As I begin writing this, Baby Ezra is 3 days old and my mind is still recounting his birth over and over again. It was amazing. Not only the pure joy of greeting him in my arms as he emerged from my body, but the experience that I encountered with the Living God during the birthing process. It was something that I can't accurately explain to someone who did not experience it, though I will try. The more I give birth, the more I see how birth can truly be a redeeming work of God. Yes, the pain of childbirth is a curse because of Eve's (and our) sin, yet through Jesus even this can be redeemed!...and even used by Him to draw us nearer and deeper in our trust of Him.
I recently re-posted a blog I wrote about my experience giving birth to my 6th child, Jed. That experience was amazing as well, as I learned with each pain to trust more, relax deeper in the arms of Jesus. And through the birth of Ezra, Jesus took me even further. You see, I had learned to give over to him the pain of the contractions, knowing that he was working to bring the baby down further and further with each "squeeze" of His mighty hands around my pelvis. My "phrase" this time was, "Jesus, you got this" as the intense feelings would come...and I would intentionally give over the lower half of my body to him..."Yes, Jesus, you got this"....releasing and relaxing, trusting and resting. It's amazing the impact this has on my labor. Not only to lessen the pain, keep me under complete control and relaxation, but also speed the work of labor and make it more effective. My sweet husband Steven was there with me through my labor (in between caring for kids, putting them down for naps and bringing me things I needed...he is a super dad!!!)....and he joined me in saying, "Jesus, you got this!" But it wasn't till the end that Jesus took me further than he had before.
Though my contractions had started in the night, I was sure they would die out. I mean, I was still 2 days from my due date and I'm usually a week or two late! Plus, my mom wasn't arriving until the following evening...and I had those 2 days filled with cleaning and other to-dos that still needed to get done! I was determined to get to work and make the contractions stop. Steven even went off to work. But by mid-morning I realized that this was not something that was going away...it was the real deal. So, I called Steven and my midwife Norma...and then told my poor mom, who hasn't missed any of my home births yet! :-( I then went about taking care of kids, trying to clean up the house and get things ready for a home birth. It's always good to have distractions and things to keep you busy during the early parts of labor! I also employed my kids to start cleaning, cleaning, cleaning! There's just something in me that needs a clean house when it's time to have a baby....especially a homebirth! So once I have everything done, everything in order I finally rest and say, "Ok, NOW I can have my baby." Well, it didn't happen that way this time. Another area of trusting and relaxing, right? Well, I at least had to get stacks of papers dealt with, kids putting things where they belong, quickly dust the bedroom my mom would be staying in, and tidy up. Now don't get the false impression that I'm some super mom. Things were a bit crazy....little ones fighting, kids hungry, me trying to deal with contractions every 5-10 minutes and the crazyness!...plus pushing everyone to "get things cleaned up!" I called Steven and asked him how much longer till he got here cause I needed him to take over. Thankfully it wasn't long and he was home and I retreated to the bedroom to relax a bit and let go of my "plans" and embrace what this day would hold. I was going to welcome my baby today!
As the day went on I kept in contact with my midwife letting her know how things were progressing. Thankfully she was in town doing prenatals so all I needed to tell her was, "Come," and she'd be here. But things seemed to be progressing slowly and I went on occupying my time by preparing my bed for the birth (nice sheets on first, then a flannel backed tablecloth as a waterproof cover, and then sheets I don't care about on top) and then folded all the baby clothes that I had finally gotten in the wash the day before. This was fun. I enjoyed looking at his tiny clothes and thinking about how I would soon have a little one small enough to fit into them! I would pause every 5-10 minutes, lean over my bed where I was folding, and breathe through a contraction. I also watched the big excitement with the rest of the family as the kids opened up packages they got in the mail....Legos form Grandma and Grandpa! What perfect timing! Steven got the kids lunch, put the little ones down for naps and the big kids went out to swim in our above ground pool. Ok, now was the time....the house was quiet...I can have the baby at naptime just like Abel's birth! But even though the contractions were intense when they came, they were still spaced quite a bit and it became apparent that the birth was not going to happen that quickly, especially as I saw Jed pop around the corner...naptime was over. So up I went. When I was laying down on my left side the contractions would really intensify and I could tell it would bring things on very quickly. In fact I even called Norma to come check me to see how things were progressing. I knew how fast things could go (last time I went from 1cm to birth in 2 hours!), and I didn't want her to miss it. But now that the house was waking up again, I got up and purposefully tried to slow things down again. We were used to having my mom there to help out with the kids and this time it was just me and Steven. And if I was going to have this baby I needed Steven with me, which meant the kids needed to be settled. Norma said I was 4cm and 90% effaced but that with a few more really good contractions I could very well have this baby. Oh boy, it was only about 4 o'clock in the afternoon...a long time till bedtime! But the Lord was gracious and spaced my contractions out quite a bit, though still intense. Norma went on back to her hotel room that she has gotten in the nearby town so that she could remain close (she lives about 2 hrs away), changed clothes and came back. Steven gave the kids dinner, put Abel down early (around 6:30pm) and got the kids watching a movie, and then we retreated to the bedroom to labor together....Norma reading in the extra bedroom. After a while we knew it was time for Jed (who was driving his truck around our room with sound effects) to be powered down for the night. So off he went to bed. We kinda forgot about the other kids until about 10pm and Steven went out and told them to head to bed. Ok...everyone is sleeping... baby can come.
