Labor with Nothing to Prove

I’m currently working on a post telling Elora’s birth story, but in the meantime I want to share some truth that has been wildly encouraging to me as a first time mom.

To give some background, I tried to be free of expectations when preparing to give birth to Elora. I had obviously never been in labor before, so it felt strange to make a bunch of decisions about how I thought the process would go. I also trusted my doctor (a huge blessing!) as he had been with me through infertility, through the entirety of my pregnancy, and now would be delivering our daughter. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself for it to go a certain way, and I was just excited to meet our sweet girl.

When anyone asked, I said that I wanted to try to give birth without medication. I didn’t have much reasoning to back it up, but I basically concluded that introducing more interventions could potentially introduce more risk as well.

My approach to medicine is one where I believe that God has given us medical professionals and interventions, but I also try to listen to my body and give it a chance to regulate on its own. I’ll drink water, eat a snack, take a nap, etc. before taking medication for a headache. I went very slowly throughout our infertility journey and tried to intervene in a way that encouraged my body without overriding it completely.

In this case, I wanted to let my body do its thing unless I was really needing help. And if I ended up wanting medication, there was no shame. I was happy with leaving that door open.

The day came, and I did end up getting an epidural (at 9 centimeters… that story is coming). Here’s the thing: I was surprised by how ashamed I felt in the weeks following.

My daughter was in my arms and healthy. I had told myself it didn’t matter either way. And still… I felt like I had juuuust missed the mark.

When Elora was a couple of weeks old, I read a birth story from a woman who had labored at home. She did not write in a way that shamed other women at all—she was simply sharing her experience. Part of her experience was feeling the presence of God heavily as she welcomed her baby and leaning on Him for support in the most difficult moments of pain.

Reading this made me worry that I had missed out on God’s best. That I had chickened out and, as a result, lost my chance at a “spiritual” birth. When I told friends our birth story, I felt like I had to over-explain why I had made the decision to get an epidural. None of them were questioning me—I just wanted to talk my way out of the shame I felt.

God saw, and God knew. And He gave encouragement at the right time as He always does.

I’m reading Breaking Free from Body Shame by Jess Connolly, a woman I deeply admire, during this postpartum season. She addresses the shame and “hierarchy” surrounding birth in chapter 5.

Here’s a quote that helped me experience freedom:

“If it’s worshipful for you to give birth with an IV in your hand or alone in a field or surrounded by friends or in a hospital or in a yurt, you do you. But while you’re doing whatever you do, remember that it’s a moment to experience the presence of God in your weakness, not a moment to prove how strong you are on your own.”

It was never about proving anything. It was never about earning points with God. He did not multiply pains in childbearing after the fall and intend that we take it as a challenge. He does not equate our ability to endure with our level of godliness.

When He did it, He knew we would be weak.

And He intended to display His glory through our weakness.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

1 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

No matter how our birth stories pan out, we all have a common denominator in our weakness. Every woman will need to rely on God’s power.

When we rest in this reality, we are free to praise Him for how He brings our little ones into the world.

All that to say: I’m boasting in my weakness today. God was the one who worked out every detail of her birth. He was taking care of us the entire time. And it is in His kindness that I got to participate.

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