The Lord’s timing is something we can never fully understand, and His purposes are intricately woven together in a tapestry we only see tiny sections of. However, occasionally we catch partial insights and glimpses which make us appreciate the journey we are on in a new way. Thus begins my “waiting for labor” story in which the patience of my faith was tested and then strengthened…
It began on May 31, a Thursday, and the day Steve was coming home for his 2 week military leave in hopes to be here for the birth of the baby. I woke up feeling great (for being almost 39 weeks pregnant) and left for work. But before I even got to the office I began feeling very poorly and having contractions. Stuff was happening to my body and I really felt like I was on the verge of going into labor. But this was in the morning and Steve wasn’t flying in until evening! I couldn’t go into labor yet! Unbeknownst to me, this was the beginning of a mini roller coaster ride of lessons and emotions.
The contractions settled down, but they had been a reminder of how unpredictable labor is and how quickly it can come. I went through the day with baited breath, getting excited to get the baby out but wanting everything to wait for Steve to get into town. That evening, I was just about to leave to run an errand and then head for the airport when Steve called: he had missed his final flight. Just a one-hour flight on the last leg of a long travel itinerary, but a necessary piece of the puzzle to get him home!
I talked myself out of disappointment while avoiding some potential angst and instead began writing something I’d been delaying for a couple of weeks. I figured I had this newly-found time on my hands and maybe God was trying to get me to wrap up some unfinished business before Steve-time and Baby-time. So I wrote what I’d been meaning to write, and in the meantime Steve got onto another flight which only delayed him by an hour. Cool, I get it, Lord. I just needed this extra hour to take care of stuff. I get it now…
The time came again to leave for the airport and I was about 10 minutes into my drive when Steve calls. The flight was delayed due to weather and there was no new estimated time of departure yet. In fact, they had boarded everyone and begun to taxi when the weather issue arose and then they got everyone off the plane again. Seriously? What now? At this point I didn’t feel like I was going to give birth before he got home, but I was definitely feeling some of my control slip away. I had my own agenda of how the time with Steve home would go and there were already hiccups before his arrival!
He eventually flew in and I picked him up—more than 5 hours delayed and much too late in the night for him to see the boys. Oh well…they’ll jump on him in the morning.
Friday was a nice low-key family day, and then Steve and I went on a date for supper. Afterwards, determined to walk the baby out, we walked and walked and walked around an outdoor shopping area. Time to get this labor going! I was fairly convinced that I would be going into labor and giving birth the next day—which was my father in law’s birthday. That’s cool timing, right, God? That would make for a good story. I thought we’d all go out for a nice birthday brunch, contractions would start, and I’d head to the hospital while the rest of the family headed home. I even picked a brunch restaurant only 10 minutes from the hospital because I’m a planner like that.
But God didn’t take me up on my story-telling ideas and I remained out of labor through brunch. We went home and while Steve and the boys hung out and played I went for a walk by myself. I maaaay have been slightly cranky so I preferred to be alone. I listened to hymns and reminded myself to be patient and that God’s timing is better than mine. I stopped sulking (mostly) and went home.
On Sunday morning when we were at church I realized that it was good the baby was still in my belly or we wouldn’t have been at church. Steve needed to be there and it had been selfish of me to “plan” for the baby to come sooner. But the rest of Sunday was spent with me expecting to go into labor any minute. I spent a lot of time on my feet and monitored every twinge. I did squats, danced around to zydeco music, drank lots of red raspberry leaf tea, and pretty much willed myself to make the contractions start.
It didn’t work, FYI. But that was okay because I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for Monday morning and I knew I’d be asking her to strip my membranes and that would get things started. There was no doubt in my mind that it would trigger labor and I’d have the baby on Monday instead. Not the weekend birth I’d been hoping for, but oh well. Still plenty of time to have Steve bond with the baby before shipping back over, and plenty of time for me to get home from the hospital before our oldest’s 9th birthday party and a BBQ for Steve, both scheduled for the 10th.
Oh yeah, did I mention that I was so sure I’d give birth absolutely no later than June 6th that I’d scheduled to host 2 parties at my house on the 10th? My due date was the 8th and there was no way I was going to still be pregnant by then. This was baby #4 and I’d never made it to my due date with the other 3 boys.
