In my mind, Edward’s birth story begins on a sorrowful day four years ago in May. My husband and I had recently arrived in the Middle East to begin language learning when I went into preterm labor with our first baby, giving birth at 22.5 weeks. In the course of one brief day we experienced both the joy of meeting our first son and the sorrowful shock of simultaneously having to say goodbye. It was as though a piece of us had died prematurely with our infant boy, buried in a desert cemetery. We were ushered into parenthood with empty arms, in a strange country and far from home.
With that sorrow as a backdrop to the scene, imagine my awe on the day last year when I saw a magical, second line appear on the pregnancy test strip and realized that the Lord willing I would be giving birth just days away from my first son’s birth-day! I sensed that this too would be a boy and that the word “courage” was significant for this pregnancy. As much as I wanted a sibling for my two-year-old daughter, giving birth again in the same Middle Eastern country was not on my list of brave desires. From the beginning, I was begging God for strength and comfort from His presence.
The entire pregnancy held a string of challenges for me, including language learning, culture stress, morning sickness, exhaustion, anxiety, traumatic memories of losing our first baby, COVID19 and strict quarantine/curfews, insomnia, dieting for blood sugar issues with limited food options and dealing with a UTI when we weren’t allowed to leave our home. I started to realize why the Lord knew that “courage” was so essential for me. In the face of these things, my first response was not very brave!
We prayed a lot about care providers for my pregnancy and birth. Hospital births are almost exclusively the norm here; however, they also tend to be highly medicated with high C-section rates. Also, my experience at the hospital with my first birth did not make me desire to do that again! The Lord led us to a very sweet midwife who was willing to assist me with a home birth. Unfortunately, not everyone around us could understand the “crazy” decision we were making. Many times I second-guessed myself and cried to the Lord, “Am I making the wrong choice? Am I really a foolish and risk-happy mom?!” He always reminded me that we were following His peace and our desires. I could choose to rest in that with confidence.
Due to COVID19 restrictions, travel was not permitted between cities. My midwife’s assistant (whom she would not feel comfortable delivering without) lived in the capital city, and we went through quite an ordeal trying to get her here. About 50% of the time it seemed like she wouldn’t be able to find a way to come to the birth! Just when we would come up with a solution for one difficulty that came up, another challenge would appear.
I tried to imagine how the birth would go and came up with multiple worst-case scenarios: I go into labor at some crazy hour of the night. It’s after 6pm, so everyone is under curfew. No one is allowed to drive. Midwife tries to sneak out of her house to come to mine and gets arrested. Assistant is stuck in the capital. Or maybe I’m giving birth and have an emergency and have to go to the hospital. We have no choice but to call an ambulance and they don’t let anyone else come with me… Or maybe I go into labor and no one can get to our house to come and be with my daughter, so she is wandering around, traumatized and scared without anyone to watch and care for her. Or maybe the people who were to babysit her get arrested on the way because they try to come during curfew hours. Or maybe……….
Spending your time imagining how things might end up happening in a situation that you can’t control is a really good way to end up stressed out. I began looking at the difficulties (both imagined and actual) as a test to see whether or not I would be courageous. I began to worry that God might throw me something really hard just to see how brave I would be! In the middle of my anxious wrestlings, I got a message from a friend in another country whom I rarely hear from. “You’re not as alone as you think,” she told me. “Courage comes from a heart that is convinced it is loved.” I sat in stunned tears at her unexpected and well-timed words, and realized:
I can be courageous because I am loved by my God, and this will be an interesting story because there are risks involved, and no matter what happens, it will be beautiful and my unique story to own and cherish. This is not a test of my courage, but a moment in the big picture of my life to let God prove His goodness and love for me!
By 37 weeks, I was 2.5cm dilated and having notable contractions semi-constantly. By the time I reached 39 weeks and had experienced several bouts of steady contractions which didn’t progress into labor, I finally decided I wasn’t going to keep being deceived. This baby just wasn’t coming. Not for a long, long time.
On Mother’s Day evening, I began having consistent contractions yet again. After playing games and dancing to lively music together as a family for a few hours, we put our daughter to bed and started wondering if this was the real thing.
The midwives decided to come over around 11pm to check me and hang out with us. I had been doing my contractions sitting on my birthing ball, coaxing them to be as strong as possible, but when the midwives came breezing in I got hit with a wave of fears and emotional/mental blocks. My blood pressure was high when the midwife checked it, and my contractions also started fizzling out. I was only 4cm dilated when checked, which surprised me. I had been hoping that all those hours of contractions would’ve given me more progress than that!
The sweet midwives gave us time to be alone as a couple and we spent the next hours praying, singing, and working through my feelings and fears. Frustratingly, labor did not pick up momentum. We all finally decided that we would go to bed and get some sleep.
I turned the song “Never Once” by the Rasmussen family on repeat and laid awake for a long time, listening to the comforting refrain: “You are faithful, God, You are faithful! Evermore, we are breathing in your grace. Evermore, we’ll be breathing out your praise. You are faithful, God, You are faithful!” It was so exceedingly comforting. Eventually, morning dawned and I had to break the news to all that I wasn’t any farther into the labor process than I had been the night before. The good, strong contractions I’d been waiting for just weren’t coming.
