Lately I’ve been hooked on British television show called “Call the Midwife.” If you like post-WWII era clothes and music, East End London accents, and multi-layered stories with engaging characters and plotlines, then this is your kind of show. If you don’t like graphically detailed breech births and nurses piecing together placenta in metal bowls and other bloody labor scenes in all their slimy glory, you may want to pass on this one. Being that it’s only an hour-long drama, there are moments and details of the laboring process they have to skip over or at least speed through. And there are times when the newborn baby looks a little too perfect (Where’s the cone head and smushed nose?) to have hung around a birth canal as long as the scene would suggest. Still, all in all, it’s convincingly realistic enough for me.
Watching these women labor like there’s no tomorrow makes me think about my own babies. When I had my twins nearly eleven years ago, I had no idea how it was all going to go down. There really isn’t anything that can totally prepare you for that first time so I didn’t even try. I didn’t go to birthing classes or read many books. I got spooked by all of the statistics and horror stories about twin births so I just soldiered on the best I could. I made it to 38 weeks before I was induced. After being admitted, my doctor said I wasn’t far enough along for my epidural so they gave me Stadol, a drug designed to take the edge off the pain. Instead, it made me loopy. I could still feel the contractions but my drugged up mind couldn’t process what was happening to me. My husband told me later that I asked him crazy questions like “If you were a Muppet, which Muppet would you be?” and “Did you just feel that contraction? It was a big one!” Fortunately, the drug wore off before I actually had to start pushing so I have a clear recollection of the big moment(s).
When I delivered my son three years later, I entered motherhood with a much better understanding of what to expect. I labored at home from 10:00 p.m. until we checked in at the hospital at 7:00 a.m. the next day and then continued until he was born at noon. Since I wasn’t induced this time, I was able to steadily become accustomed to the building, ludicrous betrayal of my body attempting to turn itself inside-out, a.k.a. contractions. After they gave me my epidural, I was feeling so good that I welcomed a class of nursing students into the delivery room to watch. I put my feet into the stirrups, instructed the nurse as she adjusted the laboring mirror, and gave my doctor a nod that said, “Don’t worry about anything, Doc. I got this one.” Then I started to push. As soon as I saw that little baby head, I stopped listening to my doctor—you know…that real nice lady who went to medical school—and pushed in spite of her warning that I was about to tear. Guess what I did? I pushed anyway. I pushed and I tore a very sensitive area that really should remain intact if at all possible, that is, if you enjoy things like sitting down on a chair without a foam doughnut under your rear. Suffice it to say, I was ready to take out stock in Sitz Bath technology a month later. Even with a labor and delivery already under my belt (and the stretch marks to prove it), I still had so much to learn about becoming a mom.
Now I find myself learning another motherhood lesson. Depending on how you figure it, I’m eighteen months into a pregnancy that has been just as difficult and rewarding and confusing and exciting as my other experiences. We signed our first adoption paperwork in July 2011 but conception was probably years before that. The type of pain I feel now is like that night 7 1/2 years ago when I rested between contractions that were too far apart to go to the hospital but too close together to be able to sleep or eat or think straight. It was exciting to think I would be holding my new son, the reason I was on all fours on the living room floor panting through the next contraction. But it was scary to think about the possible complications and worst-case scenarios. That’s what this adoption has been for me: The ups of seeing our little Ezra’s picture for the first time and the downs of finding out that we’re not as far into the next phase as we were led to believe. The knowledge that he’s ours but not as far as the Congolese government is concerned. The excitement of buying clothes for him but the worry that we won’t be able to go and get him before he’ll outgrow them. It’s a roller coaster ride.
I have so much to encourage me and point me to the hopefulness of our situation. I can see families that have already picked up their kids from the Congo. I can trust in the experience of our adoption agency and the amazing people who work there. I can put my hope in a Sovereign Lord who I know has called us to adoption with a full knowledge (God’s knowledge, not mine) of how this will eventually end. I can remind myself of all of this every day that I wake up in a house that holds three children instead of four but it’s not always easy. In fact, it gets more difficult every day. But I have to ask myself why we started this whole thing in the first place. Did we do this because we thought it would be easy? No. If child birth has taught me anything, it has taught me that the greatest rewards often come after unspeakable pain—either physical or in the private chambers of my heart. If that formula holds true this time, this sweet African boy will be the greatest blessing of my life.