Monday morning I got up ready to have a baby. We went to the doctor appointment, she told me I was 3 cm dilated, she stripped my membranes to get things going, and Steve and I went along our merry way. An hour or so passed—no contractions. 2 and then 3 hours passed—nothing. All the other days leading up to this I’d have periodic “practice” contractions, but this day there was total silence from my body. By the end of the day I felt like the butt of a joke—God saying “try whatever you want but this baby is coming in MY time”. A whisper in my heart saying “be still” led me to Psalm 46. Deep down I knew I needed to be still and just stop trying so hard to be in control of something that wasn’t mine to control.
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields[d] with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The chapter is essentially about God being all-powerful and in control, meanwhile also being our refuge and fortress. But not just during calm times—he is in control of the tumultuous and terrifying times. He says for us to “be still and know that (he is) God”. But again, this is in the midst of unsettling situations. Be still in the uncertainty and do not fear. Definitely easier said than done because there is at least some comfort in trying to control the situation. Kind of like taking a longer driving route with less traffic because at least you keep moving that way, even if you don’t actually arrive at the destination more quickly!
Reading Psalm 46 wasn’t a magical answer. I was able to let go of some of my desire for a cool (by my standards) story, and able to let go of the fear of the possibility that I wouldn’t be a very active participant in the upcoming weekend’s festivities (because I was still sure I’d be holding a newborn). But with those superficial fears stripped away I was left facing a deeper anxiety I didn’t realize was lurking below. I wrote about that here. You can go read it, but in summary I was afraid that the pregnancy would end in an induction and things would spiral out of control into a C-section, with Steve leaving immediately afterwards and me dealing with the physical and emotional trauma (and a newborn) all by myself.
Days passed, and each day I reread Psalm 46 and wondered if I’d have a baby that day. After acknowledging my true fears, however, I began to get excited to see how things would play out—even if they didn’t happen how I would have chosen. I swapped my anxiety and my own lack of control for curiosity and peace in God’s perfect plan. I had always had faith that God would work everything out for my good and His glory, I just wasn’t sure I’d be very comfortable with some of the potential details.
The weekend quickly approached, with the baby still quite snug in my belly, so my attitude shifted towards making the most of my opportunities. I prepped for the parties—including contingencies in case I was in labor or at the hospital. I tried my best to focus on what I was called to do in each moment—and none of those moments or days called for me to be in labor.
I had plenty of faith that I would eventually go into labor—one way or another—but I was finally learning to have patient faith. Having confidence in God during the middle of a storm is one aspect of faith, but what about when life is quiet? I like action and movement because it is clear that things are happening. But what about waiting on God during the mundane days where nothing seems to be moving? Can I trust that God’s timing is still perfect even when certain man-made deadlines are in conflict with that timing?
So each day I read Psalm 46 and I did what needed to be done. Sunday, the 10th, finally came and for the first time since May 31 I was glad to not be in labor. I was okay with the idea of going into labor towards the end of the parties, but since I’d come this far in planning for the day I wanted to actually implement my plans. So we went to church, threw an awesome 9 year old’s birthday party, and then had somewhere between 30 and 40 people over for a BBQ. It was a very good day, but a very full day too. At the end I realized how thankful I was that I was still pregnant and not holding a newborn. I think I would have had much less fun, and certainly much less hosting prowess, had I been dealing with the joys of postpartum recovery.
Monday morning came, like the Monday before, and I felt ready to have a baby. However, unlike the Monday before, I truly was ready to have a baby. I had let go of my expectations and plans and grown more confident in God’s timing. I showed up at the doctor’s office, even though I didn’t have an appointment. This time, however, it wasn’t about trying to take control it was just about doing what I thought I should to do get ready. The doctor was too busy to see me so the receptionist told me to come back in a couple of hours. I went to Starbucks to kill some time and do some work. All morning I had sporadic contractions, but nothing that screamed “labor!” yet.
The doctor saw me at 11:30 and then I drove home. During the drive I kept hoping that labor would suddenly start, even though I knew how ridiculously uncomfortable that would be in the truck. However, God was gracious enough to let me get home and do a few quick things before contractions really kicked into gear.