We had breakfast (They asked me what I wanted and I was just honest with them: bacon and eggs with a buttered bagel and blueberries! Of course, I knew that the eggs were the only thing available here on my menu.) Once the morning curfew was lifted at 8, our friend came to pick up Joy for the day. After they left, we decided to try doing some things to see if we could encourage the labor on. After several hours and trying many different things we all decided to stop trying to make my labor progress. I was 5cm dilated when my midwife left. She discerned that the baby’s head was turned a bit in the wrong direction, which would explain the stop-and-go labor.
After the midwives were gone, Jonathan and I looked at each other and embraced. I just “knew” by faith that somehow this disappointing delay was a gift from the Lord. It was just us: nobody else in the house, no toddler to care for. It hadn’t been like this for…well, had it ever? We surrendered whether the baby would come in hours or days, and decided to enjoy our time together. I recalled my heart’s desire and prayer that Jonathan and I would experience a greater level of intimacy and soul fellowship during this labor than we did even in our previous two births. My request was granted in such a precious way through this delay. We will always cherish remembering that afternoon we spent together loving each other and enjoying laboring together. My husband helped me do some exercises to help the baby to get in the right position, and amidst my dear midwife’s prayers from her home, he did just that. And—guess what! My contractions started to pick up in intensity.
For various reasons, Jonathan ended up not being able to be with me much in the next interval of labor time. I found myself laboring alone…on the exercise ball, in the bathtub, etc. I was so delighted to be overtaken with these all-consuming contractions at last! I resorted to texting with my mama (who was unable to come visit me due to COVID19), and it was like she was there, encouraging me and being by my side. My contractions were pretty intense, but my husband and I weren’t quite ready to tell the midwives to come We were in awe of the “magical” force that was gearing up to release our son from my body and didn’t want to do anything to disturb it now that it finally was here!
A few minutes before 6pm found me throwing up and my husband welcoming our daughter in at the front door! It was time for the evening curfew and our friends didn’t want to risk getting arrested like one of their friends had for driving after curfew. Thus, our daughter was back with us. My husband thought quickly and contacted a very motherly single girl who was able to come over right before the 6pm curfew and care for Joy. About half an hour later when Jonathan had Joy and her new babysitter all settled and came to be with me again I said, “Well, when are we going to call the midwife?”
He replied, “Oh, I don’t know…what do you feel? Do you want to?”
I replied between breaths, “Well / I don’t think this / is going to stop!” So he called them to come over. A few contractions after they came, I thought I should let them know, “Um, my body is wanting to push.”
“Well, let your body do what it wants,” the midwife replied.
In the midst of the intensity of those contractions and the wandering thoughts of, “How many more hours will this take?” a song called “Song of Deliverance” began to play. I certainly vibed with it as I came into another super strong contraction! I wondered how much longer I would need to be doing these. And then, suddenly, with the cry, “Deliver Me!” ringing in my mind from the song, I felt a mighty surge pushing from within and the Lord delivering my child and me at the same time! The feeling of that little body moving out was actually more incredible than I had even imagined. Such a powerful release surged through my body and soul as I went from kneeling to sitting and from laboring to holding my own warm, wet, living little boy! So surprising, that after all the waiting and feeling like it would take fifteen million years for him to get here, he came so fast. Jonathan and I leaned towards each other and wept. He’s alive. He’s breathing. He’s moving. He’s opening his eyes. He’s a miracle. We did it. In our desert town. Under quarantine. Thank You, Jesus.
It was a little disappointing to find out that I had torn and needed stitches. Stitches are not funny in the least! But as I’ve thought about it, the stitches are proof that I pushed a human out, and proof that when he came, he came fast and gloriously. I did what I was made to do.
The midwives (in the words of one of them) said that this was one of “the most peaceful births” they had “ever witnessed.” That shocked me. Truly, it could only be the power of the Holy Spirit over me to give high-strung, easily-anxious-me such a peaceful and beautiful birth!
After all the dreaming of possible crazy birth scenarios and wondering if my desire to birth at home was absurd, it was amazing to see how my caring Father worked everything out! There weren’t any complications. Someone was able to babysit my daughter the whole time I was in labor. The midwives were only stopped by the police once for driving after curfew, and the police gave them mercy. I felt amazing and strong right after the birth. My daughter was able to come in and meet her brother soon after he was born, which was something I had wished for. The Lord was so, so kind to me. He gave me a son, in May, exactly four years after we buried our first son in this very city. He gave me courage for the journey. He gave me everything I needed.
We named our son Edward Davian, meaning: “I am courageous and brave because I am loved.” I didn’t feel very courageous through the challenges I faced during pregnancy and birth, but I did learn that I am loved more deeply than I had thought. Through that love I received strength to keep pressing deeper into God and His heart. He gave me courage to make it through the challenges.
If you are reading this as a pregnant mama, I want to pass on a little word a friend of mine gave me a few months ago:
No matter what happens, this birth will be beautiful and it will be your own unique story.
Take courage, friend. You too can be brave in your difficult moments, in the strength of the Holy Spirit and because our Good God has His loving eye on you. He is in control. We can trust, and we can be brave even when we are scared.
For those who haven’t heard the term, ‘Rainbow baby’ before, this refers to a baby who is born to parents whose previous baby or babies were sadly lost due to miscarriage, still birth or as a young baby.