This week I got one of my favorite phone calls: Annie, she is in labor. Can you come? It doesn’t happen often that I get to be present with a friend at her delivery. In 20 years, I think it’s happened eight times. Nine, if I count my friend who was also my patient. But every time someone has expressed the desire to me in advance, somehow God has always made it happen.
This time the call came when I was at work, with twelve patients more to go. I said I would do my best and prayed a prayer for logistics. And then all the logistics rolled into place.
Sam was home with the kids. Three patients (all in one family) didn’t show up. Two people I called came in early. Two people were happy to have me handle their issues by phone (and without a copay on their end). The other five all came on time. I was out the door by 8 (normally it’s ten or ten-thirty) and in her room at the hospital by 8:30.
She had a hard labor. She worked, and worked, and worked. When she couldn’t take it any more, her contractions gave her enough of a break that both of them were able to snooze for half an hour before we got things going again in earnest. And still, it took all night. She squeezed their beautiful daughter into the dry world at sunrise. Tears of joy and laughter replaced the fear, the weeping, the pain and frustration. “… weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
During my clinic, I had been talking with my prenatal group about our expectations of labor. Our expectations of ourselves. Others’ expectations, whether it is regarding the decisions we make about labor (hospital v. home; pain medication v. none; breastfeeding v. bottle feeding). Sometimes we have choices; sometimes we don’t. And no matter what, we can always find a way to be disappointed. Regretful. Shamed. So much of that pressure others put on us (and that we put on each other) is really just self-justification. Criticizing someone else’s decisions makes me feel better about my own.
Labor is agony. Parenting is so hard. Sometimes we make choices that work out well; sometimes our choices (right or wrong or the best we can come up with under the circumstances) work out well; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes all we can do is labor with one another through the pain, the uncertainty, the dark night, and pray for joy in the morning.