Birth is a mysterious event…
It seems so oddly related to death, with the blends of emotions and sufferings and hopes and… fears. At least for me.
We recently welcomed our 9th little blessing into the world. Matthew Michael Augustine was born October 30th at precisely 10:00 p.m. As with each pregnancy and birth, each one is different, even though I always think the pregnancies and births will be similar… Nope. They are each as unique as the person being born (even if most of them look like my husband… what happened to my gene pool? 😉 )
Matthew’s birth was no exception. Well, unless you count the fact that the older I (and my uterus) get, and the more babies I have, my exhaustion remain… But except for that little “norm” and the usual morning sickness and heartburn with each baby, Matthew’s birth was unlike any of my previous 8 birth experiences, which is why I feel compelled to share it with you.
At this point, I know what to expect. I don’t even write a “birth plan” because I know the drill. When contractions are 3 – 5 minutes apart, blahdy blahdy blah, get thee to the hospital. Or call your midwife. Whatever. Then push the baby out. Done. Yeah. (Right?)
I suppose there are a few things I should clarify here: I have had two military hospital births, two home births, and five civilian hospital births, 4 of the babies being born posterior (backwards) (in other words, ouch). I always “said no to drugs” with the first 4 babies (satirical chuckle). By number 5, I started becoming deathly afraid of the labor pains… well, not so much the labor, but the whole pushing thing. I have had lengthy arguments with God, reminding Him (and Eve) that I have taken Anatomy and Physiology, and that hole is NOT 10 centimeters wide. So what the heck? Each time I push out a baby, I feel as if I will surely die, or at least my body will rip in two. I wondered if any of my friends had this same feeling (since women are typically rather silent on the whole “painful birth” issue.) One friend I frantically emailed told me that labor wasn’t that bad for her, and she had home births. I was actually devastated when she told me this… Why can’t I be a pioneer woman like her? Am I a wimp? And then there are ALL the friends who say things like “Oh, I get the epidural at 3 centimeters and my husband and I are telling jokes when the nurse comes in and tells me I have to push… hee hee hee!!” So seeing as I wanted to irrationally smack women who told me things like that, I decided with my 5th, that’s it. I’m gettin’ that epidural and I’ll have a painless labor like the rest of y’all! So there. Woo hoo!
No such luck. Turns out my scoliosis is so bad that epidurals don’t take. Or if they do, they numb my left leg or something. But not any remote location in my body that has something to do with childbirth. So I guess I’m one of those “lucky ones” that knows what’s coming, and there’s no getting out of it. (Either way, Eve and I will be having a serious discussion one day.)
So, I figured that a particular phenomenon that happened with each of my first 8 births had to do with an incredible fear of pain. Each and every time, when the baby was getting close to being born, I would cry. It was uncontrollable. It even turned into a signal that I told my doctors and nurses: “When I start to cry, that’s the signal to go get the doctor, because I’m getting close.” And then, when the nurses would “go get the doctor”, I had been known to actually stop the pushing urge in absolute terror of what was about to happen… and friends, family, and medical staff would have to convince me to push out the baby.
But something different happened with Matthew. My obstetrician (an amazing man of God), came into the labor and delivery room where I was in active labor, and my husband and parents were relaxing and waiting excitedly for the upcoming events. Now, for those of you who, like me, have been blessed to have a midwife at your birth, one of the most amazing aspects is that she typically joins the mother for labor and stays with her throughout the entire birth process, and even afterwards. I loved that. But with typical OB’s, they seemed to show up for 30 seconds, catch the baby, give the baby to the nurse, and they were outta there before you could find out their name. Not so with Matthew. My doctor did something different…
He sat on the far edge of my bed, and asked if we would like to hear about his recent mission trip to Haiti. He was coming in the room, not to just “find out how many centimeters I was so that he could dash off again”, but he was coming to stay until it was time… I had never seen or experienced anything like this before in a hospital with an OB. We all said yes, of course… and in dim light, before me and my closest family members, he told of his recent experience (as in a few days before) as a doctor visiting a third world country with his family… He verbally painted images of thousands of people just waiting around in the street hoping they would have dinner, people without proper medical care, youth hungering to know about Jesus who had never heard of Him before, his own children ministering to other youth, cardboard houses and poverty we cannot imagine, lack of running water…. My labor increased with each story, as I focused intensely on his voice and on the images… His voice blended with quiet “oohs and ahs” from my family, and the sounds of transition labor I was making as I gripped the bed rail…. I felt holiness in that room, and my doctor stayed and waited with us, until my time suddenly and dramatically came to push.
I was shocked that it was time, because I had been waiting for the “urge to cry” that I had always had. But it never came. And it was then that I realized… I hadn’t been afraid of the pain. I had been afraid, terrified, to bring life into the world, right at that last moment. I had been afraid of the power that is given to a woman’s body to push out new life. I had been afraid of the responsibility suddenly upon me… I had been afraid of new love, and new life, and the feeling I had that I could die… And the crying I thought was a surge of funky hormones had not been hormones after all. It had been raw fear.
But this time, this time, I sat up in the bed, and all that was going on in my mind was “Bring it. I am ready. Let’s go.” And with all my might, I WANTED this baby. I wanted to push him out. I wanted to meet him. And I was not afraid. I almost welcomed the unexplainably painful “ring of fire” as the baby’s head crowned. I worked with my surge of energy…
And after he was born, I cried… a cry of pure joy and victory, completely different from a cry of fear. With my ninth child, I had accomplished something new, when I thought there was nothing new to experience at this point. I had conquered fear, finally.
And I will say, this was not MY doing. I truly believe it was pure grace. That GOD Himself entered that room and worked through the doctor and the nurses and my family, and let me know, right at the moment of most intense labor, that there is real REAL suffering in the world. Real and raw. And that what I was going through was an incredible blessing and incredible wealth. I was so grateful at my moment of birthing Matthew, that there was no place for fear.
And really, there never is a place for fear.
Thank you to all our beloved friends and family who prayed for us during the difficult month of October… We felt your prayers, and we are grateful and blessed beyond belief!
And so, I introduce to you, the newest member of our family: Matthew Michael Augustine, born at 10:00 p.m. on October 30th at 7 pounds 7 ounces, 20 inches long, and lovingly welcomed by his 8 siblings and smitten parents. Please enjoy the following slideshow of Matthew’s birth story in pictures!
Love and blessings,