Warning: This one’s for women who have experienced childbirth. The Mamas. Particularly, those who have experienced drug-free childbirth. No, I’m not an Anti-epidural, Anti-Stadol, Natural Birth Nazi, either…it’s just how we’ve chosen to birth all of our children. If you had an unexpected C-Section, or begged for an epidural at one centimeter dilated…ladies, I’m not condemning you. Please, read on, and experience spiritually and mentally what you were unable to experience physically. If you gentlemen who have walked through drug-free childbirth (or childbirth, period!) with your wives wish to read and comment, please feel free. I’m just giving you a heads-up in advance as to the content, before you’re knee-deep in paragraphs of placenta and can’t free yourselves…
Yesterday I wrote about the Countdown to the end of my present child-care job. The end of this season of my work is drawing nigh neither solely because I wanted to quit my job right now (although there were particular days that I wanted this!), nor because my husband wanted this particular timing, either. Rather, God has decided to transition our family from one place, physically and spiritually, into another. Rapidly. We found out the day before Thanksgiving that we must be moved across the state and settled before the end of the week of Christmas, because of my husband’s business. We have endured times and places of “transition” over the years as husband and wife; because we are one flesh, according to the Word of God, when God places one of us into a state of transition, naturally, the other one is there also, as are the children. In one short month, I will lose my job and income (somewhat frightening, while relieving at the same time?), my husband will lose his current client base and have to build from scratch in a strange town, we will move sight-unseen into a new home, we will say goodbye to friends and neighbors (although we’re so weird, there’s not that many to bid farewell!), our daughters will lose playmates…there is a lot on our plate. I am pregnant; my husband will have to move us without a lot of physical help from me. We will have a strange and fragmented Christmas. It is a bit overwhelming, exciting and frightening, all at once!
The Bible tells us that the natural ways teach us the ways of God. I think one of the reasons God uses childbirth for women, with all the pain, joy and emotion, is to teach us of Himself, in His mercy. Through something that was originally the curse of Eve and her daughters; God shows forth His beauty, His omnipotence and His perfection. He is a God of redemption; wasting nothing. If we are observant during childbirth, I believe we can learn a great deal about our Father.
In any event, most women can identify with stages of labor. Some of you may be well-versed in the stages, and others unfamiliar. For the unfamiliar, or those who have been induced or had C-Sections and never experienced the three stages of labor, they are as follows:
First stage: Your body signals that labor is beginning; your uterus begins to contract regularly. Your bag of waters may break. Contractions get longer, stronger and closer together. You are excitable; your body is flooding with endorphins and adrenaline, preparing for the birth. You want to walk, talk, eat a lot, sing and chatter about your excitement with your husband and others. Gradually, every activity becomes more difficult as your uterus begins to contract at closer and closer intervals. What began as small contractions with a beginning, a peak or crescendo, and then a descent of discomfort…are now becoming one big blur of major cramping and discomfort. You are starting to make some serious noises with contractions, but when the present one peaks and is over, you are still giddy in between, able to talk, laugh and eat. At some point, the contractions increase in strength and duration once more. They are becoming intense. You are feeling pretty insecure in your ability to continue without Brand Name Narcotics. You are sitting, lying down, squatting or kneeling during contractions now – they take your breath away; you can no longer speak during or in between them. You begin to lose touch with your surroundings; you are mentally somewhere else. You are focused only on your ability to make it through the next contraction. At this point, you are depending upon your husband or birth partner much more than in the beginning; you truly need their physical and emotional support. You need help walking. You need help thinking. You need help, period. You lose interest in food. Your body, if un-medicated, is flooded with more endorphins further. It is akin biochemically to sex, but on a much larger scale – more like what happens when you run a marathon, and you get through “hitting the wall”. You are on a natural high; the pain is there, but you don’t care. If something disrupts this process, such as fear or new surroundings, adrenaline floods unnaturally into your bloodstream, increasing your pain. You want to “nest” – to stay put. You are in a surreal place, with dilated pupils and panting, groaning, moaning breaths. Your body has taken over everything. You have lost all control.
At some point very soon, you will enter what is known as Transition; the sacred place between First and Second Stage Labor. I say sacred place, because to me, it truly has been. It has been a place where I have realized that my body is not my own; my life is not my own. My child’s life is not my own. My husband is not my Savior, but he is a great and strong earthly rock upon whom I can lean.
