Once upon a time, there was a know-it-all mama who arrogantly took great pride in the choices she had made surrounding her first pregnancy and childbirth experiences. Now, she wouldn’t have admitted to such a fault. No, not at all. For, you see, she didn’t think she even harbored such ugly thoughts within her heart. She had never noticed them before, was blissfully unaware of the residence they had taken up within her.
But those feelings were there, nevertheless.
After all, she had chosen to go through months of research and study on all things pregnancy and childbirth leading up to her first baby’s arrival, had, along with her husband, completed 12 weeks of Bradley birthing classes, and counted grams of protein, practiced relaxation breathing techniques for labor each night before bed, written Bible verses out on 3×5 cards to meditate on during labor, and, at the end of it all, successfully went on to have an unmedicated home birth. There was much to be proud of, right?
For this mama learned when she had her second baby and nothing went as she had planned that time around, that she had actually never been in control even the first time (and certainly had not been in control the second time!). Though she had conducted her fair share of research, carefully thinking through every decision from the vitamin K shot to whether or not to have eye ointment administered to her newborn baby, she had ultimately not been to thank for the way her pregnancy and birth had gone, either time. This did not at all mean that researching or gaining knowledge wasn’t a worthwhile endeavor or that she regretted having learned all she could, but it did mean that she learned a big lesson the day her second baby was born as how to view birth plans and how to treat other mamas who have differing perspectives on pregnancy and birth than she does.
As you may have already guessed, that know-it-all mama, I’m ashamed to say, was me. Though at first I recognized no deep-seated pride issues in my heart over having had an unmedicated home birth with my first baby, they were definitely revealed through the ordeal I experienced with my second.
When we got pregnant with our second little one, I assumed that all would go about as it had with our daughter. As it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth. I developed a blood clot in my hip at 15 weeks and had to start receiving 2 high-dose shots of blood thinners every day, rendering me unqualified to have a home birth this time. Then, on top of that, at nearly 38 weeks my amniotic fluid was found to be dangerously low, resulting in my having to be induced. Talk about nothing going as planned!
It was in the midst of all this that I read an excellent article entitled, “Moms, Jesus is the Hero of Your Birth Story”, which the Lord used to reveal the pride that was, in fact, present in my thinking. In the article, (my now-friend! 🙂 )Victoria Wilson makes the important point that we are not to allow ourselves to harbor pride over successful births that go according to our plans, for ultimately, it is the Lord Who is in charge of how our birth stories play out. He is to receive the praise and glory for our births. Otherwise, we are at risk of falling prey to the sin of pride, arrogantly thinking ourselves to be in control and thereby looking down on any mother who does not make the same birth choices we do.
Though my second pregnancy and birth went nothing like I wanted or expected, I nevertheless am eternally grateful for the lessons I learned through those hard experiences. Lessons pertaining to my smallness and God’s sovereignty, the existence of my judgmental, prideful spirit and my need to feel compassion and extend grace to other mamas, the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all birth plan or method, and the realization that, though I thought I knew best according to the research I had done, ultimately, in every single situation, the Lord knows what’s best. Not me, not the crunchy blogger everyone flocks to for information, not even the OB or midwife. It is because of this realization that I regularly seek to destroy the all-too-common issue of the mommy wars, an issue which finds its foundation in the false idea that we know what is best and any mom who disagrees with us clearly does not.
I experienced the beauty of this truth that the Lord knows better than I what is best when I heard the birth story of a sweet friend of mine after she had her first baby. This friend shared how she had initially wanted to have an unmedicated labor and delivery, but ended up choosing to get an epidural instead. Now, as someone who ended up having unmedicated births with both babies (even the pitocin-induced one), I could have taken the awful, prideful route of, “Well, why didn’t she just stick to what she wanted?” But, not only would that have made me an awful, extremely arrogant friend, it would have been a completely misguided and uninformed opinion on my part. You see, my sweet friend shared that, even though the epidural had been a change of plans for her, she looked back so grateful that that was the choice she ended up making. For, upon receiving the relief brought about by the pain medication, she was able to enjoy a sweet visit with her mother-in-law there in the delivery room, even while in labor. Her mother-in-law who ended up passing away completely unexpectedly just a few short weeks later. Had my friend stuck to her guns and dealt with the pain of an unmedicated birth, she would have missed out on those precious moments with her mother-in-law, moments she never could have gotten back. Hearing her share that story struck me so deeply and has forever changed the way I view choices made by other moms pertaining to their labor and delivery experiences. I may think I know what is best based upon some piece of research (which, is constantly changing, I might add!), but the Lord knew what was ultimately and truly best for my friend that day.
It is with this beautiful truth in mind that I seek to encourage you today, dear mamas, to hold your birth plans in your hands very loosely. Understand that it is ultimately the Lord who is in control. Absolutely do your research, understand the choices before you, get to know the ins and outs of pregnancy and childbirth, and prepare as best you can for the big day. But, at the end of it all, rest in the knowledge that the Lord’s got this. He’s got you and your baby in the palm of His hand. He knows what is best better than you or I do and He will see that that is what comes to pass.
So, mamas, give yourselves grace, give your fellow mamas grace, and rejoice in the beautiful miracles that are your birth stories!