The spirituality of labor and birth

Welp.  Today marks 37 weeks pregnant.  That means this baby could (but probably won’t) come any day now.  I’ve started having some pre-labor feelings and discomforts and so of course, it’s time to commence with the crazy that is the last month of pregnancy.  The mind games that wonder, “Is this it?” or “Now surely THAT was something.”  And yet they never are actually anything until the moment when they are.  Which of course will only come when I’m completely unprepared because I’d finally come to grips with the fact that I’d be the first human to be pregnant for the rest of time and space, forever and ever amen.

And yes, I did just say “last month of pregnancy” because  I swore up and down, left and right that  Ezekiel would be born by 38 weeks, and he came at almost 41 weeks, 6 full days late.  (Thanks for that, buddy.  That was super swell.  I sincerely hope your baby sister has better manners than you did, but I’m not going to hang my hat on it.)

I’m pretty well convinced that the last month of pregnancy is intended as one giant chance at redemptive suffering.  Since November is the month of Holy Souls, I’m going to offer it up for them and hopefully not burden you too much with my blather.  If you have anything else you’d like me to pray for, add it to the comments section, on the Facebook page, or send me an email.  And if you don’t want to disclose what it is, just say “for a special intention.”  I’m not even nosy.  (Lies. I totally am, but I don’t ask about prayer intentions.  Promise.)

Switching gears here… sort of.

Our friend Ben was the first person to introduce me to the idea of Thin Places.  (In case you’ve never heard the term, these are places in the world where the veil between God and man is thin and we can intimately sense His presence.)  You’ve likely been to a Thin Place before.  The top of a mountain at sunrise, the beach at sunset, a quiet forest, the middle of the desert.  (Edit: desert, not dessert… although I suppose that could be a Thin Place, too.) A place where you felt certain that if you only looked long enough in the right direction, you would see something.  An angel, perhaps, or even Christ Himself.

For me, birth is a sort of Thin Time.  It’s not something I dread.  I may have a little anxiety or apprehension, but overall my birth experiences have been incredible and I generally look forward to it.  I think what makes birth so special for me is the intense vulnerability I feel.  I know from experience that it’s really helpful to have a good working knowledge of how labor works and what to expect.  But I also know that nothing can really prepare you for the laying down of all your defenses.

I’m a woman who likes to be in charge.  I really, really, really prefer to be in control.  I don’t like to rely on people to do things for me and I don’t like to ask for favors.  In labor I need all of that and a whole lot more.  As much as I advocate for trusting in God in theory, it’s really difficult for me to let go and do that on the Big Stuff.  Labor requires that too.

With all my births there’s been a shift where I went from being actively in control to completely vulnerable.  Sometimes it was subtle,  other times it was obvious, but it’s happened every time.  This should be a terrible experience for me, but somehow it isn’t.

When I used to teach birth classes, I taught the birth coaches (usually husbands) that when a woman says she can’t do it anymore, that {almost always} means she’s almost there!  There’s so little left to do before the miracle of birth occurs!  Whisper it in her ear.  Tell her she’s almost done and that she’ll be meeting her baby soon.  Just a few more contractions, just a few pushes, just a little bit longer.

That right there is the moment for me, in every birth, when I can feel God,  I’m on my knees (literally and figuratively), begging for mercy, begging for God to take all the pain away. In that moment, I’m laid bare. I’m finally ready for a miracle because I’ve gotten out of my own way.

That is the gift of grace.  I must decrease so He can increase.

Isn’t that what makes a Thin Place, or a Thin Time?  When our awareness goes completely outside of us as to sense the Divine?  After Gabe’s very surprising birth, my friend Andrea jokingly asked me what I was going to do to top it.  “Have your next baby on a mountaintop?”  We both laughed, me especially, because the idea is appealing.  But the truth is I don’t need to go anywhere special for this next birth.  This little baby girl will bring her own Thin Time with her.

When she decides to show up, that is.

My birthday boy. 5 years old and his birth is still fresh in my mind. Love you, Gabers.

My birthday boy. 5 years old and his birth is still fresh in my mind. Love you, Gabers.

Comments

  1. This is really lovely. I have a 7 week old and should have offered all those discomforts up more intentionally. Good luck and I hope your baby comes sooner then later:) throw in a prayer for me. My husband is working a lot of overtime and I am home with 2 Littles under 2. Pray for my strength and sanity. It’s hard some days
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  2. Well during my last month of crazy– I mean pregnancy I realized that in the blog world 2014 has been the year of the overdue baby. Strangely that brought me comfort as I watched the days tick by. Birth is definitely a Thin Time.
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  3. This is beautiful. Pray for me. For babies or an accepting heart that we’re done.

    I’m thankful I had a VBAC with Rosie. Coming through that Thin Place was liberating for a control freak like me, and it built up my inner idea of what I’m capable of all at once.

    Prayers that she makes her arrival on this side of the due date!
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  4. I always found comfort in 1 Tim 3:2 when I came close to a due date.
    Yet she shall be saved through childbearing; if she continue in faith, and love, and sanctification, with sobriety. A blessed Thin Place and time.
    Micaela, I will be praying for you and your sweet little one.
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  5. Beautiful!
    I have always felt that attending births is such a privilege.
    Praying for you as you await your little girl’s time.
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  6. You know I love this 🙂 I’ve said it before but there is no better icon to me of the Paschal Mystery than childbirth. Please pray for me for this pregnancy…that I can be more accepting, more generous and selfless, and that when the time comes, I can embrace that thin time as well. And prayers for my sister and sister -in-law both starting the adoption process after infertility. Prayers as you get closer to meeting your little one!
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  7. What a beautiful post!! I totally agree!

    I will pray for you as you get ready for labor and birth!

    Of course we could always use prayers…for my husband to find a good lawyer job SOON, and for my daughter, who is having some myserious back pain. That we can figure it out and that it’s not serious and can be healed.
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  8. Lovely post. Good luck during these final few weeks!
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  9. This is a beautiful post. I love the idea of birth as a “Thin Place.” That has absolutely been my experience, particularly with my last two births. My first couple births I was too scared and overwhelmed to truly experience a deep spiritual connection with God, but by the 3rd one, I did. Now it’s something I will truly look forward to again.

    But, oh man, that last month! My 5th was 8 days late, and all the others had been early. I was not prepared for that wait, and it was so hard!
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