In the weeks leading up to Abigail’s birth, I found myself sometimes pondering a question. How do you pray for an upcoming birth experience? Do I pray through a detailed checklist of all the things that I would really want to see in the birth, or do I just trust that God knows our hearts and He is going to work out all the details as I commit these things to Him?
Personally, I believe that prayer is really a relationship of communication and trust, not just a method of obtaining the things we want in life. Yes, God knows our needs, and He can (and often does) provide for them without our even asking, but how much more does He delight to see us come to Him as children coming to a father, pouring out our hearts before Him in childlike simplicity, being confident of His care for us?
And yet even after making our requests known, there is an aspect of trusting that God knows what is His very best for us, even if this means His answer is not quite the same as we were anticipating. Consider the nation of Israel as they were coming out of Egypt. I think that if I was there, I would have been praying for smooth roads and plenty of provision along the way. But what did God give them? A difficult path with very real needs. But God’s intent was that these very needs would become the testimonies of God’s faithfulness and loving care for His people.
I love reading in Deuteronomy chapter 8 where God calls His people to “Remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness…” After recounting numerous examples of how He had provided for their needs during these difficult times, God exhorted them to never forget what He had done for them.
Remembering God’s faithfulness is what gave Joshua and Caleb the confidence that God would lead them into the Promised Land, just as He had brought them out of the bondage of Egypt.
“Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” –Psalm 107:43
For me, walking through the process of the birth of our first child was an incredible opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness and loving care for us! This week my heart overflowed with tears of gratefulness as Valerie and I were reading some scripture together. God was so faithful in carrying us through this experience! All along the way, even down to the smallest details, I could see how evidently the Lord had prepared the way before us.
Strength for Labor
It is often through our weakness that the Lord’s strength is made most evident. One of my primary concerns as we approached our baby’s due date was that Valerie would have the physical stamina to go through the labor and delivery process. As all of you parents know, labor and delivery is not for the faint of heart! 🙂 It has been said that the energy required during this process is comparable to the energy expended while running a marathon.
Valerie and I were also earnestly desiring, if possible, to have a natural, unmedicated birth. We are very grateful for the advances in technology and medicine that save many lives when complications occur, but we personally believe that God designed our bodies for the birth process, and that many undesirable side affects can be avoided (where possible) by taking a less invasive approach.
It was a specific answer to prayer to see God not only give Valerie the strength for labor, but to enable her to go through the entire process without any type of pain medication! I cannot tell you the encouragement it was to know that the Lord was with us and see Him give strength for each step of the way! What a comfort to know that our families and friends were standing behind us in prayer as we worked through each contraction leading up to Abigail’s birth.
At one point before the labor really started in earnest, Valerie and I were getting tired after over 20 hours of frequent contractions and very little sleep. I knew that rest would be very important for the even greater marathon that lay before us, so at 7:30 that evening we sent out a text message asking for prayer that we could get at least a few hours of sleep before moving into active labor.
God answered that prayer! For the next several hours till about midnight, the Lord allowed us to get bits of sleep between contractions as they slowed to about 20 minutes apart. At midnight the contractions suddenly went to 5-8 minutes apart and we moved rapidly into active labor. We went in the strength of that rest for the next eighteen hours until Abigail’s arrival at 5:58 that evening.
Many times when I see first pictures of mom and dad at the hospital with their new baby, mom looks understandably exhausted. I was amazed to look across and see Valerie holding baby Abigail shortly after birth. Instead of a pale, exhausted face, I saw a countenance that was just glowing with the joy and excitement of finally being able to hold our little girl. God answered prayer!
Just the Right People
Not only was God pouring out His strength and grace upon us as a couple, but He also put together a wonderful team to assist with the birth. The nurse assigned to us that day was one of the kindest nurses I have ever met. She was extremely gracious and sensitive to our needs, and gave us excellent care. Hearing the gentle music we were playing in the background, she asked if we were Christians, and we were delighted to learn that we shared this common bond in Christ.
We had made arrangements for a doula to be with us for the birth, and here again the Lord put together just the right one to give helpful suggestions at key points during the hours of labor before the midwife arrived for the actual birth. The midwives on call during our labor and delivery “happened” to be our two favorites of the group, and did a beautiful job assisting with the birth, even allowing dad to help “catch” the baby.
Blessings on Logistics
As I reflect on our birth experience, I am amazed at how many things the Lord orchestrated to demonstrate His loving care for us! Even the little things, like the weather going from the sweltering 90’s the week before to a very comfortable 70’s for the ride to the hospital in a car without air conditioning. We would have survived, but it made the 20 minute drive so much easier for Valerie!
Speaking of the drive, had Abigail been born just a couple days earlier, some road closures along the route would have forced us to take a detour on a cobblestone road. (Note for prospective dads, bumpy roads on the way to the hospital during labor is not a good idea.) But by the time we were making this trip, the roads had been reopened, and we had a very smooth ride.
Another desire that the Lord granted us was to be released to go home from the hospital as soon as possible, knowing that we would rest much better at home (assuming mom and baby were recovering well with no complications). Our hope was to head home after the state-mandated testing done 24 hours after birth. In spite of a very hectic day for the hospital staff, they managed to squeeze our testing in at the end of the day, and little Abigail passed all the tests with flying colors.
As we were just packing up our bags to leave the hospital, we had a surprise visit from our pastor and his wife. This was a very sweet visit, and perfect timing for us! Thirty minutes later, and they may have missed us entirely. Our pastor helped me carry our bags down to the car, and they prayed for us before our trip home.
Two hours after the birth, we were moved across to the recovery room where we would spend our first night together as a family. The nurse explained the different pain medications to Valerie, and what we could expect in terms of the recovery process. In the hours that followed, the hospital staff was surprised to find that Valerie was experiencing very little pain, and a little Tylenol from time to time was all that she wanted.
Here again we felt that the Lord was answering prayer in giving Valerie a very smooth and speedy recovery. Many first-time mothers that are far more strong and robust than Valerie have much more painful and difficult recoveries. We recogn ize that every birth is different, and there are many factors involved, but we personally believe that it is the definite hand of the Lord that is causing Valerie to spring back so well from Abigail’s birth.
Our subsequent doctor checkups have all gone well, and everyone seems to comment on how well Valerie is doing. As we hear these comments we turn to each other with knowing smiles. We know full well that it is not our strength and ability, but the gracious lovingkindness of a prayer-hearing God! To God be the glory, great things He has done! We want to give tribute to the Lord’s faithfulness in giving us strength that we did not have, and to thank each one that had a part in praying for us! God answers prayer!