(Joseph Winslette McLaughlin born Dec 21, 2009 @ 5:26pm; 8 lbs 14 oz and 20 1/2 in long; pic @ 1 week old - 9 lbs 11 oz!!!)
I was privileged with Joseph to have a natural birth again. Believe me, during the day this time around, there were more times than not I would have chosen a word other than “privileged”. I had to look at the bracelet I was wearing during the day over and over – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). I’ve come to believe even in a week’s time with Joseph that his attitude during his entrance into the world is much like his personality – even-keeled, laidback, and wanting to know what the big hurry is. He is content to snuggle (and nurse) all the time. Oh, how I love and adore this little man already.
I recently read a beautiful article from The National Catholic Weekly. It moved me so very deeply as one article focused on a meditation on birth and the spiritual life.* When referring to birth, the author writes “…it does not allow diversions; it is more glorious and messy, more trying and transformative than a person might suspect. Basically, it is a lot like prayer.” She goes on later to write that “one reason that few people take seriously the physical reality of giving birth as a teaching ground for receiving grace is that sanitized hospital births, with epidurals at the ready, change the experience of giving birth from a gift received to an event managed.” Yes, I realize that’s a very strong statement, but one I’ve come to believe myself. (And, as she points out, women must tell their own stories – especially when it comes to complicated or tragic ends.) While pain brings discomfort and fear, I think my greater fear was always missing the opportunity to feel this amazing rite of passage. To be fully immersed in the moment that my children entered the world. To understand what it is that women all over the world and through the ages have experienced. To think of it as something to “get through” instead of something in which to deeply plunge scared me. Natural birth required the greatest of me – trust, surrender, and awareness in full. “How different it would be if we saw childbirth as something to receive, rather than something to soldier through” she wrote.
Psalm 139:13-15 (NIV) says “For you created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.”
I’m no bible scholar, but I do love to read up on the back-story on passages. It’s amazing to find out that the phrase “wonderfully made” is actually defined as “to be beyond one’s power” and “to be difficult to understand” meaning that we are made with so much complexity and extraordinary detail that only God could truly know us. Also, when the passage refers to our “frame”, it’s referring to our “power, bones, and might” – our entire being. And the “secret place” to which the passage refers is defined as somewhere mystical and deep within the earth. I’m moved by these thoughts of sweet little Joseph being knit together within me, so complex that even I cannot comprehend him, and so divinely put together that it’s more mysterious than the center of the earth.
The choice to have a natural birth – and God’s gift that there were no complications requiring me to choose/have otherwise, I believe, allowed me to enter into the sacred process of attaching to my beautiful children. I do believe that childbirth is as the author writes “a transformative experience, the edge of life and death, the play of wind and breath, the shock of pain and joy. It is where a woman is given a new gift: a new relationship with God, her husband and their child – practice in receiving grace.”
* Excerpts from “A Fiery Gift” by Susan Windley-Daoust