When transition begins to come (this is somewhere between seven and ten centimeters dilated), you are becoming very physically and emotionally tired from the work of laboring. Contractions are likely back to back – as soon as one is over, another is upon you, like a wave of the strongest ocean. They may double-peak with intensity, instead of a single peak and descent. You cannot walk and likely cannot stand unassisted. There is great pressure in your pelvis and sexual organs. You want to urinate, but you frequently cannot, as the head is blocking the urethra. Strange fluids, mucous and blood are coming out of your body. Now is not the time to put food in; it may be coming out violently. You may only have merciless nausea. You may lose control of your bowels unexpectedly. This is fun. No one cares at all. You don’t either. You may shake violently throughout your entire body, without control. You may feel freezing cold and then burning hot, back and forth, sickeningly. You are likely doing some form of “birth dancing” – swaying, rocking, or thrusting your pelvis back and forth, forward and back. You may squat. You may weep, and wail, and pant, and groan, and scream and growl and huff – strange sounds, sexual sounds made during orgasm in creating your child, but intensified for birthing. Your entire world is focused inward; your mind is thinking “How will I make it through this? I cannot do this. I am finished. There is no way I can do another thing. I have no strength. This is too frightening. Cut the baby out, now! Give me the epidural, STAT!” If you have a great birth attendant and husband beside you, they will tell you that you CAN do this, you WILL do this, and you have no choice but to do this. They will tell you that you are in Transition; that soon you will be able to actively participate in birthing your baby; it will no longer be something that’s just happening to you – you will regain a small measure of control over your body. They will tell you that it’s too late for your epidural.
Second stage: As strangely and suddenly as Transition came upon you, it is over – there is a brief and peaceful lull in intensity of what is happening to your body. You may talk, laugh and smile. You may change positions. All is well in the Universe; for a moment! Then, you are hit with the remarkable and overwhelming desire to push your baby out – which is totally involuntary – and it feels like the biggest BM you have ever had, after the longest bout of constipation known to womankind! You naturally desire to squat to birth, or be on all fours – you find something animal-like, and it feels great, and you push with those nasty, intense contractions now, and you feel as though you are DOING something instead of being overcome by things. It is no more pleasant in degree of discomfort than the other stage; it’s just somehow strangely satisfying that YOU are actively doing something – pushing your baby into this world. There is no stopping it; if you think you’re too tired, on goes your body anyway, and you learn the difference between the pain of Second stage labor contractions, and the truly horrendous agony of fighting against Second stage labor contractions! You stop fighting anything; you give in, and your body takes over again, and you lose yourself in the work of pushing. It may take two pushes or two hours, but your baby slowly inches toward birth, a little forward, a little backward…until you reach The Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is the intense, overpowering burning sensation that occurs at the crowning of your baby’s head against your flexible perineal tissues. The Ring of Fire sometimes causes great panic in women; you are frightened to tear your bottom. You may hold back, but you must push through this terrible burn – push through so that the biggest part of your baby can be born! And then, when you think The Ring of Fire may kill you, someone tells you that the head is born, and you feel a bit of relief! You are asked to push a bit more so your baby’s body may be born, and all of a sudden, you are Mama to a son or a daughter, and your husband is Daddy! You are elated, and surprised, and shocked and delighted, and someone hands you your beautiful baby, all wet and slick and new – and you and your husband weep with joy in what you have birthed together – a family.
Third stage: Your placenta is born. This is not really much to speak of. You bleed, and someone reminds you what contractions feel like by mashing on your uterus as if it were unleavened bread…People ask if you want to see the placenta. That’s your call. I don’t eat mine, or freeze-dry mine and encapsulate it for vitamin pills, either, but some women do…You may keep shaking and trembling, freezing and doing all sorts of weird things physically with your legs for awhile, because of all the adrenaline. It goes away in an hour or so.
What does all of this long-winded description of childbirth have to do with our Heavenly Father, you wonder? Maybe you already see Him in the birth story; in the stages of birth from conception onward. Perhaps you see Him taking you through a period of transition right now. You didn’t know it until you started reading here, but God has been growing a seed inside of your spirit, and nourishing it through your life circumstances, and building your character through it all…but now He’s ready to get what He planted inside to the OUTSIDE. He wants others to be able to benefit from what He planted; He didn’t plant it just for you, after all. It was meant to be seen by the world and to touch nations. It was meant to be broken bread to feed others.
Maybe you are in the thick of Transition now, and you recognize it. You are so uncomfortable; the pain is so awesome that you think you cannot go on. Circumstances may be making you physically ill; you want to vomit. You cry and weep, you moan in pain before God. You wonder how you can go on another instant and another day – this is too difficult, you say. You are too tired, too weak, too overwhelmed and it’s all too tight a squeeze – you can’t do it. You give up.
That’s what He was looking for, sweet sister. He was looking for you to give up. He was looking for you to be totally dependent, unable to walk, or breathe, or move, or speak…without His help and intervention. And when you acknowledge that you have no control over any of it – over anything He’s walking you through – then He brings you through times of Transition, and into times of great activity, whereby He WILL birth what He’s put inside of you so that He can use you to bless others.
So, dear sister, if you are in a place of transition today, or you know you are entering one soon…know what to expect. Know that you will be stretched, you will get tired, and you will think you cannot go on, but He can get you through it. He can be the one to say, “You can do this.” “Nothing is impossible with Me.” Know that it might get a little freaky before He births what He wants – you might have a Ring of Fire to deal with, but that, too, is temporary. When you feast your eyes upon the fruit of what He’s been working in you…You’ll be in awe of Him. And you won’t be able to hold back from sharing the birth with the world.
As lengthy a post as this is, my hope is that reading this will bless you today, ladies (and husbands who love their ladies, because you are their steady place on earth). If you have any requests for prayer during a Place of Transition, please comment. If it is a private matter, I will gladly provide my email. We need each other as the Body of Jesus Christ.