Part 1, in which we find a church just in time to lose our kitchen, can be read here.
Please, Lord, please let me go into labor, I prayed as I drove out on an early morning errand run before my family was up. At 38 1/2 weeks pregnant, I was ready, officially full term, weepy and emotional on my end-of-pregnancy hormone trip, and eager, so eager to meet my baby. And I just wanted to go early. By my sixth baby, surely it made sense for me to go early, right? My body knew what to do. I should just pop this baby out like nobody’s business.
It’s hard to describe the feeling at the end, when every day is an eternity and every contraction brings a rush of hope. Each new square on the calendar could be enshrined forever as a birthday . . . or not. The pins-and-needles waiting engulfs my whole world in a frenetic buzz of weary excitement. My baby’s a month old now, and it all sounds very melodramatic. I think, Seriously? you were THAT impatient? After describing finding a new church after thirteen years and having half your house ripped out down to the concrete, you’re going to write a blog post about how you were impatient for labor? Yeah, seriously, I was that impatient.
So there I was on a fresh, chilly morning, praying for labor, and kind of expecting God to rend the heavens and come down, to give me a contraction right then and there, and another, and another, and another. Or maybe He’d wait a little, like until I got home from my errand, but I was NOT expecting Him to do what He actually did: lay His hand on me and stop the buzz. Instead of the wave of a contraction, I felt a wave of calm and the overwhelming conviction that I should be thankful, that there were dozens of mothers of premies in NICU’s right then who would love to trade places with me.
The calm lasted nearly a week. I even signed up to bring dinner to a friend at our new church who’d just had a baby because I was so certain that I had a while yet to go. I delivered her taco soup less than a week before my due date.
Then the contractions started.
It was a Tuesday afternoon when they set in. And they seemed different, as though maybe they were the kind that would actually bring the baby. By evening, I was almost sure that this was it and I went to bed hopeful. It was March 5th. My last two had had single-digit, odd-numbered birthdays, so the 5th would make a great birthday. Or, the 6th. Because I love even numbers in general. . . .
In the morning, I woke up. To calm. I had slept all night. My contractions had stopped. This was not my baby’s birthday. Or was it? That afternoon, the heavy feeling was almost unbearable, and my contractions started up again. It felt like my legs were going to detach from my hips. I shuffled miserably to Bible study and melted into my chair with contractions every time I got up. I was worn out. But so happy. This was it. I was certain.
Until I woke up the next morning. To calm.
It went on like this, maybe not quite every day, but several days I’d have afternoon contractions that fizzled overnight. Forty weeks came and went. Was this my baby’s birthday? Or this? I fussed excitedly over dates until I had to get a hold of myself. What are you? Some kind of ancient pagan that your baby has to come on an auspicious day? It doesn’t matter what the birthday is, I told myself firmly. But still, I was thankful not to have many contractions too early on the 13th because other people might tease my baby, especially on the years his or her birthday fell on a Friday.
That night, my husband took the kids to Bible study alone to give me some time to myself. I took a hot shower, put on some worship music, and started walking a loop through our newly remodeled great room, thinking surely, surely contractions will kick in now. I prayed. I cried. I committed the birth to the Lord. And strangely, I felt my prayers turn to life in general and bigger things than going into labor right NOW. Today would not be the day. I went to my room to check Facebook.
Friday was the 15th. Late that afternoon, it happened again. Good contractions. This might really be it, I thought. Once again, I went to bed hopeful. And overnight, I had a handful of contractions that I was vaguely aware of in my sleep. The next morning, I woke up. To contractions.
I got up at 6:00 and timed contractions while my husband slept. They were five minutes apart. Today was the day. I woke my husband up at 8:00 and told him that his job was to bring me a chocolate croissant and get the house cleaned up for the birth. Then I got the kids up. We bustled around for a bit and that’s when I noticed it. Contractions had stopped. My sweet husband went out for doughnuts anyway, and when he got back, I took rueful stock.
“Well, should I just go grocery shopping? I’m not in labor.”
But wise Mr. Parunak had a different plan. He sent me to my room. Alone. He figured out that I just needed space, like a mother cat sneaking off to hide under the guest bed when it’s time to have kittens. I sat on our little bedroom love seat and opened up Facebook. “Happy 3:16,” said a post near the top. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” I started sobbing. That’s the coolest date ever! And I thought that was going to be my baby’s birthday.
I moved on to Pinterest. Less heavy. After a while, I thought I should try walking, and the contractions slipped quietly back in right where they’d left off hours before. I would walk awhile, pin a few clever DIY baby items and organizing tips, and then walk some more. Position changes seemed to always give me a contraction, but I still wasn’t sure if this was really real labor yet since I seemed to be driving it by what I did.
Sometime around 3:00, after pinning an Angry Bird pizza and multiple owl cakes, I realized that I didn’t have any good shots of myself pregnant with this baby, so I snuck out of the bedroom and had my husband do a quick photo shoot before I retreated back to my nest again.
By 5:00, I was strangely sleepy and lay down in bed, still having contractions and still not sure if I was actually in labor, but I had reached the point of wanting company in a sort of fragile, panicky way. I didn’t want to move, so I texted my husband. (What did women do before cell phones? They might have had to yell or something.) He came to see me, and we decided to call the midwives and our dear friend who was going to watch our kids. I had had way too many false starts to want to declare myself officially in labor yet, but I felt so emotional, I just wanted them to come.
At 6:00, the first midwife arrived. I was feeling pretty serious about breathing through my contractions, but I was almost apologetic because I had no idea how far along I was. The midwife checked me. I was at 7, the official start of transition. Well, well. This might be it after all.
Things got down to business at that point, normal transition, “this is so hard” kind of business. I got in the shower, and that was nice (as nice as anything is from 7cm to 10cm, which isn’t very nice at all). In between contractions, I remarked to my husband that we still didn’t have a middle name picked for a boy. He said we’d have to pray about it more, but I already had an inkling of what I wanted.
Pushing was hard. My baby was big and posterior, and I couldn’t really tell if I was making progress. And random things irritated me. A bit of lint on the sheet of the bed I was leaning on, the vacuum cleaner (where it belonged, actually), the ironing board on the back of the door. But then, suddenly, just after 8:00, twelve hours after my contractions had stopped that morning, my baby was crowning, and after a pause and the next contraction, the midwives were passing a wet, wiggly, crying baby up into my arms. It was a boy. Before I even got into bed, I asked my husband, “Gabriel John? Can we please call him Gabriel John?”
John. For John 3:16.
After nearly a year of learning to trust God through big things, He showed himself most sweetly in a little, seemingly insignificant thing. As I struggled for faith and peace in waiting and tried to convince myself that birthdays didn’t matter, God let my baby be born on “the coolest date ever,” not because it mattered really, but just because it mattered to me. And God isn’t always like that. Sometimes He lets our dishwashers ruin our kitchens two months before our due dates. And sometimes He lets labor start and stop for a week and a half. And sometimes much, much harder things happen to test our faith and teach us to trust. But every once in a while, He surprises us with something lavishly kind just because He loves us and He wants us to remember that He had it all planned out all along for our good and that He is worthy of being trusted.