He came out screaming. They laid him on my chest, and I wept. "You're safe! You're safe!" I kept saying as I blinked through tears to see his beautiful unwashed face and perfectly crafted 6 lb 5 oz tiny form. I was flooded with relief that he was outside of my body and safe in my arms.
The doctor sent us straight to the hospital from my 38 week appointment that morning with concerns that my placenta was detaching. Walt hadn't grown much at all in several weeks, his movement was almost non existent, and his fluid was low. Will (our two-year-old) was with me at that appointment- I wasn't ready- it was earlier than we expected- but my My OB said that it was time for him to come. In God's kindness, my body agreed and went into labor on its own within minutes of arriving at the hospital so that we would be able to adhere to our unmedicated birth-plan. We snapped our last photo as a family of three, dawned the hospital gown, and got the show on the road.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing. I had an episode that looked a lot like a stroke around 5cm. I lost feeling in half of my body, could only say slurred numbers when I tried to form words, and my mouth felt like it did after my wisdom teeth were removed in college. My doula rushed to get the doctor when I stopped making sense while talking to her. Surrounded by concerned and confused medical staff, I looked over at my husband, his eyes filled with tears, and wondered if I might be dying. I was rushed to CT. Since the beginning of this pregnancy after loss, I had fought fears that my body wasn't a safe host for this baby, but I felt it then more than ever.
My feeling and ability to communicate both returned while I was in CT, but my contractions spaced in response to the stress on my body. I skyped with a neurologist from MUSC who guessed that I experienced a hormone induced complex migraine. I was relieved that it wasn't a stroke, but to say I was exhausted from the event is an understatement. After resting for a while, I consulted with my sister, husband, and doula and determined that due to my limited energy, it may be best to try to speed things up a bit. At 8:30pm, my OB broke my water. Contractions began to come more steadily again. I went from 8cm - 10cm in about 40 seconds. I pushed through three contractions, and he was here.
The words I repeated as they laid him on my chest reveal a great deal about how I felt about my child's physical welfare in my womb as opposed to in my arms. But the truth is, as relieved as I was to deliver him, I birthed him into a different kind of danger. He was safe from the fallen state of his mother's body upon delivery, but now would be subjected to the fallen state of her flesh. Inevitably, I will sin against this precious baby, and so as much as I pray that God would use me to draw him to himself, I must continue to pray that God would protect him from me- his sinful caretaker- that he would draw this child to himself in spite of his parent's hypocrisy and shortcomings.
There is no end to the list of dangers we can imagine when we let our minds wander concerning our children. The experience of a lack of bodily control during labor confronted me with the fragility of even my own life- but our assurance of safety for our children is not found in the relative hospitality of our wombs or the security of our arms; our own sense of safety cannot rest in our sense of control or able bodiedness- it must be rooted instead in the certainty that we are "safe" in the will of a good Heavenly Father. He is ultimately concerned with his glory which is explicitly tied to our good- and his plans and promises are certain.
As much as I rejoice to see this child's belly rise and fall as his lungs fill with air while he sleeps beside me even now, my greatest sense of peace is in the grace and goodness of the One who supplies that breath. He knits us together and numbers our days in perfect loving kindness. We are safe in his will. We are kept by his hands. Thanks be to God.