By Natalie Klejwa, Editress of Visionary Womanhood
Twenty years ago I was pregnant with our first baby and determined to have a mid-wife and experience pregnancy and birth in the most “natural” way possible. Nineteen weeks into the pregnancy I began to spot a little. Since I could feel the baby moving and had no other symptoms, I wasn’t too worried as I went to the Dr. to have things checked out.
Much to our shock, after doing an internal exam, the Dr. informed Joe and I that our baby would likely be born that day and would obviously not survive. I was dilated to a three, and the bag of waters was bulging into the birth canal. After an emotional drive to the hospital, it was decided that I would be put on some heavy medications to stop labor, and a stitch would be placed around my cervix to hopefully prevent it from further dilation and hold the baby inside.
For two weeks I laid in a hospital bed doped up with medication hoping and praying for a miracle. The miracle came, but not in the way I had hoped. Our otherwise healthy daughter, Elizabeth Anne, was born at 21 weeks gestation, and died 30 minutes after birth, going to be with her Creator.
My dreams of being a mother were buried with her for a short time, but also, my dreams of having a “natural” and “normal” pregnancy and birth experience were also lost. I had an incompetent cervix. There was nothing “natural” about that.
Three months later, I was pregnant again. At 12 weeks I had to go in to the hospital, get a spinal block, and have a cervical cerclage surgically placed to protect and maintain the pregnancy. In spite of this, and after several months on bed rest, our second child, Sam, was born at 29 weeks gestation after a group B strep infection invaded my uterus, causing me to spike a high fever and go into labor. I gave birth to Samuel without pain meds, but he was immediately intubated after birth and placed in an incubator for seven weeks.
Again, not very “natural”. I was learning that life doesn’t always go the “natural” way.
With my third pregnancy, I was on a low dose of drugs administered through my leg to stop pre-term labor for several weeks, I spent over 5 months on bed rest, and, of course, I had to have the cerclage surgery at 12 weeks. BUT…this time we went full term, and I “naturally” gave birth to a 8 1/2 pound boy after a relatively normal labor and delivery. The pain of laboring to deliver a full term baby was a bit shocking, but I don’t remember being afraid of doing it again.
Until after I gave birth to my fourth. For this birth, I had studied the Bradley method, practiced it for a few months before the birth, and felt very ready to “do it” again. My daughter, Aimee, was miraculously born on Elizabeth’s birthday, 7 years to the day. It was a wonderful gift from God.
But my labor and delivery were horrific this time. I lost control, the pain was so unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and I had a hemorrhage shortly after giving birth due to the stress on my body. (Needless to say, the Bradley method went out the door during the course of this experience.) While in labor, I seriously wanted to die…just to escape the pain. For several hours after Aimee was born, I was in so much pain, it was hard to focus on my new baby.
I was very, very frightened to go through childbirth again. It didn’t strike me as very “natural” anymore.
Pain in childbirth was not God’s original plan. It was one of the consequences God put on the woman for her sin in the Garden.
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” Genesis 3:16
Childbirth is not a curse. Pain in childbirth is a curse. In other words, it wasn’t originally “natural”.
But back to my story.
I became pregnant with our fifth child, and while many of my pre-term labor issues were not an issue anymore, I still had to have that cerclage placed. And this time, I was scared to death to have to go through labor again. Several family members and friends encouraged me to have an epidural and just enjoy the birth experience without the pain and stress. Others told me that was a cop out, and I should “google” epidurals just to find out what could happen to me if I chose to go this route.
So I did. I googled “epidurals”. I found nothing positive. Instead, I learned that doctors were all in a conspiracy to work against women, and epidurals would cause terrible and long lasting side effects, not to mention the risk to the baby’s very life and limb. It sounded ominous and grim. I also discovered that many women firmly believed it was a “spiritually” related issue, whether they were self-proclaimed “Christians” or aligned with some other type of religion.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying giving birth is NOT a spiritual thing. I’m saying it is NO MORE spiritual (in an emphasis kind of way) than, say, changing that baby’s diaper a thousand (million?) times, or praying for that child every morning of his or her life, or feeding that child nourishing food that will help him/her to grow strong and healthy. ALL of life is spiritual, because we are created in God’s image and have connection with Him.
This is one of the principles discussed in our Visionary Womanhood Gatherings “Book of the quarter”…Assumptions That Affect Our Lives, by Christian Overman. There is NO SPLIT between the “secular” and the “spiritual” as our culture would have us believe. We don’t put certain things in the “spiritual box” and other things in the “secular box”. Why? Simple. Because God doesn’t do it.
The day we give birth IS a beautiful, life changing, spiritual thing. And so is every single day afterward.… If only we all prepared/prayed/desperately sought God for those days…as much as we do for the birth day. To have vision for that one day…and miss the rest…is a tragic problem with eternal consequences.
Back to my story…
Yet, everyone I talked to that had given birth with an epidural on board had nothing but wonderful things to say about them.
I was confused. What to do? I decided the bottom line for me was, what does GOD want me to do? I really, truly, wanted to be clay in His hand…to be willing to do whatever it was that He had planned for me. Even if that meant a really painful labor and delivery.