Now the Lord will take me further than He had before. After laboring in different positions for a while with Steven there to press on my lower back or push my hips together with his strong hands (I told him with all his experience, HE could be a doula!), we finally ended up laying in the bed - me on my left side and Steven right next to me ready to help. The contractions were coming like waves, though still spaced out quite a bit; the intensity of them was very strong and getting stronger. I remembered the feelings well, they are very familiar. So, I embraced them. I know they are a work of God. They are bringing my baby to me. I close my eyes and imagine God's hand on the baby's head gently guiding him down further and further. I know I'm in transition and it won't be long until he's here. With the contractions still spaced, I was able to get rest in between and get very relaxed...another grace of God. As the pain would come I would picture it in different places and say, "That point is ok. That point is ok," as if I were giving God permission to bring the pain....and embracing it. Then as I felt the baby's head descend further and further, it was as if God, with his strong yet gentle hand on the baby's head, was asking me, "Will you let me take it further?" "Yes, Lord take it further," I would say as I relaxed and surrendered more and more. Now there comes a point as the baby's head comes all the way down that I tend to panic a bit. This is the point when the feeling to push begins to become overwhelming. It's the part I like the least and tend to fear. But this time as that feeling came, I tried to remain in that state of total surrender and trust, saying, "Yes Lord, take it further"...."Yes Lord, take me further." And knowing I could trust Him, I was able to remain calm and gently push against the feeling that was tempting me to come undone. It helped. I continued to gently push...a little bit at a time. Meanwhile, I told Steven to get Norma from the other room and she was there now and the baby's head was coming. I could push more now and felt completely in control. It was time to bring him all the way. Still laying on my left side with Steven there next to me holding my leg, the baby's head emerged. Ah, I did it! "Thank you Jesus!" is all I could say. It is always such a relief when the baby's head is born! Norma checked for the cord and then I pushed the rest of him out. The joy is so overwhelming! Norma handed him right to me, laying a towel over him to keep him warm and I embraced him on my chest...my precious son! Steven leaned over and kissed me and there was so much joy as we took in this amazing event and the reward that God had given us. Such a perfect baby...such a perfect birth. "Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!" I kept repeating out loud, over and over again. It was Jesus who did this! I just had to let Him.
As I continue to recount Ezra's birth over and over again in my mind, remembering the closeness of God in those moments and the total surrender that He asked of me, I keep hearing those words ringing in my ears, "Will you let me take you further?"
When the road gets hard and you don't think you can keep going, will you trust Me and let me take you further? Will you give up your own efforts and rest in Me and let me do My work in you? It requires complete surrender. And when I say it's time to "push", be ready. There's a time to rest and trust and a time to push forward and trust. If you are walking closely with me and seeking my face continually, then you will hear my voice and I will lead you and direct you.
The other morning as I was rocking Ezra in the rocking chair in my bedroom, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Looking at his tiny fingers and his sweet little face, I began to think, "What if this is the last baby God gives me?" I shared my thoughts with Jake and Zack as they came into the room and started loving on Ezra, and they got sad at the thought. Then Jake said, "And this is your 8th!" "I know," I said, "Many people stop long before this." I could easily have done that myself. I remember how scared I was after our 3rd baby when we felt the Lord asking us to surrender this area of our lives to Him. I could end up with 11 kids! I could never handle that! I could hardly handle the 3 I had. I'm not patient enough, not organized enough....and on and on. But even then God was whispering in my ear, "Will you trust me to take you a little further?" And so, with each new baby, God takes me a little further, teaching me as we go and preparing me for the task at hand. He has shown me that I should not worry about tomorrow, but rest and trust in Him today, for each moment. And oh the joy that He had waiting for me! What I would have missed. Not only the joy but the lessons he has taught me and the growth that has taken place.
What other joys in life, what other growth, could God have waiting for me if I would only trust Him to take me further? Further in obedience, further in sharing my faith, further in my mothering, further in loving my husband, further in overcoming my fears, further in ministering to others....the list is endless because He is endless! We don't have to think about the end result, but rather trust him to take us the next step. He is faithful, He is gentle, He is trustworthy...and He loves us!
Will you trust Me to take you further?
Can I encourage you today to ask God how He wants to take you further, and then surrender to Him. If He can redeem childbirth which was cursed because of our sin, and use it to draw me deeper in my surrender to Him, then He can redeem anything in our lives if we will give it over to Him. Praise Jesus, for He is mighty to save!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:4
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17