My first bed rest obsession was all the worry and research that goes along with wanting a good and safe labor and birth experience. I spent hours fretting over all the tubes I didn’t want going in me while having contractions, how they would for sure lead to a c-section, how the baby would probably have major health issues, and how the surgery was going to forcefully impose MORE bedrest, just at the time when I could be freed from it by giving birth. I read and researched, hired a wonderful doula, watched the second The Business of Being Born documentary (I do recommend it!), talked with my doctor about my plan for a drug and induction free delivery, and worried some more.
Of course, some of the anxiety undoubtedly arose from worry for the wee babe growing (way too slowly, it seemed!) inside me. I was on bedrest with our sweet baby girl for 7 months due to pre-term labor. So having a premie was very much a concern.
Late in the pregnancy, when I was nearly full term and completely stir crazy, I went to my Lutheran husband’s church. I remember exactly 2 things: 1) When standing, I didn’t fit in the pew, width wise, due to my huge belly. The top of the next pew up was just too close. That’s a weird and sobering feeling. 2) at the back near the baptismal font where I always instinctively blessed myself with the sign of the cross in that way Catholics do who grew up doing it in their own church, a lovely elderly woman stopped and inquired about my pregnancy. She took my hand, placed the sign of the cross on it, and also on my forehead. I don’t remember her words, but I know that she was blessing me for labor. Her faith and love was palpable.
I was so taken aback I almost drew away from this Lutheran who was doing “Catholic” things (plus, I couldn’t stand too long or else I’d have contractions and surely this wonderful woman couldn’t be expected to deliver the baby), but I remembered my husband’s encouragement while we were dating, to focus on prayer when I’m confused at his church (that’s a whole other story). So I accepted her blessing, and I’m so glad I did.
Because it worked. I went into labor overnight that February, only 1 week before my due date. We didn’t need the 75 pounds of food, water, and all other natural labor tools that I packed because Rebecca was born after only 3.5 hours in the hospital plus 1 half hour of pushing. Our baby girl was healthy. My doctor called it a “perfect birth” when he debriefed with the resident afterwards. And then the dear man told me the same, to encourage us and rejoice with me. For all the heartache and anxiety and doubt of bedrest, that perfect birth more than made up for it. The experience was God dumping down his love so tangibly that I can never doubt it, and I will always go back to it when I lack faith.
I’ve also never doubted that the sweet old Lutheran lady’s prayers played a large part in how well it went.
On this Friday of our Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I want simply to share this story with you all. I know many of us work and pray hard for Christian unity, and we work with and love many folks of differing denominations. Let’s keep doing that.