Home was crazy—we had contractors over working on something, a pest-control guy stopped by, all 3 kids and our au pair were home, and my in-laws were home. Steve was dealing with the contractors and also some Army phone calls. I quietly got myself ready to go to the hospital in between contractions. It quickly became apparent to me that this was the real thing, so I told Steve and my mama that they needed to get ready too.
Steve and I picked up my mama on the way to the hospital. This isn’t really a labor story, so I’ll spare you any gory details. But labor went exactly as I’d hoped and prayed it would! I got the natural, intervention-free, hospital birth that I so strongly desired. The most natural one of them all since no one insisted on giving me Pitocin to speed things up or break my water. The baby was born exactly on time, surrounded by all the right people.
While in labor I read Psalm 46 again, and even read it aloud to everyone in the room. It was apparent to me that I’d needed these 11 days (June 1-11) to process the upcoming birth. I needed to learn some things, and I needed to get some things done. Trying to rush the process would have resulted in a less-perfect story. God was orchestrating things to be ready on June 11, not before and not after. But the really cool thing is that there are 11 verses in Psalm 46. And our 4th child was born on 6-11 (46:11). I like number patterns. J
It kind of amazes me the perfect timing of even some seemingly small details:
- The Lord essentially saved me from my own insanity by allowing me to still be pregnant while hosting parties. Obviously my intentions were good with planning these events during the short window while Steve was home, but having a newborn be around so many people in the first days of life probably wouldn’t have been the best. It was also much better for me.
- Because I wanted as natural a hospital birth as I could swing, I had been praying for the right hospital staff to be around. I’ve had nurses and doctors before that had their own agenda and ideas, but I just wanted to be left alone to do what my body was designed to do—get the baby out. I didn’t want anyone arguing with me about things taking too long, or trying to intervene. So I was praying for either supportive staff that let me do what I wanted, or staff that was so busy that they just ignored me and therefore let me do what I wanted. I ended up with the first. I got a great nurse who just let me labor in peace, never tried to rush anything, and basically just hung out with us until the end when the baby came out. Also, because of the timeline, she was our only nurse and I was her only patient. At the end of everything she wheeled Baby and I to our room at 10:45pm and her shift ended at 11. How’s that for timing?
- Speaking of hospital staff…I didn’t really care if my own doctor was the one to deliver the baby. That probably sounds a little strange, but in my experience the doctor is just there for the last 5 minutes to catch the baby. So as long as the doctor didn’t try to interfere with my laboring, I didn’t really care who it was. However, all that being said, there is a doctor in the practice that for most of the pregnancy I felt like should be the one to be there. And guess what? She happened to be the doctor on call that day! I’ll probably never know the significance of that particular doctor being there, but that’s fine. It seemed like the right thing.
- I had a friend coming to photograph the labor and birth, but she was out of town over the weekend (we thought I’d have had the baby already!). She got back to her house at 5:30 pm Monday, got to the hospital at 6:30 pm, witnessed about 2 hours of labor and then the baby was born! So not only did she get to be there as planned, she didn’t have to sit through a long labor with me!
- One more thing, probably the least important, but funny to me. For months I’d been saying that my official birth plan was this: “give birth with as little intervention as possible, and then eat Viva Chicken”. I even had my order picked out and jokingly texted it to my photographer friend earlier in the day. The restaurant is across the street from the hospital and a quinoa stuffed avocado was in my future! When I got to the labor room, I reminded Steve of my birth plan and we looked up to see when Viva Chicken closed. 9 o’clock. I told the nurse we would have the baby by 9 so I could have my food. He was born at 8:54, and minutes later my photographer friend’s husband walked into the room with Viva Chicken for everyone! He had been on his way to the hospital so they had him stop at the restaurant at the last minute!
Those first 11 days in June took me on a crazy journey in pursuit of peaceful and patient faith. My faith itself was never shaken, but my peace and patience were threatened at every corner. I have now learned that there is joy to be found in patient faith if I can allow myself to surrender my expectations and lean wholly on God’s plan. And what a pleasant surprise when even the details are taken care of in a way that I can appreciate! They won’t always be answered exactly as prayed for, but I can have confidence that God listens to and cares about the small things as well as the big.
So that’s how our fourth son came into the world. He was late, but yet exactly on time. Now I get to learn all sorts of other lessons in this new season of life…yikes! I hope the peace and patience I just found stay with me for a while! I’m going to need them! J