2pm- I had just left work and texted my husband a cryptic little message, “today’s the day”. He knew what I meant. Frantically he called me, “are you serious? like right now?”I reassured him that I wasn’t in full blown labor, but I had a feeling this baby was on his way. He took that feeling seriously and spent the evening packing bags and last minute “nesting” aka cleaning. It’s funny the things you feel must be scrubbed in those hours before delivery.
10pm – We went to bed with no real sign of labor in sight. What felt like strong Braxton Hicks had come and gone, like many nights before. I still knew we must be close.
1am – I was awakened by a strong contraction and felt the need to use the restroom. After nestling back under the covers, I whispered this update to my husband, when suddenly another came.
1:12am – With nearly no warning, my water broke and I was instantly in active labor. The forceful contractions seemed to pile on top of one other, giving me no room to catch my breath. Our little boy was coming and he was coming fast.
2am – The overnight security guard managed to help me into a wheel chair. His face is but a blur amidst the blinding pain, but I could tell he understood the sense of urgency. Wheeling me past all of the lovely mommas beautifully laboring down in triage, I continued to writhe in pain. I had plans to labor down too– exercise balls, whirlpool tubs, I had even packed mood lights, essential oils and of course, a Spotify playlist. But there was no time for these diversions.
Within moments of arriving, I was taken to the birthing suite. I was somehow, already 9cm dilated. The nurse gave up on trying to file her paperwork and check me into the system. The look on my midwife’s face said, ‘it’s go time’.
For 2 hours and 2 minutes I experienced the most excruciating and intense pain I can ever imagine enduring. I felt everything. Each contraction moved through me with such cruelty, that I couldn’t help but weep and cry out for help.
I had read about back labor before. It was described somewhat sweetly as, ‘intense discomfort’, but this was much more harsh. My son was faced the wrong direction, his head pushing fiercely on my tailbone. I wasn’t sure I would be able to deliver him.
As the pain increased, my belief decreased. I wanted to give up, I wanted to be done. I was so ashamed that I wasn’t stronger than this. I am a strong person, I thought, but I never expected it would hurt this much.
There are two things we need when our hurt outweighs our hope and our belief begins to falter– the bread and the body.
“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:35
Jesus, ‘the Word made flesh’ (John 1:14), is our bread, our nourishment; and that which nourishes, sustains.
I could hear scripture being spoken over me in prayer. I needed the bread–the Word, and I needed the body–the church, my Christian community to speak it over me when I didn’t have the strength to speak it for myself.
My midwife, my husband, and a close friend were the encouraging voices throughout this physical battle. When I screamed I can’t, they spoke you can. When the pain was too much to bear, my husband would move in closer. Pushing my back with equal intensity wherever the pain surfaced. When I found breath enough to weep, I could hear my dear friend crying out with me in prayer.
The battles we face in this life can be completely overwhelming, but we have the Bread to sustain us and the body to surround us; to push love where the pain lies, and cry out prayers where the sorrow lives.
And then something beautiful happened- I reached down and felt the crown of his head. A miracle of life was but a painful push away. Touching his crown gave me the last ounce of strength I needed. Sometimes we have to reach out and touch the thorn-laced crown of Jesus and remember the suffering we endure on this earth is but a glimpse of the great suffering he endured for us.
With the last ou nce of strength I had, I pushed and pushed again and pushed once more. And that quickly, he came. At 4:02am my son was born. Isaiah Harper Gurley was here. They laid him bare on my chest and I cried in utter gratitude.
The greatest pain in our lives can bring forth the greatest joy. The seemingly impossible, the greatest miracles. The nearly hopeless, the greatest hope. We must simply cling to the body and the bread.