Recently I posted the following to a discussion list, in response to a woman who shared about her fears in anticipation of her baby's birth. She wondered if anyone else had experienced such fear. A number of women have thanked me for my post, so I thought I would post it here in order to encourage any of my pregnant or soon-to-be-pregnant readers.
Yes, I experienced this, increasingly, with every pregnancy. Several things have helped me get through pregnancy, labor, and birth without losing my mind:
1. Prayer, prayer, prayer. From my perspective now, this was the greatest blessing in being completely overwhelmed with fear during pregnancy --- it was an enormous benefit to my spiritual life. I see that fear now as a gift from God. In my weakness, Christ has been made strong.
2. One mother of many told me that she had the rule that she couldn't start "rehearsing" her upcoming labor until two or three weeks before her due date. By this she meant that, when she couldn't sleep at night because "what if's" began running through her head, she would force herself to think about something else. I forced myself to pray or read the Bible.
3. Lots of Scripture meditation. I selected some key verses that I found either comforting or challenging (as in the many Scripture admonishing us not to fear.)
4. Keeping my fears mostly to myself. I would share them with my midwife, but I found out that sharing them with other women or with my husband made things worse. Other women tended to either be puzzled ("I've never been afraid of giving birth. What on earth is there to be afraid of?") or felt a need to regale me with horror stories ("You have good reason to be afraid. Let me tell you what happened to a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend!") My husband found my fears too silly for words and either tended to try either the humorous approach ("Don't worry, the baby will just POP out like this!") or the overly spiritual approach ("The worst that could possibly happen is that you end up face to face with Jesus. Praise God!") Neither helped. I also learned that he doesn't care for either approach when I find his fears silly.
5. Focusing on the wonderful end result: no matter how difficult the labor, I would experience the presence of Jesus in a way that is only possible during that time --- and I would get a cute baby! What could possibly be better?
I'll be honest about one of the big reasons that I have not opted for epidurals, pain meds, etc. At first, it was out of concern for my babies --- and that has always been a big motivating factor for everything I ingest during pregnancy and labor. But, once I experienced what it is like to go through a challenging labor in a state of constant prayer, I didn't want any other sort of birth. When women tell me about how wonderful their epidurals were, and how they were laughing and playing games and watching comedy movies all through labor, this does not appeal to me. Don't get me wrong; I am world's biggest labor chicken and I DO NOT LIKE PAIN. But, to me, labor and childbirth is sacred stuff... In retrospect, I am thankful for the most difficult of labors and births that I've had. Jesus met me there in a way He wouldn't have if I had been laughing and joking and at ease. (Trust me; I'm laughing and joking and at ease a great deal of my life, and those many hours of fun have not had the spiritual impact on my life that my brief moments of suffering have had.) When I read Jesus' words about women and childbirth, I know what He means. How I know!
I don't like suffering. But it is in those moments of suffering, small and fleeting though they have been in my life, that Jesus has most shown Himself to me. It goes far beyond labor and birth. When I stood at my beloved brother's deathbed, there was no epidural to ease the pain. I suppose I could have opted for some sort mood-altering meds that would have made my sorrow less acute. In fact, some well-meaning friends suggested I "take something" in order to be able to get through the funeral. My mother, having received the same suggestion, told me, "I wanted to feel everything when he was born and now I want to feel everything about his dying."
Are we masochists who love pain and suffering? No. Not at all. But there is something about embracing all of life, its joys and its sorrows. Once the pain of labor recedes, there is an incredible joy. Not only do I have world's most glorious and precious little baby in my arms, but Jesus has personally brought me through a trial that I had so feared. He had proved Himself faithful once more. Ah, yes, He truly does lead gently those that are with young. I know. I've lived it. He is exactly Who He claims to be.