"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God... We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, be we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (Romans 8:18-25)
It's been almost five years since I've carried a baby inside me, and yet I still remember the foreignness and delight of feeling the tumbling movements and the jump of tiny hiccups. We had struggled for years to conceive our first child, but she, our second, was surprisingly easy. For days I thought my queasiness was the lingering effects of the stomach flu, but it never went away. The pregnancy test was a welcome surprise to John and me, but not so much for her would-be brother, who collapsed on the floor in sobs when he was asked, "Are you ready to be a big brother?" To be fair, he was 18-months old, and random sobbing was commonplace.
While conception was easy, the pregnancy was not without struggle. I felt awful for much of it, so much so that I was convinced I was dying and was afraid to tell John about how seriously ill I was. I finally relented and called the on-call OB-GYN who listened to my symptoms, and said, with sympathy, "Oh honey, you're just pregnant with your second child. That's the way it feels." The only thing that kept me going through the near constant nausea and pain was thinking about the end result. The hope at the end was a healthy baby, a new life; our love, multiplied again.
Finally, we reached the end. My contractions (light and irregular) started on a Saturday, and my father-in-law was called to come and be with Brady. We went to the church we had been visiting on Sunday, and I hoped and prayed that I would not give birth there on those neat pews. Although everything seemed fine, I didn't know what to expect. I had never experienced true and full labor with Brady due to his preterm complications and emergency c-section. This time, though, things would be different. I had a plan (and boy, am I good with plans). I had discussed my hopes to avoid a c-section with my doctor and she concurred. We had avoided the growth restriction problems that had led to Brady's early birth, and after careful monitoring were set for a "normal" and healthy delivery. I called the hospital to see if I should come in, and they were surprisingly non-committal and left it up to me. I asked the name of the doctor on call, found out it was my least favorite, and decided to sleep on it.
The next morning, we woke up giddy with the thought of meeting our sweet girl. I remember readying the music playlist, breathing through the easy contractions, and watching the "Today Show" from the rocking chair in the delivery room while the nurse (who had been Brady's nurse two years prior) checked me in. It was slow going with multiple checks and not much progress. And then suddenly, things went from boring to dramatic. After breaking my water and administering pitocin to make my contractions more productive, I noticed that the doctor and nurse were paying much more attention to my monitors. I was instructed to roll over on my side and was fitted with an oxygen mask. The baby's heart rate was decelerating quickly and there was concern that my placenta could be rupturing, putting both our lives in danger. After waiting and watching for a few minutes, things only got worse. The doctor started rapidly yanking cords out of the wall and pulling my bed out of the room. My husband was left behind as we flew down the hallway, me still in the bed, and the doctor pushing it as she ran me down to the operating room. In her haste, she slammed the bed into the wall, causing a doctor passing by to laugh and say, "Watch out!" She responded, to my horror, "There's no time!" In shock until that moment, I burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably, thinking that I had lost my baby girl. The OR was packed with people, ready to move, and yet no one was talking to me. The doctor snapped at someone to "Turn off that music!" and a mask was placed over my nose and mouth. I don't know how much time passed between then and the time I opened my eyes to find myself being moved (more slowly this time) to the recovery room. I asked the nurse about my baby, and she replied in confusion that she didn't know, but thought she was okay. In the interminable minutes that followed, I could only pray that God could be with her as I couldn't.
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8: 26-30)
Fortunately, John had been freed from the prison of the waiting room and was with our daughter, Maryn, who was doing just fine in the nursery. In fact, our pediatrician, who had spent a week working on Brady so that he could get a clean bill of health and be released from the hospital after his birth, took one look at Maryn screaming and said, "Now that's a healthy baby" and left to check on the other babies in greater need of care. John was able to send our camera to me in the recovery room so that I could see videos of our new one and finally breathe easily for the first time in hours.
When we are waiting at the edge of the unknown, there is little hope that something new and beautiful is waiting to be birthed. Unmet plans have a way of making us realize how little control we have, and traumatic events take place every day. Some are deeply close and personal, and some (like the explosions at today's Boston marathon or the recent violent acts on college campuses) are removed, and yet still pierce our hearts. We are confronted with the brokenness of the world and our own vulnerability. And yet, I've learned, if we stay tuned and go through the trauma (instead of just trying to get over it), we often find beauty on the other side that we never expected. My beauty in this case was tangible--I was able to snuggle with Maryn and realize the miracle of God's creation and care once again. Sometimes we see it as grace and acts of unselfish love. In trying to selectively view coverage of today's violent events, I've grown hopeful watching the outpouring of help and care from those who witnessed the tragedy firsthand. Normal people became first responders, and so many people went to donate blood that the hospitals began turning people away. Strangers became united for the common good, and realized they weren't so separate after all.
There is just so much loveliness, even in the dark valleys we all journey through. If we can just hold on, we'll see the light shining on the other side, reminding us that God is continually birthing new life and is always inviting us into the ongoing process of creation.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31)