In the days immediately preceding Elijah’s birth, I was convinced I’d been abandoned by God.
After all, I spent my days dedicating my full passion and much ferocity to praying that Eli would come on his own, and focusing all my physical energy on making my body (and his) conducive to a “successful” natural labor. I did everything all those websites say induces labor, from walking to running to drinking red raspberry leaf tea to exercise-ball-bouncing to using the breast pump to sex to acupuncture to eating pineapple. The only thing I refused to do was drink castor oil.
And the boy wouldn’t come.
So I was pretty angry with God. He was ignoring me. He wasn’t pressing the “Elijah, come forth!” button, and seemed to be interfering with my attempts to press it. On those evenings when 5 hours of consistent contractions just inexplicably stopped, I was certain I was the butt of some not-hilarious cosmic jokes.
I was being teased and ignored; I was sure of it.
And then Friday happened. And everything fell apart. I had inconceivably hard contractions. My son’s heart rate rapidly disappeared. I very nearly bled to death.
But lying in my ICU bed, listening to the perfectly soothing sounds of my Labor & Delivery iTunes playlist (and for the record, I am very skilled at creating situation-appropriate playlists), I took stock of the days and only then started to realize how perfectly near God was throughout.
Like I said in a previous post, I have no idea how long Eli had a knot in his cord, or what effect those weeks and weeks of braxton hicks contractions might have had on his little heart while he wasn’t on the monitor. I know there were two contractions the day he was born – one in the morning, the other in the afternoon – that caused a major deceleration of his heart rate. And yet, he was delivered in perfect health. I believe God very actively preserved his life.
I’m also convinced it wasn’t mere luck that landed me on the operating table in the hands of some of the most skilled doctors and surgeons at Vanderbilt. I didn’t get the B-student doctors; I was cared for by world-class over-achievers that night. One Doula-friend in Texas even said that if any of her patients ever had to have a c-section, she’d want it done by Dr. Spetalnick, who performed mine. I can’t count the times I heard ICU and postpartum nurses comment about how lucky I was to be under the care of Drs. Gold and Rebele, et.al. during my surgeries. They saved my life.
Neither did luck land me under the care of The Best SICU Nurses In The World, who ignored my early morning belligerence (you have no idea how frustrating it is to wake up in an unknown bed with the horrifying sound of elevator music blaring from the speakers in the bed itself with no way to say “turn that off NOW!” thanks to a breathing tube snaking down to your stomach…), and instead treated me with kindness, gentleness, and total but compassionate honesty…and seriously doted on my most adorable baby boy.
But maybe more significant than any other anecdotal bit is the sheer number of emails, texts, or other messages and comments I’ve received from people who, for whatever reason, had me on their minds or couldn’t help but pray for me that night and over the days that followed. They knew something was wrong, and – as one person said – felt “compelled to pray.”
I’m no great intercessor, and it’s rare that I ever feel that burden to pray for specific people. So it’s miraculous to me that God actually interrupted other peoples’ lives on my behalf. And not just one, but many people.
During our weeks of lessons on “how to do this thing naturally,” my Doula kept telling me about how during and after the births of her two sons, the Scripture that was burned on the back of her eyelids was Job 42:5 – “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” She told us over and over that’s what childbirth does to you: It shows you God.
But for me…well, it wasn’t going to be “my” verse. It just didn’t resonate.
Until I was there, on my death bed, and pulled back to mother my newborn (only) son…Until I saw and understood the weight of what happened to us, and the significance of the literal salvation all three of us – Paul, Elijah, and I – experienced that night.
Now, that verse carries all the weight of the world, especially when I consider the context in which it’s situated biblically:
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Indeed, my ears had heard. But now my eyes have seen God in all His goodness and wonder, working on my behalf, and I am compelled to my knees in utmost gratefulness for delivering us in so many ways, and in repentance for having ever doubted His goodness or questioned His presence…for having accused Him of something He promised He would never, ever do.
And I declare (if I can do so without sounding either ridiculously Southern or sillily archaic):
God does not abandon or forsake us.
He simply does not.