Thursday, September 22, 2011

Labor and the birthing process

Dear Pamela,
Did I ever tell you about having both of my babies induced?  When I was pregnant with each of my children I was working and/or going to school in Columbus which was over an hour away from home.  I had visions of going into labor and having a truck-driver on Interstate 71 delivering the baby for me.  Silly, I know. . . hormones will do that to a person!  So at 39 weeks, with both of my children, the doctor induced labor.  It was all planned out, bag packed, no surprises, show up and get started.  We knew the day I would go in, get hooked up to the pitocin and wait.  We didn’t know if they babies were boys or girls but we knew the day they would be born.  
Now, the labor was very real, don’t misunderstand that because it was induced that it wasn’t as painful as waiting for it to happen on its own. Thirteen hours and nine hours respectively of full blown labor was what I experienced.  But, in some ways I regret that I was afraid to wait for labor to occur on its own.  (Actually with our daughter I was in labor and went sled riding to try to get her to “come on out” but she didn’t and so two days later I was induced.)  Both children were full term, full sized, fully healthy. . . but the fact that it was so planned out makes it, in retrospect, kind of sterile and uninspiring.  The end product was still amazing, two beautiful babies, one with pale blonde hair and one with incredible amounts of beautiful black hair, but I often wonder what it might have been like to wait.  Would they have come in the middle of the night on their own accord?  Would we have had to rush to the hospital, racing against time to get there?  We will never know because my hectic seminary schedule (I didn’t want to miss classes) and work schedule (I didn’t want to leave my boss hanging too long without me) dictated (or so I thought) the natural order of things.  
What do you think about this inability to wait for things to happen on their own?  To force events to transpire, perhaps even before they are meant to happen?  I think there must be some correlate to the spiritual life.  
I await your response,

Dear one, 
The first thing that comes to mind is to say, “you can’t wish for a perfect past.”  I say that (and I am not the first one to say that) to encourage you to look at the past with a gentle, appreciative stance.  How amazing it is that your body (and yes, the living force embodied in those little ones) was able to collaborate with the pitocin to proceed with the natural process of birthing after it was given the nudge of induction.  It is similar to what I have heard about some soaring birds that fledged only after they were “invited”  to leave the nest by the parent’s “push.”   
Ah yes…. God participates in even our impatient moments.  It is true that those times of birthing your children were nudged along by a human desire to take control of timing – but the outcome of your safe labor and delivery of those beautiful babies is still clear manifestation of the mystery of God’s gifts which underlie the miracle of life.  
Moving along to how all of this relates to the birthing of spiritual matters, I know that when we notice stirrings within the heart (or womb) of our interior life, we may be inclined to rush to some conclusion.  We want to know the meaning of the stirring or agitation and figure out some action plan.  
We attempt to guess at what is emerging (with varying degrees of accuracy).  Guessing gives us something to do with our minds, but it may divert our attention from the spiritual formation that is taking place.  In other words, we are running before grace – putting the cart before the horse – fast forwarding.  We may arrive at the “birth” of the new thing God has given, and we may actually get it “right.”  However, we will have missed (as a result of our diversion) what God was doing (and how we were responding) during the process.
To continue the metaphor, it is as if our distraction (our guesses) serve to numb the pain of labor.  The job still gets done, but we have been spared the raw, piercing pain of the experience.  
One might ask, what are the benefits of going “natural” (ie, without numbing) when it comes to birthing new life?  I have some thoughts about that, but rather than fast forwarding to my musings, I leave that question for you to ponder.  
Your midwife, 
PS:  A hint. . .  it has something to do with wisdom.

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