my legs. She switched me to the other side 15 minutes later, then came back to switch me after another 15 minutes, but decided to check my dilation first.
She stood back up, paging someone on her device to tell them I was “complete.” Then she told me I could start pushing.
Start pushing? After all that, it still seemed alarming to me. This was it! It was time to put forth all the effort I had, face this fear, and have my baby – and oh, the fear finally started to creep in.
The joy of the Lord is my strength, I repeated the verse to myself. I put my smile back on and focused on that. The Lord was delivering me of my fear. I was delivering my baby – a child of God, a daughter of the King of the Universe. This was no time to recoil.
I had no idea how to “push”. I had decided against watching or attending classes because I was concerned it would worsen my fear. But I knew the Lord had made me and chosen me to do this – which meant educated or not, He would be sure I could do it. I clung to that and imagined the best case scenario where it was not difficult and she came right out. I remember saying something silly to my husband and mom about how the baby was going to “slip out like a fish” which became my new vision and prayer request. It made me laugh to think about it that way, and that joy was precisely what I needed to stay calm.
The labor nurse set me up and instructed me on what to do. We did a trial, which to all of our surprise since this is my first baby, I managed to get it right and immediately started pushing my baby down. I praised God and continued to pray and meditate on the Word He’d given me.
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
The nurse called for the OB-GYN, which began a whole mess. The OB-GYN decided that since I was “prime” (a first timer) that I had a long road ahead and she had no need to hurry. The nurse and at least two others outside the room fought to convince the OB to get in there since now, the midwife was gone.
Luckily, my nurse stayed with me, reassuring me she could and would deliver the baby if she had to, but she wanted the OB to show up. She had me stop pushing, hoping to delay the delivery until someone else came in, but at that point, my baby had already begun to crown so she knew she didn’t have long. Word came in that the OB was “on her way” and the nurse had me start pushing again. At that point, I didn’t really care who delivered the baby, I just wanted to get it done!
As the pushing went on, and my nurse prepared herself for the real deal, word finally came in that my amazing midwife was in the building and had come back to deliver my baby, even though her shift was done.
The OB was still nowhere in sight.
When my midwife arrived, she was equally surprised with rest of us to discover that, somehow, I was about to deliver this baby in a matter of minutes.
I knew it was God’s strength in me. He was dealing graciously with me and had heard every request and wish in my heart. I had no idea what I was doing or how I was doing so well otherwise!
About when my baby fully crowned is when the OB-GYN walked in. She was probably there for no more than 5 minutes before the nurse and midwife were cheering for me to, “GO GO GO! She’s right there! Biggest push of your life!!” And then even through the epidural I felt this sharp sting and pressure and I prayed one last time, “GOD GIVE ME STRENGTH!” and just like that my baby slipped out.
Like a fish.
All the pain I had in that moment subsided. Just like everyone had always said, you don’t even notice your hurting once you see your baby. I watched another nurse take her and begin wiping her clean. She was beautiful! She looked just like a little baby doll – not misshapen or grey or wrinkly. Absolute, God-breathed beauty. Her eyes were already open and looking around the room. Her cry was soft and brief, just enough to say she was alright.
My eyes flooded with tears. I looked up to my husband who was crying more than me already (love you). He faithfully stood beside me until I told him to go see her. Little Rhea looked right into his eyes and they gazed at each other – another absolute anomaly. The nurses gawked at her beauty and alertness.
Finally, they brought her over to me and I held my little girl. She even looked at me for a moment! It was the most beautiful scene. I thanked God, cradling my promised child, feeling absolutely awestruck that this baby and this story was mine. The Lord completely showered me with blessings that I know, in my human err, I don’t deserve. But His love overcomes my weakness and frailty. His love pours into me every time I look at Rhea.
Looking back, I keep thinking about the verse the Holy Spirit brought to me. The joy of the Lord is my strength. It is such a simple concept and yet so easily overthought, but in my experience I realized that when you truly trust God and you delight in Him and delight in knowing He is in control, you are filled with victory. My lifelong fear is now a story of praise for me to reflect on and remember God’s presence and faithfulness. The Lord is so very close to us. He knows every single concern we have and He will take care of us!
“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10b
Special Shout-out to my Husband, Rob, and my Mom:
One of the most amazing ways God blessed me in this experience was through the love, encouragement, and support I received from both of you.
Mom, you have this incredible way of knowing just the right moment to step in and lift me up – with exactly the right words. I am so happy you were able to be there with me and that they let you do the honors of cutting the umbilical cord! I am so blessed to have you as my example as I begin my role of mother!
Rob, you are undoubtedly the most remarkable man I’ve ever known. Your heart is pure love and I am so overjoyed that we are on this journey together. Thank you for staying at my side as I delivered Rhea and taking care of me through pregnancy and recovery. I love you!