I was due New Years Day of 2002. On January 9…yes…9 days after my due date…I finally went into labor. After waiting until it got pretty painful and had really “kicked in”, we went to the hospital and checked in. I was dilated to a 1. My cervix was rigid. Yet, I was feeling like I do when I’m at a 5-6.
After 2 more hours, I was feeling really awful…and yet was still only dilated to a 1. Something was obviously wrong. I kept saying, “What if part of the stitch is still in there? Could that be it?” Two different doctors had already examined me, not to mention the nurses, and they all concurred that my cervix felt like it “had a rubber band around it”, but they could feel no stitch. The medical records showed that the stitch had been fully removed 5 weeks prior in the Dr. office.
I was beginning to feel out of control, pain-wise…only now I was making zero progress, and nobody seemed to know what to do. My doctor recommended that, under the circumstances, I should have an epidural, in case anything should go wrong and they would need to do an emergency c-section. Joe and I talked about it and decided that this would be the best option at that point. I was prepped and given an epidural.
It was the same procedure I had had with all of my spinal blocks to prepare for all the surgeries to place my cerclages, so I was familiar with the protocol…and it did not scare me in the least. The relief from the pain was such a huge blessing. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness to God for “rescuing” me in this way.
The hours went by, and I remained dilated at a 1, but at least I was not in pain. Finally, the Dr. who had originally taken out my stitch five weeks prior happened to stop by the hospital for an unrelated reason. I was within 30 minutes of a c-section. When the medical team saw her there, they told her about my situation, and she came in to examine me. She determined that the stitch was, indeed, intact, and was preventing me from giving birth.
Because my cervix was swollen and the stitch was embedded so deep, my cervix had to be surgically cut to get the stitch out. This would have required an epidural had I not already had one on board. I was amazed. We do not know what lies ahead of us, but God certainly does. He knew exactly what was going to happen…indeed, had planned it all along.
Within 10 minutes of the stitch being removed, I went from a 1 to a 10, and Timothy was born. I felt him coming out of me…all the glory of it without any of the pain…it took three pushes…and I got to watch the whole thing…with a smile on my face. It was the most beautiful and incredible birth experience I had had thus far. I was able to enjoy my baby while they stitched up a small tear in my perineum, and I suffered no ill side effects from the epidural.
The other interesting thing about his birth is that he was “sunny side up”…he came out looking at me!! This meant that I had been in back labor the entire time. Back labor is one of the most painful types of labor you can go through! God spared me several unnecessary hours of that type of pain during labor while waiting for the doctors to discover what was wrong.
Not only was I grateful to God for His obvious, Providential guidance through that situation, but He once again showed me that He sometimes uses medicine and medical intervention to spare humans from unnecessary pain and even death. We should not view the medical world as a necessary “evil”, but as a tool for the good of mankind and the preservation of life, which is precious in God’s sight.
I’ve had four more babies since Tim’s birth. All with epidurals. All without any ill side effects or complications. All of those births were incredibly beautiful experiences that resulted in healthy babies. I’ve interviewed many labor and delivery nurses and doctors personally, asking them if, in their personal experience, childbirth usually goes well when an epidural is involved, OR, if it often goes better when the childbirth is “natural”.
Every single one has testified that there are more complications with “natural” childbirth than when the women have an epidural. Could they all be in a conspiracy of deception together? I doubt it. I have too many friends who have experienced the beauty of pain free childbirth without associated complications to collaborate with this testimony. Unfortunately, you won’t be reading the success stories on the internet. For some reason, gloom and doom spreads faster than good news.
(My OB Doc, an older, Christian man, has told me that the internet is definitely skewed in a very unbalanced direction when it comes to this issue.)
That is not to say that complications don’t happen with epidurals, and you need to know what the risks as well as the benefits for both “natural” childbirth as well as childbirth that utilizes modern medicine, but complications are more likely to occur when the woman is under physical duress.
I’m not advocating one method over the other. I just want to encourage couples to earnestly look to God, not Wemmicks, for direction in this matter. We need to put our faith in HIM…not in doctors or epidurals or “natural” childbirth or water tubs or doulas. His plan for each of us will look different. We need to give one another some breathing space to do what God is leading us to do based on our own unique set of circumstances that He has specifically designed to help us grow in our faith in Him.
I firmly believe, based on my personal experience as well as talking to countless women who have given birth multiple times, that every labor can have different levels of pain. Some are very tolerable, while others are traumatic experiences pain-wise. So we have to be careful (especially when we’ve only had 1-2 babies so far!) not to put everyone into our own “category” if we’ve had it fairly easy a time or two. Experience has a way of building a bit of humility into our lives, don’t you think? God is gracious and good to us little Wemmicks!
At the time of this post, I’m 11 weeks away from giving birth to our 9th living child. (We’ve lost four other babies to earlier miscarriage since the loss of Elizabeth.) I anticipate having an epidural, if it is the Lord’s will, but need to be open to His direction. He doesn’t always enable us to have our own way! And if I should get to the hospital too late, perhaps I will experience childbirth “au naturale” once again. If that happens, God will give grace, strength, and endurance. And the bottom line is…no matter how the baby comes out…if God blesses any of us with a life to raise for His glory…we are blessed indeed.
Childbirth is not the end-all…it is only the beginning…of a soul destined for an eternity of knowing, loving and enjoying his/her Creator.
And that’s a vision we can all share!