I had the honor of being invited back to be Chris and Karin’s doula again, for the birth of their second child. Karin and I had stayed in touch since Elaina’s birth, taking our daughters out for occasional play dates at the park or library, so the second time around felt more like catching up with friends than business. They had moved into their new house, which Karin has decorated with a perfected, modernized, shabby chic style. I always tell her she needs to come help me with my own house. (Or maybe I just think it.)
As we sat in their comfy new home, we went over the new materials that had been written after Elaina was born. The devotional brought up a few questions for Karin that led to some challenging, soul-searching conversations. “Why is a natural birth so important to me?” she asked me during one meeting. “Why am I doing this?” I remember thinking, “OK God, keep stirring her.” I responded, “You tell me.”
I do hold a certain disdain for the current culture of childbirth. The culture I’m referring to is the “let’s-all-compete-with-our-friends-to-see-who-can-be-more-crunchy.” Or “let’s-compare-whose-birth-was-more-natural.” The devotional covers a lot of this and works on revealing the motive behind these kinds of mentalities. I wrote it because I’m concerned about the level of depression I see in mothers whose children were born via life-saving medical procedures. The opportunity for their baby’s safe delivery, which would bring rejoicing in third-world countries, often brings disappointment (even to the point of requiring therapy) in ours. Why?
That’s what Karin was asking. Why.
Prior to Elaina’s birth, we had discussed this topic. Of course we both agreed with the statistics, which clearly show that the more natural a baby’s birth, the easier everything else will be (such as healing time, breastfeeding, etc.) She also offered up the honest desire to just know what childbirth is like. To experience it. When Elaina was born via C-Section, Karin experienced firsthand what I had been trying to explain to her about the work it takes to turn the disappointment of her experience into gratitude.
With the birth of Clark approaching, the time Karin spent with God in the devotional, and the tears that were shed while asking Him “Why?” were therapeutic and strengthening for her. At one point a few weeks before Clark’s birthday, she shared with me that God had responded to her seeking with this statement: “I KNOW.” Karin explained to me how all-encompassing His words to her were; how He was expressing to her both His understanding of her disappointment and fears, as well as His encouragement for the outcome of Clark’s birth. There is nothing – nothing – that is outside of his awareness. He KNEW how things would turn out. She didn’t need to worry.
Karin was finally able to give her concerns and her motives, whatever they were, to Him, knowing that it mattered to Him. He didn’t judge her for grappling with them; He just loved her and continued to assure her that He understood.
Isn’t that all any of us need? To be understood?
On July 2, 2014, Karin had a doctor’s appointment. She was two days past her due date and Karin’s doctor wasn’t thrilled with the idea of waiting any longer. This particular OB has always had a fun, disarming way with words, and when she chose the word “gnarly” to describe the look of the overdue placenta, Karin knew she had some decisions to make. Having dealt with her concerns about interventions, she felt the peace of God as she entered into what might have otherwise thrown her into (unwarranted) feelings of manipulation or failure. She knew that God knew that this would happen, and moved forward with confidence.
At 1:45, Karin and Chris arrived at the hospital, and at 2:30, they were admitted to their room. At 2:50, Pitocin was started. Within the next hour, contractions had started and increased to about 3 minutes apart. We made it through one full “1-hour routine” complete with 2 potty breaks. Chris was a pro; calm and caring and present with her. (I thought it was sweet when she shared with me that she had asked him to let his facial hair grow a little for the occasion, because she liked how it made him look.) As before, the two worked beautifully together as a team.
Around 5:00, Karin started having the urge to push. Labor had gotten intense and seemed to be moving right along, but it wasn’t time for that yet. Karin had to work really hard to keep from pushing, but she didn’t panic. We had done this before with Elaina, so we weren’t surprised. We had even discussed what we would do, should it happen again. Karin kept her wits about her as she panted, “blew out the candle,” and imagined Elaina singing, “This little light of mine.” The determination in her face as she dug deep and held on was amazing to witness. Then, at one point, she even cracked a joke to Chris about it, mimicking Elaina’s voice as she said, “I’m pushing, I’m pushing!”
After lying on her side for nearly an hour and using all of her strength not to push, Karin made a wise decision. She looked me in the eye and said, “This is what we talked about.” She chose to get an epidural so that her body would stop trying to push (we had learned in Elaina’s birth that this would work for her). At 6:15, the epidural was placed. At 6:40, Chris went out of the room to eat, and at 7:15 I stepped out for a quick break.
At 8:00, Karin’s cervix had reached 10 cm. The baby still needed to come down a bit, so Karin made sure to change positions in bed to help Clark do his job of moving down. She and Chris shared with me an interesting section in A.W. Tozier’s The Knowledge of the Holy, which had spoken to Karin regarding wisdom (and had thereby influenced her decision for the epidural). Once again, it was like I was just hanging out with friends. This bit of time was easy and relaxed; working with these two is not work at all.
At 8:40, Karin’s mom and sister arrived from Boulder, and at 9:00 Nurse Cindy told Karin it was OK to go ahead and start learning how to push. Dr. FE arrived around 9:40. Together, Karin and Dr. FE offered a vast array of fresh humor. Karin was full of funny comments, and Dr. FE was quick to join in the fun. They both had the whole room laughing. At 10:16, baby Clark was born. He had a healthy, strong cry as he was placed on Karin’s chest. Karin mentioned afterwards how “surreal” it was. This event she had spent so much time thinking about was already over; now she could move forward with being a mom again.
All the soul-searching and seeking that occurred before Clark was born led Karin to a deeper relationship with Christ, a deeper understanding of His unconditional love for her, and His constant presence with her. She didn’t look back at her experience asking, “What If?” She knew that THIS was her story and that it was beautiful, and she walked into becoming a mother of 2 with the full assurance of having walked in God’s plan for her.
Karin and Chris, thanks for inviting me to join you again. I love you guys! Karin, your passionate, searching heart is your most beautiful feature and is making you an amazing mother. Chris, your quiet understanding and patience, and your willingness to seek God alongside Karin is making you a great father. Elaina, the mere thought of you helped carry your mama through one of the most difficult experiences of her life. And baby Clark, God KNOWS you. He has known you and will know you and will forever be aware of your heart. He will understand you, even when you don’t. May the seeking and revelation that occurred while you were not yet born be imprinted upon you forever as Truth. May you always feel known by our living God, and may you always bring that light to others the way you did for your mother.
It is blessing to me to know all of you! Congratulations on your beautiful family.
With deep respect and affection,
Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE is a Colorado Springs Doula and Childbirth Educator. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and the creator of the Expectant Parents Workshop childbirth preparation class. Jennifer was the 3-time doula to Suzanne Hadley Gosselin (esteemed author of Expectant Parents, a pregnancy/childbirth/parenting book by Focus on the Family, releasing October 2014). In addition to coaching expectant parents toward a Christ-centered childbirth, Jennifer also specializes in prenatal and postpartum wellness coaching. Jennifer is also a featured blogger for My719Moms.com. To learn more about Jennifer, go to EdensPromiseLLC.com.