Waiting for Baby #4 (A personal reflection)

It's late pregnancy.
I've been through this before, but somehow, the excitement has compounded and the hope set before me seems more real than ever.  In just a few short hours, days or weeks, I'll be holding our fourth son in my arms.  Until then, our family feels just a little incomplete, missing a piece we've known about for 9 months.  

Each story and each labor has been unique, teaching me different lessons and chiseling sin out of my heart in new ways.  With my first, a completely unexpected episode of my water breaking at 36 weeks sent us into a rush to the hospital.  I wasn't emotionally standing guard, thinking I still had a month left of pregnancy with no signs to tell me otherwise.  The sudden labor sent me into a fear spiral, and was more painful than I anticipated, tying my back into knots and continuing without a break.  I faced it with tension and panic, eventually needing the gracious relief that a modern medicine can provide.  But at the end of it, I fell in love with a dark-haired baby who's six pound frame was strong enough to go right home.

With my second labor, I spent 3 1/2 weeks trying to hold off the inevitable.  My uterus had stretched well beyond full-term, and my body struggled to walk around with the weight of two children.  Each step was painful, turning in bed was a test of patience and my back has yet to fully recover.  My contractions threatened as we took low-risk medication to keep those babies in as long as possible, but each day they increased and became stronger, eventually giving way to full-blown active labor.  But this time I was not afraid.  I was not caught off guard, I was eager.  I was ready.  My body was so strained carrying twins, that the prospect of labor and delivery seemed like a light and momentary affliction.  I knew that the risk of needing a c-section was high, and again, medical pain relief would be prudent in case of an emergency.  But when it was time to dull the pain, my strength was still in tact.  I was curious what would have happened with support and relaxation.  But at the end of it, I fell in love with two fragile babies who eventually came home after some feeding and growing.

This story is making it's own new way.  Again, I am experiencing the false starts of labor signs.  With other modern women, I'm googling "pre labor symptoms" and snooping in forums from years past, looking for clues that my time is near (or far).  The frustration of not knowing floods my brain, the fact that I can't control the timing stretches my faith.  I'm tossed and turned, wanting this child to come at the perfect time while also succumbing to impatience.  And yet, I know that (Lord willing), at the end of this I'm going to fall in love all over again - with our fourth son, who will soon be sleeping on my chest in a quiet hospital room.

Pregnancy brain and the murky reality of hormones are no help when it comes to sorting out wrong feelings from truth.  Just the other day, my oldest child ran in a pretend race in our community and I literally had to gulp hard to keep from bawling.  I couldn't handle his age, his strength, his independence - and mostly I just felt proud.  For a moment, everything in my soul cried out, "This is so worth it.  Nurturing a life - a person - contributing to their growth in every way..."  And my heart beat strong for these babies that God has gifted me.  I'm so undeserving at the chance to raise up these boys into men.

But in the midst of these mixed up thoughts, the ebb and flow of frustration and intense love, here are some observations:
  • We were built to anticipate the coming labor pains.  Everything in us cries out for a baby to be born, just as creation cries out for it's final redemption.  It is right and good to look for the signs, hoping and praying it's finally time.  Because eventually the baby will come - as will our Lord and Savior.  
  • We should prepare for the pain ahead.  Our instincts have us practicing birth relaxation techniques, breathing, talking to friends, taking classes and reading too many articles online.  We want to know what to expect, and we want to face it with as much grace as we can find.  And as Christians, it's healthy to stand guard, to be watchful and to prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming persecution.  There is pain before new birth - both for women and for God's elect.
  • We can eagerly focus on the hope set before us.  The promise of holding a new life is overwhelmingly joyful - and at some point, most of us want the trials because the end result is coming and it's better than our current state.  At some point in pregnancy, we transition from wanting this baby to just stay put (because life seems pretty comfortable) to wanting that baby in our loving arms.  As Christians we need to make this shift as we mature, eventually viewing the coming of Jesus as a better state - the most wonderful thing we could hope for, and worth any painful cost.
This thing my body is doing and is about to do is a gift.  I get to participate in the great story of life-giving, life-bearing, life-bringing just as God does.  I get to reflect His image and live out a small picture of his greater plan as I wait, long for, anticipate and prepare.  I get to practice trusting His timing in the small things so I can believe His goodness with the big things.  As God himself knows, being a life-giver is costly and it isn't without pain and sacrifice...but it's worth it.

So as I wait for #4, this is my prayer - that I would glorify the Father and find more wonder in the story of redemption in this birth experience than I have in the past.  That I would let each desire for birthing pains poke at my greater desire for all things to be made new.
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